Monday, April 17, 2017

Banana Sorghum Bouchons

My husband is a devoted reader of The Local Palate, and showed me an article on southern cakes in the most recent issue. I zeroed in on the recipe for Banana Sorghum Bouchons, because I had overly ripe bananas and sorghum syrup on hand. It is apparently a traditional North Carolina recipe from the mid-1800s.

I did not have a bouchon pan, but the recipe said I could use mini muffin pans, so that's what I did.


Banana Sorghum Mini-Muffins 
(from The Local Palate)

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups sorghum
½ cup mashed ripe banana
3 large eggs
2½ cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:
  1. Place a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly mist the 12 wells of a mini-popover pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Place butter and sorghum in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat another minute, until creamy. Add banana and eggs, and beat until eggs are combined. The mixture may look curdled. Set aside.
  3. Place flour, soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk or sift to combine. Beginning and ending with flour mixture, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to sorghum batter. Beat only until just smooth.
  4. With a small scoop, drop batter into prepared wells of pan, filling them two-thirds full. Place pan in oven. Bake until bouchons rise and spring to the touch, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, let it rest 10 minutes, then run a knife around bouchons and gently lift them out of pan and onto a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. To serve, dust bouchons with powdered sugar

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hermit Cookies for the Hermitage

I participated in my first silent retreat this weekend. I wanted to bring a snack to share, and found Geoffrey Zakarian's recipe for these cookies in my Pinterest board. They were more relevant than I even knew, since some of the spaces are referred to as the hermitage at Heartwood Refuge.


Hermit Cookies

Cookies
  •  
Glaze:
  •  

Directions

Special equipment: A piping bag.

For the cookies: Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, allspice and ginger in a medium bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter, brown sugar and molasses together in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, eggs and orange zest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until incorporated. Add the spiced flour mixture and beat until the dough just comes together. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and refrigerate on a plate or baking sheet until firm, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks to the top and lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Arrange the chilled dough balls about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the tops of the hermits are no longer glossy and the edges are firm, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

For the glaze: While the cookies cool, mix the confectioners' sugar, egg whites and vanilla seeds in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until smooth and shiny.

Transfer the glaze to a piping bag and pipe stripes onto the cooled hermits. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

(notes on recipe below images from the retreat)



The meditation center at Heartwood (or the "hermitage")


Recipe notes:

Traditionally, hermit cookies have some kind of dried fruit in them, instead of chocolate. I have to say that I think Chef Zakarian made a misstep in his variation, because despite the orange zest, the combination of molasses plus dark brown sugar plus chocolate chips just results in a murky flavor. I would pull back to regular brown sugar and add vibrance through dried fruit and maybe a nut, or even some oats. (I probably wouldn't make this actual recipe again, because aside from the murky flavor of the cookies, who wants to deal with egg white for cookies named for simplicity? I didn't.)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Mango Carrot Cake

The original recipe for this cake calls for two layers and a cream cheese frosting. I went for a simpler approach of a 9x13 pan and no icing, and thought it was tasty on its own. The recipe below will be what I did; follow the link to the original for the layer cake.



Mango Carrot Cake
(based on Mango Ginger Carrot Cake with Candied Ginger Frosting from Rock Recipes)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger root, finely grated*
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup fresh ripe mango, diced small**
  • ½ cup chopped lightly toasted macadamia nuts (optional)***
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  2. Grease and flour one 9x13 pan.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered ginger and salt.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla and oil until light and fluffy.
  5. Stir in the grated carrots, mango, grated ginger root (and nuts if you are using them.)
  6. Fold in the dry ingredients by hand.
  7. Stir only until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the batter. Do not over mix.
  8. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Jenny's notes:

* - I couldn't find the ginger root that I know I bought. I would recommend adding this layer of flavor, or maybe crystalized ginger in the batter.
** - I used frozen mango which is in rather large chunks (as evidenced in photo) - I would definitely cut those chunks in half next time, and maybe increase mango flavor by replacing some oil with mango puree or mango nectar.
*** - I did not add nuts but ended up wishing I had more texture - nuts or coconut, etc.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Chaat Masala Mango Buttermilk Icebox Pie

I received a sample of chaat masala from Raw Spice Bar, and had fun deciding what to do with it. I found a few recipes with it sprinkled on fruit, even a dish called mango masala. I remembered a southern icebox pie recipe featuring mango, and decided to make a hybrid recipe. I wanted the masala spice to accent the mango but not overwhelm it; I think I'd used twice as much next time. Even undoctored, this is a lovely pie for spring or summer!

Chaat masala contains coriander, cumin, ajwain, black salt dried ciles, amchoor, asafoetida, ginger, black peppercorns, dried mint, and paprika.


Mango Masala Icebox Pie
(loosely adapted from Mango-Lemon-Buttermilk Icebox Pie on Southern Living)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh or thawed frozen mango
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon loosely packed lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons mango nectar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk 
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala
Ginger Spice Crust
(a variation of the Crumb Crust Recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (omit when using buttery crackers or saltines)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted 

1. Make the crust. Process crushed gingersnaps, sugar,  chaat masala, and salt in a food processor until finely crushed and well combined. Add melted butter, and process until thoroughly combined. Press on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a lightly greased (with cooking spray) 9-inch regular pie plate or 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Preheat oven to 325°. Bake crust 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

2. Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Stir in 1 cup chopped fresh or thawed frozen mango. Remove from heat, and stir in 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice. Process mixture in a blender until smooth.

3. Preheat oven to 325°. Whisk together sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest, 1 cup mango puree, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and mango nectar  in a bowl.

4. Beat egg yolks with a handheld mixer in a medium bowl at high speed 4 to 5 minutes or until yolks become pale and ribbons form on surface of mixture when beater is lifted. Gradually whisk in sweetened condensed milk mixture, and whisk until thoroughly combined; whisk in buttermilk. Pour mixture into prepared crust.

5. Bake at 325° for 20 to 25 minutes or until set around edges, sprinkling more chaat masala on the top in the last five minutes of baking. (Pie will be slightly jiggly.) Cool on a wire rack 1 hour. Cover pie with lightly greased (with cooking spray) plastic wrap, and freeze 4 to 6 hours.


 6. Top with whipped cream and another shake of the spice, if desired.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten-free, lower-sugar, grain-free)

Thanks, big bag of almond flour from Costco (not a paid advertisement.)



Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar*
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg + 1 egg white
2 1/2 cups almond flour
1 cup chocolate chips or pieces
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Beat together butter, sugars and vanilla extract in a large bowl, then beat in eggs.
3. Stir in almond flour, baking soda, salt and mix well.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Drop tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets 2 inches apart.**
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned and firm to the touch.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

*I substituted coconut sugar for each of these but if you do this, add slightly more or they will not be sweet enough.
** I found that these did not spread on their own, so pressing down a bit before baking made a nicer cookie.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Appalachian Baking: Gravy Horse & Ouita's Biscuits

We were driving around the NC mountains yesterday and I remembered I needed sorghum (aka sweet sorghum or sorghum molasses or sorghum syrup.) We stopped beside the road and bought some from a guy in camo and a pickup truck. I have a cookbook that I remember required sorghum for some of the desserts, but I didn't have all the other ingredients. I went looking online and found a recipe called "gravy horse." Since it is based on a foodlorist's research, I'd recommend going to the post on Bakepedia to read more, but I'm copying the recipe here.



Gravy Horse & Ouita’s Biscuits
Author: Ronni Lundy 
Makes: 6 biscuits

Ingredients

Ouita’s Biscuits:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled or frozen
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
Gravy Horse:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons sorghum syrup

Instructions
  1. For the Biscuits: In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Using a cheese grater, grate butter into dry ingredients and mix lightly with fingers until crumbly.
  2. Add buttermilk and quickly work into flour mixture with a pastry cutter, wooden spoon, or by hand. Knead with a few quick strokes into a rounded mound and let rest 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  3. Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. Roll dough on a floured surface to a thickness of ½ inch. Cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned and baked through.
  5. For the Gravy Horse: Put the butter in a small bowl or saucer and let sit at room temperature until it is softened but not runny. Pour sorghum over the top and use the tines of a fork to first mash then gently whip together. You can use the fork to daub it onto hot biscuits, and this should be enough to grace a half-dozen of Ouita’s Biscuits.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Version of Thin Mint Cookies (grain-free, low-carb)

It's Girl Scout Cookie time! This year the Girl Scouts are offering a gluten-free cookie for the first time, but at least my local scouts ran out of boxes. They still haven't really attempted a low-carb cookie, and might never. Never fear, there are recipes out there to try for people not consuming grain or sugar. I used a recipe from "All Day I Dream About Food" and adapted it slightly. You can see her original version here. My most significant change is not using a sugar substitute, but a lower-GI sugar. This is because of the tastes in my household!


Did I still buy a box of thin mints? Well yes. That is what you see on the left. My cookie is on the right. Pretty close! Without commercial chocolate drenching equipment it's not easy to get the glaze as thin as they get it, but who ever asked for less chocolate?

Here the two cookies are again, my version is on the bottom. You can see the almond flour makes a slightly larger grain, plus I did not bake these until crisp. There is less of a snap when you bite into it, but the chocolate still helps with that. Texture wise, I actually prefer my cookie!

When I made these I actually made a half batch, because this makes a lot! Especially when you consider that you are going to have to dip each one in chocolate, 40 is a lot of cookies. The full recipe is displayed below.

Thin Mint Cookies 
(adapted from All Day I Dream About Food) 

Ingredients
    Cookies:
  • 1 3/4 cups almond flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract**
  • Coating:
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 7 oz sugar-free chocolate chips such as Lily (Stevia-sweetened) OR 90% Lindt chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
Instructions
    Cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, cocoa powder, coconut sugar, baking powder and salt. Add in egg, butter, vanilla and peppermint extract and stir well until dough comes together.
  3. Roll out dough between two pieces of parchment paper to desired thickness (I rolled mine very thin, about 1/8 inch thick). Lift off top piece of parchment and set aside. Using a 2-inch diameter cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and lift gently. Place cookies on prepared baking sheet. Gather up scraps of dough and reroll until too little is left to roll out.
  4. Bake cookies until desired texture. The original recipe says 30 minutes here but mine seemed done at 15, and I was afraid to burn them. Your mileage may vary but definitely check them at 15! Remove and let cool (they will continue to crisp up as they cool).
  5. Chocolate Coating:
  6. Place a metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water, not allowing the bowl to touch the water. Melt coconut oil and chocolate together in the bowl, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract.
  7. Dip cookies into chocolate, using two forks to turn over and fully coat cookie. Gently pass chocolate-coated cookie back and forth between forks to remove excess chocolate, then place on waxed paper to cool and set. 
* As this recipe is, these are not at all a sweet cookie. I had missed that the original recipe had both powdered and liquid stevia. So there is room here for up to double this amount of coconut sugar.
** I know this does not seem like a lot but peppermint extract is very powerful in small doses and you do not want more than this. It will start to taste like medicine.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Scones - two versions (regular and low-sugar, gluten-free)

Because I worked the Sunday shift last weekend, I stayed home on Tuesday, February 14, aka Valentines Day! I made myself a very Valentines-themed breakfast, one I wish I'd shared prior to the day since now it seems the wrong season. But I liked the (regular carby) scones so much that I made a low-sugar version this weekend. I thought I'd share both recipes.

The original breakfast, alongside Adagio's Ripe for Romance tea, which I actually bought last year (not a paid advertisement.)

I had leftover regular-sized semi-sweet chocolate chips so that's what I used in place of the chocolate from this original recipe. I also made a half-batch, which worked out pretty well although of course the moisture from the raspberries can be problematic. Perhaps make that amount a bit more scant, or use dried berries.


Raspberry Chocolate Tea Scones
(as seen on the Eggs on Sunday blog)


Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and chopped into small pieces
1 cup miniature chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
1 cup frozen raspberries, chopped (keep frozen until you’re ready to add them to the dough)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and sugar. Add the chopped cold butter and rub with your fingers into the flour until the bits of butter are roughly the size of peas. Stir in the chocolate chips/chunks.

Separate the egg; reserve the white for later use (you’ll use it to brush on the tops of the scones before baking.) In a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the cream, egg yolk, and vanilla extract.

Add the chopped frozen raspberries to the flour mixture. Pour in the cream, and using light, quick strokes, stir with a fork until just moistened (there may still be some flour on the bottom of the bowl.) Use your hands to gather the dough into a ball and knead it lightly a few times, just to gather it together. Don’t worry if there’s still a little flour remaining on the bottom of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into two balls. Gently flatten each ball into a 1-inch high disk, and cut each disk into 6 wedges (for 12 scones total.) Place on baking sheet and brush the tops with the reserved egg white; sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and scones are cooked through.



The lower-sugar gluten-free version is just a take one of my original low-sugar berry scone recipes from October 2015,  except I've started adding 1/2 cup tapioca flour (for a more tender texture). I used 1 cup frozen raspberries and added 1/2 cup mini stevia-sweetened chocolate chips. Those suckers are $8 a bag but if you only use 1/2 cup at most at a time, they can last a bit longer.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Government Cookies: Joe Froggers

A week ago, a co-worker emailed me with the subject line "government cookies." Apparently someone from GODORT went through and made a list of all the recipes they could find in the documents stored in the National Archives, and named their research guide, "Government Cookies." Many of them are historical, or serve a purpose like feeding 500 army men a peanut butter cookie for dessert. On the "molasses, honey, and other sweets" tab, I found the recipe for Joe Froggers, and I had all the ingredients. I didn't have plans for baked goods for Valentines Day, so the heart-shaped Joe Frogger was born!

The recipe links to the town of Marblehead, Massachusetts, which is the home of the Joe Frogger recipe. The Smithsonian dove deeper into the background of the cookie and posted it on their blog.

The rest of this information comes from the posted recipe, and I'm reposting it since most of the time USA government documents are considered in the public domain.

A Joe Frogger is a ginger cookie that dates back to Colonial times. Joe Froggers have been cherished by generations of residents of Marblehead, Massachusetts. The cookies were originally baked by a man known as Old Black Joe Brown and an Aunt Crese, who maintained a tavern on Gingerbread Hill. Because the cookies would keep for long periods of time, fishermen would take barrels of Joe Froggers along with them on their journeys.



Joe Frogger Cookies

3½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 cup molasses
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/3 cup hot water

Mix flour, salt, ginger, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg and allspice in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat together the molasses, shortening and brown sugar. Combine the hot water and rum.

Add the dry ingredients and the water/rum mixture alternately to the sugar/molasses mixture. (If the dough is dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.) Roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper until ¼ inch thick. Refrigerate at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets. Cut the dough into 3-inch cookies with a cookie cutter. (The original Joe Froggers were much larger. For the traditional size, use a coffee can.) Place on greased cookie sheets and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. (Longer for the traditional size.)

The cookies are baked when they are dark around the edges and firm in the centers. Set the cookie sheets on a rack to cool for five minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely

Monday, February 06, 2017

Palestinian Warbat

A friend posted this recipe to Facebook the other day, with a sentiment along the lines of, "when times get hard, we need something sweet!" I have a few novels and memoirs by Palestinian writers that I'm planning to read soon, so the baked good fits in with my reading goals, just the way I like it!


I will link to the recipe I used, but you have to be a Facebook user to access it. Warbat is like a lot of Middle Eastern desserts, where every person making it seems to use a slightly different recipe and method. Some have a milk custard inside, some have pistachios and some don't, some fold the phyllo up like spanikopita (which would have helped keep the filling out), some (like me!) use orange blossom water instead of rose water, and so on. I watched quite a few videos on YouTube and it looks like most people making warbat are making four small triangles with the filling pointing into the center of a larger square; mine were quite large in comparison, a quarter of a phyllo sheet size.

Warbat also shares a very similar ingredient list to kunefe, a recipe which I've had associated with Turkish cooking lessons but never made any at home. Both recipes use an unsalted soft cheese. I was lucky to find the right kind at the Pita House in town, but you could substitute a unsalted white cheese from Mexico or Italy, or even try ricotta. I highly recommend the orange blossom over rose water, as far as my personal tastes go.

Warbat
(recipe transcribed from POP Palestine Cuisine in Facebook, with some alterations and additions)

Pre-made phyllo, thawed and kept under/inside damp towel.
Melted unsalted butter
300 mL water*
300 g sugar*
1/2 lemon
1 tsp orange blossom water
Soft white cheese, shredded or pulled apart
Additional granulated sugar to mix with the cheese

Over medium-high heat, stir together sugar and water. Heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is agitated or has started to boil. Add squeeze of lemon juice and orange blossom water, and allow to boil another 5 minutes, until mixture is clear and slightly thickened. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a pan with parchment paper, but use one with some type of edge in case the cheese squeezes out and the butter smokes on the bottom, which is what happened to me.

Lay one sheet of phyllo on a cutting board and brush with butter. Repeat with four more sheets. Cut into squares, depending on the size of the phyllo you will have 4 or 6. Sprinkle sugar over the cheese and mix. Mound cheese into the center of the square, and fold over, pressing the buttery parts together. Place on pan and brush with butter on the outside.

Bake 40 minutes or until browned. Pour or brush syrup over, and sprinkle with ground pistachios if desired.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Peanut Butter Banana Pupcakes (grain-free, cakes for dogs)

This weekend our boxer-shepherd mix, Doyle, turned 2. He has had some food sensitivities so I went looking for a recipe that would be easier, and landed on this one because it uses coconut flour. (I can't tell you how many times I saw a recipe that said "If your dog has a wheat allergy, use whole wheat!" Um NO that is still wheat!) Doyle and Winnie both liked these but I found it better if I broke them up into pieces before giving them to the dogs.



Peanut Butter Banana Pupcakes
(as seen on Mother Nature Network)


Yield: 12 cupcakes (Jenny's note: I made a half batch so ended up with 6)

Ingredients
For the cupcakes, followed by frosting ingredients that start with cream cheese
  • 1 cup unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
Cooking directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or two 6-cup muffin tins, or line with paper muffin cups.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, eggs, bananas, and cottage cheese. Stir until well-combined. Add in the coconut flour and baking soda and stir until combined.
  4. Fill each muffin cup to about 3/4 full with the batter.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. While these are baking, begin making the frosting.
  6. In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, peanut butter and oil, and use a fork or a hand-mixer to cream together until smooth.
  7. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden up again while the cupcakes finish baking.
  8. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  9. Ice the cooled cupcakes with the frosting mixture and serve!

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.