CUCCIDATI, FROM TINA TO YOU

Remember Tina, the winner of The Great American Baking Show, season 4? She is still baking up a storm, doing TV cooking demos, sharing recipes on her blog, and interacting with her fans online. She is not only a superb baker, but a wonderful person! One of the great things about that “tent adventure” is that I got to interact with several of the previous contestants, both in the American and the British show. I think once you go through that experience, a surprising bonding takes place. But I digress. Today I share one of Tina’s many Italian recipes from the holiday season: Cuccidati. They are delicious bar cookies, but can you believe that she forgot to add one important step in the recipe? Do not try the filling before using. You may not have enough left…

CUCCIDATI BAR COOKIES
(very slightly modified from Augustina Zaccardi)

Pasta Frolla Dough:
260 Grams of All-Purpose Flour
60 Grams of Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon of Kosher Salt
114 Grams of Cold Unsalted Butter
2 Large Eggs

Filling:
1/4 Cup of Toasted Almonds
2 Tablespoons of Toasted Pine Nuts (I used sunflower seeds)
1 Cup of Diced Dried Figs (stems removed)
2 Teaspoons of Orange Zest
1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Cup of Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 Tablespoons of Honey
2 Tablespoons of Apricot Preserves
2 Tablespoons of Water
1/2 Teaspoon Rum Extract

Icing:
3/4 Cup of Powdered Sugar
3-4 Teaspoons of Milk
2-3 Tablespoons of multicolored sprinkles

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a food processor and pulse about 5 times until combined. Cut the butter into 6 pieces and add to the flour. Pulse 10-15 times until the butter is incorporated and the mixture looks powdery or sandy. Add the eggs and pulse until the dough comes together. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5-6 times to form a smooth dough. Divide the dough in half and roll each piece between 2 pieces of parchment paper to an approximately 8” square. The thickness should be about 3/16”. Place both pieces on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.

Make the filling: Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and process until all the ingredients are combined and the mixture is a paste but with still some visible pieces of chocolate and almonds. Set aside. AVOID SAMPLING IT.

Assemble the cookies: Spread the filling as a 8 inch square over plastic wrap over a cookie sheet. Place in the fridge as you prepare the cookie component. Line the bottom of an 8” square pan with parchment paper so that some of the paper overhangs the sides. Remove one piece of the dough from the freezer and trim it into an 8” square or the size of the bottom of your pan. Place it in the bottom of the pan. If the dough softens a bit place it back in the freezer. You want the dough to firm when you spread the filling or it could tear. Carefully lay the filling over the dough, using the plastic wrap to help you out. Gently spread the filling to the edges with a spatula. Remove the second piece of dough from the freezer and trim it to the size of the pan and place it on top of the filling and gently press.

Bake for 23-25 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown.

Remove from the oven and place the pan on a rack to cool. When completely cool, remove the bars form the pan, peel off the parchment paper and place on a board. Mix together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Pour the icing on top of the bars and spread with an offset spatula. Scatter the sprinkles over the top. When fully set, cut in diamond shapes or any other shape you prefer.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I tell you one thing, the filling is spectacular. I envision it in small tartlets, bite-size, in a future adventure. It is sweet, nutty, complex. This was my first time making cuccidati, so I was not quite sure if the amount of filling was too much but I am glad with the way it turned out. I used the full amount for the 8-inch square pan. These are cookies perfect for the holiday season, but if you change the color of the sprinkles, it will be a Birthday-Easter-4th of July-Valentine’s-whatever you feel like it cookie. It is that good!

Tina, thank you for the constant inspiration!

ONE YEAR AGO: Festive Macarons to Welcome 2021!

TWO YEARS AGO: Episode 6, Cookies in The Great American Baking Show

THREE YEARS AGO: Brazilian Chicken and Heart of Palm Pie

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

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Complicit Conspiracy of Alcohol

SIX YEARS AGO: Candy Cane Cookies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

NINE YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Gougeres

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

BLACK TAHINI SHORTBREAD COOKIES

I have a weak spot for shortbread cookies. And that spot gets even weaker if the shortbread flirts with a savory side, like a touch of sesame, in this case, black tahini. The darker, grayish color of the dough makes it perfect for Halloween times. If you stop by my cookie blog tomorrow, I will be sharing particularly spooky versions using this exact same dough. Heads up: a little tutorial I used for one of the spooky cookies is available in the Facebook group “Painting with Sugarprism.” If that interests you, check it out and ask to join. It is a super fun and interesting group, hosted by Michelle Ingalls. And now, without further ado… the Black Tahini Shortbread Cookies…

BLACK TAHINI SHORTBREAD COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, very cold, cut in pieces
280g all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
50g brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
2 tablespoons black sesame paste (I used Kevala)
luster powder + vodka to paint (optional)

Heat oven to 350F.

Place the butter, flour, cornstarch and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process pulsing on and off until the butter is in small little pieces. Stop the processor, add the sugars and the black sesame paste. Keep processing until the mixture forms a ball that starts to glue together. You might need to clean the bowl and spread things around once or twice.

Stop the processing, transfer the dough to a countertop, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Roll the dough and use any type of stamp of cookie cutter of your choice. Place the cut cookies on a parchment covered baking sheet and freeze for about 15 minutes.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Times will vary depending on the size of your cookie and your oven.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve been using the food processor method for shortbread as described by Helen Fletcher in her new book, which I recently reviewed. For my personal taste, these are total winners. Shortbread is a very simple cookie, that needs pretty much nothing in terms of adornment. No icing, no dusting with powdered sugar, although those things can still happen if you like to gild the lily. The tahini gives the cookie an adult feel, less sweet, very intriguing. And the color of the cookie screams Halloween. I invite you to stop by my cookie blog tomorrow to get spooked. But in the meantime, consider adding this recipe to your list of things to bake. You won’t regret it.

Cookie press available here.

Cat fondant press available here.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Fruitful Trio (of Macarons)

TWO YEARS AGO: Halloween Entremet Cake

THREE YEAR AGO: Pork with Prunes, Olives and Capers

FOUR YEARS AGO: Kansas Corn Chowder

FIVE YEARS AGO: Impossibly Cute Bacon and Egg Cups

SIX YEARS AGO: Pulling Under Pressure

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-vide: Two takes on Chicken Thighs

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Miso Soup: A Japanese Classic

NINE YEARS AGO: On my desk

TEN YEARS AGO: A must-make veggie puree

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

TWELVE YEARS AGO:  Brazilian Pão de Queijo

ONE GIFT, ONE DOUGH, TWO RECIPES

Last month my dear friend Louise sent me a wonderful gift: a box with many (and by many I mean more than 50!) little tartlet tins in several different shapes and sizes. I was speechless, and so touched by her generosity! It is now time to share my first adventure with this special gift. A single dual-purpose dough was used to make little tarts and a modernized version of Linzer cookies. The recipe for the dough comes from Haniela’s blog. She is one of the cookie artists I follow and try to learn from. I suspect it will become my default dough for sweet tarts. The texture is perfect, and I loved the way it is intensely flavored with vanilla.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE MINI-TARTLETS
(dough recipe from Haniela’s)

for the dough:
430g all-purpose-flour
1/8 tsp salt
160g powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
226 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

for the filling:
6oz dark chocolate, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp orange oil
sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Sift flour and salt. Set aside. In a mixer fitted with a paddle beater, mix butter and powdered sugar until smooth. In a small dish whisk together egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually beat egg yolk mixture into the creamed butter. Scrape the bowl a few times as needed.

On low-speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix until it starts to come together. If the dough is too crumbly, add 1tsp milk. Do not overwork the dough. Invert the dough onto a clean work surface or into a large bowl and gather dough together with your hands into a ball. Then form the dough into a disk, wrap it in the foil and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350F. Place mini tart shell molds onto a baking sheet. Spray with a non-stick spray, set aside. Take out the chilled dough, cut it in half. Let if soften for 5 minutes. Roll it to 1/8 inch rolling. Cut out as many rounds as you can. Gather scraps and re-roll. Shape the tarts and use a fork to prick the bottom of the shells. Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes until golden around the edges.

Let cool for 10-15 minutes before removing tarts from the molds. Turn the mold upside down and tap it firmly onto your work surface to release the shell. Let the tarts cool before adding a filling.

Make the filling: place the chocolate in a bowl, heat the heavy cream to almost boiling, and pour over the chocolate. Wait a few minutes, add the orange oil, and gently stir until fully smooth. Let the ganache cool for about 5 minutes, then place in a piping bag and fill the tartlets, smoothing the top. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Place in the fridge to set the ganache for about 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Check Hani’s site for detailed step-by-step instructions. As she shows, the best way to shape the dough is using an empty tin of the same format to press it in, with a Saran wrap type plastic over the dough to protect it. Works like a charm (check top right picture in composite above). You can make many tartlets and store them in the freezer for a mini-tartlet emergency…

The same exact dough can be rolled and cut into any shape you like to make a Linzer version. I went with a teardrop and cut-out small flower shapes for the top layer.

Simply bake the cookies, let them cool, and spread a thin layer of the jam of your choice. I used seedless raspberry jam for this batch.

A little shower with powdered sugar is optional, but in my opinion, a nice finishing touch.

The dough is wonderful to work with, and as a cutout cookie, it held the shape well. The tartlets puffed up a bit, but midway through baking I pressed them down gently. Perfect texture.

A big thank you to Louise and Haniela!

ONE YEAR AGO: Rocking the Zucchini Boat

TWO YEARS AGO: Polenta Bites with Spicy Tomato Sauce

THREE YEAR AGO: Vague Mousse Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cottage Loaf, my very own technical challenge

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pork Ribs: Sticky, Spicy and Awesome

SIX YEARS AGO: Sobering Peach Sorbet

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Silky Cauliflower Puree with Almond Milk

NINE YEARS AGO: Beef and Broccoli Stir-fr

TEN YEARS AGO:Wheat Germ and Sage Sourdough Bread

ELEVEN YEARS AGO:Popeye-Pleasing Salad

TWELVE YEARS AGO:Summer’s Finale

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