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

A VEGAN TRILOGY

Please, please, please, don’t run away. I promise you these are all absolutely delicious and worthy serving to any omnivore out there. A creamy dip that will leave you in disbelief that it lacks dairy or cheese. And two cookies, the classic chocolate chip (described by the resident Cookie Critic as one of the best I’ve made), and Vegan Linzers, not very easy to make but if you have a little patience and the inclination to try it, once you taste it, you will be glad you baked a batch.

CASHEW CREAM ROASTED BELL PEPPER DIP
(adapted from several sources)

1½ cups raw cashews
½ cup roasted red peppers (packed in oil, lightly drained)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste)
water to adjust consistency
1/3 cup minced parsley leaves

Place cashews in bowl and add cold water to cover completely. Let sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well. Process soaked cashews, red peppers, oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in food processor until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add water if too thick.

Transfer cashew mixture to bowl, stir in parsley, and adjust seasoning. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Using a Vitamix would be even better to get more of a creamy texture but I confess I hate removing things from the Vitamix bowl, unless they pour out easily. It is a little pet peeve of mine. This dip was absolutely delicious, and you can take it in many directions replacing the red bell pepper for some other ingredient, like roasted eggplants, or tahini. Vegan or not, it will definitely be a regular in our kitchen.

SECRETLY VEGAN SALTED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Recipe available online here

I made no modifications, the recipe was recommended by my niece Raquel, who raved about it. It is absolutely true, you cannot tell they are vegan. Approved by all tasters!

VEGAN LINZERS
(adapted from Rainbow Nourishments)

200 g whole-wheat flour
40 g all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
30 g powdered sugar
1/4 tsp cardamon (optional, but nice)
pinch of salt

jam of your choice to fill the cookies (I used strawberry)

Add all the cookie ingredients to a food processor. Process until evenly combined. Adjust the consistecy with more flour if needed, so that if you pinch the dough between your fingers it will not crumble.

Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 hour. Dust a piece of parchment paper with flour and roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness using a plastic wrap on top to protect it as you roll. Cut round shapes, at this point the dough might be getting too soft, so place it in the freezer.

Remove from the freezer, cut centers out of half of the rounds, place in the freezer again for 20 minutes and bake from frozen in a 350F oven.

Spread jam on the round cookies, top with the open circles, and dust the surface with powdered sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You know I never lie to you. These were a labor of love. The absence of butter in the dough makes it very soft and tricky to work with. If you are not comfortable making regular Linzer cookies, take your time, and keep chilling the dough in the freezer at each step. Roll out, freeze. Cut rounds, freeze. Cut centers, freeze. Move to final baking sheet, freeze.

But they turned out very good, another type of vegan baking that will please those in the Butter-Egg-Dairy Team. You can trust me on that. Hand on heart.

ONE YEAR AGO: The Mystifying Hurricane Roll

TWO YEARS AGO: Pop-Tarts with Strawberry Balsamic Jam

THREE YEARS AGO: Ptichye Moloko, a Russian Dessert

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cheesy Low-Carb Zucchini Tarts

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

SIX YEARS AGO: Apricots, Three Ways

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Up Close and Personal with Kale

EIGHT YEARS AGOBlack Berry Cherry Sorbet

NINE YEARS AGO: Asparagus Pesto

TEN YEARS AGO: Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Under the spell of lemongrass

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Greens + Grapefruit + Shrimp = Great Salad!

THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW: SPICE EPISODE

SPOILER INSIDE!
If you have not watched the show,
save this post to read later

Ten and a half years of blogging, and I hit the most difficult post ever to write. I was eliminated in the show that aired last night, in the worst possible way. Somehow I managed to keep my composure in front of the cameras, but went through buckets of tears after, and for more days than I would like to admit.  The feeling of intense sadness came back again as the premiere approached. It got worse after the first two episodes aired last week because I was overwhelmed with positive feedback from friends and from viewers who don’t even know me personally. With each compliment, with each “I just know you did great”, my heart sank a little bit, but I had to go with the flow. I had to give no indication whatsoever that my world was about to collapse. Literally. I had to smile and be cheerful when in fact I felt (and still feel) like hiding away in a cave. A couple of weeks after we came back from London I made a video in which I try to explain what happened. I did not practice, did not take notes with me, just sat in front of the computer, and spoke. So don’t expect a TED talk… 😉  But I hope you have 10 minutes to spare to watch me. Watch me for a final 10 minutes. Please and thank you.

(same video, two different formats, not sure which one will work best depending on your browser, feel free to share the youtube version)

SIGNATURE BAKE
WOKE UP IN RIO CINNAMON ROLLS

Strangely enough, I did not keep photos of the bakes I did at home for that particular challenge. I made the recipe three times, trying to get the banana flavor to be more and more prominent. I was reasonably happy with the way they turned out, but Paul did not care for the fresh slice of banana as decoration on top.  I had to smile a bit inside, because I actually got that idea from Sherry Yard’s cookbook, Desserts by the Yard…  Go figure. You win some, you lose some. And you butcher some with enough drama to last you a lifetime of regret.

TECHNICAL CHALLENGE
LINZER COOKIES

Believe it or not, I can do a pretty decent looking Linzer-type cookie. These were made back in March, I never blogged about them but will do so in the near future.

My recipe was a little different but the principle is the same.  If you watched my video I think it explains (or tries to) how things degenerated so quickly. Bad decisions, forgetfulness, like not rolling the dough on a floured parchment paper. By the time I realized my mistakes and their dreadful consequences, it was too late to do anything about it. I knew I was in serious, serious trouble. No one can imagine what I was feeling when the technical judgment started. I wanted to be as far away as possible from that tent.  I wanted to be able to say, sorry folks, it turns out I am not tent-worthy, I will show myself out, thank you.

SHOWSTOPPER CHALLENGE
GINGERBREAD SCULPTURE

That’s what I hoped it would look like, with actually a few more components around it, but as we all know, it was not meant to be. I tweaked the recipe for the gingerbread component in the hotel, but could not have the modifications with me in writing, which posed a bit of a problem at showtime. But the worst was the Royal icing “glue”, I did not practice that in the hotel because it was such a small kitchen, but thinking back I should have. The icing sugar from the UK did not behave the same way ours does, at least not in my recipe. Paul told me I should have used caramel to glue the pieces, because it works fast and is absolutely solid. I tried that in my gingerbread coffin that I made for Halloween last month and indeed it works like a charm. I had seen recipes using it while preparing for the show, but was unsure of being able to keep the caramel hot during the whole assembling time. And I was also afraid I would get burned with hot caramel in front of the cameras. I did not get burned literally. But went down in flames in the figurative sense.  If ABC Network wanted drama, they got it.  From now on, when I refer to myself as Drama Queen, I will have a very solid background to justify it.

So that was that, my friends. Every cell of my body wanted to stay in the tent longer. I enjoyed the experience so much, much more than I imagined, even though it was very stressful.  I loved the crew, the support people who never show in front of the cameras but are there full time, bringing you a couple more eggs, taking away that dirty bowl and magically bringing you a spotless clean version to work with. They pay attention to every single detail, if you look around your work bench seeming a bit lost, one of those angels will be right there “do you need anything, Sally?”  Yes, I need a mulligan. Can you get one for me? Pretty please? I will bake you a macaron!

I loved the cameramen, who made us feel like movie stars even when we suspected there was flour on our eyebrows and ganache splashed all over our apron. They are amazing, they work long hours with a heavy camera on their shoulders (trust me, I held one), and a permanent smile coupled with constant words of encouragement. I feel lucky that I got to witness it all. Not for as long as I hoped, but I at least for a little while.

I will never forget the vibe in the tent when I was eliminated, and the hugs that were clearly trying to soothe my soul. I don’t know how I managed not to break down in a puddle of tears, when inside I was badly hurting. I am gone from the tent, but not gone from the adventure. I will be back for the final party, and until then I will share in the blog the bakes I hoped I could have offered to Paul, Sherry, Spice and Baby Spice. The bakes I hoped I could have shared with you on TV.

Keep watching, my baking buddies have awesome stuff waiting for you! And I will be here writing about what comes ahead, from the perspective of a friend cheering for her buddies.

I am so very sorry I disappointed you.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pork Tenderloin Roulade with Pumpkin and Pecans

TWO YEARS AGO: White-Chocolate Peppermint Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Shrubs, a fun alternative to alcoholic drinks

FOUR YEARS AGO: Date Truffles 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Mousse from Baking Chez Moi

SIX YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brigadeiros

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

NINE YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

TEN YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake