Thursday, December 27, 2012
The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!
I always love the December challenge. The December challenge always seems to be some traditional Christmas treat and this months challenge did not let me down. There are probably more variations of a Christmas bread than there are countries and this one comes from Italy.
I started out making the candied orange peels. I have done this many times now - two years ago for the Daring Bakers Christmas Stollen. The bread was not difficult but it did take some time. When you start reading a recipe and it contains seven sub-recipes (sponge, first-dough, second-dough, final dough, candied orange peels, and glaze) and some of the steps have multiple risings; you know it is going to take some time.
The other complication to the recipe is that is traditional cooked in a special paper "pan". I wasn't sure of a local source and I was too cheap to pay $5 for shipping on a few sheets of paper so I followed Marcellina instructions for making your own. It was a little bit of a pain and the papers did not look pretty for displaying the finished product, but it worked.
I ended up cooking my bread for 10 minutes longer than the recipe called for and it still came out a bit doughy. I am cooking a second loaf now and will go even longer on this one. I also think I followed the recipe by not really mixing the filling in much so the filling was kind of in pockets. I notice a lot of the other pictures that people have posted show the filing more evenly distributed. Not really sure which way is "right" - it was good with the pockets of filling but i am sure it would be good with the filling more even too.
I also used double the orange peel like Marcellina suggested as candied citron is expensive. I made a glaze for mine but didn't follow the recipe. Some of my family doesn't like the almond so I just made a similar glaze without the almond flour and added a little orange essence.
Even though the center was a little doughy it was still very good and it was a big hit on Christmas morning. A nice sweet moist bread with a delicious filling. Thanks for sharing these recipes Marcellina.
Friday, December 14, 2012
Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook! Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the Paté Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!
Everything sounds delicious in French - doesn't it. Well the first recipe Andy gave us for Paté Chinois was his family recipe and was very similar to the quick Shepard's pie that I regularly make for a weeknight supper. It has ground beef, mash potatoes. canned or frozen vegetables. Well, it seems like Paté Chinois is not quite the same. It also has a little French Canadian twist, red wine and creamed corn. Not sure I have ever seen a recipe with red wine and creamed corn together.
My wife is not a big creamed corn fan so I decided to go with a more tradition Shepard's Pie. Andy also gave us a recipe for a crock pot Shepard's pie made with lamb and beer. Since I have never made a "real" Shepard's pie I decided to try this one.
I picked us a nice leg of lamb, unfortunately it was 5 1/2 pounds, about twice as big as I needed. I decided to take a gamble that we would like it and just make a double batch. I have a pretty large crock pot so I figured no problem. Well as I started to put it together and mix all the vegetables and meat, I did not even have a bowl big enough to hold it all. It definitely would not fit in my crock pot so I pulled out the dutch oven. It barely fit in my large dutch oven. The recipe called for 10 hours on low in the crock pot so I cooked mine for 3 hours at 325°F.
I froze about half of the cooked Shepard's pie. I will be able to just make some potatoes and warm it all up to have it later. The gamble payed off, because it was yummy. I (and the rest of the family) will have no problem eating this again. The meat was very tender and tasty and I pretty much licked the sauce off my plate. The potatoes are cooked right with everything else so they come out a little brown - maybe don't look the best, but they get all that flavor from cooking with the other veggies and meat. The only change I might make in the future is to brown the meat on the stove - I think that might add a little color and flavor to the meat.
If you want to check out this recipe or any of the other Shepard's pie recipes Andy gave us they are all posted on The Daring Kitchen recipe archive ( look for Paté Chinois ).
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!
This months challenge comes about a month early for us in the USA. Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away and I will be doing lots cooking on that day - including a brined and roasted turkey. I am not really complaining though, you can't go wrong with a roast chicken any day of the week.
I have done this many times but Audax puts flavorings in the brine, while I normally put my garlic and other flavorings under the skin. I added some garlic and sprigs of thyme to the brine. For veggies I used potato, sweet potato, cauliflower, and onions.
The chicken came out wonderful. Not sure if I will change my method though. Hard to tell without a side-by-side comparison but I think the under the skin method adds more flavoring. I have only used brining with poultry but Audax discusses using it with other meats, seafood, and even nuts and seeds. I will have to experiment a little more.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
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!
You know when you can't pronounce the name of a dessert then it is going to be good. This Mille-feuille is no exception. These are also known as Napoleons.
The dessert takes a little while to make but it is not very hard to make and looks very elegant. The first step is making the puff pastry. I have made puff pastry before so this was not very different. The key to puff pastry is all the layers of dough and butter. It sounds difficult - but isn't. It does take at least several hours though as there is lots of time in the refrigerator.
The next step is making the pastry cream. A little stirring but easy to make. I don't think mine quite thickened enough but not sure. It oozed a little more than I expected but hard to know - it could be right. It was good either way.
The pastry and pastry cream get layered together - then comes the tricky part. You make a royal icing and melt some chocolate for the top and then you need to work quickly. You quick put the royal icing on, then a thin stream of chocolate, then you use a knife to make the pattern in the top. You need to do this all in kind of one step since the icing and chocolate both start to set up. Mine went pretty well. I used a plastic bag to stream the chocolate on and I cut the hole in the bag a little big so the chocolate was a little wider than desired - but it still looked ok to me.
The hardest part of the whole thing was cutting it after everything had set-up. The chocolate doesn't really want to cut and the pastry cream wants to ooze. It came out nice though and tasted delicious. Nice and flakey pastry and the pastry cream was yummy. I only wish this was next months recipe since it would work great for the progressive dinner I need to make dessert for. I'm sure there will be something equally yummy though :)
Thursday, September 27, 2012
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!
I have been very busy as of late and I notice that I have missed at least two challenges. Well time to get back into it. I will post a picture at the end of the post of what has been keeping me so busy this past month.
When I first heard that we were making Empanadas I thought of small pies that you can pick up and eat filled with beef. The Empanadas that Patri showed us were a bit different than that. For one it was much larger - not a single serving size like I was used to. She also introduced us to many different fillings - some with fish, ham, or beef.
I decided to make a beef filling since I knew that is what my family would like. I used Patri's recipe but I left out the peppers and added some corn I had. I also sprinkled about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese over the filling before I put the top on.
It was all very simple to make. The crust was a yeast crust but only needed one rising. I rolled it out about as thin as I thought I could without tearing it putting it together. I think the thickness was perfect - just enough and on the edges where you fold it over you get a nice little extra "bready-ness". The whole family loved it and asked for seconds.
As always, if you are interested in this recipe or any of the Daring Kitchen recipes then check out the Daring Kitchen recipe archive here.
At the beginning I promised to show you what has been keeping me busy. Well I am now a Cooking Dad x 2. This is Evan. He has been a great addition to our family but not always a lot of time for cooking right now.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.
Dana gave us several recipes for Crackers and they all looked so good I decided to try all four of them. I served them at my son's fifth birthday party / picnic and they were a big hit. It seems like if you tell most people you are making crackers they assume is is something hard - well that could not be further from the truth. I just made a half batch of each of these and they were all very easy to put together. In the picture they are from front and clockwise: 1-Cheddar, Rosemary, and Walnut Icebox Crackers, 2-Pepper Jack and Oregano Crackers, 3-Health Crackers, and 4-Seedy Crisps. I'll just leave you with a few comments on each:
Health Crackers - I used some wheat bran instead of the wheat germ that was called for. These were hand rolled and I just cut them with a pizza cutter to make nice little squares. Except for the fact that I salted them a little too much these were very good crackers and they looked like "real crackers" as well.
Seedy Crisps - Another good one and probably could be called a health cracker too. I used the pasta maker to roll these because I wanted to try that but it is not really necessary. Pasta dough is very stiff and hard to get thin; this is not the case with these cracker doughs. The pasta roller did make them nice and thin and uniform though and I thought these also came out very nice looking.
Pepper Jack and Oregano Crackers - enough of the healthy stuff. I decided to make this recipe with the pasta roller as well and it was probably a mistake. The dough was very wet and it would stretch and break a lot in the pasta roller. I think maybe because of this the dough became a little over-worked and the crackers were not quite as delicate as I would have liked. Even with that these were my favorite for flavor and they almost looked like a real ritz type cracker.
Cheddar, Rosemary, and Walnut Icebox Crackers - The last type of cracker was a refrigerator cracker. You just create a log with the dough and slice them off - very simple, very easy. These weren't really the best looking and they crumbled a lot when eating them but they tasted good. Nice and buttery and the flavor of rosemary and walnuts was very good.
If you want to try making your own crackers check out the recipes at the Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
This month Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! challenged us to make a Battenberg Cake. She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease. Well that was the idea anyway - mine was not exactly created with ease.
The first thing you might want to know is what is a Battenberg Cake? I know I had no idea. Well Mandy tells us this about the origins of the Battenberg Cake:
The first Battenberg cake was made to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria, to husband Prince Louis of Battenberg. It’s traditionally flavored with almond and has the signature Battenberg markings, that is, the yellow and pink squares (said to represent the four princes of Battenberg).
Well Mandy's cakes looked gorgeous and I had high hopes of doing the same. I had never worked with the marzipan that covers the cake before but I have done fondant cakes which are similar. My first mistake was waiting too long. I waited until two days before it was supposed to be done to try making the marzipan. I tried doing a cooked marzipan recipe that Mandy provided for us. It seemed easy enough but even when I had added all the liquid that it told us we might not need - the marzipan was still a crumbly, oily mess.
Well I posted on The Daring Kitchen website about my issues and Mandy came to the rescue. She said I could just blend in a little more water, and if it got too wet I could add some more confectioners sugar. I added the water and sure enough, I think I added too much. Problem number 2 - I just ran out of confectioners sugar and I only have two hours before I have to get this done. Quick cook the cake - no problems there.
Back to the marzipan. I decided to make my own confectioners sugar. I put a bunch of sugar in my food processor and process away. Well I don't seem to be able to get it quite fine enough but I decide to use it anyway to help thicken the marzipan. The marzipan gets better but I am sure it still wasn't right. Just not firm enough to work with and it decides to stretch and tear when I try to cover the cake.
As for the results. You can see from the picture it is not spectacular looking. The marzipan is sagging and probably too thick. The cake was marvelous - came out perfectly. The marzipan tasted fabulous - just a tiny bit gritty from too course sugar I used.
This was a fun challenge but I sure need to allow myself more time for this kind of challenge. I will definitely be taking another shot at marzipan sometime in the future. If you would like to try making a Battenberg cake you can find the recipe I used along with others at The Daring Kitchen recipe archive.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!
The first thing Manu did in this months challenge was to set up straight on what cannelloni is and what manicotti is. In Italy Manu had never even heard of manicotti. Wikipedia says : “Cannelloni is often erroneously referred to as manicotti (Italian: sleeves) (English pronunciation: /ˌmænɨˈkɒtiː/), which is actually a filled Italian dinner crepe, as opposed to pre-rolled pasta. While manicotti and cannelloni are sometimes used interchangeably in preparing non-traditional versions of some dishes, in traditional Italian cooking cannelloni are made with pasta and manicotti with a specialized crepe pan, and the two have particular uses. Although both terms are plural nouns in Italian, the English term is often construed as singular, particularly when used as the name of the dish.”. So I guess this means I have probably never made or even had manicotti but I have had cannelloni.
Now that that is straight, I have made cannelloni in the past, but I made it with store bought noodles. This challenge would give me a chance to make the whole thing from scratch. I went for the simple "Cannelloni di carne" because that is what I knew my family would like. The recipe had a bunch of parts but they were all easy to put together. You have to make the filling, two sauces, and the pasta itself. The parts were all very simple with only a few ingredients in each. I think this is the first Italian recipe I have made that did not even require any garlic - not sure how I feel about that.
I do have a pasta machine and I think that probably does make things easier - or at least allow the pasta to be thinner. The noodles are very thin, much thinner than a store-bought noodle. They cook in just a minute. You would think they would be delicate being so thin but I had no issues at all working with them - they held a lot of the meat filling without tearing at all.
The results were fantastic. I don't often make my own pasta but every time I do I think I should do it more often. The cannelloni noodle was so thin and was almost crepe like. The filling was just what you would from a real Italian recipe - not too fancy - just good stuff and lots of it.
Now that I have said how easy this was I must confess there was one part that made this a very difficult challenge. Take a thin floppy long noodle and fill it as full as you can get it with meat and cheese. Then top with a tomato sauce and on top of that put a white sauce. It looks beautiful - right? Now how do you take some of those out and put them on a plate and have them still look beautiful - sauce and cheese everywhere.
Thanks for the challenge Manu and thanks for sharing the family recipes. If you would like to check out this and the other fillings she recommends you can find them on the Daring Kitchen recipe archive.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Our May 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.
I'm going to keep this post a little short since I am in the middle of preparing for a long motorcycle trip this weekend. I wanted to make sure to get a post out there though since this was so good.
I'll start by saying I have made Boeuf Bourguignon - sort of. I have a crock pot recipe for burgundy beef and our family enjoys it. Well Boeuf Bourguignon is not nothing like crock pot burgundy beef. This was fantastic. The flavor was way more rich and all the vegetables were perfect since they had not been overcooked with the meat.
I have been cooking for a long time but I don't think I have ever cooked a Julia Child recipe before. This was a Julia Child recipe and she definitely does it right. I think I was cooking a few hours straight for this dish. Nothing was difficult but it was a lot of work. You brown meat, then finish it in the oven. You cook most of the other vegetable separately so each of them is done perfectly. I don't even want to think about how long it took me to peel all those tiny onions. Finally after cooking everything the sauce is strained and finished separately before putting everything together at the end.
Most times when I have a craving for some burgundy beef I will probably make my crock pot version - but for special occasions this is the way to go. The extra time involved pays off.
If you would like to try this recipe you can find it at The Daring Kitchen recipe archive.
Friday, April 27, 2012
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.
I am not sure if I have ever even had Armenian food but for this challenge we got to choose to make one or both of these Armenian sweets. I would have loved to do both but I have been a little busy lately so I chose to go with the Nazook - it looked good and had a cool name! The recipe is Jason's Aunt Aida's recipe and he even shared a video of her demonstrating how to prepare the Nazook.
This was real easy to put together. It is a yeast dough but it never really needs to rise much. You can put the dough together the night before then it is a snap to put it all together the next day. The recipe says almost anything goes for fillings - but I chose to just stick with the vanilla filling in the recipe.
I made this for a little appetizer for my Easter dinner. Kind of a strange appetizer but it was a big hit - everyone loved it. Kind of crunchy and soft at the same time, and just the right amount of sweet. Would definitely make this again and maybe be adventurous and try something different for the filling next time.
If you would like to try out the Nazook or the Nutmeg Cake come check out the recipes in the Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I had never heard of Dutch Crunch Bread before. Apparently it is very popular as a sandwich roll in the San Francisco Bay area - I have been there are few times but have not run across this before. As you can probably guess from the name, this bread originated in the Netherlands where it is known as tijgerbrood or tijgerbol (Tiger Bread) because of its strange appearance. Well I love good bread and I love a good sandwich so I was all over this challenge.
The bread recipe was mostly a typical bread recipe until it came to the end. Before you stick it in the oven you mix up a rice batter - like a bread dough recipe but very thin - and spread it on the rolls. It is one of those recipes where you just have to wonder how someone ever came up with it. In the oven the rice batter cracks as it dries and gives the bread a very distinct look.
I can't say my bread looked as nice as some of the others doing the challenge but it still looked cool. Not sure if I would really call it a crunch but the topping does add a different texture and it also adds quite a bit of flavor to the bread as well. It is also kind of a messy bread to eat as the topping kind of crumbles as you eat it. I did enjoy it and will make sure to try to find some next time I am in San Francisco to see if what I made is anywhere close to the real thing.
The challenge was to make a unique sandwich with our bread. Not sure I really made anything unique. We are having such a beautiful early spring here in Minnesota so I just decided to grill up some chicken breast with Cajun spices and topped it with some avocado, tomato, and lettuce - not anything very original but it was delicious!
If you would like to try making Dutch Crunch Bread yourself check out the recipe titled "Lions, Tigers, and Bears, oh my" in the Daring Bakers Recipe Archive.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.
I am currently in FL on vacation and trying to type this on my iPad so I will probably be keeping this a little short. I would as thinking I would skip this one since I didn't have much time but when I saw that it was braising I had to do it - everything is good braised. My wife is a big fan of braised short ribs so I was thinking I would do the Michael Ruhlman Red Wine braised short ribs. Well I did a stop at the local supermarket and learned that they didn't carry short ribs. I had a sick kid at home and trying to get ready for vacation so I didn't really want to deal with getting to a meat market for ribs so I decided to fake it. I had a chuck roast in the freezer so I cut the pieces into sort of rib shape pieces ( McRib anyone? ) and just followed the recipe after that.
The recipe was easy to follow. I made the braised meat a day ahead - it is a lot easier to time that way. The only problem with that plan is that you get to smell it cooking all day and then you don't get to eat it right away. The unique thing about the recipe is that you braise it with vegetables to make a nice flavorful sauce but then you throw the veggies away and cook some new vegetables so they are complete mush. I served mine over polenta that I cooked using Alton Brown's Savory Polenta recipe. The polenta was great and it was a very easy recipe since it cooks in the oven. The faux ribs were also a big hit with my wife and myself. Great tasting fall apart meat with a fantastic flavorful sauce and nice tender but not mushy vegetables. I also loved all the mushrooms - it was a lot of mushrooms but I never complain about too many mushrooms.
Monday, February 27, 2012
So it turns out this is going to be another fairly simple challenge like the last few challenges. I do like these - seeing all the creativity from the other Daring Bakers and Cooks but I have not really been very daring myself - I have just cooked one of the recipes given in the challenge. It was hard not to do the same this month since Lis gave us some wonderful recipes to try - Pumpkin Bread with Maple Cream Cheese filling sounds especially good to me. Well - not this time - I decided I was actually going to try to be at least a little daring myself.
I had a few thoughts but finally decided to turn one (or two ) of my favorite cakes into a quickbread. I have always loved Pineapple upside-down cake and it seemed like a natural. For a little twist I also added a bunch of toasted coconut to a fairly standard Pineapple upside-down base (or top). I then used the basic quick bread recipe that Lis gave us - only I added a bunch of chopped pineapple to it.
I have to say I loved it - the cake was nice and soft and moist. The topping worked great - just like a pineapple upside-down cake - but the addition of the coconut was very good - I love the texture and flavor it added.
Pineapple Upside-Down Quick Bread
Makes one 9" x 5" loaf
Recipe from A Cooking Dad
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup coconut, toasted*
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 slices canned pineapple
- 3 maraschino cherries
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar,
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk or soured milk*
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pineapple (approx 3 slices)
Note: To toast coconut - place raw coconut into skillet over medium heat. Stir frequently until browned (about 3-5 minutes).
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Pour melted butter into non-stick 9"x5" loaf pan. Brush onto sides of pan and allow extra to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Sprinkle toasted coconut evenly across the bottom of the loaf pan. Next sprinkle the brown sugar evenly across the bottom of the pan. On top of this arrange 3 pineapple slices and place 3 maraschino cherries in the center of the slices. Set pan aside.
- Sift flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and set aside.
- Lightly whisk buttermilk or soured milk, egg, oil, and vanilla to combine. Pour into well and mix into a batter. Before totally combined add chopped pineapple and mix until just combined. Batter will still be lumpy and may show a few streaks of flour.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn onto plate and remove pan.
Note: To make soured milk, combine 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice and let sit for 10 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Sara Schewe - Basic Quick Bread
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
February 14th - hopefully I will have come up with an elegant meal plan for my lovely wife (and son) by the time this blog post goes live. Now on to something a little less elegant though - patties!
The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax & Lis and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties!
I love these open challenges - it inspires so much creativity and also allows people to show off regional foods from around the world. Of course I only like the creativity in other people - I have not been feeling very creative myself. Especially when Audax posts so many good recipes that I would like to try. I decided to try his recipe for Potato Rösti
If you don't know Potato Rösti is a dish from Switzerland and is similar to hash browns. It was typically a breakfast food but is also served at other meals. Part of the reason I decided to make the rösti is because my wife and I traveled to Switzerland several years ago so I thought it might be a nice memory of that. I have not had a lot of rösti (and I understand there is a lot of variation) but if I had to say what the difference between them and hash browns is I would say the rösti is typically more of a patty - and the rösti is probably made a little thicker.
I looked at several rösti recipes and Audax's recipe was a little different. None of the recipes I found had egg or flour in them. I decided to go with Audax's recipe since he has not steered me wrong yet. I did make one change to the recipe - I added a diced onion to the potatoes for a little more flavor.
The rösti came out just like I remembered them. They were wonderful. I think the secret to good rösti is to cook it low and slow. That way they turn out nice and crispy on the outside but nice and creamy on the inside.
Thanks to Audax and Lis for this months challenge and all the patty recipes - there are definitely some interesting looking recipes I would like to try in the future. If you would like to try out the rösti or any of the other patty recipes from this month check out the Daring Cooks recipe archive.
Friday, January 27, 2012
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!
Anyone who has been cooking with the Daring Cooks or the Daring Bakers knows the name Audax Artifex. Audax is always extremely helpful to anyone that needs help with anything like ingredient information or techniques. He is also typically the first to complete a challenge and post about it - many times within hours after we get the challenge recipe. He is also extremely knowledgeable about food and ingredients and uses that knowledge to come up with some very creative variations on the challenges - many time doing at least three or four versions. Knowing all of this about Audex I would have guessed that any challenge that he would come up with would be extremely technical and time consuming - something really crazy. Well, I couldn't be more wrong, for this months challenge he challenged us to make biscuits - a recipe that takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.
Audex is from Austrialia so the first thing he did in the challenge was to explain what they call scones is the same as what we call biscuits in the United States and what we call scones is what they call rock cakes. My father's side of the family is from Kentucky so I have eaten my share of biscuits - we will see how the Australian version compares.
Audex did challenge us to try a few different batches of biscuits so we could see how different techniques vary the final result (Audex made 16 batches). Well I waited until the last minute to make these so my intent was to only make one batch. I decided to just make his base recipe exactly as written. They were pretty easy to put together, although this is probably the first time I have ever triple-sifted anything. I only got four 3 inch biscuits (the recipe said five) from the recipe and still the finished result was a little flatter than I was used to. They were very good biscuits - they could have been a little fluffifer but Audex gave us a lot of ideas on how to fix that - maybe after my 16th batch I would get the exact biscuit I wanted. I served the biscuits covered with some Chicken Ala King so the slightly heavier biscuit didn't really matter anyway.
The whole family loved the biscuit and after supper my wife says "So are you going to make some more so I can have some more for lunch tomorrow"? Well I had only planned on making one batch but I jumped at the chance to make a second batch. I decided to try the buttermilk variation - a version very common in the southern United States. For some reason with the buttermilk version I got a full five biscuits and I think they still rose higher and fluffier than my first batch. Not sure if it was because of the different recipe or if my technique changed a little but I think it was an improvement. I like the taste of the buttermilk biscuits a little better too. Both batches were nice flaky good tasting biscuits but I have to give the edge to the buttermilk version. Of course maybe I just liked them better since I ate them Southern Style - covered with honey-butter. I wish I could test out my technique with 16 batches like Audex but I don't think it would be very good for my waistline.
Thanks to Audex for this months challenge. Go check out his website Audex Artifex. If you would like to try out the recipe you can find it in the Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!
When I grew up I was not really exposed to a lot of ethnic foods. There were some Mexican restaurants but at the time they were pretty Americanized and I don't remember ever seeing a tamale on the menu. I do, however, have fond memories of my dad making tamales. Well, not really making tamales, but preparing a jar of tamales. It was kind of a special occasion thing that my dad made just for himself. I always thought it was very cool - the way they were all individually wrapped in paper. They took forever to heat up (this was pre-microwave). I am not sure if I would still think these jarred tamales were any good, but in my memories they were very tasty. As Miranda says in her description - "Tamales are not so much about the food but about the memories created when making and eating them".
Well now it is not so hard to find a good Mexican restaurant with good tamales so I have them quite often. I had never tried making them though, so this this looked like a fun challenge. I am not sure I have ever had chicken tamales but I decided to try out Maranda's recipe for Green Chile Chicken Tamales. My first mistake was not reading the full recipe (cooking 101). The ingredients said cooked chicken so I went about roasting a chicken. After I had that started I checked out the rest of the recipe where it said to boil the chicken. Oh well, I am pretty sure that roasting can only help. The rest of the recipe went nice and smooth. I had always thought tamales were difficult to make and required a lot of technique but it seemed pretty easy to put these together. I made a simple enchilada sauce to serve on top of the tamales.
I made the tamales for a small family gathering at my mom and dad's on New Years Eve since I thought my dad might enjoy having one. I was really expecting to bring a bunch home since I didn't think everyone else would eat them but I was very wrong. They went over very well and got eaten up - I would have loved to brought some home - but it is even better to see others enjoy them. The tamales were delicious - I can definitely see myself making these again. My father told me about how his mom used to make tamales. I had never heard this before and I wish I knew where it came from. My father's family was from Paducah, KY and I am not quite sure how she would have got into making tamales. Will have to ask my Grandfather if he knows next time I see him.
If you would like to try your hand making tamales yourself check out the recipe in the Daring Kitchen archives. Thanks to Miranda for this fun and delicious challenge.