Archive for the ‘Daring Kitchen’ Category

Mission Mile High

Interior Shot

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus:  Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

So, this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was quite an adventure.  As the header says, the hosts selected a dobos torte, which a) is something I’d never heard of before, and b) was yet another recipe from this Kaffeehaus book (as was the strudel I made a few months ago).

At first I was a little bummed that we were doing another recipe from the same book (variety, people!) but after reading through the recipe a few times, I realized that the techniques required were quite different and would be somewhat challenging.  I threw myself into this one wholeheartedly, all the while anticipating wonderful results.


Allioli… A New Form Of Kitchen Torture


As soon as I saw the recipe for this month’s Daring Cooks challenge, I knew I would have to make a few alterations, but I was ultimately intrigued.

The recipe that Olga selected was a rice dish with cuttlefish, mushrooms and artichokes by Jose Andres, an American chef who trained under Ferran Adria at El Bulli, one of the few culinary meccas I must visit some day.  With that in mind, I knew the dish would be robustly flavoured and hearty, so I set to work considering alternative ingredients.

Since the Everyman doesn’t eat seafood, and I am finding myself allergic to more of it every day, I first opted to switch out the cuttlefish for chicken and chorizo instead.  Next, I realized that even though we had half a dozen different specimens of rice in the house, none of them were the one I needed, so instead I chose to what I thought was most similar in properties, yet unique, a purple Thai rice.  Lastly, the Everyman eats neither artichokes nor mushrooms, so I had to omit those in favour of the last of our local asparagus and some corn.  I know that with all those substitutions you can hardly consider it the same dish, but I’d like to think that the spirit of the challenge stayed the same.



Well… This Worked Out Better Than It Did Last Time


The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

For this month’s Daring Bakers, I decided that I wanted to focus on the “mallow” cookies rather than the milanos because a) I hate milanos and b) I wanted to take another stab at making marshmallows. In Canada, mallows (the cookie) are often referred to as puffs, and are generally sold with a layer of jam in between the cookie and the marshmallow.  Being as big a fan of jam as I am, I had initially planned to go that route, but the sheer mechanics of this recipe determined for me that I was being overzealous.

With that in mind, let’s get to the details, shall we?


A Taste Of Home

Served With Chutney

The June Cooks portion of The Daring Kitchen challenge was something I could really sink my teeth into; Chinese dumplings.

The instructions were simple and allowed leeway for creativity; all you had to do was make your own wrappers (no store-bought allowed!)  The filling was completely up to me and only limited by the constraints of my imagination.

Being as I’d already done Chinese-inspired dumplings recently, I made an executive decision and opted to take the challenge in a slightly more ethnic direction.

I’ve had doubles on the brain for about a week now, and as the Everyman and I drove to Dutch Dreams the other day and discussed my lack of them, he asked me the pivotal, if obvious question; if I missed doubles so much, why hadn’t I just made my own?  Good point indeed.

That simple, off the cuff suggestion derailed my original plan of a chorizo and asparagus stuffing, and put me on the doubles train.  For those who aren’t familiar, doubles are a Trinidadian street food made of fried puffy dough that’s covered with curried chana masala (chickpea mix), hot sauce and mango chutney, then topped with another fritter, hence the “doubles” moniker.  My mother’s side of the family happens to be from Trinidad, so doubles were a snack I enjoyed often as a young, wily child. (more…)

There’s A First Time For Everything

A Flaky Slice Of Heaven

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Browsing through the foodporn-ish content on Foodgawker and Tastespotting last month, I came across submissions from a cadre of bloggers who belonged to The Daring Bakers.  At the time I didn’t think too much of it, but as I delved further into the archives, I began to see a common theme; recurring weekly or monthly challenges.  It turns out that the weekly challenges are hosted by another web group called Tuesdays With Dorie, who concentrate on preparing one recipe a week from Dorie Greenspan’s delectable cookbook.  The Daring Bakers (and Cooks) by contrast choose one recipe per month (per group) and then mass-post the results online on a pre-set date.

I was initially drawn to Tuesdays With Dorie (mostly because their photography was so enticing) but when I tried to register I learned that membership was closed for the time being.  I then investigated The Daring Bakers, and was intrigued by their dual challenge options, featuring both sweet and savoury iterations.  Erring on the side of caution for once in my life, I decided to only register as a baker at first, in order to test out the waters and complexity of their challenges.  Unfortunately, by that time the April challenge had already been announced and was in progress, so I had to wait until May to join in the fun.

On May 1st I logged in to the covert challenge section of their site, and there it was… my very first Daring challenge!  When I initially read the recipe I was a little let down, if only because I’m not an apple strudel fan.  It turns out that the Everyman is though, so I jumped in wholeheartedly and decided to try my hand at it that weekend.  At worst it would be a chance to improve my craptastic pastry skills and leave me with plenty of time for a do-over if I failed, and at best, it meant I’d have dessert for a few days.



He Gets Too Hungry For Dinner At 8

Gyoza Stuffing

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather these last few days, and consequently have spent less time messing around in the kitchen than I would have liked this weekend.

Since reading about my first Daring Bakers project on Friday, I’d been pondering the likelihood of accomplishing the task at hand.  From what I understand, the modus operandi is to constantly challenge yourself and work outside your limits.  I joined mostly because I think my baking skills are much poorer than my cooking technique, and I thought this would be a neat way to improve them (and also prove useful for monthly blog fodder).  Their website also hosts a monthly cooking challenge called Daring Cooks, and once I get a few of the baking challenges under my belt, I might just sign up for that one too, just for fun.  I can’t share with you the content of this month’s challenge right now (but please check back on May 27th to read all about it) but I can definitely say that had I not signed up for this, I never would have bothered to attempt the recipe at home.  I spent the better part of my afternoon today preparing it, and ever since, the Everyman has been rather greedily enjoying the spoils.

And since I was unable to gather all of the materials I needed to make my various cured meats this weekend (though an extremely generous offfer of supplies and help did come my way), I needed to find something else to occupy my time.  While Tastespotting from my sickbed yesterday I came across a photo posted by my favorite America’s Test Kitchen guru, Kenji Alt.  It was a beautiful picture of a homemade gyoza, one of my most favorite Asian delicacies.  Better still, it was a pork and ramp dumpling, and I just so happened to have a small container of sauteed ramp leaves left over from my previous tart-making adventure.  The only snag was that the Everyman pretty much wholeheartedly dislikes all Asian cuisine (which is why you never see any reviews of Asian restaurants on here) with the exception of his affinity for sweet and sour chicken balls.  I knew that if I wanted to make gyoza for dinner (and I did), I’d have to tweak the recipe a little bit, to account for his somewhat fussier tastes.

Starting by slicing up the sauteed ramps, I chopped in some leftover sweet and sour shallot confit I found hanging out in the fridge, along with a few of my recently pickled ramp stems (which turned out deliciously, by the way).  I sauteed a bit of ground pork in a pan with a splash of sesame oil, some oyster sauce and a tiny bit of nam pla.  Once cooked through, I stirred in the ramps and shallot confit, and a glug of homemade chicken stock to loosen everything up.  This was reduced down until the whole mixture was smooth and slightly sticky, then allowed to cool.  Once the stuffing could be handled, it got bundled into a plethora of wonton skins (35 in all) and I even got a bit fancy with it and turned them into pope’s caps (which is the English translation of a form of Italian stuffed pasta).


One Step Closer To Livin’ The Dream

Yesterday morning I finally found the place to procure the rest of my sausage-making software.

Or rather, a friendly group of fellow ‘hounds pointed me in the right direction, to an online vendor called Malabar Super Spice.  It’s funny because when I first looked into sausage-making at the beginning of the year I had looked up Malabar, but promptly forgot about it.  Having gotten reacquainted with their website, I managed to order myself something that goes by the dubious name of beef middles, among other things.  According to all the sausage-recipes I’ve been planning lately, beef middle is what I need to stuff the meat into.  I’m not quite certain exactly what part the middle comes from, but I’m pretty sure I’d rather not know.

When it gets here on Tuesday, it’ll be time to start working on my much anticipated ‘nduja (even though it has to cure for a year) and also the other item I’ve been contemplating, some spicy Hungarian csabai.  I’ve always wanted to make a prosciutto, but I don’t think I have the room, ideal temperate zone or expertise to properly pull that one off without killing myself (or more likely the Everyman, since he’s the real prosciutto fiend in this household).

I’ve been slowly trying to increase my comfort level with cured meats this year, but I still don’t have that gut feeling like I know what I’m doing.  And unfortunately with stuff like this where molds can be involved, not knowing what you’re doing is somewhat dangerous.  That’s why I always sample my homemade products first.  If they don’t kill me, then I’m ok with the Everyman or others trying them.  But I’m not going to make other people sick because of my own stupidity.

In other news, I received word of my first Daring Bakers challenge yesterday.  I don’t think I’m allowed to share what it is with you right now (I’m still a little fuzzy on the rules) but come May 27th, photos of my failure (or success) will be posted on this blog for all to see.  Having read through the recipe a few times already, I’ve got a mild case of anxiety about whether I can pull this one off.  Only time will tell, I guess.

Until next time…

Tee Hee Hee Oops!

I must admit, I’ve been somewhat lax in updating our web content this week.  Work has been busy, which tends to leave me drained, and unfortunately I’m not at the point in my life where I can afford to blog full time either.  Perhaps someday…

I will be honest though, I’ve spent a great deal of my free time over the last few days on the Foodgawker website.  I think this little break has been for the best too.  It’s given me a chance to recharge my culinary batteries per se, and gotten me intrigued about joining a group called the Daring Bakers who participate in monthly baking challenges and then post pictures and descriptions of their results.

One thing I have been meaning to get around to blogging about is my wrap-up from our dinner at Cowbell last week.  For the better part of this week I was debating whether or not I wanted to write about it, but have since decided that if I start censoring the content of my experiences, I’m no longer running an objective website.  And that would be wrong.  So in the spirit of that, let’s dig right in!

Anyone my age or older probably remembers Kevin, the annoying mascot for Rainbow Chips Ahoy! who permanently etched those 4 words into our collective consciousness.  Our dinner at Cowbell last week contained several rather distinct tee hee hee oops moments.  I must preface my account by saying that I do still love this restaurant and do not fault them in the slightest; if anything, the experience reminded me that they’re human after all :)

To wit, the decision to visit Cowbell came about rather quickly during a wildly spiraling bad day at the office.  When I called to see about a reservation at 2pm on a Thursday, I was not overly hopeful that we would be accommodated.  I felt it a stroke of good luck when I was advised that not only were there seatings free, but the only thing the reservationist wanted to know was whether I thought we’d be longer than 2 hours with our dinner.  I hung up the phone happy and excited for nibbles, but also mildly confused – isn’t the time required controlled by the speed at which the kitchen can provide my food?

When we arrived, we were greeted by a server who remembered us as semi-regulars; always a nice feeling.  We were given a four-top, even though it was just the two of us, and there were other 2 seaters available.  When the server mentioned that the menu might contain other items not listed on the chalkboard the Everyman’s imagination went off on a tangent that a private party was happening at 10 (hence the 2 hour question) and perhaps there was a secret menu.  After a subsequent probing of our waitress, we learned that there was only the one menu, it just happened that they were already sold out of one of the options.  Dang, no secret food for me tonight!  I guess I’ll have to get my fix at Charlie Burger instead.