Archive for February, 2011

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaack! (which movie is that from, anyway?)

So, I’ve been pretty slack on the baking front. Also a bit slack on the New Years resolution thing, if you consider my commitment to doing more baking challenges a 2011 resolution. February seemed to be a good month to return, as the challenge itself seemed pretty straightforward. It actually turned out to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated, but my biggest challenge was actually getting a decent photo. For details, please see below…

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 and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Here are Mallory’s instructions:

Note: A few tips.

* First, when you sprinkle your gelatin over your milk, be sure that it’s a thin even layer of gelatin, no clumps. When you heat it up after it’s soaked a bit, you’ll be less likely to get any lumps of gelatin in the finished product.
* Second, if you would like to unmold your Panna Cotta from a ramekin simply run a knife along the edge, dip the ramekin in a bit of hot water, then invert onto your serving platter. Viola! Unmolded Panna Cotta. (Be aware though, Panna Cotta is not Jell-o, it’s got a much softer texture so it does not keep its shape in the same way as Jell-o)
* If you cannot find powdered gelatin/only have access to sheet gelatin this can be used. Please follow the directions on the package for conversions.
* Milk substitutes, such as skim, almond, or even coconut milk can be used in the vanilla Panna Cotta in place of the whole milk, but cream is important. In order to get the right texture there needs be a certain percentage of cream fat! There are lower fat recipes out there that use yogurts in place of milk, but the recipes I’ve chosen are full fat, sorry guys!!
* The Florentine cookie and chocolate Panna Cotta are quite sweet, maybe too sweet for some. To lessen the sweetness factor consider using a dark chocolate, or bittersweet in both recipes. In regards to the Panna Cotta, I would reduce the sugar to 1/4 or 1/3 of a cup, and perhaps pair it with a more bitter element like coffee gelée or a tart fruit.

Mandatory Items: Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

Variations allowed: If the vanilla does not appeal to you, I am also giving you a recipe for chocolate Panna Cotta. You have a choice between the two. However, the vanilla can be modified, I generally add vanilla bean, you could also add a bit of matcha (powdered green tea), or fruit. Speaking of fruit, I’m going to give you one recipe for strawberry, and another for coffee gelée, essentially homemade Jell-o. Gelée can be poured on the bottom, top, or layered in with your Panna Cotta (though it takes a few extra steps to do this). So make the vanilla or chocolate recipe, but feel free to play with this it. I just want you to start with a base recipe. What you top it with, or garnish with is also up to you. Have fun, and get creative. In regards to the cookie, if you want to add nuts, or use a different chocolate, go for it.

Preparation time:
• 20-25 minutes to prepare the Panna Cotta – at least 6 hours to chill
• 20-25 minutes to prepare the cookies 6-8 minutes to bake

Equipment required:
• Small mixing bowl
• Two medium sized heavy bottom pot or saucepan
• Wooden spoon and/or whisk
• Glasses or ramekins – something to pour and serve your Panna Cotta in
• Measuring cups
• Measuring spoons
• Silpat or wax paper or parchment paper
• Baking sheet
• Small bowl

Giada’s Vanilla Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ 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 refrigerator 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

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
2 cups (480 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
½ cup (115 gm) (4 oz) sugar
¾ cup (145 gm)(5 oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) 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

Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website.

2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate

Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). 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. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
4. 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).
5. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).
6. 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).

Coffee Gelée

Adapted from this recipe in Gourmet Magazine

2 cups (480 ml) good quality brewed coffee
1/4 cup (60 ml) hot water + 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water
1/2 cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (3½ gm) (1/8 oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract


1. Place granulated sugar and 1/4 c. hot water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Sprinkle gelatin over 2 Tablespoons cold water and let it soften 2 minutes or so.
3. Stir the coffee, sugar, hot water, and vanilla into a small metal bowl, add gelatin mixture and stir well until gelatin has dissolved. If pouring over Panna Cotta, be sure that this mixture is no longer hot, it will melt Panna Cotta if it is, let it come to room temperature.

My first mistake was trying to halve the recipe. My second was using leaf gelatine rather than the powdered version specified in the recipe. The consequent conversion difficulty meant that my first attempt at a pannacotta didn’t set properly, although it tasted good.

My second mistake was failing to read the line – “If pouring over Panna Cotta, be sure that this mixture is no longer hot, it will melt Panna Cotta if it is, let it come to room temperature.” Ah yes, that would be an accurate warning…

End result – my already too-soft panna cotta collapsed under the weight of the (equally delicious) coffee gelee, causing the gelee to sink straight to the bottom. The result was not very attractive but, again, delicious – it tasted just like tiramisu.

So I tried a second time, this time using powdered gelatine and the chocolate version. But I got cocky and attempted to halve the recipe again. This time I over corrected and ended up with a delicious but much too solid chocolate panna cotta. At that point I called it a day on the panna cotta and moved on to the biscuits.

Despite a very strong urge to reduce the sugar content, I mostly left the recipe unaltered. I did, however, leave out the corn syrup. I also elected to drizzle the biscuits with chocolate rather than use the chocolate to sandwich two biscuits together, as it would have been too much.

And my final mistakes were all photography related! I struggled to find the right light, the right background, the right surface. And then, after I had taken some perfect photos of the biscuits, I accidentally deleted them. So here is what is left:

Attempt 1 - I know it doesn't look like it, but I did actually iron this backdrop

Attempt 2

Attempt 3, and I give up!

See you next month! And thank you Mallory for hosting.


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I first started this blog in January 2010, and my first post was shortly after the birth of my baby boy R. Fast forward one year and he is magically one and my little Miss B is almost 3.

Which means that birthday cakes were called for!

My story every year is the same – plan for ages, prepare for a short time, leave it all to the last minute and finish it all off in a mad panic. True to form, I had decided in early January that Mr R’s cake was to be a wombat. The Australian Women’s Weekly Kids’ Party Cakes book had one called “Wobbly Wombat”, which was constructed of three separate cakes – a pudding steamer, a round cake and a dolly varden cake. I see now that the name was a warning. The three cakes were to be stuck together (with jam! Jam, I tell you!) and propped up on four halved muffins, which became the feet. The wombat was then to be coated in fluffy buttercream.

Cut to the day of the party, which was to be at a local park. In the sun. I tried to stick the cakes together with jam and they laughed at me before falling rapidly apart. I upped the ante and stuck them together with chocolate. They humoured me for a while then fell apart again. I then got serious and stuck them together with more chocolate and a big skewer which went basically from the wombat’s bottom to his nose. Harsh, but necessary. Thus connected, the wombat was then thickly covered with chocolate buttercream and decorated.

All was fine until we arrived at the park and my husband, who was transporting the cake, said, “I’m afraid there’s been an accident…”. Sure enough, the wombat body had come apart in the middle, leading to an icing crevasse. We decided it would be an injured wombat and carried on with the party. Unfortunately, by the time the cake cutting time came, the lovely Australian sun had done it’s part, and the wombat was a wombat no more. He was more a brown, chocolatey puddle. A party guest said to me with big eyes, “wow, I’ve never seen a cake like that before!”. I said, “no, and I’m sure you won’t see another one”.

I must warn you, the next image may disturb younger viewers.

oh my...

Ah, you have to laugh, right?

Following that, a fabulous baking friend sent me a recipe for high humidity icing. I had no idea that such a thing existed. She also recommended using ready made icing, which was more resilient than buttercream. She’s a clever girl that one. Here are the cakes SHE made for Mr R’s birthday!

She also made BEAUTIFUL cupcakes for Miss B’s birthday – thank you!

After the wombat, I was scared and determined in equal measure. Buttercream was definitely out. I decided to make a devil’s food cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, which is one of the most fantastic cake books I have come across (thanks Lemonpi for telling me about it). And since Miss B is very much into pink and ballet at the moment, I decided it was going to be a princess. We’ll work on the gender stereotype thing later, ok?

So here she is:

And in action:

Edited to add – there was an unfortunate casualty from the princess cake, however…I guess that’s the price to pay for having legs disproportionately tall and thin compared to the rest of your body!

Suggestions welcomed for next year, with the obvious rider that I won’t actually start them until the night before!

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