Friday, March 28, 2014

There's a Nougat in Town - The Daring Baker's Challenge March 2014

I am not going to lie, it is sticky and gooey to make....and a little sweet...ok more than a little, but really the nuts cut the sweetness!  Really!  Just eat a little bit at a time...
I think I actually love it.  And my friends do too.  And my colleagues...I saw you sneaking it, Flemming, Nancy and Robert.  And I heard you were sneaking it too Rick when I wasn't home.  Camera Guy told me.
So I was with my friends on our evening out to see Sandra Shamus, and went for dinner at Pi-Tom Thai Restaurant, next door to the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. When I walked in, Pat commented that Leslie had let her have a piece of the nougat I had given her and she loved it.    In fact one day Leslie called me from the car, and told me she had to toss the little bag of nougat pieces to the back of the car because she couldn't stop having a piece or 2....  Well I had a bunch in my purse, and after dinner, pulled out my little baggie of these snow white treasures... and even though it probably wasn't exactly the proper thing to do in a restaurant,  I did pull it out - hey it's just candies - I never said I was a proper girl!  I was able to grab a quick photo before it vanished before my for Patrice, one for Jane, one for Leslie, one for Pat and one for Ramona...oh yes, then one for me....then another round....ok and just one more....

The March 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.

A little about Nougat 
Nougat is an aerated candy made from sugar, honey, egg whites and nuts. This type of nougat has
been around since the 16th century (according to Larousse Gastronomique). The most well known
nougats are the French Montélimar nougat and the Italian Torrone nougat.  Montélimar nougat
contains at least 30% nuts and includes pistachios as well as almonds. Italian Torrone and Spanish
Turrón are similar, typically containing almonds and sometimes other nuts. The cooking temperature and the quantity of sugar determines the texture of the finished product. Nougat can be chewy, soft and tender to hard and brittle

Here is the recipe: 
I need to emphasize 2 important items - a good candy thermometer and  edible paper (wafer paper) 
I found the edible paper at the bulk barn in a corner...hidden...and it is important because parchment would stick too much.

4 sheets edible wafer paper, 8x11 inches (20x28 cm)  It is optional but I think VERY necessary

For the Meringue:

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ cup (60 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon (3 gm) cream of tartar

For the Syrup:
1½ cups (360 ml) (500 gm) (18 oz) honey (preferably light in color and flavor)
3 cups (720 ml) ( 600 gm) (21 oz) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (170 gm) (6 oz) light corn syrup
½ cup (120 ml) water
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped 
(Thank you Carl for the vanilla you brought me from Tahiti!)

Add -ins:
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) cocoa butter, melted (see Recipe Notes)
5 cups (1.2 litre) (680 gm) (24 oz)  mixture of  toasted whole unblanched almonds and pistachio nuts (don't toast the pistachio nuts)

Recipe Notes:
Edible wafer paper is nice to have if you’re giving nougat as gifts as it helps with the stickiness issue.
However, it’s not essential. If you can’t find it, grease the pan and then line it with parchment paper.
Grease the parchment as well.

Fat (cocoa butter in this case) is added to nougat to give it a shorter texture and cleaner bite.  The recipe will still be good without it- just chewier. Any fat added to nougat should be one that is solid at room temperature. 
Place the toasted almonds and pistachios in a heat safe bowl and put in an oven at 250°F until needed.
Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch (23x33 cm) pan with wafer paper, cutting it to fit. You can put
plastic wrap or parchment under the wafer paper just for extra insurance  to get the nougat out of the pan.   You won't be putting this pan in the oven...

Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar for the meringue in a 4.5 or 5 quart
(about 5 litre) mixer bowl fitted with a whip attachment but do not begin whipping.
Heat the honey in a small saucepan or in the microwave until nearly boiling
Combine the remaining ingredients for the syrup (sugar, corn syrup, water and vanilla bean)
in a 2 quart (2 litre) saucepan.
Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and then lower the heat and boil for 3 minutes, covered.
Remove the lid and attach the candy thermometer. Continue to cook uncovered on high heat without stirring until the syrup reaches 290°F
 When the sugar mixture reaches 290°F , start whipping the egg whites on high speed and move the sugar mixture off the heat.
Slowly pour the heated honey into the sugar mixture. The mixture will foam up initially.
Put the pan back on the heat and continue cooking until the mixture again reaches 290°F

Remove from the heat and use tongs to take out the vanilla bean pods.
Slowly pour the hot syrup into the whipping whites by letting it run down the inside of the
mixer bowl. Don’t pour it directly on the whites or they may collapse.
Add the cocoa butter and whip JUST until the mixture is smooth again. Do not over mix. If
you have a 4.5 quart (4.5 litre) mixer like I do, you may need to initially lower the speed of the mixer while pouring in the cocoa butter as it will try to slop out. 
Remove the bowl from the mixer and dump in the hot nuts from the oven. Mix quickly with a
heat- safe spatula until the almonds are evenly distributed

Immediately pour the hot nougat into the prepared pan, on top of the wafer paper. 

Cover the top of the nougat with more wafer paper and press to smooth and even out the nougat.

Let the nougat cool at room temperature until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes. Don’t let it go too long or it will be very difficult to get out of the pan and difficult to cut. You
want it to still be a little flexible when you remove it but not so soft that it loses its shape.
Pry the nougat out of the pan with a spatula and dump it out onto a cutting board. Trim the
edges and cut the nougat with an oiled knife into the size pieces you want. 
Wrap the nougat individually or store at room temperature in an airtight container. The
texture of the nougat will soften a bit after a few days, especially if you have added dried fruits in with the nuts.
There is one person who may not have loved it...but that's ok....Camera Guy... 
Until we bake again

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy National Pie/Pi Day!

Since today is officially National Pie /Pi Day,  I thought I would highlight some of the best pies on my blog.
When I was at my son's house recently I asked what the password was for the wireless and they told me it was Pi. ...ok I remembered part of it, but not a lot 3.141..oh well...he is in physics - not me:)
Happy Pi day Elliot and all the math fans out there on your special day.  I prefer the food version...let's dig in!

My pride and joy and winner of the Chudleigh Farm's Pie contest is my apple pie!  I won for best crust, which for me was one of the highlights of my baking life...I was soooo excited.  Camera Guy thought I won the lottery!

My pumpkin pie is really good and has quite a funny story associated with it.

And I can't forget the Cherry Pie.  It was sensational, especially when the cherries are in season....beautiful and so flavourful.

When is this winter going to end and the beautiful berries are colouring the market tables????

Hopefully soon!  So to celebrate this special day, either try baking one of mine or just go buy yourself a slice and dream of summer!

Happy Pie day!
Until we bake again...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Empire Cookies

I live in the Beach (or Beaches) area in Toronto - People who live in the beach call it the beach and those who don't usually call it the doesn't matter to me...I love it.  I often go to Meat on the Beach, a local grocery store/butcher.  They have a great variety of delicious things and they always have a tray of Empire Cookies that look so pretty.  So I decided to make them!  
I think mine look pretty too.  They are a bit sweet and I think next time I would make them a little smaller because of that. What is an Empire biscuit you ask?  It is a sweet biscuit popular in the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland, and other Commonwealth countries and is typically considered a traditional Scottish snack (according to Wikipedia).

Here is the recipe for those who would like to give it a go from Anna Olson.

Tender Tart Dough
½ cup + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup + 2 Tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1 hard-boiled large egg yolk
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups cake and pastry flour, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt

Icing and Assembly
cup raspberry jam
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1-2 Tbsp warm water
¼ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
6-8 glacée (candied) cherries, each chopped into 6 bits

Tender Heart Dough Instructions

1. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until smooth.
2. Push the hard-boiled egg yolk through a sieve and stir the raw egg yolk and vanilla into it. Add this to the butter mixture and stir until blended.
3. Add the flour and salt to the butter mixture and stir until blended. Shape the dough into a disc (it will be very soft), wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Icing and Assembly

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
2. On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead the dough just to soften it slightly. Roll out the dough to about ¼-inch thick and cut out cookies using a 2-inch fluted cookie cutter, placing the cookies on the baking trays, leaving ½-inch between them.
3. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until just lightly browned around the edges. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking trays before assembling.
4. Stir the raspberry jam to soften and spread a little on a cookie bottom and sandwich a second cookie on top, pressing gently to secure. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
5. For the icing, whisk the icing sugar with 1 Tbsp of water and the almond or vanilla extract and add the remaining water if needed, until it is a thin icing consistency. 
6. Spread a thin layer of icing on top of each cookie.  Top with a piece of glacée cherry and set on a rack to dry. Let the cookies dry for about 3 hours before storing in an airtight container.
7. The cookies will keep, stored in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.

Until we bake again...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Leslie's Delicate Florentines - perfect for Easter!

I intended to post this at Christmas ....then Valentine's day...oh well...aren't Florentines perfect for Easter?
This is my friend Leslie and she really wanted to make Florentines for the cookie exchange at Christmas and asked me to help her.  I have wanted to make them for a while so I was thrilled at the idea and they turned out amazing!

Florentines are very delicate wafer thin cookies and are not that easy to make.  Leslie told me to emphasize how you need to be very very precise in the measurements.  I think she was surprised at the importance I placed on measuring carefully.

Makes 24 Cookies - this recipe is from America's test kitchen...
We started with the ingredients:

2 cups slivered almonds
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup orange marmalade
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Use the flattest baking sheets you have and make sure that your parchment paper lies flat. Process almonds in food processor until they resemble coarse sand, about 30 seconds.

2. Bring cream, butter, and sugar to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture begins to thicken, 5 to 6 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to brown at edges and is thick enough to leave trail that doesn’t immediately fill in when spatula is scraped along pan bottom, 1 to 2 minutes longer (it’s OK if some darker speckles appear in mixture). Undercooking will result in a dough that is too runny to portion. Remove pan from heat and stir in almonds, marmalade, flour, vanilla, orange zest, and salt until combined.

3. Drop 6 level tablespoons dough at least 3½ inches apart on each prepared sheet. When cool enough to handle, use damp fingers to press each portion into 2 1/2-inch circle.

Transfer cookies, still on parchment, to wire racks and let cool. Let baking sheets cool for 10 minutes, line with fresh parchment, and repeat portioning and baking remaining dough.

4. Bake until deep brown from edge to edge, 15 to 17 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Check them after 10 minutes then every couple of minutes.  They can burn quickly

5. Microwave 3 ounces chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring frequently, until about two-thirds melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave, add remaining 1 ounce chocolate, and stir until melted, returning to microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time to complete melting if necessary. When melting the chocolate, pause the microwave and stir the chocolate often to ensure that it doesn’t get much warmer than body temperature. Transfer chocolate to small zipper-lock bag and snip off corner, making hole no larger than 1/16 inch.

6. Transfer cooled cookies directly to wire racks. 

Pipe zigzag of chocolate over each cookie, distributing chocolate evenly among all cookies. 

Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes, before serving. 

They really were spectacular Leslie!  Let's do it again sometime:)  and remember you need to teach me how to make your delicious perogies!

Until we bake again...

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Aunt Katherine's Calico Fruit Refrigerator Cookies...a good old one!

I know it is February and Christmas was a while ago, but these cookies are great anytime!

This past Christmas  I was looking for some traditional family recipes, so I sent a message to Dan's Aunt Katherine who I knew was an avid baker!

I received this back:  "As you can imagine,   I have hundreds of recipes.   In the olden days,   I tried two or three new recipes a week  plus baking all Harold's favourites."  She has cut down now because of Harold's health, but she consulted with her sister in MB  who suggested this  good old one that makes a lot of cookies.
When she wrote me, she was baking fruitcakes and enjoying the smell through the house...

Calico Fruit Refrigerator Cookies
1cup shortening
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
1T. grated lemon rind
1/2 t. vanilla

4 1/2 cups flour
3 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

1 cup chopped candied cherries
1 cup raisins   
1 cup chopped walnuts.

1 - Cream shortening and sugar. 
2 - Beat in eggs, lemon juice, grated lemon rind and vanilla.
3 - In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt
4 - Stir flour mixture into creamed mixture
5 - Add cherries,  raisins and walnuts

6 - Cover with saran and chill thoroughly

7- Form into 1 1/2" cylinders.    Wrap and store.

Cut into 1/2" slices;  place on greased baking sheets;    375 degrees for about 10 minutes.  

I had to leave out the raisins in mine as Dan is not fond of them but they were sooo good!
Thanks Aunt Katherine! 

Until we bake again

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Making Time for Friends, Family and Me...

This year was a bit of a blur.  So much went on...walking, running, baking...working.  I travelled a some amazing places, like my vacation in southern France with Camera Guy  (my baking classes in Paris), time in Prague with Sheila and Judy (I haven't blogged about it yet) and a Danube River Cruise.   I also travelled within Canada - coast to coast.  I visited Calgary where I spent some time with my son, Elliot and his girlfriend Leah. To Vegas for meetings, Buffalo shopping with Leslie and the list goes on.  I did not get to Montreal enough, to see my family...and I miss them.  One of my sisters, Arlene came for Christmas and so did my dad, my son Elliot and Dan's son Zac, which was so much fun.  Well, my sister Lorna felt a little left out, so I have included the pic of the three of us...

I  also had my 5th Annual christmas cookie exchange!  It was great getting together with the gang and sharing stories and swapping cookies.  I appreciate the time everyone takes, not only to come to the cookie exchange but to bake seven dozen cookies!
Here is a pic!  I will post some of the Christmas cookie recipes shortly.  They were so pretty and of course delicious!

The pitter patter of feet in our house is now gone.  It is quiet again. My resolution this year  is to have a better work life balance...more time for my family, friends and me.  These are the important things in life.

My friend Ivonne, over at Cream Puffs in Venice, started me on this blogging journey back when we were in baking classes together at George Brown.  She mentioned in her blog today that this is the year she blogged the least, and that is the same for me.  Somehow, for me there just wasn't enough time and energy for baking.  And it is something that I truly love to do.  I suggest you head over to her blog and try making her pasta.   I feel the same about bread...flour, salt, water and maybe some eggs.  Simple...yet very special.  Bread may take a little longer but spend some time on  a weekend afternoon and try this egg bread (challah).  It is very relaxing and rewarding.

I have lots to look forward to this year.  On January 6th  I start my new exciting job with an exceptional team.  I will have a little more time with Camera Guy,  friends and family.

To all my friends, family, readers and bloggers, I wish you a year full of love, laughter and all sweet things.
Until we bake again...

Friday, November 8, 2013

My baking Classes in Paris...Baguettes and Pain au Chocolat!

While on vacation I try to take one or two baking classes.
Camera Guy does his thing and I do mine.  Usually I am right behind him admiring the not what you think!  Yes he is the love of my life, but I meant the scenery!

This summer, in Paris, I enrolled in a  Croissant and Baguette class at La Cuisine  Paris.  The school  is located in the Marais, just across from Notre Dame and the classes are actually taught in English.

I was like a schoolgirl...again... and so nervous about being on time and finding the right place, I had Camera Guy escort me the day before to check it out.
There were seven students  in my class and we made Baguettes Parisiennes (miniature versions of the Baguette) and Fougasses - artisanal breads filled with a variety of ingredients such as cheeses, spices, bacon (or lardons as they call it in France). 
We went through the entire process- From pétrissage à la main (kneading and working your bread by hand) to scarification du pain (scarification of bread).

The second class was  Croissants, as well as two other famous morning pastries: Pain au Chocolat and Le Croissant aux Amandes (croissant filled with almond cream). Pain au Chocolat is one of my favourites!  We  had a little Boulangerie going! And of course waiting for the delivery of the goods was my taster...Camera Guy!

He ate a lot of did I!

A la prochain....
If you would like to see the posts of our trip to France, check out our Travel blog
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