Archive for the ‘Daring Bakers’ Category

Daring Bakers – Caramel Cake

November 28, 2008

I scooted in just under the wire this month!  The most difficult thing about the Daring Baker challenges is deciding when to bake them.  I like to have someone eat my hard work, but sometimes social events don’t coincide with when I have time to bake them.  I wanted to do this cake for my dad’s birthday, but Thanksgiving and his birthday pretty much coincided.  So instead, I did cupcakes thinking people could munch on them throughout the day.  After reading Shuna’s notes, I would like to make this again as a cake to see how it would turn out.  The cupcakes were fabulous!

Caramel Cake
Recipe by Shuna Fish Lydon
Thank you to Dolores, Alex, and Jenny for hosting!

I was really horrible about taking pictures this month, so apologies for lack of evidence!  I read through Shuna’s notes on the cake to ensure everything would turn out.  I beat the batter until it was light and fluffy and really tried to incorporate the ingredients before moving on to the next one.  The caramel sauce, oh the caramel sauce!  While it was cooking it was thin and I had no faith in it.  But once it cooled, it was beautiful!  I cooked it just a little bit longer than I thought I needed to to get a stronger caramel flavor.  The buttercream frosting was easy and delicious, although I did have to add a little more cream at the end because it was too stiff to frost.  Overall, fabulous!  Although very sugary.  I added salt, but maybe I needed more?


Daring Bakers – Pizza

October 29, 2008

This month the Daring Bakers are tackling pizza.  I love to make homemade pizza and have several dough recipes that I use, but none of them employ the overnight technique that I’ve heard so much about.  The thing I loved about this recipe was that there was no rising time.  Getting dough to rise can be tricky in my house.  It’s drafty, it’s chilly and I usually resort to warming the oven a bit and doing it there.  But for this I didn’t have to employ any workarounds.  And the dough was fabulous!  So easy!  

We had two guidelines for the month.  First, we had to toss the dough.  Second, the pizza needed a sauce and toppings.  That was it!  Beyond that we were free to do what we wanted as far as type of dough and toppings.  I made the dough with regular bread flour and did both a savory version and a sweet.  

The recipe was the Basic Pizza Dough recipe from Peter Reinhart’s ‘The Bread Baker’s Apprentice’.  Thank you to Rosa for hosting!

Tossing the dough.  I did okay, although the dough was thin in the middle and thicker at the edges.  This happened both times and I’m not super sure how to correct this.  I like the tossing method to stretch out the dough, but definitely need some help perfecting my technique.

Pizza #1.  Pureed squash with italian sausage and red onions.  I topped it with mozzarella cheese, which was too bland of a cheese.  Because the squash was sweet, it needed a cheese with some bite.  Next time, feta.

Pizza #2.  I really wanted to make a dessert pizza.  I thought about doing a PB&J pizza, but I had cream cheese in my fridge that I wanted to use up.  In the end I did cream cheese as the sauce and topped it with kind of a streusel topping – brown sugar, flour, butter, oatmeal, chocolate chips and almonds.  I wanted some chocolate and some caramel, but I went a little heavy on the streusel.  Next time no flour, and less of everything else.  

Daring Bakers – Lavash Crackers

September 27, 2008

This month’s challenge went down a slightly different path. There was no butter or cream. No chocolate or fruit. Instead, we were tasked with Lavash crackers plus a dip that was gluten free and vegan. I was excited for so many reasons. First, I’ve always wanted to make a cracker. Second, with two little ones that are eating now, soon crackers would be the perfect finger food. And third, with the bounty coming out of the gardens, I would have tons of inspiration for a dip or relish.

I will absolutely make this recipe again. I’m sad I made it late in the game and didn’t have time to play around with toppings. I know several Daring Baker’s did a sweet version of this with cinnamon and sugar. Yum. I will definitely play around with this in the coming months.

Thank you to Natalie and Shel for hosting. You can visit their sites for the full recipe.

First time I made the cracker, it totally bombed. My bread flour was old and I think it had no gluten left. No matter how much I kneaded it just never got to that windowpane consistency. I thought maybe rising would help it. No. Maybe rolling and baking? No. It came out of the oven with a flat, dull taste and was awful. I made it again last night and was so nervous. I kneaded and kneaded, but worried I hadn’t kneaded enough. The dough rose beautifully though, and rolled out perfectly. Or had it? Suddenly in the oven the dough was looking too thick! I worried that again I had somehow messed this up. But when I snapped pieces off and tasted it, it was so good! I think I could still roll it thinner, but I’ll happily eat what I have!

I have tomatoes coming out of my ears, but that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go with my dip. Instead I was drawn to the eggplants I saw at the Farmer’s Market. I went with this recipe, with some slight variations. I really loved it. It tasted fresh, perfect for the end of summer and help up well over several days in the fridge.
Eggplant Dip
1 medium eggplant
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh tomato, chopped
1 T. olive oil
1 T. lemon juice
2 T. minced green onions
2 T. minced parsley

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Bake, cut side down at 400 degrees for 60 minutes. Once the eggplant is cooled, use a spoon to scoop pulp from the skin; discard skin. Mash the pulp in a bowl with a fork. Add the other ingredients and blend well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Daring Bakers – Eclairs!

August 31, 2008

Eclairs!  Is there anyone who doesn’t love a good eclair?  Given the choice in a bakery I will more often than not choose eclairs over other pastries.  They bring a little of everything to the party.  Love them as I do, I was very excited to learn our August challenge was to make eclairs. 

I’ve done cream puffs before with varying end results.  Sometimes they puff, sometimes not so much.  Since I love both cream puffs and eclairs, I was really hoping to master pate a choux once and for all.

For the full recipe, please visit Meeta or Tony.  Thanks for hosting!


The recipe provided gave both a chocolate pastry cream and a chocolate glaze. One of the two elements needed to remain chocolate, but we were free to experiment with the other. This was difficult. I love the standard eclair with vanilla pastry cream and chocolate, but the chocolate pastry cream also sounded really good. But I wanted to push my boundaries a bit so I decided to do three pastry creams. I made a vanilla and then flavored one third with coffee, one third with hazelnut praline paste (leftover from last month) and left one third vanilla. In the end, the hazelnut praline was definitely the winner. Also, I will definitely use this pastry cream recipe again. It had only 3T of corn starch in it instead of the 4T my normal recipe has and I liked the consistency much better. Winner!

I should probably state here that my eclairs didn’t rise. Why? We’ll examine that.

On to the dough. I think my dough came together rather well, but other Daring Bakers noted that the consistency of the dough made a difference in how well they rose.

I piped them out using a disposable pastry bag. Was my piping an issue? I think it may have been. I felt like I piped them “flat” instead of giving them a little fluff.

As you can see, not many rose. I read many a comment on this issue. In the past I’ve thought that opening the oven door was an issue on how well my cream puffs rose, but this recipe specifically called for opening the oven door partyway through the baking so that can’t be it. Some people put a dish of water in the bottom of the oven, which is a trick I would like to try. Others let them cool in the oven which is also something I would try next time.

I had committed to bringing these to a picnic so I had to find a way to rescue them. I thought if I used a sharp knife I could cut them in half still, but many had pockets of air on the bottom so it wasn’t doable. Instead I declared half of them bottoms and half tops and went with it. It worked as well as it could. Some were piped with only one pastry cream, others were duos.

The end result was quite lovely! The chocolate glaze held up well and the eclairs tasted very good.

Daring Bakers – Filbert Gateau

July 30, 2008

Oh, the Daring Bakers. When I first joined the group (a year ago!) the recipes were challenging but fun. When I came back to the group after having the girls, baking the recipes made me feel like a real person again. This month, it just felt like a lot of work.

I made this month’s cake for the girls baptism, which was both a good and a bad idea. Good, because I was in the baking, organizational mode. Bad, because it just piled stress onto an already stressful weekend. I did have some help baking this cake. My friends Amy and Amanda helped and truly, without them, it wouldn’t have gotten made.

I had high hopes for the recipe. The picture was gorgeous, I do love me some hazelnuts, and I had never tried my hand at swiss buttercream. But the recipe was complicated and difficult to understand, there were a lot of moving parts, it took forever, and in the end, it just didn’t come together that well. There will not be a repeat of this cake.

Please go see the lovely Chris at Mele Cotte for the full recipe.

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

As always, I made this cake in parts over several days. First up was the cake.

I baked the cake in a 10″ springform pan which worked very well.

Despite much tapping, the cake sank a little in the center. It looked good though!

And now we get to the part where I took no pictures. While the cake was being made I made the praline paste and the sugar syrup. Small note about the praline paste, totally misread the part about processing longer to get it to an actual paste. Mine stayed at crumbs. Oops. The next day I made the swiss buttercream. I was nervous, but wow! It came together with no issues and I have to say, I loved it. Just the right sweetness and a great consistency.

Cake assembly! Amy was scared to cut the cake into three sections so I went at it. Brave does not mean skilled. The sections were not created equal, and while I hoped we could fix the issues with buttercream, that didn’t especially work.

First layer finished.

Second layer finished.

The ganache was fun to put on the cake, although terribly messy. I did hate to waste all of that chocolate. There were no real issues until I pulled the buttercream out of the fridge to pipe with. It was a tad hard. It never really softened properly, it was really more that the butter melted. When I would squeeze the pastry bag butter would squish out first, then the frosting. It worked okay though.

A finished piece of cake. =( As you can see, my layers didn’t work so well.

Daring Bakers – Danish Braid

June 29, 2008

I always think I have little baking experience, but I think that mainly comes from the fact that most yeast things that I try to bake don’t really turn out. But the truth is, I used to assist cooking classes and one summer I assisted a ton of baking classes. You don’t realize how much information you’ve absorbed until you have to turn around and use it! Luckily I had seen laminated dough made in one of those classes, so it wasn’t intimidating to me. Again, my main challenge would be time, although thank goodness for maternity leave!

The recipe was for yeasted laminated dough. We were required to make one danish braid and then could do whatever we wanted with the rest of the dough. I chose to make two danish braids, mainly because I didn’t want to freeze the dough. I ate one and gave the other to my friend who helped me put the braid together. Her family loved it!

I don’t always have time to read all of the questions regarding the challenge, but I did notice that a few people had issues with the dough. I had zero. I chilled my flour, it wasn’t very humid, and everything rolled out perfectly. I was able to make the dough and do my turns in between naps and bottles.

For my filling, I decided to do pastry cream and mixed berries. I love pastry cream. Love it! Plus, I’ve made it before and knew I could make it quickly (major consideration). For the mixed berries, I used fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. I followed the apple filling recipe for the most part. The berries were a little soupier than I would have liked, but they turned out very nicely.

Our one mistake was not filling and braiding the first one *on* the sheet pan we were baking it on. We eventually got it onto the parchment paper, but it took a lot of maneuvering since the braid was fairly heavy at that point. Second time around we made the braid on the parchment paper.

For the full recipe, visit Kelly at Sass & Veracity.

The rolled out dough, cut into strips.

With the filling down the middle. After tasting the finished product, we definitely could have put more pastry cream in.

Extra braids? Just cut them off and use them to seal the ends! Genius.

Egg wash, sugar, and sprinkled almonds.

Voila! Delicious!

Daring Bakers – Lemon Meringue Pie

January 28, 2008

It’s Daring Baker time again!  December was a bit of a rough month for me with way too many doctor appointments and holiday commitments, but I was determined to bake again in January!  I love the Daring Baker challenges, as well as the camraderie that goes along with this group.  Go here to visit the other Daring Bakers

This month our challenge was Lemon Meringue Pie. I’ve made some pie crusts before, but I really haven’t made many pies. My mom and my aunt are the pie makers in my family. I’m more the one that brings creme brulee to every gathering. But, I love Lemon Meringue and so was very much looking forward to this challenge.

For the full recipe, visit Jen at the Canadian Baker.

Lemon Meringue Pie

First, the crust. I’m a hand person when it comes to making crust. I know a lot of people do them in food processors, but I want to be able to look and feel the butter and how small it’s getting. I’ve done mine with my hands before, this time I used a pastry cutter.

Being winter in Minnesota, my house is very dry. The recipe called for 1/3 cup of water. I added about 1/2 cup, but I was a little nervous about adding it since I didn’t want to overmix the pastry. Even with the extra water, my dough was a little dry.

It rolled out fairly well. I could see nice chunks of butter, but parts stuck to the counter and it didn’t necessarily make it to the pie pan all in one piece. A little patchwork and we were good though.

Someday, I will invest in pie weights. Until then, it’s whatever looks old in the cupboard.

The lemon curd was super easy to make! I’m not sure why I thought that would be labor intensive. Boil water, add cornstarch and sugar, temper in eggs, add lemon juice.

The meringue whipped up perfectly. I admit, after reading others posts about weepy meringue and the meringue needing to go on top of hot filling, I smudged the directions a bit. I didn’t let the filling cool completely, just the amount of time it took me to make the meringue.

And still, it wept. I had incredibly tasty lemon meringue soup. I’m sad it looks so horrible because it tasted delicious! Possibly some of the best lemon meringue pie I’ve ever had. It even kept for four days before I threw it out! I will definitely make this again, but I’ll most likely make the meringue first and make sure it goes over a HOT filling.

Daring Bakers – Tender Potato Bread

November 26, 2007

It’s that time again!  The Daring Bakers are over 400 members now!  We each bake the same recipe each month and then post the results.   This month we made Tender Potato Bread.  Each person made the same bread, but then could shape it whichever way they wanted.  With Thanksgiving in the mix, I chose to do dinner rolls, but believe me, I will definitely make this again and do a loaf and focaccia. 

 For the full recipe, please visit Tanna.

Yeast and I don’t have the best relationship.  I used to kill it, until I learned to always use a thermometer to temp my water.  We work together much better now, but in the winter my house can be pretty drafty so rising can also be an issue.  To combat this issue this time, I preheated my oven to 200 degrees, turned it off, then put the dough inside with the oven door open.  It worked perfectly!  Next time I’ll buy an oven that has a ‘proofing’ setting.

Tender Potato Bread
I bought two baking potatoes thinking they would weigh one-half pound together. Wrong! They weighed over a pound, so I cooked just one peeled potato in 4 cups of water until it was fork tender. Mashed potatoes aren’t a real staple in my house, so the only instrument I had to mash them with was a pastry blender. It worked well, but next time I’d maybe run them through a sieve as well to get a finer mash.

It took a while for the potatoes and potato water to cool down. Once they did, I added the yeast and two cups of flour and let it sit for five minutes.

Next I added salt, butter, and more flour, mixing everything together.

As I kneaded, I probably added in another 2+ cups of flour. I’ve never made bread like this, where you add so much of the flour while you knead. It was interesting. The dough was wet, yet easy to work with. Once it seemed not so wet and with good elasticity, I put it in the oven to rise for two hours. I was nervous, but it rose beautifully!

Again, I turned it out on a floured surface to knead a bit.

The instructions were for a big loaf, and then some dinner rolls so I wasn’t sure how many dinner rolls I would get. We were having 12 people for Thanksgiving, so I made all of the dough into rolls. I used my dough scraper to cut the dough into pieces. I did a decent job, but a few ended up a little bigger than the others.

Back in the oven for another rise. Based on comments and other posts, I decided to parbake the rolls, freeze them, and then bake again the day of. This worked very well. I thought my rolls might have been a little smaller than the suggested rolls, so I baked them for 10 minutes at 400 degrees the day I made them, and then another 10 minutes the day of. Again, this worked beautifully! Oh, I also brushed them with melted butter. They didn’t get super brown, but I was okay with that. The parbaked rolls –

The finished product!

Everyone loved them! When everyone was packing up the leftovers, my cousins took two rolls each. Success!

Daring Bakers October – Bostini Cream Pie

October 29, 2007

It’s Daring Bakers time again!  We all make the same recipe and post on the same day.  This month our selected item was the Bostini Cream Pie.  I described it as a deconstructed Boston Cream Pie.  I liked it because it was fancy and fun, slightly decadent but not too rich.  And, you can make the majority ahead of time which can be key.

I brought this dessert to a gathering at my brother’s house.  I wasn’t sure everyone would enjoy it, but I knew there would be enough people there that I wouldn’t come home with extras.  Turns out, most everyone loved it!  Including my 3-year-old niece! 

For the full recipe, visit Mary at Alpineberry.

Bostini Cream Pie

First, I had to decide how I was going to plate this dessert. Everyone had ideas and I liked a few of them, but my main concern was cost. I didn’t want to buy 12 dishes to bake the cakes in, and then another 12 dishes to serve the Bostini’s in. I finally settled on custard cups that I could first bake the cakes in, then serve the Bostini’s in so that they would make a kind of tower. I have some gorgeous heart shaped dishes that would have worked had this been Valentine’s Day. I checked Williams-Sonoma. $10 for a custard cup! No thank you. Martha Stewart came through for me at Macy’s with 6 oz. ramekins – $4 per cup, $48 spent.

My plan was to make everything on Friday night, and then assemble the Bostini’s at my brother’s house. Next up, bake the cakes. I’ve never made a chiffon cake before, but I will definitely make one again. I think the key to folding in the egg whites is to do them in stages. I usually do it in thirds. That way nothing is overwhelmed. The chiffon cakes were perfect. They came together easily, were super moist, and the orange flavor was perfect.

The custard also came together easily. I wasn’t sure how thick I wanted the custard. I wanted it creamy and with some consistency, but not too set. I was planning on spooning it into the cups, so I didn’t need it too thick.

The chocolate glaze is where I fell down. I was planning on making it at my brother’s and thought I had grabbed the stack of Daring Baker print outs. Instead, I grabbed a stack that included the first page of the Daring Baker printout, and then a bunch of other recipes. I combined the butter and the chocolate and I’m pretty sure the sauce broke. Oh well, no one noticed but me. But, the sauce isn’t very pretty.

The assembly!
Custard in the cup –

Cake on top of the custard –

The finished Bostini Cream Pie!

Daring Bakers – Cinnamon and Sticky Buns

September 30, 2007

Before we get into this months Daring Baker post, a quick word to explain the radio silence as of late.  I’m pregnant with twins.  Food and I don’t have the best relationship anymore.  I don’t cook much since I go from not hungry to needing to eat NOW!  But, I have faith that I will get my appetite and my energy back in October.  So things should go back to normal soon. 

It’s Daring Baker time again!  This month, we all made cinnamon buns and sticky buns.  I was very excited because while most breads and sweets don’t appeal to me at all right now, breakfast type sweet breads totally do.  I made a pan of cinnamon buns and a pan of sticky buns.  Normally, I’m all about the cinnamon, but these sticky buns were so beyond fabulous that I’m now a believer. 

I served these to a group of friends and the general consensus was that the cinnamon buns were lacking.  We weren’t sure if they needed more salt or more filling, but they needed something.  As I said above, the sticky buns were sooooo good, but I think the incredible topping was what really made them fabulous.  It was creamy and gooey, without being too sweet or sticky.

For the full recipe, please visit Marce at Pip in the City. To see all of the Daring Baker posts, visit the Blogroll.

Cinnamon and/or Sticky Buns
My relationship with yeast is iffy. I’ve finally learned my lesson and always temp my water, but my house is drafty and so unless it’s summertime, it can be difficult to get a good rise. Since it was mid-September, I was pretty confident I would get a warm day, which I did. This recipe made the dough in a KitchenAid mixer. I’ve always done my dough by hand, mostly because that was the only way I knew how. Never again! The KitchenAid kneaded the dough so efficiently, I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.

In two hours, my dough had doubled and I was ready to roll it out. I was a bit nervous since rolling dough is not my strong suit. This dough was beautiful! I have never had a dough roll out so perfectly and hold its shape so beautifully before.

For my filling, I did cinnamon, sugar, and ginger. I liked the combination, it just didn’t seem like enough for the cinnamon rolls. I would definitely tweak this next time. Again, the dough rolled up perfectly. For once, I didn’t have a roll that was skinny at the ends and fat in the middle.

At this point, I cut them into slices and wrapped them up and stuck them in the fridge, to transport later in the day to my girlfriend’s house.

Because I’m a crazy pregnant woman, I got up at 4:00am to pull them to proof for a second time. We had some draft issues and I was worried they wouldn’t raise, but they did! And were fabulous. I will definitely make these again.