Sunday, February 28, 2010

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.
As usual when Italian dishes are part of the challenge, I'm (too much) critical .... after all, Tiramisu is THE Italian Dessert, and in Rome I've been living across the street from Pompi, a pasticceria/bar that claim to have the best tiramisu in Rome, and they're probably right. They've got the classic one, the one with Nutella and banana, and in summer the one with fresh stawberries (without coffe). But for the challenge I went the straight way, following the given recipe in detail. Let's take a look at the tiramisu parts:
- Mascarpone from scratch - I think that's the best part of the challenge. I've never made mascarpone from scratch, and I could't stop liking the spoon, testing whether it's firmed up ... which it did nicely. I'm only sorry that I didn't have any remains to eat plain ...
- Zabaglione from scratch - definetely tasty. I used espresso to flavour it, but next time I'll surely try Marsala wine.
- Pastry cream, from scratch, obviously - nice, but for my taste too swett, and has got nothing to search inside a tiramisu. Sorry.
- Savoiardi from scratch - really good. Different from storebought in more than one way, I enjoyed the fact that I could made the shape just as I fancied. I planned on serving individual portions, so I piped the batter circle-shaped to fit the individual serving glasses.
- Whipped cream .... nothing to search inside tiramisu
, again. Sorry, I know I'm annoying ...

The result - following the recipes in detail I used all the required ingredients, including pastry cream and whipped cream. It was very good, but I think I'll scip both of them the nect time. And there will be a next time, for sure!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.
For me, this challenge was the equivalent of finding oneself at the perfect place at the perfect time, in a way that a vegan friend was going to
come over for lunch the weekend after the challenge was announced. Even though me and my BF eat vegetarian meals 5 days out of 7, cooking vegan is another pair of shoes altogether. No cheese, no cream, no eggs, no honey .... I know, there're substitutes, but the only one I can stomach is the veg cream. I don't consider tofu an adequate substitute for cheese or eggs, even if it may help with the consistence, but surely not tastewise. So, usually vegan lunches/dinners are quite a challenge in themselves. For this particular occassion I have chosen to make not only the required hummus and pita, but a whole lot more from Michele's site, and some more still :)

So, on the menu that day were:
-being in Italy, a pasta dish is obligatory, so this time I made wholewheat strozzapreti with walnut-thyme sauce (adapted from here, made without cheese)
- Hummus (I was not very happy with the recipe, as it was a bit too lemony for my taste, but it was Ok)
-Pita (made on the stovetop and really delicious)
- Yogurt-Cucumber Raita (not new to me, always refreshing and tasty)
-Cucumber-Yogurt Salsa (variation of the raita, but without yogurt, as I have realized at last second only that yogurt was not vegan.....)

-Baba Ghanoush (eggplant roasted in the woodstove which gave it a realy fantastic smoky taste. In fact, this was the best part of the meal!)
-Lentil salad with roasted veggies and mustard vinaigrette
-Felafels (baked in the oven, not fried - still delicious

And, to put th cherry on top of all this, a Upside-Down-Orange-VEGAN CAKE
(Adapted from here)! Made with Muffin-like batter without diary/eggs and baked over a layer of melted brown sugar and sliced oranges, it was actually really delicious and a keeper even for non-vegan occassions.

All in all, I would give this challenge a 10 out of 10 - the best and timely challenge ever! Hip-hip-hooray fo daring Cooks!


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