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The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

February was a whirlwind of month with lots of baking projects going on, and while I actually completed this challenge a few days before the deadline I got a case of Oscar fever and completely forgot about posting until now. This month’s challenge was to make a creamy Panna Cotta along with a batch of Florentine Cookies. Our host gave us recipes for a vanilla and chocolate Panna Cotta. We were encouraged to play around with these base recipes and challenged to get creative with how we garnished them. I wanted to do a vegan version, so I set out to find a recipe that would work with what ingredients I had on hand. I got super stoked when I saw a recipe for a soy milk Panna Cotta in the Great Chefs Cook Vegan cookbook. I don’t usually keep soy milk around, so I used what I had on hand, which in this case was hemp milk. The reason this is important to note, is that while the recipe for the panna cotta set up nicely and tasted good, there was a little bit of an issue with how it looked. I’m not sure what happened, but it looked like the hemp milk had separated so there was a bit of a “cloudy” look to the final Panna Cotta. I don’t know if this occurred due to the particular brand of hemp milk I used or the fact that it wasn’t soy or something else entirely (perhaps liquid from the fresh fruit?), but it was a little disappointing to say the least. The Florentine recipe I used however was excellent, and they came out quite tasty. For the decorations I chose to make little agar agar fruit jellies inspired by Nature Insider. These turned out awesome and were quite the hit at the dinner table.

Since I’m late and pressed for time, I’m just going to provide the links to the recipes I used along with any alterations I may have made.

Soy Milk Panna Cotta from Great Chefs Cook Vegan
As previously mentioned, I used hemp milk in place of the soy milk. I also used 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean. I threw in some fresh fruit into the glass before pouring in the Panna Cotta, and I would probably omit that next time. I figured they would sink, but some stayed right up at the top and just didn’t look all that attractive.

Florentine Cookies from Strawberry Pepper
I omitted the orange zest and used whole wheat flour in place of the all-purpose. I also chose to use the chocolate to sandwich the cookies together, rather than drizzle it on top.

Fruit Jellies from Nature Insider
Instead of water, I made a half batch (which is more than you need) of the vanilla muscat sauce included with the Panna Cotta recipe and used that as the liquid. I did not add any additional sweetener, but if I were to do it again I would definitely add some. Granted, I neglected to taste the sauce before adding the agar-agar, but once they were set they were not very sweet at all.

It still needs some work, but maybe one day it will turn into something a little more visually appealing.

If you are interested in the original challenge recipes you can download them in a printable PDF here.

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world- life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this month’s challenge – not only were we making Swiss rolls (which turned out to be quite a challenge in and of itself), but we were also making two flavors of homemade ice cream and a hot fudge sauce – and then combining them all into one large, multi-layered ice cream bombe style dessert!

Sunita provided recipes for a chocolate Swiss roll with a vanilla cream filling, along with recipes for vanilla and chocolate ice creams (made without an ice cream maker) and a hot fudge sauce. We were allowed to follow the given recipes or we could change the flavor of the Swiss roll, filling, or ice creams. What was mandatory was that all the components had to be made from scratch and the final dessert had to be set in a bowl/pan in the following order – Swiss roll first, followed by the first ice cream, the fudge topping, and finally the second ice cream.

After spending some time contemplating flavor combinations, I decided to go with a s’mores inspired Swiss roll ice cream cake. I kept with the chocolate Swiss roll, but did a marshmallow cream filling, with a layer of vanilla graham cracker ice cream and a layer of chocolate marshmallow ice cream.

I had really wanted to do a vegan sponge cake, but after two epic failures I reverted back to the original challenge recipe and finally got a Swiss roll that didn’t break into a million pieces after unrolling it. In keeping with the Daring Bakers style of making everything from scratch, I also made the graham crackers and marshmallows included in the two ice cream recipes. If you have never made homemade marshmallows, I highly encourage you to do so. You won’t believe how wonderful and natural they taste; they seriously put store bought marshmallows to shame.

While the process seemed epic, stretching over three days (with many broken Swiss rolls in between), I have to say that I can’t think of a finer reward than finally getting to bite into this dessert! The taste was beyond amazing, and I was quite sad to see the last few bites finished off last night.

You can view the recipes and how to assemble the dessert after the jump.

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The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I was pretty excited when I saw this month’s challenge. I have seen quite a few pavlova recipes pop up on Tastespotting, and they have had my interests piqued, so this month’s challenge finally provided the perfect opportunity to put on my apron and give one a shot.

A pavlova is a meringue-based dessert that has a crisp exterior and a light, almost cotton candy-like interior. It is traditionally decorated with a topping of cream and fresh fruit. For this challenge, we were to make chocolate pavlovas topped with mascarpone mousse and drizzled with a mascarpone cream. I went dairy free with this challenge, so I adhered with the chocolate meringue recipe pretty much to the letter, but deviated in my chocolate mousse and cream recipes. I had remembered seeing a gorgeous cherry chocolate pavlova recipe over at BBC Good Food, so that served as my inspiration for this challenge. My final pavlova consisted of the chocolate meringue, a layer of cherry compote (that you can almost see poking out from under the mousse in the picture above), a layer of chocolate mousse, and a cherry almond cream for drizzling.

I have to say, I am a fan of the pavlova. I loved the contrasting crunch of the outer shell of the meringue with the soft interior of the meringue. It is overall a pretty sweet dessert, but it makes for a great indulgence on a summer day!

You can view all of my recipes after the jump.

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