The Daring Cooks Challenge – handmade spätzle (with meatballs in cream sauce)

Spätzle with meatballs in cream sauce


This month’s challenge was to make noodles, with a suggestion for Spätzle.  A long (long) time ago I lived in Germany for several years and became very fond of them but although I’ve made lots of other types of noodles,  for some reason just never tried these.  I know my choice of meatballs in cream sauce really isn’t traditional with them, there was the usual time crunch and I had some ready made meatballs on hand that could be made quickly.  Thanks for the great idea and I will be making these more often (and with more traditional meals – maybe schnitzel) now that I know how quick and easy they are!
Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks’ July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.  She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!
I followed the recipe given by Steph for the Spätzle but instead of the sauce she provides, I made the weekday meal version – prefab meatballs with a simple cream sauce to serve with them.
Spätzle:

Boiling the spätzle


Draining


Meatballs and Cream Sauce
Ingredients:
1 lb fully cooked meatballs (purchased or your favorite recipe)
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
1 TBS Better than Bullion (or 1 teaspoon bullion granules)
2 cups milk or half and half
Procedure:
Heat and brown the meatballs in a large skillet adding a little oil if needed, then remove and set aside.  Add the onion to the skillet and brown well (add a little more oil if there is not enough fat from the meatballs).

Saute the onions and meatballs


Add the butter and stir in the flour and cook until it is lightly browned.

Make the sauce


Stir in the Better than Boullion or bouillon granules then add the milk or half and half. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Return the meatballs to skillet and heat through, about 1 minute.

5 minute dessert – no bake chocolate cake

No Bake Chocolate Cake


No bake Chocolate Cake


I absolutely love Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks.  Her recipes are wonderful but even more, her pictures are gorgeous and inspiring.  I decided to try her No Bake Chocolate Cake.  This is so simple and quick and the family gave it the thumbs up.  I will definitely make it again! Basically just cream and chocolate, it takes about 5 minutes to make and you can change it up depending on what flavors or spices you add.  I made it plain this time and served with strawberries and maraschino cherry jelly and cherries.  Don’t forget the salt, it really made a difference!

No Bake Chocolate Cake with Maraschino Cherries


I used some mini ceramic pans and they looked really cute.  I was a little apprehensive about getting the slices out, but I didn’t have any problem except one of the first slices was a little misshapen.  After slicing I used a very small, thin rubber spatula to get them out.  Also since the containers were small, the slices were proportionately a little larger.

No Bake Chocolate Cake

The Daring Baker's Challenge: Baklava with homemade dough

BaklavaBaklava


This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was one I was looking forward to but unfortunately, due to an unexpected but exciting event (my sliders were chosen as one of the top 5 in the LA Times Battle of the Burgers so I was invited for photos and a visit to the test kitchen in Los Angeles) I was only able to do it at the last-minute and wasn’t able to put in the effort I would have liked. Then, rushing and suffering from a clear lack of concentration, I stopped to make dinner and set the dough aside without flouring it enough and it promptly stuck back together after being so nicely made.
In the late 1970’s, I was privileged to know Baba, an 80 something woman from Yugoslavia who was an amazing cook and who was gracious enough to teach me some of her recipes, even giving me an ethnic recipe book her church put out that I still use.  She took a lump of dough and using only her fingers, made it into a piece the size of a tablecloth, perfect with no holes or thick spots and so thin you could easily see through it.  I have tried a couple of times, but really didn’t have the patience to perfect it (and of course it was much easier to just buy it) so I haven’t done it in years.  Since I was too tired to remake the dough after dinner, I separated it as best I could and in the end it was edible, but not spectacular.  The dough recipe is wonderful and easy to work with, stretching nicely without breaking and I was so proud of how it turned out . . . before dinner!  I will definitely make this one again.
Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.
Here is the recipe, just as given by Erica who did such a wonderful job (the only change I made was to use pizza flour as suggested by Audax)!

Phyllo Dough:

*Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw
and continue making your baklava
Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)

Directions:

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt
2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more)
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)

Rolling your Phyllo



** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**

Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. I have included a fantastic video at the end of the post on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me. You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.
4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel
5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)
6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!
7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.

Baklava Recipe

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
30 servings
Ingredients
For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove
When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled
Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

Ingredients for the Filling:

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less then half**
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside
3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan
4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet
5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge
14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
Next morning all syrup is absorbed
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature
Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava. It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container. Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier. You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.
Additional Information: I have included some videos and links to help you through the process

How to roll the phyllo dough – 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvNzAi9w6TU&feature=related
Excellent 3 part video showing the whole process – 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLV7W-KUME8&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8pzyKgxuF4&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJgotI69pXY&feature=related
Making Hollow Baklava Rolls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FvM8cWzjKI
Making Baklava Rolls – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H51egHWv0sQ
Nut Free Baklava – 
http://hubpages.com/hub/nut-free-baklava-recipe
http://tzk-design.com/recipe/nut-free-baklava
Gluten Free Baklava
http://glutenfreepastry.org/gluten-free-baklava-recipe-demonstration/
http://gluten-free.mobi/gluten-free-baklava.php
Vegan Baklava
http://www.veganchef.com/baklava.htm
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/nutty-vegan-baklava.html#

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad (from someone who doesn’t like salads) – Daring Cooks (very challenging) Challenge

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

As we have already established, I’m a picky eater.   I generally don’t do salads of any kind mostly because I don’t like condiments – no ketchup, no mustard, no dressing (or anything with vinegar in it), absolutely no mayonnaise and healthy is clearly not my strength so coming up with a healthy potato salad recipe was a big challenge for me. I’m not a big yogurt fan either, but some of the flavored ones are ok so I went with that.  The best part though is that I do love potatoes in pretty much any form so I had something to work with! This was inspired by the sweet potato casserole that usually goes with Thanksgiving dinner.  Thanks to Jami for a great challenge.

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

Printable Version

Ingredients for 4 side or 2 main course salads:

2 large sweet potatoes cubed into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon bacon or regular salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

6 pineapple rings

1 1/2 cup pecans toasted

1 cup coconut (1/2 toasted)

1 6 oz orange yogurt cup

1 11 oz can mandarin oranges

4 large fresh lettuce leaves

1/4 cup dried cherries

1 tablespoon marshmallow cream

Sweet Potatoes for baking

Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet.

Drizzle

Drizzle with olive oil

Sprinkle

Sprinkle with cinnamon and bacon salt

Mix

Drizzled and sprinkled

Mix to coat.

Coconut, pineapple and pecans

On a second baking sheet place the pecans, 1/2 of the coconut and the pineapple cut into half circles and sprinkle the pineapple and pecans with brown sugar, cinnamon and bacon (or regular) salt.

Sprinkle

Roast both pans in 400 degree oven for approx 10 minutes until the coconut and pecans are toasted – watch carefully they will go from brown to burned quickly.  Remove them from the pan and continue to roast the sweet potatoes and pineapple for  a total of 30-45 minutes until tender and lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and cool.

Roasted sweet potatoes

Roasted pineapple

Drain the mandarin oranges, reserving the liquid.  Mix enough of the liquid with the orange yogurt to thin it to a pouring consistency.

Roasted and ready to mix

Reserve 2 pineapple 1/2 slices and cut the remaining into bite sized pieces.  Mix the sweet potatoes, pecans (reserving a few for garnish), toasted coconut and bite sized pineapple pieces together in a mixing bowl with the dressing.

Plated

On the serving plate lay down the lettuce, add the potato mixture, surround with the reserved pineapple half slices and the mandarin oranges, sprinkle with the untoasted coconut, reserved pecans and dried cherries.

Almost done

Top with a dollop of marshmallow cream.

Chocolate Marquise (fancy plated chocolate mousse with meringue)

Chocolate Marquise (fancy plated chocolate mousse with meringue)

Chocolate Marquise with Pomegranate Schnapps meringue

Marquise with meringue (see how creamy the mousse is)

Once again this month there was a great challenge.  This time Husband, who isn’t much of a dessert person unless it is chocolate was very pleased with the Marquise and since both kids were home from college, there were plenty of takers as it made a lot.  It looked a little daunting at first with quite a few steps, but once you get going it is actually not so difficult and the chocolate mousse portion is wonderful I would use the recipe unfrozen and served in a bowl all by itself.  It does need some pre-planning, but actually that you freeze the mousse mixture makes it nice for a fancy dinner because you basically make most of it ahead of time.  You only need to plate for a spectacular looking finish. It is also a pleasant surprise as it looks rather firm but is really a soft, smooth texture.  Since the original recipe makes so much (18 servings) also included are 1/2 and 1/4 version recipes.

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

We had been at my Daughter’s graduation from University of Oklahoma up until only a couple of days before the deadline so I just didn’t have time to get very creative or do my usual procedure pictures but the ones provided by Emma and Jenny are wonderful so I followed their recipe available on the Daring Kitchen website.  I made only a few changes that I will note below in red and they turned out wonderfully.  I would definitely recommend giving them a try!

Servings:18 2.5″x2.5″ cubes

Ingredients
11 large egg yolks at room temperature
4 large whole eggs
2/3 cup (150 grams/ 5.3 oz) sugar
1/3 cup (2⅔ fluid oz/ 80 ml.) water
Chocolate Base, barely warm (recipe follows) (I used pomegranate schnapps and cinnamon instead of the tequilla and cayenne and honey instead of the corn syrup)
2 cups (16 fluid oz./ 500 ml.) heavy cream
2 cups Dutch process cocoa powder (for rolling) (Note: We used extra brut, like Hershey’s Special Dark. Make sure it’s a Dutch processed cocoa, not a natural cocoa powder.)
Torched meringue (recipe follows)
Spiced almonds (recipe follows)  (instead of cayenne and salt I used 1/2 teaspoon bacon flavored seasoning salt and sliced almonds)
Cacao nibs (optional) Skipped

Instead of the tequilla caramel sauce I used some of my honey caramel sauce spiced up with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate schnapps.

Directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg yolks and whole eggs. Whip on high speed until very thick and pale, about 10 – 15 minutes.

When the eggs are getting close to finishing, make a sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil and then cook to softball stage (235F/115C). If you have a cake tester with a metal loop for a handle, the right stage for the syrup is reached when you can blow a bubble through the loop (as seen in the following pictures).

With the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the sugar syrup into the fluffy eggs, trying to hit that magic spot between the mixing bowl and the whisk.

When all of the syrup has been added (do it fairly quickly), turn the mixer back on high and whip until the bowl is cool to the touch. This will take at least 10 minutes.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.
When the egg mixture has cooled, add the chocolate base to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Try to get it as consistent as possible without losing all of the air you’ve whipped into the eggs. We used the stand mixer for this, and it took about 1 minute.

Fold 1/3 of the reserved whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Pour into the prepared pans and cover with plastic wrap (directly touching the mixture so it doesn’t allow in any air).

Freeze until very firm, at least 2 – 4 hours (preferably 6 – 8 hours).
When you’re ready to plate, remove the marquise from the freezer at least 15 minutes before serving. While it’s still hard, remove it from the pan by pulling on the parchment ‘handles’ or by flipping it over onto another piece of parchment.

Cut it into cubes and roll the cubes in cocoa powder. These will start to melt almost immediately, so don’t do this step until all of your other plating components (meringue, caramel, spiced nuts, cocoa nibs) are ready. The cubes need to sit in the fridge to slowly thaw so plating components can be done during that time. They don’t need to be ready before the cubes are rolled in the cocoa powder.

Plate with the torched meringue and drizzled caramel sauce, and toss spiced almonds and cocoa nibs around for garnish. You want to handle the cubes as little as possible because they get messy quickly and are difficult to move. However, you want to wait to serve them until they’ve softened completely. The soft pillows of chocolate are what make this dessert so unusual and when combined with the other elements, you’ll get creamy and crunchy textures with cool, spicy, salty, bitter, and sweet sensations on your palate.

Chocolate Base


Servings: n/a – this is an ingredient for the chocolate marquise, not meant to be used separately

Ingredients
12 oz (340 grams/ 1½ cups) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
12 oz (355 ml/ 1½ cups) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup (60 ml/ 2 fluid oz.) tequila
1/4 cup (60 ml/ 2 fluid oz.) light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/ less than an ounce) cocoa powder (we used extra brut, like Hershey’s Special Dark, but any Dutch-processed cocoa would be fine. Do not substitute natural cocoa powder.)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 oz unsalted butter (2 tbsps./30 grams), softened

Directions:

  1. Place the chocolate in a small mixing bowl.
  2. In a double-boiler, warm the cream until it is hot to the touch (but is not boiling). Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
  3. Allow it to sit for a minute or two before stirring. Stir until the chocolate is melted completely and is smooth throughout.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as the base needs to be soft when added to the marquise mixture. If you make it the day before, you may need to warm it slightly. Whisk it until it is smooth again before using it in the marquise recipe.


Torched Meringue


Servings: Makes about 4 – 5 cups of meringue. If you aren’t planning on serving *all* of the marquise at once, you might want to scale this recipe back a bit.

Ingredients
11 large egg whites
1 ¾ cups (14 oz or 395 gms) sugar
Splash of apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Combine the egg whites, sugar and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using your (clean, washed) hand, reach in the bowl and stir the three together, making sure the sugar is moistened evenly by the egg whites and they make a homogeneous liquid.

Over a saucepan of simmering water, warm the egg white mixture. Use one hand to stir the mixture continuously, feeling for grains of sugar in the egg whites. As the liquid heats up, the sugar will slowly dissolve and the egg whites will thicken. This step is complete when you don’t feel any more sugar crystals in the liquid and it is uniformly warm, nearly hot.

Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan and return it to the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk until you reach soft peaks. In the last 10 seconds of mixing, add the vanilla to the meringue and mix thoroughly.

When you’re ready to plate the dessert, spoon the meringue onto a plate (or use a piping bag) and use a blowtorch to broil.

Tequila Caramel


Servings: Makes about 1 cup of caramel

Ingredients
1 cup (8 oz.) sugar
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz./ 120 ml.) water
1 cup (8 fluid oz./ 240 ml.) heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tequila

Directions:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Boil until the water completely evaporates and the sugar caramelizes to a dark mahogany color.

Working quickly, add the cream to the darkened caramel. It will bubble and pop vigorously, so add only as much cream as you can without overflowing the pot.

Return the pot to the stove on low heat and whisk gently to break up any hardened sugar. Add any remaining cream and continue stirring. Gradually, the hard sugar will dissolve and the caramel sauce will continue to darken. When the caramel has darkened to the point you want it, remove it from the heat. Add the salt and tequila and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to serve.


Spiced Almonds


Servings: Makes about 1 cup of spiced almonds

Ingredients
1/2 cup (4 oz.) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
1 cup (145 grams/ 5 oz.) blanched whole almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt.
  3. In a larger mixing bowl whisk the egg white until it’s frothy and thick.
  4. Add the spice mix to the egg white and whisk to combine completely.
  5. Add the nuts to the egg white mixture and toss with a spoon.
  6. Spoon the coated nuts onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake the nuts for 30 minutes, or until they turn light brown. Allow the nuts to cool completely and they will get very crunchy. Set aside until ready to serve.


Half Recipe Variations:

Half and quarter-batch recipes were provided by Audax Artifex, who’s done a fantastic job of reinterpreting the challenge into more reasonably-sized portions!
He said: I rounded up 5½ egg yolks to 6 egg yolks in the marquise recipe also I rounded up 5½ egg whites to 6 egg whites in the torched meringue this will not make a difference.


Chocolate Marquise


Servings: 9 2.5″x2.5″ (6⅓cm x 6⅓cm) cubes
Ingredients
6 large egg yolks at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/3 cup (75 grams/ 2⅔ oz) sugar
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (1⅓ fluid oz/ 40 ml.) water
Chocolate Base, barely warm (recipe follows)
1 cup (8 fluid oz./ 250 ml.) heavy cream
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (for rolling) (Note: We used extra brut, like Hershey’s Special Dark. Make sure it’s a Dutch processed cocoa, not a natural cocoa powder.)
Torched meringue (recipe follows)
Spiced almonds (recipe follows)
Cacao nibs (optional)


Chocolate Base


Servings: n/a – this is an ingredient for the chocolate marquise, not meant to be used separately
Ingredients
6 oz (170 grams/ ¾ cups) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
¾ cups (180 ml/6 fluid oz.) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 cup (30 ml/ 1 fluid oz.) tequila
1/8 cup (30 ml/ 1 fluid oz.) light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons/less than 1/2 ounce) cocoa powder (we used extra brut, like Hershey’s Special Dark, but any Dutch-processed cocoa would be fine. Do not substitute natural cocoa powder.)
1/16 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 oz unsalted butter (1 tablespoon/15 grams), softened


Torched Meringue


Servings: Makes about 2 – 2½ cups of meringue. If you aren’t planning on serving *all* of the marquise at once, you might want to scale this recipe back a bit.
Ingredients
6 large egg whites
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (210 ml) (7 oz or 200 gms) sugar
Splash of apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla


Tequila Caramel


Servings: Makes about 1/2 cup of caramel
Ingredients
1/2 cup (120 ml/4 fluid oz) (4 oz/115 gm) sugar
1/4 cup (2 fluid oz./60 ml) water
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz./120 ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tequila


Quarter Recipe Variations:


Chocolate Marquise


Servings: 6 2″x2″ (5cmx5cm) cubes
Ingredients
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
1 large egg
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (40 ml) (40 grams/ 1½ oz) sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (2/3 fluid oz/ 20 ml.) water
Chocolate Base, barely warm (recipe follows)
½ cup (4 fluid oz./ 120 ml.) heavy cream
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder (for rolling) (Note: We used extra brut, like Hershey’s Special Dark. Make sure it’s a Dutch processed cocoa, not a natural cocoa powder.)
Torched meringue (recipe follows)
Spiced almonds (recipe follows)
Cacao nibs (optional)


Chocolate Base


Servings: n/a – this is an ingredient for the chocolate marquise, not meant to be used separately
Ingredients
3 oz (85 grams/ 6 tablespoons) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
1/3 cup + 2 teaspoons (90 ml/3 fluid oz.) heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/16 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon (15 ml/ 1/2 fluid oz.) tequila
1 tablespoon (15 ml/ 1/2 fluid oz.) light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon/(less than 1/4 ounce) cocoa powder (we used extra brut, like Hershey’s Special Dark, but any Dutch-processed cocoa would be fine. Do not substitute natural cocoa powder.)
dash freshly ground black pepper
1/4 oz unsalted butter (1/2 tablespoon/8 grams), softened


Torched Meringue


Servings: Makes about 1 cup of meringue.
Ingredients
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) (3½ oz or 100 gms) sugar
Splash of apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla

Tequila Caramel
Servings: Makes about 1/4 cup of caramel
Ingredients
1/4 cup (60 ml/2 fluid oz) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 fluid oz./ 30 ml.) water
1/4 cup (2 fluid oz./ 60 ml.) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon tequila

The Daring Baker’s Challenge:  Strawberry Vanilla and Maraschino Cherry Panna Cotta with Florentines

The Daring Baker’s Challenge: Strawberry Vanilla and Maraschino Cherry Panna Cotta with Florentines

Strawberry Vanilla Panna Cotta with Florentines

Maraschino Cherry Panna Cotta

Strawberry Panna Cotta

Florentine Cookies

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.  This one was perfect for me and my favorite so far – two of my favorites creamy and cookies!  I decided to make maraschino cherry layers because I had some maraschino cherry jelly that I made recently and thought it would be a great combination.  While at the store, I found the first really nice strawberries of the year, so I couldn’t resist them, nor could I decide between the two so I made both versions.

Washing the Berries

First, the Florentines I followed the Nestle recipe, however, I found that a Tablespoon of dough for each cookie spread way too much and ended up with one giant cookie  (so sad you know we had to eat the mistake).  With each batch I reduced the amount, then finally got it to 1/2 teaspoon per cookie which made the perfect size.   Also, instead of making a sandwich cookie, I just drizzled them with chocolate as I liked the look better and wanted to lighten them up a little to serve with the Panna Cotta.

Ingredients for Florentines

Following the recipe (with the addition of 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon) I mixed up the dough, which looks like this:

Florentine Cookie Dough

As I mentioned, the recipe calls for a Tablespoon of dough for each cookie, which was way to much so I reduced that down to 1/2 teaspoon as they really spread, and actually that’s what you want because it makes them nice and lacy.

Florentine Cookies

Next:  Strawberry/Vanilla Panna Cotta.  Never having made this before, I found it much easier than I had expected not much more complicated than making jello.

For the strawberry portion:

1 lb strawberries

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 packet unflavoreed gelatin

1/4 cup water

1/1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

Few strawberries for garnish

First decide how you want to display – in a glass or in a mold.  If using a mold, spray it with vegetable spray.  I like using various glasses for the presentation as it eliminates the worry of getting them out of the mold and you still get to see how beautiful it is – plus it is a great excuse for using all the pretty glasses that at least at my house don’t get out very often.  I did try one in a mold, but unfortunately, I left it in the hot water too long so it pretty much lost the “mold” design and looked like a blob surrounded by melted pudding – not my best effort.  I’ll probably try again, but the ones in the glasses turned out much better.

1.  Puree the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor until very smooth and press through a sieve to remove the seeds. Remove 1 cup and reserve the rest.

Puree the strawberries

2.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small microwave safe bowl and let stand for 5 minutes to soften. Place in the microwave for 5 second intervals until it dissolves.

3.  In a medium size microwave safe bowl, bring the milk to a simmer, 1 1/2- to 2 minutes – don’t boil.

4.  Add the gelatin, strawberry puree and the cream and mix.

5.  Pour into the serving dishes and chill until firm. If you want to make layers as I did, fill the glasses partially and chill before adding another layer.

Using the reserved strawberry puree top the panna cotta and just before serving, add a Florentine cookie.

Strawberry Panna Cotta

Vanilla/Almond Panna Cotta

Remember if you are planning on layering the dessert, wait until the first layer firms up before making this layer.  I made a double batch of Giada’s Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries recipe , up to the last step but splitting it into two containers adding vanilla to one and almond extract to the other (for the maraschino cherry ones).  I noticed that this recipe was much smoother and creamier than the one with strawberries.

For the maraschino cherry layer I used the maraschino cherry jelly I made recently.  I warmed it slightly so it would pour into the glasses and put a layer on the bottom of the glass.  Poured the almond extract version over that, let it harden and then on some I put another thin layer of jelly on top.

Maraschino Cherry Panna Cotta with Florentine

For the strawberry version I used the already hardened layer of strawberry and added another layer of vanilla on top, then a layer of the reserved strawberry puree.