Posted by: Allyn | February 28, 2009

Je t’aime

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

img_0025It’s February and apparently the Daring Bakers are in the mood for love… of chocolate! This intensely rich and chocolate-y cake was exactly what I needed to celebrate V-Day with my petit ami. Our lovely hosts this month made it clear that our choice of chocolate for this recipe would play a direct role in the flavor of our “cake.” I went dark. After swimming through isles of wimpy milk-chocolate covered crap covered in pink hearts since Christmas, I needed to get bitter. Actually, I didn’t go too dark. I chose a 72% dark chocolate flavored with orange rind. I through in a little 80% just for kicks.

With only three ingredients, this “cake” is going to test your folding abilities. It’s going to be dense and gooey, no matter what, but if you don’t fold and do too much stirring, it’s going to lack that wonderful crust and interesting coating that the egg whites give the batter. Oh God, I think I’m drooling.

The other component to the challenge was ice cream. I’ve made ice cream a few times, but for some reason my machine wasn’t cooperating, so this was my first time to go sans machine. I infused my cream with fresh ginger slices, along with some vanilla bean before slowing tempering the egg yolks.

My dad said the ice cream tasted medicinal… but what does he know?? My mom told him he was crazy. He defended himself by saying he was expecting vanilla. Translation: “Why didn’t you just make vanilla?” I just wanted to different, I guess. He should be used to this by now.

It is what it is, and I liked it… scratch that, made love to it.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time:  20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.


This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

And I must say, it was pretty challenging. The only problem I had was achieving the thinness for the crisp layer… Frankly, I didn’t. When it came time to slice the grand log the bottom bits squished out like some kind of child’s toy. I ended up pulling out the crisp layer and serving it alongside each portion.

Live and learn…

My favorite part was definitely the mousse. WOW, that was good stuff. I chose the dark/milk version. I tried to steer clear of all dark/intense elements and chose to break things up with semisweet and milk chocolate substitutions.

The creme brulee layer was pretty eggy tasting, but I didn’t notice it when eaten with all the chocolate elements. And the chocolate glaze was kind of sticky? No, that’s not the right word… Too much gelatin I think. Taste was spot on, though.

I received lots of “oh my gods” from the family members over this one. There was a debate over whether it was too much of a good thing. Um… is that possible… really?

Posted by: Allyn | November 3, 2008

Soooooo late… Daring Bakers October

Daring Bakers challenge for October is pizza! Yum! I’ve been experimenting with whole wheat crusts lately and it was nice to start over with a white crust recipe. I only did savory pizza as I made cupcakes for dessert… which you’ll see were appropriate. The crust was excellently bubbly and chewy, slightly crisp and carried the flavor of the toppings perfectly.

To help me eat the pizzas, I invited over some friends after the Race for the Cure 5k here in town. They were hungry, thank goodness. Not much pizza remained.

Without further ado…

dscf0710First up is pineapple, bacon, country ham, jalapeno. The grill was a little too hot so it’s a little well done, but still very yummy.

dscf0711Traditional sausage, peppers and onions. So very tasty.


dscf0714Veggie pesto.

I basted the crust in roasted garlic flavored grapeseed oil. I also baked these on the grill since I knew it could get much hotter than my oven, and I’ve had more success with grilled pizza than any pizza in my oven.

I doubled the recipe, which worked out fine. Wonderful challenge!

Oh, and remember the cupcakes? It was in honor of Susan G. Komen.

dscf0718Cherry cupcakes with amoretto frosting. Sorry for the blur… I’m not sure what went wrong with my camera.

Posted by: Allyn | September 1, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Eclairs

I have a confession to make. I’ve never eaten an éclair.  I’ve never even been tempted by them. I guess when I went into a bakery, I was swooned by other confections. Poor éclair.

Thank goodness for the Daring Bakers to make me actually try one… and of course try baking several.

I decided to throw a party for my bicycle buddies after a metric century ride. (I needed hungry people to help me eat all these confections.)

Here are the pictures:

After mixing in the eggs to warm dough.

Piped in long strands to cut after going in the freezer… Thank you Tartlette!

I did the steaming method and didn’t open the door. I just lowered the temp and then let them cool in an open oven.

The second pan to go in the oven did better because they weren’t totally frozen, I’m guessing.

Filled with whipped cream and topped with chocolate.

The verdict: I won’t say I’ll never eat another éclair because I’d like to taste one made by a professional, but I didn’t like these. I was expecting crisp pastry and I was disappointed.

But the party guests loved them. All present wished they were larger. Heh, I thought they were cute all teensy weensy like that. Seriously, haven’t these people heard of petit fours? Obviously not. That’s what I get for being from Mississippi.

I also made the Cheesecake Pops from earlier this year when I was not a member. Um… Oh. My. God. Not only incredibly cute, but also incredibly tasty. YUM! I can’t find pictures, though. I guess I forgot to take some of that. Guess I’ll have to make them again. 🙂

Posted by: Allyn | August 6, 2008

I did it!

I ate a macaron (ok, several macarons) from a real bakery (not in Paris) !!!! The best news is that I am pretty close to having this cookie right.

I went to two bakeries in Sacramento and had a definite favorite. They were both good, mind you, but one of them had superior quality. I liked that the macs didn’t seem too perfectly round… maybe because they looked like mine? I still don’t know what the perfect mac is supposed to feel like or taste like. The two bakeries produced very different kinds of macarons. One was more firm, and the ones I liked were a little softer.

It was heaven. We poured milk in wine glasses and sat around the little macs and shared bites of each. I bought every flavor I found. Ginger Elizabeth (my favorite) was 2 almonds and 2 chocolates. Le Petit Paris had fig, chocolate, lemon, pistachio, violet, rose, lavender, strawberry and caramel. All were very yummy. The caramel one rocked the house. We all three loved it along with the fig.

I can’t wait to get home so I can bake more. 🙂

Posted by: Allyn | July 30, 2008

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

This is my very first Daring Bakers Challenge and I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to it. When the challenge was posted I was even more excited to see it was a delicious filbert gateau and it was to be posted ON MY BIRTHDAY!!

Yes, today is my birthday.

So I waited and waited and waited. I ordered nuts and had to wait on those, and then I just had to wait to get closer to the actual due date to start working. I would have started this last weekend and made some things ahead, but I got a last minute request to index a book and that took up most of my time until the wee hours of Tuesday morning. 

So yesterday afternoon I began work, see? First step, whip the yolks. Here I go! (These eggs are kind of sad and yellow… not vibrant and orange. I’ve been spoiled with farm fresh eggs from a family friend… unfortunately they were on vacation.) 

And it was going great! I was worried about the buttercream as I’ve never made that before. Don’t get me wrong. I love to bake, but I usually make 7 minute frosting or a cream cheese. Plus, I make pie more than cake because cake is so special…. mmmmm *drool*

And here was my scariest part (or so I thought) cutting the layers. I would have baked it in 3 separate rounds, but I wanted to be a badass and learn the “right” way. Note the ruler for precision… yeah, it was not helpful.

My layers were uneven, but geez how can I slice a cake into 3 layers when the whole thing is barely reaching 2 inches!?!

So I soaked it and frosted the middles and headed for the ganache. Here’s where the trouble started. I should have put the cardboard round under the cake before I started assembling it, but I thought, “I’ll wait until after I pour the ganache so I won’t have to worry about getting it all over the cardboard.” Little did I know that this cake had gotten pretty heavy and moist after all that syrup and frosting. I managed to move it to the rack and poured the ganache pretty easily, but once I tried moving it onto the cardboard my plan came crashing into reality. I tried sliding a thin baking sheet under the cake while helping it slide onto the cardboard with my hand, but it took about 3 seconds before the cake fell into pieces…


All the work that went into this disaster flashed before my eyes. Literally. This happened in an instant. So I let out a few four letter words while I grabbed a spoon and threw everything into a pretty bowl. Now I have the best damn trifle in the world. 

So I apologize to all you sweet DBers who will come here and look at my results. I had such a cute design planned for my birthday cake… but, hey, this is not only a lesson in baking but also a lesson in life. Sometimes things fall apart so you gotta scrap together what you can and move on. Lemons to lemonade, people.

Bring it on, August!

Posted by: Allyn | July 24, 2008

Get Well Cookies

A friend of mine had a run in with a dog on our group bike ride Tuesday night. He was riding with the hammerheads (an affectionate term for the group that tacks on extra miles and still passes the rest of us on the way back) and averaging about 24 mph when a flash of black came speeding toward the group. The little terrier was chasing the guy in front, paying no attention to the rest of the group, which is why he ran directly in front of my friend’s tire. So down they went.

I had no idea this happened until the end of the ride and there were only 2 guys waiting at the end. Where were the hammerheads?? Somebody told me what had happened and at the time we had no news other than “there was a wreck.”

So the diagnosis is a broken collarbone and a bad case of road rash. This could have been much, much worse and we’re all thankful it was not.

Some folks went down to the emergency room, which I thought about doing, but in the end decided it could get crowded and I didn’t want to hinder the good people from treating the actual sick and injured. So, I baked cookies instead. 🙂

I made Smitten Kitchen’s Oreos… which are so devilishly tempting… constantly beckoning from the  Tupperware that pathetically tries to hush the cookies’ enchanting aromatic birdsong.

Snuggled alongside the Oreos were frosted sugar cookies (with brandy, almond and lemon) that I shaped like dogs. Now my friend is a dog person and he has no ill-will towards the little pup who took him down, but I thought there may be some joy in nibbling off the ears of a tasty lookalike.

And here one is sniffing the butt of a neighbor… sorry, I couldn’t resist.

And since we’re in the doggy theme, I thought I’d share a couple pics of my talented dog, Sparky, doing yoga.

I like his downward dog. Nice form…

“My zen is so good right now I don’t feel the twig on my butt. Ohhmmmm….”


Posted by: Allyn | July 24, 2008

Eat the Rainbow

So you may be thinking that I eat once a week or so and that my single meal is usually dessert. My blogging pattern so far indicates as much.  Well, here’s the thing. My parents have been out of town for almost  3 weeks now and when I do cook, it’s nothing special (like I’ve made a lot of veggie melts with my homemade focaccia, sauteed spinach and melty cheese). Plus, I’m not so good at cleaning up after myself when home alone so the dishes kind of piled up and I had nothing to cook on without cleaning something… and, well… no thank you. Plus, with the triathlon now 9 days away I’ve put a little more effort into my training than into my meals. I’m still eating mostly from home, it’s just nothing worth posting about. Make sense?

So, now that we’ve cleared the air I did just cook a simple stir fry that might be worth sharing. Stir fries by definition are pretty simple. The worst part is the chopping, and I’m thinking culinary school would pay off just by the time you could save with chopping…. and maybe I could develop an immunity to onions in the process.

Whoa, where was I? Stir fry! Right! So I’ll be biking 23 miles and running 4 tonight as one of my last brick training days before the big day. That means when I get home I will be extremely tired and sweaty… probably not too interested in standing by the oven, either. So I cooked a quick stir fry this afternoon with a bunch of veggies from the fridge and some tofu I had pre-chopped in the freezer. (Keeping it in the freezer helps make it a little firmer when cooked.)

I made a sauce of: 4t cornstarch, 3/4 c broth, 2 1/2 T soy sauce, 1 T rice wine vinegar, 2 t sugar, 1 t ginger, 1 lemon juice, and a nice pinch of red pepper flakes.

I fried up the tofu by itself so that it could develop a little flavor on it’s own and not crowd the pan. I sprinkled it with salt while it cooked on med-hi. After about 4 minutes I removed the tofu and added onion, garlic, carrots, bell pepper, and squash. Cooked that for about 3 minutes and deglazed the pan with the aforementioned sauce, making sure to scrape up all the tasty brown bits. Then I wilted in some spinach and viola:

There. See? I do eat vegetables! Pretty, colorful ones… yum!

Oh, and I will eat this over barley and bulgar. No rice in the pantry, but I can improvise.

Posted by: Allyn | July 16, 2008

Pucker Up Creamy Lemon Coconut Pie

I planned to have Craig over last night for a late dinner and a movie. Late because I had a bike ride to tend to. I decided he and I should have my grilled pizza (my favorite post-ride meal) and, after considering many options for dessert, a lemon pie. Now Craig’s favorite pies are Key Lime and Pecan… that’s separately, not together. Recently, though, he mentioned another close favorite – Lemon Meringue. My goal is to make him realize he likes more than just those 3 kinds (I’m not sure he’s had any other kind of pie!!). This time I played it safe by using the lemon flavor and playing with it.

Craig didn’t take the whole pie last night, so I was left with about 3 pieces worth. Gasp! Fortunately, the two guys working on the house were more than happy to have some with their lunch today. And I was more than elated to finish off the last slice.

Pucker Up Lemon Coconut Pie

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 T buttermilk powder
1 T powdered sugar
3/4 stick butter (6 Tbsp)
2 – 3 T orange Juice

1 1/2 c sugar
1/4 t salt
6 T corn starch
2/3 c fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 c water
2 T butter

12 oz. less fat cream cheese
1/2 c powdered sugar
2 t coconut extract (I used a lot more cause mine is weak and the lemon is strong)
1/2 c sweetened coconut flakes
1 c whipping cream (or you can use Cool Whip Free for less fat/calories… can’t say I’ve never done it)

For crust:

Measure dry ingredients into food processor or large bowl. Cut butter into tiny cubes and cut into flour with pastry blade, or by pulsing in the processor, then add OJ until the dough comes together in your hands. Knead just enough to form the dough, but do not overwork it. Pop it in the freezer and get everything ready for the filling. After about 10 minutes, take the dough out of the freezer and roll into 1/8″ thickness to line a deep dish pie pan (I used a tart pan… it’s pretty). Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes. **I did not weigh the dough down with beans, I simply poked it with a fork a few times before baking. The dough shrank up just a bit, but I’m just letting you know it works this way, too. Next time, I may try the weights. Let the crust cool before filling.

For filling:

Stir sugar, cornstarch, and salt in saucepan and then add water, lemon juice, and zest. Crank up heat to medium, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. Remove from heat, stir in the butter and let it cool. While that’s cooling, you can cream the softened cheese with sugar and coconut extract. Fold in the coconut flakes. Beat the cream separately and fold the stiff cream into the cream cheese mixture, but leave enough for the top of the pie, about 1 cup. Spread the cream cheese mixture on the bottom of the cooled crust, pour the cooled lemon mixture over that cream cheese, and then top with leftover whipped cream (Cool Whip).

Note that if you use whipping cream for the topping, you need to top it just before serving or it will lose it’s oomph. You could also stabilize your topping with a little gelatin… or just use cool whip. It’s up to you.

And I must note the idea for this recipe comes from Recipezaar. I just used some creative license.

Posted by: Allyn | July 8, 2008

Pretty in Magenta

If you’re looking for a tart tart… er, I mean a tart tasting, not overly sweet fruit pie-thingy, then plums and raspberries are a good combo for your filling. Plus, they’re pink! Awww… how cute.

I referred to Ina Garten’s plum tart recipe, but was a little lazy in keeping close to the original, but I don’t think the results suffered. Just look at it!

The crust mixture is as follows:

2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 oz. walnuts
1 stick butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt

Put the flour and nuts in the food processor and grind until the nuts are similar in texture to the flour. Add the sugar and salt and process again to mix thoroughly. Now, take the butter and cut it into small cubes and pulse into the flour mixture until incorporated (about 7 pulses).

Take about half the filling and press it into the bottom of a tart shell or pie pan, preferably deep dish cause this is a lot of tasty stuff.

* The original recipe calls for an additional half stick of butter (which I did not have) and an egg yolk (which I didn’t feel like bothering with. The mixture still held together when squeezed in my hand, so I didn’t worry about it.


About 2 lbs. or 8 cups worth of red/purple plums, quartered
1 pint raspberries
1/3 sugar
2 T constartch

Toss this together in a bowl and then pour over the crust. Sprinkle remaining flour mixture over the fruit and bake at 350 for about 40-45 minutes.

It’s perfectly tart, a little sweet, the crust kind of melts in your mouth, and you can’t ask for a better pairing with ice cream.


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