Sunday, June 29, 2008

daring baker's challenge: danish braid

For some reason I thought that starting this month's daring baker's challenge at 8:00 pm was a good idea - what was I thinking? Before I even get to that point, let me start by saying that I thought that this month's challenge of Danish Braid sounded exciting, challenging yes, but I was excited to try to create a laminate dough...and i loved that I had everything needed for the recipe except for the whole milk so there was no need spend $50+ on ingredients - so than you to Ben and Kelly who hosted this month!

Back to the 8:00 pm start, I had read through the ingredients, I was prepared to do all the dough turning, and leave it in the fridge overnight to bake the next day. Then came the slow unravellings of what could have been a long evening. My dough mixer wouldn't power up. I had run out of ground cardamom apparently, so had to crack the pods and pound to smithereens with my mortar and pestle. Then I made a batch of dough and forgot to add the eggs, but didn't know until had made the first well and had the liquid pour out all over the counter...and then finally, finally after remaking the dough, rolling out and turning it, but wait, one more mess to clean up, I spilt the carton of milk all over the counter - sigh - by 1:30 am, I was ready to go to bed.

I seldom loose my patience in the kitchen, but boy I am sure Pete was glad that I had something to get my frustrations out on! I enjoyed the process of braiding, it was interesting to see how such a simple step could create something that looked well presented. Below is the result - the dough didn't rise as much as I would have liked.

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Apple Filling
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions: Dough
  1. Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.
  2. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.
  3. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain (My edit after round two - start in a large bowl, make well and add liquid, combine in the same method as follows). Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even.
  4. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain.
  5. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges.
  6. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

Directions: Butter Block
  1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free.
  3. Set aside at room temperature.
Directions: Turning the Dough
  1. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  2. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick.
  3. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour.
  4. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough.
  5. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter.
  6. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.
  7. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  8. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left.
  9. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle.
  10. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed.
  11. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
  12. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.
  13. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Directions: Apple Filling
  1. Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.
  2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes.
  3. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape.
  4. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream
Putting it all together
(Makes enough for 2 large braids)

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

  1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
  3. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
  4. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.
Proofing and Baking
  1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
  2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

strawberry cheesecake bites

Mini-desserts are a favourite of mine to make at gatherings. They are often cute, not too involved and the size helps people take as many or as a few as they like. I came across Annie's blog while searching for a random recipe this weekend. She is recently a new mom - congrats to her!

Anyway, this recipe is a mini cheesecake recipe from her site - and the best thing is that they took literally no time to make. Between prep and baking - 25 minutes!

Cheesecake Bites Ingredients
1 ¼ lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup sour cream
2 eggs, at room temperature
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour

Strawberry Sauce Ingredients
2 cups frozen or fresh hauled strawberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp water

Cheesecake Bites Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a mini-muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the sugar and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat until combined.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and beat until combined.
  6. Divide the filling among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about ¾ full. Bake until the cheesecakes are just set in the center, about 15 minutes.
  7. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cheesecakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
  8. Using a small offset spatula, transfer the cheesecakes to the rack and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.
  9. Refrigerate the cheesecakes in an airtight container at least overnight or up to 3 days. Spoon topping onto cheesecakes just before serving.
Strawberry Sauce Directions:
  1. In a sauce pan combine strawberries, sugar and first amount of water.
  2. Bring to a low simmer for 5 minutes until the strawberries begin to fall apart.
  3. I used a potato masher to make sure they were pretty tender.
  4. In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and second part of water. Ensure there are no lumps and slowly add to the simmering strawberry mixture.
  5. Allow to cook and thicken for about one minute.
  6. Cool.
>> Assemble cheesecake bites by topping them with the strawberry sauce<<

Makes 48 mini bites

Monday, June 23, 2008

crab wonton crisps

A friend of mine is getting married and we had a bridal shower for her this weekend. I love the opportunity to try new things at such gatherings, though I am sure most people prefer to try something new when it is just them - and not 15 other people! C'est la vie.

I love crispy wontons as an appetizer, and crab is tasty! I also love quick appies that can be prepared the night before, and then assembled just before needed. This is a combo of several different recipes I have tried over the years, and thought worked out pretty well - AND they look fancier than they actually are!

24 square wonton wrappers
2 x 6 oz cans of crab, drained
4 oz softened creamcheese
3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
cooking spray

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium sized bowl combine: crab, creamcheese, 2 green onions, Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  3. Spray a mini-muffin tin with cooking spray.
  4. Gently place a wonton wrapper in each cup, and press down.
  5. Divide crab mixture, evenly amongst the 24 cups. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown and filling is heated through.
  7. Top with remaining green onion slices. Serve warm.
You can make filling the day before and then bake just before they are needed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

frozen treats: sherbet and ice cream

This weekend I bought a mini ice-cream maker. When you live in a small apartment, with what feels like the world's smallest kitchen you don't have a lot of space for gizmo's and gadgets, and the good things with this little ice cream maker: it fits in our fridge-freezer, AND it makes two flavours at once! With summer coming and trying to eat less processed crap, I thought it would be worth a try. I opted for two different flavours. The first was a rhubarb-strawberry sherbet and the second a simple vanilla ice cream.

Rhubarb- Strawberry Sherbet Ingredients:
1 cup hauled strawberries, sliced
1 cup rhubarb sliced

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons triple sec
1/2 cup whipping cream

Vanilla Ice Cream Ingredients:
1-1/4 cup whipping cream

1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Rhubarb- Strawberry Sherbet Directions:
  1. In a saucepan combine strawberries, rhubarb, water and sugar.
  2. Over medium heat allow to stew for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Add triple sec and whipping cream.
  5. Using a hand blender, blend it and make sure that it is smooth.
  6. Once cool place in ice cream maker and follow your machine's specific directions.
Vanilla Ice Cream Directions:
  1. In a bowl combine all the ingredients and mix until sugar dissolves.
  2. Place in ice cream maker and follow your machine's specific directions.
Could it get any easier than that?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

raincoast crips

Savory or sweet? Hmmm... I like both and that is why I think these little crisps are pretty great! Lesley Stowe makes these Raincoast Crisps that are fantastic. These crackers (?) come in lots of different flavours, but Fig and Olive are my favourite. They are great to have on hand for company, and at the holidays.

The recipe below is more like the original - nutty. They are a great accompaniment to a cheese platter, goat cheese, spicy garlic jelly, smoked salmon, Parmesan artichoke dip - whatever tickles your fancy! Anyhow, they get a little pricey at $7-$9 per box. Terra Breads has their own version that are a few dollars less, but I was convinced we could make them at home, I just wasn't entirely sure how... in pops Google (how much do I love the internet sometimes?!) So the recipe below is not mine. It is from Vitamin V - the only change is that I didn't have any pecans at home, so in went slivered almonds instead. Really, I think you could substitute any time of nuts and seeds in this - gotta love recipes like that?

1/2 cup white flour

1/4 cup flax or wheat germ
(I used flax seeds)

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, chopped

1/4 cup pecans, chopped
(I used slivered almonds,chopped)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
  1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl together - set aside
  2. In a saucepan for less than a minute, warm up buttermilk and molasses (just long enough to combine molasses and buttermilk)
  3. Gradually add wet ingredients to dry until dough just starts to hold together (you may not need all the liquid or may need a pinch more flour)
  4. Roll as thinly as possible between two sheets of parchment paper (if you think you have rolled thinly enough, roll a little bit more, I would have preferred them to be just a bit thinner) and bake on a cookie sheet in low oven (250 degrees) for one hour
  5. After 30 minutes,take off top sheet of parchment paper*
  6. When one hour is up,turn off oven with crisps still inside and forget about them - 5 hours or so.
  7. After the crisps have sat in the oven and are fully cool and crisp, you will have a sheet of perfect crisps to break into bite-sized pieces.
* I think that you could score the crackers at this point with a sharp paring knife, this would give you some clean break lines...Or, if you want it organic you could just break into bite-sized pieces like I did.

There are a few other recipes out there that I found that may be worth trying too:

Friday, June 20, 2008

veggie stock

A while ago I read a post somewhere that suggested keeping veggies that weren't quite perfect, but still good and throwing them into a freezer bag to reserve for a veggie stock. Kind of like catching the veggies before they need to head to the compost. Over about a month and ago I started do it: tips of veggies, left overs etc. And below is the result, a combination of celery, carrots, onions, beans, even tomato slices! I know, I know... not very appealing!

1 large yellow onion
1 head garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large freezer bag of collected frozen vegetables
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Slice the large onion into large pieces.
  2. Peel and coarsely chop a head of garlic.
  3. Heat olive oil in dutch oven, sauté onions and garlic until lightly browned.
  4. Add frozen vegetables.
  5. Fill with water until just covering vegetables.
  6. Add bay leaves.
  7. Add 1 tbsp pepper corns
  8. Allow to simmer for at least one hour.
  9. Add a few pinches of salt.
  10. Strain stock threw either cheese cloth or a coffee filter.
  11. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

beer butt chicken

I know, I know that does not sound like an appetizing entré! A chicken with a beer stuffed up it's butt? I don't even really like beer, but I swear it is moist, delicious and very worth the odd name (and process).

I know many people have recipe's for beer butt chicken (or whatever they want to call it), but I am really happy with this one. The flavours were not planned. At first I thought of a somewhat traditional spicy rub; I did that, but then as I was about to sit down once placing it on the BBQ, that I had this thought to make a glaze of fresh lemon juice and honey...the result was savoury, sweet with a mild heat behind it - mmm! I love surprising endings.

A few things:

  • Pete won't share the secret recipe of the rub - it is something he makes and puts in the cupboard. BUT, I think it easily be replicated with a basic Cajun seasoning (though he swears it is nothing like it - but hey, I'm the one writing the blog entry). Also I am sure any basic spicy rub would be just as tasty.
  • I rubbed the chicken down with butter as per a few other recipes I had seen around, but the skin, while good, could have been crispier, maybe a veggie oil of some sort would have been better?
I thought this picture was hilarious, kind of like the chicken was a puppet dancing on the grill of the BBQ.

1 3-5 lb roasting chicken
2 teaspoons butter or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning or spicy dry rub
juice from half a lemon
3-4 tablespoons honey
1 can of beer
half a potato or onion

  1. Preheat BBQ to med-low heat (our thermometer read 300 F).
  2. Remove giblets and neck from chicken, clean, and trim off extra fat.
  3. Rub chicken down with butter or oil,
  4. Rub in rub, both inside and outside of bird.
  5. Open beer can with can opener, poor out (or drink ;) 1/2 the beer.
  6. Oil the outside of the can to ensure it will be easily remove.
  7. Place beer can on counter and put the chicken on top of it, butt first!
  8. To ensure the moisture doesn't escape, plug neck cavity with potato or onion.
  9. Place bird onto the grill, over indirect med-low heat. Close lid and let roast.
  10. After the bird has roasted for 20 minutes baste with half the honey lemon mixture, repeat 10 minutes later.
  11. Allow to roast until the bird gets to over 180F in the thickest part of the bird (the juice also runs clear). For our 4 lb bird it took about an hour and 15 minutes.
  12. Remove the bird from the grill carefully with tongs.
  13. Get a parter while one holds the bird, the other carefully removes the can. Cover chicken with foil, allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  14. To serve quarter bird.
Serves 4.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

bacon vinaigrette

I had this moment the other day where I couldn't remember how to make this vinaigrette...not that it would be the end of anything, but I enjoy it on a mixed green salad with crumbled feta, sliced green apples and thinly sliced red onions. Add a grilled chicken breast to the mix and it makes a tasty tasty meal.

3-4 slices bacon
2 tablespoons minced shallots or sweet yellow onion
1 clove garlic finely minced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

  1. Fry bacon in a non-stick skillet
  2. Once bacon is cooked down, remove from skillet with slotted spoon, let drain on plate with paper towel.
  3. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat
  4. Saute onions and garlic in fat - careful not to burn it
  5. Once onions and garlic are softened, add dijon mustard and mix into fat.
  6. Add vinegar and sugar allow sugar to dissolve, remove from heat and serve over salad. Can be served warm.
This isn't meant to be kept in the fridge for much more than a day or two!

Friday, June 6, 2008

rhubarb berry pie

I really don't understand how anyone could say they don't like rhubarb. They must have tried to eat it raw or something, because there is nothing like it stewed or baked! (Can you tell I am passionate about this?) For a vegetable/fruit that takes over with it's gigantic leaves and somewhat boring staulks, it is one of my favourite things about late spring and early summer...

When family or friends try to give it away because of it's abundance in their gardens, I welcome it with a big smile. We had some friends over for a bbq, and for dessert, started with fresh rhubarb from Pete's mom's garden, and frozen strawberries and raspberries from our berry picking extravaganza last summer...I thought, a combo made for a perfect summer pie! (Cheezy I know!)

The crust is the crust off of the Tenderflake box (well 1/3 the recipe) and about 2 tbsp of white sugar, this created a slightly cookie like tasty crust.

Pie Crust Ingredients:
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp white sugar
1/4 teaspoons salt

1 lb tenderflake lard
1 egg, stirred slightly
1 tablespoon vinegar
7/8 cup cold water

Egg Wash
1 egg whisked
2 tbsp water
2 tsp white sugar

Filling Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups fresh berries
(we used raspberries and strawberries)

4 cups rhubarb (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
2 tablespoons butter in small pieces
3 tablespoons cornstarch


(enough for 3 x 2 crust pies)
  1. Stir the flour, sugar and salt together.
  2. Cut in the lard with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the shortening is in pea size pieces.
  3. In a measuring cup, combine the egg and vinegar.
  4. Add enough cold water to make one cup.
  5. Stir the liquid into the flour mixture, adding just enough to make the dough cling together.6
  6. Stir the water in with a wooden spoon until mixed thoroughly, then gather the dough into a ball, and separate into 6 portions.
  7. Cover and refrigerate for one hour, you can chill over night, covered, providing you leave it at room temp for 15 mins before rolling.
  8. Lightly flour surface and roll into circles, then pat the dough into pie pans, following pie recipes. Be careful not to stretch the dough.
* Preheat oven to 425 F.

  1. In a small bowl, using a fork, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the berries and rhubarb together. Ass the sugar mixture and toss to combine and coat the fruit evenly, mix in orange juice.
  3. Pile the mixture into the prepared pie pan, mounding in the centre.
  4. Scatter the butter over the filling.
  5. Create a lattice for the top crust - I like this for berry pies because they often have excess juice and this helps reduce it much more than a traditional second crust.
  6. Make egg wash by whisking egg and water together. Brush on top of pie and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 F and bake for another 35-40 minutes longer.
  8. If you find it is browning too quickly, gently cover the top of the pie with tinfoil, do not crimp down too near the pie, otherwise steam will not be able to escape.
  9. Once pie is browned nicely and the filling is cooked, remove and allow to cool. Cooling will help thicken the filling.
  10. If you have a cake platter, do not place lid on top while pie is cooling, this will make the crust soggy.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature - delicious with vanilla icecream.
Serves 6.