Posts Tagged 'Daring Bakers'

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

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This challenge was pretty wide open in terms of what kind of candy we had to make to satisfy our requirements.  We had to make one chocolate candy (an incredibly broad category itself), and one other candy that could be whatever we like (chocolate or non-chocolate).  For my chocolate candy, I was partially inspired by the S’mores Squares I made earlier this month.  The marshmallow component is so good!  So, I decided to make some marshmallow, cut it into little square slabs, and sandwich peanut butter between two halves.  (Pardon the blurry photo.)

Marshmallow Sandwich

Tempering chocolate was an optional part of the challenge this month, and I just didn’t have time to deal with it.  (I’m posting late as it is! :) )  I ended up melting some Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate (I think it balanced the sweetness of the marshmallow and the peanut butter nicely) in a double boiler, dipping the sandwiched marshmallows in that, and then adding a chopped peanut garnish.  The candies turned out amazing!  My husband loves them so much that I’ll have to start making them regularly.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Marshmallow Candies

For my other candy, I made lollipops.  I’ve had a molar lollipop mold (totally ironic, right?) sitting in my pantry, waiting for its moment to shine.  I used the DIY Lollies recipe from Oprah.com with all corn syrup and orange extract.  (I didn’t have any flavored oil and preferred to use what I had in the pantry, so I was able to determine that one part flavored oil is equal to four parts flavored extract.)

My first try was a flop for two reasons: I only made a half recipe (there just wasn’t enough candy to go around!), and I followed the part of the recipe that told me to transfer the hot candy to a measuring cup (glass, of course) before pouring it into the molds.  So much heat was lost in the transfer that my candy started to set in the glass measuring cup before I had managed to fill my lollipop molds.  The second time, I made a full recipe and poured the hot candy straight from the pan. Things worked out much better, though I still had some difficulty getting my lollies out of the molds (hence the broken root tip on the molar).  Broken or not, they were really tasty.

Tooth Lollipop

So I’ll definitely make the chocolate candies again, and I may try lollipops again if I’m feeling brave.  Thanks for a great challenge, Lisa and Mandy!

Recipe links: S’mores Squares (for marshmallow only) and DIY Lollies

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: From Phyllo to Baklava

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers’ June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make baklava.
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Whew!  Talk about a project.  I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon making the phyllo and baklava (and a HUGE mess to go with it!) and then had to wait anxiously until this morning (after all the baklava syrup had been absorbed) to even see if it was all worth it.  Thankfully, the results are pretty delicious, even if I can’t say I’d go to all that trouble all over again.  Here are my notes:

  • I doubled the dough recipe (as recommended) and let it rest for 2 hours before rolling it.
  • The wrap-the-dough-around-the-dowel technique didn’t work for me, perhaps because my rolling pin is thicker and is silicone (not wood).  My dough just fused together into a tube instead of growing larger.  I just kept moving and flipping my dough, rolling it from every direction, until it was as thin as I could get it.  Then, as recommended, I stretched it even more with my hands.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the dough held up for handling despite being rolled so thin.
  • Even though I definitely got my dough sheets to the point of transparency, I only ended up with 11 or 12 sheets.  Since they weren’t huge and I didn’t end up with quite as many of them as I hoped I would, I decided to use a 9-inch round cake pan instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan for my baklava.
  • I thought I floured well between each sheet, but I apparently didn’t do it well enough; my sheets stuck together pretty badly when I was trying to pull them off to assemble the baklava.  I did my best to make sure I separated all the sheets, but one or two layers might have been doubled.  I had set one perfect sheet aside on the counter under some plastic wrap for the top, though, so I don’t think anyone would really be able to tell that I struggled.
  • I used the recommended nut combination for my filling (almonds, walnuts, and pistachios) and the recommended spices (cinnamon and allspice).  I think I overdid the clove a bit in my syrup.
  • I used an entire stick of butter for buttering between the phyllo layers.
  • The recommended baking time was 60 minutes at 350°F, but mine was a deep golden brown at 45, so I took my pan out of the oven at that point.
  • Since I used a 9-inch round cake pan (6-cup capacity) instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan (8-cup capacity), I made 3/4 recipes of the filling and the syrup. The filling was just right, but I think there was a bit too much syrup; I should have followed my instinct and left a bit out.  Even after resting for 16 hours, my baklava was still oozing a bit, though the majority of the syrup did get absorbed.
  • In my opinion, the syrup is a bit too sweet.  If I ever make it again (with store-bought phyllo, sorry!), I’ll cut the sugar to 1/2 cup (for a full recipe) instead of 2/3 cup.
  • After the initial cuts (before baking, in the middle of baking, and post-syrup), I continued to cut through my baklava periodically as it cooled.  It came out of the pan very easily this morning.

Assembled, Unbaked Baklava

Baked Baklava

Cut Baklava

The end result was a tasty treat, but it was a LOT of work.  This challenge certainly relieved me of any pride that might get in the way of me buying frozen phyllo dough at the grocery store. :)

Thanks for a great challenge, Erica!

Recipe link: Phyllo and Baklava

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Maple Mousse Served in an Edible Container

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!
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I’m not going to win any creativity-related prizes for my container (the baker who created vols-au-vent out of pancakes with bacon spirals gets my vote!), but at least I completed the challenge.  I also managed to reset my kitchen disaster clock since my chocolate-coconut macaroon containers were mostly pried off my upside-down muffin pan in (flying) pieces, although one did survive for photos.  Here are my notes:

  • I made a half-recipe of the mousse.
  • Despite my best efforts, my gelatin just would not dissolve completely after the intervals in the microwave.  I ended up pressing my egg-maple-gelatin mixture through a sieve to eliminate any chunks before I let it sit for an hour.
  • For presentation’s sake, I found it better to allow the mousse to set up in the refrigerator inside the edible container, rather than allowing it to set and then transferring it.
  • I used the Chocolate-Coconut Macaroon Cups recipe (minus the almonds) from the April 2006 issue of Everyday Food for my containers.  I used 1/2 cup of batter for each container (I made four total) and just molded it over the tops of an inverted muffin pan that had been sprayed with cooking spray.  I baked the containers for 25 minutes at 350°F.  In hindsight, maybe they would have come off of the pan easier if I had placed cupcake liners over the muffin cups before molding the batter.  Lesson learned!

Maple Mousse in a Chocolate Coconut Macaroon Cup

Will I make this mousse again?  Probably not.  The consistency was a bit too thick and gelatinous (from the gelatin, naturally!) for my taste.  Many mousse recipes don’t use gelatin at all.  Despite the challenges, I will make this macaroon recipe again; I’ll just bake the cookies in their intended shape to avoid raining coconut bits all over my kitchen.

Thanks for the challenge, Evelyne!

Recipe links: Maple Mousse and Chocolate-Coconut Macaroon Cups

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged the Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted meringue coffee cake.
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I very nearly missed this one with all of the craziness leading up to our weekend trip for Dr. O’s birthday, but I didn’t want to skip two months in a row.  Thankfully, this was easy enough to make in an afternoon and it turned out on the first try.

Here are my notes:

  • I made a half recipe.
  • I measured all of my ingredients by weight.
  • I chose my filling based on what I had in the pantry: almonds, dried plums, white chocolate, and cinnamon-sugar.
  • I completely forgot to make the cuts in my cake before baking (I realized this about an hour later after the cake had cooled, of course), but it turned out just fine anyway.
  • I baked my cake for the full 30 minutes at 350°F.
Unbaked Meringue Coffee Cake

Unbaked Meringue Coffee Cake

Baked Meringue Coffee Cake

Baked Meringue Coffee Cake

Sugared Meringue Coffee Cake

Sugared Meringue Coffee Cake

Meringue Coffee Cake Interior

Meringue Coffee Cake Interior

This was a delicious and relatively easy cake.  I especially liked the crunchiness of the almonds and the fact that the cake wasn’t overly sweet.  However, the king cake I made last month is incredibly similar in concept, and I have to say I preferred the king cake.  I liked the crumb of the king cake a bit better and for me, cream cheese filling trumps meringue filling any day.  I loved the versatility of the meringue coffee cake recipe, though, and it was definitely fun to make and compare such similar cakes in a short period of time.

Thanks for a great challenge, Ria and Jamie!

Recipe link: Jamie’s version or Ria’s version

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

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I had a feeling this challenge was going to end up being an all-day thing for me (it was!), and the temptation to skip it was strong.  I’m glad I forged ahead, though, because I’m pretty proud of my final result.  I made the cocoa variation of the biscuit joconde and brushed it with homemade vanilla syrup to keep the sponge moist.  (I learned my lesson when my Dobos Torta looked much better than it tasted.)  Then, I filled it with white chocolate ganache, Nutella mousse, and raspberry gelée (all homemade).  If I made the dessert again, I might fill the center with something firmer (like no-bake cheesecake, maybe), but I really enjoyed the way my flavors came together.

Biscuit Joconde Detail

Dessert Interior

My only heartbreak is that I was so looking forward to using my cake comb to pattern the joconde decor paste and I couldn’t find it.  I turned my entire kitchen upside down with no luck.  Since I wanted a clean design, I just used a 1/4-inch dowel to drag straight lines through the paste.  If I had known how much they would narrow in the baking process, I would have made them even thicker.

This project was a lot of work, but it was worth the sense of accomplishment. Thanks for a great challenge, Astheroshe!

Recipe link: Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Christmas Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

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I briefly contemplated skipping this challenge because of Christmas chaos, and I just barely managed to bake off my stollen loaves before my husband and I hopped on an airplane home, but I am so glad I participated this month.  My husband enjoys my day-to-day cooking and he definitely lets me know, but he has never heaped praise on me the way he did with this stollen.  He loves it.  I stashed the majority of the loaf I cut for the photos below in my carry-on bag and hauled it back to Nebraska; my family loved it as well.  I guess my dad tried to go to a European bakery to buy some Czech Christmas bread on the 23rd or 24th and they were completely cleaned out at 10 a.m.; this bread was similar and satisfying enough to save the day.

Here are my notes and variations from the challenge:

  • After reading Audax’s posts in the forums, I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour.
  • I used orange extract when we had the choice between orange and lemon.
  • I made my own candied orange peel using the recipe provided.  (It will be my next blog post!)
  • I did not use any maraschino cherries because I didn’t want to risk turning my bread pink.
  • I used slivered almonds instead of sliced almonds because that’s what I had in my pantry.
  • From there, I followed the recipe exactly as written except that I formed my dough into two wreaths instead of one.  I saw how large the wreaths were in the forum posts and figured that my tiny 24-inch oven wouldn’t be able to handle one.  I baked each half-recipe wreath for 36 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through.  The major upside of baking two wreaths?  We came home to one waiting for us in the refrigerator.

Baked Stollen

Sugared Stollen

Sliced Stollen

This bread was so tasty!  It wasn’t like fruitcake at all.  The bread texture reminded me a lot of cinnamon rolls; it was moist and chewy, though the crust was pleasantly crisp.  The powdered sugar and butter coating was heavenly.  My bread had a distinct orange flavor since I used orange extract and all candied orange peel (instead of candied mixed peel), and I would make it this way again next time.  I could have gone for a bit more fruit and nuts in the bread, but I appreciated that it wasn’t totally packed.

My family enjoyed this recipe so much that I’ll be adding it to our permanent Christmas collection.  Thanks for a new family tradition and a great challenge, Penny!

Recipe link: Christmas Stollen

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Doughnuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.
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I can’t say I eat many doughnuts these days, though I have glorious memories of midnight college Krispy Kreme runs.  Hot doughnuts practically melting in my mouth?  Good heaven.

So when I saw this challenge, I was convinced that it would be complete ecstasy. Homemade is always better than commercial, right?

Meh.

I used the Alton Brown yeast doughnut recipe for this challenge.  While I didn’t have any of the challenges I anticipated (overly sticky dough, sputtering oil, burning my first few batches), I just didn’t like the flavor of the doughnuts all that much.  After reading Audax Artifex‘s post in the forums, I increased the sugar from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup; I’m not sure that even 1/2 cup would have been enough.  They had a really lovely texture (very light and crisp on the outside, airy inside, not too greasy), but I thought they were pretty bland.  I used a powdered sugar and cream glaze to dress them up, but even that didn’t improve them much for me.  This was almost a relief, actually, because I wasn’t tempted to eat them all!

Glazed Doughnuts

I’m glad to have the experience of making doughnuts and I may try again, but I’ll use a different recipe.  Thanks for organizing the challenge, Lori!

Recipe link: Yeast Doughnuts

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Brown Butter Baked Alaska

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.
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Baked Alaska is a dessert that has been on my “must try” list for some time now, so I had to go in that direction with this challenge.

Here’s a rundown of my experiences with the recipe components:

Brown Butter Pound Cake: There is nothing like the smell of brown butter!  Good heavens.  I don’t think I’ve worked with it since my very first Daring Bakers’ challenge back in November 2008 (Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting), and now I want to put it in everything.

When I was browning the butter, my splatter screen sure came in handy because the mixture spurted quite a bit.  Also, I really did need to keep an eye on it because my milk solids were the desired chocolate brown when the foam on top started turning a golden brown.  I couldn’t see the solids beneath the foam, though, so I’m glad I pushed it aside to check before the butter burned.

I didn’t modify the cake recipe for altitude (I usually try things as is on the first attempt), so I knew I probably wouldn’t get perfect results.  My cake needed 28 minutes (instead of 25) and it ended up with a sunken center, but I just used my cake leveler to take off the top so I would have nice, even bases for the Baked Alaska.  In terms of flavor and texture, the cake was outstanding.  It was moist, very buttery, slightly nutty, and not overly sweet.  The crumb was perfect.  I enjoyed it so much that it would be worth the work of tweaking it for altitude.

Vanilla Ice Cream: I know, I know, this is the part of the recipe that practically begs for a creative injection.  I like vanilla ice cream, though.  And I really like this recipe, so I’m awfully glad I tried it in its purest form.  The only challenge I had in this part is that I opened my vanilla bean jar to find my last remaining vanilla bean had dried to a crisp.  Boo.  So despite my best vanilla bean intentions, I had to add the 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract indicated for those of us without vanilla beans.

Also, based on my experience with several other ice cream recipes, I only chilled the milk/egg/cream mixture in the refrigerator for an hour (not overnight) before freezing it in my ice cream maker.  Everything turned out great!  This ice cream is so amazingly creamy, vanilla-y, and delicious that I’m lucky the Baked Alaska portions even made it to the freezer.

Meringue:  Everything went according to plan here.  The only “problem” is that the recipe made over twice as much as I needed to cover the outside of my four desserts.

Assembly: I used a Wilton 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut my cake bases; I was able to get 4 bases out of the cake.  I used 1/2-cup ramekins (instead of tea cups) lined with plastic wrap for the ice cream toppers.  When it was time to pipe the meringue, I tried to be somewhat original and do mine in a continuous outside swirl (like a beehive); even with my rotating cake stand, it was hopeless.  The star tip method (shown in my photos) worked so much better.  I used my kitchen torch to brown the meringue.

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

I absolutely loved this dessert!  The ice cream was beyond incredible and I loved the toasty, marshmallow-y flavor of the meringue.  The cake flavor didn’t come through as well once it was frozen, but I didn’t think it was dry like some of the other Daring Bakers did.  Each portion was seriously gigantic and built for sharing…  My husband has an endless appetite, and even he eyed an individual portion nervously and said it looked “filling.”  If you were going to serve these to guests (this is a perfect entertaining dessert since it’s meant to be frozen ahead), you could get away with one dessert for every two to four guests.

Thanks for an amazing challenge, Elissa!  You’ve given me my new go-to vanilla ice cream recipe and I’ll definitely try making Baked Alaska again (perhaps with chocolate cake next time?).

Recipe link: Brown Butter Baked Alaska

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.
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I actually finished this challenge early (for once!), but I got so wrapped up in having houseguests this weekend that I completely forgot to post.  Oopsie!

Making pavlovas is one of those projects that has been on my baking to-do list for years, so there was no way I was going to sit this one out.  I didn’t get the results I wanted, but I know I’ll be that much more prepared for my next attempt.

I was really, really hoping for the perfect meringue shell – crisp on the outside, marshmallow-y in the center – but mine ended up crisp all the way through.  My shells weren’t unusually small (I ended up with 8 from a full recipe of meringue) and I only baked them for 2 hours (the low end of the recommended baking time), so I’m not sure what went wrong.  Also, my mousse went from zero to sixty in about half a second; as we were warned, the mascarpone did indeed separate. Chunky mousse isn’t a beautiful thing, but it still tasted good.

The unexpected shining star for me was the anglaise sauce…  It was amazing.  I actually would have rather drizzled that over the pavlovas without any modifications; it seemed like the mascarpone and cream just diluted the flavor.

Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

I may be imperfect, but I'm still tasty.

Thank you, Dawn, for lighting the fire that led to my first pavlova attempt… Hopefully, the second time will be a success!

Recipe link: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Piece Montée

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.
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Dang it, y’all.  Why do I have such a hard time listening to my kitchen instincts?

I briefly considered passing on this challenge because I’ve had an unbelievably stressful month, but I’ve wanted to make a croquembouche for practically forever.  I made the pastry cream yesterday and am embarrassed to admit that it took me two attempts to get it right.  The first time, I put the milk back on high heat when I was adding the egg/milk mixture and ended up with burned bits at the bottom of my saucepan.  My whisk picked those right up, of course, so I ended up with a (not entirely pleasant) hint of caramel flavor and icky brown specks throughout my pastry cream.  I took it easier on the heat the second time around and got perfect, delicious results.

My pate a choux looked pretty good after I added the third (of four) eggs, but I felt like I needed to follow the recipe to the letter since this was my first experience with this particular dough.  Bad move.  I read a post on the forums about someone’s dough oozing out of the pastry bag and refusing to hold much shape; this is exactly what happened to me.  Consequently, I ended up with pastry discs instead of balls, which were too shallow to fill with the pastry cream.

Everything tasted good, though, so I decided to make lemonade out of lemons; here are my sandwich cookies a la piece montée.

Piece Montee Cookies

I may have failed to pull out a piece montée (this time!), but I have to say: The modified version tastes amazing.  The pastry is super light and the pastry cream is absolutely to die for.  I’m not sure how I’m going to get through the rest of the day without steadily eating it straight from the bowl.

I WILL try again, probably with one fewer egg in the pate a choux.  Until then, I’m going to enjoy my delicious mistake.  Thanks for a great challenge, Cat!




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