Sunday, February 7, 2016

Blackberry Hazelnut Torte

I do envy those that have wild blackberries growing in their yard. Not just blackberries, but any type of fruit. Just the idea of going outside and getting something that fresh to bake with is a wonderful thought. Unfortunately, the convenience of the grocers has stomped out any idea of me creating a garden. My busy lifestyle is no help either.

However, when it comes to baking, I more motivated to set aside a lot of time. It was not only the flavors in this recipe that inspired me, but also the presentation. I call them the "wow" factors. Let me explain here...

Imagine a 4 layer, spongy cake made with ground hazelnuts soaked with hazelnut liqueur. Then add the building block filling: the first being the blackberry coulis, the second-white chocolate  buttercream and the last is a combo of the two; blackberry mousse. If that does not excite your taste buds, then they are officially dead.

I knew at the start that this cake was going to be a major project, not only requiring a lot of time, but numerous eggs. This still did not deter me, I was dead set on making it. When I was done and tasted the cake, I had no regrets. Also, my taste testers gobbled up slice after slice, so I knew it was a success.

The only issue with the original recipe was that the white chocolate icing had too many ingredients and came out very liquid-so I knew it was missing something. I added powdered sugar to achieve the correct consistency. Due to this problem, I have supplied a link in the ingredients list to a Wilton recipe for white chocolate buttercream.  It is less labor intensive and requires less ingredients, which makes for a happier baker.

There are also some other tips and notes at the end to help you succeed in making this cake.

Blackberry Hazelnut Torte
adapted from Razzledazzle Recipes

Ingredients/Cake Layers
2 tbs hazelnut liqueur and extra for soaking
12 eggs, separated and 3 additional egg whites
1/2 cup butter
1 1/3 cup sugar
12 oz toasted and peeled hazelnuts
2/3 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients/Filling & Frosting
1 1/4 lb or 20 oz frozen blackberries
2 tbs corn syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 recipe white chocolate buttercream
chopped, toasted hazelnuts (as much as desired for topping and or sides of cake after frosted)

Prepare four 9 inch cake pans by buttering the interior. Then line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the face up side. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the frozen blackberries in a saucepan to thaw.

Pour hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until chopped. You want them chopped, but not so much that they start to form a paste. Add the flour to the hazelnuts and mix until evenly distributed.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Once the consistency is fluffy, add one egg yolk and beat until combined. Continue adding each egg yolk, beating after each addition, until all egg yolks are blended into the butter mixture. Pour in the hazelnut liqueur and beat for 20 seconds on medium. Then fold in the hazelnut/flour blend. Empty batter into another bowl and set aside.

Clean and dry the bowl of the stand mixer and fit the mixer with the whipping attachment. Fill the bowl with all the egg whites and add salt. Beat until it reaches a stiff peak consistency. Continue to run the mixer and slowly pour in remaining sugar (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon). Combine until sugar is evenly distributed. The mixture should still retain the stiff peak consistency when done.

Take 1/4 of the egg white blend and fold into the hazelnut batter. Then fold the rest of the egg white mixture into the batter in increments, taking care to retain the fluffy consistency. After all is blended, fill each of the prepared pans evenly with the batter and smooth the top. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until tester comes out clean. The top should have a golden hue when done. Place cake pans on rack to cool completely. Cake must be completely cool in order to remove from pans.

While the cakes are cooling, start making the blackberry coulis. Take the saucepan with the blackberries and place over medium heat. Add the sugar and corn syrup. Stir until sugar is dampened by the blackberries. Let the mixture cook and continue to stir. As it cooks, the liquid will reduce down. Let it cook down until it is about 1/3 less than the original amount. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a sieve placed over a heatproof bowl. Rub the inside with the back of the spoon, pushing all the blackberry through the sieve, letting the seeds remain inside the sieve. Set the blackberry coulis aside to cool to room temperature and discard the seeds.

Now, move on to the white chocolate buttercream recipe and create the frosting. Once this is made, take out 2 cups of the buttercream and empty into a smaller bowl. Then mix 1/2 cup of the blackberry coulis into the 2 cups of buttercream.

The end result is 3 separate bowls for the filling and frosting of the cake: blackberry coulis, white chocolate buttercream and blackberry mousse. 

After the cakes have completely cooled, you can start on the assembly process. Invert the cakes onto a flat surface and remove the parchment paper. Evaluate the shape and thickness of each cake and decide in which order to stack.

Start with the cake chosen for the bottom layer and place on a cake board or serving plate. Pour some of the hazelnut liqueur into a small bowl and dip a pastry brush into the liqueur. Brush on the surface of the cake. Let sit for a few minutes to soak in. Then spread the blackberry coulis over the top of the layer, taking care to leave a small border on the edge. Top with the next layer of cake and brush with hazelnut liqueur, giving a few minutes to soak in. Spread some of the white buttercream evenly on top and again leaving a small border edge. Place the next layer over this and do the same process with the hazelnut liqueur. Then evenly cover the top with the blackberry mousse, leaving a border. Then add the last cake layer and frost with the white buttercream.

Once the cake is frosted, you can mask the sides with chopped hazelnuts or sprinkle on top.

Tips and Notes:
1. Skinning hazelnuts is a tedious process. You are welcome to substitute with hazelnut flour, however, the cake will have dark specks in it. I have yet to find solid white hazelnut flour, it usually includes the dark skin of the nut.

2. I used fresh blackberries for the coulis, but that did require a lot more work. I am sure the recommended frozen fruit dissolves into the sugar much easier than whole berries.

3. For the best buttercream frosting, be sure to use clear vanilla extract (if you want it very white) and white bar chocolate-not white chocolate chips.

4. When reviewing the frosting recipe, remember that this is a four layer cake and make any adjustments as needed to be sure there is enough to cover the cake with the thickness you desire.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes**

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Caribbean Bars

When you look up butterscotch, you will see that it is a mixture of brown sugar and butter. There are many recipes that include those ingredients, but they do not refer to "butterscotch flavor". On the other hand, several recipes including butter will refer to it as a flavor..butter cake, butter cookies. This does not make much sense, since butterscotch does have a more distinctive flavor than butter.

These little bars do contain that distinctive flavor in the form of butterscotch chips. They also contain bananas and nuts. The pairing of this trio does make for some tasty bars. The texture is less dense that chewy cookie bars, but more dense than a cake.

Having them as an snack or with tea in the afternoon makes for a nice treat. The squares are best defined as a little sweetness that is not heavy or rich.

Caribbean Bars
adapted from Recipe Link

3 eggs
1-6 oz pkg of butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed bananas
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup melted chocolate or powdered sugar icing for topping

Preheat oven for 350 degrees. Grease the interior of a 10x15 inch baking pan and line bottom and 2 sides with parchment paper, allowing for overhang on the sides. Grease the surface of the face up side of the parchment. Also, place a cooling rack over a flat surface covered with wax paper.

Sift together the salt, baking powder and flour. Set aside. Fill another bowl with the brown sugar and the butter. Beat until fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Continue to run the mixer and add one egg. Blend with the mixer on medium for about 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat the process with each of the remaining eggs, adding them one at a time. Remove bowl from mixer stand.

Using a wooden spoon, add the mashed bananas and mix until completely blended. Fold in the sifted ingredients until no dry streaks remain. Lastly, fold in the nuts and butterscotch chips, making sure they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Empty the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out, covering the bottom and all 4 corners evenly.

Place pan in oven and bake for 15 minutes, rotate pan and bake for additional 15-20 minutes. Bars are done when tester comes out clean.  Place pan on cooling rack and cool completely in pan. Run a knife between the unlined sides of the pan and the cake bar. Then, pull on the parchment overhang to loosen.Then invert the pan over a platter and remove the parchment paper. Invert again onto the cooling rack. Drizzle 3/4 cup melted chocolate or powdered sugar icing over top. Cut and serve once topping is set.

Tips and Notes:
1. Bear in mind that the degree of ripeness of the banana will impact the flavor. As the banana ripens, the flavor gets stronger-so over ripe will make it a more prominent flavor. I just used a ripe banana so the flavor was subtle. The recipe did not refer to either, it just stated banana. If you choose an over ripe banana you may need to increase the amount of flour.

2. The average baker does not have a 10x15 inch baking pan. You can use 2 mini loaves and one 9x13 inch baking pan. Those are the pans I used.

                                    **LAST YEAR:Figgy Dickens Cookies**


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Eggnog Rum Muffins

Sometimes the best recipes are the ones with little ingredients and little time in the kitchen. I have been in the kitchen this morning working on a baking project. It is a nice break to come back and post this easy muffin recipe.

Sometimes homemade muffins can be a bit dry. I guess that is to make sure you want to put a slather of butter on it. These muffins, on the other hand, have oil in them which promotes a moist texture- so you can pass on the butter. 

Regarding flavor, one bite reveals a burst of that "special" holiday taste of eggnog and rum. As a blogger, sometimes leaving a recipe "as is" is does not exactly match my idea. This was one of those times. I decided to add another flavor layer and a little crunch by putting in some cinnamon coated pecans.

Below is the recipe. After enjoying some of these as a snack, I now think that eggnog should stick around longer than just the holiday season. After trying these, you may want your signature included on the petition! This recipe makes about 2 dz muffins.

Eggnog Rum Muffins
adapted from

2/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup rum
1 1/2 cups eggnog
2 eggs
1 tsp nutmeg
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbs baking powder
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup chopped cinnamon coated pecans (optional)

Grease the top edge cavities of 2-1 dz muffin pans and line with baking papers. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl.Stir in the sugar. Make a well in the center of the dry blend. In another bowl, whisk the two eggs together. Then stir in the eggnog and rum into the eggs. Once combined, whisk in the oil. Pour the mixture into the well of the sifted ingredients and fold together until no dry streaks remain. Lastly, fold in the pecans.

Using a scoop, fill the muffin cavities evenly with the batter. Let bake about 15-20 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
                                          **2 YEARS AGO: Creme Brulee Chocolate Bundt**

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Apple Dulce De Leche Empanadas

While little hand held pies are delicious, actually eating them by hand is quite messy. The filling usually runs out. Then you are left with the flaky crust, crumbling with each bite. I still like them, but it is best to use a plate and a fork. If you really want something to eat and hold in your hand, the solution to that is to make empanadas.

These particular empanadas have a bread-like exterior.  In addition, the filling has chunks of applies and thick dulce de leche. As you can see in the picture above, the interior has little liquid in it.  Based on this, you can eat these by hand on the run.

Should you want an additional texture, use a plate an add some ice cold vanilla ice cream to one of these warm empanadas. It makes for a more complete dessert and nicer presentation. Also, the "a la mode" option is hard to resist.

Apple Dulce de Leche Empanadas
adapted from Central Market

6 beaten egg yolks
1 beaten egg white
2 cups water
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup and 2 tbs lard
3 tbs sugar

5 medium tart apples (cored/peeled and diced)
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs butter
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup of dulce de leche
1 egg white (beaten) with 1 tsp of water
Vanilla ice cream (optional as topping)

For the dough, whisk together the egg white, yolks and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Then, sift together the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the lard in small chunks to the sifted ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, blend the two together. The mixture should now be like sand and should clump together when mashed in your hand. Form a well in the center and pour in the egg/sugar blend. Mix together using a large fork.

The mixture will be a bit dry, so combine the water and salt in a separate bowl. Add the water in small increments to the batter and combine to help get the mixture to a doughy consistency. Be careful, all you want is just enough to hold the dough together without any dry streaks or remaining loose flour. Pour out or discard the excess water/salt liquid.

Lightly flour a flat surface and roll out the dough into 1/8 " thickness. Place a sheet of parchment paper down on the bottom interior of 2 baking sheets. Cut out 6 inch rounds from the dough and place on cookie sheet.You will have between 12-18 discs. Cover and put in refrigerator.

In a large bowl, mix together the lemon juice and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.  Stir in the diced apples until all pieces are damp from the lemon/cinnamon blend. Place a saucepan over medium high heat and add the apple mixture. Stir and let cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the apples become soft. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, blend the remaining 1/2 tsp of cinnamon with the brown sugar. Then take out one pan of the discs from the refrigerator and stack the discs together on the floured surface. Stretch or roll out one disc (if needed) on the flat surface then place on the parchment lined baking sheet.

Place a heaping tablespoon on the one half of the disk, spreading evenly and leaving a border. Top with a dollup of dulce de leche (about 1 tbs). Flatten the dollup of dulce de leche out over the apples with the back of a dampened spoon. Brush the face up border section of the dough with the egg white and fold the plain half of the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together. Using the tines of a fork, make ridges along the sealed edge of the dough. Sprinkle the surface of the empanadas with the sugar/cinnamon blend.

Repeat the assembly and sprinkling the top until both pans are filled with empanadas spaced about 1 inch apart. You may have more discs, so keep them the refrigerator until ready to fill and bake. Bake empanadas for about 20 minutes or until edges turn a golden brown, rotating pans at the halfway point.
Tips and Notes:

1.These are best served warm from the oven when the Dulce de Leche is melty. Once the empanadas get cold the dulce turns back to its original thickness.

2. I have seen various dough recipes for empanadas. Some are made with masa flour and some are fried. With each difference comes a a difference in flavor, texture and calories.

3. I would have liked these to get more golden brown on top, but tried even an egg wash which did not help.  The only part that turned brown was the edges.
                                        **LAST YEAR: Lime in the Coconut Cake**

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pistachio Financiers

The name of financiers may not bring anybody running to the table for these, for the name is not commonly used here in the US. However, if you call them nut tea cakes, the item will be much more recognized.

If tea cakes do not peak your interest, then let's get into more detail. Imagine a moist mini cake that has the nutty flavor of both pistachio and almond. This flavor is not derived from extracts, but from nut paste. Now, add just a touch of dark chocolate and you have something more than any name can convey.

Making these as mini cakes and not cupcakes or a layer cake is the way to go. The high volume of nut paste makes these tidbits dense. In other words, Goldilocks (as the story states) would find the size of these as "just right."

I baked these in mini muffin papers, yet "true" financiers are baked in special molds. The instructions noted using silicon molds as the preferred pan. The financier molds are strictly for aesthetic purposes, so don't feel that purchasing them is necessary. However, the special purchase that is required is the pistachio paste. You can find it in specialty grocers or on line.

The recipe hails from Francois Payard and makes about 40-50 financiers.

Pistachio Financiers
adapted from Payard Cookies

4 eggs
7 tbs butter
1 1/2 tbs dutch processed cocoa powder
5 tbs pistachio paste
14 oz almond paste

Fill a small saucepan with the butter and place over medium high heat.  Let the butter melt and cook until it reaches a light brown color. Remove from heat and set aside.

Take the almond paste and grate into a bowl, then empty the bowl into a food processor. Add the pistachio paste. Process the two together for about 30 seconds or until the mixture is evenly blended. Leaving the food processor running, add one egg. Once the egg is completely mixed into the batter, repeat that step with the remaining eggs, adding one by one. Then drizzle in the butter, processing the batter as you pour. After it thoroughly blended, switch off processor.

Measure out 3/4 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Whisk the cocoa powder into the 3/4 cup of batter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Empty the food processor bowl with the plain batter into a medium size bowl and also cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator to chill. Both batters should chill for a minimum of 3 hours. However, overnight is the preferred amount of time.

When the chilling time is complete for the batter, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the silicon molds by spraying with nonstick spray and place on baking sheets . If using a mini muffin pan, grease cavity edges and line with paper baking cups.

Take out a 2 pastry bags and assemble with a coupler and 1/4 inch round tip. As an alternative, you can snip the tip off the both bags or the corners off of 2 small plastic sealing bags. Fill one bag with the plain batter and the other with the chocolate batter.

Fill each of the cavities with the plain batter, using a piping method. Each cavity should be about three quarters of the way full. After they are filled, then pipe 3/4 tsp of the chocolate batter into the top center of each.

Place pans in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, which is about 20-30 minutes. When done, financiers will spring back to a light touch and have a golden brown hue on top. Let financiers cool completely in pan (regardless of type of pan) before serving or storing.

Tips and Notes:
1. Batter is thick, so the piping method keeps them from having bubbles in the center of the batter/cake. It is not recommended to spoon the batter into the pan.

2. The silicon molds will result in small cakes with a flat surface. Baking with mini muffin pans yield a puffy surface like small cupcakes.

3. Almond paste is much thicker than pistachio, so the grating method is necessary to insure that the two nut pastes are easier to blended together.
                              **LAST YEAR:Schnecken or Pecan Cinnamon Buns*


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Orange Liqueur Bundt Cake

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I remember my last New Year's post, stating that I would make it my best year ever. It was full of changes, however all of those changes have enriched my life and I am so thankful. 2016 has me looking forward to less changes, but just as much enjoyment as 2015.

It is cloudy and overcast, but I am lighthearted so I have my own sunshine. The perfect match to my mood is this citrus cake. Infused with orange liqueur and orange zest, it brings something lighter to the holiday table.

The recipe includes a topping with marscapone cream and blackberry compote, but I choose something simpler to drizzle on top. The extra options are not included in the instructions below, but I am sure you can come up with a suitable topping for your taste. I chose to enhance that sweet orange flavor with fresh squeezed juice and chunks of oranges.

I really loved how the juice soaked into the cake a little, giving it a different texture. Also, the juicy orange chunks were a refreshing addition.

Orange Liqueur Bundt Cake
adapted from the Cooking Channel

4 eggs
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of orange liqueur
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, softened and cubed
3 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange
1 cup sugar
orange juice, peeled orange segments (optional)

Grease the interior of a 12 cup bundt pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium size bowl. Fill another bowl, smaller in size, with the orange liqueur and milk and stir. Set both bowls aside.

Place the butter chunks into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Then add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes, creating a thick, fluffy mixture. Add the vanilla extract and one egg. Beat until all is evenly combined. Add, one by one, each egg and beat for 30 seconds at a time, scraping down the sides after each egg is beaten into batter.

Continue to beat the mixture, this time on low, and add the flour in 1/2 cup increments. After all the flour is added, change the speed to medium and stream in the milk/liqueur mixture. Once it is all blended and batter is smooth, transfer to prepared bundt pan. Smooth the top and make sure batter is level inside the cake pan.

Place pan in oven on center rack and bake for about 50 minutes and check with tester. The recipe states 1 hour and 10 minutes, but it will vary depending on the color of your pan. After baking, let cool in pan for about 20 minutes and invert onto rack to finish cooling.

Once cool, slice and serve with topping of your choice.

Tips and Notes:
1. Proper baking time is important for the texture of the cake, so keep a watchful eye out.
2. Even though beating the batter works better than folding the dry mixture in, be careful not to over beat.
3. I contemplated mini choc chips in this cake, but I feel it would have over powered the light orange flavor.
                                    **LAST YEAR:Candy Bar Tart**

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cherry Pie Bites

Slicing and serving a big fruit pie can get a bit messy.  Not only messy, but it seems as if equality in the slice is never achieved. One person gets more crust or streusel and another gets more filling.  To curb all of those issues, I found a recipe for the cherry pie bite.

This is a tassie with a pie filling. When I started this project, it was based on me having cream cheese in the refrigerator. I soon found out I had none. However, I still had some goat cheese from the last baking session,so I decided to substitute it for the cream cheese. It worked out quite well for the dough.

I do not make pies all that often, but I was surprised that the only spice in these little treats is nutmeg. Streusel usually has cinnamon, which I like, but the nutmeg/cherry flavor combo is a now also a hit in my book. This recipe made about 2 dozen, but be sure to anticipate that each person will eat at least 2.

Cherry Pie Bites
adapted from BH&G 100 Best Cookies

3 oz cream cheese or soft goat cheese
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, cubed

2 tbs chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans
1/8 tsp of nutmeg
2 tbs flour
2 tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 tbs butter

2 tsp cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups fresh (pitted) or frozen (unsweetened,pitted, thawed) cherries

For the crust, beat the cream cheese (or goat cheese) for about 1 minute. Continue to beat, dropping in the cubes of butter. Once all the cubes are in, beat for an additional minute. Then fold in the flour with a spatula, forming a smooth dough. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces and shape into balls. Place each ball into the cavity of an ungreased mini muffin pan (1 3/4 inch cavity size). Press each ball in the cavity to form a shell, covering the base and up the sides. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, nutmeg, nuts and brown sugar. Using the tines of a fork, cut in the butter until the dry ingredients can be clumped together like sand. Set this streusel mixture aside.

The last component of this dessert is the filling. Start by placing the cherries and sugar in a saucepan.  Then sift in the cornstarch. Place the pan over medium heat. Stir the ingredients together and let cook. The mixture should cook until it becomes the thickness of honey. You should be able to scrape the back of the spoon onto the edge of the pan and have it leave a streak. Remove from heat.

Fill each cup with a heaping teaspoon of the filling until all crusts look like fruit pies and no filling remains. Then sprinkle the streusel evenly on top of the little pies.

Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Pans should be rotated halfway through the baking time. Bites are done when crust is crispy and streusel turns a golden brown. Let pie bites cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes. Then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

Tips and Notes:
1. I grated my nuts for the streusel, so the nuts would be evenly distributed in the topping.
2. I used non-stick mini muffin pans, so I cannot comment on the recommended ungreased pans.
3. Be prepared for the filling to run a little bit over the cavities, but it will not run over the pan into the bottom of the oven.
                         **LAST YEAR:Graham Chocolate Chip Muffins**