Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Bakers December: Gingerbread House

Snowman guard

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.

When I took on the December challenge, I knew I wouldn’t be eating the final product. I mean really: rock-hard icing covered with cheap, gelatin-laden candies atop rigid, bland cookies? Not my idea of a delicious dessert. Having said that, it was mostly really fun to assemble the house and decorate it with our ridiculous candy artwork. But if Brian hadn’t been there with me, I might have given up. After sitting in the fridge for a day, the dough was rock hard and yet so dry that it was crumbling. Brian hammered it into submission, glued it together with some water, and rolled it out for me. In the meantime, I made a template based on this one.

Stupidest dough  ever

The recipe was cheap to make, so I would consider making it again next year, but with more water! The recipe that was given for royal icing was suspicious to me. I made two batches: the first we used the posted icing recipe and used it for decorating, for the second I followed the Joy of Cooking and we used that one to glue the walls and roof.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Make some Butterscotch in 7 minutes

"Caramel is simply sugar cooked to the point where it melts and then beings to burn. Old cookbooks refer to it, appropriately enough, as burnt sugar. Butterscotch is similar, except that butter is added to the sugar as it caramelizes, resulting in the characteristic deep, nutty taste." - The Joy of Cooking 'About caramel and butterscotch sauces'

I am not a frosting kind of a girl. Nor am I a girl who slathers sugar-saturated peanut(ish) spread on toast in the mornings. I am, however, willing to experiment, and to trust those who ply me with delicious photos of amazing sauces that I eat less than once a year. So when I read the Smitten Kitchen recipe for Butterscotch sauce, I was so on it.

Bread you should make if you've never made bread

If you follow me on Twitter you may have been taunted a month or two back when I was baking loaf after loaf of bread. Well, I'm finally ready to do a bread post!

English Muffin Toasting Bread
In this photo is a delicious loaf of English Muffin toasting bread (recipe from King Arthur Flour). It's really easy, really quick and ridiculous delicious. Now, mine didn't turn out esthetically great because I used the wrong size loaf pan, but it was a hell of a lot better than when I tried to make the Joy of Cooking's White Bread...
How not to bake bread
That was the second, slightly better loaf after an utter failure the first time. The problem was that I was short a whole cup of water. At that time I was using a copy of Joy from the library, and it was an earlier version of the 2006 edition, where they misprinted the recipe for White Bread.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Daring Cooks December: Stuff en croute

Yes! I'm still here, still cooking, still eating. I promise to get back on the update wagon immediately. No more 20 days hiatuses. 

Well, December's challenge came at a time when I was feeling very frugal and very busy. Adding to that, my first read-through of the challenge made me think that us vegetarians got to make an inferior version of the challenge recipe that was, in my opinion, neither challenging nor exciting. So, I made the recipe within a week of it being revealed, and didn't think about it again until now.

I wish I'd looked back at it, because then I would have realized that I could have done so much more with this recipe, and cranked it up, Vegedible style! In fact, maybe I will do that once I get brave enough to go outside again in this -30 C weather...

Anyhow, here's my results:

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.

I used biscuit dough from the biscuits that I was making earlier in the evening. I realize now that one of the main parts of this recipe was to use pastry of some sort...but I also knew that the challenge hostess said we could just buy some puff pastry, so I thought it would be alright to use biscuit dough.

I was following this recipe, which was provided as a vegetarian alternative, sans chicken. But, as I said earlier, I was feeling frugal (AKA I was broke!) and decided to just use what we already had in the fridge. This means that we were short on spinach, and short on mushrooms, and had no cheese of any kind. I also didn't use the eggwash on top because Bri doesn't do eggs. I know, I really should have taken another stab at it (maybe today!) when I had a bigger budget. Oh well!
So, as could be expected, the spinach cooked down and the dough baked upwards, so we were left with a big gaping hole in the middle. On the bright side, this meant lots of room to pour in the fantastic gravy we made!
Then I ate it like a taco.
I'm open to taking another stab at it with proper pastry and more stuffing, because I do love pastry and stuffing.
I haven't decided what to make for the vegetarian entrée at Christmas dinner so maybe that will come to me through future experiments. Suggestions are welcome!