Red, White and Blue 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.

This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge, at first glance didn’t have me all that excited. It is a tart consisting of a simple shortbread crust, a layer of jam and frangipane (almond cream). Bakewell is a classic style of tart I’ve made lots of times and perhaps seemingly dull because I know it so well. But, after a good nights sleep, a cup of coffee and a burst of inspiration, I had renewed longing for the Bakewell tart. It is one of those challenges where you are basically given a blank canvas and told to paint a picture. This tart can take on the personality of the fruit or filling you introduce. I decided to play with many different flavors and add a bit of texture to the filling by adding fresh fruit, that compliments the jam.

In honor of the 4th of July I decided to make Red, White and Blue tarts; Cherry, Coconut and Blueberry. (more…)

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Apple Cherry Strudel (how to get paper thin pastry)


I loved this Daring Bakers’ Challenge. I hadn’t made a strudel in years, not since I worked in a restaurant and had lots of space and hands to help. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever stretched strudel dough solo. When I was in culinary school we made one as a class that stretched out about 5 feet long and was nearly transparent, never half measures at the CIA. There were at least 6 of us gingerly pulling and stretching and our instructor, Stacy Radin was coaching us through the whole process. I think we all napped after that class!

I went into this thinking I’d be lucky to come out alive, and in the end I vowed to make it often. I had a wonderful time, it went together very easily and the strudel was flaky and delicious! It is all about staying calm and allowing the dough to speak to you. Yeah, you heard me, the dough will tell you when to pull or stretch or just leave it alone! I suggest some chamomile tea, your favorite jazz CD and just have fun with it.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague (more…)

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Chocolate-Ginger Marbled Cheesecake “Bars”

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Here I am, screeching in at the very last moment, with the Daring Baker’s Challenge. I adore cheesecake and this was a great challenge presented by Jenny. Basically she told us to come up with any variety of cheesecake we wanted. I have to admit that I went to my culinary muses and asked them what they thought. My husband came up with a combination of ginger and chocolate, he was also very insistent that they be bars and not a big cake. Here, in the Midwest, any sweet cut into a square is called a “bar.” It changes this rather sophisticated flavor combination into an after school treat instead of a plated dessert. My sons Henri and Charlie whole-heartedly agreed, and then ran outside to skateboard as quickly as possible. It is very helpful to have opinionated muses.

I have to say he came up with a real winner! The rich chocolate ganache mixed with the ginger cheesecake batter sits on top of a dark chocolate and crystallized ginger crust. Marbling the two flavors and cutting them into bars makes them pure fun! I shared them with several neighbors to keep me from eating the entire batch.

The winner of the Le Creuset baking dish is announced below.

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OMG this Lasagna is Good! (Homemade Spinach Pasta for the March Daring Baker Challenge)

I’m a few days late in posting this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge. Better late than never, especially if it tastes this freakin’ good. The very first meal I made for my husband, on our first date 23 years ago, was four cheese manicotti. It took me a day for each cheese to create it! He told me years later that he knew he’d marry me when he took a bite. We’ve made each other many meals since, but nothing as memorable. When I presented this lasagne to my family they all said it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked for them, including my husband (and my 8 year old who claims to hate spinach)!

This week’s Le Creuset winner is announced below.

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Black and White Sesame Tuile for the Daring Baker Challenge!

Last summer Graham and I went to NYC to eat, take in a few museums, visit with cousins and eat some more. Graham’s cousin Riad is the executive chef at Pastis and Balthazar (and the author of the The Balthazar Cookbook).  It goes without saying that Riad is an amazing culinary guide. I’ve never eaten so well and so much in my entire life!

After a 12 course meal at Devi (you must eat Suvir Saran’s food at least once in your life), Riad took us to meet Johnny Iuzzini, the extraordinary pastry chef at Jean Georges. They worked together at Daniel and Riad wanted to show off Johnny’s talents. We arrived at 11pm and Johnny marched through the dining room carrying 24 desserts. Twenty Four exquisitely plated desserts, plus truffles and other small delicacies he whipped up. They were absolutely gorgeous, so despite the 12 courses we had just consumed, we tasted them all! The perfect evening.

For this month’s Daring Baker Challenge I made White and Black Sesame Tuiles perched on Coconut Ice Cream, all inspired by recipes from Johnny’s new book Dessert FourPlay. (more…)

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Caramel Cake Daring Baker Challenge! (with a bittersweet chocolate ganache surprise)

This month’s Daring Baker Challenge was submitted by Dolores of Culinary Curiosity (where you will find the recipes) and features a cake by Shuna from Eggbeater. The challenge is a fabulous study in caramel! The rich, moist cake is flavored with caramel syrup and then topped with a brown butter frosting that also gets its flare from the syrup. In the end I added a bit of dark chocolate ganache, which is a lovely contrast to the sweetness of the cake. I decorated the top of my sweet caramel cupcakes with giant roses, which I’ll show you how to make! (more…)

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