Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Tis The Season

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 don't even know how to start. First I should make it clear that the following post is not meant to offend Anna or Y, our lovely hostesses this month. They had a great idea and lots of members really enjoyed themselves.. and that's terrific!! But let's face some facts here, shall we?

  • The baking Gods already hate me with a white hot passion.

  • I can barely dress myself, open an envelope without getting cut, or walk & chew gum at the same time. And I'm asked to erect a building made of cookie dough?

  • The baking Gods already hate me with a white hot passion.

  • I went into this challenge with a positive attitude despite the obvious roadblocks in my way. I was kind of excited to decorate it.. went shopping and bought all kinds of neat candies and edible items to use. I even thought I would erect a split wood fence with pretzel sticks. Cute, huh? Mmm hmm..

    The first bad omen was my thumb is still pretty useless. So kneading the dough would be out of the question (and no, I can't knead with one hand - TRUST ME I need both hands to do just about anything :P ). When this happens, I call in my favorite Sous Chef, Hubbs. That morning before work, I left out all the ingredients for Y's dough recipe - with instructions for him to make the dough.

    When I got home that evening I opened the fridge to check the dough out and it was uhmm.. very very brown. Almost black. (bad omen No. 2) So I asked my Sous if he had run into any problems during the dough making. "Nope." was his reply. Okay, well I have only ever made ginger cookies in the past, never ginger "bread" so I thought maybe this is what it was suppose to look like.. maybe it'd lighten up after resting over night. I didn't have time to worry about it because we had grocery shopping to do.

    Next morning... Nope that dough stayed black and turned rock hard. I took it out to come to room temp about 10 hours before I was going to roll it out - yeah yeah, I know. I wasn't thinking clearly. I had just woken up BEFORE the crack of dawn and the habit is for me to take what I'm going to need for dinner out of the freezer each morning before work. I was awake enough to realize it was Saturday and didn't need to take anything out, but not awake enough to realize that 10 hours was probably a lil too much for dough to come to room temp. But 3 hours and two cups of coffee later when I remembered I had taken it out way too early, it was still ROCK HARD. I used a chef's knife to stab it and then pull a chunk off - and I swear to the baby Jebus, the fakkin dough had age rings inside. You know, like a tree?? Like a petrified tree of gingerbread dough?? OHMYGOD.

    So I brought my slab of petrified gingerbread over to my husband and presented it to him. "Are you sure nothing went wrong yesterday?" "Nope." Now something obviously went wrong - but we'll never know what. "Well f*ck" I said to myself. "I've got 3 women and 1 tween coming over in a few short hours to make gingerbread houses (plural), what the f*ck am I suppose to do now?" (bad omen no. 3)

    Luckily, Recipezaar came to my rescue. I needed a dough that I could make tout de suite that didn't need refrigerating. I actually found one! And it didn't sound half bad. So I immediately ran into the kitchen to get started on making the new dough felt relieved and decided it was time for a nap. DO NOT JUDGE. I'm very sleepy on Saturday mornings.. it's unfair that I get up while it's still dark outside on the weekends too. So I relish being able to go back to bed right around the time I'd normally be jumpin in the shower to go to the dungeon. It gives me pleasure. DO NOT DENY ME THAT!


    Anyhoo.. yes, I went back to bed. (omen no. 4? or is this 5?) Normally my lil weekend naps last all of 2 hours.. rarely longer. Unless, of course, I'm expecting 3 women and 1 tween over to make 4 gingerbread houses + make them dinner. No, on those occasions I end up sleeping FIVE hours - after I woke up and looked at my clock, I shot outta the bed so fakkin fast that I forgot to throw the covers off first, which got tangled with my legs.. forcing me head first into the wall beside my bed. GAH. (bad omen no. fakk it, I'M DOOMED)

    So, 'kay.. do the math here kids. I took the original dough out 10 hours before I needed it. I checked it after 3 hours and realized it was petrified shite. I then slept for 5 hours. That equals 8 hours. Ten minus 8 equals HOLY FAH-REEG!! I'VE GOT 2 HOURS TO MAKE AND BAKE ENOUGH GINGERBREAD HOUSE PANELS FOR 4 HOUSES PLUS DINNER FOR 5 PEOPLE.


    Okay I'll spare you the cursing and then slamming things when I found out that my Sous Chef used ALL OF THE GINGER in his petrified dough and didn't feel the need to tell me WHILE WE WERE GROCERY SHOPPING. Fast forward to 5 pm'ish when the gals arrived. I had JUST finished prepping dinner and I had managed to only make enough dough for ONE house. I figured I'd make more dough while we were eating dinner, but the gals all decided that one house would be plenty. Bless their cotton socks.

    After dinner we immediately started to erect our house. Keep in mind, there were 4 adult women working on this - and at one point, Hubbs joined in. We started with a side panel and the front panel and lots of royal icing. My panels had turned out wonkey after they baked, but that's what the icing was for, right? The first two panels seemed to stay together pretty well.. and then we moved on to the 3rd panel.. so this one wasn't as cooperative as the first two. No big deal. We'll just use some of the frosted mini-wheats that were for our roof shingles to prop up the inside of the walls. We got it under control. We're women. Hear us roar.


    While we did get all for sides of the house to stand straight up, when we put the roof on (already covered in shingles and 20 pounds of royal icing) it:

    1- Made the walls start to cave in a wee bit.
    2- Kept sliding off because they were too heavy.

    So what do 4 intelligent women do in this kind of a situation? Why, they go get the blow dryer, of course! "We need to dry this icing out so the pieces parts will stay!" someone said. Yes, we made the Beavette stand there with the blow drier until the icing set up and stuck. Unfortunately, that never happened. Someone else said, "Dudes, the 14 layers of icing below the layer we're trying to dry has to dry first." And that was it for us. We'd been working on it for about 4 hours - not one decoration on it - and we gave up. We put a box over it and then stood their and discussed who was going to decorate it. They tried to put it all on me but I wouldn't have any of that shite. They started this with me, it was their rightful duty to accompany me on this gingerbread from hell journey.

    June and The Beavette said they'd be back the next day to decorate.. but something came up so it was cancelled. Next day, same thing - cancelled. Finally we managed to keep Thursday open and spent 2 fun hours (no really, I had fun!) decorating the house. I got one side, June got another, and The Beavette decorated the rest. I think it turned out really cute. But I still couldn't wait for it to be out of my house. So when we were done, I packed up the remaining 90 pounds of candy for The Beavette, found a box for the house and didn't give them a choice but to take it all with them. *grin*

    Many many thanks to my girls: Blimey, June, The Beavette, and Amy (we need a name for Amy!) for another fun filled night together.. can't wait for the next one - but NEVER AGAIN with the gingerbread. heheee!


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    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Daring Cooks December Challenge: Beef Wellington

    Beef wrapped in mushrooms, wrapped in prosciutto, wrapped in a buttery, flaky crust. What could be better?

    The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online

    Well apparently.. I'm not the beef wrapped in mushrooms, wrapped in prosciutto, wrapped in a buttery, flaky crust kinda gal. This just didn't thrill me. Not only did I have HUGE problems with the pastry dough, but the final product just wasn't very "BOOYA" if yanno what I mean? Which kinda floors me, because okay - so the crust sucked, pick it off and eat the rest for crissakes, yes? But the Parma ham just got all greasy tucked in there.. the mushrooms were okay, but they were minced so kinda hard to enjoy them.. and the steak, although done perfectly and seasoned well.. just wasn't all that tasty. Did it all steam too much in it's pastry shell? Are my tasters off? I just don't know..

    This is not to say that I am saddened by this month's challenge. I am always grateful to learn a new technique and recipe.. and a shortcrust pastry dough was something I'd never heard of before. And yes, I am grateful that I learned a new dough recipe, but this is one I won't be trying again. Gah. After we had dinner that night, I thought to myself that I MUST have screwed up - because, hey, that's what I do. Especially when it comes to baking and doughs, right? So I just sat on it for a day but it bugged the bejebus outta me, so I went back over the recipe and I know I didn't screw up.. but, I still ended up with uhmm.. cracker crumbs? Have a look!

    Sorry for the poorly lit photos - but it gets dark here at like 9 in the morning! (okay well not that early, but way too fakkin early these days [5ish in the evening])

    See? Crumbly dry bad juju stuff. And this photo was taken after it had been wrapped in cling wrap and refrigerated for a few hours. I weighed my ingredients AND I even put in more water than called for! So yous guys tell me.. what. the. hell.?

    Anyhoo.. I ended up having to smoosh more water in there to get it to come together and roll out.. and that did work.. but I assume having done that plus the extra kneading, didn't make for a flaky crusty outcome.

    I also vented my dough to let the steam out.. but everything inside was still.. uhhh.. steamy. Maybe I'm just a grill or pan fry steak kinda gal? Maybe I like my beef crusty - as in crust from seasoning and a cast iron skillet or over a hot grill. I dunno.

    I do know that lots of members had great luck with this and I have to say that the challenge was to make whatever filling we decided on, be it beef, salmon or another fish, vegetable, pork, chicken, you name it, wrapped in dough. We did not have to make the shortcrust pastry dough recipe that was given to us by Simone. We could have used store bought or another recipe for the crust.. so I do not count this as a failure. I did learn how to make wellington and maybe on some special (it'd have to be pretty damned spectacular) occasion I'll make it again with another dough recipe and maybe I'll really crust up that meat with lots more seasoning and leave the prosciutto out.. and maybe I'll like it a lot better.

    And before I end this.. I have to say one more thing.


    Course I'll still shop there.. cuz I love it.. but damn, it was the ONLY place where I live that I can get puff pastry made with REAL BUTTER and not disgusting shortening. *sigh* And please.. don't even tell me to make it myself. Have you ever read my Daring Baker posts?? I'd have better luck milking my own breasts, churning my mammary gland juices into butter using a bucket and a broom handle and then paying someone else to fold it into a dough 5000 times. GAH.


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    Tuesday, December 08, 2009

    Put to the "Challenge" with Butter!

    A while back the nice people at Challenge Dairy asked me if I'd be interested in tasting their butter and using it in a side dish recipe.

    Butter! As if I'd say no. Did I mention... butter? *slurp*

    Okay so right off the bat, I'm going to say that Challenge Dairy needs to start shipping their products across the country so us dwellers of the "Armpit of the Midwest" (Ohioans) can purchase at our local stores. This is NOT FAIR that we cannot at this time. That's right, Challenge Dairy.. you've been called out. Now ship me a truckload of this stuff because we fakkin' loved it. :)

    The salted butter that is. I have to be honest, I haven't even opened the "spreadable butter" yet. It's not you, Challenge Dairy, it's me. You see, I've got this thing about butter being called butter when it's made with oil. And frankly, if ya'll (and by ya'll, I mean those of you who buy "spreadable butter" to use right from the fridge) can't think ahead a few minutes and take your REAL CREAM butter outta the fridge to allow it to soften before you need it.. well, dammit you aren't true butter lovers. By God, I think Paula Deen just fainted at the thought of spreadable butter.

    Anyhoo.. I will try to get over my mental thing (1 of many) and give it a shot, and I'm sure it'll taste just fine.. but well.. oil. squick!

    Along with a pound of their salted butter and a container of the spreadable butter, Challenge Dairy also sent me some nice surprises! I received a bottle of dill weed and smoked paprika from Spice Islands along with a very cool OXO Spice Keeper. And to make my cooking efforts a little easier, they were also kind enough to send me a whisk - how did they know?? I've got a big balloon whisk that I love, but it's big - I've been looking for a smaller version and this one is perfect - thank you Challenge Dairy, Spice Islands and OXO! :)

    So what did I do with all of these items? Actually asking me what I didn't do with them would be an easier question. But I goofed big time in not photographing most of it, mainly because I used them for my Thanksgiving dinner. Between 14 recipes, and cleaning the house for guests.. well, my camera was put away after the first dish and I only photographed it because it was new. But that's okay because I've blogged about some of the recipes before. I used the butter in my stuffing, the gooey pumpkin butter cake (just in the crust where you could taste it), my sweet potatoes, a new cauliflower dish. But the true test was the table butter that we used for our bread.

    Let me tell you, that was my favorite usage of this butter. Spread thickly (of course!) on a slice of fresh baked Italian bread and the rest of the meal wasn't as appetizing. I could have ate that whole damn loaf smothered in butter and been quite thankful for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. Seriously. This butter is very creamy, has just the right amount of salt and is basically The Bomb.

    Have I mentioned how cheated I feel that I can't buy this butter in my local grocery store? *sigh*

    The new cauliflower dish I tried was based on a recipe found on Recipezaar, called Roasted Parmesan Garlic Cauliflower by Marie. Of course I tweaked it towards my own tastes and the final dish was quite delicious. We'll be having this again.

    Roasted Romano Garlic Cauliflower

    1.5 TBS mashed roasted garlic
    1.5 TBS olive oil
    1/2 head cauliflower, separated in florets
    1/3 c. grated Locatelli Romano cheese, divided
    salt and black pepper
    1/3 c. Panko
    1/4 c. butter, softened
    1 tsp. smoked paprika

    Preheat oven to 450º F.

    Fill a 3 quart pot with water, bring to a boil and then salt the water. Add the florets and cook for 5 minutes until they are JUST fork tender (try not to overcook)
    Grease small 8" x 8" Pyrex baking dish.
    Mix Panko crumbs and remaining Romano cheese together in small bowl, set aside.
    Place olive oil, roasted garlic paste and 1/3 of the Romano cheese in large resealable bag. Add cauliflower and shake to mix.
    Pour into prepared baking dish.
    Season with salt and pepper, top with Panko & Romano mixture.
    Place dabs of butter all over top. Sprinkle with smoked paprika.
    Bake for 20 minutes.


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