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Posts Tagged ‘Daring Bakers’

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I read this introduction to this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge:

“This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.”

Why the pleasant surprise? For one, I had been hoping to make a Yule Log this holiday season and this DB mandate was just the kick in the butt I needed to make it happen. Two, a French Yule Log differs from its genoise and buttercream counterpart in that it is a frozen confection – perfect for a holiday treat on Maui.

Perusing the 18 page document that contained the recipe did, admittedly, give me pause. A French Yule Log contains no fewer that six elements, which include a ganache, a mousse, and a – gulp – crème brulee. Good grief – yet another recipe that would attempt to bully me around my kitchen with its decidedly un-vegan swagger! This dessert is layer upon layer of eggs, butter, heavy cream, and gelatin. It was going to take one heck of a makeover to make this girl the belle of the vegan ball.

This recipe involved the six required elements all layered together into one frozen cake like dessert. This month’s hosts, though strict in their requirement that all six elements be included, left a lot of room for freedom in flavor choices. I decide to give my Yule Log a Maui flavor with coconut and macadamia nuts. Upon doing this recipe again, I may try to flavor the custard with coconut milk instead of vanilla, and I might try to incorporate some fruit flavors into it – mango, papaya, banana, guava, or lychee would be especially nice and would compliment the coconut, macadamia, and chocolate already present in the log.

For past DB challenges I have veganized the recipe straight from the original; this time, however, I decided to call upon several resources to assist in the makeover: my favorite vegan confections cookbook (Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) and my trusty kitchen companion, Google. Element by element, here are the choices I made:

Element #1 –Dacquoise: I utilized the recipe as was written, only subbing in Ener-G “eggs” along with some baking powder and apple cider vinegar (to give the cake a wee bit of lift) for the three eggs that were called for.

Element #2 – Dark Chocolate Mousse: I considered subbing in a vegan chocolate mousse, but instead I utilized a vanilla custard recipe that I used in these tarts back in February. I really love the flavor of this custard and I wanted something to lighten up the other chocolate elements included in the Log.

Element #3 – Creme Brulee Insert: My jaw dropped at this one. I was a bit stumped as to how to create a vegan crème brulee, so I took to Google and a search for “vegan crème brulee” returned with this recipe. Vegan Visitor is a blog that I frequently read so I was more than happy to give it a go (I was really happy that I did – I look forward to making this recipe again on its own and “brulee-ing” it the next time.).

Element #4 – Praline Crisp Insert: This involved making praline paste. I used the praline paste recipe from our July DB challenge, only this time I replaced the hazelnuts with macadamia nuts in order to create a more “Maui” flavor.

Element #5 – Ganache Insert: I used the chocolate ganache recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Element #6 – Dacquoise: I again utilized the creative expertise of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero and used the chocolate buttercream frosting recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

This recipe involved numerous steps, produced a lot of dirty dishes, and required two days to make. That said, it was all well worth it. This dessert is pretty darn impressive – and, I’ll let you in on a secret: unless you decide to tell them, no one will know that it’s vegan. I promise you. Serve it to your most discerning “vegans must only eat nuts and berries” loved ones and bask in their stunned expressions when, after gobbling up a slice, you share the secret with them.

Why the stunned expressions? This dessert is seriously decadent. It really is numerous desserts all wrapped up into one chocolate frosted confection, desserts which, on their own, are all decadent and rich: custard (mousse), crème brulee, praline, ganache, etc. Leave it to the French to decide to pile it all onto one plate in one very pretty package! (Gotta love the French!) As you really only need a tiny sliver to enjoy it(I recommend accompanying it with a nice cup of coffee or tea), you can serve a crowd with just one Yule Log. This is definitely not a “Wednesday-after-work” sort of dessert – this is a special occasion dessert. I highly recommend that you bookmark this dessert and trot it out at your next special occasion to entertain a crowd.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go paddleboard myself around the ocean to burn off the calories consumed in the making of this dessert!

French Yule Log

Element #1: Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

½ cup + 1 tbsp almond meal
2/3 cup flaked coconut
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Ener-G “Eggs”
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal, coconut, and the confectioner’s sugar. Sift the flour into the mix.

2. Beat in the “eggs”, baking powder, and vinegar, then mix in the sugar until combined.

3. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it. Spread the batter onto the parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc…) and to a height of 1/3 inches.

4. Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes, until golden.

5. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2: Vanilla Custard (in place of Dark Chocolate Mousse)

Recipe can be found here.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

I used the Chocolate Ganache recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it.

Element #4 Praline Crisp Insert

3.5 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 2/3 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp macadamia nut praline paste (recipe can be found in this post)
1 cup Rice Krispies

1. Melt the chocolate and EB in a double boiler.

2. Add the praline and the Rice Krispies. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.

3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5: Crème Brulee Insert

Vegan Visitor’s recipe can be found here.

Element #6: Chocolate Icing

I used the Fluffy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Garnish:

1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/3 cup flaked coconut

Toast in a dry skillet over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until golden. Keep a close eye – this can go from toasted to burnt very quickly.

Assembly:

The order of elements is:

1. Dacquoise
2. Custard
3. Creme Brulee Insert
4. Custard
5. Praline/Crisp Insert
6. Custard
7. Ganache Insert
8. Dacquoise

1. Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there.

2. Spread one third of the Custard component on the Dacquoise.

3. Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the Custard. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the Custard.

4. Spread second third of the Custard component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.

5. Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by Custard. Lay it on top of the Custard you just spread into the mold.

6. Spread the last third of the Custard component on top of the Praline Insert.

7. Gently spread the Ganache Insert onto the Custard leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.

8. Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.

9. Freeze until the next day.

The Next Day:

10. Unmold the log and set on plate.

11. Cover the cake with the frosting. Gently press the toasted coconut and macadamia nuts onto the tops and sides. Return to the freezer.

To Serve:

Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than 1⁄2 hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

Run a sharp knife under hot water, wipe off the water, and use to make slicing the log easier.

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… or, as I call it, my first Daring Bakers Debacle.

Nothing about this worked for me this month (Dan has a differing opinion, which is that the taste worked out but that the texture was weird). In either case, I felt that I could not serve this to the guests to whom I had intended serving it. As it came down to the wire for me this month (I made this today – as in on posting day) I had to come up with another dessert at the twelfth hour Luckily, that dessert was a success (Phew! Thank goodness because people will be here in an hour and a half!), and I look forward to sharing it all with you in my next post.

But back to the cake. I, of course, attempted to veganize it and add some extra flavor to it. I roasted some apples and added the puree to the batter. I suspect that my cake may have been underdone when I pulled it out of the oven. Additionally, I found the end frosted result to be tooth achingly sweet. I don’t fault the recipe – I fault my execution. I won’t be posting my mistakes here; rather, I’d like to direct you to the source of the recipe (Shuna Fish Lyon of Eggbeater by way of  Bay Area Bites) so that you may have a go of it yourself:

http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2006/12/24/caramel-cake-the-recipe/

There was also an optional caramel candies recipe to make this month and, tempting as it was (I love caramels!), in the face of many sugar-infused days in the weeks ahead I decided to forgo it until a less sugar-saturated time of year.

Thank you to the hosts of this month’s challenge: Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity , Alex of Blondie and Brownie Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie, duo: http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/), Jenny of Foray into Food , and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go .

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I’ve written before about my love for homemade pizza. Pizza out at a restaurant? No thank you? Pizza made in your kitchen? Yes, please.  Make sure there is plenty, and – this is important – stand back and watch as any semblance of self restraint falls away and I eat my weight in pizza. Be prepared to listen to me complain about how unbelievably full of pizza I am for at least an hour afterwards.

Where was I? Oh, yes – I love homemade pizza. I love the simplicity of the ingredients, I love the smell of the yeast, and I enjoy the process of kneading the dough from a sticky mass into an elastic ball ready to be called pizza. I also love the possibilities that pizza affords a home chef.

I’d like to thank Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums for hosting this month’s DB challenge and for choosing a recipe that allowed us DBers a lot of freedom of culinary expression. I also want to thank her for the belly laughs that the mandated tossing of the dough caused. I must confess: I was an utter and complete failure at properly tossing my dough, but I did document the experiment. In the end, I stretched my dough by hand before topping it.

I topped my pizzas with the following:

Vegan Yum Yum’s Eggplant Creme, zucchini, broccoli, and mushrooms.

Homemade sauce (1 large tomato, fresh herbs – rosemary, basil, oregano, and parsley, 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper smashed together), Morningstar grillers crumbles, and shredded soy cheese.

Herb sauce (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, fresh mint, garlic, salt and pepper pureed together), tomato, peppers, mushrooms, and broccoli.

Melted semisweet chocolate, agave, bananas, strawberries, shredded coconut, and a dusting of powder sugar.

Basic Pizza Dough
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 tbsp agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl.

2. Add the oil, agave and cold water and mix well in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

DAY TWO

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F)

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches diameter – for a 6 ounces), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and soy cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-10 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pan to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate.

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This month I did not procrastinate on my Daring Bakers challenge.

I actually had an occasion early on in the month to make this fancy pants cake for friends, who all gave this recipe their very enthusiastic two thumbs up. Finally – I can swipe my hand across my forehead in happy relief that I was not rushing at the last minute to make a veganized version of a ridiculously complicated and dairy-laden dessert.

This recipe was originally a filbert gateau but, as usual, I wanted to put a tropical spin on the challenge so I replaced the hazelnuts and cointreau with macadamia nuts and coconut rum. The makeover was a success: the result was a cake that would fit right in at the luau!

This cake has lots of steps, but it can be done in one prolonged baking session. I promise you: the praline buttercream alone is reason enough to make this cake.

Thank you to Mele Cotte for hosting this month’s challenge!

Macadamia Nut Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Macadamia Nut Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Strawberry Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
12 whole macadmia nuts

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 1⁄2 cups macadamia nuts, toasted
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 tbsp canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1⁄2 tsp. grated lemon rind
¾ cup vanilla soy yogurt
1⁄4 cup warm Earth Balance

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Use a hand mixer to mix together the canola oil, sugar, vanilla, lemon rind, and soy yogurt until well blended.

Pour the warm EB in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time and fold it in. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm EB over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected EB remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake

1 cup water
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Buttercream (I used the Fluffy Vegan Butercream Frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)
1/3 cup praline paste
1 1⁄2 – 2 Tbsp Malibu coconut rum

Blend 1⁄2 cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 1⁄2 oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Strawberry Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick straewberry preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
6 oz. (3⁄4 cup coconut cream (place a can of whole fat coconut milk in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Skim off the cream and save the water for another use)
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Malibu coconut rum
3⁄4 tsp. vanilla
1⁄2 – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the coconut cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add 1⁄2 – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Divide the cake into 2 layers and place the first layer top-side down on your serving plate. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a 1⁄4-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Place the second layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm strawberry glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, spread the ganache over the top and sides of the cake. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, use a pastry bag to pipe the remaining buttercream onto the cake. Starting 1⁄2 inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about 3⁄4 inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped macadamia nut garnish. Place one macadamia nut between each row of frosting along the cake’s edge. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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This month’s challenge involved crafting a puff pastry that incorporated a block of butter. This is yet another DB challenge that will be chalked up to the list of things I never, ever would have attempted to make due to the recipe’s most decidedly non-vegan attitude and sneer had it not been for my fellow DBers pushing me into new, uncharted vegan baking territory.   And that is why I love the Daring Bakers.

For this particular recipe I had to make some of my usual adaptations:

Soy milk for cow’s milk

Soy yogurt for eggs

Earth Balance for butter

The original recipe called for an apple filling, but I wanted something more seasonal so I made a chocolate cherry cream cheese filling, which I thought paired well with the mild flavor of orange and cardamom in the dough. I topped the braid with an orange glaze and chopped pistachios.

Even though I knew how easy it was to make this braid, I was still massively impressed with myself when it was complete. The finished product is beautiful and very complicated looking. I served this one to many “ooohs” and “aaaaahhhhhs.”

Mahalo to Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What’s Cookin’? for hosting this month’s challenge.

DANISH BRAID
Makes 1 braid

For the dough (Detrempe)
½ tbsp active dry yeast
¼ cup soy milk
1/6 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup vanilla soy yogurt
1/8 cup orange juice
1 5/8 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1 stick cold Earth Balance
1/8 cup all-purpose flour

1. Combine yeast and soy milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, soy yogurt, and orange juice and mix well.

2. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. (Add more flour as necessary. I used an additional 1/3 cup flour in this step). When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. While the detrempe is chilling, combine Earth balance and flour in the bowl and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

4. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and 1⁄4 inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the beurrage evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

5. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, 1⁄4-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional Earth Balance will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

6. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Filling

1 8oz tub Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 cup cherries, pitted and quartered

Use hand mixer to mix together the Tofutti, confectioner’s sugar, and cocoa until smooth. Mix in the vanilla until well blended. Fold in the cherries.

TO ASSEMBLE DANISH BRAID

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 12 x 20-inch rectangle, 1⁄4 inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 4-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

4. Brush a bit of melted Earth Balance over the top of the braid.

Proofing and Baking

1. Spray cooking oil (Pam) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch. (I proofed min in my oven set at 90F).

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Glaze

½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp Earth Balance, melted
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp soy milk powder

Mix all ingredients together until smooth.

To Serve

Brush glaze over braid. Sprinkle with ½ cup chopped pistachios. Slice the braid, reheat in microwave, and serve warm. Or don’t microwave it and serve at room temperature. Either way, it’s delicious.

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This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was a L’Opera Cake, which features a cake made with 6 egg whites and 6 whole eggs. *Sigh* Daring Bakers, what are you trying to do to me? Make me throw my vegan lovin’ hands up in frustration and cry “Woe is me!”?

Ha! Not this gal. I happily accept your egg-laden challenge.

This is why I love these DB challenges. They push me to be a creative problem solver in the kitchen. I had never even heard of a L’Opera Cake before this month. This recipe looks very involved but I found it to be quite easy to complete. Here are the elements of a L’Opera Cake:

Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).

Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavored to suit your tastes.

Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream.

Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved.

Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance.

I made some adaptations (of course) to both the recipe and the assembly. For my cake I decided to go with an almond, coconut, and berries flavor combination.  Here’s my play-by-play:

Saturday night: I made the jaconde by replacing the many eggs with a combination of soy yogurt, Ener-G “eggs”, and canola oil. I knew that I would not achieve a sponge cake with this recipe but I believed that I would accomplish a delicious almond cake, which was exactly what I ended up with. Also, instead of two cakes I made just one. I also made my syrup ( I chose coconut flavoring) and white chocolate (I used Bittersweet’s recipe to make my own).

Sunday early afternoon: I made my buttercream and I made my ganache/mousse. I used all of my white chocolate for this step and did note reserve any for a glaze, so out went the glaze from my recipe. Not a problem! I sliced up some berries to add to my layers. I assembled my cake and decided to leave it a bit rustic looking with rough edges (rather than smoothing them out for a more refined look) because I was planning on serving it as dessert at our Memorial Day Barbecue (the red, white, and blue look of the cake made it quite appropriate for the occasion).

The cake set up in the fridge for a few hours, and it was then served to great fanfare. The cake disappeared in a jiffy and some declared it a brand new favorite. I will definitely be making this DB recipe again. Big mahalos to Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice, Lis from La Mia Cucina, Shea from Whiskful, and Fran from Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie for creating this challenge.

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake
This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

Jaconde

1 cup soy yogurt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups ground almonds (You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or do as I did – make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you will use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)

2 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 Ener-G “eggs”
2 tbsp canola oil
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp Earth Balance, melted and cooled (plus a little extra for greasing the pan)

1. Preheat the oven to 425◦F.

2. Line one 12 1⁄2 x 15 1⁄2- inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper and brush with melted Earth Balance.

3. In a mixing bowl, beat the soy yogurt and sugar together until smooth. Set aside.

4. In a second bowl beat the almonds, icing sugar, Ener-G “eggs”, and canola oil on medium speed for about 3 minutes.

5. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

6. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the soy yogurt mixture into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted EB. Pour the batter into the pan and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of the pan.

7. Bake the cake until it is lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes depending on your oven.

8. Put the pan on a heatproof counter or trivet and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover it with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pan over, and unmold.

9. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cake. Let the cake cool to room temperature.

Syrup

1⁄2 cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp coconut cream

1. Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Buttercream
Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

¼ cup nonhydrogenated shortening
¼ cup Earth Balance
3 cups powdered sugar
¾ tsp vanilla
¾ tsp almond extract
3 tbsp vanilla soymilk

Beat the shortening and EB together until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes. Ad the extracts and soy milk and beat for another 5-7 minutes, until fluffy.

White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse

7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp coconut cream (put a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight and use the cream that rises to the top)
1 tbsp Malibu coconut rum

1. Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp of coconut cream in a small saucepan.

2. Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the rum to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.

3. In the a mixing bowl, whip the remaining 1 cup of coconut cream.

4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse/ganache.

5.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

1. Cut the cake into four equal squares. Line a serving plate with asquare of parchment or wax paper.

2. Place one square of cake on the parchment or wax paper and moisten it gently with the flavored syrup.

3. Spread about one third of the buttercream over this layer. Top with cut strawberries.

4. Top with a second square of cake. Moisten this square with the flavoured syrup.

5. Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake

and then top with blueberries. Place a third square of joconde on top of the blueberries. Wet the joconde with syrup, top with the remaining buttercream, place cut strawberries on top, and then place the final square of cake on top of the strawberries. Wet this cake with syrup and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

6. Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

7. Serve the cake slightly chilled

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I return to you red-faced and ashamed.  Several weeks have gone by with nary a peep from the Outpost, and yet another day would have passed with no updates had I not at the last minute remembered that today is the posting day for the April Daring Bakers challenge.  Happily, I have been scheming and cooking in the kitchen these past few weeks and I actually have quite the menu to share, but today it’s all about the DBers.

This month’s challenge was Chocolate Covered Cheesecake Pops.  No joke.  Since becoming vegan three years ago, I have had no desire to attempt a vegan cheesecake.  You see, the thing is – I just didn’t miss it that much.  I may never have made a vegan cheesecake if it was not for this particular challenge.  For that reason alone, I am so thankful to Elle and Deborah for choosing this month’s recipe from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor.  My end product was incredible.  Amazing. Delicious.  I laughed. I cried.  It was better than Cats.

I knew from the get-go that I wanted to make a Key Lime Cheesecake.  I was inspired by the famous frozen chocolate covered Key lime pie slice on a stick in Key West.  I used to live in the Keys and, shortly after moving there, I was told that I had to try one of these.  No excuses.  So had one I did.  The entire thing.  It was so good going down, but I had an instant belly ache soon thereafter.  The bellyache was so terrific that I never again had a frozen chocolate covered key lime pie slice on a stick.  That taste, however, really was undeniably delicious and that was what I wanted to replicate with my chocolate covered cheesecake pops (though I make no guarantees that bellyaches will not ensue after consuming massive quantities of these cheesecake pops).

The original recipe for these cheesecake pops calls for 5 packages of Philly cream cheese, 5 large eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and 2 cups of sugar, among a few other ingredients.  This one required a lot of work to make it vegan and slightly less sweet.  I was really pleased with what I came up with.  What I found to be so interesting about this adaptation process is that several other alternative DBers came up with their own versions of the recipe and each of these versions is unique and, I am sure, delicious.   I love the creativity that these challenges inspire!  (Here is where I send a big hug and an enthusiastic high five to my fellow alternative DBers who took on the challenge of cheesecake and emerged victorious with pops in hand and chocolate smeared faces.)

I had an opportunity to make these when I co-hosted a friend’s baby shower several weeks ago.  She is expecting a boy, so I wrapped blue ribbons around the pops to transform them into baby rattles for the party.    They were very cute and festive

Cheesecake Pops
Makes 40 Pops

2 tubs of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
2 Packages Mori Nu Firm Silken Tofu
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ cup key lime juice
4 tbsp corn starch
½ tsp vanilla

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp vegetable shortening

1.    Preheat oven to 325F.  Set some water to boil.

2.    Process the Tofutti and Mori Nu in a food processor until smooth.  Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl.  Use a hand mixer  and mix in the sugar until smooth.  Next mix in the flour and salt and beat until smooth.

3.    Process key lime juice and cornstarch together in a food processor, blender, or, in my case, small Magic Bullet blender cup.  Beat into the batter.  Finally, mix in the vanilla.

4.    Grease a 10 inch cake pan (or, in my case, an 8 inch cake pan and a loaf pan) and place into a large roasting pan (or two oblong casserole dishes).  Fill the pan(s) with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan(s). Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, approximately one hour.

5.    Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature.  Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least three hours or up to overnight.

6.    When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (I used a spoon to scoop and my hands to roll into a nice little ball).  Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

7.    When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate (I used Ghiradelli semi sweet chocolate). In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening (I like Spectrum non-hydrogenated shortening), stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose its shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.   Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

8.    Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate.  (I actually dipped just the top and then spooned and smoothed chocolate over the rest of the pop and this worked out very well for me).   If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

9.    Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

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