Thursday, January 28, 2010

Canada! Nanaimo Bars!

Daring Baker's Nanaimo Bars - January Challenge

What a great way to celebrate Canada and the Olympics, with a Canada favorite, Nanaimo bars!

Living in Florida, I definitely have never had Nanaimo bars, and I first head of them from Cakespy and her wonderful finds.

The recipe for Nanaimo bars with gluten-free graham crackers can be found at Celiac Teen's blog. The recipe for all of the components are super long, and well, it gives you an excuse to check out Lauren's blog!

The challenge could be done gluten-free or with wheat flour for the graham crackers, and I chose to try gluten-free. It was neat to work with the new ingredients I haven't worked with before, like sorghum, tapioca and sweet rice flour. One thing I noticed right away was how fine the flours' consistency was compared to all-purpose flour. I loved the gluten-free graham crackers, and I would definitely try GF baked goods again.

Nanaimo bars have three distinct layers, which in my book makes it a fancy bar-cookie recipe. the bottom layer is an ultra-tasty combination of graham cracker crumbs, coconut and buttery goodness.

The middle layer is a custard filling, and mine ended up a little grainy and a little too sugary. (One thing that could have caused that - I used skim milk instead of whole milk - I know, I know, but I hate having milk around the house if it isn't going to be used, and unless I am baking with it, it just sits there! )

The nanaimo bars are topped off with a layer of chocolate.

Problems I ran into with the bars, other than the custard problem I admitted to, was that the bars were sure hard to cut and get out of the pan. The top chocolate layer cracked while cutting, and on most pieces separated from the custard. I let the whole pan sit out of the fridge for about an hour to see if that would help in cutting, and it did, but just barely.

I liked the dessert, it was very rich and a great novelty. Great challenge!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal cookies with a touch of cranberry pizazz!

I just got the Sur La Table Art & Soul of Baking cookbook, and I am enjoying it. It is nice and big, with great pictures and explanations on the variety of recipes. Last week I tried Rustic Olive and Rosemary bread, and this week I was looking for a sweeter treat.

The recipe indicated it made 50 cookies, which I didn't really want 50 cookies hanging around, so I cut the recipe in half, with some tweaks. I did have to use half an egg, but it works for me. The following is the half recipe I used, adapted from Sur La Table.

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 12

1/2 stick butter, unsalted
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 1/2 Tbsp sugar, granulated
1 egg, lightly beaten and divided in half
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, unbleached
pinch of baking soda
pinch of baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup rolled oats, old-fashioned
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine butter and sugars and beat until smooth. Scrape down, then add vanilla and half of egg, blend until smooth.
3.In medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Add to mixer, beat until combined.
4. Scrape bowl, then add oats and cranberries. Mix until combined.
5. With a small scoop, place scooped cooking dough on baking sheet. Bake cookies for 14 minutes, rotating from back-to-front and top-to-bottom halfway through cooking time.

These cookies were delightful, I felt it was a perfect balance of oatmeal-ness. Those who tried the cookies agree, I almost missed out in a final picture, they were going so fast!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tiramisu Parfaits

Tiramisu is a favorite easy dessert of mine, but one downfall with the recipe I use is that it yields 12-15 large portions. The recipe also uses 24 oz marscapone cheese, which can get expensive.

Hubby and I invited a close couple over for a Christmas dinner party, and I found the perfect solution in individual Tiramisu Parfaits.

Tiramisu Parfaits, based very loosely on a recipe. Makes 4 wine glass sized parfaits.

3 oz dark Rum
1/2 cup strong coffee, room temperature
1 Tbsp Instant Espresso Powder
1 cup Heavy Cream
6 oz Marscapone Cheese
2 Tbsp granulated Sugar
12-15 Ladyfingers
Cocoa Powder
Chocolate shavings, optional

Mix rum, coffee and espresso powder together in shallow dish until espresso powder has dissolved. Set aside.

In standing mixer, whip cream into stiff peaks.

Place marscapone cheese in medium bowl. Add sugar and soften using a few strokes with a spatula. Mix in whipped cream, starting with a small amount and gradually adding the full amount.

When ready to assemble parfaits, break the ladyfingers into pieces that will fit well in your glass. I broke mine into 2 or 3 pieces. Working with about 3 pieces at a time, dip the ladyfingers into the coffee/rum mixture. Roll the pieces, ensuring all is covered, but do not leave the ladyfingers in, or they will quickly become too soggy. Place the wet pieces on a separate plate and continue until all ladyfinger pieces have been dipped.

To assemble the parfaits, scoop a layer of marscapone mixture into the glass first. Sprinkle a light layer of cocoa powder on top of the marscapone. Place a layer of ladyfingers then repeat with an additional layer of each item. Finish the parfait with a top layer of marscapone, and garnish with chocolate shavings. Place in fridge for at least an hour so the flavors can really develop.

For my parfaits, I used 4 wine glasses and was able to layer each component twice, and then topped the dessert with a final layer of marscapone mixture. If you have taller glasses, you might want to adjust the layers or increase the recipe quantity.