Monday, December 27, 2010

The Stollen that Never Was...

We just couldn't bring ourselves to bake this one. Sara hates cooked fruit. Neither of us likes fruit cakes. At all. And we're both well versed in bread baking, so we didn't feel the "dare" motivation this month.

Instead, we baked and cooked up a bunch of other holiday treats including pierogies (Sara) and buckeyes (Erica) and various cookies (both of us).

However, we want to continue our daring baking into 2011, so we're posting this little blurb to make it under the wire in 2010. We sincerely hope other daring bakers enjoyed this challenge. Happy Holidays to all!

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Some exciting news for our loyal blog readers out there - both Erica and I successfully tackled the California Bar Exam and can now proudly add some new letters to our signatures. Such a relief to have that done with!

I would like to report that this month's challenge was worthy of our celebration. But it was not meant to be. The gap between what we were expecting and the end result was possibly the largest it has ever been - and not in the right direction. :-(

In theory, our Crostata should have been delectable. I tracked down some black mission figs, some triple creme brie, and some organic honey, thinking that we'd add a touch of savory/sweet to the traditional pastry creme. I made the dough early in the day, and on bringing it over to Erica's house, proclaimed it "the best dough I had ever tasted." The pastry creme set up right, and we popped it into Erica's oven to toast to a golden brown (we added the toppings later - frequent followers know the reason why...).

Sadly, however, Erica's oven has a wee bit of a temper, and apparently we weren't showing it enough love. When we checked it eight minutes early, the top was a crisp. Since it was no longer shaking, we pulled it out, thinking the extra heat had cooked it through.

The highlight of this challenge was probably our aesthetic prowess - for once, I can say that this actually looked better than it tasted. That wasn't a high bar, but the brie and fig lattice crust was quite pretty, and a drizzle of honey added a warm glow.

But, man, in case anyone ever offers you undercooked pastry creme, please turn it down. A gloppy, raw mess was in store for us, and I imagine that most of this ended up in the garbage. I'd like to say we tried again, but the results were just too disappointing. Perhaps the sting of defeat will lessen with time, and we'll try again another time. Until then, we'll just relish our non-gustatory victories...

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Fall State of Mind

Both Sara and I are missing the typical New England fall a little bit these days.  Crunchy leaves.  Crisp weather.  Apple picking.  Cider and donuts.

So we were excited for this challenge, as it gave us the opportunity to make our own donuts--a first for both of us--and enjoy some fall traditions.  We heated up some home-made hard cider and made a roasted pumpkin dish for a hearty lunch to fuel our donut making.

The smiley face we found on our pumpkin foreshadowed the ones on our faces throughout this challenge.  Donuts were fun to make, and, of course, even more fun to eat. We decided to do a batch of pumpkin pie-spiced yeasted donuts and a batch of traditional cakey cider donuts. (A big thank you to Cat - master of reduction - who helped us out with the cider donuts.)

Exciting times: Sara hosted our monthly challenge in her new apartment.  And we got to use her new mint green mixer.  Isn't it lovely?  Doesn't that cider look tasty?  (It was.)

We were a little worried about the yeasted donut dough because it was quite sticky and required a lot of extra flour, but it ended up turning out fine.  We got creative with our donut cutting implements--a martini glass for the outside, and a champagne glass for the inside.  Sara's abundant glassware is one of the many reasons that she needs to host a party in her new digs.

The yeasted donuts looked perfect, and here they are about ready to rise.

The cider donut dough was also a little sticky, but similarly worked out in the end.  As you can see, our first attempt at cutting these smaller donuts with glassware resulted in a too-big hole.  So we opted to cut the center hole by hand, with great results.

Waiting for the oil to heat up to perfect frying temperature...  Aren't the little swirlies neat?

Frying the donuts!  This was so exciting to do, though a little scary since we discovered that Sara's apartment did not come with a fire extinguisher.  We were pretty sure her neighbors had one.  Luckily, we never needed to find out.

 Frying the little donut holes.  It was neat to see the yeast donuts immediately float on the surface, whereas the cider donuts sank, and then gradually floated up.

The finished product!  Our donuts turned out beautifully.  One of our more aesthetically pleasing challenges, which is pretty rare for us.

More importantly, they were absolutely delicious.

And in the spirit of fall, donuts and Halloween:

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

The donut recipes we used were:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sugar Cookie Encore

When I saw the September challenge, I quickly emailed Erica, quoting the challenge:

"It took me a long while to decide on a challenge and eventually I settled on something that I had never done before but had long admired. Decorated Sugar Cookies, and I’m not talking random squiggles and dots, I’m talking about beautifully decorated cookies that are perfect to give as a gift or to make for party or wedding favours."

I'm pretty sure this means that you have to help me make, say 240 cookies to give out as wedding favors. How does that sound? :-)
Her response:

Ooooo!!! Definitely a sign, though not for 240 cookies :)

So instead we gathered in early September to make some fall themed cookies (and some to celebrate my friend's birthday).

We started with some very easy sugar cookie dough. I make a lot of cookies, and this one was very simple (and sadly, not very tasty...). We looked through Erica's collection of cookie cutters, finding only a star of david and some other not-quite-fall-appropriate shapes. So we rolled out the dough and began some freeform shapes, deciding that fall leaves were the most achieveable.

Once the cookies were baked, we tried our hand at decorating. Our baking skills generally fall into oh-so-tasty, rather than oh-so-pretty. However, we did succeed in making some of them look presentable (I must confess, however, that we largely stole ideas from other daring bakers....).

We took them outside for a beautiful September day photo shot - notice the view straight to the bay!

So while these cookies were not meant to be wedding favours (or really for consumption by anyone), our wedding guests were not want for homemade treats. Cookies (of a more tasty variety) were made...

And beer was brewed by Erica and her boyfriend...

We were pretty happy campers!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sugar Cookies, and a Marriage!

This post is going to be a teaser for more sugar cookie reporting to come - I got married yesterday, and while I promised Erica that I would post in the days before the wedding, writing the post quickly slipped to the bottom of the to do list. But it'll get done before our October post, I promise!!!

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Perfect Day for Baked Alaska

San Francisco is typically at its coldest in the summer, with foggy, barely 60-degree days.  Not this week, however.  This week it hit nearly 100 degrees: HOT!  Especially when you don't have air conditioning.

And in this unseasonably hot weather, I attempted Baked Alaska alone, without my baking companion, Sara.  Both of us have been traveling throughout August, taking our "bar trips," and we only had one evening of overlap in the Bay Area - not enough time to undertake this month's challenge.  I missed her in the kitchen!

I tried to do the true baking portions of the recipe in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day.  Lucky me - I had some help from our friend Cat, who was staying at my house during the heat wave in between her own post-bar travels.  She took pictures as I frantically assembled the quickly melting pieces of this dessert.

First, the brown butter pound cake:

Next, Kahlua brownie ice cream, per Cat's request:

Then, the meringue:

I am so glad I invested in a decent set of pastry tips.  More meringue piping:

And then, after some freezing time, we busted out the blowtorch!

And scorched the meringue:

Ever the manly man, TJ wielded the blow torch while I took pictures.  Perfect result!

And the interior was perfect, too:

This was definitely a great dessert to enjoy at the end of a hot day.

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

For my version, I used two additional recipes.  For the brownies, I used a tried-and-true recipe from The Wednesday Chef, which makes very fudgy brownies:
the_wednesday_chef/2010/02/alice-medrichs-cocoa-brownies.html.  For the Kahlua ice cream, I used a new (to me) recipe, with delicious results:
.  Instead of stirring in the semi-sweet chocolate at the end, I just chopped my chilled brownies into bite-size pieces and stirred them in while the ice cream was still soft, and then let it harden in the tea cup molds in the freezer.  I had brownies and ice cream left over for later enjoyment!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Baking and the Bar, Part II

When this post comes live, Erica and I will be in day one of the California Bar Exam. Scary stuff people, scary stuff.

And what do Erica and I do when we're about to encounter scary stuff?

Apparently we make ice cream cake.

Sorry for the short post/iPhone photo this time around. We'll be back in full force soon!

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Baking and the Bar -- Pavlovas

Sara and I have entered a dark time in our lives.  We are studying for the California Bar.  What does this entail?  Usually 3 or more hours of dry bar lecture -- though sometimes we are lucky and get to listen to 7 hours of it! -- followed by another 4 or more hours of practice questions, essays, and studying.  Yuck, right?

Yeah.  Yuck yuck yuck!

So it's not surprising that we jumped at the chance to take a break with this month's Challenge.  In fact, we were especially excited for it because both of us are big fans of meringue, and Sara adores pavlovas in particular.

We're getting to be pros at anything involving whipping up some egg whites or cream, and then folding in chocolate or whatever other deliciousness, so this recipe posed no problems for us.

I finally invested in some proper pastry piping bags and tips, so for the first time we did not struggle with our piping.

We turned out some beautiful shapes for our pavlovas.

They included circles, a rectangle, a Christmas tree, a raindrop (sort of), a little bear's head, a plant sprout, and a star.  Oh, and a certain part of the male anatomy.  (Blame Sara for that last one. Ironic, since she explicitly banned them in any form at her own bachelorette party last weekend!)

Our mousse was a perfect consistency, and we both very much enjoyed the chocolate-orange combination.  In retrospect, we would have wanted to vary the colors a little -- perhaps a lighter, non-chocolate pavlova with the chocolate mousse, or a different flavor mousse with the chocolate pavlova.  Oh well -- next time!

The mascarpone cream added some variety and was quite tasty.  We were ultimately glad that we did not have any Sambucca on hand and had to omit it from the cream, as that seemed like a strange addition to the other flavors.

In the end, our pavlovas looked great and tasted divine.  We can only hope that our success in the kitchen this month can translate to success on the Bar in July!

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Erica and I had a lot to celebrate this past month, and we're happy to report that a successful croquembouche helped us do that!

We started this little projected nearly 2 years ago, when we had just finished a tough 1L year. We thought baking (and blogging) would be a nice remedy to way that law school can make you forget about the other things in life - good food, good friends, and new challenges that don't come in the form of rules and statutes. I'm proud to report, that after 3 years of hard work, Erica and I have officially earned the name sake of our blog - we received our juris doctor degrees on May 14th.*

Thanks to the awesome schedulers at BarBri (the bar review course that most newly minted JDs shell out the big bucks for in order to prepare for the bar exam), some of us had a rockin' three days between graduation and the beginning of class. No rest of the weary, huh? So with one of our days off, Erica and I tackled the Croquembouche, and two bottles of champagne...

I made two crème patissiere the night before - plain vanilla and chocolate espresso. The later was the result of a remnant chocolate espresso bar - divine, but I must say that the espresso bean pieces did NOT like going through the pastry bag. I seem to always make that mistake.

The next day, Erica and I set in on making the pate a choux. Easy enough! Adding the eggs in was a big strange - the dough didn't want to absorb any egg for quite some time, but eventually the gloppy mess yielded to a smooth dough. While we waited to bake, we watched Martha and Rachel Maddow assemble Martha's "famous" croquembouche (honestly, what is that woman not famous for?). Watching Rachel and Martha interact was quite entertaining - neither seemed particularly comfortable, but we were impressed on their ability to switch from pate a choux to politics and back to caramel. We were also impressed by the beautiful sugar cookies that they used to decorate - in a spontaneous move, we threw together a batch as well.

Despite the flat dough, Erica assured me that the pate a choux would eventually poof up. And poof it did! We almost took them out of the oven about 20 minutes early (always turn to the next page in a recipe), but only about 3 or 4 suffered in the process.

Filling the poofs was a bit of challenge (see espresso beans, supra), but we eventually got at least some crème patissiere in each of them.

We were nervous about assembling, particularly given our utter failure with the gingerbread house, but the caramel was so sticky that it proved really easy to assemble. We added some decorations in celebration of graduation (like the blue and gold there?), and then sat down to enjoy with friends.
Looking forward to the next one! (Something savory please? And something that doesn't involve suet? :-))

* Not quite lawyers yet though - over the next two months, I'm sure you'll hear more about our adventures in BarBri and tackling the dreaded CA bar.

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

And the winner is...

We combined this month's challenge with an Oscars party at Erica's house.  Both of us enjoy critiquing red carpet fashion, although we spend most of our time in jeans and t-shirts.  Wasn't Sandra Bullock's dress amazing?  And, we love her, but didn't Meryl Streep kind of look like she was wearing a bathrobe?

Anyway, Erica prepared the caramel and orange segments the night before.  The process was kind of tedious, though the oranges looked pretty.

Despite the multiple blanching steps required, the marmalade was much less trying to make.  It smelled divine, and turned out perfectly.

The pate sablee was one of the easier doughs we've dealt with as Daring Bakers.  The only problem we had was consuming too much of it raw.  However, this is always a problem...

We were a little nervous with our choice of molds.  We used silicone cupcake liners, since that was the best thing we could come up with.  They looked super-cute going into the freezer, all multi-colored with their little cookie tops.

It turned out we had nothing to worry about!  The Tians were a little lumpy and sticky, but ultimately they looked just like they were supposed to.  We especially enjoyed getting a little creative with our caramel sauce designs.  This degree of attractiveness is a fairly rare achievement for us, so we were both very excited!  Our baking usually tastes great, but it doesn't always look too nice.  In fact, the next day when we un-molded a few that had more time in the freezer, they looked 100% perfect.

So we declare these Orange Tians a winner!  Even Sara, who despises cooked fruit to an extreme degree, had a taste and declared them mildly palatable... or at least she liked the cookie part.  And they were a big hit among our usual group of friend-tasters.

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.