July Daring Bakers challenge!

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. (Except that I don’t think she’s actually on the Food Network anymore [though Brian Boitano will be soon – what the what?!] which is a shame because I always like her show.)

Basically, I think we were recreating Mallomars and Pepperidge Farms’ Milanos (which were one of the few things that I missed when I stopped eating chocolate). But the times, they are a-changin’! I may not be eating chocolate on a regular basis, but I have recently decided to try and ease it back into my diet. So I was excited to try these recipes, particularly making my own marshmallows for the Mallomars!

Unfortunately, I was not a huge fan of the Mallomars once they were finished. I’ve never had a real one, so I can’t say for sure how closely they were replicated here, but I think what I didn’t like was the cinnamon that was in the cookie dough. I think when I make these again, I’ll use vanilla or maybe almond extract instead of the cinnamon.

Making the marshmallows went pretty well (I was disappointed not to get to use my new candy thermometer because there wasn’t enough depth of liquid in the pan I was using) – there was a bit of a kerfuffle with the gelatin, but it all worked out. I have to say, though, that I hope marshmallows aren’t made by hand because it took about 10 minutes or so of whipping at a very high speed with my KitchenAid mixer. Thank god for my Pink Lady otherwise, that would have been exhausting!

I was much more fond of the Milanos and will definitely be making these again! I had a little bit of trouble managing to pipe the right amount of batter for the cookies – mostly just because I was never sure quite how much they were going to spread. So the sizes ranged from tiny, bite-sized cookies to fairly hefty ones. Also, I think I probably could have let the cookies bake a bit longer – my cookies were fairly chewy instead of the crispy crunch that I remember real Milanos having. They actually crisped up a bit as they went stale which made for a more similar texture.

So two new cookies to add to my repertoire – yay! Click on the Daring Bakers logo above to click through the blogroll and see everyone’s experiences with this challenge.

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June Daring Bakers challenge!

The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

I was very much looking forward to this challenge – it sounded very yummy and the instructions didn’t seem extraordinarily challenging. And I was right! In the end, I think mine might have come out a little bit underbaked – this is one of those baked goods that is difficult to judge its doneness – but it’s edible. And if I don’t wake up in the middle of the night with salmonella or something, I might take it to work to share with my friends there. Might.

We were allowed creative license when it came to the jam – flavorwise and whether or not to make it ourselves. Inspired by my favorite cookies, I decided to do lemon curd and add in some blueberries. And I’ve always wanted to make the lemon curd cake from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, so I decided to use its accompanying recipe for lemon curd.

Next up was the sweet shortcrust pastry which cake together very well and ended up being very sweet and not too flaky – a nice contrast to the sweet-tartness of the lemon curd. The frangipane went smoothly, too, though I’m very glad the hosts mentioned in the recipe that it would appear to curdle and not to panic because if they hadn’t, well, I definitely would have panicked.

After baking for 30 minutes, it seemed quite jiggly still in the middle, so I left it in for a few more minutes until it seemed to set just a bit more, though, as I said above, I’m not sure that it couldn’t benefit from a few more minutes baking. But the top was fairly dark brown when I pulled it out of the oven and I hadn’t wanted to let it burn.

So, yes, very tasty and pretty easy really – success! Click on the Daring Bakers logo above to click through our blogroll and see lots of other lovely Bakewell Tarts.

May Daring Baker’s Challenge!

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

I had never made apple strudel before so this was a very interesting challenge. I will admit to being worried after I read the instructions (anything that involves tissue-paper-thin dough is usually very frustrating [e.g., phyllo dough]), but it ended up being fairly simple.

Although my dough never got stretched out to the 2×3 foot dimensions that were given in the instructions, I think it could definitely be described as tissue-paper-thin:

It looked pretty yummy when it was done, too:

But then I took a bite and I was, well, a bit disappointed. I think it came out tasting like it was supposed to, it’s just that this kind of dessert is not at the top of my dessert hierarchy. This is a very delicate, not overly sweet dessert – probably a big scoop of vanilla ice cream would have helped it a bit but since ice cream falls quite low in the hierarchy, I didn’t have any on hand to serve with it – and I’m afraid my dessert tastes run to the more substantial.

I gave it to my parents to share with my grandparents and reports came back that were positive, so even though I’m not a huge fan, I think I’ll count this as a success!

Click on the Daring Kitchen logo to see our temporary blogroll where you’ll find lots of beautiful strudels to drool over!

Apologies again for the poor quality photos – I still haven’t found the plug for my camera charger and have been forced to rely on Edward who, despite taking perfectly good holiday snaps, is a tad out of his element with attempts at artful foodie photography…

April Daring Bakers Challenge!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

This month we were pretty much invited to let our imaginations run wild – we were given a basic cheesecake recipe and the instructions to get creative! Now, I love cheesecake (who doesn’t?!) and I love margaritas (again, who doesn’t?!), so…I think you can see where I’m going with this…I made a margarita cheesecake!

I think it’s basically a key lime pie, but it does have orange flavoring (though you can’t really taste it) and tequila (um, again, though you can’t really taste it) along with the lime juice and lime zest. Still, it’s a really nice lime cheesecake – it’s super-creamy and not too rich. It’s just the right amount of sweet. If I were to make it again – and I do expect to make this recipe again –  I think I would use some orange zest – for some reason, the zests always have more flavor than the liqueurs and extracts.

At any rate, what with the weather finally getting quite nice lately, it’s, if nothing else, a good excuse to have a real magarita. So, yes, quite a successful Daring Bakers challenge!

If you’d like to see other beauteous cheesecakes, click on the Daring Bakers logo above to go to the temporary blogroll or click here to go the The Daring Kitchen and have a look around!

March Daring Bakers Challenge!

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I have to admit that I wasn’t too sure about this challenge – savoury baking? What?! But I was intrigued by attempting to make my own noodles and it actually turned out to be a fairly relaxed challenge. Mostly because lasagna is a fairly forgiving product – it doesn’t matter if your noodles tear or if things are lumpy, there’s really not much you can do that makes it taste bad and it’s not really a high-design product (though I’m sure if you click through the other Daring Baker blogs, you’ll find some gorgeous representations – Tartelette, I’m looking at you!). I totally cheated and waited until the next day when we were eating it as leftovers and it was cold from the fridge to photograph it, allowing me to show the layers – otherwise, it was exactly as the recipe warned us – very slippery and unsturdy.

It was not nearly as tricky as I thought it would be – I was particularly intimidated by the rolling/stretching instructions. I knew that the noodles had to be very, very thin and I wasn’t sure if, without a noodle machine, I had the ability (or the patience) to pull it off. But I did! The ragu turned out very tasty – we weren’t provided with a veggie version, so I just Googled and used this one instead (no, I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with the other 4T of butter or the 4T of olive oil…). My bechamel worked, too – in fact, all of the elements came together very nicely.

But I’m not sure I liked it. I think it was just a bit too rich for me – and there’s something in there that’s sort of sweet as an afterthought and I’m not sure what it is, but I find it a little unsettling. But that may just be me – my mom particularly liked it (my dad doesn’t like mushrooms, so his opinion doesn’t really count). So, yes, a successful, though probably not to be repeated challenge.

I think our blogroll isn’t up quite yet, but click on our new logo and head over to our brand new, sparkly website and have a look around!

p.s. – Hopefully the next Daring Bakers challenge will be completed in my newly remodeled kitchen – cross your fingers for me!

February Daring Bakers Challenge!

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This is the first challenge I’ve made that I can’t actually eat. Since I stopped having caffeine (which tends to give me migraines), I haven’t baked with chocolate  – because I’m selfish and don’t see the point of making things that I can’t have! 😉 But I owed my grandparents a dessert (and my carob powder is hidden in the depths of my kitchen disaster at the moment), so I thought I’d be generous and make it with real chocolate. And I chose Wendy’s recipe for ice cream because it had fewer ingredients and I was feeling lazy.

This recipe was very quick and easy to make – I think I’d definitely have another go with my trusty carob powder! The ice cream I CAN taste and it is super yummy. I don’t even really like ice cream that much, but I just have this overwhelming desire to curl up on the couch and eat it straight out of the ice cream maker!

Technically, because it’s not heart-shaped, it’s not a Valentino cake, but the rules said we didn’t have to and again…lazy! Plus why expend all that extra energy on something I can’t have! So I made one large one and gave it to my grandparents, whose response seemed positive – my grandmother called me up and grilled me about how exactly it was made because she couldn’t figure out how it got the consistency that it was. I also made two small ones (one of which is in my photos) to give to my parents. They both liked it, too. I ended up serving the ice cream in a small ramekin because I was too anxious to get it served, photographed, and tasted and didn’t want to wait for it to set any more in the freezer.

So, yes, even though I haven’t actually tried it myself, reports have been that it’s quite good. Once I’ve dug my carob powder/chips out of the remnants of my kitchen, I’ll probably give this another try just for myself!

Click on the Daring Bakers logo above to check out everyone else’s Valentino cakes.

January Daring Bakers Challenge!

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I am not actually here posting this – I’m in sunny Mexico (at least I hope it’s sunny!), having left behind the arctic wonder that has become central Illinois. But before I left, I managed to get this challenge completed.

This month’s challenge is brought to us by Karen of Baking Soda and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angelique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Let me start by saying that, apparently, cream horn molds do not actually exist in my vicinity. At all. I called/went to EVERY possible store that I thought would have them, including a professional kitchen supply shop. NO CREAM HORN MOLDS. So I just had to sort of very carefully and with lots of swearing attempt to roll them into a cone shape by hand.

NOT COOL.

Literally.

I wasn’t sure how thick to spread the batter and I think they ended up being kind of uneven. Also, I probably should have let the egg whites come to room temperature before I added them to the butter mixture because I think they made the butter seize back up again and ended up in clumps in the batter. ALSO, I let the second batch bake for less time than the first and they were too soft to hold their shape and then I overbaked the third batch and they ended up being too crispy to roll without cracking.

So I really only got two good ones (okay, to be honest, I ate some of the more misshapen ones and they tasted super-yummy – especially the lovely, crispy third batch) that would be in any sort of way picturesque. I filled them with Ina’s Lemon Mousse which, oh, my god, SO GOOD. But since I only ended up with two fillable cookies, I had an actual ton of mousse left over. Guess I’ll just have to eat it by itself – darn!

Click on the Daring Bakers logo above to see lots of other beautiful and tasty tuiles!