Daring Bakers: Danish Braid

I did a little dance of joy when I saw what the June challenge would be for Daring Bakers. I have been wanting to make a homemade danish (or really any pastry) for quite some time now, but had never taken the plunge before now. So thank you to this month’s hosts, Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cookin’, for choosing such an awesome challenge! I am not sure what I waited so long for, because this was definitely not as difficult as I envisioned it might be. The process for making the dough was much the same as bread, with the added step of rolling a block of butter into it (the key to the flaky dough that is characteristic of pastries). The results were fabulous! I made this early in the month for a visit by my mom and sister and made three varieties: the apple in the recipe, peach (my mom’s favorite), and cream cheese (MY favorite).

More about the braids, the recipe, and more pictures after the break…

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Daring Bakers: Cheesecake Pops

Or, in my case, Cheesecake Truffles.

And squares.

I love cheesecake. It’s my favorite dessert, and I will eat it in just about any form. Rolled in a ball and dipped in chocolate? Bring ’em on!

More about the challenge, and the recipe, after the break…

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Daring Bakers: Perfect Party Cake

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And perfect it was. This was no surprise, given that this is a Dorie Greenspan recipe. Thanks to Tuesdays With Dorie I have become a huge Dorie fan, and have found that all of her recipes are nothing short of foolproof.

This month was hosted by Morven at Food Art and Random Thoughts and we were given quite a bit of leeway for this challenge. It was certainly a nice change of pace, so thank you! The original cake recipe calls for lemon zest and extract, but not being the biggest fan of lemon (as was evidenced by giving away my Lemon Meringue Pie in January), I took the advice of my friend Laurie (otherwise known as quirky cupcake), who thought that orange would be a nice complement to the raspberry used in the recipe. Well, isn’t she a smarty pants, because orange tasted fantastic in this recipe!

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Aside from that change, the only other modification I made was the icing, as the original recipe calls for a meringue buttercream, but I thought that a cream cheese frosting would be just wonderful with the citrus and fruit flavors in the cake. It turned out to be perfect, although I would like to give the meringue buttercream a shot one of these days as well.

A number of people reported having problems with the cake not rising, but mine seemed to puff up just as Dorie said it would. The recipe gives the option of using the paddle or whisk attachment of the stand mixer, and I opted for the whisk as I figured it would infuse even more air and fluff into the cake, and whether it was the whisk or not, the resulting cake was perfectly moist and fluffy.

The only problem I really had came during assembly. I found it near impossible to spread the frosting on TOP of the raspberry layer. The frosting just kind of slid around, and raspberry jam slid everywhere. In hindsight, I would put the layers prepared with the raspberry jam in the freezer to set somewhat before trying to frost on top of it. Another friend of mine, Amber, also had a great idea – she reversed the layer and put the frosting on first and then the jam on top. She said this worked very well, so that’s another approach to consider next time.

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We both loved this cake and couldn’t get enough of it.Β  The flavors complemented each other perfectly and the result was an extremely moist and fluffy cake with both a light taste and texture. I couldn’t think of a better cake for a spring or summer special occasion!

This will certainly be a cake recipe that I keep to use as a base for multiple flavor combinations. I am planning on experimenting with mango next month for our anniversary, as our wedding cake was a white cake with a mango filling and buttercream frosting. Wish me luck! πŸ™‚

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Daring Bakers: French Bread ala Julia Child

First off, let me say a big “Happy Birthday” to my husband, Nick. He’s a Leap Year baby and these days don’t come around but every four years, so it’s certainly a special day! Love you babe!

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Now, on to the challenge. I was definitely not surprised to see that this month’s challenge was bread, given that Breadchick Mary at The Sour Dough, along with Sara at I Like to Cook, was hosting it. French bread… great, I’ve been wanting to try it! I set out to get an early start on the recipe by printing it out and giving it a couple of thorough reads… but wait… FOURTEEN (as in, 14) pages? This recipe is 14 pages long?! Yowza! Well, that’s okay… I will sit down with my lunch and read through it. I had long finished my sandwich and chips and was only five pages into the recipe. Yikes. This is certainly a “daring” challenge!

I actually never read the recipe from start to finish in one sitting. I couldn’t get through it. And to be honest, I seriously considered just skipping this month. Aside from not even being able to read the entire recipe during the time it takes to watch a primetime drama, this was shaping up to be an all-day event, with an estimated 8 to 10 hour start to finish time. I got together with Laurie over at quirky cupcake and we decided to tackle the recipe “together” (which, in a virtual world, meant that we frantically instant messaged each other throughout the process, doing it at the same time in our respective kitchens). You can thank Laurie for my post, because had it not been for someone keeping me accountable I don’t think I would have mustered the energy to do this. So thank you, Laurie, for forcing me to put my game face on πŸ™‚

Now on to the actual recipe… as I said, this was an insanely long recipe. It is a Julia Child recipe, and I guess another shameful confession is that I’ve never made one of her recipes or have seen one of her shows. This was certainly a way to dive right in. I honestly can’t tell you if I even think I did this correctly. There were a lot of different types of kneading techniques and deflating techniques that I have never encountered before. There were no pictures or diagrams to go by, so I winged it by doing what I thought was correct.

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The outcome of the recipe was good. I have never made French bread before (just some variations on white sandwich bread, honey wheat bread, Italian bread, and sweet rolls), so I have nothing to compare this to other than store-bought French bread I have eaten. This turned out to be about the same – it was good, it tasted like French bread should. I guess since it was an all-day affair with Julia Child I was expecting something out-of-this-world and leagues above anything I had made before. It really didn’t live up to those expectations, although as I said, it was good bread, but not especially remarkable. I just personally don’t really think it was worth the all-day effort. This perhaps may be a result of me not performing certain techniques correctly, as there was no real guide on how to go about them. Either way, we had a couple of good loafs of bread to eat over the course of a week and I got to make my first Julia Child recipe πŸ™‚

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Thank you again to Mary and Sara for hosting this challenge. If you are interested in seeing the recipe, you can view it at The Sour Dough.

Daring Bakers: Lemon Meringue Pie

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This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was the classic Lemon Meringue Pie, chosen by Jen at The Canadian Baker. As beloved a dessert as it is, I am not a fan of lemon unless it is squeezed into my water. I was contemplating foregoing this month, but then my sister told me that she would be stopping by for a visit, and she loves a good lemon meringue pie. Finally, a reason to make the pie!

I have never made a lemon meringue (or any type of meringue) pie before, so I had no preconceived notions about what to expect. I had, however, been hearing some rumblings of problems with this pie from other Daring Bakers who had made it early in the month. Having no experience with lemon meringue pie, I was becoming a little apprehensive. However, I forged ahead and went through with the recipe as it was written. I am happy to report that I had no problems with the pie. Aside from the crust shrinking on one side (“There was shrinkage!” – for all of you Seinfeld fans), the lemon curd came together perfectly and the meringue was beautiful. Nick, my sister, and the rest of our guests all loved the pie and said it was wonderful.

To see how the rest of the Daring Bakers fared with the pie, check out the Blogroll.

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I actually think this was the best job I’ve done at preparing pie crust (I can usually never get it that smooth!) and I wanted to document it, so here’s a little tooting of my own horn:

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My sister, Lauren and her (our) friend, Alanna, enjoying their pie (I told you girls you would make the blog!):

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Daring Bakers: Tender Potato Bread

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I suppose that my beginner’s luck in Daring Bakers was bound to run out at some point, and with my third challenge under my belt I am now batting .667. I really didn’t think that I’d hit a wall with bread, either. Somewhat disappointing, to be completely honest! The recipe this month was Tender Potato Bread, chosen by the wonderful Tanna at My Kitchen In Half Cups.

Since I didn’t make the bread until the weekend before Thanksgiving, I had already heard about some of the difficulties that other Daring Bakers had working with this dough. Having been very successful in the bread-making department (and perhaps too cocky?) I wasn’t worried when I began making this bread. However, I quickly realized that I was not immune to a bread-baking disaster as I tried and tried to make the softest, most lifeless dough work for me. Calling this a “soft” dough is a major understatement. It was very difficult for me to knead and I ended up having to use an insane amount of flour.

We were given the option of making this recipe into any variation of loaves, focaccia, or rolls. Since I was attempting this the weekend before Thanksgiving, my plan was to make all rolls and take them to my mom’s and my in-law’s for dinner. The bread universe had other plans, apparently. When I went to shape the-most-difficult-dough-ever into rolls I had a very hard time. The dough continued to be lifeless and soft, as well as very sticky. As a result, I kept adding more flour, which most likely caused the horrid results. I was pretty convinced at this point that these may not turn out all that great.

Twenty minutes later, I took my rolls out of the oven and held my breath. Nick and I both took a bite and immediately decided that the rolls would have to meet an untimely death. They just flat out were not good. They were incredibly dense, and didn’t have much flavor. We pitched them and, hanging my head in shame, I had to report to my mom and mother-in-law that my rolls were a bust and would not be gracing their Thanksgiving tables. I did take a couple of pictures of the rolls before they met their grave – here is the result:

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Ah, such is the life of a Daring Baker! They can’t all be successes, or else we wouldn’t be learning! Check out everyone else’s Potato Bread at the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll. I can’t wait to see what December brings!

October Daring Bakers: Bostini Cream Pie

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Having successfully completed my first Daring Bakers challenge in September, I was eagerly awaiting my next; however, when the new challenge was announced for October, I was afraid… very afraid. Custard. The dreaded custard. I fear baked goods with eggs and have never attempted anything like a custard or pastry cream because I always feared that I would end up with either raw eggs or scrambled eggs. However, after procrastinating for nearly the entire month I finally faced my fear because, well, that’s what being a Daring Baker is all about, isn’t it?

A little background… this month’s challenge, Bostini Cream Pies, was chosen by Mary at Alpineberry. Bostini Cream Pie, like the name implies, is a twist on the traditional Boston cream pie. This dessert is vanilla custard topped with an orange chiffon cake and then drizzled with a chocolate glaze. The recipe that was used was heralded as the Top Recipe of 1996 by the San Francisco Chronicle, and was a creation of Donna Scala and Kurtis L. Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni.

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And now, my experience. Let me start by saying that I cut this recipe into 1/3 for the cake and custard, and 1/2 for the chocolate. There was still a ton of custard and cake, as this recipe makes quite a bit! As I mentioned, I was terrified of the custard. I finally threw caution to the wind and dove right in. Since I didn’t end up with scrambled eggs and the custard didn’t TASTE like eggs, I deem my first try as a success! The mixture thickened very quickly and so I feared that perhaps the eggs would not have been cooked thoroughly, however my fellow Daring Bakers calmed my fears and I set the custard in the fridge to chill. A quick taste later revealed a thick, smooth and vanilla-flavored custard. Ahhh, no more egg fears!

The cake… I had never made a chiffon cake before, although I have made a classic sponge cake and the methods were very similar. I followed the advice of those who had gone before me in this challenge and made sure to be gentle when folding the egg whites and ensure that they were COMPLETELY incorporated into the rest of the batter. Since I scaled down this recipe I made the cake into 8 cupcakes in my muffin tin. They came out perfectly springy, light and airy. Success #2!

We were allowed creativity in the way we plated our Bostini Cream Pies, so I chose to finally put those oversized wine goblets that I got on clearance at Williams Sonoma to good use πŸ˜‰ I layered the custard, then a piece of cake, and topped it with the chocolate sauce. A number of Daring Bakers said that their desserts tasted even better after sitting in the fridge, so I let ours chill all day. When we went to eat them, however, the chocolate had hardened too much and we popped them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. In retrospect, I would serve this dessert with warm chocolate sauce, but it still tasted absolutely fantastic.

I am thrilled to have accomplished my second challenge! Bring on November! πŸ™‚

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