Monday, July 30, 2007

Daring Bakers July Challenge - Strawberry Mirror Cake

And the Daring Bakers are off again! This month the challenge was decided on by the demiurgic Peabody from Culinary Concoctions. She chose to have us all make a Strawberry Mirror Cake and, after reading about the wonderful cakes my fellow DBs made, I was very tempted to not post my final result.

The recipe was long and technical. If broken down into manageable components, this was an easy hurdle to overcome. After planning and buying all the necessary ingredients, I got to work. I was not too worried about the cake but, the cream and mirror held some additional challenges as they contained gelatin, a product I don't use. After finding agar agar, I had to hope it would work just as well as its animal counterpart. I was tempted to use some sort of Jello product but as you can see, I didn't! Sticking to a recipe is one thing I do very well.

After making the cakes, which were thin-ish I tackled the cream, stirring in the agar agar to measure the same as gelatin. I should have dissolved it completely in hot boiling water as there were some hard bits in the final cream. When I layered it in the pan with the cake I was hoping it would keep its shape, which it did. Yeah!

Now I don't know if I should have waited longer before pouring on the mirror but when I did, the smooth strawberry liquid disturbed the cream creating swirls. I was stumped and couldn't take it off so I kept pouring hoping for the best. After refrigerating it, I had a pink-topped cake with a mirror which had mysteriously sunk to the bottom of the cake. I tasted it and it had a gel-like consistency so the agar agar worked, though, unfortunately the mirror was on the wrong end.

Looking back at my experience, I would now modify the cakes to be baked in two round pans as opposed to one large pan with the cake circles being cut out. The rest would stay the same. I was initially hesitant to try it at all because of the ingredients but I'm glad I did. The challenge made me go out and look for ingredients I normally wouldn't have in my cupboard. Making gelatin-based desserts is new territory for me so I'll have to keep plugging away until I can master it.

Overall, I'm not sure if I can appreciate the flavour of the cake. Those who tried it said it tasted good and reminded them of trifle. I'm hesitant to give my version a two thumbs up as I'm sure I could do it better next time. I was also a little bummed about the mirror and the hard flakes - two things which greatly coloured how I saw this particular cake.

Thanks to Peabody for your bold choice! A big thank you goes out to all the Daring Bakers whose support and encouragement cushion the blow of disaster. Please visit Peabody's site for the full recipe and to see what all the other brilliant Daring Bakers created, click here. Looking forward to next month!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

SHF 33 - Pineapple Coconut Cookies

Tropical Paradise is the theme for the 33rd edition of Sugar High Friday. Mary at Alpineberry wanted us to come up with something that said 'tropical' to us and write about it. The best way I could bring the tropics home was to make use of island fruits, notably coconut and pineapple.

These cookies come from the book Ripe for Dessert by David Lebovitz. I instinctively looked through this book first because he has organized his book by fruit and chapter two was entitled Tropical Fruit - perfect for this challenge!

The recipe is super simple to pull together and makes use of everyday ingredients. The cookie is sort of like a macaroon, crispier on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. I had to decrease the baking time by ten minutes but if you like a more browned cookies, then you can leave it in for the full 30 minutes.

The baked cookies packed a pineapple punch! The caramely flavour of sugared pineapple melded nicely with the chewy coconut. They were moist and small enough to pop in your mouth. David Lebovitz said this was his favourite current pineapple coconut cookie and, although I'm still undecided on this, my taste-testers seemed to like them a lot. If you'd like, dress them up with a drizzle of chocolate or a sprinkling of powdered sugar. No matter what you do, these cookies have Tropical written all over them!

Recipe: Pineapple Coconut Cookies

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bubble Bread

If you want to impress friends and family, making a Bubble Bread is the way to do it. This fun-to-make bread consists of a yeasted sweet dough that is rolled into golf ball-sized chunks, then rolled in butter and cinnamon-sugar and arranged in a Bundt pan. After it had risen, you bake it and devour the sweet cinnamony morsels that have been drizzled (or not) in a sugar glaze.

When making this bread, give yourself enough time to make the dough and let it rise. I think it took me about 2 hours from start to finish with no dilly-dallying. The final result looks really neat - sort a cross between cinnamon buns and a Bundt cake. It is also fun to eat and the portions are smaller so, in theory, the guilt factor is as well. It's like eating a Timbit instead of a whole doughnut, you know? I've included some modifications to the recipe in the recipe link below just for reference. I know some of you may be weary of working with yeast and I totally understand where you're coming from. But, if you're looking to challenge yourself this is a yummy way to get started.

Recipes: Universal Sweet Dough & Bubble Bread

Monday, July 09, 2007

White Butter Cake

Alas, strawberry season had almost come to an end here in Ontario. This past weekend at my local Farmer's Market signs were posted saying "Last Berries of the Season!". I took advantage of this final moment to buy some small, but very red berries to make a Strawberry Shortcake-type cake for a BBQ I had yesterday.

The component of this cake I wanted to post about is the White Butter Cake which I used as a base for whipped cream and strawberries. It is a great cake for filling with pretty much anything you like and has a lovely hint of orange due to the addition of rind in the batter. It makes a 9 x 13-inch cake, perfect for picnics and large crowds. I made it the day before we ate it and it was moist, dense and yummy. The recipe is a little different from the traditional creaming method, but as long as you have a big enough bowl, you shouldn't have any problems.

Recipe: White Butter Cake

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Finally summer holidays are here and I've caught a chance to put a post up. I know, Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins aren't all that exciting but I just wanted to let you all know I was still here and am hoping to do more frequent blogging in the near future. My in-laws are visiting from North Vancouver, British Columbia as well so things have been exciting here in the Canadian Baker household.

These muffins are as you would expect - moist and lemony made slightly sticky with a lemon glaze poured over top. You can whip these up in 10 minutes and you can add more or less poppy seeds to your liking. They're not fancy at all and there are probably better recipes out there but I enjoyed them with some hot tea. The poppy seeds were crunchy and lingered on well after the muffin was finished. They also freeze well wrapped individually in plastic wrap and tucked into a Ziploc bag.

To those of you in Canada, Happy Canada Day! We'll be enjoying fireworks tonight!

Recipe: Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins