Friday, December 27, 2013

Daring Bakers December Challenge - Whoopie Pies

The December Daring Bakers' Challenge had us all cheering - the lovely and talented Bourbonnatrix of Bourbonnatrix Bakes was our hostess and challenged us to make fun, delicious and creative whoopie pies! Delicious little cake-like cookies sandwiching luscious filling in any flavors we chose... What else is there to say but "Whoopie!"

I was super busy this month but more than determined to do this challenge. Lis, one of the founders of Daring Bakers', unexpectedly died in November. I never met her or communicated with her but I felt her wonderful presence every month as she cheered our current challenges and rooted for our future challenges. I could feel her energy in every post she gave us. Two Daring Baker members , Shelley and Ruth, have stepped forth to carry on her project and I dedicate this challenge to them as well as Lis.

So, I was making lots of whoopie this holiday season!!
I have a very good friend who makes wonderful whoopie pies and brings them to all our gatherings. I have never had a reason to make them. I got my Woopie fix from her. I was surprised how easily they came together. I am thinking that the recipe from Bourbonnatrix is a great part of that reason. I made her chocolate version and it is deeelish! I experimented with German Chocolate filling to make it a little exciting. The whoopies were delicious and filling!!! I may make them a little smaller next time. There will definitely be a next time. I love my friends whoopie pies but I don't need to wait for a party anymore...I can make whoopie anytime!

German Chocolate Whoopie Pies

For the Whoopie Pies 

1/2 cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) butter 
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) brown sugar, firmly packed 
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) espresso coffee powder, optional 
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) baking soda 
3/4 teaspoon (4½ gm) salt 
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract 
1 large egg 
1/2 cup (120 ml) (1½ oz) (45 gm) Dutch-process cocoa, sifted 
2 1/3 cups (560 ml) (10 oz) (285 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour 

1) Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) 
two baking sheets.  
2) In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, espresso coffee powder (if 
using), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla till smooth. Add the egg, again beating 
till smooth.  
3) Add the cocoa, stirring to combine.  
4) Add the flour to the batter alternately with the milk, beating till smooth. Scrape down the sides 
and bottom of the bowl, and beat again briefly to soften and combine any chunky scrapings.   
5) Drop the dough by the 1/4-cupful (60 ml) onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving plenty of 
room between the cakes; they'll spread. A muffin scoop works well here.  
6) Bake the cakes in a preheated moderate oven for 15 to 16 minutes, till they're set and firm to 
the touch. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pans. While still lukewarm, use a 
spatula to separate them from the pan or parchment; then allow to cool completely.

Ready for baking

Ready for filling

German Chocolate Filling (adapted from Original Whistlestop Cafe Cookbook by Fannie Flagg)

1 1/3 cups (315 mL) heavy cream
1 1/3 cups (315 mL) sugar
4  large egg yolks, beaten
2/3 cup ( 158 mL)butter
2 teaspoon (10 mL) vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups (315 mL)  flaked coconut
1 1/3 cups  (315 mL)  chopped toasted pecans
2 ounces (56 gm)sweet baking chocolate, grated 
Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan ans cook over low heat, stirring constantly until butter and sugar melt. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 12 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add vanilla, coconut, and pecans. Let the filling stand until cool and of spreading consistency., stirring frequently. Stir in  the chocolate when cool. Spread one one side of the whoopie with about 2 tablespoons of the filling and top with another whoopie half. 

Custard cooking

Chopped toasted pecans

Filling cooling down

Cooled filling ready for chocolate-much thicker now!

Grated chocolate-a big pain!

Yummy filling ready for Whoopie

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October Daring Bakers' Challenge - Savory Pot Pies

I was very excited to have pot pie as our challenge this month. I just love pot pies but my sweet husband does not love them. Neither one of us grew up eating pot pies and took very different directions with the concept at adulthood. He veered towards the "I don't know what's in there and I am not gonna eat it" and I veered towards the "I love everything all mixed up in there and there's pastry everywhere...yum." With such different viewpoints, I found that I just did not make them often. BUT now I had a good reason and I was going to make the most of it.
Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, We were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region.

 We could basically do anything we wanted as long as there was a top and bottom crust to it. With all that freedom, I opted for the most traditional type of pot pie, turkey pot pie. Because to me, a pot pie should coincide with a refrigerator cleansing opportunity. I found bits and bobs of veggies leftover from farmers market excursions. Pieces of vegetables  that were not enough to make it on their own for a side dish but enough to add with others for a nice medley. 

I have a'tried and true' pie crust that I use for everything pie related. From quiche to banana cream pie, I use this recipe and tweak it a bit for the preparation. I located some fresh thyme to use in the pastry from under the massive amount of falling leaves that are everywhere here in New England this time of year.

For the filling, I started with  a turkey stock with a couple of turkey thighs and lots of onion along with some celery leaves and carrots.
I also used the pot pie as an excuse to get a nice bottle of sherry and add it to the pot pie sauce for flavor. I did have to taste test it and can report that a good quality sherry is a beautiful thing.
I made the pot pie in some square glass casserole dishes that I bough years ago because they were cute. I was so thrilled to be able to use them as a personal pot pie vessel.
As predicted, my hubbie ate a bit of the pot pie and pushed the rest of it around the plate while inquiring about any ice cream in the freezer...sigh... I did not win him over this time . I loved it but the personal pie dish was a little big for me and I saved a healthy portion for next days lunch.
As winter quickly approaches, I think I will attempt the pot pie again. I am thinking a lobster pie for next time...My husband is a huge lobster lover...that might do the trick.

Pastry :
2 cups flour
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
6 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup sherry
1 1/2 cups turkey stock, or chicken stock
2 cups cooked turkey, chopped


Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, peppers and saute for about five minutes, stirring periodically.

Add the butter and garlic. When the butter has melted and the garlic has become aromatic, add the flour. Cook the flour stirring constantly for a few minutes. Add the sherry to deglaze the pan.
Add the stock slowly , stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes . Season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped turkey.
Set filling aside to cool slightly before adding to pastry.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Mix together the flour and salt. Add the shortening and crumble with fingers til almost mixed. Add in the thyme.
Add the water and lightly mix together to form a loose dough. Turn out onto a flour dusted surface and knead the dough lightly. Do not over work the dough. 
 Roll one quarter of the dough between two sheets of wax paper to about 1/16th inch thickness. Line the dish with the dough. 

Trim the edges  along the top with a sharp knife.
 Repeat for a second dish. 
Place a sheet of foil on top of the dough in each dish. 
Add some baking beans to weight the foil. Bake the
pastry for about 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and remove foil with baking beans. Allow to cool for several minutes. Brush bottom pastry with whole grain mustard. 

Divide the filling among the two dishes. 

Split the remaining pastry into two parts and roll each one between sheets of wax paper to less than 1/16th inch thickness. top each filled dish with pastry and fold in the edges to seal. Using a sharp knife, make a couple of slits in the top pastry to create air vents.

Place dishes in 450 oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Cook until top pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.

Thanks Hannah!!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Still Summer Zucchini Cake


OK, so it is the end of summer and the kids are going back to school and the hurricane weather is in full force and the garden is looking sickly while the fall mums at the garden store are looking really fine.
You still have mounds of zucchini to remind you that summer is still here and very green. I  am not a big zucchini fan, I will admit, but I love this cake recipe for the very fact that it tastes like chocolate cake and NOT zucchini. It has a little spice to it to elevate it from a typical chocolate cake and it goes with just about every flavor of ice cream. I know...I have done the experiments.
Baking in a fluted Bundt pan gives the cake a beautiful look without having to do anything more that dust it with confectioners sugar. Find your favorite accompaniment ( mine is a hot cup of coffee splashed with whipped cream) and enjoy still slightly warm from the oven or room temperature.
Zucchini Cake

6 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
4 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup half and half,room temperature
1 3/4 cups zucchini, unpeeled and shredded
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Prepare a 10-cup Bundt pan by spraying the pan with a baking release spray such as Pam.         Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

1.Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed for about five minutes. The mixture will not look smooth at this point but do not worry.
2.Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined.
3.Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between.
4.Add the vanilla extract.
5.Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour mixture alternately with the half and half. Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips.
6.Pour mixture in to prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes.
7.Remove the cake  from the oven to a cooling grid. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes and then turn out of pan onto cooling grid. Cool to room temperature. Dust top with sifted confectioners sugar or a chocolate glaze. I have nasturtiums from the garden on occasion and these make lovely edible decorations.
*Note: Not sure if you have a 10-cup Bundt pan? Use water in a measuring cup to fill the pan and see how many cups you get. This will give you a good idea how many cups your pan will hold.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Daring Bakers" August Challenge - Mawa Cake, Bolinhas De Coco

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!

I chose the Mawa Cake and the Bolinhas de Coco cookies for the challenge.I started the Mawa Cake first since it seemed the most complicated and time consuming. Both desserts took a couple days each to complete so these are definitely NOT last minute thoughts.  I was surprised how easily the Mawa came together and how wonderful it made the house smell.  I added chopped dates to half of the cake just to see how it would fare. I do not think the dates added anything to the flavor and I liked the half without them better.The cake was very plain Jane looking but was very tasty with an afternoon cup of coffee. I dressed it up a little more that evening for dessert. I added a scoop each of blood orange sorbet and ginger ice cream. all the flavors blended nicely and gave the cake a rich feel. The cake did not keep well. The next day it was a little stale tasting and the third day, not even ice cream could save it. I would make this for a party occasion where I would not expect leftovers.

This is mawa, greatly reduced milk!

Can you smell the aromatic cardamon?

The Bolinhas de Coco cookies were a complete disaster for me. I just could not get my head around what was expected. I think looking back on it now, I should have cooked a bit more liquid out of the mixture. Whacking the coconut was tons of fun though and I volunteer to The cookies tasted OK but not being a huge coconut fan, I was not the main taster.My main tasters agreed that the cookies were a bit heavy and dry...most likely my fault for not cooking out that darn liquid.  I find, even though it is out of my comfort zone, that the Daring Bakers teaches me to appreciate the care and uniqueness of cuisines I don't know well. I love having a great excuse to try out new techniques with the sweet guidance of fellow Daring Bakers.
Here is a link to the  recipes:

Should have kept cooking???

The dough was very loose.I knew I was in trouble.

A bit flat...they should have been puffy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

July Daring Bakers' Challenge - Choose your own Adventure

In a "celebration" of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we'd like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try!
I got very excited with this challenge because I wanted to make pie for last months's challenge hosted by Rachael from pizzarossa but was unable to participate. We were off on a vacation adventure and I could not figure out how to blog from an IPAD. So, I made Peach Pie for this month's challenge and it is a happy pie time over here. The peaches were calling my name at the store. I smelled their sweet scent before I even saw them. I practiced the technique of putting them in boiling water for about 30 seconds before ice water shocking them. The skins just slipped away from the pulp for the most part. I had a couple of naughty ones that required manual peeling   I used the recommended crust recipe that our June host specified. I have a pie crust recipe that I have used for years but I actually prefer the recipe given for fruit pies.

Below is the recipe. Hurry to the market if you are in the summer side of the world and get some juicy peaches. If you are not, use what is in season at your spot in the world and bake yourself up a pie using this crust. You know you've been" pie"ning for one, hehehe.

Peach Pie

2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5-1/3 oz) unsalted butter 
1¾ cups (420 ml) (250 gm) (8-2/3 oz) all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoon (10 ml) (10 gm) (1/3 oz) sugar 
1/4 teaspoon (1½ gm) salt 
3-8 tablespoons (45-120 ml) cold water 

1 – 1½ kg (2¼ to 3-1/3 pounds) peaches (depending on the depth of your pie dish) 
1/2 cup (120 ml) (200 gm)4 oz) light brown sugar, lightly packed (more or less to taste) 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon flour
1 - 2 teaspoons (5-10 ml) (5-10 gm) white sugar for sprinkling (optional)

1. Weigh/measure out the correct amount of butter, wrap it in foil and freeze it for at least 30 minutes. 
2. Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. 
3. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the frozen butter directly over the flour in the 
bowl. Hold the butter by the foil to avoid warming it up too much and work as quickly as 
possible.  Using a table fork, toss the grated butter in the flour until it's all coated. 
 Alternatively, finely chop the butter and rub in with your fingertips, working quickly to avoid 
 warming it. This is best left to those lucky folk with cool hands! 
4. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of cold water over the mixture and mix together with the fork. 
Add more water, spoon by spoon, as needed - it will depend on temperature, humidity and a 
million other factors, but the finished dough should be moist and starting to come together, 
but not wet. I used 7 tablespoons (315 ml). Use your fingertips to test if it's sticking together. 
5. Finish by using your hands to quickly bring the dough together into a ball. Just press, don't 
6. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

1. Preheat oven to hot 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7 . Lightly grease a deep 9"/24cm ceramic or metal pie dish. Note that a dish this size results in quite a thin top crust - if you want a sturdier top which cuts more cleanly, then you should use a smaller dish so you don't need to roll it out so thinly. I like to use a glass pie plate so I can monitor the cooking of the bottom crust.
2. Take 2/3 of the pastry dough (I weighed my dough and 2/3 was about 12oz/340g) and roll out to fit pie dish, right up to the rim. Line the pie dish with it, prick all over the bottom with a fork and set aside.

3. Peel, pit  and chop the peaches into large chunks and place in a bowl. How tightly you can pack them into the pie depends on how thinly they are sliced - I like them chunky
4. Sprinkle the brown sugar , spice and flour over the peaches and toss well to coat. 

5. Pack the peaches tightly into the lined pie dish. The filling can come up above the rim of the dish in a mound. 

6. Roll out the remaining pastry dough to fit over the peaches. 
7. With a wet finger, moisten the edge of the pastry in the dish. Place the dough lid on the pie and press the edges together. Trim the edges as necessary and crimp the seam closed with your fingers or the back of a fork. 
8. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut three vents in the top of the dough. You can either cut leaf shaped vents and use the pieces you removed to fashion decorative leaves, or you can cut straight vents and use any pastry trimmings to fashion decorations as desired. Moisten the back of the decorations with a wet finger and gently press onto the top of the pie. 
9. Glaze the top of the pie with a beaten egg or milk, then sprinkle the top with a little white sugar. 
10. Place pie dish on a baking sheet and put it into the center of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 30 minutes. The top should be light golden brown. The bottom should be golden brown as well.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Gumpaste Iris Tutorial


I have uploaded a tutorial for making a gumpaste Dutch Iris. You can locate the video through this link:
Gumpaste Iris Part 1
Gumpaste Iris: Part 2

Here is the template for the Iris cutter if you do not have access to one of my cutter suggestions. Print the template on heavy card stock paper, cut it out and use it cut your gumpaste petals.Most of the tools that I used can be found at Nicholas Lodge or  Global Sugar Art.

Tools for Making the Gumpaste Iris

Artist Brushes for dusting – I like the nail art brush sets
Cel Board by CelCakes
Cel former Set #1 by CelCakes or Wilton flower former tray
Cel pad by CelCakes
Cel Shredderby CelCakes
Dusting colors: Canary yellow, Prairie Green, Royal Purple, Lilac, Cinnamon
Dusting pouch
Floral Tape
Floral Tape – I used light green
Florist wire: 22g., 24g. 26g.
Gel colors: brown and lemon yellow
Gum glue adhesive 
Iris Cutters – I used Framar cutters
Jem petal veiner
Jem Veiner Set #1
Long flat tweezers
Medium Cel pin by Nicholas Lodge
Petal pad by CelCakes
Practice board
Rolling pin
Thick foam and cosmetic sponge for cupping
Vegetable shortening
White gumpaste

Wilton Confectioners Tool Kit: ball tool, dog bone tool, pencil tool, 

Written Instructions are below.

Dutch Iris Instructions
*      Roll paste over three ridges of a grooved board to about 1/16th inch, remove paste and flip over.
*      Cut three of each Iris shape (standard petal, secondary fall petal, fall petal)
*      Store the petals under protective flap to prevent paste from drying out.

Fall Petals:
*      Insert a moistened 26 gauge wire about 1 inch into the base of the petal and pinch slightly at the base.
*      Using a cosmetic sponge, press the petal onto a veiner of choice, grooved side first, then the flat side.
*      On foam pad, using a ball tool, soften the petal, grooved side upwards, around the top edge of the petal almost down to the neck of the petal.
*      Using a petal veining tool (porcelain tool) or pencil tool, gently fold the base (neck) around the tool to form a hollow area.
*      Dry in the Styrofoam large Cel former or on a flower forming try with the flat side upwards.
*      Repeat with remaining two fall petals.

Secondary Fall Petals:
*      Insert a moistened 26 gauge wire about 1 inch into the base of the petal and pinch slightly at base to secure.
*      Using a cosmetic sponge, press the petal onto a veiner of choice, flat side first then grooved side.
*      With the dog bone tool on a foam pad, soften the two end pieces (rabbit ears)
*      Using flat tweezers create a deep ridge on in the center of the grooved side of the petal.
*      Again using the dog bone tool, Cup the two end pieces (rabbit ears) on the cosmetic sponge
*      Using the petal veiner tool (porcelain tool or a pencil tool, gently mold the base of the petal to form a hollow area.
*      Arrange the petal on top of a fall petal in the Cel former or dry on a flower former tray with the grooved side downwards. If using the Cel former, you may need to prop up the end of the petals with a bit of tissue.
*      Repeat with the two remaining secondary fall petals.

Standard Petals:
*      Insert a moistened 26 gauge wire about a third of the way into the base of the petal.
*      Using a cosmetic sponge, press the petal onto a veiner of choice grooved side first, then the flat side.
*      Using a ball tool on a foam pad, soften the petal edges slightly, using light pressure, so as not to create a frill. Using a ball tool on the cosmetic sponge, cup the end of the petal on the grooved side. Using the petal veiner (porcelain tool) or pencil tool, gently mold the base on the grooved side to form a hollow area.
*      Repeat with the remaining two standard petals.

*      Roll light green paste over three ridges of a grooved board, remove paste and flip over. Cut three leaves using a lily leaf cutter or other long slender leaf cutter. Insert a moistened 24 gauge wire about halfway into the leaf at the base and pinch at the base to secure.
*      Using a cosmetic sponge, press the leaf onto a cornhusk veiner (may also use a lily leaf or lily of the valley leaf veiner).
*      Using a ball tool on a foam pad, soften the leaf edge with grooved side upwards.
*      Using a veining tool on soft thick foam, slide the tool down the center of the leaf starting at leaf base and ending at leaf tip to create a center vein. Dry the leaf on top of crumpled foil. Tape the leaf at the base with ½ width floral tape. Dust the leaf with Prairie green dusting powder over large sections of leaf. Add accents of a darker green dusting powder in small sections if desired.

Dusting the Petals:
Use your creative flair for this please …here is what I did:
*      Fall Petals: Prairie Green petal dust in center of petal back and at base of petal front. Lilac petal dust on the petal edges and all over the back of the petal. Royal Purple petal dust for inner parts of the front of the petal brushed to form an arc shape and blended towards petal edge.
*      Secondary petal: Prairie green at the base of the petal. Royal Purple intensely brushed on groove of petal, center of petal back and gently blended towards petal edge. A quick brush with the lilac brush at petal edges.
*      Standard Petal: Brush front and back of petal with Lilac dusting powder. Brush petal edges in a few areas with the Royal Purple dusting powder.

To Assemble:
*      Tape all the petals with ½ width floral tape. Tape a Secondary fall petal to each fall petal so that the secondary fall petal rests atop the fall petal using ½ width floral tape.
*      Tape, using full width floral tape, the three Standard petals at the petals base to a 22 gauge wire with floral tape. The grooved side of the petals should face each other.
*      Add a Secondary fall/fall petal combination to the Standard petals, situating them so they rest in between each standard petal (see video for details).
*      Add two more 22 gauge wires at the base of the assembled petals and tape the length of the wires adding in leaves as desired.
*      Steam the Iris to set the color and give the flowers an attractive sheen.

Please email if you have any questions.  I hope you have fun making this flower.