Kats’ Kitchen

Graham Crackers & Nanamio Bars — January’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge January 27, 2010

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

“Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia.  It’s pronounced Nah-nye-Moh.  These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate.  They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across the country.”

Lauren picked the Nanamio Bar in honor of the 2010 Olympics being held in Canada.  I can’t wait for the hours and hours of Olympic watching in February!  So much better than all the junk on tv these days, besides, of course, Blackhawks games!  

We had the option this month of completing one or both of these challenges (graham crackers & nanamio bars).  I decided to go for it and complete both, and successfully I did!  I think I left my graham crackers in the oven too long…I didn’t make gluten free because of the number of flours I would need, so I stuck with all-purpose.  The baking time asked for 25 minutes–which I think I stuck to, but when I make graham crackers again, I would take them out earlier, 20-maybe 18 minutes, even though my eyes and finger pricking may urge me to keep them in longer.  No matter what, the graham crackers were tasty–a bit too crunchy, but still good; the Nanamio Bars were rich and satisfying!  A small bar is all you need to fill a sweet tooth! 

If it isn’t understood yet, the point in making our own graham crackers were for the graham cracker crumbs that were called for in the bottom layer of the Nanamio Bar.

Graham Cracker

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.

Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.

Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Yield: 10 large crackers

Nanaimo BarsFor Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer

1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup Almonds/Walnuts (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.  I substituted equal amount of Corn Starch + 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract)
2 cups Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer

4 ounces Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.


December’s Daring Baker’s Challenge… December 23, 2009

Filed under: Daring Baker Challenges — stacielk @ 6:19 am

The 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.


Since joining the Daring Baker’s in February 2008 – going on 2 years now – I’ve made a number of recipes that would have never shown up in my kitchen.  From an awesome, authentic french bread to all sorts of cakes, crackers and now the gingerbread house.  Another first for me!  I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out, if it would even be standing in the end, but I shouldn’t have doubted myself.  I made my gingerbread house on Sunday, December 13 and to this day it is still standing…although I haven’t moved it an inch since that Sunday. 

I went pretty simple as far as decorating the house.  I looked for edible decorations but was not happy with the same old candy canes and other goodies I found, so I used Wilton’s Royal Icing to add some basic features on the house.  I used Wilton’s recipe for the icing because I didn’t want to use one with raw egg, not realizing till later that I probably wouldn’t be eating the house with the icing in the end anyway, but at least I didn’t have to worry about liking my fingers as I decorated :)

We had the option to use one of two recipes for the dough.  I decided on Good Housekeeping’s Spicy Gingerbread Dough.  It was a very easy dough to work with and, like I’ve said earlier, the house is still standing, so the baked cookies are very sturdy.  unfortunately, gingerbread houses aren’t the tastiest to eat, but it was fun to use as a decoration through our holiday!

Spicy Gingerbread Dough

1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar

3/4 cup heavy cream or whipping cream

1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup light mild molasses

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking soda

1/2 Tbsp ground ginger

In very large bowl, with wire whisk, beat brown sugar, cream and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth.  In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and ginger.  With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling.  Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

Grease and flour large cookie sheets or line with baking mat.  Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time to about 3/16-inch thickness.  Cut out house with pattern of your choice.  Place cookie cut-out pieces onto cookie sheet.  Wrap any excess dough and reserve in refrigerator. 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Brush pieces lightly with water and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch.  Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size. 

Remove cookie sheet from oven.  While house pieces are still warm, place patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary.  Cool pieces completely on cookie sheets before removing.


Macarons – October’s Daring Baker’s Challenge October 27, 2009


The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Most macaroons I’ve known contain coconut, but these aren’t your typical Italian  macaroon.  They are  French-style Macarons.  Instead of coconut, the ‘cookie’ part of this macaron contains almond flour, sugar and egg whites.  They come out as a more chewy cookie with a nice outer layer of crispness.  I used the same frosting recipe that I made for September’s Daring Baker’s Challenge here,  to fill these little things up.  The result, delicious!  I thought they were best after they sat in the fridge for a few hours, but eaten at room temperature, that way the buttercream had time to set.  Otherwise, when you bit into them right after being filled, the buttercream seemed to ooze right out. 

I’ll be honest with you and tell you that it took me two tries to make this cookie.  The first time I didn’t get the ‘feet’, that you should see in the picture, on the bottom of my cookie.  The reason was because I measured the ingredients by weight instead of measuring cups, last time I do that.  So I was pretty excited to see my ‘feet’ on this second batch of cookies.



Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami’s note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.


August’s Daring Baker’s Challenge – Dobos Torte August 27, 2009

Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus:  Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

That’s right, a Dobos Torte, which is a five-layer sponge cake filled with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel covered wedges.  Sounds good, doesn’t it? 

I made this torte for my brother-in-law’s birthday.  His birthday is August 29, so I had to patiently wait till the end of the month for him and my sister to travel from Nigeria to celebrate his birthday  before making it.  Hopefully they thought the torte was worth the trip.

I made the torte layers according to the recipe.  I used a buttercream recipe I found at Joy the Baker (The second recipe).  One that doesn’t call for eggs.  I also substituted the hazelnuts with pecans.  I wish I could give you my opinion on the torte right now, but I can’t because I haven’t tried it yet (although I can tell you the buttercream is very tasty!).  The party isn’t till Saturday…

If you want the recipe, head on over to Angela’s or Lorraine’s where you can find very detailed step-by-step directions.

Dobo Torte

**Update** Well, the cake was good!  The numerous buttercream layers made it very sweet, I prefer thicker ‘cake’ layers in my desserts with buttercream, but  the challenge was fun and something I would never have made on my own.


Bakewell Tart June 27, 2009

Bakewell Tart 2

I had a really hard time turning on the oven in this 90+ degree weather Wednesday night, but I knew it was then or never for this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge.  I didn’t think the tart would be difficult at all, so I decided to go for it and make our air conditioning work a little harder than it should have.

Was it worth it…yes and no.  I will say yes because it was the challenge for this month, I’ve never made a tart and I didn’t want to miss out on another challenge in case I can’t get next month’s completed and possibly get kicked out of the group…I should really figure out how many more I can skip without getting booted.  I also say no because with the extremely warm weather, this tart just did not sound appetizing, but that’s ok :)

As you can see in the picture, my tart turned out pretty well.  I screwed up the crust, and knew it as I was making it.  It turned out too tough, I ended up having to add more water then the recipe calls for, which means I had to mix the dough more, I think less would have been best.  Oh well.  The taste had a nice subtly almond flavor with a nice hint of strawberry from my store-bought preserves.  I drizzled a white chocolate glaze over the top of the tart, which added a nice touch.  Would I make it again…maybe, but it’s not a dessert that I would rave about.

Do you want the recipe?  I’ll spare you the scrolling and have you check out Jasmine’s post at  Confessions of a Cardamom Addict or Annemarie’s post at Ambrosia and Nectar.

The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.


Apple Strudel – May’s Daring Baker’s Challenge May 27, 2009

Apple Strudle 1I’ve made many apple crisps and a few apple pies in my lifetime, but never have I made an Apple Strudel.  My attempt at the Apple Strudel turned out great!  The main challenge for this month was the strudel dough.  The filling was up to us, I used the recipe given which was a delicious apple filling.  The dough ingredients were simple to put together, but rolling and stretching the dough to make it paper-thin I knew would be the challenging part.

After making the dough and letting it sit for a few hours, I went to it, rolling and stretching.  I was pleasently surprised at how my dough stretched considering it was my first strudel dough.  Yes, I got holes, but I didn’t mind them and kept on stretching.  The only problem I ran into was part of my dough overlapped to make a thick edging, I ended up pulling that part off since it wouldn’t ‘stretch’ out after it got overlapped and I didn’t want a thick tough crust. 

I served this at room temp on it’s own.  I’m sure warming it up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream would also be great or even serving it at a brunch.

If you love apple pie/cobbler, you’ll love this apple strudel.  In my opinion, it’s not any more difficult or time consuming to make than a pie. 

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel doughApple Strudle 3
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.


Cheesecake – April’s Daring Baker’s Challenge April 27, 2009


Do you love cheesecake?  Then you will love our Daring Baker’s Challenge for April:  Abbey’s Infamous CheesecakeJenny chose the challenge this month.  We had to use the basic cheesecake recipe but could play around with it by adding different flavors, sauces, toppers, etc.  I chose to follow the cheesecake recipe to a T and then added caramel, pecans and chocolate throughout. 

I made the normal graham cracker crust.  On the crust I drizzled/poured caramel syrup and sprinkled pecans over that.  Then went the cheesecake layer.  I baked, cooled, let set in the fridge for 3 days and then topped with additional caramel and chocolate drizzle and additional pecans. 

My family had the honors of giving this cheesecake the taste test.  My mom told me that I should bring this cheesecake to Thanksgiving this year.  I think that tells you how good it is.

Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecakecheesecake-1

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp liqueur, optional

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

 2.  Mix together  the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan.   You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too – baker’s choice. Set crust aside.

3.  Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4.  Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.  If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5.  Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done  – this can be hard to judge, but you’re looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don’t want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won’t crack on the top.   After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.


The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.