Daring Bakers November: One cannot live on bread alone

It's that time of month again, where the food blogging world is alive with posts all making the same recipe. This month the hens went on strike, and the cows needed some time off, so no mountains of eggs, and no vat loads of heavy cream were used in the creation of what might end up being 400 loaves of Tender Potato Bread, all courtesy of the Daring Bakers! That's right, the Daring Bakers have grown to the 400 number, and while not everyone did this month's challenge recipe, I am sure I am not the only person who made more than one batch of it.

We owe this months' recipe to Tanna, our hostess for the month of November. She challenged us to follow the recipe exactly, to a certain point, and then let loose the Daring Baker in us and see what we could come up with.

What I came up with was one very huge loaf of bread. And I do mean HUGE!

My bread baking experience started with a question - how many ounces in a pound? It's 16, btw, in case you didn't know. So for me, 1 1/2 potatoes was enough to get me between the 8 and 16 ounce guideline given to us for the quantity of potato needed for the recipe. I am so glad that weight was given, because if I had followed the 4 medium potatoes, I'd have had over 3 pounds of potato in my bread! And that would have been way too much!

Yes, this dough was a bit sticky, but other than that, it was nice to work with. It rose nicely, it baked up quickly and with a good crust, and it tasted mighty fine, warm, slathered with butter.

I wish I could say I enjoyed it the next day, but I didn't. I guess I am an eat bread warm from the oven kind of girl. Oh well.

Seeing as this was my challenge recipe, I did have to make it more than once. (Okay, maybe have to is a bit strong - I wanted to.) So last week I pulled out my potatoes and got working on a second batch of the bread, making a very large Focaccia instead of a loaf, studded with lots of scallions, and topped with fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper, which I served with a homemade cauliflower soup. (Sorry, all my pictures for that one turned out blurry and boring, so no pictures!) Fingers of the focaccia were perfect for sopping up the soup.

I'm not sure if I will make this bread again, it will go into the "Maybe" tab of my Daring Bakers' recipe binder. While we enjoyed the flavor of it warm, after the first day no one in my house ate it. The children, who had inhaled it the first night, each took a bite the next day then turned up their noses and asked for something else. Feed back from my test guinea pigs (friends) was favorable, even for the next day, unless I am making it for a large crowd, I can see alot of bread going to waste.

Many thanks to Tanna for this month's recipe, not something I would have thought to try on my own. Be sure to check out as many of the other Daring Baker's blogs as you can, before you get sick of bread!

Goodmorning Winter

The view outside my kitchen window this morning. Yes, the children are thrilled. No one who has to drive is though.

My husband, leaving for swimming this morning before 6 am, so it must have snowed all night.

Have a good day everyone!

Happy Birthday Daring Bakers!

I'm sure I'm not the only one who was caught off guard yesterday by the announcement of the Daring Baker's First Birthday!

Sure, I've been a Daring Baker since January, but back then we were just a bunch of gals baking croissants together on one day. We didn't actually get the name Daring Baker's until later. Which is probably what threw me when I read both Ivonne and Lis' posts (plus saw Lis' lovely cake on the DB blog - and I so do think you could have made that Lis!)

There is no way I could let the occasion pass by without some sort of treat, even if that treat was going to be a day late!

So before he left this morning, I told my husband I was going to make a cake for the Daring Baker's and what kind would he like? He was very thoughtful for awhile and then finally said, "Lemon. Hey, I didn't pick black forest!" (And I guess it says a little something about our relationship that he did not even bat an eye when I said I was going to make a birthday cake for my online baking group.)

I doubt he is expecting this as a lemon cake though - Lemon Souffle Cake from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book. He only said lemon, he didn't say anything else, so I'm sure he is expecting a layer cake with icing rather than a lighter than air souffle that has to be scooped out of the pan. But this is about the Daring Baker's, part of which is trying new things and stepping outside of our comfort zones. My comfort zone had never made a souffle before, let alone a souffle cake, so lemon requirement met, that's what I chose to make!

That's my piece in the picture, which I'm not finished eating, so speeding things up here -


Oh you mean you want the recipe now? Oh well, alright....

Lemon Souffle Cake
from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325F. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square baking pan.
In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and salt - set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sour cream, melted butter, lemon zest and lemon juice until blended. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until blended.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium low speed until frothy. Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until the whites just form stiff peaks. Do not overbeat. Gently fold the beaten whites into the batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Place the baking pan in a roasting pan or larger baking pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan so that it comes 3/4 inch up the sides of the square pan.
Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes, until it is puffed and set in the center. Remove the pan from the water bath and place it on a wire rack. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before serving.
To serve, cut the cake into squares. Scoop each square onto a plate and serve immediately.

This cake is best served the day it's made.

Here you go Tartelette!

Still no new lens for my camera, so still taking pictures from the other side of the room, but I think I am working out some bugs. Can't wait to be able to take major closeup pictures (so you buggers who keep outbidding me on ebay for my lens - CUT IT OUT!!!)

However, the loss of that last auction did not stop me from making this cake, a major blast from my youth, earlier in the week - German Chocolate Cake. The same one that the dangerous trio of Tartelette, Lis and Mary made together when they had their amazing gathering.

After seeing the picture of it in Lis' blog, I bugged Tartelette for the recipe, which she very quickly provided for me. Oh yippee!

My mother and I think my grandmother used to either make or buy German Chocolate Cake with brown sugar coconut icing. At least that's what I remember being in it (and it was my most favorite part of the cake.) So I skipped the peacans in the recipe and upped the coconut some, and enjoyed it with these mini bundts of the cake. (Aren't mini bundts cute?)

Now if you look at the other pictures, the one on Lis' blog, and the one on Mary's, you'll see they each have a chocolate glaze over their cake first. I don't know where it is in the recipe, nor have I ever had it with a glaze before. So mine doesn't have one. Instead each piece I had involved lots of the coconut icing. Yum. Yum. Yum!

This cake was a little dry for me, but it could have been my over baking, this being the first time I've used the pans. The batter is almost moose like, which I found odd, but it seems to work. And the icing is to die for!

So thanks Tartelette! It's taken me all week to blog about the cake, but I feel slightly better now and I'm sure the cake didn't hurt!

Dinner, dessert and a camera

So I have received a "new" camera, a digital SLR which I am very much enjoying taking pictures with. Not the camera I really want, but one that will do me well for awhile.

It has one small problem right now - the lens that I have is a 40-150mm zoom lens, which means I can take great distance pictures, but have a bit of an issue taking up close pictures. Every "close up" picture I have taken so far has been done from a distance!

Here are two pictures I have taken this week, both items I made, and the fun story of how I managed to get the shots.

First, broccoli soup, dinner.

I really wanted to make a broccoli soup for dinner for some reason. Not sure why, especially since my 3 boys are not huge fans of most soups, even less so when it is dinner. I, on the other hand, like the warmth of a good soup for dinner, with nice bread. Most of the time I respect their preferences and don't make soup, or if I make it, make it for lunch, but occasionally I do my own thing and they live with soup for dinner.

I did some web surfing for a good recipe and did not find any one recipe that grabbed me. But it did confirm that I already knew what was supposed to be in my soup, so I just made it up as I went along. And actually wrote down what I did (I'm trying to make this a new cooking habit.)

I accidentally over salted my soup, but even that was not noticeable once I added some shredded cheddar cheese to the soup. And like most soups, it tasted better the next day - I just finished the last bowl for my own lunch today.

So taking this picture wasn't too horrible - I placed it on my dining room table with as much light as I could get (it is now getting dark very early here.) Then I stood as far back as I could in my dining room and tried to get a good picture. It's not a huge room, so I was limited for space. With nothing but a zoom lens, I can't be too close or the camera will not take the picture.

I think this one worked out fairly well.

My next recipe came from Cream Puff and is the Caramel Cheesecake with sea salt she posted about recently, another thing made that I drooled over. I don't have the proper sized ramekins for the recipe, and I admit, despite several Daring Baker's challenges involving caramel, that I am still nervous a bit about working with it.

And yes, I burnt the first batch of caramel. Should have taken a picture of the way the caramel ended up when I poured it down the sink. That would have been a cool picture!

The second batch of caramel I did not let get as dark, I probably should have let get a bit more amber, but it still tasted wonderful. And the cheesecake was just what I needed.

I admit, I did forget to give the extra sprinkling of sea salt on the top, but the salt in the caramel was a nice touch. It was good. Alright, I inhaled it.

So this picture had my oldest son laughing, trying to get into the shot. I had set a place mat on the floor at the bottom of my stairs. I had the front entrance light on, as well as the dining room light on, and placed the cheesecake on the mat. Then I climbed up the stairs and zoomed in. He kept trying to put his hands in the picture and would laugh whenever he heard me click. Eventually I showed him how close I was zooming in and how his hands were no where to be seen.

I added a few pictures to my Flickr account recently, as well as adding the link to the side of my blog, so feel free to take a look at the pictures there and let me know what you think. Alot of the pictures on there are from my little Nikon but if you click on a picture it will tell you which camera it was taken with.

Hopefully I will get another lens soon, and not have to be 6 feet back from something when taking a picture. Unless I want to be.

Broccoli Soup

2-3 heads of broccoli, stalks peeled and chopped, florettes reserved separately
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 carton low salt chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup Half and Half cream
2 teaspoons of salt, divided
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 cup grated cheddar

Heat large pot over medium high heat. Melt butter with the olive oil, and saute the onions and broccoli stalks until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Add stock, reserved broccoli florettes and nutmeg, as well as half of the salt, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender, but not over cooked. Reduce temperature. Using a slotted spoon, remove half of the broccoli florettes to a bowl. Puree the soup in the pot using a hand immersion blender until mostly smooth. Add the cream, the balance of the salt and the pepper and stir together. Return the broccoli to the pot. Taste, adjust seasonings and check the temperature. When it is all where you want it to be, ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with cheese and enjoy.

Tasting my way to a happier place

I've been felling very down and out lately. Functioning but not happy.

To help me break out of this, or at least escape for awhile, I called on a good friend of mine, Bam Bam's Mom, and said I needed to go out and have some fun. What we did was up to her, but I needed out!

She did not disappoint!

Knowing how much I enjoy food and how much of a foodie I've become, BBM, decided to take me out for a blind menu tasting, right here in Ottawa! (She told me she had been looking for a Molecular Gastronomy tasting but had just missed it by a few days - who knew we could do this in Ottawa?) I would never have thought of looking for this here, but she found a hotel, Brookstreet, whose restaurant Perspectives, had a menu tasting for us to try.

So here is the story of our meal that night.....

Our server let us know that the menu was heavy on seafood, something neither of us objected to.

It started with a lobster consume, with watercress, and a lobster spring roll, served with a black, Hawaiian sea salt.

The consume was very salty and reminded me of miso soup, which I like. The spring roll was crispy on the outside while the lobster was cold on the inside. Dipped into the black sea salt on the plate, it was wonderful! And the salt drizzled all over the watercrest reminded me how long I had been wanting to try watercress and how much I would enjoy it on my own sandwiches.

The next course was an oyster treat. It started with an oyster in the shell on one side of the plate, and some honey chipotle tempura oysters at the other end of the plate. At the bottom of the glass of oysters was a type of seaweed with some sesame oil (at least that is what we thought), which gave a nice balance of acid with the sweetness of the oysters.

In between these two oysters was what was called an "Eight Element Salad." (We repeatedly questioned our server about what each bit was, with my taking both notes and pictures - she was endlessly patient with us and kept her smile the entire evening.) BBM and I tried to dissect that salad, trying to figure out what all the elements were. This is what we came up with: watercress, carrot, red pepper, crispy parsnips, cucumber, cubed pineapple, oil and some kind of vinegar. Even if we were wrong, it was very tasty and even had me eating bits of cucumber.

Continuing on the seafood road, the next dish involved bay sea scallops, served in the shell, with a truffle cream, porcini mushrooms and a tiny bit of pasta. This was a bit difficult to eat, since you had to try and get around the outsides of the bay scallops to get at them inside. But once you did, it was lovely!
The crispiness of the parsnips worked very well with the softness of the mushrooms, and the mild truffle cream gave it an elegance and a feeling of indulgence. Just what two tired mother's need on a rainy Saturday night.

The next course was considered to be the main of the evening. It consisted of New Zealand lamb with a blueberry sauce, a cauliflower puree and cold beef cheeks in natural juices. There was supposed to be a blueberry blue cheese with it, which my friend could not eat, but our plates were mixed up and she got the cheese and I did not. I tried the cheese, however, and thought ugh, then went oops - I am allergic to penicillin and probably should not have been eating blue cheese, just in case. So ignoring that - the lamb was meltingly tender, and went well with the blueberry sauce. It took us awhile to identify the puree (okay, we never did) but once told it was cauliflower, we both went, "Oooh, so that's what that is!" The cold beef cheeks were not very cold and tasted very much like a rich, well done stew meat. It was the kind of meat that I could serve to my family with mashed potatoes, provided I didn't tell them what it was!

Now because BBM could not eat the cheese course, the chef very kindly decided not to serve it to her and have her not eat it, but instead substituted something for her. She didn't ask for a substitute, so to me this showed the quality of the restaurant - they wanted her to be happy and enjoy her meal, not have to skip an entire course! So we were both surprised and a bit confused when a different server presented her with this dish - watermelon marinated in triple sec, with a cranberry passion fruit sorbet and a drizzle of very good balsamic around the edge.

I got to try both aspects of this dish - the watermelon was very good, slightly orangy, and did not taste at all like it was loaded in alcohol. The sorbet was wonderful, with the cranberry flavor being predominate. If you hadn't known about the passion fruit, it would have been missed, it was so mild. Very nice.

So while she enjoyed that, I got to try the cheese course, something I admit I have never done before. There were three types of cheese, all local from Lanark County; a Highland Blue, Bonnechere Brie and a Flower Station cheese. The cheeses were served with some crusty bread slices, some more watercress with a balsamic drizzle and some cranberry chutney, as well as a bowl of candied walnuts. I skipped the blue cheese and went straight for the brie with the bread. And even though I don't like walnuts, I tried one with the brie and glazes and enjoyed it. The brie was wonderfully creamy and I loved it. The Flower station was a kind of cheddar and was okay but nothing compared to the brie.

Our final course of the evening was the dessert course, which gave a variety of things to try, though I don't think either of us could figure out how they all went together. First there was a pistachio ice cream (with a hidden piece of cake inside, on top of a "plate" of gold-starred chocolate,) next to a lychee and raspberry gelee, and followed up by a pumpkin cheese cake with thin layers of chocolate. The pistachio ice cream was wonderful, with and without the cake, and could have been 3 times larger and I still would have eaten it. The gelee was tart and sweet at the same time, a lovely contrast. The pumpkin cheesecake, I'm sorry, was just a bit wierd. Lots of pumpkin flavor, not much cheesecake. The pistachio ice cream more than made up for the cheesecake though!

By the time we were done, neither one of us was ready to eat anymore. Even though the portions were not full sized, or huge, they were big enough that by the time we were at the end of the courses, we were both full. And it had been a very enjoyable evening, of two good friends, enjoying a culinary adventure and an evening of chatting about life and food! Something I hope to repeat again with BBM!

By the time the evening was over, I was feeling better. Yes, the problems that had been dragging me down are still there, but I felt better able to deal with them. And knew that I had a very good friend willing to let me vent and pour my heart out to her over a the course of an evening and six courses! Thanks BBM!