This week's TWD was chosen by the fabulous Wendy of Pink Stripes: rum-drenched vanilla cakes. We've made a few of Dorie's rum desserts now and I've found that Dorie likes rum a lot more than I do so I knew I'd be cutting back significantly on that ingredient. I guess I'm just not a big rum fan in general, with one exception -- pina coladas!! I absolutely love them, but it's probably been years since I had one. It tends to be more of a tropical vacation drink option for me and it's been a while since Shane and I have had a chance to go somewhere warm and sunny and just sit on the beach. Hopefully we'll be remedying that problem this fall, but more on that another time.
I was psyched to discover just how easy this recipe was when I opened the book. No mixer, no butter to bring to room temperature....I was a happy camper! I ended up making 1/3 of the recipe because the math worked out easily that way (well, sort of - I should say the eggs and butter were easily divisible by 3, the flour was a bit more tricky). Dorie bakes the cake in a loaf pan, but I took the opportunity to get some more use out of my mini bundt pan and had just enough batter for 4 little cakes. Aside from cutting back on the rum in the cakes (I used about 1/6 of the amount the recipe called for), I also skipped the syrup that is brushed on the cakes when they come out of the oven. My mini bundts baked for about 25 minutes, but that was probably a few minutes more than they needed as I wasn't paying close enough attention to them.
The verdict? Not a new favorite, but still tasty. I think I made a mistake not brushing the cakes with syrup as mine seemed a bit dry. The flavors were nice though so maybe I'll give them another shot some day. For now though, I bet a big scoop of ice cream on top will be just the thing to fix my cakes! Thanks to Wendy for hosting this week! You can find the recipe on her blog or on page 226 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
This week's SMS was chosen by Gloria of The Ginger Snap Girl, who not too surprisingly went with gingersnaps! We had a super busy weekend, but I found a few minutes to whip these up in between running errands. I halved the recipe and still wound up with about 2 dozen cookies. As I baked them, I was transported back about 6 months to the time when I was baking with molasses and spices like ginger, cinnamon and allspice a lot more often! The house smelled wonderful as always, I love these scents which remind me of fall/winter and the holidays.
The recipe calls for refrigerating the dough for the cookies for an hour before portioning and baking them. I chilled mine for at least that long then spaced them on the cookie sheet as directed and popped them in the oven. When I turned on the light to check on them about 2/3 of the way thru the baking time, I was not thrilled to discover they'd spread and all baked together into one giant, misshapen cookie. For the next batch, I put fewer cookies on the baking sheet and had better luck, though they still spread quite a bit, so I'm guessing if the book had included a photo for this recipe we'd have seen thin cookies. While I prefer thicker cookies, I still really enjoyed these. They were soft and chewy, and the molasses flavor wasn't too overpowering. I skipped the white pepper (I've tried it before in other recipes and just prefer my desserts to be pepper-less). These don't take over the top spot from my go-to ginger cookies, but a good one for sure!
Thanks to Gloria for hosting this week! You can find the recipe for the gingersnaps on her blog or on pages 64-65 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
Let me start by saying thank you to all of you who wished me well in my new job. It was wonderful to have so many friends leave kind words of support and encouragement here! I survived the first day and am so psyched that tomorrow is already Friday. Nothing like a two day work week to ease back into things, right? What is everyone up to this weekend? We have a wedding to attend, errands to run, and the World Cup and tennis to watch - should be a good one!
Before I knew I'd be going back to work I'd made a batch of these muffins and stuck them in my freezer for a quick breakfast. Little did I know just how handy they'd be a few weeks later! I grabbed one on my way out the door today and, along with some blueberries I'd also packed, I had a great breakfast on the train. I love the combination of flavors in these muffins. The bananas are the dominant flavor (my bananas were extra ripe having been pulled from the freezer) with the oats mostly contributing texture to the muffins. I didn't think the peanut butter flavor was especially strong and I found myself wanting more so I took Nicole's suggestion to top the muffins with just a bit of peanut butter and thought it was the perfect touch! The recipe is made entirely by hand so it's quick and easy and since I now know the muffins are delicious from the freezer (I took them out to defrost the night before and they were all set by the morning), I'll be turning to them often this summer.
Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins
from Baking Bites
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2-3 medium bananas)
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line your muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Whisk together the vegetable oil, brown sugar, eggs, mashed banana, peanut butter and buttermilk in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir to combine just until the flour is incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each just about up to the top.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes then remove the muffins from tin and cool completely on a wire rack.
Makes 12 muffins
Change. It's in the air this week. Monday brought with it a change of seasons - the first day of summer! I love all four of our seasons here in New England so I really can't say that summer is my favorite, but it certainly has some sweet attributes. Baseball games, long days (sunsets as late as 8:30 pm excite me more than I could possibly put into words), the beach, grilling...I could go on and on but let's focus on grilling for a minute. We do a lot of it in the summer and I'm always trying to find new recipes for side dishes to accompany our proteins. I made this potato salad to serve at our Father's Day lunch this past weekend and it was a hit. It had lots of flavor and was well dressed, but not swimming in mayonnaise like many other versions of potato salad. Safe to say it's a definite repeat here this summer!
Change is also coming to our lives in a second way this week. Tomorrow I head back to work after
All-American Potato Salad
from More Best Recipes by the editors of Cook's Illustrated
2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 medium), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 medium celery rib, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (optional)
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then add 1 tablespoon of salt and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer, stirring once or twice until the potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the potatoes or they will break apart in the salad.
Drain the potatoes then put them in a large bowl. Add the vinegar and, using a rubber spatula, toss gently to combine (the potatoes may crumble a bit, don't worry). Let the potatoes stand until they are just warm (about 20 minutes) or even completely cool.
In a small bowl stir together the mayo, celery, relish, onion, parsley, dry mustard, celery seed, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dressing and eggs (if you're using them) into the potatoes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least one hour. The potato salad can be made a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes: dressy chocolate loafcake. The chocolate loafcake is split horizontally into layers, filled with raspberry jam, and then topped with a chocolate/sour cream frosting. The combination of chocolate and raspberry sounded delicious to me, but there was no way Shane was going to touch it, so as I often do, I modified things a bit so I wouldn't wind up having to eat the dessert all by myself.
I halved the recipe and thanks to a suggestion from Mary Ann over on the P&Q's, I made jumbo cupcakes. The half recipe yielded four of them and they baked in about 30 minutes. I was skeptical about the chocolate/sour cream frosting combo and feeling lazy, so the cupcakes remained bare. I delivered Shane's lunch to him at his office yesterday and brought him one of the cupcakes, still warm from the oven, as dessert. An hour or so later I got an email thanking me and letting me know it was very tasty! Good news as I planned to ask him to eat 2 of the remaining 3 sitting on the counter at home.
As for that final cupcake? I did as Dorie directed and cut it into three layers, filling them with the raspberry jam, and spreading a little more on top for good measure. Still no frosting, but instead a huge dollop of whipped cream. It was the perfect snack and I enjoyed it while we watched the most recent episode of The Next Food Network Star last night (our early favorite is Aarti - so warm and interesting and oh, that accent, I could listen to her talk for hours!). The cake was very tender and rich, and though the jam layers were thin, the raspberry flavor was wonderful with the chocolate.
Thanks to Amy for hosting this week! You can find the recipe on her blog or on pages 286-287 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
This week's SMS was chosen by Debbie of Cafe Chibita: chestnut honey madeleines. It's been a really busy few days here and honestly, I'm just exhausted, so these madeleines almost didn't happen. I had all the ingredients on hand though, and my madeleine pan is so infrequently utilized I couldn't help but make a little time to whip these cookies up.
Turns out, it took me quite a bit of time to get this batter together. The recipe calls for roasted hazelnuts and for some reason, when I bought hazelnuts many months ago I bought the ones in the shell with the skins on. I don't have a fancy gadget to crack the nuts, so I spent yesterday afternoon standing over my kitchen counter with a meat mallet trying to free my hazlenuts from their shells. It works, but it's loud and messy (think pieces of hazelnut shells strewn all over). Once I finished that task, I roasted the nuts at 350 F for about 10 minutes then rubbed the skins off of them before finally grinding them in the food processor to make a coarse flour.
The rest of the recipe was considerably easier. The hazelnut flour, more confectioners' sugar and some all-purpose flour are combined with egg whites that have been whipped until foamy as well as a bit of honey (I used clover honey). Finally, browned butter is added to the bowl to complete the batter (I left the solids in my brown butter - extra flavor!). The molds are filled and then have to be refrigerated for a few hours before they're baked. After all the time I spent putting the batter together, I was disappointed to find my madeleines already on the brink of burning before the minimum baking time suggested in the book. I'm generally very attentive to things in the oven, but we were outside doing yard work so I was running in and out and at about 12 minutes my madeleines looked, well, like you see in the photos. I hid some of the darker ones on the bottom so those are the good ones that are visible.
Hazelnuts aren't really my thing, so I wasn't shocked I didn't love the madeleines. They were too nutty for me. That said, I served them at the Father's Day lunch we hosted today and they seemed to be well received. No rave reviews, but I did see one or two people go back for seconds so I think it's safe to say they liked them. Many thanks to Debbie for hosting this week! She will share the recipe on her site or you can find it on pages 62-63 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
I don't make cookies all that often, though I'm not sure why since they're so easy. I suspect it has something to do with my inability to walk by a plate of cookies without grabbing one. They are the perfect portable snack - you don't need a plate, or a knife to cut a slice, they're generally not very messy - in other words, irresistible. I took away most of the temptation this time by making chocolate cookies, which really don't appeal to me in the same way as say a peanut butter or chocolate chip cookie. I snuck one from the cooling rack to sample, but as soon as they were cool, I wrapped the remaining cookies up (amazingly a thin sheet of plastic wrap IS a deterrent for me) and sent them off to work with Shane.
This recipe is quick and easy, using ingredients you likely have sitting in your pantry. The chocolate flavor in the cookies comes from both melted chocolate and cocoa powder as well as chocolate chunks that stud each cookie. The only thing I'd advise is that you want to be careful not to beat too much air into the cookie dough; mix the ingredients only until combined and then stop. Also, the cookies will seem soft when they're done baking, but don't worry, they firm up as they cool. You don't want to overbake them. While I'm not a big fan of chocolate cookies, I did love the wonderfully chewy texture of these cookies! I've been told they were a big hit with Shane's coworkers too, so this recipe will definitely be a repeat here.
Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies
from Martha Stewart
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate (4 ounces coarsely chopped, 4 ounces cut into 1/4-inch chunks)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
Place the coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir frequently until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth.
Transfer this chocolate mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl then beat on medium speed just until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing only until incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate chunks.
Use a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop to portion out the dough placing the cookies about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies are almost flat and the surfaces begin to crack. Transfer the parchment to wire racks. Let cool 5 minutes then transfer cookies to the racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
A few days ago King Arthur Flour posted a link to this no fuss focaccia on their Facebook page. I've made a ton of yeast bread since I started cooking and baking, but never focaccia. Or maybe I should clarify and say I've never successfully made focaccia. I tried once, but it was a complete disaster - the dough was quite fluid and somehow I was supposed to fold it on a work surface; instead, it crept uncontrollably across my counter and onto the floor. That experience lingers in the back of my mind, and has kept me from attempting focaccia again...until now.
KAF's Facebook post included a gorgeous photo of their focaccia and a short one sentence description of the recipe that made me believe it might just be possible to whip this bread up. In fact, I was so excited about the possibility that I was in my kitchen attempting it the next day! I discovered they weren't kidding - this bread was beyond simple to make. Water, extra virgin olive oil, salt, yeast and flour were combined in my stand mixer, beaten for 1 minute to make a dough, transferred to the baking pan where the dough rose over the course of an hour and finally, baked for 40 minutes. In other words, from the time I started until the time I took my first bite of the focaccia, less than 2 hours had passed. Admittedly, I worried the entire time that this was too good to be true and there was no way the bread could live up to my expectations but with so few ingredients and such a small investment of my time, I just had to find out for myself.
As you may have guessed by now, this bread was phenomenal! I absolutely loved it, ranking it right up there amongst my favorite homemade breads. The crust was golden and crisp while the interior was tender and just slightly chewy. I was surprised by how wonderfully flavorful the focaccia was given the speed of the recipe. My bread was topped simply with an Italian seasoning mix, but the flavor possibilities are only limited by your imagination. The folks at KAF suggested a cheese-stuffed version, which may just be next on my list. Even if you've never made yeast bread, this one is so foolproof it's definitely worth a try!
No Fuss Focaccia
from King Arthur Flour
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 teaspoons Italian seasoning mix
Spray a 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray then drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the bottom of the pan.
Place the water, olive oil, salt, flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute. The dough will be smooth, elastic and sticky.
Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan. With oil or water on the tip of your fingers (don't use more flour, you want the dough to remain sticky), press the dough into the bottom of the pan, nudging to get it all the way into the corners. Cover the pan and let the dough rise for about 60 minutes, or until it is puffy.
While the dough rises, preheat oven to 375 F.
Once risen, uncover the pan and use your fingers to make dimples all over the dough (you may need a bit of oil on your fingers if the dough is too sticky). Drizzle the dough lightly with olive oil and sprinkle it with the Italian seasoning.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, then turn the focaccia out of the pan (otherwise the bottom crust will get soggy). Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yep, I'm back with a second post today. It's hard enough for me to get up one post a day, never mind two, but Tuesdays with Dorie and the Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club both fell on the same day this month and I didn't want to skip either so let's get to it! This month's MSC recipe was selected by Sherry of Sherry Starts Cooking: strawberry cupcakes. The strawberries are gorgeous right now so it was a perfect seasonal selection. Plus, my mom has a serious love for strawberry cupcakes so I knew exactly who I'd share them with!
As I tried to figure out how to scale this recipe I was talking to Kayte about my biggest problem with Martha's book - the yields for the recipes are so darn high. This recipe makes 34 cupcakes and while there are certainly occasions where you might want 34 cupcakes, I think it's the exception rather than the rule. In any case, I wound up deciding to make 1/3 of the recipe (motivated mainly by my desire to only dirty one cupcake tin). I was working with a limited pantry (I wasn't at home) when I made these cupcakes and didn't have cake flour on hand. I remembered having seen a trick for making it using cornstarch and all-purpose flour so that's just what I did. Basically you substitute 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for 2 tablespoons of flour per cup of flour you're using, then sift them like crazy to make sure the cornstarch is mixed in really well.
I wound up with 11 cupcakes and topped them with freshly whipped cream instead of the strawberry meringue buttercream suggested. I didn't notice it when I was taking the photos of the cupcakes, but as I edited them, it struck me that the whipped cream looks like a cone of soft serve vanilla ice cream on my cupcakes!
I liked the cupcakes - the strawberries kept them moist and I really didn't even think they needed frosting. That said, they weren't a favorite so probably not a repeat here - as much as I love strawberries, something about strawberries in cupcakes just doesn't work for me. My mom enjoyed them though, and since she's the resident expert on strawberry cupcakes, take my opinion with a grain of salt. Lots of thanks to Sherry for her selection this month! We don't post the recipes in this group, but I did a little scouring on Martha's website to dig it up for you - find it here - or on pages 146-147 of Martha Stewart's Cupcakes.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Susan of Food.Baby: raisin swirl bread. I adore all homemade bread, but cinnamon-raisin bread has a special place in my heart. It makes the best breakfast, toasted with just a little bit of butter! Last year I made raisin swirl bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice and it's still my favorite homemade bread, so Dorie's recipe had some competition.
I made just a few minor changes to this week's recipe. I used instant yeast instead of active dry yeast and reduced the quantity to about 1 3/4 teaspoons. The optional vanilla and nutmeg made it into my bread as they both sounded wonderful, but I skipped the orange zest - only because I didn't have any on hand and didn't feel like going out. For the swirl, I halved the cocoa powder as I didn't want the chocolate flavor to be too prominent. I loved that Dorie's recipe was fairly simple - I enjoy working with yeast to make homemade bread, but I don't often have patience for recipes that you have to start days in advance or those that include 5 pages of instructions.
The verdict? The bread was good - I had no problem polishing the loaf off myself. I individually wrapped slices and pulled them out for breakfast many, many mornings. The swirl was yummy, lots of raisins and just a hint of chocolate to complement the cinnamon. My only problem with the bread was that it was a bit dry. I wish it had been lighter and not quite as dense. The recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice remains my favorite, but I still enjoyed this one a lot and felt bummed when I retrieved the final slice from the freezer.
Many thanks to Susan for hosting this week! You can find the recipe for the raisin swirl bread on her blog or on pages 59-60 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
I've professed my love for ice cream (especially the homemade variety) several times recently so it's probably not terribly shocking that I'm sharing yet another ice cream recipe today. This flavor, though, is WAY out of my comfort zone. About 99% of the times we go out for ice cream I order mint chocolate chip - it's my go-to and I love it so much I don't usually see any reason to try something else. I'm not sure if that makes me unadventurous or boring, but I'm ok with either when it comes to my ice cream. When I make ice cream at home, I usually stick to vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter or some combination of the three, mainly because those are the flavors Shane will help me eat. That said, there have been a few exceptions - most notably, this lemon curd ice cream which blew my mind the first time I made it and still remains a favorite.
I decided to make the tiramisu ice cream primarily because I had a container of mascarpone in the fridge that needed to be used and I wanted to make something simple and preferably sweet, not savory. This ice cream is made simply by combining mascarpone, half and half, sugar, salt and alcohol and whirring them in the food processor, so it's the perfect recipe for those days when you want homemade ice cream but don't feel like tempering eggs or making a custard. The only problem I ran into was that my ice cream froze (and I use that word loosely here) quite soft. In fact, I'd say it was barely soft serve texture when it was done churning. There's a fair amount of alcohol (which doesn't freeze) in the recipe so no doubt that played a role here. A bit of time in the freezer remedied the problem though the ice cream still melted more quickly than most I've made.
I didn't expect to like the ice cream as much I did so it was a pleasant surprise! It was very reminiscent of the dessert itself. I found it quite rich and while the alcohol wasn't overpowering it definitely made its presence known. I was glad I stepped out of my comfort zone for this one and can definitely see myself making it again this summer. So, now I'm curious - are you adventurous when it comes to ice cream or do you order the same thing every time you go out like me?
Tiramisu Ice Cream
from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
2 cups (450 g) mascarpone
1 cup (250 ml) half-and-half
2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) coffee-flavored liqueur, such as Kahlua
3 tablespoons (45 ml) brandy or dark rum
mocha ripple (recipe below)
In the bowl of a food processor, puree the mascarpone, half-and-half, sugar, salt, liqueur, and brandy until smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Chill the mixture thoroughly in your refrigerator before churning in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. As you remove the ice cream from your machine, alternate layers of the mocha ripple with the ice cream in your storage container.
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) light corn syrup
1/2 cup strongly brewed espresso
6 tablespoons (50 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, espresso, and cocoa powder. Put the pan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges. Continue to whisk until the mixture just comes to a low boil, then cook for 1 minute more, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. Chill the mocha ripple thoroughly in your refrigerator before using. It will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge if covered.
This week's SMS was chosen by Ellen of Blue Tree Green Heart: chocolate orange macaroons. After having spent two glorious weeks house sitting for my in-laws, I returned home on Friday and these macaroons had the honor of being the first thing I baked in my own kitchen. As I mentioned the other day, my in-laws have a wonderful kitchen with lots of counter space so it wasn't tough being there, but there's just something so comforting and familiar about being back in the place I know so well.
These macaroons were a terrific recipe to ease me back into the swing of things at home. With an ingredient list containing only 5 items and instructions that didn't call for any equipment besides a bowl and my hands, it was almost perfect. The one exception was the dreaded "finely chop the chocolate" instruction, the one thing I detest more than just about anything else when it comes to baking. Once I got past that hurdle, though, it was smooth sailing.
I wonder though if I was the only one who was concerned just a bit about mixing the entire recipe by hand. The final step calls for adding egg whites to the finely chopped chocolate, sugar, orange zest and coconut and using your hands to distribute them evenly. I had visions of unevenly mixed dough that wouldn't hold together because of my inability to coat everything with the egg whites. My fears seemed unfounded at first as I found it surprisingly easy to distribute the egg whites. As I began to scoop the dough, however, I noticed the cookies weren't staying together as well as I'd have liked. I reshaped several of them, trying to pack the dough as best I could with my VERY sticky hands. A few of my cookies fell apart in the oven so I guess I didn't pack them well enough! Most of them did stay together though so I can't complain too much.
I made half of this recipe (weighing the egg whites and using 45 g as the total weight) and wound up with 12 macaroons. I used the zest of an entire orange instead of halving it so my macaroons would have lots of orange flavor. As for the chocolate, I used a 60% bittersweet - it was the closest I had on hand to the 58% semisweet called for in the recipe. Though I do like coconut, I have to confess that I'm not much of a macaroon person. I'll be sharing these with my mom on Monday, but in the interest of having something to say about the macaroons in this post, I took a few bites of one of them. They were chewy and quite sweet, though the sweetness was tempered a bit by the bittersweet chocolate. The orange flavor was really prominent in mine, but since I used double the amount of orange zest, that wasn't terribly shocking nor was it a bad thing. Citrus zest is yummy! I'll reserve judgment as to whether the recipe is worthy of a repeat until I get some feedback from my mom, hopefully she'll enjoy them!
Many thanks to Ellen for hosting this week! She will have the recipe on her blog, or you can find it on page 74 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
It's finally Friday, which seems like as good a time as any to confess that I've been holding out on you guys... I made these scones for the Mother's Day brunch I hosted over a month ago and I had really hoped to share them with you sooner. It's rare that I wait more than a week to post something on the blog once I make it because I've got a terribly memory and the details start to get fuzzy after a few days. I wasn't thrilled with the photos of the scones though, and I had hoped to make them again, get some better shots and then post. As the days turned into weeks it became obvious that I may not get around to making the scones again anytime soon (so many recipes, so little time!) and I didn't want this recipe to linger in my drafts folder forever. So, here they are! These scones were the most popular item at our brunch and for good reason. They're wonderfully light and tender and just slightly sweet. They can be prepared in no time in your food processor, or by hand in just a few minutes more if you don't have a food processor. If you brush your scones with the cream before baking, it will aid in the browning process - I skipped the cream, which is why mine are so light in color. Either way, they're still just as delicious so you can't go wrong!
Lemon Blueberry Scones
from The New Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated Magazine
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen, but not thawed)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the cubes of butter to the bowl and use your fingers (carefully) to coat the butter with the flour mixture and distribute it evenly. Process using one-second pulses until the mixture requires coarse meal (about 12 pulses) then transfer to a large bowl. Add the blueberries and gently toss to mix. Stir in the heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until the dough begins to come together, about 30 seconds.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead by hand just until it comes together in a rough, slightly sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds.
Gently press the ball of dough into an 8-inch circle. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 8 wedges and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. If you want to glaze the scones, brush the tops with the cream and then sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake until the scones are light brown, about 12-15 minutes (the scones won't get much color without the glaze). Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.
When it comes to grocery shopping, two things I really love are coupons and my local warehouse club (BJ's for those on the east coast). I'm pretty frugal and both of these things help me to get great deals. Well, most of the time anyway... Sometimes, the excitement over using coupons causes me to do dumb things. Things like convincing myself that I need to buy an enormous container of whole-milk ricotta at BJ's because I have a coupon and it'd be a great deal! That's the downside to the warehouse club, especially with a family of only two people - you really need to be conscious not to buy more than you can use. Clearly I wasn't this time so I found myself with this huge container of ricotta and in desperate need of recipes.
I turned to some of my cookbooks from the Italian chef herself, Giada de Laurentiis, because I knew she was bound to have some ideas for all of the ricotta. Sure enough, lots of options! I'd actually tried (and loved) Giada's lemon ricotta cookies last year so I was intrigued when I saw this pound cake, yet another dessert recipe that used ricotta. The pound cake is flavored with lemon zest (Giada used orange zest but I only had lemons in the house) and Amaretto (an almond-flavored liqueur). Both flavors were subtle but lovely in this dense, moist cake. Macerated strawberries added a sweet, colorful finishing touch to the cake. I had to bake my cake about an extra 10-12 minutes beyond the time recommended in the recipe, so you really want to be sure to test the middle well before pulling the cake from the oven. Also, you aren't going to want to use a loaf pan smaller than the one indicated if you're making the full recipe or you may well end up with cake batter all over your oven. Some of the reviewers over at Food Network suggested a bundt pan for this recipe, which I think would also work well.
Ricotta Lemon Pound Cake with Strawberries
adapted from Giada's Kitchen by Giada de Laurentiis
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
3 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Amaretto
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl whisk the cake flour, baking powder and salt to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and Amaretto and mix until combined. A little at a time, add the dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, place the strawberries in a small bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit until the juices have pooled around the strawberries.
To serve, slice the cake and serve with a spoonful of strawberries and their juices over the top of the cake.
This week's TWD was chosen by the fabulous Cathy of The Tortefeasor: tender shortcakes. Cathy does it all - wife, mother, lawyer, baker-extraordinaire and she does it with wit and humor. Her blog is one of my favorites so head on over and check it out. You can find this week's recipe while you're there or, if you happen to have Dorie's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, flip to page 423 to give this one a try.
Making the shortcakes was a lot like making biscuits, meaning it was simple but scared me a bit. I haven't had great luck with biscuits in the past but having had good results with the last recipe I tried, I was hopeful. Though Dorie provided instructions for making the shortcakes by hand, I liked the mixer method I learned from Ina Garten so I used it here (speaking of Ina - did anyone see the episode of Barefoot Contessa recently where she made Jeffrey a special birthday dinner? How cute are they?). Flour, baking powder, salt and sugar are combined then the butter is cut in before finally adding heavy cream to the mix. I made 1/4 of the recipe and wound up with 5 shortcakes, using just slightly less dough than Dorie recommended to shape each one.
To be honest, the shortcakes weren't much to look at when they came out of the oven. They were rustic and unassuming and I wasn't sure what to expect. Mine even got a bit darker on the bottom than I'd have liked and I dare say I was worried they might be a little dry. Of course, the addition of macerated strawberries and freshly whipped cream pretty much guaranteed these would be a hit regardless. Turns out I shouldn't have doubted Dorie - as much as I adore berries and whipped cream, the shortcakes were absolutely the star of this dessert. They were incredibly light and tender, with just the right touch of sweetness. I enjoyed them so much, in fact, that I ate a majority of mine plain. It's pretty exciting to have found this fabulous recipe at the start of berry season - no doubt this is one I'll be turning to frequently this summer! Thanks for a great pick Cathy!
Though I have mentioned it on Twitter, I don't think I've told you all that I'm currently house sitting for Shane's parents. The past few times they've gone away they've asked me to watch their house, and I know they think I'm doing them a favor, but really, it's not a hardship for me. They're close to the beach, they have cute kitties and they've got double (or more) the counter space I work with at home - what's not to love? Actually, here's the one downside: not enough people to foist treats on. I can't send things to work with Shane nor can I easily pass them along to my mom, and since I don't know any of their neighbors I don't feel terribly comfortable trying to give my baked goods to them (I know I wouldn't want to accept food from a stranger if it were me). The problem is compounded by the fact that I bake a TON while I'm down here - the extra counter space calls to me, practically begging me to get in the kitchen and use it while I can!
So, when I chose to make these biscotti, I had a few things in mind. First, the biscotti keep in the freezer for a month, which means I can wrap some of them up and leave them for Shane's parents, who can enjoy them at their leisure when they get back. Even at room temperature, the biscotti will still be yummy in a week, which makes them perfect for shipping to friends (so I did!). Finally, and you may have already noticed, these biscotti combine chocolate and peanut butter, and lately I can't get enough of that combination - I've made no fewer than 3 desserts combining the two in the past week. I adapted this recipe just slightly from Gourmet to include peanut butter chips instead of walnuts, the perfect complement to the fabulous, intense chocolate flavor the biscotti get from a healthy dose of cocoa powder and chocolate chips. I ran into neither of the problems I often have with biscotti recipes - too crisp (I don't like to dunk my biscotti) or too crumbly when cut (a chef's knife sliced them perfectly) - so this recipe is a definite keeper for me. I almost used the remainder of my mint chips in this recipe instead of the peanut butter chips, so it's safe to assume it won't be long before I make that version.
Side note: I made the biscotti late at night so all of the photos were taken with a Speedlite flash, which is such a cool toy, if only I knew how to get consistently good results using it... I'm not big on reading instructions when it comes to these things, I'm more of a trial and error type of person. There's probably something to be said though for spending a few hours reading an instruction manual instead of wasting time taking 150 photos of one dessert only to wind up with 2 usable shots.
Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Biscotti
adapted from Gourmet, December 1994 (via epicurious.com)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup peanut butter chips
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
confectioners' sugar (for dusting)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add both eggs to the mixer bowl and beat until well combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Finally, put the chocolate and peanut butter chips in the bowl and pulse the mixer a few times to evenly distribute the chips in the dough.
Divide the dough in half. On the prepared baking sheet, form each half into a slightly flattened log about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Sprinkle the logs with confectioners' sugar. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the logs are slightly firm to the touch (they will likely crack a bit on top). Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the biscotti cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.
Transfer the logs to a cutting board and use a large knife to cut the biscotti diagonally into 3/4-inch slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, back on the baking sheet and pop back into the oven until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove the biscotti to a wire rack to cool completely. Biscotti keep in airtight containers 1 week and frozen, 1 month.
Yields about 30 biscotti
This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe was selected by Dawn of Growing Up (And Having Fun) After 40: pistachio linzer thumbprints! Unfortunately, something came up and Dawn wasn't able to bake along this week so I was asked to host and was happy to help out. I was actually contemplating skipping this week as I am not a pistachio person so this was just the incentive I needed to give these cookies a go and then hand them off to someone who'd enjoy them.
The first challenge with this recipe was tracking down the unsalted pistachios called for. As someone who has never purchased pistachios, I had no idea it was going to be so challenging to find them! I checked 5 or 6 stores, each time finding another variation on roasted, salted pistachios, before giving up and deciding that it just wasn't going to happen. Did anyone manage to find unsalted? I'd love to hear where if you did. To compensate for using the salted pistachios, I skipped the salt in the recipe, hopeful it would all work out in the end.
The cookie dough is put together entirely in a food processor, which I love - it just makes it so easy. We also escaped having to bring butter to room temperature for this recipe, letting the food processor work chilled butter into the flour. In other words, the recipe probably couldn't have been much quicker or more simple. Perhaps the hardest part was making sure curious kitties didn't get their paws on the dough.
Shaping the cookies, though - that was a bit more tricky. The recipe instructed you to chill the dough until firm (about an hour) after making it. I do think it's a good idea to chill the dough a bit so your butter will be cold when the cookies go in the oven, but an hour may have been too much. My dough was so cold it kept cracking when I tried to press the hole in the center for the jam. I let it warm up a bit and it became easier, but I was wary of letting it get too warm. I used apricot preserves in my cookies and having made half of the recipe, I wound up with about 18 cookies. The cracks worsened in the oven, but the cookies mostly maintained their shape otherwise. In the end, I liked the cracks in my cookies - the color and texture of the pistachios already gave the cookies a rustic appearance and I think the cracks just made them more endearing.
My mom was kind enough to take these cookies home so they didn't go to waste here. Both she and my step-father reported back to me that they enjoyed them! Neither told me they were too salty so I assume using the salted pistachios and eliminating the other salt from the recipe worked out well. My mom thought the pistachios and apricot preserves complemented one another nicely. They both commented on the texture added by the chopped pistachios (it was a good thing) and my mom even thought the cookies were hearty enough to justify them as breakfast food (and unlike me, she doesn't generally believe baked goods are perfectly acceptable breakfast options) :)
Thanks to everyone who baked along this week! You can check out how the other bakers fared by visiting the SMS blogroll.
Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints
from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy
1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, plus 2/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, finely chopped, for rolling
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 lb (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry or apricot preserves
confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse 1 cup of pistachios with 1/2 cup flour until fine but not powdery. Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour as well as the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Pulse to combine.
Add the butter and lemon zest to the bowl of the food processor and carefully use your fingers to toss and coat the butter with flour. Pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and pulse until the dough just holds together.
Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour. (The dough can be tightly wrapped with plastic then aluminum foil and frozen for up to 3 weeks.)
Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Using a 1-oz cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the egg whites, then the chopped pistachios. Place the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using a floured thumb, press an indentation into the center of each cookie.
Keep the cookies chilled while you fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch pastry tip with the preserves. (Alternatively, you could use a resealable plastic bag.) Fill each cookie with about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of preserves.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
When cool, dust generously with confectioners' sugar. Dip your finger in water and tap on the centers of each cookie so the jam shines through the sugar.
(Cookies keep at room temp for 3 days, for up to 5 days in the fridge or up to 3 weeks in the freezer. You can also use hazelnuts instead of pistachios.)