December 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - French Yule Log

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

The month finally came when I have to say "I couldn't do it." Between school, handbell practice and holiday concerts, traveling to see family, and needing to sleep, I was unable to fit in baking.

Please look at the Daring Bakers blogroll to see how the French Yule Logs turned out for others.

Make sure to visit our hosts Hilda and Marion for great posts about this challenge.

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From this month's challenge post:
SO, what is a French Yule Log you say and how is it different from the Yule Log we made last December if you were a member then?
In France you can buy two kinds of Yule log, either the Genoise and Buttercream type that we made last December, or what is more commonly purchased which is a frozen Yule Log very reminiscent of an ice cream cake, only often it’s not made of ice cream but rather frozen mousse of some sort. In French this is called an entremets which is sometimes loosely translated in English as simply a cream dessert. This also means that this recipe is not holiday-specific, it is also just a scrumptious dessert recipe.
This recipe comes almost entirely, except for one small labeled portion and some of the variations courtesy of our dear Daring Baker Fairy Tartelette, from the website: Florilège Gourmand (address above) which belongs to Flore (who has not disclosed her last name to me in my exchanges with her) and is unreal. Her website is in French and different portions of the recipe have been pulled from the recipes in the entremets section.
November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

The Daring Bakers were charged with loving sugar this month. Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater gave us her signature caramel cake...and it was delicious.

I chose to make cupcakes with this challenge and we all enjoyed them at school. Actually making the cupcakes and icing was not a challenge for me...caking from scratch is something I do on a regular basis. I do not, however, often come up with great flavor combinations. Plain-jane chocolate and vanilla are my most-requested flavors, although sometimes I get to spice things up with peppermint, german chocolate, or strawberry. Switching to the sweet, yet bold caramel flavor was great.

These cupcakes were very popular at school and have been requested for future celebrations. The cake itself had a soft caramel flavor and balanced the extreme sweetness of the caramelized butter icing.

I was excited for making the caramel syrup as that is something I have never made. I was not excited to realize I didn't have a pastry brush--after I had started the process. You can see by the picture what happens when you don't have a brush and can't find a suitable tool. There's definitely a reason the directions say to wash down the sides of the pan. Although I cooked my syrup until it felt "sticky between two fingers," I think I should have cooked it longer as it turned out to be pretty thin when I used it on top of the cupcakes.

Important Information:
  • In a supporting role we have an optional challenge: Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels, with LOTS of variation. Guaranteed to keep us all on a sugar-induced high all month! --I didn't do the optional challenge this month, but I have made caramels before--they are delicious!
  • Recipe source:

    Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon as published on Bay Area Bites

    Optional Caramels: Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

    Bay Area Bites - Caramel Cake recipe

    Shuna's cake - direct link to the cake post
October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pizza & Toppings

Another month brings us to another Daring Baker's challenge. In some respects, I failed; in others, I did okay.

For October, Rosa, from Rosa's Yummy Yums chose an easy to follow recipe for “Pizza Napoletana” from Peter Reinhart's “The Bread Baker's Apprentice” which yields a beautifully tasty, thin, crispy, yet chewy pizza crust.

In her announcement post, she said, "I’m sure you’re going to like (well, I hope…)" We loved it.

Because of the need to have a photographer present while making the crust, I decided that pizza-making would be a great activity for the family to do while my mom was in town. Saturday evening was chosen as our special day.

On Friday night I began the process by making the dough and putting it in the fridge to rest. The next day we made 6 rounds from the risen dough. When they were ready, it was time to try tossing. This is where I failed. I wasn't in a great mood to begin with, but as a prepared my dough, it kept stretching and as I started to toss, holes would form immediately. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.

Julia, on the other hand, picked up a piece of dough and tossed perfectly:

Doughs ready to be topped.

We didn't go wild on the toppings this time. Four pizzas gave us four opportunities to mix flavors.

Green bean, onion, tomato, chicken.

Chicken, tomato, onion, mushroom.

Here Lisa is explaining the soggy issue with the crust being too thin. It happened on every crust that was tossed. We plan to divide the dough into four sections instead of six next time to see if the increased amount of dough will help us achieve a slightly thicker crust.

The final product, minus the plain cheese version.
October 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kyah!

It's Kyah's 3rd birthday and she requested a Snow White cake. I had hoped to try a 'barbie doll' cake, but time and supplies were limited. Instead, I created a color-flow image of Snow White, complete with Mickey head/Disney stamp.
White cake, plain BC.
October 01, 2008

Happy Birthday, Melanie

It's Melanie's birthday on Monday so it's time for another birthday cake. Last year Melanie got a cute little white cake with raspberry filling just like almost everyone else did. She loved it and didn't share any, but I know her favorite kind of cake is carrot cake. My mom shared a recipe for carrot cake that came from the mother of one of her good old recipe that is wonderful.
She gave me the recipe last year for Melanie's birthday but I didn't have time to bother with trying a new recipe at that time. This year I made time. I have never been a fan of carrot cake, but tonight I changed my mind. This is a very dense and moist cake. It has carrots, pineapple, coconut, and walnuts in it. I am not a fan of cooked raisins (no, I never order the cheese and raisin ravioli at Bona Casa). The icing is simply cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar.

The cake is an individual size again this year, but torted and filled, then topped with cream cheese icing, I can't imagine Melanie eating this one alone--it would do her in. I wouldn't blame her, though, if she attempted it. It is definitely a cake worth keeping to herself.
September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers - Lavash Crackers & Toppings

It's time for the Daring Bakers again!

This month's challenge was presented by Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl. They wanted to have us make something savory so they chose Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice (pp 178 - 180). Please see their blogs for full recipes and directions.

I was excited to see this challenge because Lavash is a favorite treat served at a great restaurant down the road from me. It is one of the reasons my friend Kelly and I continue to go back. Yes, the rest of the food there is wonderful, but Kelly was right when he said that the crackers are the best part of the dinner. We have so much fun eating the crackers and 'dipping' them in the raspberry vinegar and oil they serve with it.

On to my story...I carefully chose a day when I had little else going on to bake the crackers. I wanted to put my full attention into the project because I knew this was a recipe I would want to make again often...especially for Kelly's birthday.

Well, things never work out exactly as planned. The windy remnants of Hurricane Ike hit Louisville on that chosen Sunday morning and by noon I had lost power. Most of the city lost power throughout the afternoon. The crackers didn't get made. On Tuesday when my power finally came back, I decided to make the crackers. I didn't have to work so there was plenty of time to bake and enjoy.

I pulled out the recipe and my ingredients and found that they didn't match. The recipe called for bread flour (I did not do gluten-free on my first go-around). I accidentally measured out whole wheat flour. Not wanting to admit a mistake even to myself, I bravely continued on with the recipe. I followed it exactly, except that my dough needed twice as much time to rest and rise.

I rolled out the dough until it was paper thin. Some of it I kept whole, planning to break it into pieces after baking. Some of the dough I cut with cookie cutters. I learned that mini flowers are not the best shape choice for these crackers. As I picked up each piece, the petals stretched and repositioned themselves until I couldn't tell some were supposed to be flowers. Not a problem, though, as I was more interested in the natural break-apart crackers ayway.

I ended up with 4 pans of cracker dough. Two pans were paper thin and baked for 12 minutes. They both turned out dark brown and much crispier than I would choose. I made the dough in the second two pans slightly thicker and baked them for only 8 minutes before turning on my eagle eye to watch for doneness. These crackers turned out much better--a perfect golden brown. Half of the crackers were sprinkled with sesame seeds (I have no idea why) and half were sprinkled with sea salt (my favorite).

I chose to make guacamole for my dip. Guacamole is my favorite dip and I order it whenever I can. Because of the price of avacados these days, I rarely make it for myself, but today was an exception--great crackers call for great dip. I can't give an exact recipe because I generally throw things in a bowl until it 'feels right,' but I used 2 ripe (soft but not mushy) avacados, 1 Roma tomato, a slice of white onion, lemon juice, 1 habanero pepper, and salt. Everything was diced and mixed, then chilled for a few minutes while I broke the crackers apart.

I need to make these crackers again, but doubt I will get to it before posting day. I want to make them with bread flour like the recipe calls for. My crackers tasted wonderful, but whole wheat is not the same as a finely milled flour and I want to see if I can get my lavash to be even more similar to the kind at our favorite restaurant. I also want to try other spices on top. The sea salt was great with the guacamole, but there are so many spices, seeds, and salts that would be good. Finally, I want to try the gluten-free option given in the challenge. There just isn't enough time in the day (or the month) to do everything. It's good that I have a running to-do list...this is on it again!
September 02, 2008

TWD: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

These cookies are great! Thanks to Stefany of Proceed with Caution for choosing these yummy cookies.

I need to finish this post but there's not much to say. The recipe for Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters can be found on page 73 of Dorie's cookbook or at Stephany's blog.

I took most of these cookies to school. When I bring treats, I usually put them in the lounge when I get to school and they are often gone by the time I get back to the lounge before picking up my students. This time I got smart--I took them to the lounge when I went down for lunch. Everyone there at that time took a few and commented that these were the best cookies yet. I agree. Chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter, and oatmeal all together in one package. YUM!
August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers - Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

I do love the Daring Bakers and their challenges. Luckily I have a great group of coworkers who eat everything I share...the eclairs were gobbled up before school started on the day I brought them in. My coworkers continuously thank me for joining the baking groups I have as they reap the benefits on a regular basis. Last month I said that a purpose of joining the Daring Bakers and Tuesdays groups is to stretch my skills and try new techniques in the kitchen. I have not yet started working on stretching my food photography or writing skills...I'm hoping that comes soon.

This month our challenge is hosted by
Tony Tahhan and MeetaK . Check their blogs for great stories about the baking and for the eclair recipe.

I have made eclairs or close variations a few times this year. This time the pastry came out perfectly browned and airy. The chocolate sauce and pastry cream were delicious! I am a big fan of all dark chocolates and this was almost chocolate overload. I wish the glaze/sauce had spread a little looked more glopped than glazed on most of the eclairs.

Thanks to Tony and Meeta for a great recipe.
August 26, 2008

TWD - Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte

I refuse to admit defeat this week, but I can't claim success, either. I'm sure you can understand the importance of a freezer in this recipe, given the ice cream component. I do have a freezer. Somehow all the food already in it is completely frozen. This recipe did not ever freeze completely so I have some wavy bands of chocolate and ice cream. My freezer chose this week to begin gathering droplets of water on the ceiling, and then it dripped all over the (still completely frozen) food. I, of course, forgot to cover the torte during its last freeze cycle, so I ended up with a watery top layer.

Why no pictures of this fantastic (really, very good-tasting) dessert? Because between home and school, I have no idea where the camera charger is and the batteries are completely drained tonight. I promise to post pictures as soon as the camera is recharged.

Thank you to Amy of Food, Family and Fun for choosing the Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte (on pages 288-289). It tasted great!

Now on to successfully complete next week's recipe!

Edited to add picture...after all the trouble making this recipe, I couldn't get a good picture of the final product. Here is my only picture. It tasted better than it looked.

August 19, 2008

TWD - Granola Grabbers

Yeah! I'm back. The neck pain is gone, school is in full swing, and I still have time to bake. This week's Tuesday recipe was Granola Grabbers, chosen by Michelle of Bad Girl Baking.
While I heard many people say these are good as after school snacks, I'm using mine bright and early in the morning. Actually, it's chilly and dark. I get up at 4:45 for my daily trip to the Y. Going that early is the only time I can have some quiet 'me time' each day. I've been eating a cookie or two (they are quite small) on my way downtown and they give me the boost I need to get my day started.
The cookies are packed with yummy things...granola, wheat germ, raisins, peanuts, almonds, and more.
Some of the cookies ended up a bit crumbly. I think the next time I make these (and there will definitely be a next time), I'll add a touch more liquid. I'll also play around with the combinations of fruit and nuts depending on what's in my cupboard...peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, craisins, dried fruit...endless possibilities.
Thanks, Michelle, for a great recipe. This one will be a staple in my house.

August 12, 2008

TWD August 12

Well, the pinched nerve neck pain didn't start easing up until the weekend. That on top of the start of school today kept me overworked and not moving much and prevented me from making ice cream this week.

Have no fear (I'm telling myself)...I'll be back next week.
August 04, 2008

TWD August 5

I need to postpone this week's bread making fun.
I pinched a nerve in my neck last weekend and it laid me up for a few days and that caused me to get behind in the rest of my work.
With school starting in a few days and much to do at school, I haven't had time to bake the bread.
I have my bananas ready and waiting so hopefully some evening this week I will find time. Until then, catch other TWD news here:
July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers: Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

I joined the Daring Bakers this month. In addition to baking from Dorie Greenpan's book each week, each month I will be making a "daring" recipe along with all the other Daring Bakers.
A purpose in doing these daring recipes is to stretch my skills and try new techniques in the kitchen.
Chris at Mele Cotte
chose the Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from Great Cakes by Carol Walter for this month's challenge. This was a very tasty introduction to the Daring Bakers. I wish I had written this post as soon as the cake was finished, but a busy summer schedule prevented that. As I am not confident with my writing skills when trying to remember something I baked 3 weeks ago, here instead, are some pictures of the gateau-ing process.

I actually needed (or chose to use) two mixers for this. It's been a long time since I've brought out the old Sunbeam.

Hazelnut mixture being processed.

  • hazelnuts
  • cake flour
  • cornstarch

Egg whites coming to soft-peak stage.

Combining the egg yolk and white mixture with the hazelnut mixture.

Ready to bake. I don't have a picture of the baked cake, but it fell as it cooled. I still tried to torte it into three layers. The third layer ended up looking more like a ring of cake instead of a complete layer. Once torted and layered with the scrumptious praline buttercream, I covered the cake with an apricot glaze...

and then ganache. I think ganache is my most favorite way to ice a cake. I used extra bittersweet chocolate, which made for a deep, smooth-tasting ganache.

Here's the end product. I made a whole recipe and shared with two neighbor couples, my aunt and uncle, and a few good friends. There was a lot of cake!

July 29, 2008

TWD - Summer Fruit Galette

I'm on vacation this week, but was able to complete our recipe. Michelle from Michelle in Colorado Springs selected Summer Fruit Galette, which can be found on pages 366-367 in our book. I didn't even get to taste the creation this time, but my family called it a big hit.

End notes:
  • "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan can be purchased here: Amazon
  • Tuesdays With Dorie site is here: TWD

July 22, 2008

TWD - Rhubarb Cobbler

It's Tuesday again. I have a late post this week (still Tuesday, though) because I am on vacation. Yes, I have been on vacation all summer, but this week I finally drove up to Wisconsin to visit my family. It was a great week to do so because my parents have rhubarb in their back yard. Tonight when I was finally ready to make my cobbler, I just stepped out back and cut some stalks for myself.

I cut too many stalks, of course, so I'll have to make jam tomorrow...too bad ;)

For this week's baking delight, Amanda from Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake selected …. Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler, which can be found on page 415 of your Dorie cookbook.

Did I mention I got fresh rhubarb from the back yard? I'm excited!

This is the first Dorie recipe I have had to make some adjustments to. I am not a cherry person and we have raspberries growing next to the rhubarb so I used those instead. I did not have whole wheat flour or ginger available, and ... OH NO ... there was no butter in the house. I had to use margarine. A trip to the store for proper ingredients was not possible today so I had to do a "make do recipe." I think it still turned out pretty good.

I liked the dough balls topping concept of this cobbler. They soaked up lots of the raspberry juice as the cobbler was baking. I would like to try this recipe again using whole wheat flour and real butter to see how the texture changes.

End notes:
  • Next time I need to add more cornstarch or another thickening agent as the raspberries are JUICY
  • "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan can be purchased here: Amazon
  • Tuesdays With Dorie site is here: TWD
  • I'm having technical difficulties working with a camera and computer that are not mine. I will attempt to reformat the pictures and update the writing on this blog when I return to my own computer.

July 15, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Pudding

I've found my new favorite dessert. Yes, I must say that every week. I think I should say that I've found my new favorite cookbook as I have loved every recipe I've made.

Chocolate pudding has always been such a simple, sweet treat.

Melissa from Its Melissas Kitchen chose this week's TWD recipe. It was almost as easy as making pudding from a box, but it tasted so much better.

Like Dorie, I grew up on boxed pudding (made with skim milk). I did know it could be made from scratch, but that is one recipe that was discouraged at my house. I now know why. I could probably make this each week and not grow tired of it.

This is a cornstarch-thickened pudding. I mixed it in the food processor and as Dorie explained, that ensured a lump-free pudding and incorporated some air. I used dark cocoa powder and whole milk in my recipe and got the smoothest, best-tasting pudding I have ever eaten.

After a quick taste test, I still have 5 servings left. I think I will try layering one serving with a granola mix for a crunchy/salty/sweet treat. I'll also mix up some fresh whipped cream to top my next serving.

Thanks Melissa for a great recipe.

  • "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan can be purchased here: Amazon
  • Tuesdays With Dorie site is here: TWD
July 08, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie - Double Crusted Blueberry Pie

It's Tuesday again and that means another Dorie recipe!

This week Amy of South in Your Mouth selected Double Crusted Blueberry Pie as the recipe of choice. I've loved every recipe so far, but WOW this one was great. I'm not a huge blueberry fan so I was apprehensive about making and then eating the pie. I took it to my aunt's house so we could have first tastes together and was glad I was able to leave the pie with her family--I would have eaten the whole thing myself. I am now a blueberry lover.

My pie is not round this week. When I went to get my pie pan I remembered I had dropped and broken my only pan earlier this year. Not wanting to borrow dishes from a neighbor, I took the next best dish--my bread pan. A rectangle pie tastes just as good as a round one.

The construction of the pie was similar to all other pies I've special skills needed this week. I did learn one trick, though. To keep the blueberry juices from seeping into the bottom crust, we sprinkled bread crumbs on the crust before adding the filling. Two days later when we cut pieces of pie, the crust was still white and was not soggy from juice. The crust was magnificent. I used the recipe for a single crust since I was working with a small pan. I wish I had made just a bit more dough as I couldn't quite seal the edges all the way around. It was crisp and flaky and turned a beautiful brown color.

Happy eating, everyone!

July 01, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie - Apple Cheddar Scones

A very quick post this week...

This week's recipe was Apple Cheddar Scones, chosen by Karina of The Floured Apron. At first, I was not very excited to see this recipe--for the simple fact that my friend Martha is the scone baker in my world and I didn't want to have something better than her.

Although I ended up not seeing Martha this week and was unable to share my creation with her, I think she would be proud. I made the recipe on Thursday evening and it became my dinner that night as well as my breakfast the next day. So I wouldn't devour every scone, I took the rest to the Habitat build where everyone who tried one said they were great!

The only change I made to the recipe was the apples. I was unable to find dried apples at my stores this week so I used fresh apples. After chopping them, I placed them on a paper towel for a few minutes to help drain some of the excess liquid.

The scones were wonderful. The apple and cheddar were a wonderful, bright combination. They were not too dry, even after sitting out on the counter for a day.
End notes:
  • Fresh apples are good, but I will try this recipe again and use dried apples.
  • I think I will cut the scones in triangles next time. The 12 squares the recipe said to make made HUGE servings.
  • Apple and cheddar are a great combination. If you haven't tried it, go for it!
June 24, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie - Mixed Berry Cobbler

Beth of Our Sweet Life chose Mixed Berry Cobbler as our recipe of the week. I was excited to see this recipe as I had just gotten fresh raspberries and blackberries at the fruit market, but I do have mixed reviews about the results. As others noted in the Q-and-A section of TWD, there were issues with the topping.

I chose to make the cobbler in individual ramekins. I used the raspberries and blackberries and mixed them with a bit of sugar and a splash of lemon juice. I piled the fruit into the ramekins, knowing that it would all bake down in the oven.

To make the topping I mixed flour, sugar, butter, and milk until it was "soft and sticky." I tested the mixture and it tasted pretty good at this point. I rough-rolled it into circles to cover the ramekins and laid each on top of the fruit.

The cobblers were baked for 30 minutes at 375 and came out bubbly and spilling over the edges a bit--perfect!

Jacki came over and helped me taste the creations. Her first reaction was that the topping tasted like raisin bran. I'm not sure that's exactly what I would say, but the dry part of the topping did taste plain. Digging into the dishes, however, we found topping that had started to sop up the berry juice. That part was, hot, juicy...just what a cobbler should be like.

End Notes:
  • I will definitely be making this recipe again...with a few changes
    --almond or vanilla flavor in the topping
    --sugar sprinkled on top
    --lots of strawberries--the juice will soak into the topping
  • "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan can be purchased here: Amazon
  • Tuesdays With Dorie site is here: TWD

Each time I go into the kitchen to bake something, Joey comes in and wants to be near me. Since my hands are usually full and my attention is on the baking activities, he had resorted to jumping on the only available place--my back. I have some nice scars to show where he has dug his claws in. I recently moved a stool to the middle of the kitchen so he can safely watch the activities without hurting me. Here he is on his stool waiting for me to finish the day's work.
June 19, 2008

It's a boy

My assistant's sister is having a baby boy so I offered to make a cake for the shower that Shelly is hosting. (Insert lots of praise here--I have the best assistant!!!)

Shelly left left the design up to me, saying, "put your touch on it, please," but requested that the cake definitely be "that great white cake you make." Those directions left me lots of room to try new things.

I made fondant buttons for the border. I'd love input on how other people make these. I cut circles using an icing tip and then made the indentation with a dowel and the buttonholes with a #2 tip. They look okay to me, but not quite professional.

I also tried a loopy bow. Going from pictures on CakeCentral, and a general description I read in a forum thread, I made individual loops. I blindly guessed how many loops I would need and how big they would need to be. I'm not too disappointed with the result, but I should have made some small loops for the very top. I had extra space and no loops of the right size so I threw a few additional buttons in to fill up the white space. Suggestions for improving my bows are also welcome.

The sides have baby feet and the word "baby" piped on them.

  • WASC
  • VIVA Buttercream
  • Satin Ice fondant
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Edited to add---I just found out a great old friend had her baby on June 4th--congrats Martha and Steve. I thought about you when making this cake today. Wish I could send you one, too.
June 18, 2008

Peppermint Chip Ice Cream

Homemade ice cream is one of my favorite treats. I had fresh mint leaves and some cream left over after making the Peppermint Cream Puff Ring earlier this week so I decided to make some ice cream this afternoon. I threw the ingredients in the ice cream freezer and in about 40 minutes had a delicious bowl of one of my favorite flavors--a great treat on a rather warm day.

  • Heavy whipping cream/half-and-half/milk in any combination to equal 4 cups
    --I had extra mint-flavored cream from when I steeped the mint leaves for the cream puffs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Vanilla to taste
  • Peppermint flavoring if desired
  • Chopped chocolate chips (I used bittersweet)