Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Time for the next Daring Baker's Challenge!!

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

We were instructed to use the strudel dough recipe listed. We could either use the suggested apple filling, or come up with a different filling- sweet or savory. I've been wanting to make an apple pastry for a while now, so I was excited to try the original apple walnut recipe provided to us.

That said, the hosts recommended that we make twice the amount of dough so that we could practice pulling and stretching the delicate dough once before making the good one. I thought that was a wise idea following my fondant disaster last month. I decided to try a chocolate strudel and set off with my friend Google to find a good recipe. The yummiest looking chocolate recipe I could find was on the godiva website.

If you take a look at the recipe, you can see they prepared the recipe in a different manner from my altered version (photos below, my recipe at the bottom). Can you guess at a glance how my alterations led to a slight strudel disaster? No? I'll see if you can figure it out along the way.

I made the chocolate version first, I knew there was a chance something could go wrong and I was more excited about the apple so I left that one for after I had some practice with the dough.

First, I made the dough- doubled the recipe. Nothing too exciting about that process. Some mixing in the kitchen aid, some kneading on the counter.

Then I split it into two mounds and let it sit for about 2 hours (covered in plastic). Meanwhile, I got started on the chocolate filling. First, melt the chocolate and butter.

Mix together the yolks and half of the sugar. Combine it with the chocolate. Add vanilla.
Clean out the kitchen aid bowl, and whip up the egg whites, other half of sugar, and salt until it reaches soft peaks.
Fold this into the chocolate.
This mixture is amazing. I had to call in some extra willpower to refrain from getting a spoon and going to town on this amazing chocolate yumminess. Refrigerate this for an hour. **Do you see the issue yet?
Okay, when the hour was coming to a close, I got to work on the strudel dough. I was nervous! I followed a tip to use a large cheesecloth instead of a tablecloth. This was good, but the gosh darn cheesecloth was so flimsy that it was moving around the entire time. I had to keep adjusting it. Here is my prepared workspace:
I rolled it out as best I could with a rolling pin
Then, about 30 minutes were spent sloooowly stretching and pulling this thing as thin as I could. This was not as hard as I thought it would be, just a little tedious.
Here it is stretched as far as I was willing to take it:Then I very lightly brushed melted butter all over the surface, and sprinkled the toasted hazelnuts all over. The hazelnuts will keep air pockets so the layers don't mush together when you roll it up.
Okay, time to spread on the chocolate! Now do you see the problem? Fluffy, souffle-like chocolate filling? Wrapped in thin as tissue pastry? Get it yet?? I didn't!!
Oblivious to the impending explosion, I had my handy hubby snap some photos as I rolled the "strudel" as instructed. It rolled very easily!

I put it on a baking dish, brushed with butter and sprinkled with more toasted ground hazlenuts. Into the oven it went, 400 for 30 minutes. Looks good here, huh? Don't worry, that won't last!
I peeked halfway through so I could turn the pan. And what did I see? My beautiful strudel dough splitting down the center due to a huge puff of chocolate exploding out of the top. DRAT!! I let it finish cooking anyway. The split turned into a gash... it was a huge puffy mess! By the time I got my camera, the chocolate had deflated, but the gash was still there.

If you re-read Godiva's recipe, towards the end it says "Bake strudels for 30 minutes or until tops puff up and are firm on top". Key word? PUFFs. They cooked theirs in cups. So that they had room to expand. Duh! Oh well, it cut easily and was actually very tasty. Very tasty indeed. A strong chocolate flavor, but still light and airy. Yummmm! Nice with the toasted hazelnuts. I might use the filling recipe for something else... a souffle, perhaps?
Okay, onto the apple! I already had the dough ready-to-go. I cut the apples up, tossed them in the cinnamon sugar, and let them sit while I prepared the dough. I also put the raisins in the rum and let them soak.

Time to pull the dough again. I worked much faster this time. I got it to pull further, although it ended up in more of a square shape than a rectangle. Again, I brushed melted butter all over the surface. This time, I sprinkled fresh, home-made breadcrumbs all over.

I put the walnuts in a 6-inch (ish) wide square by one of the ends.

I mixed the raisins and apples and poured them over the walnuts. My handy photo helper had moved onto his own activities for the day, and I only paused for one photo during this assembly.
And here is that one assembly photo
Moved onto a baking dish and brushed with butter
Into the oven it went, 400 for 30 minutes. Luckily, this one came out in tact! There was a little leaking, but I was happy with it!

Sliced up to enjoy!! Yummmm!I was thrilled with how flaky it turned out to be. Next time, I'll sprinkle some sugar on top too.
Strudel dough

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary (I had to add more water). Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better). I probably let it stand for 2 hours

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides. Cover your working area with table cloth (I used a big cheesecloth), dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can. Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons golden rum
3 tablespoons raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
Prepared Strudel dough
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Chocolate Explosion "Strudel"
Adapted from

6 ounces Dark Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli baking chips)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
7 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus an extra pinch
1/2 cup coarsely ground toasted hazelnuts
Strudel dough, prepared

Make the filling:
Place chocolate and butter in heatproof bowl and place over simmering water. Stir gently until thoroughly melted and combined. Reserve.

Place yolks in bowl of electric mixer fitted with wire whisk attachment. Add half of sugar and beat on medium speed until yolks have lightened in color and hold a soft ribbon. Fold yolk mixture into melted chocolate until just combined. Add vanilla extract; reserve.

Place whites in clean bowl of electric mixer fitted with wire whisk attachment. Add salt and whip until foamy and opaque. While machine is running, add remaining sugar in slow stream. Turn speed up and whip whites until they hold soft peaks. Do not overbeat. Carefully fold whites into chocolate mixture. Chill for 1 hour or overnight.

Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described. Spread about 3 tablespoons of melted butter over the dough using your hands. Sprinkle the buttered dough with the toasted hazelnuts. Spoon the chocolate filling about 3 inches from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-wide strip.

Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter. Sprinkle with leftover toasted hazelnuts.

Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature.

Monday, May 11, 2009


One of the things we get quite often from Chestnut Farms is ground lamb. I had two pounds in the freezer and didn't feel like gyros again, so I did some googling for recipes that contain ground lamb. I found something called "Bobotie", which is a very traditional South African dish.

It looked interesting, I was especially intrigued because I love fruit and love including it in all kinds of cooking. So I spent a long time researching different Bobotie recipes online. I couldn't find one that was just right. Some contained bananas. Some didn't include the egg topping. Many involved nuts. I finally found one that looked the best to me here. I made a few modifications before I even started, and then adjusted other things while I cooked. The end result? Delicious! It was a wonderful blend of tastes. Lamb, curry, fruit, wow- it was so good! The egg topping added a great texture too. I served it for Mother's Day, and it was a hit. I will definitely make this again, although next time I will make it a little bit healthier by substituting white bread for whole grain and whole milk for skim.

Oh, I had some trouble finding chutney to use, this recipe was from a British website, and it sounds like they have a popular chutney mix that is sold over there. Luckily, Whole Foods had some chutneys that had similar ingredients, minus the peaches.

Ground lamb from Chestnut Farms, grass-fed and hormone free!

Cook the onions in a little oil
Add the lamb and garlic, cook until it is evenly brown but still very juicy

Start adding the spices, curry paste, currants, and chutney

Blend it all together! I taste-tested at this point and doubled the curry, currants, and chutney because the tastes were too subtle. Doubling was perfect, a great blend of taste. This modification is reflected in the recipe below. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
While the lamb is simmering, soak the bread in extra milk.
When the lamb is done simmering, squeeze the milk out of the bread.

Add the bread clumps into the lamb. Using a wooden spoon, mix them into the bobotie. The bread will break up and blend in easily.
The bread is blended in now
Pour the lamb mixture into a baking dish and pat it down with the wooden spoon. Smooth out the top
Whisk the milk and eggs together
Pour the egg topping over the top of the bobotie. Put the extra bay leaves on top and immediately put it in the oven.

It's ready after 35-40 minutes when the topping is set and a little bit golden around the edges.

Serve it up and enjoy!!

I could only find a good chutney at Whole Foods, no peaches involved though

The curry paste, very tasty! I will use the extra with other meat this week.
Inspired by: BBC Good Food

2 slices white bread
2 small onions, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 pounds ground lamb
4 tbsp madras curry paste
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
4 tbsp peach mango chutney (my chutney was only mango, tasted great though)
6 tbsp sultanas (raisins, golden raisins, or currants work) I used currants
6 bay leaves

1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs

Heat oven to 320

Pour extra milk over the bread and set aside to soak.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring regularly, for 10 mins until they are soft and starting to color. Add the garlic and lamb and stir well. Cook until the lamb has just turned color (should be even brown, but still very moist). Stir in the curry paste, spices, chutney, sultanas and 2 of the bay leaves with 1 tsp salt and plenty of ground black pepper.

Cover and simmer for 10 mins. Remove the bay leaves.

Squeeze the milk from the bread, then beat into the meat mixture until well blended. The bread will break down and will mix in.

Tip into an oval ovenproof casserole dish. Press the mixture down well and smooth the top. You can make this and chill 1 day ahead.

For the topping, beat the milk and eggs, then pour over the meat. Top with the remaining bay leaves and bake for 35-40 mins until the topping is set and starting to turn golden. The top should be firm. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

My sister served us this delicious soup from Cooks Illustrated for Easter. I checked out the recipe for myself! It was a great soup to make on a Sunday afternoon and have around for dinner all week. It was really yummy! I will definitely be making this again.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion , 3 medium shallots or 1 medium leek (white and light green parts only), chopped (I used an onion)
2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine
1 butternut squash , medium (about 2 1/2 pounds), halved, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or low-sodium vegetable broth (chicken broth for me)
1 teaspoon table salt
ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 - 1 cup whole milk (I used skim milk)
2 teaspoons minced fresh chives or minced parsley (I didn't have either)

1. Heat butter or oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add sherry and squash; stir-cook until sherry evaporates, about 30 seconds.
2. Add stock, salt, pepper to taste, and ginger to saucepan; bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Ladle squash mixture into blender. Add 3/4 cup milk; blend until very smooth. Return soup to saucepan; cook over low heat until warmed through. If soup is too thick, stir in additional milk to thin consistency. Adjust seasonings. (Soup can be refrigerated for 3 days and reheated just before serving.)
4. Ladle soup into individual bowls. Garnish with minced chives and serve immediately. (I garnished once with toasted pine nuts, but had it plain the rest of the week. Still yummy!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thank you for having a birthday.... I had an excuse to make these Nutella cupcakes. This recipe comes from Carmen Cooks. They looked to die for. So when a co-workers birthday popped up (on Cinco de Mayo, fun!), I jumped at the chance to bring in a treat for the office. They ended up being so easy and so good. The cake was moist and delicious, and how can you go wrong adding Nutella?

It starts with a yellow cake batter (mmmm... cake batter)

Divide the batter into 12 cupcake things Add a dollop of Nutella to each
Swirl the cake batter and Nutella. Note to self (and others): it's not easy to swirl thick cupcake batter with even thicker Nutella in paper liners.
Try to resist shoving one in your mouth right when the pan comes out of the oven. It's hard, they smell so good!
The best part is the fact that they are already frosted. Super easy!
See? Swirling issues. The Nutella should have been swirled throughout the entire cupcake instead of blobbed in the center. Whatever, they were still awesome.
Nutella Frosted Cupcakes
From Carmen Cooks

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup, 12 oz) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour (sifted? I never sift flour)
1/4 tsp salt (I used salted butter, so I omitted the extra salt)
2 tsp baking powder
Nutella, approx. 1/3 cup

Preheat oven to 325F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners (I highly recommend NOT using paper liners. Really, don't do it) or grease the cups with some butter. Alternatively, butter an 8-inch round cake pan.

Cream together butter and sugar until light, 2 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated. Don’t worry if the batter doesn’t look smooth (It won't. It looks pretty gross at this point. But don't you worry... it will be irresistible soon). Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder until batter is uniform and no flour remains.

Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full (or pour all the batter into the cake pan). The batter will be thick. Top each cake with a dollop (I used about 2 tsp per cupcake and about 1/3 cup dolloped in tablespoon measures for the cake round) of Nutella. Swirl Nutella in with a toothpick, making sure to fold a bit of batter up over the Nutella (This is where you will regret using paper liners. That toothpick is no match for thick batter being held in flimsy paper).

Bake cupcakes for about 20 minutes and the round cake for 25-30.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 12 cupcakes or 1 8-inch round cake.