The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.
For the recipes, please click here.
In this challenge, my daughter Christina and I learned the following:
1) How to cook a sugar syrup to the softball stage or 235 degrees. We used a candy thermometer to keep us on track, but if you don't have a thermometer, you simmer the solution for about four minutes, and to test it, you take it off the heat and if the bubbles hold their shape and when you drop a small spoonful of the syrup in cold water, it becomes becomes a soft, gelatinous mass, then it's at the softball stage. Also, make sure to use a silicone spatula or something that will not melt at high temperatures.
2)How to beat egg whites to soft peaks. We used a Kitchenaid mixer, and I watched a video, which I now can't locate, to show me the way. I liked this video, because the author showed what all three stages looked like (soft, medium, stiff).
3) How to make marshmallows. Marshmallow making is easy if you get the egg whites beaten to a soft peak and you get the sugar to the softball stage. A couple tips: once you add the hot sugar syrup to the beaten egg whites (in a stainless steel, non-meltable/crackable bowl), keep whipping until the bowl is cool. Also, if you swirl a spoon through the mixture and it holds its shape, the marshmallows are ready to be shaped.
4) How to use a piping bag and pipe the marshmallows onto the cookies as soon as possible. I have used a piping bag before so this wasn't really a new skill. I put the bag in a drinking glass, which makes it easy to fill the bag. With the mallow recipe, you want to have your cookies made already and pipe the marshmallows on top of the cookies as soon as the marshmallow mixture is ready. If you wait too long, the marshmallows will set and you won't be able to pipe them. Use a disposable bag too for easy clean up.
5) How to temper chocolate. Well, we almost learned this skill. We did try to temper the chocolate which was used for the chocolate glaze but failed. Once the chocolate hardened, there was a full bloom on the chocolate.
Bloom aside, the cookies were delicious!
The other challenge cookie was Milano cookies. These were much easier and faster to make than the Mallows and much more popular. They were inhaled by my family!
The skills we learned here were:
1) How to pipe a thin batter. I don't know if I much got the hang of this since my cookies sizes weren't consistently the same size and shape, but I certainly got practice.
2) How to make a chocolate ganache. In the recipe you pour hot cream over the chocolate to melt it. Even I couldn't mess this one up.
I must say after a few more of these challenges, I might not be able to call myself a non-baker. One of the most important things I've learned in baking is to be disciplined about measuring everything before I start baking. I definitely don't cook this way, because I cook on the fly, but it works for baking.
So for all my fellow non-bakers, there may be hope for you! Come join Daring Bakersand you'll see.