Daring Bakers June 2013 Challenge: Pie!

27 Jun

I love pie. Apple, pecan, peach, coconut creme (especially the coconut creme pie from Dahlia Bakery – omg)…I love it all. That’s why I was so excited when the Daring Bakers Challenge for June was all about pie.

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie!

The suggested recipes Rachael provided were incredible and I really wanted to bake multiple pies, but alas, only had time for one so I picked blueberry, my mom’s favorite.

I’m on a constant quest to perfect my pie-making skills so I tried a new pie crust recipe from Allrecipes. To challenge myself a little more, I decided to do a lattice top, my first. Despite looking at multiple online tutorials I still had to re-do my lattice, lol. But it was worth it. The lattice added some flair.

For my filling, I winged it and unfortunately didn’t write down my measurements, but it essentially contained the basics: blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice, corn starch, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. The filling was pretty simple, but I think that allowed the flavor of the blueberries to really shine. I’m sure I will be making this pie/tart again and will be sure to post my recipe.

The pie was delicious, but as you can tell from the picture my crust preparation could use a little more practice. I have a feeling my family and co-workers won’t mind. :-)

The Daring Bakers June 2013 Challenge: Pie!

The Daring Bakers June 2013 Challenge: Pie!

Daring Bakers February Challenge: Crisp Crackers and Flatbreads

27 Feb

It’s been an extremely hectic last few months and I’m so excited that I was able to take part in this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie was our February 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to use our creativity in making our own crisp flatbreads and crackers. Sarah provided several recipes and I decided to try my hand at making Raincoast Crisps.

Before this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, I rarely bought Raincoast Crisps. At around $8.00 per box, Raincoast Crisps are a little pricey for everyday snacking, but they definitely class up any gathering. Served with cheese or on their own, these crackers are sweet and savory in every bite.

Like biscotti, the crackers are first baked in a loaf, then sliced thinly and baked again to crisp them up. I definitely recommend freezing the loaves first. When you’re ready to bake them the second time, take your loaves out of the freezer and let them sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. This will make it easier to slice the loaves thinly and more uniformly.

I could not stop eating these. Next time — and there will definitely be a next time — it would be delicious to play with different dried fruits (like dried cranberries) and nuts (chopped hazelnuts would be tasty). Packaged in a cello bag and tied with a cute ribbon, they also make an excellent hostess gift. That is, if you can dare to part with any of these crackers.

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Daring Bakers November 2012 Challenge: Twelve Days of Cookies

27 Nov

I’m excited to once again take part in another Daring Bakers Challenge! The 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.

All twelve of the recipes Peta provided looked delicious and we had the option to bake as many as we wished, but I only selected one: Double Chocolate Sables from The Food Network. I picked this recipe partly due to time constraints, but mainly because I’ve attempted sables before and ended up with less than optimal results. I needed to redeem myself. Would I succeed this time? Thankfully, yes!

These cookies are delicious and so full of chocolate flavor. Their texture is much like a sandy shortbread; sturdy, yet somewhat delicate. For the most part these sables are easy to make. The most arduous part of the recipe was grating the chocolate. It’s amazing how much time and elbow grease it takes to grate 3 oz. of chocolate on a microplane. Per the recipe, definitely freeze the chocolate a bit before attempting to grate it.

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During my previous attempts at making sables, my cookies turned out very flat and thin. I think the difference between my past attempts at baking sables and now is that I took the time, per the recipe, to thoroughly chill the dough at various stages prior to baking the cookies. Another lesson learned: ensuring that the butter doesn’t get too soft before beating it is key. In my past attempts, I allowed my butter to sit too long at room temperature before proceeding with my recipe. As a result, the butter was way too soft and the cookies didn’t/couldn’t hold their shape.

I will definitely be making more of these cookies for the holidays and they will likely be part of my regular cookie repertoire. Give them a try!

Daring Bakers September 2012 Challenge: Empanada Gallega

27 Sep

Yowza. Between work, travel and the general busyness of summer, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted on the blog. Although I haven’t been blogging, I have been doing a fair amount of baking and cooking so I’m hoping to post some of those recipes and pictures in the coming months.

Recently, I joined The Daring Bakers and was very excited to participate in my first recipe challenge this month. So often, I’ve drooled over their creations so I finally got around to joining the group and am looking forward to trying out some new recipes and stretching myself as a baker.

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for empanadas. We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our empanadas as creatively as we wished.

With roots in Spain and Portugal, many countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America have their own variation on the empanada. My family is originally from the Philippines and the empanadas I grew up eating were individual-sized, usually fried, and had a pastry-like dough. The dough recipe I used for the Daring Bakers challenge was more bread-like and baked. The bread-y characteristic was particularly prominent because I didn’t roll out the dough as thinly as I  should have. Also, rather than fill my empanada with a traditional Spanish filling like bacalao (salted cod) and raisins, I used a mixture of sauteed mushrooms, onions, thyme and a touch of sour cream.

You can find the recipe for Empanada Gallega, as well as a few other variations on the empanada here.  Whether you call it a bolani, salteña, pastelão or pastel, empanadas are delicious.

Mushroom and Onion Empanada. I should’ve sealed those seams a little better. :-)

News Delivered to Your To-Go Cup Sleeve

14 Jun Gulf News/Tim Hortons Headline News Cup Sleeve

Many of us have morning routines that we’ve stuck to for years. For me, starting my day with a cup of coffee and a glance at the latest news go hand in hand. Now, Tim Hortons and Dubai’s Gulf News have partnered up and are taking this daily ritual quite literally with their new Headline News Cup Sleeve.

Gulf News developed a special printer that’s synched up with their Twitter feed. When you order a drink the barista runs a cup sleeve through the printer then, faster than you can say “half caff triple venti skim latte no foam with two shots of hazelnut,” out pops the sleeve with the newspaper’s latest headline tweet. Tweets are updated hourly and the sleeve also includes a short URL and a QR code to allow customers to either type the Web address or scan the QR code with their smartphone to get more details on the news.

This is such a clever idea and I think there could be so many other applications beyond news. Looks like the Headline News Cup Sleeve is only available in select Tim Hortons in Dubai so it could be a while before it hits the rest of the world, but here’s hoping that more publications and more coffee shops (are you listening, Starbucks?) adopt this technology.

This video shows the printer in action:

Raspberry Tiramisu Cupcakes

12 Jun Vegan Raspberry Tiramisu Cupcakes

Has it really been four months since my last post? Seems life gets in the way of our favorite activities sometimes.

In an effort to be more healthy and to drop a few nagging pounds, I’ve started to experiment more with vegan and gluten free baking. While cooking without animal products or wheat flour doesn’t always mean low calorie, I feel a real difference in my energy level and my waist line when I focus on more plant-based eating. Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy a butter-laden scone or cookie every once in a while, but for now, it’s been fun testing out vegan and gluten free recipes.

One of my recent vegan baking adventures revolved around Chef Chloe’s vegan Raspberry Tiramisu Cupcakes.

In a nutshell, these cupcakes are delicious. The moist and tender crumb of the cake was much like a regular milk and butter-filled batter. I’m no professional, but I would attribute part of that to the chemical reaction of the vinegar, baking soda and non-dairy milk in the recipe which acts much like buttermilk in a non-vegan recipe. It took me two attempts to get the cake just right (unfortunately, I had to throw out my first batch which turned out too oily and heavy for some reason), so if you decide to try this recipe out — and I highly recommend that you do — here are a couple of my lessons learned:

  • Using the scoop-and-level method for the flour worked better than spooning the flour into the measuring cup. I wish more recipes would include weight measurements in addition to volume.
  • I used a pastry bag and tip to frost the cupcakes and ended up with a ton of leftover frosting. If you plan to only make a dozen cupcakes I think halving the recipe will yield enough frosting to more than adequately cover all of the cupcakes.
  • I also ended up with a lot of leftover raspberry filling. I thought I’d filled the cupcakes pretty well, but maybe not.

Happy baking!

Birthday Treats

25 Jan Chocolate Cake Pops

Last September, the twin daughters of one of my dearest friends celebrated their 13th birthday. For weeks prior to their bat mitzvah, I wracked my brain trying to figure out what to get them. Growing up, I vowed never to become an adult who gave kids/teenagers irrelevant gifts and that thought haunted me. Then, my friend (their mother), knowing how much I love to bake, came up with a brilliant idea: why not make the girls a homemade treat, a la a treat of the month club. Bingo! The girls love anything chocolate and being on a schedule to bake, which is pure joy, would allow me to try new recipes and techniques. My only restrictions were no nuts and no fruit — nothing but chocolate.

Rather than delivering a treat every month, I’m giving them a sugar fix every other month, much to my friend’s relief. September kicked off with Triple Chocolate Cookies. I forgot to take a picture.

Next, came November and Chocolate Ganache Covered Mini Chocolate Bundts. This coincided nicely with National Bundt Cake Day on November 15.

For my delivery this month, they’ll be getting cake pops. I’ve seen these all over the Web and and have never made them. I presumed they would be a piece of cake to make (no pun intended), but, it did take me two batches to get the texture of the cake ball to the right level of fudginess.

This has been a fun process and I’m already thinking about what I’ll make for March.

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