Jul 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Fraisiers

We are about to leave on holidays and there are so many things I need to finish before we leave. Luckily I have completed my challenges early on in the month but I have no time for longer post, just some snaps.

Blog-checking lines: Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

May 27, 2011


This was such a fantastic challenge, it was right for me for so many reasons. I am into plating big time lately so when I read about the challenge, I literally dreamt how I would make it and how I would plate it for days. I had to make it in order to get it out of my system, I have a bit of an obsessive personality when it comes to cooking. To make things worse, we were travelling with kids in the first ten days of May so I was in agony by the time we got back. I had to get my hands on this challenge!

Ok, this is a bit dramatic, but I really could not wait to start. It just happened that earlier in the month I found this gorgeous antique chocolate mold and I had to include it somehow in my recipe. To be honest, it was more difficult than I expected and it took me three to four meltings and remeltings (thankfully chocolate forgives a lot) to get it right - choco plaques that fall out when you tap on the back of the mold. Some torched meringue in between two plaques et voila - gorgeous homemade decorated marshmallow.

Photos I saw at the private forums were so inspiring and there were so many great tips. In the end, I combined a few (thank you Bourbonnatrix for the hazelnut tip) and came up with my own Michellinesque star creation. I am  really proud how it turned out - I mastered/tempered my chocolate, pretty dipped cashew in caramel, balanced well the flavours and spices - and I served it to myself on a lazy Tuesday afternoon. That is one of the mat leave perks, that I get to plate and make my pics in daylight and since this was melting fast, what else could I do than to eat it? Big smile on my face, still now, when I think of its divine taste.

~Marquise popsicle on torched meringue bed and caramel-rum anejo bath, held by tempered chocolate circle, with spiced nuts, Bourbonnatrix' cashew spear and cacao explosions~

I also served a different version to my hubby when he came back from work. Pure bliss!

~Marquise tower covered in crunchy nuts, amaretto caramel sauce and melted chocolate, with marshmallow chocolate sandwich~

Blog-checking lines: The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

Apr 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Maple syrup mousse and edible containers

The month has flown by. I have completed my April challenge quite some time ago and now I am left with the administrative part (guess which one is my favourite) - write about it.

Lemme think...My first creation was Maple syrup and matcha mousse tower topped with blueberries and matcha macaron, in parmesan edible container with caramelized bacon drops.

Maple mousse is gorgeous but really sweet so I decided to pair it with equal amount of calming matcha mousse and contrast with crispy yet thin parmesan edible container, flavoured with some caramelized bacon, in respect of Canadian tradition.

Few days later, I made Meringue sticks flavoured with ground eucalyptus leaf around almond-eucalyptus biscuit, filled with maple mousse encased in dark chocolate.

For the second one I turned out the wrong container so instead of maple mousse I used the matcha one. Ooops, that should teach me to label beter. Anyways, fancy dark chocolate container filled with matcha mousse topped with maple syrup to at least add a touch of maple.

Blog-checking lines: 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/!

Maple Mousse:
• 1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
• 1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)
1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.

Apr 26, 2011

Easter baking

Holidays, always a good excuse to prepare and enjoy food with friends and family. Picture speaks a thousand words, so here are some pics of what we ate last weekend:

Lavander-honey macarons, quickly gone, just one was left for some creative photography

Easter bread with candied fruit, raisins and marzipan filling

 Hazelnut financiers, delicious little soldiers

Green asparagus and ham pie
Croissants, my first attempt ever, not too bad but with room for improvement

 Easter bread, gone.
 Asparagus and brocoli pie with some ham and minced meat on the bottom

Easter, you were yummy!

Apr 4, 2011


Blog-checking lines: The March 2011 Daring Baker’s 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.
This is my first DB challenge and I decided to go with the savory version. Two reasons for this, first I had some gorgeous red tomato sauce left from yesterday’s dinner that I did not want to waste and second, I am still making up my mind what filling to use for the sweet one.
The sauce I had was a very rich one, lamb-rosemary-port wine-tomato that I served with plain pasta yesterday. We fished out all the lamb, but there was enough sauce to coat my cake.
Since the dough is only mildly sweet, I decided to make cake with ham, buffalo mozzarella and gormas (layered gorgonzola and mascarpone) with my tomato sauce on the top of meringue. Oh, and I used only one tablespoon of sugar for the meringue, in order to make it work with my savory filling.
I sprinkled the egg wash with chopped rosemary and some coarsely grinded sea salt, for the extra salty crunch.

This was going to be dinner for us as well and my toddler is not very patient when he is hungry (guess he got that from me). I had 20 mins per rise so I left my dough both times to rise on the bathroom floor, where we have floor hearing. Worked beautifully! Thanks to this warmth infusion, it took me just under two hours, from mis en place to serving.
It was crunchy yet soft on the outside, soft, delicate and melting on the inside, with sweet and slightly acidic kick of the tomato sauce. And needless to say, gone before I had time to make any decent plated photos.


Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake
For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
10 strands saffron for Ria’s version (Saffron might be hard to find and it’s expensive, so you can substitute with ½ - 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or ground nutmeg. Or simply leave it plain like Jamie’s version)
For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar
For the filling:
Jamie’s version:
1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate
Ria’s version:
1 cup (130 g / 5 oz.) chopped cashew nuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon garam masala (You can make it at home – recipe below - or buy from any Asian/Indian grocery store)
1 cup (170g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli)
Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes
**Garam (means “hot”) masala (means “mixture”) is a blend of ground spices and is used in most Indian savory dishes. It is used in limited quantities while cooking vegetables, meats & eggs. There is no “one” recipe for it as every household has a recipe of their own. Below, I am going to share the recipe which I follow.
4 or 5 sticks (25 g) Cinnamon Sticks (break a stick and open the scroll)
3 ½ tablespoons (25 g / less than an ounce) Cloves, whole
100 g. (3.5 oz.) Fennel seeds
4 tablespoons (25 g / less than an ounce) Cumin seeds
1 ½ tablespoons (10 g / less than half an ounce) Peppercorns
25 g (less than half an ounce) Green Cardamom pods
In a small pan on medium heat, roast each spice individually (it hardly takes a minute) until you get a nice aroma. Make sure you stir it throughout so that it doesn’t burn. As soon as each spice is roasted, transfer it to a bowl to cool slightly. Once they are all roasted, grind into a fine powder by using a coffee grinder, or pestle & mortar. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.
Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.
In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. Ria’s version: add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue.
With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.
Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.
Prepare your filling:In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.
Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.
Assemble the Coffee Cakes:
Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).
Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.
Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.
Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.
Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.
Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.
Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.
Additional Information:
The recipe calls for active dried yeast. An excellent source for yeast conversions and substitutes is http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19314/re-yeast-conversion-fresh-dry-and-calculator-fun
Here is a great explanation of yeast: http://www.joyofbaking.com/Yeast.html
Yeast is a living organism. Think of the dry version as yeast in a state of sleep. In order for it to work as a rising agent, it must be activated and this is done by blending it with a bit of sugar (on which it feeds) and a warm liquid which is called proofing. The water must be lukewarm (100°F to 115°F/37°C to 46°C); too cool and the yeast will not activate, too hot and the yeast will be killed! If you stick the back of your hand under the running tap and you don’t feel it (it feels neither cold nor hot) or it feels comfortably lukewarm, then it should be good!


Mar 21, 2011

Yellow goodness - lemon curd

Is there anything better than lemon curd? Golden, yellow, shiny, thick, sweet and tangy...so versatile. Yummy on a piece of fresh bread with a thick layer of mascarpone, nice on scones and divine in lemon meringue pies. And nothing better than some home made lemon curd, where you can adjust sweetness/acidity/creaminess to your own taste. Most recipes use whole eggs or a mix of whole eggs and egg yolks but I like the thickness and creaminess that yolks only produce. Plus, I get to use the leftover egg whites in macarons :).

Here is my favourite lemon curd recipe:
Recipe (makes a small jar):
250 ml freshly-squeezed lemon juice and zest of 2 lemons
200 gr sugar
170 gr unsalted butter
4 large egg yolks
Heat together the lemon juice, zest, sugar, and butter until butter has melted. Beat the yolks, and then whisk some of the warm lemon mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly, to warm them. Pour the egg mixture in the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mix becomes thick and shiny, low-medium heat.
Strain and enjoy!

Mar 20, 2011

One lonely muffin for lunch

There are so many great blogs I have discovered through Daring Bakers. I love it...at noon, kids in bed napping, I am curled up on the couch clicking away on my iPad, looking for the next thing to make, for that little special something that will intrigiue me and satisfy the tastes and the tummies of my two leading men (my third one is still only breastfeeding).
Last week took me to bakingobsession.com, an amazing blog run by fellow DB Vera. One of her recipes caugt my eye, zucchini muffins. As a mother of a picky two year old eater, I am always looking for ways to hide veggies that I want him to eat, and this one seemed just perfect. I divided the dough in two and made a second batch with parsnip, which was even tastier. Parsnip dissapeared in the background, leaving those moist, crunchy, aromatic, slighty sweet muffins.

End result was fantastic. I loved it, hubby loved it, my toddler loved it. Thank you, Vera!

Before I knew it, there was only one left for me to photograph...and have a lovely lunch the next day.