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A Tropical Treat

It’s been ages since I’ve posted a Daring Bakers Challenge.  Life’s been pretty crazy the past couple of months, and I just never got around to posting them!

Way back in February we were given the challenge to make Vanilla Panna Cotta (or a variation of) with Florentine cookies.  I’ll be honest and admit that I never got around to making the Florentine cookies.  I’ve made them before, and they are delicious, so I’ll post the recipe here for anyone who’s interested.   

The Vanilla Panna Cotta recipe we were given comes from Giada De Laurentiis – one of my favorite Food Network Chefs.  Rather than making the vanilla version of the panna cotta, I changed it a bit and opted to make a coconut version with lime jelly on top and a graham cracker crust.  I was actually inspired by a cute little dessert I’ve seen at Marks and Spencer (but never tried), so decided to create my own version of it.   

The coconut panna cotta was light and creamy, and the lime jelly on top was a refreshing touch.  My husband who’s generally not much of a fan of coconut things really liked these as well, although his favourite part was the graham cracker crust bottom.   

I used a package of lime Jello that I’d brought back from the US, as I’ve found Jello brand jelly to be a little more solid than Hartley’s brand in the UK.  Generally if I use Hartley’s brand I’ll only use 3/4 – 1/2 of the water that’s called for on the package. 

These panna cotta’s are a great summer time dessert, and will keep for a few days in the fridge. Just a note that if you decide to top yours off with a jelly layer, you’ll need to wait until the panna cotta itself it set so that the lime jelly stays on top in its own layer. 

This 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 (found here) and Nestle Florentine Cookies. 

Coconut Panna Cotta with Lime Jelly and Graham Cracker Crust


3/4 Cup Graham Cracker / Digestive Biscuit Crumbs
2 Tbsp Sugar
1.5 Tbsp Melted Butter 

2 Tbsp (23g) Powdered Gelatin
3 Tbsp Cold Water
7.5oz (220ml) Coconut Cream
7oz (200ml) Coconut Milk
1 Cups (250 ml) Whipping Cream  
3 Tbsp (50g) Sugar 

1 Package Lime Jello / Jelly 


1.  Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a bowl and stir until everything is well combined.  Divide the mixture evenly between 4 serving dishes,  Use a spoon to compact the graham cracker mixture down so it’s perfectly flat and even.  Set aside.

2.  Pour the cold water in a small dish and sprinkle the powdered gelatin over top.  Mix the gelatin into the water using a form and make sure there are no lumps.  Set aside so the gelatin can “bloom” (soften & absorb the water)

3.  In a small pot pour the coconut cream, coconut milk and sugar together and heat over medium heat.  Stir the mixture to ensure the sugar dissolves.  Continue to heat the mixture until small bubbles start to form, but not boiling.  Add in the gelatin and stir to ensure there are no lumps.  Continue to heat the coconut milk mixture over low heat until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

4. Add the whipping cream into the mixture above and stir until well combined.  Let the mixture cool for another 5 minutes.

5. Slowly and carefully pour the mixture into your prepared serving dishes.  Try and make sure that you do this carefully so the graham cracker crust mixture doesn’t start to crumble and lift.

6.  Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

7. Once your panna cotta has set, prepare your lime jelly as instructed on the package. *Note: If using Hartley’s UK brand, I always half the amount of liquid called for in the instructions as I prefer the texture better that way.  Leave your lime jelly to cool until it reaches room temperature (you don’t want it too hot, otherwise it will start to dissolve your panna cotta).  Carefully pour a layer of lime jelly on top of your panna cotta.  Refrigerate until set.  Garnish with some fresh lime or a sprinkle of toasted coconut.

Photo courtesy of Food Network

Nestle Florentine Cookies 


2/3 Cup (150g) Butter 
2 Cups (160g) Quick Oats 
1 Cup (230g) Sugar 
2/3 Cup (90g) Flour (plain)
1/4 Cup (60 ml) Dark Corn Syrup (Golden Syrup) 
1/4 Cup (60 ml) Whole Milk 
1 tsp (5 ml) Vanilla Extract 
pinch of salt 
1½ cups (250g) Dark or Milk Chocolate 


Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper. 

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat. 

2. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula. 

3. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets. 

4. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). 

5. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean). 

6. Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate. 

I really enjoyed these panna cotta’s.  They had a nice coconut flavour without being too overwhelming.  The lime jelly added a nice tropical touch to it making it a perfect summertime dessert.  I can’t wait to make these again!

Go Ahead. I Dare You!

I think by now it’s pretty clear that I like to bake.  I’m always looking for new and interesting things to bake, and as I’ve mentioned before I’ve got a zillion things on my “To Bake”  list, so trying to decide on what to bake can be hard.  For those of you who enjoy reading food and baking blogs you may have come across something called the Daring Bakers Challenge.  I can’t quite remember when I first became aware of the Daring Bakers Challenges, but it was quite a while ago.  And for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the concept is simple.  Every participant has to bake the exact same thing using the exact same recipe that’s been supplied to them.  There is a bit of freedom on how you want your finished product to look, but you do have to follow the recipe exactly – unless otherwise stated.  I’d been wanting to participate in a Daring Bakers Challenge for quite a while, but never got around to registering.  You see, the Daring Bakers are like a secret society – you have to apply to become a challenge member, and new members are only accepted once a month.  To be a Daring Baker, you also have to be good at keeping secrets.  The Top Secret recipe is supplied to each baker at the beginning of the month.  Bakers are then required to make the recipe and put their own personal twist on it before posting it on their blogs on the 27th of each month.  But NOT any earlier, otherwise they’d ruin the surprise and the challenge for all the readers.   
So what day is today?  The 27th!  Umm, – ok it’s actually February 4th.  Once again, our computer hasn’t really been working much lately, and was holding my photos hostage until last night. 
This is my first Daring Bakers Challenge – well December was actually, but I was so busy with dinner parties and events that month that I just couldn’t fit in the required Daring Bakers Christmas Stollen that we were all challenged to make that month.  I had to pass, so January now becomes my first official Daring Bakers Challenge month. 
And what a challenge it was!  Don’t get me wrong, the actual dessert we were required to make wasn’t that challenging at all.  In fact, I was really surprised with how easy it was to bake such a beautifully impressive dessert.  I was thrilled with the selection of January’s challenge, and will definitely be making it again. 
The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog Accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert. 
A Biscuit Joconde Imprime is actually a thin long piece of patterned spongy cake that’s wrapped around a variety of fillings called “Entrements”. I’d seen cakes like this before (see the picture above) when I was in the pastry shops in Paris.  I always thought of them as more of a summer thing.  They were beautiful and had lovely mousse fillings and the top of the cake was often covered in delicious looking fruit.  Since it’s freezing cold here right now, I wanted something a little bit richer and more indulgent than a fruit filling.  I also had a whole whack load of things in my pantry I wanted to use up, so this was my perfect chance. 
I decided to make a red heart pattern in my Biscuit Joconde, and did this by making the batter according to the instructions and then tinting it red.  I used a #4 Wilton tip to pipe the heart pattern – which I very easily created in power point, printed off and then placed underneath my baking paper / silicone mat.  In order to ensure the pattern stays exactly as I piped it, I had to put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes.  During this time I created the rest of the Biscuit Joconde batter, and then poured it directly over top of the frozen heart pattern.  Pop it on the oven, and watch it carefully!  My sponge only took 7 minutes to bake – not the recommended 12 mins.  Unfortunately my first Biscuit Joconde stuck to the parchment paper I had used, so when I peeled the paper off, a very fine top layer of the cake was removed.  It was too bad, because I was really pleased with the way my first batch turned out – it was perfect!  I had plenty of red batter left so I piped the hearts again, but this time on a silicone baking mat which worked much better, but unfortunately it left my hearts with some little air bubbles in them.   
After my Biscuit Joconde was cooled I cut it to my desired height and length, and lined the edges of my pan with the patterned sponge.  Then I cut the remaining Biscuit Joconde into pieces so it would fit perfectly into the base of the pan, lining the bottom.  *I used a smaller round cake pan with a false bottom that allowed for my cake to come out of the pan very easily.  A spring form pan will also work. 
After I’d lined the pan it was time to fill it with the Entremets!  As I mentioned before, I had a ton of things in my pantry that I needed to use up including a few boxed mixes I brought home from my last trip to the States.  
For my bottom layer I decided on a peanut butter cup brownie chunk no bake cheese cake.  I had a boxed Duncan Hines Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Brownie mix I needed to use up, so I baked that and then chopped a few square of the brownies into little chunks and folded it into my no bake cheesecake mixture and then poured it in to the bottom of my Biscuit Joconde.  I put it in the fridge to firm up a bit while I made my next layer – a really simple chocolate mousse.  I totally cheated with this chocolate mousse – all it was was a 1/2 a package of Chocolate Fudge Jello Pudding, and about 3/4 of the liquid that was required for it.  I used whipping cream for 2/3 of the liquid, and chocolate milk for the other 1/3.  Not using the recommended amount of milk/liquid allowed my pudding mousse layer to be firm enough that I could cut it with a knife and not have it run once it had set.  I also brought the Jello pudding back from the States, because as far as I know, there is nothing remotely similar here.  The top layer was really simple, but really delicious.  It’s also something I’ve used for cake fillings in the past, and you can make it no matter what country your in.  It was an Oreo Cookie Chocolate Whipped Cream layer.  All that you need to do to make this is whip up some cream (I used double cream) together with 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and once whipped fold in some crushed Oreo Cookies.  The Oreo cookies will absorb some of the moisture in the cream making it stiff enough that you can cut through it once set.   
After I’d made and poured in all of my layers I left my Biscuit Joconde in the fridge over night for everything to set.  The next day I ended up with one of the most delicious cakes I think I’d ever made!  The fillings were all amazing, and worked very well together. They were so light and fluffy – and easy to make too! 
Below are the full instructions for the Biscuit Joconde that all Daring Bakers were provided with (I’ve added a few notes in grey), followed by my own Entremet filling recipes. 
*I’d recommend making the Décor Paste first, and then making the Joconde Sponge batter, otherwise it will be sitting around for at least half an hour while you pipe and freeze your design. 
Equipment Required (suggested):  
• Silpat
• ½ baking sheets or a 13” x 18” jelly roll sheet (rimmed baking sheet)
• Mixer (optional)
• Bowls
• Knives
• Offset spatula
• Regular spatula
• Pastry comb (optional)
• Rulers
• Spring form pan
• Cling wrap
• Parchment paper
• Gel, paste or liquid food coloring (optional) 
Joconde Sponge

YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan


¾ cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g Almond Flour/Meal – *You can also use hazelnut flour, just omit the butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2? oz/ 75g Confectioners’ (Icing) Sugar
¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g Cake Flour *See notes below
3 Large Eggs – about 5? oz/ 150g
3 Large Egg Whites – about 3 oz/ 90g
2½ teaspoons/ 12½ ml/ ? oz/ 10g White Granulated Sugar or Superfine (Caster) Sugar
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g Unsalted Butter (melted)

*Note: Instructions on how to make cake flour can be found here 
* Make 2 cups of the cake flour – you’ll need 1/4 cup for the Joconde Sponge & 1¾ cup for the Décor Paste. 
1. In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
2. Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
3. On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
4. Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
5. Fold in melted butter.
6. Reserve batter to be used later.
Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste
YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan 
Décor Paste
*I halved the recipe below, and still ended up with LOADS left over.  If you were doing a larger pattern, then you may need the full recipe. 

14 tablespoons/ 210ml/ 7oz/ 200g Unsalted Butter (softened)
1½ cups plus1½ tablespoons/ 385ml/ 7oz/ 200g Confectioners’ (Icing) Sugar
7 Large Egg Whites – about 7 oz / 200g
1¾ cup/ 420ml/ 7¾ oz/ 220g Cake Flour
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid  
COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 6 oz / 170g. Add 2 oz/ 60 g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture. 
1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
2. Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
3. Fold in sifted flour.
4. Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation 
Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:  
1. Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch (5 millimeter) thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
2. Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
3. Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes
4. Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
5. Bake at 475ºF /250ºC until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 15 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.
6. Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.
7. Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

To prepare the mold for the Entremets I’d suggest using a piece of clear plastic such as an overhead transfer (I used a clear sheet of plastic from the scrap book store) and cut it so it’s higher than your pan.  Line your pan with the plastic, and then begin lining it with your Joconde Sponge (which you will have cut whatever height you choose – traditionally the Entremet layer rises higher than the sponge), and line the bottom of the pan with the remaining sponge as I described at the beginning of my post.  Set aside. 

Entremet Layers

Brownie Chunk No Bake Cheese Cake Filling

Brownies of your choice, cut into small chunks.  I used about 3/4 cup of brownie chunks, but use your own judgement. 
16oz (455g) Cream Cheese (don’t use light, as it won’t work the same)
1/3 cup (75g) Granulated / Castor Sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) Whipping Cream or Double Cream
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract 
1. Mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla using an electric mixer until nice and smooth.
2. Whip the cream, and then fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture so it’s fully combined.  Fold gently though – you don’t want to loose all the air in the cream!
3. Very gently fold in your brownie chunks. 
4. Pour the cheesecake mixture into your Joconde Sponge, and put into the fridge to set for about 30 minutes before moving onto the next filling.   
Cheaters Jello Chocolate Mousse 
1 package of Jello pudding (I used Chocolate Fudge, but any flavour will do!)
1cup (250ml) Whipping Cream or Double Cream
1/2 cup (125ml) Chocolate (or regular milk if your not using a chocolate pudding) 
1. Dump the pudding mixture into a bowl together with the whipping cream.  Mix together using an electric whisk or mixer for about 1 minute.  The mixture will be very thick.  Now add in your milk and mix together for an additional minute or two.  The pudding mixture should be fairly thick.
2. Pour the pudding layer into your Joconde Sponge, on top of the cheesecake layer.  Pop it back in the fridge to set for 15 minutes while you make the 3rd filling. 
Oreo Cookie Chocolate Cream Filling 
11oz (300ml) Whipping Cream or Double Cream
2-3 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
2 Tbsp Icing Sugar
1 cup Chopped Oreos  
1. Pour the cream, icing sugar & cocoa into a bowl, and whip using an electric whisk.  Once the cream is whipped fold the chopped Oreos in.  If you think you’d like to add more Oreos, then go ahead.  Pour the Oreo Cream mixture into the Joconde Sponge, and that will form the final layer. The Oreos will absorb the moisture in the cream, making it stiff enough to cut through. 
*The final layer should be higher than the Joconde Sponge, so it’s important to use the clear plastic sheets I mentioned previously to keep the final layer in place while it firms up.  
When it comes time to un-mold your Joconde Sponge, carefully remove it from the pan by either opening up the sides of the spring form pad and lifting the round part up leaving the cake & pan base on the table.  If you used a pan like the one I used where the bottom can be removed by pushing up on it, then set the base on a tall glass and slowly lower the sides down, so the base and your cake are left sitting on the glass.  Next, carefully remove the plastic sheet from around the cakes edge – you may want to run a sharp knife around the edge to make sure it removes easily. 
My fillings started were quite thick when I poured them into my Joconde Sponge, so it didn’t end up with nice flat and smooth layers.  I’ve seen plenty of others done using mousses and other Entremet Layers that looked gorgeous because they were perfectly flat & smooth so you could clearly see where the layers stopped and started. 
So there ya go – that’s pretty much it.  I know this post and the recipe instructions for this cake were really long, but I promise you it’s a lot easier than it looks! I’m really looking forward to this months challenge – it’s something I’ve made before (but never posted) and I can guarantee you it’s delicious!