4TH OF JULY INSPIRED BAKING

HAPPY 4th OF JULY!

Just a couple of days ago I celebrated 11 years of my naturalization! It always gives me a smile the fact that it fell so close to such an important holiday. Today I share four bakes that celebrate the occasion: macarons, sugar cookies, red velvet brownies, and baked donuts. The common denominator? Sprinkles. I bet you are not surprised.

4th OF JULY MACARONS WITH CHOCOLATE COCONUT FILLING
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g  powdered sugar
115 g almond flour
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
red, blue, purple and black food gel dye

for the chocolate-coconut ganache:  
180g cream of coconut
1/8 tsp salt
200g chocolate, cut in small pieces (II used 70% Lindt)

to decorate:
white non-pareils

Make the shells:
Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, and ground almonds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and 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 in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. Whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the ground almond/almond meal mixture in two 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.   Divide the batter in three parts, dye 1/3 red, dye 1/3 blue (using a mixture of blue, purple and black to get the tone of blue you like). Leave the final third white. Pour the three batters side by side over plastic wrap, enclose them wrapping the plastic around like a sausage. Drop the bag with the three colors inside a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip.  If you want to make a set of solid color, divide the batter to get a bigger amount of that color and place some of it in a separate piping bag.

Pipe rounds over Silpat or parchment paper in a half-sheet pan and then slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Add sprinkles, if like.  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 300 F (150 C/130C Fan oven/Gas Mark 2). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

Make the ganache. Bring the coconut puree and salt to the boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate in a bowl. Stir well with a whisk until combined. Cover the ganache with plastic wrap touching the surface and leave at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Do not place in the fridge. Whip with a handheld blender for a minute or so to get a slightly thicker consistency for piping.

Match shells and add the filling (I used a piping bag cut open, no piping tip). Decorations for the small macarons were made with Candy Melts (white) and star-shaped sprinkles. Place the macarons in the fridge overnight to mature before enjoying or freezing them for later.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For the tie-dye color effect, add the three batters to the same bag. The easiest way to do that is to open a large piece of plastic film on your countertop, lay the different colors in three large stripes, side by side. Roll the plastic wrap as a sausage and drop it inside a piping bag fitted with your favorite tip. That will make sure the colors get a random mixing as you pipe the shells. I reserved some blue batter to make smaller macarons, all blue. If you want the colors to be more separated, with clear margins (also a very cool effect), simply place them in three separate piping bags and drop them inside a larger one, after cutting their tips (easy to forget, don’t ask me how I know).

4th OF JULY CARDAMON-ORANGE COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

360 g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
215 g sugar
¼ tsp salt
227 g cup butter, cold and cut in pieces
1 egg
3/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia extract
zest of 1 large orange
1/2 tsp cardamom

for the Royal Icing:
80 g egg whites
420 g powdered sugar
blue gel food dye

MAKE THE COOKIE DOUGH. Heat oven to 350 F. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Add the orange zest to the sugar and rub it all with your hands to release the fragrant oils. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, Fiori di Sicilia and cardamom, mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Dough can be rolled right away in between sheets of parchment paper. Roll to about 1/4″ thick, and cut into shapes. I used large stars, small stars, and rectangles. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, freeze for 5 to 10 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before icing.

MAKE THE ROYAL ICING: whisk the egg whites and powdered sugar using a KitchenAid type mixer until fully smooth. Adjust if needed with sugar or a little milk. Color half of it blue, keep the other half white. Make the small stars first, flooding them with white icing. Add the sprinkles before the icing sets. As they sit on a rack, flood the large stars with blue icing. Keep the very center empty, all you need is a little icing to glue the small star on top. Since it is going to be a bit heavy, if you flood the whole extension of the cookie, it will risk pressing is too much and running down the edges. Place the small star on top and allow them to dry overnight.

For the painted cookie effect, see this post.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This basic recipe for sugar cookies is the one I had planned to use in the Great American Baking Show. I’ve made it so many times now, that I don’t even need to look at the recipe anymore. It always works. My only advice for you is to use regular American butter, like the simple, humble Land-O-Lakes. That butter seems to be the best in terms of less spreading and less fat leaking during baking. And the cookies taste as good as those made with higher fancier brands. Come to think of it, if I had made it in the tent, who knows how they would turn out? I shiver to think.  😉

RED VELVET BROWNIE CAKE
(slightly modified from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes)

300g semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
200g  butter
200g sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste
150g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/2  tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
8 g red gel color (I used Americolor Super Red)

for icing:
300g powdered sugar
3 tbsp very hot water
squeeze of lemon juice
sprinkles

Heat the oven to 325 F.  Grease a  12 x 9 in pan tin and line with parchment paper. Sift the flour with the baking powder and the salt. Reserve. Gently melt the chocolate and the butter together.  Let it cool slightly and add the sugar, eggs, vanilla and red gel dye. Mix well until smooth and shiny.  Add the flour mixture, stir until no dry bits remain.

Pour the mixture into the pan and level the top. Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until risen and a crust has formed on the surface. The middle should feel just firm when pressed with your fingertips. Leave to cool in the pan, then remove it.

Make the icing: Mix the powdered sugar, water and lemon juice together in a bowl to make a smooth paste, adjust consistency as needed. Spread over the cold cake and top with sprinkles. Cut in pieces to serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Pretty much everything I bake these days go for Common Table meals, and they need to be wrapped individually. I am always tweaking the recipes so that they bake as flat and uniformly as possible, and if they have some type of icing, it is not too soft. Crusting buttercream and powdered sugar-based icings are the best.  I tend to use less baking powder than the recipes call for, so feel free to up a little the amount (up to 2 + 1/2 tsp)  if you don’t mind a certain dome effect in the center of your cake. For this recipe a 13 x 9 will give a cake a bit too thin, if that’s the only size you have, perhaps a 10 inch square pan will work better.

4th OF JULY BAKED ORANGE DONUTS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

100g granulated sugar
Zest of 1 large orange
160 g cake flour, sifted
1 + ¼ tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tbsp butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla paste

Spray your donut pans with a very light coating of baking spray. I used one mini donut pan and one regular size.  Heat oven to 400 F.

In a small bowl combine sugar and orange zest until the sugar is moistened and fragrant. In a large mixing bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in sugar mixture.

Add buttermilk, egg, butter, and vanilla and stir until just combined. Add batter to a piping bag and fill each donut cup approximately one-half full.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the top of the donuts spring back when touched.
Let cool in pan for 4–5 minutes before removing. Finish the donuts with melted Candy Melts and add sprinkles before it sets.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I’ve made these donuts about a month ago using orange blossom water instead of vanilla paste, and to me they tasted a bit artificial. So this time I kept the orange theme exclusively in the zest. Maybe it depends on the brand of orange water you have. At any rate, they are very simple to prepare and have a nice texture. Fiori di Sicilia would probably be quite nice also, but I did not want to have two exact same flavors in the weekly bake. All these goodies were included in the same Common Table meal of July 3rd.

I hope you enjoyed this small collection of 4th of July bakes, and that you are having a nice weekend. Please stay vigilant, observe social distance, and wear a mask when outside. It is not a political issue, it is a matter of your health and that of those around you.

A mask is a sign that you care.

For a recent review on staying safe during this pandemic, visit this post.

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2019

TWO YEARS AGO: Brigadeiros for the 4th of July

THREE YEARS AGO: Kaleidoscopic Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Zucchini Noodles with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

SIX YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

NINE YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

TEN YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July

 

NUTELLA TIME: ONE COOKIE, THREE DECORATIONS


Nutella and Biscoff spreads are items that live permanently in my heart, and almost permanently in my pantry.  I am just a bit afraid of losing control and getting at those jars with a spoon. And wild abandon. If you find yourself with a bottle of Nutella hanging around, put it to good use. This recipe is slightly modified from Bakeat350, a site that was first recommended by my friend Tracy, Cookie Decorator Extraordinaire. From the cookies, I ventured into different directions using Royal Icing and also a simplified method for those times when your patience genes are in fully-repressed mode.

NUTELLA SUGAR COOKIES
(slightly modified from Bakeat350)

320g all-purpose flour
50g Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (226g) cold butter, cut into chunks
1/4 tsp salt
200g sugar
1/3 cup Nutella
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Line cookie sheets with parchment. Heat oven to 350.

Whisk the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder together. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the Nutella and mix well, then the egg and vanilla paste. When all in fully combined, add the flour in 2 to 3 additions, mixing in low-speed  until combined. Do not over-mix.  Remove the dough and smooth it by kneading gently with your hands, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Roll the dough to your favorite thickness, cut shapes and freeze the cutout shapes on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Keep in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes, bake straight from frozen for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool lightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack for icing when fully cold.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The dough for these cookies is very forgiving. I’ve made it three times and settled on a smaller proportion of Nutella, without compromising flavor, but improving texture, in my opinion. The original amount specified in the recipe made it slightly harder to work with, and forced me to add too much flour/cocoa during rolling and cutting.

And now, let’s talk decoration…  The first method uses the painted icing technique, as described in this post from Helen’s Pastries like a Pro. It is perfect for those times in which you are short on time and patience or both (yeah, that happens).  The effects are random, each cookie very unique. Love it!

PAINTED COOKIES
(from Pastries Like a Pro)

2 cups unsifted powdered sugar (260 grams)
1/4 cup lemon juice  or a mixture of lemon juice and water
sprinkles of your choice

Add sugar and lemon/water into a bowl, stir until fully smooth. The glaze should run off a spoon but remain fairly thick. If necessary, transfer to  a bowl that will make it easier to dip the surface of the cookies. Dot the surface with gel food colors.

With a bamboo skewer or toothpick, swirl the colors around. Do not over-swirl. Pick the cookies up by the edge and dip top side down, just to the top of the cookie, into the glaze allowing the glaze to drip back into the bowl. When most of it has dripped back,   turn it right side up and place it on parchment paperIf there is a lot of glaze still on the top, wipe the excess off by dragging it very lightly on the edge of the bowl. Place top side up on parchment to dry. Add sprinkles before the glaze hardens, if you so desire.

Dry for 24 hours before packing. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I used yellow, pink and red to do the swirls on the surface of the icing. Because the cookies are brown, you won’t have a full coverage of the underlying surface. If you’d like, do a double coating, one fully white and then a second one with the swirls, then add the sprinkles. Because the icing is so thin, these cookies will have a more intense flavor of chocolate.

SMALL-BATCH ROYAL ICING DECORATION
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

40 g egg whites
200 g powdered sugar
squeeze of lemon juice
sprinkles (optional)

Mix all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and whisk for a couple of minutes with a hand-held mixer. Adjust consistency to give a nice flooding texture.  Divide the icing in two portions, color one pink, keep the other white.

Decorate the cookies with the two-colors, and add sprinkles of your choice before the icing hardens.  The flower pattern involves icing in color #1, then addint just one spot of contrasting color in the center of the cookie and a circle of the same color around it.  A toothpick is then used to drag lines all around the perimeter of the circle. Sprinkles are added before the icing hardens.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

ROYAL ICING ROSETTES AND LEAVES
(adapted from Wilton)

1 recipe of small-batch Royal Icing (see above) to flood the cookies

for rosettes and leaves:
2 cups (about 1/2 pound) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
1 + 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder

Beat all ingredients with a KitchenAid type  mixer and the paddle attachment for about 7 minutes.  Let the icing rest for 10 minutes, adjust consistency if needed. For piping rosettes, it must be thick but soft enough to squeeze through a small piping tip.

Divide the icing in two portions, color one pink, one green. Use a small star tip (like a Wilton 16) for rosettes and a small leaf piping tip (I used a K13) for the leaves.  Pipe your shapes over parchment paper and allow to dry. They last for a long time at room temperature.

Ice your cookies with White Royal Icing, and while it’s still wet, place the sugar decorations on top. Add sprinkles, if you like. Let the cookies sit at room temperature 24 hours in a single layer to fully dry.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Those were so much fun to make! Very Zen, you should make more than you think you’ll need because some might break as you move them, some might not look that good, particularly if it’s the first time you make them, as it was the case for me. I now bought a smaller leaf-piping tip as the smallest I had was a big too big for the rosettes.

These decorations might go well over macarons, so I am saving the leftovers and waiting for my new piping tip so I can make additional ones with that goal in mind. It is nice to do this type of project with no hurry. I actually like to roll just half of the cookie dough and freeze the rest for a much easier second batch. And of course, you can make rosettes weeks in advance if you prefer, and just save them inside a plastic box at room temperature.

ONE YEAR AGO: Marshmallow Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Sprinkled Meringues

THREE YEARS AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Three

FOUR YEARS AGO: Dan Lepard Simple White Loaf

FIVE YEARS AGO: Maureen’s Fabulously Fudgy Brownies

SIX YEARS AGO: Wheat Berry Caraway Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Mexican Focaccia 

EIGHT YEARS AGOSunny Kamut Salad with Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

NINE YEARS AGO: Pane de Casa & Crostini

TEN YEARS AGO: Down-home Dig-in Chili

ELEVEN YEARS AGO:  Cinnamon Rolls

 

 

BAKING THROUGH THE BLOGOSPHERE

And now for something completely different. I will share a few recipes straight from blogs I follow. You can click on the link to the original blog posts to get the recipes that perk your interest…

PERUVIAN ALFAJORES
(from Carlos’ blog)

Delicious cookies, filled with dulce de leche, which reminds me so much of my childhood!  My Mom used to pressure cook cans of condensed milk, open them to reveal the luscious caramel inside, and I would enjoy it by spoonfuls. I was such a picky eater, I suppose having that around would make sure I got enough calories to survive.  Carlos offers THE authentic version for these famous cookies. They are delicate, elegant, and incredibly tasty.

HELEN’S BROWNIES
(from Bakers Anonymous)

These are just amazing brownies. A huge hit of chocolate, perfect texture, got rave reviews from the resident brownie critic, who has been very VERY hard to please in the brownie department. His favorite version takes toasted pecans in the mix (follow Helen’s recipe and add 3/4 cup toasted pecans in the final mixing).

CHOCOLATE-SWIRLED BANANA BREAD
(from Jamlab)

This takes your regular banana bread and dresses it up for party… I find that people are usually divided into two groups when it comes to banana bread. Those purists who want a plain, banana-only taste in their loaf, and those who don’t mind bells and whistles. Obviously, this version is dedicated for those in the latter group. Don’t be stingy with the chocolate chips on top. They add a lot, and look super cute.

ALMOND TEA CAKES
(from Saving Room for Dessert)

A lot of fun to make, these are egg-free little cakes in bite-size format, deliciously addictive. You can add any kind of jam to their centers. I used boysenberry jam. Other than that, I followed the recipe from Tricia’s blog to a T. They turn out quite elegant also, I visualize them in a tea party next to Peruvian Alfajores. What a nice couple!

LOVE BARS
(from Helen’s Pastries like a Pro)

These are quite unusual, and the looks do not do justice to their taste. Helen described them so well in her blog, that I could not wait to bake a batch. The base bakes at the same time as the topping, simplifying the preparation quite a bit.  If you are into gingerbread type dessert, you will go nuts for this one. Trust me.

DOUBLE CITRUS POPPY-SEED BREAKFAST CAKE
(from Joanne’s Eats Well with Others)


This was an OMG type of cake. I slightly modified her recipe by using a mixture of Meyer Lemon and Blood Oranges, juice and zest. The slices on top were Meyer Lemons, but the drizzle was a mixture of lemons and blood oranges, so in the end the red color spoke louder. It is a very moist and tender cake, intensely fragrant. A crowd-pleaser.

CHOCOLATE DONUTS
(from Dana’s Wake and Bake Mama)

Baked donuts made as festive as possible through the power of sprinkles. Dana’s recipe is quick to assemble, one-bowl-type-thing. Less things to wash, no need to get the KitchenAid out to play. Granted, maybe I used a bit of a heavy hand with the sprinkles, but they make me happy.

 

TRADITIONAL SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD
(from Tanya’s Global Bakes)

Last December I went on a compulsive shortbread cookie adventure, and tried several recipes, including one super convoluted from America’s Test Kitchen, in which every single utensil of my kitchen was involved. Tanya’s version won my heart, apart from going a bit over the top with the decoration, I stayed true to her recipe. Two thumbs all the way up for it.

That’s the end of my walk through the blogosphere… all these bakes ended up as part of the Common Table meals, something that has kept me busy and “sane” through these odd times we are going through. Baking is a huge therapy for me, and I know I’m not alone, many of my baking friends feel the same way.

ONE YEAR AGO: Chickpea Burgers, Vegan and Delicious

TWO YEARS AGO: Macarons with Ganache Noisette

THREE YEARS AGO: Quiche with Asparagus and Fennel

FOUR YEARS AGO: Fakebouleh

FIVE YEARS AGO: Yellow Squash Soup

SIX YEARS AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Asparagus Quiche

NINE YEARS AGO: Two-stage Pea and Prosciutto Risotto

TEN YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread

 

SCARY GOOD RECIPES FOR YOUR NEXT HALLOWEEN

Halloween will be back in only 361 days, so I am here to help you get into proper mood for it. Truth is, I had so much fun making these recipes, I cannot stand the idea of waiting for months and months to share. Let me introduce you then to some Friendly Ghost Cookies, Witches’ Fingers, and a Gingerbread Coffin with a chocolate cake inside so delicious that a dead body will rest forever happy.

FRIENDLY GHOST SUGAR COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

360 g all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
215 g granulated sugar
2 tsp orange zest
¼ tsp salt
227 g cup butter, cold and cut in pieces
1 egg
3/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia extract
1/2 tsp cardamom

for icing:
4 Tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup water
1 pound powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup (such as Karo)
a few drops of almond extract

Heat oven to 360F.  Make the cookie dough. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, Fiori di Sicilia, orange zest and cardamom, mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Dough can be rolled right away in between sheets of parchment paper. Roll to about 1/4″ thick, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, freeze for 5 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before icing.

Make the Royal icing. In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, with paddle attachment the water and meringue powder for a couple of minutes. Add the powdered sugar (sift over the bowl), corn syrup and almond extract. Beat on high speed for about 5 minutes.

Divide the Royal icing in three portions, one large will be left white. Two small portions will be dyed black and orange.  Flood the cookies with white icing and decorate with black and orange details as shown in the pictures.  Allow to fully dry before serving them.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe click here

Comments: The recipe makes quite a bit of cookies, feel free to halve them if you prefer. Rolling the dough and baking is not a big deal, but of course the decoration demands a bit of time. I made them one evening after work and had this little voice talking to myself “why didn’t you make just half?”

The composite picture below shows you how easy it is to make the decoration for the little ghosts. Three lines, wet on wet, and a needle to pull the lines through, first in one direction, then in the opposite direction.  I cannot take credit for it, I saw a similar design somewhere in Pinterest world.


The combination of orange zest, fiori di Sicilia and cardamon is really wonderful. I need to think about those flavors for macaron filling.

Moving on……


WITCHES’ FINGERS

Recipe from my friend Karen over at Karen’s Kitchen Stories. Click here to get all the details.

RECIPE STEPS IN PICTURES

Comments: At first I was a bit insecure about how much green dye to use (secret is to use less than you think you need), and how to exactly shape the fingers. Well, don’t worry too much about it, no matter how you do it, the result will be gruesome and horrific. Which is pretty much the goal of the bake, right?  They taste delicious, and the nails  almonds add a nice flavor to them. As to the jam, I used raspberry jam with a tiny drop of red food color to intensify the effect. The jam by itself was not as red as I wanted.

Moving on to the final bake…


GINGERBREAD COFFIN WITH CHOCOLATE CAKE
(from Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

for the gingerbread dough:
660 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses

for icing:
4 Tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup water
1 pound powdered sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
a few drops of almond extract

for the caramel glue:
200 g sugar
60 mL water
1 tsp corn syrup
1/2 tsp lemon juice

for the chocolate cake:
463 g sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
70 g Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (237 g) water
3/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
220 g all-purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk

for the chocolate icing:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup

for the Royal icing decoration:
(same recipe as sugar cookies)

Make the gingerbread dough. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. In another large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high, cream butter and sugar for about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then honey and molasses.

Slowly add the flour mixture until well combined. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour.

Heat oven to 350°F. Working with a third of dough at a time, roll out to ¼-inch thickness on parchment paper well dusted with flour. Cut the pieces you need for the coffin, and transfer the cut pieces to the freezer for about 10 minutes. Bake cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. They must be crisp and dry but not getting dark.

Cool them completely before icing and once the icing is dry, assemble the coffin using caramel.

Make the caramel. Put the sugar and water in a large, low-sided frying pan over a medium-high heat. Without stirring, bring to 320 F.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the syrup is ready when the sugar has dissolved and it turns a golden color, not too dark.  Swirl the syrup gently in the pan to even out the color. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for a few moments to thicken slightly to the consistency of honey. Dip the edges of the pieces you intend to glue and assemble them. Drizzle additional caramel if needed using a small spoon. 

If the syrup begins to harden in the pan, put it back over a gentle heat until it has returned to the required consistency.

Make the chocolate cake. Heat oven to 350F.  Spray a 13 x 9 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, extending the paper out of the pan to facilitate removal of the cake after baking.

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, cocoa, and baking soda. Add to it 1 cup of boiling water, stir well and let it sit for 15 minutes.

Pour the hot cocoa mixture into a mixing bowl, add the oil and vanilla and beat on low speed until combined. On low speed, mix the flour into the batter and then add the eggs, egg yolks and buttermilk. Do not over-mix. Pour the very thin batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes, rotating the pan after 15 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when tested in the center of the cake.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes on a rack. Run a thin knife around the edge and jar the edge of the pan to loosen. Invert onto the serving platter. Cool completely, then cut in pieces to fit inside the gingerbread coffin. You will have to do some assembling to fit some of the cut pieces in the bottom of the coffin.

Make the chocolate icing. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler. Add corn syrup and set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. use immediately, pouring it gently over the cake, once it’s inside the gingerbread coffin.  Allow it to set for a few hours at room temperature.  Use Royal Icing to draw a skeleton inside, if you so desire, or use powdered sugar and a stencil.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Your cake will be baked in a 13 x 9 rectangular pan. You should draw a design for the coffin that makes the lid no bigger than 12.5 inches in length. The sides should be 2.5 inches in height.  It is a pretty easy design, I made the pieces in cardboard and used those to cut the gingerbread dough. The recipe has a reasonably small amount of baking powder, so that the dough does not change much during baking, but you can always use a Microplane grater to bring the edges into better shape.

Most gingerbread sculptures are assembled with very thick Royal icing. It has its problems – I will discuss those a bit more in a future post. Caramel sounds dangerous because it’s so hot and if you burn yourself it’s not fun at all, but the advantage is that it glues quickly and you don’t have the white stuff joining every piece. That is nice for a house or other structures, but I prefer the coffin to be more austere.  Apart from having to clean the pan after making the caramel, I liked the method better than Royal icing for assembling.  Live and learn.

The cake was absolutely wonderful even next day, moist, intense, it gave a bit of moisture to the gingerbread base, which I did not roll as thin as I should have. I need a lot more practice with this type of dough, and find that particularly to roll large pieces, I have issues keeping it thin and uniform. At any rate, Karl Lagerfeld did not seem to mind cutting pieces for Spider Woman. And she was delighted for catching him in her dangerous web. They do make a nice match, even if I say so myself. Biased, who moi?

I hope you enjoyed this little roundup of Halloween recipes. It is a scary job, but someone has to do it.

ONE YEAR AGO: Devil Wears Chocolate

TWO YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots, and Fennel

THREE YEARS AGO: The Best, the Very Best Hummus

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cheddar Cheese Crackers

FIVE YEARS AGO: A New Take on Cauliflower Puree

SIX YEARS AGO:
 In My (NEW!) Kitchen

SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 
The Lab Move and New Beginnings

EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Honey-Oat Pain de Mie

NINE YEARS AGO:
 Carrot and Leek Soup

TEN YEARS AGO:
 Chicken Parmigiana 101

 

FALL-INSPIRED BAKING

Everyone who knows me is well-aware I am a summer-creature all the way. But there’s something about the colors of autumn that fascinate me. I suppose they fascinate all human beings. Growing up in Brazil, I had never seen trees turning color, but used to marvel at photos from Vermont or other places famous for having the most spectacular color change in their trees. Now I enjoy them in our own backyard, Phil planted a beautiful maple tree that is thriving nicely, each year more magnificent, with a more intense red tone in the leaves. Gorgeous. Today I share with you a series of recent bakes inspired by the season.

I will start with the Maple Leaf Chocolate Sugar Cookies, because I loved making them.

MAPLE LEAF CHOCOLATE COOKIES
(cookie recipe from Lilaloa and decoration technique from Salt and Serenity)

for the cookie dough:
227 g (1 cup) slightly softened unsalted butter
43 g vegetable shortening (43 grams)
300 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs ( about 100 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
80 g unsweetened cocoa powder
490 g all-purpose flour
(if saving the dough to roll at a later time, use 420 g flour)
for the Royal Icing:
80 g egg whites
420 g powdered sugar
food dye (brown, red, orange, and yellow)

Heat oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter, shortening and sugar together in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer with the paddle attachment. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt and mix well.
Stir in the cocoa until well blended.

Add flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough holds together in a ball. Roll out on lightly floured surface, cut in the desired shapes.I like to place the baking sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes or in the refrigerator for 15 min before baking. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, cool completely before icing.

Make the Royal icing: whisk the egg whites and powdered sugar using a KitchenAid type mixer until fully smooth. Adjust if needed with sugar or a little milk. I like to have it at around 15 second-icing consistency, because it works both for piping the edge and flooding, which is all I need for this design.

Pipe the four colors starting with brown, finishing with yellow, but feel free to play with them in other arrangements. Pull the colors with a needle or toothpick, watch the tutorial online for details. Allow the icing to fully set at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I urge you to visit Salt and Serenity and watch Cindy’s video explaining how to make this eye-catching design. It is one of those things that seem very complicated until you see how it’s done. Basically, if “I” could do it, you will be able to do it also. Trust me. It is important to use a cookie recipe that holds its shape well, and I was happy with the one I used, especially because you can roll the dough without resting it in the fridge. You know I am not the most patient baker out there.

Moving on to Halloween Brigadeiros…

Brigadeiros are the most typical candy from Brazil, and totally addictive.  I used my default recipe and simply coated them with orange and black non-pareils. For the recipe and to read more about them, visit my old post with a click here.

PUMPKIN CUPCAKES
(adapted from many sources)

for the cupcakes:
170 g granulated sugar
130g brown sugar
225 g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
320 g canned pumpkin (about 3/4 of a small can)
150 ml grapeseed oil
3 large eggs
for the icing:
120g unsalted butter, softened
190 g cream cheese, at room temperature
675 g powdered sugar
sprinkles to decorate

Heat the oven to 375 F.  Place both sugars in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and blend with the whisk so that no lumps remain in the brown sugar. Sift all other dry ingredients and mix well with the sugars.

In another medium bowl mix well the pumpkin, oil and eggs. Add to the KitchenAid bowl and mix with the paddle attachment until smooth. Place paper liners in a 12-muffin baking pan, and fill each about 3/4 of the volume.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

Make the icing while the cupcakes bake and cool. Beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until pale and very smooth. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then add to the butter mixture in three additions, beating well each time. 

When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost them using the icing tip of your choice. I used Wilton 1M.  Decorate with your favorite sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These are deliciously soft cupcakes, with the perfect amount and combination of spices. I used two different styles of piping trying to change things a bit, but the traditional swirl still gets my vote. I suppose if you want to go the more austere route, these cupcakes will shine with just a dusting of powdered sugar, so keep that in mind.

And finally, how could I possibly make a Fall inspired baking post without French macarons?

I used my default recipe, which you can find here, but added orange and brown food color at 4:1 proportion.

PUMPKIN MACARON FILLING

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup canned pumpkin pureed
2 cups powdered sugar (220 g)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of allspice
to decorate:
White Candy melts (about 3/4 cup)
black gel food dye
sprinkles of your choice

Cream the butter and pumpkin puree with an electric mixer. Add in the sugar and spices. Mix well and scrape down side of bowl. If needed, thin with a very small amount of milk or heavy cream.

Add a small amount of buttercream to a macaron shell, top with another shell. Melt the Candy melts in a microwave or double boiler. Add black food dye. Place in a piping bag, cut a very small hole in the plastic. Pipe lines on top of the macarons, immediately add sprinkles before the drizzle sets.

As always, leave the filled macarons in the fridge overnight before serving them.

ENJOY!

to print the filling recipe, click here

Comments: This is my second version of a pumpkin macaron, and I like this filling better, it has a more complex flavor. For the drizzle with black candy melts I did something a bit different, and unfortunately I am not quite sure how reproducible it is. You are welcome to try it, but if it does not work for you, don’t get mad at me. A couple of months ago I was heating candy melts and used too high power in the microwave. The suspension kind of broke, and I simply tossed it and started all over. Later I learned that you can recover the broken suspension if you add a bit of oil such as grapeseed or safflower. Something mild in flavor, obviously. This time I made the suspension break and brought it back but not to the point that it was fully smooth. I wanted some texture, and I think it worked well, at least it was close to what I had in mind.  So, next time Candy Melts play a trick on you, consider using it to your advantage…

I hope you enjoyed my quartet of bakes. Since summer is over, I might as well embrace what’s good about cooler weather: BAKING WITH ABANDON!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: On a Halloween Roll

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Zucchini, Lemon & Walnut Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Paleo Energy Bars

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

NINE YEARS AGO: Panmarino

TEN YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken