Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hostess : Daring Bakers February 2011

Nearly a year ago I was approached about hosting my very own Daring Bakers challenge. I was a little new to the game but loved it so, and there were no hosting months available for nearly a year. Sure, I thought, plenty of time. I knew immediately I wanted February. A month with a fun, colorful little holiday smack dab in the middle, the perfect excuse to challenge the bakers to make something a little dreamy, even love inspired. For the first, oh, 10 months I was set on having them whip up Charlottes. I even bought two boxes of Rose de Reims biscuits in New York for the occasion, then made, and photographed two different versions. Yet, as the challenges wore on, and my month got closer, I felt it better to give the bakers something a little lighter and a little creamier, something a bit different than what we've been baking up. It was between panna cotta & creme brulee, desserts I adore equally. After a bit of hemming and hawing I chose the panna cotta, I felt it was a bit more versatile, adaptable, and fun. Still, as I told them, we're bakers, not whiskers and chillers. So while creamy, dreamy panna cotta was divine, we needed bake something. Then it came to me, florentines, wonderous little oat cookies that spread out in a large buttery puddle upon baking, slathered with chocolate. Smooth, silky panna cotta served alongside crispy, chewy, chocolatey florentines. . . it was as if the sun shone bright and angels sang out from above. 

I'm always awe-inspired by my fellow bakers. The wonderful variations they come up with never fail to drop my jaw. Hosting this month I felt that ten-fold, what these bakers whipped together was beyond expectation, I didn't know panna cotta or florentines could be so beautiful, creative, or unique. From gorgeously tipped layers, to unique flavors and textures. To say that I was wowed does not do my amazement justice. I urge you, truly, to seek the bakers blogs out and marvel at the wonder they've created, they put my vanilla bean strawberry panna cotta and milk chocolate stuffed florentines to shame! 

Thank you everyone who participated, encouraged one another, whisked, baked and created a frenzy of beauty. I hope in the end that you enjoyed my picks, had a blast making it. Everyone was so kind, supportive, and inventive, thank you again for inspiring me and allowing me to be your hostess this 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.

Giada's Vanilla Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 Tablespoon (generally one packet) (15 ml)(14.3 grams) (.5 oz) powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) (14.3 grams) (.5 oz)granulated sugar
pinch of salt

1. Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigetor for a few minutes before you start making the panna cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
2. Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage). 
3. Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin. 
5. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve. 

Hope you love it!

Chocolate Panna Cotta: 
Bon Appetit


1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2  cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top, set aside for 2-5 minutes. 
2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in cream, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a low boil.
3. Add chocolate and whisk until melted. Whisk the milk/gelatin mixture into chocolate cream mixture. Whisk until gelatin has dissolved. 
4. Transfer to ramekins, or nice glasses for serving.
5. Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Nestle Florentine Cookies:


2/3 cup unsalted butter
2 cups quick oats
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups dark or milk chocolate


Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) 
Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
2. To the melted butter add oats, sugar,  flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well.
3. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flaten slighty with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula. 
4. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets. 
5. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl).
6. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire wrack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean). Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end)cookie atop the chocolate. This recipe will make about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen sandwiched florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Friday, February 25, 2011

300th Post : Glamorous Gadabout : Double Chocolate Pretzel Cupcakes

Don't these cupcakes look sinfully delicious?! They are. 

If you want the recipe, you'll need to head over to a fabulous website, Project Gadabout, published by the fantastically fun Poppy Darrington, sometime after 1pm tomorrow (Saturday). Poppy has been running a series she's dubbed 'Glamorous Gadabouts', wherein each week a blogger is featured for a week straight. When I say featured I mean this; Poppy asks said blogger to fill out fun questionnaires, treasure hunts, photograph the contents of ones bag. . . you get the idea, and features one of these items everyday for a week. This week, it was my turn! I had such fun filling out all of the questionnaires. Seven days all about me? For the Leo in me, that's quite exciting. Saturday she's going to feature this scrumptious recipe from yours truly, so be sure to head over there and check it out!

 These cupcakes were inspired by a recent day trip to Seattle. I've cut back on my cupcakes as of late, but could not resist a trip last weekend to my all time, hands down favorite shop, Trophy Cupcakes. The first thing that caught my eye was this gorgeous row of double chocolate cupcakes, tops rolled in crushed pretzel. Swoon. How can you not love that comibination? Moist chocolate cake, rich fudgey frosting, crunchy, salty pretzel. I'll say it again, swoooon. I knew I had to try these at home, and share them with you. I took mine a step further and packed the bottom of each cupcake with a brown sugar/pretzel crust, only rolled only the edges (not the entire top) in pretzel dust (and salt), finishing each one off with a whole pretzel hand dipped in melted bittersweet chocolate.

Once more for the cheap seats in the back, swoon.

ps. I simply cannot believe this is my 300th post! That's a pretty major accomplishment for this food blogger, fairly amazing!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day 2011

I have an announcement. I'm engaged! I've actually been engaged for over a month now, but I wanted to announce it to most of my friends and family before posting anything official here on the blog. I didn't want someone to read it here without hearing it from this food bloggers mouth first. Though, admittedly I haven't necessarily kept it a secret either, as seen in the last post, the darling boyfriend is now being referred to as the fiancee, and soon enough the husband - eep! - So here I am, on the road to marriage! 

Needless to say. I'm feeling extremely lovey dovey this Valentines day. 

I also want to apologize. I've had an incredibly busy new year, I know I've been absent lately, far more than I'd like to be. But, I'll get back in the swing of things here incredibly soon. This week even. So stay tuned!

Happy Valentines Day! I hope you find time for a few special moments with your loved ones today (and don't forget to nosh on a decent amount of chocolate)!