Saturday, September 27, 2008

Crackerin' it Up - Daring Bakers September 2008

Hi folks,

Yes its been a while! My husband is off in Ohio-land working hard and enjoying the perks of civilization once again. I am here, in the Last Frontier, toiling away at packing up essential, trying to sell non-essentials, and working feverishly to get as much done for my department at work as I can!

I haven't had a lot of time to document my culinary adventures. However, lucky for you, as a committed DB-er, I present this month's challenge - Lavash Crackers and Hummus Dip. Shel of Musings From The Fishbowl and Natalie from Gluten A Go Go were this month's hosts!

You all have seen my Hummus previously. Its so easy to make, and since it helps me use up food from my pantry, I figured why not!

The lavash cracker recipe chosen was out of Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice - one of my all-time favorite cookbooks! I had been eyeing this recipe for some time! It turned out fabulous :D. You can find the recipe and other details of the challenge HERE.

If I hadn't been on the verge of moving back to the states, I would have tried out this challenge going gluten free. This is the perfect recipe for testing out 'alternative' ingredients. I certainly will try it when I get settled in back in Ohio! The best thing I LOVED about this recipe was playing with flavor combintations. The lavash is a blank canvas for flavors. On its own its a great cracker - crunchy, slightly sour (i left my to ferment over 24 hours in the fridge) - better than the mass produced unsalted saltines I buy! But MAN O MAN, playing with flavor combinations produces spectacular cracker unlimited potential!

The dough isn't too difficult ot work with. I mixed up a single batch by hand, as I had sent my KA mixer to its new home earlier in the week. I was sad to see it go, but my hubby has been trying to bribe me with a new one for years now - and put his foot down about shipping it back. How can I be mad at a man trying to buy me a new one - at least he was resourceful enough to use the move back to his advantage!

I decided on the following flavors:

Pesto/Garlic - Using some left over store-bought pesto (trust me its cheaper than paying through the nose for the basil and pinenuts!) and a tablespoon of chopped garlic, I slathered the pesto on the outside thirds of the dough, and slathered the garlic (with a little EVOO) in the middle third.

Black and White Sesame Seeds - I alternated black and white sesame seeds on the dough. I also sprinkled a wee bit of kosher salt to brighten up the sesame flavor a bit.

Salted Spicy Red Pepper - I mixed up a tbsp of cayenne pepper, 1 tsp of paprika and 1 tsp of kosher salt and sprinkled it over the top of the dough.

Italian-inspired - using dried italian herb seasoning, chopped garlic, and some parmesean cheese, springled each over prepared dough.

In each case - I sprayed the dough before and after the seasonings were placed. The first spray helps it stick, but I have found, after dealing with bread toppings in the past, that the spray after helps it stay put even better.

The crackers were great! I really loved the salted spicy pepper ones! Using the Hummus I made and a jar of spicy mediterranean eggplant spread I had in my pantry from a friend, I took the bounty to work. The comments were quite positive, along with many "who's going to bake for us when you go?" style comments, which made me kind of sad :*(.

Check out the DB Blogroll to see what the other DBers came up with this month! I am going to have a few more posts here before I end up a 'real' American again - I promise you. The local blueberry festival is tomorrow - and as of right now I am working on three entries! Stay tuned to see what I come up with!

Monday, September 1, 2008

August Daring Bakers - Chocolate Eclairs!

This post will be short and sweet, literally and figuratively! I've been super busy as I mentioned a few posts below. Things haven't slowed down with all the planning and preparing for the big move back to civilization.

I did find time to cram a few rounds of these wonderful pockets of delectable goodness in, however. This month's Daring Bakers Challenge is courtesy of Meeta @ What's For Lunch Honey and Tony @ Tony Tahhan. In special homage to one of pastry's demigods, they chose chocolate ecliars from Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme.

I love eclairs, I love cream puffs, I love them probably a bit to much for the vanity of my waistline, but how could I resist making these delectable goodies? I made these twice this month, once following the recipe as written, and the second time experimenting with the choux dough and trying my hand at different fillings.

My first attempt generated a choux that was a little eggy. After some discussion with fellow DB-ers, I ended up beating the eggs into the warm flour mixture longer between each addition. That seemed to do the trick!

The other thing I did on the second go round was cut the flour back by a quarter, and add double that amount in cocoa powder. I adjusted the liquid only a little. This created a chocolate choux dough that I proceeded to fill with vanilla and chocolate diplomat creams. I have to say, I really enjoyed the chocolate choux, the only adjustment I might make next time is add a bit more sugar OR roll/sprinkle the dough with sugar before baking to sweeten it up a bit. Even with the sweetness of the filling, the chocolate choux could have been a little sweeter :).

Here's some pictures. I slacked horribly this month. I was hoping to find a day where I could dedicate the time to make this for a post, but that never came to fruition. Made both eclairs and small cream puffs! They were delectable and my co-workers couldn't believe I could throw down and make something like this! They liked the eclairs better from an eatability perspective than the puffs...

The recipe can be found on Meeta's blog (or many DBer's pages), so I'll refrain from posting it again. I will certainly be making this many many more times in the future!