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Archive for December, 2018

Hey guys.  We are so close to the finale of Holiday Baking Championship.  And I wish I had completed Week 6’s challenges before the finale, but we had a very busy week.  You see, we had a home bar installed which had been planned for 21 months and in the build process for 10 weeks.  No excuses, but there it is.  I baked the preheat but will post the main challenge with the finale post.

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So in the preheat, the baker’s had 90 minutes to made a classic chocolate dessert with 2 common pantry items.  I chose the challenge that competitor Sarah had: chocolate chip cookies with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I decided to make a chocolate chip shortbread cookie tree.  I left out about 2-3 tablespoons of butter and substituted that with olive oil.  Then I rolled out the dough and cut out graduated sizes of stars.

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Once the cookies were baked, I piped on some semi-sweet chocolate and stuck them in the fridge to firm up enough so they wouldn’t completely stick together.  I then whipped up a frosting with cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and balsamic vinegar.

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The cookies were stacked large to small and I piped the frosting on to the tips.  This was the first preheat in awhile that I finished in time and was happy with the result.  I can’t say I tasted too much balsamic, but it was well balanced with the cream cheese.  And the olive oil was there but pretty hidden in the cookie.  Not sure how else to incorporate those two ingredients where you could and would want to taste them.

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Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies:

14 Tbs butter, softened
3 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

Beat butter, olive oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in egg yolk. Gradually beat in flour. Stir in 1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips.

Roll half of dough to 1/4-inch thickness between two sheets of waxed paper. Remove top sheet of waxed paper. Cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Lift from waxed paper; place on parchment lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake in preheated 350° F oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Pipe with remaining melted chocolate.

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Well here we are, Week 5.  Quick 90 minute challenges this week.  Spoiler alert: Week 5 sucked!

In the preheat, the bakers were given 90 minutes to make and decorate two dozen rugelach.  We’ve got some remodeling going on at the house, so I asked our electrician to pick a number between 1 and 5.  He picked 3, which was the flavor chai.  I could have hugged him.  Instead, I promised him chai rugelach when he came back next week.

I sort of used a recipe for the rugelach dough, but I also sort of winged-it.  While that was in the freezer chilling, I made a pastry cream by steeping two chai tea bags in the milk before adding the egg mixture.  It was good.  I think it’s safe to say that I’ve got pastry cream down by now.

I rolled out the dough using lots of flour, then spread out some pastry cream, sprinkled cinnamon and sugar over that, and raisins that had been soaked in chai tea over that.  Cut it up like a pizza and rolled, or at least tried to roll, the dough like croissants.  It was totally stuck to the marble board.  The only way I was semi-successful in rolling and removing the dough was to flour up a spatula really well and push it under the dough.  With the trouble I had there, I just barely got the cookies in the oven with 30 minutes left.  They took about 28 minutes to bake.

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I had melted white chocolate in a piping bag and blue sprinkles nearby, but there was no way I could finish 24 decorated and plated rugelach in time.  The rugelach was too hot and stacking them would have been a white chocolaty mess.

They tasted quite good, even though they looked nothing like rugelach.  I just had to settle on decorating them after the time expired so they would be edible for our Christmas party next weekend.  Into the freezer they went.

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The main heat was 90 minutes to make tiramisu using two favorite ingredients from the judges.  I picked on this one, mainly because I didn’t want to end up with matcha.  Also because I wanted a more traditional tiramisu, so I went with coffee and ginger which are judge Lorraine’s favorites.

I made lady fingers which is a pretty simple recipe.  I added some powdered ginger as well as some grated fresh ginger.  While they were in the oven, I got started on the maple mascarpone cream.  It turned out way too runny.  And I didn’t have extra mascarpone so I had to roll with it.

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My original plan to make a “naked” tiramisu that was tied up with a ribbon would no longer work.  The cream would seep out within a second.  So I grabbed a couple of little glass dishes that I have and make individual tiramisu.  Dunked the lady fingers in brewed coffee, layered cream over, and repeated.  Finished just in time, if you can actually call it finishing.  Such a disappointing week.  I may need a pep talk before I tackle week 6!

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Not going to type recipes this week because quite frankly, they didn’t work all that well.  But I’m happy to answer any questions you have in the comments.

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Here we are, one month in to baking along with the Holiday Baking Championship on Food Network.  Also probably a few pounds heavier than when I started.  Looking for taste testers in addition to dishwashers now.

Week 4 began with the preheat challenge of making stacked cream puffs, also known as religieuse, in 90 minutes.  The theme was to make a family of puffs choosing 1 of 6 holiday characters: snowman, gingerbread man, elf, reindeer, santa, and penguin.  I chose snowman.

The first thing I did was get the pate a choux made because it would likely take about 25 minutes to bake and then had to be cooled enough so the filling wouldn’t melt.  I used a recipe by one of my favorite chefs, Alton Brown.  The batter seemed a little runnier than I expected, but I piped my puffs out and got them in the oven.

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Then I started my filling.  My inspiration was a millefeuille (napoleon) I once had in Normandy that was flavored with calvados (apple brandy).  I never managed to find another one like it during subsequent trips, but I never forgot it.  So I made some pastry cream, added some cinnamon and a heavy pour of calvados.  Yum!  Like apple pie a la mode.  Quick!  To the freezer it went.

Checking on my puffs, they weren’t as puffed as I would have liked.  But no time to start over.  Once they were done in the oven, they went straight to the freezer as well.  That gave me a few minutes to make some poured fondant (I bought 6 bags of white chocolate chips after I ran out last week).  The look I wanted to create was a melting snowman family.  Fitting seeing as how I live in Arizona.

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My snowman family would need some color, so I made a small amount of american buttercream and colored half red and half green.

Time to assemble.  I made some whipped cream and folded it into my pastry cream to make it lighter and also make sure I had enough cream for all the puffs.  No stinginess here.  I filled those puffs VERY full.  Then I poured the fondant over them.  Stacked them on my prepared plate and piped on some scarves and bow ties.  Super rushed and totally needed 5 more minutes.  Ugh!  My “family” definitely looked like they were melting.

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But oh-so-tasty!  They were slightly overfilled but that cream was divine and the poured fondant paired well with the other flavors.

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Now, the challenge I’ve been looking forward to.  The main heat was to make a hand painted holiday cake and incorporate eggnog.  Timer set to 2 hours.  Go!

I went with a recipe I found called a hot milk cake.  I wanted a recipe that contains milk so I could swap it out for eggnog, and that’s exactly what I did.  I also added nutmeg and a sprinkle of cinnamon and ginger.  I poured the batter in a large cookie sheet so it would bake quicker and I could also cut it into 4 equal pieces and have a tall rectangular cake.

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While that was baking, I got started on a swiss meringue buttercream.  I’m a big fan of american buttercream, but I wanted a more whipped, lighter filling.  I added eggnog and nutmeg in the buttercream too.  There would be no doubt that this is an eggnog cake.

Cake was done and I cut it in sections and stuck those in the freezer to cool.  I pre-made some white modeling chocolate which would be my base for my hand painting.  I kneaded the chocolate to get it pliable to work with and rolled out sections to cover the cake.

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With about 45 minutes left, I assembled my layers and covered the cake.  It took more time than I wanted.  I was trying to smooth the edges of the modeling chocolate but the seams were still visible.  Most important thing was having a hand painted cake so I had to move on.  I colored some modeling chocolate and cut out holly, which was the added twist.  They went on top of my cake.

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I sat down to paint my cake with 11 minutes to go.  My inspiration here was two-fold.  My boyfriend and I just finished putting up our Christmas lights (we went a little overboard!) so I “wrapped” the cake with a string of lights.  Then I painted a Christmas tree with a couple of presents and an eager dog ready to rip them open.  Obviously my inspiration there was my dog Mickey who loves Christmas more than ice cream.  For the past 4 years, his presents made up about 80% of the gifts under the tree.  He only opens his, cause he’s smart like that, and I swear he’s like an excited child on Christmas.  It melts my heart and I knew I wanted him to be on my cake.  I just wish I had more time to draw him out better, it looked like a dog shaped blob.

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Well, I finished.  Definitely would have liked another 30 minutes, but I wasn’t too disappointed.  The layers looked great when cut.  My boyfriend wanted more buttercream in the layers so I told him how much butter was actually in it.  What’s a couple more pounds over the holiday season?

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Poured Fondant from King Arthur Flour:

1 cup white chocolate chips
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a microwave safe mixing bowl, melt the white chocolate in the microwave over 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl, add the corn syrup and hot water, stirring until smooth. If you’re using a mixer, set it on low speed so the icing doesn’t become too aerated.

Add the melted white chocolate to the sugar mixture, then add the vanilla. If the mixture is too thick to pour, reheat it briefly over low heat, and stir in 1 to 3 tablespoons additional water. The mixture is easiest to work with, and pours smoothly, at about 100°F.

 

Hot Eggnog Cake:

4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup eggnog
1/4 cup milk
10 tablespoons butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease and flour a 13×9 baking pan.

In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, and spices in a separate bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat eggnog, milk, and butter just until butter is melted.  Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture to the sugar mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

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