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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Chocolate, Cupcakes, Fruit, Orange

A Classic Flavor Combination: Chocolate and Orange

After a brief hiatus, I figured I’d dive back into my favorite treat: cupcakes. Now, I typically don’t like chocolate and fruit mixed together. Chocolate-covered strawberries? Give them to someone else.

But chocolate and orange? Now that’s a match made in heaven. These cupcakes are super easy to make too: just mix the dry goods together; mix the wet ingredients; mix dry and wet; fold in the chocolate chips. I love recipes like this.

Chocolate and Orange Cupcakes

yield: 24 cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 six-ounce containers vanilla yogurt (not greek)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips, plus more for decorating

Toss 1 tbsp flour with miniature chocolate chips to coat. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift the remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, zest, yogurt, and sugar to combine. Add in the eggs and whisk until homogeneous.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until it comes together; a few lumps are okay, but it should not be overly lumpy. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake in an oven preheated to 325 degrees for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting with orange buttercream and topping with chocolate chips.

Orange Buttercream

yield: about 4 cups; enough to frost 24 cupcakes

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • the zest of one orange
  • 3-4 tbsp orange juice

Cream the butter and 2 cups of the confectioner’s sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium speed in a stand mixer.

Add in 3 tbsp of orange juice and 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Cream until smooth. Adjust frosting according to stiffness and taste with the remaining orange juice and sugar.

Apple, blueberry, Bourbon, Fruit, lemon, Pastry, Pie

In 2017 Give Pies a Chance

I am not one to bake pies, but I’ve been asked to bake some for a dear friend’s wedding in June of next year. And I do enjoy a challenge…

I’m using a pie crust recipe that uses vodka. If you haven’t used a similar recipe before, try it. The alcohol is used because ethanol doesn’t react with gluten the way water does. The result is a softer, easier-to-shape pie dough that still retains a tender, flaky consistency once baked.

You can add some flavoring ingredients to the pie dough, but it works best with small amounts of highly flavorful ingredients. When I tried a brown butter/bourbon variant, the crust worked but the flavors didn’t come through at all. I would recommend items like herbs, citrus zest, and extracts.

Pie Dough

  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 20 tbsp butter, sliced and kept chilled

Combine the water and vodka, and place the mixture in the freezer to chill.

In the bowl of a food processor, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse 3-4 times to mix the ingredients. Add the 20 tbsp of butter (it seems like a lot, I know).

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Pulse the butter for a total of about 15 – 20 seconds. The mixture should go from sandy to looking like wet sand with small clumps of dough, like below:

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Add the remaining cup of flour and pulse 5 or 6 times to evenly distribute. You may need to use a silicone spatula to break up some of the clumps of dough. Transfer dough to a large bowl. Sprinkle the vodka and water mixture over the dough and use a silicone spatula to stir and fold the dough together.

Divide the dough in two, flatten each into a disc, wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate for up to two days (or freeze for up to two months).

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Future Pie Filling Experiments

I will be using the pie crusts in muffin tins to be able to make miniature pies that are easy to transport. I will update posts later with specific results from some of these experiments, but for now here are some ideas.

Pecan Pie:

  • Browned Butter
  • Toasted pecans
  • Bourbon

Strawberry Kiwi:

  • Strawberry filling
  • Sliced fresh kiwi
  • Strawberry jam bottom

Lemon Blueberry:

  • Blueberry filling
  • Lemon Curd
  • Lemon zest pie crust

Apple Sage Cheddar:

  • Cheddar top crust
  • Apple Cinnamon Filling
  • Sage bottom Crust

 

Chocolate, Fruit, Pastry, Peanut Butter, Vanilla

A Trio of Tarts

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Pastry.

I’m not sure any word sounds more appetizing to me than pastry. It could refer to a mouth-watering, cream-filled long-john or a delicate French eclair, a creamy filling or a flaky pie crust.

Today though is all about pastry crust, and a trio of pastries made from the same crust. The crust is a gluten-free almond flour, flavored lightly with vanilla. Almond flour makes for a crisp, cookie-like crust that isn’t too sweet.

As an added bonus, I’m using the same pastry cream recipe with a slight adjustment to make three different versions. The key is how a pastry cream is finished with butter. Adjust the finishing fat, and you can adjust the flavor: bittersweet chocolate makes a delicious chocolate pastry cream or a dab of peanut butter will please pb fans in a pinch.

Almond-Flour Crust*

yield: enough for six 3-inch tarts

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • a good bold pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted

In a large bowl, stir the almond flour, sugar, and salt together. Pour over the melted butter and vanilla, and stir to make a moist dough. Press the dough into prepared tart pans. Prick over the bottom with a fork. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden brown all over.

Cool the tarts completely before removing from their pans and before filling them.

*As written, this recipe makes enough for one 9-inch pastry. I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 times to make four 4-inch mini-pastries out of it.

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Vanilla Pastry Cream 

yield: about 2 1/2 cups of pastry cream

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • pinch salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp butter*

Set a sieve over a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and salt. Place over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, and cornstarch. Whisk until pale yellow and slightly thickened.

Once the half-and-half mixture begins to bubble on the sides, temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly pouring the hot liquid into the egg yolks while constantly whisking. This will ensure the eggs don’t cook too quickly. Once all of the liquid has been added to the yolks, transfer the pastry cream back to the saucepan.

Turn the burner off and place the saucepan over the burner, whisking until thickened. This won’t take long, perhaps 30 – 60 seconds.

Pour the pastry cream through the sieve into the medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the butter, and let it cool, whisking occasionally, before covering with plastic wrap. Place the plastic directly on the surface of the pastry cream, and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be made at least a day in advance.

*The key to this filling’s versatility is the fat. In place of butter, use peanut butter. Or dark chocolate. Or coconut fat from a can of coconut milk. There are many flavors you can try, and you may have to make slight adjustments here and there. For example, a little extra cream will help loosen up a peanut butter pastry cream as it can get a bit thick.

Here are a couple options:

Peanut butter pastry cream with nuts – a thin layer of peanut butter on the bottom of a cooled crust, peanut butter pastry cream, and chopped honey-roasted peanuts.

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Chocolate pastry cream with dark-chocolate-coated cacao nibs:

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Or you could always go with…

The classic – vanilla pastry cream topped with fresh fruit and an apricot glaze.

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