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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Povitica - The Daring Bakers October Challenge

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

I had such a good time with this challenge! And I actually finished it half-way through the month, instead of waiting until the last minute. After much anxiety and wondering if I could meet this challenge I decided to devote the better part of a Saturday and the evening - until almost 11:00pm - solely to Povitica.

Now that this one has turned out quite well, I feel encouraged to do the DB Croissants and the Baklava that I shied away from earlier this year; even to try the Strudel again using the sheet method. I made the half portion - thank you, Audax, it was wonderful to have this option. My first loaf had a band of plumped raisins at the beginning of the dough rectangle (to make it easier to roll); my second loaf had a band of Nestle chocolate mini-morsels at the beginning of the dough. These two flavors should take care of the non-chocolate lovers and the non-raisin lovers at the office as they can choose.

It's an unusual dough, for me at any rate - it seems that European baking has so many fancy dough types. However, it was not terribly difficult; it just took a lot of flouring. Kneading was quite enjoyable, something which I have feared up to now. A good neighbor in my building comes from Eastern Europe, Bosnia to be precise, and she is always making me treats of their marvellous cooking, both sweet and savory. I can't wait to tell her I have made her national bread.

My group swooned over this bread - we enjoyed it for two days as there was some left over after the first day. I would like to try some more flavors now, although my favorite so far is the raisin bread. I will write up the recipe soon, very soon, promise, but I'm just in a bit of a rush mode right now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fun with Candy Melts

I took a class today in using candy melts. Basically the methods are plain dipping in melted compound chocolate or filling various molds with melted compound chocolate and placing them in freezer for a few minutes. Once taken out of the freezer, the chocolates are tapped out on to the work surface. The marshmallow on a stick, pretzel, and chocolate coated Oreo Cookie at the back of my pic are done using the dipping method. The orange pyramids, spider patterned cookie and the white chocolate disc are made using the filling and freezing method.

More follow - this is just the beginning working with chocolate for me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lemon Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies - Fine Cooking

I love this shortbread. It is short, buttery, and has a slight lemon flavor from the grated lemon rind. I have made this twice so far, once with regular flour and then with unbleached flour. The recipe calls for unbleached flour but my personal taste is for the regular flour - it gives the shortbread a finer consistency.

A dear friend and the group at work have been the "tasters." All round, these cookies got a five star rating. Here is the recipe, from "Fine Cooking," slightly adapted.

Lemon Cornmeal Shortbread Bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup) finely ground yellow cornmeal (I used Bob's Red Mill Cornmeal Flour - it is nice and fine and not at all gritty.)
1/2 tsp. table salt
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature; more for the pan
1-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (I think a caster sugar would also be nice.)
1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest (I use a Microplane-style zester)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a 9x13-­inch baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornnmeal, and salt to blend. In a large bowl, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla; with a hand-held electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on medium-­high speed until light and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the dough begins to form moist clumps. Dump the dough into the prepared pan.

Using a rubber spatula or lightly floured fingertips, spread the dough into the pan in a smooth, even layer. Dip the tip of a knife or a small metal spatula in flour (to prevent sticking) and score the dough all the way through into bars that measure 1x2-1/2 inches (about 1 inch across the short side and just a smidgen over 2-1/2 inches on the long side). Bake until the tops look dry and a pale golden brown, 35 to 40 min. Transfer the pan to a rack. Immediately cut the shortbread into bars, with a metal bench scraper or a knife, using the scored lines as a guide (they will have faded a bit during baking). It’s important to do this right after the shortbread comes out of the oven; if you wait until it has cooled, it will crumble when you try to cut it. Let the bars cool completely in the pan before removing them with a small, flexible offset spatula.

Make Ahead Tips
The shortbread dough can be pressed into the pan, scored, covered, and frozen up to a month before thawing and baking. The baked bars keep, well wrapped, for up to three days at room temperature.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Crunchy Sugar Cookies - Fine Cooking

I am totally in love with "Fine Cooking's" website - the instructions are nicely detailed and the recipes are delicious. Here is one of more to come - these "Crunchy Sugar Cookies" are easy and ideal to make on a Monday night after coming home quite late from work. I find it interesting that many of the recipes in the Cookies section call for unbleached flour; I think this gives a slightly more chewy consistency than bleached flour.

The Recipe for Crunchy Sugar Cookies1 cup granulated sugar; more for shaping
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened but not meltingly soft
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) vegetable shortening, preferably trans fat free, softened
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 drops almond extract (optional)
9-1/2 oz. (2 cups plus 2 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
White or colored (coarse) sanding sugar for rolling (optional)


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, butter, shortening, and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if using) and mix on low speed ( just to combine); then beat at medium speed for a total of 1 minute.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and baking soda to combine; then add to the mixer. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, just to combine. Scrape down the bowl and then mix on medium-low speed for another 30 seconds to mix the dough uniformly.

Gently roll the dough into 1-oz. balls (about 1 heaping Tbs. each). Roll the balls in sanding sugar (if using). Arrange at least 2-1/4 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten the dough balls to 1/4 inch thick with the bottom of a glass dipped in granulated sugar (re-dip the glass after each cookie). Bake one sheet at time until the tops are light golden and set, 15 to 18 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

From Fine Cooking 109, pp. 39
December 30, 2010