Sunday, May 29, 2016

Strawberry Hazelnut Tart

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

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

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

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

Strawberry Hazelnut Tart
adapted from the Australian Gourmet Traveler Magazine

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

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

For serving (optional)
cream fraiche
extra chopped strawberries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chocolate Wine Loaf Cake

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate Wine Loaf Cake
adapted from Heather's French Press 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Danish Butter Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

Danish Butter Cookies
adapted from Nordic Food Living 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips and notes:

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

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Southern Cotillion Peach Cake

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

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

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

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

Southern Cotillion Peach Cake
by flourtrader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips and Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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