Wednesday, January 27, 2010

DB - Nanaimo Bars

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

Thanks, Lauren, for selecting a unique baking challenge. My baking horizons have expanded tremendously since joining the Daring Bakers.

Lauren of Celiac Teen gave us the option of baking gluten-free or regular wheat graham wafers. I opted to make the regular flour graham crackers. The cracker dough came together nicely, but I had a lot of trouble cutting and lifting the sticky dough off the rolling surface. In the end I fell back on my sugar cookie method: 1) roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper 2) chill the dough till it is stiff 3) cut out the shapes from the half frozen dough. No mess, no sticking, no problem.

Here is the dough just out of the frig. Stiff as a piece of plywood.

The Nanaimo Bar itself was a little time consuming to assemble, but nothing that a Daring Baker couldn't handle.

The bottom layer was the most involved. The first step was to bake graham wafers/crackers. I've never considered myself a lover of graham crackers, but these things were good. They tasted like thin, crispy honeyed shortbread cookies.

I also cut a few crackers in the shape of Fleurs de lis.

Geaux Saints!!

Next stop Miami and the Super Bowl !!!

Back to the Nanaimo Bars... next the cocoa, butter and sugar where melted together and then an egg was added to the mix as a thickener.

Next add the graham cracker crumbs, nuts and coconut to the chocolate mix.

And dump it all into the pan and let it cool.

The middle layer was a mix of butter, vanilla pudding mix, milk and powdered sugar that was beat until smooth.
I had a little problem spreading the custard layer (it was thick and not at all custard-like), but I just used my fingers to gently push the custard around without disturbing the chocolate crust layer underneath. Added bonus I got to lick all the custard off my fingers.

The top layer was just a thin layer of melted chocolate.

So all-in-all another fun and tasty Daring Baker Challenge, but if I had to describe Nanaimo Bars in one word it would be "sweet". If I make them again I would change a few things to better suit my tastes. For the crust (bottom layer), I would reduce the amount of sugar by half, use unsweetened coconut (sweetened coconut was just too much sugar), and increase the amount of graham cracker crumbs. I would also add some vanilla extract to the custard layer to punch up the flavor.

The recipes selected for Daring Baker's is always interesting and challenging, and I can't wait to see what they have in store for us in February.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Smallest Saints Fan

Weighing in at 3 1/2 pounds, Peanut, has to be one of the smallest New Orleans Saints fan around. I had a cute little Saints sweater for her to wear, but she ran away every time she saw it. She is definitely not a fashionista.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Geaux Saints - Graham Crackers

I needed to bake some graham crackers for a dessert I’m assembling and I decided to make Fleur de lis graham crackers instead of plain-Jane rectangle ones.

Geaux Saints!!

I also wanted to redeem my self for the color mix-up of last week. So I went to Hobby Lobby and bought some GOLD icing. Ohhh it’s sparkly too…

Now I’m not a big fan of graham crackers (I more of a shortbread kinda girl) but these things were tasty. Almost like thin shortbread cookies with a hint of cinnamon.



So tomorrow is the big NFC Championship Game (January 24, 2010): New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings in the Superdome at 5:40 pm central time.

I hope the Saints win.

I pray that the Saints win.

I don’t want to be unsportsmanlike, but I want Brett Favre to get sacked 10 tens and throw 5 interceptions. I want the Vikings to lose, lose, lose.

Here is the Saints latest fight song: Stand Up and Get Crunk. It sure does get the blood pumping.

Geaux Saints!

Who Dat!

One more win and we are off to Miami.

Please, please, please, please…



We're going to the SUPER BOWL!!!!!

Saints: 31, Vikings: 28

Graham Crackers

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and honey. Mix on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute.

In two additions, add the dry ingredients, letting the first fully incorporate before you add the second.

Divide the dough in half. Place the first half between two sheets of parchment paper, and roll into a rectangular shape about 1/8 or 1/4" thick. Roll out the second half of dough between two additional sheets of parchment paper. Refrigerate the dough sheets for about 15 minutes until stiff. Note: The dough is much easier to cut if it is very cold and stiff.

Remove the dough sheets from the refrigerator and peel off the top sheet of parchment paper. Cut the graham cracker dough into the desired shape.

Using a fork, prick the top of the dough in several places.

In a preheated 350 degree F oven, bake the crackers for 12-15 minutes or until then are golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Geaux Saints - Sugar Cookies

Geaux Saints !!!

I won a pair of tickets to the New Orleans Saints' Divisional Game in the Superdome, and in honor of the occasion I baked some Fleur De Lis Sugar Cookies. Don't tar and feather me, but I didn’t have any gold food color so I had to use orange. Sorry, sorry, sorry. I'll get some gold for next week's game. (see my second attempt here)

I also didn’t realize (until I got to the Dome and saw the big Fleur De Lis on the playing field) that the Saint’s color scheme was actually Gold-White-Black and not White-Gold-Black like I made my cookies. Silly me.

The recipe I use for cut out sugar cookies is called "No Fail Sugar Cookies - NFSC" and is very similar to the recipe that Toba Garrett uses in her books and in her classes. The cookie dough has to be chilled before cutting out the shapes and again before baking, but that is a small price to pay for a sugar cookies that hold even the most intricate shapes. But the best part is... They taste really, really good.

No Fail Sugar Cookies – NFCS


3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking power
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract


In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Mix for another 2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat until well combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together baking powder, salt and flour. Add the flour mixture 1 cup at a time to the butter mixture, blend at medium-low speed. Blend in the last cup of flour by hand. Do not overmix or the cookies will be tough.

Place about half the dough between two sheet of parchment or wax paper. Roll out the dough to the desired thickness (1/8 – 1/4"). Place in the refrigerator. Roll out the second half of the dough between more wax paper. Place in refrigerator. Chill both sheets of dough for 15 minutes or until it feels stiff. Note: the stiffer the dough is, the easier it is to cut out the intricate cookie shapes.

Remove one sheet of dough at a time and cut out the cookies. Placed the cutout cookies on an ungreased parchment lined cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet into the refrigerator and chill for 10 minutes. This step is not absolutely necessary, but I found that the cookies hold their shape better if they are cold when they are place in the oven. Re-roll leftover dough scraps and repeat the processes.

Bake at 350 degrees F (preheated and stabilized) for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to turn brown.

Here are a few more pictures from the Saints vs the Cardinals in the Dome. I had a blast. Love ya guys. Deuuuuuuuce!! Reggieee, Reggieee, Reggieee! WHO DAT! WHO DAT!

Outside the Dome it was a sea of Black & Gold...

But there were a few Cardinals fans (just a few)...

The Saints are on the field...

The Half-Time Show...

A few of the fans...

Some fans showed their support for Deuce McAllister who is/was a favorite of the "Who Dat Nation". Deuce McAllister was released from the Saints' roster in February 2009, and re-signed on Friday January 15, 2010. Friday afternoon our office was abuzz with rumors that Deuce was coming back. A few hours later, when the news was confirmed, the offices halls were filled with the resonating call of “Deuuuuuuce”.

Game Over. Saint's - 45, Cardinals - 14. Bless you Boys.

Leaving the Dome..

See ya next week at the Dome.

Who Dat!!!

Geaux Saints!!!

See ya in Miami!!!

I hope...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TWD: Sables

I wanted to catch up on some TWD assignments that I had skipped for one reason or another, so yesterday I baked a batch of Sables (page 131-133 of Dorie Greenspan: Baking From My Home To Yours).

Can I say WOW!

Sables, oh Sables where have you been hiding all my life? Buttery, crumbly, and melt in your mouth good. These little gems were a cross between shortbread and sugar cookies and for added oomph they were encrusted in crunchy grains of coarse sugar. Delicious.

My pictures don't the cookies justice, but believe me they tasted amazing. I devoured/inhaled five cookies in less than two minutes. Yikes, a minute on the lips, a life time on the hips.

The cookies were really easy to mix. Just lightly blend the butter and sugars, and then add the egg yolks.

Next dump the flour in all at once, and mix just until incorporated. According to Dorie, the secret to light, crumbly Sables is not to over mix the flour.

Roll the dough into a log and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. I left mine in the refrigerator overnight and the log was as hard as a brick when I took it out. Brush the log with whisked egg yolk, which acts like glue, and then coat with coarse sugar.

Slice the log into 1/3 inch cookies and bake on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheets for 17-20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

I only baked my cookies for 14 minutes and I had a problem with the edges of the cookies browning too much.

I also noticed that on some of the cookies, the decorating sugar slid off as the cookies baked. I think I used too much egg wash, and, yuck, the pure yolk gule left a yellow film on the side of the cookies that was still visible even after baking. Next time I'll use a milk wash instead of yolks, and I'll squish the coarse sugar firmly into the side of the dough log. I'll also lower the oven temperature to 325, and bake on a baker's stone instead of a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Hopefully I can get the outside of the cookies to look as perfect as the inside tastes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

TWD: Caramel-Topped Flan

For this New Year’s Day luncheon I decided to bake something “different”. After all the Thanksgiving, graduation & Christmas get togethers I figured family and friends were tired of my usually offering of pralines, brownies and sugar cookies. I polled for suggestion and my nine-year-old niece, Amanda, pleaded for Crème Brulee. She said she just “adores” Crème Brulee. (Insert tweeny scream here.) I think her obsession has something to do with the movie High School Musical or was it Twilight?
Oh well, not important…

In preparation of my first attempt at Crème Brulee I pulled out my well used copy of Dorri Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours, flipped to page 392 and skimmed the ingredient list. Cream: check, Milk: check, Eggs and Sugar: check, check. Blowtorch: che…. Wait a minute,


Umm, No. My teeny, tiny kitchen doesn’t boast a blow torch, or 20 individual Crème Brulee baking dishes I would need for all my lunch guest. Sorry, Amanda, no Crème Brulee for you.

But I happened to flipped to the next page in Dori’s book and found Caramel-Topped Flan. The ingredient list was exactly the same as the Crème Brulee. Humm… Flan - Crème Brulee - Flan. Almost the same thing, right?

So the baking began. It was New Year’s Eve afternoon and I was already baking three other desserts, AND I was peeling 15 pounds of shrimp that would go into our traditional New Year’s Day gumbo. No firecrackers or watching "The Ball" drop for me (or in the case of New Orleans residents we watch The Baby New Year (dressed this year as a Saints Player) drop/float down from atop Jax Brewery).

Making the Flan wasn’t too difficult, but there were a lot of steps which required lots of different pots and pans. Here is everything ready to go: 1) The eggs waiting to be whisked with the sugar. 2) The empty 8” round cake pan waiting to go into the oven to heat-up. 3) The pot with the cream and milk. 4) A roasting pan lined with paper towels (this is for the water bath that the flan cooks in). 5) The pot to make the caramel. 6) And you can’t see it in the picture, but I have a big measuring cup filled with water heating up in the microwave (I don’t have a tea kettle to warm it on the stove). Whew, can you say dirty dishes?

First, the 8” round cake pan goes into a preheated 350 degree oven to warm. Meanwhile, start cooking the caramel. Dorie said to cook it for about 5 minutes till it turned amber colored, but mine took about 8 minutes before it turned golden. From left to right are 1 minute of cooking, 5 minutes and 8 minutes.

Next, remove the hot cake pan from the oven (use a good potholder) and immediately pour the hot caramel into the pan. Swirl the pan to make sure the caramel coats the entire pan. WORK FAST. The sugar cools and hardens surprisingly quick. Set the pan aside and move onto the Flan.

Turn the heat on the pot with the cream and milk and bring it to a boil, meanwhile start whisking the sugar and vanilla into the eggs. Now comes the fun part: while still whisking the eggs, drizzle about ¼ of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Don’t dump all the milk in a once or the eggs will curdle and cook. Keep drizzling milk and whisking until all the milk is incorporated.

After all the milk has been added, skim off the bubbles and foam that your vigorous whisking has churned up.

Put the caramel coated cake pan into the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan. Put the roasting pan into the oven. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to reach about halfway up the side of the cake pan. My roasting pan was a little shallow, so I didn’t quite reach the halfway mark.

Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the top is golden brown in patches.

Let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for a least 4 hours. I let mine rest overnight. When ready to serve, run a knife between the flan and the pan, and invert onto a wide lipped serving platter. Make sure the rim of your platter is pretty high. Mine wasn’t high enough and I some of that luscious caramel topping sloshed out.

So how did it taste. Well, Amanda, gave it the thumbs down. It wasn’t Crème Brulee and she wouldn’t even taste it. The other guests thought it was so-so. But my Mom, who is a great lover of Flan, though it was pretty good (she ate all the leftovers). She did say that it needed to be sweeter and need more vanilla extract, but other than that it was pretty good. High praise indeed.

Maybe I’ll try it again one day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

TWD: Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake

This week's TWD assignment allowed us to select between Tarte Tatin and Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake. As a lover of all thing chocolate I, of course, selected the Chocolate (Cup) Cake.

The cake batter came together really easy and the creamed butter, sugar and eggs looked especially light and fluffy.

The recipe gave the option of adding melted chocolate to the batter, but I decided against using it. I wanted the cake to be light and fluffy and I was afraid the melted chocolate would make the cake too dense and brownie-like.

I also decided on cupcakes instead of a fancy layered cake.

Just out of the oven. The cupcakes didn't puff up much and the color looks a little pale, but...

...they sure tasted great. Thanks again, Dorie.

PS: I also didn't have any malt powder to make the prescribed frosting, so I whipped up a chocolate ganache instead. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Nothing better on earth.

Friday, January 1, 2010

TWD: Dorie's Favorite Pecan Pie

Things were crazy busy during December, so I didn't get a chance to bake ANY of the Tuesday with Dorie December assignments. I felt so guilt that on New Year’s Eve (afternoon) I was in the kitchen baking not ONE but THREE TWD assignments.

The first one finished was “Dorie’s Favorite Pecan Pie”. The dessert was going to a New Year’s Eve party, so I wanted the pie to be more finger-foodish.

Ta Da – mini chocolate pecan pies.

Like any pecan pie, it is a breeze to throw together. Pretty much dump all the indigents into a bowl, give it a few stirs, pour it into a pie shell, and bake. Dorie’s Favorite Pecan Pie is different from most because it contains chocolate, cinnamon, and espresso powder.

So has Dorie’s Favorite Pecan Pie become mine? Well honestly, no. I love chocolate. I love Pecan Pie. But for some reason I didn’t like the two combined.

I think I’ll stick with my go-to Maple Pecan Pie recipe. It is sweet, gooey, and the maple flavor gives it a unique taste.