Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

This is the first challenge I actually made almost as soon as I read it. Right before putting my place up for sale some friends of mine came over to help me clean out the spare bedroom. They stayed for dinner and I decided to serve them the panna cotta and cookies for dessert. I chose to make Kahlua Panna Cotta with a coffee gelee layer, because I like coffee with my cookies. The panna cotta came together very well, but I had some difficulty with the cookies. With my first batch, I made each cookie too big so it turned into one giant cookie. With the second batch I put fewer cookies on the sheet, but they were still too big. The third batch was the charm. I put about a teaspoon of dough per cookie. I’m not really sure if the cookies were supposed to spread as much as they did, I may have put too much butter in the batter. They tasted really good, but I found them a little greasy.

On the other hand, the Kahlua panna cotta with coffee gelee was perfect. The panna cotta was rich and creamy and the coffee gelee was cool and refreshing. I will definitely make it again.

Kahlua Panna Cotta

  • 1 1/2 tsp gelatin
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 3 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. In a stainless steel bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the Kahlua. Place the bowl over simmering water and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
  2. In a large sauce pan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil for one minute.
  3. Pour the hot cream mixture over the Kahlua and gelatin, stirring until completely combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into greased molds or cups. Chill for 3 hours. Once set, pour the coffee gelee mixture into the molds.

Coffee Gelee

  • 2 cups hot coffee
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from one 1/4-oz envelope)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. In a sauce pan, bring 1/4 cup water to boil with the sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved then remove from heat.
  2. Mix the gelatin with a tablespoon of cold water. Combine the gelatin, sugar syrup, coffee and vanilla together. Let cool completely
  3. Pour over the set panna cotta. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  4. The panna cottas can be served in the mold, or turned out onto a plate.

Daring Bakers do Crostata


The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

This was my first Daring Bakers Challenge that didn’t scare the bejezus out of me. It was nice to just take a couple hours to put together this classic tart. I thought about what to fill the tart with for a while, then finally asked my family what they wanted. My brother requested something creamy/custardy, my mom requested lemon. And so my lemon scented custard crostata was born.

I wanted to try a lattice top to the tart, but I wasn’t able to slice the into even strips so I chose to cut out circles of dough instead. Once the crostata had baked I topped it with some of the candied lemon slices I made.  The crostata was delicious, but I think baking it in a tart pan was a mistake. To me a crostata should be more rustic looking, like it just got thrown together by an italian nonna on a Sunday afternoon. I thought about making another one, but my ever expanding waistline talked me out of it. There is a lot of baking to be done leading up to Christmas, and I need to choose my calories wisely.

Crostata

For the Crust:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

For the filling

  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 500 ml milk
  • 3 strips of lemon peel about 3″ long and 1/2″ wide
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp limoncello (optional)
  1. Make the crust: In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter to the flour and rub the mixture together until it has a coarse crumb consistency.
  2. Make a well in the center of the butter flour mixture and pour the egg into it. Use a fork to blend the dough together. Knead the dough lightly, then form a disk.
  3. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.
  4. Once chilled, cut 1/4 of the dough off then roll the remaining dough out and place into a 9 inch tart pan. Chill the rolled out dough for 30 minutes.
  5. Dock the pastry (poke little holes), cover with parchment and weigh the crust down with pie weights or dried beans.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes at 350. Remove the weights and let the dough cool.
  7. Make the filling: In a large saucepan heat the milk and lemon peel slices until steaming. Let the milk and lemon steep for 10 minutes. Remove the lemon peel.
  8. In another bowl, mix the eggs, sugar and flour together. Pour a small amount of the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly and quickly. Slowly pour the rest of the milk into the egg mixture, always while whisking.
  9. Pour the custard back into the saucepan and warm at very low heat, stirring often. When the mixture starts to thicken, turn the heat up higher and cook one more minute, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the limoncello.
  10. Pour the custard into the tart shell. Roll out the remaining dough, cut into strips or shapes and place on top of the custard.
  11. Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
  12. Decorate with candied lemon slices.

Enjoy!

Daring Bakers Go Nuts for Doughnuts!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I was really excited by this challenge. I’ve been meaning to make Polish doughnuts, or Paczki (pronounced ponchkee), for a while and since the challenge allowed us to use any recipe we wanted I decided now is the time. If you’ve never had Paczki, they are yeast doughnuts filled with jam (often plum) and topped with a sugar glaze and sometimes candied orange peel. They are light and fluffy and oh so delicious.

You know what makes them so good? Booze. That’s right, booze.

I got to work on the doughnuts sure that everything would come together perfectly. I believed that my half Polish self must have an innate knowledge of how to make beautifully golden and fluffy doughnuts. I was mistaken.

All of the recipes I saw called for a range of flour rather than a specific amount. It is to be added until the dough “blisters”. I thought my dough was blistering, but in hindsight I think it was still too wet. The dough is then to rise until doubled in bulk, be punched down and risen again. After an hour my dough had barely moved. I took it out of the bowl, kneaded some more flour in and tried again. On the second rise it increased a little more, but nowhere near double. No matter, I cut out the doughnuts out anyway. I brought the oil up to 350 degrees and dropped 4 or five doughnuts in, let them brown on one side then flipped them over. Except the wouldn’t stay flipped! I frantically tried to re-flip each of the doughnuts but there were too many in the pot to manage. So my first few doughnuts ended up burnt on one side and undercooked on the other. I learned my lesson and put fewer doughnuts in the oil for the second round, but in the mean time my oil had increased in temperature and these burnt immediately, although the inside was still raw. I lowered the oil temp and got a couple of decent doughnuts made. The oil temperature dropped too much though, and the last few doughnuts I made looked beautifully golden on the outside but where once again raw inside.

The few doughnuts I made that turned out were delicious. I filled some with plum jam and others with apple sauce. My filling technique needs some work because all of them were filled on one side only, as you can see below.

The conclusion I came to after all this: I need to make Paczki more often to get the technique down, otherwise I’ll have to stop claiming to be Polish.

Paczki

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 1/2  to 5 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1 cup scalded 35% cream
  • Plum jam or apple sauce
  • oil for deep frying
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Beat the eggs and salt until the eggs are light yellow, about 5 minutes. Set aside/
  2. In a small bowl, combine the yeast and warm water. While the yeast is softening beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy in an stand mixer. Beat the yeast into the butter.
  3. Add one cup of flour to the butter yeast mixture, mix till combined.
  4. Add the rum and half of the cream.
  5. Beat in another cup of the flour.
  6. Add the remaining cream.
  7. Beat in a third cup of flour and the egg mixture. Beat for two minutes.
  8. Add remaining flour slowly until the dough looks like it’s blistering.
  9. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover in plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and let rise again.
  10. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough till it’s about 1 cm thick.  Cut out 2 inch circles, re-roll out the dough and cut circles again until all the dough is used.
  11. Heat oil to 350 in a deep fryer or a wide skillet. Fry 2-3 doughnuts at a time, when one side of the doughnut is golden flip it over and fry the other side. Drain on paper towels.
  12. Using a pastry bag fill the doughnuts with jam or applesauce.
  13. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Enjoy!

Daring Bakers: Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

The challenge this month was to decorate cookies with a September theme. September honestly doesn’t have any special significance to me. When I was in school it did, but I finished university 7 years ago and seem to have gotten past the urge to buy notebooks and agenda’s at this time of year (although the agendas do tempt me).  So what’s happening? I’m eating fall foods, watching the leaves change colour, and waiting impatiently for the hockey season to start. (Go Habs Go!)

I have zero decorating skills, so this challenge scared the bejezus out of me.  The smart thing to do would have been to start right away and decorate as many cookies as a possibly could until I got the hang of it. That is not what I did. I waited till two days before the challenge deadline to start working. I baked the cookies Saturday, “decorated” (ie dropped splotches of colours on said cookies) on Sunday afternoon, and started writing this post Sunday night.My attempt to make the Montreal Canadiens logo was very quickly abandoned and I moved on to simple apples and leaves.

It turns out royal icing is tricky. To use it properly you need to know what the consistency is supposed to be for the edges and for flooding the center of the cookies. I think what I used for the edges was probably a flooding consistency, but without more practice I really couldn’t tell you. When I forget about the food colouring stains on my fingers I might try again.

I used the recipe as given in the challenge, but found it much too dry to roll out so I added a couple of tablespoons of milk to it.

Basic Sugar Cookies

  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups plus 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  1. In a standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until well combined. Beat in the egg and lemon zest.
  2. Add flour and salt. Mix until dough just comes together.
  3. Form two disks of dough, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick. Use cookie cutters or a sharp knife to cut out the desired shapes.
  5. Chill the cut dough for another 30 minutes, then bake at 350 for 8 to 12 minutes.
  6. Decorate with Royal Icing (I used the Joy of Baking recipe)

If your cookies are funny looking, don’t worry about it. Decorating and taste are not correlated.

Daring Bakers do Beurre Noisette

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.


This was my first Daring Bakers Challenge. I signed up at the beginning of July and then anxiously awaited the challenge. When I found out what it was I felt a mixture of both excitement and dread. Excitement because I had never made ice cream before and dread because I don’t own an ice cream maker. I’ve heard horror stories of crunchy ice cream that was impossible to scoop. I considered buying an ice cream maker but storage is an issue in my apartment, so I decided to try the machine free way (this is a challenge after all).

Next up was deciding if I wanted to do both the baked Alaska and the petit fours, or just one. Would I have time to make both? Could I eat both and not gain a million pounds? Once again I decided to go for it; I’m a Daring Baker!

The final decision was what kind of ice cream to make. At first I wanted to do vanilla with cinnamon chips or maybe something fruity. Then I read a post about mango tea ice cream and decided I needed to make tea flavoured ice cream, Earl Grey to be exact. (To the author of that post: I’m so sorry, I really can’t remember who you are but thanks for the inspiration!) When I got to work on the ice cream I realized that doing it without an ice cream maker actually made it pretty easy to make two small batches of different flavours so I made a batch of raspberry along with the Earl Grey. I thought the raspberry would go nicely with the chocolate ganache covering the petit fours, and it turns out it was. Plus the pink stripe looked pretty cute too.

Step one in the process was to make the ice cream. I made the Earl Grey by steeping some tea bags in the milk and sugar mixture. I also added a little Grand Marnier which went really nicely with the citrusy flavour of the tea. For the raspberry I just added some raspberry puree to the vanilla recipe. Making ice cream without an ice cream maker is surprisingly easy, all you have to do is blend the custard every thirty minutes while its freezing. Both flavours turned out very well; easy to scoop and no crunchy bits! It is time-consuming though, so if you don’t have several hours to kill I wouldn’t recommend it.

Once the ice cream was done I moved on the to beurre noisette pound cake. The smell of butter simmering is possibly one of the best smells there is. I really need more brown butter in my life. The pound cake was light and fluffy, not at all what I was expecting, and the butter gave it an amazing flavour. I think the cake was my favourite part of the challenge.

You can find all the recipes for this months challenge at Elissa’s site.

All in all I think this was a very succesful first challenge. I can’t wait for the next!