Foodbuzz

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Passion Fruit Tart


The weather can have an effect on baking. I guess that is why some of the best and tastiest recipes are made in the wintertime. The only damage I can think of that the cold will do is maybe cause something to seize up more quickly than needed, such as when you are making fudge or candy. The heat and humidity, however, are more difficult opponents in the kitchen. These evil offspring of nature's seasons, unfortunately, sometimes make their home in Texas.

So when they come to stay in the summer, I have to start crossing things off my baking list. The first thing to eliminate is meringue. Now, this particular tart recipe calls for a topping of meringue, so I opted to do the stabilized whipped cream for the topping. Also, like all recipes you find on the net, this one had suggestions and comments. The one I took note of was that the passion fruit flavor was very subtle, so I increased the amount used in the recipe. Even though the end result was very tangy, the whipped cream topping worked to tone it down. The toasted bits of coconut on top was another suggestion that I implemented, that added some more texture to the dessert.

I used a standard shortcrust pastry recipe to make this 9-9 1/2 inch tart. The filling has to chill for at least 8 hours, so plan on this time if you decide to make this tart. The recipe below only represents the filling and topping with some tweaks. I have included a link back to the original recipe if you are looking for the additional instructions and ingredients for a pastry shell as well as meringue topping.

Passion Fruit Tart
adapted from Epicurious 

Ingredients
1 fully baked 9- 9 1/2 tart shell
1 cup thawed passion fruit puree
1 tbs cornstarch
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter (cubed)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (toasted)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tbs whipped cream stabilizer

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer (with the whisk attachment) with the eggs and sugar and whisk until blended. Then sift the cornstarch into the mixture, add salt, and whisk again. Set aside.

Place a saucepan over medium heat and fill with the passion fruit. Remove from heat once it reaches a simmer stage and prior to boiling. Set aside and then go back to the egg mixture and turn the mixer up to medium. As the egg mixture is whisked, pour a slow, small stream of the hot passion fruit into egg batter. Continue whisking and slowly pouring until saucepan is empty.

Then take the bowl out of the mixer stand and pour liquid back into the saucepan. Place over medium heat and let cook, whisking constantly. As it cooks, add a few butter cubes and continue to whisk. Once cubes are melted and blended, repeat the process until all butter cubes are melted and incorporated into the mixture. The batter will need to be cooked and whisked until it reaches the consistency of pudding. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Watch the heat, filling is to come to a boil but is to be removed from heat at that time.

Once the filling is the right consistency, pour into a sieve placed over a heat proof bowl. Push filling through sieve. Once sieve is empty and bowl is full, cover the surface of the filling with waxed paper. Chill the mixture for at least 8 hours. You also can chill it overnight.

After chilling time is up, beat whipped cream until soft peaks form and then add the stabilizer and beat until thick and fluffy.  Remove passion fruit curd from the refrigerator and fill the tart with the curd. Spread out with a spatula until tart shell is evenly filled. Smooth out the top. Then top with the stabilized whipped cream and sprinkle the toasted coconut over the surface.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Babka** 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bakehouse Blueberry White Chocolate Muffins


There are wild berries that grow in Texas but nearly all of the colors of the edible berries have a poisionous and sometimes fatal berry that matches the color. So, unless you have the specific knowledge to identify the difference, it is best to refrain from eating wild berries in Texas. Some of them will actually irritate the skin as well.

Now there are quite a number of delicious berries in the grocers or at the farmers market to choose from without taking such a risk out in the wild. I noticed that the blueberry has been scarce in my blog posts, so I decided it needed a little promotion. After all, it is considered to have the most health benefits of all the commonly found berries at the grocery store.

There are some berries I can eat raw and enjoy, but unfortunately the blueberry is not one of them. In my opinion, they need something more. In this particular recipe, that something more is sweet white chocolate with a touch of cinnamon. That combo in itself says "no butter required".  Outside of flavor, the key to a good muffin is to have a nice moist texture without sticking to the paper liner.

This muffin recipe delivers on all factors, so I consider it a keeper. I guess that is why the recipe makes 3 dozen.

Bakehouse Blueberry White Chocolate Muffins
adapted from the Cooking Channel

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips
5 eggs
3 cups plain yogurt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups canola oil
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 1/2 cups flour
2 tbs cinnamon
3 tbs and 1/2 tsp baking powder
powdered sugar (optional for dusting tops)

Prepare pans by greasing the edge of the cavities and filling with paper liners. There should be a total of 36 cavities, 2 or 3 pans.  Preheat the oven to 365 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Then stir in the sugar. Set aside.

Take out a second bowl and fill with the eggs. Whisk until yolks and whites are completely blended. Then stir in oil, yogurt and buttermilk.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in half of the wet ingredients. Stir mixture together and add the remaining liquid blend, until a batter is formed. Fold in the berries and chocolate chips, dispersing them evenly throughout the batter.

Once mixed, using a scoop or large spoon fill the cavities of the muffin tins.

Place pans in oven and bake for 12 minutes and then rotate. Bake for an additional 12 minutes. Muffins are done when tester comes out clean, after 25-30 minutes baking time.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack. After 5 minutes (if you prefer) you can dust with powdered sugar.

Tips and Notes:

1. The batter rises quickly, before the blueberry and chocolate chip additions, this means cavities can be filled full for not much rise takes place while baking.

2. Dusting with powdered sugar should only be done if you plan on serving right away. The other option once completely cooled, brush with butter and dip in cinnamon sugar.
                                      **LAST YEAR: CIRCUS COOKIES** 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Donut Trials: #4 Coconut Donuts


There is one chain of donut shops that use the exact same dough to make all their donuts. Using the same dough proves to be more cost effective and less time consuming. The idea also promotes having the topping as the flavor ingredient. There are a few exceptions, such as apple fritters where apple and cinnamon is added to the dough before frying or cocoa added to make a chocolate donut.

I am more into the artisan-type donut shops. Inside you will find a myriad of donuts, each made up of their own texture and flavor that is then paired with a special topping. I believe these flavorful coconut donuts have a rightful place in one of the artisan shops.

The recipe hails from Seattle's Top Pot Donuts and was released to a magazine. The dough yields a good coconut flavor when fried. The key to the flavor is the coconut milk and coconut extract. In addition, the sweet crunchy topping promotes the coconut flavor even more. Since the recipe does not contain yeast, the donuts' texture is much like a cake donut. The crispy outside and fluffy interior alone will make you come back for seconds. Keep this in mind, for the recipe only makes about 10-12 donuts. 

Coconut Donuts
adapted from Saveur Magazine

Ingredients
1 egg
1 1/4 cups canned coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tsp coconut extract
4 tbs melted butter
2 cups sweetened coconut
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups powdered sugar
canola oil for forming and frying

Whisk the egg in a small bowl until the yolk is blended evenly with the white of the egg. Empty mixture into a large bowl. Add sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup of coconut milk, 2 tsp coconut extract and melted butter. Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Set aside.

Take out a smaller bowl and sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until a dough forms. It will be sticky.

Preheat 2 inches of oil in a 6 quart saucepan or deep fryer to 370 degrees. Take out a cooling rack and place over a sheet of wax paper on a flat surface.

Forming the dough will be done by hand. Lightly oil clean hands. Then pinch off about 1/4 cup of dough. Shape into a disk with a 1 1/2 inch hole in the center. Carefully drop donut into the hot oil. After one side cooks in oil for about 1 1/2 minutes, flip over and let the other side cook for the same amount of time. The outside should be toasty and golden brown when done. Remove donut from oil with a slotted spoon and place on cooling rack. Continue, following the same steps, with the remaining amount of dough.

For the topping, start with a parchment lined baking sheet. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the coconut on the baking sheet, smooth out evenly and break up any clumps. Place in preheated oven for 2 minutes, remove and stir. Repeat that process 3 more times or until the coconut is nicely toasted.

To make the glaze, sift confectioners sugar and remaining amount (1/2 tsp) of salt together in to a bowl. In another bowl mix both extracts and coconut milk together. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and whisk until a smooth glaze is formed. Dip the top side of the donut into the glaze and then into the toasted coconut. Place on rack for topping to dry. Repeat the process until all donuts are covered.
                                   
                           **LAST YEAR:Pineapple and Spice Cupcakes**

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Donut Trials: #3 Spudnuts


There are a lot of entrepreneurs in the business of making spice blends. Most people believe that this is an easy task. It can be, if all you are doing is mixing spices together. However, there is a whole other side to spice blends that is more scientific and a little bit amazing. The scientifically formulated spices have specific flavor transitions when they hit your taste buds. You first taste a smokey barbeque flavor, then the spicy heat and, lastly. a chaser of a sweet brown sugar flavor. No matter how you use this particular spice blend, the flavor will transition in the same manner every time.

Now, I am no scientist, but this is one donut recipe that falls into the sweet and savory category. It has black pepper in the batter along with mace. Also, after frying, it is coated in a salt/sugar/pepper blend. While crisp on the outside, the interior has a sponge-like texture that stems from the egg and potato ingredients. Except for the sugar blend coating-this donut is more savory than most. This recipe makes about 1 dozen donuts.

Spudnuts
adapted from Saveur Magazine

Ingredients
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tbs melted butter
10 oz of potato cubes (about 1 inch square from peeled baking potatoes)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup sugar
1 tsp ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp ground mace
non stick spray
canola oil for frying

Start by taking out 3 bowls and cutting out 12 four inch squares of parchment and spray each with non stick spray. 
 
Pour 2 quarts of water into a pot. Put pot over medium high heat and add a few pinches of salt. Let come to a boil and then add the potato cubes. Let the potatoes cook, watching to make sure the water does not boil over. The potatoes will soften and be fully cooked after about 20 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and then pass through a ricer placed over one of the bowls. Set aside. In the second bowl, sift together the mace, flour, baking powder, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Set this bowl aside also.

For the third bowl and final bowl, add the eggs and whisk until white and yolks are blended. Pour in the butter, add the zest and 1/3 cup of sugar. Stir together until evenly distributed and fold in the riced/cooked potatoes until the mixture is smooth.

Using a wooden spoon, mix the sifted ingredients into the wet mixture in 3 increments. Continue to blend until no dry streaks remain. Form into a ball and let sit undisturbed for about 10 minutes.

As the dough sits, set up your fryer or use a pot with a deep fry thermometer. Fill with 2 inches or more of oil and heat up to 370 degrees.  Dust a flat surface with flour. Using floured hands, transfer the dough from the bowl to the prepared surface. Then flatten the dough round with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into donut shapes with a 3 inch cutter, using the dough scraps and donut holes to pat into another 1/2 inch thick circle for cutting. Place each cut donut on a prepared parchment square.

Before frying, whisk together the remaining amount of salt, sugar and pepper. Pour into a gallon zip lock bag. Then place a cooling rack over paper towels.

Once the oil is at the right temperature, use the parchment square to flip each raw donut into the hot oil. Only fry in batches of 3-4 donuts at a time. The donuts will take about 3-4 minutes to cook in the oil, so set the timer at 1 minute and 30 seconds and then flip and cook the other side for the same amount of time. Scoop out with a mesh skimmer and place on cooling rack. Let cool for a few minutes and then add to the zip lock bag of coating. Shake until fully coated and place back on rack to completely cool. Repeat the cooking/cooling/coating process until all donuts have been fryed and coated.

Tips and Notes:
1. If you are not into the salty/sweet, try turning this item into a more savory treat by adding freeze dried chives to the batter before adding the dry ingredients. You can also forming these into hush puppy type of appetizers with a garlic sauce for dipping by altering the shape and fry time.

2. Note that the dough is not rolled out. Less handling of the dough will avoid having a tough donut in the end.

3. This recipe never stated to maintain any temperature while frying. This means that the fluctuation in temperature when the dough is added to the oil is expected, so do not panic if the temperature reduces. The only setting to worry about is the initial 370 degrees.

4. As stated in the previous recipes if using a fryer do not use the wire baskets. The raw donuts are to be dropped straight into the oil.
                                          **LAST YEAR:Mojito Bars**

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Donut Trials: #2 Italian Cream Filled Donuts


Years ago, stomach problems were not so prevalent. Today you turn on the TV and there is talk of probiotics, colon cleansers, and pills for acid re flux. It makes you wonder what has caused all of this. After, all when people were churning their own butter- stomach issues were almost unheard of. I think that added preservatives and GMO in manufactured food may be the cause.

Anyhow, with over-abundance of food in the grocery store that labeled as "light", I decided to move on to a second type of donut that is very light. These little yeast gems are like soft pillows which make it a perfect host for filling with something sweet. A great reminder as to why filled donuts are such a favorite.

This particular recipe hails from Italy and is referred to as bombolini. However, these donuts are  much like the filled donuts you find here in the US. The bread part of the donut has a basic, clean taste with a hint of citrus. Then it is filled with a rich vanilla pastry cream swimming with vanilla seeds. The recipe makes about 2-2 1/2 dozen donuts.

Italian Cream Filled Donuts
adapted from Grace's Sweet Life 

Ingredients/Pastry Cream
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 split and seeded vanilla bean
6 egg yolks

Ingredients/Donut dough
3 eggs
3 1/2 tbs butter (diced into 4 pieces)
8 1/2 oz warm milk ( between 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit) 
zest of 1 whole orange or lemon
seeds from 1 whole vanilla bean
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 package yeast
2 cups bread flour
2 cups regular flour
vegetable spray
canola oil ( for frying)
extra sugar for rolling donuts in

The pastry cream will need to be made first. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the seeds and the skin of the vanilla bean. Place over medium high heat and let come to a boil. Remove from burner and cover. Leave to sit, covered, for about 15 minutes so the vanilla beans and seeds can infuse flavor into the milk.

While the milk is cooling, add the sugar and egg yolks to a bowl. Whisk the mixture by hand until the mixture increases in volume and becomes a very pale yellow. Add the flour and mix until blended.

Empty the mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, turn the speed to medium. As the mixer runs, slowly pour a steady stream of the warm milk blend into the egg batter. Once blended, pour mixture into a sieve placed over a saucepan and strain. Once the mixture has been strained into the saucepan, place saucepan over medium heat. Let cream mixture cook, stirring constantly. The filling will thicken and become the consistency of pudding. It should take about 3-5 minutes to reach the perfect consistency. Once it is nice and thick, spoon into a heat proof bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator.

For the yeast donuts, take out a large bowl and fill with both types of flour, sugar, yeast, vanilla beans, lemon or orange zest and salt and stir together until evenly blended. Form a well in the center of the dry mix and pour in the warm milk. Blend together using a wooden spoon. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and then add to the dough. Mix the eggs into the dough until no dry streaks remain.

Prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour. Also, take out a large bowl and cover the interior with non stick spray. Remove the dough and place on floured surface. Put one cube of butter in the center. Knead the butter into the dough, this should take about 2 minutes. Repeat with each remaining piece of butter. Then knead for an additional 5 minutes.

Shape dough into a ball and put in oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This should take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. During this time take out a few 9x13 cake pans. Also, cut parchment paper into 32 squares, each about 4-4 1/2 inches square. Spray the squares with non stick spray. Then put two plates beside the area that you will be frying in. One plate will have paper towels on it for draining and one will have sugar for rolling the hot donuts in.

After the first rise, remove the dough from the bowl and place on the floured surface. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin so it is about 3/8 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter about 2 3/4 to 3 inches in diameter, cut out dough into circles and place each on prepared parchment squares. Take the square and put it inside the cake pan, leaving some space between each. Continue this process until all the dough has been cut into circles and the pans are full. Cover cake pans with plastic and let dough rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

Heat up oil in a fryer or deep saucepan to 330 degrees. It should reach proper temperature in about 20-30 minutes.

After the dough rounds have doubled in size, take a parchment square with the formed donut and flip it to drop in oil. Repeat with 3 more raw donuts. Fry each side until golden brown, the total fry time should be 3-5 minutes with one flip. Watch for the dough to reach the desired golden color and then flip for the other side to cook. Remove donuts and place on paper towel to drain and then roll in sugar and place on cooling rack.

Continue until no raw dough remains. Then prepare a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip and fill the bag with the cold filling from the refrigerator. Punch a hole in top of each donut and fill until it feels heavy and a mound forms on top. Fill the rest of the donuts in the same manner. Serve immediately.

Tips and Notes:
1. It is important that you allow for lots of rising time. The raw donuts should be about 1 inch thick or more and airy before you fry.

2. When adding raw dough to the fryer, your temperature will fluxuate. The fluxuation should be 320 at the lowest point and 340 at the highest point. This will insure that the dough cooks properly in the oil.

3. If you are using an electric fryer, do not use the baskets. You do not want the dough sticking. It is to sink to the bottom on its own and then rise to the top as it cooks.

4. Using a decorator tip for filling was not that easy. The easier way is to use the proper equipment such as an injector or a bismark tip-something with a long neck to go inside the donut.

5. Another easier way to serve these is to pass on filling the donut and use different types of filling to serve the donuts with. Each person can have their own little cups of filling to dip the donut in while eating.

6. Making these by hand may be a slow process, but it is the best method to insure light fluffy donuts. Decline from using a mixer to create the dough.

7. There is a special point of temperature when it comes to filling the donut. You do not want the donut completely cold, for it will not yield to the filling. You do not want it too hot or the pastry cream will melt. Try frying up 1 dozen and then filling. Also, putting your pastry cream in the freezer for a few minutes should help.
                               **LAST YEAR: Strawberry Hazelnut Tart**   

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Donut Trials: #1 Sour Cream Donuts


Donuts have been around for years and they continue to be a favorite pastry to have with coffee or tea in the morning. Homer Simpson eats them regularly, You Tube even has videos such as the "donut dance" by Krispy Creme employees and other videos in support of Dunkin Donuts. You may have had to say good bye to space sticks and Tang, but the donut will remain.

This iconic little pastry has been a favorite of mine, but the idea of actually making my own has been avoided until now. I guess it is because of all of the steps involved in making fried donuts. I have made baked donuts before-but it is much like making a cake. In my opinion, most baked cake donuts do not fall under the label pastry, but the fried donuts do.

For the first of the donut trials, I have picked the sour cream donut. It does have the label of a cake donut- but I believe these donuts have their own unique texture and flavor that stems from the sour cream ingredient. I found them to be less dense than most cake donuts. Also, they are not that difficult to make-which means the recipe a good choice to start out with.

There are some basic tips at the end that will aid you in being a successful donut maker. Like all recipes, all information should be read through once prior to starting. This recipe makes 1 dozen donuts.

This post is the first of the 4 donut trials, so be sure to check back every week-for more delicious breakfast treats!

Sour Cream Donuts
adapted from ChefSteps

Ingredients/Donuts
1 1/2 cups sour cream
5 large egg yolks
2 1/2 tbs butter
4 3/4 cup flour ( pastry or all purpose)
1 tbs and 3/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbs salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
Fry oil (canola type for frying)

Ingredients/Glaze
3 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tbs milk
1 tsp salt

To start, line a bowl with plastic wrap leaving some over hang and spray with non stick spray. Set aside. Using another bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with sugar, butter and yolks. Beat for 2 minutes until smooth, the end result will be a mixture lighter in color that has more volume. Using a spatula, fold in the sour cream until blended. Then fold in the sifted ingredients in one cup intervals until there is no more left to fold in.

Empty the dough into the prepared empty bowl and spray non-stick spay on top of the dough. Cover the top of the dough with the plastic over hang. Place in refrigerator and let chill for 1 hour.

After the dough has chilled, cut out 12 squares of parchment. Each square will hold 1 raw donut.  Also, lightly dust a flat surface with flour. Take dough out of refrigerator and roll out until only 1/2 inch thick. Use a round donut cutter (3 inches in diameter) or 2 cookie cutters to form the donuts. The outside shape for one cookie cutter should be 2 3/4 inches in diameter and the other cutter should be about 1 1/4 in diameter for the holes.

Cut out each donut and place on one parchment square and put in a 3" deep cake pan. Continue with this process and re-roll scraps when necessary until all the dough has been formed. Cover cake pan with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Let the dough chill at least 1 hour or overnight before frying. Place a cooling rack over a sheet of wax paper.

Prepare a fryer by filling with oil until depth of 2 inches. Heat oil up to 350 degrees. It is okay that oil fluctuates between 350 to 360 degrees as you fry. However, do not fry more than 3 donuts at a time and as you fry batches the remaining raw donuts should go back into the refrigerator. As the oil heats up, prepare the glaze. Pour the milk and salt into a bowl, whisking together. Then sift in the powdered sugar. Whisk ingredients together until smooth.

Once the oil is heated, pick up a parchment square that holds one donut and tip it slowly into the oil. Repeat this process until 3 raw donuts are cooking in the oil. Let cook for 30 seconds and flip each donut over using a slotted spoon. After the first 30 seconds, let each side cook for 80 seconds. The holes with take 30 seconds and then 45 seconds on each side. Once cooked, scoop out donuts one by one and place on cooling rack.  Let cool for 2 minutes and then dip in the glaze and place back on rack until glaze is set.

Tips and Notes:
1. The two items that are key in making donuts is maintaining the temperature of the oil and cooking for the correct amount of time. Always set your temperature to the highest and then reduce after all items in one fry session have cooked for about 30 seconds. I could not have made these without an electric fryer, cooking with a pan on the stove is too hard to maintain oil temperature.

2. Use a rack to rest the fried donuts, not paper towels. This is a dense donut and it will become soggy if allowed to rest on paper towels after fried.

3. In order to keep from over-browning your donuts, more sessions of less fry time and flipping will keep this from happening. Keeping a watchful eye is always a good idea when you want that perfect hue of golden brown.

4. This is a vanilla donut that goes well with coffee and tea. Should you want more flavor, try adding spices to the dough and different flavorings to the glaze.
                              **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Wine Loaf Cake**


            

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Marbled Chocolate Raspberry Cookies


Today's post is a little about being direct. Through the years, I have interfaced with a lot of people in business as well as social settings. After all this time, I can still say that I favor strong and direct people. They will tell you exactly what is on their mind, instead of reserving or keeping thoughts to themselves. While directness may not be pleasant at times, but at least you are not left wondering.

So if someone tells me "make it happen, no excuses" my reaction is more driven than someone that says "just try to see what you can do". Which leads me to this recipe in which one of the flavors was described as subtle. Along with directness, I feel that if you are going to include a flavor, it should be dominant as a single flavor or balanced if used in combination with other flavors. Which is why I took some liberties with this recipe to create a balance between the raspberry and the chocolate. The original recipe is below and the tips and notes include my additional ingredient tweaks and helpful hints- so read prior to making this recipe if you want a stronger flavor of raspberries in the cookie. This recipe does make a lot, about 5 dozen.

Now, let's move on to the description of these cookies. They are moist and soft cookie, swirled with two cookie doughs that include cream cheese. One batch of dough is chocolate and one is raspberry flavored. The blend of doughs come together to create a delicious cookie that makes for a lovely presentation- which is the best of both worlds. This recipe comes from a fellow blogger, Irvin Lin, who is very talented when it comes to creating baked goods and inspiring others. I have provided the link below.

Marbled Chocolate Raspberry Cookies
adapted from Eat the Love  

Ingredients/Raspberry Dough
6 tbs or 3/4 stick butter (room temp)
1/4 cup or 2 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup raspberries (6 oz)
zest of one lemon
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt 
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbs sugar

Ingredients/Chocolate Dough
1 1/2 sticks or 12 tbs of butter (room temp)
1/2 cup or 4 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup cocoa powder (natural not Dutch processed)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1 cup white sugar to roll cookies in (regular,sanding or sparkling type)

For the raspberry dough:
Start by making the raspberry jam. Place the raspberries in a bowl and mash with a potato masher, just until all raspberries have been flattened. Empty into a saucepan and add 2 tbs of sugar. Place over medium high heat and stir constantly. As the mixture heats up, it will become thicker. Cook the mixture until a wooden spoon can clear a path in the raspberry blend that remains. Since it is now a jam texture, remove from heat and let cool.

Measure out the dry ingredients (flour/salt/baking soda/baking powder) and sift together. Set bowl aside.

Add the cream cheese, butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat ingredients together on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl at intervals, until smooth and fluffy. This should take about 3 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the lemon zest. Then pour into the batter. Run the mixer to distribute into the batter. Add the remaining egg yolk and blend again. Remove the bowl of the stand mixer and stir in the cooled raspberry jam. Then fold in the sifted ingredients and transfer the batter to an empty bowl. Set aside. Clean your batter blade and the mixer bowl in order to proceed to creating the chocolate dough.

For the Chocolate Dough:
Take out a medium bowl and sift together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Place the butter, cream cheese and both types of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream the ingredients together by beating on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl at intervals. It should take about 3 minutes to form a fluffy batter. Add the egg and beat until incorporated and then add the yolk and the vanilla extract. Blend with mixer on medium speed.

Remove bowl and fold in dry ingredients until no streaks of flour remain. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust a flat surface lightly with flour and fill a bowl with the sugar for rolling the dough

The cookies will need to be formed in stages of 1 dozen. Take one teaspoon of the chocolate batter and,using lightly floured hands, form into a small ball. Continue with this process, making 4 rows of 6 balls of dough spaced 2 inches apart side by side as well as up and down. Then take one teaspoon of the raspberry batter and form into a small ball. Continue with this process, but place each ball in a row, right under each row of chocolate dough balls. The end result is a total of 8 rows of 6 dough balls starting with a row of chocolate and alternating, ending with a row of raspberry. Pick up the chocolate dough ball at the top left and stack with the raspberry ball below it. Then add the chocolate ball below it and then the raspberry dough ball. Flatten the balls together and then roll into one big ball. Roll in sugar and place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Continue forming the cookies until there is a dozen on the baking sheet. Place in oven and bake for about 13-15 minutes. The cookies should be a light golden color on the bottom and edges when done.
Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

Repeat the forming and baking process until no dough remains.

Tips and Notes:
1. In order to increase the raspberry flavor, I used Belgian raspberry beer (Framboise Lambic) and 1 1/2 tsp of natural raspberry flavor. I filled a saucepan with 1 cup of the beer and boiled it until reduced down to 1/4 cup. Then I added the raspberries and the sugar. The natural raspberry flavoring (baktoflavors.com) was stirred into the raspberry mixture after it was completely cool.

2. Do not use thawed frozen raspberries, only fresh. Even though thawed, the fruit still has too much water content.

3. The chocolate dough is more dense than the raspberry. Once the dry ingredients are added to the raspberry batter the baking soda/powder mixture makes it rise. You may want to make both wet batters and then add the dry to both as a last step. Especially considering the time in forming the cookies.

4. Dough is less sticky and easier to work with when cold.

5. Another method for forming the dough is to divide each type of dough in half. Then roll out each half on a floured piece of parchment, forming a 12 by 5 inch rectangle. Stack the rectangles on top of each other, alternating types. Then cut dough into 1 inch squares and roll each square into a ball. Then roll in sugar and place on baking sheet. I did not try this, but the method would be a good time saver.
                              **LAST YEAR:Danish Butter Cookies**

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Brazilian Ombre Cake


With the Cinco De Mayo celebration right around the corner, things are gearing up here in Texas. Restaurants are starting to advertise specials and the party gear is prominent. While some celebrate in the standard tradition, some have tweaked some changes to make their own traditions.

Twisting tradition can catch on like wildfire. One of the most unusual twists I have seen is the change in the pinata. Through the years, pinatas have been something for the kids, filled with candy for them to enjoy once it is broken open. However, if there are no kids in the picture-you can always switch to the adult version. To host a party with the adult version all you need to do is fill your pinata with the small plastic airline bottles of some type of spirit, such as tequila. Also, have a gallon drink dispenser ready, filled with ice cold margarita mix. Once that pinata is broken open, it is time for happy hour!

The break from tradition falls right in line with this recipe. As a blogger, I am always looking for something new and different when it comes to baked goods and this cake recipe is exactly that. So sorry hard core traditionalists- there is no flan, churros or tres leche cake recipe here. Instead we have a a moist cake with brown to ivory layers filled with dulce de leche and frosted with whipped cream.

Due to the texture and sweetness of the filling-each layer of cake is does not have the standard thick filling that is in most cakes. The whipped cream topping balances out the sweetness. Each cake layer has its own unique flavor (going from bottom to top):
chocolate
caramel
brazil nut
coconut

This cake is fairly easy to make, but a kitchen scale is essential. The recipe comes from the UK and was modified from a 7 inch cake recipe into one for a 9 inch cake. Like most people here in the US- a 7 inch cake pan is not all that common and having 4 of them is even more uncommon.  So let's get baking!

Brazilian Ombre Cake
adapted from Dr Oetker recipes

Ingredients/Cake
10.6 oz flour
2 2/3 tsp baking soda
7 oz dark brown sugar
2 oz ground almonds
4 oz sugar
2 oz coconut (unsweetened or desiccated)
4 oz light brown sugar
2 oz ground brazilian nuts
3 oz dark chocolate (chopped or chips)
1 1/4 plus 1/3 cup buttermilk (room temp)
1/2 cup and 2 tsp butter
4 eggs (room temp)
1 tbs caramel extract

Ingredients/filling and topping
1 1/2- 2 cans dulce de leche or caramel (about 20 oz total)
20 oz heavy cream
2 oz of sliced or ground brazil nuts

Prepare four 9 inch cake pans by greasing the interior and lining the bottom with parchment paper.

The cake batter is formed like an assembly line, so take out about 5 medium size bowls. Fill each bowl as follows:

1. Flour and baking soda, sifted together
2. Dark brown sugar (free of lumps)
3. Ground almonds
4. White sugar and coconut, whisked together
5. Light brown sugar and ground brazil nuts, whisked together

Using a kitchen scale and a zip lock bag, empty the sifted ingredients in the bag and weigh. Measure out half of the mixture and add to bowl of dark brown sugar. Whisk together. Place the other half of the sifted ingredients back into the original bowl.

Then measure out half of the dark brown sugar mixture and pour into the bowl of ground almonds. Go back to the bowl with the remaining flour/baking soda and measure out half. Whisk into the white sugar and coconut mixture and take the other half and whisk into the light brown sugar and brazil nut mixture.

The end result should be a 4 bowls: flour/dark brown sugar mixture, flour/dark brown sugar/ground almonds, flour/coconut/white sugar and the final bowl with flour/light brown sugar/brazil nut mixture. At this time, preheat the oven to 355 degrees. Set up a double boiler and fill the top bowl with the chocolate. Also, fill a saucepan with the butter. As both of these are in the melting process, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs in a medium size bowl.  Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients in each of the four bowls.

Remove the saucepan of melted butter from the heat. Let cool 20 minutes. Then whisk into the egg/buttermilk mixture. Divide this batter evenly into 4 small bowls. Fill the well formed in each of the bowls of the dry ingredients with 1 measured out small bowl of batter. Stir together until just blended. Whisk the caramel extract into the bowl with the ground almond ingredients. Also, whisk the melted chocolate into the bowl of the brown sugar/flour mixture.

Each batter mixture makes up one layer. Pour each into one prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Place in oven and let bake for 10 minutes, then rotate and bake for an additional 10. Cakes are done when tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then invert to a rack. Carefully remove parchment paper and let each layer cool completely.

Once the cakes are completely cool, prepare a cake board by placing a sheet of wax paper with the center cut out over the edge of the cake board. Then fill a small prep bowl with hot water.

Place the chocolate cake layer on the center of the board. Scoop out 1/3 of the dulce de leche/caramel from the full can and place on top of the center of the cake layer. Take a small offset spatula and dip in the hot water and carefully smooth it over the surface of the cake layer. Repeat this process of smoothing on the caramel with each layer, placing the caramel flavored cake layer next, then the brazilian nut. Since the coconut is the top layer, it will not have any caramel spread over the surface.

Whip the cream until thick and fluffy. Spread on the sides and top of cake. Pull out the wax paper from between the cake and the cake board. Then sprinkle the top with the ground or slivered nuts. Use the remaining 1/2 or whole can of caramel/dulce de leche to serve on the side with each slice of cake. The other alternative (prior to topping with nuts) is to thin out the caramel/dulce de leche with some cream and drizzle over top of the cake.

Tips and Notes:
1. Should you only have 2 cake pans, only add the liquid ingredients to two of the bowls of dry. Bake those layers. Once inverted, clean the pans and prepare again by greasing and lining with parchment. Blend up the other two bowls of dry ingredients as directed and fill pans and bake the same way.

2. Room temperature is important for the buttermilk and eggs. If cold, the melted butter will turn into cold chunks in the batter.

3. I noticed the second layer was the same color as the third. This might be remedied with a 1/2 white sugar and 1/2 light brown sugar blend when making the brazilian nut layer. Also use skinless brazilian nuts.

4. If you do not plan to serve right after making, keep the caramel to serve on the side instead of topping the cake and use whipped cream stabilizer in the topping.

5. Some of the dry ingredient blends look identical, so labeling the bowls will guarantee that there is no mix up.

6. I used the same zip lock bag to measure and split out the dry ingredients when using the scale.
                              **LAST YEAR: Southern Cotillion Peach Cake**
                                   

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Key Lime Cupcakes


This weekend was a key lime fest, mainly due to the upcoming expiry date on the bottle of key lime I had purchased. Which brings me to an issue concerning expiry dates.

The way I read expiry dates is based on unopened. If the package has not been opened, it will stay good up until that day. This is directly in conflict with another opinion. The other opinion is that it is good until that day, opened or not. Of course, this thought stems from someone that favors a lot of dairy type of sauces, but ironically, has to have their meat cooked very well done.

In comparison, we both could eat the same thing and I would be the only one getting sick. I have zero tolerance for warm mayonnaise and I will not eat a leftover sandwich from the day prior that has been prepared with mayo and vegetables. 

However, since this recipe was made with a bottle of key lime juice that was just opened-there is no issue with expiry dates. The issue is that I would rather have this than warm potato salad!

The cupcake has a dense but moist texture. The key lime zest and juice is very well balanced in the frosting as well as cake. As you devour one of these wonderful cakes, you will notice that the flavor ingredients provide an occasional pop of tangy lime. This recipe makes about 1 dozen cupcakes.

Key Lime Cupcakes
adapted from Sprinkles Cupcakes

Ingredients/Cake
2 egg whites
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs key lime zest
2 tbs of key lime juice
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar

 Ingredients/Frosting
2 sticks or 1 cup of butter
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbs key lime juice
1 tbs key lime zest
3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp of milk (if above mixture is too thick)
Key lime wedges (optional for topping)

Prepare a 12 cavity muffin tin by greasing the top edge and lining with cupcake papers. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and beat until creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat and add 1/2 cup of sugar. Once blended, beat in the additional sugar. Set aside.

Take out a small bowl and whisk together only 1 tbs lime juice, milk, vanilla extract and key lime zest. Using a larger bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set both mixtures aside.

Return back to the butter/sugar mixture and beat in one egg on medium speed. Then add both egg whites and blend into the batter. Continue to beat, but use the low speed. Add 1/2 of the sifted ingredients and let the mixer run until blended into the butter batter. Then add the milk mixture and run the mixer until blended. Remove bowl from mixer stand and fold the remaining dry ingredients into the batter by using a wooden spoon.

Fill the 12 lined muffin cavities evenly with the batter. Put in oven and bake for 10 minutes and then rotate pan and bake an additional 12 minutes. Use a tester for doneness, surface of cupcakes will be dry to the touch. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool for 15 minutes and then transfer to rack to cool completely.

Once completely cooled, use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes in the top of the cupcakes. Then brush the surfaces of the cupcakes with the remaining 1 tbs of lime juice. Let the tops dry prior to frosting cupcakes.

 For the frosting, beat the salt into the butter until smooth and creamy. With the mixer set on low speed add 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar and beat until all sugar is blended into the butter. Repeat this process with an additional 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar. Add the key lime juice, zest and vanilla extract. Beat together until evenly distributed into the batter. Then mix in the remaining confectioners' sugar in increments until no dry sugar remains. Should it seem too thick, beat in 1/2 tsp milk. Be careful not to over blend, you do not want a whipped frosting but one that is very thick.

Frost cupcakes as desired and top with key lime wedge. Enjoy!

Tips and Notes:
1. The mixture of milk and lime juice will curdle, but the recipe states the mixture has to set after blended before adding it to the cupcake batter.

2. How much juice you want to brush on top is a matter of personal preference, but be sure to wait until completely dry before icing.

3. The batter, once blended rises quickly-so be prepared to fill the cavities immediately.

4. The cupcakes did not have a tower of icing on them, if you prefer a thicker topping increase the frosting recipe.  

                                       **LAST YEAR: Hawaiian Breakfast Rolls**

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Blackberry Ginger Kouign Amann


Easter Sunday is celebrated in many different ways across the world. However, here in the US, it is eggs and more eggs; egg hunts, deviled eggs, bunny eggs and the list goes on. The last Easter egg hunt I remember was very "old school"- it was with real dyed boiled eggs. The memory that is etched in my mind is finding an egg that was covered with ants because it had a broken shell. Needless to say, since then I am not really into egg hunts these days. Even though the tradition has changed to using plastic eggs filled with candy, it has not lured me back into egg hunting.

So, today I present a recipe that is completely void of any egg, the Kouign Amann pastry-otherwise known as Breton cakes. Processing the dough is much like the croissant, a butter sheet is placed on top of the dough and the dough folded on top. Then there are several steps of rolling and folding.

While all these types of cakes are crunchy and buttery on the outside, this particular recipe has a few flavor twists that result in an addictive pairing. On the outside and folded into the dough layers is homemade ginger sugar. Then a blackberry sugar mixture is pursed inside the dough and baked. The end result is a crunchy ginger cake that compliments the blackberry filling in the center. This recipe makes 1 dozen pastries.

Blackberry Ginger Kouign Amann
adapted from Baked From Scratch

Ingredients/Ginger Sugar
2 tbs grated fresh ginger
2 cups granulated sugar

Ingredients/Cake
1 3/4 cup salted butter (softened)
2 tsp salt
4 cups flour
2 1/2 tbs yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (100-105 degrees)

Ingredients/Filling
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups blackberries (cut in half)

The first step is to make the ginger sugar. Fill a food processor bowl with grated ginger and sugar.
Pulse the mixture together until ginger is distributed throughout the sugar. Prepare a pan by lining with parchment and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Pour the sugar mixture into the pan and spread out evenly. Bake for seven minutes and then stir. Place back in oven and let bake for an additional seven minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cooled fill a grinder with some of the mixture and grind for about 2 minutes. Continue with this process until all the sugar lumps are ground up. Pour into shallow bowl and set aside.

For the dough, start by whisking together the yeast and the warm water. Then add the salt. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook and add 1/2 cup of flour and beat at low speed until blended. Repeat the process until all the flour has been blended to form a dough. Form the dough into a ball and enclose in plastic wrap. Leave on counter and let sit to rise for about 20 minutes.

While the dough is rising, the butter block can be formed. Place butter between sheets of waxed paper and roll it out to form a 10x8 inch rectangle. Place in fridge for about 5 minutes.

After the dough has risen, prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour. Place dough on prepared area and roll out to form a 16x10 inch rectangle. Take butter block from the fridge and peel off one sheet of wax paper. Place butter square on top and in the center of the dough rectangle. Enclose the butter block by folding the dough over the top and pinching together any exposed edges. Roll the dough again, this time forming a 18x8 inch rectangle. Then fold dough into 3rds (much like a letter), which makes a 8x6 inch rectangle. Repeat the same rolling process again, starting with forming a 16x10 inch rectangle and ending with one 8x6 size. Wrap dough and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

After the dough has chilled for at least 30 minutes, prepare a 12 cavity muffin pan by liberally greasing with butter, covering the interior and upper edge of the cavities. Then cover a flat work surface with the ginger sugar. When the dough has completed the chilling time, remove from refrigerator and let set uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover the dough with a sprinkling of ginger sugar and roll out, forming an 8x18 inch rectangle. Fold up the length of the dough into 3rds forming a letter size rectangle. Sprinkle on more sugar and roll out again, this time forming a 17x13 inch rectangle. Cut off about 1/2 inch from all 4 sides, making a straight edge.

Once this is complete, take out a medium size bowl and mix all the filling ingredients together. Then go back to the dough and cut out 12 squares, each 4x4 inches. Place the squares in the prepared muffin cavities and fill with 1 tablespoon of filling. Take each corner of the dough and fold and pinch together in the center. Cover lightly with a cloth and let rise for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Once dough has risen, place muffin pan on baking sheet and put in oven. Let pastries bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on rack. Then transfer to serving platter.

Tips and Notes:
1. The rising time and the temperature of the water are crucial. My pastries were more cake like than flaky due to the variation from these 2 factors.

2. There is a lot of butter and quite a bit drips out, so the baking sheet is necessary to catch those drips.

3. I had a lot of sugar, so after cutting the squares, I placed each dough squared on top of the sugar in the shallow bowl and pressed lightly. I did the same for the other side, prior to placing it in the muffin cavity.

4. If the pastries stick after cooling, place pan in the warm oven a few minutes to melt the sugar edges and try to remove pastry again.

5. Filling is to be used immediately, so it cannot be prepared hours in advance of baking.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Banana French Toast Muffins**       
 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Walnut Mini Loaves


Today I have decided that I need to tackle one of my fears. Even though it is not a huge fear, I need to get past it. It is the fear of running out of an ingredient in the middle of creating something in the kitchen. The fear was built on having that irritation and inconvenience happen 3 times, back to back.

I am not alone, for there may be several bloggers out there that have this affliction. It is silly, I know. It is simply a matter of being organized. Instead of minimizing it to being organized, it would appear that I have over compensated by hoarding certain things. One of them that came to light recently is the amount of packaged nuts I have in my freezer.

Now it is time that I relieve some of the inventory, by baking up some nut bread. This particular recipe uses walnuts and whiskey. It yields 6 mini loaves that are really moist due to the texture from the oil in the ground nuts. Also, these little nutty loaves are even further enhanced by a sweet whiskey syrup ladled on top.

This does make a good base recipe that you can experiment with. Chocolate ganache can be drizzled on top after the syrup sets. Using hazelnut and a nut liqueur is another flavor choice.

Walnut Mini Loaves
adapted from Dr Oetker Recipes

Ingredients/Cake
1 cup ground walnuts
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs melted butter
1 cup whiskey
3 tbs milk

Ingredients/Syrup
remaining 3 tbs whisky reduction from above
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbs water

Start by making the whiskey reduction. Pour whisky in a saucepan and place over medium high heat and let cook down until only a little over 1/3 of a cup, or 6 tablespoons remains. Set aside to cool.

Grease the interior of 6 mini loaf pans, making sure all corners and sides are well covered. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the baking powder and flour. Whisk in the sugar and then the walnuts. In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, milk and 3 tbs of the whiskey reduction. Fold the liquid into the dry mix until all is blended. The batter should be quite thick.

Spoon the batter evenly into each of the pans, evening out the surface by using a spatula. Place in oven and let bake until tester comes out clean and edges are golden, about 15-20 minutes.

As it bakes, prepare the whiskey syrup. Fill a saucepan with the 3 tbs of water and 1/3 cup of sugar. Stir and let cook until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining whiskey reduction.

Once the loaves are baked, remove from oven. Set pan(s) on cooling rack and poke holes in top of each, using a wooden skewer. Then drizzle a tablespoon of the syrup on top and continue to drizzle by tablespoon until all the syrup is gone. Let loaves cool completely in pan, then turn out onto rack.

Prior to serving, you can add an additional topping of whipped cream, chocolate or caramel.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Citrus Ginger Cookies** 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spicy Date Filled Cookies


Sometimes baking in the kitchen can be like resolving a mystery. You see something that you have never made nor have you ever tasted. Then you review the recipe, noting that it has some challenges that take time. Like most bloggers, we step up to the plate, eager to create and push our skills further.

This particular recipe originates from the Middle East, so there are special ingredients as well as a special tool needed to create this traditional cookie called Ma'amoul. However, you can scale it back in a few ways. The mold is only for appearance, so the cookies can be formed by hand. Also, clarified butter can be made from real butter, if you have the time. The specialty spices can be found on line or at an Indian or Middle Eastern grocers. Also, the mold can be ordered on line.

These may be called cookies, but they are definitely more of a pastry type of item. The outer part contains yeast and the dough is used in a manner much like a crust rather than a cookie. The crust houses a blend of sweet dates, spices and walnuts. All in all, this recipe mystery unraveled into round pastries housing exotic flavor that were both pleasing in appearance and taste. The recipe is definitely a keeper, especially when you want to impress for special occasions. 

Now, without further delay, below is the recipe, which makes about 2 dozen cookies. Note that the spice mix yields more than required in this recipe, but the mix can be stored for later use.

Spicy Date Filled Cookies
adapted from an Edible Mosaic

Ingredients/Spice Blend
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground anise
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground mahlab (ground cherry pits)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Ingredients/Filling
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tbs canola oil
3/4 lb of date paste
1 1/2 tsp of spice blend (above)

Ingredients/Dough
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup clarified butter (ghee)
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar (for dusting on top/optional)

Start by whisking all the spice ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

To create the filling, a food processor or stand mixer will need to be used. Prepare the blade and the interior of the bowl by coating with oil. Place the date paste in the bowl and then pour in the oil. Pulse the food processor or beat on medium speed with mixer until the oil is blended with the date paste. During this process you may need to stop occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Oil the surface of a cutting board and empty the date mixture onto the board. Separate out 1 1/2 tsp of the spice blend and store the remaining in a small jar or time for later use. Oil your hands and sprinkle some of the spice mix on the date mixture. Knead the spice into the date filling and then add some more spice and knead again. Repeat the process until all the spice is blended into the filling. Then do the same with the chopped walnuts. Set the bowl aside.

For the dough, get out two saucepans. Fill one with sugar and water. Fill the other with the butter and oil. Place the saucepan with the sugar/water over medium high heat. Let the mixture heat up to boiling and swirl a few times to get the sugar swirled into the water. It should boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat and set aside. Put the saucepan filled with the butter and oil over the medium high heat and let cook until the butter is completely melted. This saucepan is also to be removed from heat and set aside.

Sift together the flour and yeast in a large bowl. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter/oil mixture. Using a wooden spoon, fold the liquid into the flour mixture. Once this comes together, blend in the sugar syrup in three increments until a dough is formed (it will be oily). Dust a flat surface with flour and knead the dough on the surface for 2 minutes. Form into a flat disc and cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer for about 7 minutes. Remove and knead again for 2 minutes.

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

To form the cookies by using the mold: Take one tablespoon of dough and fill the mold and shape it much the same way as you do a tart pan, flattening and bringing up the sides. Once this is formed, take a knife to remove the excess dough, running the knife from the center top edge outward to the left then the right. Separate out a teaspoon of filling and flatten it into the center of the dough in the mold, being careful that it does not touch the sides. Then separate out a teaspoon of dough and flatten it into a disc, big enough to cover the filling. Place it on top of the filling and press down, so the edge is compressed with the edge of the first layer of dough. Make sure there are no cracks and the filling is completely covered. Lastly, tap the side rim of the mold on a flat surface and the cookie will fall out.

To form the cookies by hand: use the same measurements above, but use your palm as a mold and create the same coverage of the filling and make a slightly flattened circle. Use the tines of a fork to make a cross hatch on top.

After making 6 cookies and placing them on a cookie sheet one inch apart, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make 6 more, spacing the same on the cookie sheet. Place pan in oven and let cookies bake for about 10-12 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Cookies are done when the bottom is toasty and golden.  Remove and transfer to rack to completely cool.

Once cooled and prior to serving, you can dust with powdered sugar.

Tips and Notes:
1. Do not worry about the filling bubbling up and bursting the cookie, it does not hold that much liquid, so fill these cookies with as much as they can hold. In the beginning, I was too sparing on the filling resulting in more cookie than filling. The cookie is only to be a crust.

2. The dough is oily, so if you find it becoming too slick while forming the cookies, put it the fridge for 3-5 minutes to firm up. I did spend a lot of time forming these, so I needed the re-chill in the process.

3. If you find the cookie release from the mold requires too much effort, use a light dusting of flour in the mold before forming another cookie.

4. As stated before, specialty items can be ordered on line or can be found at a Middle Eastern or Indian grocery store. Also, you can always grind whole spices (Anise, Fennel) if the "ground" version is not available.
                               **LAST YEAR: Sawdust Pie** 

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 motivator..now 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

Ingredients
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

Ingredients
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

Ingredients/Cake
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

Ingredients/Filling
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

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

Ingredients/Syrup
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

Ingredients/Filling
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
filling.

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**