Double Daring Bakers for March


Our March extra challenge:  

Cinnamon & Sticky Buns (from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

Daring Bakers Challenge #11: September 2007 Host: Marce (Pip in the City)

Oh my goodness! These are the best cinnamon rolls! You totally have to make these!  I will be making these a lot. The sticky buns are really good too, except that I accidentally burnt the caramel topping. Oops. They weren’t inedible, I just cut the top off of them. I didn’t need to make very many modifications & I followed all of the directions, except for the caramel. I made it like I normally do, on the stovetop, but that made it overcook & burn in the oven. Next time, I will follow the directions they have for making the caramel. I have my modifications below.

Active/Resting/Baking Time: 15 minutes to mix, 3 ½ hours fermentation/ shaping/proofing, 20 – 40 minutes to bake Recipe Quantity: 8 – 12 large rolls or 12 – 16 small rolls

Allowed Modifications:

1. You can mix up the spices to your liking. Meaning you don´t have to use cinnamon if you don´t like it. I’m thinking you could use ginger, allspice, cardamom, etc. (Personally, I´m going to leave the sticky buns as they are & mix up spices in the cinnamon buns)

2. You can do both cinnamon & sticky buns or choose one.

3. You don´t have to use nuts for the sticky buns if you are allergic or you don´t like nuts.

4. You don´t have to use raisins for the sticky buns, & you can substitute the raisins for any other dried fruit you like & think would work with the other flavors.

6 ½ tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

5 ½ tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine Earth Balance

1 large egg, slightly beaten Ener-g Egg Replacer

1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon

3 ½ cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast*

1 1/8 to 1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk, room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk & 1 cup water Soy milk mixed with lemon juice

½ cup cinnamon sugar (6 ½ TBSP granulated sugar plus 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)

White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns or caramel glaze for sticky buns (at the end of the recipe.)

Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts (for sticky buns.)

Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries (for sticky buns, optional.)

*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.

Step 1 – Making the Dough: Cream together the sugar, salt, & shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon & mixing bowl & do it by hand).

Note: if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, & add the water with the flour & yeast. I used my Kitchen Aid

Whip in the egg & lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, & milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook & increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky & supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl & transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


Step 2 – Fermentation: Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Step 3 – Form the Buns: Mist the counter with spray oil & transfer the dough to the counter. Proceed with shaping the buns. (A) Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3“ thick & 14“ wide by 12“ long for larger buns, or 18“ wide by 9“ long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough & chewy rather than soft & plump. (B)Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough & (C) roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 ¾” thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 ¼“ thick for smaller buns.

img_3131.jpg    img_3128.jpg

Step 4 – Prepare the Buns for Proofing:

* For cinnamon buns: line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately ½” apart so that they aren’t touching but are close to one another.

* For sticky buns: coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1 ½” high with a ¼” layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the nuts & raisins (if you are using raisins or dried fruit.) You do not need a lot of nuts & raisins, only a sprinkling. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about ½” apart. Mist the dough with spray oil & cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. For the sticky buns, I just sprinkled in some cinnamon & a few crushed walnuts.

Step 5 – Proof the Buns: Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another & have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.


Step 6 – Bake the Buns:

* Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.

* Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan & into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark & done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven


Step 8 – Cool the buns:

* For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes & then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans & place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.

* For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes & then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

img_3146.jpg  yeah, a little burnt, I know.

Toppings for the Buns:

*White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns: Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious & simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.

*Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 tsp of lemon or orange extract & 6 TBSP to ½ cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly & only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste. I used powdered sugar & orange juice (I used a fork to drizzle the icing on).

When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze & waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze & letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)


Caramel glaze for sticky buns:

Caramel glaze is essentially some combination of sugar & fat, cooked until it caramelizes. The trick is catching it just when the sugar melts & lightly caramelizes to a golden amber. Then it will cool to a soft, creamy caramel. If you wait too long & the glaze turns dark brown, it will cool to a hard, crack-your-teeth consistency. Most sticky bun glazes contain other ingredients to influence flavor & texture, such as corn syrup to keep the sugar from crystallizing & flavor extracts or oils, such as vanilla or lemon. This version makes the best sticky bun glaze of any I´ve tried. It was developed by my wife, Susan, for Brother Juniper´s Café in Forestville, California.

NOTE: you can substitute the corn syrup for any neutral flavor syrup, like cane syrup or gold syrup.

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine ½ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, & ½ pound unsalted butter, at room temperature. I cooked the sugar on the stove, don’t do that! Follow these directions, unlike me, or it may turn out like this:


2. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup & 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light & fluffy. I used golden syrup instead of corn syrup.

3. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a ¼” layer. Refrigerate & save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.

Daring Bakers Rise Again!

Daring Bakers March 2009 Challenge – Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans & Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder & Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.


This month’s challenge has global input, with the 3 hosts living in 3 continents: Our hosts are from Canada, Australia & Italy.   The recipe we’ve chosen this month is Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (published by William Morrow & Company Inc., 1992).

Our hosts tell us that lasagne is a dish that has successfully transcended borders & is today made around the world, albeit with many variations from the Italian original. Even within Italy, there are many variations & each region has its own lasagne tradition. The dish should always be a “vivid expression of the ‘less is more’ philosophy of cooking. Mere films of béchamel sauce & meat ragu coat the sheerest spinach pasta. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dusts each layer. There is nothing more; no ricotta, no piling on of meats, vegetables or cheese; little tomato, & no hot spice. Baking performs the final marriage of flavours. The results are splendid.”

We had to make the pasta from scratch, a bechamel sauce & a ragu. We could also make a sweet pasta if we wanted, which was intriguing, but I love lasagne, so savory it is! I planned to make this for dinner at least a week early, but then got the flu, everyone, take your vitamins! This flu lasts for 2 weeks, minimum, yuck! Anyway, back to the lasagne. I was really excited about this one. I have made my own pasta before, my own sauce, etc. so I figured it would be pretty easy & it was. The hardest part about making your own pasta, is rolling it out. Mine could’ve been a little thinner, but it was still really good. Both of the sauces are easy to make as well. The only problem people ran into was with the ragu. Some people (including me) had a problem with the milk curdling (which is great if you want to make ricotta cheese), but it only affects the look of it, not the taste or the texture.  I shared some with some non-vegan friends, & they liked it too!

Here is the recipe for you.
All recipes below from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (published by William Morrow & Company Inc., 1992).

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)
Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble & 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

Working Ahead:
The ragu & the béchamel sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to 1 month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut & 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 & cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, & the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer & 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:  I skipped this step
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about 4 pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, & 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, & then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out & 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 4 overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, & then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1½ TBSP of the béchamel & about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce & topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking & 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 & 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 & barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar & 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 & served.

The pasta, resting
#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)
Preparation: 45 minutes
Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 lb (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs 1 ½ TBSP egg replacer whisked together with 1/3 cup warm water
10 oz fresh spinach, rinsed dry, & finely chopped; or 6 oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted & squeezed dry I used fresh
3½ cups all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred) whole wheat pastry flour

Working by Hand: I made by hand
A roomy work surface, 24” to 30“ deep X 30” to 36“. Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.
A pastry scraper & a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.
A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35“ long & 2“ thick. The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough & to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough: (I used a bowl)
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface & make a well in the middle. Add the eggs & spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs & spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more & more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off & to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough & messy lump.  I pureed the spinach in my Vitamix blender.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic & a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, & very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, & let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching & Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time & keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down & push it. Shape it into a ball & begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center & stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, & repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch & even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat 3 more times, turning the dough a ¼ turn each time.

Repeat the 2 processes as the disc becomes larger & thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it & see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4” x 8“ (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta & the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature & store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter Earth Balance
4 tablespoons all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2 2/3 cups milk Soy Milk
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, & then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time & keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, & stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, & a hint of nutmeg.
#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)
Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes & Cooking time 2 hours
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL) vegetable broth
2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped texturized vegetable protein
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces boneless veal shoulder or round omitted
4 oz pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 oz mild Italian sausage (made without fennel) faux sausage
8 oz beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference) mushrooms
1 oz thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma omitted
2/3 cup dry red wine 1/3 cup, its all I had
1 &1/2 cups chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible) vegetable broth
2 cups milk soy milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover & refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12“ skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta & minced vegetables & sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan & slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid & turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer & shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan & set over medium heat.

Reducing & Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan & set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan & let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last ½ cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, & cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt & pepper.


Verdict: This is a great recipe. It is not the typical American lasagne, and the green color of the pasta might scare some people, but it tastes great. What a great accomplishment as well. I will make this one again, maybe with a red sauce next time though.  View everyone else’s results here:

Recipes 2 Rival February 2009

This month Lauren from is hosting the challenge. She chose to make Fresh Ricotta Cheese I have actually made Ricotta Cheese a few times before, but it was with Lactaid Milk, which is milk with the lactose removed. I wasn’t sure how this would work with soy milk, but with the reassurance of the R2R’ers, off I went. This recipe was a lot quicker than the one I have made before, which is a plus, & quite easy. I did quarter the recipe, because I had planned on making ravioli’s with the ricotta & my hubby is not a fan, so I would be the only one eating it. I used the leftover dumpling dough from a past challenge for the ravioli, which worked out great. I had no problems with making the ricotta & it came out just like I remembered. Some say it looked a little drier than normal ricotta, but I think that is because I drained it for longer then called for.

I used 2 paper towels to drain my ricotta because I couldn’t find what I did with my cheese cloth & it worked just fine. This is a quick & hands off recipe, with great results (could I use great any more times!?!). You basically combine the milk, heat for a bit, put in a cheesecloth, & let it drain. 

 img_3062.jpg    draining

Ricotta Cheese
Hello folks! I am soooo excited to be hosting this month!! Since the point of this group is to learn new techniques, we are going to try something that sounds daunting but is actually very easy. We are going to make our own cheese!! That’s right, cheese!

For this challenge, I would like for us all to make the ricotta & blog about the process, & then use the ricotta in a recipe of your choice.
img_3065.jpg    ready to use
Fresh Ricotta
you’ll need:
1 gallon milk (you can use 1% on up, remember that the more fat in the milk, the more cheese it will yeild.)
1 quart buttermilk

-cheesecloth (a good, tightly woven one, not the kind you buy at the supermarket)- If you don’t have one of these, you can get by with a slotted spoon, but you may lose some of the cheese.

-a thermometer (mine is for oil & candy)

Place buttermilk & milk in a pot, heat on med-low heat until it reaches 185 degrees.

It will begin to separate into curds & whey. Be sure to stir occasionally to make sure no curds stick to the bottom & burn. You will see that as the temperature approaches 185, the whey becomes clearer as the curds coagulate more.

Pour the curds into a cheesecloth lined collander. Tie the ends of the chesecloth together and hang for 10-15 minutes. Remove from cheesecloth and place in an airtight container.

Voila! Cheese!
img_3089.jpg    herbs & spinach added
Some tips: use can use milk that has been pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized. Ultra pasteurization heats the milk too much, and de natures the proteins that form curds. You will not get cheese from ultra pasteurized milk.

make sure your pots and other equiptment are very clean before starting

you can make any amount as long as you stick to a 4 parts milk to 1 part buttermilk ratio.
img_3090.jpg    filled

img_3092.jpg    ready to cook

 img_3095.jpg    img_3096.jpg    yum!
Verdict: For the ravioli, I used the ricotta, spinach, basil, oregano & garlic.  It turned out great with one little glitch. I used unsweetened soy milk, but it still had a hint of sweetness to it every few bites. Not sure why, but I think a sweet application like blintzes or cheesecake would have been a better choice. I think this is a fun skill that is worth trying at least once.  Check out everyone elses adventures in cheese making: