Appam, Daring Cooks Challenge

August 14th, 2011

Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host.
Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South
Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

In the challenge, we could make any of several curries, so I decided to choose the recipe for shrimp curry included in the challenge.  I had all the ingredients on hand because I make Indian food frequently.  I even had some curry leaves salted away in the freezer, thank heavens for my Toronto shopping trips to Albion and Kipling.   I followed the recipe, but added dark chick peas, zucchini, and cauliflour to the pot.  The resulting curry was very good, so try this recipe (the full recipes are here: ).  I also used my new copper saute pan, and you wont belive it, copper rocks.  It heats really evenly and things brown and carmelize, just what you need for a good sauce.  Thanks to my son for convincing me of the merits of French copper pots.

I have made dosas, a similar batter before.  The addition of yeast made the fermentation go faster, so I will try this technique the next time I make dosas as well.  The appams are really nice, the fermentation gives them a subtle complexity of flavour. I used my electric crepe maker and used the wooden gizmo to spread the dough around.  I love making crepes!!

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Daring Bakers Challenge: Framboisiers

July 31st, 2011

Jana of Cherry 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.

This was a great challenge, and something I had never made before.  I really like the Tartine cookbook, and have made several other recipes in it, so I thought the recipe would be tasty.   I used the recipes with a gluten free adaptation (explanation below) that worked out well.  I have a lovely raspberry patch in fruit right now, so the “Frasier”  turned into a “Framboisier”  with a few ripe blueberries thrown in.  See a very thorough recipe and explanation of the steps here:  Daring Bakers Frasier Challenge and Recipes.  I used a chocolate ganache for the topping, and pansies for decoration.  The final cake tasted great, and looked ok.  I would try to have a more dramatic side next time, and strawberries seem to be better for that precise pastry look.  I made 4 small cakes just so I could have leftovers that still looked decent.

There are pictures on the Daring Bakers site of amazing creativity with this challenge.  One of the best parts of participating in these challenges is seeing what others have done with the recipes and concepts.

I usually use many flours in gluten free baking, but recently saw a gluten free mix in a magazine called Canadian Family that did not have rice, so I tried it and substituted it for the flour amount called for in the recipe.  The resulting sponge cake was delicious, and I will definitely make it again.

Changes to the Daring Bakers recipe (link above)

  • gluten free flour mix instead of wheat flour
  • added 1/4 tsp guar gum to the flour
  • used 5 egg yolks and 5 egg whites (instead of three and 5)

Gluten Free Flour Mix from Canadian Family:

  • 1/2 cup garfava flour
  • 1/4 cup amaranth flour
  • 3/4 cup corn starch
  • 3/4 cup arrowroot flour

This makes more than you need, so use it in something else too!

The resulting cake was delicious, you really could not tell it was gluten free.

Edible Containers-Daring Cooks Challenge – Part 1

April 14th, 2011

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at!

This is part one of this post.  I remembered a really interesting basket made out of orange peels that my friend Dominique in France showed me in one of her cookbooks.  I had never tried it, so I thought this challenge would be a good time to tackle an orange peel basket.

I had a kitchen gadget for garnishing that I thought would be just the implement to make the basket strips.  The process is that you cut off a small piece from the end of the orange for the platform, then you cut a long spiral strip.  I had to make strips because I was not too skilled with the tool, and it slipped off the peel periodically.  So, voila, after a short basketweaving session it worked.  I filled the container with a chick pea and red pepper salad.  So, here it is:

Well then I looked back at the challenge, and the container is supposed to be edible.  Realistically, although you could eat orange peels, a basket this size might be a challenge.  So, my next step was to find the recipe for the salmon tartare cornets in The French Laundry Cookbook that I had always intended to make.  My first batch was a little overdone, so they did not roll.   My error was to cook them too long, so I took the second batch out when they were just congealed but not browned, and they rolled up great.  You bake them again after that.

Part 2 will show the filling in them.  I am thinking sun dried tomato chevre would be good.  Thomas Keller uses salmon tartare, but raw fish never really excites me, in fact it makes me squeamish!!  So, look in a couple days for part 2.

Here is a little peak at the cornets:

Panna Cotta with Florentines

February 28th, 2011

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I have made florentines before and they are very yummy – far better than the ones you find in bakeries, although they are really not too common anymore.  Because I needed a gluten free version, I looked through a few cookbooks and found an interesting recipe which used no flour in Chocolate Ephipany by Francois Payard.  The result was sort of a butter brickle flavour with crunchy almonds and candied orange.  They are absolutely delicious!! The dark side is that you cant stop eating them so between the florentines and the cream in the panna cotta I gained 2 pounds this week!! I am having nightmares about barbells.

For the panna cotta, I used a slightly different recipe than Gina’s because I didn’t have 3 cups of whip cream.  I found a similar recipe in Dolce Italiano by Gina De Palma and used it with ricotta for some of the cream.  But I didnt have ricotta either so I used sour cream, and the result was delicious.  This is my first attempt at panna cotta, and it is very easy.  The taste is really similar to creme brulee, but less work and no baking, so I will make this again.  I am freezing some to see how it fares, and since I have recently frozen bavarian I think it will work!!.  I have to freeze some so I dont gain even more weight!!! so it is really a self preservation technique.

Both of the above are excellent cookbooks.  I have seen Chocolate Epiphany remaindered at Chapters recently, and it has an amazing recipe for chocolate cookies that have no butter but are wonderful.

Thanks to Mallory for a great combination of flavours in this challenge.

I am posting the recipe for the florentines because it is gluten free and devinely delicious.  If you want the panna cotta recipe there are dozens on the internet, or email me.


Recipe Adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

My attempt at these resulted in a wonderful taste, but the cooked sheets  were not easy to handle and I ended up just breaking them up into pieces instead of having nicely shaped cookies from a cookie cutter.  I found them really buttery, so next time I will try a little less butter to see if that works.  But, these are divinely  delicious, so consider making them!

Ingredients Method
13 TB (195 grams) unsalted butter

1 1/8 cup sugar

1/3 cup milk

¼ cup honey or corn syrup

Combine all of these and cook in a saucepan until a candy thermometer reaches 230F

Remove from heat and add the next ingredients.

2 ¼ cups sliced almonds

1/3 cup candied orange peel

Add to the cooked mixture above.

Note: This batter can be kept for about 3 days in the fridge if you want to bake later.

Baking Step:

I found the baking quite variable, so you really need to watch this step rather than rely on timing.

Spread the batter very thinly (cover the area completely, but not too think, about 1/8 inch) on a silpat or parchment paper (silpat is better) and bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.  The batter should be a golden brown, so you need to watch it and it will depend on how think etc.
Cutting Step:

The batter will be very runny even when cooked, but as it cools it becomes malleable.  The process is really like nougat.

In the recipe it says to cool slightly and then cut with a cookie cutter.  I found this did not work too well, so  after trying individual cookies and other experiments I just gave up and treated it like a big sheet of candy bark that I cut with kitchen scissors into pieces.  This worked well but they are not too uniform.
Tempered dark chocolate layer:

About 5 oz dark chocolate (I used  house brand candy bars from Metro that is 72% chocolate)

Melt the chocolate, then spread in a thin layer on the back of each cookie piece.  The recipe says to spread with a fork to get the characteristic wavy lines, but my cookies were so thin that I gave up and just spread a think layer.
Serve or Freeze These are best straight out of the freezer.  They are very delicate, so freezing is the best way to keep them intact and also my freezer is down stairs so I get exercise before devouring them.

Tempura and Buckwheat Noodles-Daring Cooks Challenge

February 20th, 2011

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

I am late posting this but trying to do the challenges.  I am not posting recipes for this because I had to turn the recipes into gluten free, and although all were ok, they were not great, so you dont really want to have these recipes unless I try to perfect them.

I used fresh ground buckwheat flour for 75% of the noodle mix.  Next time I would skip the whole grain buckwheat because it looks nasty and does not really add to the taste.  I made lasagna noodles a few days later with just ground hulled buckwheat and I was a lot happier with them.  I used a peanut satay recipe on the noodles, and it was quite good.  Overall, I don’t really love cold noodles.

I absolutely love tempura at our local Wabura restaurant.  I have made it at home several times, but again my conclusion is that this can be made better in a restaurant where they have a good fryer and can serve everyone at once.  Having said that, the restaurant version has wheat in it, so I will continue to make it once in a while for poor Greg.  Instead of wheat flour I substituted a ration of two parts rice flour to 1 part tapioca flour.  The batter came out really good for the first few, crispy and delicious, but then seemed to grow soggy.  Maybe it was that the oil was getting a little water in it, who knows.

This was another good Daring Cooks adventure, but I am going back to Wabura for my next tempura fix, and cold noodles….well, just not my favourite dish. Thanks to Lisa for the clallenge. Blueberry Girl blog

Cassoulet – Daring Cooks Challenge

January 17th, 2011

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

I have had duck confit in France, and it was really tasty. When I made it with the duck available here it was ok, but not as good.  Cassoulet is a signature dish and is on many restaurant menus in the southwest of France, but I never have ordered it because there are so many other dishes to try.

I have made Cassoulet before as well, and it was good but not really memorable.   This time I followed the recipe from Anthony Bourdain that is in the Daring Cooks recipe.  I made confit using chicken rather than duck, and used a combination of olive oil and butter rather than the difficult to find (in this area) duckfat.  For beans I used navy beans.

The chicken confit was cooked in a slow cooker, varying the temp setting between low and high, trying to keep it from boiling.  The aroma of the confit was devine.  For the Cassoulet I used a good pork sausage that had no gluten fillers in it.  The confit was made one day, the beans the next, then the Cassoulet assembled the next, and baked again the following day for a comfort food dinner party.

The final baking smelled devine, and the Cassoulet was delicoius.  Everyone had seconds, always a good sign!.  I really liked the fact that on the day of the dinner all I had to do was reheat the Cassoulet and make a salad to go with it. 

Greg and I ate the leftovers the next two days, and they just got better.

In terms of next steps, the confit was interesting, but the Cassoulet would be great without it as well.  I will definitely make this again when I want a conforting meal with friends.

Here is a link to the daring bakers recipes.  Thanks to Jenni and Lisa for getting me to make Cassoulet again with a better method.

Apple Quark Streusel Cake

January 9th, 2011

Over the holidays while grocery shopping I spied some quark, and decided I better buy it while the store had it.  Exotic groceries are not as plentiful here in the winter.  I like summer for many reasons, but one of them is that the deluge of tourists and cottagers to this area also brings better grocery shopping.

Why quark?  Well long ago in Bracebridge there was a really scrumptious German bakery.  My favourite item at this bakery was the cheese danish.  They were made with a quark filling, very tart and lemony.  On top of the filling was streusel.  The bakery closed many years ago, and I have never found such wonderful danish anywhere else.  So, I though maybe I could make something like that.  After searching around on the internet I found a recipe for a quark streusel cake on the About German cooking blog  So, I made the recipe, then had to adapt it by making the dough work with a lot more liquid, and adding apple to the layers.

The taste of the quark layer was very similar to my memory from the bakery danish.  The rest of the cake was quite good as well.  Overall this is a make again cake.  Although there are several steps, making the dough the night before using the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method of just mixing the dough and letting is sit worked well and is very easy.  The  is not very sweet, and even though I like cakes that are only a little sweet, I might add some brown sugar to the apple layer next time.  A slice of this is great for breakfast when you cant stand cottage cheese one more day (I try to eat a high protein and nutritious breakfast, but occasionally I fall off the wagon and have something like this instead).

Here is my adapted recipe.  The quantities are pretty forgiving, so feel free to adapt or to use another fruit or no fruit at all, and enjoy the “quarky” goodness of the filling.

Apple Quark Cheesecake

(Adapted from recipe on germanfood)

Ingredients Method

2 c flour

1  tsp yeast (dry type)

½ cup milk

2 Tbl butter

1 egg

2 T sugar

½ tsp salt

Enough additional water to make a dough (around a ½ cup, but depends on your flour)

Melt the butter in the milk.  Add the yeast and proof this until the yeast develops a foam.

Put the flour in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, add the milk, egg,  and mix until this turns into a soft dough. You will probably need to add a little water, depends on the size of the egg and your flour.

Let the dough rise at room temp for about an hour or until it has risen and started to fall, then put it in the   fridge or a cool place.  (Basically this follows the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method)

The next day push the lump of dough into a greased pan, I used a pyrex pan just one size smaller than 9 x 13.  You could also use a 10” springform pan.

Let the dough rise until it is doubled again (about 1 hour).

Quark Filling

1 ½ cups (about 1 container) of quark

1 tsp lemon zest

1 egg

2 Tbl cornstarch

Mix this all together as for cheesecake.  Spread over the dough.

Peel, core, and slice about 4 apples.  Granny Smith are good, needs to be a tart apple.

Layer the slices over the quark filling so they overlap each other and completely cover the filling.
Streusel Topping

1 ½ cup flour

2/3 cup sugar (use some brown and some white)

½ cup butter

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

Note:  This was the original recipe.  I ended up only needing about 2/3 of this, so I saved the rest and froze it for another apple concoction, but if you are using a larger pan you might need all of it)

Mix the incredients like pie dough so you have lumps of butter remaining.

Spread this over the apples evenly.

Bake at 350 for about an hour, watching that the crust gets slightly brown and the apples and streusel are cooked. This cake freezes well.

Raspberry Bavarian Cake

January 2nd, 2011

I had several people coming for a New Year’s Day dinner, and wanted to make something new to start the culinary year.  After several minutes, no I confess hours, reading cookbooks, I settled on a recipe on the Tartelette blog.  If you love pastry you must visit Helene’s blog.  Not only is she a fantastic baker, her photography is absolutely mouthwatering, and  her photos give me inspiration for the skills I aspire to reach.

The technique for this cake was to make dacquoise layers.  They are basically merangue layers with almonds in them.  I have made similar cookies before but this was my first cake type dacquoise.  The server on her website seems to be down today, so I will revise and post a link later.  You can just search under Tartelette and the blog usually comes up.  It is called Raspberry Rose Bavarian Cream Cake on her blog.

I revised the recipe by using corn starch instead of flour so that the cake would be gluten free for Greg.  I also did not have rose water so I used orange flower water instead.  The layers turned out great, but perhaps a little soft.  In reading other dacquoise recipes such as Julia Child, they did not have any starch in them, maybe that makes them more crunchy.  Anyway, the really useful technique that I learned in making this cake was to make the raspeberry layer.  You cook the frozen berries until they are dissolved, then add the gelatin, cool, and FREEZE them in a 1/4 sheet cookie pan.  When you assemble the cake there is no mess with trying to spread out a thin layer, you just unwrap your thin little package of raspberry ice sheet and plunk it down on top of the dacquoise layer.  When I have tried to spread soft gooey fillings on other cakes I often end up with crumbs and a messy layering, so this technique is really useful. I was concerned that there might be too much gelatin, but the cake tasted great, and the layers did not melt at all even when the cake had warmed to room temperature.

The bavarian cream recipe is delicious.  It is a pastry cream that is cooked, gelatin added, cooled, then whipped cream is beaten and added to the mixture. The final cake was assembled and refrigerated for a few hours.  I never got the lemon layer made, and really the cake was terrific, I’m not sure the lemon layer is needed, but it does add a warm sheen to the cake in the Tartelette Pictures.  I have frozen the leftovers, so this is a cake you could make all ahead.

Anyway, My guests seemed to enjoy the cake, and this technique could be flavoured in many different ways, so this recipe is highly recommended, but does take a little time to make all the components.  I think maybe the next one could be mango with orange slices on top, ot maybe strawberry and banana, the possibilities are endless!!  Thanks to Helene from Tartelette for the recipe, and you must visit her blog.  Also, here is another example of the cake on the blog Mad Baker

Christmas Stollen (Daring Bakers Challenge) and My Thoughts on Yeast Doughs

December 29th, 2010

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. The recipe is here

I followed the recipe and made a large as well as several small stollens.  However, instead of following the yeast rising schedule, I used the method I learned from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day in which you just mix the dough without kneading and let it rest in the fridge (I use the fruit cellar in the winter – it works perfectly).  In the book they say you can leave the dough for as long as a week, and I have done this and the bread is great.  In the book they have a recipe for brioche that is a similar dough recipe to the stollen, so I just used the long rest method and let the dough sit for three days before I had time to make the actual stollen.  The advantage of this method is that by letting the dough rest in a cool place you get essentially a sour dough development, with resulting more complex flavour.

There are various methods on this cool rise technique, but I highly recommend this book.  I use this method for all yeast doughs now.  They also have a new book with healthier recipes including gluten free.

My kids were here for the holidays, and the stollen little buns were eaten quickly.  Today with the kids gone and a quiet house, I tried another use for this cake – I cut it up into chunks and put caramel sauce over it with left over whip cream.  Mmmmmmmm, sort of like a Christmas version of Baba au Rhum!  Try it.

Thanks to Penny for this challenge, it made a great treat for the holidays.

Beauty in the Kitchen – Springerele Cookies

December 20th, 2010

I have admired these shaped wonders ever since I saw them in a Martha Stewart magazine several years ago.  But alas, the molds are not readily available, or weren’t at that time.  Then on a trip to visit my son in San Francisco I saw one mold at Sur La Table, but still I did not succumb due to what I thought was an astronomical price.  This year I couldn’t stand it, and after unsuccessfully trying some shortbread molds I broke down and ordered the real deal.  You can mail order the molds from House on the Hill.  There are hundreds for all different themes and holidays. Since they are very pricy, I only ordered 2, a heart and some little ovals that are also small enough to use as marzipan decorations.

I followed the recipe that came with them and is on the web site.  It workd very well, even when I divided it into 1/3 of the recipe.  I do recommend you try to get ammonium carbonate.  It used to be difficult to find, but my local grocery has even started carrying it.  It does make the texture light, and it rises when heated.  The cookies have to set overnight to dry before baking to get the best impressions.  In one batch I did not really cook them through, so they were a little soft in the middle and tasted great.  The next time I followed more of the instrucitons in the Martha Stewart baking Book, and baked them at a lower temperature for much longer (almost an hour).  That batch came out very crisp, in fact they are best eaten by dunking in coffee.

Is this is best cookie ever in terms of taste – no.  They are a little dry.  But, they are really lovely to look at, so I do recommend trying them.

I have to go now, I am visiting the local foods class to talk about my blog with the students, so this post is for them.

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