Sunday, February 19, 2017

Snickerdoodle Pie

There are certain food smells that make us instantly hungry. With me, there is not a lot of foods that fall into this category, but this one definitely qualifies. As this baked, the smell of buttery brown sugar and cinnamon wafted through the house. It was hard to wait until the pie cooled before trying a slice. Since I do not work in the food industry, I have enjoyed the luxury of experiencing a variety of different scents of food while it is baking-unlike the person that fries chicken all day. Rather than smelling of grease and chicken, I much prefer to smell like cookies, much like John Travolta in the movie Micheal.

As you can see, pie is not really the end result of the recipe. Instead, the result is a big fluffy Snickerdoodle cake sitting in a flaky crust. The crust at the bottom is coated in butter and cinnamon sugar and it has a brown sugar syrup poured on top of filling prior to baking.

The moist cake teams up with a flaky crust to create a nice contrast in texture. Also, no one can deny the delicious classic flavors of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. This cake is light enough to have for tea or an after dinner dessert. Another nice point is that it is appropriate for any season.

Snickerdoodle Pie
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

1 recipe for single crust pie
1 tablespoon raw or coarse sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp butter, melted

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tbs water
2 tbs light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Start by taking the dough for the crust and lining a 9 inch pie plate. Form the decorative top edge according to your preference. Whisk the cinnamon and sugar together a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, butter the surface of the formed pie dough with the melted butter. Then sprinkle the surface of the dough with one teaspoon of the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Set aside.

The next component is the syrup. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining syrup ingredients and whisk together. Continue to whisk until sugar is dissolved. Let mixture come to a boil and let cook, boiling for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.Then start making the filling. Sift together salt, cream of tartar, flour and baking powder in a medium size bowl. In another bowl, cream together butter and both types of sugar. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Once blended, mix in the milk until the mixture turns into a batter. Lastly, use a wooden spoon and fold in the sifted ingredients.

Spoon the batter into the prepared crust and smooth out evenly. Then pour the syrup in a thin stream over the surface of the batter. Sprinkle the last of the cinnamon/sugar mixture over the surface of the

Cover the crust edges of the pie with foil. Place pie in oven and let bake for 25 minutes. After this baking session is complete, remove the foil from the pie edges and place pie back in oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Put pie plate on rack to cool. After 30 minutes cooling time, slice and serve. This pie should be served warm.
                                          **LAST YEAR:Caramel Pecan Silk Pie**

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mulled Wine Jammers

Due to social media, there is a lot of focus on image. I am sure that if you are on the social sites a lot, you will find the projected image of that perfect life for a lot of people. It may be instagram pictures that show someone's exotic travels in which they are always rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Also, it maybe on Google reiterating the phrase "oh it's such a wonderful life."

We all know that these pictures and/or comments just barely skim the surface of people's real life.  It is just projecting the best part of it. The person that travels may hate it and the person with a so called wonderful life may truly be miserable. However, no one wants to project a bad/sad image, so we are not informed of the other side.

I have more interest in people that project reality-someone that is middle ground and down to earth. I consider the source of this recipe to be just that type of person, Dorie Greenspan. I have read quite a bit about her and how her career has developed. It is nice to bake something once in a while that was created by someone that you like and can relate to. Which brings me to this wonderful recipe.

This cookie is made up of 3 components, which makes it unusual as well as delicious. The base is a butter or sable cookie. On top of the base sits a sweet, yet spicy, mix of wine, fruit and jam. Lastly, the top of the stack is scattered with streusel. The textures and flavors make it a perfect accompaniment to hot tea or coffee.

These cookies can be baked in a muffin tin, but if you are all into appearance (which I am), try the 2 inch pastry rings. While they are not cheap, I loved the look of these and will probably use the rings again and again for other types of things. This recipe makes 2 dz cookies. if you plan on making these, consider the hours of chilling time required for each component.

Mulled Wine Jammers
adapted from Dorie Greenspan 

1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbs cold butter (cubed)
1/3 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbs light brown sugar
3 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
3 tbs dried raisins
1/3 cup cherry jam
1 1/4 cups fruity red wine
2 strips of orange or tangerine peel (3-4 inches long 1/2 inch wide)
1 tbs honey
2-3 inch stick of cinnamon
2 points from star anise
2 whole cloves

Ingredients/Cookie Base
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 egg yolks (room temp)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter (cubed/room temp)
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

The first step is to make the filling. The spices need to be enclosed so they can soak in the wine. You can use a small tea strainer or or a sachet made with cheesecloth. Fill the container with the spices (cinnamon stick, anise and cloves) and close. Place the filled container in a small saucepan and add wine, honey and fruit peel. Cook the ingredients over medium heat until boiling. Once it boils, turn the heat down so the mixture is only simmering. Let cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Add all the dried fruit and stir as it continues to cook. As it cooks, the liquid will evaporate. Evaporation should take about 8 minutes. Then remove saucepan from heat. Take the sachet of spices and citrus peel out of the mixture and discard. Lastly, stir in the cherry jam. Empty into a heat proof bowl, cover and place in fridge to cool.

As the filling is cooling off in the fridge, the streusel can be made. Place the flour, cornmeal, both sugars, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and pulse until all is blended. Then drop in the cubes of butter and pulse mixture until it becomes like wet sand and clumps together. Add the vanilla extract and pulse again. Empty mixture into a bowl, cover and place in fridge to chill for at least 1 hour. For better results, 3 hours is recommended.

The last component is the cookie dough. Start by whisking together both sugars and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Then use the beater blade attachment and turn the mixer on medium speed. As it mixes, drop in cubes of butter in 3 separate intervals, each interval beating for about 1 minute. After every interval stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer down to low and add 1 egg yolk and beat until yolk is completely mixed in. Repeat with the 2nd egg yolk and then mix in the vanilla extract.

Remove bowl from stand mixer. Add flour to batter and stir it into the dough using a wooden spoon. Once the flour is completely mixed in, cut 4 sheets of parchment paper about 10 inches wide. Place 2 sheets side by side on a flat surface. Divide divide dough in half and placing each half on one sheet of parchment paper. Cover top of each dough mound with the other parchment sheets. Flatten with your hands and then take a rolling pin and roll out each piece to a 1/4 inch thickness. Place on baking sheet, stacking if needed. Then put in refrigerator and let dough chill for 2 hours.

For the baking step, butter the interior of muffin tins or pastry rings. If using pastry rounds, line 1 baking sheet with parchment paper and butter the interior of each ring. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take out one slab of dough from refrigerator and peel off top sheet of parchment and then peel dough off of bottom sheet and lay back on bottom sheet. Use a 2 inch cookie cutter and cut dough into circles. Place dough in each cavity of the muffin tin. If using pastry rings, cut out dough with ring and place dough filled ring with dough down on baking sheet. Continue until muffin tin is full or all 12 pastry rings have a dough layer in the bottom. In the process you may have to re-roll the scraps and cut out dough circles.

The next layer is the filling. Place one teaspoon of the filling in the center of each circle, leaving an edge border of dough. After filling, use the back of a spoon to slightly flatten any tall mounds on the dough circles. Take the streusel out of the refrigerator and crumble up any big chunks that may have formed. Sprinkle streusel over the top of the filling, making sure the dough circle and the filling are completely coated. After coating all the dough circles, place pan in oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes and rotate pan. Bake for an additional 10-12 minutes. If making with pastry rings, the baking time may need to be increased a few minutes.

Cookies are completely done when the streusel is golden. The cookies in the muffin tins require a cooling time of 15 minutes before transferring to a rack to completely cool. The ones baked in pastry rings require 20 minutes.

Let baking equipment completely cool, then wash and dry for the next batch. The 2nd disc of dough is cut, layered and baked in the same manner.

Tips and Notes:
1. Since jam fillings have a tendency to dry and get gummy when exposed, be careful not to go the the dough edge when placing the filling on the dough circle.

2. Evenly rolled dough is the key to getting the exact amount of cookies noted. I ended up with more cookies. The end result was I had to make more streusel and used all the filling. The recipe stated there would be some extra filling.

3. The streusel, when I made it was not dry and crumbly at that stage. The chill time does dry it out a bit.

4. While the dried fruit is not to be pulverized, keep in mind the size of these cookies when you are chopping the cherries and cranberries.

5. To truly experience the best texture and flavor of these cookies, warm them slightly in the microwave prior to eating or eat after they bake once removed from the tin or pastry rings.

6. If you want to make quick work of these, prepare streusel and filling components in advance and refrigerate. Making the dough, assembling and baking the next day will reduce prep time. The filling, if kept covered in the fridge, lasts for 2 weeks. The streusel has the same refrigeration time, but you can also freeze for up to 2 months. In addition, cookies can be completely assembled and frozen in the raw state. Just make sure they are wrapped tightly. The maximum freeze time would be 2 months. To bake, take cookies right from the freezer and bake as directed, adding a few minutes to cover for the frozen factor.  
                                **LAST YEAR: Raspberry White Chocolate Cookies**

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Cappuccino Cheesecake

This particular dessert had me thinking of a special Viennese coffee house that I had read about that spans back to the 1800's called Cafe Central. The interior architecture is made up of archways and columns, which makes for a wonderful atmosphere. Also, on certain days a piano player is there to insure that you can enjoy your coffee, pastry or dessert while you mellow out with the music. Now that I have transported you there, do not forget to find the exact spot where Sigmund Freud actually sat and drank his coffee back in the day...

The reason for these thoughts is because this cheesecake is not your average. The three flavor combo is well balanced and it has that wonderful creamy texture that we all look for in a slice of cheesecake. The almond crust adds just the right amount of nutty, crunchiness to each slice.

I am sure you are wondering what the three flavors make up the cheesecake filling. The filling has espresso powder-which I know you expected. The other flavor additions are what makes this cheesecake exceptional- the hazelnut liqueur and Irish Cream liqueur. With the amount used in this recipe, there is no fear of the flavor baking out of this dessert. The recipe makes one 9x13 inch cheesecake.

Now let's get into the kitchen....

Cappuccino Cheesecake
adapted from Edible Communities

3 tbs melted butter
2 tbs granulated sugar
2 cups ground nuts (almonds, pecans or walnuts)

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbs instant espresso powder
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup Irish Cream liqueur ( I used Bailey's brand)
1/3 cup hazelnut liqueur ( I used Frangelico brand)
2 tbs hot water

2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Start on the crust by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the ground nuts and the sugar. Then stir in the melted butter, making sure that all the dry ingredients are dampened with the melted butter.

Empty the mixture into a 9x13 inch pan. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan. The crust mixture should be compact. You can use your palms, a smaller pan that fits inside the pan, a pizza dough roller or other utensils in order to make it compact.

Place pan in oven and bake until golden brown. This should take about 10-12 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let cool.

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Stir together the espresso powder and hot water in a small bowl and set aside.

Empty the mascarpone cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer. Then open one package or separate out 8 oz of cream cheese and cut into 1/2 inch cubes or divide into 1/2 inch lumps. Turn on the mixer and add cubes and mix on low speed for 3 minutes, stopping occassionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then cube the rest of the cream cheese and continue to drop pieces into the mixture while mixer is still running on low speed. After incorporating all the cream cheese, add both types of the sugar and let mixer run, again stopping to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Once smooth and blended, add one egg and mix for about 10 seconds. Continue with this process for each of the remaining eggs, one at a time. After mixing all the eggs in, blend in the 2 yolks.

Lastly, stir in the espresso mixture, Irish cream and hazelnut liqueur. Pour batter into pan over the almond crust and smooth the top. Place pan inside another pan, such as a roasting pan or any pan that is lower or the same height as the pan with the cheesecake. Boil some water and pour it into the roasting pan and place in oven and let bake 50 minutes.

As it bakes, mix together granulated sugar and sour cream. Once the 50 minute bake time is completed, remove pan from oven and smooth sour cream mixture evenly over the top. Place back in oven and let bake until the majority of the cheesecake is firm with only about a quarter size center that still jiggles when moved, about 10 more minutes.

Take out of oven and remove cheesecake from the roasting pan. Run a knife around the interior side edges between the cheesecake and the pan. Let cool to room temperature and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours before serving.

Tips and Notes:
1. Since I used a pastry frame to bake this in there were issues. The water bath pan was higher than the frame, so there was a certain steamy factor on the surface of the cheesecake. The pastry frame was not a good idea.

2. The cheesecake took double the amount of time to bake and got too toasty on the edges. I attribute this to the pastry frame and over mixing the filling. Overmixing must have whipped too much air into the batter or made it too runny. In spite of the edges and the extended bake time, the cheesecake was still delicious.

3. In order to make sure the surface does not brown too much before the cheesecake is thoroughly baked, I recommend to bake it until a 3 inch circle in the center remains jiggly. Then put the sour cream topping on and bake the the extra 10 minutes.

4. The recipe states that the crust can be run up the sides of the pan as well as in the bottom. The bottom only crust may take some bake time adjusting to get crispy and golden.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Blackberry Hazelnut Torte** 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Upside-down Banana Coffee Cake

I have to admit it, my brain is hard wired. By hard wired, I mean that it is constantly running with heavily detailed thoughts of this and that. I have yet to master the ability to think of nothing or empty my head. Remember the Harry Potter scene where Albus Dumbledore takes his wand and pulls out thoughts from his head and puts them in a magic bowl for future reference? Wish I had a magic bowl these days.

So here I am today, with my brain running in high speed, trying to focus on baking. I had many different ideas come to mind when I stumbled upon this recipe. However, there were some factors that eliminated a lot of the flavor combinations I came up with. One of them was that every fruit is not suitable for the upside-down thing. The other factor is that lately I have been disappointed with the produce department at the grocers. I do need an answer to the billion dollar question-is there really a big demand for rock hard fruit or fruit that will be rotten in the next hour?

Anyhow, the end result was that I still stuck with banana, the chosen fruit that was in the recipe. I bought some of the little or mini bananas for this recipe. I find them to be sweeter than the standard. The conversion was 6 of the little bananas to the 2 medium bananas.

After completion, I decided that the banana was a good choice. Slightly warmed, the pecan topping paired with the bananas over the moist, fluffy layer of cake is a pretty tasty way to start the day. I  think my brain slowed down just a bit when I had my piece, actually allowing me to focus on just how delicious a good slice of coffee cake can be.

Upside Down Banana Coffee Cake
adapted from Southern Living/Sept 2006

2 eggs, separated
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs rum
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter( divided into 1/4 cups or half sticks)
3/4 cup white granulated sugar (divided into 1/4 and 1/2 cups)
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups baking mix (I used Bisquick brand)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 medium ripe bananas 
Pull out a 10 inch cast iron skillet and add 1/4 cup of butter. Once melted, use a pastry brush to brush up the side interior of the skillet. Add the rum and swirl the skillet around to make sure the interior bottom is covered evenly with the butter and the rum is mixed in and remove from heat. Top evenly a layer of brown sugar and then an even layer of toasted pecans. Set aside.

Fill a medium size bowl with the remaining butter (1/4 cup) and 1/2 cup of the white sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy. Add one egg yolk and beat for 30 seconds and repeat with the second egg yolk. Using a small bowl, whisk together the milk and the vanilla extract. Then pour it into the butter sugar mixture. Add the sour cream and beat until all is evenly blended. Set aside. Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the cinnamon and baking mix together in another bowl. Then fold this dry mix into the wet egg/milk/sugar batter. Using another bowl, fill with the egg whites. Beat egg whites until they are at the soft peak stage. Continue to beat and as you pour in steady stream of the remaining sugar (1/4 cup). Beat time is complete one the whites are at the stiff peak stage. Fold the beaten egg white/sugar blend into the batter.

Peel the bananas and cut the width in half, forming 2 equal pieces. Take each half and slice lengthwise into three pieces. The end result should be 12 pieces, about 2 1/2- 3 1/2 inches in length. Arrange the pieces on top of the pecans in a spoke pattern. If using mini bananas, just slice each lengthwise into 2 pieces.

Spoon the batter over the bananas and use a spatula to smooth out evenly. Place filled skillet in oven and bake until golden on top and tester comes out clean. This should take about 45-50 minutes.

Once baking is complete, let skillet cool on rack for 10-12 minutes. Then invert onto serving platter or cake board. Serve warm.
Tips and Notes:
1. To make sure the cake to comes out easily, the edge must be loose from the side of the skillet prior to inverting. If after the 10 minute cooling it still seems stuck, run a knife around the edge before inverting.

2. The topping is very sticky, so once inverted do not remove the skillet until after 5 minutes, to make sure gravity works.

3. If your skillet retains a lot of the sticky pecan mixture after cake removal, scrape out and add it to the top of the cooling cake.

5. Do not try to create in another type of pan, the skillet insures a better result when inverting the cake.

6. If you want to decline on purchasing the baking mix, you can use one of the various recipes from the net to create the baking mix blend.

                               **LAST YEAR:Caribbean Bars**

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Inside Out German Chocolate Cake

I guess today I am doing a little reflecting on life. When I was a kid, life was just a playground. When I was a teen life became dramatic because problems felt like the end of the world. Now at this point in life I realize that it is the struggles in life that has shaped us into who we are today.

Knowing that there are more problems to come-some will be worse and some not, helps to change your perspective about the problem. It allows you face the problem head on with some dignity.

Then the day after you have dealt with the problem (which is my favorite part), is the rebirth. The beginning of a new day. Which means its time for some birthday cake! This sweet German Chocolate cake recipe is a keeper and a wonderful choice on such a day. The traditional icing as a filling and the chocolate glaze ladled over the top amps up the standard in quite a delicious way.

So enjoy a slice of this special cake and focus on the many things that a new day can bring. After all, you just successfully drove over a bump in life's journey. Enjoy!

Inside Out German Chocolate Cake
adapted from Epicurious

6 tbs melted butter
1/8 tsp almond extract
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup and 1 tbs dutch cocoa

1 tbs vanilla extract
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
7 oz sweetened flaked coconut
4 oz chopped pecans/volume is 1 cup

1 1/4 or 2 1/2 sticks of cups of butter
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chopped bar or chips)
3 tbs light corn syrup

Prepare 3 round 9 inch cake pans by oiling the interior and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a large bowl with the melted butter, egg, egg yolk, milk, vanilla and almond extract. Beat on low speed until blended. Set aside.

In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour and cocoa powder. Whisk in the sugar. Empty the sifted ingredients into the wet mixture and stir together until it becomes like a thick frosting. Pour in the boiling water and stir again until thoroughly mixed in.

Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the batter and fill one cake pan. Repeat this process for the other 2 cake pans. Should you have any batter left after the measurements, divide evenly into the 3 pans.

Place the cake pans in the oven, starting with 2 on the upper third and one on the bottom third of the oven racks. Bake for about 10 minutes, then rotate pans 180 degrees and switch racks. Let bake for another 10-15 minutes. Cakes are done when tester comes out clean. Remove pans from oven and place on cooling rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the outside edge of the cake and inside edge of pan, then invert onto racks. Peel off the parchment carefully and re-set the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Once the cakes are done, then it is time to make the filling. Take out 2 baking sheets. Fill one with the chopped pecans and one with the sweetened coconut. Spread the contents of each pan out evenly. Put the coconut pan on the lower third rack and the pecan pan on the upper third rack. The total baking time for both will be about 12-18 minutes, however, the contents of the pans will have to be stirred every 4-6 minutes. Once toasting time is complete, remove pans and set aside. Then re-set the oven temperature again, this time for 425 degrees.

Take a baking pan and place a pie pan in the center. Fill the baking pan full of water until it comes up to the halfway mark on the pie pan. Fill the pie pan with the sweetened condensed milk and mix in the vanilla extract. Seal the top of the pie pan with foil. Place baking pan water bath with pie pan in the center into the oven. Set the timer for 45 minutes. After this interval, remove the pan and add more water in order for the level to get back to the original depth. Place in oven and bake again until milk is thick and brown. This should take about 30-45 minutes. Once done, empty contents into a heat proof bowl and stir in coconut and pecans. Cover and set aside.

For the glaze, melt the butter in a saucepan and remove from heat. Stir in the corn syrup and the chocolate. Continue to stir until all is melted and reserve out about 1 cup. Chill the cup in the refrigerator for about an hour or place in freezer and check periodically until it reaches a spreadable frosting consistency.

For assembly, place pieces of parchment on top of a round cake board, covering the circumference and about 1 inch in width. Place one cake layer in the center of the round. Measure out half of the filling and place it on the cake. Use a spatula dipped in water, smooth out the filling evenly and leave about 1/4 inch border of cake on the edge. Repeat with the second layer. Then place the third layer on top.

Take out the spreadable frosting and frost sides and top of cake. Should you not have enough for a thin coat, chill some more from the saucepan to finish. Lastly, pour the glaze from the saucepan over the cake, so it drips down the sides. Should some of the sides not be covered, use a spoon and scoop up the excess glaze that has dripped to the bottom. Spoon over the sides not covered.

Place cake in fridge to set for about 1 hour. Before serving, carefully remove pieces of parchment paper around the base of the cake. Then bring cake to room temperature and slice.

Tips and Notes:
1. The butter/chocolate glaze may not be your preference, but bear in mind the filling is designed to be the stronger of the two. A sugary glaze or sweet ganache may be too much in combination with the filling.

2. The layers of this cake are not thick. Should you desire more thickness, increase the ingredients and bake time of the cake batter.

3. There are many ways to cook the condensed milk, but this method is a little safer than boiling the can. Also, the hue and thickness of the cooked milk is a personal preference for the filling.

                                  **LAST YEAR: Apple Dulce De Leche Empanadas*

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Italian Christmas Pastry

Let's face it, pastry is perfect if you are looking to get away with thick bread type of breakfast rolls and scones. It is always the pastry filling that takes center stage in flavor rather than the shell that houses it. This is true for eclairs, cream puffs and other types of pastry.

With so many cream filled pastries out there on the market, the fruit and nut type of fillings have become forgotten. This italian type of recipe moves the pastry spotlight from cream to fruit/nut fillings.

In review of recipes across the net, there was not any particular one that had the flavor combination that I favored. After some thought and experimentation, I came up with dough that has a touch of citrus flavor and a filling combination of orange, cranberry, cinnamon and walnuts.

The things I liked about this recipe was that the dough did not have any rising time, so it came together quickly. The filling was fairly easy as well, with the simple task of mixing together and leaving sit overnight. It was the assembly where the test of skills came in, but I was in the mood for this type of project. Also, I feel the reward in the effort was the stunning appearance as well as the taste of these delicious coils.

Italian Christmas Pastries
by flourtrader

1/2 cup orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
1/4 cup orange juice
1 lb chopped walnuts
1 lb dried cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbs cinnamon

3 eggs
zest from 2 lemons
3/4 cup Limoncello liqueur
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
4-6 cups flour
toothpicks (to hold coils together)
1 cup of honey (topping)

Start by making the filling. Mix the orange juice and orange liqueur together in a medium size bowl. In another, smaller bowl, stir the cinnamon and sugar together until thoroughly blended. Mix the dry with the liquid mixture. Add the chopped walnuts and cranberries, stirring until everything is coated with the wet batter. Cover and let sit overnight on the counter.

The next day, you will complete the process with making the dough, forming the pastries and baking. To make the dough, sift together 4 cups of flour with the baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside. Using another bowl, whisk together the eggs, zest, extract, vegetable oil, liqueur and sugar. Measure out 1/4 cup and reserve, setting aside for later.

Clear off a flat surface for the dough. Pour sifted ingredients onto the surface and form a well in the center. Pour some of the wet blend into the center and mix with a fork or clean hands. Pour more of the wet batter out and mix with the flour and repeat the process (not using the reserve) until a smooth dough is formed. You may need to add more flour in the process. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and dust a baking sheet with flour.

Separate the dough into 8 equal balls. Place 7 on a cookie sheet and cover. Prepare another flat surface by dusting with flour. Take the 8th dough ball and roll out into a long rectangular strip, about  1/4 inch thick and 5-6 inches wide. Using a knife or a fluted pastry wheel, cut off all edges to make even and cut lengthwise into 2 strips. Use the excess to patch and repair holes, dampening with reserved wet mixture. 

Using the filling blend, make a line of filling down the center of one of the strips. Now comes the tricky part... Fold the side edges of the dough upwards and start coiling into a circle. The dough edges must remain upright so the filling does not spill all over the pan when baking. Once the circle is formed, use toothpicks to hold together and transfer to the prepared baking sheet(s). Keep in mind that the pastry does not expand very much when baking.

Continue to form the pastries until all the dough and filling is used up. Should the balls of dough dry out during this process, use the reserved wet mixture to dampen the outside and knead into dough ball before rolling out.

Bake pastries until lightly browned.This should take about 25-35 minutes. Remove and place baking sheet on cooling rack. Warm up the honey in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds. Then brush the warm pastries with the honey and let cool completely.

Tips and Notes:

1. Make sure that your coils are not overfilled, the filling should be 1/2-3/4 inch wide when placed onto the dough strip.

2. When preparing the filling, consider how chunky you want it. Make the walnut pieces as small as you want and cut up the dried cranberries if you prefer. The smaller the chunks, the easier to work with.

3. Remove the toothpicks after 15 minutes cooling time. The longer you wait increases the chance of the pastry crumbling.

4. I tried several methods when forming the coils. Folding over and then placing upright to coil is more difficult.

5. Coil the dough around easily, do not make real tight; the toothpicks will help them hold together.

6. After you coil two strips, stir the filling ingredients so the liquids do not settle to the bottom in the time it takes you to assemble all the coils. A watery filling will spill out of the pastries and burn onto the pan when baking.

                                   **LAST YEAR: Pistachio Financiers**

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Almond Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

Today's post is a milestone for my blog, it is the 500th post. Yes, it is actually hard to believe I have made and posted that many items. There are lots of blogs that die off after the first two years, but I am happy to say after all these posts, my passion still remains. There are so many projects and things I have yet to try and master, it is hard to even imagine stopping. Now on to this recipe...

When someone mentions shortbread cookies, visions of English teatime comes to mind. However, these type of cookies have such a wonderful flavor, it is impossible to limit them to eating only at teatime.

The traditional shortbread cookie is a 1-2-3 part blend. One part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour. This particular recipe is not exact to those specifications in regards to the flour content, but it does not detract from the taste.

Shortbread can have many variations. For today's post, I decided to create a teatime cookie with a touch of chocolate. Also, even though it is a butter cookie, the additional flavor of almond was added. The almond flavor is derived from the almond flour and almond extract. This recipe makes 2- 2 1/2 dz cookies.

Almond Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies
by flourtrader

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup almond flour or meal
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1-2 tbs almond extract
3/4 cup mini choc chips
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (room temp)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the two types of flour in a medium size bowl and set aside.

Then fill another bowl with the softened butter and almond extract. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Sift the powdered sugar into this mixture. Beat again until the sugar is distributed into the butter.

Take out a wooden spoon and mix the flour blend into the butter batter until a dough is formed. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Shape the dough into balls and place 2 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Then flatten into circles about 2-3 inches in diameter. Place in oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. Let cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to rack to completely cool.

Tips and Notes:

1. The amount of extract you use is according to how strong you want the almond flavor in the cookie.

2. Almond meal or almond flour can be used, depending on your preference. Almond meal is not as finely ground as flour. I used almond meal and, as you can see by the picture, there are flecks of almond showing in the cookies.

                                 **LAST YEAR: Orange Liqueur Bundt Cake**