Monday, March 1, 2010

Go Canada Go

This month's DB challenge, Tiramisu, wasn't really a challenge to make because while multi-step and somewhat time consuming, each step was easy itself. But that doesn't detract from how great this month's recipe was. It was quite a revelation on how easy it was to make mascarpone cheese and at a fraction of the cost to buy it from the grocery store. The same thing can be said for the lady fingers and they tasted so much better and fresher than their store bought counterparts. I won't be buying either of these again!

I had always stayed away from Tiramisu because I don't like (hate!) coffee flavoured desserts. But thanks to the many wonderful flavour combinations of other DBers posted on our forum, I realized that of course you could maintain the integrity of the dessert while playing with some of its components and flavours. I've got to get out of my "in the box" thinking....why I didn't think to experiment with flavour before is beyond me!

Although, truth be told, I wasn't that adventurous this time around because I've been determined to use things in my pantry before hitting the grocery store yet again. Since I still had some wonderful strawberry sauce and simple syrup made from last summer's amazing local berries, I had to make yet another strawberry dessert! I'm kind of tired of posting about strawberry challenges but my guests were not disappointed in eating this latest version. And of course it was very patriotic in its colours as we cheered on Canada to many gold medals over the weekend!!!

Since I don't tend to like serving was looks just like pudding to guests (don't want them to think that I didn't make an effort), I decided to layer the Tiramisu as suggested in the challenge. I took the advice of other DBers and froze it until about 1/2 hour before serving, cut it and placed in the fridge until ready to use. The slices came out cleanly, but there really wasn't the amount of cream that I thought and of course the strawberries were frozen and tasteless. Doh!! So, I took a picture of the layered dessert but then cut it up into cubes, added more strawberry sauce, whipcream and berries to fill out the glass bowls and put it in the fridge to defrost. What a huge hit. Bowls were scraped clean.

Thanks to Deeba and Aparna for a fantastic challenge.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Olympic Champion of Squares

There's a new super hero in our house and his name is Muk Muk - official Olympic sidekick. Now don't get me started on why the Olympic organizing committee felt a need to differentiate between Olympic mascots (Sumi, Quatchi and Miga) and their sidekick Muk Muk. It has just resulted, as far as I can see, in less merchandise with Muk Muk on it which was a problem in our house when the top three requests on Santa's list were Muk Muk items! But we were dauntless in our search and in the end there were very happy kids on Christmas day with Muk Muk merchandise/clothing aplenty.

So when making this month's DB challenge, the quintessential Canadian Nanaimo Bars, it was only fitting that Muk Muk figured into the photo session. Here he is on top of his Nanaimo podium enjoying his moment in the sun. Every marmot has his day!

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

Most members have noted that the bar is decadent and it is, but not sickeningly so. It is the perfect blend of chocolate, creamy custard and fudgy base. Easy to put together and slice, minimal cooking effort and maximum flavour. I did have problems with my chocolate seizing, and I have to admit that I was too lazy to start again to get a better looking result since it tasted fine. So I lost gold medal points for execution but everyone gave it a first place finish for taste. Head over to the DB website for the recipe so you have a batch to eat while enjoying the sportsmanship of the 2010 Olympics. Go Canada Go!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gummi Party

I had no intentions of making this month's Gingerbread House challenge. While intuitively I knew that making homemade gingerbread should be no harder than rolling out sugar cookies, it just seemed like a lot of work for something that rarely gets eaten. But I had a few eager elves that wanted to try their hands at it and I was more than happy to co-opt their efforts for this month's DB challenge!

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.

My youngest nephew was the head chef and with the help of Grandma prepared the dough. He came up with the idea of a ski chalet which is perfect for our typical wintery Christmas Day except this year we were enjoying an unseasonably mild green Christmas. At least it would be wintery in our gingerbread world. The template was made, the dough cut out and put in the oven with a little trepidation as it seemed a little crumbly and I was worried that it wouldn't hold together. But everything came out well and with help from his oldest brother, the architect in training, the chalet with wrap around porch was constructed solidly.

And once the middle brother came up with the gummi bear party theme, all the kids were pitching together while dinner was cooking to put together the most rocking gummi party ever! Who can resist those little bears with their mugs, lining up for their drinks apres-ski. I couldn't believe how much fun they all had and we all agreed that it was better than the store bought model they used every other year. I may be biased but I think this is the most whimsical ski chalet and I'm glad I could be a part of it - if from a viewer perspective rather than as a baker. What a wonderful Christmas memory and one sure to be repeated.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! See you in the new year and here's to another year of fun and challenging recipes with the Daring Bakers.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You say Macaron, I say yum!

I can't imagine a better souvenir to bring someone back from Paris than Pierre Herme macarons. And I was the lucky recipient of 6 of these tasty treats last month when my sister thoughtfully brought them back from her anniversary trip. Congrats on your 20th wedding anniversary Michelle and Stewart!

These cookies really did live up to their hype and price. Even after a few days trip to get to me, they were still everything you would expect these cookies to be. While initially skeptical, Ishapan proved to be my favourite followed closely by the salted caramel. I even liked the mint and that's not normally a flavour that I enjoy.

The Daring Bakers were in sync with me this month and the challenge was none other than the macaron. 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.

I have made macarons in the past so luckily I've gotten my failures out of the way. The batch that was overbeaten and came out as flat disks, the batch that stuck to the parchment paper, the batch that cracked...

Here's a picture of the eventual success. And don't think the failures went to waste. I crumbled up those attempts, froze them and pulled them out finally to use as filling in brownie mousse cakes. Thanks to Ami for a great challenge.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Marshmallow cookies

In reading other Daring Baker blogs, I've noticed that those of us in the midst of summer aren't baking as much as we had in the winter and spring. But it's not due on my part to the sunny, warm weather keeping me outdoors. This has been one of the coldest and rainiest summers we've had in recent memory. Nonetheless, I'm enjoying the slower pace of summer, spending time with the kids and generally relaxing. Luckily I've frozen a lot of my baking from the winter and can pull it out when friends come over for a drink (huddled) on our deck!

While campfires this year are being used mainly for warmth, I have enjoyed roasting a few marshmallows. Other than in their toasty form (or in Rice Krispie treats), I can't say I'm a huge fan of marshmallow cookies. I never asked for them as a kid and I still pick out the marshmallow layer from Wagon Wheels and just eat the chocolate top and cookie base. But this month we were challenged with making them.

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.

While I appreciated the simplicity of making cookies, I think the kids enjoyed these ones more than the adults. And I have to admit that I used the "out" provided this month and didn't make homemade marshmallow and simply used store bought. Still, I'm glad that I finished the challenge and look forward to seeing what's next.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tea time in the garden

This month was a first for me. The posting day dawned today and I hadn't yet made this month's Bakewell Tart. Not for lack of interest in doing it but life sometimes finds away of charging ahead without you sometimes. But I wouldn't let this be the first challenge I would miss in a year and half of being a Daring Baker. And the good thing was that the recipe had few elements and could be put together in the morning before heading out to the enjoy the day picking local strawberries.

I had made my rhubarb-orange jam earlier this month when a friend passed on some of her plentiful rhubarb to me. Never having loved this vegetable as a kid, I've discovered how wonderful it is in baking. The jam is fantastic and probably my favourite part of this challenge.

The rest of the tart is almondy, puffy and a perfect complement to the jam. I couldn't resist taking pictures of it in the garden to show off some of my beautiful flowers. Since it was such a cold spring, I wasn't sure how things were going to fare. I've been pleasantly surprised to see what's survived. Enjoying my tart with tea in the garden was the perfect midmorning break. A few bunny friends thought so too...!

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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Coming from a very German community, strudel was ever present during apple season in the Fall. But because I don't like cooked raisins, I was never a huge fan. Thanks to this month's challenge, I was able to make strudel the way I like it. And in a nod to spring, I added strawberry and rhubarb to the requisite (at least in our city) apple filling.

Surprisingly the dough was a treat to work with in terms of stretchability. It was almost too pliable - I found many a time my sides got stuck together when I was done stretching and put it back on the table. I got very few holes but I must not have wrapped it too well because during the baking process it split open on one side and a lot of the strawberry juices came out. So, unfortunately, I didn't give Jason much too work with during shooting (beige on beige!) but he did great with what he had.

I'm glad I had the chance to work with strudel dough but I'm not sure that I'll do it again. I found it lost its crispiness and flakiness pretty soon after baking and I didn't love it so much that I'd want to do it at the last minute for best results. If I'm going to be running around baking right before guests come over, it needs to be an "out of the park" experience and this was maybe a base hit, both in terms of taste and presentation. If you want a similar fruit dessert but with more shelf life, I would recommend the Danish from one of the last summer's DB challenges.