Sunday, October 28, 2012

October's Baker's Challenge: Mille Feuille

Blog checking lines: Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

My Mille Feuille looked a bit more like turnovers than the lovely layered napoleons they were intended to be. In my imagination they were going to have many layers, a light, lump free pastry cream and an intricate icing design.

Two weeks of the flu, many house guests and two job interviews later...voila! A lumpy, single layer with a drizzle of simple icing and a few stewed pears thrown in.

Not a master piece but yummy none the less.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September Baker's Challenge: Empinadas

Blog checking lines: Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June Baker's Challenge: Battenburg Cake

Blog checking lines: 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.

This was the June challenge and also my husband's birthday cake. I was really excited about this one and put a lot of thought into it.  My flavours were caramel butter cream icing, yellow cake, chocolate cake and chocolate plastique.

People loved this cake. I loved the icing and the chocolate cake but I wasn't wild about the plastique (should have splurged on the chocolate) and the yellow cake was good but not amazing. My biggest challenge was that my 9 month old was really, really needy while I made this and I ended up holding him for most of the prep and then coming back and forth to making it while I tended to him. Usually I really focus in on my baking so that made it a little more tough.

Despite that, and most importantly, I loved the concept and had so much fun with this cake! It was a great surprise for the guests to see the cake cut and notice the checker pattern.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May Baker's Challenge: Challah

Blog checking lines: May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

I opted to make the Honey Challah and really enjoyed the process. Braiding was fun (3 and 6 strand) and as someone who has never really delved into breads, this was refreshing. We ate the bread with butter and jam and enjoyed it. I'd like to work on making it a little lighter, as it was a touch too dense in my opinion. Freezing one loaf and looking forward to serving it to friends next weekend.

Challah (Honey White)

(from Tammy’s Recipes)
Servings: 2 loaves
1 ½ cups (360 ml) warm water, separated
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) (15 gm/½ oz sugar
2 Tbsp. (2-2/3 packets) (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) dry active yeast
½ cup (120 ml) honey
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) oil (light colored vegetable oil, or olive oil if you prefer)
4 large eggs
1 ½ tsp. 7½ ml) (9 gm) (1/3 oz) salt
5 cups (1200 ml) (700 gm/25 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more as needed (up to 8 or 9 cups total)
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
1. In mixer bowl/large mixing bowl combine ½ cup warm water, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. yeast. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.
2. To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed. Knead for approximately 10 minutes.
3. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen/tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
4. Punch down the dough, divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf (shaped or braided as desired).
5. Place loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise 30 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
7. Brush tops loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with seeds or toppings here if wanted.)
8. Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done.
9. Cool on wire racks.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April Baker's Challenge: Armenian Nutmeg Cake

 Blog checking lines: The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake. 

This cake was easy to make and so crazily delicious that we ate it until we almost exploded. It took ages to cook and the batter was nothing to write home about, but the finished product was nothing short of a miracle.

This one is a forever cake.

  • 1 cup (240 ml) milk (I use whole, but nonfat or lowfat should be fine; non-dairy might work just fine, as well)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking soda
  • 2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour (I suspect pastry flour or another low-gluten flour might even work better to achieve a light, fluffy crumb)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) baking powder (I used single-acting, because it's aluminum-free, and it turned out fantastic)
  • 2 cups (480 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) butter, preferably unsalted, cubed
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) walnut pieces, may need a little more
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons (5 to 7 ½ ml) (5 to 8 gm) ground nutmeg (try to grate it fresh yourself; the aroma is enchanting)
  • 1 egg
Directions - the Traditional Way
1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder; that's for the next step) into the milk. Set it aside.
3. Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. One sift is fine
4. Add the brown sugar. Go ahead and mix the flour and brown sugar together. Or not.
5. Toss in the cubed butter.

6. Mash the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can also use your fingers if you want). You'll want to achieve a more-or-less uniform, tan-colored crumbly mixture.
7. Take HALF of this resulting crumbly mixture into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles. It will be easy.
8. Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl.
9. Toss the nutmeg in with the egg.
10. Start mixing slowly with a whisk attachment and then increase to medium speed, or mix with a hand whisk if you're doing it manually. Once it's mixed well and frothy (about 1 minute using a standing mixer, or about 2-3 minutes of vigorous beating with a whisk), pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform.
11. Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture. Mix that well, with either a paddle attachment, or a spatula. Or continue to use the whisk; it won't make much of a difference, since the resulting batter is very liquidy. Pour on the crust and sprinkle with nuts. Bake.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ring, Ring...Banana Cake!

The only children's CD we have was a gift from my step mother. It's the best 20 years of Raffi. For the Raffi fans out there, the title of this post will hopefully inspire at least a knowing smile. For everyone else: there's a song called 'Banana Phone', which is really catchy and I often have it in my head. As a result, as soon as I uttered the words 'Banana Cake', I could think of nothing else.

This cake cannot call your cat but it's still something to sing about! It's really the peach upside down cake with bananas instead of peaches. It's a nice alternative when peach season is no more. I made this on NYE and it was pretty tasty, although I hands down prefer the peach. Banana lovers would disagree I'm sure, but the beauty of this upside down cake is that there's a version for everyone. Pineapple, peach, banana, pear, apple...I would go on if I could think of something else! The point is that it's a really good base recipe that is very versatile.

January Baker's Challenge: Scones

Bakers Challenge blog checking lines: Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

Scones are one of those things that I've made without really thinking about them. The January Baker's Challenge changed that. Scones are complex little creatures with distinct personalities. Did I want a tender scone? Would my scone have layers? These are but a few of the questions I never thought to ask. Lord only knows what kinds of scones I was technically producing before, and I can only hope that the recipients were just as clueless as I was!

In the end I chose a tender scone because that's what Charlie said he wanted. I knew, as maybe he did too, that he had no idea what that really meant. Happy to have some direction, I forged ahead with the instructions for the tender variety.

My mother in law mentioned that she liked scones, and since she was coming over for an infant/child CPR class at our house (not hosted by me thankfully for those attending!), it seemed like a good time to make scones.

I served my decidedly tender scones with devon cream and strawberry rhubarb jam. The crowd was pleased with them, but I held back on declaring a real victory. They weren't burnt, they looked good, they were fairly moist, but I really felt that for something with such few ingredients they would have to be out of this world for me to think I had actually mastered them. Maybe my version of a mastered scone will be slightly different than someone else's but I still don't think I'm there. Next time I will try making a flaky scone. Stay tuned!