FIRST MONDAY FAVORITE: MAY 2017

Could someone tell 2017 that it is NOT a race to get to December?
Thanks.

Anyway, today is the First Monday of the month, so it’s time to showcase my favorite post of April. Easy job for me, very very easy, I do have a favorite, and it should not come as a surprise.

BLACK SESAME MACARONS!

Loved to design them, loved to make them, loved to share them with our departmental colleagues.  If you’d like to see the full recipe, click here

Thank you Sid, for organizing the First Monday Favorite!  
If you are a food blogger and would like to participate, drop Sid a line.

To see the contributions from my virtual friends, click on the link below

(comments are shutdown for this post)

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BLACK SESAME MACARONS

My macaron obsession goes on and on. I would love to bake a batch each weekend, but must keep in mind that even the most understanding departmental colleagues might say enough is enough. Plus, if I only make macarons…  brownies, cakes, and cookies will get jealous. So here I am to share with you a batch I am quite proud of: Black Sesame Macarons. Because, although I’m addicted to colors, we all know that black is beautiful…

 

BLACK SESAME MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
100 g almond meal
15 g black sesame powder (or you can grind black sesame seeds to a powder)
113 g egg whites (aged for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Black Gel color  (about 1/2 teaspoon, add 1/4 to start and adjust as you mix)
for the filling:
8oz (227g) cream cheese
⅔ cup (134g) brown sugar
1 tsp (5g) vanilla extract
½ cup (122g) heavy whipping cream

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and black sesame powder in a food processor or mini processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling:Whip the cream in a clean bowl till stiff peaks. In another bowl, whip the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract.   Gently fold in the whipped cream into the bowl until well combined. Reserve.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of filling to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Ideally, store in the fridge for 24 hours before digging in…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments:  I am definitely not the first person to bake black macarons. A quick google expedition will show you a few other examples. Some recipes go to extent of using exclusively powdered sesame seeds as you would use almond meal for the shells. I did not want to do that, fearing that the change would be too much of a departure from the classic. So I used a small amount of black sesame powder (15 g in 115 g total seed/nut component). We could definitely taste it in the final product and I thought it was just right. More could have been overpowering.  My intention was to use a white chocolate filling, but I ran into problems and my filling never set enough to use. White chocolate is a temperamental creature. So I quickly whipped up (literally) a vanilla cream cheese filling and used it instead. It complemented well the sesame flavor of the shells, and the slight hint of caramel color given by the brown sugar looked good with the black surrounding it.

I was very happy with the way these turned out. Not a single shell cracked during baking, and the surface was for the most part pretty smooth. Beautiful, well-formed feet, and the black food coloring rose to the challenge. I am almost to the point of trying the Italian  meringue method, but want to tackle this simpler version a few more times. You know, build confidence first before facing the combination of hot syrup with egg whites.

 

I have yet another macaron post for you, shockingly green…  Stay tuned!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Fine Tuning Thomas Keller

TWO YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Tortillas

THREE YEARS AGO: Majestic Sedona, Take Two

FOUR YEARS AGO: Secret Ingredient Turkey Meatballs

FIVE YEARS AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy

DAN LEPARD TIMES THREE

Dan Lepard is the person who many years ago started my bread baking adventures through his fascinating book The Handmade Loaf. I even named my sourdough starter “Dan” and he is now a healthy and bubbly 8-year-old boy. Dan is better known as a bread baker, but his talent goes way beyond that, as you can see in his book Short and Sweet, which I reviewed five years ago. He often writes articles in The Guardian and in Goodfood (an Australian online publication) and I try not to miss anything new coming from him.  Today I share three wonderful recipes, one published in Short and Sweet (but shared by Dan in The Guardian) and two from Goodfood. Dan prefers not to have his recipes published in food blogs, so respecting his wishes, I will only share the links. You can fetch them easily and make them in the comfort of your kitchen…

First, a batch of brownies that could very well be my favorite brownie recipe ever.  Very sophisticated and complex, even those with issues against brownies will be awed by Dan’s take on it.  Figs and chocolate are a great match, but add a little red wine and you’ll hit a jackpot.  Make them. You must.

SHIRAZ FIG BROWNIES

First you reduce Shiraz on the stove top until it is a concentrated purple-reddish beauty that smells wonderful… then you add to it chocolate, butter, walnut halves and dried figs. By the way,  get the best quality figs you can find for these brownies. Also, make sure to keep the walnuts in large pieces, don’t go dicing them.  The texture of the figs, the gooey chocolate and a slight touch of fennel seeds make this recipe shine! A real masterpiece in brownie format.

for the full recipe, click here

 

Tell me, don’t you wish you could have a piece like RIGHT NOW?

 


Next, let’s talk Chestnut Ginger Biscuits. I adore ginger and anything sweet with spices, but normally have a bit of a problem with crispy cookies. I am definitely a soft-baked kind of girl. Sorry, odd phrase. Anyway, these cookies are basically dressed-up gingersnaps. They are crispy, they are hard, but once you bite into them, they melt in your mouth, and your senses are invaded with the warmth of ginger and cloves. Spectacular. Make them. You must. 

CHESTNUT GINGER BISCUITS

The recipe uses chestnut flour, an ingredient that might be a little tricky to find, but you can order it online. Smells amazing, actually. As usual for nut flours, keep it in the freezer. The preparation is actually quite simple, a one-bowl type of thing. Melt the butter, add the spices, get all happy with the intense smell as you mix the dough, that must sit in the fridge for a little while before scooping little balls and rolling in coarse sugar.  They are fun to make, fun to watch as they bake and get all cracked, and fun to share with co-workers. On a side note, I baked mine for only 18 minutes instead of 25 as called for in the recipe, and they turned out perfect.  As soon as they started to collapse a little, I removed them from the oven.

for the full recipe, click here

Finally, let me share a special bread. It is not a Johnny Depp-like loaf. No, definitely not eye-candy. It is black, with a tight crumb, quite humble looking. But when you taste it, you realize you are in front of bread royalty. Believe it or not, I made it in December 2014 and never blogged about it, hoping to make it again and perhaps get better pictures. I have good intentions, but they don’t always materialize. Oh, well. Make this bread. You must.

 

RUSSIAN BLACK BREAD

Very interesting preparation, rye flour is added to boiling water, then allowed to cool to lukewarm.  Yeast and sugar are added.  At that point, I realized I was out of an important ingredient to continue with the recipe (caraway seeds!) so I dashed to the grocery store, and returned to find quite a bit of a mess over my counter.  On the positive side,  at least I could be sure the yeast was alive and kicking.  Or, should I say, bubbling?  Another interesting twist in the recipe is the addition of grated carrots to the dough. All in all, a very straightforward bake, the bread will be ready in less than 3 hours start to finish.

 

 

for the full recipe, click here

As I mentioned, I baked this bread back in December 2014, when two very special friends (Marijo and Vlad) visited us. I knew that Vlad grew up in Russia enjoying dark rye breads, and decided to try and bake one for him.  Of course, I trust any recipe designed by Dan, and this one hit the spot. Vlad said that my bread took him straight to his childhood and teenage days. I cannot think of a better compliment…

Bumper sticker from Penzey’s, a company I’ve been a customer for 15 years. They are taking a firm stance on a message of inclusion, of embracing diversity and refusing hate and division.  On top of it, their spices rock!  Visit and support their online store with a click here.

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Portobello Burger

TWO YEARS AGO: Raspberry Ricotta Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2014

FOUR YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Pasta with Lemony Tomatoes and Spinach

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

SIX YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis (and my Dad)

THE SIREN’S SONG OF THE ROYAL ICING

Life can take sharp twists. Sometimes you’re sailing smoothly, one careless decision later and hell breaks loose. Last month I watched a youtube of a baker working on Valentine cookies with  royal icing.  Picture beautiful heart-shaped cookies, all pink, decorated with perfectly round white dots, red hearts. red lips. It was amazing, truly awe-inducing. You too can watch it here.  I showed her video to Phil, he got all excited and urged me to do it. C’mon, it’s just some sugar cookies with icing, you can do it!  I was quite insecure about it, but after intense inner deliberations, decided to go for it. Next, I laid a plan of action for the task. Make cookie dough Sunday before noon. Let dough cool in the fridge while having lunch.  Bake cookies.  Do a quick stop by the lab while cookies cool. Come back home, make the icing. Let the artistic vibes flow free. Take perfectly iced cookies to the department next morning.

All steps went according to plan up to the “come back home.”   That innocent video was indeed the perfect example of a siren’s call. A beautiful, irresistible song that you simply must follow. To your demise. Royal icing. Not. For. Sissies.

Valentine Cookies2

HEART-SHAPED SUGAR COOKIES WITH ROYAL ICING
(cookies from Mom Advice …. and icing from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces & softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 375 F.

Whisk the flour, sugar, & salt together in a large bowl. Beat the butter into the flour mixture, one piece at a time using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, then continue to beat until the mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the cream cheese & vanilla until he dough just begins to form large clumps, about thirty seconds.

Knead the dough in the large bowl by hand a few times until it forms a large, cohesive mass. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter, divide it in half, and pat each into a disk shape. Wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, about 30 minutes.

Work with one disk at a time, roll out the dough to a 1/8″ thickness between two sheets of parchment paper.  Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 1″ apart. Bake the cookies until light golden brown, about ten minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely, about thirty minutes. When completely cooled, the cookies will be ready for icing.

Make sure you are well rested. Think happy thoughts before proceeding.

ROYAL ICING

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp meringue powder
5 tbsp water, plus more to thin the icing
Gel food coloring
endless amount of Zen

Call Happy Maids and set an appointment for home cleaning.

Place the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water into a bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment on medium low for about 7 to 10 minutes, until the mixture looks matte. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container.

At this point, the mixture is too thick to pipe. Add more water by tablespoon to the mixture, stirring thoroughly between additions, until it is at a consistency that can be piped. Add any coloring you might be using. If you are using more than one color, divide the mixture among airtight containers before adding the color. In my case, I used some pink gel to turn the mixture pink for piping and flooding, and red gel  for the decorations.

Place the flooding icing into plastic squeeze condiment bottle. Line the outer edge of each cookie with icing, allow it to set for about one hour. One cookie at a time, squeeze some of the icing in the center and spread it with a toothpick to the edges. Dot a contrasting color onto the icing with more icing of the same consistency. Drag a toothpick through the dots to create “artsy” hearts. Let the icing dry for about 3 hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Valentine Cookies3

Beware, long saga ahead…

The sugar cookies worked like a charm, I highly recommend the recipe and the method of rolling the dough in between two sheets of parchment paper.  I think I overbaked mine slightly, but other than that, no problems. Best part? Absolutely no mess in the kitchen. Considering the state of my environment once I was done decorating the cookies, it was a blessing to have to wash only once the floor, walls, countertops and a dog.

The Royal Icing. That’s when things got dicey, and they got dicey fast. After sifting the powdered sugar (boy, that thing flies through the air like nobody’s business), adding the meringue powder and the water, I turned the KA on and walked away since it would be doing its magic for several minutes. It did not take long for the machine to make odd noises, as if badly struggling to move the paddle around.  To my horror, I saw this huge white rock inside the bowl, no wonder the poor machine was having a tough time.  I turned it off  to lower the bowl, but the rock was bonded as a single happy entity with the paddle. Hyperventilating, I gave up on the hammer and instead turned the KA back on while drizzling cold water around the bowl. Much to my relief, that worked, and the rock slowly turned into a very thick paste.  It was hard to judge how much water to add for proper consistency, but at least I had averted tragedy number one.  Next, it was time to divide the icing in two batches: a bigger portion to be dyed pink, a smaller for red. I eyeballed the icing into two bowls, added pink gel, mixed very well, then tried to pour it into a squeeze bottle, only to realize that the bottle had a sadistically narrow opening. A funnel was desperately needed. We have many in the lab, none at home. Bummer. I filled the bottle with a small spoon, in a tedious and messy process. Not exactly my idea of fun, but… the afternoon was young, and I had already overcome two tragedies.

The_Mermaid_and_the_Satyr

Ferdinand Leeke, 1917-  via Wikimedia

I proceeded to dye the second batch. adding what seemed like a lot of red gel to get it right. Then I placed the Wilton tip #2 (as recommended in the youtube) inside a disposable plastic pastry bag. Opened the bag around my hand like I see the pros doing, but adding the icing to the bag was a nightmare. It simply would not slip down the bag like it does on TV. I suspect they use special effects, cheaters! At that point I was dealing with a bowl of red icing over the counter, a spoon on my right hand, and a pastry bag in precariously open situation on my left hand.  Some help would have been nice, but the man I married  had decided to go play golf the moment I grabbed the box of powdered sugar. Mind you, it was 50 F outside, with gusty winds. He told me I would need peace and quiet to ice the cookies, and it was best if he left. I married Gandhi. Can you grasp the full irony of it? The golfer was the one cheerleading me into this royal pain!

PicMonkey Collage

But Thelxiepeia was not done singing yet. The pink icing apparently got too hard and refused to flow down the squeeze bottle. Hyperventilation back in full blast, I added water to the bottle and stirred it as well as I could with a wooden chopstick.  Disaster number three averted. Flooded the first cookie with pink icing, completely forgetting Karen’s instruction to pipe a border and let it set. Grabbed the bag with the red icing. I decided to start humble and do just a few round dots. Almost nothing came out from the tip. A lot leaked from the top, and then from the spot between tip and bag, as the bag teared right in front of my eyes. I will now pause and give you a moment to imagine the scene. Christmas Red Icing pretty much all over my hands, sweater sleeves, and the vicinity of the cookie. I concluded that the number 2 tip requires an experienced pair of hands to maneuver it. I had another tip with a slightly larger opening, so all I had to do was to transfer the icing to a new bag with the larger tip. “All I had to do” sounds pretty tame in comparison to what it involved. I make another pause so that you can imagine the process as it developed in the Bewitching Kitchen. One thought briefly crossed my mind… you should be wearing gloves... but that train had long left the station.  It was a royal mess, which probably explains the choice of name for the icing. Some patissier with a sick sense of humor, no doubt. After that disaster was averted (sort of),  I was pretty much spent. Emotionally drained, with shockingly pink-red hands in a kitchen that looked like a crime scene.  I took a deep breath and started the process of icing twenty-seven sugar cookies, one by one. It is a lot harder than the video makes it seem, trust me on that. By cookie number 23 I felt I was getting the hang of it, but lost the touch at cookie 25. Such is life.

icedcookies

Just to illustrate the extent of my saga… my hands four hours later, after a few rounds of soap and hot water (sigh).

stain2

The verdict?  The cookies tasted great, and were well received by our colleagues, even if they would not win prizes in a beauty contest (the cookies, not the colleagues). I was so traumatized by the process that the idea of icing cookies again made me physically ill.  But now that a few days have gone by, I feel the need to re-visit the issue, knowing what to expect.  I won’t overbake the cookies. I will wear gloves. I will stick with squeeze bottles as Karen did, and bag the icing bags (pun intended). I will use the needle tool the way it was meant to be used (enough said on that).  And I will never ever allow a new siren song to work its magic. No doubt in my  mind, that woman is some type of a goddess. My bets are on Aphrodite.

Medusa_head_by_Gianlorenzo_Bernini_in_Musei_capitolini

I thought French macarons were tricky, but icing these cookies was like facing Medusa’s head. It’s a good thing that in the end of that evening, Dionysus came to my rescue…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Blog-worthy Roasted Butternut Squash

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

THREE YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

FIVE YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

SIX YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain

HERMIT COOKIES

If you expect me to stick with the usual type of posts published by most food bloggers in January, I shall now disappoint you. I have a cookie post to share. And a great one. The recipe comes from Geoffrey Zakarian, which pretty much means it is going to be awesome. If there is one chef I’d like to sit down and chat with, is GZ. He seems like a nice person, and extremely knowledgeable about food. This is one of his favorite cookies, by the way, which shows we have at least a couple of things in common: a passion for spice cookies, and allowing our hair to go totally gray. HA!

Hermit Cookies

HERMIT COOKIES
(from Geoffrey Zakarian)

Yield: about 18 cookies

for the cookies:
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

 for the glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 large egg whites
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, allspice and ginger in a medium bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter, brown sugar and molasses together in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, eggs and orange zest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until incorporated. Add the spiced flour mixture and beat until the dough just comes together. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough into large balls (about 1.5 inches in diameter) and refrigerate on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper until firm, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake the cookies until the tops of the hermits are no longer glossy and the edges are firm, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

For the glaze: While the cookies cool, mix the confectioners’ sugar, egg whites and vanilla seeds in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until smooth and shiny. Transfer the glaze to a piping bag or zip lock bag with a corner cut, and pipe stripes onto the cooled hermits. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

hermitcomposite

Comments:  Let me share what GZ has to say about these babies: “This is my favorite holiday cookie, because it blends two of my favorites: soft chocolate chip cookies and spicy gingerbread — the best of both worlds.”  I totally agree.

Did you know that Hermit cookies have been around since 1877? Amazing!  The name is a big mystery, actually.  They were also known as tea cakes, made traditionally as little squares. You can read all about them here. Hermit cookies are soft the way I like, spicy, sweet, and the glaze goes perfectly with them, although I am sure the glaze is a modern take on the original recipe. I normally like a plain cookie, but must admit the extra work for the glaze pays off in this recipe.

Hermit Cookies2

The holiday season is over, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with baking a batch of spice cookies when the mood strikes… You?

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Cremini Mushroom Meatloaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi & Tamimi’s Roast Chicken with Clementines

THREE YEARS AGO: Eight-Ball Zucchini: The Missing Files

FOUR YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

FIVE YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

SIX YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese: an Italian Classic

CANDY CANE COOKIES

Candy Cane Cookies 2

Before the holiday season is over, I must share with you these adorable little cookies I made for a Holiday Dessert Party hosted by a colleague from our department. The idea is a get-together mid-afternoon in which everyone brings something sweet. It can be a cake, a pie, cookies, bars, preferably home-made, but no one will be mad if you bring store-bought stuff. The important is to join the party and have fun.  When I got the invitation, I quickly assembled a list of possibilities, but decided that it would be hard to top these babies, recently blogged by Chris, from The Café Sucre Farine. They are simply PERFECT for the season, and a lot of fun to make. Too bad Greenlee is a bit too young and way too far away. Still, I know one day I’ll be making a batch with her help. Can hardly wait.

Candy Cane Cookie

CANDY CANE COOKIES
(from The Café Sucre Farine)

1 cup salted butter, softened
⅔ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup color nonpareil sprinkles
1 10-ounce bag Hershey’s Holiday Candy Cane Kisses

Heat oven to 350°F. Pour sprinkles into shallow bowl. Unwrap Candy Cane Kisses, reserve.

Combine butter, sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add flour; beat at low-speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

Shape dough into small 1-inch balls, then roll balls of dough in sprinkles, patting sprinkles gently onto any areas where sprinkles have not adhered. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 14-18 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove from oven and quickly place a kiss in the center of each cookie, pressing down barely (about ¼ inch or less!) into the cookie.  Let stand 5 minutes on cookie sheets, then carefully remove to cooling rack. Cool completely before moving or touching them. The kisses will take a while to firm up, so be gentle.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositecandy

Comments: These are the simplest cookies ever as far as the dough goes. A regular shortbread type, no eggs, just butter, sugar and flour. I have very limited experience with shortbread, but when I made a batch of choc chip shortbread cookies there were no issues, and I loved the resulting texture. These are shaped as balls one by one, they don’t spread too much, get all plump instead. I was worried about the cookies hardening too fast, so I left one baking sheet in the oven when they were done baking, and worked as fast as I could on the first sheet.  It turns out you can take your time, get both sheets out of the oven at the same time and move along. However, make sure to have all candies unwrapped and waiting. This batch made 26 cookies, which is about half the bag. I suggest you unwrap 30 just to be on the safe side, and if there are kisses leftover be brave and do the sacrifice expected from a real baker: polish them off.

The thing I loved the most about these cookies (apart from their cuteness) is the way the mint flavor of the candy permeated through the whole cookie. I did not expect that to be the case since the candies are placed after baking. Let’s say it was a very pleasant surprise.

cooling2

This basic recipe could be adapted to so many situations!  All you’ll have to do is change the color of the sprinkles, and the type of kiss candy in the center. I can visualize a batch for Valentine’s Day, for Halloween, 4th of July, or to match the colors of your favorite team or school.

Thank you Chris for a great recipe, and super helpful advice!

 

holidays-2

This will be my last post for the year, so I wish all my readers a wonderful New Year’s Eve! We are heading to Colorado for a week. I intend to face the ski slopes with the bravery of someone born and raised in the Austrian Alps.
(I am laughing so hard now I’ll need to dry my eyes)

holidays-2

ONE YEAR AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

TWO YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

THREE YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

FIVE YEARS AGO: Gougeres

SIX YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

 

TWO TAKES ON RASPBERRIES

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL MY AMERICAN READERS!

Berries in general (except for strawberries) were not part of childhood. They were either impossible to find in Brazil or terribly, terribly expensive.  It took me a while to warm up to them once I moved to the US. At first I did not care for fresh blueberries, and found raspberries impossibly tart. Maybe aging changed my taste buds, or maybe it’s the result of my gastronomic stubbornness: if I don’t care for something the first time I try, I go back at it a few months later, with an open mind.  Whatever the case, I now adore all berries, including the uniquely tart raspberries, or as they are called in Portuguese framboesas. Cute name, almost as cute as the French framboises. Obviously, it’s almost impossible to beat the charm of the French language. N’est-ce pas?

Today I share with you two recipes showcasing these cute berries, both from food blogs I follow and love. The first recipe comes from Gayle’s site, and in a nice coincidence exactly one year ago I reviewed her book The Global Pastry Table. Her recipe calls for raspberry jam (I used store-bought, but you can go the virtuous route and make your own). The second recipe, from  Lynda’s blog, calls for a mixture of preserves and fresh fruit. In another nice coincidence, I also reviewed her book in a not too distant past. Both recipes turned out delicious, and will be perfect for the holiday season coming up…

Pecan Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies-3

PECAN-RASPBERRY THUMBPRINT COOKIES
(from Pastry Studio)

(Makes about 60 cookies)

14 1/4 oz (3 cups + 2 tablespoons) flour
6 oz (1 1/2 cups) pecans, toasted
3 oz (1 cup) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 oz (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup raspberry jam

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.   Line baking sheets with parchment or silpats.

Place the flour, pecans, powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the nuts are finely ground.  Cut the butter into 1/2” pieces and add along with the vanilla.  Process until the dough begins to form clumps around the blade.

Roll the dough into 1 1/4” balls and set them about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.  Press your thumb gently into the middle of each ball to make a well for the jam.  Stir the jam to loosen it and then spoon about 1/2 teaspoon into the wells.

Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 17 – 20 minutes. Place the pans on a wire rack to cool.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositethumb

Comments: These cookies were a lot of fun to make, but of course I think there is room for improvement. By the way, I halved the recipe and got about 32 cookies. Next time I want to make them a little more uniform in size, and also smooth out the surface a little better. But, this time I went with a rustic look. When in doubt, apply “rustic” to the title of your productions and everyone will be impressed…  Let this be our little secret. And one more secret for you… do you know when I made these cookies? Six months ago!  I’m not kidding you when I say I’ve got way too many things waiting in line to go public.  Which also explains why I’m giving you two recipes in one single post, after all I don’t want you to wait six more months to enjoy these amazingly delicious raspberry squares that I made just a couple of weeks ago. See? I don’t always blog at a snail pace.

Raspberry squares

RASPBERRY ALMOND STREUSEL BARS
(slightly modified from Taste Food)

for the crust and topping:
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup almond flour
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

for the filling:
3/4  cup raspberry preserves
1/4 cup apricot jam
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, coarsely chopped

Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

Combine the flours, almond meal, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and extracts. Pulse until mixture is coarsely blended, 10 to 12 times. Transfer 1/2 cup  of the mixture to a bowl to reserve for the topping. Press the remaining mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Place the preserves, jam, and raspberries in a bowl. Mix with a fork to combine, lightly mashing the whole raspberries but leaving large pieces intact. Spread the mixture over the crust. Add the almonds to the reserved topping, then sprinkle the topping over the filling.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cut in small squares. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

barscollage

Comments: It goes without saying that the combination of raspberries and almonds is a classic. In these bars, the cinnamon component will also be quite prominent. The three flavors together form a superb trinity! I think the almond extract could be omitted if you don’t have some hanging around in your pantry, but I must say it adds a lot to the crust and topping. Make sure you let the whole thing cool completely before slicing, or it will crumble on you. I actually placed the whole baking dish lightly covered with aluminum foil in the fridge and sliced it several hours later. I cut the squares a little smaller than Lynda did, ending up with 25 squares instead of 16. Since I take these treats to the department, I like to maximize the number of servings so that more people can profit from a little sweetness on a busy morning.

I hope you enjoyed this double feature with a raspberry theme. I find that desserts and cookies made with raspberries are never overly sweet, the tartness of the berries cuts through the sugar and brightens up everything. Plus, how can anyone resist that intense red color they offer? So gorgeous!

ONE YEAR AGO: Spice Cake with Blackberry Puree & The Global Pastry Review

TWO YEARS AGO: Own Your Kitchen with Cappuccino Panna Cotta

THREE YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

FOUR YEARS AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

FIVE YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf 

SIX YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread