It’s Daring Bakers time again, and this time they made me build a freaking gingerbread house. Although this seems like a lighthearted fun activity that’s perfect to share with the kiddos, be warned: This is not for the faint of heart. Or the inexact. Or the short on time. Or the parents of toddlers who want to help. Or anyone who wants to keep their kitchen even remotely neat.
The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes. [...]
I am not the most precise of cooks. I take shortcuts, measure by eyesight, play fast and loose with recipes. I never use cake flour, rarely sift anything, freely substitute ingredients. And most of the time, things turn out very well indeed. Some people would say, “Oh, you’re a cook, you’re not a baker. Baking must be done with precision!” But I do bake quite a bit, and while baking requires MORE precision than cooking (I would not suggest, for example, leaving out baking powder altogether), there’s still quite a bit of wiggle room, and most things come out just fine, even with my wild and crazy ways.
Macarons are not one of those things.
The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S of Baking Without Fear. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
If you’ve never had a macaron, you should. These are not the gooey, coconut confections ubiquitous at Passover, but French almond cookies similar to meringues sandwiched together with a creamy filling. A properly made macaron has a smooth, crisp shell over dainty, ruffled “feet”, and when you bite into it, you get first the crunch exterior shell then chewy almondy macaroon then creamy filling. In Parisian patisseries (where they are all the rage), you can find them in a glorious rainbow of colors and flavors. Trust me, when made properly, they are a treat. [...]
Have I ever mentioned that I am a raging Anglophile? I jealously hoard Colman’s mustard, studied abroad in London, wrote my undergraduate thesis on franchise reform in Parliament, and pepper my speech with phrases like “jolly good” and “lovely!” I blame it on a childhood reading the great English children’s books — Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, Ballet Shoes, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Five Children and It. All of them full of funny names (how many of you know someone named Anthea?) and verbal expressions and best of all wonderful food (usually served at teatime) – Victoria Sandwich, Gingerbread stars, and who can forget Turkish Delight?
Because of this, I look askance at anyone who roundly condemns English cuisine. Overlooking the horror that is mushy peas (I said I was an Anglophile, not actually English), Britain has made many delectable contributions to world cuisine — mince pies, cheddar cheese, Branston pickle and these delectable little Bakewell tarts.
The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800′s in England. [...]