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Manchi ma ci sei Silenziosamente
Dentro ai giorni miei

My friend, your love, your laughter, your support….YOU, warmed my days.  The winter wind blows, the candle flickers and extinguishes, yet I know the ember you ignited in my heart will never fade.  A transition, a short absence, I know, is all that this is…

…yes, you’re silently here.  I will forever bake with you in my heart and in my mind.


Quando chiudo gli occhi stai ridendo
Qui con me


Recipe Compliments of:


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Hey Kids!  Yea, I know it’s been awhile.  I haven’t had a lot to say, perhaps. Have no fears though, I still cook and bake like a fiend, trust me, every glance in my mirror attests to this fact.

This month, however, when I made my pilgrimage to the Daring Baker Forum I was immediately reminded of this guy….

...time to make the donuts!

I figured if he could drag his begrudging butt out of bed daily and make thousands of donuts so could I…well, a small batch at least!

A HUGE Thank You to Lori of “Butter Me Up” for a fantastic challenge, which has brought me out of my hiatus with the DB.

Being that I have been lax with the whole bloggy thing, I feel the need to go slow with getting back in the saddle.  So expect no tome this go ’round nor any outrageous wit just a few pretty pictures and a kick ass recipe!

First Pretty Picture….Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts with Candied Bacon.

The recipe I used was one Lori suggested and can be found here.  I made a couple changes, first I halved the recipe, fifteen doughnuts and fifteen holes would not make my mirror any happier!  I also added 4 TBS. cocoa , 1 TBS. melted butter and omitted the nutmeg.  Being I have never made the recipe before I can’t say my substitutions had any ill effect but I know that I was very pleased with how things worked out.  I did have a little concern the “dough” was too moist but a little time in the fridge to chill and firm it helped in making it very workable.

Before a trip to the fridge...

...out of the fridge, rolled, cut and ready for a hot oil bath...

I managed to get 6 doughnuts and 6 holes out of the halved recipe, which I fried 3 holes at a time and 2 donuts at a time.    After the second batch of holes came out and cooled a bit, I just could not resist a little taste.  Hmmm, I was a little concerned, it seemed as if the dough had soaked up way too much oil.  Fortunately, it was just a case of not letting the oil temp up after the first fry.  I really didn’t think a few degrees off would be a bad thing…it was… 375° all the way kiddos!!

...fry , Baby, fry... to the racks, just call me Torquemada!

glazed, topped and ready to go!

And that my friends was my time in the kitchen for this months Daring Baker Challenge.  Short and oh so sweet!!  Again, big Thank Yous go out to Lori, you brought me back!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

May’s Daring Baker Challenge is here at last.  For me, this one was an instant “no brainer”….upon reading what we were to do, I was all but done.

This year will be 8 years since I lost both my Mother and my Mother-in-Law and it is in their memory that this Challenge was made.

For “Ma” and “LuLu”, we miss you, we love you and we look forward to the day we see you again!

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Quick notes on the challenge:

Impressive presentation which is easily accomplished.

The recipe can be found here and also on Cat’s site, Little Miss Cupcake.

I followed the recipe down to the letter, other than the addition of rose water to the pastry creme.

This Pate Choux had some major puff!!

Some random pictures along the way…

Rosewater Pastry Cream in the works.

1st egg in the mix, I actually had to use 5 eggs instead of 4.

...Choux baked and ready to fill.

Once again, I am straddling the fence on being tardy, but not because this one wasn’t done in time, just I hadn’t edited photos and I thought I had one more day!!!  Same song, same dance, different day.

Since it was the photos that slowed me down, I am going to make this a pictorial post.  Of course, I will give you an idea of what I think about this month’s challenge…….. Fantastic!!!!  In this house we are not much for fruit desserts, unless it is an apple or cherry pie, so I was skeptical.

Tian ROCKS!!!!

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

Jennifer chose a fantastic recipe with which to challenge us.  We were to make everything by the book with the only exception being, we were able to play with the citrus we chose.  I opted for Ruby Red grapefruit and I kicked the caramel up a bit with the addition of Rosemary.  The recipe can be found here, as well as on Jennifer’s site.

Now for the pretty but late pictures!!!!!

I began with the marmalade…

First Blanch of the grapefruit.

Dicing the blanched fruit.

Adding the sugar..... for some reason I particularly like this picture.

Next the fresh squeezed juice.

Marmalade in the works.

Processing the filled jars....

Next came the Pate Sablee, which I only have pictures of fresh out of the oven…someone didn’t make sure there was a charge in his camera battery…. No Names, PLEASE!!

Baked in the cutters to reduce spreading.....

Pate Sablee bases cooling......

Skinless segments, I alway enjoy cutting citrus this way....

Gathering components for assembly, but must do the caramel first....

The sugar and rosemary beginning to become caramel.....

Caramel all done.......

adding half the caramel to the segments.....

One tian down. And a glimpse at the layering process....

Finished, unmolded, now smile for the camera!!!!!

No this is not a post about cows, their milk or their cream…at least not directly…it is a post about Tiramisu.  Specifically, The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge which was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Not the beauty I had envisioned!

Currently we are in the Lenten season and even though I am no longer a practicing RC, I think this is going to be a post of confessions.

Confession #1–  I was not overly fond of this version of Tiramisu, forgive me Aparna and Deeba…it is not that there was anything wrong with this one, other than the fact it is not the version that I often make.  In my version I do not combine the zabaglione, pastry cream and whipped cream but I alternate layers of lady fingers, zabs, lady fingers, pastry cream to the top, I then just put a small dollop of unsweetened whipped cream as a garnish and to help cut the richness of the entire dessert.

Confession #2– I had visions of grandeur as far as presentation, unfortunately that was all they were but visions.  I did not end up with the gorgeous savoiardi rimmed dessert I saw in my mind.

Confession #3– I thought that this was going to be a fun joint endeavor with Ray, you may know him as my partner in life but now he too is a partner in the DB.  So, I figured a joint effort and fun for all.  Apparently not!!  On baking day I overheard him say, “I am going to take you out”.  When I called him on this he then said, “that is NOT what I said.  I said, “I am going to BAKE you out!””  Rivals in the kitchen it shall be!!!!!!!  He isn’t exactly kitchen savvy but can hold his own and if I figure out how, I will give him props on his non-blogging post of his Tiramisu.

Confession #4– This is the part where I actually learned something I didn’t really know but it is also something that could cause me to become an ex DBer…… I did NOT make my own mascarpone!! May the powers that be hear my defense, please!!!!!  Apparently, there is a huge difference between Pasteurized and Ultra-Pasteurized dairy products.  Pasteurization is a lower temp longer time method which kills off the “bad critters” but leaves beneficial enzymes still intact.  Ultra- Pasteurization is a high temp quick time method which basically zaps everything in the milk, both good and bad.  Well, here in the States, Federal regulations make it a difficult task to find any dairy that is not Ultra-Pasteurized.  So, unless you are a dairy farmer or live damn close to one, finding only Pasteurized cream is almost impossible.  Off to Sunseri Bros. I went for my ready-made mascarpone.  I know I broke the rules but I confessed, so please, please, please Aparna, Deeba and the Powers that be forgive my indiscretion and let me remain a member of the fold!!!

Now that I have confessed and also sought absolution, let me tell you about the challenge.  Despite the fact that it was not my Tiramisu, it was a very good one at that.   I still prefer the separation of flavors as opposed to combining them.  The zabs and pastry cream recipes were pretty much on course with what I am used to.  The Savoiardi recipe is a little different from what I have used in the past but turned out stellar.  So much so that I think I may never buy a store-bought lady finger again.  If one actually breaks it down, especially in these times of tightened budgets, why purchase something pre-made when it can be done so easily and much more cheaply at home?

Final thoughts on the challenge would be to give it a go.  Aparna and Deeba came up with a great challenge which encompassed different techniques which when combined truly do come together in a heavenly fashion.  Thank You Ladies, Thank You Very Much!!!!

I will now leave you with an almost step by step pictorial on my making of the Savoiardi.  You can find the recipe for the Savoiardi/Lady Fingers and all other components here.

Starting the whites
Finished Whites- looks like a snowball, appropriate considering the weather we have h ad.

Incorporating the yolks into the whites- Love egg yolk gold!!!!!

2 steps later the fingers are piped- Not enough hands to photograph the folding in of the flour or the piping.

An attempt at creative flair, I dusted some cocoa stripes onto the fingers before baking.

Lady Fingers fresh out of the oven.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Once again, it is that time of the year….time certainly does fly.  Obviously, this is a Daring Baker post…they seem to be the only ones I have done as of late (I am hoping that in 2010, that will change)… and there are formalities to dispense of…

Most importantly…

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

The recipes can be found on their blogs and soon as I find the time to update my DB recipe page, you will find them there as well.

Again, time has certainly flown yet there is still some year left in 2009 and still a lot to do.  So I only have a few more things to say and then you can all go off and enjoy this Glorious time of year!!!!

Obviously, I want to thank Anna and Y for a fantastic challenge!

To all the other Daring Bakers across the globe I wish to send many thanks as well.  You all have inspired me with your immense talents…such very beautiful creations you all have done!!!

Of course, none of us would be here without our fearless Daring Baker Diva leaders!!!

Lisa & Ivonne

What a fantastic idea you had and how very wonderful of you both to share it with the world!!!!

I now leave you all one last wish…

May you have a Joyous and Merry Christmas* and a Happy New year!!

*so if you noticed the asterick and made it past the video to here, then here is where I am the Bear that I so typically can be.  Again wishing you a Merry Christmas, sorry but this is my holiday and I refuse to be PC about it, if it isn’t your holiday then disregard and have a Happy New Year!

10:10pm Mon Oct 26:  A little Farmville play, harvest, plow, plant!

10:17pm Mon Oct 26:  Check Facebook! Ah how nice a Post on the Daring Baker’s Oct Challenge: Macarons  written by Sunita’s World

10:19pm Mon Oct 26:  Sunita’s Macs look yummy and the post was a great read.

10:20pm Mon Oct 26:  I think to myself, “Yo, John, you are a Daring Baker and tomorrow is the 27th, where in hell are your macs?!?!?”  Here I go again!!!!

10:23pm yadda-yadda-yadda!!!  Run downstairs and seperate five eggs and pray that the 16 hours the whites will age will be enough!!!!!

Comic relief kids, since time seems to be my weakest link……..

Fast Forward to

6:15pm Tues Oct 27:  I got magma!!!


Piped Magma

6:54pm Tues Oct 27: I DON’T gots feet!!  Feets done failed me now!!!

7:02pm…: Last bit of magma piped, going to let it air dry this time and see what happens.

8:0 (freakin’) 9…: Still no feet!!!!  Time to admit defeat?; or is that defeet?????

Ok, so I have finally come to a challenge that I feel I shall not return to.  This is not my 1st attempt at Macs, the first was last month, you can read about it here, that was a semi-success.  The 2nd attempt was earlier this month, I was going to make chai spice shells with a pumpkin cream cheese buttercream, I ended up with , once again, ‘feet”less hockey pucks.  Tonight’s attempt had no feet but had the classic crisp outer shell with a soft chewy core, so another semi-success.  After last night’s trip into the Time Warp, I was getting ready for bed and my flavor combo hit me…

Rocky Horror (Road) Macs

So tonight’s  batch was a milk chocolate shell, with a marshmellow cream filling and chopped almonds to round it out.  Even though they were more a failure than otherwise, I felt you needed to see the end result.


"Feet"less Rocky Horror (Road) Macs

And now I will leave you with two things to ponder.

First the obligatory….

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

And lastly…

I think it is time to kiss my Macs….


The first of each month has been pretty much the same for me for the past year and a half….I grab my morning coffee and head straight to the Daring Kitchen to see what is in store.  This month we were given…

The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.DSC_0512

As is often the case, we were given some freedom to play.  The puff pastry obviously is the star of this show, and Steph did a great job of explaining it here.  So I will not go into a lot of detail regarding it, other than to say it is really not a difficult endeavor!!  It is true that I more often than not buy puff already made but I do make it as well and always am I pleased when I do so.

What then, you wonder, am I going to tell you about then….

The supporting cast, of course.

Vols au vent are a puff pastry shell which are filled….and filled with a multitude of options.  My intial thought was to make a pumpkin praline mousse to fill small leaf shaped shells and then finish that off with a cinnamon caramel drizzle…..didn’t happen!!!

The weekend I decided to go for it and tackle the DB challenge happened to be a beautiful mid september weekend.  Crisp and cool yet sunny and bright…I could “smell” the leaves turning color….a wonderful weekend to get in the kitchen and play.  Truth be told, I had quite a few kitchen “projects” planned.  I needed to make a supply of my “world famous” pasta sauce and I wanted to dive into something that I have been afraid of for some time, you can read about that here, and of course puff pastry.

Saturday was a day of getting things in place…my sauce is an all day affair and I also had tons of prep for the DB challenge and my other project.  Sunday arrived, my sauce was “put up”, my fears had been put to rest and my puff pastry had been “turned”, now it was dinner time!!

As I said earlier, initially I was going to go for more of a dessert for the challenge but again dinner was calling, what to do?  The weather was still holding, the air crisp and I kept thinking how much I Love this time of the year…the warm spices, the tart green apples, the little bit of a chill that calls for something comforting, and then I favorite little cafe on the southside came to mind.  The 1889 Cafe does a great stuffed breast of chicken that I thought, if broken down, could be morphed into a great savory, comforting filling for fresh from the oven puff pastry shells.

The inspiration is a chicken breast stuffed with sausage, apples and raisins with a white wine reduction as a topper…easy to break down!!!!  Now my cooking style is not one to follow a recipe, I am a pinch of this, dusting of that kind of cook… please bear with these “instructions” ( although I promise if you give it a go, you will make it one of your favorites).DSC_0507DSC_0508DSC_0509

Start with 1/2 lb breakfast sausage, brown and remove to paper towels to drain.  Cube 3 boneless skinless chicken breast and brown add 1/2 of a medium onion diced and continue till chicken is cooked through and onions are translucent, remove and set aside.  Chop 3 granny smith apples into bite size pieces and caramellize in pan, have patience with this step…let the apples get a nice color on them.  While all of this has been going on I plumped about 1/4 cup raisins in a spiced Riesling, when the apples  have caramellized nicely, remove them and deglaze the pan with the excess wine from the raisins. scraping all the “bits” from the pan.  I then added 1 1/2 cups chicken stock  and brought it to a boil, I then added the chicken, onions and sausage and lowered the flame to a simmer.  Let this reduce by half, then add the raisin, apples, a touch of salt, pepper, sage, cinnamon and 1/4 cup heavy cream bring to temp.  Remove from flame and then “swirl” in 4oz butter, ladle this into fresh out of the oven pastry shells!!!  Enjoy!!!

I served this with a crisp greens salad topped with butternut squash croutons and a lite drizzle of cider vinegar.  Warm, comforting and well worth the “turns”, alas Autumn has arrived!

For the Love of Autumn

For the Love of Autumn

Yep kiddies, that time again…well yesterday was that time…Daring Baker reveal for August!  I know, again I have been remiss, again I am behind but then if I were on time, you all might get “afeared” that I had been abducted by aliens and replaced with some sort of pod person….so consistent and behind I shall be.


First and foremost…..The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar
and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus:  Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Second…The excuses and the story!

Excuse #1- ‘Tis august, the thermometer is bulging….who wants to turn on the oven?

Excuse #2 through infinity- Refer to excuse #1.

The Story…..As some of you know, I have been absent from our beloved DB for a bit, too busy, too tired, too whatever, at the beginning of this month I was happy as a clam for a cake, my kind of cake, so I swore to all the baking and blogging Gods that I would “hell or highwater” manage to find the time.  Then, of course, the month intervened, vacations, bee stings, etc, etc, etc (all of which are lovely stories in and of themselves but I know you don’t want to hear them).  Then this morning arrives and I am sitting here with my coffee and cig and in my reader I notice….Dobos…..DobosDOBOS!!!!   “Aw crap!!” (that isn’t really the retort but I am trying a kinder and gentler approach here).  Yep, John will be John!

So off to work I go…BTW did I mention today was Fudge Day?  Yea, aside from the 96 gallons of ice cream we have been going through in a week, today was my day to make 140 lbs of fudge. Between the ice cream, the fudge, an employee on vacation and various classes of returning college kids…yea I had time to plan an attack on making a Dobos!!!!  Along about 4pm, in walked my inspiration….Ray (and for everyone going “awww” and tearing up…please!)…it wasn’t so much him , as it was the package of raspberries he just had to have that he wanted me to come up with something to make from them.  But alas, my dear sweet partner in life didn’t WANT CAKE!!!! (Lis, I think you have the proper retort for this one…can you be the one to say it please?)  Crunch time, now I have 2 desserts to come up with, yea right like that is going to happen….Ray will just have to be content with his nightly PB&J sandwich before bed!!!!! Yes people, we keep Smuckers and JIF afloat, not to mention Wonder Bread (yea he has to have the spongy flavorless white crap bread and if it didn’t take an extra 20 seconds, the crusts would be cut off also!).  At all times we have on hand 1 drum o’ Jif and 2 jars preserves, one strawberry the other raspberry.  Hmmm, raspberries, raspberry preserves, peanut butter, cake, dessert….can you feel the impending crescendo?  Viola!!!!  PB&J Torte!!!

Lastly, I give you the Mechanics!!!

As with any Daring Baker challenge that I complete, you can find the recipe here, on various other DBer Blogs and of course on our above mentioned Hostesses sites as well.

Here are my tweaks:

To the egg yolks in the batter I added 1/3 cup creamy Jif ( I think a bit more would have served me well)

For the buttercream I subbed white chocolate and also added 1/4 cup strained rasp. preserves.

Instead of doing the free-form rounds, as I feel I am rotund enough, I chose square and thus used 1/4 sheet trays to bake in, hence the reason I feel I got alot of “lift” in my layers.  (although I wish I would have spent a little more time leveling the batter)

For the wedge embellishments I did a half moon shape and replaced the caramel with reduced  strained preserves.  I really wanted to do more of a crescent shape for a bit more lacy feel and also for a little spot to tuck in a raspberry but it didn’t happen!!!!

The guinea pigs will have at it tomorrow, so I will update you when the final verdict is in.  Up to this point I found it to be a great challenge!!!

Apfelstrudel, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!!!!!

Well, I guess I need to rethink my love for it, or at least the classic Viennese version.  Which of course brings me to this…..

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.

As with anything, often there is more than one way to arrive at the final destination and strudel is no different.  The strudel my “granny” made, the strudel I make and the strudel I adore are not  strudel in the classic Viennese way.  With no hanging my head in shame, I proudly proclaim my love for strudel made with phyllo dough!!  This is not to say I won’t eat the classic Viennese version but there is an obvious difference in the doughs, both visually and texturally, and I prefer phyllo.

Visually the difference is more than obvious.

Phyllo vs. Strudel

Phyllo vs. Strudel

Texturally it is a bit more subtle.  Phyllo is like a 2000 year old papyrii disintegrating into a myriad of crackling shards when you bite into it.  Strudel dough is more like a thin leather scroll, dried and cracked but yet still retains a little “tooth” to it.

All of this being said, this months challenge was more about technique for me than taste.  Being that I have technically cheated on every strudel I have ever made, I figured giving the “real thing” a go would be fun…and thanks to

Linda and Courtney

it was!!!!

I stayed very close to the posted recipe with only 2 small changes.  The first being that I eliminated the walnuts and the second being I used Alpine Spice in place of the rum to soak the raisins.  The dough, for me , was the star in this show and after reading the forums and a few things on wikipedia, I had concerns.  Legend has it that the “Austrian Emperor’s perfectionist cook decreed that it should be possible to read a love letter through it“.  Being that I have a tendency to put holes in a lightly tossed pizza dough, I was positive I would end up with a Swiss strudel and not a Viennese one.

(I hope everyone caught that sad reference to swiss cheese!)

My concerns were for naught, this dough was absolutely a marvel to work with.  Not only did I manage to get the 2’x3′ dimensions suggested, I far exceeded them and I could have read numerous love letters through it.  My only “ahhh hell” moment came right after I knew I was done stretching but I had to go one more!!!!  Just a small tear, alas perfection was not to be!!!!

Just shy of perfection!!

Just shy of perfection!!

Dat's how I roll!!!!

Dat's how I roll!!!!

Lovin' from the oven

Lovin' from the oven

Strudel Viennese!

Strudel Viennese!

As for getting back to the roots of strudel, I am so glad this opportunity was given…I found that the technique for making the dough is not as bad as I thought it would be.  However, and I can only speak for myself on this, I have every intention of continuing my cheating ways and using phyllo for my strudel!!!

And please visit my fellow Bakers who dare!!

Keeping the Flour Flying!!!

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