Sunday, April 19, 2015

Charlevoix Cookies

One of the flavors in this recipe is maraschino cherry. In researching cherries, I found that the trees were first were planted by the French along the Saint Lawrence Seaway. That seaway reaches into the Great Lakes area from Canada.  Based on this tie, there are 2 areas called Charlevoix. The first is a town in the far northern area of Michigan and the other is in Quebec. While both are along water and offer fishing and plenty of hiking areas, the Canadian location has mountains along the seaway.

Now that the background of the name has been covered, lets get into the details of this petite sandwich cookie. The cookie part has the flavor of almond and it has a soft texture with a slight crunch of desiccated coconut and almond flour. For an even bigger pop of flavor, the bottoms of the cookies are dipped in chocolate and then sandwiched together with a maraschino cream.

They are small and are perfect for popping in your mouth whole. That way you get the full experience of all the textures and flavors. In addition, bigger cookies would be quite messy after one bite. If you like chocolate covered cherries, then you are reading the right post.

This recipe yields about a dozen sandwich cookies.

Charlevoix Cookies
by Flourtrader

1 stick or 1/2 cup butter
1 egg white
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup and 1 tbs powdered/confectioners sugar
1/4 cup and 1 tbs desiccated coconut
3/4 cup flour
2 tbs almond flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate chips

1/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs maraschino juice

Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Also, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Beat the egg white into the batter, running the mixer on medium high for about 30 seconds. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the coconut and almond extract for another 30 seconds. Set aside.

Using a separate bowl, sift together the regular flour and baking powder. Then whisk in the almond flour.  Fold the dry mixture into the wet batter, using a spatula. Scoop out the batter into rounded teaspoons and place each on the prepared baking sheet, about one inch apart. Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes, rotating pans halfway thru the baking process. Cookies are done when lightly browned on edges and bottom. Let cool completely on pan.

While the cookies are cooling, line 2 more baking sheets with parchment paper. Place in the freezer.  Set up a double boiler and fill top pot with chocolate. Place over medium high heat and stir occasionally until all the chocolate is melted. Take one of the baking sheets out of the freezer.

The chocolate coating process is the next step. Using a wooden spoon, scoop up some of the melted chocolate and then place a cookie on top of the chocolate, flat side down. Transfer to cold baking sheet by placing on the parchment paper, chocolate side down. Continue with the process until both baking sheets are full, placing each in the freezer when complete.

Next, prepare the filling by starting with creaming the butter and powdered sugar together. Once mixture is smooth beat in vanilla extract and maraschino juice. If the consistency is too thick, add more juice as needed.

Take out one baking sheet of cookies and match pairs together by size and shape.  Then sandwich each pair together with a few teaspoons of filling.

Tips and Notes:
1. Clear vanilla extract instead of dark will help retain the pink from the maraschino cherry juice, but you can add food coloring if you are unable to find clear vanilla extract.

2. The usage of the chocolate and filling is not an exact science, so some may be left over. The chocolate can be stored for later use. If you are concerned about excess filling, try halving the filling ingredients then see how far it goes when assembling the cookies.

3. The addition of the egg white results in a curdled looking batter, but that is normal.

Also, I did listen to an old song during my research into cherries. That oldie is called "Life is just a Bowl of Cherries". A nice reminder not to take things too seriously, laugh a little and enjoy it!
                                    **LAST YEAR:Minnies Chocolate Chip Supreme Cookies**

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chocolate Banana Muffins

Well contrary to what the song says, it is not "all about the base." That is, when it comes to muffins. These muffins reinforce what we all know to be true -- muffin tops are the best part of the muffin!

When I read the recipe instructions for these treats, I envisioned a big baked glop as the end result and also some cooked batter on the baking sheet. After all, I have never filled muffin tin cavities to the top with the batter and this recipe stated fill to just over the rim. That's right-- just over the rim! However, since the author made special notes regarding a lawsuit tied to a bakery stealing one of her muffin recipes, I decided to follow the instructions as stated.

I am sure glad I did. To my pleasant surprise, the muffins turned out with a huge top and did not stick or tear when removing from the muffin tin. The inside was very moist and packed with lots of flavor. The baked treats are composed of 2 types of chocolate, bananas and nuts. Prior to baking, they are topped with chewy coconut and ground nuts held together by a little butter. These are a tasty way to start the day, but too good to be segregated to breakfast. They make for a tasty afternoon snack as well. The recipe yields about 16 to 18 muffins with lovely, large tops.

Chocolate Banana Muffins
adapted from The Best of Better Baking

2 tbs packed brown sugar
4 tbs or 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cubed and softened
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup of finely ground nuts- pecans or macadamia

1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbs strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup banana purée (about 2 ripe bananas)
4 eggs
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans or macadamia nuts
4 oz chopped white chocolate
1/2 semisweet chocolate chips
3 3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder

Start by preheating the oven to 425 degrees. Grease the top edge of 18 cavities of muffin tin(s). Line the cavities with paper liners. Line baking sheet (s) with parchment paper. The recipe recommends that most of the mixing in this recipe be done by a food processor. At this time, set up your equipment accordingly.

Using a medium size bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt . Set aside. For the topping, fill the bowl of a food processor with all the filling ingredients. Cover and pulse for about 15 seconds. Transfer topping into a bowl and set aside for later use. Clean the food processor bowl.

Using the same processor bowl, fill with both types of sugar, butter and oil. Pulse until mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla extract and coffee, pulsing again until blended.  Add the eggs, one at a time, processing each completely into the batter. Lastly, pulse in the sour cream and the banana puree.

Transfer batter from the food processor to the bowl of sifted ingredients. Fold together until no dry streaks remain. Then mix in both types of chocolate and nuts, making sure all is evenly distributed into the dough.

Fill the muffin cavities with the batter by using a large ice cream scoop. The cavities should be filled to just over the rim. Scoop out about 1 1/2 tbs of the topping and flatten into a disc with your hands and place on top of each cavity of batter and press lightly. Put each pan on the prepared baking sheet.

Place the pans in the oven, using the top and middle shelves. Then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake the muffins until tester comes out clean and top springs back when lightly touched.  Be sure to rotate the pans at the halfway point of baking. The recipe recommends 20-22 minutes, but mine took about 30 minutes. Let muffins cool in pans for about 15 minutes before transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Tips and Notes:
1. Timing is everything and baking time will vary depending if you are using a dark pan or not. The recipe states be careful not to over bake, but my issue was the opposite- making sure they were completely baked.

2. The author instructed cooling time in muffin pan as 5 minutes, but I stated 15 minutes in the above recipe. This change was made to insure that they would retain the same shape when pulled out of the oven. Even with the increased wait time, the muffins did not stick to the pan when transferring each muffin to the cooling rack. 
                           **LAST YEAR:Black Walnut Madeira Cake**

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Honey Bunny Crunch Frozen Custard

Recently, I found 4 baby rabbits laying the grass. They did not even have their eyes open yet, so I guess their mother fell victim to a predator. I scooped them up and put them in a box.  Luckily, there was someone close by that had a daughter that was involved in rabbit rescue, so I gave them to him.  Last I heard was that they were coming along quite well and were starting to get fur and did open their eyes.

Since it is Easter Sunday and the rabbits were still on my mind, I decided to name this frozen custard accordingly. In the early stages of creation, I was thinking of a custard base made with some kind of cereal soak.  The soak idea stems from Christina Tosi's cereal milk, as sold at the Milk Bar. Since there are quite a bit of cereals that are heavy in sugar, I wanted something that was not so sweet.  Then it came to me - crunchy honey oat granola bars. After soaking, I added honey.  This gave it more flavor and reduced the amount of processed sugar. 

The end result is a base with a honey oatmeal flavor. Quite tasty by itself, but I could not resist to put some crunch into the smooth cream. Chopped up granola bars coated in dark chocolate were the perfect add in. The reason it is referred to as custard is that it does not freeze hard like your standard ice cream.  After 2 days in the freezer it still remained soft.  Not like soft serve ice cream, but not like regular ice cream either.

It is that time of year. The time to get outside more- so go to the lake, fire up the grill, have a picnic and enjoy some homemade frozen custard! You will need to plan ahead due to the steep time of 3 hours and the time it takes to freeze. This recipe makes about 1 quart of ice cream.

Honey Bunny Crunch Frozen Custard
by Flourtrader

1 cup and 2 tbs milk
2 1/4 cup cream
2 cups chopped crunchy honey oat granola bars, divided (about 10 bars)
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tbs invert sugar (recipe:dessert components)
3 eggs (room temp)
1/4 cup 2 tbs sugar
1/2 cup 2 tbs honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Pour milk and cream into a saucepan. Add one cup of chopped granola. Place over medium high heat and let come to a boil. Remove from heat and cover.  Let sit for 3 hours for flavors to meld.

During that time, set up a double boiler over medium high heat and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place semi sweet chocolate chips in the top pot and let melt, stirring occasionally. Once all is melted and smooth, stir in the chopped granola. After coating all the pieces, empty onto the parchment paper.  Separate all the pieces with a fork, making sure no big clumps remain.  Place sheet in the refrigerator for chocolate to set up.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Go back to the saucepan of the cereal cream and strain the liquid into a bowl. Discard the cereal and pour the liquid back into a saucepan.  Add honey and invert sugar (if using) and place over medium heat. Stir and cook mixture until all is melted and completely mixed in with the cream. Remove from heat.

Run the mixer on low, slowly whisking the egg/sugar batter.  As you continue to whisk, pour a small, steady stream of the cream mixture into the eggs.  Continue with this process until all the cream has been mixed into the egg batter.  Lastly, whisk in the vanilla extract.

Transfer mixture back to saucepan and place over medium heat. Let the custard simmer for about 4-5 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. The temperature should reach 170 to 175 degrees. Then pour mixture into heatproof bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator. Let cool for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Check the chilled chocolate covered granola.  If you still see that the chunks are too large, chop into smaller pieces.  Place back in refrigerator until needed. Once the chilling time is complete for the custard, add to an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturers' instructions. Toss in the chilled chocolate covered granola chunks at the halfway point of the churning process.  After churning process is complete, transfer to cold custard to a bowl, cover and place in freezer.  Let freeze overnight or until desired consistency is met.

Tips and Notes :

1. If trying another cereal milk flavor, take into consideration the sugar content of the cereal and the elimination of the sweetness of the honey.  For peanut butter/chocolate fans, try Captain Crunch milk soak and add in chunks of Reese cups.

2. The invert sugar is not required if your custard will not be stored in the freezer a long time.  It is mainly used to prevent ice crystals from forming. Just increase the honey content by 2 tbs, which would give you a total of 3/4 of a cup of honey.

3. Do not use chewy granola bars, I used Nature Valley brand crunchy type.

Enjoy your Easter!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Havana Cupcakes

There are a lot of good recipes out there that are being overlooked by most home bakers for several reasons. A few of the reasons are exotic ingredients and special equipment requirements. However, this particular recipe was most likely overlooked due to the quantity. The original recipe makes 6 cakes, 8 inches in diameter.

Fiddling around with the calculator on conversions can get overwhelming, but I was so intrigued by the flavors I set out to convert this one. I finally worked to scale it down for about 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

The cupcake is made up of a chocolate sponge cake that envelops a nutty layer of hazelnuts and almond paste. The meld of texture and flavor is amazing. Fluffy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Chocolate, hazelnuts and almonds are tasty enough in the cake, but the fudge frosting is something to rave about as well. It reminds me of the type of topping you would put on brownies. Just swirl it on with the back of a spoon and it will settle smoothly on top of the cupcake.

Take note that the recipe does not include baking soda or baking powder, so the cupcakes do not rise like the standard. The liners can be filled close to the top without fear of spilling over.

Havana Cupcakes
adapted from Mastering the Art and Craft: Baking and Pastry

Ingredients/Nut Batter
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter plus 2 tbs
3 eggs
1/2 cup plus 3 tbs finely gnd toasted hazelnuts
5 oz of almond paste
1/2 cup 2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs bread flour
Pinch of salt

Ingredients /Chocolate Batter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup finely gnd toasted hazelnuts
Pinch of salt
8 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients/ Devils Fudge Icing & Topping
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 stick or 1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot water
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp whipped cream stabilizer
2 tbs sugar
18 whole hazelnuts or almonds

Prepare pans by greasing the upper edge of the cavities and lining with cupcake papers. The first batter to make is the nut batter. Begin by pouring the ground hazelnuts into a bowl. Then sift in the flour and whisk together. Set aside.

Fill a the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar, butter, almond paste, salt and vanilla. Using the paddle attachment, beat the ingredients together on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Be sure to stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The end result will be a fluffy mixture that is light in color.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together. Beat the eggs into the almond paste batter in 3 separate additions, running the mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds each interval. Lastly, using a spatula, fold in the flour/hazelnut mixture. Set aside.

For the chocolate batter, whisk the salt and the ground hazelnuts together in a small bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder and cinnamon and whisk again. Set aside.

Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whipping attachment, whip until soft peaks form.  At this point, continue to whip while slowly adding the sugar, until stiff peaks form. Stop the mixer and fold in the dry ingredients.  Lastly, stir in the vanilla extract. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a piping bag with a large tip and fill with nut mixture.  Quickly scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate batter and place into cupcake cavity. Repeat process for 18 cupcake cavities. Then pipe a complete circle of nut batter on top of the chocolate batter of the 18.  Lastly, scoop out another heaping tablespoon of batter, placing it on top of the nut batter.  Smooth the top, insuring that the nut batter is completely covered.

Place pans in oven and bake until top is smooth and springs back when lightly pressed, about 25-30 minutes. Be sure to rotate pans halfway through the baking process. Once baked, place pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes then transfer cupcakes to a rack to finish cooling.

Start making the icing by adding butter, cocoa powder, corn syrup vanilla and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes. Mixture should be very fluffy at this point. Stir in the hot water. Remove mixer bowl from stand and sift in 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar and stir with a wooden spoon. Repeat the process until all the sugar is blended. Adjust consistency to your liking by mixing in more confectioner sugar or hot water. Spoon icing on top of cooled cupcakes and smooth out with a spoon.

For the optional topping, whip heavy cream until thickened. Add stabilizer and sugar, then whip again until piping consistency is reached. Pipe a round shell on top of the center of the cupcake and then lightly press a nut on top of the whipped cream.

Tips and notes:
1. Dutch processed or regular cocoa is your choice. The recipe does not specify but I used Dutch.

2. Whipped egg whites do have a tendency to deflate as they sit, so act quickly.  The other option is to make half a batch and do 9 cupcakes at a time.  The nut batter can sit in the fridge while the first batch bakes.

3. There will be some nut batter left over, but the baked result is chewy enough to make for a good filling in a brownie or cookie as well, so feel free to experiment with what is left.
                               **LAST YEAR: Biscotti Aloha**

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Alfredo Bread

My grandmother used to always make homemade bread.  Since I only eat plain bread when making sandwiches, homemade bread seems hardly worth the effort. Yet my attitude changes when I start considering making a more flavorful loaf such as this one.

This bread does have the added flavor of Alfredo sauce, Parmesan cheese, basil and parsley.  It is perfect for an Italian dinner and a nice change from garlic bread.  As you can see from the picture above, there is lots of cheesy goodness in this loaf.  I found it hard to hold off until dinner.  As it baked, it did release an ethereal scent throughout the house.  I got very hungry and impatient for it to finish baking. In addition, letting the loaf cool was even harder.

The next time you are in the mood to make bread, you may want to try this one.  There are only 2 sessions of rising time, totaling 1 1/2 hrs.  Forming the bread is basically the same method as a jelly roll, so it comes together pretty easily. This recipe makes two 9x5 loaves.

Alfredo Bread
adapted from Fleishmanns Yeast

1/4 cup Alfredo sauce
2 1/4 cup milk
2 tbs softened butter
3 tbs sugar
2 packets yeast (original, not rapid rise)
5-6 cups bread flour
1 tbs dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp salt
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Fill a saucepan with the milk and place over medium heat. Let heat up to a temperature of 100-110 degrees. Remove from heat.  Stir in sugar and yeast. Set aside until the surface becomes foamy.  This should take about 5-10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the salt and 2 cups of flour.  Pour in the yeast mixture and add the butter.  Mix with beater blade until evenly distributed.  Continue to add the flour in 1 cup increments, mixing after each addition.  It should reach a soft dough stage once the 5th cup of flour has been blended in.

Take a medium size bowl and oil the interior and set aside.  The next step is kneading the dough.  If using a mixer with a dough hook, run your mixer on medium low speed for 4-5 minutes, adding flour a little at a time if needed. In order to do this step by hand, start by dusting a flat surface with flour. Place the dough on the surface and knead by hand for about 8-10 minutes.

Form dough into a ball and place it in prepared bowl.  Flip over to make sure surface is covered with oil.  Cover bowl lightly and set in a warm place to rise until doubled.  This should take about an hour.  During the rise time, prepare two 9x5 inch loaf pans by greasing the interior and set aside.

After the first rise is completed, remove the dough and punch down.  Place it back on the flat, floured surface and cut in half.  Put one half back in the bowl and keep the other half on the surface.  Roll out the half into a rectangle measuring 9x18.  Spread 2 tablespoons of Alfredo sauce on the surface of the rectangle.  Then sprinkle the dough with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Follow that with a sprinkle of 1 1/2 tsp of dried parsley and then 1/2 tsp dried basil.

Starting with the short end, roll dough tightly into a cylinder, tugging the dough slightly after each turn. Pinch the end with the under lapping part of the dough and tuck in the short ends, pinching the same way.  Place the loaf seam sides down in the prepared pan.  Lightly cover this loaf and then prepare the second piece of dough the same way.  Let both loaves rise for another 30-40 minutes.  At the halfway point, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the loaves have completed the rise, place in oven and bake until golden brown on top.  Bake time is about 30-40 minutes.  Loaves are done when hollow sound is made when tapping on top.  Place pans on rack to cool for about 10-15 minutes then invert on rack.  Invert again so loaves are in upright position.  Let cool completely before slicing.

Tips and Notes:

1.  Do not worry that there is not a border left when topping the dough.  My loaves did not split at the seams when baked, so the dough border is not required.

2.  Do not pack in more toppings than noted, unless you want to form this into a pull apart bread rather than swirled loaves.  Pull apart bread is an idea, but the layers will present a problem with the alfredo/cheese filling sticking to the pan.  The cheese will form a crust on the pan that will be hard to clean. 
                                     **LAST YEAR: Lemon Tartlets***                                                 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Celtic Celebration Cake

With St. Patrick's Day coming up, I decided on something to celebrate the occasion. Ireland does have a rather rich history. I came across some very interesting facts, some you may know, some you may not. The famous ship the Titanic was built in Belfast. St. Patrick, the patron saint, was actually kidnapped when he was a boy.  Also, at one time the Shamrock was considered a rebellious symbol and Queen Victoria prohibited Irish regiments from wearing them on their uniforms.

Now, back to this cake. This two layer treat does have a jigger or two of liqueur combined with chocolate. The lighter layer includes white chocolate and creme de cacao.  The other layer is a combination of Irish cream and dark chocolate. The topping and filling is a fudgey chocolate recipe I used on another cake in the past, but ganache would also do quite well.  Regarding the texture, the cake is more on the fluffy side than dense and it is moist.

The inclusion of liqueurs in the ingredients does add a more decadent and sinful twist to something we already consider delicious--chocolate.  Also, I recognize St. Patrick's day as more as an adult holiday and this is a perfect fit.

Since this is like making 2 different cakes, you will need several medium size bowls. Also, a double boiler will need to be available for melting the different chocolates contained in this recipe.

This year you can have those cocktails or beer like you did last year.  However, pulling out this cake will mark the evening a little bit tastier and memorable for St. Patrick's day 2015.

Celtic Celebration Cake
by flourtrader

Ingredients/ Cake
2 oz  white chocolate
2 oz  unsweetened dark chocolate squares (Bakers brand)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Irish cream and a little more for brushing on layer
1/2 cup clear (not dark) creme de cacao and a little more for brushing on layer
3 eggs
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter (softened)
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

(adapted from Southern Living)
3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla extract
1lb of butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 2 nine inch cake pans by greasing the interior and then lining with parchment paper.  Then grease the surface of the parchment paper.  Lastly, dust the interior with flour and tap out excess.

Take out 2 medium size bowls. In one bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt. Repeat this process to fill the second bowl and set both aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and vegetable oil by running the mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes.  Be sure to stop a few times and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Beat in one egg for about 30 seconds.  Repeat the process using one egg at a time. Measure out the batter and divide equally into 2 different bowls.  Place one bowl of batter in the fridge.

Set up a double boiler and melt 2 oz of white chocolate. Add the 2 oz of melted chocolate to the bowl of batter and 1/2 tsp of vanilla.  Stir until all is evenly distributed.  Then add one bowl of the sifted dry ingredients and creme de cacao.  Mix the batter until smooth and blend in 1/4 cup of milk.

Pour batter in one of the prepared cake pans and place in oven.  Bake until tester indicates done, which should be about 22-27 minutes. After 15 minutes of baking, remove bowl of batter from fridge and set aside. Once the cake is done, take out of oven and place on rack. Let cool in pan until sides of cake separate from edge of pan.  That should be about 10-15 minutes of cooling time. Then invert onto rack and remove parchment.  While still warm, brush creme de cacao onto the layer. The quantity is your preference.

For the other layer, set up your double boiler and follow the instructions in the above two paragraphs. This time you will be using the dark, unsweetened chocolate and Irish cream.

The instructions for the topping can be found in paragraph 7 and 8 in this link: Double Nut-drenched Chocolate Cake.  The only change is that the nuts were eliminated for this cake recipe.  Frost cake layers once the have completely cooled.

Tips and notes:
1. The word "dark" in the ingredient list for the chocolate was just to note the difference between white and regular chocolate.  While there is dark and bittersweet types of Bakers brand of chocolate, the unsweetened does not come in different degrees of chocolate.  This recipe uses the original, unsweetened type.

2. This recipe can also be baked as a marble cake by swirling the batters together in a 9x13 pan.

3. Feel free to experiment with the recipe. For instance, a 2 layer cream de cacao cake with a raspberry filling and white chocolate ganache coating is another way to go.  Since white chocolate is so sweet, just cut back 1/2 cup of sugar in your cake ingredients.

4. If using the fudge topping, I emphasize again (stated in the original link) that it sets up quickly.  You definitely do not want to tear your lovely cake with frosting that is too thick.
                         **LAST YEAR: Irish Cream Cookies**

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pineapple and Macadamia Nut Tart

The weather has been quite dreary here.  It has been a foggy and rainy week, so I have tried to instill a little cheery sunshine by making this tropical tart.  However, that will not keep me from looking forward to St Patricks day and Easter - they mark the change in the weather and I am ready for it.

This tart features a filling made up of buttery macadamias.  On top, are juicy slices of pineapple laced with a rum honey mixture.  As it bakes, the juices cook down into the filling to create a delicious blend of flavor.  The rum/honey topping is added during part of the baking process.  This insures that just the right amount of flavor remains. Then there is the added bonus of the nutty crust.  So good that I am considering doubling it for next time.

The major part of the prep work is the pineapple.  However, the good factor is that pineapples yield a lot of fruit and there are no seeds or pits to deal with.

Pineapple and Macadamia Nut Tart
Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, Issue 115

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup or one stick cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup toasted macadamias
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

1 tbs rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, room temp
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp flour
3/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Ingredients/ topping
1 medium pineapple (about 3 1/2 lbs) peeled, cored, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/8 inch thick slices
3 tbs mild honey
2 tbs rum
1 tbs flour

Start making the crust by placing the nuts and sugar in a food processor.  Then pulse in one second intervals, about 15 times. That number helps to insure that some crunch remains in the texture.  Add the flour and and salt. Process until the dry flour is incorporated.  Put the butter cubes into the mix and pulse again until the mixture starts clumping, about 8 intervals. Pour the egg over the top and pulse again.  The last session of pulsing will take about 5-6 one second intervals. The key is to have it all blended without over mixing.

Take a large piece of plastic wrap and lay on a flat surface.  Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the plastic wrap.  Flatten the dough in a disc or rectangle, depending on the shape of your pan. Enclose the dough tightly in the plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  The dough must chill a minimum of 2 hours, but you can also chill it overnight.

After the chilling time is complete, transfer dough from refrigerator to tart pan.  Press dough out with your fingers evenly, into the bottom only.  Do not press up the sides.  Once formed, freeze crust for 20 minutes. Also, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  Start by grinding the macadamia nuts in a food processor until they have a coarse consistency.  Add the remaining ingredients for the filling and blend with processor for about 2 minutes.  The mixture should now be spreadable.

After the chilling time is complete, remove crust from freezer.  Empty filling into prepared crust.  Smooth out evenly onto the crust, taking care to leave 1/4 inch border along the edges.

Now, it is time to top the tart. Sprinkle 1 tbs of flour over the surface of the filling.  Then begin the process of the sliced pineapple overlay.  The first point is to only cover the filling with the fruit, which means that the original 1/4 inch border of crust remains. Starting from the outside going in, lay the pineapple slices in a concentric circle or rectangle, depending on the pan used.  It is best to put the end where the core was cut from facing inward and the other fanning outward.  Overlap the second row 1/2 inch on top of  first row and continue until the filling is completely covered.  Feel free to cut the pineapple to fit, which may be required as you get more towards the center.  You may end up with extra pineapple, but fresh fruit never lasts long in my house.

Place the tart in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  As it cooks, the rum topping can be made.  Place the rum and honey in a small saucepan and stir.  Cook over medium high heat for about 2 minutes, then remove.  After the tart has baked for 20 minutes, rotate it and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.  If you notice the crust browning too much, cover with foil.

Once the 2nd baking interval is completed, remove tart and brush with half of the honey/rum sauce.  Place back in oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes.   Then transfer from oven to cooling rack.  Brush with remaining sauce and let cool completely before serving.
                                         **LAST YEAR: Mochaccino Cupcakes**