Sunday, February 28, 2010


The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession. 

I've made tiramisu before, but certainly never made savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers) or marscapone cheese from scratch before.  I really enjoyed making both, however I found I didn't make enough ladyfingers... or at any rate when I went to use them for the recipe, there appeared to be less than I'd recalled making.  However no one was fessing up to eating them!  Next time I'll have to hide them.  

Making this recipe was enjoyable.  I love marsala wine, so making the zabaglione was fun... it filled my kitchen with the most wonderful fragrance.  I also enjoyed making the recipe over a couple of days.  It made the entire recipe seem really manageable and not too daunting.  I decided to follow the recipe as set out by Aparna and Deeba and didn't get experiment with it... however next time I think I may use a zabaglione ice cream that I make occasionally and make tiramisu ice cream (but I'll be sure to lock up the savoiardi biscuits beforehand to ensure they're all there!). 


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir.

Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.

Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

Ladyfinger/Savoiardi Biscuits

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.

Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.

Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.

Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.

Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.

Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )

This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the zabaglione:

Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.

In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.

Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. 

Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. 

It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.

Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least

4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the vanilla pastry cream:

1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.

Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.

Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side.

They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.

Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

butternut squash soup

Talk about serendipity... or to quote Ned Flanders "If that don't put the 'dink' in coinkydink!"  I was thinking about using up some butternut squash I had, when I received my weekly newsletter from America's Test Kitchen.  Guess what recipe was featured this week?  You guessed it - butternut squash soup.  

I had the ingredients on hand, and within an hour, I was sipping on some of the best squash soup I've ever had.  The jury is still out on the cinnamon sugar croutons - while tasty on their own, I found them too sweet for my soup.  But you can judge for yourself... this soup is fantastic!  

The method totally intrigued me.  Rather than throwing out the seeds and fibres from the squash, you saute them with butter and shallots.  It intensifies the squash flavour.  Go ahead - try this and you will not be disappointed!  

Butternut Squash Soup
from America's Test Kitchen 

4 tablespoons butter
2 shallots - minced finely
3 pounds butternut squash
six cups water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

(see the link above for a good video on this recipe)

Melt butter in saucepan.  Add shallots to pan over medium low heat.  Don't brown the shallots.

Scrape out the seeds and fibres of the squash.  Saute the scrapings with the shallots and butter for about 4 minutes.

Add water to pot.  Cut each half into quarters.  Place the squash flesh side down in a steamer basket and lower carefully into pot.  Put lid on and simmer for a 1/2 hour.

Transfer the squash to a baking sheet.  Run the remaining liquid through a strainer into a large bowl.  

Take a spoon and scrape out the squash meat.  Puree the squash in a blender in batches with some of the broth.

Put the pureed squash and broth into a dutch oven.  Add sugar, heavy cream and salt and pepper.  Serve with croutons.

Cinnamon Sugar Croutons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut 2 slices of sandwich bread (crusts removed) into 1/2 inch cubes.

Toss with 1 tablespoon melted butter.

Add 2 teaspoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and toss.

Put on parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake until crisp - about 8 to 10 minutes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

dark chocolate cheesecake

The other night, the boys and I were out for dinner.  When it came to ordering dessert, they both ordered cheesecake.  They asked my why I never made cheesecake, and I realized that I haven't made it for about 10 years.  I don't know why.  So I dusted off my "Joy of Cheesecake" book and got my springform pan.  

I prefer my cheesecakes to be plain and unadulterated.  I'm not crazy about sauces, whipped cream on anything else messing up my cheesecake.  I'll have my plain please.  I don't want anything to get in my way of enjoying it in all its simple goodness

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
(from “The Joy of Cheesecake” by Dana Bovbjerg & Jeremy Iggers)

Crumb crust
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the crumbs in a mixing bowl and add the butter and sugar.  Blend well.

Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and partly up the sides of a greased springform pan.  Smooth the crumb mixture along the bottom to an even thickness.

Bake for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Cool before filling.

Cheese cake

5 squares (5 ounces) semisweet chocolate
1 ½ pounds cream cheese
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Melt the chocolate in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until the mixture is smooth and light.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until the mixture is smooth and light.

Beat in the eggs and the vanilla.

Stir in the melted chocolate and the sour cream into the cream cheese mixture and blend well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow the cake to cool in the oven.  Chill.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

cardamom coffee cake

I have a fondness for cardamom - I'll even sprinkle some the ground spice in my coffee sometimes.  So when I saw this recipe on the Food Network website, I just had to try it.  It's delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some coffee.


Cardamom Coffee Cake 

From Christine Cushing 

Cardamom and Almond Mixture

  • 1/2 cup almonds, with skin, chopped coarsely (125 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (45 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (30 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom (5 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (45 ml)
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together almonds, sugar, flour and cardamom and melted butter with a fork or your fingertips.


  • 2 cups all purpose flour (500 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (5 ml)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (1 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (2 ml)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda (6 ml)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (250 ml)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar (250 ml)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (5 ml)
  • 1 cup sour cream (250 ml)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and baking soda and set aside.
  3. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beating well between additions. Beat in vanilla. Add the dry ingredients in thirds to the creamed butter mixture, alternating with the sour cream, beating in between additions and ending with dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides and beat for 1 minute to develop structure of cake.
  4. Line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease sides. Pour half of the batter into the pan and sprinkle half of the almond mixture over the cake. Pour the remaining batter into the pan, spreading it out if necessary. Top with the remaining almond mixture.
  5. Bake on the middle rack of oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Cake is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave cake in pan and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

mezze with pita and hummus

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

I was enjoying the Daring Bakers so much that I decided to join the Daring Cooks as well. This is my first challenge and my first attempt at making pita bread. I must say, pitas were quite simple to make and they turned out well. I had some buckwheat flour to use up, so I did a blend of all-purpose, whole wheat and buckwheat flours. The recipe seemed to adapt to that change quite well.

For the mezze, in addition to the required pita and hummus, I prepared saganaki, and had accompaniments of olives, prosciutto, dolmades, baba ganoush, tomatoes, tzatziki, pistachios, figs, dates, turkish delight, halva and baklava.  It was a feast!

Pita Bread
Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)


1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).

4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.

5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste


1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.