The Daring Bakers Challenge - June 2011 - from Phyllo to Baklava!!

Erica of Erica's Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers' June Challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make baklava.

Baklava is a sweet, rich pastry made with layers of phyllo dough and nuts sweetened with simple syrup. Baklava is widely known as a Greek dessert, but its origin has never really been pinpointed as many Middle Eastern countries also name it as their own.

Wherever it came from, this stuff is freakin delicious and I would say it is at its peak taste quality around day 4 or 5 after being made. The longer it sits in the simple syrup, the more delectable it seems to taste. I learned a lot during this challenge and now I can say I've made homemade phyllo dough, but I can guarantee you, it is highly unlikely I will ever attempt it again. Don't get me wrong - its delicious and the dough is spectacular to work with, but it is A LOT of work. The baklava on the other hand, I will likely make over and over again! What a fantastic recipe. I would half the amount of syrup you pour over the dessert, but other than that, its perfect!

You can find the recipe at the Daring Kitchen website with instructions, photos and suggestions for success. You can also find photos of other members' completed challenges and information on joining if you so desire. So do stop by and check it out! I'm pretty crunched for time, so I will just be providing you with a few photos and some of my thoughts about the whole process.

Firstly, if you are looking for a fantastic upper body workout, do attempt rolling out the phyllo with your rolling pin like I did. I was sore for a couple days afterward. But it sure was delicious dough. My friend D did hers with pasta rollers and had great success, so if you don't feel like putting in as much effort, but would still like to try your hand at making homemade phyllo, maybe try it that way!!

The recipe says to pour the entire amount of the syrup over the baklava. Don't do it! Your baklava will be swimming in it and it likely won't all absorb. I would recommend half of the amount or if you're adventurous, maybe 2/3 of the syrup. Flavour is delicious! You'll love it honestly!!

Don't hold back on the butter when you're brushing the layers of phyllo - the butter is what makes the layers flakey and tender and delicious. So go ahead, be naughty and amp up your calorie and fat intake for a special occasion! Its not like you're going to eat the whole pan (I hope!)!!

One more thing not to hold back on: be sure to add lots and lots of the nut, spice and sugar mixture between the phyllo layers. This is the yummy part that gives the dessert flavour and texture. I just wanted to eat the sugar & nut mixture by itself because it has my favorite pistachios in it!!

Next time I make this, I'll likely use storebought phyllo - in my opinion it is not really worth the extra effort of making it... but at least I can say I've tried it! I was happy with the results, just not the amount of work!

Thanks Erica for a truly challenging DB challenge! I learned a lot and definitely got to cross two things off my to-bake before I die list!!

Happy Baking my Friends!


Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

So I'm pretty sure the first thing you're going to notice about this post is that I don't have any photos of the finished product... I'm pretty sure they disappeared too fast for me to take photos of! Thats my story and I'm sticking to it. For photos of how the dessert looks after its baked, head on over to Tracey's blog aptly named Tracey's Culinary Adventures. On her blog you'll find beautiful photos and all kinds of deliciously yummy recipes. I have a whole list of things bookmarked from her page to bake and cook, but its nearly impossible to get through that list because she keeps adding more and more delicious posts by the day. :)

Now that we've established that, I have to tell you - this recipe is delicious - I mean who wouldn't like a layer of cheesecake sandwiched between chocolate chip cookie goodness right?! Don't overbake these - they're meant to be a little chewy! Make these for that summer BBQ you have to attend or bake them and bring a plate to your neighbor... I promise you'll find yourself making all kinds of friends because of your baking "skills" (even though these bars are so dead easy that you could likely make them in your sleep!!). So? What are you waiting for? Go round up the ingredients and get started!!!

Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Recipe adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures

  • 1 cup butter

  • 1 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar

  • 1 egg

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with nonstick spray.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, the first amount of white sugar, vanilla and salt on medium speed until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

  3. Beat in the first egg until well combined. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour and the baking soda and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. Divide the dough in half and press one half of the dough into the bottom of your prepared pan. Set aside the other half of the dough.

  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the second amount of sugar, second egg, and the second amount of vanilla until just incorporated. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cookie layer in the pan and spread to the edges of the dish so you have one smooth, even layer.

  5. Use the second half of the cookie dough (that you set aside earlier) and press in a layer over the cream cheese. The easiest way to do this is to take chunks of the dough, flatten into disks, and layer over the cream cheese mixture. It doesn't matter if the cream cheese part is completely covered, because the cookie dough will spread during baking. See below for a couple pictures of what mine looked like before I baked it.

  6. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is brown and cooked through (the bars will begin to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan). Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator.

Absolute deliciousness! My sister couldn't stop eating them. I think I'll likely make these for the next treat day I do for our office. :) Hope you are having a nice weekend and getting some nice weather.

Happy Baking my Friends!


Gourmet Guacamole

Alright, alright! I've been a bad blogger once again this week. This busy life just doesn't jive with getting a few posts done on crazy weeknights when I should be studying for my upcoming exam or walking the dog with hubby, or cleaning up the house... the list goes on and on!! Oh well, such is life right? I'll get around here while I can over the next two weeks, so please bear with me.

Last night my sister and I attended a fantastic cooking class called Hello Cupcake! at Well Seasoned in Langley. The class was taught by pastry chef Tina Bacon of the Pink Spatula and boy was she ever incredible. I learned so much that I'm going to share a separate post with you so that I can give the course the attention it deserves. Stay tuned for that... I'm hoping to get it posted some time this weekend.

For now, we'll talk about guacamole - simple, delicious and fresh - to me it screams summer. Topped with some vibrant radishes (or whatever you have on hand) it is absolutely delicious. I found this recipe just by doing a random google search for gourmet guacamole and I adapted it a bit to my taste. Guacamole is one of those things that you can put in what you like, omit what you don't and just mix it up and it will always be delicious! Two staple ingredients for me when making guacamole (other than the avocados of course) are lime juice and kosher salt. Even just those two ingredients, mixed with avocado results in a delicious yummy appetizer dip that you can whip up in minutes.

Gourmet Guacamole

Recipe adapted from www.guacamolerecipe.net


  • two ripe avocados, mashed with a fork

  • a couple tsp of mayonnaise (to desired level of creaminess - I only used two)

  • one garlic clove, minced

  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped

  • one jalepeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • kosher salt to taste

  • lime juice (add until dip reaches desired consistency)

  • black pepper to taste

  • contrasting coloured veggies for garnish and dipping


  1. This is so easy I probably don't even need to explain! Combine all ingredients in medium sized bowl. Stir until smooth and combined. Chill until ready to serve.

  2. Serve with fresh veggies (if you're feeling virtuous) or tortilla chips.

Nothing much else going on around here... I have to get my act together and finish up my post for the June Daring Bakers Challenge - check back on the 27th to find out what we dared to bake this month!

Other than that, have a wonderful Friday tomorrow friends. I am stuck in a course all weekend to further my accounting education... so its not looking like the most exciting weekend. I will have to live vicariously through you! What are you doing for excitement this weekend?

Happy Cooking my Friends!


Beef Stroganoff

Beef stroganoff is comfort food for a lot of people, but I am definitely not one of those people. I didn't grow up eating this stuff and really didn't see what all the fuss was about. That is until I tasted this version of beef stroganoff! Anna Olson does such a wonderful job bringing in some really fresh flavours and it makes all the difference. I think I'm hooked!

Beef stroganoff is a very old dish, dating back to 1891 where it first appeared in a Russian cookbook. The original recipe didn't have any onions or mushrooms in it, but the recipe evolved from its roots to the many different variations we have today. There are versions that differ slightly in many countries of the world, including the UK, USA, Australia, China and Portugal. Some countries call it by a different name, but in essence the dish comes from the original one from Russia. Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 tbsp butter

  • 1 1/2 lb beef sirloin, cut into 1/4 inch strips

  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup diced onion

  • 3 cups cremini mushrooms

  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or beef stock

  • 2/3 cup sour cream (not low fat)

  • salt and pepper

  • 12 oz wide egg noodles

  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh italian parsley


  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Toss the beef with the flour and add to the pan, cooking until browned. Remove from the pan, reduce heat to medium and then add the onion, sauteing until browned. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved beef, along with the thyme, bay leaf and stock and bring up to a simmer, cooking uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir in sour cream and season to taste.

  2. While stroganoff is simmering, boil the egg noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain and stir into the stroganoff after the sour cream has been added. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

This is a really delicious and quick meal for a week night when you are craving something warm, but still really fresh and delicious. I love the dimension the fresh thyme and cremini mushrooms add to this traditional dish!

Happy Cooking my Friends!


Vanilla Cake filled with Grapefruit & Lime Curd

Did I drown my sorrows in cake yesterday after our beloved Canucks got their butts kicked in the Stanley Cup final? Sadly no! I ate pizza and pouted on the couch while my team succumbed to Boston's superior play.

Any way... I'm done pouting now and thought I would share this delicious cake with you! I made it quite some time ago and have been meaning to post about it, but its a bit more involved post so I've been putting it off. Don't mind the awful photos... it was late at night when I finished this, so the lighting is terrible and I didn't get any photos the next day, so you'll have to bear with me!

First off, make the grapefruit & lime curd. Use this recipe and substitute fresly squeezed grapefruit juice and lime juice (3:1 proportions). Use the larger quantity of sugar because grapefruit is quite bitter. You may also want to double the recipe to ensure you have enough to fill the cake! Let the curd cool and set while you bake the cake.

Snow White Cake

Recipe Adapted from Mennonite Cookbook


  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 3 cups flour

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 cup milk (plus extra to thin the batter to a reasonable consistency)

  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract

  • zest of one lemon

  • zest of one lime

  • 4 egg whites


  1. Lightly grease cake pans (makes 3 8" cakes) and line with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350F.

  2. In a large bowl blend butter and sugar. Sift dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add alternately with the milk to the first mixture. Add milk as desired to thin out the batter (I added about an extra 3/4 of a cup). Add zest and lemon extract. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into batter. Pour into prepared cake pans.

  3. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.

  4. Cool cakes completely.

  5. Fill with grapefruit-lime curd (recipe above).

  6. Ice with vanilla buttercream recipe found here.

I'm not going to lie... this is a fairly involved undertaking, but it sure is delicious! I received a lot of compliments from my co-workers and I really enjoyed the cake too. I wasn't entirely happy with the icing job... I tried out a new technique that I had seen over at I am Baker but mine sure didn't look as good as hers. She is the ultimate cake decorator. Check out her blog to see some of the most beautiful cakes and desserts you've ever seen. You'll be in awe... I swear!

You'll love this cake if you decide to try it... even just make the grapefruit-lime curd! Its delicious. You won't be disappointed, I promise.

Oh, and one other thing I wanted to say. For those of you who don't live in Canada or Vancouver, please know that we aren't all like those awful people last night who instigated that horrible riot over a hockey game. Most of us are normal people who love a good hockey game, but would never go to extremes like that to ruin such an exciting event for everyone else. I hope seeing those awful acts won't deter you from visiting or make you think bad things about us.

Happy Baking my Friends!


The Ultimate Chicken Wings with Curry-Lime Butter

Looking for a quick and easy appetizer recipe with a bit of gourmet flair? Try this recipe for Chicken Wings with Curry-Lime Butter! You could also serve the wings with some rice and salad and you'd have yourself a nice and easy week night dinner! This recipe makes a lot of chicken wings - like enough to feed an army, but the good news is that the recipe is easy to half so feel free to give that a try if you don't want to be eating a million and one chicken wings in one sitting.

This recipe is from Tyler Florence's book Tyler's Ultimate. He has so many delicious recipes... and one of the best parts is how he always opts to use really fresh, not-processed ingredients. It always makes me feel so great to know that the ingredients I'm putting in my food aren't full of processed chemicals and preservatives.

The Ultimate Chicken Wings with Curry-Lime Butter
Recipe from Tyler's Ultimate


  • 4 lbs whole chicken wings

  • extra-virgin olive oil

  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 tsp thai red curry paste

  • zest and juice of one lime

  • 1 tbsp honey

  • splash of soy sauce

  • cilantro leaves for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 425F.

  2. Rinse the wings under cool water and pat dry. Put the wings in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, season well with salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Spread the wings out on a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, until the skin gets crisp and brown and the meat is tender.

  3. While you wait, throw the butter, curry paste, lime zest and juice, honey and soy sauce into a blender or food processor. Season with salt and blend to mix. Scrape the curry-lime butter into a big bowl. When the wings come out of the oven, slide them right into the bowl with the butter. Give them a toss to coat them evenly and you're done. Scatter the cilantro leaves on top and serve.
And its that easy to have deliciously flavoured chicken wings not from a box or a restaurant! These wings have such a unique and delicious flavour, I promise you won't be disappointed. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did! I can't wait to make it again.

Happy Cooking my Friends!


Ginger Lemon Girls' Brownies with a Twist!

This is my very first time participating in the Secret Recipe Club! For those of you who haven't heard of the Secret Recipe Club, its a group hosted by Amanda of the blog Amanda's Cookin. Each month, bloggers from all over are given a blog from which they have to select a recipe to make. The key? Your assigned blog is to be kept a secret until the posting date! How cool is that?!

This month I was assigned to the blog Ginger Lemon Girl hosted by Carrie. Carrie has a blog full of delicious gluten free recipes! I'm not a gluten free baker, so the world of gluten free ingredients is definitely a new one for me. Thanks Carrie for giving me the chance to experiment with gluten free recipes. I chose to make Carrie's brownies, with a twist of my own.

I made brownies filled with and drizzled with salted caramel sauce.

Double Chocolate Brownies

Recipe adapted from GingerLemonGirl


1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup macadamia flour (make your own - grind macadamia nuts in your food processor until smooth)

  • 1/4 cup cocoa

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1/3 cup sugar (white or brown)

  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 cup + 2tbsp applesauce

  • 1 tbsp vanilla

  • half recipe of salted caramel sauce (below)

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Method:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk all dry ingredients (except chocolate chips) together in a large bowl. In another bowl whisk together all the wet ingredients (except the caramel sauce) and stir into the dry ingredients. Transfer half of the batter to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 20 minutes.

    2. While the brownie cools, make the caramel sauce. Spread salted caramel sauce onto baked brownie layer. Dallop remaining batter over the caramel layer and carefully spread into a nice even layer. Sprinkle with the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Return to preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes until cooked through.

    3. Let brownies cool and serve drizzled with additional caramel sauce.

    Salted Caramel Sauce

    Recipe from Tracey's Culinary Adventures


    • 1 cup sugar

    • 1/2 cup heavy cream

    • 1 tbsp cold unsalted butter

    • 1/2 tsp sea salt


    1. Add 1/2 cup water to a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar to the center of the pan; it will mound in the center. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, uncover and insert a candy thermometer. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 300F and is just starting to develop some colour, about 15 minutes.

    2. Reduce the heat to medium and continue boiling until syrup is amber in colour and reaches 350F, about another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan.

    3. Remove the caramel from the heat and add about 1/4 of the cream. It will bubble furiously, so be careful. Continue stirring until bubbling subsides. Add remaining cream. When it stops bubbling, whisk to incorporate and stir in the salt and butter.

    I really enjoyed my very first Secret Recipe Club and am so excited to have been paired up with such a great (and healthy) blogger like Carrie. Do stop by and check out her blog - it will be worth the look! Thanks Amanda for hosting a great blogger event and to Carrie for introducing me to gluten free baking.
    If you want to check out some of the other bloggers that participated, check out the blog hop below:


    GO CANUCKS GO!! Final Round Baked Goodies!

    Well folks, its the final rounds of the Stanley Cup Finals and our beloved Canucks are struggling ... they started out strong the first two games, but they've lost a bit of steam. D had a bright idea that when we baked the Canucks cupcakes at the start of the 3rd round, they came through and won it... So we are really hoping that the baked goodies trick will win us the Cup too!! D did all the work! I mostly kept her company, made a batch of icing and piped some icing between the cookies. She did the hard part of coming up with the design, baking the cookies and piping the little letters painstakingly onto each sandwich cookie!! Of course she was kind enough to bring them in to work to share with our treat-loving office!

    So lets hear a cheer for D and her mad skills!

    Cookies are: Blondie (chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips) cookies, filled with vanilla buttercream and decorated with royal icing. Yummers!!

    And three cheers for our beloved Canucks!!! You can do it boys!!



    Beef Wellington

    Yum! Yum! Yum! What could be better than delicious beef and veggies wrapped in golden puff pastry? This dish is the ultimate comfort food! Serve with some yummy roasted root veggies and a green salad and you've got yourself a delicious meal. Jamie Oliver really brings it with this recipe!!

    As a bonus this recipe is easier than it looks - you use frozen puff pastry to save yourself A LOT of time and you don't even have to precook the beef. I was a bit skeptical about not cooking the beef before wrapping it in the pastry, but it really does cook to perfection. This recipe makes a huge amount though, so if you are not feeding an army, you may want to consider halving the recipe!

    Ground Beef Wellington

    Recipe from Jamie's Food Revolution


    • 1 medium onion

    • 1 carrot

    • 1 celery stalk

    • 1 potato

    • 2 cloves of garlic

    • 2 portobello mushrooms (I jused a couple handfuls of button mushrooms because I like them better)

    • olive oil

    • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

    • a big handful of frozen peas

    • 1 large egg

    • 1 lb good quality ground beef

    • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    • all purpose flour, for dusting

    • 2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted if frozen

    So, this looks like a lot of ingredients, but you will note they are all very basic and budget friendly ingredients, and lots of healthy veggies go into this one. Don't be intimidated by the long list - just dive right in and you'll be able to find most of the ingredients in the fresh produce section of your supermarket.


    1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Peel and chop the onion, carrot, celery, and potato into 1/4 inch sized dice. Finely grate the garlic. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms so they're about the same size as your other veggies. Place all veggies into a large frying pan on a medium low heat with 2 lugs of olive oil. Pick the rosemary leaves off the woody stalks, finely chop them and add to the pan. Fry and stir for around 8 minutes or until the vegetables soften and color lightly. Add the frozen peas and cook for another minute.

    2. Put the vegetable mixture into a large bowl to cool completely. Crack the egg into a cup and beat it up. Add the ground beef to the bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper and half the beaten egg. With clean hands, scrunch and mix up well.

    3. Lightly dust your clean work surface and rolling pin with flour and lay the puff pastry sheets one on top of the other. Roll out the puff pastry so it is roughly rectangle 12x 16 inches. Dust with flour as you go. Turn your pastry so you have a long edge in front of you and place the ground beef mixture along this edge. Mold it into an even, long sausage shape. Brush he edges of the pastry with a little of the beaten egg. Roll the ground beef up in the pastry until its covered completely. Squeeze the ends together. Dust a large cookie pan with flour and place your Wellington on top. Brush all over with the rest of the beaten egg. Bake in preheated oven for an hour until nice and golden (mine took about an hour and 10 minutes to and hour and 15 minutes).

    4. Slice the wellington up into portions at the table. Also tastes good with gravy.

    Bon apetit!

    Happy Cooking my Friends!


    Neiman Marcus Cookies

    I received an email a while ago (probably a couple of years ago) that had this recipe in it and said to pass along to all the people I possibly could. I didn't think much of it until I came across the recipe again in one of my cookbooks. According to the cookbook note, "the rumor that gave this cookie its rise to fame tells of a customer who inadvertently paid $250 US for this cookie recipe, thinking she was being charged $2.50 US." In spite of the ridiculously high price, she shared the recipe with everyone she possibly could. A quick google search put this rumor to rest as the information I read indicated that Neiman Marcus didn't even make chocolate chip cookies when this was said to occur. But its still a funny rumor that makes these cookies interesting to make!

    These cookies are really delicious with the addition of some instant coffee powder. It just gives them this unique flavour and makes them really stand out above other chocolate chip cookie recipes. They're super easy to whip up, just be sure you don't over cook them. Cookies are always best when they're still nice and soft in the middle and just cooked through.

    Neiman Marcus Cookies
    Recipe from 500 Cookies by Philippa Vanstone


    • 1/2 cup sweet butter (I used salted)

    • 1 cup light brown sugar

    • 1 egg

    • 2 tsp vanilla extract

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    • 1/2 tsp baking soda

    • 1/2 tsp baking powder

    • 1/4 tsp salt

    • 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee powder

    • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


    1. Preheat the oven to 375F.

    2. Beat the butter and sugar together, and add the egg and vanilla. Sift together the remaining dry ingredients, including the coffee powder. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix in chocolate chips.

    3. Roll into balls. Use your finger to flatten onto a non-stick baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool for five minutes.

    4. Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

    I hope you enjoy this recipe and it's wonderful simplicity. It is a wonderful recipe and I guarantee you'll be asked for the recipe many times by any of your friends lucky enough to taste these cookies.

    I'm going to head off and try to enjoy some of the sunshine we're finally getting here in Vancouver! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday afternoon.

    Happy Baking my Friends!