Posts Tagged ‘baking club’

I’ve come to realize I make empty promises.  Not intentionally!  I would like to blog more, but time doesn’t seem to slow down enough for it.  With the holiday season approaching, my time will be stretched even thinner, but I’ll certainly try to update along the way.

So it’s been 3 months since I did a Daring Kitchen baking challenge.  I must admit, I wasn’t thrilled about this month’s which was Pot Pie.  And we could NOT make a sweet version, which in my opinion, doesn’t count as a baking challenge.  But alas, I was craving a Cornish pasty so I decided to give that a go.  Not exactly a pot pie, but it has all the same components:  savory filling in a closed pastry crust.

I looked up a couple of recipes and found Jamie Oliver’s version on a blog.  Not really wanting to make six pasty’s, I cut the recipe in half.  And the meat was marinated in Guinness over night.  I also left out the carrot in one pasty, as I’m not a huge fan of carrots in anything other than carrot cake.

Some baked potato slices and brown gravy accompanied the pasties.  My boyfriend highly approved the meal.  I’m just hoping we bring back the sweet for November’s challenge.

Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, we were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region.


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Hello hello!  It’s been some crazy busy few months, but I’m back, baby!  No more half-assed, thrown together, just to say I made it, baking challenges.  If you don’t know already, I love the Daring Baker’s Challenges at the Daring Kitchen.  I’ve learned so many great recipes (and some that I have no desire to make again, honestly) of desserts I had never even heard of.  This month’s challenge was no different.

Savarin.  Say what?  Yeah, well it’s a rich yeast cake that’s soaked in a liquid and served with lightened pastry cream and fruit.

So I’ve been traveling a lot lately.  I had to carefully plan out the day I would make this cake.  However, days off where I am home and not jet-setting are becoming few and far between so by the time I finished all my needed errands, it was 4 pm.  FYI . . . it is impossible to start making a yeasted cake at 4 pm unless you intend to stay up until 4 am.

The cake really isn’t hard to make, thanks to the good ol’ Kitchen Aid.  But with all the rising time involved, I only had time to bake the cake itself.  Then it went into the freezer while I went off to New York for the weekend.

Picked it back up the next week, making the pastry cream and the syrup to soak it in.  Now the syrup . . . I probably should have looked up a different recipe.  But I went with the one provided in the challenge.  It tastes a lot like tea.  I think a spiced rum would have been better.  But nonetheless, that cake was thirsty.  Crazy how much liquid it soaked up.  And I don’t think I had enough time to let the excess drip off because the piece I tried tasted more like a sweet tea sponge.  But maybe a day in the fridge will help.

I think all this cake really needed was a cup of simple syrup.  It kind of reminded me of a spongy angel food cake with the cream and berries, but the peach syrup was just too much liquid.  If I make it again (which is a big “if” since the cake takes so long to make), I will make a different syrup and use much less of it.

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This will be a quick post because I left this month’s challenge at the Daring Kitchen up until the very last minute.  I haven’t been able to make the last 2 or 3 challenges so I really wanted to jump back in.  I’ve been extremely busy as of late, especially this month.  I spent 5 days in Ireland, 7 days on a cruise, and turned 30 years old (ugh!).

My head has been on vacation as well.  We found out that my parent’s dog Luke (who I pretty much consider my dog too) has cancer and it’s been a rough week.  My dad noticed a red spot inside his nose which despite various medications was not getting better.  After several tests, they found it was cancerous.  We took him to a surgeon today for a nosectomy.  It’s like it sounds, they had to remove his nose for his best chance of beating the cancer.  Still haven’t seen him yet because he’s staying overnight, but it’s really all I can think about today so I’m sorry my post is more about him than my challenge.  But the staff at the clinic inform us that he’s doing well, awake and alert but on morphine to manage the pain.  He’s the best dog in the world, I really could go on and on about him, but I’ll refrain.  Please keep him in your thoughts.

So this month’s challenge was to incorporate vegetables into baked goodies.  The obvious dish would be to make carrot cake.  But I’ve been wanting some zucchini bread for awhile so picked up zucchini on my way home from work tonight.

While looking up recipes on AllRecipes.com, I decided to make zucchini brownies instead.  Got out my mini food processor to basically puree the zucchini and whipped up some brownies, quick and easy.  Only modifications I made to the recipe were to use 6 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil instead of the vegetable oil, reduce the sugar to 1 cup, add an egg, and add 3/4 a cup of chocolate chips to the batter.  I also only made just over half the amount of frosting.

Final result?  Cake.  I tend to think of brownies as fudgey dense deliciousness.  This recipe yielded a light and fluffy chocolate cake.  Really couldn’t tell that zucchini was in it.  It was actually pretty good . . . just not brownies.

I hope to get back to business next month and dive into a good baking challenge.  I think things are calming down a bit so I should be able to find the time.  Until then, I will try to blog again with all the other creations that have come out of my kitchen since January.

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Oh August, what fun you brought; vacation time, a trip to France, and Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  And this months Daring Bakers Challenge was pate a choux (cream puff) swans.

We’ve made pate a choux before, if you recall the croquembouche.  But apparently it was so long ago, I forgot the technique.  Fortunately for YouTube, I only had to throw away the first attempt, which was completely runny.  That’s not unexpected when the liquid in the dough is about the same amount as the dry.  But attempt number two yielded a stiff dough like a pro.  I attribute that success due to adding the flour to the water/butter mixture after bringing it to a boil and still over heat.

I halved the recipe so I didn’t have a lot of dough to play with, but I tried to make sharks in addition to swans.  Try is the key word.  They seemed to look more like airplanes with a fin.  Therefore I just used the fin to create an impending shark attack scene with leftover pastry cream.

Pate a choux is pretty versatile, so I’m sure I will use the recipe yet again.  But I’m not so sure that I’ll repeat using it for swans.

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

Pate a choux

(cannot be doubled)

½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) butter
1 cup (240 ml) water
¼ teaspoon (1½ gm) salt
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs


  1. Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well.
  2. Preheat oven to 415°F.
  3. In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and add flour all at once.  Mixture should come together in a stiff ball.  Remove from heat and continue mixing until room temperature.
  5. Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition. Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.
  6. Spoon or pipe out classic rounds or other desired shapes.
  7. Bake in oven about 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375°F and bake until lightly browned, about another 10 minutes.
  8. Allow to completely cool before filling with pastry cream.

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Cake, cake, and more cake.  Lately, my kitchen’s been banging out the cakes, especially since I haven’t attended any concerts lately, therefore haven’t needed to make cookies.  It’s actually been quite nice.  Cake is a completely different format and I’m able to get a bit more creative with it.

I made a cake for Father’s Day but wanted to do something different.  I always seem to make the same old chocolate or white cake with chocolate or vanilla frosting.  BORING!  But my family likes the standard, traditional cakes that we always make.  So I decided to make my dad a german chocolate cake.  I knew he liked devil’s food cake, but a cake that red kind of grosses me out.  So I made a cake with 4 layers and topped with ganache.  It was decadent, that’s for sure.  My mom loved it while my dad only ate one piece.  It was not diet-friendly.

The baking challenge this month over at the Daring Kitchen was a fraisier.  It’s a delicious, light, and summery french cake.  Overall, not too difficult either.  You just bake a sponge cake, split it, moisten it with a simple syrup, and layer with pastry cream (one of my favorite things) lightened with whipped cream and strawberries.  Like most of the challenges at the Daring Kitchen, it takes time.  The cake has to cool.  The syrup has to cool slightly.  The pastry cream has to cool before incorporating the whipped cream.  And the completed dessert has to chill to sort of set up.

I decided to make my main fraisier with a strawberry and blueberry border.  It was perfect for my annual 4th of July cake (though a french fraisier may not be the most patriotic dessert for an american holiday).  Lately, I’ve really been into square cakes.  I only have one 9×9 inch square pan though, so I baked the sponge in that and then MacGyver‘d a square mold out of cardboard that I could build my dessert in and lift out of.  I froze the cake overnight after assembling so it was easy to remove from the mold.  It was fantastic and the recipe is definitely being added to my collection.  It went with me to work because I figured it was bad enough having to work on a holiday, and would be nice to treat my coworkers who also got stuck working the day.  They were all impressed with it and actually thought I bought it.   Psha!  Me?  BUY A CAKE?

The last cake this month was for my mom’s birthday.  My sister and nephew flew in from France a few days before, so we were having the whole family over to see them and celebrate the birthday.  Since my nephew had been requesting strawberries 3 times a day (he’s 2), I decided to please everyone and make a chocolate cake (for my chocoholic mother) with ganache and strawberries and cream filling (like a cake I had in LA’s Sweet Lady Jane bakery) and a white cake on top (for those who don’t like chocolate-overload) with strawberries and cream filling.  Again, my favoritism to square cakes had me whipping out my 9×9 inch pan and assembling the cake in the same pan, flipping it out when thoroughly chilled.  Ingredients to finished product took about 11-12 hours.  And though it wasn’t perfect (didn’t make enough frosting to crumb coat and cover again), it turned out better than I expected.  Everyone loved it, which means my family must be warming up to the idea of new things.  Surprisingly though, the chocoholics preferred the white cake.  I had more than half a cake for my coworkers the next day.  I should start charging them!

And now, I’m going to take a couple weeks off from cakes.  Well, I’m going to try at least.  My sister requested a remake of the german chocolate cake since she wasn’t here for the Father’s Day one.  Mmm… cake.


Jana ofCherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

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Just like me, this months Daring Bakers Challenge over at the Daring Kitchen had many layers.  But once you peel back those layers, my friends… that just made me think of a line in the Ugly Truth.  Love Gerard Butler.  What was I saying?  Right, layers!  This months challenge was making baklava with homemade phyllo dough.

T-minus 24 hours until the challenge was due and I still hadn’t read over the recipe fully.  I glanced at it so my kitchen would be stocked with the necessary ingredients, however.  But motivation, or lack thereof, was my problem.  The challenge was great.  I love baklava.  But I’ve gotten used to being lazy since all I could do for the last couple of months was sit around and nurse a fractured foot, which I finally saw a doctor about three days ago.  He confirmed that yes, it is fractured, in two places in fact, and prescribed 4-6 weeks in an orthopedic boot.  And apparently I will be good at child bearing since I have a high tolerance for pain, so my x-ray technician said.  But having skived off last months challenge, I knew I needed to do this one.

The phyllo dough was quite easy to make, thanks to my awesome kitchen-aid stand mixer.  Still the greatest kitchen invention ever.  Set it and forget it.  Well, at least for 10 minutes while it kneaded the dough for me.  Then the dough had to rest for a couple of hours which worked out well since I had some errands to run.

Upon my return, I employed two friends to help with the baklava.  They prepared the filling while I rolled out the sheets of phyllo.  Then I quickly assembled the layers and boiled the liquid it would soak in once baked and out of the oven.  I am a great hostess, making my guests work and then sit around while I’m busy in the kitchen.  And after all that, they couldn’t even try it seeing as how it needed to sit out overnight to drink up the liquid.

Quite a fun challenge, all in all.  I enjoy making pastry dough.  It’s such a simple thing but most people just go to the grocery and buy pre-made.  I still haven’t tried the baklava since it’s not drunk yet, only tipsy.  I shall try it later today once it’s had it’s fill of the sweet, sweet nectar.

    Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.


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Mmm…. maple.  This month’s bakers challenge over at the Daring Kitchen was maple mousse in an edible (preferably bacon) container.  Wanting to think outside of the box, or bacon cup, I decided to incorporate bacon into a thumbprint cookie and fill that with maple mousse.  Afterall, I am Cookie Kelly.

I made the maple mousse first since like me, it needed some time to chill, though I do most of my chilling on the couch and the mousse did it’s thing in the refrigerator.  There is one thing that really disgusts me (well, there’s many things) and it’s gelatin.  Powdered animal bones used to thicken food makes me want to vomit.  Nonetheless, I picked up a box of it at the grocery store and got to work.

The mousse was easy to make and I hear it tasted quite nice.  I tried a spoonful of it but left it at that since I’m disgusted by gelatin, but mostly I didn’t eat more because I was getting over a cold and my sense of taste was off.  My other senses were out of whack too.  I swore I smelled chicken salad in my kitchen one morning and thought maybe something had gone bad in the fridge.  Turned out that it was just the cup of coffee that I brewed.  It may have tasted like chicken salad too but I couldn’t tell.

Next order of business was the edible container.  Bacon in baked goods seems to be the trend these days; salty and sweet.  Well, I’m not a huge fan of bacon, particularly because it’s quite unhealthy and apparently kind of expensive (I never bought bacon before!), but I thought making it a bit sweeter by candying it would cut down on the surprise factor of finding it in a cookie.  So I used David Lebovitz’s recipe and chopped the strips into very small pieces, which I added into a slightly modified version of a thumbprint cookie recipe on allrecipes.com.  A few of the thumbprints were filled with blackberry jam before topping with the maple mousse.

Friends, family, and coworkers had a hard time discerning the bacon bits in the cookie.  Most of them would not have known that that was the secret ingredient if I had kept it a secret.  I’m doubtful that I’ll use that recipe again though.  I guess I wouldn’t be completely opposed to trying bacon in a cookie again, but I’ll leave out the gelatin components.


The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blogCheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

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Bombananza… a little Bob Schneider reference for you.  Or in the words of Apu from the Simpsons, “Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”  Don’t worry, I’m not blowing up anything.  But I did make an Independence Day (ice cream/cake) bombe.

The 4th of July is not exactly my favorite holiday.  It’s a reminder of mistakes I’ve made and also the fact that I’m still living in the US.  I have more excitement for St Patrick’s Day.  However, with a family gathering on the 4th, I decided that it would be the perfect occasion to make my baking challenge of the month, a Swiss swirl ice cream cake with an Independence Day twist: red, white, and blue.

I talked to my mom the morning before to brainstorm.  The necessary components of the cake were the Swiss roll cake, two different (and homemade) kinds of ice cream, and a sauce.  So what’s red?  How about strawberry ice cream.  And blue?  Hmm… blueberry ice cream.  White?  Vanilla ice cream of course.  But the example for the challenge used a chocolate cake, and my mom didn’t think blueberries should mix with chocolate.  Okay… so back to blue.

After a few more ideas thrown back and forth, the verdict was out:  vanilla swiss roll cake with strawberry ice cream (red/white stripes), vanilla ice cream, strawberry ice cream, and a layer of blueberries for a bit of crunch.  So the blueberries are kind of replacing the sauce, I just didn’t know if a blueberry compote would be gross if frozen.

Upon making the sponge cake for the swiss roll, I decided to color part of it blue.  Then when I cut the swiss rolls up to make my bombe, it’d have all three patriotic colors showing.  Once the cakes were out of the oven, I rolled them up in a towel to cool and drove off to the grocery for a carton of eggs and a large bottle of heavy cream.  I’ve had an ice cream maker for probably about 5 years and have only used it once.  But lucky for me, the bowl was still in the freezer, ready to churn.

Once home, I went to the trusty allrecipes.com site to search for ice cream recipes.  Nothing really appealed to me.  So I chose to use the recipes in the cuisinart booklet that came with my maker.  The most exciting part of this challenge was to finally use the vanilla pods I bought.  I’ve never used one before but they provide such a good vanilla flavor.  I made the vanilla ice cream first and since the recipe contained tempered eggs, I let that sit in the fridge while I whipped up the eggless strawberry ice cream.  Since that one was quick, I let it churn in the ice cream maker first.  It produced a deliciously creamy and flavorful strawberry ice cream.  I scraped out the bowl and rinsed briefly so my vanilla ice cream wouldn’t taste of strawberries and set that one in the mixer to churn.  It would not freeze.  Damn.

All is not lost, I put the bowl with the liquid in the freezer for an hour while I worked on filling my vanilla swiss cake with strawberry ice cream, then I tried again.  Shit.  Still wouldn’t freeze.  I thought maybe ice cubes in the liquid could help.  Note to any of you who may have the same idea, it does not help.  So I removed the cream and put it back in the fridge and put the bowl back in the freezer.

I thought maybe I should try to make the cream again since version number one now had trace amounts of water in it from the ice and that could cause ice crystals to form.  This time, I used another egg-based recipe courtesy of David Lebovitz.  With that completed and put in the fridge, I made some dinner and watched Harry Potter 3.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.  Four hours should be enough time for the ice cream bowl to freeze, right?  Note to those who may be thinking the same thing… it’s not.  Thirty unsuccessful minutes of churning and I finally called it quits for the night.  I’d just have to try again in the morning and if it still wouldn’t work, then I’d have to buy vanilla ice cream since there’d be no more time to try again.

Up at 8 am on July 4th, here goes vanilla ice cream take four.  The bowl had had eight hours of freezing time and I could hear the liquid inside slush a little bit, but it wasn’t too bad and I didn’t have time to wait any longer.  Hallelujah, the Ice Cream God was with me!  It froze.

I grabbed my blue swiss roll and it was pretty hard.  I let it sit in the towel all day and all night.  It cracked and crumbled and I fussed and cried.  Okay, I didn’t really cry, but I was pretty frustrated at this point.  In a desperate attempt to still have red, white, and blue on the outside of my bombe, I put blueberries in the little spaces between my cake slices.

Time was just not with me on this challenge.  I had two hours to assemble everything and take it to the family gathering.  And when you’re working with two different kinds of ice cream and not wanting them to blend in with each other, you have to have a bit of time in between the layers for freezing.  I just said “screw it,” (actually, I think I said something else) and layered up everything and hoped for the best.

It was a hit for all, except my dad, who seems to find fault in everything, didn’t like the frozen blueberries.  They weren’t that hard, but maybe his old man teeth couldn’t handle them.  Unfortunately the layers wanted to mingle with eachother, but the bombe still tasted delicious.

Grade for Swiss swirl ice cream cake – B

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

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It is technically May 23rd, but I’m blogging early as I won’t be able to blog until at least the 28th.  I am heading to Glasgow Scotland in 4 hours (I need to go to sleep!) for a wee bit of whisky and a whole lot of fun.  And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano stays far, far away.  And in volcano theme, I have made a volcano erupting delicious, vanilla, pastry cream, and flowing chocolate lava.  Other people call it a croquembouche.

I have to apologize, but like I said, I’m leaving in 4 hours and would like to try to scrape out 2 hours of sleep.  Therefore this blog is going to be quite short, as in this is it.  Enjoy the pics and I will write more about it upon my return.

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

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New year, new challenges.  First on the agenda was to complete January’s Daring Bakers Challenge over at the Daring Kitchen.  Seeing as how last month was such a cop-out, I wanted to get this month’s challenge done early.  The name of the game?  Graham crackers and nanaimo bars, hosted by Lauren.

Well, I’ve certainly never tried to make graham crackers before.  I didn’t try the optional version to make them gluten-free, however, because I just couldn’t bring myself to buy ingredients that I would never use again.  Times are tough and money is low (but that’s mostly because I love buying high heels), so I went with the good ol’ wheat version.

Graham crackers, you say?  Can’t one just buy those for $2.50 at the local grocery store?  Well, yes you can.  But what’s the challenge in that?  So I put myself to the test (or at least my arm since I was too lazy to bust out the food processor and thought I could just do it all with a pastry cutter and elbow grease) and mixed up the dough.  After it chilled in the fridge overnight, I rolled it out and very carelessly cut out strips and sprinkled with a sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Yes, I’m doing the challenge early.  No, I’m not really putting THAT much effort into it.  Into the oven they went for 25 minutes.

Ooh, what’s that smell?  It smells just like a pop-tart that was left in the oven too long so the crusts are all black, which happens to be cooked to perfection, based on my tastes.  Unfortunately, they weren’t perfect for the sake of graham crackers.  I tried to cut edges off, but they were simply unusable.

The next tray came out perfect, and fortunately I still had enough to make the second part of the challenge:  nanaimo bars (recipe), a treat from Nanaimo Canada.

Step 1:  Crush graham crackers.

What?!  After I went through the effort of making them?  Yeah, I think I’ll just pay the $2.50 next time and buy a box of graham cracker crumbs.

The rest of the recipe was fairly simple.  Bottom layer was like a dense, chocolate crust, middle layer seemed to me like vanilla frosting that’s been refrigerated, and the top layer was just melted chocolate that would harden.  It wasn’t exactly my favorite recipe in the world, but my devoted taste-testers (co-workers) enjoyed them.

There wasn’t a whole lot of room for creativity with this challenge, so I used my creativity another way and bundled myself and my goodies up (the nanaimo bars!) for a good old fashion photoshoot.  Cheers!

Graham Crackers – A (for the ones that didn’t burn)

Nanaimo Bars – A

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

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