Sunday, January 13, 2019

French Lemon Pound Cake

The things I like about pound cakes and bundt cakes are their velvety texture and the stand alone flavor. Most cakes in this category require no icing, even though some are glazed and iced. In regards to this particular recipe, glazing or icing would be a mistake.

For those that crave super lemon flavor, the french have you covered on this one. It takes 9 lemons to make this pound cake. There are lemon segments in the batter. In addition, you give the loaf a few squeezes to soak up a lemon syrup after baking. All that lemon creates a pop of tart flavor with every bite-especially when it includes a lemon segment.

Since this cake has such super flavor, I have discarded all other recipes for lemon pound cake.  This will be my "go to" recipe.

French Lemon Pound Cake
adapted from the New York Times

3/4 cup of heavy cream
6 eggs
9 lemons
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter plus 2 tablespoons; melted
1 1/2 cup of sugar
2 3/4 cup of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

remaining zest from creating cake
Juice from remaining 6 lemons from creating cake
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar

For the cake, grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and line interior bottom and 2 long sides with parchment paper. Grease the surface of the parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take 4 of the lemons and grate the outer skin for lemon zest. Set zest aside.

Using 3 of the zested lemons, slice off the tops and bottoms. Then cut away the skin and white pith by standing on end and slicing downward. After that, the membrane and seeds will need to be removed. Use a paring knife and work over a bowl to capture the fruit and juices. Once finished, check the size of the lemon segments and cut any in half that exceed one inch. Set this aside, along with the 4th zested lemon.

Take out a medium size bowl and sift together baking powder and flour. Add the sugar and whisk until evenly distributed into the sifted ingredients. Empty into a bowl of a stand mixer and run mixer on low speed while slowly streaming in heavy cream. Once combined, turn mixer to medium speed and add one egg. Beat for 30 seconds to combine. Repeat the process with each egg. Then mix in the melted butter. Remove bowl from stand mixer.

Add 3/4 of the zest to the batter, along with lemon segments and juices. Mix with spatula or wooden spoon to combine. Set remaining zest aside. Empty batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove and make a slice about 1/2 inch deep lengthwise in the center of the loaf. Return loaf to oven and bake for 30 minutes. Once that baking session is over, reduce the oven temperature to 325. Bake loaf until tester comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

While the loaf is baking, create the syrup. Take and juice the remaining 6 lemons (this includes the one that was zested). Whisk in the rest of the zest.

Fill a saucepan with the water and both types of the sugar. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove and whisk in zest/juice blend. Let cool.

After loaf is baked, let cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a rack. Remove parchment and invert again so loaf is face up. Let cool for 20 more minutes. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour cooled syrup into a large dish with ample room for the loaf. Invert loaf into syrup and lightly squeeze. Invert again and repeat the process. Place the loaf face up on the prepared baking sheet and put in oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool on rack completely before slicing and serving.

Tips and Notes:
1. Due to the syrup, loaf will somewhat damp on the outer edges. The extra 10 minutes baking after soaking does not dry it out. It may be damp but the syrup does bring a lot of flavor to the loaf.

2. Serving suggestion is to slice, toast and top with fruit compote.

3. After baking the loaf for 15 minutes, it still has a batter consistency. The lengthwise scoring or cut will show after completely baked.

4. Feel free to use Meyer lemons for less acidiity, they are still in season. When you get ready to cut, remember that their skin is thinner than regular lemons.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Salty Sweet Nut Bars** 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Brandied Eggnog Cookies

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. This post is a little late, but I am still reminiscing. I wanted to thank all the Google communities of wonderful bakers and cooks that inspire me. I now am in the job realm of baking, but I still continue with my passion on my own time with this blog.

To start this year, I bring you a recipe for a delectable sandwich cookie. The crunch of a sugar cookie sandwiched together by a brandy nutmeg filling. All the flavor of eggnog in a sweet gem of a treat. Next year try putting these cookies out for Santa-it will definitely insure that you are on his nice list!

Brandied Eggnog Cookies
adapted from the Good Cookie

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Ingredients/Cream Filling
1 cup plus 2 tbs confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs brandy
3 tbs butter (softened)

Coarse sugar
Grated nutmeg

For the cookies, fill the bowl of a stand mixer with butter and sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the vanilla,  nutmeg, egg yolk and salt. Pour into the butter/sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly blended.

Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in the flour, incorporating it into the batter in 1/2 cup intervals. Once combined, place a large piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface. Transfer the dough to the plastic and flatten into a rectangle. Completely cover dough and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour and maximum of 3 days.

When you are ready to form and bake cookies, lightly sprinkle a flat work surface with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. Place one half back in refrigerator and the other half on the work surface. Dust with flour and roll dough out in a mass about 1/8 of an inch thick. Using a cutter (I used linzer cookie cutter) about 1 1/2 inch square, cut dough into shapes. For the center hole, use a 1/2 inch round piping tip to form the window or hole. This step is to be completed on only half of the cookies, the top cookie will have the window and the bottom cookie will be solid.

Then transfer cut outs to a baking sheet, placing the solid cut outs together on one sheet and the cut outs with the window on another. The baking time for the cut outs with the window takes about one minute less than the others. Sprinkle each cookie with coarse sugar. Place cookies in the oven and bake each sheet separately, for about 9-11 minutes. Cookies should be be a light golden brown on the bottom, the tops should not change color. Once baked, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat the process of rolling the dough and cutting out shapes by re-using the scraps and the second piece of dough in the refrigerator. If the dough gets too sticky in the process, return it to the refrigerator to firm up. Once firm, you can start the rolling and cutting process again.

For the filling, fill a small bowl with the butter and beat until smooth and silky. Add 1/2 a cup of the confectioners's sugar and beat until no dry powder remains. Using another bowl, whisk together the brandy and vanilla extract. Add it to the butter/sugar mixture and blend until evenly distributed. Lastly, mix in the remaining confectioners' sugar until creamy. It should have a frosting consistency.

Spread about 3/4 of a teaspoon of filling onto each solid cookie. Then lightly press the cookie with the window on top. Grate or sprinkle the top with nutmeg.

Tips and Notes:
1. Another method for forming the cookies is to roll the dough on parchment paper, making sure the dough can fit into the baking sheet. Then cut out dough on parchment lined baking sheet and remove the outer scraps, leaving the cut outs on the baking sheet. This keeps you from having to transfer the cut out from the flat surface to the cookie sheet, so it insures the perfect shape. Also, if the dough gets too sticky or soft, it can be chilled quickly in the refrigerator on the baking sheet.

2. Feel free to use the liquor of your choice. I used gingerbread spiced whiskey.

3. The recipe states it makes 30 cookies, I ended up with about 24. My 1/8 of an inch thickness was not consistent, so I had less cookies.

4. The filling of 3/4 of a tsp may not seem much. Due to the strength of the brandy, not much filling is required to get a nice flavor pairing with the cookies.
                                       **LAST YEAR:Cocoa Almond Pound Cake**

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Peanut Butter Cut Out Cookies

Cut out cookies show up for special occasions because they can be decorated to fit the theme. Gingerbread and sugar cookies are tasty and are a good canvas for decorating. They are classics, but in the cut out category there is an array of flavors that are overlooked.

This particular recipe is for a peanut butter cut out cookies. They make for a good stand alone for dunking in milk. Also, they are versatile enough to be "spruced up" for the holidays by sandwiching  together or decorated on top. These cookies are deceiving because they appear to be just a sugar cookie. It is quite a delicious surprise when you bite into them. The tasty flavor of peanut butter in an unusual format of a cut out cookie. This recipe makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Peanut Butter Cut Outs
adapted from ACH Food Companies

2/3 cup of light corn syrup
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
4 cups of flour (divided use)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Fill a stand mixer bowl with the butter and peanut butter. Beat mixture until blended and smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then cream the brown sugar into the mix. Add the eggs and the corn syrup and blend together until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Place a sieve over a medium size bowl and sift together only 2 cups of flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Fold dry mixture into peanut butter/sugar blend. Once fully combined (with no dry streaks) add the remaining 2 cups of flour and mix until a cohesive dough is formed.

Separate dough into 2 equal mounds. Place each on a large piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Cover completely with wrap and refrigerate both disks of dough for a minimum of 4 hours and a  maximum of overnight.

Once the cookies are ready to be formed, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a flat surface by placing a piece of parchment down (the size of your baking sheet) and dusting with flour.

Take out one of the dough disks and place on floured surface. Roll the disk out into a 1/8 inch thickness into a rectangle that will fit on the baking sheet. Once rolled out, place the parchment with the dough on the baking sheet. Cut dough into desired shapes and remove the dough from around the cut outs.

I use this method on some cut out cookies because it eliminates the risk damaging them if you cut out on a flat surface and transfer to a baking sheet. Also, you can quickly chill the dough in the fridge on the baking sheet if it gets too warm when you are forming the cookies.

Place cookies in oven and bake until light brown, this should take about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to a baking rack to cool completely. Repeat forming the cookies (taking time to re-chill the dough when needed) and baking as stated.

Once cool you can decorate as desired. I piped melted chocolate over the top. Other suggestions are to ice with chocolate and sprinkle with peanuts or sandwich together with chocolate buttercream. 
                                   **TWO YEARS AGO: Chocolate Custard Tart**           

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Pistachio Snowballs

The theme this month is cookies. However, I ran across this wonderful holiday recipe for candy that I could not wait to share. If you are one that has to "stash" away cookies or candies so the kids do not devour them all, you will be glad to know that these are for adults only.

The add ins of these snowy gems are pistachios and white chocolate. I have never experienced these two flavors together except in ice cream. While the combination may be obscure, the taste will have you wondering why. The tie together element is the white chocolate liqueur. I consider that ingredient as a way of gilding the lily, but I would not recommend making these candies without it.

In addition, this recipe is quick and easy, leaving you with more time to prepare for the holidays. It makes about 4 dozen.

Pistachio Snowballs
adapted from Sophisticated Cookies

1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup white chocolate liqueur
2 cups vanilla wafer cookies
1 cup white chocolate chips

Pour the white chocolate chips and the vanilla wafer cookies into a food processor. Process the mixture until it becomes crumbs. Add the liquids (liqueur and corn syrup) and pulse. Once all the ingredients are blended into a dough, measure out one cup of the powdered sugar. Pour into the dough and run the food processor until the powder is absorbed into the dough.

Add all the pistachios and use the food processor to grind the nuts into smaller bits and blend them into the dough. Using a medium size bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with the granulated sugar.

Form the dough into 1 inch balls. Then roll in the sugar blend. Store for a few days so the flavor can meld.

Tips and Notes:
1. The recipe states you can sub the pistachios with unsalted skinned almonds and 2 tbs grated orange zest for a flavor alteration.

2. If you are unable to find unsalted pistachios, just boil the salted ones for about 10 minutes and then rinse. You can dry the nuts out in the oven-just as you would toast nuts.

3. While these may look like cookies, they have a very sweet candy consistency.

4. These are also great for gift giving in the mail because they hold their shape.
                               **LAST YEAR:Savory Kalacs**

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

While vanilla extract is a primary flavoring, I feel that almond is a very close second. As I review recipes, almond keeps coming up in baked goods. Not just the nut or the flavoring, but almond liqueur is prominent as well. Almond based items are hard to avoid at the grocers-nuts, flavoring,oil, almond liqueur, milk and flour. Time to stock up on this staple ingredient.

These almond cookies are actually a copy cat recipe of Mother's brand cookies and are really easy to make. The brand is still around but this flavor of cookie has been discontinued. Almond shortbread studded with mini chocolate chips- the flavor combination is one of my favorites. Easy and perfect for the cookie jar or holiday table, this cookie recipe is a keeper.

Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies
adapted from Recipelink Website 

1 egg
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cup flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper.

Fill a stand mixer with the shortening and sugar. Beat for 3 minutes on medium speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Using a small bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla and almond extracts together. Stir both mixtures together to blend. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt together into a large bowl. Then fold the sifted ingredients into the sugar/egg blend until no dry streaks remain. Lastly, fold in the mini chocolate chips until even dispersed throughout the batter.

Measure batter out in heaping teaspoons and drop onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake until golden on the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 2 minutes. Then transfer to rack to completely cool.
                                      ***LAST YEAR:Chestnut Pie***

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Pecan Praline Cookies

December is the month of cookie swaps and holiday cookie contests, so my holiday cookie posts this month will fall into place. We all have our favorites, but this month I will steer away from the traditional cookies. I hope the recipes will inspire you to start a new tradition by adding one or more types of these special cookies to the holiday dessert table.

The first are a creation with a favorite candy from the French Quarter in New Orleans-pecan pralines. The praline mixture is created first and then added to the dough just prior to baking. However, unlike regular pralines, there is very little sugar base. There is only enough sugar to hold the pecan pieces together. The end result is an extra nutty cookie, which is a plus. This recipe makes about thirty 2 3/4 inch cookies.

Pecan Praline Cookies
adapted from International Cookie Cookbook

1 cup pecans (chopped)
1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
1 egg
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour

The praline is the first step to these cookies. Start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees and greasing a heatproof platter (I used a pizza pan). Place the chopped pecans in a pan, spreading evenly. Toast in oven for about 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Remove pan and set aside.

Fill a saucepan with 2 tbs of water and the sugar. Stir and set over medium high heat. Let come to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Place a cover over the saucepan and let it continue to boil for another few minutes. Uncover and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. The mixture will start to develop a golden color. Watch closely for the ideal amber color (you do not want burnt sugar) and remember that it still continues to cook a little even after removed from the stove. Once syrup is ready, pour in pecans and quickly toss to coat. Transfer to buttered pan and flatten with a heavy saucepan.

After 10 minutes, praline should be cooled. Crack praline and place in a plastic bag. Using a mallet or heavy saucepan, break up the mixture into tiny pieces. Separate out 1/3 of a cup. Set both aside.

Change the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Prepare 2 sheet pans by lining with parchment paper. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter. Beat until silky, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then add both sugars and blend until a fluffy texture is reached. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and beat in egg and vanilla extract.

Then place a sieve over a large bowl. Fill with flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Sift through the sieve.

Add half of the sifted ingredients to the sugar/butter blend. Fold the ingredients together until no dry streaks remain. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix together until completely blended. Pour the larger portion of the pecan praline into the batter. Stir until all praline is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Form cookies by rolling dough pieces into a 1 inch ball. Take each ball and dip the top into the remaining 1/3 cup of pecan praline. Place each ball about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for about 5 minutes. Rotate pans and bake for another 5-6 minutes or until barely golden on the edges. Be careful not to over bake. Over baking will change the texture from slightly chewy to hard and crunchy. Once the cookies are done, place pan on cooling rack. Let cookies cool on pan for about 2 minutes and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
                                        **LAST YEAR:Samoa Bundt Cake**

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Maple Date Loaf

This is the last post of the holiday quick the first of a new baking theme will go out for the month of December. This post I feel is sort of vintage. The reason for that is because this recipe has dates in it. For some reason dates, figs and prunes make me think of something a grandmother would eat.

Vintage as it may be, after tasting this I would say grandmother was on to something when it came to using dates in baking. Just the smell of this sweet loaf wafting from the kitchen had me waiting to taste a slice. Maple syrup and dates make for a perfect pair in this loaf cake. In addition, the crunchy oat streusel on top adds just enough sweetness. One slice is right at home alongside a cup of hot tea or coffee. The recipe is for one  9 x 2 3/4" loaf pan or mini foil pans (5 3/4 X 3 1/4).

Maple Date Loaf
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients/Oatmeal Streusel
2 tbs flour
2 tbs butter
2 tbs light brown sugar
2 tbs maple syrup
1/4 cup regular oats

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1 tbs butter
1 cup chopped/pitted/dried dates
1/2 to 1 tsp orange zest
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

For the streusel, start by whisking the oats, brown sugar and flour together.  Add butter and use a pastry cutter to blend. Lastly, stir in the maple syrup. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the interior of the pan(s).

Fill a medium size bowl with the orange juice, zest and water. Place over medium high heat. Let cook until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add butter and dates. Stir until butter is melted and set aside for 5 minutes to plump the dried dates.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the maple syrup. Blend mixture into the orange/date liquid.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center.  Pour the date blend into the well. Fold dry mixture into the water blend. Once no dry streaks remain, add batter to pans (dividing evenly if using multiple pans).

Sprinkle the top of the loaf with the streusel. Place in oven and bake until teamster comes out clean. Bake time should be about 25 to 30 minutes. Leave in pan(s) for gifting or invert twice after cooling for 20 minutes.
                         **2 YEARS AGO: White Russian Krispy Bars