Sunday, October 14, 2018

Macadamia Cherry Cookies

As a blogger, sometimes we come across recipes that do not turn out as expected. However, the disappointment is an excellent motivator to create something better. The recipe here reflects just that type of inspiration.

The original cookies that had my own tweaks of flavor. Despite the changes in flavor, it did not help on the texture of the cookie. The first bake resulted in very greasy and flat cookies. To remedy this problem, I added more flour and chilled the dough. These alterations changed the cookie into something more appealing in flavor and visual enticement.

They are a spin off of the standard macadamia white chocolate cookies. The dough was enhanced by extra flavor layers of chopped dried cherries and butternut extract. These differences made the cookies a little bit more tempting than the usual macadamia cookies. In addition, the red and white combination of ingredients makes them a perfect addition to the Christmas cookie list. This recipe makes 4-5 dozen, depending on the scoop size.

Macadamia Cherry Cookies
by flourtrader 

3 eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar 
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (room temp)
3 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp butternut extract
3/4 cup chopped salted macadamia nuts
1 1/4 cup chopped sweetened dried cherries
12 oz chopped white chocolate bar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the interior of 2 cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter. Beat at medium speed until smooth and silky, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then add both types of sugars and beat again until mixture is light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. Repeat those 2 steps with each egg until incorporated. Pour in the extract and beat again until evenly distributed.

Take out a large bowl and cover with a sieve and sift the flour, baking soda and salt into the bowl. Remove the bowl of batter from the stand mixer and fold in the sifted ingredients, using a spatula or wooden spoon. Continue to fold until no more dry streaks remain in the dough.

Add the chopped cherries, white chocolate chunks and chopped macadamias to the mixture. Blend all the ingredients together, distributing the add-ins evenly. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 40 minutes.

After chilling, use a scoop or a generous tablespoon to transfer mounds of dough to the prepared cookie sheet. Space the mounds about 1 inch apart. Bake in the oven until the cookies are a pale matte color with a golden edge, about 10-12 minutes. Let cookies rest on pan a few minutes then transfer to a rack to completely cool.

Tips and Notes:
1. I always use parchment paper to keep my pans in good condition. The parchment had a tendency to slide around when I was trying to get the cookies off, so a greased pan is easier to manage when it comes to removing the cookies. The cookies are a little soft on top when removed from the baking pans, so be careful with that step.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies** 


Sunday, October 7, 2018

Autumn Butternut Brioche Rolls

I cannot stress enough the importance of equipment when creating in the kitchen. We all are aware of the numerous conversion charts on the internet. However, I caution use of these because they are not all identical. Part of this is due to the variables associated with what you are measuring. For instance, if you are converting egg yolks from grams to units, there is a problem because eggs come in different sizes (medium, large, XL and jumbo). All in all, a digital conversion scale is worth investing in and they are not that expensive. With that said, this particular recipe is in grams.

If you are like me, brioche rolls (fluffy, buttery and sweet) are hard to resist. Now- pair those qualities with the extra flavor ingredients of butternut squash, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. The end result is nothing short of delicious. The idea of flavored brioche is simply genius and the possibilities are endless.

Before you stroll into the kitchen to make these, be aware that the dough rises overnight in the refrigerator. Most of the time devoted to making this recipe takes place the day prior to baking. The day of bake just requires some time to form the rolls and about 1 hr and 45 min rise time. This recipe makes 2 loaves of rolls using a 9 inch cake pan, creating approximately 17-18 rolls per pan.

Autumn Butternut Brioche Rolls
adapted from Wild Yeast Blog 

Ingredients/Bread dough
226 g butter (softened and cubed)
water (if needed)
100 g whole eggs
60 g egg yolks
480 g butternut squash pulp (cooked, mashed and cooled)
34 g milk
126 g brown sugar
840 g flour
10 g yeast (rapid rise)
10-14 g salt (preference amount)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger

1 cup chopped roasted pecans (optional)
1 egg

The day prior to baking, fill the bowl of a stand mixer the eggs and egg yolks. Beat on medium speed with a beater blade until blended. Change out the blade for a dough hook and add flour, squash puree, spices, milk, yeast and salt. Set the mixer on low and run for 5 minutes, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The ingredients will come together, forming a very heavy dough. If it is still too dry after mixing for 4 minutes, add 1 tsp of water and blend until no more dry streaks remain.

Next, change the mixer speed to medium and add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Beat for a few minutes and then repeat until all of the brown sugar has been incorporated into the dough. Run the mixer another 4 minutes and then pull out a tablespoon of dough. Stretch it to see if it forms a thin translucent "windowpane". If not, try beating another few minutes and test again. The "windowpane" is an indicator that the gluten in your dough has fully developed.

Once it reaches the correct consistency, add the butter cubes to the dough, running the mixer at low speed. Continue to beat until all the butter has been blended into the dough, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl interior. The dough should be smooth and elastic at this point.

Form the dough into a large ball. Butter the interior of a bowl that is 1 1/2 times larger than the dough mass. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place (approx 76 degrees) for one hour. Then place bowl (still covered) in the refrigerator for an overnight rise (8-12 hours).

The next day, prepare two-9 inch round cake pans by greasing the interior and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and punch down. Then, using floured hands, separate dough into 36 equal pieces. Take each piece and roll tightly into a circle. Place about 18 dough balls in each prepared pan, making sure they are placed evenly, touching each other but not losing their circular shape. If you cannot fit them all into the pans, place the extras on a baking sheet. The ones on the baking sheet can be spaced however you desire (round circle, spaced apart, one line, etc).

After placing in/on baking pans, whisk the egg in a small bowl, combining the yolk and white. Brush the surface of the rolls with the whisked egg. Cover each set of rolls lightly with a cloth or paper towel and let rise for one hour and 45 minutes. Also, cover the bowl of egg wash and place in refrigerator for later use.

During the last 15 minutes of rise time, preheat the oven to 380 degrees. Remove the egg wash so it comes to room temperature again.

One the rise time is completed, the surface of the rolls are to get another coating of the egg wash. After that, if you prefer, you can sprinkle the pecans evenly on top of the dough rolls.. Place filled pans in the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes. At the 25 minute mark, check the rolls for surface color. If the color of the rolls have darkened enough, cover them lightly with foil and place back in oven. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until light and fluffy. If you have some rolls spaced out on baking sheet or put in individual brioche pans, cut the baking time in half.

Remove pans from the oven and place on rack for 5 minutes and then invert rolls out of pan onto rack and invert again. Let cool completely if storing for later. If serving immediately, let rolls cool until slightly warm to the touch.
                                           **LAST YEAR: Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake**

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Carrot Cupcakes

After creating these cupcakes, I realized the importance of finishing touches on a baked good. These special touches can be just to enhance appearance of items, like using sprinkles. However, in addition to the visual enhancement, a finishing touch should also add more flavor to the dessert.

These cupcakes have walnuts on top of the icing. You may think it is no big deal, but let me clue you in further. The walnuts are chopped and roasted in the oven. Then, while still warm, they are coated in melted butter with a light sprinkling of salt. This creates a wonderful contrast to the fluffy, sweet cream cheese icing. I would not even think of omitting the nuts on top.

Now that I have your taste buds awake concerning the icing and nut topping, let's get into the cake component. The cake contains oil instead of butter, which guarantees they will be moist in texture. Also, the myriad of spices in the batter with the grated carrots equates to the delicious standard that we all crave when it comes to carrot cake. This recipe makes about 2 dozen cupcakes and about 4 cups or more of icing (feel free to cut back on this).

Carrot Cupcakes
adapted from Robicelli's

1 1/4 cups canola or grapeseed oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups packed shredded/grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped, roasted walnuts
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Ingredients/Cream Cheese Buttercream
1 batch French buttercream (recipe below) or 1 batch American buttercream but without marscapone cheese ingredient (see this link)
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz package cream cheese (cut into cubes)
1/4 tsp guar gum (optional)

Ingredients/French Buttercream
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 lb to 1 1/2 lbs of butter
1 cup water
2 tbs corn syrup
1/8 tsp xanthan gum

Ingredients/Roasted Walnuts
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tbs butter

Start by setting up a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Grease the top edge of each cavity of a cupcake pan. There should be 2 pans prepared with 12 cavities each. Line the cavities with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place a sieve over a large bowl. Fill with flour, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and baking powder. Sift the ingredients together and set aside.

Fill the bowl of the stand mixer with both sugars and the grated/shredded carrots. Mix on medium low for about 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then mix for an additional 30 seconds. Continue to run the mixer on the same speed and pour in the vanilla extract and oil. Once combined, remove the bowl from the stand and use a spatula and scrape down the sides and mix, making sure all is blended.

Add the sifted ingredients to the sugar/carrot batter and mix, using a wooden spoon until everything is fully incorporated. Add the eggs and mix again until blended. Lastly, fold in the walnuts and raisins (if using).

Using a scoop, fill each of the paper lined cavities with the batter. They should only be 3/4 of the way full. Place each pan in the oven (on the same or different racks-making sure they are spaced so each pan is to the left or right so they get enough heat). Bake for 10 minutes and then rotate the pans from front to back and left to right. Let bake an additional 10 minutes and check with a tester. When done, the tester will be clean and cupcakes should spring back when lightly touched.

Remove from oven and let rest in pans about 2-3 minutes. Keep the oven on. Then transfer to a rack to completely cool.

To roast the walnuts, line a pan with foil and add the 1 cup of chopped nuts. Spread out evenly onto the pan and place in oven. Roast for about 7-10 minutes. Walnuts will release an aroma once done. Once roasted, make a foil pouch with the foil that you lined the pan with, enclosing all of the nuts. Open up a small hole on top and add the salt. Close up and shake. Open the top again and pour in the melted butter. Close and shake again then set aside.

If you are making the French buttercream, place a saucepan on the stove. Fill with the water, corn syrup, sugar and cream of tartar- you do not need to mix together. Turn the heat up to high and let cook. Once it becomes a liquid, place a candy thermometer in the pan. The mixture will cook up to a boil, but do not stir. It will be ready to use once it reaches a temperature of 235 degrees.

As the liquid cooks, fill the bowl of a stand mixer (fitted with a whisk attachment) with the egg and egg yolks. Turn the mixer to high. This process will change the eggs to a light yellow batter that falls of the whisk in silky ribbons.

While the sugar is cooking and the eggs are being beaten, slice the butter into thin slivers. Take a few moments to still monitor the sugar mixture for correct temperature. Once the sugar reaches the desired temperature, remove the saucepan from the stove. Turn the mixer to medium speed and sprinkle the xanthan gum into the silky egg mixture. Continue to run the mixer and lift the hot saucepan and place the lip or top edge against the edge of the bowl of the stand mixer. Slowly stream in the hot sugar mixture. Keep a steady stream going until the saucepan is completely empty.

Switch the speed of the mixer to high and beat until the outside of mixing bowl is cool to the touch. Once correct temperature is achieved, turn the mixer off and take off whisk and fit with beater blade. Switch on the mixer again and set at high speed. Steadily add butter slices to the batter as the mixer is running. After all the butter is blended, reduce speed to medium high and beat for an additional 20 seconds.

Now you will use this batch (or the American Buttercream) to create the cream cheese frosting. Add the vanilla extract and the cubes of cream cheese to the buttercream. Beat until cream cheese is fully incorporated into batter. Pipe frosting onto batter and sprinkle with walnut pieces.

Tips and notes:
1. Buttercream requires refrigeration and cupcakes are best not refrigerated, so I frosted the cupcakes right before serving.

2. If you have chosen the French buttercream, be aware that it is the most unstable of the 2 types of frosting. This is why the recipe contains stabilizers such as guar gum and xanthan gum.

3. The amount of butter in the French buttercream frosting is a personal preference. I only used 1 lb and it still came out delicious with the correct consistency.

4. When making the French buttercream, there is a risk of the buttercream breaking when mixing with the cream cheese. In order to prevent this, make sure your cream cheese is ice cold and solid-not liquidy. Guar gum is the remedy if it breaks, but it is used in such a small quantity, some of us do not keep it on hand.

5. The xanthan gum is also a binding agent, it is more important than the guar gum. It helps bind eggs with water- which is essential to a good buttercream.

6. If the butter is all sliced before the egg mixture has cooled, refrigerate until ready to use.

7. If you want to buy shredded carrots instead of doing the shredding, be aware that the shredded carrots at the grocer have lost a lot of moisture. You can remedy this by soaking them overnight in a bowl of water. Drain before using.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Almond Frangipane Cookies** 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cocoa Snails

The best independent coffeehouses can be found in Europe. Some of the more elite date back to the 1800's and the atmosphere is nothing short of amazing. Going out for a simple cup of coffee turns into an experience that reflects history and elegance. As you walk inside, you will behold red velvet, gold leaf and milk white marble. You can stay on that floor or go one floor up.

Your stay will not just include coffee. To heighten the whole experience, there are delicious pastries that reflect the unique skills of the famous pastry chefs of Paris or Hungary.

I have yet to get to Europe, but visiting some of these coffeehouses are on my bucket list. As you can tell, I have read up on the subject. With that in mind, I bring you this recipe that is a recognized favorite in Budapest, kakaos csiga (cocoa snails).

Do not let the picture fool you, these are nothing like cinnamon rolls. The pastries are a cross between yeast dough and puff pastry. The rolls have a crisp outer edge and a soft interior, unlike yeast rolls. These snails have a deep chocolate flavor and do not contain a lot of sugar-typical of most European recipes. Each round is small, ranging from 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter, making them look more like a cookie than a pastry. The dough is formed by using the laminated dough process of folding and rolling to create layers, making approximately 2 1/2 dozen snails.

Cocoa Snails
adapted from

2 tbs sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup or 2 sticks butter (or more depending on roll out)
4 cups plus 2 tbs flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

4 heaping tbs dutch processed cocoa
7 heaping tbs of sugar
1/4 cup butter

To make the dough, you should start with the butter. The butter, if in the form of sticks, should be sliced vertically and placed in a bowl. Add the 2 tbs of flour and use a pastry cutter to blend the butter with the flour until no more dry streaks remain. Place the lump of butter in between 2 pieces of parchment paper and roll out to a rectangle, approximately 16 x 10 inches. This rectangle is to cover 2/3 of the rolled dough surface. While you prepare the dough, place the butter pad in the refrigerator.

While the butter is chilling, prepare the dough. Heat the milk in the microwave on 15 second intervals, mixing and checking the temperature after each session. Once it registers between 105 to 115 degrees, sprinkle in a pinch of sugar and the yeast. Stir to blend and then set aside for the yeast to react. Once the surface of the mixture becomes foamy, it is ready to incorporate into the flour.

Fill a large bowl with the 4 cups of flour, egg, 2 tbs of sugar, salt and activated yeast. Combine by using a wooden spoon. Once a mass has formed, place on a flat surface dusted with flour. Knead until smooth and elastic. If the dough seems too dry, knead in more milk (one teaspoon at a time) until the proper dough consistency is achieved.

Form the dough into a rectangle, rolling out to approximately 21-24 inches in length by 16-18 inches in width. The longest part of the dough should face towards you, parallel with the length of the counter top. Remove the butter pad from the refrigerator and peel off one layer of the parchment paper. This butter pad is to cover 2/3 of the surface of the dough. Flip the butter rectangle on top of the right side of the dough, with the remaining parchment paper facing up and butter down. Slowly peel the parchment paper off of the butter pad. This should result in 1/3 of the left side of the dough without a buttery surface and the remaining should be covered in butter.

If you have thin places and some does not peel off, take another stick of butter and cut thin vertical slices. Use these slices to spread on dough so the 2/3 section on the right is completely covered. Then fold the left section of dough (the section with no butter) towards the center, covering 1/3 of the buttered section. Then fold the last 1/3 of the buttered section (on the right) over the top of the other, forming a 3 layer stack of dough. It should measure 7-8 inches wide (this side parallel with the counter top) and 16-18 inches in height.

Turn the dough mass 90 degrees. Roll out again to the original size (21-24 by 16-18 inches), placing it lengthwise, parallel with the counter top. Now each side is to be folded in to meet each other. This is called the book method. Then the dough is folded over again at the seam where the two sides meet. Cover in plastic wrap and place on baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes of chill time, follow the instructions on the rolling and folding for the 1/3 sections and then refrigerate again for 30 minutes. Then take out and roll and fold, using the second, or book, method. Wrap and chill again. Repeat this rolling and folding process a second time for each method. Once the last fold is made, do not refrigerate. Instead let the dough rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

During the rest period, preheat the oven to 390 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

For the filling, melt the butter in the microwave and take out a pastry brush. Fill a small bowl with the cocoa and sugar and whisk together. Set aside.

After the dough has rested, roll out to a rectangle (same size as originally stated). Dough should be about 1/4 of an inch thick and the length should be parallel to the counter edge. Brush the surface with the melted butter and then evenly sprinkle the cocoa/sugar blend on top. Roll up the dough tightly, forming a round log with swirls of filling, starting with the longest length. Slice the log into 1/2 inch rounds.

Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, about an inch apart. Bake in the oven until slightly golden, about 13-15 minutes. Remove and let rest on baking sheet for 3 minutes then transfer to rack to completely cool.

Tips and Notes:
1. Whenever you are making laminated dough, the temperature is crucial. The dough and the butter should have the same pliability. Too much heat in the kitchen will cause the butter to start to melt and if too cold, the butter will crack. During the process you may need to refrigerate or leave at room temperature if you experience any of these issues.

2. If you have butter seeping out through the dough when rolled, use a little flour to patch the area.

3. After the last fold of the dough, dust off the excess flour before rolling into a log.

4. Should you want an even fold of dough, cut the edges to form a straight, sharp edge.

5. Insuring that the butter pad is an even rectangle is the most difficult part. If it is not, some of your rolls will be drier than others and not puff as much. They will still taste good, but will not be a perfect example.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Apricot Sweet Rolls** 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

To start the fall season, I have kicked it off with these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. My first dilemma was that I knew the use of pumpkin would produce a cake-like cookie and that was not exactly the texture I was looking for. The cookies needed to have a little bit more substance than that.

This particular recipe amps up the structure of the cookies by using oats and chocolate chips. Even though the main texture is cake like, the oats support a little bit of chewiness. Also, since the chocolate chips remained unchanged in structure, they support a slight crunch.

Regarding the flavor, it reflects the typical essence of pumpkin and pumpkin spice with a touch of chocolate. These gems are a delicious reminder of all the wonderful flavors that fall represents. I am looking forward to this season.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from 

2 eggs (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz honey whiskey
15 oz pumpkin puree
1 cup butter (room temp)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking soda
4 cups flour
2 cups oats
1 tsp salt (optional)
2 cups milk chocolate chips

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining the interior with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place flour, pie spice, baking soda and salt (if using) in a sieve placed over a large bowl. Sift the dry ingredients together into the bowl. Then add the oats and stir until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter. Beat on medium high speed, stopping at intervals until butter becomes slick like frosting. Then switch the speed to medium and add the brown sugar. Beat until fully blended into the butter. Add the regular sugar and beat again, the end result will be a light fluffy mixture.

Incorporate each egg, one at a time, into the batter by mixing on medium speed. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla extract, honey whiskey and pumpkin puree. Once fully mixed, fold in 1/3 of the dry oat/flour blend. Then add half of the remaining blend, mix again and add the last of it, mixing until no dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips, making sure they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Using a small scoop or tablespoon, drop mounds of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown on edges. This should take about 15-20 minutes.
Cookies should rest on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transferred to a cooling rack.

Tips and Notes:
1. Feel free to experiment with the 2 oz liquour addition. Liquour that has fall flavors such as cinnamon, gingerbread and nutmeg would be good paired with the pumpkin.

2. The cookies do not spread much on the pan, so you can bake a lot on each pan.

3. This recipe makes about 8 dozen small cookies, so divide the ingredient quantities if you want to make less.

4. Consider adding 1 cup of chopped toasted pecans and reduce the milk chocolate chips to 1 cup.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Hibiscus Butter Cake** 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Limoncello Bundt Cake

There are many cake recipes out there, but there is one type of cake that stands in a class all of its own - the bundt cake. These type of cakes are more dense and much more flavorful than any layer or sheet cake. Based on that, the bundt cake is prepared and served (quite often) without any icing or glaze.

Recently, our house was gifted with a bottle of a special lemon liqueur that hailed from Italy, Limoncello cream. As we know, all things lemon basically equate to summertime. Since the temperature is starting to wane down, I decided that this Limoncello bundt cake would be the perfect way to say goodbye to the season of long hot days. Summer was fun, but now it is time to bid it farewell until after another spring season.

This bundt cake has 1/4 cup of lemon zest, which gives it a nice clean taste. Also, the flavor of the Limoncello exists as a subtle undertone in every bite. The structure and texture reflects that of the classic standard-moist and with a tight, tender crumb. Now on to the will need a 10 cup capacity bundt pan in order to make this cake.

Limoncello Bundt Cake
adapted from Nordicware 

1/4 cup limoncello
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup of buttermilk
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
4 oz melted white chocolate
1/4 cup lemon zest
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour
1/4 cup bread crumbs (or more for dusting pan)
2 tbs vegetable shortening

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs Limoncello

Start by preparing the bundt pan for baking. Melt the 2 tablespoons of shortening in the microwave. Then, using a silicon brush, brush the interior of the pan. Make sure all the surfaces are well coated. Empty the bread crumbs into the pan and rotate to coat the interior with the crumbs. Once fully coated, set the pan aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Also, prepare a cooling rack by placing over a parchment lined baking sheet.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the 2 1/4 cups of sugar and the butter. Cream together on medium speed, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat the mixture until the consistency reaches a fluffy stage-which should take about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and combine. After that, each egg and egg yolk is to be blended into the mixture, one at a time. Once all the eggs are incorporated, blend in the lemon zest and white chocolate. Set aside.

Using a small bowl, whisk together the Limoncello and the buttermilk. Take out another bowl (medium size) and place a sieve over the top. Fill the sieve with the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Sift the ingredients together, filling the medium size bowl.

Fold 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the butter/sugar batter. Then, mix in 1/2 of the buttermilk/Limoncello blend. Repeat the process-beginning and ending with the sifted ingredients. Empty the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Place filled pan in the oven and bake until tester comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on the prepared cooling rack. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Then invert the cake pan onto the rack, releasing the cake. The cake should cool for about 15 minutes before drizzling the glaze on top.

For the icing glaze, fill a saucepan with the water and sugar. Place over medium high heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved into the water. Remove from heat and whisk in the Limoncello. Drizzle the syrup over the warm cake.

Tips and notes:
1. Make sure your refrigerated ingredients have warmed up to room temperature (yes, this does include the buttermilk)

2. The bread crumb coating creates a nice toasty surface to the cake and insures that it falls out of the pan with no sticking issues. Also, if you are making any type of bundt cake with chocolate, dusting with cocoa is another option. Should you not want a toasty surface for the cake, generously spray the pan with a non stick spray that includes flour.

3. This cake is good sliced and served with cream and fresh fruit.

4. I used a white chocolate bar for the chocolate, but you are welcome to use chips. If using the chips, the melted chocolate can cool some prior to adding to the batter. The bar chocolate, due to its tendency to seize up quickly, should be mixed into the batter as soon as it is melted. 
                                          **2 YEARS AGO: Bali Hai Pie** 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Cherry Almond Eclairs

If you have ever experimented with choux pastry, you will find that it is very forgiving and is very European. If your piping (or forming) of these pastry shells is not so pretty, you can scrape the dough off the parchment and put it back in the piping bag to try again. As far as being European, the shell itself is not very sweet, unlike most American desserts. Most of the sweet flavor stems from the whipped cream filling and icing drizzle on top.

These eclairs bake up nice an airy. They are like houses waiting to be furnished, but a lot cheaper and tastier! You can customize them with your favorite flavored filling and icing. Another plus is that they are fairly easy to make.

The filling in these eclairs have the classic flavor pairing of almond liqueur and cherries, swirled together with two types of cream. Eclairs are not too common in the US, however, they should be on your bucket list as a must try if you have not already experienced this special pastries. This recipe makes about 8-12 eclairs, depending on the width when they are piped/formed.

Cherry Almond Eclairs
adapted from 

Ingredients/choux pastry
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt

2 tbs of powdered sugar
1/2 cup softened marscapone cheese
1/2 cup almond liqueur
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cherries
pinch of salt

2-3 tbs milk or water
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup powdered sugar (sifted)

Start with preparing the guideline sheet for piping the choux dough. Gather together a sheet of parchment paper (big enough to line the bottom interior of a baking sheet), a ruler and a pencil. Using the ruler, draw a straight line parallel and one inch below the long edge of the parchment paper. Drop the ruler down 3 inches from that line and draw another parallel line. Repeat the process below that line, but only drop down 1/2 an inch for one line and then the 3 inches for the next. Then draw again with the same instructions. You should have 3 sections 3 inches wide with a 1/2 inch strip between them. Place this sheet (penciled side down) on the bottom interior of the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a saucepan with the butter, salt and water. Place over medium high heat and let come to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon as the butter melts. At that time, reduce the heat to medium. Empty a cup of flour into the liquid, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend. As you blend the ingredients, the flour will cook. Be sure to mix vigorously so all the lumps disappear, this should take about 2 minutes. The mixture should clump together and leave a very thin sheet of dough sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and fit the mixer with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low which will knead the dough. As the mixer is running, the dough will be cooling off. After about 3-4 minutes, it should reach the desired temperature-being just warm to the touch.

Maintain the same speed and add one egg. The mixing will cause the dough to separate at first, but after a few minutes the mixture will form into a dough again. At that time, switch the mixer speed to medium low and blend the dough for another 20 seconds. Reduce the speed back to low and repeat the same process with the additional eggs, blending one at a time.

Prepare a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch star tip. Empty the dough into the bag and push it down, reducing the air in the bag. Twist the excess part of the bag, so that the dough is compacted towards the star tip. Pipe tight zig zags in the 3 inch sections marked off on the parchment, starting at the top line and spacing about 1/2 an inch apart. You should be able to fit 3-4 pipings of the zig zagged choux dough in each 3 inch section.

Place in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Eclairs are done when they are featherweight and golden brown. Remove pan from oven and transfer the choux shells to a cooling rack.

For the filling, start by adding the almond liqueur and dried cherries to a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and let the mixture heat up. The liquid should get hot to the touch and removed prior to simmering or boiling. Once removed from the heat, let the mixture rest in the saucepan for about an hour or until cool. After this time, place a bowl underneath a sieve and pour the cherry/almond mixture into the seive and strain out all of the liquid. Reserve the almond liquid in a small bowl. Finely chop the cherries, bearing in mind that the pieces have to flow though a 1/2 inch plain piping tip.

Place the bowl of a stand mixer and wire whisk attachment in the refrigerator to chill. Then mix the chopped cherries and the marscapone cheese together in a small bowl until the cherries are evenly distributed. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the reserved almond liquid, blending well. Set aside.

Take the chilled bowl and whisk out of the refrigerator. Attach to the stand mixer and fill with the heavy cream. Run the mixer on medium high speed for 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract, powdered sugar and salt. Beat on medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Separate out 1/2 cup of the cream and blend it into the marscapone/cherry mixture. Add that mixture back into the large bowl of whipped cream and beat again on low speed about 10 seconds. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

As the filling is keeping cold, make the icing. Combine the powdered sugar and water or milk to form a smooth glaze. Set aside.

To assemble the eclairs, fill a pastry bag (fitted with a 1/2 inch round pastry tip) with the chilled cream filling. Twist the end of the bag to get all of the air out. Poke a hole in one end of an eclair shell and squeeze the filling into the hole until cream comes out of the hole (indicating that the shell is filled). Continue this process until all shells are filled. Place the shell back on the parchment paper. Brush the surface of each eclair with the glaze until all crevasses and top surface is covered. Sprinkle each with slivered almonds.

Let set for 1 hour prior to serving, so glaze can harden.

Tips and Notes:

1. I tried to use a large Bismark type of pastry tip to fill the shells and it got clogged. A regular (1/2 round) tip is the best to use.

2. There will be extra pastry filling, so you may want cut the amount of each ingredient in half to start or find a use for the extra.

3. Some of the shells baked up with holes in the side, but it did not cause a major issue. If you do not have the pastry tips, you can slice and sandwich the top and bottom together with the filling. Then you do not have to worry about the holes forming when baked.
                                         **LAST YEAR: Sawmill Toffee**