Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Daring Kitchen Challenge November 2016: Torta Della Nonna

This month, I got the unfortunate news that the Daring Kitchen Challenges will end next month. I knew this news would likely be coming, but hoped that it wouldn't. I have been part of the the Daring Kitchen for almost six years now, and in the process I have learned so much about myself as a baker, have improved my baking skills, and have gained knowledge about the baking traditions of other cultures. I will miss having this monthly challenge to look forward to, but look forward to participating in the final challenge next month.

This month's challenge was hosted by Ginger-Z, and can be found here. For this challenge, we were asked to bake a Torta Della Nonna. For the pastry crust, I used a Pasta Frolla, and I chose to fill the tart with a ricotta cheese mixture, flavored with pine nuts. The end result reminded me of a light cheesecake, and the pine nuts added a unique crunchy twist!

Torta Della Nonna
Makes one 9-inch tart

Pasta Frolla:
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
5 tablespoons ice cold water

2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup pine nuts

1. Make the pastry: Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse for 10 seconds. Add a little more ice water, one tablespoon at a time, and pulse after each addition until the dough just comes together. Knead the dough briefly and pat into circular disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

2. Make filling: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the ricotta cheese, sugar, lemon juice and zest, flour, and eggs until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup of the pine nuts.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough to fit a 9-inch tart pan. Place the dough in the tart pan, and trim the edges around the top of the tart.

5. Pour the filling into the tart, and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of pine nuts on top. Bake for about 40 minutes. When done, the tart should be lightly brown, and a toothpick inserted into the tart should come out clean.

6. Remove tart from oven and allow to cool.

-Recipe adapted from
-Posted by Jennifer

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

August 2016 Daring Kitchen Challenge: Pavlova

I'm posting this very late, but it was too good to not post! The August 2016 Daring Kitchen Challenge, hosted by Marcellina at Marcellina in Cucina, was Pavlova. Although Pavlova has always on my "to bake" list, this was the first time I had actually even tasted it. The recipe takes time, but most of it is not active time, making it a relatively simple dessert. I loved the contrast of the crunchy outer portions of the meringue, the marshmallow-y center, and the light whipped cream on top. I topped mine with summer fruits, to commemorate the end of the season.

Recipe available at:

-Posted by Jennifer

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April 2016 Daring Kitchen Challenge: Kouign Amann

The Daring Kitchen Challenge this month was kouign amann, which is a French pastry that originated in Brittany. I had never tried kouign amann prior to this challenge, but I am now a huge fan of this pastry. It had the rich, buttery flakiness of a croissant, with the added sweetness of caramelized sugar. While the recipe is a little time consuming, the results were well worth the efforts!

Kouign Amann
Makes 12 pastries

2 2/5 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
4/5 cup warm water
1 3/4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 cup + 1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and in a block
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1. Add active dry yeast to warm water and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.

2. Place flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast and water mixture, salt, and melted butter. Knead the dough for about 12 minutes. (If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix on medium speed for about 7 minutes.)

3. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a ball. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with cling wrap. Allow dough to rise for one hour.

4. Shape the cold butter into a 5 1/2" square by placing butter between two sheets of wax paper and beating with a rolling pin. Keep the square of butter chilled in refrigerator until ready to use.

5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 8" square. Put the square of butter on the center of the dough diagonally. Each side of the butter should face a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter, as if folding an envelope.

6. Roll the dough into an 18x6" rectangle. Fold the bottom third of the dough up over the middle, and then fold the top third of the dough over. The resulting dough will have three layers of butter and dough. This completes the first turn. Wrap dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

7. Repeat the turning process two more times, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between each turn.

8. Roll the dough into an 18x6" rectangle. Sprinkle dough with the 1/2 cup of sugar. Fold dough into thirds again. Now, roll the dough into a 16x12" rectangle. Sprinkle extra sugar over the dough and cut into 12 squares.

9. Grease a muffin tin with oil. Place each square of dough into the muffin tin, pulling the corners of the dough to the center of the tin. The dough should appear like a four-leaf clover. 

10. Sprinkle pastries with additional sugar and allow to rise in a warm spot, covered with a light towel, for 30 minutes.

11. Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake pastries for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. You may need to cover the pastries with foil halfway through if they are browning too much. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from pan. Be careful not to leave in the pan for too long, as the caramelized sugar will harden and stick to the pan.

12. Serve warm or cool. Pastries are best the day they are baked.

Mix dough and allow to rise for one hour. Then roll dough into a square, placing the square of butter on top.

Fold dough over the butter, as if folding an envelope.

Roll dough into a rectangle, then fold the bottom third up and the top third down, creating 3 layers of butter and dough. Repeat this process two more times, chilling dough for 30 minutes between turns. Finally, roll dough into another rectangle, sprinkle with sugar, and complete one final turn.

Roll dough into a large rectangle, cut into 12 squares, and sprinkle with more sugar. I used cinnamon sugar on half of my pastries.

Place pastries into muffin tin, pulling the corners two the center, so that pastries resemble four-leaf clovers.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 425 F, and enjoy!

-Posted by Jennifer

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Gateaux Pithiviers

For the month of December, Kat challenged us to make Gateaux Pithiviers.

I had made Gateaux Pithiviers in the past, but always using frozen puff pastry. This challenge required that I make puff pastry from scratch, which is time consuming, but not difficult. It was well worth the extra effort. The resulting pastry was rich, buttery, and flaky, while the filling was sweet without being cloying. This recipe reminds me of an almond filled croissant, and makes a delicious dessert or breakfast pastry!

-Recipe available at:
-Posted by Jennifer

Friday, November 27, 2015

November 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Apple Cheesecake Crumble Pie

For the month of November, Krista and Nicole of "Two Cups of Sugar" challenged us to make our own version of cheesecake crumble pie.

For this challenge I decided to make an apple cheesecake pie, which was a perfect way to celebrate the end of fall and use up some of the local apples in my refrigerator. I enjoyed the pie, which tasted like a cross between apple crumble pie and cheesecake, and will definitely make it again with different fruit combinations.

Apple Cheesecake Crumble Pie
Makes one 9-inch deep dish pie

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, diced

Pie Filling
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into thin slices
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Crumble Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced

1. Prepare crust: Place flour and salt in a food processor, and pulse to combine. Add butter and vegetable shortening, and pulse until mixture appears coarse and butter is pea-sized. Add about 3 tablespoons of ice-cold water, and pulse mixture until dough comes together. Add water, one teaspoon at a time, if needed. Once dough comes together, form into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

2. Prepare cheesecake filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until creamy. Slowly beat in the sugar and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in lemon zest and vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the side of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are evenly incorporated. Beat in heavy cream. Fold in the apple slices and cinnamon. 

3. Make crumble topping: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Use hands to crumble in the butter, until it forms a coarse mixture.

4. Preheat oven to 425 F. Remove pie dough from refrigerator, and roll out into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured work surface. Carefully transfer dough to 9-inch deep dish pie dish. Prick the bottom of the crust several times with a fork. Fill crust with pie weights or dried beans, and bake for 9 minutes. Remove weights or beans and bake for an additional 3 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove crust from oven.

5. Increase oven temperature to 475 F. Pour the cheesecake filling into pre-baked pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes at 475 F. Remove from oven and cover with crumble topping.

6. Reduce oven temperature to 200 F. Return pie to oven, and continue baking for 1 hour. After one hour, turn off oven and leave oven door cracked open. Allow pie to cool in oven.

7. Refrigerate pie for at least 6 hours before serving.

-Adapted from recipe available at
-Posted by Jennifer

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Peanut Butter and Jelly Macarons

Blog-checking lines: For the month of October, we got to take on one of many bakers' deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares: macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen, and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze.

I've blogged about French macarons before, so instead of making one the the traditional variations of macarons, I decided to challenge myself to something different. I recently bought a delicious locally made raspberry jam, and wanted to make some sort of macaron in which I could use the jam as a filling. I settled on making a completely nontraditional take on macarons, using ground peanuts in place of some of the almond flour to create a "PB & J" flavored macaron. The result was slightly richer than the more traditional recipes, but I enjoyed the challenge and the resulting macarons!

PB & J Macarons
Makes about 15 macarons

1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1/4 cup almond flour
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup raspberry jam

1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Trace thirty 1 1/2 inch circles on the paper, separating circles by about 1 1/2 inches. Flip paper over, so that circles can still be seen on parchment paper.

2. Grind peanuts in a food processor to form a fine powder. Add almond flour and confectioner's sugar and pulse to combine. Sift mixture to remove any large pieces.

3. Beat egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar. Continue beating until soft peaks form, then beat in vanilla extract. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold in peanut mixture until combined.

4. Preheat oven to 340 F.

5. Use a pastry bag to pipe the batter into the traced circles on the parchment paper. Tap baking sheets against counter to remove any air bubbles. Allow macarons to sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes while oven preheats.

6. Bake macarons at 340 F for about 13-15 minutes, until slightly crisp. Macarons should lift easily off of parchment paper when done.

7. Allow macarons to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack. Carefully remove from parchment paper. Spread a thin layer of jam on the flat side of one macaron, and top with another macaron. Repeat with the remaining macarons. Enjoy!

-Posted by Jennifer
-Adapted from recipe available at
-Original challenge available at

Sunday, September 27, 2015

September 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Irish Soda Bread

For the month of September, Meredith from the Poco Loco Olsons challenged us to experiment with soda bread.

I chose to make the traditional Irish Country Bread recipe provided for the challenge. This recipe was very simple, and the resulting crusty bread went nicely with soup.

Irish Country Bread

2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 450 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda, and salt. 

3. Create a well in the flour mixture, and pour in buttermilk.

4. Mix dough well, until flour is fully incorporated. 

5. Place dough on lined baking sheet and pat into a 1-inch thick circle.

6. Use fingertips to create dimples on top of dough.

7. Bake at 450 F for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 400 F. Remove baking sheet from under dough, so parchment paper is directly on the oven rack. Continue baking at 400 F for about 10 more minutes, until golden brown.

8. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

-Posted by Jennifer

-Adapted from original recipe at