Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Stollen

December’s Daring Baker’s challenge was Stollen. I had never made Stollen, and it turned out to be an interesting challenge!

I made candied orange peel, which was a disaster the first time around. The second time, with a little help from the hubby, it was a success.

The dough was made the night before, rested in the fridge over night, where is quickly doubled in size.

When I was ready to use the dough, I pinched it down, kneaded, and rolled the dough out into a rectangle. Then I rolled the dough, and forgot to divide, so it ended up being a huge loaf of stollen. Shaped the rolled dough into a ‘wreath’, cut the edges of the dough, and allowed to rise before baking. I was surprised how much the dough continued to rise before baking.

I was then ready to bake, which took about 40 minutes. I let the loaf cool slightly before putting the first of several coats of powdered sugar on the crust.

Great Challenge, thanks!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Baker’s Doughnuts

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This month’s challenge, hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up, was doughnuts. I think it was about this time last year we were frying cannoli in oil, and since that didn’t end well, I was a little apprehensive when I read about the doughnuts. As this month became unexpectedly hectic, I wasn’t sure if this challenge would even happen. As a weekend freed up, I decided to tackle the doughnuts!

I chose the yeast doughnuts, since I have never been a fan of cake doughnuts. I think now that I’ve tried yeast doughnuts, I would try cake doughnuts, worth a shot next time!

The recipe called to heat milk, pour over butter to melt.


As that was happening, the yeast activated in warm water. I then split the amounts of milk mixture and yeast, setting aside half to add chocolate to, which ended up an interesting experiment.

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Added the milk mixture together with the yeast, then added flour and remaining ingredients. I let the dough rise in an oiled bowl and repeated the process with my chocolate dough experiment.

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I was surprised by how much the dough rose, but as I got a late start on the project, I decided to refrigerate both dough's and make the doughnuts the next morning.

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The next morning I pulled the dough out of the fridge and let sit for about 2 hours. Then I rolled the dough, cut doughnut shapes with cookie cutter, and let rise while my ‘oil supervisor’ helped get ready to fry these doughnuts.

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When we started frying, everything went successfully, no accidents! After tasting some hot doughnuts, we decided they needed a glaze, and used the powdered sugar & cream glaze that was suggested with another recipe.

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I enjoyed making the doughnuts, especially since it is a project I wouldn’t have done without the challenge. The doughnuts were of course best hot, and a couple hours after frying, the doughnuts had a distinct oily-fried flavor.

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The ‘chocolate’ doughnuts did not taste chocolaty at all, which was disappointing but not surprising. I had added two tablespoons cocoa powder to the milk mixture, which did not give a significant flavor enhancement. All in all, great challenge!

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Monday, September 27, 2010

September means Football & Cookies

The September challenge for Daring Baker's was Decorated Sugar Cookies, and how perfect! The cookies had to be in the theme of September, whatever that meant to you personally.

To me, September is the start of College Football. In our house, the only football that matters is Florida State football.

I started with the sugar cookie recipe, provided by September's host, Mandy of What the Fruitcake? I wasn't initially thrilled with the sugar cookie recipe, the dough seemed dry and had an average flavor. After I made the dough, I chilled it before rolling. I then rolled the dough, a handful at a time, to a thickness slightly less than ¼ inch.

I wanted my cookies to be a very specific spearhead shape, and since that isn't a cookie cutter you can get, I made a stencil. First, I printed the image, carefully cut it out, and then traced it onto a thick cardstock-type of paper. I carefully cut the shape out, and had my own cookie stencil. With a paring knife, I carefully cut around the stencil on the cookie dough. Once I cut as many cookies into the dough, I tore excess cookie dough from the cookies, and then transferred the cookies to a cookie sheet to chill in the freezer until firm.

Once the cookies were firm, I took them out of the freezer, arranged on cookie sheets, and baked. I was very pleased with how the cookies cake out of the oven, in the same shape, this changed my mind on the cookie recipe. My usually sugar cookie recipe wouldn't have kept the shape and sharp edges as well.

Cookies were baked, cooled, taken off the cookie sheets and transferred to baking rack. As the cookies were cooling completely, I made royal icing. Using thicker royal icing for outlining, I outlined the cookies in black. Let the outline dry overnight, then I thinned the icing and filled the cookies, in garnet, gold and white. While the large white and garnet sections were still wet, I dipped a toothpick in the alternating color to make streaks of color on the spearhead.

Once all the icing was done, I let the cookies dry overnight before boxing them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Favorite: Homemade Oreo's

Everyone loves Oreos. And what is more fantastic than vegan homemade Oreos?

From Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

If you want to impress friends, these vegan oreo’s are the way to do it. They were first sent to Hubby’s work for a coworker’s going away, and then they appeared at the first football tailgate of the season.

Vegan Oreos, or Ooh La Las

Makes at least 2 dozen sandwich cookies


¾ cup Crisco, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup soymilk

1 ½ cups AP flour

¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

2 tsp cornstarch

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp baking powder

Black food coloring gel


¼ cup Crisco, room temperature

¼ cup vegan butter (or substitute a scant ¼ cup vegetable oil)**

2 ½ - 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 - 3 tsp vanilla extract

1. With a handheld mixer*, cream the Crisco and sugar together in a medium bowl. When it is well mixed and fluffy, add vanilla extract and soymilk and mix. The mixture will now look a little curdled, but that’s fine.

2. Add the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder and mix. Add a couple drops of black food coloring gel to enhance the black color.

3. Place dough in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

4. When thoroughly chilled, grab a handful of the dough and roll dough onto a parchment paper covered surface. Roll to a 1/8 inch thickness. With a round cookie cutter, place cookie cutters as close as possible. Slide parchment paper onto a small cookie sheet that will fit in a freezer. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 325 F. Take the dough out of the freezer, and pull the excess dough from the round cookie cutter pieces. Place the round cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, about an inch apart from each other.

6. Bake cookies for 12 minutes, one cookie sheet at a time. Take the sheet out of the oven and cool on baking rack for several minutes before transferring the cookies off of the sheet and onto the cooling rack.

7. While the cookies are fully cooling, prepare the cookie filling by creaming Crisco and vegetable oil together in a medium bowl. Add powdered sugar to bowl in 4 additions, mixing thoroughly after each addition. The texture will get very stiff and clumpy, but keep mixing. Once sugar is mixed, add vanilla extract.

8. When you are ready to assemble the cookies, pair cookies by similar sizes. With a gloved hand (or not), pinch off a small amount of filling spread onto cookie. Place other cookie on top, pressing firmly and smooshing around a bit.

Voila! Oreos!

*A Note: I initially made the cookie dough and filling with a stand mixer, but later found that a hand mixer really works best with this recipe. First time I have used a hand mixer in years!

**An Updated Note: After making these oreo's several times, I have found making the filling with vegan butter, not the substituted vegetable oil. The vegan butter makes the consistency of the filling much smoother than the vegetable oil. It's worth the extra purchase!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Daring Baker's Ice Cream Petit Fours

This month's challenge was Brown Butter Pound cake, used in Ice Cream Petit Fours or a Baked Alaska. The challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and baking. Feel free to hop on over to her site for recipes.

My feedback on the challenge : in general, underwhelmed. The brown butter pound cake gave me issues, was not cooked in the center, even though it was cooked plenty long enough, I didn't test the cake and got an undercooked cake. I was able to work around that, but the taste of the cake was a bit dry to me. Maybe I'm not a fan of browned butter.

I made coffee ice cream, using David Lebovitz's vanilla ice cream recipe and adding several tablespoons of instant espresso powder to the cream as it initially came to a boil. I was pleased with the coffee flavor, not overwhelming, but strong enough to notice.

More problems came when I took the cooled pound cake scraps, cut them in half and places the ice cream on the cake, so then it could set up to freeze. I live in Florida, in an old house with a very hot kitchen. As I was leveling the ice cream layer on the pound cake, it was hard to work with. I tried to quickly get it back in the freezer, but it was a little too melty, and the top layer of the cake slid off the ice cream. I now know to put toothpicks in the cake to anchor it.

I made the chocolate glaze according to instructions, and it consistency was thick and clumpy. I decided to use ganache as a glaze, and that ended up working better. When I took the cake out of the freezer to trim and glaze, the ice cream started to melt quickly.

It was an interesting challenge, I would make petit fours again, but without the ice cream element, that seemed to be more of a hassle than it was worth. My camera battery also died in the middle of the project, so it is an interesting selection of pictures!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Daring Baker's Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

This month’s challenge was hosted by Sunita . What an exciting challenge! Ice cream cake in such a hot month! I’ve never made an ice cream cake, and I even had a birthday to bring the cake to.

I made the ice creams with the recommended recipes. After reading recommendations to add alcohol to the ice cream so they wouldn’t freeze completely, making the cake easier to cut and eat when it is put together. I added a splash of vodka to the vanilla ice cream, and a splash of dark rum, as well as espresso powder, to the chocolate ice cream. Once those were made, I let them hang out in the freezer for a couple days until i was ready to bake the Swiss rolls and assemble the cake. I wasn’t impressed with quality of the ice creams individually, but in the cake it worked well.

Making the Swiss roll was easy enough. I don’t have the called for 9x11 inch baking sheets, but I do have 9x13 inch baking pans. I had read on the DB forum that someone had an issue with the Swiss roll breaking because they used a larger pan. Not wanting to have to make the Swiss rolls more than once, I calculated, with help from the Hubby, that the original cake batter recipe needed to be increased by about 15%, so I tweaked the recipe, adding an extra egg and such. I then sprayed the pans with baking spray, fitted with parchment paper, and divided the batter evenly by weight.

When the Swiss rolls comes out of the oven, I dumped them on a regular kitchen towel sprinkled with super fine sugar. I later realized I could have found better towels to use, but what I had ended up working, although I would have used thinner, smaller towels if I thought about it. I rolled the Swiss rolls with the towel and let cool on a rack.

Sometime during this I made the fudge. I was doing all of the work, minus the ice cream, on the day of the party that I intended to bring this cake to, and I also had come down with a cold a couple days before. I didn’t have cocoa powder in the house, and substituted unsweetened extra-fine chocolate shavings for the cocoa, and it worked well.

In the meantime, I made the cream filling. When the rolls were cooled, which didn’t take long, I unwrapped and unrolled it. It was sticking a bit to the towel, so I had to be careful not to tear the roll. I transferred the roll to a cutting board that had more sugar on it. I filled the roll with the cream, overfilled it actually, and rolled it up. Wrapped it in plastic wrap, and stuck it in the fridge after i repeated the process with the other roll.

I was waiting for the fudge to cool, which took what seemed like forever, and decided the cake and myself just weren’t going to make it to the intended party. Stupid cold.

The next day I finished assembly the cake, let it freeze overnight, and served the overdue birthday cake a couple days later, it was delicious!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Daring Baker's Croquembouche

This month’s Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Little Miss Cupcake, and the challenge was to make a Croquembouche, or Piece Montee, which is basically lots of cream puffs all piled up into total amazingness.

For the challenge, we had to make the pastry cream, pate a choux, and use a glaze to mount the puffs into a structure. I chose to make classic Vanilla Bean pastry cream, and mounted the puffs freestanding with melted chocolate.

I made the pastry cream a day ahead and let it set in the refrigerator overnight.

The pate a choux is made by first boiling water, butter, salt and sugar together. Then you dump in flour and stir really hard. What I found difficult was adding the eggs. The recipe called for 4 eggs, adding one at a time. It was a hassle to incorporate the egg easily, taking some extra time. When I made gougeres, I added the egg in the food processor, and I think that would have been a better method.

Once the puffs were baked and out of the oven, I let them cool completely. When I was ready to fill the puffs, I fitted a pastry bag with a small sharp tip and filled with pastry cream. With the sharp tip, I puncture the bottom with the tip, and fill with pastry cream. Once I started to fill the puffs, I got a good feeling for what was overfull and what was just right.

After the puffs were filled and ready to be assembled into the little tower, I melted 8 oz of chocolate, to be used as the glue for my tower.

Dipping the filled puffs in the melted chocolate, I started placing the puffs very carefully onto a small plate. A couple times I had to chill the croquembouche in the fridge to make sure it was firm and wouldn’t turn into a catastrophe on me.

Once the piece was put together, I drizzled more chocolate on, and called it a masterpiece!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vegetable Minestrone Soup

Soup is a favorite staple around our house, and this soup is essential. It’s easy to add different seasonal ingredients to the soup, each time tasting different and wonderful.

With the vegetables, we add whatever is around, being fond on onion, garlic, and tomato. The original recipe calls for zucchini, but I am not a huge fan of it in soup, so we just adjust other amounts accordingly. If leaks are out of season and too expensive, we also adjust other quantities of veggies. It’s just a launching board!

We have also experimented with the type of pasta/grain added to the soup. We have added small mini-sized pasta, medium-sized pasta, rice, tortellini, ravioli, and this last time we added orzo, which was fantastic.

The cheese rind is necessary, adding an amazing flavor to the broth. Cheese rinds can be find at your local gourmet cheese counter. I have seen bags of cheese rinds packaged together for sale specifically for soups, but I have also asked the workers at the cheese counter if they have any. They are often left over. Or use the soup as an excuse to buy some nice cheese to use for the rind!

If you have a specific choice of been to add, feel free! We like cannellini beans, garbanzo, any type of white bean works well.

Vegetable Minestrone Soup, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

2 Leeks, sliced, white and light green parts only

10 baby cut carrots, chopped (any type of carrot will work, we always have baby carrots on hand)

2 medium onions, chopped

4 ribs celery, chopped

1 medium russet potato, peeled and cubed

3-4 cups spinach, cut into strips ( I trim the stems off as well)

1 Tbsp chopped garlic

8 cups water

2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes, drained of liquids

Cheese rind, any type of hard cheese, can be found at gourmet cheese counter, ask

1/4 cup pesto (I have found this optional)

1 cup Orzo, uncooked

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a cast iron soup pot, add all chopped vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, cheese rind, and water and bring to a boil. Once brought to a boil, turn heat to medium low and let simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add Orzo, or preferred pasta, and cook an additional 10 minutes, or until grain/pasta is at the desired tenderness.
  3. Add garbanzo beans and cook until beans are warm, about 5 minutes.
  4. Mix in pesto, if using, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Amazing Gougeres

Back at Easter (yes, I know that was a while ago), some friends invited us over for a big Easter dinner. Hubby and I were bringing a bunch of stuff,but I wanted to make something out of the ordinary to bring. Since Hubby looooves cheese, Gougeres would be perfect!

I had never made pate a choux before, but David Lebovitz’s recipe made it perfectly easy, and you only need a small handful of ingredients, like the following.

See, you boil some butter and water, with a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper. While your water is starting to boil, you shred some cheese, anything semi-hard, I used gruyere.

Then you take it off the heat, throw in some flour and mix it around.

Then, in your awesomely handy food processor, dump the clump of dough, plus most of the cheese and some fresh herbs, and mix in the food processor until all nice and mixed.

Scrape the sticky mixture of dough into a piping bag, fitted with a large tip. I use a standard coupler tip, since it is the right size, and just as easy as a tip. If you don’t have a piping bag, people say you can snip the tip of a freezer bag and use that, but I haven’t tried it that way. If you have to use a freezer bag, make sure you use a sturdy one, and cut the tip small, you can always cut it bigger if you need.

Pipe mounds of dough, a little larger than a quarter, onto a parchment lined baking sheet, evenly spaced on the sheet. Sprinkle some cheese on top of the mounds, then bake those suckers into amazingness!

Gougeres, by David Lebovitz

1/2 cup water

3 Tbsp butter, small cubes

1/4 tsp salt

Chile powder, as desired

1/2 cup flour, all-purpose

2 eggs, large

1 Tbsp fresh chives, or fresh herb of your choice

3/4 cup cheese, grated fine (I think a combination of grated Parmesan and Gruyere is perfect)

  1. Preheat oven to 425F (I used a convection oven at 400F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place the water, butter, salt and chile powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure the butter is melted.
  3. Take the saucepan off the heat, and dump all of the flour into the water at once. Stir quickly and vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough mixture is consistent.
  4. Using a spatula, transfer the dough into a large food processor. Add the eggs and pulse the food processor until the egg thoroughly incorporated. Add chives and grated cheese, reserving 1 heaping tablespoon for later use. Mix well, dough will be sticky.
  5. With a pastry bag, fitted with a large tip or coupler, fill with dough. Pipe the dough into small mounds, a little larger than the size of a quarter, evenly spaced to about an inch.
  6. Sprinkle the tops of the mounds with the reserved cheese.
  7. Place the baking sheets in oven, and bake at 425F for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, rotate trays, reduce heat to 375F (or 350F for convection) and bake for 20 more minutes, until gougeres are golden brown in color.
  8. Take gougeres out of oven, place on a cooling rack, and let rest for 5 minutes. Puffs will taste best served warm.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Super Easy Vegetarian Bean Tacos

Mexican food is a super favorite in our house. It is in stiff competition with Indian food for hubby's affection. We also love any holiday or excuse to make ethnic food. Everyone loves a theme menu, right?

Perfect for Cinco de Mayo, this is our favorite recipe for tacos, and is also the most ridiculously easy recipe ever.

Black Bean & Garbanzo Bean tacos

1 can Garbanzo Beans
1 can Black Beans
1 packet/3 tbsp Taco Seasoning

You will also need:

Taco Shells

Taco Toppings, such as:
Diced Tomatoes
Chopped Lettuce
Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream
Black Olives
Sauteed Onions

Taco Stuffing steps:
1. Open and empty both cans of beans, without draining liquids, into a large skillet. Add desired amount of taco seasoning. We add about 3 tablespoons from a large contianer of seasoning, but one small envelope of seasoning will also be fine. Mix seasoning into bean mixture.

2.With medium-high heat, bring beans and liquid to a simmer. Once at a simmer, stir often until thickened, about 5-10 minutes longer. For a saucier taco filling, take mixture off heat earlier.

Assemble your taco with your favorite toppings, and enjoy!