Sunday, May 29, 2016

Strawberry Hazelnut Tart

I recently realized that when I bake with fruit, I really do not mix them into one baked item. This preference can be limiting, especially when it comes to berries. There are lots of recipes that have strawberries as a single fruit, but they are cold desserts. That is why when I came across this recipe for a baked strawberry tart, I had to make it.

There are other things that make this dessert special. One is the hazelnut crust spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. Also, there is a hint of citrus due to the zest ingredients. Regarding the filling, the liquid blend has a way of bringing out the best of the berries. With notes of orange, rosewater and vanilla bean surrounding the natural sweetness of the berries, the blend is not only unusual but quite tasty.

This recipe makes one 24 cm diameter tart. However, it converted to the 8.25 X 11.25 rectangular tart as well. Plan in advance for the 2 1/2 hr chill time on the pastry.  The instructions below are for a lattice topped tart, but feel free to tinker around with cookie cutters to create a unique looking pastry surface. The cut outs are a lot easier than the lattice.

Also, since this recipe comes from outside the US, a lot of the measurements are by grams. Use the internet to find a converter if you measure by cups.

Strawberry Hazelnut Tart
adapted from the Australian Gourmet Traveler Magazine

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
150 grams hazelnut flour
250 grams regular flour
175 grams butter, room temperature
150 grams confectioners sugar
zest of one orange
zest of one lemon
3 egg yolks (reserve one egg white for egg wash)

vanilla bean seeds (scraped from 1 bean)
70 grams of raw caster or demerara sugar
30 grams cornflour
zest and juice of 1/2 orange
3 tsp rosewater
700 grams hulled and chopped strawberries
egg white from above mixed with 1 tsp water.
confectioners sugar for dusting (optiona)

For serving (optional)
cream fraiche
extra chopped strawberries

For the crust, start by sifting together the regular flour, cinnamon, baking powder and nutmeg into a medium size bowl. Then stir in the hazelnut flour. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with butter, confectioners sugar and both types of zest. Beat mixture until it forms a pale, light batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add each egg yolk, one at a time and beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Then remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in the dry ingredients combined in the first bowl.

Clump together dough and shape into a disc. Cover completely with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 2 hours, firming up the dough.

Once the chilling process is complete, place a rectangle piece of parchment paper on a flat surface and dust with flour. Then remove dough and separate out 2/3 of the mass, placing it on the flat surface. Roll this piece out to a 3mm thick shape. The shape should be the shape of your pan, but exceed the size of the bottom and up the sides. After it is rolled out in the size desired, line your tart tin with the dough. Pressing down all of the dough so it adheres to the shape of the interior sides and bottom. Trim off any excess dough from the top edge. Then take the remaining dough and roll it into a rectangle on the parchment. It should measure about 24 centimeters long. Transfer the parchment paper with the dough to a baking sheet. Place both the dough lined tart tin and the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

During this above process, create the next component of the tart-the filling. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 355 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the first six items of the listed filling ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Once the dough is finished chilling, fill the tin with the strawberry mixture and smooth out evenly.

Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator. Using a knife, cut the dough into 12 mm thick strips. Use these strips to form a lattice pattern over the strawberry filling. There will be excess dough to trim off from the edges. Lastly, brush the surface of the tart with the egg wash.

Place in oven and bake until golden brown. This should take about 30-55 minutes. Place tin on rack to cool for about 30 minutes. Remove and let tart come to room temperature. How you serve is optional, but some suggestions are dusting with confectioners sugar before slicing. Also, serve with a side of cream fraiche and extra strawberries.

Tips and Notes:
1. If you are in a place where it is humid, it is probably best to serve this dessert right away. With time, the crust loses its crispness. It still has good flavor but does not retain its texture.
                             **Two Years Ago: Hawaiian Loaf**

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chocolate Wine Loaf Cake

Let's face it..there are many flavor matches that include chocolate. I think it is because chocolate is pretty much a universal favorite. Adding chocolate to any baked good rarely gets objected to, so when I came across a recipe that included chocolate wine, I was not really surprised.

Chocolate wine...I found a number of brands of wine with this flavor. Some of the wines looked like coffee while others kept their deep red color. After reading a few labels of different brands, I chose a red wine with natural chocolate flavor-Trentadue Chocolate Amore. The original recipe used a dark red wine called Chocolate Rouge that I was unable to find. Since I did not use it,I cannot comment on the flavor that this particular brand imparts on the cake.

The two things that intrigued me the most about this recipe when I read it was the amount of dutch cocoa and the amount of chocolate wine. For one loaf, it calls for 3/4 cup of wine. This amount does insure that the flavor will remain after baking. The 1/2 cup of cocoa also had me thinking of how rich and dark the chocolate flavor would be.

I was not disappointed. With a moist brownie-like texture and a heavenly flavor of sweet merlot enveloped by rich chocolate flavor, one slice was purely addictive.

This recipe makes 1 chocolate loaf. I used a 9X5 inch pan. The loaf was not that tall, so if I was to make it again, I would opt for something smaller.

Chocolate Wine Loaf Cake
adapted from Heather's French Press 

2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate wine
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter 
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup dark/Dutch cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and interior of a loaf pan. Line the bottom and long sides of the loaf pan with parchment paper and butter the surface.

In a small bowl, sift together cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder and only 1 cup of the flour. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of the stand mixer with butter and both sugars. Cream together on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat, stopping at one interval to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat the process with the other egg.

While the mixer is still running, add the vanilla extract and then slowly stream in the wine. Once all is mixed in, turn mixer off and remove bowl. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the dry ingredients. If the batter still seems a little thin, stir in some of the extra flour to thicken.

Spoon into the loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and rest pan on rack for 15 minutes, then transfer to rack and remove parchment paper. Once completely cool, it is ready to slice and serve.

Tips and notes:
1. After you add the wine, the batter will look real soupy, but the dry ingredients will remedy that.
2. The recipe states bake for 1 hour, but mine only took 45 minutes which could be attributed to the size of the pan. The recipe did not specify pan size.
3. It is normal for the surface of the loaf to crack some while baking. 
4. This has a deep dark chocolate flavor, so some whipped cream would tone it down a bit.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Cannoli Cake Roll**

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Danish Butter Cookies

I am sure you are familiar with the Danish butter cookies that come in the blue tin. At one time, I was happy with these little cookies. The tin does contain a variety, but I favored the plain ones.

My love of shortbread or butter cookies is not based on grocery store or the cookies that are mass produced and stuffed inside a cookie tin. It is based on my first homemade shortbread cookies. After taking one bite of the crunchy sweet and buttery morsels, I was hooked. I will no longer even consider the blue tin cookies. It is homemade butter cookies or none and I have no regrets.

While the recipe comes together easily, it is the piping that takes the longest and most effort. Since the dough is thicker than buttercream icing, it does take some muscle to pipe the logs out and then shape into a circle. If you do not want to go through that, an easier method is to use a star nozzle on a meat grinder or cookie press to form them.

In order to achieve the same results, do not substitute or skimp on quality ingredients. I used Kerrygold butter, Madagascar vanilla bean and Bob Mills almond meal.

The recipe below contains weight measurements as well as cup measurements. I used a scale to measure my ingredients to be more exact, however, both measurements were on the original recipe. The measurements below make about 3-3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Danish Butter Cookies
adapted from Nordic Food Living 

7 oz or 3/4 cup plus 1 tbs butter
1 egg
1 vanilla bean
6 oz or 3/4 cup sugar
9 oz or 1 3/4 cup flour
3 oz or 1/2 cup almond meal or 1/2 cup almonds ground into meal

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Add the sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Take out the vanilla bean and slice open the length of the bean. Open the bean flat and take a paring knife and scrape down the inside of the bean and place the scrapings or seeds into the bowl with the sugar. Continue to scrape until all seeds have been removed and add all to the sugar. Using clean hands, separate the clumps of seeds in the sugar by grinding the sugar together with the seeds.

Once the seeds are evenly distributed into the sugar, add the butter. Cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, scraping down the sides at intervals. Then add the egg and beat for about 30 seconds.

Remove bowl from stand mixer. Using a wooden spoon, fold the almond flour into the batter. Then add 1/2 cup of the regular flour and fold in. Continue with the process, ending with 1/4 cup flour.

Prepare the piping equipment and fill with cookie dough. Press the dough out of the piping mechanism into a 1 1/2- 2 inch circle or 1 1/2-2 inch long log onto the parchment paper. If making logs, shape each into a circle on the cookie sheet. Per the recipe, the dough circles on the sheet should be 1 1/2 inches apart. However, the cookies do not spread or expand much, so 1 inch should suffice.

Place baking sheets in the oven and bake the cookies for 4 minutes and then rotate pan. Bake for another 2-4 minutes or until the cookies have golden edges. Place baking sheet on rack and let cookies rest for about 1 minute, then transfer to rack and let cool completely.

Tips and notes:

1. How toasty you want these cookies to be is up to you, so please adjust your baking time accordingly.
2. Should these cookies be "too" plain, try dipping half in chocolate or sandwiching together with chocolate.
3. For a stronger vanilla taste, infuse the sugar with the seeds a few days prior to baking.
                                           **LAST YEAR: Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies**

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Southern Cotillion Peach Cake

After making this cake, I decided to deem it worthy of "high society" by naming it a Cotillion cake. For those that are unaware of the reference, a Cotillion is a formal party or dance that introduces a young girl into society and an opportunity for the father to introduce their daughter to proper suitors. Prior to the party, the girls have attended finishing school for learning social graces. This is something that came about in the South.

Regarding the cake, I believe that any special ocassion cake would need to be white. White makes for a good base to showcase any additional flavors. While you can add other flavors to chocolate, chocolate is not really subtle, so balancing with other flavors is more difficult.

I know you are wondering what makes this cake so special. Tasting it would truly tell you, but since this is in writing I will need to describe. The cake itself has the flavor of peach. The primary flavor  ingredients are peach cream liqueur, freeze dried fruit powder and a touch of almond. The cake is moist, since it is made with oil instead of butter. Between the cake layers is a filling made with peaches and then a layer of buttercream type icing with almond paste. The buttercream icing on the outside is flavored with the liqueur and fruit powder. The outer sides of the cake has slivered almonds pressed into the icing.

At the end of the post, you will find useful tips when making this cake as well as all other layer cakes. As with any recipe, careful evaluation is needed, because opinions vary on flavor and texture. The one thing I wanted to bring up is the almond paste-type filling. Almond paste does not break down smooth when mixing. This means that the filling imparts a nutty type texture which goes good with the fruit. However, should you want something smoother, you are welcome to use just regular buttercream and flavor it with almond extract.

Southern Cotillion Peach Cake
by flourtrader

4 eggs
1 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup sparkling white wine
3/4 cup peach liqueur
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs peach fruit powder
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour 
2 cups sugar

Ingredients/2 kinds of filling
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
3 cups peeled diced peaches (fresh or thawed & drained frozen)
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp water
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup butter
6-7 oz almond paste
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup peach liqueur
2 tsp fruit powder

3 or more cups of buttercream icing
2 tbs peach liqueur
1 tbs fruit powder
1 1/2-2 cups slivered almonds (if desired)

Prepare two 9 inch cake pans by greasing the interior with butter and then lining the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the face up side of the parchment paper and then dust the interior of the pans with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

The peach filling will need to be made first, since it has to chill before use. Fill a small saucepan with brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups of diced peaches and lemon juice. Place saucepan over medium high heat and stir together. Let mixture come to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Pour the filling into a blender and puree. Fill the same saucepan with the puree and add the remining fruit. Place over heat and let simmer again for about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Then pour into the peach mixture. Let cook on low, stirring until thickened.  Pour into a heat proof bowl and place in fridge to chill. 

Now it is time to make the cake layers. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the eggs and sugar. Beat until well blended. Remove bowl from mixer and add the oil, champagne, peach liqueur and almond extract and stir together. In another bowl, sift together the flour, fruit powder, salt and baking powder. Fold the sifted ingredients into the liquid. Then place the bowl back into the stand mixer and beat at low speed until no lumps remain, about 1 minute.

Pour batter evenly into the two pans. Bake until the top is golden or a tester comes out clean. This should take about 35-40 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans on a rack for about 10 minutes. Invert and let cool another 10 minutes and remove parchment paper.

For the nutty filling, grate the almond paste into a bowl using a cheese grater and set aside. Then fill the bowl of a stand mixer with confectioners sugar and butter. Beat until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the grated almond paste and salt. Beat on low for 30 seconds then on medium high for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and beat for 1 minute more. Chill until ready to use. Take out a small bowl and then mix the fruit powder with the peach liqueur and set aside.

For the icing, mix together fruit powder and liquer in a small bowl. Then make your standard butter cream icing. Then pour peach flavor mixture into icing and beat until evenly distributed. Add additional confectioners sugar to reach desired thickness. Chill until ready to use.

Once the cake layers are completely cool, they are ready to be assembled into a delicious cake. Choose which of the layers you will be using for the bottom. Brush the top surface of the bottom layer with 1/2 of the fruit powder/liqueur blend. Then do the same on the other layer, this time on the bottom side of the top layer. Let mixture soak in for about 10 minutes. Place one layer in the center of a cake board or cake plate.

Take out the chilled peach filling and smooth it over the top surface of the cake, being careful to leave a small border around the edge. Then carefully smooth the nutty filling over the peach filling. Stack the top layer on top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour.

Once chilling time is over, remove cake and frost as desired. If desired, press slivered almonds into sides of cake by the handful.

Tips and Notes:

1. Soaking a top cake layer on the bottom side instead of top insures that the icing on the top will be easy to spread. If your cake is wet on top, it makes for a slippery layer and is very difficult to ice.

2. Always measure your batter to insure even layers. "Eyeballing" it lends itself to uneven cake layers.

3. Invest in cake strips to go around your pans when baking so they will bake evenly and not be domed on top.

4. Fruit powder can be hard to find. However, I found packaged freeze dried slices of peaches that were called "fruit crisps." They are perfect for grinding into powder. Do not make the mistake of buying just dried fruit-the consistency is too gummy.

5. Chilling the two layers together with the filling helps prior to icing to stabilize the layers.This is good to do with any cake that has a filling different from thick buttercream.

6. This recipe was made with fresh Florida peaches. It has not been tested with frozen peaches, which may have excess water so more of the cornstarch/water mixture may be needed. You may need to experiment a bit when using frozen peaches.
                                    **LAST YEAR:Raspberry Picnic Pie**

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hawaiian Breakfast Rolls

This is a great spin off recipe from the original cinnamon rolls.  Instead of cinnamon and pecans or raisins, these rolls have a delicious filling of coconut and ground macadamia nuts rolled up into a sweet dough. The extra zing is the icing on top that can be flavored with coconut or pineapple extract.

The alterations I did on this recipe was to use pineapple coconut juice in the dough instead of milk. Also, I brushed it on the dough prior to layering the filling. The end result was that it added more of a tropical flavor to the filling, but did little to flavor the actual dough. Also, I found that the filling develops more flavor with time, so these rolls were better the day after baked. I used an unsweetened organic juice, so using something like "Coco Lopez" may offer more strength in the flavor category.

These do look like they take a lot of time, but the looks are deceiving. The two "time consumers" are grinding the nuts and the rise time. There is only 1 rise time (1- 1/12 hrs) and no kneading of the dough. I ground my nuts in a blender and they turned fine but not into nut butter (see sprinkled nuts on top of the rolls above). This recipe makes about 1 dz rolls.

Hawaiian Breakfast Rolls
adapted from Fleischmann's Yeast

Ingredients/Dough Roll
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup scalded milk (cooled to lukewarm) or lukewarm coconut/pineapple juice
1 egg
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 package yeast

zest of 1 orange
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup flaked coconut
2/3 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
2 tbs melted butter
2 tbs coconut pineapple juice (optional)

2 tsp honey
2 tbs softened butter
3 tbs milk or juice
1 tsp coconut or pineapple extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup ground macadamia nuts (optional)
pinch of salt

Start on the dough by sprinkling yeast into the bowl of warm water. Then fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar, salt, juice or milk and shortening. Beat on low for about 15 seconds. Stir the bowl of yeast and then pour into the sugar/shortening mixture. Add the egg and 1/2 cup of flour.  Beat on low again until blended. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the flour in half cup increments until all is incorporated into the dough.

Grease the interior of a small bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Lightly cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This should take 1-1 1/2 hours if you are using regular yeast (rapid rise would naturally be faster).

While the dough is rising, you will make the filling. Measure out the juice and melt the butter. Set aside. Then whisk together all the other filling ingredients.

After the dough has risen, prepare one 11.5 x 14 inch pan by greasing the interior. Also, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then dust a flat surface lightly with flour. Roll out the dough onto the flat surface into a large rectangle, measuring 11x14 inches.

Brush the surface of the dough with the pineapple coconut juice (optional). Then brush on the melted butter. Sprinkle all of the filling evenly on top of the dough and press down lightly to adhere. Starting from one of the longest sides, roll the dough tightly and evenly in a jelly roll fashion. Pinch seam together and flatten. Fold each end under and pinch/flatten the seams.

Using a serrated knife, cut jelly roll into 12 even slices and place inside prepared baking pan.  Put pan in the oven and bake until golden brown and toasty on top, about 20-30 minutes. Remove and set pan on rack to cool.

While rolls are baking, prepare the icing. Add milk or juice, honey, softened butter and extract to small bowl. Beat until the butter is broken up. Sift in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and beat again until smooth. Continue with the process until all powdered sugar is incorporated into the icing.

Once rolls cool to lukewarm, spread the icing on top of each, smoothing out. Then sprinkle with ground macadamia nuts.

Tips and Notes:

1. Make sure you give the filling a chance to soak up the juice and butter that was brushed on the dough. You do not want a lot of liquid flowing out when cooking and too much liquid keeps the dough from rolling tightly.

2. Instead of the sprinkle of nuts on the top,try mixing drained pineapple chunks and/or ground nuts into the icing.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Charlevoix Cookies**

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Banana French Toast Muffins

Let's face it, banana-nut anything is always a welcome treat. However, it is very difficult to achieve a cake like quality when using them in baking. That is why I refer to these as muffins instead of cupcakes. They are not as dense as banana bread, but they do not have the lightness of cupcakes either.

Is this just a lighter banana bread in muffin form? In some ways yes and some ways no. Included in the muffin is chunks of candied walnuts. Like French toast, the maple flavor is on top. Swirled with a mixture of maple flavored cream cheese frosting, the flavor pairing of these muffins is quite tasty. Biting into one of these treats is just a great way to start the day or perk you up in the afternoon.

Also, I know that candied nuts can be quite expensive. In this recipe is a very simple and easy way to make them. If you are not into the whole muffin thing, the sweet nuts make a great snack-so read on...

This recipe makes about 2 dz muffins.

Banana French Toast Muffins
adapted from Wilton

1 3/4 cup mashed bananas
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tbs maple syrup
3 eggs
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (cut into 1/4 inch cubes)
2 3/4 cup of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 tsp maple extract
3 cups confectioners sugar
8 oz package of cream cheese (room temp)
4 oz or 1 stick of butter
24 whole walnuts
1/4 cup of maple syrup

To start, you will make 2 batches of the candied nuts. Pour the chopped nuts into a saucepan set over low heat. Let the nuts cook until toasty, stirring at random intervals. After about 5 minutes, the nuts will be done. Pour in the 2 tbs of maple syrup and mix with the nuts. As the syrup cooks it becomes more solid, looking somewhat like praline candy. Once the liquid syrup becomes solid, remove from heat and transfer coated nuts to a bowl. Set bowl aside.

For the whole nuts, lay a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface. Follow the same coating process as noted above, this time using 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Due to the higher amount of syrup, the cook time will take longer. Once coated and solid, remove each walnut from the pan and lay on parchment paper, spacing apart.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and fill the cavities of a muffin tin with paper liners.

Prepare the batter by filling the bowl of a stand mixer with both types of sugar and drop in butter cubes. Cream together with the paddle attachment, beating for about 2 minutes and stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. 

Pour in the vanilla extract and add one egg. Mix together for about 30 seconds, with mixer on medium speed. Add each additional egg, blending after each addition. Then pour in the mashed bananas and mix on medium until just incorporated into batter. Remove bowl from mixer.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the banana batter, using a wooden spoon. Add 1/2 of the sour cream, then stir to blend.  Repeat the process, ending with the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Then mix in the candied chopped walnuts.

Using a spoon or a scoop, fill the cavities of the prepared muffin tin with the batter. Fill approximately 2/3 full.

Put pans in oven and bake until tester comes out clean. Bake time is about 20-25 minutes, so rotate pans at the halfway point. Remove pans and let rest about 2 minutes. Then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting/icing, start by beating the cream cheese with the butter until it is silky and smooth. Then beat in the maple extract until distributed throughout the frosting. Sift in 1 cup of confectioner's sugar and beat into the cream cheese/butter mixture. Repeat the process until all confectioner's sugar is blended in.

Once muffins have cooled, ice with frosting as desired and top with candied walnut.

Tips and Notes:

1. This frosting recipe had an error which I corrected above. It did not have butter listed as an ingredient but listed 2-8 oz packages of cream cheese. I followed the recipe, resulting in a quite tangy frosting. Cream cheese frosting I have seen with an equal ratio of butter to cream cheese and 1/2 the amount of butter to cream cheese. I would chose the ratio of 1/2 to one, but either way you only need one 8 oz package of cream cheese.

2. A note on the cute squares: I used a heavy duty, non stick square cavity baking pan. After researching, I read that the square liners have a tendency to fold into the muffins when baked. However, the round liners expand to fit the square. So, if you use the square cavity pan, skip buying the square liners.

3. The candied nut coating can be as thin or thick as you like. I much preferred the thicker, so you may want to use more maple syrup in the pan when using the chopped nuts. Keep in mind that with more syrup, the nuts have a tendency to clump together.

4. How ripe the bananas you use is personal preference. The more ripe the banana, the stronger the flavor. Also, be sure to use a fork and mash the bananas. This method gives the muffins a more pop of banana flavor than adding pureed bananas.
                                   **TWO YEARS AGO: Black Walnut Madeira Cake 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Citrus Ginger Cookies

At this time, I find myself in a foodie dilemma. I am still drawn to the winter/fall type of recipes. I realize that there is less appeal when things are made out of season, so I should be focusing on the spring and summer recipes.

These particular "S" shaped cookies have helped out the situation. One type of dough is flavored with lemon and orange zest, which equates to tastes of the spring/summer. The other dough is a myriad of spices and some molasses, flavors of fall and winter.

The texture of the cookie reminds me of spritz, except they are not as crisp. The wonderful mix of the complimentary flavors is memorable and unique. As you bite into one of these, the heavy spices strike your taste buds only to have a chaser of citrus to tone it down. This delicious combo rolled together in a cookie makes them perfect for coffee or tea. In addition, they are pleasing to the eye, which makes a lot of people reach for them when served.

This recipe makes about 3-3 1/2 dz cookies.

Citrus Ginger Cookies
adapted from Gold Medal Cookie Contest 

1/3 cup milk
2 egg yolks (beaten together)
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract 
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, room temp
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
2 pinches of nutmeg
2 pinches of cayenne
1 cup sugar
3 cups flour and 2 tbs flour (reserved separate)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Place butter inside the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat again another 2 minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and milk. Beat until mixture is thoroughly combined, it will result in a curdled-looking batter.

Take out another bowl and sift together 3 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sifted mixture in 1/2 cup increments to the butter/sugar batter, beating on low after each addition. Once the sifted ingredients are incorporated into the batter, divide batter in half. Each half should be about 2 cups each.

Remove one half of the dough from the mixing bowl and set aside. Add both types of zest and vanilla extract to the remaining dough in the mixing bowl. Blend on medium speed for about 1 minute to distribute the additions throughout the dough. Shape into 2 even sized balls and cover dough with plastic wrap and set aside.

Clean the mixing bowl and then place the other half of the plain dough inside. Add remaining ingredients (spices, molasses and 2 tbs flour) and mix on low until the add-ins are evenly distributed into the dough. Shape the dough into 2 balls of the same size (like the other) and cover with plastic wrap. Place all 4 of the wrapped dough balls on a plate and put in refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Prepare a flat surface by covering with parchment paper. After chilling time is complete, remove one ball of the citrus dough. Place it on the parchment paper and cover with another piece of parchment. Roll dough out to form a a 9x6 rectangle. Do the same with one ball of the spice dough. Lift top piece of parchment off of both rectangles and stack one on top of the other, so all edges of the dough are flush with each other. Press or roll lightly to adhere the layers together.

Place the dough so the narrow ends are at the top and bottom and long edges left to right on the flat surface. Then, form part of a roll by using the parchment paper to help. Roll from the narrow edge over the top of the rest of the dough, stopping at the halfway point. Carefully flip the dough over, with the unrolled narrow edge at the bottom. Again, roll from the narrow edge over the top of the dough and stop, meeting at the same point as the rolled under portion of the dough (just on the backside). The end result will be a spiral log that is "S" shaped. Cover with parchment and place in refrigerator.  Repeat the same process with the remaining 2 rounds of dough.

Let both logs of dough chill for a minimum of 1 hour. 15 minutes prior to completing the dough chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

At the time the dough has chilled for 1 hour and the oven is preheated, remove one batch/ one log from the refrigerator. Slice the log into 1/4 inch-thick pieces and place each piece on prepared baking sheet. There are about 16-18 slices per log and each piece should be spaced about 1-1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Place in oven and bake 8-12 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies have a light, golden hue. Transfer to rack to cool. Repeat the same process of slicing and baking with the remaining dough log.

Tips and Notes:

1. The spices were distributed evenly in the dough. However, the citrus zest may distribute better if the mixture is divided prior to adding the sifted ingredients. It is more liquid at that time and it keeps you from over-working the dough. Also, fresh zest has a tendency to cling together.

2. You may use a little flour in order to roll out the dough, but dampen the surface of the dough before you stack the other layer on top. A damp surface will keep the layers of dough from splitting when baking.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Banana Muffins**