Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers February - Tiramisu

This month's Daring Bakers' challenge was called 'heaven on a dessert plate' and boy was it ever!

The official lines - The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I've never really been a fan of tiramisu but I know now that's only because I hadn't tasted the real deal. Apart from the light-as-air ladyfinger biscuits the filling for this version contains four different elements - homemade marscapone, zabaglione, vanilla pastry cream and whipped cream. Whew. No wonder it tastes so good!

The homemade marscapone was a revelation. Never again will I buy marscapone knowing just how easy it is to make and how delicious. We're not keen on marsala so I flavoured the zabaglione with coffee which resulted in a wonderful latte coloured cream. The hint of lemon in the pastry cream worked beautifully with the coffee flavours.

The taste test ...

Oh. My. God. Absolute perfection. I think I uderwhipped the cream so the filling was a little soft but otherwise this truly was heaven on a plate. I won't bother ordering it at a restaurant, I don't think it could ever match up to this!

Thank you Deeba and Aparna for a wonderful recipe this month. I think this is my favourite DB challenge so far!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Honey-Wheat Cookies

Oh Dorie, I do love it when you surprise me! The lovely Michelle of Flourchild chose Dorie's Honey-Wheat Cookies this week and I admit I wasn't expecting much. This is one of those recipes I have flipped past many times without taking too much notice.

I made a few slight changes to the recipe, first using raw sugar instead of white for a richer flavour, and also upping the citrus. I used the zest of a whole lemon and a whole orange and let me tell you, the aroma wafting up from that bowl of zest and sugar was divine!

I left the dough in the fridge overnight before baking these up first thing in the morning. Dorie said the recipe makes 36 and usually I'm nowhere near it. So this time I actually weighed the dough (yes, apparently I do have too much time on my hands!). My cookies averaged 20g each and I got 35. Close enough.

The taste test ...

Unexpectedly delicious! These have a really well balanced flavour with the honey, citrus and wheat germ shining through. Perfect with a cup of tea. I ate 4 before stopping myself. I froze most of the batch but I have a feeling these will taste great great frozen as well!

Thank you Michelle for a wonderful pick this week! It was a lovely break from all the chocolate this month and I will definitely be baking these again. You can find the recipe on Michelle's blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week Kait of Kait's Plate chose Dorie's My best Chocolate Chip Cookies. With a name like that I had high expectations! Unfortunately these fell a little short. Or is that flat?

I made half the recipe and got 22 flat-as-a-pancake cookies. They somehow managed to be crumbly, crunchy and cakey all at once. I used dark brown sugar which gave them good colour. I also used an entire block of Whittaker's dark chocolate. So I can't figure out where these went wrong and why I didn't love them!

My ultimate chocolate chip cookie is a bit chunky, crunchy around the edges, chewy in the middle, studded with chocolate rather than filled with it, has peanuts for extra texture and a slight hint of caramel. If you know of a recipe like that please let me know :)

Thanks for an interesting pick this week Kait. I'm sorry to say these weren't a success for me but I know lots of people loved them! You can find the recipe on Kait's blog.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daring Cooks February - Mezze

Daring Cooks time again! It feels like ages since I participated in the Daring Cooks challenges but in reality I only skipped January. This month brought the opportunity to make something that's been on my to-cook list for about year - pita bread!

I've really been getting into making bread but this one has always had me worried. How do you get your pita bread to puff up like they should? What are they like if they don't? I needn't have worried though because these worked perfectly. If you've ever wanted to try making pita then this is the recipe for you.

Now the actual challenge was to make a mezze table, a Middle Eastern version of Spanish Tapas, but basically a whole lot of small dishes that are served before a main meal or as finger food. I shamefully did the bare minimum and just made the pita and hummus.

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook 2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)


1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).

4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.

5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Look at that puff!

Just a note about the breads, I found it took much, much longer for them to cook despite using a very hot oven and a pizza stone. My pita took about 15 minutes to cook and puff up. And even then they didn't brown much. Still delicious though.

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste


1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

This hummus recipe is identical to the one I make for myself quite regularly and it was fabulous with the pita. Now that I know how easy the pita is I will be whipping them up for myself more often!

Thanks to Michelle for a great challenge!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

Another recipe for chocoholics this week! The lovely Tanya of Chocolatechic chose Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia and I have to admit I wasn't too sure about it. I mean, a brownie is a brownie is a brownie, right? Wrong! I think this was the most fudgy, chocolatey, decadent brownie I've ever eaten.

I made just 1/4 of the recipe and seeing we're only a week out from Valentine's Day I used a little heart-shaped spring-form pan (well greased and lined with baking paper).

I'm no good at working out cooking times for adjusted recipes but it seemed cooked after 30 minutes - the top was dry and crackly and it was starting to pull away from the edges. A mere 5 minutes later the middle sank into an enormous crater revealing an ooey-gooey chocolate centre. I figured it would firm up as it cooled and it did.

The taste test ...

I know it gets a little repetitive to hear me rave about almost every recipe but this truly was the best brownie I've ever had. In fact I think it would be in my top 10 TWD picks and that's high praise for someone who prefers fruit desserts. It is VERY rich though. I think my little heart shaped brownie could have served 6 easily.

Thank you for a fabulous pick Tanya! You can find the recipe on her blog under today's date.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Mini Chocolate Cakes

Well, this is my first TWD back after a whole month off and I really missed you all!

Kristin of I'm Right About Everything chose Dorie's Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes this week and as usual I didn't make them as per the recipe. I totally forgot about the 'milk' part and used dark chocolate instead. I also wasn't about to buy yet another baking pan so I used these cute little red and gold cake wrappers I bought at Christmas. I got 8 little cakes from the full recipe.

Oh and I skipped the glaze too! I made a simple chocolate icing to go with these:

120g pure icing sugar
25g cocoa powder
25g butter, melted
1-2 tbs milk

Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa. Add the melted butter and mix together, then add enough milk to reach the consistency you want for the icing.

The taste test ...

Oh my god. So rich, so moist and sooo chocolate-y! I loved the cocoa-nut swirl through the middle. I think this is one the best chocolate cakes I've ever made which is a total surprise. I let my butter get so soft it almost melted (by accident) and I'm thinking this actually worked in its favour, giving the cakes a fudgy rather than cakey quality. Whatever, it was delicious!

Thanks for the great pick Kristin! You can find the recipe on her blog under today's date.
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