Daring Baker December Challenge

Gingerbread House

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.


As I only wanted to build a small house, I prepared a half batch of the recipe given below, adding a bit more water to help it coming together. Keeping the dough in the fridge overnight really improved the aroma. I could smell cinnamon right after opening the fridge door. The dough was very firm and difficult to roll out, even after leaving him on the counter for half an hour to come to room temperature. The baked gingerbread tasted very nice. I used two beer mats as templates for the sides of the house and marked them off on the dough with a pizza wheel. The hobbit hole-like door was cut out with an apple corer. To build the house I mixed confectionars' sugar with just a little bit of water to glue the individual pieces together.

Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)

Source: The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.


Viennese Strie[s/z/tz]el

Viennese Striesel

In the hectic days leading up to Christmas the Bread Baking Babes gathered in the kitchen of Katie of Thyme for Cooking for some mulled wine and to bake Viennese Striesel (which can be spelled in a number of ways).

This bread has a nicely fluffy crumb and the mace (which I used for the first time) gives it an interesting flavour. Very suitable for Christmas season. It also had quite a bit of oven spring which resulted in lopsided braids. The actual braiding itself went smoothly after I looked up the technique in the Bread Baker's Apprentice.

I'm sending these to Susan's YeastSpotting.

Viennese Striesel

Source: Breads of Many Lands by Clara Gebhard Snyder

Basic Sweet Dough

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm water
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbs shortening, melted (I used butter)
2 3/4 - 3 cups flour
1 egg

Dissolve yeast in warm water
Scald milk. Put milk, sugar, shortening, salt in bowl of mixer. Cool until just warm. Stir in 1 cup of flour. Mix in dissolved yeast.
Whisk egg and add to dough. Add remaining flour and knead until smooth and satiny.

Vennese Striesel

1 recipe Basic Sweet Dough
1/4 cup seedless raisins
1/4 cup candied cherries, chopped *
2 tbs candied orange peel, chopped **
1/8 tsp mace
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar *
1 tbs milk *
almonds or walnuts for sprinkling *

* Omitted.
** Used 100g candied orange peel.

Add fruit and mace to basic dough before the last cup of flour. Mix in well. Add remaining flour and finish kneading until smooth.
Shape into a ball, place in lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 2 1/4 hours.

Punch down. Divide into 9 pieces, shape each into a ball and let rest 5 minutes.

Roll each piece into a rope about 15" long. Lay 4 strands on a lightly greased baking sheet, overlapping at the center. Braid from the center toward each end. With the side of your hand make a trench down the center. Now braid 3 strands, also from the center to each end, and place in the 'trench'. Twist the 2 remaining strands loosely together and place on top, bringing the ends over the end of the loaf and tucking in.
Cover loosely and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Bake, 350F (175C) for 40 - 45 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
Mix milk and sugar. When bread is cool, drizzle frosting over the top. Sprinkle with nuts.


Marzipan Potatoes

Marzipan Potatoes

Sometimes, things which seem pretty difficult turn out to be quite simple. I had always assumed that marzipan is produced in an elaborate, technical process which cannot be reproduced at home. But in fact, making marzipan is dead easy. (It had to be since marzipan has been around since the Middle Ages with no food industry in sight.)
The main criterion for judging the quality of marzipan is the ratio of almond to sugar. It can range from 90 % almonds / 10 % sugar (highest quality) to 50% each (lowest quality). The former making sense from a production point of view (If you like your almonds so much, that you won't tolerate a bit of sugar, why not eat them straight as they are?), the latter being required by German food regulations.

To make the marzipan potatoes, proceed as described below, then make little marzipan spheres (first I tried to do this with two teaspoons, but just using your hands works best) and roll them in a saucer with some cocoa powder.
According to the source post, you can roll out the marzipan between two sheets of cling film and use it for drapping over a cake.

Marzipan Potatoes

Source: Marzipan - ganz einfach selbstgemacht by Barbaras Spielwiese


200 g almonds
50 g confectioners' sugar
1-2 drops rose oil *

* Used one scant tablespoon of rosewater.


Blanche the almonds for 2-3 minutes. Drain and dry the almonds on a dishcloth. Peel the almonds by squeezing each between your thumb and index finger.

In a food processor or stand mixer, add the sugar and blitz briefly. Then add the almonds and blitz thoroughly. Add rose oil and blitz into a silky paste. *

* I made a full batch as described and the top half of the marzipan layer stayed a bit crumbly but would hold together after pressing together between my hands. Next time I will do it in two batches.


- Instead of almonds, use walnuts or hazelnuts or a mixture from almonds and pistachios.
- Instead of confectioners' sugar, use honey.
- Instead of rose oil, use rose water or amaretto or vanilla oil or lavender oil. Or cardamon or cinnamon.


Apple-Cinnamon Cake

Saturday Afternoon. Cake. Want. Now.

Apple-Cinnamon Cake
Tadahh. ;)

This recipe is very quick to prepare and yields a moist and tasty cake. It may look like the cake didn't rise very much, but that's only because I used a 30 cm cake pan and didn't bother to scale the recipe.

Apple-Cinnamon Cake

Source: Sophies Cakes by Sophie Dudemaine

For a 26 cm cake pan.


3 eggs
170 g sugar *
150 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
dash of cinnamon
150 g semi-salted butter (max. 3% salt) **
1 Golden Delicious apple. ***

* Used 150 g sugar, as I used a quite sweet Fuji apple.
** Used unsalted butter.
*** Used one Fuji apple.


- Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C for convection oven).
- Whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy. Add baking powder and sifted flower. Mix in cinnamon and melted butter.
- Peel the apple, grate into the dough and fold in.
- Transfer to a buttered and floured cake pan and bake for 40 minutes.


Tiny Bread

Tiny Bread

Somehow, I'm not (yet?) in the mood for baking cookies this year. Instead I made a small batch of these tiny breads to nibble on. They are nice and tasty, and worth the time it takes to carefully crack the walnuts by hand. I didn't bother to butter the shells on the inside. Just take off the top of the bread first, then after cracking the shell, the individual shards can easily be peeled off. Instead of using a bed of salt, I put each shell in a small praline paper mold which worked kinda okay but not really as well as hoped for.

It's been a while since my last submission, so without further delay I'm sending these to Susan's YeastSpotting.

Tiny Bread

Source: Brotgeschichten aus Hohenlohe


125 g flour
1/2 tsp salt
dash of sugar
5 g fresh yeast
0.1 l water
butter for greasing the shells
20 walnut shells
salt to put on sheet pan
finely ground walnuts/sesame seeds/poppy seeds for sprinkling


Mix salt and flour. Mix sugar, yeast and half the water. Add to the flour and knead until an elastic dough is reached. Let rest, knead again. Let rest. Knead again. Clean and butter the nut shells. Divide the dough in 20 portions, transfer each into a shell and let rest for about 20 minutes until the dough is starting to rise. Cover a sheet pan with salt and nestle the shells into the salt so they won't tip over. Brush the dough with water and add the sprinkles of your choice. Transfer the sheet pan to a preheated oven (220°C) and bake for about 15 minutes.


Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Feta

Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Feta

There's not much time for blogging in the whirlwind of pre-Christmas activities. So here's just a quick seasonal, vegetarian dish which could easily be improved with a little bacon. All the measurements given below are only approximate. Feel free to adjust as needed. :)

Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Feta

Source: Pasta meets Rosenkohl at Kochfrosch
Original Source: Brussel Sprouts with Feta and Pine Nuts at Anne's Food

Ingredients (for one generous portion)

125 g pasta
90 g feta
2 cups brussel sprouts
1 red onion
3 Tbsp pine nuts


Trim away the woody end and the outer leaves pf the sprouts and cut in half. (Next time I will quarter those, for easier eating with a spoon.) Blanche for about five minutes in salt water. Drain and rinse under the tap. Roast the pine nuts in a dry pan until they take on some colour and set aside. Dice the feta, cut onion rings.

Set up the water for the pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a pan and fry the sprouts until they turn brown on their sides. Add the onion and continue to fry on low-medium heat. Just before you drain the pasta, add the feta and pine nuts. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add pasta into the pan and fold in.