Thursday, December 27, 2012

Daring to do it: Panettone

Ah, the holidays.  This is always a strange time of year.  As a Jew in a Christian cultured environment it is always an odd balancing act - how to acknowledge Christmas, even celebrate it with friends and family members, without losing my own celebrations at the same time.  I was lucky enough to grow up is a neighborhood filled with diverse cultures, so I feel like I got to learn a lot, and celebrate a lot, while still maintaining my own identity.  Every December the Daring Bakers are challenged to make something fairly Christmas-y, and this year was no exception.  But I have found that food is such a great teacher of culture that I kind of look forward to the opportunity to learn something new.

The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!

Wow.  Panettone.  Kind of like an Italia fruitcake, but not at all.  I had, before this challenge, never seen a home made panettone.  And this coming from someone who grew up next door to off-the-boat Italians who cooked and baked everything.  All I knew of panettone was that it was the big tall, box with the big tall cake-type thing.  Thanks to the amazing and talented Marcellina, I got to learn what a panettone is all about and how to bake it at home. 
Marcellina gave us a fabulous recipe to work from, but she did allow for some leeway in fillings and such.  In somewhat of a departure for me, I stuck to her recipe except for two changes - this must be a record of fewest alterations by me!  Yay!  The original recipe calls for a lot of eggs and a lot of butter.  Like, seven eggs (ok, three of them are only yolks, but you need seven eggs) and one and a half cups of butter.  Yes, one and a half cups.  Three sticks.  For my first substitution I used (you guessed it) margarine instead of butter.  For my second change I decided two sticks (one cup) would be more than enough, and used a half cup of applesauce for the last part.  Other than that, I followed Marcellina's recipe (ok, I us different fried fruits in my filling, but that was encouraged!) and method, and was quite impressed.
There are a lot of steps here,and therefor a lot of pictures.  So from here I will try to let the pictures do the talking for me.
The sponge:
Turning the sponge into the first dough, with Little Girl's help:

Making the second dough (not the most interesting photo...):
The filling (for three of my four panettoni) - dried apricots, dried pineapple and dried blueberry flavored cranberries, tossed with flour and cinnamon (the fourth was filled with chocolate chips.  or course.):
The final dough, ready to be filled:
My home made, origami panettone molds, with parchment paper cuffs:
Filling and rolling:
Ready to rise:
Ready to bake:
These were so good.Rich, as you would expect with all of those eggs and butter substitutes but not heavy.  Beautiful to look at, even thought they didn't rise as much as I had hoped.  I think the molds were wider that tradition wold have had me use, so they spread out a bit instead of being forced up.  These were a hit.  I can totally see me making these again.  Adopting an Italian Christmas treat and turning it into a Jewish celebration food.  I love it!
Thank you so much, Marcellina!  This was a learning experience, and a lot of fun, too!!  And thank you to Lis, the Daringest of the Daring Kitchen-ers, for creating such a wonderful forum!
Please check out the beautiful creations made by my fellow Daring Bakers.  You won't be disappointed.
And happy holidays, no matter hat holidays they are!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Surprise! Cookies

This month's sourdough surprise was to make cookies.  Any kind of cookies.  Yum.  But here it the thing.  I am kinda lazy...  As much as I love cookies, making them can be a bit of a hassle.  Add to that the inevitable nap-less days for the girls, and it really doesn't make sense to me to keep having to open the oven and deal with multiple hot trays.  So when I want cookies, I make cookie bars instead.  One pan, one trip into the oven, it is just easier in my little head. 
The hardest part of the process was choosing a recipe.  Yes, I would have liked to have made a lot of different types of cookies, but I just knew that wasn't going to be in the cards.  But there were so many to choose from!  My sourdough loving friends put together a Pinterest board with bunches of suggestions, and they all looked and sounded really good.  I decided to combine a few of the recipes, then add a little of my own insanity to the mix.  I created sourdough oatmeal chocolate-chocolate chip cookie bars  Quite a mouthful to say, but REALLY good!
The dough came together really easily.  I mean, all I had to do was mix everything together...!
Right from the bowl into the pan, then bake away:
I kinda liked how the oatmeal showed through.  It almost made this into health food, right?  Or at least an acceptable breakfast...
Cut into squares:
Totally yummy.  I can't wait to try some more of theses!
I hope you had fun sourdough-ing it up this month!  Remember to link up so you can show off, too!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Daring to do it: Pate Chinois

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook! Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the Paté Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!

I don't know about you, but before his challenge was posted I had never heard of pate chinois.  Like, I had absolutely no idea what it could be.  Read on for another moment and see another name for this dish - Shepherd's pie.  That I do know!  Total comfort food, as Andy said.  Yummy goodness covered in mashed potatoes.  Where is the bad?  I am pretty sure I have made a Shepherd's pie before, but I can't remember...  So this challenge was like new to me, even if it might not have been totally new...!
Andy gave us some great recipes to choose from, and also gave us leeway to make something that would work for our families.  I really wanted to try her vegetarian recipe, but between not having any lentils in the house and having a husband who doesn't like mushrooms, I figured I would use her recipe as a base and play from there.
For my base/protein layer I cooked up some white, great northern beans and mashed them up a little.
For the veggies I sauteed a little bit of everything...!   There's onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, bell pepper, garlic...  I think that is it!  Then I made a pan gravy with broth, corn starch, sesame oil and soy sauce to go on that.
Then come the mashed potatoes.  Yum.
But I decided to try something a little crazy.  And potentially icky-looking.  I topped my potatoes wit mashed purple potatoes.   I hoped it would look fun, and Little Girl's favorite color is purple, so I thought she might get a kick out of it.
Hooray!  Purple dinner!
This really is amazing comfort food.  Hearty, filling, warm, it is kind of like a blanket for your belly.  And so versatile!  I really wanted to make a second pie a couple of days later using leftover vegetarian chili, but I still had leftovers of this one and didn't want to overwhelm either the family or the fridge!
Andy, thank you for this perfect challenge for the chilly weather we have been having.  You were a fun host, and your support was awesome.  Definitely take the time to see what the other Daring Cooks created.  The variety is amazing, and you are sure to get inspired!!