Sugarbird's Sweet Nothings

I am passionate about food. And cooking. And baking. And running. Come and find a new recipe, a funny story, some strong opinions and whatever else I feel like throwing in the mix today.

Archive for the ‘Daring Baking Challenge’ Category

September 26th, 2010 by Clarabella

Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

So my kitchen looked like this when I started (below). This is the result of cooking/baking 3 different things at the same time. My sugar cookies and their icing, sushi for dinner and roasted banana ice cream (my first test of my new ice-cream bowl for the trusty kitchen-aid). Now I’m as good at multi-tasking as any other capable woman, but I only have so much counter space in my little kitchen, so I can;t say it wasn’t challenging. But I guess that is just perfect for a daring bakers challenge hey 🙂
I really enjoyed this challenge. I honestly don’t remember the last time that I make biscuits with cookie cutters. The rolling and cutting and rolling and cutting of the dough had a very soothing effect on me and I just let my hands do the work and then let my mind wander away – back to the cool, tree-shadowed paths of my morning run. A peaceful place. With just the sounds of the runners feet on the damp soil and our heavy breathing; the cool air chilling our lungs and our sweat-soaked shirts… sorry, I digress. Back to the biscuits.

The biscuit recipe itself was beautifully simple and the only change I made was to add almond essence to it instead of vanilla. I have a weakness for anything reminiscent of marzipan, macaroons and amaretto, so the almond vanilla substitute was a no-brainer. I did find the all rolling, chilling, cutting, chilling steps rather time consuming but with the amount of butter in these biscuits they do need all the help they can get to stay together once faced with the onslaught of heat from my rather zealous fan-oven, so the work was worth it.
September 19th, 2010 by Clarabella

Butterey, Appley Apple Butter

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I really did not know what to expect with this challenge. Apple butter? Never heard of it! Apple sauce yes, know about that one, but apple butter? OK, lets give it a go and stick it in a jar and preserve it.

I think the most challenging part of this challenge was grating 2kgs of apples and not grating my finger off. I have to admit that the task did get tedious after a while and the apples, not at all happy with being left in the open air, soon started to go brown in protest. But all was not lost. Once it got cooking and started to break down into a delicious slushy mess who was to know about the creeping sneaky brownness.

After about 40 minutes the apple was nice and soft and ready to be spiced up and blended. The smell of cooking apple and all those delicious spices in the house was just appetite-inducing temptation and the wait for it to get to its proper buttery non-water-releasing stage felt like a long one. I think that anyone out there using glade wisps or ambi-pur blah de blah should stop wasting loads of money on those overpriced air ‘fresheners’ and make a little batch of this. Your house will smell so good that the next handsome man you get to walk through your door will instantly fall in love with you and want have lots of sex and babies. (can I say that on my blog? Stuff it, its my blog so I can say what I flipping well want, so if you don’t like it stop reading now!)
August 27th, 2010 by Clarabella

Ice Cream Take 2 & Browned Butter Beauty

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I have to confess that I prepared for this months challenge with a certain amount of trepidation due to the ice cream element. My attempt at ice cream last month was not particularly successful (I try to blame the lack of ice-cream maker in an effort to minimise my incompetence) so I was not overly confident that this month and take 2 would be any different. But I do hate being beaten by such a simple thing as a little frozen custardy cream so I took a deep breath and prepared to churn. I decided to go with vanilla. I do love a good vanilla ice cream and I thought it would be a good foundation to try to get right, and if I managed that I could then take on the task of diversifying my flavour portfolio.

There is something incredibly sexy about the combination of milk, sugar and vanilla. The velvety rich, sweetness adorned with an infinite number of tiny beads of pure vanilla indulgence. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Anyway, back to the topic. The custard for the ice cream went perfectly and melded with the cream in its ice bath very happily and it tasted, at this stage, quite delicious. The only change I would have made is to dial back on the sugar a tiny bit to let the cream and vanilla come through a little more. Then into the freezer once cooled and churned with my trusty old hand mixer every half hour for about 3 hours. The result, I have to say, was beautiful. Smooth, velvety, melt in the mouth creamy, (I get carried away on the topic of ice cream so I’ll stop myself here). And I have to thank the wisdom of Mr Lebovitz for my final triumph over the ice cream gods. Thank you sir.

Next came the browning of the butter for the browned butter pound cake. I have heard of browned butter as a concept but I have never had the guts or even a good enough reason to take the plunge into that hot pan. But armed with a good reason and another skill to learn, into the pan the butter went. As I have never browned butter before I was somewhat paranoid about burning it, and I took it off the heat countless times trying to decide whether it smelled nutty enough or whether the milk solids looked dark chocolate brown. “Is that chocolate brown, or golden brown? Is chocolate brown darker than golden brown? What if mine go fron golden to burned and I miss the chocolate stage completely?” It was a slightly stressful 10 minutes, but I think I successfully estimated a good end point for my butter and as it went into its container to be chilled it looked browned and smelled rich and nutty – good enough for me!
The rest of the cake was a piece of cake to make (sorry, I couldn’t resist that bit if cheese!) and went into the oven looking rather speckled and tasty and smelled amazing when it came out again. I did have a little bit of a challenge cutting it in half but with my 2 handy dowel rods guiding my hand it was not the catastrophe that it could have been if left to my rather unreliable eye. The ice cream layer and cake came together like they were meant to be and as I cut them into adorable little cubes I though all was well with the world and nothing could possibly go wrong. The kiss of death. I then ran into my inevitable little hiccup in the unlikely guise of a simple chocolate glaze. Something I have done many times before without incident, something that is an oh so simple concept, but yet still managed to tip me off my high horse of premature jubilation into the bog of chocolate puddingey sludge that no petit four would dip into or be bathed in.
They are not beautiful but they do taste great, and how boring would it be if everything turned out perfectly. Perfect representation of my life really – hahaha. Thank you for the challenge Elissa. It was a good giggle, and a chocolatey, finger-licking mess. But in baking, whats the fun in it if you cant lick your fingers afterwards while surveying your own perfect version of imperfection.


Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)
2. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.
3. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.
4. Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon [5ml] if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons [15ml] if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
5. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine. See instructions from David Lebovitz:

Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) (See “Note” section for cake flour substitution)
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.
2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.
3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.
5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.
6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze (For the Ice Cream Petit Fours)
9 ounces (250g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (32g) light corn syrup, Golden syrup, or agave nectar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
Stir the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until tepid before glazing the petit fours.

Assembly Instructions – Ice Cream Petit Fours
1. Line a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) pan with plastic wrap, so that no sides of the pan are exposed and so there is some extra plastic wrap hanging off the sides. Spread 1 ¾ to 2 cups (450ml to 500ml) ice cream into the pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze several hours.
2. Once the brown butter pound cake has completely cooled, level the top with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. Then split the cake in half horizontally to form two thin layers.
3. Unwrap the frozen ice cream. Flip out onto one of the layers of cake and top with the second layer of cake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and return to the freezer overnight.
4. Make the chocolate glaze (see above.)
5. While the glaze cools, trim ¾” (2cm) off each side of the ice cream cake to leave a perfectly square 7.5” (19cm) ice cream cake. Cut the cake into twenty five petit fours, each 1.5”x1.5” (4cmx4cm).
July 26th, 2010 by Clarabella

Daring Bakers Challenge – July 2010

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

I have never made ice cream before but I have always wanted to try it (although an ice cream maker may have made the whole process somewhat easier) so I thought the Daring Bakers challenge this month was the perfect opportunity to stop procrastinating and start doing. I had never made a swiss roll either although the concept of swill rolls and roulades have always fascinated me. I have a lovely vegetarian cookbook by Simon Rimmer which has recipes for 2 savoury vegetarian roulades that I have never made due to the fact that I do not have a swiss roll tin. AgainI get to thank Sunita and this challenge being the excuse for me to finally go out and buy a swill roll tin, so that now I have successfully completed the swiss roll in the challenge, next stop the roulade!

I did enjoy the ice cream making process. It is easier than one would think, besides the elbow grease involved in the churning. My coconut ice cream ended up a bit harder than I thought it should be but I suspect that this is due to the fact that the coconut cream I used is not the same as the sweetened coconut cream used in the American ice cream recipe I was using. It did taste ok however so I can’t complain. The lime ice cream turned out great and so did the white chocolate/vanilla/almond swiss roll that I filled with blueberry jam, so 2 out of 3 ain’t bad hey?

I will definitely be trying the ice cream thing again, as well as savoury roulades, so stay posted for those posts, coming soon here! 

April 27th, 2010 by Clarabella

Steamy Stuff

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of suet. Its not just what it is & what its made of, its just that its animal fat, and I don’t love that. So I chose to make a steamed pudding without the suet (I know, I’m a total wimp). But the steaming part was totally new to me. It turned out delicious and was sweet & simple and something that I’d definitely make again. 


Steamed ginger pudding

2tbsp ginger syrup from a jar of stem ginger 

2tsp golden syrup 

175g (6oz) plain flour 

3tsp baking powder 

3 eggs, beaten 

175g (6oz) caster sugar 

175g (6oz) butter, softened 

4 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped 

You will need
1 litre (1¾pt) pudding basin, well buttered
Spoon the ginger syrup and golden syrup into the base of the buttered pudding basin. Place the remaining ingredients in a bowl and beat well for 2 minutes until thoroughly combined. Pour into the basin and level off the top. Cover with a double layer of buttered foil that has been pleated down the centre. Secure the foil with string.
Place the basin in a steamer over a pan of boiling water, cover and steam for 1½ hours. Check the water level every now and then and top up with more boiling water if needed. When cooked, turn out onto a warmed serving plate and serve in wedges with cream, ice cream or custard.