You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Daring Bakers’ category.
Here we are at the end of another month and posting another Daring Bakers Challenge. It’s the first time that I haven’t procrastinated on doing the challenge, but I’d never let that stop me from posting late. It’s still February 28 for a couple more hours, though, so here you go!
The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We 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.
We served this cake as dessert at a semi-impromptu dinner party we hosted last weekend (more on that tomorrow). While we’re on the theme of lateness, I will admit to you that we served this cake at midnight (gulp) because I didn’t start making it until after dinner. It did, however, come together very quickly, and it’s totally possible to throw this together at the last minute.
I used Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate for the cake, pairing it with a David Lebovitz-recipe coffee ice cream. The ice cream was fantastic (it’s Carlo’s favourite). The cake tasted like– well, it had 4 and a half chocolate bars in it. It tasted like chocolate. Carlo and I found the cake to be a bit too heavy and rich for our tastes, but then we’re not big cake fans, period. Our guests went back for seconds, though, so I think that means it was a success!
Thanks to Tony for taking the cake photo. Considering that it was taken at midnight (=NO LIGHT), I think it looks pretty great.
If you’d like the recipe, check out Wendy or Dharm’s blogs (links above).
Here we are at the end of another month, which means another Daring Bakers challenge.
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.
Now, before I start showing you pictures or talking about what I did, let me tell you first that I have utterly failed this challenge. Really. Think of a way I could mess things up, and I did it. The planning: first fail. You see, I didn’t actually read the recipe until December 26, at which point I and everyone I know had been stuffed so full of sweets and rich food that I wondered whether I could really eat or find anyone else to consume SIX layers of richness ( mousse, praline, ganache, dacquoise, creme brulee, icing). This is not the fault of the recipe, which is decadent, and produces a gorgeous final product, as you’ll see on all the non-failure Daring Bakers’ blogs. If I’d started thinking about this earlier, I’d have had a wonderful dessert to wow the family at Christmas dinner. After Christmas, however, no one wanted to even hear me talk about six layers of chocolate. So… I cheated. I made only the dacquoise, mango mousse, and a chocolate sauce to pour over the top. I layered the mousse and the dacquoise in little cups, and that’s all. So I guess I made 3/6 elements, which technically isn’t failure. That’s fifty percent!
Next failure was my dacquoise. It has almond meal mixed with beaten egg whites and a touch of flour. This combination makes a thin, chewy biscuit. But, um… my thin chewy biscuit tastes a little bit like cumin. Oh dear. My almond flour, of which I had just exactly enough (this made me happy, as I didn’t want to trudge through the snow to the supermarket), was stored in a not-airtight container in a mess of a drawer that has a bit of everything in it, including, unfortunately, a very fragrant bag of cumin. So, housekeeping failure=cumin dacquoise.
Next, my mango mousse. I was drawn to this alternative offering in the recipe because I thought it would be a good alternative to chocolate. Problem is, I didn’t have nice mango, so I substituted some canned mango in syrup that was nearly completely flavourless. This wasn’t exactly my fault, as I just couldn’t find anything else that would do. So my mango mousse turned out super sweet with very little mango flavour (or colour… I used some food colouring, but that didn’t really help either). I added a bit of lime juice to the mousse to up the tang, which made it turn out… well, honestly, it was disgusting. Carlo took one bite and said “I can’t eat this.” And fortunately for him, I agreed.
My chocolate sauce, on the other hand, was fine. I used the chocolate icing recipe provided and just didn’t include the gelatin. It was, as you can expect, rich and unctuous, the way chocolate sauce should be.
That’s my not-a-yule-log epic. Failure in planning, preparation, storage, and commitment. Final product: inedible. I highly recommend you check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll if you want to see what the challenge was supposed to be. Me, I’m going to hide my head in shame and plan to do better next time. Please check the above links if you’d like the recipe.
I say super-caramel, because it really was. Caramel cake, caramel icing, and in my case, caramel drizzle. This cake was moist, and I think probably in my case, too dense. I’m not a cake-lover or a cake baker, and it seems that more often than not, my cakes are heavy. Why? I don’t know. I guess because I don’t adore cakes, I’m not putting the love into them that they deserve. They fall flat out of resentment. I did, however, adore the icing. With browned butter and dark caramel and a pinch of salt, the icing was rich, sweet and delicious. If it weren’t totally inappropriate, I could eat this icing straight out of a bowl. Of course, then I’d probably end up very, very sick.
This wasn’t my first time making caramel, so I didn’t have any problems with it, though I’ve ruined many a caramel to get to this point. What I love most about making it is the suspense– standing over the pot watching the sugar syrup boil in thick bubbles that look like alien eyeballs, and worrying as it gets darker and darker that I’ll wait too long, just a second too long, and I’ll end up with burnt muck instead of dark, rich, bittersweet syrup. I feel so accomplished when I don’t ruin it. I love any opportunity to make a caramel!
So, that’s my caramel cake report. The cake itself was nice but I probably won’t make it again. The icing… that I can’t wait to recreate. Maybe on top of carrot cake next time!
Thanks to Dolores at Chronicles of Culinary Curiousity and her co-hosts Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food and gluten-free adapter Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go for a fun caramel-laden challenge. For the recipe, please see the above Bay Area Bites link. And if you want more caramel cake (I know you do!), check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll!
Well… not so daring pizza. Putting tomatoes, cheese and oregano on top of a crust and stopping there does not equal adventurous. But I did throw my pizza dough in the air, and I figure that’s daring enough. Please excuse the blurry photo. We did our pizza in the evening, and it’s getting dark SO early now. The winter darkness is coming!
As anyone who reads food blogs knows by now, this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, which was hosted by Rosa at Rosa’s Yummy Yums, was pizza dough, a recipe that required two days of waiting and nearly no work, except for the exciting part where I threw pizza dough all around the kitchen. Highlights include: dropping dough on the ground, and finally figuring out how to toss pizza without throwing it on the ground, and being happy that my kitchen floor is clean (yes, we ate it anyway). Oh, and a home-made evening. With our pizza, we drank beer that Carlo and my dad made (post from Carlo soon, I hope). ON our pizza we had oregano we grew ourselves this summer, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes made by a (very excellent, obviously) friend, and…. home made mozzarella! Yes, we made cheese. It was the highlight of the cooking course we just finished. More on this very, very soon, as my camera is heavy-laden with cheese photos. The dough was a Peter Reinhart recipe, and I was very impressed. It was soft and very easy to work with (except for its tendency to fly around the kitchen while I was tossing it, which, in fairness, I can’t blame on the dough), with fantastic flavour. The final product managed to be tender and crispy at the same time, and very, tantalizingly, wonderfully thin.
We used this sauce: Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce 1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained 6 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, (use more or less to your taste) 3-4 cloves of roasted garlic (click link for garlic-roasting technique) salt to taste Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, pulse them a few times, taste and adjust seasoning to taste. That’s it! Here’s the dough recipe: Basic Pizza Dough 6 Pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter). 608 g Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled 1 3/4 Tsp Salt 1 Tsp Instant yeast 60 g Olive oil or vegetable oil 420 g Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C) 1 Tb sugar Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting As we are just two, I reduced the recipe as follows: makes 1 big or 2 pizza crusts 250 g flour 5 g salt 1 tsp gluten 1/4 tsp instant yeast 1 tb olive oil 140 g water, ice cold 1 tsp sugar DAY ONE Method: 1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer). 2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C. 3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper. 4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas). NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts. 5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball. NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again. 6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap. 7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days. NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator. DAY TWO 8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours. 9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan. 10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method. 11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan. 12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice. NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient. 13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes. NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly. 14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.
We’re still floating and mildly homeless, so I took over someone else’s kitchen (my mother’s) to perform this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. I’m glad I did! I discovered that danish pastry is time-consuming but not that tough and super-rewarding. The final result is buttery, melting, and super-tender.
I’m grateful to Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking? for a great challenge! I’m a little too lazy to copy out the recipe, so if you’d like to try it out (do! It’s fun and delicious!), you can find it here.
It seems that I’m spending most of my time lately apologizing– I’m late, I’m absent… Well. So I’m late posting this and I’ve been absent. And we’ll be absent some more for the next month, I think, as we are packing up our life and moving ourselves across the country. Carlo’s been getting shooting pains in his head, and I’ve suddenly developed a neck problem. Ha. So this is my final apology and from here on out, if we post we’ll be acting as if everything’s normal and there’s nothing to apologize about.
So here we are late with our Daring Bakers report. This Last month, Morven at Food Art and Random Thoughts chose Dorie Greenspan’s perfect party cake. Now, I’m not much of a cake baker. Too much precision, too much waiting and anxiety, too many fallen cakes. A lot of bakers had problems getting their cakes to rise, and I was no exception. My layer cake had only two layers instead of four, since I didn’t want to try slicing into my pitiful little layers. But! The cake was super-tasty. I made a strawberry-lemon curd filling to layer inside, and the buttercream was thick and delicious. For a basic cake recipe, this one is a good one. Check out some of the other bakers’ cakes by going to the Daring Bakers’ blogroll. There are some good ideas for how to get the cake to rise.
You can check out the cake recipe here.
STRAWBERRY LEMON CURD
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups fresh strawberries
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, cubed
Put the sugar, strawberries, lemon zest and juice, eggs and egg yolks in the bowl of a food processor and spin them until the strawberries are smooth.
Put the puree in a small saucepan, add the butter and cook over low heat, stirring often, until butter has melted and mixture thickens, about 30 minutes. Don’t allow the curd to boil.
Take the curd off the heat and cool it before placing it in clean jars and refrigerating it. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups of curd. It’s great for a cake layer, for spreading on eggy bread, or just to eat out straight out of the jar (I’m not ashamed…).
It’s easy to be in love with an idea; it’s a lot harder to follow through on its execution.
I’ve been thinking about baking French bread for a long time now. The idea of pulling a crispy, golden baguette out of my oven appealed to my romantic bread-baker side, but it seemed so complicated. I was scared. I’m not very fond of failing, and I’d often rather not do something at all than to do it and get it wrong. I know, I know. That’s not very daring of me.
I’ve been putting off French bread for all sorts of reasons: I don’t have a spray bottle for misting the bread and making steam, I don’t have a fancy bread lame, I don’t have a canvas baking couche for proofing the bread. Oh, and I wasn’t really sure what proofing meant. And then there’s this:
We were lucky that our stove was included in our apartment, but not so lucky with the stove itself. It’s a million years old, with only one rack inside. The burners go out once a month, the broiler seldom works, and it runs at least 20 degrees cooler than it’s supposed to. It’s so poorly insulated that it just can’t hold its heat. This stove should be a recipe for failure.
So I was unreasonably thrilled when I found out that Julia Child’s French bread was my very first Daring Bakers challenge. If I failed, well, so be it. It wasn’t going to be my fault–I didn’t have the right supplies! As it turns out, Julia Child’s detailed instructions, combined with some anxiety and improvisation with equipment, gave us an amazing result. This was SO not a failure. What we had in the end was a bread with a moist, almost creamy crumb, with large holes; and a crisp, golden, crackling crust that sprang open beautifully where I slashed it before slipping it into the oven. The recipe made three baguettes slightly longer than 12 inches each.
I’m so happy (and pleasantly surprised!) with how this bread turned out, especially given the equipment I was working with. That’s the magic of Julia Child and 10-page-long instructions. The only thing I would do differently is to use better flour. With the intention of conquering my perfectionism, I decided to use the regular, not-special all purpose flour I had in the house. With three(!) rises, and so few ingredients (water, flour, yeast, salt), the flavour of the flour really develops, so it only makes sense to use the best you can get your hands on. I’ll do this next time. And yes, there will be a next time.
The Daring Bakers is a huge group, and there’s a lot of bread online today, so I won’t reprint the recipe. You can check it out here. What I’d like to offer you are some of the resources, materials, and techniques I used.
KNEADING: I’m always a pretty anxious cook, and I was especially so with this recipe. On the day of my baking, my nerves were eased when I discovered this video of Richard Bertinet demonstrating his kneading technique. This was perfect for the French bread dough. Ignore the ingredients he’s using and just focus on the super-cool kneading. My damp, sticky dough was transformed, but I didn’t need to use any extra flour, so the final product wasn’t even the slightest bit tough!
RISING: Here’s a trick my mother has used for years. I use my oven for the first rise, and in the case of this bread, the second rise too. I set my oven to the lowest temperature it runs at. I leave it there for two minutes, and then turn it off, turning on the oven light at the same time. This makes a nice cozy environment for the bread to grow in. Another trick is to put the covered bowl of dough on top of the fridge. It’s usually nice and warm up there too.
Another essential is patience. This dough required hours to rise to its full height. It had finally gone through its final rise and fully cooked 12 HOURS after I first pulled the flour off the shelf. Monitor the dough closely, but don’t skimp on time.
MAKING STEAM AND HEAT: Julia Child’s recipe recommends unglazed quarry tiles and a spray bottle to reproduce the heat and steam of a professional bread baking oven. Well, I didn’t have those, but I do have a pizza stone. I heated the oven hotter than the recommended temperature with the pizza stone inside. This heated the stone up nice and hot, so it would hold the heat that our crappy oven couldn’t. When I slid the baguettes onto the stone, we made steam by tossing a bit of water directly onto the bottom of the oven. The recipe recommends ice cubes, but I didn’t want to sacrifice any heat at all (precious, precious, heat), so we used hot water. We did it three times, about a minute between each steam bath. Carlo whipped open the oven door, I tossed the water from a cookie sheet directly onto the floor of the oven, and Carlo whipped the door closed again. Total time per steam bath: maybe 5 seconds. After all that, I finally reduced the oven heat to the recommended temperature.
NOT BEING AFRAID: Don’t be afraid!
You can see other Daring Bakers’ French bread by going to the Daring Bakers Blogroll.