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Daring Bakers Goes to Canada — Nutella Nanaimo Bars and Graham Crackers

Nanaimo 6

It’s time for the Daring Bakers again, and while this month’s challenge presented its own obstacles, It had the advantage over last month’s challenge for me by 1) Taking only a reasonable amount of time, 2) Not leaving my entire house covered in royal icing and 3) resulting in something that I would actually like to eat. Wait, maybe that last one isn’t such a good thing. My thighs aren’t thanking me for these suckers. (Fortunately, my husband’s colleagues are — thank goodness for willing recipients of sugary treats).

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

If you’ve never heard of Nanaimo bars, they’re as fun to eat as they are to say (they’re pronounced nuh NIE mo). A local specialty invented in Nanaimo, British Columbia (Lauren chose them in honor of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver), they are relatively easy to assemble (if you don’t make your own graham crackers). The bottom is a rich crumb crust flavored with cocoa, coconut and nuts, topped with a sweet icing layer and finally a chocolate ganache. To spice things up, and because I had some hazelnuts I wanted to use, I elected to make chocolate hazelnut nanaimo bars, using toasted hazelnuts in the bottom layer and making a nutella flavored icing for the middle layer. They were incredibly rich, incredibly sweet, and a little addictive. [...]

You want me to do WHAT? — Gingerbread Bungalow

Gingerbread House 1

It’s Daring Bakers time again, and this time they made me build a freaking gingerbread house. Although this seems like a lighthearted fun activity that’s perfect to share with the kiddos, be warned: This is not for the faint of heart. Or the inexact. Or the short on time. Or the parents of toddlers who want to help. Or anyone who wants to keep their kitchen even remotely neat.

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes. [...]

How Daring Bakers Nearly Destroyed Me — Salted Caramel Macarons

I am not the most precise of cooks. I take shortcuts, measure by eyesight, play fast and loose with recipes. I never use cake flour, rarely sift anything, freely substitute ingredients. And most of the time, things turn out very well indeed. Some people would say, “Oh, you’re a cook, you’re not a baker. Baking must be done with precision!” But I do bake quite a bit, and while baking requires MORE precision than cooking (I would not suggest, for example, leaving out baking powder altogether), there’s still quite a bit of wiggle room, and most things come out just fine, even with my wild and crazy ways.
Macarons are not one of those things.
The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S of Baking Without Fear. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
If you’ve never had a macaron, you should. These are not the gooey, coconut confections ubiquitous at Passover, but French almond cookies similar to meringues sandwiched together with a creamy filling. A properly made macaron has a smooth, crisp shell over dainty, ruffled “feet”, and when you bite into it, you get first the crunch exterior shell then chewy almondy macaroon then creamy filling. In Parisian patisseries (where they are all the rage), you can find them in a glorious rainbow of colors and flavors. Trust me, when made properly, they are a treat. [...]

A Late Date — Brown Butter Sandwich Cookies

I am woefully behind in posting my Daring Baker’s challenge this month, and I am woefully behind in doing it as well. But this weekend I finally screwed my courage to the sticking point and set to work. The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. If you haven’t picked up on it, these are both recipes for popular commercial cookies – Mallomars and Milanos. While I do love a good Mallomar, and they are nearly impossible to find in California, I have always had a soft spot for the Pepperidge Farm Milanos, and decided to try my hand at those (with the bonus that they were much simpler, and did not involve making marshmallows, which is not difficult exactly, but is very, very messy. At least in my kitchen.) [...]

Daring Bakewell Tarts

Have I ever mentioned that I am a raging Anglophile? I jealously hoard Colman’s mustard, studied abroad in London, wrote my undergraduate thesis on franchise reform in Parliament, and pepper my speech with phrases like “jolly good” and “lovely!” I blame it on a childhood reading the great English children’s books — Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, Ballet Shoes, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Five Children and It. All of them full of funny names (how many of you know someone named Anthea?) and verbal expressions and best of all wonderful food (usually served at teatime) – Victoria Sandwich, Gingerbread stars, and who can forget Turkish Delight?

Because of this, I look askance at anyone who roundly condemns English cuisine. Overlooking the horror that is mushy peas (I said I was an Anglophile, not actually English), Britain has made many delectable contributions to world cuisine — mince pies, cheddar cheese, Branston pickle and these delectable little Bakewell tarts.
The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England. [...]

Tea and Cookies — Earl Grey Cheesecake

Earl Grey tea cheesecake
It’s the end of the month which means it’s time for the Daring Bakers’ Challenge. If you don’t know about this group of intrepid, take-no-prisoners bakers, you can find out more at their brand new website, The Daring Kitchen. The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
Now cheesecake and I don’t have the best history. You see, my father makes terrific cheesecake — huge, New York style cheesecake with a creamy filling and sour cream topping. He makes them every year at Christmas time for his students, and his fame as a cheesecake baker is widely acclaimed. I wouldn’t dare make traditional cheesecake for fear of being accused of trying to steal his thunder or worse, having my cheesecake come up terribly, terribly short. The one time I did try to make a cheesecake — pumpkin cheesecake, for Thanksgiving, it was roundly dismissed in favor of pumpkin pie.
So you see, I needed a little daring.
Fortunately, Jenny gave us lots of leeway with this cheesecake, allowing us to get creative with the crust, the flavoring of the cheesecake, and the topping, so I didn’t have to worry about stepping on my dad’s cheesecake toes (it also helps that he’s currently out of the country and can’t challenge my cheesecake). Always loving slightly unusual flavorings, I elected to go with an earl grey tea flavored cheesecake, and to complement the lemony flavor of the bergamot, the crust is made from animal cookies, which have a slight lemon flavor, which I boosted with lemon zest. [...]