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Posts Tagged ‘internet baking club’

New year, new challenges.  First on the agenda was to complete January’s Daring Bakers Challenge over at the Daring Kitchen.  Seeing as how last month was such a cop-out, I wanted to get this month’s challenge done early.  The name of the game?  Graham crackers and nanaimo bars, hosted by Lauren.

Well, I’ve certainly never tried to make graham crackers before.  I didn’t try the optional version to make them gluten-free, however, because I just couldn’t bring myself to buy ingredients that I would never use again.  Times are tough and money is low (but that’s mostly because I love buying high heels), so I went with the good ol’ wheat version.

Graham crackers, you say?  Can’t one just buy those for $2.50 at the local grocery store?  Well, yes you can.  But what’s the challenge in that?  So I put myself to the test (or at least my arm since I was too lazy to bust out the food processor and thought I could just do it all with a pastry cutter and elbow grease) and mixed up the dough.  After it chilled in the fridge overnight, I rolled it out and very carelessly cut out strips and sprinkled with a sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Yes, I’m doing the challenge early.  No, I’m not really putting THAT much effort into it.  Into the oven they went for 25 minutes.

Ooh, what’s that smell?  It smells just like a pop-tart that was left in the oven too long so the crusts are all black, which happens to be cooked to perfection, based on my tastes.  Unfortunately, they weren’t perfect for the sake of graham crackers.  I tried to cut edges off, but they were simply unusable.

The next tray came out perfect, and fortunately I still had enough to make the second part of the challenge:  nanaimo bars (recipe), a treat from Nanaimo Canada.

Step 1:  Crush graham crackers.

What?!  After I went through the effort of making them?  Yeah, I think I’ll just pay the $2.50 next time and buy a box of graham cracker crumbs.

The rest of the recipe was fairly simple.  Bottom layer was like a dense, chocolate crust, middle layer seemed to me like vanilla frosting that’s been refrigerated, and the top layer was just melted chocolate that would harden.  It wasn’t exactly my favorite recipe in the world, but my devoted taste-testers (co-workers) enjoyed them.

There wasn’t a whole lot of room for creativity with this challenge, so I used my creativity another way and bundled myself and my goodies up (the nanaimo bars!) for a good old fashion photoshoot.  Cheers!

Graham Crackers – A (for the ones that didn’t burn)

Nanaimo Bars – A

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

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before the “jump” or “cut”

Puff the magic pastry is flaky as can be.  And frolics in the oven’s heat in a land that’s buttery.

So I found an online baking group, which you may have noticed the link on the left, called the Daring Kitchen.  They have a cooking side and a baking side; I obviously chose the latter.  Every month, a challenge is set.  And my first challenge was vols-au-vent.  The recipe can be found here.

I have never made puff pastry before, nor was it high on my to-learn list.  Not because it isn’t delicious, because I think we all agree that it is.  But because of the high fat content (1 pound of butter!).  Nonetheless, I am not one to back down from a challenge.

The recipe to follow was put up and it went completely over my head.  Something about a lot of butter, and making turns, and fold the dough like a book… what???  Thank God for YouTube.  I found an excellent video on making puff pastry from two girls who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

I figured out how to incorporate the butter with a series of six “turns,” and to fold the dough in thirds like a book, keeping the butter cold the entire time.  This process keeps the flour mixture and the fat layered to achieve maximum rise in the oven.  What genius came up with that?  Brilliant!

Once the dough was made and well chilled, I rolled some out and cut them in circular shapes to make my vols-au-vent.  A little docking here and a little egg wash there and they were ready to rise to fame and glory.  I found myself watching through the window in the oven and cheering them on like a sports match.

The puffs puffed perfectly (try saying that 5 times fast) and didn’t deflate like my failed chocolate souffles.  Not only did they turn out great, but they were actually really fun to make.  I may not want to eat a whole lot of it (actually I do, but I must practice willpower so I don’t puff up too), but I can foresee making many batches of puff pastry in the future.

The vols-au-vent weren’t finished until they were filled.  Rather rushed, I put some melted chocolate on the bottom inside of the shells and topped with chocolate whipped cream.  I also put a dollop of vanilla icing on the tops to adhere chocolate designs to.

The pastries were buttery and flaky and reminded me of France, but the cream was a little subtle.  I froze half of my puff pastry dough to make millefeuilles, or napoleons, another day.  Mmm.. millefeuilles.  I drool like Homer Simpson when I think of those.

September Daring Bakers Challenge:  A

Make sure to stop by at the end of October for another baking challenge.

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Okay, after the last failed lesson, I decided to revisit primary school (in the baking sense) and redeem myself, and Alton Brown, with peanut butter cookies from his book “I’m Just Here For More Food.”  This time I had all the ingredients and a day off from work.  Back to basics.

I weighed all the ingredients, even the peanut butter which Alton highly encouraged, but opted not to get out my food processor to sift the dry.  One thing you should know about me is that I really dislike washing dishes.  The less I use, the better.  And until someone comes up with disposable food processors, or I hire a dishwasher, I will refrain from using one to sift.

I’m happy to report that no problems arose, but the cookies did.  Alton created a good balance of ingredients and leavening.  Though not a huge fan of peanut butter cookies (definitely not part of a low fat diet), they turned out not too hard and not too soft.  The smell alone provoked massive amounts of drool to issue from my black labrador’s mouth.  Of course, he gets peanut butter in his kong every day and considers it to be one of his favorite treats.

Reassured with this last success, I’m ready for another challenge.  The grade?

A

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