Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chocolate and Caramel Tart

This month's Daring Baker's Challenge was our choice of pies/tarts. Obviously I chose the only pie that contained chocolate. Dessert doesn't count if it doesn't have an element of chocolate! I thought that the chocolate and caramel tart would be easy to make dairy free (which it was), easy to make (it wasn't) and delicious (it wasn't).

This recipe was a pain in the rear from the first step! I started making the pate sablee and it was super simple, but when I made the tart shell, I was left with enough dough for two pies! What a waste! Turns out, it was just what I needed because when I placed the tart shell in the oven it shrank so badly from the tin that it was unusable! Luckily, I was able to roll out the remaining dough and make another tart shell. This time I left the dough hanging over the tin and trimmed it after it was baked.

The second recipe within the recipe is a caramel that is spread over the tart crust. It is a simple recipe, just sugar and cream. I used coconut cream thinking that it would be the same as using real cream, but I was mistaken. The caramel never thickened despite adding margarine, and boiling it for a long time. I chucked that batch and tried again using almond milk. This worked slightly better, but it was still quite thin. I didn't want to make it a third time, so I stuck with the almond milk version. I put it in the fridge after pouring it in the shell hoping that it would set up before the chocolate mixture was poured in.

The chocolate filling was the only portion of the recipe that worked the first time. First you mix some eggs with almond milk and then add a ganache type mixture. For the ganache I heated up some coconut milk and then poured it over semi-sweet chocolate and left it until the chocolate melted. When I combined the egg mixture with the ganache, I had high hopes! It looked and smelled great. I pulled the tart shell out of the fridge and the caramel still hadn't set. I carefully spooned the chocolate on top of the caramel, trying hard not to disturb the caramel to keep the layer intact. That was fruitless, because it all mixed together. Hoping for the best, I shoved it in the oven and waited.
When I took the tart out of the oven it looked great! I waited until it cooled to room temperature and cut myself a slice. It was meh. For all of the trouble of making duplicate recipes after the failures, I wasn't even rewarded with a delicious slice of silky chocolate. It was good, but not worth the trouble or calories.

If you would like the recipe for this tart, you can leave me a comment and I can send it to you. It really isn't even worth the trouble of typing it on here. I wouldn't recommend making it. The recipe was oddly written and was hard to follow in the format that was offered on the Daring Kitchen website. You're better off finding a tart shell recipe, filling recipe and caramel recipe that is tried and true and making your own combo. I guess I have been spoiled by making recipes from Cook's Illustrated- they work every time!

Blog-checking lines: Rachael from was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cinnamon Buns

Every now and then I get a craving for ooey, gooey cinnamon buns just like you can get at the mall. Gone are the days when I can impulse buy a Cinnabon while shopping, but I've found something almost as easy and just as delicious.
One of allrecipes top 20 recipes is called Clone of a Cinnabon is just what I remember from when I was a child and my siblings and I would split a humongous cinnamon bun. I've made this recipe many times with a few modifications to the ingredient list. I haven't attempted the cream cheese icing (obviously), but I suppose you could try it with Toffuti cream cheese.
 It is super easy thanks to the bread machine, and it's the perfect treat!

Clone of a Cinnabon
Bun dough
-1 cup warm almond or soy milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C) I microwave it for about 45 seconds in the microwave

-2eggs, room temperature

-1/3 cup margarine, melted

-4 1/2 cups bread flour( I've always used all purpose flour)

-1 teaspoon salt

-1/2 cup white sugar

2- 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
Cinnamon-sugar filling
-1 cupbrown sugar, packed
-2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

  1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
  2. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Roll dough into a 16x21-inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup margarine and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  4. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cookies n Cream Ice Cream

Ever since I eliminated dairy from my diet, I have been trying to find a great dairy free ice cream alternative. I've tried soy based ice creams (expensive and so nasty), Toffuti (hard to find and expensive, but pretty good) and rice cream (ick), but they all made me long for something that didn't leave a horrible aftertaste in my mouth and a dent in my wallet. When it came time to register for wedding gifts two years ago, I knew that an ice cream machine had to be on there. Luckily when we opened our gifts, someone generously gave us one. Four days after our wedding I made my first batch of ice cream and I've been going strong ever since!

I have experimented with many different recipe variations in the two years since getting my ice cream machine. I tried the recipe that came with the Cuisinart machine, ones from online, a great one from Cooks Illustrated, but they were all written to be made with milk and real cream. Substituting soy milk for all of the dairy simply didn't make a rich and creamy ice cream. It often froze to a solid chunk of ice, and although that was delicious, it just wasn't right. One thing that didn't change through my experiments was to whip eggs yolks with sugar to help add thickness to the ice cream. The addition of egg yolks is very important in creating a creamy ice cream base. I also add two and a half tablespoons of corn starch to help thicken the base even more. By researching the ingredients of readily available ice creams, I noticed that almost all of them had a thickening ingredient added. Since I wasn't going to go buy xantham gum, I decided to try the only thickener I had in my house, corn starch, and was pleased with the results.

After many recipes I found that a mixture of coconut milk and almond milk made for an ice cream that didn't have a weird colour or aftertaste. The coconut milk adds enough fat to keep the ice cream from freezing into a solid chunk and it is also pretty mild, so the ice cream doesn't taste like coconuts.

I've made this ice cream recipe many times and I've been able to turn this ice cream base into many different variations. From this one base I have made chocolate, peanut butter chocolate, mint chocolate chip, mint fudgeeo, vanilla chocolate chip, moose tracks, toffee crunch and candy cane (a holiday favourite!). I will be posting these recipes as I make them throughout the year.

Below is a recipe for a vanilla base that I add crushed Oreos to to make Cookies n Cream ice cream. Oreos are dairy free in Canada (not sure about the U.S), so I can happily make Cookies n Cream, which was one of my favourite flavours as a kid. Making your own ice cream allows you to add as many cookies as you'd like. Nothing is worse than having a scoop of Cookies n Cream and not getting a good chunk of cookie!

If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can put the cooled ice cream base into a container and place it in the freezer and stir it every half hour until you get the consistency you desire. I'm not sure how long this recipe will keep, since it doesn't seem to last in our house more than two days! This is the first recipe that I can say is entirely my own!
1 1/2 cups almond milk (regular or unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (or 1 regular sized can)
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
2 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped out using the back of a knife
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 Oreo cookies, crushed.
1. In a medium bowl, whip egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar with a whisk until light yellow (think the colour of margarine or butter). Set aside.
2. In a medium sauce pan, combine almond milk, coconut milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, corn starch, vanilla bean and vanilla seeds.
3. Heat the milk mixture over medium heat until it reaches 175 F, or until steam rises from the surface, stirring frequently. Do not allow to boil.
4. Once the mixture reaches 175F, remove from heat. Slowly add 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the eggs to temper it. Repeat this until half of the milk mixture has been incorporated into the eggs.
5. Place the pot over medium heat and pour in the egg mixture. Stir continuously until the mixture reaches 180-185F. Do not let it boil, as this will cause it to curdle.
6. Pour the ice cream base through a fine mesh sieve into a large glass measuring cup or bowl.
7. Allow the base to cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or in the freezer for 2 hours.
8. Stir in vanilla extract. Pour the base in an ice cream maker and follow the machine's directions.
9. During the last 5 minutes of mixing, add the cookie chunks. If your machine can't handle solid chunks, stir by hand. The mixture will resemble soft serve at this point.
10. Scoop ice cream into a freezer safe container and freeze for at least two hours.
11. Enjoy ice cream like you did before without the horrible feeling afterwards!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Banana Bread

After a long and unnecessary (re: lazy) hiatus from posting, I am back with a new light set up and new recipes! I have been experimenting with lots of ice cream recipes lately, and I'm excited to post them for all those who cannot stomach regular ice cream!
The banana bread recipe that I am using is the one that my family has been making forever. It comes from an old food processor cookbook and it is different from most recipes that I've seen. It's pretty simple to make and it is all made in the food processor, so it is easy to clean up afterwards. The recipe is baked in a low oven for a long time, which is torture since your house is filled with the yummy smell of banana bread for hours before you can eat it! To make this recipe dairy free I use almond milk soured with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to simulate buttermilk or soured milk. This works very well, but I find that it makes the bread spill over the top of the loaf pan, so bake it on a sheet pan to save yourself from cleaning baked on bread from the bottom of your oven.
This recipe makes one loaf and it freezes very well.
3 medium, ripe bananas
1 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons baking soda
dash of salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup soured almond milk.
1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Butter a loaf pan and set aside.
2. Process banana until pureed, 15-20 seconds.
3. Add sugar, salt and baking soda and process for 30 seconds.
4. Add eggs and oil and process until blended, about 10 seconds.
5. Pour flour over banana mixture and then add soured almond milk. Process until smooth, 8-10 seconds.
6. Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, or until tooth pick comes out clean.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.
I've made doughnuts several times before, both cake doughnuts and yeast doughnuts. I must say, I prefer the cake style as they taste the closest to old fashioned sugar doughnuts from Timmy's, my favourite dairy filled Tim Hortons treat. If they didn't have old fashioned sugar, my next choice was either a chocolate dip or the kind with sprinkles on it. When I saw that the challenge for this month was yeast doughnuts, I knew I had to recreate a dairy free version of a chocolate dip and sprinkle doughnut.
The recipe was pretty straight forward, even though it requires using yeast. I get nervous when using yeast because I worry that I will not let it proof enough, or let it proof too long and my treats will be ruined. This time it worked! Making the dough was really easy. I used soy milk instead of regular milk to melt the shortening, but I let it get a little too hot and had to wait a while before I added the yeast to the mix or else I would have killed the rising effect of the yeast.
When the dough comes out of the mixer, it was really sticky. After it rested for a while, it was still sticky! It didn't seem to matter though, since I was able to roll and cut them.
Instead of deep frying, I pan fried the doughnuts in a shallow layer of oil in a frying pan. I've used this method before when making doughnuts and beavertails, and it hasn't failed yet. I don't like the idea of using a whole jug of oil and then chucking it! Once the doughnuts had spent their time in the old and had turned golden brown and puffy, I let them rest for a while as I prepared the glazes. I didn't use a recipe for the glazes. I combined icing sugar and soy milk in a bowl until it was the right spreading consistency for the vanilla glaze and I melted chocolate chips with a bit of oil for the chocolate glaze. I dunked the cooled doughnuts in the glazes and then rolled them in sprinkles.
Overall this challenge was fun. Paul remains my #1 doughnut fryer and the doughnuts were delicious! I would definitely make them again, even though they probably aren't the healthiest treat. It is nice to be able to indulge in a doughnut ever now and then, even though I can't get them through the Timmys drive thru!

Soy Milk 1.5 cup
Vegetable Shortening 1/3 cup(can substitute butter, margarine or lard)
Active Dry Yeast 4.5 teaspoon (2 pkgs.)
Warm Water 1/3 cup / 80 ml (95°F to 105°F / 35°C to 41°C)
Eggs, Large, beaten 2
White Granulated Sugar ¼ cup
Table Salt 1.5 teaspoon
Nutmeg, grated 1 tsp.
All Purpose Flour 4 2/3 cup + extra for dusting surface
Canola Oil DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you want THREE (3) inches of oil (can substitute any flavorless oil used for frying)


1.Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. (Make sure the shortening is melted so that it incorporates well into the batter.)
2.Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
3.In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. It should get foamy. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.
4.Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.
5.Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.
6.Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes (for me this only took about two minutes). If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
7.Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
8.On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch (9 mm)thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured otherwise your doughnuts will stick to the counter).
9.Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch (22 mm) ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
10.Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C.
11.Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown (my doughnuts only took about 30 seconds on each side at this temperature).
12.Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Piece Montee

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.
This month I was challenged to make a Piece Montee. You might know that dessert by it's other long French name, croquembouche. When I saw this challenge I freaked. The giant cone of cream puffs seemed impossible for me to make. I imagined days of making cream puffs and the long time it would take to create a sky high cone of caramel glazed treats. My fear made me procrastinate until the last possible day, which happened to be the hottest day of the year! I was standing in my kitchen stirring a bubbling pot of hot caramel while it was 35 degrees centigrade outside!
Once I actually read through the recipes for the piece montee, I started calming down. It wasn't that hard! I had to make a pastry cream to fill the puffs, pate a choux and a caramel glaze. Not too difficult! I started by making the pastry cream, chocolate of course, the night before I made the puffs. I followed the recipe and I substituted soy milk for the whole milk in the recipe. I was a bit nervous that the cream wouldn't turn out since I only had low fat soy milk on hand, but it still ended up being quite thick and tasty!
The next day I started making the pate a choux. No substitutions were needed for this recipe, everything is dairy free! Making the pate a choux reminded me of making play dough with my mom when I was younger. You know it's done when it pulls away from the side of the pot. Luckily, the pate a choux tastes a lot better than the salty mess that is home made play dough! The recipe doesn't say this, but stirring the eggs into the hot flour mixture counts as a work out! My arms were sore by the time I was done incorporating the eggs. The mixture gets quite stiff after the addition of the last egg!
When it came time to pipe out the cream puffs, I thought I was making them quite small. It turns out that the little blobs of pastry turn into gigantic airy puffs once the hot air hits them! Next time I will pipe them really small so that I get normal sized puffs. After the puffs had cooled I started filling them with the pastry cream. I used a medium sized round tip on my pastry bag and jammed the tip into the bottom of the puff. I was worried that I wouldn't have enough cream to fill my gigantic cream puffs, but I had exactly enough! I placed the finished puffs in the fridge and started to make my caramel.
The caramel glaze only has two ingredients- sugar and a tiny bit of lemon juice. I ended up making two batches since my first one got way too dark and tasted like smoke. Nasty. Now I know that when you set out to make caramel, take it off the heat a bit before it's done since it continues to cook for a bit afterwards. I used my burnt caramel to make little sugar corkscrews, so it wasn't a total loss. The second batch of caramel worked perfectly. Instead of dunking the puffs in the caramel like the recipe states, I spooned a bit onto the bottoms of the puffs and built my pyramid that way. I figured I'd be better protected from horrible hot caramel burns that way, and it worked!
Once the croquembouche was assembled I drizzled the remainder of the sugar all over and arranged my sugar corkscrews. When it came time to rip the croquembouche apart I was a little leery. Would this taste good? The answer was yes! It was really good! Would I make it again? Maybe not for any old dessert, but if something special was going on or someone requested one I would definitely do it. It wasn't as hard as I thought and it was very easy to make dairy free!

Chocolate Pastry Cream
1 cup soy milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
3. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
4. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
Bring ¼ cup milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

Pate a Choux

¾ cup water
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Caramel Glaze
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Traditional British Pudding

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet. Suet is beef fat, so I was pretty grossed out when I first read this challenge. There was no way I was going to bake using raw beef fat. I'm sure it provides great flavour, but I really didn't want to go to the hassle of trying to locate suet at the grocery store or go to the butcher to request a hunk of fat. Plus, I'm sure it's not a healthy option. Since I had decided to not use suet, I had to set out to find a traditional pudding recipe that was beef fat free!
For the purposes of this challenge, pudding refers to a dessert that is cooked in a pudding mold (or in my case a glass bowl) using steam. I have never baked a dessert using steam before, so I was pretty nervous about it not turning out. I chose a pudding recipe that is dairy free as well as chocolaty! I used a recipe from a website called The Pudding Club. I guess puddings are pretty popular, since there were many pudding websites/recipes to choose from.
I chose a recipe called Very Chocolate Pudding and it was very easy to make. I had to weigh all of the ingredients, since the site is British and that's how they roll. I followed the recipe exactly, except for the fact that I didn't have self raising flour. I used the same amount of all purpose flour and added 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder to help my pudding rise. I mixed up the batter and poured it into my medium Pyrex glass bowl. The batter was pretty yummy, so I had high hopes for the finished product.
Since this was my first pudding, I didn't have a dedicated steamer. I had to McGuyver my own. I used my giant stock pot with three custard cups at the bottom to keep my bowl elevated from the bottom of the pot. I filled the pot with water so that it came halfway up the pudding bowl. I covered the bowl tightly with aluminum foil and wrapped it with string to make a handle so I could easily lift the bowl out of the pot. Once the water came to a full boil, I lowered the bowl in and hoped for the best! It was a long hour and a half wait to see if my first pudding would be a flop or a success.
I lifted the bowl out of the water and ripped off the aluminum foil and was pleased to see a dense chocolate cake that had risen quite a bit! I flipped the pudding out of the bowl and let it cool as we finished supper. To complete the pudding I decided to make a chocolate sauce, since you can never have enough chocolate! I used a recipe from all recipes that is simply called Chocolate Sauce. The sauce is dairy free and is almost fat free, which is a nice bonus. You can also use it for ice cream, hot chocolate and chocolate milk! It makes quite a bit, so I placed the rest in a jar and it now sits in my fridge waiting to jazz up some other desserts. I did make a small modification to the recipe. I used 1 cup of sugar instead of 1 2/3 cups and 1 cup of water instead of 1 1/4 cups. I like chocolate sauces and things like that to be a little less sweet, and this did the trick.
Overall my first British pudding was a success. I really thought that when I lifted the bowl out of my homemade steamer that I would find a sloppy chocolate mess, but it actually turned out nicely. It was really yummy and not that hard to make. The only downside was that it had to steam for an hour and a half and it probably wouldn't be that fun to do during the summer time. I probably wouldn't make a pudding this way again, but it was fun to try!