ALMOND RASPBERRY TRIANGLES & A VERY SPECIAL COOKBOOK REVIEW

If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you might know that I have my Baking Gurus, and by far the baker I respect the most is Helen Fletcher. I’ve faithfully followed her blog since 2014 (check this old blog post) and have made many of her recipes. Never a single disappointment. One of my favorites of a recent past is Sarah Bernhardt Cookies. She has decades of professional experience and was actually responsible for developing baking recipes using a food processor, back when that gadget was not very common in the home kitchen. Before the pandemics hit, she told me she was working on a new cookbook, all about cookies, and asked me if I would write a foreword for it. It was the greatest honor, the greatest gift online blogging provided me with. Her book, just released, is called CRAVING COOKIES: The Quintessential American Cookie Book. I adore it, and having witnessed all the love and effort she put into it, I am thrilled to share with you one amazing recipe from it, and a little review of the book.

ALMOND RASPBERRY TRIANGLES
(reprinted with permission from Craving Cookies)

for the cookie base and filling:
210 g all-purpose flour
140 g unsalted butter, very cold
65 g granulated sugar
1/2 cup seedless red raspberry jam

for the topping:
170 g almonds, toasted lightly in a 350F oven, then cooled
150 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons Amaretto
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
60 g butter, melted
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Heat the oven to 350F. Line a 9 x 13 x 2 pan with foil, being sure to also cover the sides of the pan. Spray well with non-stick baking release and set aside.

Butter should be cold and cut into small pieces. Place the flour in the food processor, add the cold butter and process until indistinguishable. Add the sugar and process again. It will be very powdery. Turn the dough into the prepared pan, and spread it out evenly. Press in firmly to compact and completely cover the bottom of the pan. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until medium brown and completely baked.

As soon as it comes out of the oven, use the back of a spoon to press the base firmly against the sides of the pan to fill any gaps. This will make sure no jam leaks under the baked base. Spread the jam over the base and set aside.

Make the topping: process the toasted almonds and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until completely combined. Pour the mixture over the raspberry jam. Place back in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and set. Cool completely.

To facilitate removal of the foil, chill or freeze the pan until very cold. Turn upside down, remove the foil, being careful around the edges. Turn right side up. Cut 4 across and 5 down to make 20 squares, then each square diagonally to make 40 triangles. Dust with powdered sugar if you so desire, just before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I have to tell you these were one of the most delicious cookies ever! The combination of raspberry with almond is a winner, and the triangles look every elegant. They would brighten up any cookie table. I left some as squares, some as triangles, some I dusted with powdered sugar, some I left plain. They were a huge hit. One of the things I love about Helen’s recipes is precision. You know they will work, the amounts will be right for the dimension of the pan, and all her little tips for success are spot on.

TEASER RECIPE

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD HEARTS

And now let me walk you through
CRAVING COOKIES: THE QUINTESSENTIAL AMERICAN COOKIE BOOK
(available to order here)

The book starts with an introduction to equipment and ingredients, which will be helpful particularly for those in their beginning stages of cookie baking obsession. Then she offers a full chapter on Techniques and I urge you to read it very carefully because she shares every single little tip that she’s learned in her professional career and most will have a huge impact in your baking.

CHAPTER ONE

Cut-Out and Sliced Cookies. The first cookie in this chapter is Cardamon Black Pepper Snaps. I will definitely make them because to me nothing beats a cookie that goes into the spicy territory. Chocolate-Dipped Cappuccino Rounds look amazing with a quick-tempered chocolate coating, so they make my list of favorites to bake soon. Limeaways are a classic, and I must mention Chocolate-Dipped Sweet and Salted Butter Cookies (picture is amazing).

CHAPTER TWO

Drop Cookies. Nineteen choices for you. Baileys Chocolate Crinkles make my list for sure. Chocolate Snowballs coated with Swedish pearl sugar are a must. A version of Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies is calling my name because Helen said it is one of the recipes she is most proud of. I can imagine it will be perfection, so keep that one in mind. She also has two other choc chip cookies, including a big Levain Bakery Style. Chocolate Awesomes are a one bowl-concoction that her grandson made himself… In this chapter you will find the Oatmeal Cookies I’ve blogged about in the past, as she had them in her blog. They were to die for. Harlequins is a cute concoction, three color, which I made in the past also.

CHAPTER THREE

Meringues. Three recipes in this chapter, with a very nice introduction to pull these tricky cookies perfectly, no cracks, no problems. Anise Meringues flavored with LorAnn oil is a very intriguing twist. If you’ve always been instructed to avoid oils in meringue cookies, you will learn something new. I always do when I am around Helen. Cafe au Lait Meringues and Peppermint Meringues, they all seem great to me.

CHAPTER FOUR

Shortbread Cookies. Well, those speak straight to my heart, I simply LOVE shortbread. I fell in love with all of them, and the Chocolate Hearts made it here as the teaser recipe. It is spectacular and so very simple to make, particularly using the food processor. Double Ginger Shortbread, Nutmeg Baton Shortbreads, and Black and White Filled Shortbreads are all in my list of favorites in this great chapter.

CHAPTER FIVE

Stuffed and Filled Cookies. Can I say outstanding? The first cookie blew my mind away: Peppermint Ravioli. OMG. I am making it for the holiday season, but you can conceivably use a different square of chocolate and bake it anytime. Well, who cares, actually? Why would we reserve Peppermint and Chocolate for the holiday season only? Caramel-Filled Chocolate Gems are thumbprint style cookies that made my heart miss a beat. Creme de Menthe Patties are another masterpiece in cookie shape. Inside-Out Oreos, Almost Oreos, Neapolitan Cookies, my list is big.

CHAPTER SIX

Bar Cookies. Twenty amazing choices, each one of them very tempting. The featured recipe – Almond Raspberry Triangles – is part of it. With a great deal of struggle, I offer you just five top favorites: Banana Split Bars, Chocolate Raspberry Squares, Hermit Bars (so so cute), Lemon-Steeped Gingerbread Squares (OMG), and Creamy Lime Bars.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Brownies. Nine different brownies, including one I’ve made in the past and might very well be one of the best ever: Santa Fe Brownies. But next on my list might be her Macadamia White Chocolate Lightening-Fast Brownies. Or maybe her Frosted Brownies. We shall see…

Helen, I cannot wait to bake more and more recipes from your beautiful book, and I hope my readers will get a copy and join the fun. You did an outstanding job, but I knew you would. I am so lucky to have “met” you in the virtual world!

ONE YEAR AGO: Sweet and Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

TWO YEARS AGO: Roasted Cauliflower Salad over Hummus

THREE YEARS AGO: Queen of Sheba

FOUR YEAR AGO: Brunch Burger

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mango Salsa with Verjus

SIX YEARS AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

NINE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

TEN YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

DUTCH MACARONS, AND WILLIAM CURLEY’S NOSTALGIC DELIGHTS

If you are a follower of my blog, you know I suffer from a macaron condition. Cannot stop baking them, and when I go into daydreaming mode, macarons flavors and colors are often part of it. One day, I was relaxing in my favorite armchair with a beautiful cookbook (Nostalgic Delights), when all of a sudden a recipe popped up… Dutch Macarons. Cute beyond description. They look like a macaron gone a bit wild, feet not as well-defined, instead their shells open on the top, revealing a similar inner structure. I could not wait to bake a batch. If you are afraid of baking macarons, these are in many ways easier. No macaronage stage to worry about, you mix the batter, pipe, and then exercise patience. They must dry for 12 hours before baking, which is a major difference. The outer skin has to be really dry, so that it can be cut with a sharp knife (I used a brand new razor blade) right before they go into the oven. That gives them the characteristic opening. I share this unusual recipe after getting permission from Chef William Curley. He is not only a fantastic patissier, but a very sweet person who patiently answered some annoying pressing baking questions I had for him. He owns a shop in Soho, so if you are in London, pay him a visit. I am kicking myself for not doing that last year when I was busy upsetting Paul Hollywood. Bottomline is: I must go back. I meant to Soho, not the tent.

DUTCH MACARONS
(printed with permission from William Curley)

for the shells:
175g powdered sugar, sifted, and divided (125g + 50g)
125g ground almonds, sifted
75g egg whites
50g superfine granulated sugar
20mL water

for praline paste:
100g hazelnuts
100g almonds
200g sugar
1 tsp hazelnut oil (I used grape seed)

for the praline ganache:
150g heavy cream
125g bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt 70%), chopped in small pieces
12g butter, softened
40g almond praline paste

Ideally the day before, make the praline paste (you will make more than you need, but it keeps well). Heat the oven to 400F. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a heavy-bottom saucepan.

Cook over medium heat while gradually adding the sugar and stirring non-stop. Cook until the sugar turns into a caramel, it will take from 15 to 18 minutes. Pour the mixture over a baking sheet and allow it to cool. When the nuts are cold, place in a food processor or Vitamix and blend until it forms a paste, adding the teaspoon of oil to help emulsify.

Prepare the ganache: put the cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Put the chocolate in a mixing bowl and add the hot cream over it. Mix until emulsified, add the softened butter and the praline paste. Leave to set at room temperature for 2 hours, when it will reach a nice piping consistency.

Make the shells: Place 125g of the powdered sugar, the ground almonds and the egg whites in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer, and whisk for a minute or so, as  you start preparing the syrup.

Make a syrup with the granulated sugar and water, cooking it to 240F (116C), then pour the syrup over the mixture in the KitchenAid bowl while it is whisking at medium speed.  Beat for 5 minutes, then add the remaining 50g or powdered sugar.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 10mm round piping tip, and pie ovals of 3/4 inch x 1+1/4 inch.  I made a little template to help me with consistency. Leave in a cool, dry area for about 12 hours to fully dry the macarons.

Heat the oven to 350F. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit in the center of each macaron, then bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until they have puffed up and turned golden. Allow them to get fully cool.

Spread ganache on one shell, top with another of similar size (hopefully they will all be very similar in dimension), leave to set for 30 minutes so that the ganache sets.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: This was a super fun and exciting bake for me, because the recipe was familiar and unusual at the same time.  I was in mild hyperventilation mode up to the moment I opened the oven and marveled at those cute babies all plump and ready for the filling. Speaking of the filling, it is pretty spectacular:  almond/hazelnut praline with chocolate. Need I say more? Addictive, truly.

As to the taste, they are indeed very similar to macarons, but with more substance, let’s say that in a regular macaron the filling definitely speaks louder than the shells. In the Dutch version, they share center stage as equal partners. I loved the texture.  They reminded me of a sweet I used to enjoy as a child in Brazil called “AMANDITAS.” Interestingly enough, you can still buy those  which proves I am not that old. HA! The filling in amanditas is harder, but there is a resemblance there for sure.  I can tell you I’ll be making Dutch Macarons on a regular basis from now on.

TEASER RECIPE

Before I take you for a virtual tour of Chef Curley’s book, let me show you another recipe I made from it. These are called Rout Biscuits (I laugh inside imagining how badly I butcher its pronunciation). Just like Dutch Macarons, it is a recipe from a couple of centuries ago, and rarely seen these days. William Curley brings it back to life adding quite a few touches of elegance. A delicate hazelnut-almond biscuit base holds a hazelnut cream piped in a circle, and after baking, a dollop of jam is added to the center. I loved it so much that I made it twice in the same weekend.  The second time around I used a bit of orange-chocolate ganache in the center instead of jam.

I took both batches to our department for my “Mondays with Sweetness”, and people were raving about them. Delicate, delicious, beautiful, just the right size… were some of the comments I got back. The biscuit base is wonderful on its own. I will share soon some cookies I made with that dough.

And now, time to review Nostalgic Delights….


 

First of all, I adore the name… Nostalgic Delights gives me a nice warm feeling inside, anticipating beautiful bakes of the past. And here’s what William himself has to say about it:

“The definition of nostalgia is – a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past”.  Every individual has their own interpretation of nostalgia, and of course their own fond memories of food. I hope that within the recipes I have created for this book there is going to be a little something enabling every reader to capture their own bit of nostalgia” 

Isn’t that beautiful? The book is just a complete delight (pun intended), and it was written with passion not only for the art of baking but for teaching it even to those of us without professional training.

The book is divided in 7 chapters, as follows…

Chocolate Confectionery… Being an award-winning chocolatier, you can expect that his recipes in this chapter will take your breath away. It starts with a nice explanation on tempering, casting in moulds and dipping, which you will need to be comfortable with. The chapter opens with his Hazelnut Rochers, the recipe at the very cover of the book. His mother used to serve those at Christmas. Talk about nostalgia! He shared step by step photos of the process of making this beauty, which one day I shall take a deep breath and tackle myself.  I have to say that every single recipe in this chapter had me dreaming. He starts from simple recipes (like Australian Cartwheels, popular in the 1940’s) and turns them into morsels of chocolate-coated art. His Matcha and Yuzu Teacakes are definitely something I will bake in the near future. But truly everything is just amazing and every recipe has detailed photos of the whole process so that even common mortals can attempt them. He closes this chapter with the really fun Curley Wurly, a 1970 classic made in a Bournville factory in an attempt to use leftover toffee. It is basically a braided toffee coated in tempered chocolate, and I tell you, the day I get rid of my braces I will celebrate indulging in a full batch. Mine, all mine.

Bakery Favorites… The chapter starts with tips for lining tins with pastry, blind baking, working with yeast, and rough puff pastry. Then he shares bakes in which these techniques are employed.  His Chocolate Cherry Bakewells are just gorgeous, but you don’t have to take my word for it, here is a shot of that page. I am also quite smitten by the Marignons, because the basic component is a savarin, which intrigues me. I need to try and make it.

In this chapter, the classic Jam Tarts, Custard Tarts which most people are familiar with, but also some interesting bakes like one called Black Bun, a Scottish concoction to be enjoyed on the Twelfth Night of Christmas, much like Galette de Rois in France. Have you heard of Bee Sting? It is a German dessert with a ton of history behind it, and William shares his version, based on a recipe from the 15th century!  I cannot tell you how much I love this type of stuff….

Patisserie Modern Classics… The introduction covers mousses, and I go immediately weak in the knees. This might very well be my favorite chapter.  It starts with my most beloved type of dessert, a mini entremet type cake, this one called Tropical Snowball. If that does not have my name all over it, I don’t know what does. Mango, Passion Fruit and Coconut with a snowy white mirror glaze.  In this chapter he does exactly what you expect, bakes the classics but all with a modernized twist. Black Forest Gateau, Charlotte Russe, Charlotte Royale, a Blackcurrant Cheesecake that is beyond showstopper lavel, a Chestnut Roll equally stunning, the most elegant presentation you can dream for Strawberry Shortcakes… Jaffa Cake Tarts, and a dessert I’ve been meaning to bake for a while now, Pont Neuf, designed in 1860’s to celebrate my favorite bridge in Paris (I am hopelessly romantic).

Ice Cream and Gateau…As William put it, desserts involving frozen components are always decadent, and associated with banquets and real fancy occasions, but they have gone out of fashion. In part because they do demand a lot of skill and attention to detail. Come to think of it, some of the most epic disasters in the Great British Bake Off involved frozen desserts. The initial tutorial in the chapter brings Ice Cream Anglaise and fruit sorbet. He starts with a bang, of course… Baked Alaska, in a Neapolitan fashion. Then Viennetta, his version is yet another masterpiece. Many wonderful things to try, but I would probably settle for his Prune and Armagnac Ice Cream. Prune and Armagnac was one of my favorite little desserts to order when we lived in Paris. So simple, and so delicious.

Afternoon Treats… The inspiration for this chapter was his Grandma, who taught him to bake and was the reason why he became a chef. In his words: “Even with all the decadence and luxury within my industry, you can’t beat a freshly baked homemade cake for a tasty afternoon treat”. I would gladly bake every single item of this chapter. I am totally fascinated by a trio of cakes called “Othellos, Desdemonas & Iagos”.  They are a combination of sponge cake, custard, and fondant, what changes is the main flavor, Othellos are chocolate, Desdemonas are vanilla, and Iagos are coffee. I will take one of each, please and thank you. Rout Biscuits are in this chapter, Empire Biscuits (OMG they are adorable!), and the Dutch Macarons I shared the recipe with you.

Frivolities… These are those little petit-fours that fancy restaurants might bring you at the end of a meal. One adorable bake after another, I am definitely going to make his Allumettes a concoction made in Brittany in the last century. Allumettes mean matchsticks and his version joins almond praline and chocolate. Rocher Noix de Coco, Turkish Delight, Nougat and Marshmallow are all in this chapter, as well as something new to me, a concoction called Mou, a soft caramel that can be flavored in many different ways. Another delicious treat that was designed in Brittany. Those people know a thing or two about sweets, right?

Basics… The final chapter. It is pretty much a big lesson on patisserie, covering all the basic recipes you might need, from pate sablee to filo pastry, the three types of meringue, creme patissiere and its derivatives, frangipane, curds, glazes, icings, and even how to make chocolate decorations.

That’s it, my friends! I cannot praise the book highly enough. The amount of work that went into making Nostalgic Delights is hard to imagine. Many of the recipes have step by step photos, in addition to the finished product. Chef Curley truly wants you to succeed and bake at home the wonderful things that bring him joy. The book gives me peace, I think it does transports me to past times, in which life was far less complicated and stressful than it seems to be today.

Mr. Curley, thank you so much for allowing me to share the recipe for Dutch Macarons with my readers, and for your patience helping me figure out a few issues here and there in my Bewitching Kitchen.

To order the book, click here (I make no profit from your purchase)

ONE YEAR AGO: Yogurt Tart

TWO YEAR AGO: Grilled Lamb-Stuffed Pita Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Elderflower Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Duet of Sorbets

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sobering Peach Sorbet

SIX YEARS AGO: Spiralizer Fun

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Beer-Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Secret Recipe Club: Corn Chowda

NINE YEARS AGO: Page-A-Day Calendar (Pits and Chief 5 minutes of fame…)

TEN YEARS AGO: Home Sweet Home (our beloved Pits in one of his last photos)

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Marbled Rye

CHEESE AND PESTO EMMER ROLL-UPS, AND A SPECIAL COOKBOOK REVIEW

I don’t think I stopped smiling from the moment I started writing this post, to the time I hit publish… The cookbook I am reviewing today was written by a dear friend of mine, Elaine, who bakes and blogs from the UK. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person last year when the biggest adventure of my life took me to a certain tent. At that time, right in her kitchen, she broke the news that she was going to write a cookbook, the final negotiations were just taking place. And now, a little over one year later, it is out there for the world: Whole-Grain Sourdough at Home, by Elaine Boddy!  She gave me permission to share one recipe here in my little virtual spot, so without further ado, let’s get to it…

CHEESE AND PESTO EMMER ROLL-UPS
(published with permission from Elaine Boddy)

makes 8 rolls

for the dough:
50g active starter (at 100% hydration)
300g water
400g bread flour
100g emmer flour
7g salt (I used 10g)

for the filling:
100g pesto of your choice
200g grated cheese of your choice
(my addition: black kalamata olives in pieces)

In the early evening, in a large mixing bowl, roughly mix together all the dough ingredients, leaving the dough shaggy. Cover the bowl and leave it on the counter for 1 hour.

After an hour or so, perform a set of pulls and folds on the dough, inside the bowl. It will be sticky, but stretchy. Cover the bowl and leave it on the counter.

Over the next few hours (3 hours or so), complete 3 more sets of pulls and folds on the dough, covering the bowl after each set. The dough will be nicely stretchy and will easily come together into a firm ball each time. Complete the final set before going to bed.

Leave the covered bowl on the counter overnight, typically 8 to 10 hours, at 64 to 68F.  The next morning, the dough is ready to be used to make the rolls. Use immediately or refrigerate to use later.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 400F (convection) or 425F (regular oven). Sprinkle water over your countertop, using a bowl scraper of your hands, gently ease the bubbly risen dough from the bowl onto the counter. Use your fingertips to start stretching and pushing out the dough, until it becomes a rectangle that measures about 16 x 20 inches, and has even thickness all over.

Dot teaspoons of pesto over the dough, spread the cheese and kalamata olives (if using). Roll up the dough from one of the longer edges toward the other to make an even roll of dough. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 8 pieces. Place them gently, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remove from the oven, and enjoy while still warm.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When it comes to sourdough, I am for the most part pretty conservative. With this recipe, I realized I’ve been missing a whole universe of goodies that sourdough can bring to the table. Elaine shares several options of fillings for these fun coiled creatures, but of course the possibilities are endless. Spices, nuts, meats, roasted veggies, anything you fancy, just spread, roll, bake and enjoy! Pay attention to the level of liquid included, refrain from adding too much oil or stuff that might get a bit watery, because that might interfere with the bake. But using her basic recipes as starting points, you will have no issues.

The roll-ups were delicious, they smell absolutely amazing during baking, and the texture is quite a bit softer than a regular sourdough bread (which turns someone who wears braces into a very happy camper!).  Elaine says they are best enjoyed fresh on the day they are baked, but I can tell you that they freeze very well and if you warm them in a low oven, they come back to life in excellent shape…

I made two additional recipes from her book, which I will share as “teasers”.  Just the pictures and a brief overview.

THE WHOLE-WHEAT AND EINKORN MASTER

I am always weary of recipes that use a high proportion of whole-wheat flour, because it is so easy to get hockey-pucks and heavy loaves. But I decided to give this one a try, even though it has almost 56% whole-wheat in its formula.

In this composite picture you can see the beginning of the dough (cute scraper available on her site), with the typical, coarse texture given by the whole-wheat. It mellows with the foldings, and next morning it will be all bubbly and ready to be shaped and baked.  The bread is AMAZING (yes, all caps), particularly with smoked salmon. In fact, there is something about the combination of whole-wheat with einkorn flour that reminded both Phil and I of a nice rye bread. Excellent! It definitely exorcized my fear of hockey-pucks… Thank you, Elaine!

And now, for the third recipe I made from her book…

SPEEDY SEED AND OAT CRACKERS

Aren’t they the cutest things? Super simple recipe, your starter does not even have to be at its peak, you can use it and have these crackers ready in no time!  Plus, you can change the seeds according to your taste. Apart from oats, I used pumpkin seeds, black and white sesame seeds.

I baked them slightly less than I normally would, so that they ended up softer. Because… braces… (sigh). Definitely a great recipe to have in my repertoire.

Overview of Elaine Boddy’s book

Elaine breaks all the rigid rules you might have heard before on sourdough baking. First, if you use her method, you will not discard any starter ever. I know, who could imagine that?  Second, she shows you can bake excellent bread without pre-heating the Dutch oven (which I also never do), and without pre-heating the oven!  She bakes most of her loaves (the oval and round ones, not the crackers and coils) starting from a COLD oven. As she says, it takes a bit of a leap of faith, but try it and see how you like it.  My oven heats extremely slowly, so what I did with that Einkorn loaf was to turn it on, and just finish preparing the bread to bake. By the time I stuck it in the oven, I think it was around 175F inside, not fully cold, but definitely not blazing hot.  It is a great energy-saving method, no doubt.

The book starts with a description of the flours and how to make a sourdough starter, both using regular white flour and all sorts of whole-grain variations. That is followed by a series of questions and answers that cover pretty much all those nagging doubts that might scare a beginner sourdough baker.  Great introductory chapter!

Welcome to my Master Recipe… In this chapter she covers her basic, uncomplicated, unfussy method, with plenty of pictures so you can have a clear understanding of how to succeed in your own kitchen. She offers two basic approaches, a “Same-Day-Sourdough” and a “Super Lazy” version. The chapter ends with a troubleshooting section, that will be very useful if you are a beginner, but also might give some pointers to those who bake sourdough regularly but might run into ‘issues.”

The Master at Work… In this chapter Elaine offers many variations of her basic recipe, by adding seeds, nuts, cooked grains, and playing with different combinations of flours. From this chapter I baked the Whole-Wheat and Einkorn loaf, which she made in oval shape, I went with round. I might even consider going for her 100% Whole Wheat (I need a bit of psychological preparation to try that one, though). From this chapter, my eyes are set on the White Spelt Poppy Seed Master and the  Oat-Crusted Einkorn Master. They are two beautiful examples of sourdough baking…

Baby Master Sourdough Boules… In this chapter she offers recipes to make smaller breads, they all contain 300g flour and are proofed in a small banneton, but any round container will do. They are all adorable and perfect for a household with two people.  My favorites in this chapter are: Khorasan and Golden Flaxseeds, Roasted Cashew (looks amazing), and Einkorn Chia Seed Baby Master.

Master Sourdough Focaccia… All recipes in this chapter should ideally begin the day before you intend to enjoy your gorgeous focaccia. Spelt and Cheese is calling my name, although Whole-Wheat, Tomato and Garlic Focaccia is also tempting.  I would use kalamata olives in place of the garlic, but I bet she would not be mad at me… She ends the chapter with an alternative time-table in case you really want to make the whole thing in the same day. By following that method, you can have your focaccia at the table around 6pm. Perfect!

Buttermilk Sourdough Biscuits… In this fun chapter, all recipes can use highly bubbly starter, or even a dormant version that has been sitting in the fridge for a while, up to 7 days. Since the recipes contain baking soda, they rise faster and the sourdough starter will have less impact on the rise, but of course it will add a nice flavor and texture. I absolutely MUST make the Emmer and Za’atar Buttermilk Biscuits. Because… za’atar… But Einkorn, Cinnamon and Cranberry sounds like a perfect Christmas brunch addition…

Sandwich Loaf Sourdough Masters… All recipes in this chapter can be baked in a loaf pan, and end up with that perfect shape to slice and make sandwiches. My favorites are: Oat Milk and Whole Wheat, Coconut Milk and Rye (!!!!), and Almond Milk and Khorasan Sandwich Loaf.

The Simplest Sourdough Rolls… Brilliant, just brilliant!  She uses her basic master recipe all the way through shaping and placing in the banneton, but right before baking she inverts the loaf and cuts into wedges, which makes the cutest little rolls ever!  I intend to bake the Sesame Seed Emmer version in the near future. The chapter ends with an alternative version for “Same-Day Sourdough Wedge Rolls.”

Coiled Filled Sourdough Rolls… From this chapter I picked the recipe featured in this post. I remember when Elaine was developing recipes for the book, she raved about Almond Butter and Banana Khorasan Coils, and now I see the picture and the description in the book… seems like another great one to try this fun preparation.

Swap the Water…  Very interesting chapter, in which she plays with different liquids replacing water. It starts with a Buttermilk White Spelt Master Loaf that might very well be one of the most beautiful breads ever! The picture took my breath away… Note to self: make it. Potato cooking water and beer are other examples found in this section.

Crackers…  Love them all!  What can I say? I was very tempted to use the crackers as featured recipe, but in the end decided to leave them as little teasers. They look adorable and taste great. But I also want to try her Whole Wheat Sesame and Oat Crackers.

Elaine, thank you so much for allowing me to publish a recipe from your first cookbook, hopefully not the last!  Your book is beautiful, the pictures are amazing, and I can sense passion and love for all things sourdough in every sentence of every chapter. I know fully well the amount of work, the commitment and energy you put into it. I can say it totally paid off, and I know everyone who gets your book will lear a lot and have a blast baking from it.

For those who want to order the book, click here.

ONE YEAR AGO: Mango-Hazelnut Entremet Cake

TWO YEAR AGO: Lebanese Lentil Salad and a Cookbook Review

THREE YEARS AGO: Cottage Loaf

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Loaf with Cranberries and Walnuts

FIVE YEAR AGO: Sichuan Pork Stir-Fry in Garlic Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Our Green Trip to Colorado

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

NINE YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

TEN YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

 

CHOCOLATE CRUSTED PASSION FRUIT TART AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW

This review is long overdue. I first contacted Nancy Birtwhistle to ask permission to blog on a recipe from her first cookbook, Sizzle and Drizzle, in December last year.  But a lot happened to all of us. Life turned upside down, and it will quite likely never go back to what it used to be. To that normal I suppose we all took for granted. Better late than never, I am sharing today a recipe that feels very special to me. Nancy made it in a certain tent during the Great British Bake Off and I remember falling in love with it the first time I watched that episode. How could I not? It joined chocolate and passion fruit. And she decorated it in a simple yet very elegant way. Instead of making a single, larger tart, I made two individual portions. In isolation times, we have no one to share this type of dessert with, so a smaller portion was the ticket.

CHOCOLATE CRUSTED PASSION FRUIT TART
(from Nancy Birtwhistle’s Sizzle and Drizzle)

1 tart pan, 9 inch (23 cm) in diamater, preferably fluted edges, loose bottom

for the crust:
125g flour
20g cocoa powder
90g salted butter, cold, cut in small dice
30g powdered sugar
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice mixture (optional)
2 Tablespoons egg yolks, beaten

for the filling:
(use half if making two individual size tarts)
6 eggs
200g granulated sugar
100g softened butter cut into dice
200mL passion fruit juice
5 gelatin leaves (I used Platinum)

for the decoration:
1 egg white
100g powdered sugar, sifted

Heat oven to 400F.

Make the tart crust. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar and spice in the food process and blitz to mix. Add the cold butter and process until everything is combined, this will take just a few pulses. With the motor running, pour the egg yolks and process until it starts to come together. Stop and gather everything over a plastic wrap. Press into a flat disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the pastry very thin (I like to do it over wax paper and with a plastic wrap on top), then use it to cover your tart pan. Freeze for 10 minutes. Cover the bottom with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, beans or rice. Blind bake for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for 5 minutes more. Trim the edges with a serrated knife, and allow to cool completely.

Make the filling. Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water. Mix the sugar and passion fruit juice in a sauce pan, heating it gently until it fully dissolved. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks vigorously, then add the warm juice slowly, whisking non-stop. Put the mixture back in the sauce pan and heat to 185 F (85 Celsius). Be careful and keep whisking, remove from heat if needed for a few seconds to make sure no curdling of egg yolks happen.

Remove from heat, add the drained gelatin sheets, pass it through a sieve. Add the butter, whisk very well to emulsify. Allow the curd to cool slightly then pour into the pastry case all the way to the top. It is better to do this already in the fridge so you don’t have to move the tart around.

When the tart is set, decorate with the Royal icing mixture that you make by whisking the sugar and egg white together for about 4 minutes in a KitchenAid type mixture.  Adjust the consistency to make it right for piping. Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used the full amount of dough but made smaller tarts, I find it easier to work with larger amounts and not get into pie dough anxiety as I’m rolling it out and trying to make sure it covers the whole surface of the pan. I halved the amount of filling, so if you are considering making just two small tarts, pay attention to that. Of course, the passion fruit curd is delicious and having some extra hanging around in the fridge is not a bad idea.


Nancy gives two important tips: roll the pastry thin, as thin as you can do it. And transfer the empty blind-baked shells to the fridge to fill them. That ensures you can fill them to the top and not spill over the side as you try to carry them to the fridge. Small details matter. As I was piping the swirls, I transported my mind back to the tent, and imagined Nancy grabbing the piping bag with the Royal icing, taking a deep breath and knowing she had to do as perfect a job as possible, with the cameras on her, and the shiny surface of the passion fruit curd ready and waiting. She did such a beautiful job! No wonder she went on to win the whole thing!

This was absolutely delicious, and I urge you to make it if you have access to passion fruit (you will need 8 to 9 fruits to make the full amount of filling). I have still quite a bit of frozen passion fruit pulp, and it worked well for this purpose.

And now a small overview of Nancy’s book, Sizzle and Drizzle.

If I had to define the book with a simple statement, I would summarize it as “superb baking instruction and tips with Nancy’s personality shinning through the whole book.”  One of the things that was evident from her performance in the show, is that she has  a ton of self-confidence and knowledge. She tested her recipes and was not afraid to stand up to Paul. Just one small example, she defended her method to speed up proofing of an enriched dough using the microwave. To Paul, of all people, the Bread King… And I loved when she was proved right (sorry for the lousy pun).  In the book, she mentioned that her first show-stopping challenge in the Great British Bake Off was making 36 mini-cakes. Everybody had butter over their counters (remember, the recipes are all submitted in advance and they set up the ingredients). Nancy was THE ONLY ONE with margarine. She felt a little “wobble in her confidence” but then said to herself – my cake tastes good. I have nothing to worry about. Guess what? She was Star Baker that week. We should all keep her experience in mind when that inner voice starts nagging us with self-doubt.

Her cookbook was entirely conceived, written, photographed, and published by her. And it has a very nice feature (she calls it “Let me show you”): you get access to videos in which she demonstrates parts of her recipes, by using your smartphone to decode a little bar printed on the pages. Very VERY cool. Here is an overview chapter by chapter with a few examples from each. Every chapter starts with her top tips for success.

BISCUITS AND SCONES. I pretty much would like to bake every single item of this chapter. Her approach is to use less sugar than most recipes would call for, and also keep the dough a bit on the dry side, rolling always in between plastic sheets.  My favorites would be Lemon Shortbread, Spiced Christmas Shortbreads, Brandy Snaps, Rose and Chocolate Macarons (how can I resist those?), Rye and Fennel Thins, Cherry Bakewell Scones,  and Cheese Scones. Every single recipe has the “Let me show you” link available so you can watch her making it. Just amazing!

BREADS. “It is better to over bake than under bake bread.”  Music to my ears. I see so many pictures that people share online of breads that clearly needed another 10 to 15 minutes in a hot oven to really shine. From this chapter, I want to bake her Crusty Topped Bloomer (remember Tiger Rolls? this is similar), her Hot Cross Buns, Stromboli, and Yorkshire Teacakes (adorable).

CAKES. “An over baked sponge will have a dark crust on its sides, bottom, and maybe even the top. The perfect sponge should be the same color all over.”  Yes, yes, and YES! Might be my favorite chapter.  Chocolate Fudge Cake (with tips on what to do if your fudge separates), the classic Lemon Drizzle Cake, Pistachio and Raspberry Ripple Swiss Roll, Simnel Cake (on my list to do!), Raspberry Ripple Cupcakes, Gluten-Free Coffee and Walnut Cake (she swears you cannot tell it’s gluten-free), Vegan Lemon Cake. But let me tell you that I baked one of her cakes and will include it here as a teaser. A Coconut and Lime Traybake.  Absolutely delicious!

PASTRY. I lied. This is my favorite chapter. Nancy learned pastry from her Grandma, a huge influence in her life. Her initial description on how to make the perfect shortcrust pastry is worth the whole book, in my opinion. The featured recipe was from this chapter. My other favorites: School Dinners Meat Pie (gorgeous), Courgette Quiche (stunning presentation), Single Serve Whole Apple and Blackberry Pies, Rich Chocolate Tart, Luxury Mince Pies (plenty of tips on how to pull perfect ones, plus her great video tutorial),  Choux Pastry, Puff Pastry, Eclairs, Sausage Rolls

PUDDINGS AND DESSERTS.  This chapter stretched my horizons a bit, as I am not too familiar with some of the UK classics. I am very intrigued by Steamed Treacle Sponge (it does look great), Nancy’s Christmas Pudding, Eve’s Pudding, and obviously at some point I need to make the Queen of Puddings, as it was a technical I missed because a gingerbread sculpture collapsed and I was shown the exit door of a beloved tent (insert discreet tears). Half Sugar Almond Meringues are also calling my name, as well as Summer Lemon and Elderflower Cheesecake, and a stunning Raspberry and White Chocolate Bundt Cake.

HOME TIME. In this closing chapter, she goes over her way of life, growing a lot of the things she eats, preserving things, coming up with clever systems for cleaning that avoid strong chemicals or store-bought products. Everything with the videos ready and waiting for you.

I hope you enjoyed this little review. Her cookbook was clearly a labor of love form page 1 to page 416. Nancy is an author who wants you to succeed in the kitchen, she wants to make sure you can bake every single one of those recipes without issues. I will never forget her last showstopper challenge in the tent, in which she made a Moulin Rouge sculpture with sugar work. To conceive that was amazing, but to pull it all IN THE TENT, with the “male judge” hovering nearby,  just blows my mind.  So I am thrilled that a person with so much talent decided to share it in a cookbook, and we can all profit from it.

Thank you, Nancy, for giving me permission to share the Passion Fruit Tart recipe, and for your support….

ONE YEAR AGO: Lemony Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Almonds

TWO YEAR AGO: Savory Oatmeal with Bacon and Cheddar

THREE YEARS AGO: Air-Fried Carrots, Two Ways (most popular post on my blog!)

FOUR YEARS AGO: Five Minutes in L.I.T (a tour of our laboratory!)

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chicken Thighs with Artichokes and Capers

SIX YEARS AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

NINE YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

TEN YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

 

 

 

ORANGE STREUSEL CAKE & THE JOYS OF BAKING BOOK REVIEW

I will never write a cookbook. Having said that, IF I ever wrote one, I would like it to be along the lines of The Joys of Baking, by Samantha Seneviratne. As Dorie Greenspan writes in her endorsement: A sweet meditation on why we bake… the book is a delight.

I couldn’t have said it better, Dorie summarized it all. I contacted Samantha and she gave me permission to publish one recipe on the blog. I had quite a hard time choosing which one to share, but decided to go with her Orange Streusel Cake, because its preparation is quite unusual and the cake turned out absolutely perfect for my taste.  But I will also show you pictures of another recipe from the book, Samantha’s  Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars. Because… ginger…

ORANGE STREUSEL CAKE
(from The Joys of Baking, published with permission from Samantha Seneviratne)

For the streusel:
½ cup (65g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, melted (I used half the butter)
1/2 cup (15g) sliced almonds

for the cake:
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 entire navel orange (about 280 g), seeded, cut into large chunks
¼ cup (60g) sour cream, at room temperature
1 +1/2 cups (195g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

for the glaze:
3 to 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
¾ cup (90g) powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Drizzle the melted butter over the mixture and stir to incorporate. The mixture should clump together when squeezed. Toss in the almonds. Prepare the cake: Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

Place the orange in a blender and process until it is the texture of applesauce. It’s okay if you have a few larger pieces. You should have about 1 cup of orange purée. Add the sour cream and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Beat in the orange mixture, then beat in the remaining half of the flour mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Top with the streusel mixture. Squeeze the streusel to form a range of differently sized clumps. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Then, using the parchment overhang as handles, transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare the glaze (if using): In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice into the confectioners’ sugar, adding a little less juice for a thicker glaze that will look lovely on top of the cake, or a little more for a thinner glaze that will soak in. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am very fond of marinades that use a whole lemon instead of its juice or zest, so the moment I saw that the cake called for a full orange turned into a pulp in the food processor, I knew I had to give it a try. You cannot get much more orange-y than that. And the drizzle of icing sugar/orange juice beautifully seals the deal. The cake is moist, feels rich but light at the same time, if at all possible.

Do you notice the little bits of orange throughout the crumb?
Absolute yumminess.

Now let me share with you a little teaser of a recipe. Originally I was going to focus the blog post on this one, because it was a huge hit when I took it to the Common Table meal (meals for homeless in our town). Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars…

It starts as a very smooth batter, pretty much like a brownie, a one-bowl deal.

Then you swirl a mascarpone cream into it, and marvel at the way it looks.

The crumb is tight, full of gingerbread flavor, and you get that delicious sharp contrast of the mascarpone every now and then. This will please anyone.

Now, a virtual tour of Samantha’s book.

From her introductory chapter, I cut and paste her words…

Cooking is a necessity. Everyone needs to eat. Preparing a special meal can be a joy, of course, but often it feels like a chore, just another item on an endless list of things that must get done. Baking is different. Baking is a choice. Baking is never a necessity. No one needs a chocolate cake to survive. Except, sometimes, a chocolate cake is exactly what you need to survive. Sometimes, a chocolate cake is the only thing you need in the world. This is a book about and for those times.

I was touched by this paragraph, it really echoes with the way I view baking. She then moved to talk about the tragic life story of Irma Rombauer,  the woman behind the most classic American cookbook of all times, The Joy of Cooking. I was unaware of it, and once again Samantha’s words touched me.

The Joys of Baking is inspired by the book that Irma Rombauer could have written. It’s the story of baking my way through my own heartbreak—of what happened when the parts of my life I thought would be the best turned out to be the worst, and when the things I thought would make me happy almost wrecked me, and why they didn’t.

The book is divided in chapters that have nothing to do with baking categories. They are: Courage, Grace, Bliss, Love, and Wisdom.  Each chapter and each recipe starts with a small paragraph that is like a tiny little window into Samantha’s soul. The window might be tiny, but the image it shows is very bright. 

From this chapter, many recipes tempted me to get into the kitchen and start baking. Coconut and Passion Fruit Pound Cake, a breathtakingly gorgeous Chocolate Cardamon Babka, Earl Grey Pain au Chocolat, the Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars (photo included in this post), and a Sweet Potato Cinnamon Bun with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Glaze (wow!).

The chapter opens with Salted Chocolate-Covered Chocolate Caramels. Of course, when a person wears braces, she will be fiercely drawn towards caramels, brittles, and nougats, even if before having braces those items were rarely part of her life. Anyway, I will make these babies the moment I get rid of my torture devices. Coffee Creme Bundt Cake, is beautiful and preceded by a heart-warming bit about her Dad. As always, just a little paragraph, just enough to make you smile and wonder if you haven’t been too narrow-minded about your thoughts about food.  Next comes a recipe I really wanted to feature in the blog, but did not have a chance to make yet. Ready to dream? Creme Brulle Tart with Pears and Chocolate. Yes, this will be in our kitchen at some point in the near future.  Danish Sugar Cookies with Currants and LemonPistachio and Praline PuffsSunshine Wreath (a thing of beauty!).

From this chapter the first thing that caught my eye was a shortbread, a recent weakness of mine. Her version is a Chocolate Almond Spelt Shortbread. Looks really tasty. Brownie Cake with Candied Hazelnuts and Whipped Cream...  Coconut BunsGingered Cashew Nut Brittle (blame it on the braces)…  Graham Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting (just adorable)…  Another heavy contender to be featured is We are Nuts About Nuts Cookies. Little sugar cookie rectangles dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with ground pistachio nuts. Just lovely. Orange Streusel Cake, featured today, is also in this chapter.


The chapter opens with my favorite little story of her book. Just a few thoughts about JFK Airport in New York City. More specifically about the arrivals gate.  “Where shopping and dining isn’t the point. It’s all about the crowd along the barriers.”  Just perfect.

From this final chapter, I would gladly try her Apple Snack Cake...  Barley Oat BiscuitsCinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels (the picture is enough to make your heart missed a few beats)… Lemon Lime Earl Grey Sables...  Maple Cream Pie…  Orange Pistachio BunsSaffron and Chocolate Tea Cake…  and the very last recipe of the book, Unorthodox Challah with Dates and Cocoa.

I hope you enjoyed my little review and consider inviting this gem of a cookbook into your home. Samantha, thank you for allowing me to share a recipe with my readers. I look forward to baking more goodies from your book, and reading again and again your stories behind each one.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pink Praline Brioche

TWO YEARS AGO: A Spinach Salad to Write Home About

THREE YEARS AGO: Karen’s Four Hour French Country Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Siren’s Song of the Royal Icing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blog-worthy Roasted Butternut Squash

SIX YEARS AGO: Chocolate Currant Sourdough Loaf & Roasted Beet Hummus

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

NINE YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

TEN YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain