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Posts Tagged ‘Kelly Mecker’

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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Oh my! Has it really been 8 months since I last blogged?  My apologies.  The holiday season is coming up, I’ll try to keep you better updated.

Decided it was about time to get back into the Daring Baker’s Challenges at the Daring Kitchen.  And this month, it was Sachertorte.

I have to say from the start… not my favorite.  But I’m not a big fan of chocolate and fruit.  This chocolate cake was drenched in apricot jam and topped with a chocolate/water mixture.  I was disappointed I didn’t like it better.

The cake was quite simple to make, and I had all the ingredients on hand.  The chocolate sauce on top stumped me though.  It looked shiny like a ganache, but used a sugar/water mixture rather than heavy cream.  Water and chocolate?  I thought for sure the chocolate would seize up, and it did!  It looked like dry brown sugar initially.  Had to keep adding water to get it to thin back out.  But nothing I did could completely save it.  So I spread it on as best as I could and attempted to cover it up with a white chocolate spider web.

Overall, it didn’t look terrible with the decorations.  But I had one small piece and took the rest to work because it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

The October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Korena of Korena in the Kitchen. She took us to Austria and introduced us to the wonders of the Sachertorte.

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I’ve come to realize I make empty promises.  Not intentionally!  I would like to blog more, but time doesn’t seem to slow down enough for it.  With the holiday season approaching, my time will be stretched even thinner, but I’ll certainly try to update along the way.

So it’s been 3 months since I did a Daring Kitchen baking challenge.  I must admit, I wasn’t thrilled about this month’s which was Pot Pie.  And we could NOT make a sweet version, which in my opinion, doesn’t count as a baking challenge.  But alas, I was craving a Cornish pasty so I decided to give that a go.  Not exactly a pot pie, but it has all the same components:  savory filling in a closed pastry crust.

I looked up a couple of recipes and found Jamie Oliver’s version on a blog.  Not really wanting to make six pasty’s, I cut the recipe in half.  And the meat was marinated in Guinness over night.  I also left out the carrot in one pasty, as I’m not a huge fan of carrots in anything other than carrot cake.

Some baked potato slices and brown gravy accompanied the pasties.  My boyfriend highly approved the meal.  I’m just hoping we bring back the sweet for November’s challenge.

Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, we were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region.

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Hey guys.  I am back from my grand adventure.  Spent two amazing weeks in Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Cape Town.  Logged lots of hours on planes, but it was worth it.  Was finally able to do the one and only thing on my bucket list:  see a great white shark in person.  And boy, did they put on a show for me!  Flying out of the water, chasing seals, and showing off around the shark cage.  Beautiful animals!  The trip only deepened my love for them and filled me with a desire to see more.

Settled back in at home, but didn’t quite complete this months baking challenge, which was pie.  I decided I’d still make a pie, but was missing one or more ingredients from the three different recipes that was to be made.  Therefore I thawed out some leftover pie dough I made a month ago and whipped up a delicious butterscotch and meringue pie, which I had all the ingredients for.

Even recipes I’ve made before can turn out differently each time.  Butterscotch seems to be a hit or miss for me.  I added an extra tablespoon of cornstarch and an extra egg yolk to try and get a more solid pudding since I had 1% milk, not whole milk.  But it turned out a bit runny still.  The meringue didn’t help when it weeped all over the pudding.  Damn meringue!  Just goes to show that sometimes you should take the extra step and make a tried and true recipe than the quick and simple one.  Meringue is so easy yet so finicky!

The pie dough gave me more trouble.  I didn’t have pie weights or dry beans so I just put a mixing bowl on top of the crust when blind baking.  It didn’t work.  I had to take it off and then the crust bubbled up and the edges shrunk.  It was unusable.  Thankfully I had a graham cracker crust in my pantry and used that instead.  But I didn’t completely scrap my homemade crust.  I cut out a couple small circles, put them in the bottom of espresso cups, then filled those with pudding and meringue for mini desserts.  Worked well.

In conclusion, pie is not my friend.  I’ve known it for some time now.  But we get along as best as we can.

In other news, I’m sad to report that Paddy (my sour dough starter) has left this world.  I was a bad mom and let him become overrun by mold.  I tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late.  He was a year and a half.

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie!

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Another baking challenge completely just under the wire!  Phew!  Really wanted to do this one but it’s been a busy month.  And I put off vacation planning (leave for Germany, Amsterdam, and South Africa in one week with nothing but flights set up) to get it done.  Swedish Prinsesstårta: Challenge accepted.

The cake to make is elegant and light.  Just a simple sponge (with a rather odd ingredient: potato starch), pastry cream, whipped cream, and raspberry jam which I substituted with chocolate ganache, covered with marzipan though I forgot to buy some so I made white modeling chocolate instead.

The only problem I ran into while making the cake was the pastry cream.  Different recipe than I’m used to and it separated twice while over the heat.  My guess is that I cooked it too long, but it said to bring it to a boil and it never seemed to quite get there.  I had to stick with the results from the 2nd attempt because I ran out of eggs, so I put it in my kitchen aid mixer and beat the liquid back into the custard as well as I could.

When assembling the cake, I also chose to brush the sponge with a simple syrup because the recipe just didn’t sound sweet enough.  And I added mini chocolate chips in the top layer for a bit of crunch (and duh!  Because chocolate makes everything better). It all came together well and made for quite a pretty cake.  Didn’t have time to go all out on the decorations so I piped a couple of chocolate butterflies and made a single flower out of modeling chocolate.

Hate to rush, but I must get back to planning my trip.  So much to do!!!

Korena of Korena in the Kitchen was our May Daring Bakers’ host and she delighted us with this beautiful Swedish Prinsesstårta!

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Hello hello!  It’s been some crazy busy few months, but I’m back, baby!  No more half-assed, thrown together, just to say I made it, baking challenges.  If you don’t know already, I love the Daring Baker’s Challenges at the Daring Kitchen.  I’ve learned so many great recipes (and some that I have no desire to make again, honestly) of desserts I had never even heard of.  This month’s challenge was no different.

Savarin.  Say what?  Yeah, well it’s a rich yeast cake that’s soaked in a liquid and served with lightened pastry cream and fruit.

So I’ve been traveling a lot lately.  I had to carefully plan out the day I would make this cake.  However, days off where I am home and not jet-setting are becoming few and far between so by the time I finished all my needed errands, it was 4 pm.  FYI . . . it is impossible to start making a yeasted cake at 4 pm unless you intend to stay up until 4 am.

The cake really isn’t hard to make, thanks to the good ol’ Kitchen Aid.  But with all the rising time involved, I only had time to bake the cake itself.  Then it went into the freezer while I went off to New York for the weekend.

Picked it back up the next week, making the pastry cream and the syrup to soak it in.  Now the syrup . . . I probably should have looked up a different recipe.  But I went with the one provided in the challenge.  It tastes a lot like tea.  I think a spiced rum would have been better.  But nonetheless, that cake was thirsty.  Crazy how much liquid it soaked up.  And I don’t think I had enough time to let the excess drip off because the piece I tried tasted more like a sweet tea sponge.  But maybe a day in the fridge will help.

I think all this cake really needed was a cup of simple syrup.  It kind of reminded me of a spongy angel food cake with the cream and berries, but the peach syrup was just too much liquid.  If I make it again (which is a big “if” since the cake takes so long to make), I will make a different syrup and use much less of it.

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