Sunday, July 15, 2018

Coconut Cream Hand Pies

Whenever there is a gathering of people and food is included, there are always the two extremes. There is the one person that has several helpings and one person that seems to leave 1/4 of a piece of something on the serving plate. The first person I do not have an issue with, it is the one that eats like a bird, cutting one serving into tiny bits. Apparently I am not the only one, because at the sight of the tiny remain, someone always says "why didn't they just take the whole thing and eat what they want?"

So in response to that situation, I have made mini, bite-sized pies. These pies are created from a 3 inch round of dough that is folded. Perfect for those that want to sample, but not really eat a lot. In addition, the big eaters can grab an handful. Now everyone is happy. A hand-held in a pie is also a trouble free (no cutting, no scooping out of pan...) way to serve as well as eat.

While the traditional thought on hand pies is that they are made of fruit, this recipe indicates that cream pies can be converted to this form. The crispy, flaky dough is drizzled with chocolate and surrounds a sweet coconut filling. Deliciously tropical and snack size, these pies are great item to bring out to the crowd this summer. Be sure to consider the chill time for the dough and filling when planning to create these. The recipe makes about 2 dozen mini pies.

Coconut Hand Pies
adapted from Taste of the South

1 cup cubed unsalted butter (ice cold)
4-8 tbs ice water
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour

2 egg yolks (room temp)
1 large egg (room temp)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup sweetened coconut ( more for toasting and garnishing if desired)

Create the dough by first whisking together the dry ingredients (salt, flour, sugar). Add a few butter cubes at a time and blend into clumps using a pastry cutter. Continue with the process until all the butter is incorporated into the dry blend. Using clean hands, form the mixture into a dough by adding and blending ice water (1 tablespoon at a time) until desired consistency is met. Dust a flat surface with flour and top with the ball of dough. Divide into 2 equal parts and flatten each into 5-6 inch disks. Cover each in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 2 hours.

As the dough is chilling, make the filling. Whisk together milk, coconut extract and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and place over medium high heat. Continue to stir and the liquid heats up. At the boiling point, remove from heat and set aside.

Using a heat proof bowl, combine yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt until evenly blended together. Slowly stream in 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture, while constantly whisking the liquid. Empty the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk blend. Place over medium high heat again, whisking as it cooks. Mixture will thicken and leave a line in the bottom of the saucepan when scraped with a wooden spoon. This should take between 5-7 minutes cook time.

Remove saucepan from heat and mix in the coconut and the butter. Stir the mixture until the butter melts and the coconut is evenly distributed. Transfer filling to a heat proof bowl and cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 1 hour.

Once all the components are completely chilled, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Also, blend together the whole egg in a small bowl using a fork.

Dust a flat surface with flour and take out one disk of dough. Roll the mass out until it is 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out rounds with a three inch cutter and place each on the prepared baking sheets. Using your fingertips, rub a 1/4 inch border of the blended egg around the surface edges of the circle. Place one tablespoon of filling on the upper half of the circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together with your fingers and then seal with tines of fork. Dip top of pie into bowl of egg and let excess drip off. Place pie back on baking sheet, egg side up. Cut tiny vents on the top.

Place in oven and let bake for 10 minutes, then rotate and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes. Pies are done when golden brown on top edges. Remove and let pies completely cool on pans.

Repeat the process by re-rolling scraps and then cutting out more circles, filling and sealing. Then bake as instructed. Do the same for the additional dough disk in the refrigerator.

Once all the pies have been baked and cooled, melt the chocolate by using a double boiler or microwave. If using the microwave, heat for 30 seconds and then stir. Repeat in 30 second intervals until all is melted. Drizzle chocolate over tops of pies. If desired, toast some coconut in the oven and sprinkle over top. Let set before serving.

Tips and Notes:
1. Since coconut cream pies are an icebox pie, I store these in the refrigerator and serve cold.

2. Pies do not expand very much when baking, so they can be placed very close together on the baking sheet.

3. If I was to make them again, I would make them an inch larger. This would require adjustments to make more filling and more dough.

4. Feel free to experiment with other cream pies.
                            **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Banana Loaf Cake**

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Sable Cookies

French desserts are something I really enjoy. There is a certain special quality that comes from that country, which is why I feel that is truly the homeland of desserts.

These cookie recipes, while simple to make, result in something tasty and memorable. Pierre Herme does have a lot of talent when it comes to any dessert, especially cookies.

The first cookie recipe below is one that uses rose extract and dried raspberries. I was unable to find raspberries, so I used strawberries. One serving of these cookies will prove to you that smell does support flavor. Just a bite will bring you straight back to all the times that you sniffed at a fragrant rose. The taste of floral is prominent and the strawberry is subtle. Special and unique, these are perfect for weddings, baby showers and other occasions.

The other cookie recipe is an adaptation of a snicker doodle in the form of a sable. With cinnamon on the outside and inside, this buttery cookie is for those that enjoy shortbread. If you are looking for a light flavored cookie instead of a  super chocolate chunk cookie-this is a great choice.

The first recipe makes about 1 1/2 dz. The cinnamon recipe states 2 dz, but I came up with  over 3 dz. The height or slice suggestion is 3/8 to 1/2 inch.

Pierre Herme Ispahan Sables
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1/4 tsp rose extract (I used Star Kay White Brand)
1/4 cup sanding sugar
pink/red food coloring

11 tbs butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup freeze dried raspberries
1/2 tsp rose extract
1/2 tsp flake salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Start by creating the topping. Fill a small bowl with rose extract and sanding sugar and whisk together. Add a drop of coloring and whisk until all sugar crystals are pink. Add more coloring if necessary. Set aside.

For the cookies, place the raspberries in a zip lock bag and crush until it becomes a powder. It may not all be a powder, but as long and the pieces are very fine. Fill a bowl with the flour and mix in the salt and the powder until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until glossy and smooth. This should take about 3 minutes, depending on how soft your butter is. Stop at intervals and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the rose extract and beat for another 2 minutes. Then incorporate the sugar and salt into the mixture, blending until fluffy. Remove bowl from stand mixer. Using a wooden spoon, mix the flour into the batter, forming a dough. The dough should be soft and be able to be clumped together.

Divide the dough into 4 equal amounts. Roll each in a 6-8 inch log. Once the logs are formed, pour the topping into a flat pan and roll each log in the sugar mixture. Wrap each log with plastic wrap and place side by side on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 3 days.

To bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Pull out one log, uncover and place on cutting board. Cut into 3/8-1/2 inch wide slices. Place each slice on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Then bake for 9 minutes and rotate. Bake for an additional 9-11 minutes or until firm and golden on bottom. Remove and place pan over rack. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to rack to finish cooling. Repeat the process with the remaining logs.

Snickerdoodle Sables
adapted from Bake From Scratch

1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup or 2 sticks butter
2 large egg yolks (divided)
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cups flour

Using a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

Next, fill a bowl of a stand mixer with the butter. Beat until smooth and glossy, stopping on occasion to scrape down the sides of the bowl. This should take about 3 minutes to acheive the correct consistency. Add powdered sugar, salt and only 1/3 a cup of the cinnamon mixture to the butter. Mix together on medium speed until thoroughly blended. Then add 1 egg yolk and the vanilla. Beat again until all is incorporated into the batter.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the flour, using a wooden spoon. Once mixed, it will be crumbly. Knead the dough until it clumps together and no dry streaks remain. Divide the dough in half. Form each half into a log, measuring about 7 inches long. Cover in plastic wrap and chill each log for a minimum of 4 hours or up to 2 days.

Once chilling time is complete, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Also, whisk the remaining egg yolk in a small bowl.

Remove one log and uncover. Place log on cutting board and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices. Brush each slice with egg yolk and dip in the remaining cinnamon sugar. Place each round on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake in oven about 9 minutes, then rotate. Bake for an additional 9-11 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and let cookies cool in pan on rack 5 minutes. Then transfer to cooling rack to completely cool.

Tips and Notes:
1. I rolled out the cookie dough between wax paper and cut with 2" inch cutter. The dough was chilled after rolling out. For the rose cookies it was an hour. For the cinnamon cookies, it was 1 1/2 hours. As you cut and bake, do not let the dough sit out while the cookies are baking. Re-form the dough into a rolled out disk and refrigerate between batches.

2. Since the rose cookies were formed as cut outs instead of a log, I sprinkled the sugar blend on top before baking.
                            **2 YEARS AGO: Bourbon Cherry Bars**

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Pink Champagne Cake

We are all aware of the guest etiquette when it comes to servings of food. No one wants to be the one that takes the last few servings. I guess it stems from trying to avoid the feedback that occurs when the serving plate is empty. The comments range from, "I wanted some of that last piece" or "I did not have a chance to try it before it was gone."

This is not only when it comes to food, but drink as well. I have a cabinet full of liqueur and wine, but there is more bottles than actual liquids. The bottles get to a point where they only have a few ounces in them and consumption stops. Too bad that they cannot be consolidated.

There is a solution to the problem- it is incorporating those last few ounces of liqueur or wine into a recipe. This is a sure fire way to use up the liqueur in the bottom of the bottle while ending up with a tasty dessert.

After toasts are made and the celebration is over, grab some of that remaining champagne and create this amazing cake.  Or better yet, set some aside so you can serve this cake at the celebration. The champagne flavored layers make a great canvas for the cherry coconut filling. The white coating, or icing, is a classic buttercream that also includes of champagne. A sprinkling of crushed chocolate coated cherries ( I used Dove brand) on top sets if off, giving each slice a subtle hint of chocolate.

This cake is at home on the table during any celebration. However, even if you just want something special on an ordinary day, this is the recipe to try.

Pink Champagne Cake
adapted from Food52

2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 egg whites
1 cup pink champagne
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
pink food coloring (optional)

Ingredients/Filling (doubled recipe from here)
2 cups chopped glace cherries
4 tsp cherry brandy
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter

1 1/4 cup butter
6 cups powdered sugar
3 tbs pink champagne
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
pink food coloring (optional)
10 finely chopped chocolate coated cherries (optional/I used Dove brand)

Prepare three 8 inch layer pans by greasing the interior and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the face up side of the parchment once placed in the pan. Dust the inside of all three pans with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Scrape down sides occassionally at intervals. The correct consistency should be achieved after 4 minutes of beating. Then the wet and dry mixtures are to be created.

In one bowl, whisk the eggs, champagne, vanilla extract and oil together. The second bowl is to be filled with a sifted blend of flour, salt and baking powder.  Each mixture is to be added to the butter/sugar batter, the sifted in 1/3 increments with 1/2 increments of the champagne blend in between. The order should be 1/3 dry, 1/2 wet, 1/2 remaining dry, remaining wet and last of dry. Use a wooden spoon to blend after each addition. If using, blend the coloring in the batter at the end.

Divide cake batter into thirds, adding each measurement of batter to a pan. Smooth the surface of the pan. Place pans in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Then rotate pans and bake until tester comes out clean, about 12 more minutes.

Remove pans and place on cooling rack. After cooling the cakes for 10 minutes, run a knife around the interior edge between the pan and the cake. Invert onto cooling rack. Remove parchment paper and let sit another 10 minutes then invert the cakes again. Let cool completely before assembly.

As the cakes cool, prepare the filling component. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until glossy and smooth. Sift the powdered sugar into the butter and mix with a spoon until the sugar is more cohesive with the butter. Then beat until it has a fluffy light consistency. Add the cherry brandy and the optional food coloring and blend. Then, using a wooden spoon, fold in the cherries and the coconut.

Choose a cake layer for the bottom and place on a round cake board. Spoon 1/2 of the filling on top of the layer. Using a spatula, smooth out the filling to cover the layer, leaving a 1/4 inch border along the edges. Top with the second layer and repeat with the filling. Lastly stack the third layer on top. Set aside while the frosting is made.

For the frosting, beat the butter in a stand mixer until creamy and smooth. Sift in 4 cups of powdered sugar, champagne and vanilla. Beat on low and then gradually increase speed as mixture becomes more cohesive. Once all is blended, beat in additional powdered sugar to acheive your preferred consistency. If using coloring, add it and beat until evenly distributed into the batter with no remaining color streaks.

Prepare a piping bag with a round tip that has a 1/2 inch opening. Add the frosting and pipe in between the layers, filling the 1/4 inch cake border left on the inside edges of the layers. Then frost and decorate entire cake as desired. If using, sprinkle the chopped chocolate-cherry candy pieces on top of the cake.

Tips and Notes:
1. The cake is very fragile, so be careful when inverting.

2. You can skip the fancy filling and use just the buttercream by increasing the frosting recipe. You can also brush the layers with cherry brandy before frosting.

3. If you go to far on the thickness of the filling, just mix in water to dilute.

                             **LAST YEAR: Orange Meltaways**

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pumpkin Nutella Bars

As food bloggers, we sometimes have a habit of segregating food and recipes seasonally. I believe that if the food is available all year round, we should enjoy it anytime. One thing that remains on the shelf all year round is pureed pumpkin.  While fresh is always better, when it comes to pumpkin I feel that canned is acceptable.

Today, I pulled out the can of pumpkin and also a jar of Nutella..which is a great combo to start. Then spices were added and a crunchy streusel was made. The end result is a delicious bar with the flavors of hazelnut, chocolate and pumpkin. The streusel is the crowning touch. The bars are worth waiting on until the fall, but there is no reason to not to enjoy them any time of the year. Forget seasonality on this one and enjoy a bar today!

Pumpkin Nutella Bars
adapted from

Ingredients/Pumpkin layer
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1 cup of Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)

1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 8 inch square pan and line with parchment paper. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together butter and both sugars. Then add the egg and vanilla, mixing until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients until no dry streaks remain. Add 1/2 of the pumpkin puree to the batter and stir to blend. Repeat the process and end with last amount of sifted ingredients. Transfer batter to prepared pan, smoothing the surface until even. Place in oven and let bake for 15 minutes.

Create the streusel as it bakes. Whisk all the ingredients together, except for melted butter. Once everything is evenly distributed, pour in the melted butter and mix until all the dry ingredients are damped by the butter, it should have a crumbly consistency. Set aside.

Once the bars have completed the 15 minutes bake time, remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Also, drop the temperature of the oven to 325 degrees.

After the bars have cooled for the allotted time, warm up the hazelnut spread in the microwave- heating for two 15 second intervals, mixing after each. Then pour the spread onto the bars and smooth with a on offset spatula. Lastly, sprinkle the streusel evenly over the surface. Bake until golden brown and tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Cool about 15 minutes before cutting.

Tips and Notes:

1. This recipe was not specific about 2 things, the pan size (it stated it makes 18 bars 1 1/2 inch square) and how much of the hazelnut (Nutella) spread (it stated 1 jar). Without specifics, I used a 8 inch square pan and 1 cup of hazelnut spread. These two items you can change according to your preference but the baking time may need to be adjusted. The bars I made were 1 1/2 inch in height.

2. As you can tell by the amount of ingredients, the streusel is very thick. This can be modified.

3. If you do not want the distinct layers, you can marble the hazelnut spread into the slightly cooked batter when added to the pan.

4. The combination of spices, with the exception of the cloves, equate to pumpkin pie spice. Feel free to substitute it.
                                      **LAST YEAR:Passion Fruit Tart**

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Black Bottom Pecan Cream Pie

Today, I am wondering when history will repeat itself. The specific history I am concerned with is the days when going to the movies and finishing the evening with a slice of pie at the corner diner was considered the perfect date. Clearly, everything I have read about the 50's era indicates that it was a simpler time even though the US was in a growth mode in manufacturing.

You can still find some of these diners in existence and they now are referred to as "retro" diners. However, do not let the passing of history deter you from experiencing one of the favorite diner desserts of all time-Chocolate Cream pie.

With little assembly time and a small amount of ingredients that can be found at any grocers, making this at home is fairly easy. The chilling time is what takes the longest.

This classic pie is perfectly balanced with a rich chocolate filling and a light whipped cream topping. The slight twist on this traditional favorite is the addition of pecans that gives it a nice crunch and a subtle nut flavor. So let's head to the kitchen so you can experience an ice cold slice of this decadent pie....

Black Bottom Pecan Pie
adapted from Maida Heatter

1/3 cup pecans, chopped fine
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
2 oz melted butter

Ingredients/Chocolate Filling
4 eggs yoks
8 oz chopped chocolate (semi-sweet, dark or sweet)
1 tbs instant coffee
1 cup of light cream (regular whippping cream, not heavy)

Ingredients/Cream Topping
1 cup of pecans (medium chopped)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 dz large pecan halves (for decorating surface)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp of whipped cream stabilizer (optional)

For the crust, whisk the sugar with the graham crumbs and then whisk in the nuts. Pour the melted butter in and stir until all the dry ingredients have been dampened. The mixture should be crumbly but you should be able to clump it together. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Empty the crumb blend into a 9 inch pie plate. Using your fingers, create the side edge first by pressing the crumbs up the inside outer wall of the pie plate. Do not afraid to be generous, about 1/4 inch thick. Once the side has been formed, press the remaining crumbs evenly into the bottom. The interior of the pie plate should be completely covered with an even top edge. Place in oven and bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Start on the filling by pouring the cream into a saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Once the cream is lukewarm, add the chocolate pieces. Using a whisk, stir the mixture and let heat up until all the chocolate is melted. Then whisk in the instant coffee. Once dissolved, remove from heat. Let cool for about 10 minutes.

After the cooling time, whisk one egg yolk into the chocolate cream until blended. Repeat the process until each egg yolk has been incorporated into the mixture. Let cool for an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Then pour mixture into the crumb crust and place in refrigerator until set, about 2-3 hours.

During the last 15 minutes of the chilling time, create the topping. Chill a bowl and mixer beaters for about 10 minutes. Remove all chilled utensils from refrigerator. Fill the bowl with heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and stabilizer (if using). Beat the mixture on medium speed until cream is very thick and holds its shape. Fold in the nuts.

Remove pie from refrigerator and drop spoonfuls of the cream on top. Smooth the surface of the pie starting from the outer edges to the center. Cover all the chocolate filling evenly. Decorate the top with pecan halves. Refrigerate for another hour and then slice and serve.

Tips and Notes:
1. Recipe suggests foiling pie pan for crust. Crust is to be frozen after cooling for about 1 1/2 hours. Then foil is to be removed and crust placed back in pan. The purpose is to keep pie shell from sticking. I tried this method and the frozen crust crumbled before I could get it in the pan. I created the crust again without the foil and found that I did not have an issue with sticking anyway.

2. For more crunch, toast your pecans before using.

3.Try experimenting with the add in. For salty sweet, consider chopped pretzels or salted peanuts instead of pecans. You can also use milk chocolate if dark is not your preference.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Blueberry White Chocolate Muffins**

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Persian Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

Spices can be the number one priority when it comes to a successful dish. I am one that prefers the freshest of them and that can be an issue, since most spices are not generated here in the US. I wonder that by the time a spice hits the shelf here, if it really is that fresh.

The resolve on that would be to travel the world and pick up every spice produced based on the country. What a wonderful trip that would be! The fresh spice may have a whole different flavor than the spices I get from the jar. Until I take a trip, I am resigned to at least buying at the store and making the dish that requires these ingredients all on the same day.

This particular shortbread cookie contains the exotic spices of cardamon and saffron. The resulting flavor is the earthy, pungent taste that comes from the spices that contrasts with the sweet buttery shortbread base. To tie it all together is the crunch of the pistachio nuts.

This is a far cry from chocolate chip cookies, but sometimes the exotic can break up the monotony. Once you sit down and enjoy a few of these tasty little rounds with some Turkish coffee, you may find yourself shopping for a Persian rug and some fresher spices! This recipe makes about 4 1/2 dozen small cookies.

Persian Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Silverland Bakery

1 tsp saffron
1 tsp cardamon
1 cup pistachios (salted or unsalted, chopped)
1 tsp rosewater
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup butter

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Place a sieve over a bowl and sift together the powdered sugar, saffron and cardamon. Set aside. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sifted ingredients and rosewater. Mix on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once combined, beat dough at medium speed for 3 minutes. The mixture will become light and fluffy.

Using a wooden spoon, fold in the flour until no dry streaks remain. Then mix in the pistachios to distribute evenly throughout the dough.

Shape the dough into 2 round logs and wrap each in plastic film and twist or fold over the end edges of the plastic. Place in fridge for about 2 hours. After the chilling time, remove one log from the refrigerator and unwrap. Slice the log into 1/4 inch rounds and place each round on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 325 for 18-20 minutes or until golden on bottom and edges. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

Tips and Notes:
1. Pistachios are fresher when you shell them yourself instead of buying already shelled.

2. Cookies do not spread, so you can bake a number of them on one cookie sheet.

3. Do not leave dough sit out after slicing, awaiting for first batch of cookies to bake. When not in use, keep in refrigerator.

4. If you do not like saffron or find it too expensive, you can make the cookies without it.

5. The cookies are about 2-2 1/2 inches in diameter. You can make them larger, but be sure and adjust the baking time.

6. I opted to push the saffron threads through a sieve with the powdered sugar to disperse it throughout the dough. However, the saffron can be crumbled into little threads instead. The crumble method will give the dough an occassional "pop" of saffron flavor as you eat the cookie.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Spudnut Donuts**

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Port Cherry Coffee Cake

Today, society is faced with a variety of drinks. Instead of black coffee and ice cold milk, now there is half-caf soy lattes and walnut milk. Faced with so many choices, we find ourselves trying them all. Some are good and some not so good. However, it is nice to go back to those plain "old school" drinks.

Ice cold milk or black coffee (even though considered "old school") deserves a side of pastry or cookies. The plainest of each drink calls out for a pairing of a sweet breakfast treat. After all, there is a reason some cakes are called coffee cake and these cakes contain no coffee.

This particular cake has a special blend of port wine and cherries swirling through a fluffy vanilla batter. Aside from the flavor, the moist texture derived from the sour cream and the contrasting sweet almond streusel on top is very pleasing to the palate.

So let's go into the kitchen to create a delicious side line for an "old school" beverage. One tasty slice with plain black coffee may cause you to permanently give up that Caramel Mudslide drink from the coffee house.  

Port Cherry Coffeecake
adapted from Chowhound

1 cup diced dried cherries
2 cups port wine
1/4 cup sugar
1-3 inch cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split and opened up flat
1/4 tsp sea salt

Ingredients/Almond Streusel
4 tbs melted butter
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbs dark brown sugar
3 tbs granulated sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 vanilla bean 

For the first component (swirl), start by filling a saucepan with all the ingredients. Place over medium high heat and let cook. Mixture should come to a low boil or simmer. Stir constantly to make sure it does not stick or burn. Once it reduces down to having only 1/3 to 1/4 a liquid amount, remove from heat and take out cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. Discard the two. Transfer cherry mixture to a heat proof bowl and place in refrigerator to cool for a minimum of 20 minutes.

As that cools, create the streusel. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and insure that one rack is on the middle tier of the oven. Using a medium size bowl, mix together the warm melted butter with both types of sugars. Then stir in the salt. Add the flour and combine until no dry streaks remain. Lastly, mix in the almonds. Set aside.

The cake batter starts with the preparation of the 10 inch tube pan. Grease the pan's interior and dust with flour. Fill a sieve (place over a large bowl) with flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift dry ingredients into the bowl. Set aside.

Add butter to a bowl of a stand mixer and beat until nice and smooth. Stop at intervals to scrape down the sides. The butter should be lighter in color after beating. Continue to run the mixer at medium high speed and add the sugar in separate intervals. Beat time should be about 5 minutes.

Take the vanilla bean and split down the middle and scrape the seeds into the batter. Mix until well distributed. Add one egg beat for 30 seconds to combine. Repeat the process until all eggs are blended into the batter. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer.

Using a wooden spoon, fold 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the batter. Add half of the sour cream and stir. Mix in 1/2 of the remaining dry ingredients and then the the rest of the sour cream. Then add the last of the sifted ingredients and blend together. Top the batter with spoonfuls of the cherry swirl, spacing the dollops apart. Carefully fold the swirl mixture into the batter, using only about 4 or 5 strokes. The cherry mixture should be blended to the point of only streaking the batter, not be fully mixed into it.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Cover the surface of the batter with the streusel, making sure it is evenly covered. Using clean hands, lightly press streusel against the batter.

Place pan in oven on middle rack an bake until tester comes out clean. This should take about 50 minutes to bake. Once baked, place pan over a rack to cool for about 1 hour. Run a knife around the edges and flip the cake onto a cake board. Flip once again so that streusel is face up. Let cool completely before serving.
                          **LAST YEAR: Italian Cream Filled donuts**