Thursday, December 24, 2009

Daring Bakers: Gingerbread Houses!

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.

So, this was quite a challenge, or so I thought. It ended up being much easier than I thought it would be. I used Y´s recipe, and the dough was simple to put together, although it took more water than the recipe called for to get it to stick together. When I tried to roll it out the next day, it simply would not budge. I had to let it sit for about thirty minutes before I could get it to roll, and even then it kept cracking. I finally got it to work, and I used a template I found here.

It baked up fine, although you could see the little white spots of butter. I don´t know if this is how it´s supposed to be or not. The gingerbread was very sturdy and didn´t threaten to break during construction. I used the royal icing recipe given both for decoration and to glue the house together, even though we were supposed to use a simple syrup to do it. It was easy to work with and dried quickly. The only problem we had when constructing the house was getting the roof to stay put, which we quickly discovered could be remedied by using a lot of icing and holding the gingerbread in place until it dried.

I had lots of dough left over, so I made this little tree using different-sized star cookie cutters. And you know what? The gingerbread didn´t taste bad at all.
All in all, this was a really fun Daring Bakers challenge, and I may even be making a gingerbread house every winter from now one. Although my decorating definitely could have been better, I liked how my house came out. If you want to make a gingerbread house for yourself, the recipe I used is below. Enjoy! And Merry Christmas!

Y's Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sour Cream Cookies

Right now, I am sitting in the overwhelming heat of Panama. But besides the heat, it is really fun to be here. We are spending Christmas with family, and we have been baking. A lot. I'll get pictures and recipes up as soon as I figure out how to on this computer...
I wanted to bring some cookies with me for when we got here, and I wanted something really Christmas-y. I decided on these sour cream cut-outs from a little cookie book I have, because they looked easy. That they were, and they were better than I thought they would be. I used Christmas cookie cutters, and sprinkled red and green decorating sugar on them BEFORE baking. Also, they keep very well, because we are still eating them three days after they were made. They are supposed to yield four and a half dozen, but they really make way more, although I rolled the dough pretty thin. So if you want an easy cut-out cookie recipe, make this one. And tell me how it goes! Enjoy!

Sour Cream Cookies (from Cookies! crunchy, chewy, nutty, crumbly, chocolaty)

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sour cream
sugar, to sprinkle on top of cookies (I used red and green)

Preheat oven to 425F.
In a large bowl, mix sugar, shortening, butter, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well.
Divide dough into 3 parts. Roll out each part 1/4-inch thick on lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut with 2-inch cookie cutter and sprinkle with sugar.
Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 6-8 minutes (some of mine took a bit less than 6), or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly in center.
Remove to wire racks to cool.
Yield: 4 1/2 dozen

Monday, December 21, 2009

TWD: My Favorite Pecan Pie

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was chosen by Beth of Someone's in the Kitchen with Brina. She chose the only pecan pie recipe in the book. This week and next week, due to the holidays, we are allowed to post any time in the week we want. I had been wanting to make this one for a long time, so when it was announced for this week, I decided to make it for Thanksgiving. It was easy to make, and I liked it. My mom, who loves pecan pie, said that it was a bit too rich for her, with all the chocolate. It also stuck to the pie plate (as you can see below), even though I had buttered it. All in all, probably not one I'll make again, but it was fun to try. If you want to try it for yourself, you can buy the book or find it on Beth's blog later this week. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

TWD Rewind: Black and White Banana Loaf

This weekend, we made four boxes of baked goods to send out for Christmas. They included last week's Sables, a really yummy toffee (recipe to come soon), and these. We tripled the recipe and it made four 8x3 1/2" loaf pans. We didn't taste it, so I don't know if this recipe is any good or not. But they looked really good. I do have one complaint, though. They took a really long time to make, and used up most of our mixing bowls. Oh well... the things you do for family ;)
If you want this recipe, you can buy the book or find it here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

TWD: Cafe Volcano Cookies

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was chosen by Macduff of The Lonely Sidecar. He chose the Cafe Volcano Cookies. These were SO easy to make. First you toast some nuts. Then you cook those for about 5 minutes with egg whites, sugar and instant espresso powder. Having read complaints of the cookies not having much coffee flavor, I added three teaspoons of the espresso instead of two. Anyways, after everything was warmed, it looked like a syrup full of nuts. I had serious doubts that it would ever turn into cookies. But after twenty minutes in the oven, voila! Really yummy cookies. Many people have described these as having the texture of poprocks, but mine were very chewy inside. However, this may be because the one I tasted was still warm ;) I'll have to wait to see how they taste when they are cooled until dinner. Yum! If you want the recipe, you can buy the book or find it here. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A very late TWD: Sables

Finally! So sorry about the delay in this post. This week's recipe was chosen by Bungalow Barbara. We have been busy with lots of baking for christmas gift boxes to be sent out tomorrow. We have made toffee, loaf cakes (both recipes to come soon), and these. Although this may sound strange, I don't think I have ever made slice and bake cookies. Except from the pre-made cookie dough, before I knew how to bake. But lets just forget about those years, okay?
Anyways, about the cookies. You first make a basic dough (making sure not to overwork it!) and then roll it into logs. After Dorie's signature three-hour refrigeration period :D , you brush the logs with egg yolk and sprinkle on coarse sugar. We did one log red and the other green. Then you cut thin slices and bake them. All done! Some of ours were thinner than others, so they got... uh... "crispy". Let's leave it at that.
They are buttery and sweet and delicious. Yum! So if you want an easy recipe for very pretty cookies (perfect for Christmas if you use the sugars we used), make this one. You can find the recipe in the book or here. Enjoy!

TWD Rewind: Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

Oh my god... yum. :D
Once again, I'll start by saying that this week's (very late!) TWD post will be up later today. But for now, I'm posting this one. Yesterday we had friends over for dinner, and I decided to make this torte. Boy am I glad I did! It starts off with a buttery shortbread crust, which was wonderful on its own. However, I think it was too thick at some places. Then comes a layer of jam. I used mixed berry. Finally, a layer of cheesecake made with cream cheese and cottage cheese. I accidentally put in too much cinnamon, so it wasn't as light in color as the picture in the book is, but it tasted wonderful. All in all, definitely something I'll make again and recommend to everyone. If you want the wonderful recipe, you can buy the book or find it here. Enjoy!
(so sorry about the blurry picture - i just wanted to show how thin the jam layer is)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

TWD Rewind: Brownie Buttons

Let me start off by saying that Tuesday's TWD recipe is coming. Tomorrow. Sorry! I have been so busy, I haven't baked anything since the cherry pie. I know, unbelievable. But last night I had a rehearsal for christmas caroling, and I only had a couple of hours, so I made these. I have been wanting to make them for a long time. I didn't have any oranges, so I didn't put in the optional orange zest. I also didn't have any white chocolate, so I melted some candy melts. However, I overheated them a bit, so I couldn't dip the brownies in them. I spread them on like icing and put on some sprinkles, and it worked great. However, when we tried to unwrap them, the paper stuck and was really hard to get off. BUT, they tasted wonderful. They were chewy but not fudgey, and the white chocolate topped it off. I recommend making these, but don't use paper cups. If you want the recipe, you can buy the book or find it here. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Taste of Home Cherry Pie

Do you ever make a recipe while trying to impress people, and then you discover that it was amazing? I know I did, last Saturday when I made this pie. My dad requested cherry pie, so that's what I made. The recipe included directions for a crust, but I stuck with my new favorite, Dorie's. I had made six (6!) of them before thanksgiving, and I had two left. The filling uses tart cherries, but all we could find was sour cherries (are those the same...?). I was told to use a recipe with almond extract. Anyways, we made it, and it looked delicious. Honestly, the photo above doesn't do it justice. The next day when my dad took it to the office, it got great reviews. He even said it was the best cherry pie he's ever had! So basically what I'm saying is to go make it! Now! Enjoy :D

Cherry Pie (submitted by Taste of Home on Allrecipes)
  • 2 9-inch pie crusts, chilled
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans tart cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • red food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 375 F. 
Roll out one pie crust to fit a 9-in. pie plate for bottom crust. 
Drain cherries, reserving 1/4 cup juice. Mix cherries, juice, sugar, tapioca, extract, salt and food coloring if desired; pour into the crust. Dot with butter . Top with a lattice crust using the second pie crust. 
Bake for 55-60 minutes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

TWD: Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart

This week's TWD recipe was chosen by Lauren of I'll Eat You. She chose the Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart. This tart takes a while to put together, but isn't too complicated. It starts off with a fully baked tart crust. Then comes a pistachio pastry cream, which has small pieces of the nuts in it. After that comes pears poached in red wine. This gives them the red color on the outside that almost makes them look as if they haven't been peeled. Last comes the pistachios covered in a simple caramel made of sugar and water. We couldn't stop eating the candied nuts on their own. They would actually be good in little bags if you're making christmas baskets.
We couldn't stop talking about this tart. We made the sauce that's recommended, and it was well worth it. I would really recommend this recipe for a not-too-hard dessert that really impresses people. Yum! If you want the recipe, you can buy the book or find it here. Enjoy!

TWD Rewind: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins. Sort of.

I decided to make cornbread for Thanksgiving, but I had never made it before. I went straight to Dorie, of course. The only recipe she has is for savory corn bread muffins with jalapenos. Spicy! Since nobody at the Thanksgiving table liked savory (or spicy) cornbread, I went with what Dorie suggested in the "Playing Around" section. You leave out the cilantro, jalapenos, black pepper, and red peppers, and you (of course!) increase the sugar to 1/4 cup. They were sweet enough for our tastes, but not overly so. I wasn't a huge fan, because I thought they were very dry. Everybody else seemed to like them, though, so I guess they weren't too bad. All in all, not a recipe I'll make again, but I can cross it off my "Still have to make as TWD rewinds" list. :D However, if you do like spicy cornbread, this might be a good one for you.
If you want the recipe, you can buy the book or find it here. Enjoy!