Daring Bakers do Lamingtons

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For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant.

It has been great to be back participating with the Daring Bakers, this month is no exception.  When the challenge was announced I had no idea what a Lamington was, it sounded more like a Town than a dessert.  The classic Australian Lamington is a cube of vanilla sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing then coated with desiccated coconut.  Chocolate, coconut and cake, these sound delicious!

Ingredients:

5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup castor (superfine) sugar
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups cornflour (cornstarch)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon butter, melted (optional)
2¾ cups unsweetened desiccated coconut, to assemble

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

2. Prepare a 4 ½ cm (1¾ inch) deep, 23cm x 33cm (9”x 13”) baking pan by lining with non-stick paper

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3. In a stand mixer bowl place eggs, sugar and salt. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high for 15 minutes.

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4. While the eggs and sugar are beating sift the cornflour and baking powder at least 3 times.

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5. After 15 minutes add vanilla and beat on high for another 5 minutes. The mixture should have at least tripled in size, be light in colour and very foamy.

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6. Sift flour mixture over the egg mixture.

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7. Spread mixture into your prepared pan and smooth out evenly.  Bake in preheated moderate oven for 22-25 minutes.

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8. The sponge will rise quite a lot but then settle back down. Don’t be tempted to open the oven to peak. I also warn the family to walk gently past the oven! When baked the sponge will have shrunk very slightly from the sides and should feel springy when pressed gently. (Mine was still giggly at 25 minutes.  I tried to see if it was springy at 35 minutes but my finger broke though, still wet.  Almost an hour later I took it out assuming it was done – had dropped a lot!)

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Turn the sponge out immediately onto a wire rack to cool and reverse sponge so as not to mark the top. Allow to cool. It is best to keep the cake for a day before making the Lamingtons as the cake will be easier to handle.

I finished the recipe the next day.

Chocolate icing

Ingredients:

3 ¼ cups icing sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ to ¾ cup milk

Directions:

1. Melt butter in a double boiler

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2. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa, add to the melted butter

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3. Add ½ cup milk. Stir until icing is smooth adding more milk to thin the icing if needed. I find I need more than ½ cup but not quite ¾ cup of milk.

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To assemble the Lamingtons:

1. Cut the sponge cake into 24 rectangular pieces – 6 across and 4 down. To be particular you can trim the crusts. (I cut mine in random sizes)

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*Mines ended up with a thin ‘crust like top’.  It cracked as soon as you touched it.  It was quite crumbly and messy so I removed it

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2. Place desiccated coconut in a shallow bowl. I did not have desiccated coconut, just regular shredded.  It looked to be a little long compared to most of the pictures I saw of Lamingtons.  I just put it into a mini chopper, worked quite well.

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3. Keep the icing over the hot water to keep it melted. Dip each piece into the chocolate icing

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4. Allow excess to drip off then toss gently into the coconut.

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5. Stand cakes on a wire rack to set, about 2 hours.

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These were pretty good.

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I also made some rolled in Graham crumbs, for those fussy coconut haters!  They were good too

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Everyone seemed to like them more than I did.  They were raving about them.

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I quite enjoyed them. I don’t think my cake turned out quite how it should have, as it was very crumbly.  The Lamingtons were very light and sweet.  I really liked the chocolate icing, it had a texture like the macaroons I make.  Actually, now that I think of it, they kind of remind me of that, just a lot more work. They were very piddly and time consuming.  It may just have been because my cake was super crumbly, but the dipping process was a messy disaster.

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The first couple were ok, then they started to fall apart.  Huge crumbs in the chocolate, thank goodness the coconut covered all that up!

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Thank you Marcellina, for a wonderful challenge!

Store Lamingtons in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Or do as many Australians do, in the same
sealed container store in the freezer for a handy treat for unexpected visitors. Lamingtons would last in the freezer for 2 months at least. Frozen Lamingtons defrost very quickly. Also many Australians mums will pop a Lamington into their children’s school lunch box for a treat.

 

 

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Daring Bakers Do Focaccia

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For the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch

Focaccia? I had heard of it, but didn’t really know what it was, other than a bread.  AHHH! More bread!  I had to do a little research to find out what it really is.  Basically, focaccia is an Italian flat bread, seasoned with olive oil and herbs and is sometimes topped with a variety of toppings, (putting me in mind of pizza).

Rachael, the host, provided us with four different recipes to use but also gave us the option for use a different one we liked.  As this was totally  new to me I immediately went to Google, and Pinterest to search out more visual instructions, different options and variations.  I was happy to see there were MANY variations with very different results.  While searching  hundreds of recipes on Pinterest I saw this one, Focaccia Bread from Handle the Heat, to me it looked perfect!

Focaccia Bread

Adapted from Handle the Heat

1 3/4 cups warm (110-115°F) water
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
2 tsp parsley + more for sprinkling
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 1/4 cups (23.63 or 670 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt for sprinkling
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Garlic
Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, yeast, 2 teaspoons of the chopped rosemary, sugar, and half the flour.

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2. Stir to combine. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and on low speed add in the remaining flour, salt, and 1/2 cup olive oil.

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** I was very concerned with the amount of olive oil going in this recipe, a full cup!  I am not a huge fan of the flavour of olive oil, but I went with it…

3. Once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and knead for 5 to 6 minutes, or until smooth and soft. If the dough is really sticky, add in another tablespoon or two of flour.

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4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl.

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5. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, at least 1 hour. Make ahead: place the dough in a large plastic bag, or divide in half and place in two plastic bags, and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge or for a few hours at room temperature. Proceed with the recipe.

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WOW did it rise!  I don’t think I have ever had this kind of success with dough rising – I was kinda excited and hopeful!

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6. Coat a baking sheet with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. (I made 2 smaller ones instead of a big one, so divided the oil between 2 pans)

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7. Put the dough onto the pans and begin pressing it out with your fingertips to fit the size of the pan. Coax and stretch the dough to fit the entire pan, or just about.

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8. Spread your fingers to make little holes all the way through the dough. ( I found a wooden spoon handle worked better)

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9. Cover the dough with plastic and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.

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10. Brush the focaccia with the olive oil on the pan and sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt and the remaining parsley.

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** for my second one I grated fresh garlic and fresh Parmesan cheese

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11. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before cutting and serving.

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They look and SMELL delicious!

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Nice and golden on the bottom

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I am not sure why, but I was expecting a ‘dense and tough’ bread.  Nope. The bread had a wonderful texture, soft and chewy.

Love it!

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The plain was so flavourful.  There was no taste of the olive oil which I had feared.  I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t taste the yeast.  Generally, when I make homemade bread it has a yeasty back taste to it, blah!  This was just perfect.  It didn’t need anything.

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The addition of the garlic and Parmesan was fantastic! It was like gourmet garlic cheese bread.

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Thank you Racheal for a wonderful challenge!  I wasn’t thrilled when I saw another bread challenge, but I was finally successful and I am optimistic about my focaccia future.  I am looking forward to trying it again with different toppings.

Daring Bakers Do Tarte Tatin

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For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She  challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.

I was very excited to see this months challenge, back to desserts!  The Tarte Tatin looked delicious!

As excited as I was that we were making a dessert this month, I can’t have it, blah!  It is Lent and I give up all junk, (sweets, desserts, chips, pop, fast food, pizza, etc.)  My baking has slowed down quite a bit over Lent, because it is all so tempting!

I didn’t want to miss this months. I decided to make a small one and if the reviews were good I would make a regular size one, when Lent was over.  I cut the recipe in a third of posted recipe.

Tarte Tatin

Rough Puff Pastry

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsalted butter, cold
¼ tsp fine salt
¼ cup (60 ml) ice cold water

1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.

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2. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. With a pastry blender (or two table knives) cut in the butter until the mixture in crumbly but even, with pea-sized pieces of butter.

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3. Make a well in the middle and pour in the ice cold water.

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4. Toss the flour/butter and water together with a fork until the dough starts to clump together.  Turn the dough out onto your work surface – don’t worry if there are still pockets of dry flour.

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5. Gently knead and squeeze the mixture a few times just enough to bring it together into a square (a bench scraper is helpful for this). Be careful not to overwork the dough: there should be visible bits of butter and it should still look very rough.

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6. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, and roll the dough out into a rectangle about 10” (25 cm) long.

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7. Fold the bottom third of the dough up into the middle, and fold the top third down, like you are folding a letter. This is one fold. Turn the dough a one quarter turn so that one of the open edges is facing you, and roll out again into a 10” (25 cm) rectangle. Fold again – this is the second fold. Repeat the rolling and folding 3 more times, for 5 folds total. Your dough will get smoother and neater looking with each fold (the pictures show the first and fifth folds).

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The dough looks lovely, and so easy!

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If your kitchen is very warm and the dough gets too soft/sticky to do all the folds at once, chill it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes between folds. After the fifth fold, use your rolling pin to tap the dough into a neat square. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for a least 1 hour, or overnight.

 Filling

6 large or 7-8 medium-sized apples
Juice of half a lemon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (or use salted and skip the salt)
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
pinch salt
Rough Puff Pastry, above

 

1. Peel the apples and cut them into quarters. Remove the cores in such a way that each apple quarter has a flat inner side: when placed rounded-side-up, it should sit on a flat base.

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2. Place the apples in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-1/2 oz) (65 gm) sugar. This will help draw out some of the moisture from the apples and prevent an overly runny caramel. Set aside for 15 minutes.

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3. Preheat the oven to moderately hot 375˚F

4. Melt the butter in a very heavy, 9” or 10” (23 cm or 24 cm) oven-proof saucepan over medium heat

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5. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup sugar.

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6. Stir with a whisk until the sugar melts and becomes a pale, smooth caramel. The sugar will seem dry and chunky at first, then will start to melt and smooth out. If the butter appears to separate out from the caramel, just keep whisking until it is a cohesive sauce. Remove from the heat.

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And this is where the whole thing fell apart!!! 

I followed the directions to the letter.

Mine appeared to ‘foam’?

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Then separate, as it recipe said it might, but keep whisking, so i did!

Looks awful…

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I was excited it finally came together!

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I added the apples and went to stir…

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Something went wrong.  It’s not caramel, it’s rock hard toffee!

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Into the garbage that went….

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Attempt #2 – no better

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Attempt #3 – worse

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I am not sure what happened.  Maybe because I cut the recipe?  Did anyone else half or third the recipe and have success?

I still have the lovely dough in the fridge, I may give it another try in a day or so or try something new with it.

It is frustrating when a recipe does not go as it is supposed to, but oh well!  It is a challenge and I was pushed out of my comfort zone.

Thank you Korena, from Korena in the Kitchen , for the challenge.  I really want to try this, yours looked delicious!  Any suggestions?

 

Daring Bakers Do Siopao

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The February Daring Bakers’ challenge is hosted by Julie of One-Wall Kitchen. She challenged us to an easy, simple filled bun using no-knead dough.

I must admit I was not at all thrilled when I saw this months challenge.  To me, making filled buns is not baking, its cooking.  This is the Daring BAKERS not the Daring KITCHEN!  I signed up to make sweets and treats, it has definitely changed over the years, soo much bread!  OK, end of rant.

I had seen Siopao (Asian Filled Buns) on various food truck shows, so I kind of knew what they were.

Siopao (Asian Filled Buns)

1/4 ounce (7 gm) (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast (1 packet )
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) warm water
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) melted butter
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
4 to 5 cups  (20 oz to 25 oz) (560 gm to 700 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 egg for egg-wash for the buns

Directions:

1. Mix yeast, water, sugar, melted butter, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

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2. Slowly mix in flour until it’s fully incorporated and you have a shaggy, very tacky dough, but not wet and sticky.

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3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for up to an hour in warm place until doubled. While dough is rising, you can make your filling if you haven’t already pre-made it to let it cool (see recipe below).

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4. Punch down dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Depending on how much flour you added, it will be somewhat tacky to pretty tacky. Fold it over several times and shape it into a smooth ball, then divide into 12 equal pieces.

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5. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it into a disc about 6 inches (15 cm) wide.

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6. Place a heaping tablespoonful of filling into the center of the disc, wrap the dough around the filling, and firmly pinch it closed over the top of the filling.

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7. Place filled buns on a baking sheet and loosely cover them with plastic wrap. Let them rest for 1 hour. On the top sheet, you can see where a lot of my dough was too thin. (I miss read and didn’t let them rise the second time….oops!)

I only filled 2

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The rest were just plain buns

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8. Bake buns for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

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These were ok.  Bread was a little dense, but good flavour. I filled them with my Mom’s awesome Hamburger Dish.  I only filled 2 because if I didn’t like them, I didn’t want to waste all the delicious hamburger dish.  The filled ones were alright.  I preferred them just plain.  I may try just the buns again with the second rise, maybe they won’t be as dense.

Thanks Julie for the Challenge.

Daring Bakers Do… Esterhazy Torte

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For the month of January Jelena from A Kingdom for a Cake invited us to start this year with a dreamy celebration cake. She challenged us to make the Esterhazy cake a.k.a the Hungarian dream. What better way to start the year than with a sweet dream?

I am glad to be back baking along with the Daring Bakers!  I really hope I am able to keep up this year and participate in most, if not all, of the challenges.  The first challenge of the year is Esterhazy Cake, never heard it. I look forward to the Challenge.

HAZELNUT SPONGE LAYERS

12 large egg whites
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz) (250 gm) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons (2/3 oz) (20 gm) vanilla sugar
2½ cups (9 oz) (250 gm) ground hazelnuts (I used almonds) see bottom ♦
2/3 cup (2¾ oz) (80 gm) plain (all purpose) flour

Directions

1. Cut baking paper into five squares large enough to draw a circle of 10 inch (25cm) in diameter on the squares. **I did 16 cm as I halved the recipe**

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2. Turn the paper over and place one piece onto an up-side down oven tray ** I used baking sheets without sides**

3. With an electric mixer beat the egg whites while gradually adding the sugar and vanilla sugar for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks form.  Started out with my new hand mixer, was excited to use the timer feature!

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This got me nowhere!  After 8 minutes still looked like this

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Got KAM out to do the job right!

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4. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add in the hazelnuts mixed with the flour and beat until just combined

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5. Delicately spoon inside the circle one-fifth of the beaten egg white mixture

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6. Place the tray into an preheated moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 (no fan) oven and bake for 14 minutes. It will look soft but that is how we want them. Your finger should not stick to the layer when you touch it.

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7. Take the layer out together with the paper and place on an even surface

8. Cool the oven tray and repeat with the next 4 layers. It is important that the up-side down oven tray is cool when you start to bake the layers.

HAZELNUT CREAM

12 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz) (250 gm) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons (2/3 oz) (20 gm) vanilla sugar
1 -1/3 cups (10½ oz) (300 gm) butter at room temperature
1½ cups (5-1/3 oz)(150 gm) toasted ground hazelnuts

Directions

The filling is cooked in a double boiler. If you do not have a double boiler just take two pots so that the smaller one fits perfectly in the larger one and there is no gap between them.

1. Fill the larger pot with about 1-inch (2 cm) water place on the stove and bring the water to a slow boil, the water should not touch the smaller pot bottom.

2. Beat the egg yolks and the sugar with an electric mixer in the smaller pot for 30 seconds. Place the smaller pot into the larger one and cook for 14-15 minutes. Stir every 2-3 minutes for a short while with a wooden spoon always scraping the sides and the bottom. Stir constantly, near the end.

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The directions were very vague.  They gave a time but not what it was supposed to look like or thickness.  I stopped when it looked like this

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3. Let the filling cool.

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4. Beat the cooked yolks for 30 seconds with an electric mixer.

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5. Beat the room temperature butter for 2 minutes until light and fluffy

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6. Beat into the cooked yolks.

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7. Add in the ground hazelnuts and beat again until combined.

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8. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the filling to spread around the torte at the end.

9. Divide the rest of the filling into 4 cups.

10. Line a large tray with some baking paper.

11. Remove the baking paper from one of the dacquoise and place it onto the tray,

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12. Spread one quantity of filing evenly over the dacquoise, then place another layer on the top.

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13. Repeat, making sure that the last layer is placed bottom-side-up (do not place filling on this surface) which will make it easier to obtain a smooth looking finish.

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14. Place some baking paper over the torte. Press a bit with your hands to even it out

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15. Put another tray over the torte and now place something heavy on the top to allow the torte to level up.

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16. Place the whole torte with the pot in the fridge for one hour.

APRICOT JAM GLAZE
around 3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1-2/3 oz) (45 gm) apricot jam
1 teaspoon (5 ml) water

Directions

1. Heat the apricot jam and water on the stove

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2. Remove the top baking paper from the torte and spread the jam on top of it. We want a very thin layer, just barely covering the torte.

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Place the torte back in the fridge for 30 minutes for the jam to cool.


WHITE ICING
2½ to 3¼ cups (10-2/3 to 14 oz) (300-400 gm) icing (powdered) (confectioners’) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) sunflower oil
3-4 teaspoons (15-20 ml) lemon juice
around 4 tablespoons (60 ml) hot water

Directions

1. By hand mix the powdered (icing) (confectioners’) sugar, oil, lemon juice while adding teaspoon by teaspoon of hot water until the mixture is creamy, but not runny. Mix vigorously for a couple of minutes. The sugar should be lemony.

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2. With a hot wet large knife quickly spread the icing over the apricot layer.

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You will need around 2½ to 3¼ cups of powdered sugar but it is better to have more than less, since when you start spreading you cannot go back. You will have some left over icing. If it is a bit uneven just turn on the hair dryer and heat the icing so it will smooth out a bit.

CHOCOLATE DECORATION
¼ cup (1¾ oz) (50 gm) dark chocolate
1 teaspoon (5 ml) oil
¾ cup (3½ oz) (100 gm) roughly chopped hazelnuts

Directions:

***Before starting with the icing have the chocolate ready since it needs to go onto the soft icing in order to get the web.

1. Melt the chocolate with a teaspoon of oil, place in a pipping bag, or a  plastic bag with a cut in the corner that will act as the tip. (forgot to take pictures of this step)

2. Draw four (4) concentric circles onto the cake

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3. Then with a knife (not the sharp side) or a wooden skewer run six (6) lines at 30 degree angle to the cake to get the decoration (see pictures for more details). Each line should be in a different direction. One running away from you and the next one running to you.

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4. Spread the extra hazelnut cream around outside of cake. Press the remaining crushed hazelnuts around the cake to complete the decoration.

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Let rest in the fridge for at least 24 hours before tasting. This cake that gets better as times goes by.

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It looks pretty!

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I was not a fan of this cake.  It was not at all sweet and had a very odd texture.  I found it to be quite flavourless, maybe because I used almonds instead of the hazelnuts? Who knows.  It was also a very time-consuming cake.  It wasn’t hard, but it took 3 days.

I wont be making this one again.

Thanks Jelena for a great first challenge!

♦HAZELNUTS

 Place the hazelnuts on an oven tray in a cold oven, increase the temperature to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, and bake until a nice aroma starts to come out of the oven and the nuts have become darker.

Continue until their skins almost turn black or dark brown and the hazelnut ‘meat’ becomes a caramel colour. You will need to watch the oven carefully since the nuts can easily burn. From time to time, just open the oven and carefully try one to see if the centre is nice and crispy, but be careful not to burn yourself. It should take about 15-25 minutes.

This baking process brings out the aroma of the hazelnuts needed for the cake. (If you are using almonds instead of hazelnuts, they need to stay white. Hazelnuts are not good in this cake if their aroma is not present.)

Let them cool.

Set aside ¾ cup (3½ oz) (100 gm) toasted nuts and roughly chop them. These will go around the cake at the end.

The rest need to be ground. A grinding machine is best since a food processor might turn the hazelnuts into a creamy mush. If you are using a processor do it in short pulses so they do not have the consistency of peanut butter but of fine powder.

Divide the ground hazelnuts into 2 batches of 2½ cups (9 oz) (250 gm) and 1½ cups (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) for the sponge layers and the filling respectively.

Daring Bakers go Dutch

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For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking three different types of Dutch sweet bread

 

I’m baaaaaaaaaack!  It’s been so long since I have participated, but I am back and committed to being challenged each month.

I was excited to try this months Daring Bakers challenge because it was something I had never heard of, a Dutch Sweet Bread.  I know a few people right from Holland, so I wanted to make it for them, memories from home.

I picked the second recipe.

Kruidkoek

Original recipe in metric. Servings: 12 slices

4 cups (500 gm) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons (7 gm) baking powder
2½ cups (600 ml) (17-2/3 oz) (500 gm) brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons (10 gm) ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons (10 gm) ground nutmeg
2 cups (500 ml) milk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F and line a 30cmx12 cm (12“x5“)  baking tin with parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl

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3. Put the milk in a small saucepan and warm until it almost comes to a boil. Remove from the heat

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4. dd the sugar and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.

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5. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients whisk (by hand or using a machine) until the batter is totally smooth.

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6. Pour into the baking tin and bake in a preheated moderate 350°F oven for 90 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean

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The aroma coming from the kitchen while this was baking was amazing! I could hardly wait to try it!

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Well, I am not sure if I did something wrong (I followed the recipe to a tee) or if it is supposed to be like this, but it was awful!  It looks nothing like the photo in the example.  Its texture reminded me of what it would be like to chew on the yellow part of those green and yellow scouring sponges. YUCK!

I have yet to get it to my Dutch friends, I see them January 1st.  I will update and let you know what they think, but as for me, not a fan.

Thank you Andrea for a great challenge! Looking forward to next month!

Daring Bakers – A Blast from the Past!

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In a “celebration” of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we’d like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try!

I have not participated in the Daring Bakers for quite some time.  Honestly, I was just not fond of things that were picked to be made, I just can’t justify making something that I know I will not enjoy.  When I logged on at the beginning of the month I was trilled to see this months challenge, we were able to pick any challenge from the past.  This meant that we could make one that we really loved, one that we missed, or one that was done before we joined, so many possibilities!

At first I immediately thought I wanted to make the Chocolate Valentino, a flourless chocolate cake that I had admired for years!  It was the challenge the month before I joined, I have always wanted to make it and even added it to my Bucket List of Baking.  As I was looking for the recipe, in the Daring Bakers Archive, I happen to come across a recipe for biscotti.  This peaked my interest as I seem to be obsessed with biscotti at the present time.  As I looked further into the recipe I KNEW this is what I would make.  The recipe had one huge difference from any other biscotti recipe I had made, this one had butter in it.  From all the biscotti research I’ve done over the past while it seems that the addition of butter seems to be an ‘American Biscotti’. They apparently are less crunchy to their Italian counterparts who don’t use butter or oils. I have seen many recipes that called for butter but always skipped over them, now is my chance to try one out!

Chocolate Biscotti

Daring Bakers December 2006

Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Company, Nov 2006

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant espresso powder (I omitted this)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped almonds, blanched or unblanched
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

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3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes

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4. The mixture may be crumbly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes; don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled.

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5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until a dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

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6. Mix in the chopped nuts and chocolate

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7. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead in any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

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8. Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into 12 inch long logs. Flatten both logs with the palm of your hand so that they are 1/2 to 1 inch high, about 2 inches across and sort of rectangular, then carefully lift the logs onto the baking sheet.

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9. Bake the logs for about 25 minutes, or until they are just slightly firm. The logs will spread and crack – and that’s just fine.
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10. Remove the baking sheet from working with one log at a time, using a long serrated knife, cut each log into slices between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick.
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11.  Stand the slices up on the baking sheet and bake the cookies again, this time for just 10 minutes (mine were in for about 30 minutes).
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12. Cool on a wire rack
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These biscotti were pretty good.  I was very worried that they would be more ‘cake like’ as i read about, because of the addition of the butter.  I did cook them longer than they said so I could crunch them up a bit.  The texture was quite different, they were much more like a cookie.  They didn’t have that ‘hard bite’ that I associate with a biscotti.  I also found them to be quite crumbly, especially when biting, quite messy.  Not a whole lot of flavour, but ok.  I am glad I tried them, but will probably not make them again.  I think I will stick to the traditional Italian version of biscotti.
Thanks for a great challenge, I love when a Daring Bakers Challenge makes me step outside of my comfort zone.