Archive for August, 2010

Baked Alaska and Petit Fours from Daring Bakers

Monday, August 30th, 2010

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I made a gluten free poundcake which I adapted from the recipe on the Daring Bakers website.  Browning the butter for the cake really develops a rich buttery taste.  I used the other recipes straight from the challenge recipes. The most difficult part was doing the chocolate fontant coating because the ice cream melted really quickly once the little squares were out of the freezer.  I also made a regular wheat based poundcake, and it was also terrific.  The chocolate fondant covering recipe worked well, and these were delicious and also interesting to decorate.  I used pieces of strawberry that I cut up and mint leaves from my bumper crop.

I had some chocolate fondant left, so I also made some little baked alaskas.  I used the pound 
cake, added a layer of the chocolate, then the ice cream.  when all this was frozen I added the merangue and froze it again.  A torch was the final method of browning the Alaskas. G. liked them, although found them a little too sweet.

All in all, this was a really fun challenge.  The baked Alaska method worked extremely well, and with the torch method you can make these all ahead, so that is also a good thing as Martha Stewart says.

All the recipes are on the Daring Bakers site right here:

Baked Pakoras….Delicious!

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I love pakoras, the Indian snack food that is usually deep fried. I usually make them and freeze them.  They are a great item to bring to dinner parties for an h’ors d’oeuvre as they can be baked from frozen fairly quickly.  Anyway, although I love them, they are a lot of work to make, a lot of mess with the deep frying, and I dont even want to know the calories in them!

To make a long story short, I wondered about baking them instead, and when I searched the internet I found that others had had the same thought.  Anyway, I just adapted my favourite pakora recipe from the cookbook The Dance of Spices (my most reliable and delicious of my many Indian cookbooks, by Laxmi Hiremath), and was I ever impressed.  Not only do they taste great, but they freeze and also reheat well.  Even better, the batter and vegetables can be made a sit a couple days in the fridge until you get time to bake them.  I read that the batter actually ferments a little, and this improves the flavor.

I made the batter, chopped the vegetables (I used cauliflower, eggplant, onion, potato (the red waxy type), and fresh cilantro. I found that baking them in the tiny size muffin tins worked well. I sprayed the top of the batter with a little olive oil to mimic a deep fried taste.  I find they need to bake for about 40 minutes, and can even be left a little longer depending on how crisp you want the crust.  I have made these three times in the last couple weeks.  They reheat well in the mocrowave and make a great snack or side dish at mealtime.  There are many recipes for pakoras on the internet.  Let me know if you want me to post one too.

Another good thing for many of you, pakoras use only chick pea flour and a little rice flour, so they are gluten free and quite nutritious.

Paella Pierogies: Daring Cooks

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

I ended up making a gluten free version, but the dough part was a little tough.  My husband ate is anyway and even said it was good, but I knew it was one of those jaw exercising types of dough!  For the filling I used smoked chicken leftovers, and onion and cabbage with a little sour cream to hold it together.  It was quite good.

It has been really hot, and perogies are a cold weather food in my food framework, so I was having trouble getting enthusiastic.  Finally I got the inspiration to use the leftover paella I had in the fridge, then I got to work.  I have been really fond of paella since we went to Spain, and leftover paella is quite a tasty thing to use, my favourite is scrambled eggs with paella in them – delicious! The pierogi filling I made  was day old paella made from the recent Fine Cooking recipe, more or less; cottage cheese, and finally a mixture of onions and cauliflower chopped fine in the food processor that I sweated until tender.  Well I know this sounds like a dubious combination, but the filling was excellent.  The dough…..well I confess I have made perogies twice before, once with my sister in law’s mother, and once with a ukranian friend.  On those occasions I had expert help, and the dough was tender and wonderful.  My dough, without the expert advice was still tough, even the non gluten free version.

Anyway, as usual with the daring cooks it was an adventure.  I don’t plan to make pierogies for a long time, the bought ones are looking pretty darn good to me now!

A Few Pics of the Real Ice Cream Challenge

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

We did finally eat the large size Ice Cream Challenge on the weekend when my newlywed nice and her hubby were here.  It got rave reviews, and if you are ever crazy enough to spend this much time making a dessert, one saving grace of the time spent is that it can rest happily in the freezer until about 15 minutes before you are ready to serve it.  The leftovers can also just be put back in the freezer (save that bowl that you molded it in!) and we finished them off last night. I confess I thought it needed a little something, so I made more of the the hot fudge sauce (with some tweaking to make it richer) and poured some over it last night…..peanut butter heaven, but I will have to go more miles on my new bike today to pay for the calories!  Recipes in  previous post.

A Couple Practical Ideas

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

I know I use a lot of flours in gluten free recipes compared to some of the popular cookbooks, but I do find I get the best results this way.  My goal is not only the taste, but also to make the flour mixes as nutritional as possible. I avoid the use of rice flour as it is not only nutritionally inferior, but in my opinions creates dry and tasteless baked goods.  Anyway, after trying all sorts of organizations, I have come up with this method using zipper bags, and it not only keeps the flours organized, it is really easy to scoop out amounts and just leave them in their organized row.  I just pack this all up in its box and keep the flours in the freezer until the next time I bake.  I use almost all flours I grind myself in a nutrimill, and freezing them is not necessary but does keep the flavour top notch.

I caved in to the use of spray grease several years ago when I found out that even my mother, a wonderful baker, was using it.  It is so easy to use, and I have always hated greasing pans.  However, I have really been trying to be more environmentally friendly, and the spray grease is not only expensive, it leaves a lot of waste cans polluting the environment.  So, I did remember using a lecithin mix many years ago when I baked copius loaves of bread.  The problem with my previous use of lecithin was that you had to use a brush, which inevitably got very grimy and difficult to clean and store.  On a recent trip to the local bulk store I was thrilled to find a silicone brush that has the little holes that retain liquid better than the plain ones, and a jar of lecithin for only 5.99.  After researching several methods on the internet, I ended up making my own version, and it works perfectly.  The mix is 2 tsp lecithin, dissolved in 1/4 cup of vodka.  Lecithin is an emulsifier, so this mix stays together.  Grease the pans with the silicone brush before baking.  I found the mix recipes had less lecithin, and the first batch with one teaspoon worked, but not as well as spray grease.  The additional teaspoon solved this.  The other method is to use oil instead of vodka.  Oil is cheaper, so maybe I will try that when I run out of this.  I remember the oil mixture I had used in the past was pretty gooey, so I wanted to try the vodka.  Works like a charm, and no spray grease cans to worry about.

Here is a close up of the middle of the brush. This one was the good grips brand.  These are easy to wash, you can even put them in the dishwasher.

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