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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Whipped Shortbread Cookies

Are these ever fabulous! The recipe is adapted from Allrecipes and I made half quantities. They taste like puffs of delicious shortbread and remind me a bit of eating peanuts - you can get hooked on tossing them into the mouth and before you know it you have eaten a dozen.

Recipe for Whipped Shortbread Cookies

3 cups butter, softened
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups cornstarch
2 Tbs. Lemon Peel OR 3 tsps. ground Cardomon (I separated flavorings into 2 batches).
2 Tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy - about 10 mins. on medium speed. Mix dry ingredients - flour, cornstarch, cardomon (if using). Gradually add to creamed mix, beating until well blended. Add grated lemon zest if using. Add vanilla. Beat until blended.
With hands lightly dusted with additional cornstarch, roll dough into 1-in. balls. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Press lightly with a floured fork. Dip into colored sugars. (The purple ones have the cardomon.)Top with small pieces of different nuts (cashews, walnuts, pistachios).

Bake at 300° for 20 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: about 16 dozen.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sans Rival - Daring Bakers November Challenge

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

I can see I am ending up with a mini mini miniature, just a tiny sample to show I have attempted the challenge. The original plan was to make the 4 - 9 inch layers of the nougat, to be followed by mousseline on the layers and the top but not on the sides. I was thinking about the people in my office who are watching their cholestrol. Well, I need not have worried! I put two pans on the middle rung of my oven, let the meringues bake for 30 minutes and then had a devil of a battle trying to get the paper off the back. The remainder of the meringue/nuts had become all watery sitting in the bowl for 30 minutes so I did not even attempt to bake it.

With only one rather jagged circle, I am just going to make something the size of a quarter and fill the layers with regular buttercream so as not to waste all the mousseline ingredients.

I must say I am disappointed at my big FAIL. I have tasted a bit of the nougat and it is very nice - would have been really delicious as a complete product, I am sure. Hopefully I will have better success in the December challenge.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wilton Flowers and Cake Design

My flowers cake from the Wilton Part 2 course - Flowers and Cake Design. I think I have found a passion and maybe even a new occupation as I near retirement - working with fondant and gum paste and making beautiful flowers. This was such a good class and I now feel encouraged to go on to the third level.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Povitica - The Daring Bakers October Challenge

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

I had such a good time with this challenge! And I actually finished it half-way through the month, instead of waiting until the last minute. After much anxiety and wondering if I could meet this challenge I decided to devote the better part of a Saturday and the evening - until almost 11:00pm - solely to Povitica.

Now that this one has turned out quite well, I feel encouraged to do the DB Croissants and the Baklava that I shied away from earlier this year; even to try the Strudel again using the sheet method. I made the half portion - thank you, Audax, it was wonderful to have this option. My first loaf had a band of plumped raisins at the beginning of the dough rectangle (to make it easier to roll); my second loaf had a band of Nestle chocolate mini-morsels at the beginning of the dough. These two flavors should take care of the non-chocolate lovers and the non-raisin lovers at the office as they can choose.

It's an unusual dough, for me at any rate - it seems that European baking has so many fancy dough types. However, it was not terribly difficult; it just took a lot of flouring. Kneading was quite enjoyable, something which I have feared up to now. A good neighbor in my building comes from Eastern Europe, Bosnia to be precise, and she is always making me treats of their marvellous cooking, both sweet and savory. I can't wait to tell her I have made her national bread.

My group swooned over this bread - we enjoyed it for two days as there was some left over after the first day. I would like to try some more flavors now, although my favorite so far is the raisin bread. I will write up the recipe soon, very soon, promise, but I'm just in a bit of a rush mode right now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fun with Candy Melts

I took a class today in using candy melts. Basically the methods are plain dipping in melted compound chocolate or filling various molds with melted compound chocolate and placing them in freezer for a few minutes. Once taken out of the freezer, the chocolates are tapped out on to the work surface. The marshmallow on a stick, pretzel, and chocolate coated Oreo Cookie at the back of my pic are done using the dipping method. The orange pyramids, spider patterned cookie and the white chocolate disc are made using the filling and freezing method.

More follow - this is just the beginning working with chocolate for me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lemon Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies - Fine Cooking

I love this shortbread. It is short, buttery, and has a slight lemon flavor from the grated lemon rind. I have made this twice so far, once with regular flour and then with unbleached flour. The recipe calls for unbleached flour but my personal taste is for the regular flour - it gives the shortbread a finer consistency.

A dear friend and the group at work have been the "tasters." All round, these cookies got a five star rating. Here is the recipe, from "Fine Cooking," slightly adapted.

Lemon Cornmeal Shortbread Bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup) finely ground yellow cornmeal (I used Bob's Red Mill Cornmeal Flour - it is nice and fine and not at all gritty.)
1/2 tsp. table salt
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature; more for the pan
1-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (I think a caster sugar would also be nice.)
1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest (I use a Microplane-style zester)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a 9x13-­inch baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornnmeal, and salt to blend. In a large bowl, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla; with a hand-held electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on medium-­high speed until light and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the dough begins to form moist clumps. Dump the dough into the prepared pan.

Using a rubber spatula or lightly floured fingertips, spread the dough into the pan in a smooth, even layer. Dip the tip of a knife or a small metal spatula in flour (to prevent sticking) and score the dough all the way through into bars that measure 1x2-1/2 inches (about 1 inch across the short side and just a smidgen over 2-1/2 inches on the long side). Bake until the tops look dry and a pale golden brown, 35 to 40 min. Transfer the pan to a rack. Immediately cut the shortbread into bars, with a metal bench scraper or a knife, using the scored lines as a guide (they will have faded a bit during baking). It’s important to do this right after the shortbread comes out of the oven; if you wait until it has cooled, it will crumble when you try to cut it. Let the bars cool completely in the pan before removing them with a small, flexible offset spatula.

Make Ahead Tips
The shortbread dough can be pressed into the pan, scored, covered, and frozen up to a month before thawing and baking. The baked bars keep, well wrapped, for up to three days at room temperature.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Crunchy Sugar Cookies - Fine Cooking

I am totally in love with "Fine Cooking's" website - the instructions are nicely detailed and the recipes are delicious. Here is one of more to come - these "Crunchy Sugar Cookies" are easy and ideal to make on a Monday night after coming home quite late from work. I find it interesting that many of the recipes in the Cookies section call for unbleached flour; I think this gives a slightly more chewy consistency than bleached flour.

The Recipe for Crunchy Sugar Cookies1 cup granulated sugar; more for shaping
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened but not meltingly soft
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) vegetable shortening, preferably trans fat free, softened
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 drops almond extract (optional)
9-1/2 oz. (2 cups plus 2 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
White or colored (coarse) sanding sugar for rolling (optional)


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, butter, shortening, and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if using) and mix on low speed ( just to combine); then beat at medium speed for a total of 1 minute.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and baking soda to combine; then add to the mixer. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, just to combine. Scrape down the bowl and then mix on medium-low speed for another 30 seconds to mix the dough uniformly.

Gently roll the dough into 1-oz. balls (about 1 heaping Tbs. each). Roll the balls in sanding sugar (if using). Arrange at least 2-1/4 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten the dough balls to 1/4 inch thick with the bottom of a glass dipped in granulated sugar (re-dip the glass after each cookie). Bake one sheet at time until the tops are light golden and set, 15 to 18 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

From Fine Cooking 109, pp. 39
December 30, 2010


Monday, September 5, 2011

Cherry Turnovers

Tomorrow we are having a feast of Cherry Turnovers at work. I have just spent Labor Day making them. I bought some gorgeous, sweet Bing cherries from Citarella, made a pate brisee then a delicious cherry pie filling, which I got from a favorite blog, Pastry Studio.

Pate Brisee of choice - enough to make 2 pie crusts
For Filling:1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pounds Bing cherries, pitted (weigh before pitting), cut into quarters
2 Tbs. instant tapioca
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond essense
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice

One egg white, slightly whisked, to glaze turnovers
Extra sugar for dipping

Combine above ingredients and let sit for about 1/2 hour, then drain off some of the accumulated juice.
Roll out pastry in 2 portions to about 1/8 inch thick.
Using a turnover cutter 3 inches in diameter, cut out pastry rounds and fill with about 3 teasp. cherry filling each (or as much as will fill the turnover shape when closing the cutter).

Refrigerate for about 30 mins. Brush with lightly whisked egg white and dip into sugar. Place on baking tray covered with sheet of parchment.

Bake at 375 degrees F for about 22 minutes, until turnovers look nice and golden.
Remove from oven and immediately transfer baking sheet with turnovers to wire cooler. Let cool and remove from sheet.

I love these - maybe a bit more sugar next time for the cherries (I used less than 1/2 cup). The pastry was good too.

[Bench Notes: Never use twice rolled pastry on these - it shrinks and cannot fit the turnover mold. Always use the first pastry round rolled out.]

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chocolate Truffles and Blackberry Pates de Fruits - Daring Bakers August Challenge

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

Firstly, the truffles. They turned out most imperfect but they taste good. I used a half-pound each of Callebaut white chocolate and Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate to make the actual truffles. It was not a large enough quantity to temper so I just used it for the truffle centers, boiling cream and then pouring it over chopped up bits of chocolate. This is the recipe I used, from Epicurious, slightly adapted from Trio of Chocolate Truffles.

Semisweet Chocolate Truffles
1/3 cup whipping cream
6 oz. of Callebaut semisweet chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. Grand Marnier
Finely ground pistachio nuts (about 4 ozs).

Bring cream to boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk in vanilla and Grand Marnier. Pour into medium bowl. Let cool on counter top then cover with foil and chill until firm, about 3 hours. (A good alternative would be to pipe the chocolate into a pomponette pan so it will keep a roundish shape.) Remove when they are just firm enough to shape and roll by hand, then replace in fridge to cool again.

While the chocolate is cooling in the fridge, prepare the Bada Bing Bada Boom enrobing candy melts, which does not require full tempering. However, some temperature changes are necessary to get it to the right state.

The Bada Bing Bada Boom Enrobing Chocolate

Heat water in bottom pan of double boiler to 130 - 15o degrees F. Turn off heat.
Place candy melts in top pan, and fit over bottom pan. Stir frequently with rubber spatula, until temperature is reduced to 100 - 105 degrees F.
Remove top pan. Let melts cool and hold temperature at 96 - 98 degrees F.
Dip prepared, rolled truffles into candy melt mixture (a slotted spoon is quite helpful). Place back in fridge for about 5 minutes, then remove and dip into the ground pistachio nut mixture.
Refrigerate truffles until set up, then keep at room temperature. (I have stored mine in a cake box covered lightly with a plastic bag).

White Chocolate Truffles
Repeat process with white Callebaut chocolate and white candy melts. (I found white chocolate much trickier than the dark chocolate, it kept on melting). Just keep putting in fridge to firm up as necessary.

Bench Notes: Practice, Practice, Practice - not easy to temper chocolate. For Chocoley Bada Bing Bada Boom Dipping and Enrobing Chocolate, "temper" as described above. For full tempering of couveture chocolate I have in the past used the recipe in (once succesful and once unsuccesful - got streaks). Two good videos are on the sites: and

Blackberry Pate de Fruits

These pretty sweets were incredibly easy to make - compared to the Truffles which I found rather difficult. I bought a 14 oz. of Goya frozen Blackberry pulp from the local supermarket and used a recipe in (somewhat adapted):

14 oz. blackberry pulp (the recipe was for mango pulp)
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbs. butter
6 fl. oz. liquid pectin
sugar for sprinkling

Prepare an 8x8 inch square pan by lining it with aluminum foil or parchment paper and greasing it with Crisco.
Cook blackberry pulp and sugar together in a medium saucepan over low heat until they form a very thick syrup, for about an hour. The syrup should thickly coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Add butter and cook for 3 minutes more, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and stir in the pectin while hot. Pour immediately into the prepared pan.
Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate overnight until set.
Cut the candies into into small squares with a knife dipped in water. Roll in granulated sugar.

They can be stored in the refigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

Well, my truffles are really wonky, quite embarrassing in fact. My aim: work on making them so that they come out beautifully rounded and glossy. I did not like the fruit at all, possibly because the brand was not of the best. On the other hand, I have never been one to reach for fruit jellies in a box so I don't think I will make the jellies again.

All in all, a great learning experience with the hope of perfect truffles in the future.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coconut Macaroons

These delicious little cookies are from a recipe in "Joy of Baking." I have made them for two occasions, the first for a reception and the second for a treat at the Office. They vanish in a minute.

Easy, just right in texture, and sweet but not cloyingly sweet. Egg whites, sugar and sweetened coconut comprise the main ingredients and some wait time in the refrigerator is required. "Joy of Baking" also has a video on making these macaroons (which I can't seem to access now on my computer! - however, it is good) .

Coconut Macaroons:
4 large (120 grams) egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (60 grams) cake flour, sifted
3 cups (300 grams) sweetened shredded coconut

Coconut Macaroons: In a heatproof bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt. When this mixture is warm to the touch, and nice and creamy, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, flour, and coconut. Cover and refrigerate for about two hours, or until firm.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place small mounds (heaping tablespoons) of the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing several inches apart. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool.
Makes about 2 dozen Macaroons.

Bench Notes: Egg whites must be room temperature. When mixture is over pan of simmering water, whisk only until warm to the touch and nice and creamy - don't keep over water too long or it will start to make egg whites. Bake for about 21 mins. - just until there are a few dots of pale brown on some of the pieces of coconut.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Capt'n Jerry's Browned Butter Cookies

Makes over 60 cookies with 2 batches of dough.

I made these for a reception at my Church on August 15. They have come out excellently and look so pretty with the different colors of sugar. I feel like making these again and again as they are stress free and the given baking time is perfect. Basically they are a fairly rich sugar cookie, a bit like a Danish butter cookie.

The source is Land O' Lakes - if there were but world enough and time I would love to go through the whole selection of their cookies marked with 4 or 5 stars. This is the recipe, slightly adapted:

Capt'n Jerry's Brown Butter Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
colored sugars


Melt butter over medium-high heat in heavy saucepan. Continue cooking until butter foams and just turns a delicate golden color (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat immediately. Put in fridge for 30 minutes. Set oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Take cooled butter out of fridge. Combined browned butter, sugar, egg (lightly whisked) and vanilla in bowl. Beat at medium speed with Kitchen Aid, scraping sides of bowl often (1-2 minutes).

Reduce speed to low. Add flour gradually and mix slowly for about 102 minutes.

Place in fridge to firm up, then roll dough with rounded teaspoon scoop, pressing dough down lightly. Form into balls, roll them in colored sugar and press down on cookies with the tines of a fork. Bake for 12 minutes. Let stand one minute on baking sheet then remove and place on wire rack.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ina Garten's Fresh Peach Cake

I have just baked the Fresh Fruit Cake by Ina Garten, which I found on "Food Network." Even though I have been pretty good with my diet (since starting three weeks ago) I have to confess that I broke down here and ate a good slice of this wonderful breakfast-coffee type cake. It has fresh yellow peaches, sprinkled in cinnamon sugar and pecans, nestling in the midst of a delicious dough combination that contains sour cream.

Ina's recipe can be found on the Food Network site - just check out Fresh Peach Cake. The peaches are lovely this year so it would be just the right time to try this cake.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Milk Chocolate Tartlets

Firstly, let me rave about the book from which I got this recipe, "Baking for All Occasions," by Flo Braker. It's my reading relaxation at present, filled with delicious recipes for the sweet tooth, recipes that do not look too complicated to make but which have luscious fillings, toppings and sauces, and a great selection of styles and types of sweet-tooth baking. On my list after today's Milk Chocolate Tarts are treats such as, "Luscious Lime Bars with Milk Chocolate Glaze", "Strawberry-Mango Shortcakes with Basil Syrup","Peanut Butter Crunch Cake," "Cupid's Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream" and lots more. Most of the ingredients are quite easy to obtain and will not break the bank. I can see the beginning of a beautiful friendship with this book.

Milk Chocolate Tartlets

I used a pate sucree for the pastry shells, baked in 4-inch mini tartlet pans with removable bases; for the filling I used extra creamy Lindt milk chocolate and a sprinkling of toasted almond slices. Baking time was about 15 mins. at 375F for blind baking, then about 7 mins. for open baking.

The filling is a ganache consisting of 10 ozs. milk chocolate and 3/4 cup of cream, with the cream brought to the boil and poured over the chocolate, allowed to sit for a minute, then stirred to a nice, smooth soft consistency. The recipe in the book calls for meringue topping, which I will try the next time I make this treat - my apartment in Brooklyn offers a tropical climate in summer, not a good time for finer things such as meringue. I'll just take a picture and be on my way to the chocoholics at work.

Bench Notes: Next time use stronger flavored nuts, such as pecans. The almond flavor rather disappeared into the chocolate. Also add 1/4 tsp. gelatin sprinkled over 1 tsp. of water, allowed to get damp, then blitz in the microwave for 5 seconds - this makes the chocolate set more firmly.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fresh Blueberry and Raspberry Bavarian - Daring Bakers

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

I love this cake. It has been one of my most enjoyable Daring Bakers challenges so far and so very French! I chose the Basic Chiffon Cake recipe and baked it in a 9-inch springform pan which I later trimmed down to fit an 8-inch springform. Chiffons seem to shrink quite a bit in the baking. I also used blueberries and raspberries and am now looking forward to many remakes with variations. Mango would be marvellous; I might also try it with blackberries or yellow peaches or both.

The Recipe for Basic Chiffon Cake

Creme Patisserie

1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
2 TBS/ cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 TBS unsalted butter
3/4 tsp. gelatin
1/2 TBS. water
1 cup cream

Put milk, vanilla and salt into top pan of a double boiler (directly on the heat.) On medium high heat bring mixture to scalding point(near but not to boiling point). Stir occasionally during process.

In mixer, add cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add egg to sugar and cornstarch. Whisk(by hand whisk) until smooth.

Pour scalded milk mix gently and slowly down side of sugar and egg mix, whisking sugar and egg mix at the same time.

Bring water to boil in base of double boiler. Place hot top of double boiler on base and pour the custard mix back into the warm double boiler pot; cook until custard is thick, just about to boil and until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. (This prevents the custard from getting thick and gummy too quickly, which happened to mine but I smoothed it out through whisking with a hand beater.)

Remove from heat, pass custard through sieve into large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.Cut butter into 4 pieces, whisk into pastry cream one piece at a time until smooth.

Cover cream with plastic wrap to prevent it forming a skin. Chill in fridge overnight.

The Basic Chiffon Cake Recipe
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar

The Method:
1.Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
2.Line the bottom of a 10 inch spring form pan with parchment paper - not 9 inch or 8 inch - they were too small to hold all the batter. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
3.In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
4.In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
5.Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
6.Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
7.Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
8.Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 (it make take less with the 10 inch pan) to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9.Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
10.To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Simple Syrup:gluten free and vegan!
You may choose to flavor the syrup. One way is to use flavored sugar (for example: apple cider sugar, orange sugar, or vanilla sugar) or to stir in 1-2 teaspoons of flavored extract. You may also infuse with herbs or spices, if desired or add four tablespoons (60 ml) of fruit juice or liqueur while the syrup is cooling.

1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water


1.Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
2.Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
3.Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
4.Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.
1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste


1.Line the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan with plastic wrap if you are going to use a 10-inch pan for baking, then assemble in a 9-inch pan to handle shrinking. Do not line the bottom of the pan. Use 2-1/2 inch high transparency film for the lining, cut up into about 3 sections then joined with scotch tape.
2.Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers. Using toothpick method to get an even cut, use long serrated knife and run it under piping hot water them cut gently.
3.Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
4.Prepare enough fruit to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the fruit against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
5.Pipe cream in-between fruit.
6.Prepare remaining fruit and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the fruit entirely with the pastry cream.
7.Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
8.Spread whipped cream on the top.
9.Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
10.To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
11.Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Cookies for Our Troops

This weekend I made about 60 Oatmeal Raisin cookies to send overseas to our troops. I belong to the "Operation Baking GALS" group which has been sending packages overseas for well over two years now.

How it works is you are given some information on the baking teams that are entering, and a brief bio. on the troops you will be baking for. You select a team and then get busy. This month I chose to make the Oatmeal Raisin cookies from the recipe off the top of the the Quaker Oats box - quite frankly I have a soft spot for "back of the box" recipes, probably because they are often so darned good. My package will be going to a group of guys and gals fighting for us in Afghanistan.

I have a tremendous admiration for our military and am deeply grateful to them.

I also got some munchies at Duane Reade to send as well as the cookies - cheese popcorn, lifesavers, Werther's candy and so on. I'll probably do another mailing in September.

(I see little Phoebe has got herself into the picture, my little baby darling Angora whom I rescued from a shelter - she's a real little French princess.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Assorted Mini Cookies from "Kaff's" Bakery

Oops! my Big Boy, Ernest, seems to have slipped a pic in, flashing his bare tummy.
I stopped by this evening to get some bread rolls from Kaff's Bakery in Borough Park, Brooklyn and could not resist getting one of each of a selection of mini cookies. I think they look very cute - the mini shortbread hearts, with or without chocolate, a tiny rolled circle cookie, a tubular cookie with, I think, sesame seeds, a black and white cookie, and, if I had remembered to include it there would have been a pretty little flower cutout sandwich cookie with jam in the center, something like a linzer cookie.

We are already planning what to make for the next St. Mary's parish reception and I thought these would look really nice to copy, bake them ourselves and place on the cookie tray. Is that not a cute one looking like a bow tie with apricot jam!

Now I can enjoy the summer coasting around bakery shops (Citarella and other really upscale ones have exquisite little cookies), buying a couple of samples and getting ideas. Also eating the samples; that is one of the perks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Key Lime Tartlets

Actually, it's a lime-lemon curd and it packs a real punch, reminding me of the sour sweets I used to enjoy when I was a child. I used "Nellie and Joes Key West Lime Juice," which I purchased from Citarella, and regular lemon zest. So far I have not seen key lime fruits in New York. Just being able to pour the juice instead of laborsome lime squeezing is a benefit in itself.

The recipe is very easy, the only time consuming element being the 20-25 minute stirring at the stove once all the ingredients are added.


1 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, cut into ounces

3/4 cup Nellie and Joes Key West Lime Juice

1 TBS. lemon zest (regular lime zest is too bitter for my taste)

2 eggs, beaten


1. Place the sugar, butter, lime juice, lemon zest in the top of a double boiler, stir over medium-high heat until butter melts. Mix 2 tablespoons hot lime mixture into the eggs and stir to blend.

2. Reduce heat to medium until water simmers. Slowly whisk egg mixture into the lime mixture. Cook over the double boiler until lime mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, 20 t0 25 minutes. Cool slightly, then spoon lime curd into a clean, glass jar (or place Saran Wrap right against the curd in a bowl.) It seems that key lime juice is quite yellow.

Bench Notes: Tried recipe again, this time with 1/2 cup lime juice plus 1/4 cup water added, only 1 tsp lemon zest and an additional 2 Tbs. sugar. This went over better with people who,unlike me, do not like mouth-puckering sour.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chocolate Biscotti - Tuesdays with Dorie

Only a week late but I am getting construction work done in my apartment so am giving myself a little credit for being able to function at all.

I like these biscotti. They taste really good after they have sat for a night, are nice and chewy and certainly pack a chocolate punch! Ghirardelli cocoa powder and Nestle's semi-sweet mini morsels are responsible for that punch. Some white chocolate squiggled on the biscotti is a good contrast to the deep chocolate taste.

They are a bit difficult to slice - as stated in the recipe the logs form cracks, rather fissures, in the first baking. One thing I will make sure to do next time (they are definitely on my list for a next time) is to read the recipe properly and shape the logs into a 12x2 inch size (I was trying to make two kinds of biscotti at once and misread the size, making them too short and fat). The recipe is here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Mini Cupcakes

I found this recipe on a blog while I was coasting around like a shark looking to see what I could capture. It's a very good red velvet recipe; I particularly like that it calls for 2 ozs. of the red coloring. It comes out a beautiful red.

2-1/2 cups sifted cake flour

1 teasp. baking powder

3/4 teasp. salt

2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

2 ozs. (2 bottles) red food coloring (tasteless)

1/2 cup butter, softened

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

1 tsp. white vinegar

1 tsp. baking soda

Oven at 350 degrees. Use 2 - 12 cup muffin pans for regular cupcakes,2 - 24 cup muffin pans for minis. Line with stiff textured cupcake liners.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt into mixing bowl. In smaller bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa to form a thin paste without lumps.

Beat butter and sugar (3 mins.). Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add 1/3 of flour mix to butter mix, beat slowly well, then beat in 1/2 of buttermilk. Beat in another 3rd of flour, then 2nd half of buttermilk. Beat in last 1/3 of flour mix, until well combined.

In small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Add to cake batter and stir well to combine. Fill cups a little under 3/4 full.

Bake about 20 minutes for full size, about 16 mins for minis, rotating pans. Use spring up test or toothpick test. Cool in tins on wire rack for 10 mins. then remove. Cool completely before frosting.

Bench notes - Buy the Wilton taste-free red coloring (the regular red coloring will give the cupcakes a metallic flavor as one has to use so much of it.)For minis bake about 16 mins. Use 1 level Tbs. batter for each cup. Put some oil or crisco on edges of cups so any overflow does not stick; use stiff cupcake cups - the dough is quite thin and light paper cups will not hold it well.Cups must be a little under 3/4 full.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blueberry-Blackberry Brown Sugar Plain Cake - TWD

This pic was taken early this morning and looks a bit like stacked logs as it is in the carrier already. The cake was a rave; I served whipped cream with it (I think it's a bit plain otherwise) and quite a few people came back for seconds.

I added some blackberries to the blueberries (8 ozs. in all), which gave it an extra moist texture. So easy, so delicious to go with morning tea or coffee. I think it might be nice with peaches or pears as well.

This week's pick came from Cindy - thank you; it's a perfect choice. The recipe for the cake is on Cindy's blog: Everyday Insanity.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cardamom Sugar Cookies

These cookies might look rather plain but they are marvellous! (I got the recipe from - I believe Recipezaar has morphed into In fact I have butter and an egg coming to room temperature right this evening to make another batch.

I also intend making them for an event next week, but then I'll add a few squiggles of white royal icing to give them a festive air.

The dough is kept in the fridge for a few hours then rolled out. At first I got very frustrated as it was too soft and it was impossible to peel the surrounding dough from the cutout cookie. The solution is to roll the dough when it's cold, then, after making the cutouts, put the tray with the cutouts in the fridge, for at least 15 minutes. The surrounding dough will then peel away easily from the cookie shape. Also, 1/4 of an inch in height is just the right level for the cookies; anything thinner would be even more difficult to work with. I found that about 12 minutes was right for the baking temp of 350 degrees F. Bake until they are slightly golden and turn the pan to prevent the cookies at the back getting too brown around the edges.

The best thing to bake on is a pizza tray (for any cookies for that matter) as it's so easy to just swirl it around rather than struggling with moving a rectangular tray.

Recipe for Cardamon Sugar Cookies (adapted from


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Beat butter and sugar together by hand or in a mixer, until pale and fluffy. Blend in egg and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cardamom and salt. Stir into butter mixture until just combined. Gather dough together, shape into 2 discs, wrap and chill until firm, about 1 to 2 hours, or freeze until ready to use (then thaw overnight in fridge). Preheat oven to 325°F. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out first disc of dough to just less than ¼-inch thick. Cut out desired shapes and lift with a spatula onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll second disc, saving all scraps to re-roll for more cut-outs. If you choose, add sprinkles or other decorations onto cookies before baking. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until edges of cookies just begin to brown. Let cool before removing from tray. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Brown Sugar Bundt Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

It's in the oven, a half size cake, which I will probably bake for about 40-45 minutes give or take. There are some very nice ingredients in it - fruit, grated orange rind (my addition), nuts, two essences - I think it's very promising.

My cake pan is a smaller size coffee cake pan with smoothe sides and base and quite a heavy consistency; for one thing, I prefer this shape and for another thing, my small, thin metal bundt pan has let me down twice by not releasing my cakes, in spite of lots of crisco and flour. I think this bad pan is on the way out.

The next day: the pic shows that my group was enjoying the cake. The flavor is as I expected - fruity and the texture was bouncy and soft. I would definitely make this again. The recipe is on the Pantry Revisited blog.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Basic Marbled Loaf Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

It's a bright green and pink carnival cake, mainly because the green coloring squirted out too much from the tube and I shook in too much of the red powder coloring. It was meant to be a delicate pale green and shell pink, flavored with almond essence.

But for the taste, it's a very nice loaf cake and it was very popular at work. I served it with whipped cream. I enjoyed learning the marbling technique, following the instructions exactly. Some of Dorie's alternative flavors must also be delicious - particularly the expresso and cardamon mix. Maybe I'll try that one for next time.

If you fancy making this cake, the recipe is here .

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Maple Mousse served in Chocolate Nut Cups - April Daring Bakers Challenge

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

Here I go, limping along, posting late as usual and doing only the basics for the challenge. However, it's done, thank goodness! I have been looking at the superbly artistic entries on the Daring Bakers website - there is a feast beautifully made, top level desserts. I can learn a lot from browsing through them and experimenting with some of the ideas.

I made half portions of the recipe for the nut cups and the mousse and used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips for the dipping chocolate and pecans for the nut base. The chocolate was an ideal match - anything sweeter would not have tasted good. I also loved the nut cups and formed them in a mini cupcake pan. I got 10 cups out of the recipe; the ones not on the plate have been gobbled up by the baker. I did not care for the Maple mousse so much as I thought it was a bit too sweet and only faintly tasted of maple syrup. I will definitely try the cups again, maybe even with finely ground nuts to give a more even shell. Here is the recipe for this fun challenge:

Nut Bowls:
Ingredients:• 1 1/2 cups crushed nuts of your choice such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts• 1 egg, beaten, at room temperature• 2 tbsp sugar• 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces
Directions:1. Use a food processor or a zip-lock back with a rolling pin to crush your nuts if whole, use about 1 cup of whole nuts to get 3/4 cups crushed. You want it somewhat coarse.2. In a bowl mix the nuts with the beaten egg and the sugar.3. Take 6 small ½ cup capacity Pyrex cups or a similar container and line the inside with aluminum foil. Spread ¼ cup of the mixture in the bowl, all the way up to the sides making sure you have a thin and even clean layer all around.4. Bake at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. until the nuts are golden and fragrant (about 15 minutes). Let cool completely before unmolding.5. Melt chocolate (either in the microwave or over a double boiler). Dip the rims of the cooled nut bowls in the chocolate. Place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened and is set.

Maple Mousse:
Ingredients:• 1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)• 4 large egg yolks• 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine• 1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)
Directions:1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.

Now it's onward to May - only one night to go before I know what it is.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

We enjoyed these neat little shortbread cookies. They have a crunchy, crispy consistency as a good shortbread should and the amount of butter is just right.

For myself I don't think I would use cornmeal again and would maybe cut out some of the lemon rind as the lemon flavor is quite strong. A nice, buttery plain shortbread does it for me.

I just love Dorie's ziploc bag method of shaping the dough and letting it harden in the fridge for hours - it makes the dough so easy to shape and cut. The recipe for the shortbread cookies is
here .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Tourtely Apple Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

I can't wait to try some of this tart tomorrow; it's really quite different from other apple tarts or pies - the filling does not have any over juicy, runny liquid in it and the nuts give it a nice crunch.

The recipe can be found on Jeannette's blog, The Whimsical Cupcake. Thank you, Jeanette, I think this is going to be a winner.

After the tart - fabulous! five stars!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake - Daring Bakers March Challenge

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

A whole week late! I rushed to get this challenge done on the 27th, Reveal Date, and made a dreadful mess. After that I was intending to pass the March challenge by until I spent some time looking at the lovely creations of fellow DB'ers. Surely it was worth another shot. I think it was quite a difficult cake to make, but one that would get easier once the techniques were mastered. Now that I have the cake in some sort of reasonable shape, I feel courageous about trying something similar. The recipe is basically for a rich brioche-type dough, filled with a layer of whipped meringue, which is then covered in cinnamon sugar, nuts, and chocolate chips. The last step is to roll the dough, Swiss roll style, and create a wreath shape. The recipe makes two cakes.

Filled Meringue Coffee Cake

Ingredients for Dough: 4 cups flour 1/4 cup sugar 3/4 tsp. salt 1 package active dry yeast (2-1/4 tsp.) 3/4 cup whole milk 1/4 water (temperature does not matter) 1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick) at room temperature 2 large eggs at room temperature 1/2 tsp. ground cardamon Ingredients for Meringue: 3 large egg whites at room temperature 1/4 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. vanilla 1/2 cup sugar Ingredients for the Filling: 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted, 2 Tbs. sugar. 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 cup (6 ozs.) Lindt milk chocolate from a bar, cut up finely into chips . Egg Wash - one beaten egg.

Directions for the Dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast. In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. Add 1/2 teasp. ground cardamom. Let sit for 10 minutes so cardamom flavor can steep. With an electric mixture (hand mixer is fine) on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup of flour and beat for 2 more minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in most of the rest of the flour so that it makes a dough that holds together. Turn dough out onto a floured board or silpat and knead for 10 minutes, using what is left of the flour (about 1/4 cup) for the work surface. Add extra flour as needed. Place the kneaded dough into a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let sit until double in bulk, 60 plus minutes. Prepare the filling in a small bowl: Combine the sugar and cinnamon and set aside in a small bowl; chop up chocolate and chop up toasted pecans. Set aside.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue. In a clean metal mixing bowl beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the sugar, one Tbs. at a time while beating, until meringue is very stiff and glossy and forms stiff peaks.

Assemble the Cakes :Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Very important - grease and flour the paper. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time (keep the other half wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20x10 inch rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about one, even 1-1/2 inches from the sides. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar, then the chopped nuts, then the chocolate pieces onto the meringue covered rectangle. Roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined, greased cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal. Using kitchen scissors make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch intervals. Make them as shallow or deep as desired but don't be afraid to cut deep into the ring. Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings. Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for about 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper/cake off the hot cookie sheets onto the table. Very carefully loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. The cakes tend to stick to the paper - it took me two cake lifters and a knife to get them off. (If it doesn't come off easily, can always turn the cake upside down when its cool and firm and just peel the sticky paper off.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Five Star Chocolate Chip Cookies

Absolutely the best, most delicious chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted! The recipe is from the Land o' Lakes website - I think I will use this recipe forever!

I used both white chocolate chip and semi-sweet chocolate chips from Ghirardelli, plus about 1/2 cup of chopped pecans. The recipe suggested 8-10 mins. for the baking time but as I like cookies a little bit munchy, I baked them for somewhere between 10-12 minutes.

I halved the recipe and it made over 30 cookies.

Ingredients 1 1/2 cups Land O Lakes® Butter, softened 1 1/4 cups sugar (used about 1/4 cup less) 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar (used about 1/4 cup less) 2 Land O Lakes® All-Natural Eggs 1 tablespoon vanilla 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups) real semi-sweet chocolate chips

About 3/4 cup of lightly crushed nuts (used pecans) Directions

Heat oven to 375°F. Combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour, baking powder and baking soda. Beat until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chips.Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Place cookie rounds in the fridge for about 1/2 hour before baking - this prevents too much spreading.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets.

They do not spread much, thank goodness - the dough is quite heavy and I gave it time in the fridge before baking, about 30 minutes. The result is a nice dome shaped cookie with a firm consistency.

A huge success with my group! Now I will make a batch, also using different kinds of choc. chips, for Easter Sunday as we are invited out to a nice dinner.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Honey Nut Brownies - Tuesdays with Dorie

I am looking forward to sampling these brownies tomorrow. They are baking right now. I don't usually bake with honey that much but it seems to be a very good variation for brownies. I halved the sugar in the recipe as I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted; I thought they would be too sweet with the whole quantity of sugar listed.

Suzy of Suzy Homemaker has the recipe on her blog. It was a great choice. Thank you, Suzy.

The next day:

There are so many delicious brownie recipes in Dorie's book and this is another one. So far I have four TWD brownie recipes that are favorites - the Brrrrr.ownies; the Quintuple Chocolate; the French Chocolate; and now the Honey Nut . This weeks dessert was an absolute rave with my group - the whole tinful disappeared before noon. I loved the somewhat softer, cakey texture that the honey created and yes, there is very definitely a strong taste of honey, clover honey to be precise. I think one could get very creative just selecting different flavors of honey. My choice to halve the sugar worked just fine as the sweetness level was perfect. For bittersweet chocolate I would use the full amount.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Citrus-Sunshine Muffins - Tuesdays with Dorie

A bit late - it will have to be Fridays with Dorie for this week. Things got a bit hectic these last couple of days.

What a lovely muffin recipe! For this time I used the plain batter, without any fruit added; however, I think this muffin will adapt to a lot of fillings - dried berry fruits, nuts or bits of dried apricot would be ideal.

They were a rave at work and I just love the somewhat coarse, bouncy texture and the light citrus flavor. I sprinkled some confectioners' sugar over the tops just before setting them out. Definitely a favorite.

Lauryn of "Bella Baker" selected these muffins for TWD this week.
Citrus-Currant Sunshine Muffins
Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1/2 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups AP flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup moist, plump dried currants (I did not use currants this time.)

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular sized muffin tin or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.
In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange is strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together the orange and lemon juices, lemon extract, melted butter and eggs. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough - a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Fold in the currants. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quick and Delicious - Lemon Cookies

These delightful cookies are from the Land O' Lakes website. The batter is an all-in-one and I only needed to use my small electric beater; no bother with cleaning the stand mixer afterwards.

They can be glazed with lemon/water/confectioners' sugar glaze. I left them plain for this time as they are "traveling" and I don't want squished glaze. They are really good just plain.

The Land O' Lakes site is filled with delicious possibilities and I am going to indulge myself now by surfing through it again to pick out favorities.

Here is the recipe:
Lemon Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup LAND O LAKES® Unsalted Butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
Heat oven to 400°F. Combine all cookie ingredients in large bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Meanwhile, combine all glaze ingredients in small bowl; stir until smooth. Frost warm cookies with glaze. Sprinkle with additional lemon peel, if desired.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Corniest Corn Muffins - Tuesdays with Dorie

I ate the bottom half before I realized that I hadn't taken a pic, so hence the muffin top only. I took these to work - the reviews were 50-50 in favor/not so good.

Three of us thought they were really good; the other three (including me) were not overly keen on them. There is too much cornmeal in the recipe for my liking, one cup of cornmeal to one cup of flour. This gave the muffins a gritty, mealy taste. I checked out a couple of other recipes and the ratio of cornmeal to flour was much smaller - 1:2 in one case and 1:3 in another (Ina Garten's in Food Network used 1:3). I think I will try this next time.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Panna Cotta and Florentines - Daring Bakers Februrary Challenge

Blog-checking lines: The February 2011 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 and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
2 cups assorted fresh berries
Place the milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle the
gelatin over. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the gelatin. Pour milk mixture into a heavy saucepan and stir over medium heat just until the gelatin dissolves but the milk does not boil, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, honey, sugar, and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour into 6 wine glasses so that they are 1/2 full. Cool slightly. Refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours.
Spoon the berries atop the
panna cotta and serve. Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight
Nestle Florentine Cookies
Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website.
2/3 cup unsalted butter;2 cups quick oats; 1 cup granulated sugar; 2/3 cup plain flour; 1/4 cup dark corn syrup; 1 tsp vanilla extract; pinch of salt; 1½ cups dark or milk chocolate
Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.
Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
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).
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).
Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.
This recipe will make about 2 1/2 – 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

This was quite an easy challenge but I still learned some tips for making again - a silpat is essential!
I placed the first batch on regular baking parchment paper and they stuck to the paper - absolutely would not, would not come off without bringing sticky bits of paper with them.
The silpat batch came off smoothly and with a nice fine consistency.

I thought the cookies were a bit sweet, for my taste at any rate. I drizzled white chocolate over the cookies so that was sweet too - probably bittersweet would have been more suitable. The panna cotta was delicious - really like a nectar cream - a very elegant dessert.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Raspberry Oat Bars

Raspberry Oat Bars (adapted from Allrecipes)

Makes 24 bars, using a 13X9 or two 8X8 pans.

13 ozs. butter, softened (12 is recommended but I used an extra ounce to blend the mix better)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1-1/2 cups oats (I used old-fashioned)
1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
12 ozs. raspberry jam (I used Tiptree Raspberry Seedless; any jam with a bit of a tang will be fine)

Set oven at 400 degrees F.
Cream butter and sugar, about 3 mins.
Combine dry ingredients: oats, flour, salt, baking powder. Stir into creamed mixture.
Press half of dough into bottom of greased & floured pan (can use Bakers' Joy)
Place jam into microwaveable dish or jar and blits for 25 seconds (this prevents it from sticking on the oat/flour base)
Spread jam on base.
Crumble 2nd half of oatmeal crust mix over the raspberry layer.
Bake until very light brown, about 20-22 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely in pan before cutting.

These are nice and easy but even with "nice and easy" it's possible for me to mess up - I baked the bars for 25 minutes - it's too much. They came out with the jam having a bitter flavor and the bars were quite hard, like rusks. This is the second time I have made these - the first time they were a grand success and I got an order for 2 dozen. The first batch were a pale brown, with a bit of loose oatmeal here and there. I'm not taking a disappointment to my customer so now it's off to the shops to replenish my supplies and to bake them for less time.

This batch came out beautifully at 20 mins. I hope my customer enjoyed them - he joked he was going to put out about 5 for his family and keep the rest hidden for noshing.

Toasted Almond Scones - Tuesdays with Dorie

Mike of Good Living Out West chose Toasted Almond Scones for this week. I took them to my group at work and was delighted, of course, that my boss really liked them. He said they were great for early in the morning and had quite a few. The people who like the fancier goodies - frosted cakes, tartlets, and so on, didn't really say much. So each to his or her own.

I thought they were quite nice but found them a bit dry; when I blitzed a scone in the microwave for 10 seconds it came out moist and delicious. I suppose scones and biscuit types should really be served warm and as soon as possible after baking.

I have never made scones before; for some reason there seems to be something mysterious about them, they require special handling, hidden talent and have baking secrets that I have not unlocked - my Yorkshire grandmother made the most perfect scones - quite small, with a nice light brown crust, and with lots of butter on them; I can taste them now. I think my hesitation was that I would not be able to make scones like Grannie's. So maybe my Toasted Almond scones are a good start and it will be onward and upward to more scone making.

The recipe is on Mike's blog. here

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate Oatmeal Drops - Tuesdays with Dorie

The Chocolate Oatmeal Drops are fabulous! I halved the recipe and got 18 cookies. They are rich and chocolaty and perfect to go with an afternoon cup of coffee. I portioned out one rounded Tbs. of batter for each cookie and let them bake for 14 minutes - this time seems to be just right.

If you would like to make these cookies, check out Caroline and Claire's blog, Bake with Us. Great choice!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bourbon Bread Pudding - Tuesdays with Dorie

I am so pleased I made this pudding. My group just loved it. Thank goodness I remembered to take a pic before the last slice was eaten.

The custard is smooth and has a faint flavor of Kentucky bourbon in it. I followed the recipe and only used one tablespoon. Two would be more daring and give a stronger bourbon flavor. I used Pepperidge Farm cinnamon bread; it was a perfect match.

What would I do differently next time? Use a 9x5 pan as recommended; I baked my pudding in an 8x4-1/2 and it took about 20 minutes longer to bake. That's about all - I can still taste that custard in my mind as I write.

Sharon of Simply Southern selected this pudding for us. Thank you; it was a great choice. The recipe is on Sharon's blog.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Cake

Chocolate Cherry Cake

1 cup dried tart cherries, snipped
1/4 cup cognac
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut up
1/4 cup butter
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1. Simmer the dried cherries in a pan of quite shallow water and the cognac for about 5 plus minutes, enough time to soften the cherries. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler.
2. In a medium bowl beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed about 5 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Beat in chocolate mixture, milk, and vanilla. Gradually add flour until incorporated in the other ingredients. Stir in undrained cherries and nuts.
3. Pour into a greased and floured 8-inch square cheesecake pan (or equivalent); place on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree F oven until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, around 40-43 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then lift out. Cool completely.
The Chocolate Glaze
Spread 1/4 cup Chocolate Glaze evenly over top and sides of cake. Chill for 10 minutes.
Frost top and sides of cake with remaining glaze. Chill until set. Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Decorate as wished for. Makes 12 to 16 servings.
[Chocolate Glaze: In a glass measure combine 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut up, and 2 tablespoons butter; place in microwave on high for about 1 minute until melted, stirring twice.]
This delicious confection is really more of a torte than a cake. There is just sufficient flour to hold it together and it has a deep, rich brownie consistency. The dried sour cherries are divine - the steeping in cognac makes them really special; and there are just enough pecans for a crunchy munch.
I took this to work a few weeks back and again to a reception this week; it got raves.