(The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.)

Quick breads!  I used to make a lot of quick breads, but I haven’t done one in a while.  So I took the opportunity this month to make two – a Beer Cheese Bread and a Lemon Bread.

They were both simple – mix the dry ingredients, add the wet, pour in a pan, and bake.   I did the beer bread first.

When I used to skydive, the woman who ran the kitchen made amazing beer bread.  It was thick and crusty and always warm.  Every beer bread I’ve had since has been compared to it.

This one had two kinds of cheeses – a sharp cheddar and asiago, plus sautéed green onions.  I put too many onions in it – the recipe called for a cup, but I accidentally grabbed the two cup measure out of the cupboard, and didn’t realize it until I was putting dishes in the dishwasher.  But I like green onions, so we didn’t mind.

Beer Bread 

After baking for an hour:

 Beer Bread

It was really good.  It was even better toasted the next day.  And I expect it will be good again tonight.

Then I made a lemon bread.  This one had lemon zest and lemon juice.  It was supposed to make two loaves, but I only have one small loaf pan, so I made one loaf and baked the other half into muffins.

Lemon Bread

It was also really good, particularly with the Meyer Lemon jam we got on Saturday from Revival Market. I also picked up some smoked lard there, which is going to have to make it’s way into biscuits soon.

I’m going to make one more loaf this month – the America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread.  It needs very ripe bananas, and they’re still not quite ready, so it’ll wait until later this week.

It was a fun, easy month.  Now I just have to find homes for more of this bread…

( see the recipes )

(Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!)

After  months of really complicated, pretty desserts, it was nice to have a simple recipe. I really cooked and baked myself out over the holidays, and I was dreading the thought of making more sweet things.

So, scones.  I’m sure that’s the proper word for them, but I just call them biscuits.  And I have to admit that I already had a biscuit recipe that I love, so this was going to be a hard sell – but you can never have too many biscuits, so I gave it a shot.

I made them to go with a roasted chicken for dinner.  They took about 20 minutes, and half of that was getting my oven preheated.

The fat in them is grated butter, so I put two tablespoons of butter into the freezer early in the day. When it was time to start, I sifted the flour, baking powder, and salt together, then rubbed in the grated butter.  The texture I was going for was "Coarse beach sand", and it was easy to get there without melting the grated butter.   Then I added half a cup of milk to finish the dough.

After they were mixed, I patted them out on a cutting board, folded them over  a few times for layers, then cut them out.  The first few I patted too flat, and they didn’t rise much, but the later ones I did better on.

Then bake for 10 minutes.  I brushed the tops with more melted butter to brown them:

Scones

They were good – they’re certainly more biscuit-looking then my recipe.  I’d probably make them if I wanted to impress a dinner guest or something – but if I just want a quick biscuit to cover in butter and jelly for breakfast, I’ll stick with my old recipe.

( see the recipe )

(Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.)

This month was a dessert I’d never heard of before – San Rival.  It’s Filipino – layers of meringue with nuts, separated with layers of buttercream.  I did both the meringues and buttercream in chocolate. 

The base started with 10 egg whites. They got beaten with a cup of sugar and a bit of cocoa.  Once they get to stiff peaks, a cup of finely chopped nuts gets folded in.  The recipe calls for cashews, but I had walnuts, so I used those.

The layers get baked in cake pans.  The recipe was written for one large "cake", but I thought they’d be cute as mini desserts. So I baked them in layers:

IMG_6011 IMG_6013

Then took a biscuit cutter and cut out small circles of each layer.  Other people said their layers came out too crunchy for cutting, but mine were only very crunchy around the edges.  I could have baked them longer, but I liked the texture as they were.

On to the buttercream.  I’ve made buttercream a lot, and so I knew what to expect.  I beat the eggs, cooked the sugar, poured it in slowly, let it cool, and added the butter.  I don’t even get nervous anymore when it looks just about to break – I just let it settle.

 IMG_6014

I had fresh eggs, which had very yellow yolks, so my buttercream came out pretty cream-colored.  At the very end, I added 2 ounces of melted and cooled chocolate.

Then the assembly. I stacked the meringues, piped the buttercream on them, and sprinkled walnuts on top:

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A whole plate:

IMG_6017

They came out really good. I like this buttercream recipe better then my current one – it’s much lighter.  Vanilla meringues with the chocolate filling would look impressive, too.  This one is going into my rotation for guest nights!

( see the recipe )

(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…