Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Lamingtons

Blog checking lines: For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant.

While I had heard of Lamingtons before, this was my first time trying the classic Australian dessert. I chose to make the traditional Lamington- a vanilla sponge cake dipped in chocolate glaze and rolled in coconut flakes. The delicate sponge balanced perfectly with the rich chocolate and coconut flavors and kept the dessert from being too sweet. I definitely recommend baking the cake the day before preparing the Lamingtons, to prevent the cake from crumbling too much when rolling in the chocolate glaze!

Makes 16 individual cakes

6 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup cake flour
2 1/2 oz unsalted butter, melted
3 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2-3/4 cups whole milk
3 cups shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a 9-inch square cake pan by buttering and lining with parchment paper.

2. Beat together eggs, sugar, and salt for 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract.

3. Sift cake flour over batter, and carefully fold in flour with a whisk. Fold in melted butter until you can not see any streaks of butter.

4. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

5. After cake has cooled completely, remove from pan and cut into 16 squares.

6. Prepare chocolate glaze: In a large bowl, combine confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, butter and 1/2 cup milk. Place bowl over a pot of hot water, and whisk until smooth. Add more milk to thin icing, as needed.

7. Assemble Lamingtons by dipping each piece of cake into chocolate glaze, then roll in shredded coconut. Allow cakes to set on a wire rack for about 2 hours before serving.

-Cake recipe adapted from David Lebovitz's Lamington recipe available at Chocolate glaze recipe from

-Posted by Jennifer

Monday, April 27, 2015

April 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Focaccia

For the month of April, Rachael from pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch.

It's been years since I've made focaccia, so I was happy that this challenge inspired me to start baking it again. I went with a basic focaccia, topped with olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt. I found the recipe to be quick enough to make on a weeknight, and simple yet delicious!

Make dough and allow to rise. Punch down and pat into rectangle. Brush generously with olive oil.

Add desired toppings.

Bake and enjoy!

Basic Focaccia
Makes one loaf (about 8 slices)

1 1/4 cups milk, slightly warm (110 F)
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil

To Top:
Sea salt
Fresh rosemary
Olive oil

1. Stir yeast and sugar into warm milk and set aside until bubbly.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, garlic powder, basil, oregano, and black pepper. Stir in vegetable oil, then add the milk-yeast mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough comes together.

3. Turn dough out onto lightly-floured surface, and knead for 10 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Allow dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 450 F. Grease a baking sheet.

5. When dough has doubled in size, punch down and transfer to baking sheet. Pat dough into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle.

6. Brush olive oil over dough and add toppings (I added sea salt and rosemary). Allow dough to rest for 10-15 minutes.

7. Bake focaccia at 450 F for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

-Adapted from recipe available at

-Posted by Jennifer

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Tarte Tatin

For the March Daring Bakers' Challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.

I'm posting this a little late, as I was hoping to have a chance to reattempt the challenge; however, I haven't found the time yet. I was excited to see tarte tatin as the challenge recipe this month, since when I first tried to bake it years ago, it ended up falling apart while baking. This time, the tart held together; however, the caramel was slightly burnt. It wasn't a complete failure, though- the tart was still delicious with the burnt parts scraped off! I plan to bake this again in the near future, and reduce the stove top cooking time a bit. The rough puff pastry recipe was surprisingly simple, and something I will definitely plan on making in the future in place of the frozen puff pastry I often use.

Roll pastry dough into 10 inch rectangle, and fold in thirds.

Turn dough a quarter turn, roll into another 10 inch rectangle, and repeat folds. Repeat process for a total of 5 turns.

Prepare caramel on stove top.

Arrange apples in caramel, and place pastry on top. Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly before flipping tart onto a serving platter. Enjoy while warm!

Tarte Tatin
Makes one 9 inch tart

Rough Puff Pastry
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice water

Tarte Tatin
7-8 baking apples (I used Granny Smith)
Juice of half a lemon
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

1. Prepare pastry dough: Combine flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and pour in water. Use a fork to toss the mixture with the water until dough starts to come together. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface, and gently knead a few times to bring dough together in to a square. Use a rolling pin to roll out dough into a 10 inch rectangle. Fold the bottom third of the dough up and the top third of the dough down, as if you were folding a letter. Turn the dough a quarter turn, and repeat process for a total of 5 turns. After the fifth fold, wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to overnight.

2. Peel and quarter apples, removing the cores. In a large bowl, toss apple quarters with lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain off excess liquid.

3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 9-inch oven-proof saucepan, preferably cast iron, melt butter over medium heat, and add the remaining cup of sugar. Whisk sugar and butter together until a smooth caramel forms. Remove from heat.

4. Add apple quarters to pan with caramel, with round sides down. Cook over medium heat until apples start to shrink enough to all fit in a single layer, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and use a wooden spoon to arrange apple quarters in concentric circles within the pan.

5. Once caramel stops steaming, roll out rough pastry dough into a 10 inch circle. Carefully place dough on top of the apple filling, and use a spoon to push the sides of the dough between the apples and the sides of the saucepan. Cut a few steam holes in dough. 

6. Place saucepan on a baking sheet, and bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes, until pastry is golden brown. It may be necessary to increase the heat to 400 F  for the final 5 minutes of baking, if pastry is not browning as desired. Remove from oven and allow to cool until caramel stops bubbling.

7. Using oven mitts, place serving platter on top of the pastry, and quickly invert tart onto platter. Be careful, as sugar is very hot!

8. Serve warm.

-Posted by Jennifer

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

January 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Esterhazy Torte

For the month of January, Jelena from A Kingdom for a Cake invited us to start this year with a dreamy celebration cake. She challenged us to make the Esterhazy cake, aka the Hungarian Dream. What better way to start the new year than with a sweet dream?

I love it when the Daring Kitchen introduces me to something completely new, and this was definitely the case with the Esterhazy Torte. While the traditional recipe calls for hazelnuts, I opted to use almonds, which are a common substitution in this cake in parts of Austria. While the cake is a bit time consuming to prepare, it is absolutely delicious, and the spider-web design on top is sure to impress guests!

Esterhazy Torte
Makes one 9-inch torte

8 egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups confectioner's sugar
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of cinnamon
150 g almond flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
butter, to grease parchment paper

14 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 cups whole milk
5.1 oz instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp kirsch

2 cups confectioner's sugar
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 tbsp hot water
1 tsp cocoa powder
toasted almonds, to finish cake

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Beat together egg whites with 2/3 of the confectioner's sugar, until mixture holds soft peaks. Add the lemon zest, cinnamon, and remaining sugar and continue beating until mixture holds stiff peaks. Fold in almond flour and all-purpose flour carefully, trying to prevent the egg whites from losing volume. 
3. Draw five 9-inch circles on pieces of parchment paper, and lightly butter the paper. Spread thin layers of the batter onto the circles.
4. Bake each layer at 350 F for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Use a spatula to carefully loosen each layer from the parchment paper and allow to cool.
5. Prepare cream filling by beating the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Whisk together the milk, instant pudding mix, and kirsch for about 2 minutes. Whisk the butter mixture into the pudding mixture until smooth.
6. Assemble cake by layering the cake layers with the cream filling. Leave the top of the cake bare, but save enough cream filling to spread onto the sides of the cake at the end.
7. Prepare icing by whisking together sugar, lemon juice, and hot water until smooth and easy to spread. Set aside a small amount of icing in a separate bowl, and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth.
8. To decorate the cake, place the chocolate icing in a pastry bag. The decoration must  be done quickly, before the icing sets. Carefully and quickly spread white icing onto top of cake. Use a pastry bag to pipe 4 concentric circles of the chocolate icing onto the cake. Use a toothpick or knife to draw lines from the center of the circle to the edge and back, alternating directions to create the web design.
9. Spread remaining cream filling around the sides of the cake, and add toasted almonds around the sides.
10. Enjoy! 

-Cake recipe adapted from Filling and icing adapted from
-Posted by Jennifer

Saturday, December 27, 2014

December 2014 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Dutch Sweet Bread (Peperkoek Cake)

For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking three different types of Dutch sweet bread.

This challenge was perfect for the Christmas season, as it was very quick and simple to complete. The recipe calls for a gingerbread spice mixture which makes the house smell amazing when the bread is in the oven. The bread is delicious by itself, but is especially good when slathered with butter.

Peperkoek Cake
Makes 1 loaf

1 large egg
1 tablespoon cane sugar syrup
1 cup, less 2 tablespoons, lukewarm water
1 tablespoon gingerbread spice mixture (see below)
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

Gingerbread spice mixture:
6 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground mace

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line loaf pan with parchment paper.

2.  Whisk together egg, cane sugar syrup, water, spice mixture, and brown sugar in a large bowl until dissolved.

3. Stir in flour and baking powder with a wooden spoon until well combined. There may be some small lumps remaining.

4. Pour batter into lined loaf pan and bake for about 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

5. Allow cake to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan to continue cooling. 

-Posted by Jennifer

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

September 2014 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Moravian Kolaches

I may be posting this challenge a little late, but it was too good not to share! The September Daring Bakers' Challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat-Kolaches!

I had never heard of Kolaches before this challenge, but they were delicious and reminded me a lot of danishes. In fact, I ate four of these before they even finished cooling from the oven! The dough was rich and buttery, and the pastries were perfect for either breakfast or dessert. The traditional filling given for this challenge was quark and plum jam. I substituted cream cheese and cherry preserves, and the combination was fabulous. This is definitely a recipe I will be making again soon!

Rolling out the Kolache dough.

Filling with cream cheese mixture.

Adding cherry preserves to center of pastry.

Bake and enjoy!

Moravian Kolaches with Cream Cheese and Cherry Filling
Makes about 30 small kolaches

3 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup milk, warm
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 tsp (2 packets) active dry yeast
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks

Cream cheese filling
2 cups cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
Confectioner's sugar to taste

To finish
2/3 cup cherry preserves (or preserves of your choice)
1 egg

1. In a small bowl, mix together the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add 1/4 cup warm milk. Mix ingredients well, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour on top. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about 15 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, butter, and milk. Add the yeast mixture and knead for about 15 minutes. (If you have an electric mixer with dough hook, you should be able to reduce kneading time to about 10 minutes). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

3. Prepare cream cheese filling by beating together cream cheese, egg yolk, and sugar until smooth.

4. Preheat oven to 340 F. After dough has risen, roll in out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 2 cm. Use a glass or a 4-inch cookie cutter to cut out circles of dough. Place a small spoonful of cream cheese filling in the center of each circle, and fold into a "purse" shape.

5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and place the kolaches onto baking sheet seam-side down. Make an indention on the top of each kolach, and place a small spoonful of cherry preserves into each indention. Brush pastries with egg wash.

6. Bake at 340 F for about 20 minutes. Kolaches will be golden brown when done. Best served warm or at room temperature, but can be stored for up to 5 days in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

-Recipe adapted from challenge recipe available at

-Posted by Jennifer

Friday, June 27, 2014

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Cinnamon Rolls

This month the Daring Bakers kept our creativity rolling with cinnamon bun inspired treats. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and kill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required!

When I was growing up, cinnamon rolls were one of my favorite breakfast treats, and one that I associate with special occasions and holidays. I still love cinnamon rolls, and often buy the refrigerated dough to bake off on the weekends. Until this challenge, I had never attempted to make the rolls from scratch, but was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was! Of course, it does take a little of planning, as the dough had to rise overnight, but this is definitely a recipe worth repeating!

After preparing dough and allowing to rise overnight, roll into a rectangle and spread with softened butter.

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the butter.

Roll dough into a tight cylinder.

Cut cylinder into 12 equal size rolls.

Allow rolls to rise until doubled in size, then bake.

Add glaze to warm rolls and enjoy!

Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 12 rolls


1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, very soft
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
4 tbsp butter, melted
3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Make dough: Warm the milk and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over low heat, until about 100 degrees F. Remove from heat and sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of the sugar over the milk mixture. Do not stir. Set aside for about 5 minutes, until foamy. Whisk the butter, vanilla and egg yolk into the mixture.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining sugar, salt and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed, then turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead dough for 6 minutes, and then form the dough into a ball.

3. Brush melted butter into the inside of a large bowl, and place dough inside. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Punch down dough to release air. Reform dough into a ball and place it in buttered bowl, covered with a buttered piece of plastic wrap. Allow to rise in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 4 hours.

5. On a floured surface, roll dough out into a 10 x 18 inch rectangle. Spread softened butter over the entire rectangle of dough. 

6. Make the filling by mixing together the granulated sugar and ground cinnamon, and sprinkle over the butter.

7. Roll the dough into a tight cylinder, beginning from the long side facing you. Cut cylinder evenly into 12 pieces.

8. Place the rolls in a buttered 13 x 9 inch pan, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm location for about 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Allow rolls to cool for 10 minutes before adding the glaze.

10. Make glaze by whisking together the confectioners' sugar, sweetened condensed milk, melted butter, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Spread glaze over the warm cinnamon rolls and enjoy! 

-Posted by Jennifer