Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Daring Panna Cotta with Florentines

I was pretty happy with the choice of making Panna Cotta for this months Baker's Challenge.  I absolutely love creme caramel and other custard type desserts and was thinking that I would probably like this as well.  One of these days I will have to try this recipe again with a fruit flavouring as it seems to be more traditional....but to start with.....this version using buttermilk seemed to grab my attention.  Plus I like buttermilk recipes since you can substitute milk kefir which I often have on hand anyway.  In addition to the Panna Cotta we also were required to make florentine cookies.  The recipe provided was intriguing to me as it contained no nuts which could be handy for some people.  I have never noticed,  nor ordered Panna Cotta on a menu before, but I am assuming it customarily comes with some type of cookie accompaniment and thus the need for this seemingly unrelated recipe??  
So, the end result of the challenge.......Everyone Loved it........and  asked for seconds.  Using the buttermilk gave it a flavour edging towards yogurt.....a bit of a tang.  The caramel sauce was super easy, and would be great for ice cream......or apparently just by itself:)  The amount of gelatin was just enough to make it thicken.....but not make it like wobbly jelly.......just right in fact.  And the boys enjoyed dunking their florentine cookies in through the caramel before eating them up.  I will certainly be trying this one again!  I like that it makes pretty individual servings....perfect to make ahead for when company is coming.  And....I loved that it was super quick and easy!  I poured them into vintage ruby coloured sherry glasses....let the Panna Cotta chill.....and then topped them with warm Cinnamon Caramel Sauce.  YUM!  It you are are looking for something to make for dessert that looks really should try it....
The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Cinnamon Carmel Sauce
1 1/2 tsp gelatin
1 cup whip cream, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 tsp vanilla, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of water into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over evenly.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Combine 3/4 cup cream, 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium high heat until the sugar dissolved and the mixture begins to simmer.  Remove from the heat , and add softened gelatin and stir until fully dissolved.  Cool to warm stirring occasionally.  Stir in buttermilk and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Divide into 6 ramekins, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  
Prepare Sauce:
Combine brown sugar and 1/4 cup cream in a small saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and caramel sauce is smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and 1 tsp vanilla.

Nut Free Florentine Cookies
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate
Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
  2. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.  
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
  4. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl)
  5. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean). 
  6. Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.
This recipe will make about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Little Bit of Swapping

I've been drowning lately with too much to do and weekends that seem to mysteriously evaporate into thin I have not been as active with craft swapping as I had in the past.  Although this past weekend went by with very little recall of what was accomplished, I have decided to try some quick and painless swaps to get back into it.  Last weeks swap was for a handmade needle book.  Hopefully my partner will like it!
With my last few pieces of thrifted red wool fabric I made this quick project.  It's small enough to be compact (4" X 2.5"), with four wool felt 'pages' for needles and a little pocket at the bottom to hold other necessities. It was a fun little project......I think I might need one now:)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Soba and Tempura

It just so happened that the Daring  Cook's Challenge coincided with Valentine's Day this year.......and I have been very delinquent on my Daring attempts these past few months.  So......I was pretty happy to see that this month was not going to be extremely time consuming, and not likely to cause me undue stress for a quick Valentine's meal.  It was after all a very full day yesterday!
The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and
It went together quickly, was appealing to kids and adults, and turned out well. The soba noodles were new for us and were a nice addition to the tempura meal.

Soba Noodles:
2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
Cooking the noodles:
  1. Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
  2. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
  3. Mentsuyu - Traditional dipping sauce:
    2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.
    1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
    1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)
    *Note: If you can’t find Mirin, a substitute recipe can be found HERE
  4. Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:
  6. Thin omelet strips
  7. Ham
  8. Boiled chicken breasts
  9. Cucumber
  10. Boiled bean sprouts
  11. Tomatoes
  12. Toasted nori (Dried Seaweed)
  13. Green onions
  14. Wasabi powder
  15. Finely grated daikon (Japanese radish)
  16. Beni Shoga (Pickled Ginger)
All toppings should be julienne, finely diced or grated. Prepare and refrigerate covered until needed.
Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl. Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori. In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each. In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, grated daikon, and green onions.
The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:
  • Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
  • Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
  • Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
  • Green beans, trimmed
  • Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
  • Assorted fresh mushrooms
  • Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
  • Onions sliced
  1. Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
  3. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
  4. Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
  5. Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

So many Cupcakes......So little time

Everything seems to take me twice as long as I think it should!  I think I really should just take that factor into consideration at the start.  This is an early finish for I should not complain.  It is only 7:18pm and I've caught up on the three loads of laundry that I wanted to.........made a batch of pizza buns for snacks.......baked up and iced 72 cupcakes........ made a pan of lasagna for later in the week........wrapped up that baby blanket along with some other gifts for posting tomorrow.......and done the usual weekend tidy and clean the litter box etc.  
No wonder I haven't had time yet to have a shower.  With two things still left on my to do list for the day......I am feeling quite lazy right now.....maybe they can wait until tomorrow........I think it will have to as I am being called for a Pokemon battle.  Maybe tomorrow I will feel refreshed???  Hope your weekend was a good one!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Quilt Ready to Go's finished.  It is my habit to put off things which I find intimidating and this project was no different.  Although, in the time I wasted....waiting to quilt this project.....I could have done it by hand.  But I wanted to try machine quilting.  What I really wanted to try was free motion quilting....but I think that might be better for a smaller project to start with.  So for this one, I decided to just do random straight line quilting with some hand dyed thread.  It took much longer to do than I would have thought considering I was using the machine.....although admittedly at quite a slow speed......since I don't know what I am doing.  The binding went on in an evening which was the most enjoyable part of the project for me.   Now this little quilt is ready to mail and another project needs my attention. Next I'll try to finish off the Harry Potter letter sweater I started for Ike.  Hopefully I will get to that with a little more speed than this one!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Busy Weekend

It was another busy weekend!  Saturday morning brought a request for waffles........which normally I would have prepared for the night before........but given no advanced notice this time.....I decided to try the quick waffle recipe from the Belgian waffle maker cookbook.  It called for baking mix, which is something I have never bought and I really didn't feel like going to the what would I do with the remainder of the box????  So I decided to make my own.  I used this recipe  following the  instructions for waffle batter  (it was the same recipe as the one from the Waring  Waffle cookbook anyway) and made a half recipe which was more than enough.  Ike did not even notice the difference......but of course DH did.  So I guess I'd make them in a pinch.....they were ok.  But I'd agree with DH.....the yeast recipe for Belgian Waffles is better....The extra is now in a zip lok bag in the fridge waiting for it's next use. 
Then on Sunday, after a few hours at the snow board hill I decided I'd better make some progress  on this old project.  So here we have it....progress.
Now it just needs to be bound.  Stay tuned for the finished picture within the next few days.  Hopefully without help from the cat:)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bathroom Decorating

Quite some time ago, I was feeling like doing a small project around the house and I decided to paint our main floor bathroom.  I painted it in a light mocha colour and put up a decorative wall paper boarder with a sea shell type theme.  Having been looking for something to put up on the walls to fill some empty space, I thought I'd just print out some pictures from last summer's holiday to fill the space.
I've got my plain white frames set aside and now all I need to do is get some 5X7's printed up.  That's what's on my to do list for today:)
See ya!