Greek Appetizer

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Yesterday was our Annual Poker Run Party! Everyone brings an appetizer and we pick at them throughout the day.   I have my usual ‘go tos’, but I wanted to switch it up a bit.  I needed something that could be made a head, didn’t need to be heated and could please a crowd.  While searching Pinterest, I stumbled across this ‘A Crowd Favorite: Feta Dip’ from Clover Lane .  It looked Delicious!  I had to adapt it a tad as I could not find one of the ingredients and I really didn’t measure.

Greek Appetizer

Olive Oil
Tomatoes – seeded and diced
Green onion – thinly sliced
Feta – crumbled
Garlic, fresh
Oregano
Pepper

1. Select a tray for the amount you want to make.  Drizzle with olive oil.

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2. Add pepper, oregano and garlic

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3. Top with tomatoes, green onions, and feta

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 At this point there was a bit of a kerfuffle, unrelated to the dish, so I forgot to get pictures until it has half eaten! Trust me, it was a lot nice looking when it arrived.

4. Toss together and serve with a baguette or pita

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This was delicious!  Many people referred to it as bruschetta , It really was a crowd favourite. Everyone commented on how good it was and it was devoured!  This may be my new ‘go to’ app.   Thanks Sarah, from Clover Lane, for sharing this recipe.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Celebration Baking

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I am always looking for an excuse to bake.  Today’s excuse? Erica’s Edibles has had over 100,000 views! What?!? I can’t believe it!

Back when I started blogging, honestly, I didn’t think anyone other than my parents and maybe a few friends would have read.  It is so exciting that people actually look at what I bake!

Now the big decision is to pick a recipe!  There are so many I have Pinned and saved that I want to make.  I tried to find one that would please everyone, no peanut butter and chocolate (crazy I know! My parents hate that combination) and no coconut!  This was hard as just about all of my favourite included chocolate peanut butter or coconut.  I had to start a new search.  The recipe I chose was from The Bitter Side of Sweet, Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Shortbread Bars.  The name pretty much says it all.

Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Shortbread Bars

Crust

2 cups flour
⅓ cup brown sugar
½ cup pecans, chopped
1 stick butter, cold

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Prepare a 9 x 13 pan by lining with a piece of parchment paper. Then spray the parchment paper.

3. Mix the flour and brown sugar together

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4. Cut into mixture the butter till it looks crumbly

 

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5. Stir in pecans. Spread into pan and bake for 10 minutes (I got a little worried at this point, seems a bit dry to bake)

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6. When done allow to cool while you prepare the filling (still looking kind of dry)

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Filling

1 cup sugar
1 cup white Karo syrup
½ cup butter, melted
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup pretzels chopped

Directions

1. In a large bowl combine sugar, syrup and butter

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2. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs

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3. Add to sugar mixture and stir.

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4. Pour over shortbread and spread evenly

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5. Evenly spread pecans

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6. Top with layer of chocolate chips

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7. Finish with layer of chopped pretzels *tip* When I tried to chop the pretzels they were bouncing everywhere! I found it much easier and less messy to put them in a baggy and break them up

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8. Press the pretzels down lightly into the batter

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9. Put back in oven and cook for 30 minutes or until middle no longer jiggles, *mine took nearly an hour

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10. Cool at room temperature.

11. Then chill bars for 4 hours or overnight. ENJOY!

The next day

They look fantastic!

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These were OK.  I found them to be a little on the dry side.  Between the pretzels and the shortbread crust, don’t plan on whistling a tune.  The centre was not bad, could have been sweeter and didn’t have a lot of flavour.  Everyone that had them said they were good, but I was unimpressed.  I wouldn’t make them again.