Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Go Danish!

Well hello, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to another Daring Bakers challenge! I was actually frightened when Kelly from the blog Sass & Veracity announced this month's challenge: Danish Braid. See, I joined the Daring Bakers after they did the croissant challenge, and I was actually glad, because I fear the flaky, crusty pastries. I don't know why, but they just make me really nervous. You know how some people feel really freaked out about using recipes with yeast, well I get scared with recipes that have anything to do with flaky layers. I don't know why, but maybe it's an internal fear of failing and having my dough come out flat or unflaky.

As you can see, mine came out just fine. More than fine, actually, it turned out FABULOUS! I was so proud of it, a little solitary tear came out of my eye. I just couldn't believe I did it! I thought that I would screw it up for sure, but it came out of the oven perfect. I was shocked!

You can find the recipe on Kelly's blog either in the Daring Bakers blogroll or in my own personal blogroll to the side. I suggest that if you do decide to make this Danish Braid, that you read the recipe thoroughly before starting out, set aside a day/day and a half for it, and follow the recipe exactly. The results are well worth the effort.

I made two different kinds: the standard apple, and then what I like to call a Red, White & Blue Braid (Raspberry, Cream Cheese and Blueberry). I made the apple one for my sister's birthday party, which was a murder mystery dinner called Murder at the Deadwood Saloon (SOOOO much fun!). I saved the other one for us to eat for breakfast as a little treat over the weekend.

We're right in the middle of our move up to Kodiak, Alaska, so if it seems like I'm scarce this next month or so, that's why. I'm really going to strive to not miss next month's Daring Bakers challenge, but forgive me if I do!! As of June 16th, all of our stuff is en route to Alaska, including our kitchen stuff. I might just have to commandeer my sister's kitchen for a weekend in order to complete July's challenge, so here's hoping!



Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hello Cupcake!

I am so excited to tell you all (those of you that do read this blog, I have no idea how many/few of you do) that I have finally made it down to Hello Cupcake in Tacoma, WA. This being our last few weeks in the continental US, I figured I had better get my rear in gear and finally experience all those things as a foodie I've been meaning to.
Hello Cupcake is one of those quaint little cupcakeries that you can smell its deliciousness from down the road. I had my window down in my car on the way there, and as I was parking on the street out front (I was so lucky to have found a spot so close!) and the vanilla-cakey-smell wafted into my car like a tantalizing-treat-wave. I had been hiding where we were going from my mom, niece and nephew, but there was no hiding it from them by the time we parked.
The inside of the shop is so welcoming, like your favorite cafe that you can bring a book to and just curl up with a latte and a cupcake and enjoy your afternoon. From their adorable cupcake mosaic tiled entryway, to their pastel colored plates, they are everything you would expect from your favorite cupcake shop.

I got a dozen cupcakes, so I could experience some variety. I got six red velvet (my fave), one vanilla & vanilla, one double chocolate, one vanilla on chocolate, one chocolate on vanilla, one coconut, and one carrot cake. The coconut was yummy, I liked the frosting better than the cake itself though. The carrot cake wasn't spicey enough for me or my family, but the cream cheese frosting was yummy. I really liked the vanilla on vanilla one, the cake was nice and soft and the buttercream was super delicious. But, like I said, the red velvet was my personal fave.

I even managed to snag one on my way out the door from my sister's house this morning, and it got to ride in its own personal cupcake holder (I have changed the cupholder in my Audi to a cupcake holder now, lol). It looked so cute riding there, I was half-tempted to just leave it, but I knew it would go bad and I would be sad about that.

If you're in the Seattle area, I highly suggest stopping by Hello Cupcake, even if it's just to smell the cupcake aroma outside the cafe. Enjoy!


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Congrats To A Favorite!!

I have admired Rachel's blog, Coconut & Lime, ever since I can remember. And, her Four-Year blogiversary is coming up. In honor of that, she's hosting a Blogiversary Contest! (details: Of course, as an admirer, I couldn't NOT participate, she has come up with 700 original recipes!

I thought long and hard about this one. What makes me think of Rachel's blog. Well, the first thing I made from her list of recipes were her Rum & Coke cupcakes. I've actually made them several times, so I thought I might make cupcakes. But, I'm pretty much known to bake cupcakes quite frequently, and lately I've been in sort of a cookie rut. My last few batches of cookies have been botched so horribly, I couldn't believe they came out of my kitchen.

Well, these babies pulled me out of my rut! Just in time for our bake sale at work, too! So, here's my recipe for my Welcome To Paradise Cookies:


-6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp

-1/3 cup shortening

-1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

-1/3 cup granulated sugar

-1 egg

-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

-1/2 tsp baking soda

-1/2 tsp salt

-1/2 cup shredded coconut

-juice of one lime

-1 1/3 cups (8 oz pkg) Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts & Premier White Chips (new from Hershey's)

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350F. Beat butter and shortening in a large bowl until well blended. Add the sugars; beat thoroughly. Add egg and vanilla; beating until well blended. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt; then gradually beat into butter mixture. Stir in the coconut, lime juice and baking pieces. Using a small ice cream scoop, drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool slightly, then remove from cookie sheet onto a wire cooling rack. This makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

These cookies went over really well at my work bake sale, especially with my co-workers whose favorite cookies are white choc & macadamia nut. The coconut & lime were a wonderful addition. I feel like I should add them to everything now!


Sunday, June 1, 2008

And I'm Late Again!

Well, folks, due to techinical difficulties over the weekend, I was unable to post one of my most-looked-forward-to posts all month! My wireless router was being difficult (read: acting like a petulant little child) so when I went to post, my internet went caput.

That being said, I am SO HAPPY that I'm able to post about this, because this was sort of my idea (with the help of a few other newbie Daring Bakers). See, I suggested on the Daring Bakers forum that we start way back at the beginning of Daring Bakers and do what we affectionately call Double Daring Bakers, or DDB for short.

See, in the beginning, there existed our dear Daring Bakers co-founders Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, and they decided to make the same recipe at/around the same time, and then post their results on their respective blogs on the same day. And the rest, as they say, is history. Ever since I became a Daring Baker, I've wanted to try my hand at previous challenges, so what better place to start than at the very beginning with the First Daring Bakers Pretzels?

Here's the recipe:

Hot Buttered Pretzels
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

For the dough:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
1 cup warm water (you may need a little more)
For the pretzel topping:
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
kosher salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Instructions: Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Work the ingredients together until you can form a ball. If the dough is very dry, add a bit more warm water until it comes together. The dough will look messy, but don’t worry about it.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading by pushing the dough away with the heel of your hand, and then folding it back in onto itself. Push the dough away again and then fold back in. Continue this motion, working the dough until it’s smooth. This should take anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough in a mixer with your dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes).
Once the dough is done, sprinkle some flour on the dough and put it in a large, oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour. It will rise considerably.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and set aside.
Divide your dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long rope that’s roughly 24 inches in length. (Don’t make it too long or your pretzels will be too thin.)
Taking hold of the ends of the rope, cross the rope over itself to form a circle with about 4 to 5 inches on each end that are sticking out. Twist the ends over themselves and secure each end on either side of the pretzel.
Carefully dip the pretzel in the water and then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.
Sprinkle the pretzels with the kosher salt and let them rest for about 15 minutes.
Put the pretzels in the oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the trays and bake for an additional 6 minutes. Keep an eye on the pretzels so that they don’t burn.
Remove the pretzels from the oven and immediately brush them with the butter. Keep brushing them with butter until you’ve used it all.
Serve the pretzels warm with plenty of mustard or another condiment of your choice.

I went a little wild and made cinnamon & sugar, cheddar & parmesan, garlic salt, and regular kosher salt pretzels. I'm thinking I should have double the recipe, because these did not last long in my house! I even took some of the dough and rolled it into long breadsticks for dipping in our soup, and they were delicious. I love how simple these are to make, you pretty much just throw everything in a bowl, let it rise and bingo, bango, bongo, you've got pretzels!

They're almost simple enough to make you want to make them on a weeknight for a little midweek pick-me-up. I also love that they can be sweet or savory, and you can forgo the butter step if you're trying to stay a bit on the healthier side. Very versatile, and VERY tasty!