The July 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge: Fresh Fraisiers!

Well, this month I was a little more on the ball. I actually completed the challenge in the month of July, but didn’t get around to posting about my experience until August. Oh, well, there’s always hope for next month…

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

I decided to whip up my fraisier for what has become an annual poolside gathering with my grandmother, mother, sister, two aunts, cousins and nephew. Last year, our little soiree got rained out (or in rather), so we spent the day watching Clara and Brody (my nephew) tear up the play room. Inspired by the then dreary weather, I decided to serve a blueberry coffee cake. But this year’s gathering was a glorious day of sunshine and smiles — the perfect day for serving up my newly concocted strawberry fraisier. I completed this challenge over the course of three days, as my husband was traveling abroad. When Taylor travels, it means that I am on full-time Clara duty and have very little time to do the things I enjoy, such as bake, write, etc.

Below you will find Jana’s fraisier recipe. I followed it to the letter (I know, this is not very daring of me), as I didn’t have much time to think outside of the cake box (OMG — terrible pun, right??). My fraisier received rave reviews and will definitely make another appearance sometime in the future. I’m thinking that I may fiddle around with the cake flavor, fillings and fruit when I have some time to actually be more creative. However, if you follow the recipe below, I promise that you will not be disappointed with this light and luscious summer dessert.

Basic Chiffon Cake:

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour

Chiffon cake waiting to be baked

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar


  1. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
  2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
  4. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
  5. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
  6. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
  7. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  10. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Pastry Cream Filling:

The pastry cream and strawberries wait patiently to meet the chiffon cake.

1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream


  1. Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
  3. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
  4. When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
  6. Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
  7. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
  8. Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  9. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
  10. Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
  11. Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
  12. Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
  13. In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

Simple Syrup:

You may choose to flavor the syrup. One way is to use flavored sugar (for example: apple cider sugar, orange sugar, or vanilla sugar) or to stir in 1-2 teaspoons of flavored extract. You may also infuse with herbs or spices, if desired or add four tablespoons (60 ml) of fruit juice or liqueur while the syrup is cooling.

1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water


  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
  3. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
  4. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

Fraisier Assembly:

1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake

Ta da!

1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste


  1. Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
  3. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
  4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
  5. Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
  6. Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.
  7. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
  8. Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners’ sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  10. To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
  11. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

    A sun-streaked strawberry fraisier!

Bon apettit!

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The June 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge Part 1: From Phyllo to Baklava (well, almost)!

Yes, I know that it is August and I’m just getting around to posting the June challenge. And, no, I don’t have any excuses for my extreme tardiness except that I *technically* haven’t finished the challenge just yet. Being prompt was a quality that I used to be able to claim, and now that I spend most of my time chasing after a 20 month-old toddler, I find that promptness, like free time, is a fleeting luxury. Oh well, I may not be a prompt baker, but I’m an honest one.

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

Below you will find the recipe for Erica’s baklava. As of today, August 7th, I have completed the dough. It is now is resting comfortably in my freezer. I have every intention of completing this challenge as soon as possible, as I promised my father homemade baklava a couple of weeks ago. He kindly reminds me that I have yet to fulfill this promise each time I see him. :0)

The dough ball before the deep freeze.

Phyllo Dough:

*Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw and continue making your baklava

1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)


1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt.
2. Mix with paddle attachment.
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low-speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more).
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil.
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)

Rolling your Phyllo:

* Remove all rings and jewelry so they do not snag the dough.*

Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. You may use a wooden dowel, rolling pin, or pasta machine if you have one.

1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger than a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.
4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel.
5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual, its much easier than it sounds).
6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!
7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine.
9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.

Baklava Recipe

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
30 servings


For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove

When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled


1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved.
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks.

Ingredients for the Filling:

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less than half**


1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside.
3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan.
4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet.
5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top.
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times.
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top.
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times.
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top.
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge.
14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven).
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature.

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava. It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container. Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier. You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I actually transform my little frozen ball of dough into some scrumptious baklava!

Bon apettit!

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A Very Belated April 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge: Maple Mousse Served in an Edible Container

Okay, okay, so I am very late in getting this latest challenge post up. But, I do have a very good excuse: The end of the semester crunch absolutely buried me. The truth is, I actually bought the ingredients for the challenge weeks before the due date, hoping that I would get a few spare minutes in between grading speeches and papers to whip up this month’s challenge recipe. One night, I even got so far as to make the nut bowls, hoping that if I completed the first part of the challenge, I would be motivated to make the mousse. However, my first attempt at making the nut bowls was a fruitless one, as only one out of the six containers actually resembled anything close to a bowl. So, I put the lone bowl in a ziplock bag in my pantry, as a reminder to myself that once I got some free time (i.e. May 9th — the day I gave my last final and closed the books on the Spring 2011 semester), I would try my luck once again.

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

Since I am quite tardy in getting this post published, I’ll get right to the point by giving up the recipe and accompanying pictures and sparing my faithful readers any additional reading for this month. Rest assured, now that I am on summer holiday until September, I will be much more diligent with my baking and blogging. In the meantime, I would recommend trying out this recipe. The combination of the salty walnut bowls and the sweet maple mousse was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Although my mousse came out a bit less-moussey than I had hoped, I was quite pleased with the dessert’s deliciousness factor. And in my book, a tasty dessert beats perfection any day.

Nut Bowls:

• 1 1/2 cups crushed nuts of your choice such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
• 1 egg, beaten, at room temperature
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces

1. Use a food processor or a zip-lock back with a rolling pin to crush your nuts if

Nut Bowl Attempt #1 (Before the destruction)

whole, use about 1 cup of whole nuts to get 3/4 cups crushed. You want it somewhat coarse.
2. In a bowl mix the nuts with the beaten egg and the sugar.
3. Take 6 small ½ cup capacity Pyrex cups or a similar container and line the inside with aluminum foil. (NOTE: After my first nut bowl disaster, I sprayed cooking spray on the aluminum foil, hoping that the bowls wouldn’t get stuck like they did in Attempt #1. It seemed to work during Attempt #2, as only 3 bowls didn’t make it. I did notice that those bowls that ended up molding properly had a thicker shell than the others.) Spread ¼ cup of the mixture in the bowl, all the way up to the sides making sure you have a thin and even clean layer all around.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. until the nuts are golden and fragrant (about 15 minutes). Let cool completely before unmolding.

Nut Bowl Attempt #2. Total survivors = 3. Back to the drawing board...

5. Melt chocolate (either in the microwave or over a double boiler). Dip the rims of the cooled nut bowls in the chocolate. Place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened and is set. (NOTE: I skipped step 5, and opted to dress my mousse with some chocolate sprinkles instead.)


Maple Mousse:

• 1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
• 1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)

1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.


The finished product….


Bon apettit!

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March 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Mets la main à la pâte! (i.e. Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake)

Hello to all of my loyal Daring Baker Blog Followers! Thank you for taking the time to read about my latest exploits in the kitchen. The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

I was excited to see that the Daring Bakers were being challenged to make a coffee cake, because, to me, coffee cake conjures up images of warmth, comfort and cinnamon (yum-my). And, since I decided to bake this cake as winter was coming to a much welcomed close, I felt it only fitting that winter’s send off be on a warm, sweet and cinnamon-y note.

Since I am the only member of the Henshall household who eats baked goods on a regular basis (not to worry, I have been working on refining Clara’s sweet tooth for a couple of months now), I strategically decided to try out my lasted culinary challenge on those family members who had gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house to celebrate my grandmother’s 89th birthday. At first, the cake sat among the other cakes and desserts like a lone party goer until my dad cut the first slice. After the cake was cut open, and the cinnamon, chocolate and walnut-speckled meringue was exposed, others decided to give it a whirl. In the end, I brought home only a small helping for myself to enjoy later on in the week. Another baking success!

If I were to make this coffee cake again, I think I would experiment with some different fillings. Although I love the combination of chocolate, walnuts and cinnamon almost as much as life itself, I felt that a more savory concoction would have been a better compliment to the not-so-sweet dough. If I were to make another sweet version of the cake, I would definitely experiment with a different type of cinnamon. I used Penzey’s Ceylon Cinnamon for the filling, hoping that it wouldn’t overpower the other flavors, but felt that a more potent cinnamon like a Vietnamese or China cinnamon would have packed a more flavorful punch.

I did follow the recipe to the letter and have included it below for those of you who, like me, find baking to be a great stress-reliever and way to share a piece of yourself (no pun intended) with family and friends. :0)

Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake

For the yeast coffee cake dough:

4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

For the meringue:

3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar

For the filling:

1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Egg wash:

1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes

In a small pan on medium heat, roast each spice individually (it hardly takes a minute) until you get a nice aroma. Make sure you stir it throughout so that it doesn’t burn. As soon as each spice is roasted, transfer it to a bowl to cool slightly. Once they are all roasted, grind into a fine powder by using a coffee grinder, or pestle & mortar. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.


Prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling:

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes:

Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.

Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

The finished product (minus the powdered sugar, which I dusted on the following day just before serving):

Bon apettit!

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The Daring Baker’s February 2011 Challenge: Panna Cotta & Florentine Cookies

La Patisserie is back on track after taking off the month of January. And what a way to come back — creamy Panna Cotta and heavenly Florentine cookies! I must admit that after viewing the challenge host’s Panna cotta sample pictures, I immediately decided to host an intimate Valentine’s Day dinner party for Taylor, Clara and myself. I even went so far as to break out my candlesticks and a vase filled with a few long-stemmed pink roses (they were fake, ha!) for the occasion. I set the table, lit the candles, poured the champagne, and put Clara in her highchair. The three of us feasted on black pepper pasta with marinara sauce from Venda Ravioli and finished off our meal with the Panna Cotta and cookies. Delicious food, great company and the convenience of not having to lug our 14 month-old out to a crowded chain restaurant made for a cozy and memorable pre-Valentine’s Day celebration.

The February 2011 Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Below are the recipes for Giada’s Panna Cotta and the Nestle Florentines. I ended up layering some strawberry gelee in the bottom of the Panna Cotta. The recipe for the strawberry gelee is also below.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) granulated sugar
pinch of salt


  1. Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
  2. Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
  3. Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn’t boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
  5. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.

Strawberry Gelee

1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) strawberries
*Note: Be sure that your strawberries are pureed. I just sliced mine and the gelee didn’t turn out as crimson and smooth as I had hoped.
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
1/4 cup (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (3½ gm) (1/8 oz) unflavored powdered gelatin


  1. Sprinkle gelatin over water.
  2. Place fruit and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Now mix the gelatin into the strawberry mixture and stir until gelatin has dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool (close to room temp, again, if you’re planning on layering on pouring on top of your Panna Cotta, a hot mixture will also heat up your chilled Panna Cotta).

Nestle Florentine Cookies

2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate

Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.

2. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.

4. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).

5. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).

6.  Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.

This recipe will make about 2 1/2 – 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).




The finished product…


Bon apettit!

Posted in Cookies, Puddings & Custards | Tagged , | Leave a comment

December 2010 Daring Baker’s Challenge: Christmas Stollen

Posting my challenge updates past due (shame on me!) has definitely become a trend over the last couple of months. I usually pride myself on being punctual, but now that I have a very mobile 13 month-old, I find that I’m chasing after both her and my fleeting free time more and more. I did manage to complete this month’s challenge, but have only now had the opportunity to write about my experience, a mere week after I baked the stollen.

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

I have to admit that I almost passed on this month’s challenge as December proved to be another busy month. However, I really got into quite a baking groove over the holidays and figured why not add another project to my already overflowing “to do” list? So, I decided to whip up the stollen after the holidays and just in time for Jesse and Jill’s visit. Truth be told, this was a strategic maneuver, as Jill is from German decent and would be the perfect stollen critic.

After reading the recipe, I knew that I needed at least two days to complete the challenge — Day 1 for mixing and rising

Day 1: Completed dough ready for overnight refridgeration.

and Day 2 for more rising and, finally, baking. The entire process went off (surprisingly) without a hitch. I had never made bread from scratch before (I still love you, bread maker), and was excited to try my hand at homemade bread making. I was even more psyched to use the dough hook on my KitchenAid mixer, a handy, little gadget that I had never had the opportunity of using before the December challenge.

Day 2: Ready to be rolled into a wreath.

I stuck to the recipe as was written with the exception of a couple of adaptations:

1. I did substitute dried cranberries for the raisins.

2. I used a mixture of dried fruits — apricots, plums, pears, and apples — instead of candied fruits. The idea of using candied fruits really didn’t appeal to me (no pun intended), so I decided to go with the dried fruits instead.

After two days of rising and forty minutes of baking (the bread is so

Day 2: Rolled, cut and ready for proofing!

 aromatic and filled my house with the sweet smells of cinnamon and citrus for the entire afternoon and into the following day), my stollen wreath was ready for its debut. I couldn’t wait to sample a taste and promptly stole a bite from part of the wreath that broke off as I transferred it to its final resting plate. OMG — it tasted as wonderful as it smelled. It actually reminded me a lot of strudel (go figure), without the gooey frosting.

Much to my surprise (and relief), the stollen was met with rave reviews

Day 2: Ready for the oven after proofing for two hours.

from Jill — the only other person besides myself who was lucky enough to sample the wreath. Since Taylor doesn’t like to eat “anything dry,” Jill and I happily ate our fair share of stollen. The recipe says it serves 10 to 12 and it wasn’t kidding! When I realized that I couldn’t stop eating the wreath on a regular basis (meaning everyday), I cut up remaining half and popped the pieces in the freezer. Now I can enjoy the stollen for a while longer and save my waistline, as it needs to be able to squeeze itself into Brianne’s bridesmaid dress in May. :0)

Voila -- the finished product!

So, another successful baking challenge for the recipe books. I would make the stollen again in a heartbeat, as I love me a good, fruity, dry, sweet bread. If you’d like to try the recipe out for yourself, it comes highly recommended from Jill and myself. :0) Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time for the dough to properly rise and a little extra room in your sweatpants.

Bon apettit!

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November 2010 Daring Baker’s Challenge: Crostata!

La Patisserie has temporarily been on hiatus since the beginning of yet another busy semester. I really wanted to complete the September Daring Baker’s Challenge, but before I knew it, the month had gotten away from me. October came and went, too. So, I decided November was the perfect month to jump back into the kitchen. And, I’m proud to say that I was able to complete this month’s challenge despite all of November’s obstacles — a traveling husband, mountains of grading, my daughter’s first birthday party (some spectacular recipes to share in the future from this event once the semester comes to a close) and the side dish of craziness that accompanies Thanksgiving.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

I decided to make the Crostata di Marmellata (a crostata with a jam filling) to bring to the lovely dinner party that Rachel of The Seaside Eatery and Meghan of Meghan & Co. hosted in honor of Clara’s first birthday. Since both are daring darlings themselves, I knew that they would appreciate the dessert to its fullest extent.  I decided to make the dough (or pasta frolla)

The dough is ready to be chilled...


on Friday afternoon so that I could roll it out after it chilled, fill the crust and bake the crostata that evening. Unfortunately, not all went as planned. Although the dough was surprisingly easy to make, it didn’t fare too well after a battle with my rolling pin, despite the fact that I had alloted it plenty of time to chill in the fridge. After turning into a gooey, sticky mess of a glob in the tart pan, I decided to return the dough to the fridge to chill overnight. The next morning, it rolled out beautifully and was a dream to work with.

Rolled out and ready for the preserves

After rolling out the dough, I filled it with two jars of Trapp’s Blueberry Preserves,

Perfectly preserved :0)

cut the leftover dough into little birthday cupcake shapes (which I used to decorate the top of the crostata) and popped the tart pan into the oven. Twenty-five minutes later, I was greeted with a lovely golden crust and gooey, purple filling.

Before baking...


Ta, da!

 My crostata received a standing (rather, sitting) ovation at the dinner party. And I truly appreciated Rachel’s and Meghan’s enthusiasm over my contribution to the dinner buffet. I really enjoyed the pasta frolla and would most certainly make it again. It would work really well as a stand alone cookie, as the lemon zest added such a wonderful finish to the dough. I thought that the preserves were a bit too sweet, though, and would probably opt for a less sweet flavor (maybe apple or apricot?) the next time around. Overall, I was pleased with my crostata and want to thank Simona for challenging me to make a dessert, which allowed me to use the tart pan that had been collecting dust in my cupboard for over five years.

Bon apettit!

UPDATE: I realized that I forgot to post the recipe for the crostata. If you’re daring enough to try your hand at fashioning your own delicious Italian tart, you can find the recipe here: November 2010 Daring Baker’s Challenge Recipe.

Posted in Pies/Tarts | 1 Comment