ALMOND RASPBERRY TRIANGLES & A VERY SPECIAL COOKBOOK REVIEW

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

ALMOND RASPBERRY TRIANGLES
(reprinted with permission from Craving Cookies)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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

TEASER RECIPE

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD HEARTS

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

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

CHAPTER ONE

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

CHAPTER TWO

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

CHAPTER THREE

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

CHAPTER FOUR

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

CHAPTER FIVE

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

CHAPTER SIX

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

CHAPTER SEVEN

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

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

ONE YEAR AGO: Sweet and Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

TWO YEARS AGO: Roasted Cauliflower Salad over Hummus

THREE YEARS AGO: Queen of Sheba

FOUR YEAR AGO: Brunch Burger

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mango Salsa with Verjus

SIX YEARS AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

NINE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

TEN YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!

In this post I share chocolate cookies and brownie cupcakes, all dressed up for the occasion. Recipe for cookies can be found here, and brownie cupcakes with a click here.

Four types of decorations, depending on how much icing and how much work you’d like to put into the cookies. The simplest is the chocolate star with the sprinkle border. All you have to do is pipe a little line of icing all around and then dip the cookie gently in sprinkles. The hexagons were featured recently on my baby blog.

These stars were inspired by Haniela. They started with a flooded white cookie, and then some were air-brushed with a combination of stencils (stripes and stars), and some were outlined with a three-color icing using a flat icing tip.

The 4th of July Hearts were inspired by something I saw on Instagram last year and saved for the future. And the future is now!

Cupcakes were made using 1/8 tsp of orange oil to flavor the cake batter. The icing was flavored with chai extract, as described in my post from a couple of months ago. Patriotic sprinkles complete the look…

I hope you are having a wonderful 4th, and please if you are into fireworks, think a little bit about all those pets getting terrified out there. If you can minimize your fun, or do it away from residential neighborhoods, please consider doing so.

ONE YEAR AGO: 4th of July Inspired Baking

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2019

THREE YEARS AGO: Brigadeiros for the 4th of July

FOUR YEARS AGO: Kaleidoscopic Macarons

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

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

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

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet

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

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

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

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

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED CINNAMON COOKIES: VEGAN & DELICIOUS

Today I share a recipe for delicious cookies that happen to be vegan. No eggs, no dairy, but no sacrifice of flavor and texture. The recipe comes from Modern Vegan Desserts, written by a professional patissiere, Petra Stahlová. I invite you to read my review on her book (as well as musings on vegan baking in general) by visiting the Home Bakers Collective site, with a click here.

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED CINNAMON COOKIES
(published with permission from Petra Stahlová)

62g soft vegan butter (I used Country Crock plant butter)
62g icing sugar
15g almond flour
54g aquafaba
82g plain flour
3g ground cinnamon
200g 70% dark chocolate

In a mixer, beat the softened butter and the icing sugar until light and fluffy, then mix in the almond flour. Gradually mix in the aquafaba, adding a tablespoon of plain flour after each addition of liquid. Once all the liquid has been mixed in, carefully stir in the rest of the flour and the cinnamon with a spatula.

In a bowl, cover the batter with cling film so that it directly touches the surface, and leave to rest for half an hour at room temperature. Put the dough into a pastry bag with a 10mm diameter tip. Place either a silicon mat or some baking paper on the baking tray and pipe out 2.5 inches long lines onto the sheet. Don’t squeeze the bag too hard; the width of the batter should correspond to the diameter of the tip, i.e. 10mm. Leave half-an-inch space between the cookies, as they will spread out during baking.

Heat your oven to 375F (convection on, if available) and bake for about 7 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. Afterwards, leave the cookies on the baking tray for half a minute to firm up and then transfer them onto a cooling rack.

Temper the chocolate, then dip the cooled cookies and put them on either a silicon mat or baking paper to let the chocolate crystallize. Decorate with sprinkles, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I made these cookies for Mondays with Sweetness, in which I share bakes with our departmental colleagues. Since there is one adorable person who is allergic to eggs, I am always trying to find bakes that she will be able to enjoy. Nobody could tell these are vegan. The cinnamon flavor is perfect, the chocolate complements it well, and with the golden sprinkles they get a festive look. If you don’t feel like tempering chocolate, you can get by with candy melts but there will be a little compromise in flavor. I usually take the opportunity of tempering chocolate to make some extra decorations that might come in handy in future bakes.

I close this post inviting you to read more about Modern Vegan Desserts,
so please stop by the Home Bakers Collective.

ONE YEAR AGO: Lemony Barley with Shrimp and Spinach

TWO YEARS AGO:Black Rice with Roasted Cauliflower

THREE YEARS AGO:
La Couronne Bordelaise

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Special Birthday Dinner

FIVE YEARS AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

SIX YEARS AGO: Tuscan Grilled Chicken and Sausage Skewers

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Pork Tenderloin & Apples

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

NINE YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

TEN YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

FESTIVE MACARONS TO WELCOME 2021

That Sally? She’s all about cauliflower and macarons. Hopeless. Since my reputation is already in shambles, I will share yet another recipe for macarons designed to kick a Poltergeist-ish year into the past and embrace 2021 as a light in the end of a very dark tunnel. Vaccines in sight, we just need to hang in there and keep doing all we can to avoid the virus while it still lingers unchecked out there. A single recipe, a single filling, and two designs. A dressed-up version to enjoy at at New Year’s Eve, and a playful take perfect pretty much anytime in January.

REVEILLON MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g Icing/powdered sugar
115 g almond flour
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar (optional)
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
white food gel color
toothpick drop of purple gel color

For filling:
160g powdered sugar  
57g unsalted butter, softened (4 tablespoons)  
1/2 to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract  (depends on your taste and the extract you are using)
pinch of salt 
heavy cream or milk to adjust consistency, if needed

Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered/icing sugar and ground almonds/almond meal 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 and food colors. 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. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip (round, ¼ or ½ inch in diameter or 6 – 12 mm). If you don’t have a macaron mat, draw circles on baking/parchment paper about 2inches/5cm in diameter & turn the paper over before placing on the baking sheets. Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size. If making snowmen, make a template with two circles joined together to form head and body, and pipe each section.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. 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.

For the filling, use a hand-held electric mixer and whisk the butter until creamy. Add the powdered sugar, peppermint extract and salt. Whisk in low-speed at first, the increase speed and whisk until creamy and smooth. If needed, add a very small amount of milk or heavy cream. Pipe the filling in shells, close them, and leave in fridge overnight to mature. 

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. Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

Decorate with Royal icing and sprinkles, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For the dressed-up version, I added white Royal icing to make abstract swirls, and immediately sprayed the shells with Diamond Dust, a product I will feature very soon in my next In My Kitchen post. Love it.

For the playful version, I piped the shells as two circles, baked them, and decorated the shells with Royal icing dyed orange and green, leftover from sugar cookies projects. The details of eyes, mouth, and buttons were made with a very fine tip edible marker. I am still not confident enough to pipe extremely fine lines with Royal icing, need more practice to get to that point.

Making white shells is a bit of a challenge, they tend to get some color in the oven in the final stages of baking. To help things a bit, you can add a tiny amount of purple food gel, that counteracts the yellow tone as it bakes. But you might get a little bit of browning anyway. That’s where the Diamond dust comes nicely into play. That stuff is amazing.

ONE YEAR AGO: Episode 6, Cookies in The Great American Baking Show

TWO YEARS AGO: Brazilian Chicken and Heart of Palm Pie

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Tahini Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Complicit Conspiracy of Alcohol

FIVE YEARS AGO: Candy Cane Cookies

SIX YEARS AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

TEN YEARS AGO: Gougeres

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

COOKIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS: GINGERBREAD

December. This is the time for baking cookies in all shapes and forms, but some are definitely more strongly associated with the holiday spirit. This posts opens a series of four chapters. I start with gingerbread, using a recipe from Tanya, tent-baker extraordinaire, aka The Gingerbread Queen. Subsequent posts will cover Sugar Cookies, Macarons, and Springerle. Gingerbread Cookies are not too hard as far as baking project goes, as long as you keep them as cookies instead of components of 3D sculptures (sigh). Because their flavor is so intense, they can be enjoyed with no decoration whatsoever, or with a very simple white Royal icing. So simple that you can even get by using a tip-less piping bag. And of course, sprinkles are always welcome. Always.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES
(very slightly modified from Tanya’s blog)

640 grams all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
226 grams unsalted butter, at room temp
200 grams granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1 large egg, at room temperature
120 mL (1/2 cup) honey
120 mL (1/2 cup) molasses
2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of stand mixer add the sugar with the orange zest and rub them well with your fingers, until fragrant. Add the butter, fit the machine with the paddle attachment and mix until well combined. Add the egg and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl at least twice during mixing. Add the molasses, honey, and vinegar and mix well.

Turn off the mixer and add about half of the dry ingredients. Mix on low just to combine. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Gather the dough together into a ball and then flatten the dough into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for about 3 hours or until firm enough to roll without sticking.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 3/16-inch thickness. Cut out shapes, carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets and freeze for 5 minutes.

Bake until the cookies are firm to the touch and lightly browned around the edges. A three-inch round cookie will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely before frosting and/or assembling with royal icing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

For most of my decorations, I used Tanya’s recipe for Royal Icing with very little water added. For gingerbread, I prefer not to fully cover the cookie, so instead of flooding them, I piped shapes and wanted them to stay firmly in place.

You can keep it all super simple….

or… while keeping it simple couple the design with some gold for a festive twist

The star was left fully white, the others were painted with gold luster diluted with lemon extract. It is a bit hard to see it in the middle ones, because the gold was just applied on the white decorations.

Even if I rather not completely cover a gingerbread cookie, sprinkles (in this case sparkling sugar) are hard to resist… Just add them before the icing hardens. Keep in mind that the thicker the icing, the faster it sets.

Now what if you dislike Royal icing with a passion? Here is a pretty sweet alternative (pun intended).

EASY NON-ROYAL ICING

1 cup powdered sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons milk
2 tsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (or almond, or lemon)

Whisk whisk whisk whisk…. If it flows as a thick ribbon from a spoon, it will be ready to use. You can flood the surface or make thick ribbons. Leave as it is, or go crazy with….. SPRINKLES!!!!

to print the recipe, click here

This icing will crust well in a few hours, but just to be safe don’t mess too much with the cookies for 24 hours, especially if you are going to pack them for gifts or shipping.

Stay tuned for Sugar Cookies next….

ONE YEAR AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

TWO YEARS AGO: White Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse Cake

THREE YEAR AGO: Panettone Time!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pistachio Creme Brulee

FIVE YEARS AGO: Fast and Furious Bison Chili

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, December 2014

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Braised Fennel with Saffron and Tomato

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Revenge of the Two Derelicts

NINE YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

TEN YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta