Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Letting Nature Do The Work

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

I was a little disappointed when I first saw this months challenge.  I think I was expecting something a little more in tune with the holidays like last years Christmas Stollen.  Well I shouldn't have been disappointed since I have really had enough Christmas snacks to last me a year and this challenge was a lot of fun.

I probably first got into making sour dough when I was in high school.  Probably mostly just because it was fun and interesting - kind of half cooking and half science project.  I don't think I have made it sense then.  I don't really ever really remember making a sour dough bread I liked but I do like good sourdough that others make. Well this was my chance to give it another shot.

I decided to follow Jessica's recipe for the French Country Bread using the wheat starter.  I didn't have a good warm spot for the starter - not easy to find anywhere warm in Minnesota in December.  Because of that I took a little extra time letting the starter grow but in the end it looked and smelled just as it should - lots of bubbles and yeasty smell.  For flour I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour.  Everything seemed to be going great with the bread until I needed to turn it out on the pan.  At this point it seemed to flatten out a lot - not sure if I did anything wrong but it wasn't as high as I wanted it.  I was worried that it was going to be a rock but it actually turned out great.  It was not nearly as dense as I was worried and it tasted fantastic.  It is definitely the best sour dough I have made.  I could have eaten the whole load but I needed some of the loaf for the second part of the challenge.  

Yes - this was a two part challenge.  Not only did we have to make a sourdough starter and bread - we also had to feature the bread in another recipe.  I had some different ideas for what to do but these were dashed when the loaf came out so flat.  I decided to try another of Jessica's provided recipes - Welsh Rarebit.  I have made this before but not well.  This time it was made with the excellent sourdough bread and I picked up some decent Tillamook Sharp Cheddar.  The cheese sauce was delicious.  All we needed for supper was the cheese sauce on toast and a small salad.  It was surprisingly satisfying.

Thanks to Jessica for allowing me to try out sourdough again - it was a lot of fun.  If you would like to try the sourdough or the Welsh Rarebit please check out the Daring Bakers recipe archive - you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Char Sui and Char Sui Bao

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

Another chance at some Chinese cooking this month.  This is a two part challenge.  First we had to cook the Char Sui (a barbequed pork) and then we use the leftovers to create Char Sui Bao ( a filled bun ).  I love both of these so it sounded like a fun challenge.

The first part of the recipe was making the Char Sui.  It was a very simple recipe.  You simply marinate some pork tenderloin and cook in the oven or on the grill.  Since I am still pretending it is not winter here in Minnesota I decided to grill the pork.  The recipe does tell you to allow the pork to marinate from 4 hours to overnight.  I was only able to do 4 hours.  The pork tasted very good but I do see how it could have benefited from a longer marination time.  I made a bunch of this pork and loved using some of the leftovers for sandwiches.

A few days later I decided to tackle the Char Sui Bao with the leftovers.  The challenge provided recipes for baked or steamed.  I love these little buns but have never had them baked.  Not really sure how authentic a baked bao is but since I didn't really have the equipment to easily steam a bunch I decided to try them baked.  The dough is a yeast dough but only takes a few hours rising time.  They are real simple to put together - just roll out a small circle of dough and use it to wrap a small amount of pork filling.  I loved these - I won't say I liked them better than steamed but they were different - much more like actual bread than a steam bun.  Both good - just in different ways.

This was a great challenge - my only problem is how to get the red color out of my towels and off my cutting boards :)  If you would like to try out these recipes on your own check out the Daring Cooks recipe archive.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Filipino Deserts

This months Daring Bakers challenge is Filipino desserts.  The challenge listed two desserts from the Philippines - a cake called Sans Rival and a dessert called Bibingka.  The idea of making a Filipino dessert did appeal to me.  I went to the Philippines several years ago and loved it.   The people there are great and it was one of the best "food" countries I have been too.  They have a wonderful mix of different cultures foods along with their own.  I had a bunch of desserts their but I do not remember seeing either of these.  I wasn't too excited about the Sans Rival since it didn't really look like something I would like and I was thinking of making just the Bibingka - but the challenge said the Sans Rival was the mandatory part of the challenge.  November 14th was my wife's Birthday and the Sans Rival looked better to her that the Bibingka so I decided to go ahead and try it.

I think Sans Rival means without rival in French - kind of a big claim to make.  It is basically just a frosted cake, only layers of meringue are used instead of cake.  I made half a recipe and I also left the nuts out of the filling for my wife.  Other than the fact that it is a little tricky to frost half a round cake - the cake came together very easily.  I wasn't really expecting much from the Sans Rival but it was much better than I thought it would be.  The meringue cake held up well and provided a nice light contrast to the rich buttercream frosting.

I was really looking forward to trying the second dessert, the Bibingka.  As much as I was looking forward to it, I think my wife was the opposite - cheese in  dessert like this did not sound good to her.  The recipe had a few different choices for the topping of the dessert.  The salted egg (an egg left in saltwater at room temperature for several weeks) sounded interesting but I didn't really have time to make it and I was pretty sure if my wife didn't want the cheese there was zero percent chance of getting her to eat salted egg on top.  This was another easy dessert - only a couple of ingredients mixed together and cooked in a ramekin lined with a banana leaf.  The Bibingka was delicious and even my wife agreed.  I would describe it as a cake/custard.  It could be made without the banana leaf but the leaf does give it some flavor and makes for an elegant presentation.

Thanks to Catherine of Munchie Musings for this months Daring Bakers challenge.  If you are interested in either of these recipes you can find them at the Daring Bakers Recipe Archive.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Moo Shu Pork

This months Daring Cooks challenge was Moo Shu Pork.  I love Moo Shu,  I had made it once in the past but did not make the "pancakes" so it sounded like fun to try to make all the parts.  The challenge even had a recipe for hoisin sauce so I decided to make that as well.

The recipe came together easily.  It is like a lot of Chinese cooking where most of the time is spent preparing and cutting all the ingredients and the actual cooking is a small part of the whole process.  The hoisin recipe was very easy - just mix the ingredients.  The hoisin was much runnier than most I have seen before but it tasted very good.  The ingredients were also much different than a bottled hoisin I had (where the main ingredient was sugar).  For the Moo Shu I did use a standard green cabbage since I had just gotten one from our CSA and I also used a mix of white mushrooms and the black mushrooms.

The most interesting part of the recipe for me was the making of the pancakes.  They are just flour and water but the technique is the interesting part.  I did follow the alternate #2 directions from the recipe.  For the technique you form two small 3" pancakes, then you coat one side with oil, press the two pancakes together and roll them to form one 6" pancake.  You cook this is a dry pan then you separate the two pancakes.  They come right apart where they were oiled and you have two very thin pancakes that are nice and delicate and cooked nicely.  I was a little scared of this technique and my first set or two came out a little thick but after I got the hang of it they were not hard and came out very nice.

Thanks to Shelly of C Mom Cook and Ruth of The Crafts of Mommyhood for this months challenge.  I loved it.  If you would like to follow along and try out this recipe it can be found in the Daring Cooks Recipe Archive.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Croissants

When I read that this months Daring Bakers challenge was croissants I was both excited and a little worried. I was excited because I love croissants and thought it would be a challenge to make.  One of my first real jobs was at McGlynn's bakery - McGlynn's was a large bakery that provided baked goods to supermarkets (they have since been bought by Pillsbury).  The break room at McGlynn's was incredible - it had several rows of bakery cases full of all sorts of baked goods - still warm out of the oven.  I ate too many croissants when I worked there - not a good place to work while on a diet. 

I was a little worried because I did not know much about the making of croissants and assumed it was difficult.  The provided recipe and its 57 steps and 12 hour prep time didn't make it look too simple at first glance either.  Well turns out they are not really that difficult.  Most of the 57 steps are just fold and fold again - then stick in the fridge and wait a while.  I had assumed it would be more like phyllo where you have to roll many paper thin sheets and put butter in between.  A croissant is sort of the same effect - it is made flaky by the many layers of dough separated by butter - but it turns out all the magic happens in the folding technique.  

The croissants do take the better part of a day to make - but not really much hands on time.  They were easy to make - if you can make a pie or bread (and can count to 57) you can make croissants.  I made half plain and the other half I spread some Nutella on before I rolled up.  They were both really good.  Nice and flaky.  If you do make them go ahead and eat them all the same day - they are not nearly as good the next day.

Thanks to Sarah for this months challenge.  I loved the Julia Child video provided - check this out if you want to see Julia make croissants - I don't like coffee but I think even I think I could drink that Café au lait she makes at the end.  If you would like to try out the recipe check out the Daring Kitchen recipe archives here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Candylicious!

Candy - this months Daring Bakers challenge was to make two different candies. One of the candies must had to be a chocolate candy and the other could be anything. Candy making is one of the things I got into a long time ago - when I was in college I made my first dipped candies. I like candy making since it is kind of cooking and chemistry combined. There is lots of cooking over the stove and watching a thermometer - and it is kind of crucial that you get it pretty exact. Well, since then I have not really done much with the candy making. Not because I didn't enjoy making candy - but because I didn't really need to eat it. Well this challenge gave me a chance to get back into candy making and try some new things.

I have been really busy lately which kind of takes the creativity right out of me - so I just decided to do some of the recipes that were provided to us. I am not really a chocolate person so I decided to make two of the non-chocolate recipes provided and one chocolate candy.

The first candy I decided to make was Pâte de fruit. I do not eat a lot of candy but if I had to pick my favorite it would be those candy orange slices. Pâte de fruit is what those orange slices are trying to copy. I made an orange and a lemon version. They are made with real fruit and real zest and you can tell. The flavor is very real and fresh - not artificial like the ones you buy in the bag. They also are much softer and not as chewy as the ones from the store. They are not hard to make - but they take a lot of stirring. I didn't keep track but think I must have stirred over a hot pan for close to an hour for the two versions - but it was definitely worth it.

I didn't need to make another non-chocolate candy but the recipe for Sponge candy (aka honeycomb aka seafoam) looked kind of fun and easy too. You just throw the ingredients in a pan and wait for it to hit 285 degrees. When it hits temp you take it off the heat and add a bunch of baking soda. As soon as the baking soda is added it foams like crazy and you put it in your prepared pan. For a long time it sits there growing and falling and looking like it is breathing. My four year old loved it. The recipe said I would make a mess cutting it and I did. I have no idea how they got the nicely cut pieces shown in the example. This wasn't really my favorite candy but it wasn't bad. It tasted of baking soda to me and I wonder if the amount could be reduced. Also, this is not the candy to eat if you wear braces.

My last candy was a rolled truffle. Truffles are something that are pretty easy to make - no tempering or anything. You just warm the cream and pour it over chocolate to melt it. When it gets semi-hard you scoop it out and roll it in balls. I added a little bit of grand marnier for flavor. I then rolled some of my truffles in cocoa and some of them into chopped pistachios. Even though I say I am not a big chocolate person these were very good. Nice soft, melt in your mouth, chocolate flavor. The grand marnier added just a hint of orange.

Thanks to Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts, and Line Drives and to Mandy of What the Fruitcake for this months challenge. You can find all the recipes I used in the challenge in the recipe archive at The Daring Kitchen.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Appam and Curry (Indian Dinner)

Wow - no posts since June - it has been a busy summer. I feel so guilty for missing the last few months with The Daring Kitchen and I almost missed this one too but this month was a challenge I really wanted to try. The challenge was to make Appams and a South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with them. I decided to take it a little further and do a whole Indian meal. Most Indian food that I have eaten has been at Indian restaurant buffets and I have never attempted to cook it myself so I thought this would be a fun challenge. I knew my wife might not enjoy all of this food herself so I gave her the task of finding someone who would. She thought she was going to get an Indian couple from work to come but the schedule did not work. Then she texted me from church all excited because she found out someone there had been to India and were available for a dinner - good - we have two more people willing to test out my Indian cooking.

Since I decided to do a whole meal I had a lot of planning to do. I had just been to a local Indian restaurant so I kind of had an idea of what goes into a meal but was still a little clueless. I sent off an email to an Indian buddy of mine and let him know my requirements and what my ideas were. He was a great help telling me what I was doing that didn't seem right and gave me a few other ideas for what goes together and what to have for a proper Indian dinner. He even offered me some of his Mom's recipes.

I made my first trip to an Indian grocery for this challenge. Going to foreign groceries is always something I love to do and this was no exception. I love seeing all the vegetables and spices and other ingredients that I have never seen before. I picked up some okra, curry leaves, and a few spices that I would need.

Anyway here is the dinner - I won't include any of the recipes because - well because that would be a lot of work for all this stuff - but if you are interested in anything please ask and I will get you the recipe or the link to my source. I will start with the two requirements for The Daring Kitchen challenge. You can find the recipes for the first two items here in the Daring Kitchen recipe archives.

The first item is the Appams. I have had several kinds of Indian bread but don't think I have ever had these. They are a little strange to put together - soaking and grinding raw rice, then add yeast and a very small amount of cooked rice, then 8+ hours of fermenting on the counter. The dough rises and falls all by itself overnight since it is fairly thin. Then when you are ready to cook you thin it out with some coconut milk and cook them one at a time. I figured since they looked kind of like crepes I would cook them in my crepe pan and it worked perfect. They are thin on the edges and more puffy and "bready" in the middle. They were great with the curry and tasted very mild with the texture of a bread. One of our guests just rolled up the curry like a taco - probably not very Indian but it worked.

To go with the Appams I decided to fix one of the dishes included with the challenge - the Malabar Chicken. I did tone down the heat a lot so my wife would at least try it but did leave all the other flavor in. This dish had a lot of herbs and spices that I don't normally cook with but it smelled very good to me. It had a lot of flavors I recognized from Indian food but the dish was different from any curry that I have had before - I think just because it had a lot of tomato. It also had coconut milk but it was not as predominant of a flavor as in a Thai curry.

Now that the Daring Cooks items are out of the way here is the rest of the meal I did. I started the meal with some Eggplant and Onion Pakoras. I actually just went on a food tour of Minneapolis yesterday and part of the food tour was pakoras at an Indian restaurant and they were great. I had an eggplant in the fridge from my CSA and thought it would work for pakoras - I did a quick web search and apparently eggplant pakoras are a thing so I went with it. I also did some onion and cilantro pakoras and they were both very good - I especially liked the onion ones that were kind of a fritter style. They batter is very flavorful with some spices in it and it fried up nice. I also made a Cilantro and mint Chutney - I did add a little heat to the chutney and it was very tasty on the pakoras.

Anyone that has been to an Indian restaurant probably knows this one - a Mango Lassi. Very easy to make and very refreshing on a hot day.

This is a Cucumber Raita. This a very nice summer salad - very similar to some typical American cucumber salads - but with a few extra spices in there.

This is Bhindi Masala ( I think that translates to Okra mixture). I knew okra was African and I knew it was Southern US but I didn't know it was Indian. I am not sure if I have ever had it when it wasn't deep fried but I did enjoy this preparation. It was just onions fried with the okra and a bunch on Indian spices.

For dessert I decided to go with Gajar (Carrot) Halwa. This is just shredded carrot cooked for a long time in milk - then a little bit of sugar and cardamom added. I don't think it is typical but I saw several pictures of it molded like this and I think it made it a nice looking dessert. It was definitely not a typical American dessert - not very sweet or rich but it was kind of nice for a change - mild spice and just a little sweet.

Thanks to Mary from Mary Mary Culinary for this months challenge. It was great fun cooking all this.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Grilled Potato Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

This month was another interesting month with the Daring Cooks. Like last month it is a contest and like last month I am creating my own recipe. Not sure if I am very good at creating my own recipes but it is fun to try. I do want to thank everyone who voted for my grilled squash salad in an edible woven bowl in last months edible container contest. I came in third place with a lot of tough competition.

This month the challenge was to create a delicious and healthy potato salad. The challenge is being sponsored by the United States Potato Board who will be picking the top five recipes and selecting the winners this month.

I love potato salad but one thing I don't think of when I think of potato salad is healthy. I once made a potato salad with light mayo and YUCK - light mayo is not a product anyone should have to eat. So it was time to think outside the box. One thing I do often in the summer is to grill potatoes - delicious - so I decided to start there. Now what other flavors to use. I used some pretty basic spices and herbs that I normally use when grilling potatoes. After that I decided to scan the grocery store for inspiration. It is raspberry season here and raspberries are on sale here. I am not sure I have ever had raspberries with potatoes so I am not sure why I thought it would work but I did. I also had some raspbanero jam that I received as a gift from my wife's cousin. The jam is made and sold by some friends of theirs at the hixton blue collar cafe and it is delicious. I love to eat it just spread on crackers. If I am ever in Hixton, WI (or if I figure out where Hixton, WI is) I will have to check out their other products. I know most of you will probably not have quick access to raspbanero jam so I would recommend just using raspberry jam along with some cayenne if you want the heat.

There result was really good. It was nothing like any potato salad I have had before but it was a tasty and health alternative. I think the raspberries went well with the potatoes. The combination of the sweet and hot was very nice with the grilled potatoes and peppers. Here is what I came up with - I hope you enjoy!

Grilled Potato Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Serves about 4

  • 2 lbs red potatoes - I use the larger ones but doesn't matter
  • 2 t vegetable oil ( or olive oil if you like )
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1/4 t paprika
  • 1/4 t dried thyme
  • 1/4 t dried rosemary
  • 1/4 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • pinch cayenne if desired
  • 1 red bell pepper ( or any other color), seeded and cut into 1" squares
  • 1/2 sweet red onion, course diced
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 T fresh basil, chopped
For Vinaigrette
  • 1/4c cider vinegar
  • 1T vegetable oil
  • 1T dijon mustard
  • 1T raspbanero jam ( or raspberry jam or jelly)
  • pinch cayenne if desired and you did not use the raspbanero jam.
  1. Heat gas or charcol grill.
  2. Scrub potatoes and cut into 1" cubes. Parboil potatoes for about 6 minutes - they will be almost cooked but not quite. Drain and put into a large bowl.
  3. Add 2t oil, salt, paprika, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne, and bell pepper to bowl and toss.
  4. Place potato / pepper mixture on hot grill. Flip them once or twice with a spatula and cook until there are some nice grill marks on potatoes. Should take about 10 minutes.
  5. Allow potatoes to cool to room tempurature.
  6. Put all ingredients for vinaigrette in a blender and mix until well blended. If you used raspberry jam you may want to strain the seeds at this point.
  7. Toss cooled potatoes with onions, raspberries, basil and vinaigrette. Add vinaigrette a little at a time so you don't have too much.
  8. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Edible Containers

Wow! What a month. April has been a big, busy month for me - both food-releated and otherwise. We just got done with a fantastic Easter and now I am working on preparing food and a cake for 100 people for a retirement party for my father-in-law - Congrats to him. As you can see from the title the Daring Bakers are doing an edible container just like the Daring Cooks last month. If you haven't already - check out my last post. It was the first I (I think ) Daring Cooks that was kind of a contest, and to my surprise, I am one of the finalists. There was a lot of good competition so it is a big honor for me. If you haven't already, and if it is before May 17, go to The Daring Kitchen and vote at the top of the page.

Now on to this months challenge. This month Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz challenged us to make an edible container for a maple mousse. Evelyne is from Quebec and gives a very good description of how maple syrup is part of the culture on her blog. Well again I wanted to try to be unique. There are lots of things that go with maple - bacon, nuts, pancakes, squash, sweet potatoes, chocolate - the possibilities are endless. That is part of the reason I am posting this on the last day possible - too many ideas.

The idea I finally settled on was something from my childhood. I grew up in NY and now live in MN - two of the top three maple syrup producers in the US and one of my favorite things as a child was maple sugar candy. If you have never had it - it is just maple syrup and maybe some butter and it is very soft and creamy - just melts in your mouth. I wanted to do the same thing only as a bowl. Easier said than done. I think it took me five tries. The recipes on the internet said to heat to softball stage but I could not get it out of the container without cracking it. I finally ended up using a small silicone measuring bowl for the mold and heating the syrup up close to hard ball stage - it worked like a charm then.

Even though I am crazy about all things maple I thought maybe I needed something else with my maple mousse in a maple bowl. I decided to put small chocolate bowl (not easy either) in the maple bowl and I am using two kinds of mousse. Every month I see someone in the Daring Bakers use Nutella in their challenge so I decided it was now my turn. I thought it would go perfect with the maple.

The results were really good. The maple mousse was really good - a nice maple / buttery taste and smooth texture. I think the texture was much nicer than most mousse I have had. I think the nutella mousse was great too - I am sure my wife liked it better. It had that great nutella flavor and it went very nice with the maple from the mousse and the bowl.

While the maple bowl was not quite as I imagined it - it didn't have that creamy texture of the candies I remember - it still was easy to eat and lots of great maple flavor. I assume the difference in texture was because of having to take it to the higher temperature since my first attempts were much softer.

I'll post my recipe for the Nutella mousse here but if you would like to check out the maple mousse you can find that recipe in the challenge posted here.

Nutella Mousse

  • 1 teaspoon gelatin
  • 1/4-1/2 cup nutella
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Put 2 tablespoons of cream in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set aside to soften gelatin.
  2. Whip the remaining cream.
  3. Add nutella a few tablespoons at a time and beat to combine. You can use 1/4-1/2 cup nutella to suit your taste.
  4. Add the cream/gelatin mixture and combine.
  5. Put the mousse into serving bowls and chill until set (about 1-2 hours).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Edible Containers

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers!

Yup - that was the whole challenge. We could make whatever we wanted for an edible container and put whatever we wanted into it. In some ways that is the hardest kind of challenge since it is so open, but it is also fun to try to come up with something creative. Renata gave us several examples of things we could do - but I kind of wanted to come up with something different.

I thought of the idea of weaving something but kind of ruled it out. When my wife, Lara, later suggested it ( and I couldn't think of anything better ) I decided to give it a try. I shaved off thin peels from zucchini and yellow squash. I microwaved them a little to soften them up. I can't say the weaving was easy. I am not normally one to give up on something but I tried it before my wife got home from work and gave up. I did not expect it to work but my wife got it to work - she has done some basket making - who knew that would be a helpful skill in the kitchen.

I think the basket turned out pretty nice. It was cute and "edible". It was also very difficult and I would not want to be making these for a large dinner party. For the contents I made a grilled squash salad. The salad is very easy and quick to make. It tasted very good and looked nice and springy in the basket.

Thanks to Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! for this months challenge. Renata is one of my favorite Daring Cooks. She always has very creative solutions to the challenges and she is always very active in the forums and commenting on peoples blogs. Check out her blog - it is in Portuguese but she has an English version as well.
Grilled Squash Salad
Serves about 4
  • 3-4 zucchini and yellow squash
  • 8-12 peppadew peppers (these are hard to find so another sweet or slightly hot pepper could be substituted)
  • 2 T vegetable oil (or EVOO)
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 2 t fresh basil
  • 1 T Parmesan cheese
  1. Wash the squash well if you are not peeling it. Julienne the squash (I used a mandolin).
  2. Mix the squash with 1T of the oil and the salt and pepper.
  3. Mix the remaining 1 T oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Cook squash mixture over a medium-hot grill until tender (only takes 2 minutes or so).
  5. Toss the squash with the lemon juice mixture.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Mets la main à la pâte! Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

I had never really heard of a yeasted meringue coffee cake before. It didn't look like any coffee cake I had ever seen, but any cake with chocolate and nuts in it can't be that bad. We were given two different versions of a recipe, one was filled with pecans or walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, and chocolate. The other used cashews, sugar, garam masala, and chocolate. I kind of wish I tried the second version, it sounds good to me, but I decided to play it safe so that my wife would enjoy it more.

I made it using the first version of the recipe with no variations, and using pecans for the nuts. It went together easily. I was a little concerned with how hot the liquid was when I added it to the flour / yeast mixture - I thought it might kill the yeast - but it seemed to rise just fine.

The coffee cake was much different than any coffee cake I have had before. It is much more like a bread than a cake. It was very nice though - not very sweet at all - just a little bit. The chocolate, nuts, and cinnamon were there but they were much more subtle than in a more typical coffee cake. The actual "cake" part was like a moist, slightly sweet bread. I couldn't really tell what the meringue added - I expected to get more texture from it but I think the effect was much more subtle than I expected - I am sure it added to the sweetness though.

The recipe made two small rings (at least it was small compared to the Christmas Stollen we made). My family ate one of the rings and I sent the other to my wife's work where it got many favorable reviews.

This months challenge was presented by two bloggers this month - Jamie of Life's a Feast and Ria of Ria's Collection. If you would like to try to make this months challenge you can find the recipe in the Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive.

On a final housekeeping note I decided to try out Disqus for the blog commenting system. I think I like it but let me know if you like the old comment method better. This system will give the blog threaded comments and would let me respond directly to your comments.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Papas Rellenas

¡Me Encanta Perú! - that was the name of this past months challenge Daring Cooks challenge - and it means I love Peru. The challenge actually included four separate recipes - we had to make at least one of the main recipes and the rest were optional. We could make Papas Rellenas and/or Ceviche.

The timing of this challenge was perfect. I have been taking a Spanish class for the last few months - don't ask me to say anything in Spanish - my old brain is not picking it up very quickly. Anyway, the class was having a food night this past week where everyone brought a Latin American dish. I asked my Puerto Rican teacher if they have Papas Rellenas in Puerto Rico and she was very excited at the idea of me making them for class.

I pretty much stuck to the recipe in the challenge except I added butter and a little bit of flour to the potatoes - and I left the raisins out of the filling. The recipe was pretty straight-forward. It does take a while to complete because the different components all need time to cool - but everything could be made ahead of time and assembled when it comes time to cook it.

For my class I made a small version of the Rellenas. The small version only took a teaspoon or two of filling. I also made the Salsa Criolla in the challenge. They were a big hit at our dinner. Everyone was asking about them. The real test was my teacher. It passed with flying colors - my teacher went back for seconds, took one home for her husband, and asked for the recipe. She said she had not been able to get a crispy crust like this recipe. One interesting thing she told me was that in Puerto Rico it is common to have some of them made of beef - and some with corned beef. I would really like to try a corned beef version.

I did make a large version a few days later with the left over filling. I was able to put a lot more filling in these. The main thing I noticed with these was - the Salsa Criolla was much better after sitting a few days. The flavors really had time to meld - and they even turned a little pink and looked nicer on the plate.

This was a great first challenge for the Daring Cooks. I look forward to many more. Thanks to Kathlyn of Bake Like A Ninja. Love the name of the blog and her slogan. I need a cool slogan like that - any ideas? The recipes are all included in the pdf challenge here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

For this months Daring Bakers we were challenged to make a two part dessert. The first part was a panna cotta. If you don't know what panna cotta is - it is a creamy dessert with just three main ingredients:
  • milk / cream
  • sugar
  • gelatin
There may be a couple of other ingredients but it is basically just a milk jello - but we don't call it that since it doesn't sound as good as panna cotta. I have made panna cotta before so I decided to take the recommendation in the challenge and add a fruit gelee. This was going to be used for my Valentine's day dessert so I needed a red fruit and for some reason I decide to go with the $5.00 for 7oz raspberries.

The panna cotta came out like it should - nice and creamy. I think the honey was a nice touch for a little flavor. After last months dessert where I used gelatin three times without much of a recipe to go on you would think making a little gelee would not be much of a problem. It was. I followed the recipe (only using raspberries) but my gelee thickened way to much and was pretty much inedible. Kind of ashame to waste most of those raspberries.

The cookies were my favorite part of the challenge. These were from a Nestle recipe and also very easy to make. I just got a silpat and I was excited to try that out on this recipe. I did have a little trouble with the first batch. It turns out when the recipe says to use 1 Tablespoon of the dough on the cookie sheet you should not make them a little bigger. I probably put 4 teaspoons and I put nine of them on my first sheet. The cookies are very thin after they are cooked and they all ran together. On my next batch when I went to an even tablespoon and only cooking six at a time it worked perfect. I am a big fan of oatmeal cookies. These are not really like a normal oatmeal cookie but still very good. They are thin and they get a little caramelized when cooking. Even though they are thin they are still soft and chewy. I don't normally like chocolate chips in my oatmeal cookies but when these are sandwiched with the chocolate it adds just the right amount of chocolate.

Thanks to Mallory of A Sofa in the Kitchen for this months challenge. Nice and simple but a perfect Valentine's day dessert. This months challenge with all the recipes used can be downloaded here.

Make sure to check out my next post on March 14. I have decided to join the other half of the Daring Kitchen - the Daring Cooks. I am sure I will have a lot of fun with the cooking challenges - hopefully Lara will be able to eat some of the more exotic things I will probably end up making.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

When you look at the title of this blog post you probably had the same thought as me - what the heck is a Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet? Since I am not a pastry chef and I am not French I will just post the definitions given to me.

A joconde imprime (French Baking term) is a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake providing an elegant finish to desserts/torts/entremets/ formed in ring molds.

Entremets (French baking term)- an ornate dessert with many different layers of cake and pastry creams in a mold, usually served cold.

This was probably one of the most stressful desserts I have made. I think part of the reason for that is the lack of direction. All of the daring bakers challenges have a lot of room for you to make creative decisions but this one left it totally open on what you put in it. The second thing that makes it a little stressful is the fact that it is one of those desserts that you have no idea if it came out until you un-mold it in front of your guests.

After seeing some of the other bakers completed challenges I finally decided what I would do. I was going to have a dinner with a few kids so I decided it would be fun to make individual desserts and put everyones initial as part of the design. My three year old is really into seeing the first letter of his name (and was even a little upset that his letter is not being used in this post). I used some 2 1/2 PVC pipe as the mold for the dessert to make kind of a narrow/high dessert.

For fillings I did the following (in order):
  1. daquoise - a kind of meringue cookie
  2. pomegranate bavarian mixed with a little cream cheese to make a kind of "cheesecake" layer
  3. lemon curd lightened with a little whipped cream
  4. pomegranate gelee
On the side is one of the daquoise along with some whipped cream, pomegranate reduction, and some pomegranate seeds.

I'm not going to give my recipes since they were kind of improvised and I am not really sure I could reproduce them. If anyone really wants more info on any of the layers let me know and I will do my best. I do have recipes for some of the layers.

I was actually surprised at how good these turned out. I liked all of the layers and the flavors went well with each other. My cake was about 1/4 inch thick - which I think was a little thick for such a small diameter dessert but I still managed to get it to work. The three year old girl who got the "M" dessert in the above picture absolutely loved hers and gobbled up the whole thing. At the end she thanked me for making a dessert with her initial on it. The honesty of children is so nice (when they like it).

Here is the challenge that contains the recipes for the cake along with different ideas for the fillings. Thanks to Astheroshe at accro for this months challenge. Astheroshe graduated from Culinary school as a pastry chef (just for fun) a few years ago and you can definitely tell by looking at her blog - so many good looking desserts.

One other note - I decided to finally join Daring Cooks. Daring Cooks is the sister site to Daring Bakers so it is the same time of thing - just with non-dessert items. So far I have just been doing the baking part. Since Barefoot Bloggers changed their format I have not really participated in that so I decided it was time to try something new. It should be a nice challenge.