Archive for the ‘Daring-Bakers’ Category

Piece Montee (Croquembouche) Daring Bakers Challenge

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

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.

The recipe is here I have to thank Cat because I really had a blast making this, and it tasted great as well!

The best part of Daring Bakers is that is makes you actually try things that you have read about but not actually made.  The May challenge was to make a croquembouche.  I am not that crazy about cream puffs, but I had never tried to make gluten free pate a choux. So, that was my personal challenge.  I tried the recipe included in the link above from daring bakers but with gluten free flours,  I also tried a batch with an adaptation of a recipe from Bette Hagmans Gluten Free Goumet.  Both turned out good, but the adapted Betty Hagman recipe has the best inner holes in the puffs, so I used them to make the piece montee.  I will post my version of the gluten free pate a choux shortly.

I also tried to make a spun sugar coating which is traditional in Croquembouche, and giove it the needed crackle when you eat it. I used a recip from Dessert Circus, one of my favourite baking books for French baking.  Well, I made an absolute mess in the kitchen, but I had a ball doing the spun sugar decorations.

This is the first time I have treid to make spun sugar, and it is a little challenging and takes practice. What I learned is that you have to let the syrup cool a little before using.  Also, you have to hold the fork up really high until the sugar stretches, that is what makes the fine threads.  I used one of my little experiments to top the croquembouche, and added pansies (I have warned my husband not to weed up all the pansies, they have come in very handy for decorations lately).  Overll, this Daring Bakers challenge was really interesting and expanded my culinary repetoire.

Orange Tian – Gluten Free

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.  I had to do this one very fast after getting back from our trip to Spain, so I made all the stuff today on the reveal date.  I also decided to make it gluten free so I would not have to eat it all myself.

The recipe is on the daring Baker’s site now:

Although there are a lot of components to make (especially in one day!) it was worth it, and the tian came out very well, and was delicious. Greg (my husband) and I devoured the small size tian that I used for the pictures here as soon as the photo shoot was over.  Because I had let some sauce dribble down into the sable layer, and it would have been soggy if we waited, what else could we do?  Besides, remember the quote “When life seems uncertain, eat dessert first.” Who said that anyway, was it the Duchess of Windsor?

I am very pleased with the gluten free pastry I developed for this.  I used the recipe from Jennifer, but changed it to use gluten free flours.  The resulting sable pastry was the best I have made yet, and tasted almost like it was made with wheat.  I want to try this pastry again as a base for sugar cookies, I think it would work very well and could be decorated.  What was probably good about the original recipe was that is had less butter than is usually in sable dough.  I find that gluten free flours cannot absorb as much butter or fat as wheat flour.

Gluten Free Sable Pastry

This recipe was the result of  adapting a Daring Bakers challenge recipe for Orange Tian to make it gluten free.  It has the best flavor and texture of any gluten free butter type pastry of cookie I have developed so far.  A note regarding flours – I grind all my grain and bean flours fresh using a Nutri Mill (except the corn starch and the potato starch).  If you are using bought flours, you may want to change the buckwheat flour to be replaced by half corn starch and half potato starch.  Bought buckwheat flour is much stronger tastingand often bitter than fresh gound (in my opinion the mill was worth it just for the flavor difference in bean and buchwheat flours, they taste so much better than bought), so may not result in as tasty and delicate a pastry.



¼ cup garfava flour

¼ cup amaranth flour

¼ cup potato starch

¼ cup corn starch

½ cup buckwheat flour1 ½ tsp xanthum gum

6 Tblsp sugar (about 80g)

1 tsp baking powder

½ scant tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (I used a convection oven at 350, use whatever you usually use for shortbread type cookies.)

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Put in food processor.

3.5 oz ( or 100g) unsalted butter Cut butter into 1” pieces and mix in food processor with dry ingredients until a fine crumbly texture results.
1 egg

1 egg yolk

1.2 tsp vanilla

Add to food processor and process until grains stick together. At this point it is a bunch of  sticky crumbs, not a dough yet.
Place wax paper or dough sheet on counter.  Empty dough crumbs into the sheet and press together until a pliable dough develops.  Because there is no gluten in this dough, you can work it right away and roll it.  I use a bottom of wax paper or parchment, shape the dough into flat rounds, then place plastic wrap over the dough and roll.  A trick is to nit try to lift the cookie cutouts, but rather to lift the waste dough, then turn the wax paper over to place on cookie sheet (see picture of this).

This dough worked beautifully and was about the texture of playdough.  I was able to reroll it easily, and by using the plastic on top there is no added flour to mess with.

Bake on silpat or parchment until lightly browned on the edges.  This dough works well for cookies similar to French sables, and as tart dough for little pastries.

Tiramisu, Daring Bakers Version

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

The recipe has an interesting twist in which it uses zablignone as one of the creamy components.  I tweaked the recipe for the lady fingers to be gluten free but for me the overall dessert did not turn out to be a huge success to my palate but it is a Daring Baker’s challenge so I am making myself post it.   Having said that, my husband really liked it and he usually detests creamy desserts, so go figure. The good news is that I tried Lady Fingers (Savoirdais) for the first time, and I will make them again.  The other bakers who posted pics had really great looking Tiramisu, so maybe it was just the conversion to gluten free that didn’t work out for me.

I made the lady fingers gluten free, and they came out quite well.  After checking the Daring Bakers recipe and looking at some ideas from my gluten free goto book – The Gluten Free Kitchen,  I used a combination of corn starch, potato starch, and freshgound buckwheat flour.  They tasted quite good and looked like postergirls, like a nice vanilla genoise.  They did not get too crisp despite a much longer baking time than the recipe.

The Tiramisu is another story.  I followed the recipe, but overall I did not really like the taste, and the texture was too soft.  I have made glutenfree tiramisu before from a recipe in the  Low Carbohydate Gourmet  by Karen Barnaby.  It uses almond flour for the cake, and a mixture of half  whipping cream and half mascarpone, and is really delicious and has just the right texture.

Sorry for the lack of details on this post, I am in Spain right now and doing this post from memory.  I will do a better post with the recipe I like and the ladyfinger recipe I used when I get back to Canada.

Daring Cooks Challenge: Mezze Platter

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

This was my first daring cooks challenge.  I have really enjoyed the Daring Bakers challenges, but thought maybe I could make some more nutritious fare if I also joined Daring Cooks, not to mention that I may need a new larger wardrobe if I keep having to make batches and batches of sugary delights.

I have made hummus many times and with many variations, but Pita was new.  This is the fun of these challenges, they make you try things that you might not otherwise. The Pita dough was very easy to make.  I used the recipe with half unbleached white flour and half fresh ground whole what from my Nitrimill.  The Pita dough is left to rise, then punched down and rolled into patties and straight into a pizza stone in the 450 degree oven.  To my amazement, they puffed up like balloons;  a highly gratifying baking experience!!

I just made the pita according to the recipe.  It is very good, basic hummus– comfort food.  The other variation I made was to add a beet, after all it is Valentine’s Day on the reveal date of the challenge.  Just make hummus and add about 1 or 2 medium cooked beets.

The recipes for the pita, hummus, and several other mezze delights are on the Daring Bakers website:

Daring Bakers Challenge: Nanaimo Bars

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

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

My family never baked anything called “Nanimo Bars”, but my mother did make something that was really similar called Chocolate Coconut Squares.   ( I prefer my mother’s version and I’ll explain why in the next paragraph, followed by her recipe.) She only made them at Christmas, and we loved them and looked forward every year to a batch of these little lovlies being in her secret stash that she hid from us six hungry children until company came. When I was working on this challenge, I called Mum in PEI and asked her where the recipe had come from.  We also lived in the US when I was young, but mum said the recipe had come from her mother she thinks.  She was sure it was not one of her American recipes because she recalls she had to bring Bird’s Custard Powder from Canada to make these when we lived in Chicago and Detroit.

The Daring Bakers gluten free recipe for graham crackers was something I looked forward trying.   I altered the Daring Baker’s recipe to substitute a combination of garfava flour and buckwheat flour rather than rice flour.  The crackers came out great, you could hardly tell they weren’t the real thing except for the ugly duckling form. As the recipe says, the dough is really sticky, but if you follow the instructions it all works.  The January Challenge recipe is at Daring Bakers

I basically deconstructed the squares a little.  I made the base, cooled it overnight, then cut out circles with a cake cutter.  After that I played around with the custard part in an icing bag, and eventually figured out a couple designs that I liked.  Because the squares are Canadian, I made chocolate maple leaves out of unsweetened chocolate.  The bars tasted fantastic, you would not know they are gluten free unless someone told you (and usually I can tell!)

How is my mother’s recipe different?  It has a little less sugar,  more graham crackers, no butter in the custard, and unsweetened chocolate on top.  I like them better; they are a little less rich and not quite as sweet. The part I especially liked in the squares was that she drizzled unsweetened chocolate on the top, and the contrast of bitter chocolate and sweet custard was sublime.  Because there is no butter in the custard it does not behave like icing, so I couldn’t have made the decorations as well.  These are so decadent that let’s face it they are not health food, so I will make the butter version custard again if I am crazy enough to do these decorations again.

Here is the recipe, and I asked my mother’s permission to post it.

Chocolate Coconut Squares




  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 Tbl cocoa
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ tsp salt (optional)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
Lightly grease a 8×8 pan, then line with parchment or wax paper.  (This makes it much easier to get the squares out, since cutting is easier when done out of the pan.)

Melt butter, then add vanilla and mix this with other dry ingredients. Beat egg well, then use a double boiler to warm to just before becoming scrambled eggs.  ( The original recipe just had a raw egg, but it is probably safer to do this warming step.)

Refrigerate until firm.

Custard Layer:

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tsp custard powder
  • Enough milk to moisten (approximately a  couple tablespoons, but add slowly because it gets too liquid fast.)
Mix all together with a whisk or mixer.  The original recipe has no milk quantity.

If you want to decorate and make these really rich, then add 1/2 cup butter like the daring bakers recipe.

Chocolate Topping:

1 square melted unsweetened chocolate (1 oz)

Melt chocolate in double boiler, then drizzle on the cold squares in a swirly pattern.  Depending on taste, you may want to add another square of chocolate.
Refrigerate the squares overnight if possible, then remove from pan and cut into squares with a sharp knife.  You can also “deconstruct” these and cut the squares with a circle cutter (this sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it!), and add chocolate cut outs.

Here are a few more pics of the process.

I spread the chocolate mixed with a little butter, let it harden, then cut out with little leaf cookie cutter.

The top is a variation of the regular square.  The bottom shows the circles in progress.

Gingerbread Challenge

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

December Daring Bakers Challenge:

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.


Shelley's Gingerbread Lighthouse

“Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!” is an earworm from childhood that still remains.  So with the daring bakers challenge of making a gingerbread house this month I had to think of what his house might look like.

I made the dough ahead of time and let it mature a couple days in the fridge.  This paid off, because it was easy to roll and pliable when the construction time came.

I enlisted the help of my daughter who is a graphic designer, so she was ready for the building and decorating. I learner a new trick from a recent cookie decorating book . The trick is to roll the dough on parchment paper, cut your shapes, then take away the remaining dough rather than trying to move what you want to be the cookie.  This works perfectly, no more distortion any more for my cookies.

I looked through some pictures for inspiration, and ended up thinking I would make a light house modeled after the one my aunt and uncle live in on PEI.  My final house didn’t look much like the inspiration photo, but I like it anyway.

Inspiration House:

The inspiration lighthouse, now a cottage home.

For the icing we used fresh eggwhites because I had given the meringue powder to my daughter, so it was in Toronto, oh well. The icing worked beautifully, and trick is not to beat it too much.

Here is the house made mostly by my daughter, with some final embellishments by yours truly.

The little Gingerbread House by T.

Daring Bakers’ October Challenge: French Macarons

Monday, October 26th, 2009

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I joined Daring Bakers and this month and did my first challenge – French macarons. When I was in France last year I ate real macarons at Laduree, and they were amazing. So, after that I came back and tried several recipes. After a few failures, I found the recipe from Desserts magazine Helen of Tartelette was consistent and gave me the real feet and crisp crust with soft interior. The difference with this recipe is that it uses Italian merangue, which adds a cooked sugar syrup to the beaten egg whites.

So, when I read the recipe from Daring Bakers, it was made with the French method – raw whipped egg whites. I was interested to see if I could get the feet without the bother of the Italian cooked merangue. I tried the recipe 3 times with little success (ie, they had no feet), so then I adapted the recipe to the cooked merangue method and they worked.

For filings, I made chocolate ganache, everyone likes it. I then tried a new caramel filling made with mascarpone and caramelized sugar plus whip cream. It is excellent, but very sweet. I then tried a third filling with mascarpone and whip cream, and added a little caramel filling to it, and it was also quite good.

Macarons can become obsessive, especially the need for feet. I like them once in a while, and love how they look, but they are really sweet, and after these batches I could hardly eat them. I called my husband on one of the afternoons a furnace was being installed, and told him to feed them to the workmen. They liked the caramel the best.

I still have not mastered these in that I cannot make them consistently with feet and shiny tops, but I really enjoyed the challenge of the Daring bakers and reading about all the information on the web about macarons. I tried a fifth batch using a new recipe from the new James Peterson Baking, but they ended up with no feet. He did not even hint that they might be difficult either!!

Anyway, I will try these again but not until I have a break from the sugar rush. I am in san Francisco now visiting my son, so I hope to make it to Paulette’s Macarons, she has a shop here with wonderful looking macarons.

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