Monday, January 23, 2017

Armenian Nazook

Back in 2012, when I was still baking along with the Daring Bakers challenges, I made an Armenian Nutmeg cake. The other option for that month was the nazook, an Armenian filled pastry. When my book club read Skylark Farm by Antonia Arslan, about the Armenian genocide, I intended to bake nazook for that gathering. But then I was somehow out of flour, and it snowed, and, yeah, that didn't happen.

But nazook remained in my head! And so eventually, I made it. The recipe comes from that month's host's aunt Aida, who you can see baking nazook on YouTube. I actually came across that recipe when searching for anything Armenian, before I made the connection back to the Daring Bakers original post!

I made the recipe as described, except I made a few filling variations. I used the butter-sugar-flour-vanilla filling in all of them, but 1/4 I made with that plus diced dried apricots, and half the dough I mixed finely chopped hazelnuts with the filling.

My dough was pretty dry... I think I should have followed my instincts and pulled it when it seemed to come together and not machine knead it the entire ten minutes. When will I learn? But these are still pretty decent despite an overworked dough, because the ratio of filling to dough is high. This is not a difficult recipe at all, and I can imagine many more filling variations!


Nazook

Yields 40 pieces
Video instructions by Jason's aunt Aida
Illustrated directions at the Daring Bakers website

Ingredients
Pastry dough
  • 3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm/15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
  • 2½ teaspoons (12½ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) sour cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) softened butter (room temperature)
Filling
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (210 gm) (7½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (340 gm/12 oz) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) softened butter (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
Wash
  • 1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)
Directions:
Make the Pastry Dough
1. Place the sifted flour into a large bowl.
2. Add the dry yeast, and mix it in.
3. Add the sour cream, and the softened butter.
4. Use your hands, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough.
5. If using a standing mixer, switch to a dough hook. If making manually, continue to knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl or your hands. If it remains very sticky, add some flour, a little at a time.
6. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.

Make the filling
7. Mix the flour, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
8. Add the vanilla extract.
9. Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.

Make the nazook
10. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
11. Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
12. Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour.
13. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but not
transparent.
14. Spread 1/4 of the filling mixture across the rolled-out dough in an even layer. Try to spread the filling as close as possible to the edges on the short sides, but keep some of pastry dough uncovered (1 inch/2.5 cm) along the long edges.
15. From one of the long sides, start slowly rolling the dough across. Be careful to make sure the filling stays evenly distributed. Roll all the way across until you have a long, thin loaf.
16. Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
17. Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.
18. Use your crinkle cutter (or knife) to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
19. Place in a preheated moderate oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown.
20. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Double Chocolate Almond Flour Brownies (gluten-free, grain-free)

This is a modified version of the recipe on the back of the gigantic bag of almond flour that I bought at Costco. It specifies 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar, semisweet chocolate, and walnuts. I also used Stevia-sweetened chocolate chips. With a few more changes these could easily be made paleo-friendly as well, but we like our butter and chocolate chips.



Double Chocolate Almond Flour Brownies

4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick or 8 tbsp) butter, unsalted
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups almond flour
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (we used hazelnuts)

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter. Stir in sugar and vanilla and take off heat and cool (5-10 minutes is fine.) Beat in each egg, then stir in the almond flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Spread into a parchment paper lined 8x8 pan. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.


Monday, January 09, 2017

Hot Chocolate Marathon

I initially started out with the grand idea (not necessarily a new idea) to have 12 Days of Hot Chocolate in December. That turned out to be a crazy amount of sweetness so we went for every other day instead. Sometimes I post pictures to post with books I'm reading, so many of these are not solo hot chocolate pictures.

You can see the other recipes I was considering over on Pinterest, as well as some of the hot chocolate additions that are fun like Polar Bear marshmallows and frozen whipped cream shapes. One hot chocolate I really meant to make but never got around to is gingerbread hot chocolate, but once Christmas is over it just does not feel like gingerbread season anymore (says the baker who posted a gingerbread scone recipe in January.)

Icelandic Hot Chocolate

Considering my cold weather island obsession, it is not surprising that I would start with a self-declared recipe for Icelandic hot chocolate. The blogger had been to Iceland and discovered that they added a little bit of salt, and the recipe I'll link to is her interpretation of what she consumed gallons of while in that country. For our tastes, I added quite a bit more sugar and chocolate, so what is pictured (with chocolate sprinkles) is not exactly the recipe. It was our first night of hot chocolate, and we were hoping for richness.
Recipe: Icelandic Hot Chocolate


Orange Cardamom Hot Chocolate
This was hands-down our favorite hot chocolate. It was a surprising lead for multiple reasons - neither my husband nor I are big fans of white chocolate, and the green cardamom held potential to taste more like chai. Instead, this was sweet but not too sweet, fresh because of the orange, nuanced with the cardamom, and I ended up sad I only made a half batch, just enough to taste.

The recipe comes from a chart I randomly found in Pinterest that doesn't seem to link anywhere externally, although surely it originates from somewhere. I will copy the ingredients here so you can try it. Most of these hot chocolates, I just whisk together over medium-low heat until they are steamy but not boiling.

4 oz. white chocolate
2 cups milk
3-4 green cardamom pods, crushed
1 2-inch strip orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

The recipe actually instructs you to put the chocolate in a bowl, heat the other ingredients and strain into the hot chocolate, stirring until it is melted and smooth.


"Local" Hot Chocolate

Not so much a recipe as a bunch of local food producers' products - Happy Cow Creamery whole milk (delicious), Xocolatl Peppermint Drinking Chocolate, and Malvi Mallow Peppermint Marshmallow. Drink Local!


London Fog Hot Chocolate
 
I was reading a book set in London, and had been intrigued by this recipe, so I made this during one of the days I had off by myself. It seemed possibly too strange to be good, but I really liked it. If you don't know, a London Fog is an Earl Grey tea latte, often with vanilla flavoring too for some sweetness. I go through phases where I make tea lattes for myself, probably starting soon!  This was the richest of the recipes I made. First you steep earl grey in a mixture of milk and cream; I used my own Reading Envy tea blend because it has earl grey but also some black tea. Then you mix in some bittersweet chocolate. There is maple syrup in there too, although I didn't make the maple whipped cream that goes on top in the recipe. This is a great one for a blustery day or night and I will likely make it again.
Recipe: London Fog Hot Chocolate

Monday, January 02, 2017

Gingerbread Scones

We have a tradition in my household that we have "afternoon tea" as our primary meal on Christmas. It consists of any number of snacky type foods, sweets, savories, and usually a scone. This year I was looking at gingerbread scone recipes when my husband asked if we could have a gingerbread scone. Great minds! This was a good recipe, smelled delicious, just make sure not to overbake (I did a bit.)

 

Gingerbread Scones
(as seen on Serious Eats) 

Ingredients
For Scones:
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 large egg, separated, divided
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (or sugar in the raw)
Optional Icing:
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 375°F. Line baking sheet with parchment. Whisk flour, brown sugar, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and cloves in a large bowl to combine.
  2. Using pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture is fine and no pieces of butter remain. Add egg yolk, molasses, and milk to the bowl and then stir to form a thick dough (use hands if necessary to squeeze into a dough).
  3. Transfer dough to work surface and knead slightly to finish combining all of the ingredients. Roll into a 6-inch disc. Cut into 8 wedges and place on pan, spacing about 2 inches apart. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  4. Bake until set, 17 to 19 minutes. Let cool on pan 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before drizzling with icing.
  5. To make icing: Stir sugar with milk until smooth. If too runny to hold it's shape when drizzled, add a small amount of sugar to thicken. Using a pastry bag fitted with a small tip, or a spoon, drizzle icing over cooled scones. Let set in a cool dry space, about 30 minutes.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Fresh Pear Cake

When I was trying to decide what to make for my workplace's annual holiday luncheon, I had a hard time. I feel pressure to make a fantastic dessert and not to repeat myself, but I had already made Buche de Noel, stollen, gingerbread, Lemon Gingerbread Wonderland Cake, Cocoa Pomegranate Pavlova, and a striking Wintermint Cake.

I had pears in my head and that's the direction I pursued. I couldn't make a pear tart because my tart pan is missing its bottom, so I went looking for pear cakes. One recipe had a maple frosting; that sounded good. Another had a whipped brown sugar buttercream. I used that recipe but ran out of brown sugar before I got to the icing, and ended up making a cooked flour icing. I'm not sure what I think of that one so I'll just link to it (I've tasted good cooked flour icings so I'm guessing baker error!). If you want the brown sugar buttercream, please follow the link to the original pear cake recipe.


My co-workers seemed to enjoy this cake. I was worried it was too moist, because after making the pear puree I just dumped it all in rather than measuring. But the technique used with the pears makes the freshest pear flavor in the cake! I think I might like this better with a cream cheese icing, or that original maple idea, but the cake itself is worth trying for sure.

Fresh Pear Cake

6 ripe medium-sized pears (19 ounces, peeled and cored)*
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Peel and slice pears thin. Mix sliced pears with both sugars in a bowl. Let sit for one hour, then purée pear mixture in a food processor or blender.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then grease with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, use a fork or whisk to stir flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg together. Add pear purée, eggs, oil, and vanilla and stir just until combined.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 30-33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few crumbs attached. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
Jenny's notes:
I used an immersion blender for the pear-sugar mixture.
I used 9-inch cake pans.
I wonder if pear nectar would have been a decent substitute for all the pear hassle, but can't recommend it yet!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Chocolate Tahini Cookies (gluten-free, paleo, grain-free)



Chocolate Tahini Cookies
(adapted from Salted Plains, which makes a vegan version)

Ingredients
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup tahini
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (I used Lily stevia-sweetened)
  • ¼-1/2 cup sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk tahini, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and egg together. Add almond flour, cocoa powder, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir until fully combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  3. Assembly: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the sesame seeds in a small bowl and sir to combine. Fill another small bowl with water. The cookie dough will be sticky, so spray your hands with cooking spray, then using a small spoon, scoop cookie dough and gently roll into a loose ball with your hands. Dip or roll each ball into sesame mixture and place on cookie sheet. Dip a fork into the water and press down slightly vertically and then horizontally on top of ball. Rewet your fork each time. This is not to get a tines marking on your cookies, rather, it is to ensure they spread into a more even circle during baking.
  4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and wait a minute or two before transferring cookies to a wire rack.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies

I've seen this recipe floating around and when it made the cover of Dorie's Cookies, I just had to try it. I decided these cookies would be perfect for holiday gifts to co-workers and friends, based on the year we have all had!


This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's website, and I'm only copying it here for your convenience (see her site for recipe tips.) Please buy one of her cookbooks! They are the staple of every baker's bookshelf.

World Peace Cookies

Makes about 36 cookies
1 1/4 cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons; 5 1/2 ounces; 155 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
2/3 cup (134 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces (142 grams) best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into irregular sized bits

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
  2. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until soft, creamy and homogenous, about 3 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to start the blending. When the risk of flying flour has passed, turn the mixer to low and beat until the dough forms big, moist curds. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix to incorporate. This is an unpredictable dough. Sometimes it’s crumbly and sometimes it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Happily, no matter what, the cookies are always great.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it together, kneading it if necessary to bring it together. Divide the dough in half. Shape the dough into logs that are 11/2 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about the length — get the diameter right, and the length will follow. (If you get a hollow in the logs, just start over.) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and freeze them for at least 2 hours or refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.
  4. When you’re ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  5. Working with one log at a time and using a long, sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. (The rounds might crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. (If you’ve cut both logs, keep one baking sheet in the fridge while you bake the other.)
  6. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes — don’t open the oven, just let them bake. When the timer rings, they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, and that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can munch them, or let them reach room temperature (I think the texture’s more interesting at room temperature).
  7. Bake the remaining dough.