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)

  • 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
  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.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Pumpkin Tiramisu

Most years for Thanksgiving, we pick a theme. Since the meal is vegetarian, a theme can be more fun than having an obviously turkeyless spread. This year, Nathaniel requested Italian food. I had fun looking at traditional fall ingredients as used in Italian dishes. The final menu was pretty simple - Limoncello mixed drink, Tuscan-style roasted carrots, mushroom and radicchio lasagna, and pumpkin tiramisu for dessert.

There are several recipes floating around for pumpkin tiramisu. Some use gingersnaps. One used gelatin which is not typically in traditional tiramisu (and is not vegetarian!) I went with one that seemed like it just added pumpkin to the traditional mascarpone and used the Italian cookie amaretti as part of the crunchy parts. It comes from a company that makes ladyfingers, so I followed the recipe exactly.

Pumpkin Tiramisu

  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup amaretto
  • About 25 ladyfingers
  • 6 ounces amaretti cookies, crumbled
  1. Beat cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Combine with mascarpone, pumpkin and spices and beat until smooth.
  2. In a small, shallow dish, pour amaretto. Dip each ladyfinger before arranging along the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish, overlapping to fit. Spread one-third of filling atop ladyfingers, evenly sprinkle with one-third amaretti cookies and repeat for two more layers.
  3. Smooth top of dessert and wrap tightly in plastic and foil. Refrigerate. Best when chilled overnight.