Saturday, October 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Mille Feuille

Our October 2012 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it a step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

While I have made traditional Mille Feuilles (or Napoleons) many times, I had always used frozen puff pastry in the past.  I found that making the pastry from scratch was very easy, although I probably would not do it again due to how time consuming the process was.  I chose to fill my Mille Feuille with pastry cream and blackberries, and top it with confectioners sugar.  The combination of flavors was delicious, and the creamy filling contrasted perfectly with the flaky pastry.  Because the recipe involves so many steps, I would recommend using frozen puff pastry, but I have included the link to the Daring Bakers' Challenge.

Layering the butter into the pastry dough

Folding the pastry.

Layering the baked pastry with cream and berries.


Posted by Jennifer

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Empanadas

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers' Hostess, and she decided to tempt us with one of her family's favorite recipes for empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our empanadas as creatively as we wished!

After living in South Florida for several years, I have eaten a lot of Cuban style empanadas, which are smaller pastries, so I was surprised to learn that the traditional Spanish empanada is baked as one large pastry.  The dough was very simple and easy to work with, so I'll definitely make it again.  I chose to fill my empanada with spinach, artichoke, tomatoes and cheese.  It was delicious, and reminded me of a calzone!

Make dough by sifting flour into bowl, and adding remaining ingredients.

Allow dough to rise for about 30 minutes.

Cook vegetables for filling on stovetop.

Roll out bottom layer of empanada, and add filling.

Add top layer of empanada and seal the layers of dough together.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 F, and enjoy!

Spinach, Artichoke, and Tomato Empanada

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup less one tablespoonful vegetable oil
1 satchel (1 tablespoonful) dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika

2 tablespoons olive oil
9 oz box frozen artichoke hearts
A couple of handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
1 tomato
1 cup ricotta cheese 
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Salt, to taste

1. Make dough: Sift the flour into a large bowl, and make a well.  Add all of the remaining dough ingredients in well, and mix with wooden spoon.  After ingredients are incorporated, turn dough out onto counter and knead for 8 minutes.  Form dough into a ball, and place in bowl covered with saran wrap to rise for about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare filling by sauteing the artichoke hearts, spinach, and tomato in olive oil.  Allow to cool.

3. Mix together ricotta, mozzarella and salt.

4. Line baking sheet or pie tin with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F.

5. Cut dough in half and roll out first half to about 1/10 inch thick.  Cut dough to fit baking sheet or pie tin. 

6. Spread the cheese mixture onto the bottom layer of the empanada, and top with the sauteed vegetables.

7. Roll out second half of dough, and place on top of the filling.  Pinch together the two layers of dough, and use fingers to create a rope-like border.  Cut a one-inch hole on top of pastry, to allow steam to escape.  Use any excess dough to make decorations on the empanada.

8. Bake for about 45 minutes, until both layers of dough are fully done.  

9. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then enjoy!

-Posted by Jennifer

Monday, August 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Pate a Choux Swans

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with creme patisserie or Chantilly cream.  We were encouraged to create swans, or any shape we wanted, and to go crazy with filling flavors, allowing our creativity to go wild!

While I have had a lot of experience with making choux pastry, I had always stuck with basic cream puffs or profiteroles in the past.  I never thought to get creative and make animal shapes out of the pastry dough!  I used the same choux recipe that I've been making for years, and added a layer of Nutella under the Chantilly cream.  

Make the choux pastry on the stove.

Pipe out the swan's necks and heads.

Pipe out the swan's bodies and bake.

Allow baked swans to cool, and then cut off top half of bodies to create the wings.

Spread a small amount of Nutella in the bottom the base of the swan, then pipe in  Chantilly cream.

Assemble the swan by adding the wings and neck.


Pate a Choux
Makes about 15 swans

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 400 F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.
2. Sift together the flour, salt and nutmeg.  Heat butter and 3/4 cup water in a saucepan until it boils.  Reduce heat to medium low and add flour mixture all at once. Cook mixture on stove top for about 4 minutes, beating constantly with a wooden spoon.  Mixture should start to pull away from the pan when done.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Mixture should be shiny, and still hold its shape.
4. Use a pastry bag with 1/4" round tip to pipe out the swan's necks/heads.  (See picture above.)
5. Remove tip from pastry bag and pipe out the swan's bodies on other baking sheet. They should be about 1.5" long and 1" wide, with one end being slightly wider than the other.
6. Bake at 400 F until golden brown.  The swan heads should only take about 10 minutes, while the bodies will need to bake for about 25 minutes.  Allow bodies to cool completely before filling.

Chantilly Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

1. Whip heavy cream and vanilla until it holds medium peaks.  Beat in confectioner's sugar.  Do not over beat.

Assembling the Swans

1. Once swan bodies have cooled, use a knife to carefully cut off the top half of the body.
2. Slice the tops in half length-wise, to create the wings.
3. Spread a small amount of Nutella onto the base of the swan body (optional) and pipe on the Chantilly cream filling.  Add the wings and head. Have fun!

Choux pastry recipe adapted from the recipe for "Chocolate Profiteroles" found in the book Desserts: mouthwatering recipes for delectable dishes, edited by Rosemary Wilkinson.  Buy online at: 

-Posted by Jennifer

Friday, July 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Crackers

 Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

I really enjoyed this challenge, as I never would have thought to make my own crackers otherwise!  I made two different types of crackers.  The first were Pepper Jack Oregano crackers, which were my favorite.  They were simple to make, and tasted a lot like Cheez-Its. I will definitely use this recipe again, and experiment with different types of cheese!  The second recipe I used was for Cheddar Rosemary Icebox crackers.  These were even simpler to make, but I didn't like them as much.  The texture was more crumbly due to the butter, and I prefer a crispier texture.  Overall, this was a fun challenge.  Now that I know how easy it is to make my own crackers, I'll definitely be making them again!

Pepper Jack and Oregano Crackers
Makes 80 crackers


1⅔ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ cups grated pepper jack cheese, firmly packed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup water
Spice Topping
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1. Mix together spice topping ingredients and set aside.
2. Combine flour, cheese, oregano, salt, pepper in a food processor and pulse to mix.  Add the oil and continue pulsing until the mixture  is crumbly, with a "mixed sand" consistency.
3. Add just enough water to form a dough.
4. Divide the dough into two disks.  Wrap disks with cling wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
5. Heat oven to 325 F.
6. Divide each disk of dough in half.  On a well floured surface, roll out one half at a time, to 1/8 of an inch thick.
7. Cut the rolled out dough into crackers and sprinkle with spice mixture.
8. Place crackers on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
9. Crackers can be stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Pulse the cracker ingredients together until they reach a crumbly texture.

Add enough water to form a dough, and divide the dough into two disks.

Chill the dough for several hours, and then roll out to 1/8 of an inch.

Cut dough into crackers and sprinkle with spice mixture before baking.


Cheddar, Rosemary and Walnut Icebox Crackers
Makes 48 crackers

½ cup (1 stick) butter, well softened
2¼ cups grated cheddar cheese, firmly packed
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

1. Beat together butter, cheese and rosemary with a hand mixer.
2. Knead in flour, salt and nuts until well combined.
3. Form dough into two logs and wrap with cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
4. Preheat oven to 325 F.
5. Slice logs into 1/5 of an inch crackers.
6. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
7. Crackers may be stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Beat together butter, cheese and rosemary.

Add flour, walnuts and salt and knead into a dough.  Divide the dough into two logs and chill.

Slice logs into 1/5 inch thick crackers.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Adapted from the recipes available at

-Posted by Jennifer

Friday, April 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Armenian Nazook and Nutmeg Cake

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

I had never heard of nazook or Armenian nutmeg cake before this challenge, but both of these treats were delicious and very simple to prepare!  The nazook reminded me of rugelach, with its flaky dough and sweet filling.  I tried the traditional vanilla filling, but I definitely plan on making this again and experimenting with other flavors.  The nutmeg cake was a very sweet coffee cake with just a hint of nutmeg.  I really liked how the brown sugar crust caramelized in the oven, giving the cake a toffee-like flavor.

Rolling up the nazook dough with vanilla filling.

Ready to bake.


Makes 40 pieces

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, for egg wash (optional)

1. Make dough: Sift flour into large bowl and mix in yeast.  Add sour cream and butter and work into a dough with your hands.  Knead for about 10 minutes, until dough is no longer sticky, adding a little bit of flour if needed.  Cover dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours.

2. Prepare filling by mixing together flour, sugar, butter and vanilla.  Mixture should have a sandy texture.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F.

4. Cut dough into quarters.  Roll one of the quarters into a ball, then use a rolling pin to roll into a thin rectangle.

5. Spread 1/4 of the filling over dough.  Roll dough into a long, thin log.  Apply egg wash and cut log into 10 equal pieces.

6. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 30 minutes, until tops are browned.  Allow to cool and enjoy!

Ingredients for Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Ready to bake.


Nutmeg Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake

1 cup whole milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cubed
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Mix baking soda into milk and set aside.

3. Sift together flour and baking powder into large bowl. Mix in brown sugar.  Add butter and mash with a fork or your fingers, until mixture is uniform and crumbly.

4. Press half of the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan, forming a crust.

5. Beat egg and nutmeg together with whisk or stand mixer.  Beat until frothy, then add milk and baking soda mixture.  Continue mixing until uniform.  Stir in the rest of the crumbly flour mixture with a spatula, until well mixed.

6. Pour batter over crust in springform pan.  Sprinkle walnut pieces onto top of  batter.  

7. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan, then release.

-Posted by Jennifer

Monday, March 5, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Quick Bread

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

Okay, so I didn't really have the time to create anything new or "daring" this month.  However, I did have a few overripe bananas, which meant it was time to bake banana bread.  This recipe is simple and quick, and makes a delicious breakfast or snack.

Overripe bananas are perfect for banana bread

Beat together ingredients and bake.


Banana Bread
Makes one loaf

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter a loaf pan.  Beat together butter and sugar.  Mix in remaining ingredients.  Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes.  Cool in pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan.

Adapted from the recipe in Paula Deen: Lady and Sons Too, available for purchase at

-Posted by Jennifer

Friday, January 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Biscuits

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host.. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

I really appreciated the simplicity of this month's challenge recipe.  I chose to make buttermilk biscuits, as this is the type of biscuit I grew up with, living in the South.  These biscuits are light and fluffy, and take less than 30 minutes to prepare!  

Mix dough, then fold and turn 3-4 times

Cut dough into 6 biscuits

Brush with buttermilk

Enjoy while warm!

Buttermilk Biscuits

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter, frozen and finely diced
1/2 cup buttermilk
Buttermilk, for glazing tops of biscuits

1. Preheat oven to 475 F (240 C).

2. Triple sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.  Cut butter into flour mixture, until it forms pea-sized pieces.  Add buttermilk and mix until it forms a sticky dough.

3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead 4-5 times.  Flour the top of the dough, and fold and turn dough 3-4 times.

4. Pat dough into a 4 x 6 inch rectangle.  Use a sharp knife to cut dough into 6 biscuits.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk.

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until biscuits have risen and have lightly browned.

6. Transfer to cooling rack and enjoy while warm!

-Posted by Jennifer