Daring Bakers

Daring Bakers: Gingerbread House

For years before my sisters starting getting married, having babies and spending Christmas with their in-laws, we made gingerbread houses together.  We did all of it: made the gingerbread dough, baked all the pieces, assembled the house, and decorated the house using nothing but edible candies, chocolate, etc.  We would spend the days before Christmas, and sometimes a day or two afterward, perfecting the house and adding more detail.  It was so much fun.

So, I was pretty excited about this challenge.  When I really started to think about it, I got a little sad.  I had no one to help me!  No one to stay up til 2 am with, piping icing on gingerbread cars to put in the gingerbread carport.  No one to spend hours with, piping icicles on the eaves. To make things even more difficult, we’re going out of town for the holidays so no one is really going to see it.  My great excitement for my gingerbread house was dwindling.

Despite my negativity toward this challenge, I was determined to complete it.  I am glad I did, because I ended up having a fun time despite the fact that my house looks like a bunch of 3-year olds decorated it for me.  Merry Christmas!

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.


Daring Bakers: I took the Cannoli

Deep frying food is not something that I do very often, so I was a little weary of this challenge. However, my experiences as a Daring Baker have prepared me for this.  I was ready for cannoli!  Bring it on.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.



Daring Bakers: Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.


One of my best memories is eating a traditional French macaron at Harrods in London 12 years ago.  A delicate, light, crunchy exterior with a sweet luscious filling.  They were about the size of your palm, and I think we went back to Harrods a few times just to buy more.  I haven’t had a real macaron that delicious since.  This challenge made me crave those macarons and want to recreate them.  Was I successful in this endeavor?  No way.  But, it was still a fun challenge.

I made two kinds of macarons.  One plain almond with a white chocolate eggnog ganache filling.  The second was a chocolate macaron with chocolate ganache.


Daring Bakers: Puff Pastry

Once again I waited until the very last minute to complete this month’s challenge.  What kind of crazy person decides to attempt puff pastry from scratch for the first time with a time constraint?  This crazy person, that’s who.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.


I printed out the recipe and read through it and the instructions for the puff pastry vols-au-vent many times to mentally prepare myself for making this daunting pastry.  I watched the episode of Baking with Julia where Michel Richard demonstrates making the pastry.  Ben and I both watched in awe.  It’s as if he could produce a smooth and beautiful puff pastry dough with his eyes closed and both hands tied behind his back while balancing some spinning plates on his head.  Really, he makes it look that easy.


Daring Bakers: Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.


This challenge really snuck up on me.  I guess I could blame it on the fact that last week was my first week of school, but really I am just a little forgetful sometimes and I have a bad habit of putting things off.  This week was really too busy to make this cake, so I had to wait until yesterday.  I have never baked and assembled a cake this involved so quickly!  It still took me a while, about 3 hours start to finish.  This is an accomplishment, in my opinion, especially when you consider the 6 sponge cake layers, chocolate buttercream, the caramel coated triangle cake pieces and assembly.


Daring Bakers: Cookies

I must admit this, I was not thrilled about this months challenge at first.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love cookies.  Almost all kinds of cookies.  I even like when they take all day to make.   My issue with this challenge was that I made one of the cookie recipes a few years ago with less than stellar results, so I was kinda bummed.  The other cookie also seemed a little boring.  I went into this challenge with a rotten attitude…but I came out a very happy girl.


The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole     at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I made the Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies first.

Day 1: I made the cookies a day before I planned to make the marshmallow and cover them.  The cookie dough was easy to deal with and the cookies made my house smell so wonderful while they baked.  I tried the cookies alone, and I found them to be a bit dry, but they had good flavor.

Day 2: I’ve made these cookies before, so I have made marshmallow before.  I really enjoy making food that starts out with a very ordinary and unassuming list of ingredients and miraculously becomes something completely different!  That’s why marshmallow is so fun to make.  It creates quite a sticky mess, but is worth it.  mallow1

Be sure to use good vanilla as this is the only flavoring in the marshmallow besides sugar. I recommend Nielson-Massey Vanilla Bean paste or Madagascar Vanilla.

The marshmallow was beautiful and piped out quite nicely onto the cookies.  I let them set at this point for a few hours at room temperature.

The process of covering things in chocolate and I do not get along very well.  Unless I am using that chocolate bark, my chocolate doesn’t ever harden completely without putting it in the fridge or freezer.  And yet again, I had that problem with these cookies.  They looked beautiful coming out of their chocolate bath, but even after 3 hours the chocolate was still wet.  So, in the fridge they went!  The chocolate hardened and then we were able to taste them!  The chocolate formed a nice hard shell around the soft gooey marshmallow and crumbly cookie.  I liked these cookies, but think they might require more work than they’re worth in the taste department.  They are beautiful and impressive, though.


Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart

I had never heard of this dessert before this Daring Bakers challenge.  After reading the recipe I knew it would be delicious.  A shortbread-like crust, a layer of jam topped with an almond filling and baked until golden topped with cream.  How can this combination NOT be delicious?  It was, by the way, delicious.


The June Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.


Daring Bakers: Spinach and Feta Strudel

I didn’t pay close attention to the date of posting for this May challenge.  I just figured it would be at the end of May, like the 30th or 31st.  I did make this strudel on the 26th and planned to post on the 30th.  The posting date was actually the 26th!  Why am I posting on June 1st?  Almost a week late?  Because I’m a bad Daring Baker, that’s why.  Better late than never, right?

Please excuse my pictures.  My camera was destroyed in a flood.  By flood I mean that a water bottle leaked in my purse creating a nice pool of water in the bottom of my purse where my camera was located.  It was a bad day.  So, iphone pictures will have to do until a new camera can be purchased.  I won’t hold my breath…



Daring Bakers: February

The month of February is full of wonderful holidays.  Here are just a few of them:

  1. Cordova Ice Worm Day – 3rd
  2. Valentine’s Day – 14th
  3. Presidents Day – 16th
  4. Lisa’s Birthday – 19th
  5. Hoodie Doo Day – 20th
  6. National Tortilla Chip Day – 24th

All of these holidays are special and all have their own unique and special ways to celebrate.  I love my sister Lisa, so of course February 19th is my favorite February holiday.  In a close second is Valentine’s Day.  Chocolate, roses, romantice dinners…and oh, CHOCOLATE!

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.


I was excited to see that this month’s challenge was a perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day…a Chocolate Valentino with my choice of ice cream!  Some friends had already made plans to come to Amarillo to spend Valentine’s weekend, so the timing was perfect.



Since the ingredient list is short, the use of quality ingredients is important.  I chose to use a semi-sweet chocolate.  I used Guittard Semisweet, which was on sale at World Market!  chocolate

Now, when it came time to get wonderful eggs and butter…I went to the grocery store.  I would have gone and milked my own cow and churned some butter, and then gone out to my chicken coop and taken some free range eggs from my dearly loved chicken, Polly,…but I ran out of time!  Darn.

I was originally going to make a vanilla ice cream, but wanted to do something a little different.  I chose to make a cinnamon ice cream.  I had made it before, and so this time around was a little easier.  I thought it was an OK complement to the chocolate cake, but I wish I’d made a simple vanilla ice cream instead. 


I did not use a heart shaped pan.  Instead I cut out a heart from some parchment and dusted the cake with powdered sugar.  


The cake was dense and chocolately.  If you are a chocolate lover, then you will enjoy this cake.  Top with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream…maybe add a few fresh berries as well.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time:  20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry). 

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. 
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C

9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. 
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

  •          3 cups half and half (or whole milk)
  •          3 cinnamon sticks
  •          6 egg yolks
  •          1 cup brown sugar
  •          1 cup heavy cream
  •          1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •          1 tablespoon vanilla


1.       In a medium saucepan scald milk and let steep for 30 minutes with the cinnamon sticks.  Discard the cinnamon sticks.

2.       In another saucepan, off heat, whisk the yolks and sugar together.  Gradually whisk in milk.

3.       Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring constantly.  Once the mixture coats the back of a spoon and leaves a path when your finger is drawn through it, turn off the heat.

4.       Cool this mixture to room temperature then stir in the cream, cinnamon and vanilla.  Stir until smooth.

5.       Chill this custard mixture for 6-8 hours.  It should be cold.

6.       Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.

The Daring Bakers: Tuiles


This month’s challenge is brought to us by Karen of Baking Soda and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf.
They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Last night I was perusing food blogs and came across a recipe from a past Daring Bakers challenge…Oh No!!  I forgot about the challenge!!  What’s a girl to do?  I can’t miss another challenge since I missed the Yule Log in December.  I checked the site and realized that I still had another 48 hours or so to post.  A sigh of relief.  Also, I had all the ingredients required.  So, this afternoon I began the challenge of the tuile.

The challenge required some type of tuile cookie paired with something light.  There were various batters recipes given, even a savory one!

I chose to make the plain tuile and piped some chocolate flavored batter onto a few of the cookies.  I didn’t make a stencil.  I just traced some circles onto the back of the parchment.  


I also free-handed a few hearts, stars and ovals.  I had some strawberries and bluberries on hand, so I made a quick salad with the fruit and some vanilla sugar.


tuile4The combination of the cookie and fruit was lovely.  A little whipped cream would have made it extra special…but would have defeated the purpose of a lighter and healthier dessert.

I like these sweet, crisp cookies as a garnish or a way to deliver another sweet treat.  I plan to make the savory ones next time.

Here is the recipe!

Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

  • 65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
  • 60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
  • 2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
  • 65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.1/4 ounces sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
  • Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.