Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge – 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.

All I can say about this challenge is I did it. I did it on a very small scale as I was short on time and as always, short on patience. I enjoyed making the dough and my tiny gingerbread house templates. I made a one-fourth recipe of dough as I was sure 9 cups of flour was more than I needed, and far more than my stand mixer could hold!

None of my house (bungalow) pieces were more than three inches.

Once cut, they baked for a few minutes.

The challenge was to build a house and get it to stand on its own. That much I accomplished. My frosting was quite stiff and gave me so much trouble as I was applying it to the walls. I did the best I could, summoning all my patience to hold the pieces until they became glued together. I bought a few different types of the typical gingerbread house decorations, and voila. Here you can see that my little house is smaller than a bottle of candy sprinkles.

Like I said, I didn’t create a masterpiece, but I did it.

You don’t have to leave a comment; I’m just posting cuz I gotta. I’m technically still on vacation a few more days, then I’ll be back with a vengeance showing off the new camera I got for Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Treats

I’ve been doing lots of Christmas baking lately and want to share a couple of recipes. The first recipe is for some most excellent Ginger Cookies. The recipe I found was almost vegan, except for the eggs, so it was easily adaptable. The recipe includes a little cocoa powder, and the method is different from any other cookies I’ve made in the past. They are rolled in coarse sugar, so they turn it out crispy on the outside and remain chewy in the middle. They are spiced just right. I think they’re the best I’ve ever made.

Ginger Cookies
(adapted from Once Upon a Tart)

Yield: 5 dozen cookies

2 cups sugar
2 eggs (I used EnerG egg replacer)
½ cup molasses
1-1/2 cups vegetable shortening, melted and cooled to room temperature
4 cups AP flour
1 T. cocoa powder
2 t. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. cloves
½ t. allspice
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
coarse sugar for rolling

Heat oven to 350ยบ and position rack in center of oven. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and eggs together, using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer on high speed until light and well incorporated. Turn mixer to low, beat in the molasses, then the shortening.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, spices, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to wet ingredients using the paddle attachment of your mixer on low speed until no flour is visible. (My mixture needed about 3 T. of water at this point to get the dough to come together. If you make the nonvegan version with 2 eggs, this won’t be necessary.)

Pour a handful of coarse sugar onto a plate. Scoop up heaping teaspoons of dough and roll between your hands to form cookie balls (about 1-1/2 inches in diameter). Roll each cookie ball into the sugar, then place onto the baking sheet. (No need to flatten.) Bake for about 11 minutes or until almost set.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack briefly, then transfer off the baking sheet to cool completely.

The next recipe is Cherry Pecan Bread. It’s my favorite bread to bake for Christmas because it’s pink! It’s really a cake baked in a loaf pan. It’s soft and light and perfect for Christmas morning. I made mini loaves to give as gifts (and had one left over for me!).

Cherry Pecan Bread

2 cups AP flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
¼ cup margarine, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 egg replacer
1 t. vanilla
1-1/4 cup cherry juice + nondairy milk
1 8-ounce jar maraschino cherries, juice drained and reserved
½ cup chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Drain the cherry juice into a 2-cup measure, then add enough milk to make 1-1/4 cups. Coarsely chop the cherries.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the margarine, sugar, egg replacer, and vanilla until light and well incorporated. Stir in dry ingredients alternately with cherry juice mixture, stirring just until combined after each addition. Stir in cherries and pecans.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tester comes out clean. (Bake mini loaves for about 35 minutes.) Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge – Vegetable 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 challenge was super easy – bake something in puff pastry. My en croute was filled with a seared Portobello mushroom, pureed white beans seasoned with garlic and balsamic vinegar, and sundried tomatoes.

I wrapped it up…

… and baked it at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. It puffed up beautifully.

Here’s the inside shot. You’ll notice my upside down wrapping. The beans and tomatoes were on the bottom instead of the top!

It was a nice combination of flavors and a delicious dinner. My favorite en croute preparation is whole cauliflower, which I made for Thanksgiving dinner last year.

Puff pastry wrapped things are so festive and would be beautiful on any holiday table. It looks so fancy but couldn’t be easier. Roll out some dough and wrap something up!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More Greens!

I’m sorry I’ve been such a lazy blogger. Guess I’ve also been a lazy cook. I’m just enjoying the greens that come in my CSA box. This past weekend I got a beautiful bunch of greens, including Romaine lettuce, mustard greens, Red Russian kale, Swiss chard, cilantro, and turnips with tops.

I also got this….

… which I think is a Black Spanish radish. It’s the biggest radish I’ve ever seen! I haven’t cut into yet. It’s still sitting in my kitchen waiting for me to decide when and how to use it.
This particular dinner of greens was cooked with fresh onions and tomatoes and seasoned with a mustard sauce. Alongside is some lentils and rice.

I’m sure you are all as busy as I am these days. I have a party and a cookie swap to bake for, and another Challenge coming up, so I will be posting some yummy treats soon!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Fresh Fall Food

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been eating rather simply lately, just enjoying the plain fresh taste of the season’s harvest. My past 2 farm boxes were most excellent.

Two things I adore this time of year are all the greens, and romano beans. If you’re not familiar with romanos, they are giant, flat green beans. In my last CSA box I got a 2 pound bag! I simply steam the beans about 5 minutes, then eat them like french fries. Sometimes just with sea salt.

Sometimes with nooch.

And sometimes I dip them in marinara sauce.

With all the peppers and onions I’ve gotten, they make a tasty addition to whatever greens I cook. Plus they really add nice color.

My favorite way to eat greens is with onions and mushrooms. I’ve just been crazy for mushrooms lately!

I splurged on a spaghetti squash and must say it turned out to be a fantastic purchase. I don’t know if my oven karma was just right or if I’ve finally learned to pick out good winter squashes, but this was hands down the sweetest, best spaghetti squash ever. I could have eaten it straight out of the shell. But I made it into a meal topped with spaghetti sauce and sides of greens and broccoli. Heavenly!

I want to compliment all of you who prepared Thanksgiving dinners. No matter how elaborate or cozy, you all made some amazing meals - bravo!

PS – Try some romano beans!