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Almond, Cake, Fruit

Almond Shortcakes with Roasted Stone Fruit

For me, summertime is all about easy desserts, and shortcakes are here to help us all out on that front. Below, I’ve got a recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour’s shortcake recipe that adds almond flour into the mix for delicious results. Try them out with some roasted peaches and whipped cream, and you’ll be loving this treat all summer long!

Almond Shortcakes
yield: 6 -7 shortcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour*
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter, chilled
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • Additional buttermilk and sanding sugar, optional
  • Berries, stone fruit, whipped cream, or whatever you might want!

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

In a minimum 6-cup capacity food processor, combine the flours, salt, baking powder, baking  soda, and salt. Pulse a couple times just to combine.

Add the chilled butter, sliced into roughly 8 portions. Pulse until the mixture is even and crumbly.  Transfer the dough to large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the vanilla, almond, egg, and buttermilk together. Add to the flour mixture and fold together with a silicone spatula until the liquid is distributed.

Pour out the dough on a lightly floured surface, and knead just until it comes together, about 4 or 5 turns. Pat into a rectangle that’s about 3/4-inch thick and cut into 6 squares. At this point, you can chill the biscuits if you want, prior to baking. Otherwise, transfer each biscuit to the prepared baking sheet, brush with additional buttermilk, and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake for 5 minutes at 450 before reducing temperature to 400 and continuing to bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

Top however you wish. Pictured at the top of this post is roasted stone fruit and whipped cream.

*Almond flour is expensive, and I like to use this as a way of using up small amounts left over from making macarons. If you want to make these without almond flour, just substitute all-purpose flour though the dough may be a little dryer.

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Cookies, Icing

Nuts About Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies on their own can be wonderful, but I have often found myself searching for a cookie recipe that allows for some more nuanced flavor combinations than the typical sugar cookie provides. It turns out the addition of ground nuts to the batter opens up a world of possibilities (and a more interesting texture too)!

In the recipe below, I use ground pistachios, cinnamon, and cardamom to flavor the cookie and pair them with a royal icing that’s flavored rose. However, this recipe is incredibly versatile: ground pecans or walnuts can be substituted for the pistachios, the spices are up for grabs too, and the milk in the recipe can be replaced with another liquid in a pinch (black coffee and walnuts or bourbon and pecans, for just a few ideas).

Regarding the royal icing, rose is a strong flavor that stands up beautifully to the high sugar content of the icing.

Nuts About Sugar Cookies

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup ground pistachios
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp cardamom
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 tbsp milk (or other liquid)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground pistachios, baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add in the egg and milk. Gradually add in the flour mixture to create a smooth dough. Divide the dough in half, shape into disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This dough can be made ahead and chilled overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degree and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out one of portion of the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut using cookie cutters in whatever shape you desire. For cookies that are roughly 3-inches in diameter, bake for 10-12 minutes on the prepared baking sheet. Smaller cookies will bake for less time.

You should get about 2 dozen cookies from one batch. The dough warps only slightly, but if you’re a perfectionist, cutting them again right as they come out of the oven works like a  charm to produce clean lines. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Let them cool completely before icing.

Rose Royal Icing

  • 3 tbsp meringue powder (4oz)
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar (16 oz)
  • 5 tbsp warm water
  • 1/4 tsp rose water*

Combine all ingredients, whipping to form peaks, about 7 minutes. The frosting at this stage will be quite thick. From this stage, you have a couple options for piping: a top coat or a filled border.**

I had written a bit about icing techniques, but I’m obviously still quite a neophyte to royal icing decorating. In the picture below, I attempted a feathering technique as well as a marbling technique.

*Rose water by it’s nature can be a bit overpowering. Only 1/4 of a tsp for an entire batch for frosting might seem judicious, but trust me: it’s all you need.

**At this point, I would highly recommend watching a video on how to properly flood cookies with royal icing:

Sweet Amb’s Flooding Tutorial

Chocolate, Cookies

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies (revisited 5/2/2018)

I call myself the “futile” gourmet because cooking is something I am passionate about, but I’ve never had the option to study or work in the field professionally (outside of some high school experience and one tour of the CIA in New York). Also, I love to experiment and – quite frankly – those experiments can indeed be futile from time to time.

But sometimes, I like to revisit old recipes and improve them with new tricks I’ve learned. Now is one of those times…

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies (revisited 5/2/2018)
yield: 12- 16 cookies

  • 2 cups King Arthur bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping tsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated*
  • 3/4 cup butter, browned and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 8 oz chopped semisweet chocolate
  • Sea salt

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cornstarch, and nutmeg. Whisk together and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, molasses, and vanilla together on medium speed for 3 minutes to combine thoroughly. The mixture won’t exactly be creamy; it will be similar in texture to wet sand. Depending on how cool the butter is, the texture may vary.

With the mixer running on medium-low speed, add in the egg and egg yolk. Increase speed to medium and cream for 30 seconds to 1 minute until homogeneous and lighter in color.

With the mixer running on low, add in the dry ingredients a large spoonful at a time until all of the dry goods are incorporated. Add in the chopped chocolate all at once and mix to distribute. Transfer dough to a container or a piece of plastic wrap laid out on a cutting board, patting it into a rectangle. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Divide the dough into roughly 16 cookies that weigh between 50 – 60 grams each. If you don’t have a scale, eyeballing it is perfectly fine. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 325 for 15 – 18 minutes. The cookies should still be slightly puffy in the center and just beginning to brown at the edges.

Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

*Nutmeg in a chocolate chip cookie?!?! Okay it’s totally optional, but thanks to BraveTart by Stella Parks, I tried this addition as a way to “increase the butterscotch notes of the cookie batter,” and I have to agree that I am a fan! I’d recommend trying this in your own favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

Cookbook Review

Cookbook Review: Quinntessential Baking

Frances Quinn was the winner of the 4th series (or 2nd season, here in the United States) of The Great British Bake Off  in 2013. On the show, Quinn stood out from her fellow competitors through her creative sense of style and design that imbued all of her recipes. In one early challenge, she was inspired by how classic bread sticks look like fireplace matches, so she flavored them with ginger, dipped them in chocolate, and tucked her bread/matchsticks away in an over-sized match box. In another challenge that required the contestants to bake a Victorian sandwich cake, she used a baking tin to make her cake in the shape of sandwich bread, making clever use of fondant as a parchment sandwich bag. Quinn’s aesthetic sense of design found its way into every challenge and into her new cookbook, Quinntessential Baking.

The cookbook is ingeniously separated by recipe where each basic recipe, like Vanilla Cake, is given a makeover only Frances Quinn could produce: a fanciful take on the classic Strawberry Shortcake, Wimbledon-inspired cupcakes, and Fish and Chips cupcakes, to name a few. I was especially impressed by her chapter devoted to Tiffin, a brownie-like cake that contains chopped chocolate, crunchy treats, and other creative add-ins. Quinn uses the basic idea of a Tiffin cake and transforms it into cake pops, seed cakes, and a Malted Milk and Cookies Tiffin.

As I was flipping through the cookbook, I had to stop at the Coffee Shot ‘Cup’ Cakes recipe. This was it. This would be the first thing I made from her cookbook. Baked in paper coffee cups and adorned with whipped mascarpone, the treats are  the perfect coffee cup doppelgangers – they certainly impressed me and my lucky coworkers! Quinn’s treats are high-style and high-substance, with every ingredient well thought out. Below, a sprinkle of cocoa or a dusting of cinnamon add to the flavor, appearance, and overall design of the ‘Cup’ Cakes.

One note for any baker in the United States: Quinn’s recipes are based on traditional English measurements and temperatures, so expect to break out your kitchen scale and Google some Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion.

Frances Quinn’s Quinntessential Baking is an absolute joy to read and peruse as you debate what treat you and some friends (or you and your children) might want to tackle this weekend. I would highly recommend this book for any cookbook lover or any baker for it truly represents the Quinntessence of whimsical, joyful baking.

Chocolate, Cookies, White Chocolate

Gluten-Free Triple Chocolate Cookies

I love baking for restricted diets in part because of the challenge. With gluten-free bakes, the challenge always seems to be creating a chewy texture without the presence of gluten. And thanks to cocoa powder, melted butter, and dark brown sugar, I think I have accomplished that feat here!

One thing about my favorite cookie recipes: they require refrigeration. Even if you use a different recipe, try chilling the dough for a few hours out; I find it helps to produce more consistent cookies, plus there’s less pressure to go start to finish in a recipe because batching out and baking off cookies can take a while!

Gluten-Free Triple Chocolate Cookies

yield: 16-18 rather large cookies

  • 1 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*
  • 1/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp instant espresso, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 4oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 4 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped

In a medium bowl, combine the gluten-free all-purpose flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the melted butter and instant espresso, if using, whisking to dissolve the espresso. Add in the dark brown sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Expect a wet sandy mixture to develop. Add in the eggs and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds which will help lighten and emulsify the mixture.

With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the flour until incorporated. Finally, add in the chopped chocolate all at once, mixing to distribute. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break apart the dough and roll into balls; the recipe should make about 16 -18 rather large cookies. Bake the cookies 6 to a sheet for 18-20 minutes until they’ve flattened but they still appear puffy all around.

*In terms of gluten-free all-purpose flour blends for this recipe, I’ve had excellent luck with both Bob’s Red Mill as well as Krusteaz brands.

 

Birthday Cake, Cake, Coffeecake

Birthday Cake for Breakfast

With my birthday coming up, I have birthday cake on my mind (which is odd, as I’m looking forward to a Bakewell Tart for this birthday). So it got me thinking: why not modify a delicious, proven coffee cake recipe to be birthday cake flavored? That way I can have my cake and eat it too – AND for breakfast!The original recipe comes from one of my favorite recipe and ingredient sources: King Arthur Flour. Their Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake is well recommended with excellent reviews. Here’s my birthday-cake-take:

Birthday Coffeecake

Birthday Cake Topping

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tsp birthday cake flavoring*
  • 2 tbsp sprinkles

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add in the butter, vanilla, and sprinkles, mixing with a silicone spatula to create a crumb-like topping. If it’s a bit wet, add in another tablespoon or two of flour until you get coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Filling

  • 8 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sprinkles

Place the white chocolate in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir – the chocolate should barely be melted at all. Microwave for another 30 seconds. At this point, the chocolate should be about half melted. Continue microwaving, but on 10 second intervals, until it’s almost completely melted. Remove it from the microwave and let it sit: the remaining chocolate will melt and it will begin to cool down. After about 5-10 minutes, add in the sprinkles.

Cake

  • 3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp birthday cake flavor*
  • 3 eggs

Prepare a 9 x 13 pan by lightly greasing the sides and bottom. Dust with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or 325 degrees if your pan happens to be dark).

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream and milk. Set this aside as well.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium speed. Add in the birthday cake flavoring (or vanilla) followed by the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

With the mixer on low, add in the flour and and milk mixture alternately in a 3:2 pattern, beginning and ending with flour. Pour or spread about half  of the batter into the bottom of the pan. Spread the white chocolate filling on top,  and top with the remaining batter, swirling the batter lightly with a knife to create a marbled effect.

Sprinkle the topping over the batter, patting it down lightly. Bake until the batter is a golden brown around the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes.

Let the cake cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. The cake can be served from the pan or transferred to a plate for serving.

*Birthday cake flavoring – you can go a lot of ways. The easiest is to use clear imitation vanilla extract. Personally, imitation butter flavor, imitation vanilla, and a little bit of almond extract make a great birthday cake flavor! If you don’t want to fool with it though, vanilla is a solid option.

Bread, Chocolate, Orange

Chocolate and Orange Bread

I’m a fan of bread. I tend to make one loaf a week, usually using my no-knead recipe or my sourdough no-knead recipe (as I also have sourdough in my fridge). But sometimes I want to break out and try something brand new, and sometimes that experiment doesn’t work out that well. The flavors of this loaf are amazing, but I definitely messed up the braiding. I plan to come back to this recipe in the future.

For now though, I was inspired, as I often am, by the Great British Bake Off, and I decided to adapt Paul Hollywood’s Chocolate Cherry Loaf into a Chocolate and Orange braided bread.

Start to finish, this recipe takes about 3 1/2 to 4 hours to complete, but the majority of that time is for proving and baking.

A note on rising: when in doubt, rely more on how much the dough has grown rather than the recommended proving time in bread recipes. Ambient temperature affects proving time, and colder kitchens like mine usually require the maximum amount of time and then some to “double in size.” 

Chocolate and Orange Bread

  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp rapid rise yeast
  • 1 3/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • the zest and juice of two oranges
  • 1 1/3 cups water*
  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil

*After removing the zest of a medium sized orange, juice it and add water to measure 1 1/3 cups total. Alternatively, just use 1 1/3 cups water.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, brown sugar, yeast, and chocolate chips.

In another bowl, combine the zest, juice, water, and olive oil together.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, gradually add the liquid. Because you’re using a dough hook, it won’t fully incorporate, so use a spatula or your hands to periodically help the dough become a cohesive mass. Knead in the mixer on medium-low speed for 4-5 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple turns just until it comes together as a smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky ball. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover in plastic, and let it rest for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

         

Split the dough into 3 pieces of equal weight and shape into a 3-strand plait. I used this tutorial by The Bread Kitchen to help me through this process. The resulting loaf is fairly short, and you may lose a few shards of chocolate along the way. Cover the braid and let it rise an additional hour.

I completely messed up the two-strand plait here, so don’t trust me with braiding instructions, ha!

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prepare an egg wash by beating an egg with about half a tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the bread, making sure to coat the braids and down the sides.

Bake the bread for 25 minutes at 400F, reduce the heat to 375F and bake for an addition 20 minutes. The loaf should be golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.