Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Daring to do it: Swiss Roll Bombe

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

My first thought when I saw this month's Daring Baker's challenge was "WOAH..." followed very closely by "Ice cream? But I can't have ice cream!!" This looked absolutely amazing, fairly complex, and utterly horrible for the digestive tract of a lactose intolerant person like myself. At no point, though, did I think about skipping out on the challenge. I knew that there would be a way to make it work, as the recipes have to be adaptable for people with dietary restrictions. I know that there are vegan Daring Bakers who would come up with some amazing recipes, and that inspired me to give some extra thought to how I would pull this off....
One of the best parts of this challenge was the fact that Sunita, our wonderful hostess, was really open to having us play. She seemed interested in having us experiment with flavors, styles and combinations. We had to make a Swiss roll of some sort, two "ice creams," and a "fudge" sauce. Notice the quotes though- freedom was not only allowed but encouraged!

I first assumed that I would be making frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. This was just as intimidating a process, though, considering I do not have an ice cream maker... Lots of research on the internet ensued, leading to a bit of frustration, as so many recipes for both ice cream and frozen yogurt give you ingredients and a process, then instruct you to freeze according to the instructions on your machine. What to do...

I finally decided to attempt a dairy-free dessert (though not vegan, as I used eggs in the Swiss roll). Instead of chocolate and vanilla, my bombe would be strawberries and cream. Perfect for the season, and (hopefully) easily accomplished without milk...!

I started with the vanilla ice cream. I found a recipe for Fancy Pants Vanilla soy ice cream and adapted it for my own use. First off, I halved the recipe. Second, I used only soy milk, as I don't keep soy creamer around. Third, I used part brown sugar. Finally, I used corn starch instead of arrowroot, as, again, I don't keep arrowroot around. The ice cream base came together easily, and I was kind of excited to improvise my freezing process. I had put my bowl into the freezer, so I added the cooled mixture to an icy cold bowl. I then knew that I was going to have to mix the ice cream about every hour or so to try to keep it creamy. I think I wound up stirring and whisking my mixture three or four times before it was time to call it a night... I just had to hope this would work!

For my strawberry ice cream I used a recipe, or a vvariation of a recipe, that I kept seeing. A way to make ice cream quickly and easily. For this Five Minute Ice Cream I used silken tofu instead of cream, and I froze fresh strawberries instead of using store-bought frozen berries. Toss everything into the blender, give it a good whir, and there we were. I think I might not have let my strawberries freeze long enough, or I should have frozen the tofu a bit, because my mixture seemed a bit soft, but, again, I mixed it part-way through freezing and hoped for the best.
The next step to conquer was the Swiss roll. Because I was not making a chocolate roll as the given recipe was for, I decided to call upon something from my past. I called my mother and asked her for the recipe she used to use for jelly roll. The recipe came from the Kosher Gourmet cookbook, and it came out just as well as I had remembered from my childhood! I have no idea why we stopped making these, but I think it might just work it's way back into my dessert rotation!

The final element needed for this challenge was the fudge sauce. Sure, strawberries and chocolate go great together, but I wanted to keep this a purely strawberries and cream treat. So instead of fudge I made a strawberry jam/compote layer to put between the two ice creams. I needed a little more corn starch than anticipated to get my mixture to jell, but it did turn out, so all was just fine.
Finally, after making all of these elements, it was time to assemble the bombe! (Thankfully, I had given myself three days to accomplish everything, knowing that this was not a dessert to make day-of!!) Into my plastic wrap lined bowl went a layer of jelly roll slices. On top of that went the vanilla ice cream, then the whole thing went into the freezer.
The next morning I took the bowl out of the freezer and added the strawberry "fudge" layer. Then the whole thing went back into the freezer...! After a couple of hours I took the bowl back out of the freezer and added the strawberry ice cream. (I will note - my ice creams were... well, not creamy... I let them soften a little bit and then mixed them in my mixer for a couple of minutes each to try to lighten them us and break up the ice crystals.) Once the strawberry ice cream was on I used the remaining slices of the jelly roll to form a base for what would turn into the bottom of the bombe. The (finally) finished dessert then went back into the freezer, not to be touched again until it was time to eat it!!

Dessert time arrived, and it was time to unmold the bombe. I was really excited to see it plated - the swirls of the jelly roll were really inviting, and the hint of ice cream peaking through looked great!

Slicing into the cake, I knew that I would have to work on my ice cream recipes. It was hard. Even after letting the bombe sit out for a while and using a knife dipped in warm water, the ice creams were fairly, well, icy! But I was able to cut some good slices, and all of us really enjoyed eating them!!
All in all, this was a successful venture in many way. The jelly roll and the vanilla ice cream were GREAT. The strawberry "fudge" turned to ice, but tasted pretty good, and the strawberry ice cream, while not bad, didn't have as much flavor as I would have liked. But this was fun to make, and opened my eyes to the idea of making ice cream - dairy or not! - without an ice cream machine. I am already thinking of things I want to try so that next time I will get a better result consistency-wise.
Thank you so much, Sunita, for challenging us with such a complex, intricate and beautiful dessert! This was lot of fun to make, and was definitely a learning experience!
If you want to see the amazing creations made by my fellow Daring Bakers, take a look here!

Monday, July 19, 2010

International flair...

Take a little bit of Mexican, a little bit of Italian, add in a Jewish-American cook, and you get a mixed up, but yummy meal! Tonight's dinner was a Mexican lasagna. Well, Mexican is probably an over-reach... Americanized version of Mexican...

One thing that had been a combination of fun and interesting recently is that Little Girl is now eating almost everything we are. This means that I am no longer making multiple meals every night of the week. It also means, though, that the meals I do make have to be a little on the blander side so as not to knock Little Girl's socks off. To that end the sauce I used for the "lasagna" was a combination of mild salsa and plain old diced tomatoes. I know that Little Girl isn't really a tomato fan anyway, but I wanted to be sure I wasn't making the whole dish too spicy.

I took the "lazy" route today and used store bought tortillas. I just didn't have it in me to make them from scratch. No, they weren't as good, but they worked well, saved me time and energy, and let Little Girl and me have a nice day playing with Auntie Twin and Little Miss, so it all worked out. I did decide also to add spinach into the lasagna. I happen to love spinach, as does Hubby. And I thought Little Girl did, too, but...

So I layered away - sauce, tortillas, spinach, a combination of black and kidney beans and shredded cheese. Then repeat. Top layer of tortillas was smothered with sauce and cheese, then the whole thing went into the oven to get nice and toasty.

Hubby and I loved the dish. Little Girl loved most of it. The tortillas, beans and cheese were a big hit. The tomatoes? Well, I knew those weren't a favorite, so I didn't push it. The spinach? At least three times she let me put some in her mouth and then promptly removed it. I was shocked! She had eaten - and enjoyed! - spinach before... Oh well... She is allowed to change her mind... I just hope she changes it back!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Daring to do it: Nut Butters

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

At first glance, this looks like a non-challenge. Especially for those of us with food processors. Nut butter? Great, you toss nuts in the processor, give it a whir and you're done. Where is the challenge? The challenge was to make savory recipes using the home made nut butter. That, I must say, was a TON of fun!
Instead of walking you through step-by-step like I normally do, I am just going to give you a little summary of the process and show you the pictures.
First was walnut butter, used to make a walnut-garlic sauce for pasta and veggies. Little Girl helped me make the walnut butter. She likes pushing buttons... I used the challenge recipe for inspiration but kind of winged it. In love garlic, but this was too garlicky for me. Maybe next time I will saute or roast the garlic to mellow it out. Using it raw, though, made it way too overpowering...

I also made cashew butter. Because I love cashews. I turned the cashew butter into a mock-Chinese dish. I used my recipe for General Tao's Tofu and turned it into sweet and sour cashew tofu. This was AMAZING! The cashew added a great flavor, and my best friend who won't eat tofu said she'd eat this again any time!!

This challenge was a ton of fun. While I knew that it wasn't hard to make nut butters, it never occurred to me to do so. I am so glad that I did! I might have to play with home made nut butters a lot more often! I also learned the difference between roasting the nuts and not. I used raw nuts for both of my recipes. Auntie Twin came over to make her nut butters (since she doesn't have a food processor) and roasted hers. We both used cashews, so we did a taste test... The difference was clear. I can't say one was better, but there was a clear difference....!

I would like very much to thank Margie and Natashya for a great, fun challenge! I loved the creativity and freedom, and really enjoyed seeing what my fellow Daring Cooks came up with!!

To see the recommended recipes from the challenge, take a look here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Stinky but sweet

This past weekend we were invited to a friend's home for dinner. To accompany her main dish, I offered to bring a focaccia. Normally I made focaccia by making my usual pizza crust dough, stretching it to the pan and sprinking the top with olive oil and salt. For this dinner, though, I decided to look around on line to see if I might find an actual focaccia recipe that would be just as easy to make. I was not disappointed! I found this recipe for Stinky Bread and had to give it a try! I love garlic to begin with, so I had a good feeling about this one...
Before I got started I had to look at the recipe carefully. It calls for a bread machine. I don't have one. I don't actually want one... My KitchenAid does a great job with the kneading, and I have no interest in baking loaves of bread that have big hook-holes through them. So I had to look over the ingredients and actually understand what order things would be added in, as I can't just dump thing into the machine and let it go. I started by proofing the yeast in warm, not room temperature, water. Once the yeast got foamy I added the olive oil, flour (I used one cup of whole wheat, three cups of AP and 3-4 Tbsp. of vital wheat gluten), salt and garlic. Instead of rosemary or Italian seasonings I added dried basil. Then the mixer did its thing. I love seeing dough come together so nicely... and not having to knead by hand!!

While the dough was rising I fretted a little bit about the fact that the garlic had gone in raw. I know the bread, as a whole, would be baked, but I was concerned that there would be some of the sharp raw-garlic taste left. Should I have roasted the garlic first? Even sauteed it? Well, you'll see...

The dough rose beautifully. I was glad to see that the seasonings were still visible, that they hadn't all congregated in the middle of the dough or anything. I was sure this meant that the finished bread would look great with the basil and garlic speckled through!

The dough was then spread into an oiled and corn-mealed pan, left to rest again, spread with more olive oil and salt, then baked. The apartment smelled AMAZING. The garlic was clearly roasting, the oil even smelled good!

The resulting focaccia was crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and flavored so well. The garlic was not overpowering, the basil was just sort of a hint... We all loved it. So much so, in fact, that I made a second loaf of it two days later when friends came for lunch!

So stinky as it might be, this is an amazing recipe, and a definite keeper!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A crafty mom's latest adventure...

The book club it up!

You might have noticed that I tabbed a new page, hinting at some sort of reading group... Well, the wait is over! Introducing The Crafty Book Club! We'll be reading picture books and sharing our thoughts, crafts and more! Every month, on the 1st and 15th of the month, a new book will be announced, along with some ideas Little Girl and I have tried out to extend the fun from the story. It is a pipe dream of mine to turn this into an actual forum, and to add books for children of all ages... If this idea picks up, and I learn a thing or two computer-wise about how to run the forum set-up, then it might actually happen...!

But for now, picture books abound! If you have kids, if you babysit, if you play with a friend's kids, if you have nieces or nephews... Come read along and craft along! The more the merrier! Nothing makes a book book better than sharing it with friends!