Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gingerbread House

This month the Daring Bakers challenge was to make a gingerbread house. I was pretty excited about it since I've made a gingerbread house pretty much every year. I knew this was going to be fun. I really didn't like the recipes that were posted on the Bakers website. The gingerbread was puffy and pale, and there was an added recipe for simple syrup to glue the house together. I decided to go with tried and true recipes for spicy gingerbread and royal icing. I made a double batch of the gingerbread and I used egg whites for the royal icing since that's what I had in the house and no one was going to be eating my gingerbread house anyway, so I wasn't worried about salmonella.
I got the template for my house at the weirdest site. Bob Vila, the This Old House guy! He had very nice plans and different styles of houses you could build with cute and funny instructions. I chose to build a colonial style house. I liked how it had lots of windows.
To build my house I made a double batch of gingerbread and then we got to rolling. I had pre-cut all of the house templates to make it quicker. Paul helped me roll and cut the pieces since I was losing it quickly! I was rolling the dough too thin, so it was breaking when I tried to move it onto the cooking sheet. To make stained glass windows I put some wax paper on the back of the windows and then I crushed up some Lifesavers and put them in the window holes. Once we got all the pieces baked and cooled, it was too late in the day to build the house, so we waited a week to build the house.
I made a batch of royal icing to serve as the glue that held the house together. Assembling the house was pretty easy. I was worried that the roof was going to slide off because it wasn't fitting properly, but once the royal icing hardened it was super strong.
To decorate the house we used Oreo Thinsations for the roof. They were expertly applied by Paul using royal icing to glue them down. I used little chocolate dot thingys for the decorations around the windows and to make a wreath on the door.
We both had a really good time making the house, and we'll probably make another one next year! We already have some ideas for next time!

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Friday, November 27, 2009


The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry Cannolo (cannoli is plural!), using the cookbooks of Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Mattichio Bastianic and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker, recipes by Michelle Sciolone, as ingredient/direction guide. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.
This month's challenge didn't require any baking, just deep frying! I was a little hesitant to deep fry again, but I figured I'd try my tried and true method of frying in my skillet. For the challenge I had to make a recipe of cannoli dough and the filling options were up to me! Traditionally cannoli are filled with a ricotta cheese mixture that is either savory or sweet, but that wouldn't work for me! I chose to fill my cannoli with Nutriwhip and fruit to make it a little easier on the belly.
Cannoli are supposed to be little tubes that are filled with the ricotta mixture. In order to get the tube shape, the dough is shaped around a cannoli form, a cylindrical piece of metal or wood. I didn't want to go buy cannoli forms that I would never use again, so I fried up circles of dough, an alternative way suggested in the original recipe. They turned out really well!
The dough was pretty standard to make. Just throw the ingredients in the mixer and whirl away! The dough was pretty dry, so I was a little nervous, but after a few kneads on the countertop it came together into a smooth dough. I let it rest in the fridge for the afternoon while I did my typical weekend stuff. After supper I got Paul to help me roll out the dough. It was pretty tough to get it thin, so I need a stronger person to help me out! He rolled the dough and cut them into four inch rounds. We docked the dough to prevent it from bubbling while frying, that didn't go exactly as planned, but more on that later.
I dropped the rounds into about an inch of hot oil in a small frying pan. I turned them after about a minute and fried them until they were golden. The recipe says that they should blister, but mine blew up like balloons. I later found out that this was because my dough was too thick, but I really don't see how we could have gotten the dough any thinner without buying a pasta machine. I had a few that worked the way the recipe stated, but the rest were puffy, but still delicious.
When the cannoli had cooled, I piped some Nutriwhip on a cannolo, sprinkled it with chopped strawberries and topped it with another cannolo. I then dusted it with powdered sugar.
The cannoli making experience was fun, but I probably wouldn't make them again.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large white (only needed if using forms)

Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying
Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough .

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.
3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes. Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.
4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.
5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.
8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

French Macaroons

The October 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Taverns as the challenge recipe. To be honest, I had no clue what a French macaroon was. I thought macaroons were those little mounds of coconut. I felt sad when I first started reading the write up on the website, since I hate coconut, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the macarons that they were writing about were little cookies made with almond flour and filled with ganache or icing. Yummy!

I thought the macarons might be tricky to make, as things that require fluffy egg whites can be temperamental, but I was happy to find that it wasn't so difficult. The longest part of the recipe was waiting for the eggs to come to room temperature. That took about an hour. I must confess that my eggs were still a little cold when I whipped them, but I didn't want to wait any longer to start the cookies. The hardest part of the recipe was getting the eggs to stiff peaks. I always worry that I'm going to over whip them and ruin the recipe. Luckily this time they came out right. I tried adding pink food colouring to the egg whites to make my macarons a soft pink colour like I had seen in other examples, but I was scared to add too much liquid to the eggs and they ended up not being pink at all. Oh well, next time I'll up the food colouring. Once the eggs are whipped and the granulated sugar is incorporated you fold in the almond flour and icing sugar mixture and that's it!

I filled my piping bag and fitted it with just the coupler. The Daring Bakers's website says that you can trace circles on parchment and use them to make perfect circles, but I eye balled it. After I had piped the cookies, I baked them as per the recipe and they worked well! I think I left them in the oven too long though, some of them turned a little too brown. After testing them (many times) the brown ones were still yummy! I let the cookies cool really well and then I filled them with a dark chocolate ganache.

I don't have a recipe for the ganache, I kind of made it up as I went. I poured a splash of soy milk into a pot and warmed it on the stove. When it was steaming I added a Lindt chocolate bunny and some dark chocolate I had kicking around in my baking cupboard and voila! A ganache was made. I spread some ganache on one side of a cookie and topped it with a cookie of a similar size.

No dairy free substitutions were needed for this recipe other than the soy milk in the ganache. I'm not sure if I would make these cookies again, even though they were easy to make and well received by those who ate them!

-2 1/4 cup confectioners (icing) sugar
-2 cups almond flour
-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
-5 room temperature egg whites

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Combine icing sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl.
2. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl of a mixture until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of a flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently until combined. Sift the almond flour mixture into the mixture in two batches and fold until just combined. Don't over fold.
4. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag.
5. Pipe into 1 inch mounds.
6. Bake macaroons for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375 degrees. Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven for 7-8 minutes or until lightly covered. ( I would bake it a little less, but it depends on your oven.)
7. Cool before filling.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Butter Free Butter Tarts

For Paul's father's birthday I was given the task of making his favourite dessert, butter tarts. Instead of a birthday cake, we were going to have a variety of his favourite treats, and I was nervous! I'm not very good at pastry and I didn't want to arrive empty handed at a birthday party. I also wanted to make a butter tart that I could eat as well, so a dairy free butter tart was what I set out to do.

The tarts ended up being a combination of two recipes, the pastry shell from one site and the filling from the other. The pastry was really easy to make. Probably the easiest pastry I've attempted so far. I ended up making two batches of the pastry. The first one I refrigerated for 30 minutes, and the second I used right away since I was pressed for time. The second batch I rolled between two sheets of waxed paper so it wouldn't stick. I used a circle cutter and then placed the pastry rounds into a regular sized muffin tin. The recipe for the pastry can be found here, on
The filling was super simple to make. You just throw all of the ingredients into a bowl, stir it around and fill the pastry shells. Easy peasy! I was surprised to find that a treat called butter tarts had very little butter in them. I substituted margarine for the butter in the filling recipe. The filling recipe can be found on the website called Canadian Home and Country. I made three versions of tarts, walnut, raisin and plain. I filled all of the shells and sprinkled raisins or walnuts on top. My favourite were the plain ones.

When I was looking up recipes, I found that butter tarts are a uniquely Canadian treat! Pretty cool! The tarts went over really well. I'm going to have to make them again sometime because not everyone at the party got to try them because some people were going back for seconds and thirds!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Puff Pastry Failure

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. Vol-au-vents are like little pastry nests that you can fill with savoury or sweet fillings. They are very chic looking and would impress any guest who enjoyed them. I went into the challenge hopeful that I would be able to make puff pastry without butter. That would mean that I could make all sorts of hors d'oeuvres and desserts without having to use commercial puff pastry which most often has butter in it. I was a little hesitant to start the challenge, as puff pastry is incredibly complicated and time consuming, but I wanted to get it over with and enjoy the results.
I stared the pastry right after breakfast one weekend morning. The recipe requires you to make a dough and use it to encase a square made of cold butter (or in my case margarine) to create layers of flaky pastry goodness. The dough turned out just as it said it would online. I pounded one pound of margarine with a rolling pin to create an eight in square and wrapped it with the dough mixture and placed it in the fridge to harden. The way to create the layers of butter in the pastry is to laminate it. Laminating the pastry requires you to roll the pastry to a length of 24 inches, fold it in thirds, let it rest in the fridge at least half an hour and start rolling again....six times! Needless to say, it took me all day.
My problems arose early in the day. The margarine kept squishing out of the pastry during the laminating process. I tried to pinch it back in and coat it with flour as the recipe stated, but it never worked properly. After all I made all of the required turns, I rolled out the sheets of pastry and cut out the rounds needed to make the vol-au-vents. After letting them rest in the fridge for what seemed like the millionth time that day, I egg washed them an put them in the oven. I knew something was wrong shortly after they went in the oven. They became all frothy and greasy. I could see puddles of margarine under the rounds. They looked gross. They also didn't rise at all. From photos that I had seen online, they grow to like five times bigger than they started out. Once the baking was done, I ended up with heavy little hockey pucks that were super greasy. I later found out that this was caused by not letting them rest enough. I guess I was too impatient.
I planned on filling the vol-au-vents with a chocolate pastry cream topped with salty and sweet pecans. I did end up with one vol-au-vent that looked semi-presentable so I filled it with chocolate soy pudding and topped it with nuts. I was so over the pastry that I didn't want to eat it, so I don't know what it tasted like.
I usually post the recipe for the Daring Bakers Challenge, but this recipe was so long and complicated that I can't see any other dairy free bakers attempting it. I'm not confident that it can be done using dairy free margarine, but if you have made them work using margarine, please let me know!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pulled pork and cool kitchen gadgets.

This weekend we had a party up at Paul's cottage with his friends. We knew the weather was going to be kind of crappy, so we didn't want to stand outside in the pouring rain cooking our supper. We wanted something that was no fuss so it allowed us all the time we wanted to just relax. Pulled pork fit the bill. Season some pork, dump some chicken broth on it, turn on the slow cooker and you're done! Pretty simple!
When Paul was in school at crazy hours and I was at work, slow cooker meals really saved us. There often wasn't enough time between getting home from work and Paul dashing out the door to cook a nice meal. I soon discovered the joy of prepping food the night before and turning it on in the morning and coming home to a perfectly cooked meal.
Pulled pork is so simple. The recipe I use is very loosely based on a recipe I saw on All I do is season a pork butt/shoulder roast (aka picnic roast) with spice rub, I used a Southern rub from my ribs night, put it in the slow cooker, pour about two cups of chicken brother around it and set the timer for 7 hours. I cook it on low so that it stays moist. A 3-4 pound roast is good for 7 hours, reduce the time for smaller roast and increase for larger ones.
After the pork has cooked, remove it from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. Dump out all of the cooking juices and return the meat back to the pot. Smother the meat with your favourite barbeque sauce and heat for another 30 minutes. This weekend we used barbeque sauce from Camp 31. We used their award winning barbeque sauce that we bought during Rib Fest.
Once the pork is heated through, pile it on a bun and enjoy! We don't top the sandwiches with anything, the saucy goodness is yummy enough on it's own!
Today is my birthday, and I received some wonderful kitchen/blog related presents! Paul got me onion goggles! I have longed for onion goggles for a long time! When I have a lot of onions to slice, I run for my ski goggles to prevent crying. Now I don't have to! He also got me a proper tripod for our new dSLR camera. No more dropping my camera into food! My parents also got me a new cutting board. Great birthday all around!
*Photo taken by Paul!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular DobosTorte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. Dobos torte is a five layer sponge cake filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with wedges of caramel. There are many ways to change this recipe, but I stuck to the recipe.
This cake was very labour intensive. It took me two days to complete the whole thing since I didn’t have a full day to devote to baking. The recipe starts of with six cakes that you make by smoothing batter onto traced parchment. I used the bottom of a torte pan as my outline. The batter was really easy to make, although I did like having to use six eggs. Cholesterol city! The batter was light and airy thanks to the whipped egg whites. The layers were baked for 4 minutes (I guess my oven is hot) and then I peeled them off the parchment and wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge until the next day.
The second night of baking I started on the buttercream. I was a bit nervous about making the buttercream, since I couldn’t use real butter. I used dairy free hard margarine, which has the same fat content as butter, so I figured I’d be safe. I also didn’t have superfine sugar. Loblaws changed their sugar provider, and I haven’t been able to find superfine sugar at my store. Stupid Loblaws. I used regular sugar (which Red Path calls Special Fine-which it’s not) and the recipe turned out fine. I don’t know why you would need superfine sugar since the sugar gets dissolved in the egg mixture anyway. I used dark chocolate for the buttercream since baking chocolate has milk ingredients in it. The icing was so rich and creamy. I loved it! The hard margarine performed just like butter did when I made a traditional Swiss buttercream. I have to say that the buttercream was my favourite part of the torte! After I made the buttercream I put it in the fridge to harden a little while I prepared the cakes. I trimmed each cake to size and selected the best layer for my caramel topping. The caramel topping didn’t work out the way I had hoped. It took forever to turn ‘amber’ and the lemon juice was so overpowering I couldn’t stand to eat more than one bite. In the end I used it anyway, since I wanted to keep the look of the cake as accurate as possible. Once the layers were cut, I filled and stacked the layers and gave the whole thing a coating of buttercream. I arranged the caramel wedges on top and propped them up using cashews, since I didn’t have hazelnuts.
Dobos Torte was a fun, albeit long process. It was an okay cake. I probably wouldn’t make this cake again. It was good, but it was no Bakewell Tarte! As for substitutions for dairy, all I needed to do was omit the butter and replace it with margarine.

-2 baking sheets
-9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
-mixing bowls
-a sieve
-a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
-a small saucepan
-a whisk
-metal offset spatula
-sharp knife
-a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a springform tin.
piping bag and tip, optional

Sponge cake layers
-6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
-1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
-1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
-1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour
-pinch of salt

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over .
3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)
4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Chocolate Buttercream
-4 large eggs, at room temperature
-1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar I used regular white sugar and it was just fine.
-4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
-2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) hard margarine, at room temperature

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Caramel topping
-1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar I used regular white sugar
-12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
-8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice I would probably use half that amount
-1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower) I used canola oil

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Cut into 12 equal wedges.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool completely.

Assembling the Dobos
1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Strawberry Pie

I love strawberries. I love pie crust. Mix the two together and you get a very awesome summer pie! I discovered this recipe one summer after a friend brought us a pie that his mom had made. I found a similar recipe in the Joy of Cooking for a glazed berry pie, and modified it slightly to make it like the delicious pie I had previously enjoyed. The recipe is very simple and doesn't have too many ingredients. It is best made with fresh strawberries, so I tend to only make it during strawberry season, which sadly doesn't last too long around here. The best thing about this recipe is that it's totally dairy free. If you used a gluten free pie crust it could be gluten free too.
Strawberry Pie
-one single crust pie crust. I use the Crisco recipe. Baked
-6 cups strawberries or red raspberries
-1 cup sugar
-1/4 cup cornstarch
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup water
-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

1. Hull the strawberries and cut the bigger ones in half. Measure 4 cups of berries and place the remaining 2 cups of berries in a bowl. Blend remaining two cups using a blender or food processor until smooth.
2. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium sauce pan.
3. Whisk in 1/2 cup water.
4. Stir in the pureed berries and lemon juice.
5. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
6. Arrange berries cut side down in the pie shell. Pour the berry mixture over the top of the berries and place in fridge for at least 4 hours.

The berry mixture will become gelatinous as it cools and it holds the berries together so it doesn't ooze when you cut pieces of pie. I'm not usually a fan of pie, but this one rocks. The berries soften a bit after the warm mixture is poured over top, but after it cools in the fridge it's a refreshingly cool summer treat!

Monday, July 27, 2009


This month's Daring Baker challenge was Mallows, a chocolate covered marshmallow cookie that reminds me very much of Puffs or Whippets from my youth! The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

As a child we always had homemade cookies for our dessert at school. I loved the cookies my mom made, and so did many other kids who had store bought cookies. I used to trade my cookies for thinks like Oreos, Whippets and for some strange reason frosted Cheerios. Store bought cookies were a novelty to us since we never had them, and the other kids loved cookies that weren't from a package, so it worked out well! When I saw these cookies, I instantly thought of all the chocolate chip cookies that got traded for the marshmallowy goodness of a Whippet or Puff.

The cookies were actually quite easy to make. The cookie base was pretty standard. The only thing that annoyed me was 3/8ths of a teaspoon of baking soda. What the eff is that? My equivalent fraction skills really suck (which is horrible for a teacher), but I didn't know what to do with that measurement. I just put in a pinch and hoped for the best! I guess the pinch was good enough, because the cookies turned out really well, and there were a lot of them.

I was pretty nervous about making marshmallows. I had attempted to make marshmallow bones using a whack recipe from Martha Stewart. They were awful. I followed the recipe exactly as written, but they were a sticky, gooey mess. Gross! This time, the marshmallows turned out perfectly!

The chocolate glaze was pretty straight forward. 2 ounces of oil looked like a lot when I first poured it over the chocolate, but it was just right. The coating was very smooth and cracked a little when you bit into the cookie. The only problem was that it was so humid in my house when I made the cookies that the coating didn't set. I'll try the cookies again in the winter and see if the humidity was the issue.

Assembling the cookies was not too difficult. I used a piping bag with just the coupler to pipe kisses of marshmallows on top of the cooled cookie base. After two hours, I dipped the cookies in the melted chocolate and oil mixture and let them harden (sort of) on a cooling rack.

The only downside to this recipe was that it made a tonne of cookies....many more than the amount of marshmallow I had. It wasn't a problem though, since the cookies were good enough to eat on their own, and I dipped the extras in chocolate. Delish!

The dairy substitutions were pretty straight forward with this recipe. Instead of butter I used margarine.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)

Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 min

Inactive Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 10 minServes

about 2 dozen cookies
• 3 cups all purpose flour

• 1/2 cup white sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 12 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 3 eggs, whisked together

• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows

• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows
1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.

2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.

3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.

4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.

8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.

10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.

11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.

12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.

13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.
Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:

• 1/4 cup water

• 1/4 cup light corn syrup

• 3/4 cup sugar

• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin

• 2 tablespoons cold water

• 2 egg whites , room temperature

• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.

2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.

3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.

4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.

5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:

• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate

•2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil
1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Allergy Free Chocolate Cake

I love really love it. Anthony Bordain often speaks of his 'death row' meal, the meal you would request right before you get fried, and I think chocolate cake with whipped cream and strawberries would be just that. In my house we grew up eating (and still eat every birthday) Chuckie's Chocolate Cake. My aunt first introduced my mom to this cake, and it has made many appearances ever since. I'm sure every family has a version of this cake, often called depression cake or whacky cake. It's very simple to make, as it contains ingredients that you have kicking around in your pantry. It also doesn't contain any perishable ingredients like butter, milk or eggs, so it's economical as well! Since it doesn't contain milk or butter, it's deliciously dairy free!

This cake is very dense (it's wonderful in character pans) and chocolatey and takes no time to make. I have made this as cupcakes and even quadrupled the recipe to make a giant cake. It's very adaptable. I have made this recipe with spelt flour as well as a gluten free flour mixture and they both tasted just like the regular version. It's so easy to make, that you can even mix it right in the pan you are going to bake it in!

I can no longer have whipped cream, which makes me very sad. Whipped cream and strawberries with cake is the best thing ever. Recently I found a great substitute for whipped cream. Nutriwhip is a product that can be whipped just like whipped cream, and it tastes pretty much like whipped cream. I used to use Cool-Whip, but then I found out that there was casein in it. I like Nutriwhip because you can whip the amount you need and put the rest in the fridge.

The combination of cake, Nutriwhip and fresh local strawberries is the ultimate dessert for me. Once strawberries came into season, I needed my fix!

Chuckie's Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 c flour

1 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

6 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon white vinegar

In an 8 inch square pan stir dry ingredients. Make a well. Add wet ingredients and stir until smooth. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bakewell Pudding

June's Daring Bakers challenge was a British treat called Bakewell Pudding. It's more of a tart really. Bakewell pudding is a tart shell filled with jam or custard and topped with frangipane, a very light almond cake that is delicious! The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England. At first I wasn't looking forward to making this recipe since it required all of the ingredients to be weighed out. I didn't have a scale, but after I bought one I learned that weighing wasn't so hard. It was actually nice to just dump all of the bowls of pre-measured ingredients into my mixer. It was fast that way, but it did make for a lot of cleaning afterwards! I'm not sure that I'm a convert to weighing my ingredients instead of using cups, but we'll see. I really enjoyed this recipe, and I actually made it twice in the same week! I brought a piece to work to let my dad try it and he like it too. I made it again for him on Father's Day, but this time I added a thin layer of raspberry jam underneath the chocolate tart filling I used. It was even more delicious than my first go around! Raspberries and chocolate go very well together!

The shortcrust pastry was very easy to assemble thanks to the grated margarine. The recipe calls for grated frozen butter, but I used frozen hard margarine instead. I hadn't used hard margarine in baking before, but it acted just like butter, and tasted very similar too. Grating the butter allowed me to mix the pastry crust as little as possible, which made the crust very flaky and tender. I refridgerated the first crust for about 90 minutes, and the second time for 30 minutes, and I didn't notice much difference. You can definitely make this well ahead of time, but in a pinch you can make it last minute too! I didn't have any almond extract, so I used vanilla instead. When it came time to roll out the pastry, I used my dad's method of rolling it out between two sheets of wax paper. Doing it this way ensures that the pastry won't stick and you can plop the pastry over the pan and peel back the wax paper. This also eliminates the need for a dusting of flour, which can make the pastry tough.

The frangipane was very easy to make. I threw all of the pre-measured ingredients into my mixer as suggested in the recipe and it turned out well. I didn't have the curdling issue that some people had. I don't know what I did differently, but it came out very smooth. For this recipe I used regular tub margarine instead of butter because it is much softer than the stick margarine. I used vanilla extract instead of almond. I'm glad I did, since almond extract is pretty overpowering, and I'm not a huge almond fan. Although this recipe called for a fair amount of almond meal, it wasn't almondy at all.

For the filling I used a recipe for chocolate tart filling from the Food Network's Tyler Florence. The recipe on Daring Bakers said to use jam or curd as a filling, but there was no way I could pass up chocolate. I halved the recipe, since it would have been way too much after the addition of the frangipane. I had to modify this recipe a bit since it called for heavy cream and milk. I used my usual soy milk, and thickened it just a touch with corn starch. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, which may have helped thicken the mixture since chocolate chips contain an ingredient that helps them hold their shape when heated. The chocolate filling was so smooth and creamy and it was an excellent compliment to the buttery crust and sweet almond topping.

I assembled my tart using a 10 inch tart pan. I rolled out the pastry and placed it in the pan and froze it for a good 30 minutes. The second time I made the tart I put a thin layer of melted jam in the tart shell and froze it that way. It helped keep the chocolate and jam from mixing together. After the shell was nicely chilled, I poured the chocolate tart filling in and then topped it with the frangipane. If I was to make this recipe again (which I probably will) I will freeze the chocolate filling in the shell before spooning on the frangipane. Since the chocolate was very liquid, it rose above the frangipane. It wasn't a huge problem, but I would have liked to be able to smooth the frangipane with an off set spatula to make it nice and smooth without the tart filling pouring out.

I really enjoyed this recipe. It is a very light and tasty dessert that is perfect for summer time! Below is the recipe with my modifications in red.

Bakewell Pudding

Makes one 23cm (9” tart) I used a 10 inch pan

Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)

Resting time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 30 minutes

Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges),

rolling pin
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)

Bench flour I used two sheets of wax paper for rolling, so this wasn't needed.

250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability I used chocolate tart filling instead.

One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)

One handful blanched, flaked almonds Omitted because they are gross.
Assembling the tart

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.
The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.
When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry
Prep time: 15-20 minutes

Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)

Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film
225g (8oz) all purpose flour

30g (1oz) sugar

2.5ml (½ tsp) salt

110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better) I used the same quantity of hard margarine

2 (2) egg yolks

2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional) I used vanilla instead

15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water I needed more like 4 tablespoons for some reason.
Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula
125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened I used soft tub margarine

125g (4.5oz) icing sugar

3 (3) eggs

2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract I used vanilla

125g (4.5oz) ground almonds

30g (1oz) all purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour (light yellow. Such a lame way to describe yellow colour) and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Funnel Cakes

While looking for recipes on Martha Stewart a few weekends ago, Paul glanced over at my screen just a post about funnel cakes scrolled by. He asked me if I could make them, since he hadn't had a funnel cake in a long time, so I took that as a challenge. We were also helping a friend mark some science tests that night while watching a hockey game, so a treat would be nice.

I googled funnel cake recipes, and this recipe from the blog Moms Who Think caught my eye. It was pretty simple and contained ingredients that I already had on hand.

I know funnel cakes probably aren't the healthiest thing to eat, since they are fried and are sugary, but a treat is necessary every now and then. To cut down on the artery clogging goodness of this recipe, I used a frying pan and put a very thin layer of canola oil in it. This is the same method I have used in the past to make my doughnuts. It worked very well. I used a piping bag with a fairly small round tip to create the funnel pattern, since the batter was thicker than I thought it would be. I made little swirly patterns in the oil, making sure that all my squiggles touched in some way so it would be easy to remove from the pan. After they were cooked to a golden brown, we dusted them with powdered sugar and enjoyed!

For this recipe I used soymilk instead of regular milk, and no one could tell the difference. I hadn't had a funnel cake in a really long time, since you can never really be sure what they contain when you eat them at an amusement park (and I doubt the person making them knows what goes in them anyway). These were definitely best the day they were made. We ate some the day after and they turned pretty hard, but they were still tasty!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lemongrass Beef and Noodles

Tonight for supper I made a Martha Stewart recipe that I have had success with before. I love Martha, don't get me wrong, but sometimes her recipes just suck. I don't know if they don't test them enough, or they have their ingredient proportions wrong or what, but often times they just bomb. Lemongrass beef skewers are pretty yummy and easy to make and both times I made them they turned out really well. The beef is served with rice noodles with scallions and herbs.

These two recipes are pretty easy to make and can be made in about 40 minutes. For the beef recipe you are supposed to skewer the beef on bamboo skewers before you cook them, but both times I made this I didn't skewer them and they turned out just fine. I also don't have a grill pan, so I used a frying pan. The first time I made the recipe I couldn't find lemongrass anywhere. I don't know if it was the time of year or what, but no grocery store around me had it. Eventually I found a tube of squeezable lemongrass, so that had to do. This time around I found lemongrass in my local grocery store. I didn't know what to expect with this ingredient as I had never seen it before. It kind of looks like a stick, and when you cut it open it smells just like lemons. I did make a few omissions/substitutions in this meal. The thought of fish sauce makes me want to hurl, so I used soy sauce instead. I also omitted the cucumber and mint, since cucumbers are gross and I don't like mint in savoury dishes.

The rice noodles are very easy to make. The vermicelli noodles only need 4 minutes to cook and have to sit until they are cool, so you can make them well in advance. For this recipe I couldn't find a Thai bird chile, so I used red pepper flakes. It probably wasn't the intended method of spicyness, but it tasted fine. I think Martha overestimates the produce selection at your local grocery store. Maybe bird chiles can be found in Bedford, New York, but not Ottawa! I omitted the fish sauce in this recipe as well and used soy sauce instead.

This meal is a nice change from our usually chicken and rice/potato combination. The beef has a nice flavour from being marinated in the lemongrass mixture and is delicious when wrapped up in Boston lettuce leaves. I look forward to eating this meal again for lunch at work! This recipe is both dairy free and gluten free if you use a gluten free soy sauce.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Apple Strudel

A few months ago I joined a baking site called The Daring Kitchen. On this site you can sign up to participate in monthly baking and cooking challenges. I was really excited to start, as this website would challenge my baking skills as well as my ability to adapt the recipes to be dairy free. After waiting to get approved, I was ready to start my first challenge.
The challenge for the month of May was Apple Strudel. It was pretty easy to make, but it took a while. First you make a fairly plain dough that has hardly any ingredients and let it sit for 90 minutes. Right before I rolled out the dough I toasted the breadcrumbs and peeled and cut the apples. I used Granny Smith apples since they are my favourite. The dough has to be stretched to 3x2, which seemed like it would be impossible, but it was really easy. The dough stretches under it's own weight, so no rolling pin was needed. All I did was hold it until it stretched and then Paul helped me stretch it to the size needed. From what I read, strudel dough when stretched should be thin enough to read a love letter through. Mine certainly was! The recipe says to use a cloth to stretch the dough out on. I didn't have a table cloth or anything to use, so I thought wax paper would be fine. WRONG! It stuck so bad that I had to throw the whole lot out. I started again, but this time I used a bedsheet and it worked perfectly!
I don't know if I would make this recipe again. It was delicious, but time consuming and I was pissed when I had to throw out the dough (even though it was my fault, not the recipe's). My dad suggested that instead of breadcrumbs I use graham cracker crumbs. That would be a good combination. In this recipe the only thing I had to substitute was margarine in place of the butter. I also omitted the rum and raisins, since raisins are nasty. If I was to make this recipe again, I think I would add more cinnamon.

Apple strudelfrom “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers
2 tablespoons golden rum
3 tablespoons raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (I used Granny Smith)
1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.
3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.
4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.
5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel doughfrom “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers
1 1/3 cups unbleached flour

1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Molten chocolate cakes are my go to dessert when I can't think of what to make when company is coming. They look like a lot of work, but they are really easy. You can even make them in advance and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to have dessert. The ingredients are pretty simple and I usually have them on hand.

I recently made these for Mother's Day since my whole family loves chocolate. When I went to find the bittersweet chocolate, I noticed that I only had two squares left. The box also said that they contain milk ingredients, so I was really bummed. I really wanted to make them, but I didn't want to risk feeling sick. I found a bar of 70% cocoa chocolate and used that and topped the rest up with chocolate chips. I was a little nervous about using chocolate chips, but they turned out just fine! As for dairy free substitutions, I used margarine instead of butter and I scrambled to find bittersweet chocolate without milk in it. I guess finding dairy free baking chocolate will be my next mission!

I got this recipe from Martha Stewart. Her recipes seem to be pretty hit or miss, but this one hasn't failed me yet...even without having the right chocolate! The recipe says it only makes 4, but it makes 6 very nice sized cakes. I couldn't imagine how big 4 would be. I think my muffin cups would overflow with all of that batter in there. I usually serve these with a whipped topping and strawberries. Molten chocolate cakes with strawberries and cream (whipped topping....whatever) are the best way to end a meal with your family and friends!

*Food styling by Mark.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

$160 Baby Back Ribs

Why is this meal called $160 ribs? It's not because of an ultra expensive sauce made of obscure ingredients, or a very pricey rack of ribs. It's because while shooting this dish, my camera landed lense first in sticky, gooey barbeque sauce. Note to people taking pictures of their food, don't take your hands off the tripod...ever! After my camera took a nose dive into barbeque sauce, it needed to be totally ripped apart and cleaned, to the tune of $160. The bright side of this story is that the ribs were delicious, and I now am super paranoid about my camera while taking food pictures!
A few weeks ago I noticed that pork ribs were on sale, so I bought some and froze them until I found a good recipe. I found that recipe in my trusty Joy Of Cooking.This recipe was pretty easy. I had thought that ribs were a pain in the butt to make, but it really wasn't much trouble. First I used a Southern style dry rub on the ribs and marinated them in the rub and beer overnight. I flipped them a couple of times so that each side could soak in the beery goodness. I then covered the baking pan with foil and baked the ribs at 350 for an hour and a half. After that time, I drained beer out of the pan and basted the ribs. They needed to be basted every 10-15 minutes for an hour. After the basting was done, the ribs were ooey gooey and so saucy. The meat was really tender and not very fatty. I served the ribs with potato salad and corn bread. I used the Homesteader Cornbread recipe from Allrecipes, but I used soy milk instead of regular milk and I added crispy bacon and caramelized onions. Both sides were so yummy, but I dropped my camera in the sauce before I could get pictures of them.
I'll definitely make these ribs again. They were a big hit....unfortunately they were a big hit on my wallet as well!

Barbeque Sauce
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 cup cider or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1/4 cup chili powder, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 lemon slices

Simmer, stirring often for 5 minutes. Remove lemons before serving. It will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.

Southern Barbeque Dry Rub
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet or hot paprika
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon mace (I didn't have any, so I omitted it)
1/4 cup of salt
1/4 cup black pepper

I have used this rub on chicken as well. It makes 2 cups, which is enough dry rub to see you through the summer barbeque season.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Guinness and Steak Pie

I was reading another cooking blog yesterday trying to decide what I was going to make for Sunday supper. I read Closet Cooking often, and I've tried a few recipes from the fellow Canadians site.

I used his modified version of Jamie Oliver's Steak and Guinness Pie. Kevin (the food blogger) changed the recipe so that I can fit in a 9 inch pie plate instead of the original puffed pastry version. I'm still so-so at making pie crusts, so I used this recipe for practice. This time I only had to make the pie crust once! That's a big improvment for me.

This was the first savory pie that I have made and it was pretty good! The beef was tender from being simmered on the stove for 3 hours and the filling was hearty. The only changes I made to this recipe was to omit the cheddar cheese and thicken the sauce with a roux of margarine and flour. The roux consists of equal parts margarine and flour mixed together into a paste and then blended into the sauce. I'm glad I thickened the sauce because it was pretty watery on the stove. I placed the filling in a Classic Crisco Pie Crust double crust version and let it bake for 35 minutes.

It was a delicious supper! Paul and I both had seconds. This pie would be great during the winter as it is really filling and warm, but it was great on a warm May evening too! The great thing about this meal was that I didn't have to make any dairy modifications!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Monkey Munch

I'll admit it, I watch a lot of bad reality tv. I watch way too much of it, much to Paul's disdain. One of the shows that I watch is Jon and Kate Plus 8. It's pretty cute, even though the mom can be a real wench. In one episode I saw Kate making a snack called Monkey Munch. I was curious as to what this was, so I googled it.

Monkey Munch is a chocolatey and peanutty covered cereal mix that is so addictive. It's so tasty that it's hard to stop eating it. I usually make a half batch, but my mom uses a whole box of cereal.

The recipe is very easy to make. It starts off with microwaving chocolate chips, margarine (instead of butter) and peanut butter in a bowl until melted and then you pour it over the cereal. The recipe says to use Chex cereal, but since it's not available in Canada I used Crispix. The recipe also says to use 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar to coat the cereal. That's way too much sugar in my opinion, so I use maybe half a cup. The mixture is already sweet enough from the chocolate and peanut butter.

This stuff never lasts long in my house and since it's dairy free and gluten free, anyone can enjoy it! Paul can't give me flack for watching horrible tv shows because it brought him delicious Monkey Munch!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dairy Free Crispy Crunch/Butterfinger Bar!

While trying to find a recipe for my all time favourite chocolate bar (Wunderbar), I stumbled across a recipe for Butterfinger bars. Butterfingers are basically the American equivalent of Crispy Crunch bars. I always loved getting bite sized Crispy Crunches at Halloween when I was younger. Since they are coated in milk chocolate, I've sadly had to give them up.

Since Crispy Crunch bars seem to only exist in Canada, I used a recipe for homemade Butterfingers. This recipe was pretty easy, and pretty similar to the sponge toffee recipe I had made a few weeks before. When the writer talks about making the candy in a non-humid environment....she's right! I was boiling a pot of chicken broth when I made these, and I'm pretty sure it was too moist in my kitchen and then mixture didn't turn out as crispy as I would have liked. Next time I make them I'll be sure to do it on a dry day, and I'll make it in a smaller pan. I used a large pan like the recipe suggested and it made the candy too thin and not as flaky and crispy. I think I'll use an 8x8 pan when I make them again.

This recipe is dairy free if you use semi-sweet chocolate chips. I melted the chocolate chips and thinned it with a little oil and then dipped the pieces. I let them rest on a piece of wax paper. There was no way I could wait as long as the recipe suggested for cooling and cutting and all that. I was too eager to taste the treats! I made the candies into the size of Halloween candy and it made close to 60 pieces. For having 60 pieces of candy, they didn't last very long! They tasted very much like a Crispy Crunch/Butterfinger. I still crave Wunderbars, but atleast now I have a dairy free Crispy Crunch and Crunchie substitute!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dairy Free Dirt Cups

When my brother, sister and I were little, my mom made us a dessert called Dirt Cups. It was a dessert that we didn't have very often, but it was delicious. Dirt Cups are a mixture of chocolate pudding, whipped cream and cookie crumbs topped with a gummy worm.

Since I can't have dairy anymore, pudding was pretty much out of the question. All of the boxed pudding mixes have powdered milk or some kind of milk ingredient. While browsing through The Joy Of Cooking, I found a recipe for old fashioned chocolate pudding that is made on the stovetop. I had always thought that pudding was ridiculously hard to make, hence the creation of boxed pudding, but it was actually quite easy! The hardest part was waiting for the chocolate to melt in the warm soy milk. The rest was pretty much just stirring!

Once the pudding was made and cooled in the fridge, I whipped up some Nutriwhip. I found this in the dairy section at the grocery store and it's lactose free! I don't know if it's entirely dairy free, but it didn't seem to bother me. It tastes pretty much like Cool-Whip, but it's better than waiting for a frozen tub of oil to defrost!

To make the dirt cups, all you do is mix the pudding with the whipped topping and add a bit of cookie crumbs. For the cookie crumbs I used boxed Oreo crumbs, they are dairy free! In small dishes add a layer of cookie crumbs, then a layer of pudding and then another layer of crumbs. Repeat until you reach the top of the dish. About halfway up the dish add a gummy worm and cover it with the pudding mixture. It's always fun to find a gummy worm buried in the dirt! Top it with a gummy worm and you're ready to serve!

I loved this dessert as a kid, but I can see why we had it so rarely. It's labour intensive to layer the pudding and crumbs when you have three sets of hands trying to sneak a taste!

Chocolate Soy Pudding

1 3/4 cups soy milk (I used original flavour)

1/2 cup sugar

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/8th teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup soy milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine the milk, sugar, chocolate and salt in a saucepan. Heat it over medium heat until the chocolate melts.

2. Mix the cornstarch and milk until smooth.

3. Slowly add the cornstarch and stir until smooth. Stir until mixture reaches a simmer. Cook for one minute at a simmer and them remove from heat.

4. Add vanilla.

5. Transfer to bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.