Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Daring Bakers October: Macarons

For the month of October we got to take on one of many bakers' deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares : macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze

I failed this recipe three times this month, twice in the French method and once in the Italian.

Daring Bakers October: Macarons
This was the first fail--vanilla bean in the French method. I tried again the second time, but again, it failed.

Daring Bakers October: Macarons
Here are the chocolate macarons in the Italian method that I tried to make just tonight in an effort to redeem myself. Again, a fail. *sigh*

I've made macarons before, successfully. I made them the last time we made them with the Daring Bakers, and those didn't turn out so well, either. One time I made them , and they kind of turned out. Twice, even.

I know my egg whites were overbeaten every time, but for some reason, they were drying out before I could get all the liquid egg white incorporated. It was so frustrating, watching this happen as it was happening. Part of the problem may have been using eggs that were too new. Part may have been trying to reduce the recipe to 2/3 for each time I made the French method. In the Italian method. I think I had too much of the egg white in the meringue mixture and not enough in the almond mixture, all while starting with egg whites that were just overbeaten. I'll have to go back and compare notes to times my macarons have actually come out. It wasn't all a loss, though--I gave the vanilla macarons to my friends, branding them as the Italian cookie bruitti ma buoni. I haven't decided yet what to do with the chocolate shells.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Daring Bakers September: Irish Soda Bread

For the month of September Meredith from the Poco Loco Olsons challenged us to experiment with soda bread.

I made a very simple loaf and served it at a dinner party. I just needed a little loaf, so I halved the white soda bread recipe.

Daring Bakers September: Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread.

Daring Bakers September: Irish Soda Bread

Daring Bakers September: Irish Soda Bread

Daring Bakers September: Irish Soda Bread

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Daring Bakers August: Gluten-free seed and nut loaf

For the August challenge Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make Seed & Nut Loaf – a super-healthy and gluten-free alternative to standard wheat-based bread.

Here's my loaf! I'm in the middle of moving and am having to really pinch my pennies, so I found a recipe that I'd only need to buy a couple of ingredients for since I had the rest on hand--a cross between and, which are both essentially the same recipe. I used pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, some oats, olive oil, and eggs. I love nuts, but I'm afraid this wasn't my favorite. I liked it a bit better after a smear of pandan jam. I think my palate would be happier if I saved my walnuts for chocolate chip cookies, though. ;)

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Daring Bakers May: Lamingtons

For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant

Daring Bakers May: Speculoos Lamingtons
Instead of covering my lamingtons in the traditional grated coconut, I crushed some speculoos (spice cookies, e.g., Bischoff) and rolled my chocolate-coated cubes in the resulting crumbs.

Daring Bakers May: Speculoos Lamingtons
I needed to make pound cake for another project, and I baked the leftover batter in a loaf pan to cut into cubes for this challenge. Then I made the traditional cocoa powder-based dip and crushed up my speculoos.

Daring Bakers May: Speculoos Lamingtons
I really should've crushed more speculoos to make sure the crumbs stayed neat, but I knew I'd end up with too many after I was done, so I had clumpier crumb covering toward the end. The first few, at the top left, came out fine, though. The row on the right has only had a couple rolled in the crumbs.

Daring Bakers May: Speculoos Lamingtons
Final product! It made just enough for my little family.

Daring Bakers May: Speculoos Lamingtons

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Daring Bakers April: Focaccia di Recco

For the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch

I wasn't in the mood to work with yeast, but luckily, April and Sawsan included this recipe for focaccia di recco from Academia Barilla.

It's essentially a very thin pie filled with cheese. It's supposed to be filled with Crescenza or Stracchino cheese, but I couldn't find either, so I just used mozzarella.

After mixing the simple dough and letting it rest for an hour, you roll half of it into a very thin circle. I cut the recipe in half because I didn't want a giant focaccia, but either I rolled it too thinly or the biggest baking sheet I own was just barely big enough to contain it.


Simple shredded mozz.

You roll the second half of the dough out and put it on top of everything. Then you undertake the comical challenge of pinching all the way around this giant round of dough a few times, in mortal fear that if you don't, cheese will leak out of some side hole and desecrate your already kinda freaky deaky oven floor. Then you just toss your hands up in the air and fold the outer edges in--desperate food origami. Then snip little holes into the top crust all over the place to vent the steam.

Paint olive oil over the top and sprinkle down some sea or kosher salt.

Laugh when your steam holes fail and your focaccia does its best Jiffy Pop impression.

Rest assured, it will retain maximum puffiness once you take it out of the oven. Long after you take it out of the oven. No worries--stamp it out with a clean dish towel as if it were on fire, and it will flatten out with only a minimum of saggy, deflated poofs here and there.

Pac-Man approves!

This is a simple and easy recipe and comes together quickly, hour-long rest aside, and it would be fun to play with other fillings. This is a keeper!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

One of my friends hosts Phoenix's own Cupcake Camp--a free event where bakers of all pedigree bring free cupcakes to feed cupcake lovers of all ages. I contributed orange creamsicle cupcakes and mini olive oil cupcakes, both with cream cheese frosting. I used Giada DeLaurentiis' olive oil muffin recipe, and as with all her recipes, this is a keeper, but I really loved the orange cupcakes. I did add a splash, less than a quarter of a teaspoon, of orange extract for the aroma, and left out the Grand Marnier.  Sweet Orange Cupcakes w/Orange Butter Cream Frosting

Servings - approx. 22 cupcakes   Serving Size - 1 cupcake w/frosting   Points Plus per Serving - 6 Points+

Calories - 214.7,   Total Fat - 7.2g,   Carb. - 35g,   Protein - 2.7g,   Fiber - 0.3g

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup low fat buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup FRESH squeezed orange juice
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 TBS Grand Marnier (optional)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
zest from one large orange

For the frosting:
5 TBS unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz. of 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
pinch of kosher salt
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 TBS orange juice
1 TBS Grand Marnier (optional)
1 tsp. orange zest


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two standard sized muffins tins with paper liners.  (you will get approx. 22 cupcakes from the batter)

2. Sift into a large mixing bowl, the flour, salt, and baking powder.  With wooden spoon, mix in the granulated sugar.

3. In small bowl or 4 cup glass measure, combine the buttermilk, oil, 1/2 cup orange juice, eggs, Grand Marnier(if using), and vanilla extract.  Pour the mixture into the middle of the dry ingredient bowl.

4. With electric mixer, mix batter on low speed until just combined.  Turn mixer up to med/high and beat for 2 minutes.

5. Add in the orange zest from one orange and stir into batter with wooden spoon.

6. Fill each liner approx. 3/4 of the way full.

7. Bake for 18 -20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and the cupcakes are done.  Remove to wire rack to cool.

8. While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by whipping the butter, cream cheese, and salt up until it is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).   

9. Add in confectioners sugar one cup at a time, beating after each cup. Whip until fluffy and smooth.      

10. Frost each cooled cupcake with frosting.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Daring Bakers March: Tarte Tatin

For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.

I jumped at the opportunity to bake with one of my favorite fruits, Bosc pears, to make a pear tarte tatin.

The dough is luscious.

I used a melon baller to core the pears so they didn't end up too badly mangled. I didn't need a big tarte tatin, so I used a smaller saucier in which to cook it.

The caramel was pretty stress-free, although I was afraid of burning it while cooking the pears in it--true to the recipe's word, the caramel showed no signs of burning even after 15 minutes on the heat. I needed an extra pear for the center, but since I didn't have one, I just threw in some blueberries so the crust wouldn't sink too much.

After resting the dough in the fridge, I rolled it out and used my pot lid as a template for the dough--easier than using the hot pan where the cooked pears were cooling.

Trimmed with the excess, which I sprinkled with sugar and rolled out a couple of times and then baked along with the tarte tatin for a treat.

If you follow the crust recipe to a t, it's delicous--airy, buttery, tender.

Once the pears had stopped steaming, I put the crust on--I didn't have to wait for the pears to cool completely.

Baked to golden-brown! Now to let the caramel to stop bubbling before the scary trick where I flip it into a plate.

All done!

A modest slice.

This recipe is fairly quick and easy, and the result was one of the yummiest things I've baked in a long while! It's definitely a keeper.

Tarte Tatin Rough Puff Pastry
Makes one 9″ tarte, serves 8-10.
Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini. Makes one single pastry crust.

In a medium bowl, combine:

1 cup (250 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
¼ tsp fine salt

Cut 2/3 cup (160 ml) (5 oz) (140 gm) unsalted butter, cold, into small cubes and add it to the flour. With a pastry blender (or two table knives) cut in the butter until the mixture in crumbly but even, with pea-sized pieces of butter. Make a well in the middle and pour in ¼ cup (60 ml) ice cold water. Toss the flour/butter and water together with a fork until the dough starts to clump together.

Turn the dough out onto your work surface – don’t worry if there are still pockets of dry flour. Gently knead and squeeze the mixture a few times just enough to bring it together into a square (a bench scraper is helpful for this). Be careful not to overwork the dough: there should be visible bits of butter and it should still look very rough.

Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, and roll the dough out into a rectangle about 10” (25 cm) long. Fold the bottom third of the dough up into the middle, and fold the top third down, like you are folding a letter. This is one fold. Turn the dough a one quarter turn so that one of the open edges is facing you, and roll out again into a 10” (25 cm) rectangle. Fold again – this is the second fold. Repeat the rolling and folding 3 more times, for 5 folds total. Your dough will get smoother and neater looking with each fold (the pictures show the first and fifth folds).

If your kitchen is very warm and the dough gets too soft/sticky to do all the folds at once, chill it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes between folds. After the fifth fold, use your rolling pin to tap the dough into a neat square. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for a least 1 hour, or overnight.

For Bosc pears

I used 4 pears to make a smaller tarte tatin, although five would've been ideal to have a pear bottom for the flower's center. For a large skillet, you'll need up to 8 pears, and this recipe is for that amount.

Core and peel pears--I used a melon baller to core them. Toss them in 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice so they don't brown.

Place 1 stick butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cardomom, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in skillet, and heat until it's a caramel-brown color. Then toss pears in to coat, and arrange into the final pattern you want the pears to take after you flip it. They should be cut-side up. Cook for about 15 minutes, and set aside until the pears have stopped steaming. 

To bake the tarte tatin

Remove the pastry from the fridge, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, and trim it into a circle about 1” (25 mm) in diameter larger than your saucepan. Lay it over the filling, tucking in the edges between the apples and the sides of the pan, and cut a few steam vents in the pastry. Place the saucepan on a rimmed baking sheet (just in case the filling decides to bubble over the sides) and place in the preheated moderately hot 375˚F/190°C/gas mark 5 oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, increasing the oven temperature to moderately hot 400˚F/200°C/gas mark 6 during the last 5 – 10 minutes of baking if the pastry isn’t browning properly.

Remove from the oven and let sit just until the caramel stops bubbling. Immediately place a serving platter (slightly larger in diameter than the saucepan) over the pastry. Wearing oven mitts, grab hold of the saucepan and platter and quickly invert everything to unmold the Tatin onto the platter. If any of the apples stick to the pan or come out of place, rearrange them with a spatula.

Remove from the oven and let sit just until the caramel stops bubbling. Immediately place a serving platter (slightly larger in diameter than the saucepan) over the pastry. Wearing oven mitts, grab hold of the saucepan and platter and quickly invert everything to unmold the Tatin onto the platter. If any of the apples stick to the pan or come out of place, rearrange them with a spatula.

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