Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June Daring Bakers' Challenge - Battenberg Cake

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge was something new to me, an apparently was pulled together very quickly when the wonderful blogger who was scheduled to host had a sudden family situation to attend to, and had to bow out. But with so many wonderful food bloggers and creative bakers in our Daring Kitchen family, all was not lost for the month of June.

Mandy of What the Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry's techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

Now, I had never heard of a Battenberg Cake before, but it turns out that they are cute little checkerboard-patterned cakes that were originally created to celebrate the wedding of Queen Victoria's granddaughter to Prince Louis of, you guessed it, Battenberg.

So, being that this was the month of celebrating the Queen's jubilee (and, I must admit that I am fascinated with the history associated with the British monarchy, so this challenge was extra fun...), we were challenged to celebrate with a cake designed for British royalty.

To create the checkerboard effect, they actually sell Battenberg Cake pans. Yup, pans with dividers so that it bakes up in strips that you can then just line up appropriately.

Or you can divide your regular cake pan in half with parchment paper and hope for the best.

Which is what we did.

Little miss helped me measure to make sure that my divider was in the right place.

And then we made our cake batter. It's pretty much a basic pound cake recipe, with butter, sugar, flour and eggs. The recipe that Mandy provided calls for ground nuts to be added in, as well, to help with the cake's sustainability. We don't bake with nuts. So the alternative was offered to use ground rice instead. Which I am sure works just fine, but it sounded a bit odd to me. So I added ground flax seed instead.

The other change that I made was due to another thing we avoid baking with in our house - food coloring. You see, a traditional Battenberg Cake is half white and half pink - made pink with the addition of red food coloring.  So rather than messing with beets to try to attain a pink cake, I chose to make half of my cake chocolate, instead, using my darkest cocoa powder.

All looked great as the cake went into the oven, and smelled deliciously buttery as it baked, but something must have gone wrong, because this is what I pulled out of the oven.

Holy sink-holes.

Needless to say, I was very disappointed.  I wasn't sure what to do, because that was a lot of butter to just chuck, and I wasn't sure that I wanted to try again.

But I didn't want to give up, so the next day, I tried again. Using a slightly different recipe. Well, not really that different - all of the ingredients were the same (though this recipe did not call for ground nuts/rice/flax/anything), but the method was different. You see, the recipe that Mandy provided used the "all in one" method - mix all of the ingredients in a bowl at the same time and there you go.  This "alternate" recipe used the creaming method, whereby the butter and sugar are creamed together first, then the eggs beaten in, then the dry ingredients incorporated.  I thought that I might have better results regarding the structure and integrity of my cake with this alternate method, so I gave it a shot.

Once again, I divided the pan and made half of my batter chocolate, leaving the other half plain.

And the results?

Only slightly less sinky. And pretty uneven, too.

Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed. Again.

But at this point, three sticks of butter, six eggs and plenty of flour and sugar later, I was committed. SO I figured that between the four halves, I could make this work.

And with a little creative cutting, I was able to kind of piece together something that could possibly be workable.

But the cake itself is only one component of a Battenberg. Once the cake is constructed, it is then wrapped. Usually in marzipan. Which is made out of ground almonds. Once again, we don't do nuts. But Mandy gave us a couple of alternatives, one of which was something called chocolate plastique, or modeling chocolate. And it looked easy to make.  All you do is melt some chocolate.

Once it's nice and melty, add in some corn syrup.

And that's it. Stir it until it cools, knead it for a while, then you can store it in a zip-top bag in the fridge until you need it. Easy, peasy and totally nut free. Hooray!

So once my cakes were cut and set aside, I started rolling out my chocolate. Which I had taken out hours and hours before to allow it to come to room temperature. And that little miss and I took turns kneading (still in the zip-top bag) in order to make it nice and pliable.

Yes, I am fully aware of what that looks like.

But it rolled out really beautifully!

And we were soon ready to construct our Battenberg!

To glue the layers together, I decided to go with a candy bar theme and use caramel sauce.

Then I had to carefully transfer the cakes to the rolled out chocolate and wrap the whole thing up.

Trim the edges, add some decorative hash marks and pearlized sprinkles, and there you have it!

Aside from the color difference in the vanilla squares (since one had ground flax mixed in and the other didn't), it actually kind of looked like it was supposed to!

When daddy came home from work and saw the finished cake on the counter, he was pretty impressed, which was just about all the validation I needed for the work and frustration involved in the process.

And then we cut into it and it was absolutely delicious. Very sweet, so a small piece was plenty, but between the buttery pound cake, the smooth caramel sauce and the fun chocolate covering, it made for a really nice dessert.

Mandy, thank you so much for sharing this fun celebration cake with us, and for doing such a wonderful job with your last-minute hosting role!

To see the other truly impressive cakes baked in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

Traditional Battenberg Cake
(challenge recipe, from Mary Berry's "Baking Bible")

For the cake:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) 175gm / 6 oz Unsalted Butter, softened & cut in cubes
¾ cup / 175gm / 6 oz Caster Sugar
1¼ cups / 175gm / 6 oz Self-Raising Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temp
½ cup / 65gm/ 2 1/3 oz Ground Almonds (Can be substituted with ground rice)
3/4 tsp / 3½ gm Baking Powder
½ tsp / 2½ ml Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp (1¼ ml) Almond Extract
Red Food Colouring, paste, liquid or gel

To finish:
1/3 cup (80 ml) 100gm /3 ½ oz Apricot Jam
1 cup / 225gm / 8 oz Marzipan, natural or yellow

Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/160°C Fan Assisted/Gas Mark 4.
Grease an 8”/20cm square baking tin with butter.
Line the tin with parchment paper, creating a divide in the middle with the parchment (or foil) OR Prepare Battenberg tin by brushing the tin with melted butter and flouring.
Whisk together the dry ingredients then combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth.
Spoon half the mixture into the one side of the prepared baking tin.
Add a few drops of red food liquid/gel/paste to the remaining batter, stir until the colour is thoroughly distributed. Add more colour as needed until desired color is reached.
Spoon the pink batter into the other half of the prepared baking tin.
Smooth the surface of the batter with a spatula, making sure batter is in each corner.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean (it should shrink away from the sides of the pan).
Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.
Once completely cool, trim the edges of the cake with a long serrated knife.
Cut each coloured sponge in half lengthways so that you are left with four long strips of sponge.
Neaten the strips and trim as necessary so that your checkered pattern is as neat and even as possible.
Gently heat the apricot jam and pass through a small sieve.
Brush warmed jam onto the strips of cake to stick the cake together in a checkered pattern (one yellow next to one pink. On top of that, one pink next to one yellow).
Dust a large flat surface with icing sugar then roll the marzipan in an oblong shape that is wide enough to cover the length of the cake and long enough to completely wrap the cake.
Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam.
Place the cake on the marzipan, jam side down.
Brush the remaining three sides with jam.
Press the marzipan around the cake, making sure the join is either neatly in the one corner, or will be underneath the cake once turned over.
Carefully flip the cake over so that the seam is under the cake and score the top of the cake with a knife, you can also crimp the top corners with your fingers to decorate, if you would like.
Neaten the ends of the cake and remove excess marzipan by trimming off a small bit of cake on both ends to reveal the pattern.

Notes: I used ground flax instead of ground almonds and omitted the almond extract. Instead of a few drops of red food coloring, I used a bit of dark cocoa powder. I used caramel sauce instead of jam as the "glue" to hold my pattern together, and instead of marzipan, I used semi-sweet modeling chocolate, for which the recipe is provided below.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Modeling Paste
(from Joy of Baking)

7 ounces (200 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 1/2 - 4 tablespoons light corn syrup

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and stir until smooth and cooled a bit.
Stir in the corn syrup.  The chocolate will stiffen almost immediately.  Stir until completely combined.  Transfer the chocolate to a sturdy plastic freezer bag and refrigerate until firm (about two hours, or longer is fine).
When the dough is firm, remove from the refrigerator, and knead it until it is soft enough to work with.  If it is too hard, cut off small pieces, and knead until pliable.  Grease the counter where you are working with oil or spray with Pam so the chocolate won't stick.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Sourdough Beer Bread

Every month, there is a very cool online bread baking event, aptly called "Bread Baking Day." Each month, a host chooses a theme, and food bloggers all over the world interpret that theme into a yeasted bread of their choice.  And the themes are creative.

But I somehow seem to miss it each month. I have no idea why.

So while I may have only participated once before (with these chocolate brioche buns), I love the creativity I see every month, and couldn't wait to participate this month.

Especially when I saw this month's bread theme, as posted here by our host. Beer. And, as it's the 5th anniversary for BBD, what a better time to jump in?

We are not big drinkers in our house, but I love beer bread. The challenge, however, is that most beer breads are quick breads. Meaning no yeast is involved. And one of the criteria for BBD breads is that yeast has to be involved, whether commercial or wild (sourdough).

So of course I chose to go with sourdough.  I found this recipe and was ready to go.

And the recipe is so simple, too. All it takes is some sourdough starter.

And some beer.

Mix those together with a bit of sugar.

Then add flour.

Then knead. And knead. And knead. Until you have a nice ball of dough.

Now, the recipe calls the dough to rise for an hour and a half at this point. But, this being sourdough and, well, me being busy this month, I gave it some extra time. I let it rest for three hours. At which point my ball had lost all form and taken over my bowl.

This dough was then kneaded again, then shaped into a loaf.

As you can see, "shaping" can be taken kind of loosely here...

Then it rises again. The recipe says 45 minutes or until doubled in size. 45 minutes was not nearly enough, so I just let it sit until I was ready. Another three hours.

But it rose really, really nicely.

45 minutes in the oven, and it's finally done! But at that point, it was super late and the lighting was terrible.

So I waited until morning to really dig into it.

And oh my gosh, it was totally worth the wait!

This bread sliced so nicely, had a great crust, a delicious, airy crumb, and a really nice flavor. Daddy described the flavor as "sweet and hoppy," which kind of makes me think more of a bunny than a bread, but he really is right.

The beer and sourdough work together well, but the sugar adds just the right touch of sweetness to the mix.

My favorite way to eat this bread, so far, by the way, is warm, spread with butter and drizzled with honey.


Sourdough Beer Bread
(from's Bread Baking section)
*I am providing here a half recipe, what I used, to make a single loaf

6 ounces (half of a can) of beer at room temperature
1/2 cup sourdough starter (100% hydration)
1/4 cup sugar
about 2 1/2 cups bread flour

In a large bowl, combine the beer and sourdough starter. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Mix in enough flour until a soft dough forms, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and turn it to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then allow the dough to rise for at least an hour and a half (I gave the dough three hours at the point) in a warm, draft free place.

After this rise, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it again for about five minutes. Form the dough into a loaf and place it into a greased loaf pan. Cover again and allow to rise for at least 45 minutes, until doubled in size. Again, I gave my loaf three hours for this rise.

Once you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then bake the bread for 45 minutes, or until  the bread sounds hollow when you tap on it. Remove the loaf from the pan and allow it to cool on a rack.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sourdough Surprises #4 - Sourdough Bagels

I can't believe that this is the fourth month for Sourdough Surprises - I am having so much fun!

And this month was something super special for me, because it was something I'd been wanting to try ever since I started my whole sourdough adventure - bagels! 

I have made bagels once before, but that was well before I started sourdough-ing. So I was very excited to try a sourdough version.  We found this recipe, which  was 100% sourdough (no commercial yeast), and I couldn't wait to get started.

The recipe calls for quite a bit of starter, though, so I had to do a little bit of pre-planning. At any given time, the amount of starter that I have on hand is equal to about 250 grams, give or take a few grams.  For these bagels, you'll need 301 grams.

Which means you may need to bulk up your starter before getting started. (And don't forget that you'll need some extra so you can feed it again and build it back up!)

But quantities aside, this recipe was actually super simple.  Add all of the ingredients into the bowl of your mixer and, well, mix. A couple of short rests (seriously - short. 10 minutes each.), and you're ready to shape some bagels.

There are two schools of thought as to how to shape bagels.  The method I used the first time was the thumb-poke method. Basically, roll each section of dough into a ball and, well, poke your thumb through the middle of it. Then carefully stretch the hole, rolling the bagel on your thumb and, if needed, against your work surface until it, well, looks like a bagel.

This recipe, however, called for the other method which I'd read before. Instead of rolling each section of dough into a ball, you roll each section into a snake, tapered at the ends.

Then wrap the snake around the palm of your hand.

And roll the overlap against your work surface to seal the ends together.

As you can see, I couldn't decide which method to use, so I did half and half. In the name of science, of course - to see which would work better!

So the shaped bagels proofed for several hours at room temperature, then overnight in the refrigerator.

And in the morning, we were ready to cook.

I was actually a little surprised that, when I took the tray of bagels out of the refrigerator in the morning, they didn't really look that much different... no real noticeable puffing or anything.

But I was not deterred.

The cooking process for these, like for the other bagels I'd made and as with our pretzels, requires two steps.

First the bagels are boiled in a baking soda bath.

Out of the boiling water, we gave half of our bagels a sprinkle of our multi-seed mix to make them everything bagels.

Then they baked in a nice, hot oven until they are beautifully golden brown.

Oh my gosh, how awesome are those? Seriously, how much better does breakfast get than one of these, fresh out of the oven?

They had a good crunch to the crust, a really nice chew to the inside, and were delicious spread with butter or cream cheese.

So were yours as yummy as mine? I can't wait to see them. So link up!

I am looking forward to trying a couple more variations of these - cinnamon raisin? Blueberry? The possibilities are endless, and tasty to imagine.

This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Sourdough Bagels
(from the Wild Yeast blog)

349 g high-gluten flour (or 339 g flour plus 10 g vital wheat gluten)
121 g cold water
28 g milk powder
16.4 g non-diastatic malt powder (I used barley malt powder)
10.1 g (1 2/3 teaspoons) salt
301 g active 100%-hydration sourdough starter
1 tablespoon baking soda for boiling

Combine the starter, water, flour, malt, milk powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed to combine.
Mix on medium-low speed until the dough is very smooth and strong, almost rubbery. How long this takes will depend upon your mixer. I mixed mine for about 5 minutes or so, while I was doing other things, checking on it a few times to see how it felt.
Turn the dough out onto an unfloured counter and work a few turns by hand. Form the dough into a smooth ball; the surface should feel satiny and tight.
Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes. I let mine sit longer, as we were busy around the house, but I don't think this was a problem.
Divide the dough into 8 even pieces of about 100 g each. Form each piece into a light ball, cover, and let rest for another 10 minutes (again, I let mine sit longer).
Meanwhile, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dust it generously with semolina (I used regular corn meal).
To shape each bagel, roll the dough into a cylinder about 8 – 10 inches long without tapering the ends. Wrap the cylinder around your hand, with the ends overlapping by about two inches in your palm. Roll your palm on the (still unfloured) counter to smash the ends together. (Note: if the dough is a little dry, give it a quick spritz of water with a fine spray bottle before shaping. This helps it roll more easily, and the ends stick to each other.)
Alternatively, you can poke your thumb through the middle of each ball, then carefully pull and roll to stretch the hole and shape your bagel.
Place the shaped bagels on the prepared cookie sheets, and slip into a large food-grade plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap. Proof for about 4 hours at warm room temperature, until the bagels look and feel a bit puffy. Then refrigerate them for 4 – 8 hours (I left mine in the refrigerator overnight).
When you are ready to cook your bagels, preheat the oven to 425F and put a large pot of water on to boil.
When the water is almost boiling, place a cooling rack on the counter with a dishtowel underneath it. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator, brush the semolina off their bottoms, and place them on the cooling rack.
When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the baking soda (carefully - it will foam up when you add it!). Drop the bagels, three or four at a time, into the vigorously boiling water for 20 seconds. They may or may not float right away, but they should float by the time the 20 seconds are up. If they float right away so the tops are not submerged initially, flip them over about halfway through the boil.
Remove the bagels from the water to the cooling rack with a slotted spatula. Let them drain for about 30 seconds before replacing them back onto the semolina-dusted, parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Turn the oven down to 400F once the bagels are in. Bake until golden brown, about 24 – 26 minutes. About halfway through baking, open the oven door briefly to vent any steam.
Cool on a wire rack.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sunday Brunch - Baked Apple Donuts

Another weekend, another fun brunch!

I was in the mood for something fun for breakfast this morning, but couldn't quite decide what. I started looking around at different recipes, but found reasons to count out everything... didn't want a yeast recipe, because I didn't want it to take that long. Didn't want french toast because we only had three eggs in the house... and so on and so on. Then I saw a recipe for apple fritters, and that looked really good. Only I didn't want something fried. So I googled "baked apple fritters," just to see what I would find. One of the first hits, though, was someone pointing out that if you don't fry it, you can't call it a fritter. Doesn't mean you can't do it, doesn't mean it isn't delicious, but it really isn't a fritter. So when I changed my search term to "baked apple donuts," I had many more recipes from which to choose.

And that is when I came across this recipe. Looked easy, looked straightforward, and, most importantly, looked delicious. While they are called donuts, they are really more like muffins, but they definitely maintained the apple-fritter spirit, so it looked perfect.

Little miss happily picked out the three best apples out of our bag, then helped me get down to business mearuring and mixing.

The most time consuming part of the whole process was one that is barely noted in the recipe - peeling, coring and dicing the apples. See, the recipe just lists "two cups cored and finely diced apples" as a line item, so doesn't take into consideration the time it takes to achieve that in its estimation of prep time... oops. To entertain little miss during this process, I tried to peel each apple in a single strand, something I am not that great at... The good thing, though, is that she liked playing with the long curl, which gave me the time to dice up two cups of apples, so it was worth the effort.

Apples done, though, the rest of the recipe was very simple, and came together very quickly. I did make one change to the recipe, though. As it is written, once these come out of the oven, they are dipped into melted butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar. Yum, right? But remember how I didn't want fritters because they're fried? Some how, dousing these muffins in a whole stick of melted butter defeated the purpose, in my mind at least, of not frying them. But, well, yum, right? So instead, I melted a few tablespoons of butter and brushed the tops of each with the butter, then sprinkled them with the cinnamon sugar. Same idea, slightly less guilt.

These were delicious. Do they count as a fruit serving for the day, too? Because these made an excellent breakfast (brunch) and will definitely be made again. And be breakfast tomorrow morning, too.

Baked Apple Donuts
(only minorly adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
2 cups cored and finely diced apples
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
With a fork, mix together flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add 1/2 cup butter and mix until it is broken up. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine eggs, milk and diced apples. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix until just blended.
Spoon the batter into greased muffin pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are light to medium brown.
While donuts are baking, melt the two tablespoons of butter and set aside. Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon.
When the donut muffins come out of the oven, brush the tops with the melted butter, then sprinkle them with the cinnamon sugar.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

June Daring Cooks' Challenge - Cannelloni

Okay, so let me start this off with a quick apology. Things around here have been a bit busy, which has caused things to be a bit slow on this here blog. We're spending a lot of time playing outside, swimming, playing with friends, crafting, preparing for ballet recitals, trying gymnastics, running, jumping and generally making merry.  And while we're cooking and eating and all that good stuff, June will remain a very slow blog month. So I apologize for that.

We'll be back to our regular routine soon, but we're going to keep enjoying the start to our summer.

That being said, June's Daring Cooks' challenge was a wonderful one, and I am very pleased to share it with you.

Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!

Now, I had no doubt the challenge would be outstanding when I saw that Manu was hosting it. She is a fantastic cook, amazing blogger, and an overall sweet, wonderful person.

The fact that she chose a delicious challenge was no surprise.

Cannelloni is a filled, baked pasta dish that is traditionally served on special occasions. And, as I said, it is delicious.

There are several components to this dish, meaning that you have to be a bit organized about making it, but it is straightforward and not all that difficult.

It starts with egg pasta.

Yup - eggs and flour. That's it. Mix them together and knead it into a dough.

Once the dough has rested, it is time to roll out the pasta.

Which is super easy.

If you have a pasta roller.

Which I don't.

So my sheets of pasta weren't exactly even... but I got a good workout.

The next component to prepare is the filling.

Many provided some really yummy looking options. I chose to wing it.

I sauteed some diced onion and frozen spinach, then threw in some chopped, cooked chicken.

Once that mixture cooled, I mixed in a whole lot of ricotta and grated paremsan.


There was then one more component to prepare - the bechamel. A bechamel is basically a white sauce. It starts with a roux - a combination of fat (here - butter) and flour, and serves as a classic thickener.

To the roux, hot milk is added, then a bit of spice and voila. Basic bechamel.

Once everything is prepared, all that is left is to construct and cook.

Construction requires a bit of dexterity and timing...

The pasta sheets are quickly boiled to soften them, then they are filled.

The filled sheets are rolled, then laid into a baking pan. 

The dexterity comes into play when placing them into the pan. As in, trying not to let them come completely unrolled in the process.

I mostly succeeded...

Then the pasta is covered in the bechamel. I topped my bechamel with a can of crushed tomatoes. And a generous sprinkling of parmesan.

And then it bakes.

And smells lovely.

And tastes delicious.

I actually wanted to make so many versions of this. Still do. But, with all of that busy we have going on right now, rolling my own pasta by hand has taken a bit of a back seat. But you can bet I will be making plenty of variations of this, because it is well worth the effort.

Manu, thank you so much for this wonderful and delicious challenge, and for the wonderful inspiration and support you have provided all month long.

To see the other wonderful dishes cooked up in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

For the egg pasta (from the challenge):
(to make enough cannelloni for 4 persons):

100 grams (2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons) (170 ml) (3½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 large egg

*note - 100 grams is an approximation - you may need less, so it's best to start a bit light and add more as needed!

Put the flour and eggs in a food processor and mix. When the dough looks like crumbs, pour it onto the bench top sprinkled with a little flour. Knead well by hand until you obtain a smooth dough. Make it into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
Not having a food processor, I did this by hand - combining the eggs and flour together with my hands then just kneading the mixture together.

Now you are ready to roll out the egg pasta.
Cut out a piece of egg pasta dough and flatten it into a rectangular shape with your hands. Put a little flour on it and begin passing it though the pasta machine. Turn the dial to the widest setting (#1) and, starting with one of the shorter sides of the rectangle, feed it through the rollers. Now fold one side of the piece of dough into the middle, then fold the other side over that to form 3 layers. Starting with one of the narrower sides of the folded dough, feed the pasta through the machine, again at the widest setting. Repeat the folding and rolling technique on the widest setting for at least a couple of times.
Now you can start rolling it thinner, by turning the dial to the next narrowest setting (# 2). Roll the pasta through the machine without folding the dough between settings. Keep reducing the settings until #7 (it is the second last on my machine – about 1 mm thick). If the sheet of pasta gets too long, you can cut it in half with a knife. To make cannelloni, cut out rectangular pasta sheets (10x15 cm) (4”x6”).

Or, without a pasta machine, use a rolling pin and roll the dough as thinly and evenly as you can by hand. I divided the dough into four and just kept at it, trying to create even sheets of pasta. It works, but it takes time and definitely gives you a workout!

For the Bechamel sauce (from the challenge):
(enough to make cannelloni for 4 people):

2 cups (500 ml) milk, hot
3½ tablespoons (52½ ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) butter
1/3 cup (80 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 pinch salt
1 pinch nutmeg

Put the butter in a non-stick pot and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk constantly until well incorporated: this is the “roux”. Let it cook for a minute or two.
Now start adding hot milk little by little, while mixing continuously until the milk is well incorporated. Do not add more milk unless it is well incorporated. Keep doing so until all the milk is incorporated.
Add salt and nutmeg and cook it on a low flame for 10 minutes or until it thickens.
When ready, cover it to prevent a film to appear on the surface.
Note: If you still get a lumpy sauce, do not throw it out. You can still save it and make it smooth by using a hand stick blender.

For the filling (my own creation):

1 small onion, chopped
1 10 ounce box of frozen spinach
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped, cooked chicken
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Sautee the onion in a small amount of olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the spinach. Saute until tender throughout. Add chopped chicken and stir to combine. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool.
When the sauteed spinach mixture is cool, combine it with the cheeses, adjusting the spices to taste.
Set the filling aside until you are ready to construct your finished cannelloni.

For the final dish:
You will need the rolled pasta sheets, the prepared filling, the prepared bechamel sauce and a large can of crushed tomatoes and some grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling.

Put a large pot with salty water on the fire and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta sheets in it for 1 minute. Do this in batches (I use a shallow but large pot and I cook them in 1 layer, so I am sure they do not stick together). Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them on a clean tea towel to cool down.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Now take one sheet of cooked pasta and put 1/8 of the filling along the long side of the rectangle. Roll it over to make a cannellone. Do so for the remaining rectangles of pasta.
Take a big enough oven dish to fit all your cannelloni tightly. Spray it with some cooking oil (or melted butter) and pour some b├ęchamel sauce on the bottom. Spread it well, especially in the corners. Put the cannelloni in the oven dish on 1 layer.
Cover the cannelloni with the remaining b├ęchamel sauce and sprinkle with the grated parmesan.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, then turn oven to broil and broil for about 5 minutes (watching carefully so it doesn't burn).
Serve right away.


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