Category Archives: Challenges and Groups

Maple Mousse in Phyllo Cups (Daring Bakers April)

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz.  Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

What to say about this month’s Daring Bakers challenge…

I should really start with the fact that I’m not a big fan of maple syrup… Sure, I’ll drizzle it on my pancakes or waffles… And, I like to use it as a sweetener in baked goods or granola. But, I tend to like it with other flavors.  So, right off the bat, I had a bit of a bad feeling.

In the end, the mousse ended up being exactly what I feared… Very maple syrupy. To me, it was like drinking maple syrup directly from the jar… I found it to be very lackluster and one-note. For me, it really needed something… Unfortunately, for once, I followed the recipe exactly as written and didn’t mix things up at all.

Don’t let my criticism bring you down, though… If you love (really love) maple syrup, you just might like it. My husband did.

The recipe for the maple mousse is really quite simple… In fact, my husband said he thought he could make it. I think he’s right. So, that aspect of the challenge really wasn’t very challenging. I’m assuming that a simple recipe was chosen to encourage all of the bakers to focus their creativity and effort on the edible containers. That’s all fine and good. But, I wasn’t feeling too inspired by the edible container challenge… I had a hard time putting time and effort into a container for something I really didn’t like.

In the end, I used some (store bought… GASP) phyllo dough to make phyllo cups for the mousse. It was almost as easy as the mousse. I slacked.  I admit it.

In case you are interested in giving the mousse a try, I’ve included the recipe in this post.  I think it would be much better with some spices/toppings/etc… And, if you love maple syrup.  A lot.

Maple Mousse

  • 1 cup pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (35% fat content), divided

Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple
syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t
curdle).  Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.

Meanwhile, measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.  Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.

Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake (Daring Bakers March)

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

I was really excited when I saw this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. I love making yeast breads. I’m also a big fan of coffee cakes and breakfast treats. In two years of blogging, I have posted three different recipes for cinnamon rolls… Do I need to say more?

I decided to make the coffee cake with half whole wheat pastry flour instead of using all purpose flour for the whole recipe. I like to make things whole wheat… It makes me feel a bit better about indulging on sweet treats! I also made the whole recipe for the dough and froze half of it for another time. Since I only baked one coffee cake, I halved the meringue and filling (well, OK, I think I was a bit heavy handed on the filling).

Unfortunately, despite my high hopes, I wasn’t too thrilled with how it turned out. It certainly wasn’t bad… But, I really didn’t love it, either. Perhaps I made the cuts in the dough too deep, but I didn’t really like the way the meringue filling was spilling out of the coffee cake. Granted, I’m also not really a fan of meringue in general. I also found the overall cake to be a bit dry. Since I did make some substitutions, though, that may have been my fault and not an issue with the original recipe.

I may try the recipe again at some point with a fruit filling instead of the nuts and chocolate that I used this time. I also think that I would enjoy it much more sans meringue. With a few tweaks here and there, I think this could be a recipe that I would make regularly… It’s the perfect dish for a brunch get together!

Here’s the recipe that was provided for the challenge…

Filled Meringue Coffee Cake
(Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter)

For the yeast coffee cake dough:

  • 4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
  • 1/4 cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon (5 g / 1/4 oz.) salt
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
  • 1/2 cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature

For the meringue:

  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar

For the filling:

  • 1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 1/2 cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling:

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue. In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the 1/2 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes:

Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 1/2 cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 1/2 cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.

Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

Sour Cream Anise Panna Cotta with Lace Cookies (Daring Bakers February)

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 had fun with this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. I love panna cotta, but I don’t make it nearly enough.  It’s one of those desserts that I love to order at restaurants, but don’t typically think to make at home.

Since I have made panna cotta before, I decided to mix it up a bit this time with some new flavors.  A few months ago, I had some sour cream anise ice cream at one of my favorite restaurants, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I just loved the flavors. Since I had some whole star anise in my pantry, I decided to try to use the same flavors in my panna cotta.

I wasn’t so sure about the florentine cookies, though.  The recipe seemed to be a combination of a traditional florentine cookie and what I have always known to be “lace cookies” made with rolled oats.  I didn’t think the chocolate in the florentine cookies would pair real well with my sour cream and anise panna cotta, so I decided to adapt a recipe for lace cookies from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (one of my favorite cookie resources).  I added a few of my favorite spices to the recipe for some extra flavor, too.  Instead of milk chocolate or dark chocolate, I opted for white chocolate to sandwich and drizzle a few of the cookies.

To tie it all together, I paired the panna cotta and cookies with some homemade lemon curd and a few blueberries.  It turned out to be the perfect combination of creamy and crunchy. The panna cotta had just the right amount of anise flavor, with a hint of tang from the sour cream. I loved the way it paired with the bright flavor of the lemon curd.

This is definitely a recipe I will make again.  It’s elegant enough for a dinner party (especially if you pour the panna cotta into fancy glasses) but it’s also easy enough to enjoy any time.  I ended up serving the panna cotta in a few different ways.  I tried chilling some in ramekins that I unmolded and served on top of a cookie, and I also poured some into some small crystal glasses that I have (and rarely use… wedding gift). My favorite presentation for the panna cotta, though, was to layer it with the lemon curd in some small canning jars.  I crumbled up a few of the cookies into the tops of the jars right before serving for some crunch.  I just think it would be perfect for a picnic!

Sour Cream Anise Panna Cotta
(Adapted from the Daring Bakers recipe from Giada De Laurentiis)

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half
  • 1 cup cold milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 packet (1/4 ounce) of unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch Kosher salt
  • 1 cup sour cream

Pour the heavy cream into a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the star anise, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pot, and add the two halves of the vanilla bean.  Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat slightly, and cook for about 20 minutes to infuse the cream with the anise and vanilla.

Meanwhile, pour the milk into a bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let the gelatin soften in the milk for about 5 minutes.

Strain the star anise and the vanilla beans from the cream, and return the cream to the saucepan.  Add the honey, sugar, and a pinch of salt.  Cook, whisking occasionally, over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 – 3 minutes. Add the milk and gelatin and continue to whisk until dissolved, an additional 2 – 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat, and whisk in the sour cream.

Cool slightly before pouring the liquid into glasses, ramekins, or jars. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Spiced Lace Cookies
(Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion)

  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups rolled oats (old fashioned oatmeal)
  • 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon mat and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom in a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and work into the oats mixture.  Add the beaten egg and vanilla extract and stir until it has been evenly incorporated and a sticky dough forms.

Place teaspoons (yes, teaspoons… the cookies spread quite a bit) about 3 – 4 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 7 – 8 minutes, until golden/amber in color.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, and then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Please note that the links to the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion provided on this page are Amazon affiliate links.

Nutella Sandwich Cookies

A very important holiday is here! No, I’m not talking about the important football game this weekend, a president’s birthday, or that sweethearts’ day where you have to buy flowers and candy. I’m talking about World Nutella Day!

You haven’t heard of it? It’s the (not so) official holiday for Nutella lovers around the world to unite and celebrate their love of Nutella! The lovely bloggers over at Ms. Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso have declared that today, February 5th, 2010 is World Nutella Day. It’s exciting!

But, the excitement doesn’t stop there! Not only is today World Nutella Day, but it is also the launch date of my good friend Paula’s new site Bella Nutella! It is sure to be the new hot spot for drool-worthy Nutella photos and recipes. You won’t want to miss it!

So, let’s raise our spoons and get right to the celebrating, shall we?

As a Nutella lover and a food blogger, I try to keep the spirit of World Nutella Day all year long.  I always have a jar of Nutella (the giant economy sized jar) in my pantry and a spoon handy. And, I love developing recipes using Nutella… I’m sure you’ve seen a few of them here in the past!

You are also probably familiar with my recent cookie obsession.  This year, for World Nutella Day, I thought I’d combine my love of cookies and my love of Nutella into one recipe.  I took my standard sugar cookie recipe and adapted it to make Nutella cutout cookies.  They are delicious on their own and made into Nutella sandwiches (which I will share with you today!), but they also are perfect for decorating!  I’ll be sharing some of the decorated Nutella cookies throughout the next week or so, so stay tuned!

Nutella Cutout Cookies
(Makes about 2 dozen 3 1/2 inch cutout cookies)

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Approximately 1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet (or line with parchment/silicon mat) and set aside.

Beat together the butter, Nutella, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and sea salt.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, mixing on low speed, until the dough begins to come together.  If the dough seems dry and crumbly, add a small amount of heavy cream until the dough comes together.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it out to about 1/4-inch thickness.  Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes out of the dough and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes.  Let them cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets, and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. If desired, frost with royal icing or make Nutella cookie sandwiches (shown below).

Nutella Sandwich Cookies

  • Nutella cutout cookies, cut into 2-inch circles
  • Jar of Nutella (you won’t use the whole thing… well, probably not)

To make the Nutella sandwich cookies, simply spread Nutella on one of the cookies.  Top with another cookie, and you have a Nutella sandwich.  Enjoy!

Ice Cream Entremet (Daring Bakers January)

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.

This month’s challenge reminded me, yet again, of the reason that I joined the Daring Bakers in the first place. The challenges force me to try things I would ordinarily not choose to make on my own.

This month’s recipe was one of those that I would not ordinarily make on my own, but I definitely enjoyed the challenge.  I’m not a big fan of sponge desserts. But, I am a fan of ice cream, so I decided to fill my entremet with layers ice cream, caramel, chocolate ganache, and whipped cream. With all of those ingredients that I love, I knew I wouldn’t mind the sponge one bit!

At first, the dessert looked a bit intimidating to me. But, when all was said and done, it turned out to be much easier than I had expected. I made only a half-batch of the cocoa jacone paste to pipe the decorations.  I still had much more than I needed, so if I were to make this again, I would probably actually make only one quarter of what the recipe calls for.

For my dessert, I used my 9-inch springform pan as a mold.  I lined both the sides and the bottom of the pan with the sponge, and then I added the layers of filling – vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, sponge, chocolate ganache, more vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream.

The layers didn’t hold up quite as well as I had hoped. I probably would have had better results if I had frozen each layer individually as I worked, but I was short on time.  Next time, I will probably make smaller, individually portioned desserts, as well. I think they would be easier to assemble… And, considerably cuter!

Even though the ice cream layers ran together, and my dessert didn’t turn out to be the prettiest thing I have ever made, it was delicious… And, I didn’t mind the sponge one bit!

Here is the recipe for the sponge provided with the Daring Bakers challenge…

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
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2⅔ oz/ 75g confectioners’ (icing) sugar
  • ¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour
  • 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


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.

Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl.) 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. )

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.

Fold in melted butter.  Reserve batter to be used later.

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.


Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand). Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.

Fold in sifted flour. Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.

Preparing the Jaconde:

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.

Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.

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.

Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.

Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)