Daring Bakers: Pao de Queijo


This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!” taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!

When we were going through the elimination testing for the Low-FODMAP thing, I had come across these Brazilian cheese rolls made with tapioca starch and Parmesan cheese but were otherwise made just like pate a choux. Fast forward almost 18 months and I had a dream about these rolls, specifically about not being able to find the recipe even though I was looking in the book it came from. Two days later I checked the Daring Bakers board and found that this month’s challenge was the exact same Pao de Queijo I’d been dreaming about.

Spooky, right?

But in the tastiest way possible!

Our hostess, Renata, gave us a couple of variations on the Pao de Queijo I had made before, one of which involved making not puffs but waffles with the mixture. Her versions also tended to use cheeses that weren’t so dry, and I had a block of apple-smoked Cheddar in the fridge just waiting for a good use.

Pao de Queijo Waffles

Pao de Queijo Waffles

But what can you do with a cheese-filled waffle? I decided they were perfect for a Brazilian take on Eggs Benedict, in place of the traditional English muffin halves. With a bit of thin-sliced ham, some poached eggs, and some Hollandaise courtesy of Trader Joe’s (I could make it myself, of course, but who feels like making a finicky sauce when you’ve just worked 9 hours and gone grocery shopping–not I!), and a broiled banana on the side, I present to you:

Eggs Benecio!

Eggs Benecio!

This was so incredibly good. I do need to work on my egg poaching–I’m a bit out of practice–but otherwise it went off without a hitch. In fact, we stopped by the outlet mall on our way back home from the most recent convention and I was very tempted to pick up some Poach Pods (affiliate link) from the kitchen store. But where’s the challenge in that?

Wonder what next month’s challenge will be, and if it will be another recipe of my dreams!

Daring Bakers: Hazelnut Banana Nougat


The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.


My house smells so amazing right now!

You’re just going to have to take my word on that, though, since they have yet to invent smell-er-net or whatever. But seriously, it’s like toasted marshmallows (the good kind) without the bonfire smoke thanks to the various sugary components of this month’s confectionery challenge.

It’s been my experience, making candy in the south, that our biggest challenge is humidity and there’s something like a handful of clear, bright days where everything will work if you hold your mouth right. The rest of the year? Well, I remember making these sugar-dipped pear slices back at the Plantation as a garnish for Pear Clafoutis during the first few weeks there. It was, of course, summer in south Georgia and humid as all get out, and I had to store the slices in a plastic container with some powdered dehumidifying agent to try and keep them from going limp before the next dinner service.

I’ve made divinity at Christmas that I had to store in the freezer because it was the only way it would stay semi-solid. Pralines have crystallized in front of our very eyes. And more of the same. So it was with a tiny bit of trepidation that I put together the ingredients for the chocolate nougat, hoping I wouldn’t end up with a weepy, goopy mess.

I needn’t have worried. At least about it not setting.


Thanks to a random cold snap last night, we had pretty much perfect candy-making weather. And as I watched the sweet meringue whip around my stand mixer, letting it mix the 3-5 minutes to cool off a bit before adding the chocolate and other mix-ins, something strange happened. One moment it was silky smooth and belching steam like a locomotive, the next it developed that whipped look of the inside of a 3 Musketeers bar, and then–in the blink of an eye–turned to something much more choppy. Adding the chocolate didn’t smooth it out (maybe it would have, had I melted it, but that’s hindsight talking). Since the nuts and dried fruit originally called for in the recipe were either High-FODMAP or not Todd’s favorite, I used toasted hazelnuts and banana chips–sort of like Chunky Monkey meets 3 Musketeers.


Unfortunately, it stayed pretty crumbly. I managed to get a few decent-sized pieces for a picture but instead of neat little bricks they’re more like field stones, so the majority got put into an airtight jar. Despite its rugged appearance, it melts nice and smooth on the tongue, so it’s not crystallized or anything like that. I tried adding a little water to a bit of it, but that just melted it, so we’ll leave it crumbly.


Besides, this way it makes an amazing ice cream topping!

Daring Bakers: Beautiful Breads


Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste?

Fluted Cinnamon Twist

Fluted Cinnamon Twist

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but thank goodness our taste buds are blind as my “beautiful bread” wasn’t quite sure of its designation.

This month we were given the option of a couple different breads to choose from, mainly focusing on the technique of cutting and folding the sheets of dough layered with sweet (or savory) fillings to make pretty platefuls. Of course I substituted a gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose the recipe called for, curious to see how this recipe would fare compared to yeast doughs I’ve tried so far.

The basic assembly went surprisingly well....

The basic assembly went surprisingly well….

I was quite surprised at how malleable the risen dough was, as each quarter easily rolled out on a sheet of wax paper into a circle about an eighth of an inch thick. They also released from their respective sheets fairly well after each was buttered, sugared, and cinnamoned, and I thought I was doing so well, even to neatening up their edges a bit before proceeding.

It was just the twisting technique that didn't go quite as planned. More trials will be needed (aw, shucks!)

It was just the twisting technique that didn’t go quite as planned. More trials will be needed (aw, shucks!)

That’s when things got a little dicey. I’m not sure if I used too much cinnamon-sugar, separating the layers too much, or if the dough was still not malleable enough (even with the help of the xanthum gum), but my layers wanted to break rather than tuck and roll, so I sorta kluged it together the best I could, exposing the folds as was the point and giving them a milk bath before placing it into a very hot oven.

The layers do add quite a bit of visual interest, though.

The layers do add quite a bit of visual interest, though.

After 20 minutes and two different temperatures, the cinnamon bread came out of the oven golden brown, but not so much magically transformed–I suppose it’s not my turn for a miracle this month! A drizzle of a coconut oil-based icing (the suggested sweetened condensed milk is a lactose-bomb) and we were ready for the final test: the taste?

Breakfast or dessert, your choice!

Breakfast or dessert, your choice!

It tasted delicious! I went for the optional cardamom in the dough and it pairs nicely with the cinnamon filling. Even though the more demanding fold didn’t work this time (oh, I will prevail, eventually), I think this dough worked well enough that it might be this year’s King Cake dough for Fat Tuesday. Paired with a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea, this is not a bad way to start (or end!) a day.

Daring Bakers: Schichttorte or “Tree Cake”


Another month, another challenge courtesy of the Daring Bakers!

The January 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Francijn of “Koken in de Brouwerij“. She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).

Chocolate-Almond Schichttorte

Chocolate-Almond Schichttorte

The cake itself is a sponge cake and the technique in play is the multiple, thin layers baked one on top of the other, creating striations in the finished cake as each layer is allowed to brown. The sample recipe we were given used crumbled marzipan, but since we don’t really do a lot of nuts in our home, I substituted light brown sugar with a bit of almond extract for that line, and (of course) used my usual Low-FODMAP baking blend for the little bit of flour called for in the recipe (again, being a sponge-cake, most of the structure is coming from the whipped egg whites, not the gluten in wheat flour).

Before folding in the egg yolk mixture, it helps to temper them with a small amount of the whipped whites. This way you only have to "sacrifice" some of the loft, not all of it.

Before folding in the egg yolk mixture, it helps to temper them with a small amount of the whipped whites. This way you only have to “sacrifice” some of the loft, not all of it.

The procedure called for spreading 1/10th to 1/12th of the batter per layer so I tried to figure out what exactly that would be, measurement-wise. Since I had right around 8 cups of egg whites after beating to stiff peaks, and the butter and yolk mixture came to approximately 2 cups, I figured with the inevitable loss of air folding them together would bring, I’d still end up around the 8-cup mark, so 2/3 cup per layer should get me to the 10-12 layer mark, right?

Neatening up the edges makes for a better presentation overall (not to mention easy snacking of the trimmings; for quality control, of course!)

Neatening up the edges makes for a better presentation overall (not to mention easy snacking of the trimmings; for quality control, of course!)

Not so much. I ended up with 6 layers (and I could stand to practice keeping them even) and instead of the 4 minutes each layer was expected to take to bake at 450 degrees F, they took 8 minutes each. At first I thought maybe they’d start cooking quicker once the first few layers were in place–after all, that insulated surface should speed things  up, right? By the end of the third layer, though, I realized we were just going to stick out the 8-minute shifts so adjusted my timer accordingly.

I was happy to find a use for my unset Champagne Jelly--it worked very well with the combination of almond and chocolate.

I was happy to find a use for my unset Champagne Jelly–it worked very well with the combination of almond and chocolate.

Once a bit cool, it was time to glaze the cake. The sample recipe called for apricot preserves, heated, sieved, and mixed with a bit of orange liqueur, but I had a better idea. In part because apricots are High-FODMAP and in part because I had 12 mini-jars of Champagne jelly sitting around that never fully set (making them Champagne sauce, instead), I popped open on of those jars and skipped the heating, sieving, and mixing and just brushed it straight on. (But just to be safe I dunked one of the trimmed sides into the sauce to make sure the two components would mesh well–they definitely did!)

Once the glaze was on, so was the waiting--good thing I'd planned for overnight for the coating to set!

Once the glaze was on, so was the waiting–good thing I’d planned for overnight for the coating to set!

The final step was to mix up a chocolate coating from melted bittersweet chocolate chips and a bit of coconut oil and pour/spread it on. And then it got to sit for a night, as the recipe assured us that it was better if given a day to rest.

The moment of truth: would the layers look right and how would it all taste?!

The moment of truth: would the layers look right and how would it all taste?

Before our gaming group arrived, I divided the small cake into 12 thin bars and set them out prettily. When it’s cut, it looks a lot like the 12-layer cakes you see at bake sales (at least here in the south) but without frosting between each this layer. The strata give it the appearance of wood grain, which is where the idea of “tree cake” comes from–the original Baumkuchen were cooked in successive layers on a spit, creating concentric rings. I don’t have one to try it on, but I wonder if a counter-top rotisserie grill would do the trick in that instance?!

The process was a little tedious by the end–being tied to the oven for over an hour got a little old after the first few layers, but I did read through a couple magazines that had been piling up, so it wasn’t a total loss of time. Some of the participants made their schichttortes using the broiler to quick-cook mini-layers in cupcake pans–I think I’d have to employ a piping bag to make that slightly more manageable, as well as adding a filling layer somewhere in the middle. Still, it was fun to try (which is the whole point) and certainly didn’t go to waste on our guests.

Perhaps the most surprising thing was the richness of the cooked cake–sponge cakes can be very dry and this one definitely doesn’t fit the bill. It was very moist, my almond extract & brown sugar substitution seemed to do the trick, and the bottom layer cooked into a sturdy crust but didn’t burn (thankfully). And even though the cake was small to start with, a twelfth was more than enough for a serving.

Daring Bakers: Canadian Whoopie Pies


The December Daring Bakers’ Challenge had us all cheering – the lovely and talented Bourbonnatrix of Bourbonnatrix Bakes was our hostess and challenged us to make fun, delicious and creative whoopie pies! Delicious little cake-like cookies sandwiching luscious filling in any flavors we chose… What else is there to say but “Whoopie!”


This month’s challenge was perfect for answering the question of what to make for holiday desserts. For some reason I never got onto the whoopie pie bandwangon so I was glad to give these a try and see what my family thought. Since we were encouraged to play around with the flavor combination of cake and filling, I took my inspiration from a Secret Santa gift I received right as the challenge for the month was announced.

My Santa was from Canada, and she sent me (among other things) a can of Tim Horton’s English Toffee Cappuccino mix. As I was reading the sample recipe for chocolate whoopie pies I saw espresso powder as an ingredient and thought, hey, why not use the cappuccino mix instead? I also used the mix for half of the cocoa called for (only half as I didn’t want to overpower the pies for the non-coffee fans at dinner) and the end result was a nice mocha toffee coffee flavor that even Todd enjoyed.

For the filling I went with the usual marshmallow-cream filling, but I didn’t really want to use the standard vegetable shortening it called for, so I subbed coconut oil figuring it had the same texture with a much more pleasant flavor, too. On top of that, I added a generous pour of maple syrup to make it maple-marshmallow filling, in honor of the Canadian theme of the whoopie pies. Even if I never make whoopie pies again, the maple-marshmallow filling may be making future appearances in our home–it was just that tasty.

They made for very rich desserts, so some opted to split a pie among them so they could also sample some of the other desserts, too. Knowing that, I almost wish I’d made the mini-pies. Either mini or full-sized, I can see my little brother requesting these again!

Gluten-Free Toffee Coffee Whoopie Pies with Maple Marshmallow Creme Filling
Adapted from : King Arthur Flour
Servings: 8 large or 16 small whoopie pies


For the Whoopie Pies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon Tim Horton’s English Toffee Cappuccino Mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
1/4 cup Tim Horton’s English Toffee Cappuccino Mix
2 1/3 cups Gluten-Free Flour Blend
3/4 tsp xanthum gum
1 cup milk


1) Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

2) In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, cappuccino mix, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla till smooth. Add the egg, again beating till smooth.

3) Add the cocoa and remaining cappuccino mix, stirring to combine.

4) Add the flour to the batter alternately with the milk, beating till smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat again briefly to soften and combine any chunky scrapings.

5) Drop the dough by the 1/4-cupful onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving plenty of room between the cakes; they’ll spread. A muffin scoop works well here.

6) Bake the cakes in a preheated moderate oven for 15 to 16 minutes, till they’re set and firm to the touch. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pans. While still lukewarm, use a spatula to separate them from the pan or parchment; then allow to cool completely.

For the Maple Marshmallow Creme Filling

1 cup coconut oil
1 cup confectioners’ sugar or glazing sugar
1-1/3 cups Marshmallow Fluff or marshmallow creme
2 Tbsp maple syrup (or more, to taste)


1) (To make the filling:) Beat together the shortening, confectioners’ sugar, and marshmallow until well combined.

2) Add the maple syrup, and beat until smooth. If the filling is too thin, add confectioners’ sugar until desired consistency is reached.


Pipe or spread a generous helping of filling onto the flat side of one pie and top with another.