Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Daring Bakers August Challenge - Milk Chocolate & Caramel Tart

Another month has come to a close which signals that a new Daring Bakers challenge has been completed. This month our feature presentation was a Milk Chocolate Caramel Tart chosen by Veronica of Veronica's Test Kitchen and Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen. I was quite excited to try it out since milk chocolate and caramel are two of my favourite flavours.

The tart consists of three elements - a hazelnut/chocolate crust, caramel filling and milk chocolate mousse topping. All three parts are easy enough to produce on their own. The dough rolled out beautifully for me and did not puff up at all when it was blind-baked. The caramel was fun to make as well and this time I didn't look away at all and the result was a beautiful golden butterscotch colour with taste to match. The mousse was a breeze as well and only required folding together melted milk chocolate and whipped cream.

As I assembled the tart, I realized my caramel was runny and it did not set up overnight. It was a fantastic consistency for pouring over ice cream or dipping strawberries but not for a tart filling. Once it was cut, the caramel oozed out so there are no cut pictures to show.

Despite the flowing caramel, I really enjoyed the flavour of the tart. The crust added a crunch to the smooth caramel and fluffy mousse. I'm not sure if I'd make it again but now I know that I would really like to get myself a proper tart pan! To serve the tart, I just spooned the caramel over the slices when I served them. It's a big sweet tart so hopefully you'll have plenty of people to share it with.

To see the beautiful creations made by other Daring Bakers please go here. To see the complete recipe, check out Veronica's post here or Patricia's post here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Baci di Dama

Have you ever had a recipe that you've always wanted to make but never got around to? I'm sure most of you can empathize with my sentiment; having a recipe that wouldn't (or couldn't) go away because it was stuck in the recesses of your brain waiting to become real. For me, the recipe was Baci di Dama and finally after years of waiting, these cookies became a reality.

"Lady's Kisses" are a very apt name for these little buttery almond cookies. They're light and sweet, but getting the perfect one can sometimes be elusive. Normally, I don't have a lot of trouble making new types of cookies but these ones were like trying to get a kiss on the lips, failing and settling for a kiss on the forehead instead.

The dough for the Baci di Dama is very dry and crumbly. It requires a lot of squeezing to be able to be rolled into a ball for baking. Once they were all lined up like marbles I baked them for the suggested 12 minutes and got a some darkly burnt ones and some flat cookies. I sort of panicked when I took them out wondering how I could get so many cookie shape variations on one try. For the second batch, I reduced the baking time by two minutes which made a huge difference and picked out the better ones to fill with Nutella. Overall, the cookies were fantastic to eat. They were delicate, sandy and not too sweet. I could have eaten them plain, but filling them with chocolate is what you're supposed to do and it makes for a much nicer presentation. I would definitely try to make these again and if you do try to make them, have patience - it takes a bit of time to roll out all those teaspoon-sized balls!

Recipe: Baci di Dama

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How-To: Plum Crumb Cake

As August draws us closer to September and farther from July, the last of summer's fruit makes an appearance ready to be enjoyed before apple season. One fruit that is both versatile and widely available in Ontario is the plum. With it, a veritable cornucopia of delicious desserts can be created and savoured while awaiting the arrival of Autumn.

I decided to make a Plum Crumb Cake because it is the type of cake that my family loves. It also makes a large 9 x 13 cake so there is plenty to share. This cake is fluffy and lemon-scented, topped with juicy red plums and crowned with a buttery brown sugar crumble. For this recipe I've added some step-by-step directions to show the process of making this cake from start to finish. I hope some of you will find this helpful.

Step One

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add your eggs and you should have a pale yellow mixture, close to the consistency of icing.

Step Two

Alternately add the sour cream and dry ingredients into the butter mixture.

Step Three

Your final batter should look like this - thick yet not stiff. Scrape the batter into your prepared pan.

Step Four

Place the sliced plums decoratively over the batter.

Step Five

Sprinkle with the crumb topping. Pop it in the oven and in less than an hour, you'll be enjoying some lovely cake!

Recipe: Plum Crumb Cake

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lemon Tea Cookies

A couple weeks ago, my neighbour, Little Man, turned three and his mom decided to have a small gathering for cake cutting and presents. After making a chocolate cake for him, I wanted to make something non-chocolate for the adults, specifically his grandmother who, like my own mom, loves lemon. As this was a last minute decision, I had to find something lemony, quick and tea-worthy.

I wanted something crispier than a drop cookie and I found the perfect cookies in a seven year old publication from BHG. Essentially, the cookie is lemon shortbread topped with lemon glaze. The recipe does not mention re-rolling scraps which you inevitably end up with if you cut out circles. I hate to waste dough so I re-rolled as gently as possible to max out my cookie output. Normally, I don't find too much of a difference in cookie texture when I do this, but this time I could tell the first rolled cookies from the last. The last lost their easy flakiness and were noticeably 'tougher' or as tough as a shortbread cookie can become. The glaze in the recipe calls for specific items which I didn't have so I used lemon juice mixed with icing sugar and, to punch up the colour, a little yellow paste colouring with hot pink sparkles. One thing I liked was that you could roll out the dough right away without any chilling time. Overall, the cookies were good but not mind blowing. They're quick, easy and perfect for novice bakers.

Recipe: Lemon Tea Cookies

Monday, August 06, 2007

Coconut Almond Macaroons

After using egg yolks for the failed Bavarian cream I made last month, I was left with egg whites that had macaroons written all over them. Why macaroons, you ask? Because I love macaroons! I love the chewy coconut texture and the burst of sweetness that fills your mouth when you bite into one. I especially love them more when they're dipped in glorious, effulgent chocolate.

These macaroons are made by whipping up egg whites and folding them into a dry mixture which consists of coconut, lemon zest and ground almonds. If you're new to whipping egg whites, just beat them with your mixer until they increase in volume, become opaque and the peaks hold their shape when you pull the beaters out. (They don't flop over like the top of a jester's hat. A little flop is okay but not a lot.) Bake them in the oven and soon you'll be enjoying some delicious cookies.

I made these cookies on a hot day with no AC so I had to store them in the refrigerator once they were dipped to avoid meltage. The final product was wonderful - crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside with a hint of lemon. Macaroon heaven - enjoy!

Recipe: Coconut Almond Macaroons