Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring to do it: Candy

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

Yes, another challenge, and with it another contest. The contest part is kind of... well, a non-issue for me, I guess. But the challenge? Way cool! Candy making is something that has always seemed beyond me. Sure I have tried in the past, but not with the expectation of it being "real" candy, just a treat for me. But with the recipes provided by our fabulous hosts, I knew I would at least have fun trying! While the challenge was hosted by a chocolate company, there were plenty of non-chocolate options to choose from, also. Here at the four candies I completed this month.

Peanut butter fudge:

I followed the recipe as written, except I halved it (which I shouldn't have done!!) and I used soy milk. It turned out AMAZINGLY - Hubby is the peanut butter addict in the family, but I think I ate most of the pan!

Sponge candy (aka Honeycomb):

From a scientific perspective, this was awesome! Unfortunately I wasn't as thrilled with the taste as I wanted to be. There was too much of a baking soda taste, which interfered with my enjoyment. Strangely, though, I kept coming back for more nibbles... (There was some discussion in the forum about this candy, with other alternative recipes with differing amounts of baking soda... So I think I will have to try this one again.

Pate de fruits:

I used watermelon, strawberries and blueberries for my pate de fruit. I knew it would be a bit more complicated because of the high water content of the watermelon, but, having never made this before, I figured I wouldn't really know any better anyway! I used powdered pectin instead of liquid, as that was what I had. This was good. I would like to try a peach pate de fruit, as there is a peach tree growing in my backyard giving such yummy, juicy fruits!





These were good. I made my ganache with dark chocolate and soy milk. The ganache never set as firmly as I would have liked, but I think that is because of the milk - using cream, as is usually done, would have added more fat and depth. I then added pretzels to it, for crunch and yumminess. As for tempering chocolate... I will call what I did "pseudo-tempering." I don't have a chocolate thermometer, and the candy thermometer simply does not go low enough to be accurate. My chocolate shells had the right snap to them, but not the shine of a proper temper. I definitely want to do this again, with peanuts... And probably with candy molds so they will be a bit of a more manageable size!

I did attempt one more candy - rock candy. But that is one that requires days to grow. And it hasn't been enough days, so I don't think it has finished growing... Hopefully you'll see that one some other time...

Lisa and Mandy, thank you so much for this fun challenge. It was great to learn along with my fellow Daring Bakers, and to see the amazing and creative candies everyone made! Take a look for yourself, but try not to drool on your keyboard!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Daring to do it: Appam and Curry

One of the reasons I joined the Daring Kitchen was to broaden my horizons. I like to think that I am open minded when it comes to food, and this is a great way to really get my hands into foods which I otherwise might never try, or even hear about!! This month was a great example of just that...

Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

Mary is wonderful. I love looking at her blog, both for the challenges and otherwise, since her dishes are always so beautiful, both to look at and from a flavor perspective! I knew she wouldn't lead us astray, even if she was having us make something I had never heard of!!

Appam are sort of like crepes, but yeasted and made with rice. (I know, yeast in a flat bread? Sounds like an oxymoron!) I generally only have brown rice in the house, just as a personal preference. While appam are usually made with white rice, I decided to go ahead and try brown, just to see if I could...

Start by soaking the rice for several hours. Because I was using brown rice, I soaked mine overnight.
Once thoroughly soaked, the rice is blended with proofed yeast. Blend and blend and blend... You want your batter as smooth as you can get it.The blended batter then gets set aside to rise. Actually, you want it to go beyond rising to fermenting. Did I mention that this is not a dish you can decide to make spur-of-the-moment? Yeah... lots of time needed, but most of it is unattended, so not too bad. I let me appam batter rise all afternoon, then I put the bowl into the fridge overnight. I took it out and let it come to room temperature before moving on to the next step.

Coconut milk and salt are added to the fermented rice, and the appam are finally ready to be cooked. A few tablespoons of batter are put into a lightly greased frying pan, the pan is covered and the appam cook for about two minutes. After all of the time that goes into preparing the batter, the cooking is really quick and easy!
I was actually a bit more worried about the curry than the appam in this challenge. I have never really tried curry, and was nervous that it would be way to strong for my taste... Also, despite the variety of great looking recipes Mary had provided for us, I couldn't find one that spoke to me... or that didn't have so many spices I had never even heard of! After looking at a lot of recipes on-line, I decided to fake it... I made a list of the spices I saw popping up in many of the recipes and headed to one of my favorite local stores which I knew would carry at least some of them. I bought fenugreek seed, cumin seed, green cardamom pods and curry powder.
(They didn't have curry leaves, so I had to go for the next best thing...) I toasted the seeds and pods in a pan before crushing them. This, along with the curry powder, was my Indian spice blend. For the actual food part of the curry dish, I chose to go simple. I sauteed onion, carrots and lentils in coconut oil until the carrots were a bit softened and the onions were translucent. I added halved grape tomatoes and some vegetable stock, as well as the rest of the can of coconut milk left from the appam batter. (Oh yeah, and the spice mix, too!) The resulting curry dish was really good! The coconut milk added just a touch of sweetness which was really nice. And the appam were a great accompaniment, both for taste and texture. I wound up snacking on them by dipping them into the curry sauce as I was cleaning up! The curry was also great the next day over rice... I am really glad that I have more spices so I can do this again! (And so is Hubby!!) Thank you so much, Mary, for this amazing challenge! You were a wonderful and supportive host, and I loved working with you! To see what my fellow Daring Cooks created, take a look here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

S'mores going on than you know!

Amidst the craziness that is having a two year old and a two month old, I really am keeping up with crafting and cooking. And not just for the Daring Kitchen!! It is just the blogging part that seems to fall by the wayside. Hopefully one of these days I will catch up on some of the more interesting and amusing projects we have undertaken... But today's, for a couple of reasons, had to get posted. (This was not something I had planned, ergo the lack of pictures from the process...)

A good friend came over for dinner tonight. Someone we had not seen in a while, and we had missed, so I wanted to make something special. Well, when you ask Little Girl what she would like to bake, her usual answer is cupcakes. Which she said today. So I searched for cupcake recipes. I kept seeing s'mores cupcakes, and I thought that sounded both yummy and fun. I found this recipe for cupcakes that I liked. It looked easy enough and also didn't call for any ingredients I didn't already have in the house. Instead of using Nutella like the original poster used, I made my favorite quick fudge icing for the chocolate layer, and for the marshmallow frosting I used my fluffy white frosting recipe. While the finished cakes looked nothing like s'mores (not that there was any thought they might!), they were really quite cute, and I was excited to try them. In Hubby's words, they are a little more understated that expected - they are not overwhelmingly sweet, and the marshmallow frosting really brings out the "s'mores-ness" of them.

Now the reasons why I had to post these... It turns out that yesterday was National S'mores Day. Why there is a National S'more Day is beyond me, but who am I to question a day celebrating gooey, chocolaty goodness? And how did I find out that it was National S'mores Day? My sister, Auntie Twin posted about it on her blog this evening - having made s'mores cupcakes of her own!! Apparently this twin thing had its mojo working today! It was just too much fun to pass on the post, so here it is, in all of its s'mores-y goodness!