(The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!)

I was wary of another yeast bread challenge.  The last one didn’t turn out particularly well, but I figured I’d give this a shot. 

Povitica is a yeast bread with a nut filling.  It gets rolled out very thin, the topping goes on top, then it’s rolled up like a jelly roll and folder into a pan for baking.  This recipe makes 4 loves – that’s a lot of nut bread.

The dough gets mixed up and kneaded:

Povitca

Then split into 4 portions to rise. 

Povitca

After an hour and a half of rising, it gets rolled out.  The instructions said "thin enough to read through".  I got pretty close to that.  Having the marble rolling pin really helps – without it, my back would have been killing me by the second loaf.

 Povitca

The filling goes on top:

 Povitca

Then it gets rolled up and goes into pans.  I don’t own four bread pans, so I made do with my clay cooker and some CorningWare:

 Povitca Povitca Povitca Povitca

Then 45 minutes of baking.  I should have been a bit more gentle – in some of the pans, the bread split open.

 Povitca Povitca Povitca

After half an hour of cooling, I had bread:

Povitca

It was really good.  I did three loaves with walnuts, and one with pecans and chocolate.  I haven’t cut into that one yet, but the walnut loaves were great.  We took two loaves to work, and they pretty much disappeared. I’d make it again – only next time, not 4 loaves at a time!

( see the recipe )

(The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!)

Croissants have been on my list of things to try for a long time, ever since I saw Willow Bird Baking’s tutorial.  But I never found the time, until I saw this month’s Daring Baker Challenge. 

Then I found the time.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the process, and I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures.  It can be best summed up as: 

  • Roll
  • Fold
  • Rest
  • Repeat

There’s some mixing at the beginning.  There’s some smashing of butter, too, but mostly, it was rolling and resting.  The whole recipe should have taken 12 hours, but I spread it over three days.  Most of the resting steps could be done either one or two hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge. 

After three days of rolling and resting, I had croissants!  They were all supposed to come out as neat triangles, but each half ended up with one oddly-shaped leftover piece.  So I grabbed a few chocolate-chips from the pantry, and stuffed the odd ones with chocolate.

Croissants! Then, 15 minutes of baking and they were done!

Croissants!

They came out really quite good.  They were more dense then they should have been – the first few risings went fine, but I noticed by the end they really weren’t rising much. I  blame the yeast – mine is getting a bit old. I had plenty of layers, and they were nice and buttery – just not very fluffy. 

A few other notes – the marble rolling pin was a great help, and it made the rolling go a lot faster then my old wooden one.  The silicone rolling mat kept the flour mostly-contained for 3 days, and really made the cleanup faster.

I’ll probably give them another shot with fresher yeast.  They really weren’t a whole lot of trouble, and they were quite good.  Now, I just have to find a bread pudding recipe to use up the stale ones…

Macarons – the real, French kind – have been on my to-bake list for a long time.  I imagined it would be an all-day process, and I just kept putting it off.

Until I got a dinner invitation, and I offered to bring dessert, and nothing in my recipes looked good.  I did have all day to work on them, so I pulled up the Definitive Macaron Guide and got started.

This will all make sense if you follow along in the guide. 

I started by marking circles on parchment to pipe them into.  I didn’t have a 1.5 inch cookie cutter, and the closest round thing I did have was a give-away champagne glass that lurks in the pack of my cupboard.  So I used it.  The important note here is that you must remember to flip the paper over before you start piping onto and, and also that blue sharpie is a pain to get off your good cookie sheets.  A pen would have been a better choice.

Macarons

Next, the measuring:  4 ounces of almond flour and 8 ounces of powdered sugar.  I actually had almond flour in the fridge from an almond cake recipe I made earlier this year, so that made this part simple.  Macarons

Then the eggs.  I really did weigh the eggs.  It came out to about 5 eggs for me, but I get farm-type eggs which cannot be restricted by labels like "large" or "extra-large".  I followed her instructions exactly – 3 minutes on medium, 3 minutes on medium-high, and 3 minutes on high.  And they looked perfectly meringue-y to me:

Macarons

Then the folding.  All the dry ingredients get folded into the egg whites.  This is where I deviated, and I should not have.  She said about 40 strokes was right – I stopped at 30, because I was afraid they were getting too runny.  The result was that I had an awful lot of big bubbles in my shells, instead of many more little bubbles.  I won’t make that mistake again!

Macarons

Next, piping.  I should have knocked down those little points on top before I baked them, because with the points, they don’t lay flat on the table so you can fill them.

 Macarons Then, off to the oven for 18 minutes.  Mine took closer to 20 minutes, but I suspect my oven thermostat is drifting.  Perhaps the next time I buy an oven thermometer, I’ll actually remember to remove it before I run the self-cleaning cycle?  No, probably not.

Macarons

I was genuinely impressed.  They weren’t perfect, but they were very close, especially for a first try.  While they cooled, I whipped up a batch of vanilla buttercream to fill them with.  I piped in the buttercream…

Macarons

…and then we went out to dinner.  Everyone loved them, even if they could have been a bit flatter and less airy.  My impression was that they weren’t nearly as hard as everyone says they are, and they were well worth the trouble.  I can see myself making a huge batch, with different colors and fillings, for a party.  I’m thinking cherry shells with a chocolate ganache, to start with…

( see the recipe )

(The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!)

This month was candy.  I make a lot of candy, but I don’t usually try it in August in Houston.

I made three different types this month – the first one was a batch of sponge candy.  Well, actually, it was two batches, but the first batch flopped so badly I had to toss it.  The idea is to cook the sugar to 285F or so, then take it off the heat, and add baking soda.  The baking soda reacts with the sugar mixture, and creates lots of little bubbles in the candy as it cools. 

The first batch I burned badly, and it had to be tossed.  The second batch came out much better:

Sponge Candy

I didn’t really want to dip it in chocolate – I was afraid the holes would fill up and it would be a mess.  So I just drizzled some dark chocolate on top.  It turned out very good – next time I’ll mix it a bit more and hopefully the bubbles will be a bit smaller.

Then I did a batch of Nutella balls.  I have a recipe for peanut butter cups that takes one cup of good peanut butter and half a cup of confectioner’s sugar.  I substituted Nutella for the peanut butter, and got these:

Nutella truffles

I put them in the fridge to set up a bit while I made peppermint patties.  I’ve made these before, and they’re also very simple – a little confectioner’s sugar, some peppermint extract, some butter for richness, and a bit of cream to bring it all together.  Everything gets mixed and shaped:

Daring Bakers: Candylicious!

And then those went in the fridge.  They’re sitting on powdered sugar so they don’t stick to the plate. 

An hour later, I tempered some chocolate to dip them in.  There are no intermediate pictures, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that melted chocolate and a good camera should never be on the kitchen counter at the same time. 

But I gently melted 3/4 of the chocolate in the microwave, then added the other 1/4 as seed chocolate to temper it.  Then the peppermint patties and nutella truffles got dipped.  Unfortunately, I was an idiot and sat them down on a cold plate, where they stuck.  A few of the chocolate shells broke when I tried to get them off the plate.  Usually, when I do a big batch of chocolates, I put them on parchment paper, which can be peeled off easily.

This was the final result:

Chocolate!

It was a fun challenge!  Looking forward to next month!

( see the recipes )

When I was a kid, we always had rhubarb around.  My mother had a huge garden in the back yard, and about a third of it was full of rhubarb.  There was always pie, and strudel, and stewed rhubarb, and rhubarb jelly.

But it doesn’t seem to grow in Texas – the internet says it can be done, but I’ve never seen it.  Every once in a while, I see some in the grocery store, but it’s always expensive and sort of sad looking.

But this weekend I was at Randall’s, and they had a whole pile that didn’t look too bad, and wasn’t terribly expensive.  I picked out a generous handful, thinking I’d make a pie.

When I got it home and started chopping, I realized I’d sadly miscalculated.  I had about twice as much as I needed for a pie. So I started by cutting up the first half.

I cheated and used a refrigerated pie crust.  I’m terrible at them – sometimes I try one just to see if I’ve gotten any better, but I rarely have, and I didn’t have the patience to mess with one. 

RhubarbThe whole thing is very easy – put a pie crust in the pan, put some sugar and flour on top, then add three cups of rhubarb.  Bake for about an hour, or until done.

Rhubarb

It was a very good pie.  But it left me with half the rhubarb still in my fridge.

So, the next day, I made a strudel.  I actually had enough for two, but I just doubled the recipe and put it in a 13×9 instead of an 8-inch square.

Another simple recipe – a basic crust, 3 more cups of rhubarb, and a package of cherry jello sprinkled on top.  Then a streusel made from flour, sugar, and some melted butter. Rhubarb

Rhubarb

The pie was perfect – exactly like I remembered it.  My mother’s was always redder, but that’s because her rhubarb was better.  The strudel came out a bit less-sweet then I remembered it, but it was still good.

It felt like spring, even if it is August!

( see the pie recipe )

( see the strudel recipe )