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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Just heavenly

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

When I saw that we were making tiramisu for this month's challenge I got so excited. For one I LOOOOOVE LOOOOVE LOOOVE tiramisu, anything with coffee and chocolate is a keeper in my book. Second, we had to make our own mascarpone cheese. Being that cheese (I thought mozzarella would be first) was on my to do list, that was a must even if it meant trial and error. And last but not least, I LOOOVE LOOOOVE LOOOOOOOOVE tiramisu. Oh, wait a minute, did I already say that?

Every aspect of this challenge came together perfectly. I so hope that the next time I make this (it will be so soon) it all comes together just as easily. Last year, I made ladyfingers for a berry tiramisu and realized how easy they were. I decided that I would never again buy them from the store. Mascarpone here is like $4 for 1lb so it's not expensive. I probably wouldn't make the cheese again since I would spend about the same amount of money and the taste would be the same. The pastry cream recipe was so easy to make and taste so darn good that I would definitely keep that in the recipe box. Never have I made zabaglione so I didn't know what to expect, but the flavor was great. I would use that in some other type of dessert (don't know what kind yet, the mind is working hard to figure out).

I scraped a vanilla bean into my whipped cream for a more intense vanilla flavor. The next time I make this tiramisu it will likely be hazelnut or mint chocolate. Check out the daring bakers blogroll to see what others have created for their challenge.

Tiramisu is made up of several components which can be made separately and ahead of time and put together the day before serving.
Making tiramisu from scratch requires about 2 to 3 days (including refrigeration) from when you start making the mascarpone to the time the tiramisu is served. So this challenge requires some prior planning.
Please read the instructions as you need to begin making the mascarpone at least a day in advance.
The zabaglione & pastry cream also need 4 hours to an overnight for chilling, as does the main dessert. The flavours mature after an overnight rest, and the dessert can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days.
Once assembled, the tiramisu can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)

This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.


3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.

Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.

Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.

Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings


For the zabaglione:

2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:

1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:

1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:

Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.

In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.

Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.

Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:

Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.

Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:

Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.

Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.

Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.

Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

TWD: Honey Wheat Cookies

This week's TWD was chosen by Michelle of Flourchild and she chose Dorie's Honey Wheat Cookies. These cookies use wheat germ and of course honey.

As a child my parents always kept a jar of wheat germ in the fridge, so when I saw the pick I knew these cookies had to be made. They came together so quick and easy that it seemed like they were store bought....time wise not taste. These cookies have an acquired taste, but I did like them with a little strawberry cream cheese frosting.

You can find the recipe on Michelle's blog or purchase Dorie's book for this and other recipes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Adopt-a-Blogger Mentor

My mentor is Deborah Mele of and I chose to make a couple of her recipes. Deborah has been living, breathing, and eating Italian for the past 35 years. I looked through her recipes and was amazed at how much she knows about the culture, and would swear up an down that she was Italian.

I chose her Sausage Spinach Ravioli with Tomato Cream Sauce and let's just say this recipe is easy and oh so delicious. You can find the recipe here

To find out more info on Adopt-a-Blogger check out Kristen's page.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ode to the King

This post starts about 2 years ago when a neighbor went to Jamaica for some Navy business and he bought bake some banana liqueur for my girlfriend and I. Since I am more of a social drinker, there was plenty of liqueur left. Thinking of things to do with it, I decided on cupcakes, but not just any cupcakes....The King's cupcakes.

Elvis is known for his music, hip moving, and that lip. He is also known for his peanut butter and banana sandwich. If this combination is good enough for a sandwich it has got to be good enough for cupcakes.
I sat down sometime in December and just wrote a recipe and finally got around to trying it in January. The flavors were me. What would others feel about this cupcake? Would it be moist enough? How would people react to the peanut butter and banana together? Would they be able to tell the flavors apart yet get the understanding of them together? That's what my neighbors are for. They are my guinea pigs, so to speak. I can always trust them to tell me what is definitely on their mind. This taste test was easy, only one person would have like more peanut butter flavor in the frosting.
I also took some to my humming sister and her humming The reason I call them that is because when they eat and the food is good, they hum. All 4 of them! How did the test taste go? Hmmm mmm mmm, I assume you get the idea. This went so well that my oldest nephew change what he wanted for his birthday. Initially he wanted Dorie Greenspan's sweet potato biscuits, but it quickly changed to these cupcakes.
I didn't want to put this recipe up until I had tried it out a few times. Each time they came out right. So, here it is for your baking pleasure:

Banana Cupcakes
Makes 24 regular cupcakes

Recipe by Devona McGill

3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk, room temperature
¼ cup banana liqueur
2 bananas, ripe and mashed appx. 6-8 ounces (I buy bananas that have brown spots and freeze them, so the weight might be a little different)

Preheat oven to 350˚
Line two 12 cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
In medium bowl sift together the first 3 ingredients, set aside. In another bowl mix the bananas, milk and liqueur together.
In mixing bowl of stand mixer, with paddle beater, cream butter and sugar together until light, about 3-4 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time making sure that each addition is incorporated completely. Add vanilla.
Alternately add the flour mixture and the banana mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. After all ingredients have been added beat on medium-high for 1 minute.
Using a #24 scoop (or just spoon it in), generously fill each liner with mix and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool on cooling rack.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Recipe by Devona McGill

6 ounces peanut butter
4 ounces butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk
4 cups powdered sugar

Place all ingredients in bowl of stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment beat frosting until it becomes creamy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

TWD:Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

This weeks TWD was chosen by Tanya of and it was a great choice. The problem with this choice is that I wish that it was a different week. I had planned to make these brownies, but decided against it due to the fact that I was making King Cakes for my girlfriend for Mardi Gras/Superbowl weekend. I was dead set on NOT making these brownies and just doing the last two weeks of the month.

This all changed at 8:34 pm on Monday February 8, 2010. I blame this all on Alton Brown and his DAMN Good Eats show. This night I was waiting for 9pm to see Unexpected Life and decided to see what was on Food Network. Ahhh, it's Good Eats! The beginning segment was showing Cocoa Carl and Alton was going to show us unsuspecting people how to make different things using cocoa powder. The list of items he made were hot cocoa, chocolate syrup (This will definitely be a must try), and none other than brownies.

These brownies looked so good and I fought the fight for 4 minutes after his show went off. The fight ended with me losing the battle and running (and when I say running I mean it litterally) downstairs to make these brownies and get them in the oven before Unexpected Life came on. It's countdown, 26 minutes and counting and I can do this, right? Right!

I have never worked so fast to get something in the oven and baked, that it felt like I was on a Food Network Challenge. What made it so bad, yet so good, is that I was rushing through the recipe that I didn't use a mixer to beat the rest of the eggs to volumize them. Even with missing out on that step these brownies turned out fabulous. Oddly enough I have always been one who only like cake brownies and they usually had to have nuts in them. Well, Dorie Greenspan, Rick Katz, Tanya, you all have changed that for me. These brownies are OFF THE CHAIN!

Check out Tanya's blog for the recipe and make these brownies tonight....TONIGHT I SAID! You will not regret it if you are a chocoholic. You see the "pizza cutter" in the photo below? That's an idea from Alton Brown. See, he is good for something other than forcing you to run downstairs and make something you weren't going to make.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Butter and eggs working together

Brioche is this buttery and dense French bread that screams "Eat Me!". It's a perfect bread for breakfast or a dessert with berries and sauce.

This recipe was a little off to me because the 4 tablespoons of milk was not enough to make a soft dough. I had to add a little more milk to get a workable dough and my cook time was more like 45-55 minutes. I know that depending on what type of utensils or oven you use and how you measure your ingredients it may affect a recipe, so others may not have the same problem I had. Other than those two issues the bread turned out great.

I think I will buy some fresh fruit and make some dessert tonight with the rest of the brioche.

Until next time,
Bake bread, be happy

French Brioche
The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking by Martha Day

Makes 1 Loaf
3 cups white bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ ounce fresh yeast
4 tablespoons lukewarm milk
3 eggs
¾ cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
For Glaze
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

1.Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Put the yeast in a measuring cup and stir in the milk.

2.Add the yeast mixture to the center of the flour with the eggs and combine to form a soft dough.

3.Using your hand beat the dough for 4-5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Cream the butter and sugar together. Gradually add the butter mixture to the dough, making sure it is incorporated before adding more. Beat until smooth, shiny, and elastic.

4.Cover the bowl with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let the dough rise, in a warm place, for 1-2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

5.Lightly punch down the dough, then re-cover and place in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours or overnight.

6.Lightly grease a scant 7 cup brioche mold. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut off almost a quarter and set aside. Shape the rest into a ball and place into the prepared mold. Shape the reserve dough into an elongated egg shape. Using two or three fingers, make a hole in the center of the large ball of dough. Gently press the narrow end of the egg-shaped dough into the hole.

7.Combine the egg yolk and milk for the glaze, and brush a little on the brioche. Cover with oiled plastic, wrap and let rise, in a warm place, for 1 ½-2 hours or until the dough nearly reaches the top of the mold.

8.Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F. Brush the brioche with the remaining glaze and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until golden. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.



First time making croissants

Other than the fact that you have to turn, rest, roll, rest, turn, roll, rest...whatever, you know what I mean...these buttery treats bring you such joy. I had been wanting to make croissants for so long and the first time I made them was a bust. I wasn't sure what I had done wrong, but they turned out looking more like a rolled up piece of puff pastry(See above picture).
Making them this time I feel they came out a lot better. I'm really not sure what a real French croissant is supposed to taste like, but these sure were tasty. I also made some ham and cheese croissants using Canadian bacon and slices of provolone and swiss. These were perfect little breakfast or lunch sandwiches. Look at it, doesn't it look like a
Until next time,
Bake bread, be happy

100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood
*Paul uses fresh compressed yeast, if using dry or instant use 25% less than recipe states

1 package yeast
Generous 4 cups white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Generous 1/3 cup superfine sugar
Water to mix
4 ½ sticks butter, chilled
1 egg, beaten, for eggwash
Makes about 40 croissants
Dilute the yeast with a little warm water and put with the flour, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, slowly mix in a little water until the dough becomes pliable. Tip the dough out onto a lightly flour counter and knead well until it feels elastic. Put the dough back in the bowl and let stand in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Turn out the chilled dough onto your floured counter and roll it into a rectangle 24 x12 inches/60 x 30.5 cm. Flatten the chilled butter into a rectangle about ½ inch/ 1 cm thick and lay it over 2/3 of the dough. Bring the uncovered third of the dough into the center, then fold the covered top third down, so that your dough is now in three layers. Give the dough package a quarter turn so that the fold is on the right. Return the dough to the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.
Scatter some more flour over the counter and roll out the dough to the same size rectangle as before. Repeat the folding process, one side on top of the other, and turn the dough again, then place the dough back in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Repeat this whole process twice more, then let the dough rest, wrapped in plastic wrap, overnight.
Line a baking sheet. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough to 1/8 inch/3 mm thick and cut into 8 x 8 inch/20.5 x 20.5 cm squares. Cut each square diagonally, making two triangles. Lay the triangles on a lightly floured counter with the narrow points away from you, then roll each piece up from the edge nearest you, toward the point, ending with the tip underneath. Bend the ends round to make the traditional croissant shape. Put the croissants on the baking sheet and let rise for 1 ½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Brush the croissants lightly with the eggwash and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Onion and Bacon Fougasse

This bread is one of those that you look at and say, "Hey, I want to try that"! And try I did. And love I do. And will do again....definitely! I decided to put shredded cheddar in mines. There was no measurement, just throw in as much as your heart desires.

This is an easy bread to put together and makes a perfect accompaniment to any dish you like. Personally for me, it's perfect all alone. There is this almost buttery flavor even though there isn't a lick of butter in it. Try this bread tonight and I'm sure you will feel the exact same way.

Onion and Bacon Fougasse
100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood
*Paul uses fresh compressed yeast, if using dry or instant use 25% less than recipe states

2 2/3 cups white bread flour
1 ounce/30 grams yeast
Generous ¾ cup water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, peeled, finely chopped, and fried until translucent
3 strips of Canadian bacon, finely chopped and fried
Makes 3 loaves

Line three baking sheets. Put 1 1/3 cups of the flour with all the yeast and about ¾ cup of water into a bowl and beat together for about 3 minutes into a thick batter. Let rise and fall—this should take 3-4 hours.
Add the rest of the flour and water (enough to make a workable dough) along with the salt, ¼ cup of the oil, the fried onions, and bacon and knead well for 5 minutes. Put back in the bowl and let rise for 1 hour.
Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Using a rolling pin, flatten each piece to about 2.5 cm/1 inch high, then shape each roughly into a circle. Using your knife, cut two diagonal slashes down the middle of each circle and three diagonal slashes on each side. Brush lightly with the remaining olive oil, then place on the baking sheets and let rise for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450F/230C. Bake the bread for 15 minutes, or until golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.