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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Italian Almond Squares

Quick, easy, delicious and great if one needs a Plan B if the first recipe bombs.


Yield: 16 squares.
3/4 cups of butter
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup of SLICED almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter. Pour melted butter in a bowl and stir in sugar. Add eggs . Beat mixture at moderate speed with hand mixer, until creamy (about 4 minutes). Add all other ingredients (but not the topping ingredients). Grease bottom and sides of eight-inch square pan. Spread the batter in the pan. Sprinkle the almonds over the top and sprinkle the sugar over the almonds. Bake for about 40 mins, until cake starts to pull away lightly from pan edges.
These were a rave at work, one of the most popular desserts I have made.

Expresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

These are cute side-of-the saucer cookies. The dough is delicate and lightly crunchy; the cookies are well worth making again, with the proviso that I will use a lot less coffee. This is my own personal taste, but I think 1/2 to one teasp. of coffee should suffice to give the chocolate that mocha lift. I found the taste with the exact recipe of 1 Tbs. rather bitter. I'm going to give them a shot next week, with the smaller quantity of coffee (when I make the peanut butter cookies for TWD).
For the recipe, check out Donna's blog: Life's" Too Short Not to Eat Dessert

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

Rachel of Sweet Tarte picked this lovely tart for us. It's a great choice - thank you, Rachel. The recipe is on the Sweet Tarte blog.

Dorie's Sweet Tart Dough has become a staple for my baking - I use it for lemon curd tartlets, fruit tarts, and so on and so on. Why use anything else! I just made the plain recipe for this tart, without the almonds (I'll try that some other time).

I used my rectangular tart pan, just for a change - it's roughly, very roughly, the same area measurement as my 9 inch circular pan and the single portion of the dough fits very nicely. It's also easier to cut than a circular tart. I bought luscious, ripe, yellow peaches from my local store and had fun slicing and fitting them into the pan. The custard filling was easy. The only thing I was a bit disappointed in was the streusel - it came out looking rather lumpy; obviously my streusel making skills are not yet up to par.
They loved it at work - I had to go out of the office for the morning; when I came back it was all gone, with only a few crumbs left. It always gives me a lift when the group enjoys the Tuesday treat. Now I'm sold on using peaches in baking - maybe in individual tarts next time, with some brown caster sugar over them, or in a nice fresh fruit cake.
So onward to next week's Chocolate Shortbread.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pistachio White Chocolate Biscotti

These are the biscotti I baked for the co-workers for their Tuesday treat. The recipe is Dorie Greenspan's, adapted to include pistachio nuts and anise essence and dipped with tempered white chocolate.

They were delicious and got a thumbs up at work. I had a bit of a hard time doing the baking in the heat - yesterday was quite wicked and my kitchen gets very hot, so the dough was difficult to handle and had to be put in the fridge before shaping into the logs.

I have tempered white chocolate successfully before but that was in May; this time it didn't temper properly and remained a bit sticky. The temperature on the chocolate thermometer was supposed to go no higher than 110 degrees F, then down to 84 degrees and finally up to 87 (according to the instructions I used). But it shot up to well over 110 degrees, which, I think, is white chocolate tempering doom. For my next effort I'm going to heat the chocolate as the water in the double boiler base is heating, not wait until it's simmering. That way I should have more control.

Dorie's recipe is here: (I've just realized I have made this four times and posted about it three times - oh well, it must mean I really like it.
Pistachio White Chocolate Biscotti
adapted from Baking From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons of anise
3/4 cup of pistachios, medium-size chopped.
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cornmeal together. (If you are adding ground spices, add them to this mixture before combining.)3. Beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy. Beat in the almond extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You'll have a soft, stick-to-your-fingers dough that will ball up around the paddle or beaters. Scrape down the paddle and bowl, toss in the pistachios and mix just to blend.4. Scrape half the dough onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your fingers and a rubber spatula or scraper, work the dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. The log will be more rectangular than domed, and bumpy, rough and uneven. Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet.5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.6. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the logs to a cutting board and, with a long serrated knife, trim the ends and cut the logs into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet, setting them again on the same sides as before and slide the sheet back into the oven.7. Bake the biscotti at 350F for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature. These are very nice indeed. (The baking time might need to be a little longer but the biscotti must not get too brown on the underside.)
White Chocolate: Temper one pound of good quality white chocolate (I used Callebaut) and let cool before dipping biscotti.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Raisin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I wanted something quick, easy and which did not require a long baking time. Once again we suffer in NY with sticky, airless weather. I came across this recipe from (often an excellent site for baking). These are the full measurements; I halved them and used an 8-inch square pan.

Raisin Cake:
2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups raisins

Frosting: (I also halved this).
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (or lemon)
Milk, as needed (did not need, in fact needed a bit more confectioner's sugar)

Pour hot water over raisins to cover. Let steep until plump, about 15 minutes, then drain thoroughly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with non-stick foil. In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. Make a well in the center. Add oil, applesauce and beaten eggs. Mix well. Fold in plumped raisins. Pour into pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. (My smaller cake was done around 25 mins.) Cool to room temperature. Frosting: In small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla extract and confectioners' sugar. Add lemon juice and just enough milk to make frosting smooth and easy to spread. Smooth frosting on top of cooled cake. Refrigerate cake for 1 hour. (overnight)
This proved to be a great hit; it's a very nice snack cake and the apple sauce and oil made it wonderfully moist. I'll definitely make this for other occasions besides the office Tuesday treat.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nut Sponge Cake


I really like this recipe - it's quite rich and delicate in texture and the flavors blened in very well. I used a thin layer of apricot jam and whipped cream for the filling; this is a cake which could take a variety of fillings: creme anglaise would be lovely, as would a mascarpone cheese frosting filling, and so on and so on. I sprinkled the top with caster sugar.

Nut Sponge Cake with Jam and Cream

4 oz. butter
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
1-1/2 oz roasted ground hazelnuts
4 oz self raising flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 tablespoon warm milk

Set oven at 375 degrees F. Grease and line a 8-inch round cake tin. Soften the butter in a bowl, add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the egg yolks, nuts, sifted flour and salt. Dissolve the coffee in the milk and add to the mixture; then fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn into the tin and bake for about 25 minutes until firm and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool. Fill with filling of choice.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gingered Carrot Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

I'm wondering if there are photo lessons for Dummies, like the Dummy series books - I got this pic quite nicely because by chance the camera was in image mode. Must learn, must improve!
I have to say I didn't like these cookies very much; they were okay just baked but later they turned soft and did not seem to have that much flavor. But that's just my taste; a lot of TWD'ers did like the recipe.
Anyhow, they're up and posted.