Monday, September 28, 2009

Diva Delight: Diva style recycling

Here at Casa Diva we love the latest in cell phone gadgetry, which means we always have a few old phones and accessories floating...until a few months ago. I discovered, where you can sell your cell phone, accessories, etc. for a check or gift certificate. If you still have the box, manual and/or charger, you'll make more. It's a win-win situation for those who like to make money and hate clutter. Check it out and tell them the Diva sent ya!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bread Baker's Challenge: Recipe 2

This week's challenge was Greek Celebration Bread and of course, I had to visit a local Greek restaurant to get me in the mood! Who doesn't love hummus, pita and taziki!

We had the option of making a traditional loaf or adding fruits & nuts. I opted for golden raisins and craisins because they always rock when plumped up. I also decided to tweak the main recipe a bit to accommodate my likes (i.e. substituted vanilla extract for almond and omitted cloves and). From the word dough, I knew that this bread was far better than week 1's anadama bread. The fruit definitely gave it a little zing!

In my haste, I forget a few of my fundamentals, like the cast iron steam bath. Plus, my afternoon got a little away from me and the final proofing went a little long. See the massive dough! I was suppose to do a semi-elaborate braid on top, but crafty I'm not. So I just dealt with the blob bread. Looks aside, the bread was tasty, but left me wondering if it wouldn't be just as good done in a loaf pan.

Next up: BAGELS aka Cream Cheese's best friend! I see more tweaks in my future as of course, I'm not going to make plain white ones.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Holy deliciousness! When I moved back to TN, my cravings for caramel cake came back in full force. The home of my favorite source is now out of business, so I was left in a serious predicament. Thankfully, my marvelous godmother stepped up to the recipe challenge and delivered a truly delectable dessert. I actually prefer the cake in this recipe to the original obsession. Of course the crowning jewel is the icing. It will be hard not to eat the whole pot before icing the cake!

Caramel Cake

1 box white cake mix

1 c whole milk

1 stick butter, melted

3 large eggs

2 t vanilla

Grease 2 9-inch cake pans. Mix cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides. Beat another 2 minutes at medium speed. Divide batter between both pans and bake at 350 for 27-29 minutes. Cool on wire racks. This cake can be made into cupcakes or a sheet cake.

Caramel Icing

1 stick butter

½ c packed light brown sugar

½ c packed dark brown sugar

¼ c whole milk

2 c confectioners sugar, sifted

1 t vanilla extract

In medium saucepan, melt butter and sugar over medium heat until boiling (about 2 minutes). Add milk, stir and bring mixture back to a boil. Remove from heat. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Beat with wooden spoon until all lumps disappear. This could take a bit. Frost the cake.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bread Baker's Challenge: Recipe 1

After reading over 100+pages, I came to the first recipe in the challenge...the Anadama Bread. The initial pages of this book are filled with lots of insight regarding ingredients, tools and the baking process. I would've liked to see a little bit more about the kneading experience, but all in all lots of good info. Armed with my new superior knowledge, I set to work on the Andama Bread (side note: I won't be posting these recipes based on the rules of the challenge. I'm sure you can Google around to find it or better yet buy your own copy if it sounds really tasty. SPOILER ALERT: It definitely won't happen with this recipe.)

Step 1 was to create a soaker the night before. I've done this step with other breads and definitely agree that it helps to intensify the bread's flavor.

The next day you add more ingredients: flour, water, salt, etc. Then, you let it sit for about an hour. The lame picture above is after the first proofing. You can see the gluten bubbling it's away to bread gooeyness. Clearly, I'm going to need to channel my inner Ansel Adams to improve my photos, but hey, a girl is trying!

Next up, you're to add the molasses and more flour. As you can see in the photo, the dough is now a dark, malty color.

I won't bore you with too many details. The rest of the process is like any other bread recipe with a few tweaks from Reinhart's bag of tricks. The key here is what does it taste like. I had members of the Diva Mob over last night to give it a go. We were all impressed with what the bread experts call the crumb. The texture of this bread is chewy and nicely paired with apple butter. Will I make it again? Doubtful. I wasn't completely crazy about the taste, but perhaps I could find away to tweak the flavor to keep the crumb. Up next: Greek Celebration Bread.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bread Baker's Challenge

As many of you know, last summer I took on the challenge of conquering homemade bread. After at least 6 failed attempts, I discovered a delicious recipe in an old book secured from the fabulous Capitol Hill Books. (Seriously it's worth a visit to see what's hidden in there!) Well last week I was catching up on my beloved WaPo food section and discovered this great article on online cooking clubs! If only I had this large group of experts at my disposal a year ago...not to mention that Peter Reinhart is a heck of bread teacher! His book TheBread Baker's Apprentice is full of everything from English Muffins to Focaccia, so I've decided to join the challenge. I've already started reading the initial prep pages (There's over a 100 pages before you hit a recipe) and I already feel like a better baker. Hopefully, I'll be able to tackle a recipe a week like most members of this challenge, but regardless, I'll definitely post my experiences. If the recipes sound tasty, you'll just have to go out, buy your own book and see if you are up to the CHALLENGE!
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