February 27, 2011

February Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Butterscotch and white chocolate panna cotta and Florentine Cookies


The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I was very excited when I read that this month challenge was going to be about one of my all times favorite desserts: panna cotta. I have a well tested panna cotta recipe but I am always happy to try new ones so I was totally in for this challenge.

February 22, 2011

Baking with Carla: mini Irish Soda Breads


I have been meaning to make bread with Carla for a long time. Why haven’t I? Well, my biggest constraint with Carla, as you know, is time. How can I possibly make bread in an hour? Aside from the whole kneading process, which is too hard and time consuming for a six-year old, bread takes time because of the rise.

February 19, 2011

Forget about lemon sticky buns! Convert to mandarin sticky buns!


Do you see these guys? Aren’t they cute?

I know, right? Cute and delicious! We love mandarins. Our home is a mandarins refuge. You will always find many of them filling our life and bellies. We usually eat them just like that. But for once, I wanted to make something more out of them. I got inspired by a lot of lemon sticky buns recipes that I have seen around the blogsphere lately and I made mandarin sticky buns.

We were very happy about the result. I know, a little time consuming. But boy, it was worth it! And I got some kneading exercise J

Sticky Mandarin Rolls with Mandarin Cream Cheese Glaze
Makes 8-10 small rolls or 6 big rolls

Mandarin Roll Dough

6 gr (1 ¼ tsp) yeast
90 ml (3 fl oz) warm milk
57 gr (1/2 stick or 1/4 cup) unsalted butter, soft
25 gr (2 scant tbsp) sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

250 gr (9 oz or 2 cups) all-purpose flour
one pinch of salt
2 gr (1/4 tsp) nutmeg
2 mandarins zest (I could possibly use more next time)
1 egg

Mandarin Filling

100 gr (3.55 oz or 1/2 cup) sugar
2 gr (1/4 tsp) nutmeg
2 gr (1/4 tsp) powdered ginger
2 mandarins, zest and juice
15 gr (1 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

Mandarin Cream Cheese Glaze

60 gr (2 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 mandarins, juice and zest
130 gr (4.5 oz or 1 cup) confectioners’ sugar


In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and let it sit for a couple minutes.

Add the butter, the sugar, the vanilla and 65 gr (½ cup) of flour and stir together. Then add the salt, the nutmeg, and the mandarin zest.

Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft, yet sticky, dough.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is very smooth. Next, put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for about an hour.

In the meantime, prepare the filling. In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and the ginger and then work in the mandarin zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar gets a bit wet. Stir in the juice of 2 mandarins.

Lightly grease a baking dish with butter.

On a floured surface pat the dough out into a rectangle. Spread the dough with the melted butter and then with the mandarin-sugar mixture.

Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Cut the long dough roll into 6 big (or 8-10 small) rolls and place them in the prepared baking dish.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. With a mixer beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the mandarin juice and blend until well combined and finally add the confectioners’ sugar.

When the rolls are done, spread the cream cheese icing on top of them, and sprinkle the zest of 2 mandarins to garnish.

Serve while warm.

Have a sweet day!

Source: adapted from The Kitchn

February 15, 2011

Baking with Carla: Heart-shaped Rice Krispies Treats


I resisted making a Valentine’s day post. I even resisted making Valentine’s day treats. No, Wally did not get any heart-shaped treat yesterday. I do not like this holiday and I do not share the excitement behind it. I believe it’s a very materialistic holiday and I don’t like the idea that on the 14th of February you make up for everything by telling those you love that you do love them. I try hard to make that happen every day of the year.

Having said that, Carla is a kid and living the US she is immersed in this culture. Kids talk and celebrate V-Day at school, which I think it’s really ridiculous but, hey, that’s how things go…I can’t change the world. Surfing the net looking for a quick recipe to make with her (and having already failed a savory recipe that I was planning), I found these heart-shaped rice Krispies treats and I though she would have fun making them. 

They were also fitting my idea of starting to use new ingredients to bake with Carla, so that she could see how creative you can get and how you can pull out something good from anything. Plus, these are no-bake treats. You just have a 5-minute time on the stove but that’s it.

The rice Krispies and the mini-marshmallows in this recipe were ideal as “new ingredients” in our repertoire. The final treats turned out ok. Actually, Carla and even her parents liked them. I don’t think I will ever want to try this kind of stuff again in my life. As per the child-friendly….I have my doubts about it! If by child friendly you mean a silly recipe that include children-beloved ingredients. This is a child friendly recipe. But you can’t really say you give ownership on the recipe with this one. Stirring the marshmallows on the stove (already dangerous for a kid) is very hard. Mixing the rice Krispies into that sticky thing is even worse. But hey, don’t get me wrong. I like to try anything so I’m still glad I did.

Rice Krispies Treats
                  3 tbsp butter
                  6 cups mini (or 60 regular-size) marshmallows
                  red food coloring
                  6 cups Rice Krispies cereal


 Lightly coat a 10by15” baking sheet with cooking spray and set it aside.

Melt the butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the marshmallows, stirring them continuously until they melt. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in drops of red food coloring until you obtain the desired color.

 Add the Rice Krispies, stirring until they are evenly coated with marshmallow.
  Spoon the mixture onto the baking sheet. With waxed paper or lightly buttered hands smooth out the mixture, spreading it to an even thickness.
Cut out hearts with the cookie cutter.

Have a sweet day!

Source: adapted from Disney Family Fun, where you can also find the video of how to make these quick treats

February 11, 2011

My favorite soup bread: Olive Oil Bread


Last weekend, in between jobs, homeworks, engagement parties and other life events I was able to make some bread. Those who know me, also know by now how much I find making bread, and in particular kneading, a stress relief. No knead bread might be good for those busy days when I don’t want to mess up the kitchen but when I need to relax I need to knead. And I have to admit that in the past few months my bread making skills have dramatically improved.

This time I did not go fancy, however. I wanted a simple bread that went well with soups and creams, which, despite the warmer weather here in the Bay Area, I’m still very much enjoying for dinner. I decided to go for some olive oil small breads. Olive oil bread is among the most common in Italian bakeries but it really bothers me that sometimes bread called olive oil bread does not really taste like olive oil. So I wanted to find out a recipe that gave me some very tasty little breads. These sure were perfect for my weekly soups: a crunchy crust on the outside, and a strong olive oil taste from the inside.

Olive oil bread
Yields 7-8 small rolls*

8 gr (1 ½ tsp) active dry yeast
120 ml (4 fl oz or ½ cup) water
45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil (good one!)
250 gr (9 oz or 2 cups) all-purpose flour
5 gr (1 tsp) salt

* you can easily double the ingredients if you are more then 2 people in your family


Stir the yeast into the water in a large mixing bowl and let stand until foamy (about 10 minutes).

Stir in the oil and then the flour and salt until well blended.

Transfer the dough onto a flour surface and knead until very elastic (about 10 minutes).

First rise: place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours). The dough should be moist and velvety.

Shaping and second rise: divide the dough into 6-7 equal pieces each about the size of a lime, and shape them into small balls. Arrange the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 ½ hours). You can make a wreath by placing the balls in a circle shape about 1 ½” apart.

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Bake for 20 minutes if you have left them as individual rolls and for 30-35 minutes if you made a wreath.

Let the bread cool on a cooling rack before serving (but I could not resist too long….I love warm bread!)

Have a sweet day!

February 07, 2011

Baking with Carla: eggless cookies


Another week has gone by and I haven’t even seen it! I have been working so much that I did not have time to post for a week and that for me seems way too long. The good news is: it’s Monday! And I have a great excuse to be baking: I’m baking with Carla!