Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cantuccini




This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is for Cantuccini, which is a lot like biscotti. I like baking biscotti-like recipes, but they aren’t really my favorite to eat. I prefer a much more decadent cookie, but I still like them enough. This version is very classic; flavored with whole almonds and a small bit of cinnamon. You can get the recipe with a quick web search. Make sure you check out how the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers fared with this week’s recipe on the Tuesdays with Dorie blog. I’m sure there are some interesting variations!

I halved this recipe, just making one “log” of cookies. The dough was very crumbly, but I just worked it A LOT and it did come together. I wasn’t sure about the whole almonds in the dough, as I’ve had trouble with other sliced cookies with large chunks of nuts. They shaped up just fine and looked really good after the first baking. I let them cool and hoped that I would be able to cut them in the ¼” slices like the recipe specified.

I was very happy that the cookies, while seemingly dry, cut beautifully. Only one or two were crumbly around the edge and the whole almonds were no problem at all. It was tempting not to bake them the second time, and have a softer cookie, but that’s not really the point of these cookies! They smelled wonderful baking and the almond flavor is so nice. The cinnamon flavor is subtle but it’s there. Although not my favorite style of cookie, these are very nice and perfect to go with a cup of tea.

Recipe from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, pages 313-314

Friday, April 11, 2014

Caramel Pecan Brownies



I think that Werther’s Caramels are fairly new on the market. I had seen ads for them for a while, and it seems like I see ads for several months before I ever see the products in the store. When I saw them, I picked them up and figured there would be something that I could make with them. I was actually surprised that there weren’t all that many recipes using these particular caramels. I suppose that any recipe that uses caramels would work.

I ended up making these brownies. The recipe is on the back of the bag, so I figured that was as good as place as any. The recipe called for using a boxed brownie mix, but I just made up a batch of brownies using the chewy brownie recipe from King Arthur Flour. You then top the cooled brownies with caramel and pecans: not too hard!

This isn’t a very thick brownie. I know sometimes when I make brownies they are so thick that I can hardly cut them! The caramels take quite a while to melt, but don’t turn the heat up too much or you risk scorching the caramel. I chopped the pecans fairly large, and they didn’t stick to the caramel very well. By the time I had cut them into bars, most of the pecans had fallen off. Oh well, they still taste good, you can’t go wrong with caramel and chocolate.

Caramel Pecan Brownies
¾ cup butter, cut in pieces
2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs
1 cup flour

9 ounces Werther’s Caramels, unwrapped
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar and stir until combined. Heat briefly, until the mixture looks shiny. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and then whisk in the flour. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 28-32 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out almost clean. Do not over bake. Cool before topping.

In a medium saucepan, combine the caramels and water. Heat on low heat, stirring frequently, until the caramels melt and the mixture is smooth. Drizzle over the cooled brownies and sprinkle with the chopped pecans. Cut into squares.

Recipe from Werther’s. Brownie recipe from King Arthur Flour

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies with Sea Salt



It’s spring break at work this week. Since I was away from work a couple of weeks ago to go to a conference with my husband, I am working this week. It’s good, because I have a lot of work to do with the launch of our new library website. I do have to say, it’s quite strange being at work when it is so quiet, with the students gone. Others in the library are working too, and it’s nice being able to help out when I can.

There are fewer people at work, and I could have picked a recipe with a smaller yield, but that’s a big fail for this recipe! This recipe made about 5 dozen cookies, which is quite a lot. I guess I could have halved the recipe, but I didn’t think about that at the time. The original recipe said it only made about 3 dozen, but with 2-1/2 cups of flour and ¾ cups of cocoa powder, I should have known better.

I love chocolate and hazelnuts, and my husband is always complaining that I never make chocolate chip cookies, so I was hopeful that this recipe would appease him. This is just a chocolate chip cookies recipe with added cocoa powder and hazelnuts and some salt to finish. You do have to be careful that you don’t over bake them; there’s nothing worse than a dry chocolate cookie. I baked mine 11 minutes and they looked gooey when I took them out of the oven, but they are great once they set. I liked these cookies a lot, and the salt adds a lot to these cookies. I think the hazelnut flavor could be stronger, but I really love hazelnuts!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies with Sea Salt
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
Sea salt

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

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside. In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

With the mixer running on the lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts.

Shape the dough into 1-1/4” balls and place on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten the cookies slightly with the palm of your hand and then sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes, or until cookies are set, but still soft in the center. They may still look wet in the center when you remove them from the oven. Do not over bake, cookies will set as they cool. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Congress Tarts



I saw this recipe when it was first posted on Mainly Baking, but it just hasn’t seemed like the right time to bake them. They are perfect for tea, a springy treat featuring coconut, almond and jam. The weather has been so rainy this winter that I just haven’t felt it. Well, it is spring now and the weather is starting to improve some, so I figured it was time to make them.

These tarts are somewhat similar to a Bakewell tart, which has a layer of jam covered with an almond filling. These tarts are supposed to use raspberry jam, but I only had strawberry jam so I used that. This recipe calls for desiccated coconut, which is quite a bit different than shredded coconut that you buy here in the States. I often had desiccated coconut on hand, but I have to buy it at a specialty store and I didn’t stock up. I took shredded coconut, toasted it for about 10 minutes, and then processed it in the food processor. It’s not quite as fine as desiccated coconut, but it’s pretty close.

You can use homemade or store bought pastry for these, whichever works best for you. I was actually able to make 12 regular muffin-sized tarts and 5 mini tarts with this recipe. I haven’t been baking as much and these are a touch more involved. Cut the pastry, spread the jam, make the filling, shape the filling. The hardest part was knowing when they were baked, as it’s tough to tell if the pastry is done. I baked mine about 23 minutes. I love the flavor of these! Coconut, almond, lemon zest and the jam come together to make the best tart I’ve had in a really long time.

Congress Tarts
Pastry for a one crust pie
4 tablespoons jam
8 ounces sugar
8 ounces ground almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 egg whites
2 ounces desiccated (shredded) coconut
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 12-hole muffin pan.

Roll out the pastry and cut out circles large enough to line the bottom and up the sides of the muffin cups. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and spread about 1 teaspoon jam in the base of each muffin cup.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, ground almonds and cornstarch. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until white foamy. Pour into the almond mixture. Add the coconut, almond extract and lemon zest and mix well.

Shape about 2 tablespoons of the almond/coconut mixture into a ball and place in the muffin cup. Press down slightly to seal the edges.

Bake for 15-25 minutes, until golden brown on top, and the pastry is cooked underneath. Remove the tarts from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Recipe via Mainly Baking

Friday, March 28, 2014

Nutty Crunch Cookies




When we were on vacation a couple of weeks ago, our hotel room had a copy of Bon Appetit in the room. I don’t read a lot of cooking magazine, except the British ones we subscribe to on the iPad. Now I’m not really a cook, and it seems like Bon Appetit is more focused on cooking than baking. This particular issue had a bit more baking in it, and I found this recipe there.

The picture in the magazine looked like a super crunchy cookie. I looked at the ingredients and then method for making the dough and it’s quite an unusual cookie. You use two types of nuts, and thankfully I had those on hand. The almonds I used were blanched, which I think is better when you grind them up. The hazelnuts I had were roasted and primarily blanched. That was fantastic as I’ve never had good luck blanching hazelnuts. I just made sure that I picked the ones from the bag that had the least skin.

You make these up in the food processor, which I use for pie dough but rarely for making cookie dough. I think that I ground up the nuts enough, but I knew that my cookies would be a slightly different texture than they looked in the picture. If I would have ground them more the mixture would have been like peanut butter, which might have worked but I wasn’t sure. The cookies end up being fairly crumbly, but that was ok! They have a great nutty flavor from the hazelnuts and almonds. Don’t miss out on roasting the nuts; it really makes all the different to the flavor. These cookies were a bit different, but they tasted very good.



Nutty Crunch Cookies
1 cup blanched hazelnuts
½ cup unsalted, roasted almonds
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup butter, cold and cut in pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

In a large food processor, place ½ cup toasted hazelnuts, the almonds, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla. Pulse until finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Add the butter pieces and process, using long pulses, until the dough comes together.

Shape the dough into 1” balls and place on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten the cookies with the palm of your hand until they are about 1/2“ thick. Coarsely chop the remaining hazelnuts and sprinkle some of the chopped hazelnuts on top of each cookie and press the nuts into the dough slightly.

Bake for 15-16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets half way through the baking time. Remove the cookies from the oven when they are golden. Do not over bake, as they continue to cook on the baking sheets after they have been removed from the oven. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Recipe from Bon Appetit