Sunday, December 27, 2009

DB: Gingerbread House

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

This month's DB challenge was to make a Gingerbread house from scratch. I have to say, I gave up! The fourth wall fell to the floor and crashed, the roof didn't fit quite well, and I had TONS of extra accessories. I wasn't following directions exactly (first mistake), I didn't check to make sure they were all going to fit together when they were warm (second mistake) and I didn't guard my pieces. I did use a template (although unsuccessfully) and used all the recipes as written. The recipe was delicious, however, and I happily munched on my leftover cookies while I waited for Diana of Thyme To Lime to finish hers. She came over so we could decorate together... Christmas is the time for friends and togetherness. Check out her site to see what she cooked up, and be sure to check out all the Daring Bakers at The Daring Kitchen.

Merry Christmas!!

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger


1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Our Christmas tradition includes everyone squishing into one bed with the dogs, reading Christmas advent, The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, and of course, Twas the Night before Christmas. We all wear footie pajamas. This may not seem odd for those of you with small children but our stats are me- 26 yrs, 6 ft, my brother 24 years 6'5'', and my other brother 6'3'' and 16 years. Not the usual suspects to be running around the house in one piece footie pajamas! In the morning, the first one up runs around to the other two waking them up, and we all wait at the top of the stairs, chomping at the bit to run down while my parents get the video camera. After a few minutes of boxing out and shoving around, my parents say GO and we run down the stairs trying not to knock each other out completely. Then we all sit around the tree with the pups and open gifts.

After gifts we make a fabulous breakfast, this time waffles with homemade blackberry jam, scrambled eggs and potato hash with ham and bacon. Delicious. I promply napped for a few hours after that, and now we are getting ready for Christmas dinner. We have Indian food from our favorite restaurant, as well as holiday favorites like corn pudding, pineapple souffle, chiltlins, beef roast, cabbage and asparagus. Quite the mix, but we're kinda crazy like that. Who needs a theme, just eat what tastes good! I need to get back to cooking, I have sweet potato creme brulees in the oven. I can't wait to use my new kitchen torch that Santa brought! Woohoo!!

Wishing everyone a very merry christmas, and happy holidays!

Lindsay with her prize winning gingerbread stadium. She did an AMAZING job!

**If youre in the mood for gingerbread, Nigella's gingerbread is the most fabulous, tasty moist gingerbread out there. My dad had two bites of it and insisted I get to work on a second batch immediately!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

DC: Salmon en Croute

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

This month's Daring Cook's challenge was to make the gourmet creation "Salmon en Croute" which loosely translates to fish wrapped in a dough package. I'll keep this short and sweet- this recipe was amazing! I cheated and used Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (in a long skinny red box in the biscuit section) and it was a 3 step meal! You can jazz it up to look fancy for a dinner party, or just treat yourself to a fabulous meal any day of the week!

As a side note: my apologies for the late post, I actually made this recipe before the deadline, then had a bunch of drama and got very distracted. Luckily, drama's over, and I'm liberated.

Salmon en Croute:

Preparation time: Total prep time incl. cooking for the Salmon is 50 minutes
Total prep time for the Beef Wellington is 3 hours
Shortcrust pastry : 50 minutes (optional)

Equipment required:
For the Salmon en croute
rolling pin
For the Beef Wellington
Blender or food processor
Frying pan
15 cm crepe pan or small frying pan or griddle
cling film

Salmon en croute:
Mascarpone or creamcheese 5.2 ounces/150 gr
Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach - 0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr
Shortcrust pastry - 17.6 ounces, 500 gr. Use a butterversion such as Jus-rol which is frozen or dorset pastry. or... make your own!
Salmon fillet (skinless)- 17.6 ounce/500 gr
egg - 1 medium sized

1.Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.
2. Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Garden cake

My friend Aisha's dad's birthday was coming up and she decided to help throw him a birthday party! I'm all about celebrations and celebrating people's birthdays in a special way, so I offered to make a cake. She one-upped me and wanted to help me make it. We were thinking of different designs for the cake and decided that he loved gardening so we picked the garden cupcakes from the "Hello Cupcake" book and adapted it to a 9x11 sheet cake. Everything on the cake is edible: Signs are graham crackers coated with white chocolate and icing for writing, the lettuce is green icing covered corn flakes, radishes and carrots are laffy taffy and starbursts, and peas are m &ms with laffy taffy. Of course there's chocolate graham cracker dirt!

I didn't quite have enough time to make really pretty pictures, we were making this thing up to the last minute! It took a long time to make each individual candy, and for that reason I'm not excited to make it again, but boy was it a showstopper!

The cake turned out wonderfully, oh yeah, its just a basic chocolate cake (my favorite is on the back of the hershey's cocoa, substituting butter for oil) and the chocolate frosting (also on the can).

Happy Birthday Aisha's Dad!