Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Daring Bakers make panna cotta and florentines

Pistachio marzipan panna cotta with florentines
Who needs an excuse to make panna cotta? The Daring Bakers, I guess! I don't why I don't make it more often: it's simple, delicious, and impressive enough that it looks like you were slaving over it, when in fact the fridge did most of the work. I made a number of variations this month, and I love when a challenge inspires me to eat nothing but pudding for a month. It's a good thing the canal is still open and I can skate it off!
Pistachio Dome
I never got the challenge florentines made, as I decided to go with a more traditional (I think), recipe using almonds and candied orange peel. This was great as I made a big jar of candied orange peel in December and it was taking up precious space in my fridge.  I found this recipe here, and quite enjoyed these confections. They're more like a candy than a cookie, meaning rich and delicious. 
Ginger-vanilla panna cotta with blood orange gelee
I have belatedly realized that I haven't written down any of my recipes for this month. I really need to measure and write things down when I'm in the kitchen rather than assume I'll remember weeks later. I did not use the challenge panna cotta recipe either, as I knew it'd be too rich for me. The first panna cotta I made, during a gray and cloudy week, was ginger-vanilla with a blood orange gelee. I adapted the recipe from the panna cotta plus gelee I had posted just a couple of days before the challenge was announced. I omitted the Amaretto and steeped some freshly chopped ginger in the cream/milk mixture.
Coconut panna cotta with tangerine, blood orange and cardamom granita
Next, I combined a recipe I was testing with one of my own. I was testing the granita above (which was lovely) and decided to make a panna cotta to serve it on, just for kicks. Inspired by some beautiful coconut panna cottas in the Daring Kitchen forum, I set out to create my own lighter version. I love coconut milk, but again, I didn't want it to be too rich. So, I combined it with milk and Cointreau and I really enjoyed the results. You can find the coconut panna cotta recipe here and the granita recipe here.
I love this green
The pistachio marzipan panna cotta was my absolute favourite. I had some leftover homemade pistachio marzipan from these amazing brownies, so I combined it with some milk and a bit of cream to make a soft, slightly textured and very pistachio panna cotta. I am really kicking myself for not writing this one down, as it was outstanding. That said, I doubt I'll be blanching and peeling any more pistachios to make more marzipan, so it might just have to be a happy memory. I think I already whined about that job in the brownie post so I'll stop now. If I do have a burst of enthusiasm, you'll be the first to know.

Thanks so much to Mallory of a sofa in the kitchen for the great challenge idea. Be sure to check out the Daring Kitchen homepage to see a slide show of some stunning creations. Here's the challenge PDF, complete with recipes and helpful links. 

Blog-checking lines: The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Toasted almond scones

I made these scones to start off a 4-day weekend, and now at the end of it I'm so sleepy I can barely stay awake to tell you how good they are. I baked half the dough on Friday and froze the other half and baked it Monday, and both versions were wonderful. I loved that they were barely sweet and had a great almond flavour and a crumbly, perfect texture. I tried them with homemade raspberry and plum jams and I'm just happy that there are a couple left to greet me very early tomorrow morning. 
This week's fantastic pick was chosen by Mike of Living Out West. He'll have the recipe for you, and you can see which other TWD members baked this week by going here. Night!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Coconut tapioca pudding with caramelized bananas

I love tapioca pudding--even the super gloopy kind. How about you? I imagine you must be willing to give it a chance if you're still reading this. I know many are turned off by its weird texture, but that's what I like about it. It's certainly not the flavour, as tapioca really doesn't have much. You won't find any vanilla, eggs or milk here, because this is not your granny's tapioca, or at least not my granny's. It's made with small pearl tapioca, not instant, and flavoured with coconut and topped with bananas. Mango or pineapple would also be wonderful here, so just use what you've got. I originally developed this recipe for Food52, where it was an Editors' Pick. I don't really know what that means, but I think it means someone liked it. I hope you do too.
tiny bubbles...

Serves 3-4

2 cups water (you may need to add more, depending on your brand of tapioca and how loose you like it)
4 pods green cardamom, cracked but whole (optional)
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup small pearl tapioca
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup thick coconut milk (skim from the top of an unshaken can), plus extra for serving, if desired
  1. Bring water, cardamom and salt to a boil in a medium pot.
  2. Add tapioca, and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to keep mixture at a gentle boil.
  3. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently as it tends to stick. Tapioca is ready when most of it turns clear, without a white dot in the centre.
  4. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add thick coconut milk and stir in. Divide amongst dessert bowls and let stand while you prepare the bananas. It will thicken as it cools. Serve slightly warm. Do not refrigerate, as it will turn to glue!
Caramelized bananas:
2 bananas, ripe but firm, quartered
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
  1. Heat butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add bananas, cut side down. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Turn when browned and brown other side.
  2. Place bananas atop tapioca and drizzle with pan juices and/or extra coconut milk to serve.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Daring Cooks make hiyashi soba and tempura!

I love the days when the Daring Kitchen challenges are revealed to members. If I am home, I check frequently, waiting for the challenge to appear. So, last month, when I checked on the challenge for February, I had to laugh. It was for hiyashi soba, which is a cold buckwheat noodle dish from Japan, accompanied by tempura. What did I find so funny? Just that it was -30℃/-22℉ that day! I could not imagine making any kind of salad, so I put off the challenge. Fast forward to February 11th, and I realized I only had a few more days. Now, putting things off till the last minute is much more my style, so I was ready to go. First off, the soba noodles:
Now, not only was I pondering the challenge for 3 weeks, but I also had to wait for my sister-in-law to bring me my pasta machine. Of course I planned to make my own soba! I enjoy making pasta, though I rarely do so, and I wanted to try my hand at an eggless noodle made with gluten-free buckwheat flour. I also like making things much more difficult than they need to be. The dough was like an unforgiving block of rapidly drying cement, and it kept crumbling as I tried to knead and roll it. Finally, I had to add more water and knead it for about 10 minutes to try to activate the gluten in the small amount of all-purpose flour. When I couldn't take it any longer, I started thinning the sheets in the pasta machine and cutting it into noodles. Some sheets worked, and others crumbled to bits as they were going through the machine. What you can see above is what I got from 1¼ cups of flour. What you see below are the defective noodles. They were falling out of the pasta cutter like this. I dried them and will use them in soup one of these days.
The noodles were very fragile, both when fresh and dried. However, once they were cooked, I was able to rinse and agitate them in cold water and they did not break. I won't be making them again, though,  as I now think packaged soba noodles are worth looking for and worth every penny! For the 'salad', I steamed some soybean sprouts and snow peas. I also made paper-thin Japanese omelets and cut them into strips. This was probably my favourite part of the challenge, as I love anything to do with eggs. I served it with a spicy soy-based dipping sauce. All recipes can be found in the challenge PDF, at the end of the post.
Now, the tempura. I again used the challenge recipe for the batter, but it didn't stick that well to all the vegetables. It worked best on the shrimp, which were fried at 170℃/340℉, while the vegetables were fried at 160℃/320℉. If I ever make tempura again, I'll use the higher temperature for everything. Why 'if ever'? Well, because it was good enough that I ate too much and I feel a bit icky right now. And my place smells like a chip wagon. Luckily it's not too far below zero, so the windows are open!
L to R: shrimp, onion, sweet potato, snow peas, lotus root
It's funny, but I worked in Japan for about 6 months, and when I found out I had got the job, one of the things I was least excited about was the food. Japanese food just seemed so mild-mannered compared to the strong, spicy flavours I prefer. I had to eat my words when I was there, because in 6 months I didn't have a bad meal, and I was so impressed with the impeccable presentation and clean flavours. Oh, and the cakes! I really need to cook more Japanese food! Thanks so much to Lisa of Blueberry Girl for the challenge. Check out the Daring Kitchen homepage for a slideshow of the most beautiful soba and tempura you'll see outside of Japan.

Complete challenge PDF, with all recipes and links.

Blog-checking lines: The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

(not) Bourbon bread pudding

I topped it with some blood orange segments and caramel
Bread pudding is a great way to use up slightly stale bread, but if you rarely have bread in the house it's not so convenient. After baking with TWD last week and getting such a warm welcome back I really didn't want to miss this week. Of course, things never work out quite the way I expect. I had a lovely weekend of visiting friends, eating out and skating on the canal. After work today, I skated home (about 6 km/4 miles) on a very soft and slushy canal, put on some comfy clothes and settled in to relax. I did relax, for about 5 minutes, until I realized I didn't have any bread for the bread pudding. I was so reluctant to get dressed and go back outside that I started gathering the ingredients to make a loaf of bread. This seemed perfectly reasonable to me, until I discovered I was out of yeast too. Not having the time to gather wild yeast, I moped for a couple of minutes, then looked in the freezer and found some little crumpets I had made for the poached egg challenge a couple of months ago. So, here's what I did: I quartered the recipe, except for the booze. I doubled that. Wouldn't you, at this point? I used mostly milk and skipped the extra egg yolks. Instead of bourbon I used my favourite heavily spiced rum/extrait antillais. It tastes of vanilla, mace, sapote and tonka beans. I made 2 little ramekins, and ate one for dessert. If you see a picture with this post, it means the other little bread pudding survived the night. How was it? Absolutely delicious! Thanks to Sharon of Simply Southern for choosing this recipe. As always, she'll have the recipe for you, and you can see who else baked this week by heading to the Tuesdays with Dorie site.
The homemade mini crumpets

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blueberry great grains muffins

These muffins were the perfect way to jump back into the routine of Tuesdays with Dorie. I can hardly believe I missed 5 weeks, but I am glad to be back. I am finally feeling better and I definitely have my sweet tooth back, and it's making up for lost time! These muffins were actually not too sweet, and didn't taste like cake masquerading as a muffin. That's a good thing, in my book. I like to keep breakfast and dessert somewhat separate. 
The recipe called for prunes, which I love, but only to snack on. There's something about rehydrated dried fruit that's weird. It's not dried, but it's still not fresh. Weird. So, I used fresh blueberries and some candied orange peel to flavour these. I also used more whole wheat flour and less white flour than the recipe called for, and these were not dense or tough at all. They definitely had texture, as I used a stoneground polenta and coarsely ground whole wheat flour. Oh, and I used some butter and some canola oil instead of all butter, because the butter was frozen. Everything is frozen here, actually. 
The first muffin I ate plain, hot from the oven: delicious. The second I ate at room temperature with butter: delicious. The rest? I froze them before they disappeared too. Actually, I only baked 6, and froze the rest of the batter in my new muffin tin with a lid (finally!). So, I'll be able to pull that out and bake these fresh another day. I'll let you know how that turns out.
This week's recipe was selected by Christine at HappyTummy, so if you'd like to make these, head over there for the recipe. Thanks for a great pick, Christine--I'll be snacking on these for a while! As always, check out the LYL (leave your link) post on the Tuesdays with Dorie page to see who else made these, and how they changed them up.