Daring Bakers- Lavash Crackers and Almond Spread

This is my first month with the Daring Bakers and I am a day late in posting…hopefully I will not be kicked out (fingers crossed)!  I have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled that my inaugural challenge would be vegan crackers.  Anyway, I warmed up to the cracker idea since it would be something I had never done before.  I have never had good luck with bread dough and all the kneading involved, so I was nervous about this part of the cracker.  I chose to be a little lazy and let Kitchen Aid’s dough hook do the kneading for me.  Then I let it rise.  

Rolling out the dough to a paper thin sheet wasn’t easy.  The second half of the dough rolled much easier as it had some time to rest.  Sarah rolled her dough out much better and they really crisped well.

I made the mistake of not reading the part about spraying the dough with a little water before sprinkling salt and spices.  As a result all the fennel and caraway seeds came tumbling onto the baking sheet instead of sticking to the cracker.  Sad day.



The Tahitian Almond dipping sauce sounded really interesting so I decided to give it a try.  Almond butter, pine nuts, garlic, cilantro, orange juice and honey.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find almond butter at my small town grocery, AND I forgot to get orange juice.  Carrie the problem solver to the rescue!!  Well, kind of.  I figured that almond butter was nothing more than ground almonds, so I decided to make my own almond butter in the food processor…not so easy.

It kinda came to a butter-ish consistency so I continued on using water instead of orange juice…hmmm.  Maybe I should have been better prepared and used a little more common sense.  Lesson learned.



After all was said and done my sister Sarah and my husband Ben said they thought it was a success.  I may not make my own crackers again.  I am just fine to go to the store and settle for a box of water crackers.  I am glad that I was, in a way, forced to try them.  I will probably try to make the spread again with the ingredients the recipe calls for.  Maybe then it won’t look quite so much like green sludge.

Mom’s Three-Layer Bars

I love this dessert.  It’s rich, delicious and easy.  The combination of the shortbread-like crust, sweet pecan and coconut filling and creamy frosting bring back great memories for me.  My mom still makes these as well as a truly decadent chocolate mint brownie at Christmas.  They keep really well in the freezer for weeks so you can make a batch and just take a few out at a time.  There aren’t any secret tricks to this recipe.  Just make sure that you let the bars cool completely before frosting them.  I also put them in the fridge for an hour or so before cutting them.

1st Layer

½ pound butter slightly softened and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup sugar

2 cups AP flour

½ cup cornstartch

pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients with a pastry blender in a large bowl until butter is in pebble sized pieces.  Press into a 12×16 pan.  A jelly roll pan works well, but a 9×13 is ok.

Bake @ 350 for 15 minutes.  Let cool.

2nd Layer

4 large eggs at room temp

2 cups brown sugar

4 tablespoons AP flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups chopped pecans

2 cups shredded coconut

Mix eggs and sugar.  Add flour, baking powder and vanilla.  Stir in pecans and coconut.  Pour over first layer. 

Bake @ 300 for 15-20 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.

3rd Layer

1 stick softened butter 

8 oz. softened cream cheese

4 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer.  Add in vanilla.  Add sugar one cup at a time, scrape sides of the bowl as needed.  Spread onto cooled bars.  Cut into squares.  These bars may be frozen between layers of wax paper.

Chicken Enchiladas

I have an all time favorite recipe for chicken enchiladas.  The page in the cook book, Austin Entertains from Austin’s Junior League, is stained and splattered with oil and tomatillo sauce.  The tomatillo chicken enchiladas are delicious, but a bit time consuming since you make the sauce yourself.  I’ve tried a few other recipes with mostly positive results.  Last week I decided to try the Chicken Enchiladas from Tyler Florence on Food 911.  The recipe calls from canned enchilada sauce, so that would save me some time.  I also took short cuts by using a rotisserie chicken and 2 cans of diced green chiles.  I had to cut the stewed tomatoes into more manageable pieces, but I really enjoyed the big chunks of tomato in the enchiladas.  I also liked the addition of corn in these enchiladas and the smoky chipotle flavor.  We topped ours with sour cream and cilantro.  My husband and I really enjoyed these.  They were even good the next day reheated.  The tomatillo enchiladas remain a favorite, but these enchiladas are really tasty and pretty quick.

Tropical Carrot Cake

Courtesy of The Pastry Queen


1 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

3 cups flour

3 cups sugar

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 teaspooon salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups shredded  coconut

4 eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups shredded carrots

1 1/2 cups crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 cup sweetened cream of coconut

In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, coconuts and nuts.

In a seperate bowl whisk eggs, oil, vanilla, carrots, pineapple and cream of coconut.

Pour egg mixture into flour and stir until combined.  

Pour batter into three 9-inch cake pans that have been greased, floured and lined with parchment.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Cool for 5-10 minutes then invert onto cooling racks.  

Cool completely then frost with cream cheese frosting.

Super Simple Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick of softened butter

8 ounces softened cream cheese

1 pound of powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese.  Scrape down sides of the bowl.  Add a teaspoon on vanilla is you’d like to.  Add sugar and mix until smooth.

Cake Catastrophe


I’ve had a tropical carrot cake recipe marked with a bright pink sticky note in my Pastry Queen cookbook for weeks now.  I bought the ingredients a week ago.  It was time to just buckle down and bake the cake already! I was really excited about this cake so I postponed grading 5th grade math papers and decided that there was no time like the present.  I kinda like carrot cake, but this recipe just sounded so much better than regular old carrot cake.  It has macadamia nuts, cream of coconut, lots of pineapple and is smothered in a coconut cream cheese frosting.  

I needed 3 9-inch cake pans, but I only have two 9-inch pans…I should have seen fate trying to stop me!  I buttered and floured the two 9-inchers and one 8-inch pan.  The batter came together easily and beautifully.  When I filled the cake pans I didn’t think anything was off…the batter in each pan looked fine.  I baked the cakes for 20 minutes then checked on them, and rotated the pans in the oven.  5 minutes later I took the 8-inch cake out as the “tester inserted in the center came out clean.”  10 more mintes (we’re at 35 now, the max time in the recipe) and the cakes looked done on the outside edges and on top, but the tester inserted in the center was covered in batter goo.  5 more minutes…goo…5 more minutes…goo is gone!  45 minutes in all ladies and gentelmen…keep this in mind.

 I’d been letting the 8 inch cake cool, so I decided to take it out of the pan.  It had fallen in the center…crater cake.  Ok.  No problem.  It doesn’t have to be pretty to be tasty.  The other cakes sunk a bit, but not too much.  I take them out of the pans and peel the parchment from the bottoms.  One cake was fine.  The other cake, however, upon removal of the parchment revealed a center of completely uncooked cake batter.  I cannot explain this.  It will forever be a mystery to me.  Obviously I didn’t bake it enough, but the outer edges were on the brink of burning…it just doesn’t add up.  I will not be bringing this cake to share with my wonderful co-workers.  I hate to waste food.  I had to do something.  Of course, some of the cake had to be thrown away, but some could be saved…

I decide to make the best of the situation.  I made a simple cream cheese frosting.  I put the OK cake on a platter.  It had developed quite a deep Manicouagan-like crater by this time, so I filled part of it with frosting, then used pieces of the half-baked cake placed in the center to make it even.  I inverted this onto another platter.  Ta-da!  It looked like a mediocre, even cake layer.  I frosted the cake and was fairly pleased with the looks of it.  

Maybe this cake wasn’t appealing to the eye, but it tasted delicious.  Moist, dense and full of carrot, pineapple and macadmia in every bite.  I like the plain frosting with this cake since the cake itself has so much flavor.  I didn’t try the coconut cream cheese frosting this time.  I think it would have competed too much with the cake.  I will defintitely make this cake again.  To redeem myself and to share its greatness with the world.

My New Favorite Loaded Chocolate Cookie

Milk chocolate chips and Oreo cookie chunks in a cookie…pure genius.  These cookies came out like the perfect combination of brownie and chocolate cookie.  The outer edges were crunchy, the exterior slightly crispy and the interior wonderfully rich and soft.  The texture was also quite harmonious.  The cookie itself is soft, the chocolate chips were creamy and the oreo chunks provided just the right amount of soft yet crunchy contrast.  This is the kind of cookie I want to bake, keep a few, and give the rest away because I would otherwise eat them all!  Oh, and these cookies truly require a tall glass of ice cold milk.  I have no complaints about these cookies.  Sinfully delicious.  Chilling the dough really helps, so don’t skip that step.  Here is the recipe.  I tripled the recipe from cookiemadness and used milk chocolate bars for the melted chocolate and milk chocolate chips instead of the chunks.  Enjoy!

Milk Chocolate Oreo Chunk Cookies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces milk chocolate — divided use (2 ounces coarsely chopped and 2 ounces cut into 1/4-inch chunks)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Oreos (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Stir flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl; set aside.
Melt 2 ounces milk chocolate with the butter in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; let cool slightly.

Beat together sugar and egg until light. Beat in vanilla and melted chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture and stir until mixed. Stir in Oreos and remaining milk chocolate chunks. NOTE: at this point, I chilled the dough for 30 minutes.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces crack, about 15 minutes (cookies should be soft). Let cool on parchment on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Makes about 13-15 depending on how big. I got 13, but some of mine were very large.

Jam & Cream Cheese Streusel Bars

I love having a reason to make a dessert, so when we planned a get together with some friends this past weekend I ran to the cookbook shelf in search of deliciousness.  I got the Magnolia Bakery book and began looking for a recipe that I could make without having to go to the store.  I found a recipe for Apricot Cream Cheese Streusel Bars.  It called for a jar of apricot jam…I will never have apricot jam in my house because I am not a big fan of apricots.  I did have 3 jars of homemade jam my friend Carrie had given me; strawberry rhubarb, strawberry blueberry and plain blueberry.  I’d already made a good dent in the blueberry so I decided to use the strawberry blueberry.  I did everything else according to the recipe.  These are so very yummy, but good gosh, the butter usage is incredible!  I’m going to look for a way to lighten these a bit.  I found the crust to be a bit thick and at times it crumbled.  So maybe I could use less crust.  Also, the streusel was delicious but overwhelmed me…I would use less of that also.  The filling…I didn’t think there was quite enough of it!  I like jam bars because the tartness of the fruit filling counters the sweetness of the cookie component.  I also like the idea of the cream cheese filling, but it was barely noticeable.  I will try these again soon with the changes and fill you in.  I know you’ll be waiting by your computer constantly refreshing this site to read about the outcome of my recipe tampering.  I’ll go ahead and tell you, I wouldn’t hold my breath.  However, I promise to have it done in a weeks time!  Here is the original recipe.  Of course, any jam will do.

Apricot Cream Cheese Streusel Bars from More From Magnolia Cookbook


1 cup butter, slightly softened and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cups all purpose flour

Cream Cheese Filling

1/2 pound cream cheese softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg at room temperature

1 t vanilla


3/4 cup apricot jam

Streusel Topping

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3/4 cup butter, slightly softened cut in 1 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350


In a large bowl beat together butter and flour on medium speed until crumbly and well combined.  Pat the mixture evenly and firmly into a 13 x 9 pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.


Beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.  Set aside.

Streusel Topping

Mix together the flour and powdered sugar.  Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside.


Spread the cream cheese filling on the cooled crust about 1/4 inch from the edges.  Gently spread the jam over the cream cheese.  Sprinkle the streusel over the entire top.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Cool to room temperature before cutting.


The 5th grade teachers planned a little pot-luck lunch this past Friday, and the theme started as Italian so I thought a tiramisu would be a good dessert to bring.  This Italian theme changed to salads (pasta salad, fruit salad, etc.) but I had my heart set on tiramisu, so I stuck with it.  I began searching for a classic tiramisu recipe.  I found a site devoted entirely to tiramisu, heavenlytiramisu.com, which had a plethora of information about the ingredients in tiramisu and many different kinds of recipes.  After searching through this site, epicurious and foodnetwork, I chose David Rosengarten’s recipe for Basic Tiramisu.

When you use 2/3 of a carton of eggs in one recipe, you know you’re in for something special…and a little decadent.  Did I mention that there is also a cup of heavy cream, and a pound of marscapone in this recipe?  I know it seems excessive, but if you’re going to do it, do it right.  This recipe came together fairly quickly, but I did have to use quite a few bowls and make a good sticky mess on the counter.  I used frangelico instead of the brandy called for in this recipe.  One thing I would change is to make more layers of soaked lady fingers in between the layers of cream.  I would also use more shaved chocolate in between each layer.  Other recipes I read recommended letting the tiramisu set overnight in the fridge, so that is what I did.  I set aside a little bowl for myself at lunch and planned to eat it that night after dinner.  It was still pretty tasty, but the ladyfingers had started to disintegrate a little.  So, I would not recommend more than 18 hours of sitting time.  I think most people enjoyed the tiramisu at our teacher pot-luck, so I will consider this a success.


  • EGGS, 8, with yolks and whites separated
  • SUGAR, 1/3 cup
  • MASCARPONE, 1 pound
  • HEAVY CREAM, 1 cup
  • ESPRESSO COFFEE, 2 cups cooled
  • BRANDY, 2/3 cup
  • BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE, 2 ounces grated
  • COCOA POWDER, Dutch process, sifted, for garnish


  1. Mix the sugar into the egg yolks, blending well.
  2. Add a little Mascarpone at a time to the egg yolk mixture, and mix until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Set this aside as well.
  4. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  5. Fold the whipped cream into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the beaten egg whites.
  6. Spread about 1/3 of the cream mixture of a 4-6 quart glass baking dish or serving bowl.
  7. Place expresso coffee in a large mixing bowl, and combine with the brandy.
  8. Dip a lady finger into the expresso, lay it in baking dish on cream mixture.
  9. Top with grated chocolate.
  10. Continue in this manner, laying lady fingers side by side to cover the bottom.
  11. Place another 1/3 of cream mixture on top of soaked lady fingers.
  12. Cover this with another layer of expresso-soaked lady fingers.
  13. Top with remaining cream mixture and grated chocolate.
  14. Dust final layer with grated chocolate and cocoa powder.
  15. Chill 2 hours to set.

Chocomallow Krispies

What can you do with $0.68 clearance chocolate flavored bag of marsh- mallows?  Chocolate Rice Krispies, of course.  I had to buy two bags of these when I saw them at Target.  I knew that I was going to make Krispy Treats the moment I saw these Chocomallows.  But how was I going to make them better than regular Krispies?  The culinary wheels begin turning.  So, I know I can’t use this “margarine” that crazy people speak of.  It has to be butter, no substitutes.   I melted 3 tablespoons of butter and the entire package of mallows in a saucepan.  There are microwave directions on the bag, but I am not a microwave woman so I melted them in a saucepan.  I addded 6 cups of crispies and mixed my heart out.  At this point I hadn’t had any bright ideas about what to add to make these treats special.  The time has come…I needed to do something.  So, I chopped up about 4 squares of semi-sweet chocolate and mixed that in to my krispie mixture.  So, this wasn’t expert culinary genius, but they were pretty yummy.

An Apple Cupcake a Day…

I received a cookbook a few months ago, Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse, that has some of the cutest little cakes and cupcakes I’ve ever seen.

However, most of them require an incredible amount of time, experience and ingredients.  I found these popcorn ones to be especially cute.  You actually have to make the little cups from chocolate with those silicone cupcake cups and paint the red stripes.  Who has that kind of time?  One cupcake did jump out at me, a basket-full of apples.  The outside of the cupcake is piped in a basketweave and then you pipe and pile little apples on top!

They would be great “back-to-school” treats, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pull them off at the beginning of the school year without pulling my hair out and driving myself crazy trying to get them perfect and finished.

I wanted to do something with an apple theme to give my co-workers to start the school year.  I remember seeing an apple cupcake in a Martha Stewart magazine a while back that was iced in a vibrant red and boasted a chocolate covered pretzel stem and a cute green candy leaf…but I couldn’t find an article on how they were made.  I finally came across a blog by a woman who’d also seen the magazine, but I didn’t get much more help except that I found out that Martha used green sour tape candy for the leaf.  I couldn’t find the candy, so I figured that I try my hand at using fondant.  My sister Sarah had conveniently planned a trip to Waco on Saturday, so she helped me create these adorable cupcakes!  We baked the cupcakes (from a mix…yikes!) the night before.  In the morning we made the House Buttercream from the Whimsical Bakelouse cookbook.  Sarah and I were both surprised by the method she uses.  Can anyone explain to me the purpose of adding boiling water?  Anyway, We colored the frosting red.  Ok, so we tried to color it red.  I used quite a bit of my Wilton no-taste red color gel but it never got to the vibrant apple red I wanted.  It also got a little streaky in color.  But we decided that they looked like galas and therefore more authentic.  I frosted the cupcakes normally.  Then we stuck chocolate covered pretzel sticks in the center as a stem.

Now for the leaves.  I bought white fondant and colored it with Wiltons leaf green gel and added a bit of almond extract hoping to help the flavor of the fondant…no such luck.  It still tastes like stale sugary icky paste.  We rolled out the fondant and used a small leaf cookie cutter to make the leaves.

Sarah placed all the leaves in a lovely artistic manner on our little creations and they were complete!  I could not stop looking at them and thinking about how cute they looked all together.  Is it bad to be proud of something like this?