Daring Bakers

Well, I seem to the last one to post yet again! This time we were challenged with Stollen, a cake like yeast bread with history as rich as its flavors. While it is thought to have originated sometime around 1330s, it is first mentioned in the accounts of the Christian Hospital of St. Bartholomew in Dresde, Germany.  Want to read more about it- check these pages here or here.

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.

Stollen Wreath
Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people (I made one medium-sized and two small loaves)

¼ cup lukewarm water
28gms fresh yeast {or 14 grams active dry yeast}
1 cup milk
140gm unsalted butter
5½ cups {770 grams} all-purpose flour ,  plus extra for dusting
½ cup{130gm}  vanilla sugar
¾ teaspoon  salt {if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement}
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 2 lemons
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup firmly packed raisin (golden and black), cranberries
3 tablespoons rum
1 cup almonds, chopped
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Powdered sugar for dusting wreath

Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange.


Method

In a small bowl, soak the raisins and cranberries in the rum and set aside.
Whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon zests. Set aside.
Melt the milk and butter gently in a pan. Stand until lukewarm.
Pour ¼ cup warm water into a small bowl, add fresh yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange zest.
Then stir in {or mix on low speed with the dough hooks} the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
Add in the soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading {or mixing with the dough hook} to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes. The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn’t enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge {since the butter goes firm} but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough
Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to moderate 180°C with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.

Forming and Baking the Wreath
Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.
Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.
Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.
Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh – especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents!

When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.

Judgement

Thank you Penny- this was one of my successful DB digs! The house smelled great and the Stollen tasted awesome. I love fruit cakes and this is one of my new favorites.

Do check out other magnificent stollens @ Daring Kitchen.

Daring bakers- really really late

So here I am about 10 days late with my DB posting- I had almost everything ready to go for the Thanksgiving dinner but then Mr. Potter happened. I had seen it once before already but our friends who are both fairly new parents (a 7 mo old and a 15-month old) wanted to desperately see the movie on Thanksgiving day. And since they brought with them a beautiful mango tart- my dessert plan went out the window. The menu included- a chickpea-butternut squash pot pie, carrot-parsnip soup and beet-apple salad.
Finally I got a chance to use the pasta frolla dough that has been sitting in my refrigerator for almost 2 weeks now! Yippeee….

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.
Ingredients
I used the version2 of the pasta frolla recipe, a crostata with a mixture of AP flour, almond meal and barley flour. You can check the DB website for more information on this recipe.
For filling, recipe source from Ciao Italia
1 cup long-grain rice
2 cups whole milk
3 inch piece of vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
1 pound cottage cheese, well drained
1 large eggs
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 tbsp finely ground flax seed in 1/4 cup water, beaten well
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Method
Lightly spray a 9inch pie plate with butter spray. Set aside.
I used a food processor to make the dough and well my dough was chilling for oh only about 10 days!

To prepare the filling, pour the rice and milk into a 1-quart saucepan, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan with a small knife, cover, and bring the rice to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking the rice until all the milk is absorbed. Let the rice cool.

In a large bowl, beat the cottage cheese, egg, apple sauce, flax seed in water, orange juice and zest, and sugar until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract. Fold in the cooled rice. Set the mixture aside.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Divide the dough in half– I could not do this because I had enough only for the crostata, nothing for the top. Roll on a lightly floured surface into a 14-inch circle. Line the tart shell with one rolled-out half and trim the edges even with the top sides of the prepared pie plate.

Fill the tart shell with the ricotta and rice filling. There will be a little of the filling left over. This can be baked separately in a small ovenproof dish or in small ramekins.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown (well there was not top in mine) and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the tart.

Cool the tart on a rack, then carefully remove the sides of the tart pan and place the tart on a decorative serving dish. Cut into wedges to serve.

Judgement
I really underestimated the flavors. Going into this, I was very skeptical but now I am a believer. Especially after a day of chilling in the refrigerator and a topping of melted berry jam- it was unbelievable! Loved it.

Oh this one I love…

If I had a go-to recipe, a sort of comfort dessert, this would be it, I think. Since I discovered it a few years ago, I have lost count of how many times I actually made it. In fact, my roommate was so enamored by it that he learned to make it too!

Easy-peasy date and walnut cake, source here

Ingredients
12 dates, pitted and chopped
1 1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1 tsp. baking soda 
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped 
Method (followed it to the “T”)
Boil the milk in a saucepan. Remove from heat.
Add the dates and let it stand until cool.
When cool put into a blender or food processor and process or blend until the dates are ground.
 Add the oil into blender/food processor and blend/process again until incorporated and mixture becomes thick. Add sugar to the mixture in the blender/food processor and blend until incorporated.
Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Seive flour and baking soda well. Fold in the flour until it is mixed well. Add chopped walnuts.
Pour batter into a greased glass microwavable dish. 
Place in microwave and bake for 10 to 11 minutes on High. 
Judgement
My modifications to this cake resulted in a really dense cake (think I loved the recipe as it was, or I could have gone easy on the whole wheat pastry flour). Everyone else seemed to think it was really good, except of course…me….(but then I am always hard on myself- nothing seems good enough you know). The good thing though it paired great with vanilla ice cream and I could not have asked for more after my tooth extractions!

Monthly mingle with fruit!

I have become a daring cook and baker ever since I started blogging- I try and incorporate different vegetables that are especially. The hardest for me was using the fall bounty-I hardly knew some of their names. But hey I am still the learner!
Our last trip to the grocery store, we bought exactly one of these pretty looking fruits (this I knew the name of)- persimmon (the wise guy did not even know what it was when he picked it up!). I had it in the refrigerator for a week or so, manically googling recipes using persimmon when I hit upon this beautiful cupcake recipe from one of my favorite blogs- Cupcake Project.  The search stopped there!

Recipe source here, minimally adapted

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cups sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup persimmon pulp (the insides of 1 over-ripe persimmon)
½ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
orange zest (from about half an orange)


Method

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, then mix in eggs, persimmon pulp and orange juice until thoroughly combined.
Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
Fill cupcake liners ¾ full with batter.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted and removed clean.

I decided to skip on the frosting for no particular reason.

Judgement

Loved it- all the fall flavors jived so well. Next time the frosting is also ON people! Between the two of us we have so many the first day but who cares tis the holiday season. This cupcake is off to the monthly mingle hosted this month by lovely Deeba of the PAB fame and this series was started by another lovely blogger Meeta of Whats for lunch, honey? fame. Now with two gorgeous bloggers involved how can I not mingle! Thank you ladies…

First time with chestnuts

and I must say I have fallen in love with them…

This was a lovely eggless mousse recipe that I adapted from here.
Ingredients

about 100gms Chestnuts (had about 20 of them)
sugar to taste
1 tbs cocoa
1 tsp almond extract (this was way too much)
16 ounces heavy whipping cream

 

Method
Peel the outer leathery layer on the chestnuts. Place them in water to cover, simmer until tender. Remove the chestnuts, let it cool and then peel the inner skin. Add sugar, cocoa and almond extract. Process in a food processor until smooth and well combined.
Beat heavy cream until stiff. Fold required amount (I just eyeballed the amount) into chestnut puree. Divide among desert glasses. Chill until set-up.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Judgement

Except for the fact that we did not like the overpowering flavor of almond extract, it was a perfect decadent dessert. Next time I will surely try some variations, in fact I am looking forward to using roasted chestnuts!

You can read all about how to boil/roast chestnuts here or here. You can get plenty of information about chestnuts, even a bit of history here.

On my plate this evening

Yet another simple dal with snake gourd and okra curry, on a cold night one can never get enough of just rightly spiced, warm dal!

Hallowed halloween

The Scottish variant of “All-Hallows-Even“, better known as Halloween is celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the United States. It is linked to the Celtic festival of Samuin (pronounced as Sow-an) which roughly eludes to “summer’s end”. It was believed that during Samuin, the border between this world and the other world becomes thin and hence dressing up in costumes and masks, basically disguising, helped ward off the harmful spirits.
To me, the resemblance of Trick-or-treating to something called “souling” is even more interesting. Apparently poor people used to dress up on Hallowmas, celebrated on Nov 1st, and go door to door getting food in return for the prayers for the dead. 
Source: here at wiki, here and for some really fun Hallow-trivia check here
It definitely is much more fun now- don’t you think- American capitalism at its best (well one of its very best), you can dress up as anything you want- you name it, they sell it.
Anyway this year, we decided to celebrate it too- well more like “a reason to have a party, yoo hoo“. Recently I have begun cooking for the parties, nothing big- usually appetizers and desserts, rarely do I engage in large scale cooking. So this time in the spirit of halloween, here goes the list of stuff I made.
Cheese cups filled with mango salsa and spicy black beans- recipe source here at Martha Stewarts’s

Witches Fingers, the source for these fingers can be found here.

Mulled brown blood, recipe source here

I followed most recipes very closely, except for a few changes/ substitutions here and there. If you need to know any of my adaptations, leave me a comment. 
Judgement
Everything was a big hit- especially the cheese cups, the mulled brown blood and the witches finger :D! Try these at your next Halloween party and wow your guests!