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baking, cooking, and other adventures

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies February 28, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Cookies,The Daring Bakers' — pastrybrush @ 12:45 pm
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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 actually made the Panna Cotta at the beginning of the month for my birthday dessert.  I made the chocolate version and then layered it with Raspberry Gelee.  It turned out fantastic.  It took some time to get the layers to set so that I was able to layer it correctly, but it turned out beautifully.  I loved the flavor of the chocolate and the raspberry together.

With regard to the Florentine Cookies, well I slacked a little and they are currently cooling on the counter waiting to be filled with melted chocolate, yummy.  Once those are finished I will update this post.  I planned to do all of this yesterday but we decided to visit a couple of Baby stores to get an idea of what we want to get for our little symbiote 🙂

The Florentine Cookies were very yummy.  I kept a few in the house and Mike took the rest to work where they disappeared very quickly.  So I would say that that recipe is a success and very easy to make 🙂 (more…)


Tuesdays With Dorie: Toasted Almond Scones February 22, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Scones,Tuesdays With Dorie — pastrybrush @ 11:51 pm
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This weeks Tuesdays With Dorie was chosen by Mike of Living Out West.  He picked Dorie’s Toasted Almond Scones which are located on pages 28-29 in Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Who doesn’t love a scone?  Especially straight out of the oven, the flaky biscuity texture is to die for.  I baked these up this morning before I went to work and had a healthy breakfast of 2 scones, a bowl of fruit, and some yogurt.  The scones were perfect.

At first I thought that the recipe didn’t have enough sugar in it (2 Tbsp), but then if you think about what a traditional scone is you usually don’t see too much sugar and it is more about the topping than anything else.  This morning I just had my scones straight up with no toppings.  Which I think was good since I was already getting natural sugars from the fruit (pineapple, strawberries, and bananas) I was eating.  If I ever get a craving for Almond Scones, I will be making this again 🙂


Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate Oatmeal Drop February 16, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Cookies,Tuesdays With Dorie — pastrybrush @ 6:18 pm
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Why is it that I will make the recipe, eat a few, and then not post?

I guess part of it was that I still haven’t taken a picture, which I will get around to and just add to the post.

So, this weeks Tuesdays With Dorie was chosen by Caroline and Claire of Bake With Us.  They picked Dorie’s Chocolate Oatmeal Drops which are located on page 75 in Baking: From My Home to Yours.  I loved this recipe for 2 reasons: 1) VERY easy to make, and 2) It had chocolate 🙂

These cookies came together very easily.  I decided to only make 1/2 a recipe because I was being greedy with my butter.  I knew a full batch would sit around the house way too long since we are still working on two cakes and other sweet items from my birthday on Monday 🙂  These cookies are definitely a winner.  The first thing that I noticed while they were baking is the hint of cinnamon amongst the chocolate.  Which is exactly how they taste.  When you first bite into the cookie you get that hint of cinnamon then you taste a deep chocolate flavor.  At the end of the cookie you get a slight nuttiness from the oats and then get a nice salt bite.  Mike’s reaction was that they were good and you need a glass of milk with them 🙂


Daring Cooks: Hiyashi Soba and Tempura February 15, 2011

Filed under: Main Courses,The Daring Cooks' — pastrybrush @ 11:35 am
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Sorry, this is a day late.  I made everything this weekend, and then never had time to post yesterday since it was my birthday and then we went to the doctor to find out that we are having a baby girl 🙂

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

I have actually made Vegetable and Shrimp Tempura a number of times.  I actually think the first time was in my teens, and we fried everything up outside in my Dad’s huge deep fryer. This time around there is no huge deep fryer just me using a pretty big Flaming Orange Dutch Oven 🙂  When I compared the recipe for this challenge with my go to Tempura recipe the only huge difference that I noticed was that this recipe had 1/2 cup less flour, but I decided to go with it.  Everything turned out great.  We fried up sliced sweet potato (one of my FAVORITES), sweet onion rings, whole mushrooms, and a bunch of shrimp.  Instead of the usually thick coating of batter it was a nice thin crispy layer that was a nice change.

For the Hiyashi Soba aka Cold Soba Salad, I decided to change the noodles up a bit because Mike wasn’t sure if he would like Soba Noodles and I was feeling that Udon would be better.  I ended up cooking up some Udon Noodles, we served it with the Spicy Dipping Sauce and julienne slices of Orange and Red Pepper.  This was also very yummy.  Mike liked the sauce with the vegetables but he wasn’t sure about it with noodles.   I think that is because we decided to toss the noodles in the sauce and he used WAY too much in his bowl 🙂

Hiyashi Soba:

Recipes courtesy of Globetrotter Diaries and About.com-Japanese Food
Serves 4

Soba Noodles:

2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)


Cooking the noodles:

  1. Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
  2. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.

Mentsuyu – Traditional dipping sauce:

2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.
1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)

*Note: If you can’t find Mirin, a substitute recipe can be found HERE


  1. Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Spicy Dipping Sauce:

¾ cup 70gm/2½ oz spring onions/green onions/scallions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons (45 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (4 ⅔ gm) (0.16 oz) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1/8 gm) (0.005 oz) English mustard powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) grape-seed oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil (if you can’t find this just omit from recipe.)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – roughly 1/3 a teaspoon of each


1. Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.

Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:

  • Thin omelet strips
  • Ham
  • Boiled chicken breasts
  • Cucumber
  • Boiled bean sprouts
  • Tomatoes
  • Toasted nori (Dried Seaweed)
  • Green onions
  • Wasabi powder
  • Finely grated daikon (Japanese radish)
  • Beni Shoga (Pickled Ginger)

All toppings should be julienne, finely diced or grated. Prepare and refrigerate covered until needed.


Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl. Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori. In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each. In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, grated daikon, and green onions.
The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!


Recipes courtesy of pink bites and itsy bitsy foodies
Serves 4

1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)

Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:

  • Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
  • Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
  • Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
  • Green beans, trimmed
  • Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
  • Assorted fresh mushrooms
  • Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
  • Onions sliced


  1. Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
  3. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
  4. Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
  5. Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.


Tuesdays With Dorie: Bourbon Bread Pudding February 8, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Tuesdays With Dorie — pastrybrush @ 7:09 pm
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This weeks Tuesdays With Dorie was chosen by Sharon from Simply Southern.  She picked Dorie’s Bourbon Bread Pudding which is located on page 407 in Baking: From My Home to Yours.  I can’t state this enough, I love bread pudding.  Mike always seems to think it takes like French Toast which I guess it does since it is pretty much almost the same way we make French Toast.  But sometimes it matters what type of bread pudding you are having: does in have a bourbon sauce (yummy), is there a baked meringue on top (yummier), and both just make it super yummy.

Dorie’s recipe is just a simple base bread pudding recipe, which I changed up just a bit for my taste and according to what I had on hand.  I only made half a recipe, and I substituted Vanilla Bean Paste for the Vanilla Extract and the Almond Extract.  Since we didn’t have any bourbon in the house….what a shame, really…bourbon is yummy, I substituted Jack Daniels.  I used all non-fat milk instead of whole milk and heavy cream.  Finally, I added 1/2 cup of golden raisins soaked in Cointreau to the recipe, which makes it extra yummy 🙂

This turned out super fantastic.  I wish I would have made a bourbon sauce to go with it but since all the bourbon doesn’t burn off and I am currently sustaining life for myself and my symbiote, I decided that that might be a bad idea and opted for Vanilla Ice Cream (not pictured).


Tuesdays With Dorie: Great Grains Muffins February 1, 2011

This weeks Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Christine of Happy Tummy.  She picked Dorie’s Great Grains Muffins which are located on pages 8-9 in Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Holy Crap!!! I actually have all the ingredients I need…well sans prunes, but I have plenty of other dried fruits (cranberries, cherries, blueberries, apricots, orange flavored cranberries, golden raisins, etc.)  Now I just need to decide which dried fruit to go with.

At first, I was stuck on apricots and then at the last moment I decided to go with cranberries.  I decided to put an entire cup of cranberries in because who doesn’t want plenty of cranberries in their muffins.  I only changed two other things about the recipe, 1) I sprinkled the tops of the muffins with sugar, and 2) I baked these at 350°F for 20 -25 minutes.  I changed the baking time and temperature because lately when I have baked any muffins at 400°F they got WAY too brown on the bottoms.  So I opted to be on the safe side, and they turned on fantastic.

I ate one of the muffins after it had cooled for a couple of minutes and it was still warm and yummy.  The addition of the sugar on top gave it a nice sweet crunch and the dried cranberries added a nice tartness.  With all the grains in the muffin the only one that stood out to me was the cornmeal because it gave the muffin a nice nutty crunch on the outside, reminiscent of a piece of cornbread.  I will definitely be making these muffins again 🙂