Daring Baker’s Challenge:  BISCUIT JOCONDE IMPRIME/ENTREMET (aka fancy sponge cake wrapped dessert)

Daring Baker’s Challenge: BISCUIT JOCONDE IMPRIME/ENTREMET (aka fancy sponge cake wrapped dessert)


Chocolate and Orange Pastry Cream with Lime Curd

Chocolate and Peanut Butter

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.  I chose to make two different ones, one with chocolate and peanut butter pastry cream and one with chocolate and orange pastry cream with a lime curd top.  Overall they were tasty, quite a bit of work and a huge mess in the kitchen (sorry Husband who graciously cleans up) but I would like to make them again and try some different fillings.  I think I would be able to do it a little faster and more efficiently the next time, although probably not with any less mess – I do know my limits.  Thanks for a great challenge!

I followed the recipe provided by Asteroshe for both:

Joconde Sponge

YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan

¾ cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g almond flour/meal – *You can also use hazelnut flour, just omit the butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2⅔ oz/ 75g confectioners’ (icing) sugar
¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour *See note below
3 large eggs – about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
3 large egg whites – about 3 oz/ 90g
2½ teaspoons/ 12½ ml/ ⅓ oz/ 10g white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g unsalted butter, melted

*Note: How to make cake flour: http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2009/09/how-to-make-cake-flour/


  1. In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
  2. Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
  3. On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
  4. Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
  5. Fold in melted butter.
  6. Reserve batter to be used later.

But based on other’s suggestions, I halved the recipe for the:

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste

YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan

14 tablespoons/ 210ml/ 7oz/ 200g unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus1½ tablespoons/ 385ml/ 7oz/ 200g Confectioners’ (icing) sugar
7 large egg whites – about 7 oz / 200g
1¾ cup/ 420ml/ 7¾ oz/ 220g cake flour
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid

COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 6 oz / 170g. Add 2 oz/ 60 g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.


  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
  2. Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
  3. Fold in sifted flour.
  4. Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.

Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:

  1. Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch (5 millimeter) thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
  2. Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
  3. Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.
  1. Bake at 475ºF /250ºC until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 15 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.
  2. Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.
  3. Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper.
  4. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

She also provided a great list of helpful sites:









As I didn’t have either almond flour or cake flour on hand, I made my own.  I used the Joy of Baking recipe for the cake flour and for the almond flour I put about 1 cup of almonds in the food processor, pulsed until fine, sifted and repulsed the rest until it was all ground finely and sifted into a bowl.  It was pretty simple and worked out well.

ready to bake

First I made the sponge wrapper, mixing the paste first.  I think mine was too thick as it was more like a dough than a paste, but it worked out ok and was actually pretty easy to decorate with.  It was a little more crunchy than the sponge after it was baked but it still tasted good.


Baked sponge

I used the left over paste (dough) to make two circles to use as a base.


I measured, sliced and filled two springform pans without any difficulty, except as I so think it may have been a little thicker than it was supposed to be and next time I would do a thinner layer.


Layering the sponge

Next came the filings:


Husband wanted chocolate (of course) and peanut butter so the first one was easy but I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the fillings because there are just so many options.  I ended up with a chocolate base, chocolate pastry cream, orange pastry cream and lime curd filling for the second one.

For this challenge, I did the real thing and used a basic pastry cream recipe with the chocolate and orange variations I found at about.com.  I modified the basic recipe by adding 1/4 cup peanut butter at the end for the peanut butter layer.  However, a great tip for a really quick and great substitute is to use instant pudding (whatever flavor you want) with heavy whipping cream instead of milk it has a wonderful texture and takes minutes to prepare.  I do it all the time using the vanilla with peanut butter, the chocolate and coconut cream as it makes a great pie too!  For the lime curd again I used a basic lemon curd recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, substituting lime for the lemon.   It was a little soft for this use though, so next time I will increase the corn starch to 2 1/2 teaspoons.

After I finished all they various fillings, I layered them and refrigerated overnight to set.


Chocolate & Peanut Butter and Chocolate, Orange and Lime





Recipe test:  Rachael Ray’s You Won’t be Single for Long Vodka Pasta Sauce

Recipe test: Rachael Ray’s You Won’t be Single for Long Vodka Pasta Sauce

You Won't Be Single For Long Vodka Penne

I know I haven’t always been kind to some of Rachael’s recipes, but this is one of my favorites.   I make it quite often and even follow the recipe You Won’t Be Single for Long Vodka Pasta Sauce pretty faithfully, which is quite unusual for me.  The only change I make is to start with 1 pound of hot Italian sausage removed from the casing and fried (leave the fat in the pan and continue on with the recipe for the best flavor).  It gives it a little more kick and of course makes the meat eaters happy.  I find that the fresh basil is what really makes it, so definitely don’t skip that.  Otherwise, it is a great, simple and quick recipe that you can easily make after a workday, serve in a bowl with some garlic knots or garlic bread and if you must, a salad (sorry I don’t do salad).

You won't Be Single for Long Vodka Penne and Green Beans with Bacon

I also sometimes serve it with green beans (with bacon of course).

Green Beans with Bacon

While frying the bacon in a large skillet, steam about a pound of green beans in the microwave for 3 minutes.   I get the packages from Costco that you can steam them right in or you can just do them in a bowl.  Fry 4 slices of bacon cut in small pieces until very crisp, then remove it from the pan, leaving the fat.  Add the partially cooked green beans and finish for a couple more minutes in the pan to the doneness that you like, then add back the crispy bacon.

The Daring Cooks Challenge: Simplified Cassoulet with Garlic Confit

The Daring Cooks Challenge: Simplified Cassoulet with Garlic Confit






Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.  Their great recipes and instructions for the challenge can be found on Jennie and Lisa’s sites above.  Thanks to them for a great job and I have to admit it was better than I was expecting!

As usual, I just can’t seem to follow a recipe and have to go off on my own tangent (probably because I’m a pretty picky eater so I leave out anything I don’t care for).  Not being a big fan of duck and not really having time to figure out where to get it anyway, the duck went by the wayside.  Also because of an unexpected trip to take Daughter back to college, my schedule was a little tight so I looked at many recipes, then went with a simplified version combining them and using what I had on hand – bacon, Italian Sausage, thick boneless pork chops and the garlic confit I made before the trip.  You can make this version in about 3 hours with a small amount of prep the night before but it is really flavorful (lots of fat and garlic of course) and if you didn’t have the garlic confit, you could just use garlic.

First the garlic confit:

I like to use what I have, and I happened to have a giant jar of peeled garlic  cloves (maybe a pound – a really big Costco size jar) that I bought for my holiday cooking, forgot about and it was getting close to its expiration date.  Into a roasting pan it went, in a single layer, just covered with olive oil (about a cup) and roasted at 350 for about an hour and a half until it was nicely brown and soft.  I then took the cloves out of the oil, smashed them in the food processor, placed in jars and covered the top with a thin layer of the reserved olive oil.  I gave away several jars for holiday gifts and kept some for myself for the cassoulet.

After returning from the trip with only one day to complete the challenge, it was time for step 2 – place the beans (1 lb)  in a pot of water and put them in the fridge to soak overnight.  I retrieved the pork chops which I had sealed in a packet with garlic and olive oil and frozen some time ago and put it in the fridge to thaw.

The Big Day:





1 lb white navy beans

2 Tbs olive oil

1 lb bacon

2 onions (1 quartered, the other chopped)

sprig of fresh rosemary

5 carrots chopped

3 celery stalks

8 hot Italian sausages

4 large, thick (1-2 inch) pork chops cut into 2 inch chunks

2 quarts chicken stock

4 Tbs Garlic Confit

2 Tbs Italian seasoning



Beans cooking and bacon browning



First,reserve 2 slices of the bacon and cut the rest into small pieces and start it frying in a large oven safe pot that you have placed a couple Tbs of olive oil in.  Then in a separate large pot, place the quartered onion, 2 slices of bacon cut in half, the sprig of rosemary and the drained, soaked beans in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer while you do the following (about 1/2 hour).




When the bacon is crisp, remove it from the pan and set aside, leaving the oil and bacon fat in the pan.


Chopped celery onion and carrot




Vegs in starting to cook



Add the carrots, celery and onions and fry until they are just starting to brown.


Vegs ready


Remove them from the pot and add to the bowl of bacon, leaving the oil in the pot.


Vegs set aside




Sausages in the pan


Now brown the sausages well.


Sausages browned


Remove and set aside the sausages with the bacon and vegs.


Pork chunks


Now brown the pork pieces in the olive oil, bacon fat and sausage fat – it’s hard to get better than that! (I also added the garlic and olive oil that I had marinated the pork chops just because you can never have enough garlic.)


Pork browned


Now add back the bacon, vegs, sausage, drain the beans and add them along with the broth, garlic confit and spices.  Bring to a boil, then place uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.


Ready for the Oven



Garlic Bread Crumbs

Pulse 4 ciabatta rolls in the food processor to fine crumbs, add 3 TBS garlic confit and pulse until well mixed.  Spread on baking sheet(s) in a thin layer and place in the oven 15 minutes prior to serving the cassoulet.  Sprinkle on top after plating (or in my case bowling) the cassoulet.


Cassoulet ready to eat



My Top Ten recipes for 2010

My Top Ten recipes for 2010

I decided not to fight the trend and picked my top 10 favorites.  Also, I mistakenly thought this would be a quick post to finish up the year with but it turned out to be much more difficult than I thought to narrow them down to just ten.    My sister-in-law (the healthy registered dietician one) recently pointed out that I lean toward desserts, which I have to admit is very true.  They are just all around better, better tasting, better photos and a lot more fun to do so of course this list is also a little heavy on the dessert side (I did sort of consider which posts got the most hits but basically I reserved the right to make the final decisions.)  In my quest for self-improvement, I promise to try to include more healthy items in the future (due to repeatedly failing at this in the past, I can’t actually promise – only promise to try).  Drum roll . . .  in no particular order, this years winners:

Mixed Berry Jam Creme Brulee Crostata

Mixed Berry Jam Creme Brulee Crostata

Pecan and Pecan Cranberry Pies

Three Great Pecan Pies

White Chocolate Wedding Cake for Small Wedding

White Chocolate Wedding Cake

Lemon Pudding Cake

Cook’s Country Lemon Pudding Cake

Honey Caramel Apples

Italian Caprese Sliders

Italian Caprese Sliders

Plate of Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Limoncello and Lemon Sherbet

Double Pucker – Limoncello and Lemon Sherbet

Peach and Raspberry Tart

White Chocolate Mouse Peach and RasbperryTarts

Holiday Gifts – David Rocco’s Pesto

Holiday Gifts – David Rocco’s Pesto


Pesto gift packaged



Here’s a great, simple recipe for pesto from David Rocco.  Once you’ve made the recipe, place it in festive jars or plastic tubs for gifts (keeping a few for yourself of course).  In case you haven’t noticed, I like David Rocco and if you haven’t had the chance to watch his show on the Cooking Channel you really should.  It is not the typical cooking show.  He travels around Italy and cooks with lots of different people in their kitchens and restaurants as well as his apartment.  You get to see a lot of scenery and interesting people with some  Italian history, not just a studio kitchen.  His recipes are simple and delicious and generally quite traditional.

The pesto will last well in the fridge, or can be frozen.  Adding equal measures of the pesto to heavy cream (1 cup to 1 cup for a pound of pasta) makes a wonderful quick pasta sauce.  Just warm the cream and pesto in a saucepan while you cook the pasta, then serve with extra cheese.  You can also add some leftover chicken, chicken strips or shrimp.


The Daring Cooks Challenge – Eggs Benedict “an epic fail”

The Daring Cooks Challenge – Eggs Benedict “an epic fail”

Looks better than it was!

This month Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I have to apologize in advance, this month’s challenge sort of did me in.  Between being on the losing side of a battle with a brief but very painful illness and trying to prepare for the holidays I did not have time to do this properly, did not follow the really wonderful directions provided in the challenge nor did I take hardly any pictures like I usually do.  In my haste to make this after baking holiday gifts all day trying to catch up, first my Hollandaise broke as I threw in the butter with abandon (after using a pan much too large for the amount of eggs being too rushed to look for a smaller one) necessitating a quick trip to the internet to decide if “this marriage could be saved”.  I found that you can redeem the sauce by slowly adding the mixture to another egg yolk which actually worked very well and according to the food critic (aka spouse who never complains and will eat anything that fits in his mouth) it tasted like it should.  However, he further pointed out that my eggs were overdone (and they had lots of strings hanging off the sides see the picture below), the muffin was underdone and I put the muffin top on it which apparently isn’t the norm (note the strategic cropping in the top picture).  In my defense, I don’t eat any egg that is not completely and thoroughly scrambled and cooked until it starts to brown so I’ve never had eggs Benedict.  I do appreciate the challenge and think it is something that I should learn to make and will give it another try – alas,  as my daughter would say this one was “an epic fail”.

Second Try with No Top but lots of strings