Category: Daring Baker’s Challenge

Daring Baker’s Challenge: Milan Cookies.

**I temporarily, just for this week suspended my Military Monday post, because two posts in one day would negate the  solitary  & somber purpose of the MM posts, and the Daring Baker’s posts have to be posted on the 27th. The Military Monday posts will resume next Monday! For now, view the archives. Also, this will be my last post until August, since my birthday is on the 30th and I won’t be doing much baking. Thank you!


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.

I had planned on making both, but time got away from me. Between birthdays this month (my mom on July 5th, and one of my best friends Sami on the 3rd, as well as mine which is upcoming on the 30th), my anniversary with Jay on the 12th, seeing the new Harry Potter movie and having a much-needed ladies night, reading the entire Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse book series, trying to keep up with ‘Nurse Jackie’ and on top of all that the usual summertime activities, I just wasn’t able to make the chocolate covered marshmallow cookies.  I’m including the recipe here, and I have all intentions of actually making them very soon. But all the pictures I have for you now are of the delicious Milan cookies.

You may know them as Milano Cookies, made by a very popular manufacturer of cookies and cakes, Pepperidge Farm.

How much are these like those? Very much. But better, I think. But if you’re a fan of Milano’s, you’ll have to try them for yourself. For the two recipes, click the ‘continue reading’ link after the picture below.

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Daring Baker’s Challenge: Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)

This month’s challenge was exciting and not only because I love lasagne… but because the Daring Baker’s have a new home! Now we reside at The Daring Kitchen, where we also have something new called The Daring Cooks. So all you cooks out there who don’t like baking, there’s a place for you!

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Of course, I hate spinach, so I omitted it. I just can’t get down with it, I’m sorry. I’m no Popeye! Which means mine is technically not Lasagna Verdi al Forno, but just Lasagna al Forno. I also omitted most of the meat from the ragu- I don’t like panchetta (basically panchetta is Italian bacon, except without the smokiness and “hickory”ish taste of bacon) in my sauce, and I certainly don’t like lamb or veal. Sorry. I did use some beef that I seasoned up to keep the “meat” sauce title. What did I think? It was good, much more delicate than my usual, maybe because mine is made with mozzarella (and thats a Southern Italian thing, as that cheese is made in the south of Italy, so it wouldn’t be in this recipe).

Its hard to make your own pasta, and time consuming to make your own sauce. So if you can’t do that I still suggest you make this. Buy the ‘no boil’ noodles and some good quality sauce, add some meat and you’re good to go.

The béchamel sauce was good and added a different spin. Thanks Daring Baker’s! Another success! For the recipe, just Continue reading

Daring Baker’s Challenge: Chocolate Valentino (flourless chocolate cake) & homemade ice cream.

This months’ Daring Baker’s challenge wasn’t really all that much of a challenge for me because I’ve already made flourless chocolate cake, so I was familiar with it. Of course, this one is very different from the one I made. This one, popularized by Chef Wan, is dense and fudgy and brownie-like, mine was more light, delicate and melt-in-your-mouth soft. Flourless chocolate cake is a rich, indulgent dessert and is great for celiacs and people who just want to avoid gluten/wheat as well. Details on the creators of this challenge, as they said on the super-secret Daring Baker’s forum, are as follows:

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

We had to make the cake and an ice cream to serve with it. Being that I don’t have an ice cream maker, I used this link combined with the below recipe. The heart shape was created by using cookie cutters to cut the finished cake into smaller cakes, then topped/sided with the fresh ice cream. Alternately, you can use a heart shaped pan, or a few heart shaped pans. Either way the result is yum! I used 8 ounces Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate, 4 ounces Baker’s semi-sweet and 4 ounces Baker’s German (sweet) chocolate. This cake ends up tasting exactly like the chocolate you use, so keep that in mind. My cake had a rich, sweet taste cut with a slight bitterness from the bittersweet chocolate, so it wasn’t too sweet. If you use all bittersweet, your cake will be exactly that. There is no added sugar in this cake, so just remember that when choosing your chocolate.

Talk about simple. Three ingredients, and no time to complete it. The ice cream was a bit more challenging, but hey, thats part of the fun. I know, next time I should really take pictures of the process. I tried, but the picture of my melting chocolate didn’t come out so I threw in the proverbial towel.

If you do make the ice cream, just remember that using the vanilla bean isn’t required, but it adds those cool black vanilla seeds in the ice cream and adds a better flavor than extract.

Preparation Time:  20 minutes


  • 16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Want to see the ice cream recipe? Well, then …. Continue reading

Daring Baker’s Challenge: Caramel Cake with caramelized butter frosting.

This month’s DB challenge has a special place in my heart. I adore caramel.  And it is indeed pronounced car-a-mel. Not ‘carmel.’ People please, note the ‘a’ in there. Its just plain based on the rules of the English language. Car-a-mel. If you say ‘carmel’ just go away. No I’m kidding- don’t go away. I’m sorry. Just say it the right way. Anyway… I love caramel. I don’t eat candy as a rule but if its caramel -all bets are off. My favorite is Cadbury’s Caramello bar… yum. Or Ghirardelli’s milk chocolate caramel bar. But that caramel rule also includes the delicious Caramacs (you haven’t lived until you’ve had someone in Hawaii send you these) and Newman’s Own organic caramel cups, and on the lower end of the monetary spectrum Milk Duds, Sugar Daddy, Junior Caramels and any variation thereof. No, I do NOT like Werthers, thankyouverymuch, it tastes like fake caramel. I prefer caramel to chocolate by a landslide, but chocolate covered caramel is heaven. I actually pick out the caramels from boxes of Valentine’s Day candy and leave the rest. And those who went to high school with me will clearly remember me spending my lunch money on miniature boxes of a caramel candy called Pom-Poms (which are now discontinued– so sad!) and stuffing those entire boxes in my mouth at once. Yeah, the dentist loves me, and yeah,  despite all that, I somehow managed to weigh 125 pounds at 5 feet 9 inches tall throughout high school. So, this Daring Baker’s challenge made me very very happy.

The host this month is Shuna Fish Lydon and the co-hosts are Alex ( and Jenny ( The Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting is courtesy of Shuna (, as published on Bay Area Bites ( And since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we’ve once again turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go ( to assist us. Now lets get down to business!

This cake is a perfect fall cake. Its easy enough to make for Thanksgiving (well, next year) even if you’re making a full dinner, yet its elegant and delicious enough to convince people you spent either a lot of time on it or a lot of money. I bet it’d be AMAZING as cupcakes and I totally plan on remaking it as such. I would’ve done it this time but I never ever make cakes, so I thought I’d stick to the cake idea. But this would be SO good as cupcakes!

I used a bundt-type pan, but alternately you could use a tall (or deep) round pan, or two layer cake pans and make it a layer cake. After frosting it I used some leftover caramel syrup to drizzle on the top of the cake. 😀 I have tons of syrup left, too, so I may make those cupcakes soon. The caramelized butter frosting was so unique and amazing, there are no words. When I went to PA this summer, me and Jay ate brown butter pretzels from a pretzel factory, and we fell in love with it… and this frosting is made with the same brown-butter technique. A-mah-zing. Seriously. If you don’t want to make this cake, at least try the frosting.

Here’s the order I recommend making it in: syrup, frosting, cake. You can do the syrup and frosting the night before, then make the cake the next day and frost it if you wish. I made it all in one night and it didn’t take long at all, I think it was almost 2.5 hours start to finish. And thats even accounting for the time it took to wash the mixer bowl between making the cake and frosting. For full recipe and another photo click the link below to continue reading!

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Daring Baker’s Challenge: Pizza & toppings!

Now this Daring Baker’s Challenge was one I was super psyched to do: PIZZA! I’ve posted before that I love pizza, and love making homemade pizza, as well as the fact that I’ve done it many times before… so for me this was a snap. An incredibly enjoyable snap, but a snap.

Pre-baking, regular (left) and ricotta mushroom.

This recipe was different than the one I normally use. My go-to recipe does not require an overnight “resting” period, so its a better spontaneous recipe. However the Daring Baker’s pizza dough recipe was mighty deelish. This is my fourth time participating in the Daring Baker’s Challenge and I have to tell you, I haven’t been disappointed with ANY of them so far. I highly encourage you to join in the fun, whether you have a blog or not!

Our challenge was to create the dough, to “toss it” (like a real pizzaiolo) and the one major rule was that we had to use sauce and toppings. I was not able to film or capture my tossing, as I was the only one around at the moment (and I dare you to take a good picture of something like that on auto-timer). But tossing it was a load of fun! I wasn’t very successful, I admit. I prefer the rolling method myself, or the “punching method” (which I  actually think is my own invention), but tossing it was certainly an experience. I used cornmeal to “dust” it because I use that on my other pizza recipe and I like the texture of it. I created one regular pizza: sauce and mozzarella cheese, and one special pizza: sauce, ricotta, mozzarella cheese and mushrooms. I baked mine on a pizza pan, not stone. I actually haven’t heard great things about pizza stones, but I’m willing to try and kind of want one.

This pizza dough can also be made gluten-free!

The origins of this challenge and the story behind it are somewhat sad. In the words of Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums:

Originally, I was supposed to host this challenge together with Sher at (USA) and Glenna at (USA), but life’s sad events made me stride that horse alone…

As you all know by now, Sherry passed away tragically on the 20th of July2008 after having been struck by a massive heart-attack. Glenna, on her side, has decided to quit The Daring Baker’s and to stop her baking adventure for personal reasons. So that’s why I am all alone on that challenge.

Prior to her sudden death (9 days before), Sher had shared with me her recipe idea for the October challenge that she, Glenna and myself should have hosted together. When she died, it was clear for me that I would respect her choice and that I would still submit her recipe. This is my last ode to a very appreciated blogger, DB member, skilled baker and cook whom I miss a lot!

~ Sherry “Sher” Cermak 1948-2008 ~

Very very sad events indeed. So I dedicate this challenge to Sherry. I did not know her, nor did I ever speak to her, but she seemed like a lovely person and its a very sad story. 🙁

Since I couldn’t get a picture or video of myself tossing the dough, I’m including this YouTube video of someone else doing it, just to help you out in your pizza adventures. 😉

As per usual for these things, the recipe is hiding behind the ‘continue reading’ link below, so as to avoid confusion and a lengthy post. Enjoy!

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Daring Baker’s Challenge: Lavash crackers & vegan 7-layer dip!

This month the DB challenge intrigued me. Lavash crackers. What the hell are those!? Well, Lavash crackers are an Armenian style cracker, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids…It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian).  The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface). For this challenge we had to make some Lavash crackers AND a dip/spread/relish/salsa to have with it. The crackers can either be made with all-purpose flour or made gluten-free, which is pretty awesome (hey Jamie- are you reading this? Haha). I made non gluten-free, because I had all-purpose flour in the house. But I am curious as to how the gluten-free comes out so if someone makes these (*cough*Jamie*cough*) let me know!

Sounds pretty good so far, huh? The only restrictions we were given were that the aforementioned dip/spread/relish/salsa had to be vegan. That was a bit of challenge for me, since I’m like the anti-christ to vegans.* My diet would make a vegan literally break down and cry. I eat more cheese and dairy than anything, and I love it, not to mention my passionate love affair with chicken. But -that did not deter me. I’m always up for a challenge! (*Please- vegans, don’t take that as me being an asshole… I mean I am an asshole, but I do admire the fact that you not only believe so strongly in this that you’re willing to give up not only cheese but cream, and all dairy in addition to meat and eggs… but also that your willpower allows you to do so)

So I came up with a really easy, totally brainless vegan dip using Tofutti cream cheese and vegan cheese; which sort of frightens me, seeing as how I have no idea whats in that.. so I myself didn’t try it.  Yeah yeah, I’m a chicken… whatever. But my mother did- that brave woman- and she said it was great and you’d never know it was vegan.

I topped my lavash with poppy seeds, sesame seeds and cumin seeds. You can use just about anything though- roasted garlic and onion, paprika, kosher salt, etc. Or make it sweet and use cinnamon sugar or confectioner’s sugar, or vanilla sugar. Yum. I will also post the recipes for Honeydew-Peach Salsa  and Tahitian Almond dipping sauce as well (click the ‘continue reading’ link below for all recipes), since whether you go for a sweeter lavash or a savory lavash the honeydew-peach salsa would still probably be delicious, and the Tahitian Almond dipping sauce sounds interesting. Also, try the salsa with grilled seafoods and poultry, or over rice noodles. Chiles could also be added to the salsa, to taste. Is best eaten within several hours of preparation. Use organic ingredients if at all possible. A chocolate fondue type of dip would be excellent if you made sweet lavash, and I’ve heard people making lavash pizzas… so theres a lot you can do with these little crackers.

Woops… theres a lil bit of parchment stuck on that one! 😀

So once again the Daring Baker’s come up with a fantastic recipe!

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Daring Baker’s Challenge: Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Eclairs!

This month the Daring Baker’s Challenge was a blast. French chocolate éclairs! Now, honestly, I never ever would’ve made these on my own. Well, maybe, if I’d gotten a request and been bugged and harrassed I may have looked into éclair recipes and tried it. But I never would have thought of it myself. Mainly because… *hangs head* I do not like éclairs. I loved these, but I probably wouldn’t eat any but my own.

(By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the Daring Baker’s and their monthly challenges; go here and read about it!)

So anyhoo… the recipe is from this book by the famous Dorie Greenspan. Dorie is worshipped all over the web in foodie blogs but I haven’t made anything of hers or anything from her books yet. Like I’ve mentioned before- I am far from a professional baker or chef, so my repertoire isn’t very large and I am most certainly not a connoisseur of French pastry. So by doing this challenge (and all the upcoming Daring Baker’s challenges, I hope) I’ll push myself into a new world of food. Admittedly, I also love an excuse to use accented letters like the ‘é’ in éclair, and also to throw around French words, pretend I studied at Le Cordon Bleu and be oh-so-chic. *ahem*

Éclairs consist of 3 elements:

Pâte à Choux, also known as Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough
– Pastry Cream
– Chocolate glaze

For the challenge we were presented with chocolate pastry cream for the filling and chocolate glaze, however we were given free reign with changing ONE element as long as we left one chocolate component. I chose to make a traditional éclair and leave the glaze chocolate, just changing the cream to vanilla. The whole point was the motto: ‘Culinary liberty for all.’ So the freedom of altering the recipe was there. And again, the Daring Baker’s Challenge is awesome and you don’t need a blog to be a member!! So join! It’ll open you up to a whole new world baking-wise and you’ll be glad. You’ll probably gain like 50 pounds, haha, but its worth it. I recently (well, since last year at this time) lost 45 pounds so I’m trying to be good and not devour ALL of these eclairs at once!

It took me roughly 3 hours, start to finish. I did it all in one night, which wasn’t necessary but once I got started I was on a roll! It was actually much easier than I expected… and much tastier.

I piped out my filling using a smaller pastry bag and a smaller tip, but you can also spread it on with a metal icing spatula. I just thought it looked better piped on… 😉 I also would’ve piped the dough out using a large star tip just to make it fancier, but I followed the recipe’s instructions to use a round one. Next time! You also definitely need a candy thermometer for this one, which you should have anyway. After I got mine I realized how ridiculous it was that I didn’t have one. As far as the bittersweet chocolate goes, I did not use Valrhona Guanaja (as you will see if you continue reading) but used Ghirardelli instead. Mainly because they did not sell Valrhona Guanaja at my supermarket and I am way too lazy to order things off the internet or go searching for them. Heh. Especially since I like instant gratification, and when I want to make something, I don’t want to wait a week to get the one ingredient I lack. Typical American, right? “I want it, and I want it NOW!” I’m sure it would’ve been much more French if I’d used that Valrhona, but more delicious? I highly doubt it.

Mine, I should also mention, are mini-eclairs. The DB’s said nothing about altering the size so I took a chance. I got maybe 30 by doing it this way.. the recipe states you’d get 20-24 so I guess I didn’t make them THAT much smaller. But just a bit. I got my vanilla pastry cream recipe from a French website, or rather a website about French food. I figured they must know what they’re talking about, right?

I’m going to post the full recipe behind the ‘continue reading’ link under the picture below so as not to clog up the page, seeing how its quite long, but I suggest you take a peek because there are more pictures hidden in there! But I highly recommend this recipe to ALL of you, and I’m letting you know it is not imperative you listen to Edith Piaf, or any French singer or song thats performed in French, while making these.. but I’m sure its more fun than not. I’m putting BOTH pastry cream recipes, both Pierre’s chocolate one and the vanilla one I used.  Bon Appetit!

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