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