Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What I've Been Doing

So, despite my absence from the blogging world I've been keeping up with my passion for baking and cooking. Part of my apparent issue with consistent updates is my frustration with my very basic digital camera, and my inability to make it take good pictures regularly.
One of the cool challenges I had recently (that was not photographed) was to make a vegan dessert for a very belated Christmas party in February. I had never before attempted making a vegan dessert, and was definitely not a fan of them. The lack of butter, cream, or anything that really adds moisture to a delicious dessert, is not allowed and therefore not on my agenda. So, this was a real challenge.

After trying a recipe of Angela's at Oh She Glows, I found that my previous judgement still stood and I revamped the recipe to make it easier to consume for both vegans and animal eaters alike.

Something I found very intriguing was the avocado base of Angela's Chilled Double Chocolate Torte, and so I kept that and rather than making the chocolate vegan cake again (which came out extremely dry) I processed some vegan chocolate ginger cookies into small crumbs, combined them with some almond milk, and pressed a crust into the bottom of the cake pan, and in between two layers of the torte filling (think ice cream cake). I also added another ounce of melted chocolate to the filling to make the avocado taste less conspicuous. I was extremely happy with this attempt, and it made the cut for the party. No one could even tell it was vegan!

Anyway, though I didn't take any pictures of my vegan challenge, here is a photo journal of the past few months:


It's apples and oranges.

"I'm sorry"

Parmesan Cauliflower Cake

A reinvention of Ina's pesto fish dish


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip. These are dangerous.

Salted Peanut Caramel Cups

Peanut butter cookies filled with salted peanut caramel and drizzled with chocolate. After these babies my office literally demanded more treats.

Candied ginger. Time consuming, but a great Christmas gift and snack to munch on. Also a great addition to apple pie.

About to cook down the cherries for winter storage.

Snickerdoodles always warm my heart.

I think peanut brittle is the hardest thing I've ever made, but homemade peanut brittle is SO much better than store bought.

I'm not as good as making and thinking up lovely things to say for Valentine's Day, so I just made a giant heart out of cupcakes.
If you're interested in any of these recipes let me know and I will post them!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Panna Cotta and Florentines

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.

I was actually dreading the process of making Panna Cotta. Not for any good reason because I love eating creamy desserts like Creme Brulee, but I think I previously had a severe mental block about making them myself.

But I do have to say that this dessert was incredible, and a definate option for dinner parties.

Panna Cotta with Coffee Gelee
serves 4-6 depending on dish size


1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon/1 packet unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Mise en place: Place medium pot or saucepan (preferably heavy bottomed) in fridge to cool. Measure out and prep all ingredients.

1. Pour milk into chilled pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly* over surface. Let stand for about 5 minutes to allow gelatin to soften.

2. Place milk (in pot) over medium heat until the mixture is hot without boiling (this will take around 5-7 minutes).

3. Whisk in cream, honey, sugar, and salt. Continue to heat mixture without boiling until sugar and honey melts, stir occasionally.

4. Remove from heat and cool mixture for a few minutes. Pour into ramekin or glass and refigerate for at least 6 hours.**

Coffee Gelee


2 cups brewed coffee of your choice
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Mix hot water and sugar in saucepan over heat. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.

2. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over cold water and let it sit for 2 minutes.*

3. Stir the coffee, sugar water, and vanilla into small bowl. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved and allow to cool to room temperature before adding to panna cotta (or it will melt).

Add additional toppings if desired.

Makes about 20 assembled cookies

These are different from the almond Florentines I usually make, but these are very very yummy and a bit more traditional.


2/3 cup/5.3 oz unsalted butter
2 cups quick oats
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 dark corn syrup
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4-5 oz chocolate of your choice (I used Ghiradelli's 60% dark)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Melt butter in medium saucepan, don't move away from stove or butter might burn.

3. Add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix until combined.

4. Drop an even tablespoon of dough, 3 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. I found that anything that measured more than a tablespoon ended up being too big.

5. Bake in pre-heated oven 6-10 minutes until cookies are golden brown. This will depend on your oven. Cool cookies for about 15 minutes on pan, then remove to rack to cool completely.

6. While cookies are cooling, melt your chosen chocolate in a double boiler. Match cookies up according to size and spread melted chocolate to flat side of one cookie. Sandwich it, and let it set!

These are seriously addicting.

*If gelatin is not sprinkled evenly, it may result in clumping in the finished product
**If you wish to layer panna cotta and gelee, you do have to refrigerate 6 hours after each layer is added