Monday, January 26, 2015

Figgy Dickens Cookies

For some reason, the idea of figgy pudding has been swirling around in my head. Not really a popular dessert, but it does conjure up visions of Christmas and, of course, the Charles dickens classic - "A Christmas Carol." Anyhow, it was time to get baking and get the idea out of my head.

I decided to use figs in a cookie with a mix of oat as well as regular flour.  The oat flour paired with the figs make these a little bit more healthy than regular cookies. Also, they are more adult and tastier than Fig Newtons. Think about a little chewy cookie with burst of brandy flavor and sweet figs.  Second to that is the occasional crunch of walnuts.  You will not find vanilla extract in the recipe nor any spices such as cinnamon.  I did not want anything to overshadow the brandy soaked figs.

One of the key factors in making these cookies is the temperature.  If the dough is not cold enough they will have a tendency to run all over the pan.  The cookies should have some height to them, about like a ginger snap, so be sure to not skip the freezing step. Also, please allow for the soaking time for the figs when you plan to make these.  This recipe makes about 4- 5 dozen cookies.

Ready for cookie happy hour?  Let's get started....

Figgy Dickens Cookies
created by Floutrader

2 2/3 cup oat flour
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter, room temperature
3/4 cup of chopped dried figs
1/2 cup of brandy
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the fig pieces in a medium shallow bowl, preferably a pasta bowl. Pour in brandy and let sit for a minimum of four hours, so the figs will soften and absorb the brandy.  After soaking, drain off any remaining liquid. Set figs aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and both types of sugar.  Beat at medium speed until fluffy, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and beat to blend for about 30 seconds.  Remove bowl from stand mixer and set aside.

In another bowl, sift together baking soda and both types of flour.  Fold the sifted ingredients into the butter/ sugar mixture.  Then mix in the soaked figs and walnuts.  Scoop out batter and roll into one inch balls.  Then place on cookie sheet 1 1/2 inch apart.  Flatten with you hand so the cookies are about 1 1/2 inches diameter.  One the cookie sheet is full, place sheet in freezer for about 5-7 minutes.

Once the chilling process is complete, transfer cookie sheet to oven and bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Remove and place sheet on cooling rack and let rest for 3 minutes.  Then transfer cookies to a rack to finish cooling.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Gingerbread Whoopie Pies**

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lime in the Coconut Cake

This particular cake gets a lot of its flavor from the glaze.  The coconut lime glaze is actually put on both sides of each layer.  In addition to that, you poke holes to further insure that the great flavor seeps in.The actual cake only has coconut extract and coconut milk in it.  It has good texture and taste but it is very plain tasting without the glaze and frosting, so those additions should not be skipped.

Regarding the recipe itself, it had an error in which the correction note was made after a few reviews came in- the coconut oil was actually supposed to be coconut extract.  I have made the correction in the ingredient list and instructions below.
Yet, there are still a few questions.  Both are regarding "sweetened ingredients".  The recipe listed shredded coconut and coconut milk.  Each of those ingredients have a sweetened or unsweetened version.  Without the answers, I proceeded with 1/2 sweetened and 1/2 unsweetened for the shredded coconut and unsweetened instead of sweetened coconut milk.  A lot of the comments were that the cake was very sweet, so those bakers make have gone "full force" on the sweetened.

Another discovery was that there was way too much glaze.  The glaze makes over 2 full cups, which is a lot.  A glaze should be thin and flow over the cake and dry, not be thick and make a filling by itself.  I chose to use half of the recipe.  Another issue with the glaze is that there is a choice to use sour cream or yogurt.  The sour cream is a thicker consistency than yogurt, so if I make this again I will use yogurt.

Other than those few adjustments, the recipe has tasty results.  Note that the recipe below does not have any of the adjustments as noted in the 3rd and 4th paragraph above.  How sweet and how much glaze should be your preference, but bear in mind that the more glaze the longer it will take to dry before frosting.  Without it drying you will be mixing the glaze with the frosting as you frost the cake.

Lime in the Coconut Cake
adapted from Doreen Howarth found via Food Network

1 cup coconut milk
4 eggs
1 cup butter
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup sour cream or yogurt 
1 cup shredded coconut
zest and juice only of 2 limes
1 cup sugar

1 lb box plus 1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut milk
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups shredded coconut (optional for covering top and sides after frosting)

To begin, grease the interior of 2 nine inch round cake pans.  Then line the bottoms of the interior with parchment paper and grease the face up side.  Dust the interior of each cake pan with flour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the cake batter, add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on medium speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Beat for 1 full minute, so it has a fluffy consistency.  Pull out a small bowl and add one egg.  Pour in 1/2 tsp coconut extract.  Using a fork, scramble the egg in the bowl and then add to the butter/sugar mixture.  Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Do the same with the second egg.  For the 3rd and the fourth egg, add each (one at a time) directly to the batter and beat each into batter for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium size bowl.  Add 1/3 of the sifted ingredients to the batter and stir with a wooden spoon until all is blended.  Then mix in 1/2 cup of coconut milk.  Stir in 1/2 of the remaining sifted ingredients.  Once smooth, add another 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Lastly, blend the rest of the sifted ingredients into the batter.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.  It measures out to a total of about 5 cups, so 2 1/2 cups per pan should be about right.   My batter was fairly thick, so I took a spatula to smooth out the top.  Place filled pans in oven and bake until a tester comes out clean, between 25-28 minutes.

Once baked, remove pans and place pans on cooling rack placed over a baking sheet.  Let cakes cool in pans for about 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto cooling rack and then peel off parchment paper.  Cake will need to cool completely before proceeding.

 To make glaze, mix all ingredients in one bowl until fully combined.  Then poke holes in each of the layers of cooled cake. Spread glaze on tops of each cake. Let the glaze completely dry before proceeding.  This should take anywhere from 1-3 hours.  Once dried, invert cakes and repeat, poking holes and then spreading rest of glaze over top of cakes.  Cover cakes with cake domes and place in refrigerator for 2 hours. When ready, the glaze should be set and no longer sticky.

The last part is the frosting.  Cream together the shortening, butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Then sift in the powdered sugar in increments of 1 cup, beating on low to blend after each addition.   After all the powdered sugar is mixed in, add the coconut milk and extract.  Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Then frost the surface of one of the layers and stack the other on top.  Frost the top and sides as normal. Lastly, you may opt to cover the surface of the frosted cake with sweetened coconut.
                                **LAST YEAR:Cream Bruleed Chocolate Bundt** 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Schnecken/ Pecan Cinnamon Buns

It is a tradition of my mother to make cinnamon rolls at Christmas for breakfast. These rolls are light and airy, filled with cinnamon and nuts. However, there are other households which take the tradition to a sweeter level by having the cinnamon rolls topped with a sticky sweet caramel and toasted pecans.

In comparison, these have more of a pastry than "bread-like" quality to the dough when baked up.  While less filling than bread, each serving does hit the mark for your sweet tooth.  Instead of just cinnamon lovers, these rolls will have your pecan pie lovers taking notice.

I found the rolls quite easy to make. The dough did not require a lot of shaping and kneading.  Outside of the rise time, it is just a matter of rolling up the dough like a jelly roll and slicing.  Also, these rolls fell out of the pan easily when inverting and came out without leaving a lot of topping still sticking to the pan.  Topping in the pan is something I did not want to have to tangle with, so I was happy to see it in its rightful place.

The other good point about these rolls are that they can be prepared the night before and placed in the refrigerator. Follow everything as directed up to the end of the 40 minute rise time. Then cover and place in refrigerator. The next morning, remove pan from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for about 1 hour. Then bake as directed.

Schnecken/Pecan Cinnamon Buns
adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients/ Dough
1 cup milk
1 egg and 1 yolk
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (more for greasing pan and bowl)
1 tbs active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt or 3/4 tsp regular salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
5 tbs sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark-not specified)
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 or 1 1/2 sticks butter
1/4 cup corn syrup

1 cup sugar
1 tbs cinnamon

The first step to making the dough is to melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once melted, pour in the milk and then add the sugar.  Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until there is no longer a grainy feeling when scraping the bottom of the saucepan, which means the sugar has all dissolved.  The ideal temperature for this is 110 degrees, so test the temperature with a candy thermometer and let cool or heat further according to the temperature it registers.

At the idea temperature, pour mixture in a heat proof bowl.  Sprinkle in the yeast and stir, making sure it is mixed evenly without clumps. Let rest 10 minutes and then stir in the salt.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, place the egg and yolk and mix with a fork until all is blended.  Pour into the yeast batter and mix.  After the egg and yolk are thoroughly mixed in, prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour.  Then add 1 cup of flour to the batter and stir.  Continue to add the flour in one cup increments until 3 cups have been incorporated, stirring mixture after each addition.  Check for the consistency of the dough, it should be sticky.  Reserve the rest of the flour for dusting and kneading.

Place the dough on the prepared flat surface and knead about 5 times.  Your dough should now be smooth and elastic.  Butter the interior of a large bowl and a 9 x13 inch glass pan.  Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bottom of the prepared bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until tripled in volume, which should take about 2 hours.

During the last 1/2 hour of rising time, prepare the topping.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Then stir in the corn syrup and brown sugar.  Let thicken a little and remove from heat.  You will notice that there is some excess butter that does not blend in.  It is okay, the excess is what enables the saucepan to be cleanly emptied along with the pan when inverted.

Pour brown sugar mixture into the prepared pan and let run to the edges evenly.  Then sprinkle on the chopped pecans, being careful not to get too close to the edge.  The ones close to the edge will most likely fall off the outer edge of the rolls.  No worries though, these as well as topping spill over can be easily scooped up and placed on top of the rolls when inverted.  However, should you need to do this, do not delay after removing the glass pan or the mixture will set up and make it more difficult. After filling with topping, set pan aside.

Prepare the filling by mixing the cinnamon and sugar together.  Then melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool.

Once dough has risen, punch down and then place on flat surface dusted with flour.  Roll dough out to the size of 12x15 inches with an even thickness.  Brush with the melted butter and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface. Press into the butter lightly with a spatula and make sure all is damp.  Dry cinnamon sugar will have a tendency to spill out when the dough is cut.

Take the longest edge and start rolling up.  Should you have any issues with sticking, use a bench scraper to ease it off the surface.  Roll the dough into a long cylinder with the seam facing down.  Then slice vertically into 12-14 inch pieces approx 1 inch thick.  Place each piece, cut side up, evenly in the pan.  Remember that these will rise some more, so do not place them too tightly together.   Tear off enough plastic wrap to cover pan.  Oil one side of plastic wrap and cover pan of rolls with the oil side face down.  Let rise in a warm place for about 40-50 minutes.

10 minutes prior to rise time completion, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  After the rising time, uncover rolls and place pan in oven and bake for 17 minutes.  Then rotate pan and bake for another 17-20 minutes.  Check periodically to make sure they are not getting too brown.  If so, place aluminum foil over pan (do not fold tightly around edges but just let set on top loosely) and continue to bake.

Remove pan and place over rack and let rolls rest for 10 minutes.  During this time, line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper.  After the 10 minutes have expired, invert the rolls on the paper lined baking sheet.  The easiest and cleanest way to do this is to hold the baking sheet with the paper inside and place face down on top of the glass dish.  Then grip the handles of the baking dish along with the baking sheet edges and invert.  Then lift glass pan off of rolls.

Serve warm and enjoy.
                                  **LAST YEAR: Kiwi Pomegranate Angel Pies**

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Candy Bar Tart

I am always excited to see a recipe that steers away from the tried and true.  The first thing that pops into our head when we think of tarts is fruit.  Nothing wrong with that, fruit and cream make for a wonderful filling to a sweet shortbread crust.  Besides fruit, recipes for the rich chocolate filled tarts come up now and again. However, this one caught my eye.  This recipe replicates the flavors of a long time favorite candy bar- Milky Way.

The crust is pretty much the standard, but the filling is unique.  As you know, the candy bar has a ribbon of caramel in it.  To support this flavor ingredient, the bottom part of the pastry crust is covered in caramel and the top is drizzled as well.  The fluffy nougat is imitated with the whipped cream filling flavored with melted chocolate.  Then the dessert imitation does take a unique turn with the addition of instant coffee added to the whipped cream. Lastly, milk chocolate curls dust the top.

This is another light and fluffy one with some very rich flavors.  Whipped cream is used in a lot of pastries and I think that this filling is very versatile. It would be an excellent filling for cream puffs or as a top layer to a chocolate cream pie or even an ice cream pie. 

The assembly comes together quite quickly.  However, the filling and the caramel require hours of cooling, so prepare those a day in advance and make the crust the day you plan to serve.

Candy Bar Tart
adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang

Ingredients/Mousse Filling
5 oz milk chocolate chips
2 tsp instant coffee powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbs melted butter
3/4 cup sugar

10 inch tart shell, baked (see previous post sweet pastry project, it uses a flan pan but tart pan will do)
4 " slab of milk chocolate at room temp, for chocolate curl topping.

Start making the mousse by pouring the cream and adding the coffee powder to a saucepan.  Stir on medium heat until coffee powder dissolves.  Then turn up to medium high and let mixture come to a scalding temperature.  It has reached the right temperature when you see bubbles form around the edge of the inside of pan.  Watch closely so it does not burn.  Remove from heat.

Fill a heat proof bowl with chocolate chips.  Slowly pour the hot cream mixture over the chips.  Let sit undisturbed for about 1 minute.  Then whisk mixture until all the chocolate is melted and blended.  The mixture should have the same hue as the nougat in a milky way bar.  Strain mixture into another heat proof bowl and mix in salt.  Cover tightly and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours up to a maximum of 3 days.

For the caramel layer, fill a saucepan with the sugar.  Pour in the water slowly and mix until all the sugar is moistened.  Place over medium high heat and leave undisturbed to boil for about 3-4 minutes.  Then you will see the color change.  The mixture will start to darken.  As soon as you see a color change, swirl the pan to make sure it cooks evenly.  Keep swirling and cooking until mixture reaches a deep amber color. 

Remove from heat and pour in the heavy cream.  Let it bubble and steam.  Once it dies down, place the pan back over the heat, but this time at medium temperature.  Whisk constantly as the mixture cooks.  It will start to thicken and mixture will start to stick to spoon in a solid mass.  You want the mixture thicker than honey and thinner than peanut butter. This will take about 2-3 minutes.  Lastly, whisk in the vanilla and the butter. Remove pan and pour into a heat proof bowl.  Cover tightly and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours and a maximum of 1 week.

After the chilling time is completed, take out the bowl of caramel from the refrigerator.  Smooth 3/4 of the caramel on the bottom of prepared tart.  I had to get mine slightly warm again to smooth easily.  Set aside.

Remove mousse filling from refrigerator and empty into a bowl of a stand mixer.  Whip on medium speed until soft peaks form.  Spoon out the mousse into the prepared crust, smoothing the top so it is all even.  Drizzle the top with the remaining caramel.  Then, hold the chocolate bar over the top of the dessert and make chocolate curls by using a vegetable peeler, covering the surface as even as possible.  Once complete, let dessert chill about 30 minutes prior to serving.

This is best served and eaten within 8 hours.  Store in airtight container in refrigerator.
                           **LAST YEAR: Evergreen Shortbread Cookies**