Choux Swans for the August 2012 Daring Bakers' Challenge

Hey Friends! How was your weekend? Mine was excellent - had a little fun hiking and baking and got a little accomplished by dejunking and organizing my garage yesterday. Got the satisfaction of hauling an entire truckload full of junk to the dump!! Woohoo! Any way, after a long hiatus, I am finally back and participating in the Daring Bakers' Challenge for the month!

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

I didn't go too wild - I kept with the swan shape (or as good as I could manage any way...) and filled them with a mocha (chocolate & coffee) pastry cream. The result was an amazing tasting dessert. The pastry cream was a hit and I will make it over and over again!!

Pate a Choux
Recipe from the Daring Bakers' (can't be doubled)

  • ½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) butter
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • ¼ teaspoon (1½ gm) salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  1. Line at least two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5 .
  2. In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over  medium heat until butter melts, then remove from stove.
  3. Add flour all at once and beat, beat, beat the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.
  4. Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition. Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.
  5. Using a ¼" (6 mm) tip on a pastry bag, pipe out about 36 swan heads. You’re aiming for something between a numeral 2 and a question mark, with a little beak if you’re skilled and/or lucky.
  6. Remove the tip from the bag and pipe out 36 swan bodies. These will be about 1.5" (40 mm) long, and about 1" (25 mm) wide. One end should be a bit narrower than the other.
  7. Bake the heads and bodies until golden and puffy. The heads will be done a few minutes before the bodies, so keep a close eye on the baking process
  8. Remove the pastries to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before filling.
 Next up, make the pastry cream:

Mocha Pastry Cream
Recipe minimally adapted from the Daring Bakers'

  • 1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
  • 1 Tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 oz dark chocolate
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
  2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
  3. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
  4. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat.
  5. Combine 1/4 cup whole milk, chocolate and espresso powder in a small, microwave safe container. Microwave on low heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Mix chocolate mixture, butter and vanilla into pastry cream and stir until smooth and incorporated. Chill until ready to use. 

 To assemble your swans:

  1. Take a swan body and use a very sharp knife to cut off the top 1/3rd to ½.
  2. Cut the removed top down the center to make two wings.
  3. Dollop a bit of filling into the body, insert head, and then add wings. 
  4. Your first attempt will probably not look like much, but the more you make, the more your bevy of swans will become a beautiful work of swan art.

Okay, so I'm not going to lie, these were a bit of work, but they weren't nearly as difficult or finicky as I thought they were going to be. My choux swans didn't puff up quite as much as I wanted and they didn't look as seamless as I thought they should once they were all assembled, but I was pleased with the overall result. Probably with a little practice, I could make some pretty cute little swans!!

Thanks so much Kat for hosting such a spectacular challenge! Great idea and it was fun to have something new and challenging to try out. :)

Happy Baking my Friends!


Summer Berry Flan

I'm not normally one to be too into making desserts with fruit. I like chocolate, cream, cake and other desserts, but normally I don't like to "pollute" them with fruit! However, this dessert is the exception - not only does it look beautiful and impressive to your guests, it tastes fantastic with the perfect balance of flavours and the berries don't "pollute" the dessert at all. They complement the rest of the dessert so perfectly. It was the aha moment where I determined that fruit has its place in dessert and that dessert can be just as decadent and delicious as non-fruit desserts. I'm hooked on this one! You should give it a try too. Its a bit involved, but the sense of satisfaction you get from making all components from scratch and the oooo's and ahhhh's you'll get from your friends and family will be well worth the effort. :)

 The beautiful thing about this dessert is that you can do so many variations to change it up - you could make a chocolate pastry cream and serve it with strawberries or cherries on top. Or you could do a tropical fruit tart with pineapple, papaya and toasted coconut... the options are endless!! What would be your go to flavour combination for this one?

Classic Fruit Flan
Minimally Adapted from Back to Baking by Anna Olson


Tart Shell:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 oz white chocolate
Pastry Cream:
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 cups assorted fresh, tender fruits - I used raspberries, blueberries and strawberries
  • 1/4 cup apple jelly

  1. Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in egg yolks and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt until dough comes together. Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours until firm.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Knead pastry dough on lightly floured surface to soften it a little bit. Dust the pastry with a little flour, and roll out just larger than your tart pan (make sure it has a removable bottom). Line pan with dough, trim edges. Chill pastry for 10 minutes in the freezer.
  3. Place the chilled tart pan on baking tray. Dock the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork, then bake in preheated oven for 16-20 minutes, until just the edges are golden brown and center of shell looks dry. Cool completely.
  4. Melt 3 oz white chocolate. Brush to coat bottom and sides of cooled tart shell. Chill the shell while preparing pastry cream.
Pastry Cream:
  1. Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until just below a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and cornstarch. Whisk half of the hot milk into the egg mixture, then pour entire mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk. Whisk the custard constantly over medium heat until it thickens and just begins to bubble, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Strain custard into a bowl, stir in vanilla and butter until melted, then cover bowl with plastic wrap so the plastic directly covers the surface of the custard. Cool custard to room temperature, then chil1 in the pan for at least 2 hours.
Assemble the Tart:
  1. Spoon the custard into the tart shell and spread it evenly. Top the custard with the fresh fruit, creaming an appealing design. Melt apple jelly in the microwave, then brush it over the fruit. Chill the tart in the pan until you are ready to serve. The tart can be stored in the fridge for up to one day.

So I told you it was a bit of work and I wasn't kidding, but its well worth the time and effort. Remember when selecing your fruits that some fruits turn brown (oxidize) upon contact with air. Those may not be best suited to this type of tart. Some examples of fruits that oxidize are - apples, bananas, peaches, and pears.

I hope you enjoy this one! Happy Baking my Friends!


Macaroni & Cheese Carbonara


Hi Friends! Happy Saturday - hope you have some fun stuff planned for one of the last weekends of summer. :) We are heading out hiking this morning on a 10 km adventure which I am looking forward to a lot. I hadn't planned on blogging this recipe - I made it for my sister's BF's birthday dinner last night, but a number of people are asking for the recipe - so here ya go! I've changed the recipe quite a bit from the original recipe, but we loved it. Hope you enjoy it too!

Macaroni & Cheese Carbonara
Adapted from Bobby Flay's Throwdown

  • unsalted butter, for the baking dish
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8-10 strips of bacon, cut into bite size pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 5 cups milk, hot (the recipe called for whole milk, but this is such a rich sauce recipe, skim or anything in between would also work here without impacting the taste)
  • 4 large egg yolks, lightly whisked
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or less if you don't like heat)
  • 3/4 cup grated asiago cheese + 1/3 cup for the top
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, + 1/4 cup for the top
  • 1 * 250g tub of McLaren's Sharp Cold Pack Cheddar Cheese
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked just under al dente
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x 13 inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large saute pan (remember you need to be able to fit 5 cups of milk plus all that cheese in here later) over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.
  3. Add the garlic to the remaining fat in the pan and cook until light golden brown, 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the hot milk, raise the heat to high, and cook, whisking constantly until thickened, about 5-6 minutes. Whisk in the eggs until incorporated (be careful here or you will end up with scrambled eggs!). Let cook 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the thyme, cayenne and all three cheeses until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If mixture is too thick, add additional warm milk, 1/4 cup at a time.
  4. Put the cooked macaroni in a large bowl, add the cheese sauce, reserved bacon and stir until combined. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  5. Combine additional 1/3 cup asiago and 1/4 cup parmesan and sprinkle evenly over the top. Bake in preheated oven until heated through - about 15 minutes. Then broil for 3-5 minutes until top is browned and crisp. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
This recipe is a little involved for mac and cheese - Bobby Flay's recipes tend to be a little on the heavy side (think dirtying every dish in your kitchen) but well worth the effort and the cleanup later. I've tried a lot of mac and cheese recipes (check out my archives for this blog and you'll see what I'm talking about), but I think this is one of the best one's I've made to date. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Cooking my Friends! Enjoy your weekend. :)


Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies for SRC!

Hi Friends! Its time for Secret Recipe Club's Group C reveal again and you know what that means - I get to try out a new recipe from a new blog! This month I was assigned Erin's blog (yep, we have the same name) Making Memories with your Kids. I decided to make her Chocolate Pastel Mint cookies, but I didn't have mint chips, so I substituted peanut butter chips on top, plus I added some to the dough as well (because you can never have enough PB chips right?!). The cookies were a huge hit with my family!

Lets get right down to business, here's my version of the recipe (the only changes I made were to use PB chips instead and add some to the dough as well.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
Recipe minimally adapted from Making Memories with your Kids

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter chips + extra for topping the cookies with
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.
  3. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda & baking powder. Mix until just combined. Add in peanut butter chips until just combined.
  4. Roll cookies into 1 inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes or until just set (don't over cook them or they will be dry). Remove from oven and immediately top with 5-6 more peanut butter chips, pressing into the soft cookies slightly.

Thats it! Easy to  make, basic ingredients and only dirties one bowl! Whats not to like? Thanks Erin for a fantastic recipe. :)


S'mores bars with Nuttella Marshmallows

I've been meaning to make marshmallows  for quite a while now. Then the other day (national s'mores day) Bon Appetit featured the top 10 s'mores recipes from various food blogs and there was one from Cherry Tea Cakes for S'mores bars where you made the marshmallow layer from scratch. I was pretty stoked to make them right away. I changed the recipe slightly by putting nuttella flavour into the marshmallow layer and putting peanut butter in the top chocolate layer, but other than that I was quite true to the original recipe. They are addictive and delicious and you've got to make them this summer. Its well worth the effort.

Graham Layer
Minimally adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

  • 2 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup golden brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 7 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup
  • 5 tbsp low fat milk
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  1. Add flour, sugar, soda, and salt to the large bowl of the food processor. Pulse a couple of times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and butter is evenly distributed through the dry ingredients.
  2. Whisk together the agave, milk and vanilla until combined. Add to the flour mixture and pulse until just combined.
  3. Press mixture into a 9x13 inch rectangle baking dish that has been lined with parchment paper.
  4. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until semi-firm to the touch. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Make the marshmallow layer while it cools.
Marshmallow Layer
Minimally adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

  • 1 1/2 packages unflavoured gelatin
  • 1/2 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 heaping tbsp nuttella
  1. Fit stand mixer with whisk attachment. Combine 1/4 cup cold water and the gelatin in the bowl of the mixer and leave to sit while you make the syrup.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup ice water, sugar, corn syrup and kosher salt. Cover and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes. Don't worry about stirring it.
  3. Remove the lid and attach candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Boil for approximately 7 minutes or until the mixture reaches 240 degrees and then remove from heat immediately.
  4. Put stand mixer on low speed and churn the gelatin mixture for a couple of turns. Then with mixture still on low, slowly pour in the hot syrup mixture (BE CAREFUL, THE MIXTURE IS EXTREMELY HOT AND CAN BURN YOU).  When all the syrup is incorporated, cover the front and sides of the mixer with a tea towel and turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue to whip until mixture is luke warm - 12 minutes. In the last minute of whipping, add vanilla and nuttella and mix until incorporated.
  5. Pour marshmallow cream onto the graham cracker base. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.
  6. Let set for 1 hour before topping with chocolate peanut butter layer.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer
Minimally adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  1. Combine all ingredients in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on low heat at 30 second intervals stirring well each time until mixture is completely melted. Pour over marshmallow layer and spread evenly.
  2. Allow to set for a few hours. Enjoy!

So, these are a little bit of work, but they're delicious. I highly recommend making them as a dessert for one of your end of summer get togethers with friends and family. It makes a nice big pan of squares that will feed lots of people.

Happy Baking my Friends!


Mango Lime Cheesecake

 I had originally planned to make this as part of the most recent Mom's Crazy Cooking Challenge, but didn't have time to get around to it in time for the posting date. My crazy study and exam schedule this summer has really been putting a damper on my blogging efforts! However, I finally got around to making this recipe and just had to share it with you! It's delicious, decadent and flavourful with such a lovely balance of flavours. You simply must try this cheesecake out. :)

I have heavily adapted the recipe from the cookbook No More Secrets - Recipes from the Cow Bay Cafe. Her recipe made a huge cheesecake and had a whole load of cream cheese in it. So I adapted it to be my version of her amazing recipe. The results were spectacular and you must try this recipe out and soon. You won't be sorry!

Mango Lime Cheesecake
Recipe heavily adapted from No More Secrets


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 yolk from large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 x 250ml cream cheese (I used low fat)
  • heaped 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 can mango pieces, drained except for two tbsp of the juice
  • zest and juice from one lime
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 large lime
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  2. For the crust: place all crust ingredients in the food processor. Pulse until mixture comes together and is crumbly, but not clumping. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan and a little way up the sides.
  3. For the batter: Place the cream cheese (cube it up) in the bowl of the food processor, add sugar, eggs, mango pieces and reserved juice, lime zest and juice. Pulse until the mixture is smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides a couple of times. Pour the batter over the crust, then put the pan on a cookie sheet and into the preheated oven. Bake for one hour. The cheesecake is done when it is light brownish around the edges, slightly puffed in the pan and a little wobbly when the pan is shaken gently. The top should be rather dull looking in the middle (if it's shiny, it is not done).
  4. For the topping, mix together sour cream, lime zest and juice until the sugar is well dissolved.
  5. Spread the topping mixture on the still-hot cheesecake and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for six hours.
This is one of the easiest cheesecakes ever! You don't have to fuss with a water bath because the topping hides cracks in the top and because you don't have to use a waterbath, you don't have to bake on such a low temperature (read - low temp takes forever to bake!!). Pretty rare to find a baked cheesecake that will be outta the oven in an hour! Try it out peeps, you'll love it.

What have you been up to lately? Anything exciting? Do share!! Until then, happy baking my friends!


Lemon Glazed Butterhorns

Whew!! This weekend has been uncharacteristically hot for British Columbia, even if it is summer time. Yesterday, the temperature peaked at 34 degrees celcius in our neighborhood! Beautiful, but oh so hot! Especially when you're not used to it. And what's the rationale thing to do when its hot outside and you don't have A/C in your house? Well, you turn on your oven and bake something delicious... first thing in the morning, so your house is cookin' hot all day (no pun intended). That's what I did on Saturday morning when I made these babies for breakfast. It was worth it though, they were delicious! Up til now, these have been hubby's favorite store bought pastry, but I think I won him over - home made trumps store bought... especially when it's topped with my homemade lemon curd.

First, make your lemon curd and let it set up a bit. Here is a great recipe for lemon-lime curd. Replace the lime juice with lemon juice and you're set. Or you can enjoy them with lemon-lime curd too. Either way, they'll be delicious.

Lemon Glazed Butterhorns
Recipe minimally adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook

  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • lemon curd
  1. Combine the yeast, teaspoon of sugar and warm water in a small bowl. Stir gently and set aside to proof.
  2. Measure the flour, second amount of sugar, and the salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender (I just used my hands), cut the butter into the flour mixture until small crumbs form.
  3. Warm the milk slightly and beat in the egg yolk. Pour the yeast and the milk mixture into the flour mixture. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge for 2 hours - overnight.
  4. Place the dough on a slightly floured surface. Pat down the dough and lightly sprinkle the top with flour. Roll the dough to form a 6x14 inch rectangle. Cut the dough lengthwise to make 8 - 14inch long strips.
  5. Twist each strip so you have a long twisted rope of dough, then coil around itself into a pinwheel shape. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise for 1 hour at room temperature.
  6. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned (mine took closer to 20 minutes). Cool on a rack.
  7. Make icing by mixing icing sugar with a small amount of water to make a thick icing (you should be able to drizzle it on the pastries but it shouldn't just run off of them. Set aside.
  8. Top each pastry with a spoonful of lemon curd and spread to cover the tops of the pastry - leaving about a 1/2 inch border around the edges. Then drizzle each pastry with some of the icing made in step 7. Enjoy!

This post has been yeast spotted!!

Hope you enjoy these delicious breakfast pastries! I know we sure did - they were all gobbled up in a matter of minutes. Happy Baking my Friends!