Archive for the ‘Daring Bakers’ Category

Daring Bakers- Cheesecake

April 27, 2009

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

This challenge was ideal for me this month. You can probably tell from my lack of posting crafty things that I’m hella busy with college work and my actual life (sigh!) at the moment. Deadline after deadline after deadline means my spare time is normally taken up by having a relaxing ale with friends and letting my hands rest around a pint glass rather than gripping onto needles and threads. I’ve been unable to join in with lots of Daring Bakers challenges due to this. Either the challenges are too time consuming, too expensive to join in with or not appetizing to me enough for me to be able to see a return on the baking. I know that’s not exactly the correct attitude for a Daring Baker, but it’s the perfect attitude for someone applying for Art Schools. This time, however, the challenge was affordable, quick and mouthwatering. Cheesecake! Boy, was I ever glad to see that.

Dairy free cheesecake

My sister visited home for Easter, and being a dairy avoider I chose to make it for her homecoming and ommited all the dairy things. I used one tub of silken tofu, 2/3 of a tub of toffuti cream cheese (that stuff looks like cement! Nice.) and 2/3 of a carton of soy whipping cream for the batter instead of the cream and cream cheese. I made the batter to the recipe flavour wise, plain vanilla is good enough for me! But for the base I used bourbon biscuits, the vegan favourite. I then kinda took the idea of a ‘Mexican Turtle Cheesecake’ and ran with it.

That’s a plain chocolate ganache, using the remaining toffuti, soy whipping cream, soy marg and dark chocolate. I’ve studded it with Spicy toffee pecans that were sooooooo delicious I wanted to cry that I had to put them on a cheesecake and not eat them all. I melted a little butter in a pan, put in a lot of sugar, some allspice and a helluva lot of cayenne pepper, then a bunch of pecans. I stirred everything until it all caramelized, then I turned it onto greased greaseproof paper ala praline (minus the bashing everything up into praline after.)

Mmm! So tasty! Definitely making those pecans again, and if I fancy a cheesecake- I’ll certainly go back to this recipe. You can find it on Jennybakes.com!

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Daring Bakers- Lavash Crackers

September 27, 2008

This months’ daring bakers challenge was hosted by alternative bakers Shellyfish and Natalie. Shel is vegan, Natalie has a gluten free diet. We had to make Lavash crackers, we were given two recipes- one for gluten free, and one non gluten free, and we also had to make a vegan dip to go with our crackers.

My bank balance breathed a sigh of relief when it saw the ingredients list. Everything was a cupboard staple. No extra buying! And I thought last month’s eclairs were cheap, this was virtually free. That wasn’t the only thing that was happy with the challenge- so was my diary. The recipe appeared lovely and simple, nothing that I’d have to spend too much time on. And what else? No possible use for a Kitchen appliance. Just a bowl and my hands. (Well, also the oven and some cups and things… if we’re going to get pinickity)

I’ve told a lie. I spent some money on the toppings. £1 for 60g of seeds- 30g Poppy seeds, 30g Fennel seeds. I also spent a small amount on red onions for my red onion jam dip. But I think I can stretch to that ok.

This month I made the challenge with my Beau, as opposed to my baking partner Tilly. She was too busy, but Beau was super pumped to be joing in, and I was happy to leave him to the kneading, giggle.

lavash

lavash

Excited for the next one!

Daring Bakers- Chocolate Éclairs

August 31, 2008

Mmmmhmm! Chocolate Éclairs. I was so excited I could hardly speak. And then I regained my composure and had visions! Oh such visions. I’d start the challenge by doing the recipe as given- chocolate pastry cream, chocolate glaze. Then I’d experiment! Raspberry pastry cream, chocolate glaze… lavender infused pastry cream, lemon glaze… A more savoury option perhaps- something with gruyere and chives? One thing was for sure- this month was going to be fun.

The challenge was hosted by Tony Tahhan and http://whatsforlunchhoney.blogspot.com/. The recipe chosen was Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé with Dorie Greenspan. And boy oh boy, do they know how to do chocolate.

So anyway, that was the plan. I started nice and early in the month, with the double chocolate hit batch, to try and get into the swing of things. It was sort of easy… By which I mean that had I had the perfect equipment it’d have gone without a hitch- I know I know, a bad workman always blames his tools- My electric whisk only had one whisk. The other one went missing. I didn’t have a pastry bag or a ziploc bag or any of the standard pastry bag replacements. So what did I use? A plastic shopping bag. Good fun, very very messy. And the biggy- my oven. Now, my oven’s great. It cooks things super fast, so if you’re in a hurry it’s exactly what you want. But if you need the timings to be exact, it’s a bit iffy. And for éclairs, you need exact timing. Alas, my éclairs lacked the perfect shape and crispness of Vera’s. They were a bit more like Yorkshire Puddings- but thank goodness, I love Yorkshire Puddings. I didn’t mind that they weren’t ‘correct’.

Here they are;

The chocolate pastry cream tasted just like the bizarre chocolate custard you got in school dinners when you got a chocolate sponge… I had my ‘dieting’ friend around at the time, she was eating it by the spoonful.

And then the month went on, and plans changed- plans always change. Things came up, and then diets came up and I started to worry about my waistline. I considered not even trying again- but that’s madness. One more batch wouldn’t harm.

I asked my parents this time what they wanted in their éclairs. My dad requested ‘cream’. When I asked if he meant pastry cream or dairy cream he looked like I was speaking another language. Dairy cream it was then… For a little more fun I flavoured the cream with vanilla and a bit of sugar. These were very moreish.

I played around with this batch just a little- for one éclair (and one alone) I made some balsamic syrup, and cut up some strawberries into quarters, then I folded that into some dairy cream and filled one lucky éclair with it. And my word, I wished I’d done the whole batch like that. It was perfection in an éclair, tangy, sweet, fruity, chocolatey… Good heavens.

Sorry that second photograph is blurred. By the time I’d realised, the éclair had mysteriously disappeared…

Daring Bakers posts that are worthy of a mention:
JulieE made adorable swans
The Crepes of Wrath used sprinkles! Sprinkles make everything wonderful.
And Elle’s New England Kitchen put bacon a top her éclairs. Bacon and chocolate is still not a combination I’ve tried… but maybe one day? I salute her bravery.

Daring Bakers- Filbert Gateaux with Praline Buttercream

July 30, 2008

The other week, when Fuchsia was here, I slept in late. She came in to wake me at about 9:30am. When I woke up, the only explanation I could give her as to why I’d slept in, was that I was dreaming of making Praline Buttercream. This challenge consumed me.

I’ll admit, when I first saw this challenge I was pretty miffed. I don’t much like nuts, especially not nuts in chocolate. If it had been walnuts, I’d have been happy. Macademia nuts, happy. Cashew nuts, happy… But Hazelnuts? Please god, please no. This fear of the nuts was made worse, when in the rules we were told we were only allowed to not use hazelnuts if we had a genuine reason for doing so, like an allergy. If we just didn’t like them, then we had to make it anyway, and give it away to someone else (or put up with it, and eat it yourself). Now, call me greedy, but I’m not too fond of slaving over a cake, spending allllllll my money on the ingredients, just to pass it on… I was pretty annoyed, I’ll be honest. I was considering sitting out, or even completely bending the rules and doing something else. But then, when I was in the shower, I had an epiphany (the shower is the place I have all my epiphanies) and I realised that this was Daring Bakers. I joined this group so I could challenge my baking skills and my taste buds.

Alas, if only this were the end of my problems… I come from a small family (there’s three of us here) and none of us like hazelnuts. I can hardly serve such a massive gateaux full of an ingredient none of us are particularly fond of… Thankfully, my Beau had recently moved in to a shiny new flat, and he was going to be having a flat warming party. Also! He likes hazelnuts! Problem solved. Only thing is, now I had to transport it all the way up to Mannie on a train… and I was going via London. Not easy.

I remembered that when I made him a fondant covered cake for his birthday, and made a similar train journey (only this time, minus London) it didn’t do so well either, so I had to think of another way to do this. I chose to cook the cakey bit down here in Swindon, then transport just that to Mannie, where I’d assemble it.

Tilly helped me make the cake. We had so much fun that we decided she’d help me make my Daring Bakers challenge every month. We’ve formed ourselves a little tag-team. I’m glad I had a helper- although I was distracted an awful lot (enough to leave a good coupla eggs out) there were bits which I definitely couldn’t have done on my own. Sometimes I think the Daring Bakers group should be renamed “the group for those privileged enough to have a stand alone mixer”, as me and my little electric whisk often get weary (and you know them young girls, they do get wearied).

Ok so! In my kitchen: Cake, done! Praline Paste, done! Swiss Meringue Buttercream, attempted- FAIL. I was trying to be vegan, only the only buttery vegan substance I could find was a tub Margarine. I needed a block margarine. Of course, I didn’t think of this until I’d wasted allllll those eggs and alllllll that sugar. Nevermind.

I cut it up into three layers (How on earth did I manage that?!) and then I quite stupidly soaked all the layers with sugar syrup. This now meant transportation was basically going to murder it. And murder it, it did. When I got to Mannie, I couldn’t pick it up without all the crusts falling off. I could’ve cried. I persevered nevertheless, and I made myself a buttercream with the aid of whisky and left over praline paste. This was plain on buttercream, butter and icing sugar, then with the above fun bits added. Mmm, whisky. It was totally delicious. I no longer morned for my swiss meringue buttercream.

I just about managed to glue the layers together, and then I did a crumb coat. Next, time for the ganache. What a glorious mess I made. The flat’s kitchen is tiny and void of any thing that could’ve helped me coat my cake with ganache. It was a wee bit of an epic challenge… but I like to think I made it pretty. Finally I decorated it with more buttercream and beautifully placed hazelnuts (a la my Beau) and then it was ready for the guests to come.

Everyone seemed impressed, and by the time the cake was cut, everybody was suitably drunk for me to not be terrified about their reactions. Everybody loved it though, but whether that was the alcohol talking or not, I guess we’ll never know. My Beau tells me it was my best cake yet.

Chances are I won’t make it again, but I might use the skills I learnt… Praline making, Swiss Meringue Buttercream (this time with a proper block of butter). I can’t wait for next month’s challenge!

Recipe here on Mele cotte’s blog, who was the host for this month. Thankyou Mele Cotte!

Daring Bakers – Danish Braid

July 1, 2008

A few months back I started reading a lot of food blogs. I don’t know why, I just found them all ever so interesting. A lot of them mentioned something called ‘Daring Bakers’ which always sounded funny to me. It’s a (very) large group of internet food bloggers, who, once a month, all bake from the same recipe and then discuss that recipe together. It would not have interested me were it not for the interesting recipes that are chosen. They’re all daunting sounding recipes using expensive ingredients in long drawn out methods, the kind of thing most people just buy from super markets because it’s easier. I decided that I ought to challenge myself- and I ought to join.

This is my first challenge, I’m afraid I’m posting it late due to being at Glastonbury Festival whilst the posting date was supposed to happen.

Danish Braid

Hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking?

As you can see in the recipe (which is on both of the above blogs) there were an awful lot of steps in this recipe. Many steps, many opportunities for things to go wrong. And it did, oh boy, it did.

Making the ‘pastry’ or more, the dough was less like cooking and more like crying. Everything seemed sticky, so I added flour, then everything seemed hard and impossible to roll, so I put it in the fridge and gave up. Thankfully, returning to it later, found that all it had needed was a bit of a rest. I put in all the butter like a good girl and rolled it all out and felt like everything was on track, and in my head I had images of beautiful braids, all thick and tall and long and delicious looking.

Only, urr, what I got was this:

Road kill. Baking that resembles road kill. My main mistake was putting in a very sloppy rhubarb filling. My other mistake was assembling the braid on the work surface, then having to slide it on to the baking sheet, which was of course a total disaster. After proofing, it looked like mousse, so I just threw the whole thing in the oven and hoped for the best.

It did taste delicious, it just didn’t look it…

Thankfully, my pride has not totally been battered. The recipe yielded enough pastry for two braids, or one braid plus mini Danish pastries of any kind, and here is where I shone. I decided to make Spandaus because I think they’re ever so pretty (otherwise known as Envelopes) and I decided (whilst sitting in an English exam, staring at the ceiling) that I wanted to fill it with pastry cream and chocolate.

It was my first time making pastry cream and I was rather surprised at how well it went, I have little confidence in my ability to thicken liquids, and I was even more surprised by how simply beautiful the little Spandaus looked after I’d filled them with my cream and chocolate, folded them and then baked them.

Needless to say they were devoured very quickly and adored for much longer.