Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers April Challenge

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Oh cheesecake, how I adore you! I love your versatility, your softness, the crunch of your sweet crust, the comfort you offer without reserve, your stunning good looks, your - hey wait a second, maybe I should have married a cheesecake instead. No that's just stupid - or is it... no it's stupid.

So the Daring Bakers have been around for a while, but they've just put together their own website called, The Daring Kitchen that is fabulous and you should check out. Someone in the group chooses a recipe for the monthly challenge, which the members make, put their own spin on it then present it on reveal day. Up until then, the topic is kept secret (except for those involved). This is my first challenge - and I couldn't be happier.

I love cheesecake - in case you missed it - but the Husband does not. When we were first dating and it came time for his birthday, I decided to surprise him with a cheesecake birthday cake. I did a vanilla cheesecake with chocolate swirls and swirled his name into the top of the cake. I was quite proud of the results. In those days, I didn't have a stand mixer, but a trusty Braun stick mixer. I burned out the motor creaming the cheese and sugar, but it was worth it - the results were lovely. Doug was touched and said he loved it, even ate a piece, then declared it was delicious - for cheesecake. I deflated instantly - I had wanted everything to be perfect for him, and I had made him the only dessert (except for anything lemon) that he hates. Ah, young love, so fragile. But then I quickly recovered, realizing that now I had the whole cake to myself. BOO YAH! Little Jenny Foo Foo scores a big one. Life was good again. Needless to say, I don't get to make cheesecake at home for my consumption very often, so I was so grateful to Jenny for her choice.

I didn't change anything about the recipe except for not doing a crust for them because I wanted to add that later to play around with some different bases. I love different sauces with cheesecake so I played with that too.

I used my silicone pans to make individual cheesecakes, so I could freeze them, and not eat them in one sitting - or so the planning goes anyway.

So here they are.

How about frozen cheesecake sandwiches. It's all about the crunch with this one. I used a raspberry, white chocolate cookie and painted the chocolate/raspberry vodka ganache on with a pastry brush. You could also do a pool of ganache for dipping...just sayin'.

Just in time for spring, a rhubarb/Grand Marnier compote with fresh strawberries. This was definitely my favourite, but not as pretty to look at.

Last but not least, the ganache topped, a chocolate biscotto on the side. A wonderful mix of textures that I had to add a bit of colour in the strawberry on top.

This was a fun challenge that could literally go on forever with the changes and permutations of the adornments, not to mention the cheesecake itself. I would make this again and who knows what I would do to it with all the summer fruit ahead of us - ginger and lemon, lavender, praline, peaches - oh my god peaches - , raspberries, ...

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I have a small confession - I don't really like pancakes. I prefer waffles. I love the way the little squares cradle the maple syrup. I love that they're crispy. I love that they can be a breakfast food, or a dessert basis with a beautiful scoop of homemade ice cream on top and bathed in a mixed berry compote. Ahhh waffles... So why am I making pancakes? My husband. He loves them. I want to love them, but to me they're just the ugly stepchild of the waffle. I just don't get them, they're usually tasteless, doughy, soggy blah, blah, blah.

I love the possibility of a relaxed weekend morning reading the paper, having a delicious breakfast together and maybe a good conversation - then I get all deflated when Doug suggests pancakes. Umm, OK. (I guess I don't hate them too much, because somehow I manage to eat them, but they're NOT WAFFLES.)

This morning was different - I suggested pancakes because I had spied a recipe in the May issue of Everyday Food (Martha Stewart) for oatmeal and cinnamon pancakes that sounded like I might like them. I am constantly on the lookout for THE pancake recipe that I would crave, that I would be totally happy with instead of my true favourite.

Did I find it today?

Let's find out.

You process the dry ingredients.

Whisk the wet.

Combine the dry into the wet.

Portion onto a hot griddle

Throw on some blueberries. (not called for in original recipe, but I think they need something)


Serve with maple syrup and butter.


Well they're good! VERY hearty and substantial. They have a nice toothsome bite to them and are by no means wimpy.

What I would change: I would make a blueberry sauce for them rather than just sprinkling on the one side, or mix more blueberries into the batter itself. I would have made smaller pancakes because they are very filling. I would have added more cinnamon, or maybe make the fruit sauce with some cinnamon and nutmeg. Sauteed apples would be delicious too.

Would I make these again? Yes.

Is this THE recipe? Maybe - I'll have to try all my suggestions and see - but it's pretty close.

2 C flour
1/4 C brown sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1 c old fashioned oats

Whisk together:
2 C milk
1/4 C oil

add dry to wet ingredients and also add 1 C more of old fashioned oats.
Stir just until everything is moistened, then portion (2-3 T) onto hot griddle or fry pan. Cook until a few bubbles have burst then flip over and cook until browned on the underside.

The magazine suggests you cook all of the batter and freeze the pancakes you don't eat in a plastic bag for later. You can then heat the pancakes up in the toaster and voila a quick pancake breakfast.

Check out Magazine Mondays at Ivonne's beautiful blog - you'll be glad you did!
Pancakes on Foodista

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bug Party!

Here are some fun spring-time bugs for a 2 year old girl's (Gretel, isn't that a great name, so feminine and pretty) birthday party this weekend.

Chocolate cookies with royal icing decorations were a lot of fun to do...

The cookie is just a basic rolled chocolate sugar cookie, that is a dream to put together and roll out - no chill time which was great.


Oven to 350

230 g (1C) butter
150 g (2/3 C) white sugar
75g (1/3 C) brown sugar

1 egg

1 T brewed espresso or 1 T chocolate liqueur

Sift together the following dry ingredients, then add to above in 3 stages, doing the 3rd addition by hand, rather than using the mixer, to keep the texture softer:
35 g (1/3C cocoa powder, Dutch processed)
336 g (3 C) all purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

When you've mixed the dough, divide into 2 balls, cover one with plastic while working with the other.

Lightly flour your rolling out surface and roll the dough to approx. 1/8" thick. Run a metal spatula under dough to make sure it isn't stuck and proceed to cut out desired shapes.

Place shapes on sheet pan lined with parchment or silpat and bake for approx. 6-8 min. Because the dough is dark it is easy to over bake it, so put the minimum timer on and check closely after it goes off until they are done. The cookies will have lost their shine and if you gently touch them they will feel set in the middle. let cookies cool on sheet.

dough will last up to 2 weeks in fridge, or can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Here's a "guy" cake I did last weekend - my choices were either hockey or golf themes and I loathe hockey only slightly less than golf, so hockey it was....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chocolate Cherry Hot Cross Buns

There's a reason why I don't usually make yeast products at home - they usually don't work out for me. When I worked at the hotel (Westin, Ottawa), I could help produce 4,000 croissants and danish no problem, but I always have trouble making something smaller. I don't know why but the dough never works out, the yeast doesn't work, there's not enough moisture to feed the yeast, there's too much flour, there's not enough flour to provide structure, for whatever reason, it doesn't work out. This makes me sad and frustrated as I love the IDEA of me making home made bread, but the reality is that I don't. I pre-jinx myself and psych myself out of doing it...until today. I am leafing through this spring's Food and Drink (the magazine put out by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, to help you pair food and booze - awesome!) and what do I spy, but chocolate cranberry hot cross buns. WOW! I think I have to make these, but sub in sour cherries for the cranberries and off I go.

The instructions say the dough is wet and sticky, and they're not kidding. There was no way I could form these into rolls without using copious amounts of flour, so I settled for vague rounds.

When I re-read the instructions, they do say to shape it into a round, but give you no tips on how to do it, so I assume you don't have to make a bun, just a roundish shape of dough.

I just checked on them in the oven and the appear to be rising - YAY! This could be the recipe that gives me confidence to make home made bread - let's see.
They made it and they rose and they're done. They smell fantastic and now we have to wait until they're cool enough to decorate and eat.

I know the recipe calls for a chocolate glaze, but I prefer the contrast of white on chocolate, so didn't use the cocoa.

The dough for the buns isn't too sweet, so the chocolate chips make up for it and the luscious sour cherries are wonderful to bite into. I would definitely make these again.
Recipe from Spring 2009 Food and Drink magazine.


Mix all of the following together and set aside. This is your starter:

3/4 C 2% milk

2 T sugar

1 T dry instant yeast

1/4 C regular cocoa powder (NOT Dutch process)

1/4 C all-purpose flour

In a medium bowl sift together the following and set aside:

4 C (520g) all purpose flour

1/3 C (30g) regular cocoa powder (NOT Dutch process)

1 t salt

1 t cinnamon

In a stand mixer:

3/4 C (170g) unsalted butter

1/2 C (100g) sugar
Cream together until light and fluffy.

3 large eggs
Add one at a time, scraping bowl after each egg.

2t vanilla
Add vanilla to egg and butter mixture.

Alternate adding your flour mixture from above and

1 1/2C buttermilk (room temperature)

to the butter/egg mixture beginning and ending with the flour. 1/3 of flour mix. then 1/2 of the buttermilk, 1/3 of flour mix, then rest of buttermilk then the rest of the flour - scraping bowl after each addition.

Add the starter now.

1 C chocolate chips
1 C dried sour cherries, or dried cranberries

dough will be wet and sticky.

Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, turn out and divide into 8 pieces. Shape each into a round and place 4 into each of 2 greased 9-inch cake pans. Cover lightly and let rise 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C)

Brush buns with:

1 egg mixed with 2 T water

and bake for 50 minutes.

Let cool completely in the pan.


10T icing sugar, sifted
2 T cocoa
1 T water

mix until thick then pipe a cross over each bun.

Makes 8 large buns.