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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Panna Cotta and Florentines - Daring Bakers Februrary Challenge

Blog-checking lines: The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
2 cups assorted fresh berries
Place the milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle the
gelatin over. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the gelatin. Pour milk mixture into a heavy saucepan and stir over medium heat just until the gelatin dissolves but the milk does not boil, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, honey, sugar, and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour into 6 wine glasses so that they are 1/2 full. Cool slightly. Refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours.
Spoon the berries atop the
panna cotta and serve. Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight
Nestle Florentine Cookies
Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website.
2/3 cup unsalted butter;2 cups quick oats; 1 cup granulated sugar; 2/3 cup plain flour; 1/4 cup dark corn syrup; 1 tsp vanilla extract; pinch of salt; 1½ cups dark or milk chocolate
Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.
Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).
Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).
Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.
This recipe will make about 2 1/2 – 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

This was quite an easy challenge but I still learned some tips for making again - a silpat is essential!
I placed the first batch on regular baking parchment paper and they stuck to the paper - absolutely would not, would not come off without bringing sticky bits of paper with them.
The silpat batch came off smoothly and with a nice fine consistency.

I thought the cookies were a bit sweet, for my taste at any rate. I drizzled white chocolate over the cookies so that was sweet too - probably bittersweet would have been more suitable. The panna cotta was delicious - really like a nectar cream - a very elegant dessert.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Raspberry Oat Bars

Raspberry Oat Bars (adapted from Allrecipes)

Makes 24 bars, using a 13X9 or two 8X8 pans.

13 ozs. butter, softened (12 is recommended but I used an extra ounce to blend the mix better)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1-1/2 cups oats (I used old-fashioned)
1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
12 ozs. raspberry jam (I used Tiptree Raspberry Seedless; any jam with a bit of a tang will be fine)

Set oven at 400 degrees F.
Cream butter and sugar, about 3 mins.
Combine dry ingredients: oats, flour, salt, baking powder. Stir into creamed mixture.
Press half of dough into bottom of greased & floured pan (can use Bakers' Joy)
Place jam into microwaveable dish or jar and blits for 25 seconds (this prevents it from sticking on the oat/flour base)
Spread jam on base.
Crumble 2nd half of oatmeal crust mix over the raspberry layer.
Bake until very light brown, about 20-22 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely in pan before cutting.

These are nice and easy but even with "nice and easy" it's possible for me to mess up - I baked the bars for 25 minutes - it's too much. They came out with the jam having a bitter flavor and the bars were quite hard, like rusks. This is the second time I have made these - the first time they were a grand success and I got an order for 2 dozen. The first batch were a pale brown, with a bit of loose oatmeal here and there. I'm not taking a disappointment to my customer so now it's off to the shops to replenish my supplies and to bake them for less time.

This batch came out beautifully at 20 mins. I hope my customer enjoyed them - he joked he was going to put out about 5 for his family and keep the rest hidden for noshing.

Toasted Almond Scones - Tuesdays with Dorie

Mike of Good Living Out West chose Toasted Almond Scones for this week. I took them to my group at work and was delighted, of course, that my boss really liked them. He said they were great for early in the morning and had quite a few. The people who like the fancier goodies - frosted cakes, tartlets, and so on, didn't really say much. So each to his or her own.

I thought they were quite nice but found them a bit dry; when I blitzed a scone in the microwave for 10 seconds it came out moist and delicious. I suppose scones and biscuit types should really be served warm and as soon as possible after baking.

I have never made scones before; for some reason there seems to be something mysterious about them, they require special handling, hidden talent and have baking secrets that I have not unlocked - my Yorkshire grandmother made the most perfect scones - quite small, with a nice light brown crust, and with lots of butter on them; I can taste them now. I think my hesitation was that I would not be able to make scones like Grannie's. So maybe my Toasted Almond scones are a good start and it will be onward and upward to more scone making.

The recipe is on Mike's blog. here

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate Oatmeal Drops - Tuesdays with Dorie

The Chocolate Oatmeal Drops are fabulous! I halved the recipe and got 18 cookies. They are rich and chocolaty and perfect to go with an afternoon cup of coffee. I portioned out one rounded Tbs. of batter for each cookie and let them bake for 14 minutes - this time seems to be just right.

If you would like to make these cookies, check out Caroline and Claire's blog, Bake with Us. Great choice!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bourbon Bread Pudding - Tuesdays with Dorie

I am so pleased I made this pudding. My group just loved it. Thank goodness I remembered to take a pic before the last slice was eaten.

The custard is smooth and has a faint flavor of Kentucky bourbon in it. I followed the recipe and only used one tablespoon. Two would be more daring and give a stronger bourbon flavor. I used Pepperidge Farm cinnamon bread; it was a perfect match.

What would I do differently next time? Use a 9x5 pan as recommended; I baked my pudding in an 8x4-1/2 and it took about 20 minutes longer to bake. That's about all - I can still taste that custard in my mind as I write.

Sharon of Simply Southern selected this pudding for us. Thank you; it was a great choice. The recipe is on Sharon's blog.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Cake

Chocolate Cherry Cake

1 cup dried tart cherries, snipped
1/4 cup cognac
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut up
1/4 cup butter
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1. Simmer the dried cherries in a pan of quite shallow water and the cognac for about 5 plus minutes, enough time to soften the cherries. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler.
2. In a medium bowl beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed about 5 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Beat in chocolate mixture, milk, and vanilla. Gradually add flour until incorporated in the other ingredients. Stir in undrained cherries and nuts.
3. Pour into a greased and floured 8-inch square cheesecake pan (or equivalent); place on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree F oven until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, around 40-43 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then lift out. Cool completely.
The Chocolate Glaze
Spread 1/4 cup Chocolate Glaze evenly over top and sides of cake. Chill for 10 minutes.
Frost top and sides of cake with remaining glaze. Chill until set. Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Decorate as wished for. Makes 12 to 16 servings.
[Chocolate Glaze: In a glass measure combine 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut up, and 2 tablespoons butter; place in microwave on high for about 1 minute until melted, stirring twice.]
This delicious confection is really more of a torte than a cake. There is just sufficient flour to hold it together and it has a deep, rich brownie consistency. The dried sour cherries are divine - the steeping in cognac makes them really special; and there are just enough pecans for a crunchy munch.
I took this to work a few weeks back and again to a reception this week; it got raves.