Vanilla-Mango Panna Cotta

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The question of the day was, what is “Panna Cotta”…and it wasn’t just me, all my tasters too!  I am thinking we weren’t alone, but who knows, maybe we just aren’t as worldly in our experiences…but now we all know.

Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert made from sweetened cream thickened with gelatin.

Our recipe tells us it is the perfect dessert; elegant and simple, rich and luxurious…and so versatile.  Since I knew 4 servings was not enough for my family and tasters, I opted to make 1 1/2 of the recipe and split it into 8 servings, which turned out to be the perfect amount.

This is really a very easy and simple recipe: puree the mango and lime juice in a food processor or blender; heat the cream, sugar, milk, and then add vanilla; bloom some gelatin and add to the cream mixture.  There is some chilling time involved and then assemble.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I had never “bloomed” plain gelatin and then liquify it. It was kind of strange.

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After these were assembled and chilled, the texts went out…available for pick-up.  I think everyone was equally intrigued about this dessert, but it quickly became obvious there were lovers and there were non-lovers.  I find this part of the baking so interesting…the how it is received part.   I sat and watched my son and girlfriend inhale theirs and my husband and daughter take one bite and say “ya, not so much’ at which time son and girlfriend quickly took it off their hands and inhaled that one too.  Also interesting is the lovers, loved both the mango and panna cotta and the non-lovers did not like either part.  All in all, it was a draw…4 lovers and 4 non-lovers…and me the non-taster..just the baker and observer haha!

So, not sure what to say about this one other than if you love fruit and smoothies, I would guess you would love it based on my reviewers. :)

Swedish Oatmeal Hardtack

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I feel bad for this recipe…first of all it tells us “it makes you think of last-forever crackers…the kind packed on long voyages more for indestructibility than tastiness.”   The cookbook states not with these but honestly how can a cracker stand up to following the White Chocolate Patty Cake or the Apricot Raspberry Tart???  They just didn’t have a chance…these weren’t a winner with my tasters…but that is ok, there are new ones to try right around the corner.

What I found more interesting this past week was looking at where in the world my blog hits are coming from.  Our “Baking With Julia” and “Baking Chez Moi” are international baking groups but seriously it is so exciting to see where all of us are baking from!  I love knowing that as I am baking here in my home others are doing the same exact thing all over the world!!  I love hearing how bakers have to substitute ingredients either because it is just not in season where they live or not available.  I love being a part of this group!

Check out the list:

  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Puerto Rico
  • Poland
  • Finland
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Malaysia
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Saudia Arabia
  • Australia
  • Serbia
  • Iceland
  • France
  • Libya
  • Ireland
  • Sweden
  • Philippines
  • Mexico
  • Italy
  • Singapore
  • Israel
  • Spain
  • Austria
  • South Africa
  • New Zealand
  • Malta
  • Portugal
  • India
  • Hong Kong
  • Norway
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Brazil
  • Greece
  • Pakistan
  • Thailand
  • Argentina
  • Ukraine
  • Venezuela
  • Netherlands
  • South Korea
  • Turkey
  • Russia
  • Morocco
  • Egypt
  • Luxembourg
  • Sri Lanka
  • Indonesia
  • Qator
  • Latvia
  • Nigeria
  • Estonia
  • Taiwan

Apricot Raspberry Tart

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So my favorite part of this recipe was the brioche bread I bought to use for the crumbs in the bottom of the tart.  I know, I know, not a good start to the blog…but hang with me…other people really liked this, just not me. The recipe gives a few options: lady fingers, stale cake crumbs, or brioche bread.  I was thinking why not go for the bread.  Good excuse as I have never bought brioche bread but I have MADE it before with this group and I know it is delicious.  I looked around at our produce store while buying the apricots and raspberries and happened upon this…

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Seriously why can bread make you so very happy?!  I made french toast that night for dinner for the family and it was unbelievably fantastic!  I will do that again…even for the price!

I know that doesn’t say much for the recipe at hand but it was unlikely I would like this particular dessert…I was curious to see what others thought.  Pretty simple recipe; make the tart dough, add the fruit filling and sprinkle with pistachios.  I have learned from this baking group that no matter how closely I THINK I read the recipe before and during the baking it always surprises me after, when I see something I had never read before.  So strange.  This time it was with the dough.  I read it and decided to go the pressed-in route rather than rolling the dough since that seems difficult with the tart pan.  I figured I could mold it in place easier.  I went at it very methodically, squaring off the tops with my fingers so they were all uniform.

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I was pretty impress with myself until I went back and read the next step and for some reason seemed to read for the first time, the line where it says “but don’t use a lot of force-working lightly will preserve the crust’s shortbread texture” At this point I was thinking well, I believe I was pretty heavy handed might not have the shortbread texture…but hey most people’s favorite part of the tart was the crust so it all worked out…phew!  I need to read more carefully! haha!

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This tart uses a lot of apricots…if you are not a fan you will not enjoy this dessert.  There isn’t much else too it.  You fill the tart with 14 apricots halved, some sprinkled sugar, and raspberries…sprinkling pistachios on top towards the end.  Very simple dessert.  My tasters all opted to add some whipped cream on top.  I have to tell you, my tried and true tasters that love anything fruity, LOVED this one…and I quote, “Loved it, we inhaled it in two minutes”, my husband thought it was very good, and my parents not so much on this one..but hey you can’t love them all.  Just adds to the fun of trying each of these. :)

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White Chocolate Patty Cake

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My Mother-in-Law fell Father’s Day evening and broke her hip…things have been pretty stressful around here.  She is having trouble recovering and is still in the hospital.   Needless to say, we are spending a lot of time there.  I wasn’t sure I would be able to bake this go around…but you know what…after a long day at the hospital, it felt SO good to come home and bake!  It really was a nice break from all that has been going on…and thankfully this recipe was not all that difficult.

This cake is a layered white chocolate cake with raspberry crush in between the layers and on top.  You finish it off with fresh raspberries.

Some things I learned on this recipe:

  1. Lots of eggs in this one…10 to be exact-6 whites, 10 yolks!
  2. Raspberry Crush is basically pureed, slightly-thawed, frozen raspberries but boy does it kick up the flavor on this cake!
  3. Although the cake looks like a plain white or vanilla cake, this one is special.  The melted white chocolate is very flavorful and the cake is very moist and light.
  4. I am getting really good at meringue and melting chocolate haha!
  5. The only thing I didn’t like about this cake is it doesn’t last long…I saved a piece for my son and it was past its prime the next day for him to eat.
  6. Baking really is a hobby I enjoy and relieves stress.

Quick thought on what my tasters thought….EVERYONE loved this one!!  I mean really loved it.  I think I had nine of them on this one.  I think what made it so good was the uniqueness and the flavors and textures all played very well together.  To quote my Dad..”this one is a keeper and…keep them coming!”  I just love that my parents enjoy being part of this with me! <3

Strawberry Shortcakes Franco-American Style

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I just love seeing what the next recipes will be for us to bake each month!  This one I knew immediately would be perfect for part 1 of our Father’s Day celebration as my parents are “official tasters” and I know they love strawberry shortcake…so we aren’t going out on a limb or anything. :) The recipe says these are called shortcakes for lack of a truer name.  They are a hybrid of part French, part American…with resulting shortcakes that are biscuit like-ladyfingers.  The word ladyfingers scared me a bit…a little too close to my failed Cardinal Slice that was part ladyfinger…the most delicate of the batters.  I did notice right away the recipe and temperature seemed different so I was hopeful…wary, but hopeful!

I made the ladyfingers the day before I needed them since the recipe says they could be made ahead of time….basically three steps:

  • Draw 12-3 in circles on parchment paper and flip
  • Prepare the ladyfinger batter…the most nerve wracking part of the whole process…and like I have said before, I just don’t like hearing the air escape as you so delicately fold.  I know I was a little less thorough folding because of my previous experience and since the recipe stated it was ok to see some egg white, meringue in the mixture :)
  • Then, pipe the discs starting in the center and dust twice with powdered sugar at two intervals while they rest.  Bake until golden…about 8 min.

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IMG_2879I have to say these smelled delicious while they were baking.  I ever so carefully pealed them from the parchment after they cooled and stored them until the next day. Yay, they seemed to be a success!! :)

For the filling, we had two options:  use only macerated berries or if you want to elevate your shortcakes to a whole different level, add roasted strawberries as well. So of course, I went the roasted strawberry route since none of us had ever had them.

I went ahead and prepared the two different strawberries just prior to assembling the shortcakes.  I followed Dorie’s suggestion and filled the inside of the first layer with a circle of cream and filled it with the roasted strawberries, put the top layer and covered with macerated strawberries and more cream.  Wow, these are a showy dessert!

To make a long story short…the reviews…there were 8 of us sharing these 6 shortcakes and the overwhelming reaction was they were simply delicious.  People had strong opinions about the roasted strawberries being added in though…a few LOVED them, a few LIKED them, one didn’t much care for them, and one…me, HATED them.   It was kind of funny…the general consensus was…we have SUCH delicious strawberries here in Southern California it is hard to make a plain, or slightly sugared strawberry taste any better than just that.  The roasting was kind of like taking the natural “strawberry” and making it taste more like strawberries in a jam.  All in all, a keeper for sure…just probably plain, sugared strawberries next time haha!

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Chocolate Cranberry Brownies

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Busy times here at our house…we had two kids move back from school for the summer…with much more than what they left with!!… our first college graduation (YAY)…that was a quick four years, graduation party, and left the next day for a family vacation before our college graduate began her full time job…phew!  All fun but what an exhausting two weeks.

Since we were traveling I had to sit out the fruit foccacia but I will have to tell you all, I did make the Nutella Buttons and Limoncello Cupcakes again for the graduation party and they were a huge success!  Those are great recipes!

This week’s recipe was “Chocolate Cherry Brownies” which gave the option for dried cranberries in place of the cherries…I went the cranberry route.  Personally, I was thinking why mess with a good brownie recipe by adding fruit into it but that is just me. :)  My fruit dessert loving tasters were all over this one….and they loved it.

This is a simple, straight forward, one bowl type of recipe.  It is worth noting I added an additional 8 min to the cooking time and still wonder if they were slightly undercooked.  They turned out like a brownie but slightly fudge-like.  Like I said earlier, I wasn’t too hip on adding cranberries to the brownie but I have to admit it was way better than I thought it would be.  I actually ate it and thought it was good…would I prefer a plain one, yes but this was good.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake

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There are many, many things I have learned through my 3+ years of baking with Tuesdays with Dorie, but this recipe makes me remember one of the more funny ones…what is rhubarb and where do I find it!!  I remember the first time we baked with it, long ago, I had to ask the produce guy at Sprouts what it was and where I could find it.  This time I was much more confident…at least with locating it. :)

This is a rather easy recipe…especially considering the one we just tried out…Cardinal Slice!!  Two steps really…prepare the rhubarb and mix up the batter.  I think the hardest part was not wanting to overcook the rhubarb in the sugar since the recipe said “it can be a little tricky…heat it too much, and you’ll get mush, so keep an eye on it and be gentle when you toss and turn the fruit”.

All in all, the recipe came together with no problems but I think half of my tasters were underwhelmed with this one.  A few LOVED it but it was not a universal feeling.  I am thinking it was the rhubarb…I guess we are not a “rhubarb loving group”…maybe with an apple topping it would have gone over better since everyone thought the cake part was great.  Can’t love them all…but the fun is in the trying and a bonus when you do!

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