Archive for the 'baking' Category

Blackberry Bars

Summer is in full swing and so are all the summer get-togethers! I needed to throw together a dessert and this is a great one since you probably have everything in your pantry!

These fruit bars are also known as struesel bars or linzer torte bars (depending on what fruit you use). You can use ANY fruit jam, preserve, or even mash up some fresh fruit with a fork (maybe run it through a sieve to get the seeds out though…)

You can also use any kind of nut you have on hand. I used a combination of almonds and walnuts because that’s what was hanging out in my freezer.

AND this is a super simple recipe…so simple that I’ve memorized it!

Start with 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 stick of softened butter.

Use the butter wrapper to grease your pan!

Mix in 1 cup of finely chopped nuts (you can use ground nuts if you’d like, but I like it chopped) and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon…it’ll be course and crumbly like this:

Press 2/3 of this mixture in the bottom of a pan (9X9 or something close to that).

Bake it for 10 minutes at 375 degrees, until slightly golden. Spread 2/3 to 1 cup of preserves on there…depending on how fruity you like it. I used sugar-free blackberry preserves here.

Throw the rest of your crumbly mixture on top of the fruit layer.

Bake for 15 minutes, until it’s golden and the preserves are bubbly.

Let it cool completely before you cut it into squares.

Enjoy!

Tips:

Lightly toast the nuts and cool them before adding them to the crumble mixture. You’ll get a better flavor.

Walnuts are really recommended for this, but you could use almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts…I wouldn’t recommend peanuts or cashews though.

Use jam or preserves, not jelly. The jelly would just melt…and I don’t think there’s any real fruit in jelly…

Seriously…any fruit jam or preserve…strawberry, raspberry, orange marmelade, apricot…anything!

Advertisements

Green Tea Chiffon Cake

Yes, I am fully aware that I am very behind since this was a Father’s Day cake. Shame on me.

I decided to make an “Asian-y” cake for my dad for Father’s Day. Chiffon cake is a soft, moist cake made with lots of eggs for a very soft, spongy texture.

This also became the cake where every single thing went wrong. I love to bake, but cakes really are not my forte.

Also, I realized that I did not own a food scale since this recipe was in grams…off to Bed Bath and Beyond I go…

Start out with the milk, sugar, and oil.

Here are the dry ingredients: AP flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and the matcha green tea powder (optional).

I sifted the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir it a little bit first so that the dry ingredients don’t fly everywhere.

Add the yolks one at a time, blending a bit after each addition.

This mixture will be thick and gooey…if you’re gonna add flavoring extracts or coloring, do it now.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites. Once they get frothy, add a pinch of salt and the remaining sugar.

They’re done when it has medium peaks and is very glossy like this!

Fold the egg whites into the batter. I did 1/3 at a time. Be gentle and don’t deflate the batter by stirring it!

Put the batter into an ungreased tube pan. Mine is just an angel food cake pan and it comes in two pieces.

Do the toothpick test to see if it’s done.

Here’s the strange part. Now, while it’s hot, turn it upside down. I put it over a rack so that air could pass underneath it and it wouldn’t get steamy or soggy. That’s what the little feet on the pan are for. If you just let it cool sitting right side up, it could sink and become dense. Turning it upside down will allow the cake to stretch and be nice and soft and spongy. This is also why you don’t grease your pan. If you did, it would just slide right out. If your pan doesn’t have feet, you’re supposed to put the hole over a soda bottle, beer bottle, or maybe a funnel.

Once it’s completely cooled, run a butter knife around the edges and it should come right out. Then I put it on a foil-covered cake board. (I accidentally dented the top, but that’s okay because I’m gonna lop it off)

Cut of the mounded top to even out the cake and then cut the cake in half if you want to put filling in between. I used pieces of the top of the cake to fill in the hole. At this point, once I had cut into the cake, I was very sad because the cake was a light tan color and not a lovely shade of green. I guess the matcha powder changed color during the baking process. Sad day. Next time, I’ll just use green tea extract/essence and then some food coloring!!

Here’s where I make some stabilized whipped cream to ice the cake.

I started with 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar (use as much or as little sugar as you want) and a tablespoon of clear vanilla. Pour in 16 oz of whipping cream.

Get a packet of unflavored, powdered gelatin and sprinkle it in the water that you put in a small saucepan. Heat it over very low heat until it dissolves. Let it cool.

Once the whipped cream is about half way there, add in the gelatin and keep whipping.

Done! You’ve got a bowl full of whipped cream that will not “weep” if you let it sit. You must use this IMMEDIATELY. Do not make it in advance. Wait until your cake is ready to ice and then make this, or else it will set-up…that’s what the gelatin does!

I drained a can of fruit cocktail and mixed it with some of the whipped cream. I reserved some of the cherries and grapes to decorate the top of the cake.

Put the filling on the first layer and then place the second layer on top. Use more of the leftover cake to fill in the whole. Please eat the rest of the leftover cake for quality assurance purposes.

Here is the final product. As you can see, I have terrible cake decorating skills and I write like a 5-year old. Thank goodness this was for my dad, who loved it anyway.

A June Birthday

Wow…It’s July 1st already! The year is halfway over!

Just wanted to share a June 29th birthday that we celebrated at work.

Thanks to my good friend Rosaly for the cupcake stand and to Target for the silver tray I found on clearance, I’ve managed to create a happy little daisy cupcake display!!

Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes

That’s a lot of alliteration! I was browsing through my blogs on Google Reader and came across this recipe on Pioneer Woman.

Memorial day was coming up and it seemed like an awesome side dish to accompany all the grilled foods.

Start with 7-9 Roma tomatoes, depending on the size. Seven if they’re on the big side, eight or nine if they’re on the small side. Scoop out their innards with a spoon and discard (unless you can find a use for it. I couldn’t.)

Sprinkle each one with a bit of sea salt or Kosher salt. This will serve two purposes. It’ll season the tomato and it will purge out the excess water, which will make a BIG difference when you’re roasting. Turn them cut side down on paper towels or a kitchen towel.

While the tomatoes are purging, make the ricotta mixture. Stir together the ricotta (16 oz container), garlic (I used pre-chopped), parsley, basil (I used dried), salt & pepper.

Place about 15 Ritz crackers in a Ziplock baggie and roll over it with a rolling pin until you’ve got crumbs. You can also just use breadcrumbs (homemade or store bought). I like the crackers because they’re nice and buttery.

Fill each tomato half with the ricotta mixture. You can level it off or mound it on, depending on how your tomato-to-ricotta ratio turned out. Smush each filled tomato into the crumbs.

Line them all up on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.

If you didn’t purge your tomatoes, they’d be swimming in tomato juices right now!

But you did purge them and they’re golden, creamy, and delicious!

Homemade Pizza

I usually follow the rules when cooking and baking.

Pizza-purists everywhere will cringe if they see this post. My hunger got the best of me and I committed several pizza crimes. The end result was delicious nonetheless!

[Pizza crime #1] This is just semi-homemade pizza. I copped out and used a pizza dough mix. Yes, I know…but I was in a hurry (translate: hungry) and I didn’t have time to wait for the dough to rise and all that jazz.

First, move the rack in your oven to the lowest level and then crank the temperature as high as it will go. For me, that’s 500 degress.

I blended the dough mix with hot water and let it sit for a few minutes. While the dough was resting, I floured the counter and got my rolling pin. I rolled out the dough to 1/4″ thick, folded it in quarters and unfolded it out onto my baking sheet, which was lined with my Silpat.

[Pizza crime #2] I know I’m supposed to use a pizza stone, but mine broke in an unfortunate accident involving me placing it on the stove and proceeding to turn on the wrong burner sending pizza stone shards flying everywhere. There was also an incident where I baked a pizza on an unfloured, un-cornmealed baking sheet and the pizza cemented itself on there. Sad day…I didn’t want a repeat…

Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle on some Italian seasoning. Par-bake the dough for about 7 minutes, until it gets a little firm and a little bit of color to it.

[Pizza crime #3] I used a canned pizza sauce. Not even a gourmet one…just a $0.99 can of pizza sauce. It did the job. Obviously if you’ve got marinara sauce or the homemade stuff, go for it…pesto, alfredo sauce, or even a bechamel sauce would be great too.

Then 1-1/2 cups of cheese. I used a 4-cheese Italian blend.

[Pizza crime #4] I always put on wayyy too many toppings. What can I say? I love it all. I can’t pick just a few! Just a few pointers for you topping lovers out there…

1. Slice everything thinly. You’ll be able to spread out the flavors, without adding too much weight.

2. After you slice, place the ingredients on a kitchen towel or paper towels to drain out the excess liquid. This is especially for ingredients like bell peppers, tomatoes, olives, etc.

3. Don’t even think about using a pizza peel to transfer your pie into the oven. If you’ve loaded it with toppings, there is no way that baby is gonna slide off. Even with a few deft flicks of the wrist, that pie will remain firmly seated as the toppings come flying off. You’re better off making the pizza right on the baking sheet.

So anyway, this pizza has: 1/2 lb turkey Italian sauage, a handful of turkey pepperoni slices…

1/2 a thinly sliced bell pepper, 6 thinly sliced mushrooms, 10 thinly sliced jalapeno-stuffed olives…

…& 9 paper thin slices of beefsteak tomato.

I would have also added onion, but that would have been too much! 😛

Top off with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and maybe a few shakes of Italian seasoning…and yes, maybe a light drizzling of olive oil.

Bake until everything is nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

Transfer it onto a wooden cutting board (to keep it from getting soggy) and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Cut into squares and ENJOY!!!

Oh and mix these ingredients for an amazing dipping accompaniment!..I know…you’re thinking I already have enough flavors going on already…

Almond Macaroons a la Martha Stewart

The second type of almond macaroon that I made was considerably simpler and had a finer texture. Definitely a good cookie to sip some tea with…light, crisp and chewy.

The almond paste I purchased for this recipe came in a can. I bought this type because it was an 8 oz can, and the recipe called for 4 oz. I simply used half the can. Now, if I had a digital food scale, I wouldn’t have to guesstimate this stuff!

Add the powdered sugar and salt. Blend until crumbly.

Please use your stand mixer if you have one. I had to cut this in with a pastry cutter and then finish it off with my electric hand mixer…

Add the egg white and vanilla. Blend until smooth.

Drop tablespoons of the batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, topping each one with two slivered almonds. This batter will make EXACTLY 12 cookies. No more, no less.

Bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees, until the cookies are slightly golden.

Let them cool completely. You can just slide the entire parchment onto a wire rack.

You can dust them with powdered sugar for serving, but I didn’t. Also, if you’re going to store these, make sure you put parchment paper between the layers of cookies or they will stick to eachother!

Almond Macaroons
Recipe from Martha Stewart Living

4 ounces almond paste (about 5 1/2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
Pinch of coarse salt
1 large egg white
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put almond paste, sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until crumbly, about 3 minutes. Add egg white and vanilla. Mix until smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes.

Drop batter by tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Place 2 almond slices on each mound of dough. Bake until cookies are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Just before serving, lightly dust cookies with sugar. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days

Almond Macaroons

Our dear co-worker, John, was leaving us to pursue a graduate degree up north. For his farewell, a potluck lunch was organized. I asked him what baked good I could whip up for him and he replied with Almond Macaroons.

I didn’t know what those were, and I was desperately hoping he wasn’t referring to French macarons. I hadn’t quite mastered that art just yet.

I found two recipes: one from Martha Stewart and another from Cook’s Illustrated. The latter being the MUCH more popular one…I thought I’d document it first.

Place 6 oz of blanched slivered almonds in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse until roughly chopped.

Add 1-1/4 cups of granulated sugar.

Pulse until finely ground.

Almond paste can be found in the baking aisle of some grocery stores (I got mine from Kroger’s). It looks like this and comes in a 7 oz package. Coincidentally, that’s exactly how much you’ll need for this recipe.

Crumble it into the food processor.

Again, pulse until you have a uniform mixture.

I transferred this into a large mixing bowl for the next steps because my food processor is impossibly tiny, but if you’ve got a full-sized one, please continue in there.

Add the egg whites, Amaretto, & extract. If you’re not using Amaretto, you don’t need to add anything to substitute for it!

I mixed this with an electric hand mixer (Yes, I know. I am ill-equipped for someone who loves to bake.) Mix until it forms a ball.

The recipe tells you to let this sit for 20 minutes, but my oven is hot and my apartment is small, so I’d wait for maybe 5 minutes and proceed. 🙂

I used my small disher to scoop out level tablespoons of dough onto my parchment-lined baking sheets. Of course, you can just use spoons.

Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees. At the 10-minute mark, rotate your pans 180 degrees and then swap racks if you’re baking two sheets at a time to ensure an even golden color.

Promptly remove them from the oven once golden and let them cool on the parchment. I slid the entire parchment onto the counter to make sure they didn’t continue to cook on the hot baking sheet.

They’ll be crisp on the outside and chewy in the center.

Farewell John!

Almond Macaroons

6 oz blanched almond, silvered
1-¼ cups sugar, granulated
7 oz almond paste (NOT Marzipan!)
3 egg whites from 3 large eggs
1 tablespoons Amaretto (optional)
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. You can also use silicone baking mats.

Place almonds into the bowl of a food processor and process until roughly chopped. Add the sugar and continue to process until the almonds are finely ground. Crumble in the almond paste and continue to process until the paste is pulverized and you have a fairly uniform mixture.

Add the egg whites, extract, and Amaretto and continue to process until the dough is smooth and begins to form into a ball at the edge of the processor blades.

Remove from the food processor and allow mixture to stand for 20 minutes.

Drop level tablespoons of the mixture onto your prepared parchment paper leaving about 1-½ inches of space between each cookie. You can also use a disher, ice cream scooper, or roll them a bit with your hands.

Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets top to bottom and 180 degrees during the baking process. The cookies should be golden all over, but not too dark.

Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool completely on the parchment paper. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

TIPS:

1.You must have a food processor to make thise recipe. It’s blades are sharp enough to cut through those almonds. A blender would just make almond butter.

2. You could buy whole blanched almonds, but slivered is better so your food processor doesn’t have to do so much work.

3. DO NOT skip on the parchment paper or silicone baking mats. You will regret it if you do. The cookies will spread and/or stick and that would very very, very sad.

4. To make them extra fancy-schmancy, a drizzle of dark chocolate would be sublime! (Because I can’t leave well enough alone!)