Tag Archives: daring bakers

How Dare You Post So Late, Baker!

Oops.  March kind of slipped through my fingers … I blame the ides.  Speaking of ides, I made a Caesar Salad with Tempeh Croutons (to go with the rest of my post…)

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I’ll put up that recipe later … Now!  On to the more important matter at hand – March’s Daring Bakers Challenge!

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (veganized)

(From The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (published by William Morrow and Company Inc., 1992))

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Recipe

(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method
Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

My Alterations

I used a pasta recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan for my handmade noodles, a  Mushroom Lentil Ragu recipe from Eat The Right Stuff, and a Beschamel recipe from Vegan Dad.  I adapted everything to my own needs and it worked out really well!  I made everything all in one day, starting with the sauces in the morning.  I took a break to go throw a frisbee in the park (it’s gorgeous outside!) and came back to work on the noodles.  For the parmesan, I ended up using shredded FYH Mozzarella – this was the first time it didn’t melt perfectly for me.

Right now, I’m in a kitchen that is equipped with little more than a stove and one pot, but I made this thing work!  I ended up kneading my dough by hand and rolling it out on the dining room table, using a giant bottle of soy sauce as a rolling pin.  I used to make pasta when I was a kid with my parents, but we used a machine and there were usually eggs involved.  They’re really not necessary!  I even used semolina in place of the chickpea/soy flour and everything held up really well.  The mess wasn’t too heinous and I would probably make this recipe again if I wanted to impress someone with my Italian prowess.  I do have dual Italian citizenship, so it’s about time I prove my worth with some homemade pasta!

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Best served to friends and family outdoors with romantic lighting.  Don’t invite anyone you don’t want falling in love with you.

Daring Bakers February: For The Love of Chocolate

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With much thanks to February’s hosts – Wendy of wmpesblog and Dharm of DadBaker – I give you my take on a Flourless Chocolate Cake and vanilla ice cream. The original recipes posted in the DB forum were chock full o’ heavy creams and eggs so I decided to check out what the other alternative (we’re just like the Gin Blossoms) bakers were doing. Shelleyfish brought forth a recipe for a raw chocolate cake and I had to bite. I’m of the brownies-for-breakfast foodie school, so I like to try to work healthy foods into my diet in sneaky ways. I’m like Jessica Seinfeld minus the children. The only one I’m duping is me.

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Recipe (from Jennifer Cornbleet’s Raw Food Made Easy)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, unsoaked
dash salt
10 pitted medjool dates, unsoaked
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa or carob powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup fresh raspberries for garnish (optional)

Directions

  • Place walnuts & salt in food processor fitted with S blade and process until finely ground.
  • Add the dates, cocoa powder, and optional vanilla and process until the mixture begins to stick together.
  • Add the water and process briefly.
  • Transfer to a serving plate and form into a 5-inch round cake. Chill for 2 hours.
  • Decorate the cake and plate with fresh raspberries before serving if desired.
  • Covered with plastic wrap this will keep for three days in the fridge, or two weeks in freezer. Bring to room temp. before serving.

To accompany my raw chocolate friend, I called up his pal Raw “Vanilla” Sorbet.

Recipe

Ingredients

5 bananas – peeled, sliced, and frozen

1/3 C coconut cream (refrigerate coconut milk and scrape off the solids)

1/3 C coconut milk (the remaining liquids in the can)

4 T agave nectar

1 t vanilla

Directions

  • Place all your ingredients in a blender (preferably Vita-Mix because it owns) and blend until creamy.
  • Freeze again to let it set up, or just scoop it out with a spoon because you won’t be able to resist.

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My sorbet looks a bit mushy because I was trying to rush to get this post up today and trying to take my photos before the natural light went away! So there was no time to freeze it before taking the picture. Boo. It tasted wonderful though! Neither the banana flavor or the coconut was too strong – it didn’t taste anything like a pina colada so I was happy. I pressed my cake into cookie cutter molds in honor of Valentine’s Days past. The cake itself is delicious – you only need a couple bites because it is so dense and rich. The thing I love the most about raw desserts is the fact that you’re really just eating fruit and nuts. So you can indulge without the sugar rush and feel like you’re building muscles so you can be big and strong. Ya know.

Daring Bakers October Challenge: Pizza

I can’t believe I managed to get this challenge done!  I finished last night – right under the wire!  This month was originally supposed to be hosted by Rosa’s Yummy Yums with Sherry at http://www.whatdidyoueat.typepad.com/ and Glenna at http://www.afridgefulloffood.typepad.com/.  In a sad turn of events, Sherry suffered a heart attack and passed away.  This month’s post is in honor of her.

~ 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).

Ingredients:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled – FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast – FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar – FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

Method:
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) 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.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

Or

2.  FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

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.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

DAY TWO

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, 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/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm 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.

Or

8.  FOR GF:  On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator.  Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and 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/260° C).

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.

Or

10.  FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

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/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), 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.

Or

11.  FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

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

Or

12.  FOR GF:  Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and 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 abour 5-8 minutes.

Or

13.  FOR GF:  Follow the notes for this step.

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 pane 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. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

My Adjustments

I am trying to stay away from wheat right now, but I really wanted to make this recipe!  Rather than make a GF pizza, I decided to try the spelt flour I already had on hand.  The results were great!  The crust is crunch on the edges and held up very well in the middle.  My tosses were sad little hops and flops and the first crust I ended up just spreading out with my fingers.  The second crust, however, was successful!!  I felt a mild sense of pride and accomplishment!  On my first pizza, I made a walnut-pesto and topped that with sun-dried tomatoes (which burned, oops) and soy feta.  I think I can live without the feta next time, but it sure looked neat.  On my second pizza, I went for a classic and made a tomato sauce and topped it with For Your Heart mozarella and soy pepperoni.  I just had some for breakfast.  Don’t tell anyone.

It Puts the Buttercream on It’s Cake Or Else …

Aaaah it’s Daring Bakers time again kiddies!  This time the recipe is a:

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

I managed to be in a foreign kitchen for yet another challenge.  Faaabulous. However, the timing was perfect because I was on vacation with my family and for our annual “Happy Birthday to Everyone” party, I am the delegated cake-maker.  I didn’t tell anyone in my (Southern, meat, butter, cheese, milk loving) family that this happened to be a vegan cake until after everyone finished swooning over how delicious it was.  Oopsies?  I also had to explain what the word vegan meant to a couple people, but hey, it’s all about spreading the word one cake at a time.

I must be honest, I cut a lot of corners trying to make this recipe as close to the original as possible – and vegan.  The hard part was figuring out how to substitute the obscene amount of separated eggs.  So, I made two 9″ cakes – based on a VCTOTW recipe for Almond Cupcakes.  In one cake, I used corn starch as an egg substitute and soy yogurt in the other.  Silly me forgot which cake was which when they were in the oven so my experiment was for naught.  One of the cakes rose a lot higher and was fluffier (probably the soy yogurt?) and the other was denser and rose 2/3 as much as the other.  It would be good to know which was which!  I skipped the whipped cream all together because I simply didn’t have the resources to make it work 😦 The buttercream was also a VCTOTW recipe with my filbert almond paste added.  That’s right kiddies, it’s all almonds all the time.  I used the VCTOTW ganache recipe – can we see a theme here?

Oh, isn’t that lovely?  Obviously I need to work on my ganache skills.  I think I just needed to make a bigger batch and do a second cover.  I read a few tutorials, and next time it will be shiny and smooth like a really nice hairstyle.

I did use rum in my sugar syrup and in the buttercream – I like the added kick that alcohol adds to baked goods.  When I worked in a French bakery, we brushed layer cakes with cointreau and other liquers.  I also used apricot preserves to cover the crumb layer under the ganache.  I hate fruit with chocolate (except strawberry) but the apricot flavor was just a whispy hint of something special – really lovely.

The final product was immensely lauded.  The joke going around the table was how impressed everyone was with my skills – my driving to the bakery and picking up cake skills.

A rather unappetizing look at the inside of my cake – but it was devoured so quickly that this is all I got!  This isn’t my proudest Daring Bakers attempt, but I think it might have been the most delicious (so far).

Daring Bakers June Challenge

The “Danish Braid”

Hooray!  While staying with some family friends I was able to finagle my way into the kitchen and complete this challenge!  We were at the beach for my mom’s best friend’s daughter’s wedding (that’s a mouthful) and stayed with the bride’s family in their beach house for a week of vacation.  It was so relaxing – I would sit on the back porch every morning with a cup of coffee and watch all kinds of wildlife take over the marsh.  Every now and then I’d also catch a dunking contest held in the pool basketball court:

Not the best picture (macbook photobooth) but you get the idea.  And check out that pedicure sunset!

I digress.  Back to business.

Much thanks to Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cookin’? for hosting this month’s challenge.  And a challenge it was!  Not to say that the process was painful, but it took me a good two days to get through the entire process.  When you read the recipe, you’ll see why:

Original Recipe from Sherry Yard’s “The Secrets of Baking”

(Please not that this recipe does not include my alterations – I’ll discuss those further on.)

DANISH DOUGH

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients
For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

DOUGH
Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.  Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice.  Mix well.  Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated.  Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth.  You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.  Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer:  Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.  Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.  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.  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.

BUTTER BLOCK
1.    Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free.  Set aside at room temperature.
2.    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 ¼ inch thick.  The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour.  Spread the butter 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.
3.    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, ¼-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 butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed.  Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4.    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.

APPLE FILLING
Makes enough for two braids

Ingredients
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.  Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 – 8 minutes.  Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.  If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid.  (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet.  After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

DANISH BRAID
Makes enough for 2 large braids

Ingredients
1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash:  1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1.    Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  On a lightly floured  surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ 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, 5-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 you’ve chosen to fill your braid 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.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat 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.
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 and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature.  The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

My Alterations

For the butter, I substituted Earth Balance vegan spread.  I considered using half margerine and half vegetable shortening to achieve flakiness, but I was too lazy awesome to buy shortening.  I really think it would have improved the texture since the danish was rather bread-y and dense.  For the whole milk I used soy creamer, but I think regular soy milk would have been just fine.  I wasn’t able to use cardamom or vanilla beans because at $15.00 a jar for each I may as well have handed my credit card over to the cashier and asked her to just keep it.  For the eggs I substituted corn starch.  Yeeeah not the most genius move, but I was on an island and the grocery store didn’t even have soy yogurt (which I would have LOVED).  I am curious what would have happened with a flax meal substitute too.  The process involved a lot of hanging around, waiting for things to chill and proof.  It was pretty exciting seeing how much the dough rose during the two hours of proofing – kind of like watching plants grow in hyperspeed.  Oh, and let’s discuss what a squidgy mess the beurrage turned out to be.  There were buttery guts all over the counter throughout my dough-baby’s various turns.  Beside the buttery gore, everything came together pretty painlessly.

For the filling, I used the normal apple recipe with an almond frangipane and. it. was. AMAZING.  I would have just ladled that stuff into my mouth all day without a care for filling anything had I no sense of responsibility.  I have half a sense of responsibility, therefore I only ate half the recipe.  Oops?  I also made a few croissants and pinwheel danishes with the leftover dough and filled some with raspberry jam, frangipane, and some with chocolate.  Nomnom.

My gracious hosts put up with me hoarding their kitchen utensils and banging pots and pans for two days and graciously devoured the danish when the kitchen returned to peace.  So the recipe had a great response!  I can’t wait to check out what my fellow vegan bloggers did with this recipe and how it turned out.

A Daring Cheesecake Experiment

Yay yay yay, I finally get to post my Daring Bakers April Challenge!  Drop the cupcake confetti! Strike up the octogenarian marching band! Introducing:

Vegan Cheesecake Pops

Original Recipe from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) – Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

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 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the 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, 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 it’s 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.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. 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.

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

My Adjustments

First of all, I halved everything because as many wonderful friends that I have who humor my baking – I was afraid of having a freezer full of cheesecake pops haunting me day and night; tempting me with their charm as cheesecake pops are apt to do. Secondly, I replaced the (2.5) eggs with (3/4 C) firm silken tofu. For the heavy cream, I used Silk soy creamer combined with 3 T cornstarch – just in cake anything decided to get soggy. I shaped the bites into squares at first – no easy feat. Since I used a 9 inch cake pane, I decided to just slice the chilled cheesecake into squares after trying to shape the first four. I used semi-sweet vegan chocolate to dip and decided to forgo the use of shortening. Finally, I made a little mixture of confectioners sugar and water for a white decorative drizzle.

The Results

WOW. These were SO good. And precious. And POPULAR! In a coincidental turn of fate, my friend Dawn celebrated her birthday a few weekends ago and asked me to make – what else – cake lollipops for her Murder Mystery dinner. I couldn’t believe it when she asked me to turn on Martha Stewart because she was making lollipops out of cake. I was like, Martha Who? So already on top of it.

I really didn’t have much of a hard time with these at all. I was scared, since it was my first time making cheesecake AND my first Daring Bakers challenge. It probably went so well because I was extremely cautious and followed all the instructions carefully. Which is what I normally don’t do. Ever. Because I believe in anarchy and chaos and general rule breaking.

I walked these kids to Dawn’s party in an insulated case because I didn’t know how they’d hold up to the heat as I walked up the street (yay for having wonderful neighbors!). The party-goers, all dressed up as literary characters, gave these things a loving reception. Sure, people were getting murdered left and right, but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying lollipops. Because that’s what life is really all about: Overcoming the bad stuff and eating good stuff.