Raw Flourless Chocolate Cake & Homemade Piña Colada Sorbet – Daring Bakers Challenge Time!


The instant I saw “Flourless Chocolate Cake” on this month’s challenge post, I knew I wanted to make this challenge Raw – as in raw cuisine. There have been other challenges where I could have really stretched things to allow for a raw interpretation, un peu tiré par les cheveux, as we would say in French, but this challenge just lent itself naturally to a vegan/raw possibility.


I also knew right away which recipe I’d be using : the Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe from Jennifer Cornbleet’s Raw Food Made Easy. If you’ve ever been curious about raw cuisine, but haven’t been sure where to start, I strongly recommend this book. Unlike many popular raw foods chefs, Cornbleet offers a comprehensive collection of recipes requiring only the most basic kitchen equipment, and she forgoes the seemingly requisite list of exotic ingredients so many other raw foods chefs refer to as kitchen staples.


This is a great recipe and I’ve blogged about it before, but I haven’t made it for a while. In fact, I’ve all but stopped concentrating on raw cuisine since my accident back in November. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m still eating crudités, raw fruit, salads, etc., but my weekly Raw Thursdays (and Tuesdays) stopped when I broke my foot. Partially because Monsieur Fish was doing most of the food prep and raw  doesn’t interest him, and also because food prices have made buying nuts and dried fruits nearly impossible for us. I’m hoping to prepare more raw meals in the near future, and I thought February’s challenge would be a wonderful opportunity to showcase a raw dessert, especially for those of you who maybe haven’t tried one yet.


This is the first time I used cocoa powder rather than carob for this cake, and I used a generous half a cup rather than a third. It came out very fudgy and tasting like a tourte or as my husband said “cake batter, but in a good way”. A friend of mine has a small farm in a near-by village, and she recently gifted me two big bags of organic walnuts. What a treat – perfect for this recipe!


We were also supposed to make an ice cream component, and I opted to take a spin on Mark Bittman’s sorbet formula. I’ve used this basic recipe to make sorbets before – it’s really easy, fast and delicious. I wanted to try to keep it “white”ish because we were supposed to make vanilla ice cream, so I decided to honor the spirit of the challenge by maintaining the colour, though I did take a few liberties with the flavour. This could easily be made 100% raw by omitting the vanilla or by using some scraped vanilla beans. Humm, vanilla.

Piña Colada Sorbet

  • 2 cups of frozen chopped pineapple
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla

I put the pineapple chunks in one layer and put them in the deep freezer. I also put the coconut milk in the deep freezer – I poured it into a shallow plastic container – it was easy to break up and scoop out.

Once everything is well frozen, at least 8 hours, just pop it in your food processor. I processed the pineapple chunks first, then added the coconut milk and vanilla. When it’s nice and blended, you can either quickly eat (it’s very melty), or put it back in the deep freezer for a few hours, then re-process just before serving. I like this method because it’s nice and scoop-able.

The paring of this flourless cake and the piña colada sorbet was just heavenly! When I was a kid, I would always try to let the ice cream melt a little and mix it up with my cake. I was that kind of kid. That’s exactly what this reminded me of – so delicious!

I’d like to thank Wendy of A Charmed Life and Dharm of Dad – Baker & Chef for hosting our challenge. Do be sure to check out all the other Daring Bakers creations!

Here’s the fine print : The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Tuile We Meet Again… Vegan Tuile Cookies! Tuiles Végétaliennes! It’s the Daring Bakers January Challenge


What a fun and easy challenge! I loved it! The Daring Bakers were baking Tuile (pronounced tweel) this month and it was pure joy!

I’d bookmarked Vegan Yum Yum‘s recipe for Tuile Cookies back in April, but never got around to making them. What a sillyfish I was! These cookies came out perfectly : light, crisp with a hint of chew…I served these with a luscious maple-lemon custard (and of course with sprinkles, because that’s Guppy’s signature touch) and they were just heavenly. Vegan Yum Yum’s recipe is a slam-dunk, her directions clear and her style impeccable, so really I cannot take much credit for this culinary success – it’s thanks to Vegan Yum Yum!

Here’s what I did (per VYY’s instructions ) :


I traced three circles in some cardboard. She’d suggested not baking more than three at a time because they cool quickly and shaping would be tricky. I followed her advice and had no problems.


Using my lil’ knife and self-healing mat I cut out the circles.


I put a few dollops of dough in each circle, then using a butter knife I leveled things out.


For a more traditional shape, I used my rolling pin. But the their traditional shape doesn’t lend itself well to filling, so I decided to use espresso cups.


Right out of the oven I would slide them onto the outside of the cup, then one by one I would pinch them into a taco shape and slide them into the cup. They retained their shape as they cooled.


Here’s a cooled tuile just waiting for some maple-lemon custard…


Notice how the custard opened the taco just a smidge? The key is not to fill them before you’ll be eating them as the filling can lead to soggy tuiles…


Notice how the ones on the left are all perdy and the one on the right is creeping open…it was filled about a half hour before the picture was taken. So, be sure and wait until just before serving to fill your tuiles!

This month’s challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux. Thank you both for a great challenge!

Be sure and visit the Daring Baker’s Blogroll to see all the tuile-y goodness!

Une bûche de noël végétalienne! A vegan yule log! Happy Holidays Daring Bakers Style


Just a quickie post to check in for the Daring Bakers Challenge – I’ll be back to regular posting soon, but I’ve been spending an “unplugged” vacation with my family, meaning the Internet has been also on vacation!

Here in France, the bûche de noël is a must during the holidays. They are often served for dessert or even with tea or coffee in the afternoon. While some people do make or purchase a “cake” or bûche patissière from their local patisserie, far more common are the bûche glacée, or frozen bûche which resembles what is called an ice cream cake in North America. When I read the following on the DBers forums, I was delighted :

This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Why was I so excited? Because each year at noël I politely decline the many slices of bûche offered to me as they are constructed with animal products. I prefer my holidays to be cruelty free, thank you very much. This month’s was the little nudge that I needed to make a vegan yule log, and it was so easy, I’ll be able to add this to my holiday recipe repertoire!


Bûche just out of the freezer, waiting for icing…

Such a delicious challenge! The biggest compliment came from Monsieur Fish, a self-proclaimed bûche expert having enjoyed more than his fair share of yule logs over the course of his 33 years. He boasted proudly to our dinner guests that I’d made the yule log from scratch “Elle l’a fait maison!” then waited until they all gushed about how delicious it was before he announced that it was vegan – and told them it was the best bûche he’d ever had!

The most difficult part of this challenge for me was the photography! Of course I opted to serve it for a dessert after diner, so the light in my kitchen was terrible, but here you go :

frostedbucheBeautiful, frosted bûche with starry sprinkles courtesy of Guppy

sliceMelting, but oh so yummy!

This was one of the most fun and easy challenges I’ve had the pleasure of participating in! I don’t know if an omni version would have been as easy to put together, but the vegan version was as easy as (eating) pie! Here’s what I did :

  • Genoise – recipe for vanilla cupcakes from The Joy of Vegan Baking
  • Chocolate Mousse – Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World
  • Ganache – Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World
  • Crème Brulée – recipe for Pastry Cream from The Joy of Vegan Baking
  • Chocolate Frosting – Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World
  • praliné layer – I used the hazelnut praline technique from our July challenge

A huge merci to our hosts for a lovely challenge!

Come For The Daring Bakers Challenge, Stay For Diann’s Soup!


This is my first skipped challenge. I hated to do it, but I decided to sit this one out, literally, because my broken foot has really slowed me down this month. I’ve been perfecting my “balance on one leg & stir” technique to make good on my prior baking commitments (ie: recipe testing for not-yet-published cookbooks for really groovy blogging friends), but trimming off some of the “extras” was deemed necessary.

You can bet your boots that I’ll be visiting my Daring Baker buddies to look at their lovely Caramel Cakes, (a recipe by Shauna Fish Lydon), and I bid you visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll to do the same! I would also like to thank this month’s trio of hosts: Jenny of Foray Into Food, Alex of Brownie and Blondie and Dolores of Culinary Curiosity. Choosing a challenge recipe, and spending time of the forums answering questions and double checking recipe details is a chunk of work and even if I didn’t make the cake this month, I will give it a shot at some point, so thanks for your hard work!

But wait, don’t run off just yet! I have something delicious to share with you!

Fit vegan super-mum and nurse Diann posted a recipe for Samosa Soup in the wake of a literal samosa take-over of the vegan blogosphere, and I decided that indeed, resistance *was* futile, and caved to the goodness. As many of you know, it’s always a treat when Diann posts a recipe, and I set to peeling and washing the veg, etc., humming as I went, happy to have a delicious and rather easy meal to prepare, Guppy and Monsieur Fish were listening to the new Cure album playing in the living room…life was good.

dsc01463Samosa Stuffing Goodness with Baked Chickpea Cutlets

And then, as I was dumping the veg into my stock pot, it hit me that there really was an awful lot of potatoes and carrots and cauliflower and what the heck did I do?…?…? I again consulted the recipe, which was clear and easy to follow, and it hit me like a sack of potatoes, I was following the recipe, but rather than using pounds I was using kilos! So rather than 1lb of cauliflower, I had over 2, and same for the carrots, the potatoes, etc. Silly, silly Shellyfish. No matter, a bit of tweaking with the spices, some additional coconut milk and viola! It wasn’t so much soup anymore, more like Samosa Stuffing sans crust. It was fantastical (yes, my new favourite word) and we had it served over rice, along side the “Chickpea Cutlets” from VCON, and with crispy tofu. A delicious mistake which really helped me out because we had leftovers for a few days, which meant I didn’t need to prepare anything to eat!

Now go make yourself some of that soup! Measure carefully out there, kids!

Pizza Party Daring Bakers Style! Vegan MoFo Day 30

Because I kept putting off the October challenge, I ended up re-living a Grad School nightmare of waiting until the deadline, and then because life gets in the way, missing it! I was really excited about this challenge, making pizza! We were to use the pizza dough recipe from one of my favorite books, Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Our mission : use the “Pizza Napoletana” recipe to make our pizzas, and I was thrilled because while I’ve made my own pizza before, I still hadn’t tried that one from the book. I have loved everything I’ve made from Apprentice, and this delicious dough is no exception!

But back to the challenge… well, life just kept getting in the way of the Shellyfish and her pizza-filled future. This type of meal is definitely one reserved for a weekend evening so that my little family can have fun and gather around a table set with various toppings. The thing is, our weekends just kept getting all filled up…which is lovely, but made pizza planning difficult. Then, this past weekend, catastropha! We were hit with an icky stomach-flu thing that made all food rather icky looking. Luckily I had banked a few blog entries for the Vegan Month of Food, or Vegan MoFo as it’s better known with the cool kids, because I couldn’t have written about food (or looked at food which is why I have been a bit behind in commenting on your blogs – sorry!). But now the Fish Family is back in action and you’d better watch out because tonight we were pizza making fools!

Part of this month’s challenge was to be photographed tossing our dough. Monsieur Fish was getting very frustrated because the light was horrible in our kitchen at 8 p.m. and it was impossible to take my picture without it being too blurry, but I told him blurry was a good thing. I’m shy.

I just made the most amazing catch ever!

We love making pizza at home. This crust was the easiest crust I’ve ever made, and it was also mighty delicious. Crazy delicious. I have a tiny little stove which would probably be illigal in North America – I mean, the thing looks like someone built in out in their garage or something. There is only enough room for one cookie sheet and I can’t get it hot enough for “a real pizza crust”, so I improvise. I just put the sheet on the bottom of the stove, which has indeed warped the odd cookie sheet, but works really well.

Here’s a very blurry, badly lit photo of a most delicious pizza :

Roasted red pepper strips, sautéed mushrooms and toasted pine nuts. Woot!

I used my Great Grandmother Antonia’s Garlic Gravy for the base, which always works so well for pizza sauce because it’s wonderfully flavourful without being too thick- which is key to keeping your crust nice and crispy. Pizza night is the most fun kind of night – especially when you’re actually hugry for solid foods! Sorry for the poopy pictures, but I wanted to get this challenge up as soon as possible, and we were way more into eating and making pizzas than taking picutres!

The lovely and talented Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums hosted this month’s challenge. I’d like to say a special thank you to her as she ended up hosting solo. Due to the sudden, tragic death of her co-hostess Sher of What did you eat? she was on her own. I didn’t know Sher who died of a heart-attack this past summer, but I know she was a well-loved food blogger, and a wife, mother and daughter. I was fortunate enough to be on vacation in the U.S. with my own mother, a multiple heart-attack survivor, when I learned of Sher’s passing and it reminded me yet again of how precious “family time” really is. I think that this challenge, which was a a fun family meal that had the three of us, Guppy and M. Fish in stiches (the 3-year-old tosses pizza dough like nobody’s business!) is a beautiful testimony to the memory of Sher and her love of life.

If you haven’t already made the rounds on the Daring Bakers Blogroll, get moving people!

Daring Bakers Challenge – Coming in a few hours…

Ok, I have no excuse – three weekends in a row I’ve said I was making pizza and then various things would happen – invites to eat with friends and family, a family epidemic of the gastro-intestinal flu…and I told myself I would do it this weekend…until I realized that the posting date was today!! The dough is in the fridge…we’ll be eating pizza tomorrow…see you then!

Hey baby, do you dip?

I totally forgot that it’s Vegan Mofo!! I guess I better get with the programme, dudes!

I’m thrilled by the overwhelming success of September’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Lavash Crackers & Vegan/GF Dips & Spreads. Co-hosting with Natalie of Gluten A Go Go was really such a thrill, for so many reasons, and I love the positive reaction from my fellow Daring Bakers who threw caution (and pre-conceived notions) to the wind and embraced GF & Vegan cuisine!

That being said, I was negligent in my Challenge post because I didn’t share my dip recipes (bad Shellyfish). Because so many of you kids have asked…here are the recipes I used for my dips this month. Nothing ground breaking, but really yummy!

Tahitian Almond Dipping Sauce

by Robert Yarosh and Lisa Soto, from The Complete Book of Raw Food, Lori Baird, Editor.
  • 1 1/2 cups almond butter
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (you may want to add more juice or add some water, depending on the consistency you like).
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup

Blend all ingredients together until smooth (in your blender or food processor). Serve with your favorite crackers and fresh fruit.


This is my one-and-only salsa recipe. It’s a modified version of the recipe my best friend’s husband Brian have me after I left the baked pueblo for France. He wanted to be sure I had some of the desert with me…

  • 4 or 5 tomatoes (or more, just up the other ingredients)
  • 3 or 4 green onions, tails & têtes (heads) diced up
  • 1 or 2 (or 7) hot peppers – whatever is local for you. I used jalapeños in the desert.
  • the juice of 3 limes
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • green chilies if available in your area, about 1/4 cup
  • salt

Put everything in a large, air-tight bowl and refrigerate at least 8 hours or over night

Smokey Black Bean Dip

This was something I came up with on accident when making black beans way back. We love it!

  • 2 cups dry black beans
  • reserved cooking water
  • 1 tbsp cumin (powder)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 (or more) teaspoons Cayenne
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (I can’t get it here, but this tastes fine without it!)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt to taste

Cook your beans (I always do the quick soak method – put them in about 1 litre or more of cold water, bring to boil for 15 minutes, then drain & rinse, then back in the pot with another 1 1/2 litres of water, simmer until cooked, checking to make sure you don’t need to add more water.

When cooked, put everything save the reserved cooking water in the food processor and just add about a 1/4 cup of water at first. Blend into a paste, and add water to achieve the consistency desired.

I’m so sorry this post is sans photos, but at least I got these recipes up for you! See you tomorrow for Raw Thursday!

I’m just crackers for the Inaugural “Alternative” Daring Bakers Challenge!

Don’t forget to leave a comment here to be entered into my little drawing for a felty-love pouch! You have until Oct. 1st!

This has been my most exciting Daring Bakers Challenge yet! Why, you ask? Because I got to be a “hostess-with-the-mostest!” (Have any of you seen Spinal Tap? Oh, wasted youth, how I miss thee…). Oh, and because we got to chose our recipe, I wasn’t confronted with subbing 27 eggs, because the recipe was VEGAN! Ha! It was also possible to do a Gluten Free variation, because darn it, we’re Alternative, and we’re worth it! :

When the gracious and talented Natalie of Gluten A Go Go asked me to co-host with her I was wonderfully surprised and terribly flattered. I’m a baby Daring Baker, and my inaugural Challenge, veganizing Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, was my first real brush with a baking disaster (luckily my second attempt at Daringness was a success and my Tofu Cheesecake Pops rocked the casaba). It was during this second challenge that I “met” Natalie (during our Alternative Bake-Along) and started visiting her blog on a regular basis.

Working with Natalie on this project was pure joy! We were in sync from the very beginning, knowing we wanted to move away from the sticky-sweet challenges we’ve seen of late (though I love sweet, and I can’t wait for the next sugar-filled challenge!). There was also this bread vibe that passed between us, and from the beginning we moved towards baking bread or crackers, and Natalie suggested adding dips and spreads to the mix. We also knew that we wanted an easily convertible recipe so that our GF and Vegan Bakers wouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel!

Natalie mentioned Peter Reinhart, and I took advantage of my State-Side vacation to pick up his phenomenal (IMHO) book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which was, without exaggeration, life-changing for me! I couldn’t put it down, and fell deeper and deeper in love with the glossy photos of his venerable chef d’oeuvres. As a very new baker, I was reminded of my early ballet career and seeing the Bolshoi Ballet for the very first time – W-O-W! Once the two of us were armed with Apprentice, we were baking to beat the band : trying different recipes for their GF or Vegan-friendliness, trying to find the perfect fit between a clear, structured recipe, and the possibility to bake outside of the box and add one’s own creative stamp to the Challenge.

After baking many a bread, we decided on the Lavash Crackers (recipe at the end of this post), for their adaptability, their deliciousness, and their utility (everyone should make their own crackers at least once, right?). We sincerely hoped that because of the different toppings possibilities, the dough add-ins such as herbs or spices, and of course the multitude of GF and Vegan dips or spreads to accompany them with, that this challenge could truly be yours, so that it would be a pleasure to make as well as to eat!

I want to thank Natalie for allowing me this opportunity for culinary collaboration, something I’d never done before. I felt like I was in school again working on a project with a friend, and the many emails we shared over the summer months fine tuning our ideas were rich and entertaining. It’s thanks to my fellow Daring Baker that I discovered Reinhart and his fabulous book, and I’ve learned so many new things and become all the richer for it. Thanks also go out to our co-founders Lis and Yvonne, who gave us the green light for our idea, and who have made the blogosphere a much more tasty place to be! Thank you!

I’ve made these crackers five times since we decided on the recipe. I have made savory and sweet versions, once adding dried basil and rosemary to the savory dough and another time I added all spice and vanilla for a sweet version. I’ve rolled the dough thicker for a pita-like bread, and much thinner, more crackly crackers. I broke them apart to make shards, cut them into pita triangles, and used cookie cutters. I’m thrilled to have this recipe in my repertoire, and I hope you are, too!

You might be wondering why there are no pictures of my dips? Well, mostly because I just forgot to take them! I’m sorry, I was so concentrating on the cracker-aspect of the Challenge! I made hummus, homemade salsa, Thai Almond dip, Smokey Black Bean dip, and I don’t remember what else. I think because I make these things so often, they just didn’t seem very photo-worthy…?

I think what I most enjoyed (besides eating the crackers), was this Challenge (hopefully) helped dispel some of the clichés surrounding what “Vegan” means – often people have a rather reductionist vision of what we eat, and they think we dine on soy 3 times a day, and supplement with twigs and berries (ok, maybe not!), but my family doesn’t really eat much soy at all, and when we do, it’s usually in the form of tempeh (so less processed). Our diets consist of a vast variety of foods, mostly veggies, fruits, and grains…and desserts, too! So many of what are considered “comfort foods” in North America are vegan – chips & salsa, PB & J, and if you’re ever in France, stop by my place for a vegan apple pie – you’ll NEVER know the difference! There was a spirit of curiosity buzzing about the forums, and I was so proud to be a member of this Daring community where my fellow Bakers took the Challenge to heart and sincerely moved outside of their comfort zones (the way the Alternative Bakers do, too!).

Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

Here’s a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids…It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)…

The key to a crisp lavash,…is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.


4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to pre-cut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Daring Bakers Challenge – Faster Than A Vegan Éclair!

I LOVED this challenge!

Naked Éclair

Yep, the incredibly delicious Vegan Éclairs that were the August Daring Bakers Challenge disappeared “faster than lightening” or faster than an éclair, if you will. This month’s ever-so-lovely hosts Tony Tahhan and Meeta K of What’s For Lunch Honey? gave us a little French flavah by proposing Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé from Chocolate Desserts by Dorie Greenspan.

These little gems were so amazing…I can’t remember the last time I had an éclair, but if my memory is at all correct, they were right on! Mr. Fish who is an éclair expert, proclaimed that I should probably make another batch for him to taste to be sure of their authenticity… because the first batch just sort of disappeared! He loved them, Guppy loved them, and I loved them. They were light, flaky, and just perfect! I know I’ll be making these again…

I know, they look way more like profiteroles than éclairs, mais ça m’est égale! I don’t care! I wanted to make bite-sized éclairs, which explains their look. There had to be at least one chocolate component, either the glaze or the pastry cream or both. I’ve never been a big fan of chocolate pastry cream, so I opted for lemon custard instead. Rather than pipe in the scrumptious pastry cream, I sliced them in half to allow for generous helpings of cream, and made little éclair sandwiches. For the glaze I made a chocolate-lemon royal icing, and the lemon and chocolate really paired well together.

I would like to extend a huge thanks to Catherine of Food Snob for sharing the vegan éclair recipe she found – Merci Catherine! Tu es adorable! The recipe which follows is so fast and easy. I made the pastry cream and the glaze while the éclairs were in the oven and I think the entire challenge took me a mere hour and some change (with the “help” of my 3-year-old) which was a nice little break from the very elaborate challenges we’ve had of late (which I also like, but hey, quick & delicious is good, too, right?).

Don’t forget to check out the Daring Bakers Blog Roll to see all the éclair goodness out there!

Vegan Éclairs

1 batch custard or pastry cream (I used the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking).

1 batch chocolate glaze (I used the Royal Icing recipe also from TJOVB but added 3 tbsp of dutch processed cocoa powder)

Ingredients (use vegan versions):
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (or baking powder) – I used 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons margarine
equivalent of 4 eggs (2 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer whipped until stiff with 1/3 cup water)
1 cup soy milk


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare baking sheet–either parchment paper or a non-stick pan. Prepare egg-replacer. Stir together flour, vegan sugar, salt, cream of tartar. In a sauce pan (non-stick works well), bring the soymilk and margarine to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the flour all at once, and reduce heat to low. Stir constantly until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the pan and the spoon and is glossy and smooth. Working quickly, remove from heat and add the Ener-G Egg Replacer, about a third at a time, beating well after each addition until the dough is glossy, smooth, and pulls away from the pan.

Shape the puffs as desired–I made mini-puffs about a rounded teaspoon each. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 for another 10 minutes, then turn off oven and allow to cool, with door slightly cracked for another 20 minutes, then cool completely on wire racks before serving or filling.

An “Out-Of-The-Country” Daring Bakers July Challenge – *Vegan* Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

As most of you know I’m away from home for a smashing summer vacation in the U.S. visiting family. When the lovely and talented Chris of Mele Cotte, this month’s hostess-with-the-mostest, posted her chosen recipe, the Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from Great Cakes by Carol Walter, well, I hesitated. Not being in my own kitchen at home in France (which is the size of a typical American broom closet…but it’s my broom closet.) I wasn’t sure if I could pull this off. When you’re home you know what’s in your cupboard, what pans and supplies you have, and where it all is.

The other consideration I had was that my “loaner” kitchen was not at all vegan, and that meant having to stock up on cruelty-free staples, but I would have had to do that anyway since I was planning on spending the better part of my six-week stay here (the house, not the kitchen). I didn’t want to miss a challenge, so I decided I would figure this out and not explode my vacation budget.

While this recipe could seem a bit daunting initially, it’s really just composed of several mini-recipes : Filbert Genoise, Sugar Syrup, Praline Buttercream (comprised of Swiss Buttercream & Praline Paste), Apricot Glaze, and finally, the Ganache Glaze. The good news was that my sister sent over some homemade raspberry jam, so I used that for the glaze rather than apricot. The bad news was that there was but one “cake” pan to be found, a 9×12″ jobber that wouldn’t do for this challenge. I had already purchased some 4″ round mini-pans to bring back to France (after falling for the adorable ones Marika showed us) and that was the extent of my pan-purchasing-power, so I decided to make mini-cakes to keep me in the game.

I used the “Vanilla Cupcakes” recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking for the Genoise, subbing a half-cup of hazelnut meal for a half-cup of flour. This recipe worked like a charm and these little babies popped right out of their pans.

I knew I had too much batter for my five little pans (which explains why they look like muffins!) but I cut off the tops and made mini-cakes for our quatre heures or afternoon tea, served with some of that raspberry jam!

The next step was to make the Praline Buttercream, and it was by far my favourite part of the recipe, and the best part of the cake! It was very fun to make (see full instructions included with the NON-VEGAN recipe at bottom of post). A cinch to make, the Praline Paste is just a sort of caramelized sugar with chopped hazel nuts mixed in (knowing I didn’t have a food processor in loaner kitchen, I opted to chop them before making the paste). I was fascinated by just pouring sugar into a pan and watching (without touching) as it melted into molten caramelish goo. Once the right temperature achieved, the transformation is über-fast, and it’s easy to be taken by surprise!

I took these two pictures sequentially, it melted that fast! I also ended up with a nasty burn on my index finger (despite Chris warning this could happen…). Sort of like wax. Oh well, I got extra cake rations for my suffering :)!

After cooling, you’re to grind this delectable rubble into the Praline Paste, but since we are sans food processor here at the loaner kitchen, I just whipped it in the blender, which did leave a more crunchy paste, but it was lovely and added a little something to the cake (I used the Buttercream recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking).

I really ran into trouble when trying to make the Ganache, and was rather frustrated because I have loads of vegan ganache recipes at home, but not here. I used soy creamer, which I know from fellow vegan bloggers usually works well, but I just couldn’t get my ganache to thicken or harden up enough to spread on the cake. It was delicious, but thin as water, even after spending a long time in the fridge. It was in the high 90sF here, which didn’t help, but still. I ended up using the reserved buttercream which I was to use for decorating and added it to the ganache, which did indeed thicken it up. I still was determined to decorate these little cakes, though, so I made a batch of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting from TJOVB , but subbed hazelnut butter for the peanut butter. Holy Amazing Delicious! I intended to use this to embellish the cakes… but again, I don’t have anything to decorate with. I read on-line that using baggies or plastic bags could work well. This is a big, fat, horrible lie, just so you know! Each of my attempts were met with terrible failure as the seams split and the frosting oozed out. I decided to not fight the universe and just do what I could to finish up and dig in…

Cacao powder sprinkled on top & frosting bag explosion.

I tried to save the glopped decorating frosting by making a border around the bottom…

I don’t think I’ll ever make this one again, but I know that I’ll make the Praline Paste Buttercream, it’s just just that freaking good!! Amazing, really. The three little cakes disappeared in little over 24 hours, so that’s generally a rather positive sign!

Here’s the original recipe – again, NON-VEGAN – just to be clear…

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ – 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.