Mini Vanilla-Orange Creamsicle Cheesecake

Creamsicle Cheesecake | Korena in the Kitchen

This year for his birthday, Nate requested a creamsicle cheesecake. I’ll admit that the creamsicle combination of creamy vanilla ice cream with orange isn’t usually my first choice – especially when there is creamy vanilla ice cream with chocolate to be had instead – but since it was his birthday, I acquiesced. Compared to the chocolate caramel bacon insanity cake from his birthday a few years ago, it was a relatively simple request.

Creamsicle Cheesecake | Korena in the Kitchen

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The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie | Korena in the KitchenI’ve been looking for the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie for about as long as I’ve been baking cookies. What I wanted was a fairly straight-forward method that didn’t involve a complete re-design of the chocolate chip cookie or an overnight rest in the fridge (because when I want chocolate chip cookies, I want them now, not tomorrow). I’ve tried the original Toll House recipe, dabbled in thin/crispy versions, large/cakey versions, changed baking times and temperatures, and  tried different flours, all of which promised to give the “perfect” cookie but just… didn’t.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie | Korena in the Kitchen

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Daring Bakers: Sweet or Savoury Sourdough Focaccia

Sourdough Focaccia | Korena in the KitchenFor the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch.

As soon as I saw this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, I knew exactly what I wanted to make: raisin focaccia. While not as well known as savoury, rosemary and salt topped focaccia, apparently this sweet version is a well-loved breakfast item in the Ligurian region of Italy. I’d had a recipe bookmarked for quite a while, and this seemed like the perfect chance to finally make it, so I did. However, I should have known better when the recipe only specified three minutes of kneading and no bulk fermentation. The resulting focaccia was pretty “meh” tasting, and it lacked so much in structure that it fell apart when I tried to take it out of the pan. Sadly, raisin focaccia round one was a big ol’ FAIL.

raisin focaccia fail | Korena in the Kitchen

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Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla-Almond Sourdough Biscotti

Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla-Almond Sourdough Biscotti | Korena in the Kitchen

After making a chocolate-hazelnut sourdough biscotti a few years ago, I concluded that sourdough biscotti was just a novelty and not actually a practical way to make biscotti or use sourdough. So I’m not sure what it says about me when I decided to participate in this month’s Sourdough Surprises project, which was – you guessed it – sourdough biscotti, AND decided to use the same recipe as the base. I guess maybe it says I’m drawn to novelty and prone to impracticality. But whatever: I have biscotti.

Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla-Almond Sourdough Biscotti | Korena in the Kitchen

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Daring Bakers: Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin | Korena in the Kitchen

For the March Daring Bakers’ Challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She challenged us to make a tarte Tatin from scratch.

This month I was excited to host another Daring Bakers’ challenge, for which I chose the tarte Tatin. This classic French dessert is basically the apple pie version of an upside-down cake: apples are caramelized in sugar in a saucepan, covered with pastry and baked, and then inverted on a plate to serve. It’s a great example of the magic of caramelized sugar: the apples take on a deep, rich mahogany colour and become infused with the complex flavours of a well-cooked caramel, and the crisp puff pastry base also becomes practically candied with caramel at the edges, resulting in a fantastic mix of soft, crunchy, and chewy textures.

The tart is named after the Tatin sisters, who ran a hotel near Paris in the 1880s. Apparently, one day one of the sisters forgot to put a bottom crust on her apple pie, but instead of the disaster she was expecting to pull out of the oven, she ended up with a dessert so loved by the hotel guests that it became the hotel’s signature dish. However, this sweet story conflicts with the fact that a similar upside-down apple tart called tarte Solognotte (named after the Sologne region in France) existed long before the tarte Tatin, suggesting that the Tatin sisters’ creation was actually just an updated and improved version of the tarte Solognotte. Either way, it is a stunningly delicious yet simple and rustic dessert….

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Brunch for Forty

Brunch for Forty | Korena in the KitchenLast weekend I had the opportunity to cater a day-after-the-wedding brunch for a friend’s family. I love this kind of thing because not only do I get to bake and cook to my heart’s content, but I also get to do a lot of figuring out: coming up with a menu, researching recipes, scaling them up and down, and writing out list after list. Calculating exactly how many eggs I will need to make a dozen quiche plus four dozen cinnamon brioche buns is the kind of math I can get behind. I found a great resource in Ellen’s Kitchen for estimating quantities for large gatherings, although it doesn’t say much for my math skills when my estimates, in most cases, ended up being about twice what they should have been! But it’s better to have more food than not enough, right?

Cinnamon Brioche Buns | Korena in the Kitchen

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Daring Bakers: Asian Coconut Custard Buns

Asian Coconut Custard Buns | Korena in the KitchenThe February Daring Bakers’ challenge is hosted by Julie of One-Wall Kitchen. She challenged us to an easy, simple filled bun using no-knead dough.

This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge recipe is known by many names – bao, mantou, nikuman, siopao and others – but the common denominator is that is it an Asian-style bun, stuffed with a filling (often Chinese bbq pork) and baked. At first I wasn’t too excited because I had so recently made the steamed version of this recipe with the Sourdough Surprises group, but then I remembered Suz’s custard-filled steamed buns, and suddenly I knew that I wanted to make a baked version.

Asian Coconut Custard Buns | Korena in the Kitchen

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Melissa Clark’s Devil’s Food Cake with Black Pepper Buttercream

Melissa Clark's Devil's Food Cake with Black Pepper Buttercream | Korena in the KitchenI’ve been trying to write this post about this Devil’s Food Cake with Black Pepper Buttercream for three days now but seem to be experiencing writer’s block, so in an attempt to get something down on the page so that I can share it with you in time for Valentine’s Day (because nothing is more appropriate than chocolate cake on Valentine’s Day), I give you the following Reasons You Should Make This Cake:

1) It has not one but two kinds of frosting: Swiss meringue buttercream filling laced with vanilla and cracked black pepper (yes, pepper), and the most divine whipped chocolate fudge frosting on the outside. Black pepper might sound like an odd thing to pair with classic chocolate and vanilla, but it’s not odd – it’s very, very good.

Melissa Clark's Devil's Food Cake with Black Pepper Buttercream | Korena in the Kitchen

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Daring Bakers: Esterhazy Torte

IMG_8028Esterhazy Torte | Korena in the Kitchen

For the month of January Jelena from A Kingdom for a Cake invited us to start this year with a dreamy celebration cake. She challenged us to make the Esterhazy cake a.k.a the Hungarian dream. What better way to start the year than with a sweet dream?

A sweet dream? I could not agree more. The Esterhazy torte is a Hungarian pastry made of five layers of hazelnut sponge cake and hazelnut buttercream, all topped off with a gorgeous starburst of chocolate. If you like hazelnuts (or Nutella, Fererro Rocher, or Frangelico), then this is the cake for you!

Esterhazy Torte | Korena in the Kitchen

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