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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nanaimo Bars - Daring Bakers

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

For the graham crackers part of the challenge, I did not use any gluten free flours but chose pastry flour and unbleached flour. I also used Lyle's Golden Syrup instead of honey as I am not very fond of honey in baked goods. The cracker dough came together nicely and it sat in the freezer for a few days. Yes, it certainly is sticky when doing the rolling out - I did plenty of flour sprinkling. It was also quite sticky to get off the pastry board and onto the baking sheet; I used an offset spatula to coax it off. I also used a triangular serrated cake decorating comb 4 inches on each side to measure; this was really handy as it made nice clean-cut pastry edges.

I like these crackers, much better than store bought grahams, in fact I can't stand store bought grahams. What is more one gets to munch on a 4-inch square cracker instead of the usual mini size. There is almost a gingersnap tang about them. Now all I need is a parrot to share them with.

I'm also thinking cheesecake base. I usually use Animal Crackers or Nilla Wafers but these seem like a nice change. Umm! Now I'm wondering about chocolate ganache coating for an special treat munch. Not bad for somebody who didn't like graham crackers. Thank you Daring Bakers for changing my taste.

Tuesday night and getting ready for Reveal Date. I took the Nanaimo Bars to work today; they were a great success, together with some delicious wholewheat sables and chocolate biscotti I received as a gift. We munched the whole day. Everything was a real treat.

Making the 2nd and top layers of the bars was easy and most enjoyable; I finished them on Sunday, after a delightful trip to Soho in Manhattan to check out Sur La Table on Spring Street,(now a newly discovered earthly paradise for me). The chocolate ganache quantity was a bit short so I doubled it and got a nice, firm layer on the top. I had never tasted a Nanaimo Bar before; they are really very sweet but that's just fine with me. I might try other flavors next time, such as pistachio or caramel.

I'm posting the recipe below. Now I can't wait to see what February Daring Bakers brings.

Nanaimo Bars


For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Graham Wafer Crumbs (from 101 Cookbooks)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate (I used 8 ozs.)
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter plus I used 2 tablespoons Crisco

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

Note: To get a nice, smooth chocolate top, use 1-1/2 times choc. in recipe and twice the fat (between 5-6 oz. of butter/crisco mix).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars - Tuesdays with Dorie

Umm! I haven't tasted these yet (I'll eat one tomorrow at work) but I think I can safely say that these are a crunchy, yummy snack. They were delightfully easy to get together. I made a half portion and used an 8 inch square cheesecake pan so I won't have to tip the bars upside down. It will make 16 portions so that will be plenty enough for the Office team.

Lillian of Confectiona's Realm picked this weeks recipe. Thank you, Lillian. I can't wait to savor it. The recipe is on Lillian's blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ashkenazic Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I have had my eye on this recipe for quite a while - it's from Epicurious. There's something about the winter cold that makes me want to make fulsome, simple, thick batter cakes so this is what the Office team is going to get tomorrow.

Right now it's baking, with another 30 mins. to go. It will be a new type of recipe for me as I have not made a coffee cake before.

Here's the recipe:

Ashkenazic Sour Cream Coffee Cake (Smeteneh Küchen) Epicurious | October 2000

by Gil Marks
The World of Jewish Desserts

Coffee cakes rank among the most popular of comfort foods, welcomed at breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and as the name indicates, coffee breaks. A coffee cake batter is generally more liquid than a quick bread one and contains a bit more sugar, and as a result, the final product is lighter and moister. On the other hand, coffee cakes tend to be less sweet than butter cakes. There are many versions of kuchen, this streusel-topped sour cream type being a very popular one. It is commonly served at the meal following Yom Kippur, or Shavuot, and on Sabbath afternoons or the melaveh malcha ("accompanying the queen") party following the Sabbath. For the later occasion, spices are added to the batter and topping, reflecting those used during the havdallah ceremony signaling the end of the Sabbath.

Yield: One 9-inch square or Bundt cake; 6 to 9 servings

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup granulated or brown sugar, or 1/4 cup each
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cloves (optional)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, grated coconut, golden raisins, or chocolate chips, or 1 cup any combination (optional)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated or brown sugar or 1/2 cup each
4 large egg yolks, or 3 large eggs
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)

Glaze (optional):
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or water

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (325°F if using a glass pan). Grease one 9-inch square pan,9-inch Bundt or tube pan, or 9-inch springform pan. Line with parchment or waxed paper, grease again, and dust with flour.

2. To make the streusel: Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg if using. Cut in the butter to resemble coarse crumbs. If desired, stir in the nuts.

3. To make the batter: Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Blend in the sour cream, vanilla, and zest if using. Stir in the flour mixture.

4. Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the streusel. Carefully cover with the remaining batter and sprinkle with the remaining streusel.

5. Bake unitl the cake is golden and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 50 minutes. Set on a rack and let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Wrap the kuchen in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

6. To make the glaze if using: Combine all the glaze ingredients, stirring until smooth and of pouring consistency. Drizzle over the cake and let stand until set.


When baking and storing a cake containing acidic ingredients such as sour cream in an aluminum pan, line the bottom with parchment paper to prevent the juices from reacting with the aluminum and creating a metallic flavor.


Single-Layer Coffee Cake:

Spread all the batter in a 13-by-9-inch pan, sprinkle with all of the topping, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Fruit-Filled Coffee Cake:

After adding the middle layer of streusel, top with 1 cup peeled, cored, and thinkly sliced cooking apples, 1 cup peeled, pitted, and sliced peaches, or 1 cup pitted cherries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries.

Cheese Coffee Cake:

Combine 8 ounces softened cream chees, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 large egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Spread over the top of the batter, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. If desired, spread 1/2 cup melted blueberry, cherry, raspberry, or strawberry preserves or pie filling over the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the streusel.

My Notes: This cake was very popular at work. It's quite a light coffee cake and fairly plain. Well worth making again.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Big Feast Day Reception and Some Mini-Desserts

I prepared the desserts for the Epiphany Feast reception at my Church. They turned out pretty well - I made about 200 pastries in total. I made Galette des Rois, center front; Peppermint Brownies (clockwise); Nigella Lawson's brownies; pecan tartlets with cream and mini-carrot cake cupcakes.

Part of the enjoyment was coasting around the internet looking for recipes:

The Galette des Rois is by Chickpea Chef, on Group Recipes. The Galette des Rois is a cake of French origin, made of puff pastry and frangipane. It is only eaten on Epiphany night. I used Trader Joe's Puff Pastry, which is superb. It has a light and buttery flavor and rises beautifully. These puffs vanished instantly.

The green items are the result of using dark green candy melts on a perfectly good peppermint brownie bite recipe I have. Apparently there have been studies done on the effect of color on food appeal - dark green must be a loser as these were not popular at all. I don't suppose I will be using green candy melts again any time soon. I think a white chocolate coating would have been much more pleasing.

The chunky, fudgy looking brownies are from the blog site Sweet and Simple Bakes and come from one of Nigella Lawson's books. My, what a brownie! Rich, fudgy, just right - definitely my best brownie recipe.

The next treat was Butter Pecan Tartlets. (I put a dollop of cream on each one just before serving). The sweet pastry is delicious; I mixed it by hand and then used the food processor to get it to blend nicely.

The last treat was a batch of mini-carrot cupcakes with orange cream frosting from the blog Simple Recipes. These were cute, dainty and delicious.

This was lot of work, a lot of fun, and gave me the opportunity to try new recipes and skills. My next big bash is in March sometime - it will be a specifically
petit four and mini pastries evening. Here are the recipes for the mini treats:

Galette des Rois
•1/2 cup ground almonds
•1 stick butter
•3 eggs
•1/4 cup of sugar
•2 sheets puff pastry
•powdered sugar

1.Grind almonds in food processor
2.Beat sugar and butter
3.add TWO eggs and almonds.
4.You now have Frangipane!
5.Butter a flat baking sheet
6.unfold thawed puff pastries and using a pie pan as a template cut into two circles
7.Lay one circle on buttered sheet and spread Frangipane in the middle
8.Place a dried fava bean or ceramic figure in the Frangipane
9.Using the last egg, beat and paint the edges of the dough
10.Place the other dough circle on top and seal the edges very tight!
11.Brush top with egg (i forgot to in my picture)
12.Bake ~ 25-30 min at 375 (I did 400 for 10 minutes and 15 minutes at 375)13.Dust with powdered sugar

I tried this recipe with both Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry and with Trader Joes. Pepperidge Farm is less expensive, easier to work with and tastes quite good. Trader Joes is quite expensive, so bouncy that it's difficult to work with, and utterly delicious. It's a no contest. The main thing is to keep putting the Trader Joes pastry in the fridge during the process, as soon as it gets too soft to handle; use a sharp cutter; and don't even try to roll out extras from the left over pieces.
Also, use a generously buttered baking paper (Criscoed in my case). Once out of the oven, remove parchment with cakes on from the baking tray and let them cool completely on a grid. It's easy just to peel off the cakes from the parchment once they are cool. These would probably work well with a silpat.

Sweet and Simple Bakes Monthly Bake ~ Snow-Flecked Brownies

375g best quality dark chocolate
375g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
6 eggs (large)
350g caster sugar (superfine)
1 teaspoon salt
225g plain flour
250g white chocolate buttons or chips, or white chocolate chopped into chunks (or your own choice of chocolate)
2 tsp icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line the sides and base of a 13x9 inch baking tin with foil or baking parchment.
Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in a large heavy based pan.
In a bowl or wide mouthed large measuring jug, beat the eggs together with the caster sugar and vanilla extract.
Allow the chocolate mixture to cool a little, then add the egg and sugar mixture and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt. Then stir in the white chocolate buttons or choped white chocolate. Beat to combine then scrape and pour the brownie mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 30 minutes. You can see when the brownies are ready because the top changes to a slightly paler brown speckle, while the middle remains dark, dense and gooey. Even with such a big batch you do need to keep checking on it: the difference between fudgy brownies and dry ones is only a few minutes. Remember, too, that they will continue to cook as they cool.
To serve, cut into squares while still warm and pile up on a large plate, sprinkling with icing sugar pushed with a teaspoon through a small sieve.

Butter Pecan Tarts
TART SHELLS 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup LAND O LAKES® Butter, softened* 1/2 cup sugar 1 egg 1 teaspoon almond extract FILLING 1 cup powdered sugar 1/2 cup LAND O LAKES® Butter 1/3 cup dark corn syrup 1 cup chopped pecans 36 pecan halves
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all tart shells ingredients in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Put lots of Crisco in the tartlet pans.
Press 1 tablespoon mixture into each cup of mini muffin pans to form 36 (1 3/4 to 2-inch) shells. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove from oven. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients except chopped pecans and pecan halves in 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil (4 to 5 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in chopped pecans.
Spoon filling into baked shells; top each with pecan half. Bake for 5 minutes. Cool 20 minutes; remove from pans.

My Tips - I baked the tarts for about 12 minutes at 400, filled the shells and reduced heat to 350, just so the filling could meld nicely. Make sure there is not too much filling - it will bubble over and make it impossible to remove the tart.
I used Rose Levy Berenbaum's tip on removing pastry from small tart pans - use a sewing needle (medium size) and just prick the side of the tart against the edge. If the pan cavaties are straight sided, not fluted, carefully give the tartlet a twirl, still using the needle and keeping the tartlet in the pan. It will loosen, then carefully lift out the shell with the help of the needle.(This RLB method is the best one I have found for removing tiny tartlettes from their pans.)

Mini Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot Cake
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
2/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups shredded carrot
6 oz crushed pineapple (drained)- that is, from a 6 oz. can of crushed pineapple. Use the pineapple in syrup, not the one in its own juice, for a sweeter taste.
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz cream cheese
2 tablespoon butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tablespoon grated orange rind

Carrot Cake
In a large bowl blend together the salad oil and the sugars. Add the eggs one at the time beating until blended. In another bowl shift together both flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture, about 1/3 at the time to the oil and egg batter, beating just enough to blend. Fold the carrots and then the pineapple into the batter. Add the nuts it desired. Pour approximately 1 tablespoon into small size bake cups (1 in). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes out on the rack, let it cool completely.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
In a large bowl mash the cream cheese, add the butter and mix well, until the cream is fluffy. Add the confectioner’s sugar to the cheese mixture and beat until well blended. Blend in the vanilla extract and the orange rind. The orange cream cheese frosting is ready to be used.

Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

Lovely, just lovely! It's been a while since I have made a regular chocky cake with cocoa powder; I also used the 4 ounces of melted chocolate but that was optional. It's almost retro in fact, with a nice thick batter - very much like the sort of cake my mother used to make.

It took about 35 mins. to bake, not 26-30 as stated in the recipe; I sometimes find that Dorie's recipes are rather short on baking time. I used the chocolate buttercream frosting from Rose Levy Berenbaum's Cake Bible (recipe is in my December Opera Cake post). There was a lot of frosting left over from the Opera Cake effort, so here was a chance to use up this very expensive and very delicious buttercream.

Most important - this cake is the TWD'ers pick for our second anniversary. (The other choice was Tarte Tatin but I was in a chocolate cake state of mind.) I came onto the TWD scene quite early on, with the Snickery Squares recipe, and have been having a ball ever since. Thank you, Laurie and team, for all your hard work in making this group such a success.