Friday, July 25, 2014

Moroccan Sand Cookies

Sand cookies? That can’t possibly be good, can it? I came across these and they are about the simplest recipe I have ever made. Just 4 ingredients, and as long as you have a food processor, grinding nuts is no problem. This recipe gives you the option of using nuts of your choosing. I had some shelled pistachios, so I ended using those. I’m not sure if my pistachios are exactly Moroccan, they are probably from California.

I just wanted to bake a small batch so I halved this recipe and made just under 2 dozen cookies. You can mix them by hand using a spatula or in the mixer; I used my mixer because my other mixing bowl was in the wash. They come together in just a minute or two. The original recipe said to shape in small balls, but the dough is so soft and it worked better to just scoop the cookies using a small cookie scoop.

I baked mine at 350 degrees, because I misread the recipe, which said to bake the cookies at 320 degrees. Mine came out perfectly at 350 after 10 minutes, so that’s what I wrote in my version of the recipe. The cookies don’t get very browned, but they were firm when they came out of the oven and just brown along the edges. If you brown these cookies they would lose their sand texture. These cookies remind me a lot of Russian teacakes, which I love. The melt in your mouth but have an intense pistachio flavor. These cookies are a winner!

Moroccan Sand Cookies
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup ground nuts (I used pistachios)
2 cups + 1 tablespoon flour
Additional nuts, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicon baking mats.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, powdered sugar and ground nuts. Stir until well combined. Add the flour and mix until incorporated.

Scoop the dough using a small cookie scoop onto the prepared baking sheets. Top with a nut (or piece of a nut) if desired.

Bake for about 10 minutes, until just barely browned around the edges. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Mamaland Island

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rhubarb and Orange Cake

I grew up in an area where a lot of rhubarb was grown, but I can’t say that I was very familiar with it until a couple of years ago. In my memory, the only time I came across rhubarb was in strawberry rhubarb pie. My husband is quite fond of rhubarb and there are quite a few British desserts with rhubarb, so he is always encouraging me to bake with rhubarb. I bought a British cake baking magazine recently and it had the recipe for this cake, which looked wonderful.

I’m never quite sure how to pick good rhubarb. Is it ok if the stalks are fairly green? Will those be extra tart? Does it matter if the stalks are skinny or are the big ones better? Since I have no idea, I went with the medium sized stalks and mine we half green, half red. I got them at a local farm stand, so at least I knew that the rhubarb was fresh.

I was fairly worried that this cake would be too tart, but it was just right. The addition of the orange juice and zest balanced the tartness of the rhubarb. I also liked that the cake included ground almonds; I think that gives the cake more depth of flavor and texture. I did have a little bit of a problem with the cake sinking in the center when it cooled. I may have had too much liquid. The recipe called for medium eggs, which are very hard to get in the States. I also think that my orange was on the larger side, so the juice of the orange was too much juice. None the less, this cake had a wonderful combination of flavors, and it was a great way to use rhubarb beyond the traditional strawberry rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb and Orange Cake
14 ounces rhubarb, thickly sliced
10 ounces sugar, divided
1 cup butter, room temperature
Zest and juice of 1 small orange
8 ounces self-rising flour*
3-1/2 ounces ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Powdered sugar, for serving

In a medium bowl, combine the sliced rhubarb and 2 ounces of sugar; stir to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes, allowing the rhubarb to macerate.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9” springform pan and line the base of the pan with parchment paper.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the remaining 8 ounces of sugar, butter, orange juice and zest. Beat on medium until well blended. Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and eggs; beat on medium until smooth. Fold in the rhubarb mixture. Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the top of the cake with the sliced almonds and bake for 60-75 minutes, until a thin knife inserted in the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after 45 minutes; if the cake is browning too quickly, cover the cake loosely with foil. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 15 minutes in the pan. Remove the sides of the springform pan and allow the cake to cool on a wire rack.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.

Recipe from BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes

*I make my own self-rising flour by combining 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt

Friday, July 18, 2014

Butterscotch Oatmeal Crispy Rice Cookies

It’s still pretty warm in my house but the weather is finally cooling off and I am so glad! I had bought crispy rice cereal for last week’s cookies and now I had a big box to use up. I made crispy rice marshmallow treats and I still had a lot left. I was looking through the recipes that I had pinned and I noticed this one also used crispy rice cereal. Great!

These cookies are fairly similar to ranger cookies, which I adore. The base of these cookies is similar to a chocolate chip cookie, but with the addition of oats, crispy rice cereal, and butterscotch chips. I thought about substituting a different type of chip, since I didn’t have any butterscotch chips, but I wasn’t sure what would be best. I thought about cinnamon chips, but I just made something with those, and I didn’t think milk chocolate chips would give the right nuance of flavor.

I was mixing these up and they contain over 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of oatmeal, plus 2 cups of crispy rice cereal so this recipe makes quite a few cookies! I made my cookies on the bigger side and got 5 dozen cookies. The dough is fairly soft, and I chilled to dough between batches because my kitchen was fairly warm. The original recipe said that you might want to process the oats to give the cookies finer texture, but I love the texture that the oats give. These cookies are the perfect combination of chewy and crunchy!

Butterscotch Oatmeal Crispy Rice Cookies
2¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups oats, regular or old fashioned (not instant)
1 cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup butterscotch chips
2 cups crispy rice cereal, plus more for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and oatmeal. In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter, sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium until light. Add the vanilla and eggs and stir to combine.  Add about 1/2 of the flour mixture and mix on low, until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated. Stop the mixer and add the rest of the flour mixture and mix on low until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the butterscotch chips and crispy rice cereal with a spatula.

Shape the dough into 1-1/2 inch balls. Pour some crispy rice cereal into a small bowl and press the tops of the cookies in the cereal; place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 8-9 minutes, until lightly golden on the edges. The tops of the cookies may look under baked, but will firm up as the cookies cool. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vanilla Pound Cake

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Vanilla Pound Cake. I was thrilled then this recipe was selected as pound cakes were one of the first cakes that I ever made, and I’ve had good luck with them from the very beginning. I almost didn’t make this cake as it’s been so warm and my house is so hot that I haven’t really felt like baking. When it is 81 degrees in the house at 9 am, I don’t really want to turn on the oven! I got home about noon on Monday and looked at the recipe. I really wanted to make this and I had all the ingredients, so I decided I would bake it. The house didn’t seem quite so hot at the time, which helped.

This cake is very classic and you can find the recipe with a quick Google search. It doesn’t use any unusual ingredients; just staples like butter, flour, sugar, and vanilla. I had some vanilla-infused sugar that I had planned to use, but I forgot to grab that rather than the regular sugar. I did use the tube pan as the recipe recommended; I don’t use it very often so it was nice to use something different. Mine baked up very nicely and came out of the pan beautifully.

I really like this cake. The crumb texture is very delicate, so the cake is nice and light. Even though the cake doesn’t have a lot of fancy ingredients, it’s still wonderful. A piece of the cake by itself was delicious, but I also will use the cake as the base for strawberry shortcake. This cake lends itself to variations, so make sure you check out the Tuesdays with Dorie site to see what the other TWD bakers did with this recipe.

Recipe from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, pages 251-252

Friday, July 11, 2014

No Bake Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

Summer has arrived in Seattle and I’m again on the hunt for no-bake cookies. I know people around the country scoff at us complaining about the heat, but when it is 85 degrees outside, it’s that warm or warmer inside. It’s no fun at all when you get hot just sitting on the sofa! So far I have managed the heat, but it’s supped to be in the 90s for the next week or so and I am completely dreading it. While I do work less in the summer, I may just go into work extra since there is air conditioning there.

It’s tricky to find no-bake cookies that are cookie-like. I don’t really like the mouth feel of uncooked sugar, and that’s what you get with so many no-bake cookies. This recipe avoids that and you probably won’t immediately know that these are a no-bake cookie. They are decadent little bars with great flavor. My main issue with these is that my house was so warm that they got soft in the short time I was cutting the cookies into bars!

I realized when I was cleaning up the kitchen that I melted the butter for these, but then never added it to the cookies. Well, I hoped that the bottom crust would stay together with just graham cracker crumbs, peanut butter and powdered sugar, and it seemed to be ok. The bottom crust was a little soft, but other than that they were fine. I’m sure they would be sturdier if you actually followed the recipe. Oh well! They were well liked at work; one colleague said they were great with tea, another mentioned that they reminded her of Little Debbie Nutty Bars. You honestly can’t go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter.

No Bake Peanut Butter Crispy Bars
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon shortening
3/4 cup crisp rice cereal

Line a 9” square pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick spray; set aside.

 In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, 1 cup peanut butter, and the powdered sugar. Stir with a spatula to combine, stirring until the mixture is cohesive. Press into the prepared pan and chill for 1 hour.

Place the chocolate chips, peanut butter and shortening in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for one minute. Stir until the mixture is smooth. (Alternatively, you could heat this mixture in a saucepan over low heat until the chips are melted.) Add the crisp rice cereal and stir until the cereal is coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spread the chocolate/cereal mixture on top of the base and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Life the foil from the pan and peel away from the bars. Cut into squares. 

Recipe from The Midnight Baker