Sunday, December 26, 2010

Daring Bakers, December: Stollen



The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

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And because I have to get up for a flight in the morning and I'm already beat and short on time, this will be primarily a picture post until I can edit it later this week Happy Holidays, everyone!



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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daring Bakers, November: Crostata



The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

I've made a happy handful of crostata, but this is my new favorite crostata dough recipe. We were allowed to choose our own filling, and I went with a marmalade filling topped with dark chocolate shavings for a nice holiday dessert to serve at my annual Fall Dinner.

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Because it was a dinner party,I only got a couple of shots of my crostata.

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Here's a slice all dressed up with somewhere to go (someone's mouth). I grated the chocolate right on top. I'd originally intended to do chocolate curls, but I didn't have time to warm the chocolate first (just warm the bar slightly so the chocolate curls up under you knife or veggie peeler instead of flakes or chips off the block as it did here).

Overall, I loved the outcome, although I wish the marmalade had been a bit tarter like a traditional British marmalade, although I was able to find one that wasn't loaded with sugar.

Notes:
-For a really buttery crust, I worked with frozen butter and left the chunks fairly large instead of rubbing it into the flour as the recipe called for.

-I was light with my kneading, stopping as soon as the ingredients came together into a loose ball.

-I rolled the dough between a sheet of parchment paper and a sheet of plastic, then transferred the dough on the plastic wrap to the tart pan by inverting the tart pan onto the rolled dough and flipping it over. The wrap helped me handle the dough without getting gooey or ripping the dough.

-I was initially concerned when I saw the filling didn't fill the tart pan, but in the end, I knew it was a good thing because that would've been a huge mouthful of marmalade, and even a big marmalade fan with me would've wanted to rip my mouth off after one bite. If I'd done the chocolate the way I'd initially planned, the curls would've filled the shell better. I'd also planned to use some stars I'd cut out to set up with the chocolate curls, but I overbaked/overbrowned them a bit in the oven and were sacrificed to the quality control squad. ;)

Check out my fellow DBers' crostatas by linking off our blogroll.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers, October: Doughnuts



The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

As of this writing, Lori hasn't posted the recipes on her blog, but you can find them over at Audax Artifex's awesome blog here.

Daring Bakers October: Doughnuts
Lori gave us four recipes to choose from, and I went with Alton Brown's yeast doughnuts, which I switched up a bit to make almond butter doughnuts, some chocolate dipped and some filled with fig pastry cream.


Daring Bakers October: Doughnuts

Daring Bakers October: Doughnuts

Daring Bakers October: Doughnuts

Daring Bakers October: Doughnuts

Daring Bakers October: Doughnuts
The doughnuts cut out and rising.

Daring Bakers October: Doughnuts
The fried doughnuts. The funky fritter-looking doughnuts on the bottom left are just the scraps pressed together--they fried up just fine.

So how were they? Not bad--fresh, fluffy, and almond buttery. But I have to be honest--this past weekend, Hun and I went to the local state fair and split one of Sil Brander's famous Texas Donuts (maple glazed), and that was heaven in a holey pastry--so fluffy, it was more air than pastry--it would've flattened out to something as thin as tissue paper, it was so airy--almost like a French cruller (my personal favorite doughnut). Why does this airiness matter? Because air is the best foil you can have for a thin, crisp, sweet fried donut crust. Since you can't have just air, a very airy dough is the next best thing. From what I saw, most of my fellow DBers' doughnuts had the same consistency as mine, which makes me really curious as to Brander's recipe. Another perk--even though they weren't fresh out of the fryer (not hot), they were still same-day fresh, and they were still delicious. This means they didn't fall under the Krispy Kreme Kurse--doughnuts that are good only when they're still hot. I want to look into different recipes to see if they conjur up fluffier, airier donuts.

Notes:
- Happily, this is one of the DB recipes I've been able to halve successfully.

- To make the almond butter doughnuts, I just substituted almond butter for most of the butter.

- To make the fig pastry cream, I just made regular pastry cream and folded some fig puree into it.

- To make the chocolate glaze, I just melted and tempered some semisweet chocolate and dipped the doughnuts into it.

- I got great help from reading fellow DBer Audax Artifex's tips, including just mixing the dough enough to mix everything and letting the dough rise overnight in the fridge. The dough chills quite well.

- You can also freeze unfrosted, unfilled, fried doughnuts and just warm them in the microwave when you want.

- Chopsticks were a handy doughnut-frying aid, although if you're handy enough with chopsticks, they can help you with anything. Tying shoes. Brain surgery. That type of thing.

To check out my fellow DBers' doughnuts, roll through the blogroll.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers, September: Decorated Sugar Cookies



The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

The recipe is here.

I enjoy making and decorating sugar cookies, so I had fun with this challenge.

Daring Bakers September: Decorated Sugar Cookies
The framework for a stained glass cookie.


I'd used cake decorator extraordinaire Colette Peters' stained glass technique on a wedding cake project for my Advanced Pastry Arts class, so I thought it would be fun to try it here, too. In fact, I still had some old piping gel sitting around, so I decided to use it up. Which meant I didn't actually eat this cookie afterward because that piping gel was older than dirt.

Daring Bakers September: Decorated Sugar Cookies
A plated Starry Night.

Daring Bakers September: Decorated Sugar Cookies
Here's a closeup.

Daring Bakers September: Decorated Sugar Cookies
I also made some retro flowers, or flowery blobs I didn't do more with because I was lazy.

I wasn't sure if I'd like these cookies. Mandy said she'd picked the recipe because it wouldn't spread, and they're the best recipe I've tried that doesn't. it's true that they didn't spread very much--just a tad bit, so do space them more than just a half inch apart. They did shrink back down half a tad bit after baking, though. I was worried about how they'd taste because the dough tasted almost like play-doh, but the cookies were tasty and even better with my almond-flavored icing. I usually half or quarter the DB recipes so I don't have a ton of baked goods in the house (unless there's a party going on), but it was tricky to split this recipe because it used only 1 egg, so I just made the full batch. I baked only half the batch of dough and the rest is in the freezer--hopefully I can either make more successful cookies or a tart crust out of it. It's quick, easy, and tasty, so I call this recipe a keeper.

Notes:
-I didn't bother turning my chilled, rolled-out dough onto a floured surface to cut my shapes out--I just cut them out on the paper and transferred them to a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

-This dough was awesome--soft, but not sticky, and very easy to roll out. I rolled it out a bit more thinly than the recipe instructed and baked them for 10 minutes, pulling them just as the edges started to brown.

-I used a standard royal icing recipe--a ratio of 1 cup powdered sugar to 3 tsp. whole milk. I used my stand mixer to make the icing, which was a mistake since it left clumps of powdered sugar at the bottom and around the sides, forcing me to stop the mixing every few seconds to scrape everything together. I should've used my awesome hand mixer (she thought, hoping she'd remember the next time since she forgot once again this time after promising herself she'd never forget). Once the icing made, it's easier to adjust the consistency, making it thicker or thinner by adding more sugar or milk, respectively. I used gel food coloring to color my icing so it wouldn't affect the icing's consistency.

-Once you've finished decorating the cookies, let them sit out to dry for several hours if you plan to stack or individually bag them. If you don't, you'll have an unintentional cookie stack and some really messed up icing. I know this from experience.

-For the stained glass cookie, I used thick black royal icing for the framework and colored piping gel for the faux glass. You can buy clear gel from cake decorating stores or just use the colored piping gel in tubes that are sold off the supermarket shelves. Or, if you have a bunch of corn syrup sitting around, you can make it yourself using this recipe:

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 T cold water
2 c light corn syrup
1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small saucepan and let set for 5 minutes. Heat on low until the gelatin dissolves--DO NOT BOIL.
2. Add and heat the syrup thoroughly.
3. Cool and store, refrigerated, for up to 2 months.
To Color: Add gel food coloring or regular food coloring for color.

Check out my fellow DBers' projects--you can click to their blogs through our blogroll.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Daring Bakers, August: Baked Alaska and Petit Fours



The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s "The Perfect Scoop".

Elissa's posted the recipe on here on her blog.

I made both:

Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours
Petit fours with honey fig ice cream filling and orange poured fondant. Lumpy, but delicious . . . I dub thee: lump-a-licious.

Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours
Two baked Alaskas--one with honey fig ice cream and one with Rainier cherry sorbet. The meringue is orange-almond flavored.


Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours
How good does browned butter cake sound? Well, it tastes even better than it sounds--it's awesome. I cut two big circles for the baked Alaskas. For the petit fours, I layered the cake (sliced it in two horizontally), filled it with softened honey fig ice cream, then stamped out and a bunch of little circles, although petit fours are traditionally square.

Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours
I lined a couple of short coffee mugs with plastic wrap, smoothed the softened ice cream and sorbet in really well, and refroze them. I made sure my round cutters were the same size as the mugs. Then I unmolded the ice cream and sorbet and topped the cake rounds with them. Then fluffed up some meringue and patted it on.

Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours

Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours

Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours
The spiky meringue had the Rainier cherry sorbet, and the swirled meringue had the honey fig ice cream.

Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours

Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours

Daring Bakers August: Baked Alaska/Ice Cream Petit Fours

And how'd they both taste? Great! I loved the brown butter cake. It's a delicious, versatile flavor, whether you're making a sage sauce for gnocci or flavoring frosting--it's also a hit with the cake. I'll definitely keep the recipe in my easy-access file.

Notes:

I forgot how well poured fondant shows off every flaw if your starting surface isn’t already smooth. Typically, you’d cover your cake with a smooth layer of jam, but all I had was fig jam, and I was too lazy to heat it up and strain the fig chunks out. I also could’ve used multiple coats to smooth out the finish, but I didn’t want to drown the cake in fondant, especially since I find the taste of powdered-sugar-based icings to be horribly overwhelming. Ick on cornstarch, is all I’m gonna say. If, however, you want that smooth finish, just wait for the icing to set just a bit, then pour another layer of fondant over. If your fondant sets up, just heat it up a tad until it’s pourable again. Corn syrup has a deservedly bad rap, but it’s important in this recipe to make sure your sugar doesn’t crystallize and create lumps as you use it. Alternatively, you can use glycerine. You could use other types of invert sugars/glucose syrups, or even acids like lemon juice or cream of tartar—just Google up those alternative recipes.

Poured Fondant
Ingredients
6 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions
1.In a saucepan, combine confectioners' sugar, water and corn syrup. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches a temperature of 92 degrees F (33 degrees C.) Mixture should be thin enough to pour, but thick enough to coat cake. Stir in the almond extract.

2.To cover cake: Frost cake smoothly with buttercream and place on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet underneath. Pour fondant over iced cake, flowing from center and moving out in a circular motion. Touch up sides with a spatula.

Check out my fellow DBers' projects--you can click to their blogs through our blogroll.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Daring Bakers, July: Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

A secret challenge! A month to work through! The blogworld-wide reveal! This . . . is Daring Bakers:



This month's Daring Bakers project was an ice cream cake--perfect to help my ring in my 34th birthday under the sweltering Arizona summer heat.

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

Daring Bakers July: Swiss swirl ice cream cake


Daring Bakers July: Swiss swirl ice cream cake
The orange-flavored cake before rolling.

Daring Bakers July: Swiss swirl ice cream cake
Rolling the still-warm cake so it would form more easily during rerolling without cracking. My cake was a bit brown on the bottom, but it didn't affect the flavor.

Daring Bakers July: Swiss swirl ice cream cake
The Swiss roll slices lining the plastic-lined bowl I used as the cake mold.

Daring Bakers July: Swiss swirl ice cream cake
This is how you know what the unmolded cake will look like once it's finished--just peer through the bottom of the bowl.

Daring Bakers July: Swiss swirl ice cream cake
Fresh Rainier cherry sorbet in the ice cream maker.

Daring Bakers July: Swiss swirl ice cream cake
Taste testing the sorbet. ;)

Daring Bakers July: Swiss swirl ice cream cake
The only shot I got of the cake slice: orange cake filled with honey cream, vanilla bean ice cream, white chocolate "fudge," and Rainier cherry sorbet.

Daring Bakers July: Swiss swirl ice cream cake

Notes:

-I rolled my Swiss roll cake lengthwise instead of shortwise, starting from the short end, as the recipe directed, because I was afraid I wouldn't have enough slices to cover the bowl. I did have a few slices left over this way. However, I didn't take into account that the roll slices would've been bigger if I'd rolled them shortwise, covering more surface area. I think the short-wise roll would've looked prettier. Overall, though, my bowl's funny size and shape made placing the slices a challenge.

-The recipe instructs bakers to cut the slices about 3/4 of an inch thick, but I wish I would've sliced mine thinner--this would've made a prettier cake, with less gap between the Swiss roll slices. However, slicing thinner slices would've been difficult, so I probably would recommend freezing the rolls slightly before trying to slice them. By the time you're done slicing, the slices should have thawed enough to be easy to place inside the bowl.

-Place your slices carefully so you don't have to keep handling the slices to move them around. If you handle them too much, they can fall apart, and that gets messy. That messiness will show on the outside of your cake. A few times, I had to remove slices and wipe the cream filling off the plastic to ensure the outside of the cake wouldn't look too sloppy.

-A lot of people didn't let their ice cream set before layering it into the bomb. This was most crucial with the layer just inside the Swiss rolls, since ice cream that's too runny can seep between any spaces between the Swiss roll slices. It's fine if it's allowed to seep through uniformly, making a tile-and-mortar effect, but not when it's only seeped through in splotches.

-I used this recipe from Food & Wine for my white chocolate hot fudge, replacing the corn syrup with some honey to keep the sauce viscous. I halved the fudge recipe, and even then, I ended up with extra. The original challenge recipe makes the same amount, and I would've halved that, too, since I'm not a fan of a LOT of hot fudge. Excess can be stored in the fridge and reheated when needed for other desserts.

-The ice cream recipe that comes with this challenge is insanely rich--it's basically frozen whipped cream. I'm glad I didn't use two batches to fill my cake because I think that would've been fat overload--like, a gallon of whipping cream. Holy cow. If I were to do this again, I'd use a traditional ice cream recipe that uses egg yolks and just some cream, cut with milk.

-I adapted this David Lebovitz recipe to make 1 qt. of sorbet, which was unsweetened because Rainier cherries are already so naturally sweet.

2 pounds fresh Rainier cherries
1/2 cup water
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 tsp pure almond extract or kirsch

Stem and pit the cherries. Place in a non-reactive saucepan with water and lemon juice over medium heat. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes until cherries are softened. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Add extract or kirsch. Place mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. Cool and chill in refrigerator overnight, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers, June: Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

Daring Bakers unite in June to make an untraditional version of a traditional Australian/NZ dessert.



The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

Dawn hadn't posted her project last time I checked, but the amazingly talented, creative, and quick Australian DBer Audax Artifex posted it all here, along with tips on making a traditional pavlova with a soft, mallowy center! I highly recommend his blog!

Daring Bakers June: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
I plated mine three ways--this is the traditional stacked style, with the meringue on the bottom, the creamy filling next, then the toppings--in this case, the chocolate mascarpone mousse, mascarpone cream, shaved chocolate, and chocolate-covered coffee beans.



Daring Bakers June: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
Dig in!

Daring Bakers June: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
Deconstructed, with the components layered in clear glasses to show a trifle-like effect--this is a common fancy-pants dessert plating. It gave the meringues a chance to shine, though, and I liked that.

Daring Bakers June: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
While the mascarpone was supposed to be the star, the vanilla bean creme anglais base in the mascarpone cream was my favorite flavor.

Daring Bakers June: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
I made a frozen sandwich treat with the last of the components, all of which freeze well, especially the meringues and mascarpone cream (creme anglais is basically the base for most ice cream recipes, so it always freezes well). The mousse wasn't creamy like ice cream until it melted in my mouth. The components in this form created the best synergy for me.

Daring Bakers June: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
Here's a closer look.

Notes:
I was excited to see that our June's project was a pavlova because it's a dessert that's given me problems in the past despite the fact that I'm comfortable with all other forms of meringues. Alas, this is really just a regular meringue cookie base. It will be crisp all the way through instead of having the soft, mallowy center that traditional pavlova recipes will give you. Again, if you visit Audax's blog linked above, he tells you how to put the traditional dessert together.

The recipe is easy to divide, which is always a plus for my two-person household. Still, half the mascarpone recipe was too much, and a quarter would've been more than enough for the recipe's purpose. Because you can do so much with it, though (freeze it into ice cream, use it as a base or topping for other desserts, etc.), it's probably worth making a half or full batch. If you freeze it, you can always thaw it out to use as a drizzle again. The meringue recipe made 5 large meringues about the size of saucers, but meringues also freeze and thaw well.

Daring Bakers June: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
I didn't have enough chocolate in my pantry for the recipe, so we picked up one of the pound-plus bars at Fresh & Easy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's Callebaut chocolate--a high-quality chocolate that's a pleasure to work with and eat. I chopped it up for the recipe and topping using my serrated bread knife--it makes quick short work of even the thickest slab of chocolate.

Daring Bakers June: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
I saw several projects with a thin, almost translucent cream drizzle, but I wanted mine to have a little more body, especially since I knew I'd end up with so much of it. The recipe says to beat the mixture to soft peaks, but I went just a smidge past hat since I knew it would soften up again after all the other handling it would go through.

Daring Bakers June: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
I also saw a lot of mousse with a grainy, gritty texture. The recipe warns not to overbeat the mascarpone because it can break--heed that warning! Gritty mascarpone has a texture similar to drained ricotta--not what I'd want in a creamy summertime dessert. Once you're ready to fold the chocolate in, the mixture can take a lot more abuse.

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