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Posts Tagged ‘Daring Kitchen’

Oh August, what fun you brought; vacation time, a trip to France, and Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  And this months Daring Bakers Challenge was pate a choux (cream puff) swans.

We’ve made pate a choux before, if you recall the croquembouche.  But apparently it was so long ago, I forgot the technique.  Fortunately for YouTube, I only had to throw away the first attempt, which was completely runny.  That’s not unexpected when the liquid in the dough is about the same amount as the dry.  But attempt number two yielded a stiff dough like a pro.  I attribute that success due to adding the flour to the water/butter mixture after bringing it to a boil and still over heat.

I halved the recipe so I didn’t have a lot of dough to play with, but I tried to make sharks in addition to swans.  Try is the key word.  They seemed to look more like airplanes with a fin.  Therefore I just used the fin to create an impending shark attack scene with leftover pastry cream.

Pate a choux is pretty versatile, so I’m sure I will use the recipe yet again.  But I’m not so sure that I’ll repeat using it for swans.

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

Pate a choux

(cannot be doubled)

Ingredients
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) butter
1 cup (240 ml) water
¼ teaspoon (1½ gm) salt
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Directions:

  1. Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well.
  2. Preheat oven to 415°F.
  3. In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and add flour all at once.  Mixture should come together in a stiff ball.  Remove from heat and continue mixing until room temperature.
  5. Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition. Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.
  6. Spoon or pipe out classic rounds or other desired shapes.
  7. Bake in oven about 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375°F and bake until lightly browned, about another 10 minutes.
  8. Allow to completely cool before filling with pastry cream.

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It’s the 27th!  Daring Baker’s reveal date, almost forgot!  This month, we were challenged to make crackers.

Personally, I’d rather buy a box of crackers than make them from scratch.  It was like one of our challenges way back when . . . we had to make graham crackers, only to smash them up for a graham cracker crust.  Well, there was a little bit of smashing going on this month, but not too much.

I decided to make Ritz crackers and Cheese Nips.  I chose Ritz crackers (from this lovely blog) because they were the easiest to convert into a dessert.  If you read my blog, I’m definitely more of a dessert baker.  And the Cheese Nips (found here) were selected because I had a block of amazing habanero cheddar cheese in my fridge and thought it would produce really good crackers.

The Ritz cracker dough was quite sticky.  I halved the recipe and made it in my mini food processor, then rolled out the dough between sheets of wax paper.  I don’t have many small cookie cutters, so I went with hearts over simple squares or rounds.

Crackers are kind of tricky because you need to bake them enough so they’re not soft inside, but you don’t want to burn them either.  They definitely require a careful watch.  But once they were out of the oven, I moved on to part 2 and sandwiched them with peanut butter, then dipped the whole thing in melted white chocolate.  Okay, those were pretty great.

The Cheese Nip dough was a bit easier to work with.  I mixed it using my Kitchen Aid mixer then rolled out the dough with my pasta maker (which I have yet to use on actual pasta).  It was kind of fun watching the flat little squares puff up during baking.  Basically made of cheese, water, and flour, I didn’t know they’d rise so well.  But the finished product didn’t have the kick that I was looking for by using the habanero cheddar.  The crackers worked well on cheese cracker chicken though.

So crackers really aren’t that much trouble to make.  But again, I think I’ll stick with buying them.

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

Ritz Crackers:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp + another 1/2 tsp salt for topping
  • 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter + 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, and 1/2 tsp of salt in the food processor.
  3. Pulse to combine.
  4. Add cold butter a few small pats at a time, and pulse to combine.
  5. Add vegetable oil.  Pulse to combine.
  6. Add water a little bit at a time.  Pulse to combine after each addition.  The dough should start to form a ball.
  7. Roll dough out as thin as you can.  Mine ended up being all different thicknesses.  Don’t sweat it.  They are homemade!  If you are really concerned, Jeffrey had luck using a pasta maker to make the dough all one thickness – great idea!
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough out.  You can make them Ritz-shaped or any shape that you like.
  9. Poke holes in the dough in the Ritz pattern or any pattern you like (smiley faces would be fun!).  Keep in mind that the holes are not just decorative; they help the crackers to bake correctly – so be sure to poke some.
  10. Bake the crackers on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet for ten minutes or until the crackers just begin to brown.
  11. While the crackers are baking, melt the remaining butter and mix in the remaining salt (Some people said that my crackers weren’t salty enough.  Add more or less salt to your taste.)
  12. As soon as you remove the crackers from the oven, brush them with the salty butter.

Homemade Cheese Nips:

Makes approximately 15 dozen crackers

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-oz. block extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

Method:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cheddar, butter, and salt until soft and homogenous. Add the flour and mix on low speed; the dough will be dry and pebbly. Slowly add the water and continue to mix as the dough coalesces into a mass.

Pat the dough into a disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375˚. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each into a very thin (1/8 inch or less) 10×12-inch rectangle. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut the rectangles into 1-inch squares, then transfer to the baking sheets. Use the tip of a chopstick to punch a hole into the center of each square.

Bake for 17 minutes or until puffed and browning at the edges. Watch carefully, as the high fat content of the crackers makes it a fine line between golden delicious and burnt. Immediately move the crackers to racks to cool.

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No procrastinating on this month’s challenge at the Daring Kitchen.  Battenberg was the name of the game and seeing as how it is a British cake, I wanted to make it in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

A battenberg cake is just a light sponge, colored and “glued” together in a checkered pattern with apricot jam, and wrapped in marzipan.  I opted to swap out the jam for lemon curd which gave it a really nice, summery flavor.

I couldn’t find a battenberg pan that would ship from the US, so I did as our challenge host suggested and divided a pan with parchment.  I wanted to achieve a long, narrow cake, so I used a 9×13 inch pan and doubled the recipe so it would also be tall.

Really not a difficult challenge and I wish I had had more time this month to make another with different flavors.  The recipe will be archived along with many others I would not have known about if it weren’t for the Daring Kitchen.  You have not seen the last of battenberg cakes from me.

              


Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

Traditional Battenberg:

Servings: +- 8

Ingredients
¾ cup (1½ sticks) 175gm / 6 oz Unsalted Butter, softened & cut in cubes
¾ cup / 175gm / 6 oz Caster Sugar
1¼ cups / 175gm / 6 oz Self-Raising Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temp
½ cup / 65gm/ 2 1/3 oz Ground Almonds (Can be substituted with ground rice)
3/4 tsp / 3½ gm Baking Powder
½ tsp / 2½ ml Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp (1¼ ml) Almond Extract
Red Food Colouring, paste, liquid or gel

To Finish
1/3 cup (80 ml) 100gm /3 ½ oz Apricot Jam
1 cup / 225gm / 8 oz Marzipan, natural or yellow

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/160°C Fan Assisted/Gas Mark 4
2. Grease an 8”/20cm square baking tin with butter
3. Line the tin with parchment paper, creating a divide in the middle with the parchment (or foil)
– Tip: See photos or watch video above for detailed instructions
4. OR Prepare Battenberg tin by brushing the tin with melted butter and flouring
5. Whisk together the dry ingredients then combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth
6. Spoon half the mixture into the one side of the prepared baking tin
7. Add a few drops of red food liquid/gel/paste to the remaining batter, stir until the colour is thoroughly distributed, add more colour if needed
8. Spoon the pink batter into the other half of the prepared baking tin
9. Smooth the surface of the batter with a spatula, making sure batter is in each corner
10. Bake for 25-30mins until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean (it should shrink away from the sides of the pan)
11. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack
12. Once completely cool, trim the edges of the cake with a long serrated knife
13. Cut each coloured sponge in half lengthways so that you are left with four long strips of sponge

14. Neaten the strips and trim as necessary so that your checkered pattern is as neat and even as possible 15. Gently heat the apricot jam and pass through a small sieve

16. Brush warmed jam onto the strips of cake to stick the cake together in a checkered pattern (one yellow next to one pink. On top of that, one pink next to one yellow)
– Tip: See photos for detailed instructions
17. Dust a large flat surface with icing sugar then roll the marzipan in an oblong shape that is wide enough to cover the length of the cake and long enough to completely wrap the cake
18. Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam
19. Place the cake on the marzipan, jam side down
– Tip: Either in the middle or to the one side of the marzipan
20. Brush the remaining three sides with jam
21. Press the marzipan around the cake, making sure the join is either neatly in the one corner, or will be underneath the cake once turned over
– Tip: If you put the sponge to the one side of the marzipan, I found it easiest to “roll” the sponge over and over onto the marzipan instead of lifting the marzipan up onto the sponge
22. Carefully flip the cake over so that the seam is under the cake and score the top of the cake with a knife, you can also crimp the top corners with your fingers to decorate
23. Neaten the ends of the cake and remove excess marzipan by trimming off a small bit of cake on both ends to reveal the pattern

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Ho! Ho! Ho!  Hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  I think I missed it in the craziness of the past two weeks.  Been a busy baker indeed.

The baking challenge this month over at the Daring Kitchen was to make sourdough using a sourdough starter.  I had never even heard of a starter before.  And I must admit, I was initially disappointed because I was hoping it’d be a more holiday themed challenge.  But nonetheless, turned out to be quite the learning experience.

I got started on my starter pretty early in the month.  I knew I’d be busy and seeing as how the starter takes 4+ days to create, I didn’t have time to waste.  Basically, a sourdough starter is a natural leaven “grown” by mixing a high content wheat flour with an equal weight of water.  It gets its kicks in a bit warmer temperatures and needs to “eat” every day until it matures (about 4 days), after which it needs to eat only once a week if kept at room temperature, less in the fridge.

My starter was three days developed when I decided to spontaneously go to Tampa to see the Script.  My mom was coming over to feed my bird twice a day, so she also looked after my starter.  When I returned three days later, it smelled really sour (my starter, not my bird), like it had gone rancid, and had a layer of liquid on top.  I thought for sure my mom had killed it, or at least that the bacteria had won the war against the yeast.  I looked at other Daring Bakers comments to see if they had the same results.  In the end, I decided to see if I could revive it, since everything I found said that starters are easy to nurse back to health.  Just in case, I started a new starter as well.

Back to wortk for a week, I had to keep discarding part of the starter so I could feed it more flour and water.  I work ten hour days, so I don’t have time during the week to make a yeast bread.  When the next weekend came around, it was time to put my yeastie beasties to work.  I also, after reading other bakers comments, lovingly named my starters.  They are living things, afterall.  Yeastie number one was named Paddy, since he was the one I revived after leaving town to see an IRISH band.  Yeastie number two was named Krusty because he would have a hard crust on top 24 hours after feeding.

The dough for sourdough is extremely sticky.  I had so much trouble with it.  I let my bread machine knead it because it stuck to my hands too much when I tried to.  I used Paddy in one loaf and threw in some chopped cheddar cheese, and Krusty was used in the other loaf and left plain.

Unfortunately, my end results fell flat, literally.  Sourdough Paddy had some holes in it when sliced, but was tough and didn’t rise.  Sourdough Krusty was just flat and seemed kind of wet, not at all like the dryness you expect with sourdough.

I still have the leftover starters in my fridge, waiting for another feeding and another chance to rise like a star.  I just didn’t have time this month to give it a second try.  But it ended up being an interesting challenge and my initial disappointment was dispelled by the creation of life, the creation of Paddy and Krusty.  They will probably soon be joined, as I don’t need two sourdough starters, to become super Paddy.  And I will try to feed him every two or three weeks since he’s in the fridge so I can attempt sourdough again.

In other yeastie news, I decided to make French pastries for Christmas breakfast.  We had a croissant challenge at the Daring Kitchen a few months ago but I was unable to participate.  So I pulled up that recipe and got to work.  I used good old fashion dry active yeast and cut all of the rising times in about half.  I started it at 5pm on Christmas Eve and when you have a dough that needs to rise 3 hours, fold and rise two more hours, then incorporate butter and rise another two hours between “turns,” it gets to be quite the lengthy project.  And cutting corners didn’t seem to affect the end result.  The croissants were plenty flaky and the pain au chocolat, pain au raisin with pastry cream, and galette suisse with pastry cream were equally delicious.  With my sister living in France, I think my parents appreciated the taste of France on Christmas morning.

So what else did I make this month, you ask?  When I say I was a busy baker, I mean it.  I made seven different types of cookies one weekend to give to friends and coworkers.  I also made my coworkers a gingerbread house in the shape of our office.  Funny enough, the gingerbread house was a previous Daring Bakers Challenge that I half-assed a couple years ago.  So I was glad to be able to finally see that one through.  Though it didn’t get all the details I wanted it to have, it wasn’t bad for the nine hours I put into it.

I am putting away my oven mitts and stepping away from the kitchen for the rest of the year.  That’s not saying much since there’s only four days left in 2011.  And actually, I might have lied.  I bought fruit to candy peel and want to make a stollen next weekend.  But that’s it, seriously.  I need to catch up on sleep.  Did I mention that December was crazy?  See you in 2012!

                                    

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Cake, cake, and more cake.  Lately, my kitchen’s been banging out the cakes, especially since I haven’t attended any concerts lately, therefore haven’t needed to make cookies.  It’s actually been quite nice.  Cake is a completely different format and I’m able to get a bit more creative with it.

I made a cake for Father’s Day but wanted to do something different.  I always seem to make the same old chocolate or white cake with chocolate or vanilla frosting.  BORING!  But my family likes the standard, traditional cakes that we always make.  So I decided to make my dad a german chocolate cake.  I knew he liked devil’s food cake, but a cake that red kind of grosses me out.  So I made a cake with 4 layers and topped with ganache.  It was decadent, that’s for sure.  My mom loved it while my dad only ate one piece.  It was not diet-friendly.

The baking challenge this month over at the Daring Kitchen was a fraisier.  It’s a delicious, light, and summery french cake.  Overall, not too difficult either.  You just bake a sponge cake, split it, moisten it with a simple syrup, and layer with pastry cream (one of my favorite things) lightened with whipped cream and strawberries.  Like most of the challenges at the Daring Kitchen, it takes time.  The cake has to cool.  The syrup has to cool slightly.  The pastry cream has to cool before incorporating the whipped cream.  And the completed dessert has to chill to sort of set up.

I decided to make my main fraisier with a strawberry and blueberry border.  It was perfect for my annual 4th of July cake (though a french fraisier may not be the most patriotic dessert for an american holiday).  Lately, I’ve really been into square cakes.  I only have one 9×9 inch square pan though, so I baked the sponge in that and then MacGyver‘d a square mold out of cardboard that I could build my dessert in and lift out of.  I froze the cake overnight after assembling so it was easy to remove from the mold.  It was fantastic and the recipe is definitely being added to my collection.  It went with me to work because I figured it was bad enough having to work on a holiday, and would be nice to treat my coworkers who also got stuck working the day.  They were all impressed with it and actually thought I bought it.   Psha!  Me?  BUY A CAKE?

The last cake this month was for my mom’s birthday.  My sister and nephew flew in from France a few days before, so we were having the whole family over to see them and celebrate the birthday.  Since my nephew had been requesting strawberries 3 times a day (he’s 2), I decided to please everyone and make a chocolate cake (for my chocoholic mother) with ganache and strawberries and cream filling (like a cake I had in LA’s Sweet Lady Jane bakery) and a white cake on top (for those who don’t like chocolate-overload) with strawberries and cream filling.  Again, my favoritism to square cakes had me whipping out my 9×9 inch pan and assembling the cake in the same pan, flipping it out when thoroughly chilled.  Ingredients to finished product took about 11-12 hours.  And though it wasn’t perfect (didn’t make enough frosting to crumb coat and cover again), it turned out better than I expected.  Everyone loved it, which means my family must be warming up to the idea of new things.  Surprisingly though, the chocoholics preferred the white cake.  I had more than half a cake for my coworkers the next day.  I should start charging them!

And now, I’m going to take a couple weeks off from cakes.  Well, I’m going to try at least.  My sister requested a remake of the german chocolate cake since she wasn’t here for the Father’s Day one.  Mmm… cake.

                                

Jana ofCherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

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Just like me, this months Daring Bakers Challenge over at the Daring Kitchen had many layers.  But once you peel back those layers, my friends… that just made me think of a line in the Ugly Truth.  Love Gerard Butler.  What was I saying?  Right, layers!  This months challenge was making baklava with homemade phyllo dough.

T-minus 24 hours until the challenge was due and I still hadn’t read over the recipe fully.  I glanced at it so my kitchen would be stocked with the necessary ingredients, however.  But motivation, or lack thereof, was my problem.  The challenge was great.  I love baklava.  But I’ve gotten used to being lazy since all I could do for the last couple of months was sit around and nurse a fractured foot, which I finally saw a doctor about three days ago.  He confirmed that yes, it is fractured, in two places in fact, and prescribed 4-6 weeks in an orthopedic boot.  And apparently I will be good at child bearing since I have a high tolerance for pain, so my x-ray technician said.  But having skived off last months challenge, I knew I needed to do this one.

The phyllo dough was quite easy to make, thanks to my awesome kitchen-aid stand mixer.  Still the greatest kitchen invention ever.  Set it and forget it.  Well, at least for 10 minutes while it kneaded the dough for me.  Then the dough had to rest for a couple of hours which worked out well since I had some errands to run.

Upon my return, I employed two friends to help with the baklava.  They prepared the filling while I rolled out the sheets of phyllo.  Then I quickly assembled the layers and boiled the liquid it would soak in once baked and out of the oven.  I am a great hostess, making my guests work and then sit around while I’m busy in the kitchen.  And after all that, they couldn’t even try it seeing as how it needed to sit out overnight to drink up the liquid.

Quite a fun challenge, all in all.  I enjoy making pastry dough.  It’s such a simple thing but most people just go to the grocery and buy pre-made.  I still haven’t tried the baklava since it’s not drunk yet, only tipsy.  I shall try it later today once it’s had it’s fill of the sweet, sweet nectar.

    Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

 

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Mmm…. maple.  This month’s bakers challenge over at the Daring Kitchen was maple mousse in an edible (preferably bacon) container.  Wanting to think outside of the box, or bacon cup, I decided to incorporate bacon into a thumbprint cookie and fill that with maple mousse.  Afterall, I am Cookie Kelly.

I made the maple mousse first since like me, it needed some time to chill, though I do most of my chilling on the couch and the mousse did it’s thing in the refrigerator.  There is one thing that really disgusts me (well, there’s many things) and it’s gelatin.  Powdered animal bones used to thicken food makes me want to vomit.  Nonetheless, I picked up a box of it at the grocery store and got to work.

The mousse was easy to make and I hear it tasted quite nice.  I tried a spoonful of it but left it at that since I’m disgusted by gelatin, but mostly I didn’t eat more because I was getting over a cold and my sense of taste was off.  My other senses were out of whack too.  I swore I smelled chicken salad in my kitchen one morning and thought maybe something had gone bad in the fridge.  Turned out that it was just the cup of coffee that I brewed.  It may have tasted like chicken salad too but I couldn’t tell.

Next order of business was the edible container.  Bacon in baked goods seems to be the trend these days; salty and sweet.  Well, I’m not a huge fan of bacon, particularly because it’s quite unhealthy and apparently kind of expensive (I never bought bacon before!), but I thought making it a bit sweeter by candying it would cut down on the surprise factor of finding it in a cookie.  So I used David Lebovitz’s recipe and chopped the strips into very small pieces, which I added into a slightly modified version of a thumbprint cookie recipe on allrecipes.com.  A few of the thumbprints were filled with blackberry jam before topping with the maple mousse.

Friends, family, and coworkers had a hard time discerning the bacon bits in the cookie.  Most of them would not have known that that was the secret ingredient if I had kept it a secret.  I’m doubtful that I’ll use that recipe again though.  I guess I wouldn’t be completely opposed to trying bacon in a cookie again, but I’ll leave out the gelatin components.

      

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blogCheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

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