Thursday, December 30, 2010

Frohe Weihnachten...Merry Christmas!

The 2010 December Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie's Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make Stollen. She adapted a friend's family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart's book...and Martha Stewart's demonstration.

I have to admit that over Christmas even a sweet lover may be overwhelmed by the overdose of sugary goodness. While Stollen is a sweet bread and even dusted with a generous amount of powdered sugar, it is pleasantly not overly sweet. The enjoyable bits of homemade candied zest of meyer lemons and backyard oranges, along with slightly plumped dried cranberries and
lightly toasted almonds added the right balance of sweetness and saltiness.

After several hours of rising/proofing, the fragrant dough is rolled out and rolled up...

With inspiration from Martha Stewart, it is then curled into a circle to make a festive wreath. After baking, the Stollen gets a basting of butter and a generous sifting of powdered sugar. It then looks something like this.

If you can hold yourself back from digging right in, it can then rest on the counter overnight to dry out a little and concentrate the flavors, just like the Germans do. Then on the next morning, cut yourself a little slice and have it with a cup of tea or coffee for a nice treat :)

If you have enough for leftovers the next morning, then you can toast it and spread a little butter for another delicious treat.

Surprisingly this recipe was not too difficult, but simply requires a little planning in advance, as it does take some overnight rising as well as another day of waiting after it is baked. However, take note that it does also freeze well, so you can make it when you have time and then take it out of the freezer when you need it! Here is the recipe for you to enjoy.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's all about the crust

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

I made a simple rustic tart with blueberry preserves and persimmons. But because of my love for tarts, I also made a lemon curd tart, using a recipe from Julia Childs for the curd (that was delicious). Just the right balance of tartness to sweetness.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Comfort Food

Come on, admit matter how health conscious you may be, isn't it hard to pass up a good donut? I'm not necessarily talking about Dunkin' Donuts here, however some may be fans of that establishment. I'm talking about those mom 'n pop shops with the homemade-tasting deliciousness...that crisp outside with a light and airy inside, with just the right amount of sugary glaze on the outside. Mmm...

Well, lucky for us, the October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Newmann and Epicurious.

I have always (secretly) wanted to make donuts, but never had an excuse to do so...until now! The DB challenge allowed me to choose from 4 different types of donuts: yeast donuts, buttermilk cake donuts, pumpkin cake donuts, and bombolini (Italian-style, jam-filled donuts). And, since I was breaking out the industrial-size container of canola oil, I figured I might as well make as many different varieties as I could. Alas, the only one I did not make was the bombolini. Guess that will have to be another day...

Making donuts is actually not too difficult, as it may seem. First off, make your dough, roll it out, and cut out your shapes, just like making biscuits - with a hole in the middle:

Next, throw it in the fryer at about 365F:

Then, drain them on paper towls, and either roll in cinnamon-sugar...

or top with a delicious glaze, such as this blueberry glaze:

The above donuts were the buttermilk cake donuts that were quite tasty. The blueberry glaze was the clear favorite. However, Lily didn't seem to mind the cinnamon-sugar donut holes :)

For the next experiment, I made yeast donuts that I glazed with a bowl-licking chocolate glaze and pumpkin cake donuts with a simple sugar glaze (the donut holes got the cinnamon-sugar treatment):

I also made some blueberry-glazed yeast donuts and some sugar-glazed donut holes.

All in all, I had a very happy husband and some happy friends, who gladly helped me to eat up this little DB challenge. The favorites of the lot were the chocolate-glazed donuts, the blueberry-glazed buttermilk cake donuts, and my favorite was the pumpkin cake donut. Ahh...choices!

If you feel up for a little homemade treat, I recommend the recipes we used for the donuts. Check it out at:

As for the glazes:
1. The blueberry glaze consisted of confectioner's sugar, organic blueberry preserves, and enough heavy cream to make a thick glaze.
2. The chocolate glaze came from Alton Brown:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Work (and play) around the house

Recently, in a small group we joined, our "ice breaker" was to have everyone go around and tell the group the details of their day. It ended up being really interesting to understand how each person spends their day and what it is that they do in a given day at work.

Well, I figured it might be interesting to take a look at how our dear Lily spends her time! You see, Lily at the ripe age of (almost) 16 months old, is running, climbing, operating electronics, and loves spending time outdoors digging in the dirt and "gardening." We feel that the activity level has amped up significantly in the past couple of months. As Jason has said, it's a good thing she loves books, because that is the most sedentary thing that she does - Lily goes to the bookshelf, pulls off a book, plops down in her bean bag and flips through a good picture book!

So, back to Lily's day! Lily usually wakes up and hollers down the hallway, "da ma...da ma" until one of us goes to get her from her crib. After she has some milk, we (try to) snuggle in bed before heading to the kitchen for breakfast...usually consisting of banana, plain yogurt, toast, and maybe some scrambled egg. When she is finished, she says "da done" and signs "all done" simultaneously. After that, she is off and running. I have included some pictures of some of the things that she enjoys doing with her free time:

Lately, she can't get enough of playing the piano.

It's hard to keep her seated, as she much prefers to stand up and tickle the ivories:

She also loves to play with a toy drum that plays music. Here she has set up shop on a console table, where she has scooted a stereo speaker back just enough to fit her little bottom:

Next, is not what we see in a typical day, but this is a good example of what happens when mommy is not watching Lily and the gate was not up to block off the office...Lily has confiscated the computer and is opening all kinds of windows I wouldn't begin to know how to open. However, I like to think she is just advanced for her age and sending out emails :)

Lastly, a day wouldn't be complete without hours of time in the backyard, kicking balls, digging in the dirt, and watering the plants. I can't tell you how much this girl loves to be outside. Here she is watering the mint (repeatedly) and then signs "more" while saying "ma" so that I will refill her tiny watering can.

Lily eats lunch around noon and then heads off for a 2 hour nap at 1p.m. When she wakes up, it's off to play "hide the monkey" (her monkey is one of her favorite stuffed animals), or chase Lily around with the threat of a tickle. At around 6, Lily has dinner and is off to bed by 7:30 (after a bath and a story, of course!).

As I am sure you guessed, there are many variations on her day, including out of the house activities :) However, this gives you a little snapshot into a day in the life of Liliana Grace! Hope you enjoyed a glimpse of our little active girl!

Monday, August 30, 2010

I scream, you scream, we all scream for...

Another month has flown by and more variations on an ice cream cake can be found here!  Let's just say my ice cream maker has been getting a work out!

The August 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking.  For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter.  Elissa chose to challenge the Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours.  The sources for Elissa's challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop".

Somehow Jason convinced me to make both...for his office party.  The first is an old American classic: the Baked Alaska.  It looks much harder than it was to actually make.  The base was a browned butter cake that I topped with a coat of peach puree. 

Topping the cake was a peach gelato made with mascarpone that was frozen in a bombe shape. 

The cake was then finished off with a piping of meringue that was torched right before serving.

Here it is after using my kitchen torch:

The second dessert was an ice cream petit four that was delicious, but much more complicated to get together.  I used David Lebovitz's recipe for a mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Mmm...we're talking fresh mint infused for 1 hour in the cream and finished off with chocolate stracciatella/chips.  

The ice cream was sandwiched between 2 layers of the browned butter cake.  After cutting the cake into little squares, the entire thing was dipped into ganache and frozen.  I topped each petit four with a candied mint leaf for good looks :)  Unfortunately, they didn't look as pretty as I had hoped, but I think the taste made up for it!

For the recipe, check it out here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ice Cream Cake (on steroids)

Ahhh...summer!  While the end of June and beginning of July brought Santa Barbara our typical "June gloom" weather, overcast days with the sun sometimes peaking out in the afternoon, we have finally had a little warmth this past week.  And, of course, with the warm weather comes the hankering for some cold treats!  Fortunately for us, this month's challenge for the Daring Bakers involved ice cream :)

The July 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita's world - life and food.  Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that's then used to make a bombe with hot fudge.  Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

I was excited and not too daunted by this task, as I have made all of the components of this cake before, but just had never put it all together in this form.  My imagination for flavor combinations went wild, and I decided to go with a "mud pie" theme using a delicious coffee ice cream recipe from Gina DePalma's "Dolce Italiano" cookbook.  

The swiss roll was made up of a chocolate sponge cake recipe that I pulled from Emily Luchetti's "Stars" cookbook and filled/rolled it with a caramel cream, simply heavy cream whipped with a cold homemade caramel until thick.  I then sliced the swiss roll into rounds that were placed in a bowl to create the outside of the ice cream bombe cake, like so...

I then softened the coffee ice cream, made with Peet's coffee, of course, and spread it inside the swiss roll.  After the ice cream froze again, I spread a homemade fudge on top.  But, this is where things started to go awry!  You see, it is important to have completely frozen layers before adding the next one, and my layers were just not freezing fast enough to have the whole thing ready for our party that evening.  

The coffee ice cream started melting again, so I ran to the freezer to hopefully save the whole thing from turning into soup!  Meanwhile, back at the ice cream maker, I attempted to make a beautiful stracciatella ice cream with a vanilla ice cream base and light flaky chocolate sprinkled throughout.  However, the ice cream went from hard chocolate chunks to a chocolate ice cream!  So, the base layer became chocolate ice cream.  Not the worst thing in the world.  

In order to create the "mud pie" effect, I made chocolate shortbread cookies from Thomas Keller's "ad hoc home" cookbook, and crumbed them on the chocolate ice cream.

I then prayed that it would all come together and freeze like it was supposed to!  So here is what it looked like from the outside...

And here is what happened on the inside...
Unfortunately the fudge never really set and the "chocolate" ice cream was fairly soft and a little icy, but overall, it was enjoyed by all our friends.  Here's a slice...

The original recipe can be found here.  I hope you enjoy your summer and stay nice and cool!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

She's got the moves...

Happy Belated 4th of July!  We had a great weekend with the Crandalls, who came to visit.  Between the girls and Nicole, we had plenty of babysitters to love on Lily.  Let's just say she was a little spoiled!  

Lily is really starting to take off now, and she is not shy about showing off her newfound moves!   Here she is dancing to a toy our friends gave her:

 (I'm not sure how to rotate the video, so if any of you know how to do this, please let me know!)

She is also starting to get more brave with taking steps.  As you can see from the videos, she understands the words "dancing" and "walking."  With a little encouragement, she takes more and more steps every day.  Today the record was 14 steps, which equates to about a distance of 2 feet (hey, she has small little feet!).  I was able to capture her taking a few steps in this video:

Sunday, June 27, 2010


The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I completed my 2nd challenge as a "Daring Baker" and it was not only fun, but also super rich and delicious.  For all of you chocolate lovers out there, I highly recommend this chocolate mousse, as well as the crunchy/crisp pavlova.  The pavlova is a traditional Australian dessert and can be had in various forms of meringue, but is usually topped with some sort of cream and berries.  While generally not being a fan of overly sweet meringues, this chocolate pavlova recipe, with the addition of Callebaut cocoa powder, is truly decadent.  Making the pavlova is actually quite simple with only 4 ingredients: egg whites, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder.  Here is the "batter" before piping into rounds on parchment paper:

The entire batter could be formed into one cake shape round or piped into individual servings, which is what I did:

I then tried my hand at making homemade mascarpone to add to the mousse, and it was easier than I thought.  
Here is how you can do it.  I had trouble with using the indirect heating method, and ended up putting my bowl right on top of the burner with a low flame.  Even with the slight technique alteration, it turned out thick and creamy the next morning!  The mascarpone also was added to a creme anglaise as a drizzling sauce over the chocolate dessert.  

Since I had plentiful strawberries from Shepherd Farms I again topped the dessert with a fanned out strawberry.  Mmm...delish!  

A bonus is having leftovers, including enough mascarpone cream to make an ice cream.  Jason and I enjoyed parfaits layered with the mouse, mascarpone ice cream, crumbled pavlovas, and strawberries!  I think we have enough for one more parfait tonight...hooray!

For the recipe, click here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Lily!

It's official!  Lily is 1 year old.  It is hard to believe that a whole year has flown by.  June 12, 2009, this sweet little girl made her entry into the world:

We have had the joy of watching our precious girl grow and her personality to continue to blossom.  With plenty of spunk and an independent spirit, Lily is on the move, and we are trying to keep up!  :) 

She had a blast at her birthday party with plenty of family, friends, and yummy food.  As you can see, she takes after her mom in her deep appreciation of food (translation: she loves to grub down).  Fortunately for her, she got to dive into Indonesian BBQ'd chicken, nasi kuning (a celebratory rice), salad, fruit, and chocolate beet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  Here is a view of the food table:

In order to get a little nutrition into her first bites of chocolatey, sugary goodness, I added pureed beets (before you say "yuck!" - you must try the moistest cupcake ever, with barely any taste of beets).  And, rather than using that nasty red food dye #40, I colored the frosting with the beet water from the roasting pan, rendering beautifully pink frosting!  How did she like the cupcake, you might ask?  Well, see for yourself: 

She ate the ENTIRE cupcake (after eating a whole drumstick, rice and watermelon juice).  What was Lily's method of destruction?  It started with a fistful of frosting that was administered to the mouth and held there, as if she needed a ventilator for oxygen.  After mommy broke the cupcake in two, it was then followed by grabbing an entire half and placing it in the same position, so she could conveniently get more as needed.  Here you will see her going in for the cupcake (just after eating the frosting):

As you can see, she is not afraid to be in front of a crowd.  Her focus is astounding! :)  

Our friends, Bart and Linda Tarman, provided the space for Lily's birthday bash.  Here are some friends and family, eating out on the patio.

Jason was the grill master, delivering tender and perfectly bbq'd chicken!

Here some friends enjoy the Swedish game, Kubb, provided by our friend, Sean Whiting, who lived in Sweden for 3 years (or so?).

Lastly, Lily had a great time with her Oma, who came down from Oregon for 10 days to celebrate and play with her.  Lily ate Indonesian delights, knocked down towers that Oma built with foam blocks, danced, and giggled.  She can't wait 'til the next visit!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our Little Busy Bee...

I realize I haven't posted anything lately on Lily, so I owe it to my dear family and friends to update you on Lily's activities.  And, of course, it is best to show you, rather than just tell you :)  With her one year birthday coming up (a week from today!), she is keeping busy as well as keeping us busy!  So here it goes:

Lily helped her Daddy put together the desk that we moved into the kitchen nook.  Here she is trying to climb up the leg of the desk!

Lily has definitely formed a love/appreciation for my cookbooks.  What can I say?  You gotta start 'em while they're young!  Here she is pulling them off the shelves, one by one.  

And, here is the aftermath...

We've also been going to My Gym, which is a children's gym for all ages.  The class she goes to is for crawlers to walkers.  She loves to ride on swings, climb up play structures, walk on the balance beam (with my help, of course!), and play in the ball pit.  Here she is showing off her bottom 2 teeth while lounging in the ball pit!

We have also continued to take her swimming, as she just loves the water.  She kicks like a little dolphin, holds onto the side of the pool (almost without my support), climbs out of the pool (with only a little assistance from me), floats on her back (with a finger to a hand of support at the nape of her neck), and dives down with the swim instructor to pick up objects off the bottom of the pool in 3 1/2 feet of water.  I think she'll be a better swimmer than me by the time she turns 2!  Here she is smiling for the camera :

Needless to say, we've been enjoying our 1st year with our little girl!  Look for a posting after her birthday to see how her first bites of a sweet cupcake will go!

I couldn't finish the blog without a picture of a delectable treat.  Since we've been continuing to get the deepest red, most juicy strawberries in our CSA box (Community Supported Agriculture, basically a farm share) from Shepherd Farms, I have been loving eating them and using them in cooking and baking.  Here you will find our breakfast this morning of Strawberry Buttermilk Scones that we served up with eggs and fresh squeezed orange juice (from our orange tree).  With it's crunchy, flaky exterior and layered, soft interior, these are the best scones I've made to date. Life is good!

Because it was soooo good, I will type out the recipe from The Foster's Market Cookbook, a borrowed cookbook from my friend, Kelley Johnson.  Thank you Kelley!

Foster's Strawberry Scones
makes 1 dozen

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 lb (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
*I was out of unsalted butter, so I used regular salted butter and cut down the salt by half
1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbs buttermilk
2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 2 Tbs milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Lightly grease 2 baking sheets (or use parchment) and set aside
3.  Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
4.  Add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles course meal.  (Or use a food processor to cut the butter into the flour mixture by pulsing 10-12 times.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl to continue making the dough.)  Do NOT overwork the dough.
5.  Add 2 cups hulled and quartered fresh strawberries to the flour-butter mixture.  (You may need 2-3 Tbs less buttermilk depending on the ripeness of the berries.)
6.  Add 1 1/4 cups of the buttermilk and mix until just combined and the dough begins to stick together.  Add the remaining buttermilk one tablespoon at a time if the dough is too dry.
7.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll or pat into two 6-inch rounds, about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Cut each round in half, then cut each half into 3 triangles (pie-shaped wedges) and place on baking sheets.  Brush the tops with the egg wash.
8.  Bake 30 - 35 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately.