Sunday, May 27, 2007

Daring Bakers May Challenge - Gateau Saint Honore

For this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, Helene of Tartelette and Anita from Dessert First asked us to dust off our rolling pins to make a Gateau St. Honore. This decadent confection consists of a puff pastry base topped with Saint Honore Cream (Diplomat’s Cream) and finished off with caramel-topped cream puffs and swirls of whipped cream. Wow, this was French baking at its best. The recipe was long but not complicated and, as long as I gave myself enough time, I would be able to pull this off.

The puff pastry component could be made one of two ways; either store–bought or homemade. I opted for the store made version because I had some in my freezer already. The rest of the recipe required me to do it all myself. I had never made choux pastry before and it wasn’t difficult to do. I think I made my puffs a little too small but they came out okay nonetheless. The Diplomat cream was also straightforward although I ended up with a slightly runny product; something some fellow Daring Bakers also experienced. For this reason, I was unable to fill the cream puffs with the cream though I made a bit of a mess trying. The final product looked impressive and it tasted nice.

Even though the recipe didn’t come 100% perfect I’m really glad I put in the effort to try it. This is the major appeal of the Daring Bakers for me – to make new desserts that I would probably never had made on my own. And the camaraderie of the other bakers is just icing on the cake. To check out all the other creations just click on the sidebar to the right.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mocha Brownies

Oh my, I can't believe that May is passing by so quickly. Today is already Victoria Day where most Canadians are relaxing or planting flowers on a well deserved day off. It is beautiful and sunny where I am and to celebrate I made some Mocha Brownies.

I remember a time when I was terrible at making brownies. I would always overbake them and would be left with a chocolate brick. I always avoided making them for fear of failure. If you feel the same way, not to worry; these brownies are super simple to make and have a pleasing coffee flavour.

Most mocha-type desserts call for just a hint of coffee flavour but for these brownies I used freshly brewed espresso and coffee granules. They came out great - chewy on the inside and topped with a glossy, crackly crust. For a nice final presentation, I topped them with a dollop of whipped cream and a coffee bean.

Even if you're not on holiday today I hope you're having a great day wherever you are!

Recipe: Mocha Brownies

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

You would think that finding a really good chocolate chip cookie recipe would be a simple task. I've tried many with varying degrees of success and I envy those of you who have had recipes handed down to you. I, however, do not have much of a baking legacy in my family so I rely on my books to help me out.

This recipe comes from Canadian Living and I have tried it many times before with lacklustre results which I why I'm only posting about them now. I never thought they were great, let alone best-ever, but yesterday I made some because I had all the ingredients. I had to refrigerate the dough because dinner was in the oven and this simple step made all the difference.

The cookies came out nicely rounded and definitely not like a flat frisbee. The chilling helped the cookies retain their shape so they were still rounded and nicely puffed. I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled then out of the oven and when I sent out two dozen to the kids in the backyard they were gone in 30 seconds. Really, they were. So I've learned not to give up on recipes that don't turn out perfectly the first time. Sometimes all it takes to wreck a batch of cookies is a bad mood and sometimes all it takes to make a good batch is a positive attitude.

Recipe: Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lemon Curd

When I was young, my mom always used to buy the packaged lemon tarts sold at grocery stores - the kind that were in a tray of six and were bright neon yellow. I always wanted the butter tart version (which we sometimes got) but more often than not, the lemon tarts would end up in our cart. I hated these tarts. I thought they were too tart (heh) and I was not a lemon lover at all. Boy, how times have changed.

After making the crepe cake last week, I was left with six egg yolks that I didn't want to waste. I decided to make curd because it was something I'd always wanted to try and, now that I'm older, I appreciate the tangy goodness of the lemon.

Well, the curd was beautiful to make. Slowly it became thicker and thicker until it was ready. I covered it with plastic wrap and chilled it overnight. The next day I tried it and it was rich, thick and tangy - exactly as you think curd would taste. I decided to be English and make scones to have with it. It made the perfect teatime snack though, if you are not fond of strong tart flavours, the curd may be too much for you. So I've learned that as we change, our tastes change with us and, for the most part, this is always a good thing.

Recipe: Lemon Curd