Archive for February, 2012

Biscotti Picante

Biscotti and wine anyone? How about wine in biscotti? For their 4th anniversary, the Bread Baking Babes celebrated with a little vino. Lien, of http://notitievanlien.blogspot.com, chose a Sicilian biscotti that is savory; a little sweet (from anise),  slightly spicy (from black pepper), with a little wine to boot. The recipe comes from the Anissa Helou book “Savory baking from the Mediterranean”.

This being my second month at being a BB Buddy, I was eager to have a go at this and bought some semolina  the next day. Yes, eager, until it failed pretty miserably. OK, here was my thinking : instead of using white wine, use anisette. I love the of anise, and thought “yes, this would really bring out the anise flavor”, even though the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of anise seed already. How about some grated parmesan Reggiano thrown into the mix? And while I’m at it, how about a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes to heat it up a bit. Well. you know what? WRONG (though I still think the parmesan could work).  It never rose at all and they came out like dense hockey pucks. A little too spicy as well (note to self: 3/4 teaspoon of pepper flakes is way too much). I believe  my failure started  in using the anisette instead of the wine. I think the sugar content was too high for a rise – even after two hours. Maybe with an overnight rise? who knows. The fat in the parmesan cheese only added to this problem. I think. I am a novice bread baker after all.

my failed attempt

Then the other day I decided to give it another the go. The way the recipe is written, and you know what? They are really good. My husband still doesn’t care for them, but I have decided that I like them. A lot. The only minor change I did was to use a mixture of flax, sesame, and poppy-seed in mine. I let them rise a lot longer today since my house is pretty chilly, and while it doesn’t really rise, it did get puffier. I cut them thinner this time so they are a tad too golden, but I can live with that.  So get the recipe,  pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy a small taste of Sicily.

Please visit the current Bread Baking Babes to see the real masterpieces:

http://foodblog.paulchens.org/, http://feedingmyenthusiasms.blogspot.com/, http://etherwork.net/blog/, http://lucullian.blogspot.com/, http://notitievanlien.blogspot.com, http://bakemyday.blogspot.com/, http://breadchick.com/, http://livinginthekitchenwithpuppies.blogspot.com/, http://iliketocook.blogspot.com/, http://www.wildyeastblog.com/, http://mykitcheninhalfcups.wordpress.com/


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This months Daring Baker challenge, which was hosted by Lisa (Daring Kitchen Co-Founder & Owner/Holder of Super Kitchen Powers ), was fun and quick… and by quick I mean quick breads! 

Bread that is quick to make because it doesn’t require kneading or rising time. That’s because the leavener in such bread is usually baking powder or baking soda, which, when combined with moisture, starts the rising process immediately. In the case of double-acting baking powder, oven heat causes a second burst of rising power. Eggs can also be used to leaven quick breads. This genre includes most biscuits, muffins, popovers,  and a wide variety of sweet and savory loaf breads.

We all have our favorite banana bread, and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without some pumpkin bread and of course, cranberry walnut bread. They can be made with buttermilk, yogurt, cream cheese, oil, or sour cream for moistness (or beer). Nuts, no nuts, fresh fruit, dried fruit, or chocolate; or how about bacon, chives, cheese, jalapeno pepper or sun dried tomatoes? Anything goes when it comes to quick bread.Really, your imagination is your cookbook here, well, that and a basic recipe to start.  For this challenge, Lis asked that we only try muffins or loafs. I make quick breads/muffins quite often since they are an easy snack for school and freeze well so I was happy about this challenge. Whole wheat banana bread was one of the first things I baked, but it was eaten before I remembered to take any photos. Typical. I also have a bag of meyer lemons on hand that I want to use for a lemon loaf. Soon. What I did have on hand, and used, was a butternut squash. You can never get too many vegetables into your diet and this is one squash that loves sweet as well as savory. In the middle of the bread? a swirl of cinnamon paste . Mmmmm… so moist, so good. Bake on!

* two things to do before you get started

1. Cut your butternut squash in half and place, cut side down, on an oiled baking sheet and roast at 400F until soft (about 35 minutes). Let cool, scrape out the flesh, and process until smooth. This will keep in fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for 3 months.

2. Brown your butter. Do this about 1/2 hour before you want to bake this so it can cool down a bit.

Browned-Butter Butternut Squash Bread with a Cinnamon Swirl

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

1 1/2 Cups (192 g/ 6.75 oz)  all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup (2.6 oz/ 78 ml)  milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
7 Tablespoons (3.5 oz/99 g) unsalted butter, browned, and cooled down to room temperature
3/4  Cup (150 g/5.3 oz) granulated sugar
1/3 (2.5 oz/73 g) Cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Cup (8 oz) butternut squash puree

Cinnamon Paste (optional)

1/3 Cup dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons corn syrup
1 Tablespoon cream

Make the cinnamon swirl paste: Mix all the ingredients together until well blended. Set aside.

The loaf:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon,ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt . Set aside. Mix together the milk with the vanilla. Set aside.

In a seperate mixing bowl, beat together the browned butter and sugars. Beat in  the eggs, one at a time. Add the butternut squash puree and beat on low-speed just until blended. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 parts. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Scrape half of the batter into the pan. Pour the cinnamon paste over the top as evenly as you can. Scrape the remaining batter into the pan and even out the top. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely. Enjoy.

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Chocolate Spiral Bread

Since I have been on a bread baking binge for the last few months, when I saw this post I knew that I wanted to take part in it. While I have never participated in this before, Lisa, of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives, is the host of this month’s  Bread Baking Day #47. I am a fan of Lisa and her site, so please go on over and read her witty stories ( I, on the other hand, am a very clumsy writer, so only read me for the recipes! ). The challenge? Yeast bread with chocolate. Not too hard to think of sweet recipes for this (povitica  anyone?), but I really wanted to try this non-sweet sandwich bread, and this was the perfect excuse. It comes from my new  favorite book of the moment, Bake!, by Nick Malgieri. If you have never read any of his baking books, I can’t urge you strongly enough to head over to your local library and pick one up. Currently, he directs the baking program at the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School) and frequently serves as a guest teacher at many cooking schools. Since 1985, he has appeared at culinary events throughout North America, and at the Smithsonian Institution.

What I love about him is his easy-going baking style. I’m not saying that all of his recipes are simple, but he makes them approachable. In fact, I think in this book he really makes everything almost easy. If I could change one thing, it would be that he include weight measurements in his recipes. Recipes come out more consistent when weighed, but I also believe that bread baking is also about feeling, and changes in weather effect the moisture content. So, really, I guess I could go either way…I have been enjoying his section in the book on bread and have now made his perfect white pan bread recipe multiple times and really love it. I received a pullman loaf pan for Christmas and I have been all over it ever since. It makes perfectly square sandwich bread. Wait, I’m digressing here, because I did not use this pan for this particular chocolate swirl bread. Well, I did, but I didn’t put the top on it, so I don’t think that counts. Anyway, back to this bread. What a cool looking loaf this is. For a second you might think it’s a marble rye, but it’s not. It is a moist, slightly sweet and faintly chocolatey slice of deliciousness. My daughter has been enjoying this with peanut butter and jelly, I with cream cheese or a smear of sweet butter. My husband? with sliced turkey.

Bake on!

Chocolate Spiral Bread

This makes two  9x5x5 loaves


6 1/2 Cups (28.66 oz/812.5 g) bread flour (I always use all-purpose flour with 1 Tbls vital wheat gluten)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
4 Tablespoons (2 oz/56.7 g) Unsalted butter, but into pieces
1 1/2 Cups (12 oz/96 g) milk, scalded
1 Cup (8 oz/64g) warm water (about 110F)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Stir the butter into the hot milk and let it cool to room temperature.
Mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
Once the milk is cooled down, whisk the yeast into the warm water in the bowl of your standing mixer. Wait one minute then whisk again. Whisk in the milk and butter mixture.
Stir in half of the flour mixture, then stir in the balance in 2 additions until you have a rough, shaggy mixture. Place the bowl onto your mixer and using your dough hook, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 mixer. turn your mixer back on to medium and beat for another 2 minutes.

Part two:

1 batch perfect white bread (above)
1/4 cup (2 oz)milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used bittersweet), melted and slightly cooled
1/4 Cup bread flour (again, I used AP flour)
1 Tablespoon melted butter, for brushing on the tops when they are out of the oven

Turn the dough out and divide it into two pieces, one being twice as large as the others. I used my scale for this which made it very easy but don’t worry if you eye it; you basically want to end up with 2/3 and 1/3. Place the larger piece into a lightly oiled bowl (I just spray mine with PAM),turn the dough over, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour)

Return the smaller piece to the mixer.

Whisk together the chocolate, milk and cinnamon. Add it to the mixing bowl with the smaller piece of dough and the 1/4 cup flour and blend together on low-speed until the dough evenly absorbs the chocolate mixture. Turn off the machine and let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then mix again on low speed for another 2 minutes.  Place the dough into an oiled lined bowl, turn it over, and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Roll the piece of white dough into a 16 inch square. Roll the chocolate dough into a 8×16 inch rectangle. Brush a little water over the white dough and place the chocolate dough on top of the dough, leaving a 1 inch space of white dough  closest to you. Fold over the 1 inch onto the chocolate dough and continue to roll the dough up, jelly roll style. You will now have one long piece of dough. Cut the dough in half, kind of pinch the open end together a little, then press each one into your  loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let them rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 400 F

When the loaves are fully risen, bake in your hot oven, about 45 minutes. they should be a deep, golden color with an internal temperature of 200F.  I have a little $5 stick thermometer that works perfect for this. If you don’t own one, just make sure that the bread has a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Unmold the bread from the pans (this is when you would tap them if you don’t have a thermometer), brush the tops with the melted butter and let cool completely. Enjoy.

This was so good that I am going to submit it to yeastspotting this week!

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It was my better half’s birthday last  week, but being a weeknight, work night and school night, all we did was go out and enjoy a nice Indian meal. I don’t know if I mentioned anything about our monthly supper get together, but it fell on this past Sunday. We meet the 2nd sunday of the month for a dinner at my house with our friends Donna and Michael to ensure that we get to see each other no matter how busy the rest of the month is. Since I love to cook so much, this is really fun for me and our friends seem to enjoy it as well. Maybe it’s all the wine?… the menu this month was an arugula salad with shaved fennel and oranges finished with toasted pistachios and a meyer lemon vinaigrette. We followed this with saffron risotto with scallops and shrimp. To celebrate his birthday  and to have some chocolate for valentine’s day, I made this decadent hazelnut cake. Please note that I made a six-inch cake. I find this the perfect amount for 6-8 people. I love my six-inch cake pans (it’s a good idea to have two of them) and believe they are a worthwhile investment for every baker.An 8 inch cake feeds 10-12 people, which I normally don’t have over at one time, so who ends up eating all that leftover cake? hint.. look at my butt. Anyway, don’t be put off by the length of this recipe. It’s actually just a bunch of steps and can be made in an afternoon. Read through the entire recipe before making this and it will be a breeze for you. I promise. Bake on!

Makes 1 two-layer 6 inch cake


3 Tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 Tablespoon Kahlua or water
5 eggs
1 1/4 Cups  (225g) granulated sugar
1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons (250G) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (150G) all-purpose flour
1 Cup (100g) toasted, finely ground hazelnuts (or hazelnut meal if you can get it)
1/4 C (25g) Dutch cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 Cup (80g) sour cream

Chocolate Ganache:

1 Cup (8 oz/250ml) heavy whipping cream
10 ounces (1 1/2 Cup, 300 G) Dark chocolate, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons Frangelico or Kahlua

Simple Syrup:

1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup (4 oz) granulated sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla or 1 tablespoon Kalhua

Preheat your oven to 325F

Line the bottoms of two 6 inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly spray with oil (such as PAM).

Mix the coffee powder and Kahlua into a small bowl and mix well. Set Aside. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder;set aside.

Place the butter and 1 Cup sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) and beat until light and fluffy. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, using a hand-held mixer, whip the eggs and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until pale, about 4 minutes.

Pour the eggs into the butter and add the flour mixture, the ground hazelnuts, the coffee mixture and the sour cream and beat until just combined. Evenly divide the batter between the 2 cake pans and smooth out gently with an offset spatula. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer or knife tip (check after 50 minutes depending on your oven)

While the cake is baking, prepare the ganache:

Place the chopped chocolate into a medium-sized glass bowl. Heat the cream (either on the stove or in the microwave) until very hot, but not boiling. Pour over the chocolate and let it sit for 3 minutes. Whisk the chocolate and cream together until smooth and creamy (it will look curdled for a moment but just keep whisking). Stir in the Frangelico.

Cover with plastic wrap and let it cool, on the counter, until it is room temperature. Cooling it on the counter gives it time to set up properly. By the time the cake is out of the oven and cool your ganache will be ready to use.

Okay, now that your cake is in the oven and your ganache is made, let’s move onto the simple syrup. Are you ready to hear how hard it is to make? Well, here goes:

Place the equal amounts of sugar and water (1/2 cup each) into a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let cool.

Optional: stir in the seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whew!!! Aren’t you glad that part of the recipe is over? 🙂 Now seriously, the reason for a simple syrup is just to ensure a moist cake. Sometimes cakes made with nut flour can be a little dry and I like to brush them with simple syrup before frosting them. I also do this with wedding cakes. This is a good trick if you are making a cake 1 or 2 days before you are serving it and want to keep it moist. It can also impart more flavor. you can add all sorts of flavorings to your simple syrup. If you toss in a few slices of fresh ginger before you bring it to a boil you now have ginger syrup. This is excellent brushed onto gingerbread cake before a cream cheese frosting. You get the idea? Anyway, I love to have simple syrup on hand since it is also very useful when making yummy cocktails! It will keep indefinitely in the fridge.

Back to the cake.

When the cake is done, take them out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before taking them out of the pan and cooling completely. (Now would be a good time to make yourself a yummy cocktail using a splash of the simple syrup. I love ginger syrup with Grey Goose Pear vodka and a bit of club soda…)

After the cakes are cooled, trim the tops of each so they are level. A long serrated bread knife works well for this. Take the bit that you just cut off, place onto a baking sheet, and pop back into the oven at 200F for 10 minutes to toast them up a bit. Place into a mini processor and whirl for a few seconds to make crumbs (or just use your clean hands).Set aside.

Take one cake and place it on a cake stand. Brush the top with simple syrup (you just want a thin layer- you are not trying to drown it!). Place about 1/2 cup of the ganache in the middle and using an offset spatula, spread evenly onto the top of the cake. Repeat with the second layer of cake, except don’t frost the top yet.Frost the sides of the cake leaving yourself some ganache to frost the top.

Place the reserved cake crumbs onto a large plate. Pick up the cake, and holding it on the unfrosted top and bottom with your fingertips, roll the sides in the cake crumbs to evenly coat it all around. Carefully place back on the cake stand. Frost the top with the last of the ganache and sprinkle with the balance of the cake crumbs.

Stand back and pat yourself on the back. Enjoy with friends!

Adapted from Donna Hay issue 59

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So, twenty-seven years ago these two lovely women meet and fall in love. They decided to commit to spending their lives together regardless of what society and the law dictates. A few years back they take a trip to Canada to get married while in Vancouver. It couldn’t get better, right? Well, it did. Last July , New York State finally legalized  same sex marriage. I say finally, since NY should have gotten on board a long time ago, considering it was the Stonewall Riots back in 1969 that sparked the gay rights movement. But, that is neither here nor there for this special occasion. These two have made a life together for the past 27 years. And they are happy. Considering how many failed marriages  we have all seen over the years, this is a true testament to commitment, regardless of their sex. A happy marriage is a happy marriage. So, they did it again. this time in their own hometown.

The happy couple

Anywooo… I was privileged enough to be asked to bake their wedding cake while I was in NY and my little one was their flower girl. As luck would have it, my husband was able to join us as well, making it a real family event for all. The cake was deep, dark chocolate cake  with raspberry filling and Italian meringue buttercream. They chose not to have the cake covered with fondant, which gives the cake a fabulous smooth exterior, but wanted to go for flavor instead. I am all for that. I love the look of fondant, but do not like the taste. I don’t think anyone really does.While I make my own fondant so it does taste way better than store-bought, it still is not something that people really want to eat (for my own wedding I covered the cakes with buttercream instead of fondant). It just take a lot longer to smooth it out.
On the second tier there is a design stencilled onto it using the same color buttercream for a subtle white on white effect. To use a stencil on buttercream you must make sure that your base coat is very cold before trying to stencil on it or else you will smudge the smoothness of your frosting, then make sure the buttercream you are using to stencil with is very soft.

Finally, the cake was decorated with moth orchids made out of gumpaste. Each one was hand painted so I started them about one month before the wedding so there would be plenty of time to finish. What I love about gumpaste flowers is that you never have to worry about poisonous plants and they last forever, so they can have a special keepsake. If you are interested in me doing a tutorial on gumpaste flowers, just let me know. Have a great day!

Let them eat cake


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