Sunday, March 26, 2017

Frozen Maraschino Cream

Spring has finally arrived. This means longer days and more time enjoying the outdoors. The flip side to this is making sure outside is a nice and comfortable place to be. Time to clean the back patio and get the leaves off the lawn chairs. Also, mowing that back yard. Well, with all of that said, I decided to make some very "adult" ice cream as a motivator.

After all, that bright big bottle of pink Creme de Noyaux was not going to go away by itself. There never has been a time when the cabinet was opened without that item being noticed. However when it comes to creating desserts, that vibrant color is an asset to have. Another almond liqueur, Amaretto, has the same flavor but will always guarantee a golden ivory hue to any dessert.

Now that I decided on Creme de Noyaux as the primary flavor element to the ice cream, there needed to be some add-ins. Since I had some chores to do, this ice cream needed to be more than just typical to get me motivated. Then the light bulb went off...maraschino cherries (I chose Luxardo brand) and chunks of dark chocolate!

There I had it. The perfect I could clean off the patio. After the freezing of the ice cream and the chores, it was time to indulge. I sat down on the lawn chair and ate a scoop of ice cream. As I gazed across the yard with the warm sun on my face, I thought to myself that simple things are sometimes the perfect elements for generating the best moments.

Frozen Maraschino Cream
by flourtrader

1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean
1 cup and 1 tbs heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup almond liqueur
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup maraschino cherries (rinsed and drained)

Fill a saucepan with 1/4 cup of sugar, milk and vanilla bean paste or bean. If using a vanilla bean, split and scrape the interior and place scrapings and whole bean in saucepan. Place over medium high heat and let come to a simmer. Right before the boiling point, remove from heat and set aside.

Next, place a whisk attachment on a stand mixer and fill the bowl with the remaining sugar and egg yolks. Beat the mixture on high for about 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The mixture has reached the right consistency when it is a pale yellow color.

Go back to the saucepan and heat the milk mixture up again until simmering. Remove vanilla bean, if used. Turn mixer on medium low and stream in the hot milk into the egg mixture while continuing to whisk. Be careful that you do not create a lot of bubbles in the mixture by beating on too high of a speed. Once all the milk has been incorporated into the mixture, set up a double boiler and let water come to a simmer. Strain milk/egg blend into top pot of double boiler.

Let mixture cook while stirring constantly. As it cooks, it will thicken into a pudding or custard consistency. A few ways to test this is by temperature (it must reach 85 degrees) and it must coat the back of a spoon and hold its shape if you run your finger through it. Once it reaches the correct consistency, transfer to heat proof bowl. Cover and place in freezer for about 15 minutes. Then remove and stir. Test the temperature, room temperature or slightly cooler is acceptable.

Whisk the liqueur and milk together in a large bowl. Then add the cooled custard and blend together. Pour in ice cream maker and follow the instructions. Add the cherries and chocolate chunks when the ice cream has thickened. Once the churn process is complete per the instructions, transfer ice cream to a bowl and cover with a tight lid and place in freezer. How long it has to freeze before serving is your preference, either soft serve type or hard frozen type.

Tips and Notes:
1. Remember that the liqueur is not cooked down at all, so the taste is prominent.
2. This makes about 3-4 servings of ice cream
3. This recipe is a good base for any ice cream using alcohol, so feel free to experiment.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Meyer Lemonade Cake**

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Amaretto Latte Bars

One of the pitfalls of baking at home is that those family members that do not bake turn you into their baking volunteer.  If you like to bake that really isn't a big deal, however, the non-baker has no concept of recipe time requirements. This equates to 6 dozen cookies needed for Tonya's party which starts in only a few hours.

So sometime in history a person was facing this particular problem and came up with the bar cookie. They are the perfect solution to providing all the great taste of a cookie without all the time devotion.

This recipe is a spin off of sugar cookies with an adult twist of almond liqueur. There are two cookie layers with an espresso filling. The cookie part has a chewy texture with the crunch of almonds. The filling, when baked evolves into a coffee dulce de leche. Lastly, the crowning touch of sweetened whipped cream ties everything together in one tasty bite.

Amaretto Latte Bars
by flourtrader

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 plus 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 plus 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup chopped or slivered almonds
1/4 cup almond liqueur
2 tbs espresso powder
1 cup whipping cream
3 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8 inch square cake pan by greasing the interior, either with oil or shortening.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the cream of tartar, salt, baking soda and flour. Set aside. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar by beating on medium speed for about 2 or 3 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and the almond extract together. Add this mixture to the butter/sugar blend and beat until blended. Fold in the sifted ingredients and then mix in the almonds.

Divide dough in half. Then prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour. Take each half of the dough and roll out into a 8 inch square. Cover 1 square of dough with plastic wrap and set aside.

Using a spatula, transfer one dough square to the prepared pan. Press the dough lightly so it is even and covers all the bottom surface and meets the edges and corners of the pan. Place pan in oven and let bake until edges turn a golden hue. This should take about 15-18 minutes.

While the dough is baking, prepare the filling. Place 2 tbs of almond liqueur in a small bowl and add the espresso powder. Place in microwave and heat for 15 seconds. Remove bowl and stir. Pour espresso mixture into a larger bowl and add the sweetened condensed milk.

Once the first layer is baked, remove from oven and place pan on rack. Pour the espresso/condensed milk mixture over the baked cookie layer. Then remove the plastic from the second square of dough and cut into 4 smaller squares. Place each square over the espresso filling, covering most of the filling. Do not worry about gaps, the layer will expand while baking.

Place pan in oven and let bake for 25-30 minutes. It will be toasty on the edges. Rest pan on rack and after 5 minutes, brush the remaining 2 tbs of almond liqueur over the surface.

Once the dessert has cooled for a total of 30 minutes, place in oven for 1 hour to cool completely.

When you are ready to serve, remove the bars from the fridge and let set for 10 minutes. Then prepare the whipped cream topping by placing the whipping cream and sugar in a small bowl. Then add both extracts and beat until it reaches the thickness you need in order to decoratively pipe on top.
Feel free to sprinkle ground almonds or place a chocolate covered coffee bean on top of the whipped cream.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Chocoberry Cupcakes**

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Palm Harvest Cake

The inspiration for this recipe came about when listening to Cake by the Ocean by DNCE. My take on this song is that we should not take things too seriously. Also, being spontaneous and unpredictable may turn out to be the best time ever.

Now, if I was to choose a cake to eat while watching the ocean waves rolling in from the sand, it would have to be something with tropical flavors. My pick for this cake was coconut, banana and pineapple. The recipe does make use of a few forms of coconut  (cream and oil). Also, the sweet coconut layers are slathered with fruity as well as creamy fillings. The banana pastry cream and pineapple filling have different textures but create a nice balance. I topped it with the standard cream cheese frosting, which is a basic recipe you can find on the net.

However, please note that this cake does take some time and the layers are baked in 10 inch springform pans. If you do not have 3 pans, plan on dividing the recipe for each. The springform pans were chosen due to the nature of the batter and the need for toasty edges. Since cake pans were not used, so I am unable to advise if they yield the same results.

So if you find yourself by the ocean, be sure to have fun and be spontaneous, but don't forget the cake!

Palm Harvest Cake
by flourtrader

3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbs whole milk yogurt
1 1/2 cups of cream of coconut
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter
3/4 cup of coconut oil
3 egg yolks
5 eggs
4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups sugar
1 tsp salt

Ingredients/Banana Filling
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 vanilla bean
1 tbs butter
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar

1 banana
2 tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup whipped cream

Ingredients/Pineapple Filling
10 oz crushed pineapple
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbs cornstarch

For the cake, start by greasing the interior of 3 springform pans generously with coconut oil. Use 2 tablespoons for each pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the sugar, remaining coconut oil and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Stop occasionally to scrape down the side of the bowl. Then add each egg and each yolk, one at a time and beat for 30 seconds to blend. Once all is blended, beat at medium speed for another 3 minutes. Pour in the yogurt, cream of coconut and vanilla. Beat again for about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Take out a small bowl and sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the egg batter. Then fold in half of the remaining dry ingredients and fold in the last of it.

Measure the batter and divide it evenly into 3 batches. Pour each batch into a springform pan and smooth out evenly. Place in oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Once baked, remove and let set in pan for about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the interior edge and remove springform ring. Let sit another 20 minutes and use a thin knife or spatula to unstick from springform bottom plate and transfer to rack to finish cooling.

The next step is to make the banana pastry cream. Start by cutting up the banana. Then place the pieces in a small pan and add the brown sugar. Stir together and let set for about 10 minutes. The sugar on the banana slices will dissolve and turn glossy. Then place the pan over medium heat and let the bananas cook while stirring constantly. The cook time should take about 15 minutes. As it cooks, the gloss will disappear and the mixture will start to lump together and become pasty. Once it reaches that point, remove pan from heat and transfer filling to a small, heatproof bowl. Cover and place in refrigerator.

For the cream, fill a saucepan with milk and the scrapings from 1/2 of the vanilla bean and the outside half of the split bean. Take out another bowl and whisk together the egg and yolk with the cornstarch and sugar, set aside.

Place the filled saucepan over medium heat and let the milk heat up until you see small bubbles form on the edge of the surface. This is the point right before boil. Remove pan from heat and then stream in a little of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk together. Do this in small increments until a total of 2 tablespoons have been incorporated into the eggs.

Pour the egg mixture into the milk and whisk together. Place the pan over the heat again, this time on medium high heat, and stir constantly using a heat proof spatula. Once the mixture starts to boil, it is time to remove from the heat. Filling should be the consistency of pudding at this point. Cut the tablespoon of butter into 4 pieces and mix into filling. Take a sieve and place it over a bowl and pour the mixture into the sieve. Stir with a spoon, pressing the sides to make the mixture go through. Once the mixture has been pressed through, scrape off the bottom of the sieve into the bowl. Discard the vanilla bean.

Take the banana mixture out of the fridge and put in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Then beat in the pastry cream. Empty contents onto a plate and smooth out. Place plastic wrap over the cream and put in refrigerator to cool.

For the pineapple filling, place all ingredients in a saucepan and let cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let cook until it becomes the consistency of applesauce. Transfer to a heat proof bowl and place in fridge to cool.

Once both fillings have cooled, place one layer of the cake on a round cake board. Mix 1 tbs of cream of coconut with 1/4 cup of water and brush over top of layer. Let sit for 5 minutes. As this sits, you will finish the banana cream filling. Beat the whipped cream until soft peaks form. Then take out the cooled banana mixture and fold it into the whipped cream. Smooth this on top of the layer on the cake board. Place another layer of cake on top and brush on the cream of coconut/water mixture. Smooth the chilled pineapple filling over the layer. Then top with the third cake layer and frost as desired with cream cheese frosting.

Tips and Notes:
1. Feel free to add some lime zest or rum to the frosting.
2. The cake is more dense than most.
3. I found that Coco Lopez brand cream of coconut is the best to use, it is easier to blend than others and less watery.
4. Be careful not to overcook the cake, because it will lose moisture.
5. The best part of this cake was the banana pastry cream, I will use this component again.
6. Do not use pineapple in heavy syrup for the filling.
                                    **LAST YEAR:Bajan Sweet Bread**

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Cake of Leaves

It is natural of us to try to minimize things down to a "yes"  or a "no" because we want things to be simple. Remember the notes generated in elementary that were passed around? One of the typical ones was the "do you like me?" and it had two boxes to choose from. At that time, we could check yes or no, but now as we are older we would probably check one and list reasons or contingencies for the one we check, such as yes, only if you quit smoking or no because you still live with mom..

This dessert is much the same way. Is it a cake? Yes, only if you consider that it has filled layers like a cake or no because the layers are made up of a dough not batter.

This recipe originates from Chile and in their language is called "Torta de Hojas", which translates to the title of this post. When looking at the picture above, most get the impression that it is basically stacked cookie layers with caramel and walnuts. That would be only partly correct. The layers are made up of a buttery dough with no sugar. The no sugar idea is right on point. Slathered with Dulce de Leche and toasted walnuts, each layer gets transformed. One bite of this tower of deliciousness gives your palate a sensation of flaky, crunchy and slightly sticky textures with a trifecta of satisfying flavors.

This is a 9 layer dessert and the layers are the most time consuming. Here in Texas, Dulce de Leche is easily found at the grocers, so I did not opt for using cooked sweetened condensed milk. There are various methods for cooking the milk to make the caramelized filling and this process available on the internet. Use two 14 ounce cans of the milk for this recipe and let cool 10-15 minutes after cooking before coating the dough layers.

Cake of Leaves
adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients/Pastry Layers
3 egg yolks
1 cup milk
7/8 cup of butter or 1 3/4 stick of butter
4 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder

2-14 oz cans cooked sweetened condensed milk or
   2-13 oz cans Dulce De Leche
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup water

For baking, the oven temperature should be preheated to 350 degrees and you will be using plain cookie sheets, not parchment lined and not greased/floured. The cooked layers will slide off the pan easily when baked.

Cut the butter into cubes and place in bowl of stand mixer. Beat until smooth and silky, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add one egg yolk and beat into butter, running mixer on medium for about 30 seconds. Continue with this method for each egg yolk.

Using another bowl, sift together the flour and the baking powder. Fold 1/3 of the mixture into the butter using a wooden spoon. Then blend in 1/2 cup of milk, then half of the sifted ingredients and repeat, ending with the last amount of dry ingredients. Once a dough is formed, separate into 9 equal balls of dough. Roll out one ball into a flat mass a little over 9 inches. Using a 9 inch plate as a guide, trim the edges to a smooth circle. Transfer disc to a cookie sheet and prick the surface in several places with the tines of a fork.

Place in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edge is slightly golden. Let rest on sheet for 3 minutes then carefully transfer to rack to completely cool. Repeat the forming and baking process for the rest of the dough balls.

Once all the dough is baked and cooled, place the first pasty layer on a cake board. In a small bowl, mix together the water and brandy. Brush this mixture on top of the pastry layer. Then measure out about 1/4 cup of dulce de leche and place in a microwave bowl. Heat in microwave until pourable, about 20 seconds. Mix and then pour on top of the first layer, smooth out evenly and leave a 1/4 inch border. Repeat the same process, stacking each layer and filling.

Let the finished cake rest for 8 hours or overnight. The rest time helps the layers from shattering once the dessert is cut, the pastry becomes more pliable.

Tips and Notes:
1. I had to use more chopped nuts than stated.
2. You can cover the sides with the filling and nuts, just make sure to get extra ingredients for this.
3. The brandy does not add flavor due to the strong flavor of the filling, so it is more of a factor to help the texture rather than flavor.
                                     **LAST YEAR:Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies**  

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**