Thursday, December 27, 2012

Daring to do it: Panettone

Ah, the holidays.  This is always a strange time of year.  As a Jew in a Christian cultured environment it is always an odd balancing act - how to acknowledge Christmas, even celebrate it with friends and family members, without losing my own celebrations at the same time.  I was lucky enough to grow up is a neighborhood filled with diverse cultures, so I feel like I got to learn a lot, and celebrate a lot, while still maintaining my own identity.  Every December the Daring Bakers are challenged to make something fairly Christmas-y, and this year was no exception.  But I have found that food is such a great teacher of culture that I kind of look forward to the opportunity to learn something new.

The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!

Wow.  Panettone.  Kind of like an Italia fruitcake, but not at all.  I had, before this challenge, never seen a home made panettone.  And this coming from someone who grew up next door to off-the-boat Italians who cooked and baked everything.  All I knew of panettone was that it was the big tall, box with the big tall cake-type thing.  Thanks to the amazing and talented Marcellina, I got to learn what a panettone is all about and how to bake it at home. 
Marcellina gave us a fabulous recipe to work from, but she did allow for some leeway in fillings and such.  In somewhat of a departure for me, I stuck to her recipe except for two changes - this must be a record of fewest alterations by me!  Yay!  The original recipe calls for a lot of eggs and a lot of butter.  Like, seven eggs (ok, three of them are only yolks, but you need seven eggs) and one and a half cups of butter.  Yes, one and a half cups.  Three sticks.  For my first substitution I used (you guessed it) margarine instead of butter.  For my second change I decided two sticks (one cup) would be more than enough, and used a half cup of applesauce for the last part.  Other than that, I followed Marcellina's recipe (ok, I us different fried fruits in my filling, but that was encouraged!) and method, and was quite impressed.
There are a lot of steps here,and therefor a lot of pictures.  So from here I will try to let the pictures do the talking for me.
The sponge:
Turning the sponge into the first dough, with Little Girl's help:

Making the second dough (not the most interesting photo...):
The filling (for three of my four panettoni) - dried apricots, dried pineapple and dried blueberry flavored cranberries, tossed with flour and cinnamon (the fourth was filled with chocolate chips.  or course.):
The final dough, ready to be filled:
My home made, origami panettone molds, with parchment paper cuffs:
Filling and rolling:
Ready to rise:
Ready to bake:
These were so good.Rich, as you would expect with all of those eggs and butter substitutes but not heavy.  Beautiful to look at, even thought they didn't rise as much as I had hoped.  I think the molds were wider that tradition wold have had me use, so they spread out a bit instead of being forced up.  These were a hit.  I can totally see me making these again.  Adopting an Italian Christmas treat and turning it into a Jewish celebration food.  I love it!
Thank you so much, Marcellina!  This was a learning experience, and a lot of fun, too!!  And thank you to Lis, the Daringest of the Daring Kitchen-ers, for creating such a wonderful forum!
Please check out the beautiful creations made by my fellow Daring Bakers.  You won't be disappointed.
And happy holidays, no matter hat holidays they are!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Surprise! Cookies

This month's sourdough surprise was to make cookies.  Any kind of cookies.  Yum.  But here it the thing.  I am kinda lazy...  As much as I love cookies, making them can be a bit of a hassle.  Add to that the inevitable nap-less days for the girls, and it really doesn't make sense to me to keep having to open the oven and deal with multiple hot trays.  So when I want cookies, I make cookie bars instead.  One pan, one trip into the oven, it is just easier in my little head. 
The hardest part of the process was choosing a recipe.  Yes, I would have liked to have made a lot of different types of cookies, but I just knew that wasn't going to be in the cards.  But there were so many to choose from!  My sourdough loving friends put together a Pinterest board with bunches of suggestions, and they all looked and sounded really good.  I decided to combine a few of the recipes, then add a little of my own insanity to the mix.  I created sourdough oatmeal chocolate-chocolate chip cookie bars  Quite a mouthful to say, but REALLY good!
The dough came together really easily.  I mean, all I had to do was mix everything together...!
Right from the bowl into the pan, then bake away:
I kinda liked how the oatmeal showed through.  It almost made this into health food, right?  Or at least an acceptable breakfast...
Cut into squares:
Totally yummy.  I can't wait to try some more of theses!
I hope you had fun sourdough-ing it up this month!  Remember to link up so you can show off, too!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Daring to do it: Pate Chinois

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook! Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the Paté Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!

I don't know about you, but before his challenge was posted I had never heard of pate chinois.  Like, I had absolutely no idea what it could be.  Read on for another moment and see another name for this dish - Shepherd's pie.  That I do know!  Total comfort food, as Andy said.  Yummy goodness covered in mashed potatoes.  Where is the bad?  I am pretty sure I have made a Shepherd's pie before, but I can't remember...  So this challenge was like new to me, even if it might not have been totally new...!
Andy gave us some great recipes to choose from, and also gave us leeway to make something that would work for our families.  I really wanted to try her vegetarian recipe, but between not having any lentils in the house and having a husband who doesn't like mushrooms, I figured I would use her recipe as a base and play from there.
For my base/protein layer I cooked up some white, great northern beans and mashed them up a little.
For the veggies I sauteed a little bit of everything...!   There's onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, bell pepper, garlic...  I think that is it!  Then I made a pan gravy with broth, corn starch, sesame oil and soy sauce to go on that.
Then come the mashed potatoes.  Yum.
But I decided to try something a little crazy.  And potentially icky-looking.  I topped my potatoes wit mashed purple potatoes.   I hoped it would look fun, and Little Girl's favorite color is purple, so I thought she might get a kick out of it.
Hooray!  Purple dinner!
This really is amazing comfort food.  Hearty, filling, warm, it is kind of like a blanket for your belly.  And so versatile!  I really wanted to make a second pie a couple of days later using leftover vegetarian chili, but I still had leftovers of this one and didn't want to overwhelm either the family or the fridge!
Andy, thank you for this perfect challenge for the chilly weather we have been having.  You were a fun host, and your support was awesome.  Definitely take the time to see what the other Daring Cooks created.  The variety is amazing, and you are sure to get inspired!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Daring to do it: Twelve Days of Cookies

I love desserts, as you might have noticed.  This month's challenge was a great one to expand my repertoire of sweet treats!

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

Now, I am not a big one for Christmas cookies.  No big surprise there, huh...  In that sense, it was actually kin of hard to motivate myself to move on this challenge.  Holiday cookies just aren't my thing.  But desserts are.  And it turned out that this was the perfect time for new ones. 
Growing up, we didn't do the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  I mean, we did for a while, but there was a lot of leftover turkey not being enjoyed, so we decided to make our own tradition.  Enter the all-dessert Thanksgiving!  Yes, we d "real" food first, but the Thanksgiving part is all desserts.  I'll show you our "turkey" a little later.  But first the cookies.
Peta gave us twelve different recipes to choose from.  (Get it?  Twelve days, twelve cookies...)  I showed the lite to Hubby and let him choose the ones he was most interested in.  He chose three.  I was lazy.  I only made two.
Foaming Milk Cookies:
Dry ingredients - flour and sugar:
Wet ingredients - margarine melted in soy milk:
The foam - baking soda dissolved in water:
Mix it all together:
I froze the dough in logs, then sliced them to bake:

The baked cookies:
These cookies were very light.  I really liked them.  My family seemed to think they would be helped with some chocolate drizzled on top.  I might try adding some vanilla next time I make them.  But they will be made again.  I think they are really good.
Chocolate and Caramel Turtle Bars:
Turtles are usually made with pecans.  I didn't have any.  I used almonds...
The base - flour, brown sugar and melted margarine:
The caramel.  Need I say more?
And here is where my camera battery died.  There should be pictures of the crushed almonds, the chocolate, etc.  Oops.
The cooling bars:
The final product:
These were so good.  I mean, I made a half batch for our "feast" and there were only three bars left at the end of the day.  So good that Hubby asked me to make them again the next day.  Which I did.  Except the second time I burned the caramel, so the batch was no good. But still!  These are going to be a regular in our house, I can just tell!
In addition to at least one of they twelve challenge recipes, Peta wanted the Bakers to also make another "celebration sweet."  So here is our family's favorite Thanksgiving tradition:
(Sorry it is sideways...)  We love our turkey cake!  And Little Girl had a BLAST decorating it!
Thank you, Peta, for a fun filled challenge.  And thank you for sharing some of your favorite recipes with us!
Take a look here if you want to see what the other Bakers made this month.  Just be prepared to drool!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Daring to do it: Brining and Roasting

Audax always comes up with great challenges.  What makes them so great is that his goal is to teach us methods of cooking and baking which we might otherwise overlook.  This month's challenge was no exception. 

Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!

Brining is not something I had any experience with.  Sadly, I still don't....  See, even though Audax gave us some great recipes, I just felt like brining was very much a way to prepare meats.  I thought about brining vegetables, and even considered breaking into a pumpkin to brine seeds, but it just didn't happen.  Sorry, Aud!
But roasting!  Roasting is something I am very familiar with.  I love the way that roasting brings out a sweetness and fullness of flavor in even the most common of foods.  (If you have never eaten roasted parsnips, please do yourself a favor and try them.  So. Good.)
This month I roasted:
Carrots and yellow squash:
 Butternut squash (which made a really yummy soup - I just didn't get any pictures of it!):

Thank you, Audax, for teaching us so much, and for all of your encouragement in the Kitchen!
Take a look here if you want to see what the other Cooks created this month!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Daring to do it: Mille Feuille

Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!
I happen to love Suz.  She is a fun person, or at least she has seemed so in all of my Daring Kitchen experiences.  So I knew that her challenge this month was going to be a fun one.  But it was also somewhat daunting.  Puff pastry?  Wow... Not only have I never made puff pastry from scratch before, I am not sure I have actually worked with it at all...!  But it is something I have wanted to try, and this was a great opportunity.  It was still nerve-wracking, though.  Suz provided us with a great recipe which other Daring Bakers were having good luck with.  But one of the key components of puff pastry dough is the beurrage - butter.  And I don't bake with butter.  I use margarine.  Which other Bakers were expressing concern about.  So I hesitated.  Finally, with only a couple of days left before the posting date, I decided to just go for it.
The dough came together beautifully, and was silky to work with.  The "margarrage" was then put into place:
and wrapped up tight:
Then comes the rolling and turning to make a laminated dough.  Fold, fold, roll, turn, repeat:
Once the dough was resting comfortably in the refrigerator it was time to decide on the filling.  Part of me wanted to try something really different.  But most of me knew that I wasn't going to come up with anything too interesting based on what was available in the kitchen, so I went with the traditional vanilla pastry cream:
But I still wanted to do something different.  So I added in some raspberries and black berries.  Yum:
Time to bake the pastry.  Scary.  The easy part is to roll out the dough:
Then the dough is cut into three hopefully equal pieces and baked on greaseproof (wax) paper.  But before it goes into the oven it is covered with more wax paper and weighted down:
Partway through baking the top sheet and weight comes off of the pastry.  Some of the pastry came off with the paper for me, though. Oops:
Thankfully, that was the worst of it.  I was rewarded with a beautifully puffed and layered pastry when all was done:
Assembly time.  Pastry on the bottom.  A layer of cream.  Another sheet of pastry.  More cream.  Another sheet of pastry on top:
Ok.  Now to decorate.  First, a layer of royal icing.  Ok, no problem there.  Then the given recipe called for using piped melted chocolate to make lines.  I decided to make a coulis of the same black- and raspberries from the inside.  It is the piping that failed me.  True, I was using a sandwich baggie as a piping bag, but it was still kind of sad:
And messy.  Don't forget messy!  Finally a toothpick is dragged through the lines to make a pretty pattern:
Maybe not the most attractive thing in its whole state...  but cut up into pieces:
Hooray!  I was very proud.  My husband was impressed with the look, and was so happy with the taste he requested that I make it again.  The next day...  Sorry, Hubby, you'll have to deal with the (few) leftovers until I have the chance to make this again...!
Suz, this was great.  You got me to tackle something I had been dragging my feet on, and you showed me how easy and worthwhile it is! I can't wait to make more puff pastry and use it in lots of different ways!  (But, of course, to make more mille feuille for the hubby!)
Please take a look here to see the amazing, and much more attractively presented!, creations made by my fellow Daring Bakers!