sweet pasta dough, mixed berry compote, sorbet.

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It’s Daring Baker time – and this month is all about making fresh pasta dough.

Actually, the challenge title has the word ‘lasagna’ in it. Now, I have to admit that I was a bit perplexed when the challenge was announced. Lasagna? Savoury? When I think Daring Bakers I think sweet. I think dessert. I think, here’s an excuse to make something sinfully decadent. Make no mistake – I’m a big lasagna fan. I am. There is, however, a monstrous sweet tooth to consider here. Monstrous.

While I was deflating I thankfully read the fine print in the challenge post: for those of us who favour the sweeter side of life – a sweet pasta (a.k.a dessert) was also allowed. Hallelujah! With that welcome illumination my creative juices started to flow.

The heart of this challenge was to make our own pasta dough. A savoury recipe was presented along with a link to a sweet pasta recipe: Strozzapreti dolci al profumo di cannella (Cinnamon Flavoured Sweet Strozzapreti). This recipe for sweet pasta is very simple and easily veganizable – there are no eggs to substitute and the milk is easily swapped out in favour of plain soy milk. Since the recipe specifies weight quantities, and my kitchen scale is in need of a new battery, I relied on an online cooking conversion utility to convert them to volume measurements and hoped for the best.

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From the beginning my imagination was in overdrive with regard to presentation. Once I knew I was going the dessert route with my pasta dough, the aesthetic possibilities really opened up. I immediately thought of a rolled form, like a crêpe. With that decided, I started to think about fillings – so many possibilities.

I first thought of doing a traditional Hungarian dish with walnuts. The walnut noodle dish is called ‘dios metelt’ which translates as ‘walnut pasta. There are many Hungarian noodle-based dishes, some savoury, some sweet. The walnut and sugar combination is probably my favourite – sometimes citrus peel (orange or lemon) or jam is added into the mix. My grandmother adds raisins. My mum likes to add breadcrumbs. Poppy seeds and sugar is another popular variation. Traditionally, the noodles for these dishes are made by hand, cut into short pieces, boiled and then stacked with your chosen fillings. Cream is also often incorporated into the mix.

Once I started thinking of incorporating a sweet cream, my imagination went in a different direction: berries. Mixed berry compote to be exact. Yes.

My sweet pasta vision was beginning to take shape.

First I made the dough and set it aside to rest. Then I whipped up a batch of light Dream Whip. Dream Whip is an oil-based non-dairy whipped topping product available in Canada. It comes in an aseptic container in liquid form and is kept in the refrigerated section of the dairy department where they keep the whipping cream. You whip it up with an electric beater in the same way that you would whip up cream. This is the light version (it comes in both ‘light’ and ‘regular’ versions). Easy peasy. Next, the mixed berry compote came to fragrant life on the stove. Then I went back to my resting dough.

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Since I had already decided on a rolled crêpe form, I thought: why not prepare the dough like a crêpe too? So that’s exactly what I did, using a crêpe pan to prepare each circle of sweet dough.

When it came time for assembly my lofty crêpe-shaped plans promptly went out the window. I used up half my dough in vain trying to make it bend to my will. Those discs of sweet dough did not want to stay put in a neat roll, no sirree. Also, note to self: mixed berry compote is difficult to photograph + my bursting crêpes = not pretty. Oh well – maybe I should have boiled the dough.

Plan B. Out came the cookie cutter and voila, individual towers of dessert. I saved the berry delicious syrup for after the photos this time.

Sweet spicy pasta dough. Dapples of billowy cream. Tangy mixed berry compote. Yum. There’s something perfect about the hint of cinnamon in the dough in concert with the tang of the berries.

But wait, there’s more. How does a side of mixed berry sorbet grab you? I’ve been on such a sorbet kick lately – ever since the last Daring Baker challenge. I hadn’t tried making mixed berry sorbet yet and thought this would be the perfect way to introduce it. It’s so refreshing – and the colour is just dreamy. So good.

There you have it:  a sweet dessert that is seemingly as far away from lasagna as you can get, yet at it’s heart it’s the same – fresh pasta dough. Before this challenge I had never made my own fresh pasta. It’s so simple you can be sure I’ll be making a lot of fresh pasta in the coming months, sweet and savoury.

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Sweet Pasta:

Adapted from Strozzapreti dolci al profumo di cannella (Cinnamon Flavoured Sweet Strozzapreti)

1 cup all- purpose flour
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp breadcrumbs
4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup soy milk

Add dry ingredients to food processor and process until combined. Add soy milk through top spout while processor is running. A ball of dough will form quickly – stop the processor when it does. If you don’t have a food processor you can mix the ingredients together by hand in a bowl. Place dough in a bag to rest for at least ten minutes.

Divide dough ball into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, roll one quarter into a ball. Use a rolling pin to roll it out in a circle – make it as thin as possible.

Keep the remaining dough in the bag until you’re ready to use it.

Heat a greased crêpe pan or skillet on medium heat – flick it with water to test if it’s ready. If the water jumps in the pan it’s hot enough. Place dough on crêpe pan and cook for approximately one minute. Flip and cook for another minute. Remove from pan and place on a waiting plate. Repeat for each remaining quarter of dough.

Mixed Berry Compote:

2 cups mixed berries, frozen
juice of half a lemon
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

Mix everything together in a small pot and heat over medium-low heat until it just starts to simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Mixed Berry Sorbet:

1/2 package frozen mixed berries (about 2 cups)
1 cup vanilla soy yogurt
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1 ripe banana

You can adjust the amounts of these ingredients to suit your taste. Add everything to food processor and process until smooth – be sure to scrape down sides of bowl part way through. When mixture is smooth, transfer to ice cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions (mine was ready in about 15 minutes). The sorbet is best served right away. Transfer extra sorbet to air-tight container and store in freezer. Allow frozen sorbet to soften before serving again.

Many thanks to this month’s Daring Baker hosts: The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Be sure to check out the new home of the Daring Bakers, the Daring Kitchen.

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chunky monkey brownies.

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When the VegNews Recipe Club newsletter arrived in my inbox the other night, I knew I was in trouble: Chunky monkey brownies. Need I say more?

If you’re not familiar with it, VegNews is a fabulous print magazine. While not everyone can get their hands on the print version, everyone can enjoy the awesome website - there are loads of recipes, product reviews, informative articles, etc. The newsletter is great, maybe dangerous – you can sign up for it here.

The recipe is fast and easy. I didn’t have the banana chips called for but the brownies were still pretty damn good. I also substituted pecans for cashews. I think it worked. With hubby looming about, it was difficult to save enough for photos the next day. That’s what happens when you go baking late at night and there’s no sun.

I would most definitely make these again, though I’d probably reduce the sugar next time around. These brownies are super sweet. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup of sugar – I’d probably try a 1/2 cup next time. My husband thought they were just fine as is so I’d say it really depends on how sweet you like it. The texture of the brownie is perfect – moist and chewy. Fairly dense. Based on the yummy crisp edges from the outskirts of the pan, I’d say you could use the same recipe and turn them into fantastic cookies by baking them until they’re crisper.

I plan on testing that theory very soon.

I used a 9-inch square pan, as directed. The brownies don’t rise that much so they came out thinner than I expected. Given how rich, chocolaty and sweet they are, this is probably a good thing.

You can find the chunky monkey brownie recipe at VegNews here.

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almond butter chocolate chip cookies.

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I love Twitter. You meet all sorts of interesting, like-minded, creative people who point you in a million different fantastic directions – and you get cookies.

Let me explain.

Someone, clearly cool, found me on Twitter. This prompted me to check out their blog. On their blog I saw a post about cookies. One hour later I was eating them – these Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Hello Veggie to be exact.

Pretty cool.

These cookies are very easy to make and you probably have everything you need all set to go – unless you’re like me and you think you have almond butter in the fridge but it turns out to be hazelnut butter.

No worries. I had a big bag of almonds on hand – so I threw a cup of those in the food processor and processed until they were paste. It kind of made a paste, after about 15 minutes of processing (it stuck together when pressed so I figured it was close enough). The most important thing is that the cookies worked and they worked brilliantly.

On top of tasting out of this world amazing, another reason I totally dig these cookies is that they’re not loaded up with margarine – there is some, but much less than a lot of other chocolate chip cookies out there. The almond butter emulsifies and moistens better than margarine any day. Hey, we need our healthy fats. Very important.

Do I really have to advise you to make them? I had to share because they really are delish. Really delish. Consider this fair warning however: you will need will-power of steel to not eat them all.

Trust me on this.