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

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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

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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

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: AMAZING APRICOT BARS

Here we are. Last Monday of September, which means Summer is gone. Over. Finito. Acabado. I could sit here and whine for hours, filling your screen with paragraph after paragraph describing in detail my despair, frustration, and overall gloom. Telling you how my interactions with human beings are affected as the average daily temperature goes down. You don’t want to be around me in January, even with all that New Year upbeat aura. But, enough with the negativity.

The last Monday of the month brings many reasons to be joyful, as it is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club. This month I got a fantastic blog to stalk and cook from: A Palatable Pastime, hosted by Sue, who lives in Ohio with her husband and two lovely cats. She develops her own recipes – often with a Southern US flair – and not only has won several contests, but her productions have been featured in many top-notch sites like LDS Living, Mrs. Field’s and the Christian Science Monitor’s food section. I was thrilled to stalk her site, although a bit overwhelmed by the number of possibilities bookmarked to pick, cook, and share with my readers today.

Twelve recipes made the final list, but to keep it manageable, I’ll just mention half of them: Sweet Potato Biscuits (I’ve always wanted to make them… was very close to choosing it for this assignment), Thai Salmon Curry….   Vegan Mushroom Pumpkin Chili (her description tells me it’s a winner of a recipe), Dutch-Baby Pancake (another recipe I’ve always wanted to try), Thai Larb Soft Rolls… and Sue’s Almost Famous Meatballs (great post!). There were so many tasty options to choose from, but in the end I made a batch of her Amazing Apricot Bars. No doubt 2015 is the year of the apricot in the Bewitching Kitchen…  These turned out spectacularly amazing!

Apricot Bars

AMAZING APRICOT BARS
(from A Palatable Pastime)

For shortbread crust:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (8-1/2 ounces)

For topping:
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, toasted
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey

For finishing:
1/3 cup apricot jam
3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350F.

Butter the inside of a glass 8×8-inch square baking pan. Cream together the butter and sugar (thoroughly mix until sugar dissolves). Stir in the vanilla, salt and flour and mix into a dough. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the buttered baking pan, then chill in the refrigerator while you continue.

Mix the dry ingredients for the topping together in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with sugar and honey over low heat. Stir in the dry fruit topping mixture and bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes then remove from heat. Take out the baking pan, and spread the top of the dough with the simply fruit apricot spread. Top the spread with the cooked fruit mixture.

Sprinkle the topping with an extra 3 tablespoons of sweetened flaked coconut. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing into squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ApricotComposite

The bars were juicy, sweet, with a slight tang from the cranberries to balance flavors. The crust., which I find the trickiest component of this type of concoction was perfect: not too hard, not too crumbly.  As usual, I brought the whole batch to our department, and by 9:30 am, not a single crumb was left on the platter.  So, I advise that if you intend to share it friends, make sure to grab a square for yourself right away…  They are seriously addictive.

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Sue, I thoroughly enjoyed stalking your site, I love the way you go the extra mile to explain the technique behind your recipes, so that even a novice cook will be able to make the many tasty things you share on your blog.  I hope you also had fun with your assignment this month. My readers are invited to browse through this month’s collection by poking the cute frog at the end of this post.

Apricot Bars2
ONE YEAR AGO: Spiralizer Fun

TWO YEARS AGO: Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Carriage House Apple-Walnut Pie

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chicken Marsala

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Home, sweet home

SIX YEARS AGO: Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: GLUTEN-FREE & VEGAN RASPBERRY BARS

Last Monday of March, a month that makes me happy for several reasons. I was born in March, Phil and I got married 15 years ago in March, and the month also welcomes the beginning of Spring.  Can you fully grasp the unmeasurable joy associated with it? It means I survived another winter, and here I am, alive and kicking to share with you one more adventure as part of The Secret Recipe Club.   You know, that event that pairs two food bloggers in secret, and then the whole group posts about their chosen dish at exactly the same time. My assignment this month was the blog Without Adornment, hosted by Bean. She has a degree in Chemical Engineering, and her hobbies are cooking/baking, and photography, so of course her blog is a perfect venue to showcase her talent.  I was thrilled by this assignment, because Bean is a very accomplished baker who must make exclusively gluten-free recipes. Those of you who have gluten allergies know how tricky it can be to try and mimic the delicious cookies, breads, pies, and muffins that rely on gluten for perfect texture and taste. Browsing her blog really opened my horizons and the list of goodies I wanted to try was extensive.  To name a few, I was inclined to bake a batch of her White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries,  then almost chose her Gluten-Free Pear Clafoutis, Another amazing option that I will bake soon: Dairy Free Creme Brulée (using coconut milk, how sweet is that?). As usual, savory stuff appeals a lot to me, so I also saved her Vegan Walnut Zucchini Crackers for final consideration. After a little bit of a mental struggle,  I went with her Raspberry Bars, in part because they use quinoa flakes and I had a box sitting in my pantry begging to come out and play.  I could not miss the opportunity…

RasberryBars

GLUTEN FREE VEGAN RASPBERRY SQUARES
(from Without Adornment)

1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup oats
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
3 tbsp. palm sugar
1/2 – 2/3 c. coconut oil
3 cup thawed raspberries, with as much of the liquid drained as you can.
3 – 4 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350F.

Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt. Add oats, quinoa flakes and palm sugar and mix until evenly distributed. Add in unmelted coconut oil. Using your fingers, work the coconut oil into the flour mixture until there are no lumps remaining and the mixture is crumbly.

In a separate bowl, stir together raspberries, honey and spices. Add more sweetener to reach desired sweetness. Press over half of the crumb mixture into a greased 8″ square pan. Scoop the raspberries onto the pressed bar mixture and distribute evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top of the raspberries and pat lightly.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until topping is light brown.

Cool completely before cutting into squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I changed the recipe slightly by using a mixture of raspberries and blueberries, as the price tag on the raspberries was a little high. I don’t think it hurt anything, it just made the color of the filling darker than Bean’s concoction, and also a bit more chunky, as the blueberries retain their shape. The cute box of quinoa flakes was one of those classic impulse buys that I am often a victim of. But I knew the flakes would come in handy, and was glad to be able to use them in this recipe.

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Gluten-free baking is really a huge challenge, because without gluten to provide that nice, elastic structure, baked goods tend to be dry, and much less pleasant to eat. However, using the right mixture of flours and grains, one can get close enough to the “real thing” and these bars are a perfect success story.  I took the squares to the department and did not mention they were gluten-free. Nobody seemed to notice, and they were inhaled in a little over one hour.  I call it a success story indeed.

Bean, I hope you had as much fun with your assignment as I had with mine!  And for those reading my blog, make sure to click on the blue amphibian smiling at you at the very end.  She (or he, who knows?) will take you to a new page showing all the tasty concoctions made by my virtual friends of The Secret Recipe Club.  Enjoy the collection!

ONE YEAR AGO: Lasserre, a French Classic

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

THREE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese