Foodbuzz

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chocolate Liqueur Suicide Cheesecake


This one is for those that choose a plain chocolate bar over all the other varieties.  Kind of like a chocoholic purist. You know "their" kind - they feel that then only way to enjoy chocolate is when it is stand alone.  Adding things such as peanut butter or coconut is considered nothing but a crime in that particular group of people.

Cheesecake is commonly recognized as a very heavy and rich dessert.  I have seen several recipes for cheesecake and find this one to to be beyond the standard- richer and higher in fat.  In summation, this is not an "everyday" snack.  It is something you would have on a special occasion.  Also, one small sliver is so rich,  it will take care of your chocolate craving for quite sometime.

For those that are still game for the indulgence, you will not be sorry.  One bite contains the tang of cream cheese , bittersweet rich chocolate and then a note of Irish cream all chased by a chocolate coated graham nut crust.  The mix of silky smooth filling and crunchy crust makes for heavenly texture hitting your tastebuds.  So it is time to get your chocolate fix!

As always, please be sure to read all the way through, prior to starting.  The tips and notes at the end will help your dessert be a success.

Chocolate Liqueur Suicide Cheesecake
adapted from Cakes by Readers Digest

Ingredients/Crust
6 oz of semisweet chocolate  (chips or chopped)
7 tbs of melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup toasted almonds or hazelnuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Ingredients/Filling
1 cup sugar
1 lb bittersweet chocolate (chips or chopped )
4-8oz packages of cream cheese (softened)
4 eggs (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup Irish cream liqueur
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Ingredients/Topping
2 tbs sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Prepare a 10 inch spring form pan by buttering the interior.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, mix together the graham crumbs, sugar and nuts.  Stir in the melted butter. Empty the mixture in to the prepared pan.  Press evenly into the bottom and up the sides.  The crumbs should be pressed up the sides, leaving a 1/2 or 1/4 inch border of the top edge of the pan. Bake crust until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Let cool on rack.

While crust is cooling, set up a double boiler and add the 6 oz of chopped semi sweet chocolate.  Melt chocolate in the double boiler then remove to cool.  After about 15 minutes, pour chocolate in cooled crust and make sure it covers the bottom evenly.  Then place in freezer for at least 15 minutes.

To make the filling, clean out the double boiler and set up again.  This time you will melt the 1 lb of bittersweet chocolate.  Once melted, remove and set aside to cool.

Place a saucepan over low heat and pour in 1/2 cup of cream.  Once warm add the cocoa.  As the mixture cooks, whisk constantly.  The mixture will thicken to a pudding like consistency.  Remove from heat and stir in the liqueur and the remaining cream. Let cool completely.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream cheese, vanilla and sugar.  Beat mixture on medium speed until smooth and blended.  Add one egg and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.  Continue with the process for each egg until all four have been mixed in.  Then stir in the cocoa mixture as well as the melted chocolate.   Once completely blended, take out graham crusted pan from freezer and empty filling into crust. Smooth the surface, making sure all is even.

Place in oven and bake for 50-60 minutes.  Cheesecake is done when completly set.  Let cool in pan on rack and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours. After cooling time, remove outside ring or pan side.

Lastly, prepare the topping by beating cream, vanilla and sugar together until it holds stiff peaks.  Fill a pastry bag and decoratively pipe on top of the cheesecake.

Tips and Notes:
1. Do not beat mixture at high speed nor beat for an excess amount of time.  This will cause your cake to have too much air and rise beyond the height of the pan.  If this happens, level the cheesecake after it cools.  Then cover that area with the decorative topping.

2. Use a squirt bottle to put the melted chocolate on top of the crumb crust.  The less pressure on the crust will insure that it does not crack.

3. When adding the cocoa, sift it in.  If you still notice cocoa chunks after mixture has cooled, add it to the cream cheese using a sieve so no dark chocolate flecks of cocoa appear in the filling.

4. I used almond flour instead of chopped nuts, it is much easier to make sure the flavor gets distributed evenly and saves some chopping time.

5. The topping is optional.  I chose to have the eater spoon on what they wanted of the whipped cream mixture rather than to decorate the cheesecake.  The other suggestion is serving with Raspberry coulis.

                              **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Ding Dong Cake**  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lime Press Cookies


The cookie recipe states to pipe these cookies, using a #3 star tip to form these into a circle.  However, I decided to pull out the cookie press.  It has been packed away for some time.  The reason for that was due to the template or stencil of the cookie press breaking under the force of cookie dough.  The cookie dough was a recipe that was made for the press.  The main lesson here is that it is best to invest in a cookie press with metal templates-not plastic.

After making these cookies, I am glad to say that the press is back in my favor.  The dough was one that did not require chilling and it worked like a charm.  Being a blogger, I am somewhat picky when it comes to giving food out that I have made.  I recently made a candy bar cookie recipe in which the caramel candy in the cookie batter exploded when baking.  Believe me, no amount of parchment paper or wax paper could help in this situation and the cookies looked like just a pile of cookie pieces.  Someone had stated that I still should have brought them, because they would have even eaten the cookie pieces!  Nice of them to say, but no.

The recipe for the cookies included 1 3/4 tsp of ground cloves and they have no glaze or icing on them.  My modifications included glazing the cookies and eliminating the clove spice.  After baking these cookies, I noticed that they had a lime flavor but it was subtle.  So instead of adding another flavor with the glaze, I added lime zest.  Per my taste tester, the plain cookies went from an "ok" to a "really good" once the glaze was added.  With the pop of lime, these crisp buttery cookies can be addictive.  Not to mention the fact they are small in size, which is a good excuse to eat another.  This recipe makes about 5 dz cookies.

Lime Press Cookies
adapted from Desserts by Nancy Silverton

Ingredients
2 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp lime zest
2 cups flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1 tbs lime juice
7 oz or 1 and 3/4 sticks of butter 
1 egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  If you are using a pastry tip to form these, the recipe states to line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.  For a cookie press, the pans do not require any preparation.  Lay a piece of wax paper underneath a cooling rack on a flat surface.

Add the butter and lime zest to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on medium high for 5-8 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  After beating the mixture should be very light in color and silky.  Add the sugar and beat for another minute then turn off mixer.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and the lime juice.  Add this mixture to the cookie dough in the stand mixer.  Beat for 30 seconds.  Then remove the bowl and fold in the 2 cups of flour. 

To form the cookie using a pastry tip, spiral the dough in a circle, leaving a very small opening.  The cookie should be about 1/4 inch in height and the dough should barely overlap where ends meet.  For the cookie press, follow the manufacturers instructions.  Once one cookie sheet is filled, place in oven to bake for about 15-17 minutes.  The cookies will be golden brown on the edges when done.

After 2 minutes, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to completely cool.  Repeat the forming and baking of the dough until nothing remains of the dough except baked cookies.  Once all are cool, they are ready to be glazed.

Satin Lime Glaze
adapted from Betty Crockers Cookie Book

Ingredients
4 tbs butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tbs water
1 tbs lime zest

Brown the butter in a small saucepan.  Let it cook until golden, but be careful that it does not burn.  Remove from heat and then stir in the powdered sugar. Stir in enough water to reach the correct consistency.  Lastly, mix in the lime zest.

Using a squirt bottle, drizzle glaze over top of the cooled cookies.  Do not worry about perfection, the consistency of the the glaze will allow for it to spread and run over the sides of the cookie. Let the cookies sit for about 2 hours to make sure the glaze is set before storing.

Tips and Notes:
1. The glaze will start to set up in the bowl if you prepare in advance of the cookies being baked. You will need to stir in more water to maintain the consistency.
2. These cookies are delicate, so take care when removing from cookie sheet and transferring to cooling rack.
3. Using the cookie press would seem to be more forgiving than the pastry tip.  If a cookie shape does not turn out, you can remove from the pan and put in dough bowl to be pressed out again.  Not sure if that method would work as well using the tip and parchment paper on the cookie sheets.
                       **LAST YEAR: Brown Butter/Cream Cheese Carrot Cupcakes**
 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chocolate Pecan Sugar Crusted Snails

This posting is the second one.  The first post consists of the base recipe of the croissant dough and can be found here:Croissant Dough .  There are several options out there for filling pastries, but the combo of chocolate orange pastry cream and toasted pecans was the one that really appealed to me.

After making the dough yesterday, I found the second step of making the filling and the assembly to be quick and easy.

Even with all the time this recipe requires, the end result is well worth it.  The various textures packed into this pastry are really wonderful on the palate.  Imagine the buttery crunch of the outside layer of the pastry, then the smooth chocolate orange pastry cream and the crunch of nuts. Also, the inner flaky layers of the croissant are not to be overlooked.  This recipe makes 32 pastries.

Chocolate Pecan Sugar Crusted Snails
Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes

Ingredients/ Chocolate Pastry Cream
2 tbs cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/2  cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
2 pinches of salt
4 egg yolks
2-3.5 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate bars
1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients/for assembly and topping
1 recipe for croissant dough (see link above)
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
2 eggs beaten with 2 tsp water
1/2 cup milk
6 tbs sparkling sugar

For the pastry cream, add the egg yolks to a medium bowl and beat on medium speed until they have a pale yellow hue.  Take out 2 tbs from the measured sugar and set aside.  Pour the remaining sugar (6 tbs) into the yolks in 1 tbs intervals, beating for about 10 seconds after each addition.  Turn the mixer to low and beat in the cornstarch and salt.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, stir together the milk, 2 tbs sugar and orange zest.  Place saucepan over medium high heat and remove when it reaches right below the boiling point.  Stream in 1/3 of this mixture into the egg batter and whisk together.  Then transfer the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining heated milk.   Place pan over medium high heat and stir constantly as mixture cooks.

Once it reaches the consistency of pudding, remove from heat and sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the surface.  Lightly press the chocolate into the pastry cream and let set for 2 minutes.  Using a spatula, mix the chocolate pieces into the pastry cream.  Once smooth, stir in the vanilla.

Transfer the mixture to a heat proof bowl and lay a buttered piece of plastic wrap over the top surface and let cool.

Take the dough out of the fridge and cut with bench scraper into 4 equal squares.  Keep one out and return the other three pieces (covered in plastic) to the fridge.  Place the dough piece on a floured surface and prepare a rimmed baking sheet by dabbing butter in the corners and lining with parchment.

Roll the dough into a rectangle, measuring 16X8 with the 16 inch sides parallel with the edge of the counter.  To keep the dough from shrinking, pierce the surface of the dough at 1 inch intervals.  Measure out your pastry cream into 4 equal amounts and place in separate bowls.  Spoon out one of the bowls of cream onto the surface of the dough.  Smooth with a spatula, making sure that there is a 1/2 inch border of dough along the 16 inch edge sides of the dough.  Then brush the dough borders with the egg wash.  Also, sprinkle evenly 6 tbs of pecans on the chocolate pastry cream and lightly press into the cream.

Mark each of the 16 inch edges of dough with a small indentations every 4 inches.  Using this guide, cut the dough into 8 triangles.  Then roll up, starting with the longest side first.  You should be able to make 3 turns.  Press the right and left ends of the pastry toward the center to plump up.  Place on prepared baking sheet with tip down.  Repeat this process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough in the fridge.   

Brush the tops of all the pastries with milk, cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 or 1 1/2 hours, the pastries should almost double within that time.  Brush with milk in 3 intervals in the 1 - 1 1/2 hours rising time..

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Once rising time is complete, brush sides and top of pastries with the egg wash.  Sprinkle with remaining nuts and sparkling sugar.  Place in oven to bake for 28-30 minutes. Remove pans from oven and let cool for 10 minutes on pan and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Tips and Notes:
1. Instead of pushing the side ends of the dough in, I folded them to the same side as the tip so they would face down when baked.
2. After the milk and egg wash, I transferred the dough to a clean piece parchment prior to baking.  That way, there is no spill over from the milk and egg wash when baking.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies**


Pastry Project/Croissant Dough



There will actually be two posts on this particular project.  The first will be the making of the dough and the second will be creating and baking a cream filled pastry using the dough.

I am sure baked croissants would have been delicious as is- flaky and buttery.  However, as a food blogger, the mood to take that "extra" step strikes.  Do not get me wrong, simple and delicious has its rightful moment as well.  However, I think it is time to test my skills with croissant pastries.

Please note that this dough requires several intervals of chilling the dough. Also, the final refrigeration of the dough is a minimum of six hours.  I split the two projects into two days with the dough chilling overnight.  Be ready to dedicate some time and be sure to read the whole recipe before starting. This dough will make 32 pastries.

Croissant Dough
Adapted from Great Coffee Coffee Cakes

Sponge/ Ingredients
1 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 tbs sugar
1 pkg yeast

Dough/ Ingredients
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbs butter (room temp)
1lb butter (slightly firm)
4 cups flour and extra for dusting

Start making the sponge by heating the milk in a saucepan until it reaches a temperature between 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and stir in sugar.  Sprinkle yeast over the surface of the milk,  at this point it is not to be stirred in. Cover tightly and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes. Remove lid and stir once. Cover and let sit for an additional 5 minutes.  This process will dissolve the yeast.

Uncover and whisk the flour into the sponge batter.  It may result in some lumps, but make sure that they are small. Cover the mixture and let rise for 25-30 minutes or until such time it has doubled in size.

While the sponge is rising, prepare a flat, cool surface by dusting with 1 tbs flour. Place the 4 butter sticks on the surface and dust clean hands with flour.  Using your hands, compress the butter sticks together to form a block.  Dust butter lightly with flour and use a rolling pin to form a block measuring 8x8. Set aside.

After the rise time has been completed, fill a large bowl with the 4 cups of flour, sugar and salt. Stir until all is evenly distributed.  Then cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the butter is mixed into fine pieces.  Create a well in the center and pour in the sponge.  Mix together with a wooden spoon until no dry streaks remain and a dough is formed.

Add more flour to the original work surface and place the dough on top and knead for about 8 turns. Create a 6x8 inch rectangle.  Let the dough sit undisturbed for about 2 minutes.Then roll the dough into a flat rectangle measuring 12 x 16 inches.  The 12 inch sides should be parallel to the counter edge.

Take the butter block and center it on the dough rectangle.  There should be a 4 inch border of dough above and below the butter and a 2 inch border to the left and right.  Fold the lower portion of dough up to the middle of the butter block.  The fold the top portion down, covering the rest of the butter and then sealing the meeting edges.  Then pinch together the two overlapping layers of the right side
of the dough and then repeat with the left side.

Turn the dough a quarter of the way clockwise, with the center seam running vertical. Using a rolling pin, form the dough into a rectangle measuring 12 x 21, having the 12 inch side parallel with the counter.  If butter seeps through in the process, patch over it with flour.  Fold the 21 inch length into thirds like an envelope with bottom flap up and top flap down.  The dough should meet in the center and be pinched together to make a seam.  Enclose the dough in plastic wrap and place on cookie sheet.  Put in fridge to chill for 20 minutes.

Repeat the steps in the above paragraph 3 more times.  After the last interval, place dough in fridge to chill overnight or for a minimum of 6 hours.  The dough is now completed for the pastries.

Tips and notes:
1. For the butter block, bear in mind that it is better to have butter that is too cold than too soft.  It is easier to work with cold butter to make it more pliable .

2. Make sure you use flour as well as a bench scraper to help keep your dough from sticking to the work surface.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Welcoming Autumn- Carrot Cream Cheese Cake

Mother nature seems to have switched the flip here.  Dove season has started and the mornings have been cool and overcast.  Time to make a decision regarding running the air conditioner, hopefully fall weather is here to stay awhile.

With the change, I started thinking of all the delicious desserts that come with the autumn season.  Pumpkin pie, apple pie, something with egg nog and gingerbread cookies are a few that popped into my head.  That is, until I saw this particular recipe for carrot cake.  Labeled as "Carrot cake to Die For" , this recipe is one that is very similar to Oregon Farms or the Sara Lee brand carrot cake.

I did a little experimenting and tried to create a tunnel of cream cheese in the middle, pulling the filling recipe from another cake. As you can see that componet needs some more tweaking, for there was not enough there to balance with the cake part of this dessert.  Due to the high liquidity of the batter, a repeat of this cake would cause me to choose a 9x13 inch cake with no filling that is topped with cream cheese frosting. However, I would still choose the honey/molasses over the brown sugar to sweeten the cake.

As you can see by the picture, the result is a moist dark cake. One slice contains a myriad of spices and sweet honey enveloping thin strips of carrots with an occasional crunch of walnuts. The bake time for my cake took a lot longer than stated in the original recipe, due to the increase of the liquid with the filling.  Also, it was baked in a tube pan.  The original stated bake time is below, which I feel is probably correct if you intend to bake in a square pan.  For a tube pan, the bake time may take up to an hour or more.  I have also included the filling, which can be a great addition if tweaked to include with this cake as well as red velvet or lemon.  Please note that the recipe does have different options, so be sure to read and decide which to follow prior to starting on this cake.

Carrot Cream Cheese Cake
Cake adapted from Recipelink website/Filling from Desserts from Loveless Cafe

Ingredients/Filling
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 oz cream cheese (avoid low fat or whipped type)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients/Cake
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
2 1/4 cups of flour
4 cups of shredded/grated raw carrots (do not pack)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar or 1 1/2 cups honey plus 1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts and/or 1 cup raisins

If making the filling, add the cream cheese, sugar and egg to a bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on medium high for 1 minute, stopping a few times to scrape down the edges of the bowl.  Then blend in the egg and the vanilla extract and set aside.

Prepare a cake pan (either 10 inch tube or 9x13 cake pan) by lightly greasing the interior.  Also preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In one bowl, sift together the first 7 ingredients. Set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs.  Then stir in the sweetener (brown sugar or honey/molasses), carrots and vanilla extract. Fold in the sifted ingredients.  Once no dry streaks remain, mix in the walnuts and/or raisins.

Measure out half the batter and set aside.  Pour the other batter in the pan, making sure it is even.  For the tube pan, spoon out filling into center of batter, leaving 1/2 inch border of batter along pan edge. For the rectangular pan, the filling should be done in a cross pattern, like tick tack toe with four rows of filling for the shortest sides of the pan and two rows for the longest. You are welcome to use a squirt bottle to do this but remember the key is for it to be thick in a central area instead of thin in a wide area.

After you are done with the filling, Add the second layer of batter to the pan.  Make sure that the filling is completely covered and the batter is even.

Then bake cake for about 45 minutes for the rectangular pan or about 50-60 minutes ( tube pan) until cake is set.  The batter should no longer jiggle when the cake is done.  For tube pan, let cake rest for 20 minutes and then scrape between the pan and the cake around the edges and invert onto cake board or serving tray.  The rectangular cake can be served right out of the pan, but make sure either is completely cooled before topping.  Dust with confectioners sugar or frost with cream cheese icing- a brown butter cream cheese icing recipe is in the link below.
                          **LAST YEAR: Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting**
                                

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Banana Walnut Tart


I imagine that there are not a lot of people seeking out and wanting a banana tart.  However, that does not mean that it cannot be created with a delicious result.

This recipe comes from a chef that worked at Le Cirque for several years, named Francisco Guiterrez.  The executive chef, Jacques Torres published the recipe, stating that it was the most popular tart specials they had on the menu.  Flaky shortbread is filled with fluffy almond cream and then layered with sliced bananas.  The bananas encircle a blend of creamy caramel and crunchy walnuts.  Made in a circular tart pan, every slice with contain both bananas and walnuts.  Made in an oblong pan, the banana lovers will gladly go for the edge pieces and the nut lover will be patient until you get to the center pieces.  Either way, everyone will be happy with whatever part of this dessert lands on their plate.

The only issue I had with this recipe was concerning the volume of the components.  I am not one that likes to make excess to use elsewhere.  I would rather it all goes together with no waste.  Based on this, you will find the ingredient measurements a little strange, but it has all been altered in an effort to make sure every component is completely used. The almond cream filling recipe and the caramel walnut base recipe have been cut in half from the original.

This recipe states that it is for one 10 or 12 inch tart.  I made three 3 1/2 inch mini tarts and one rectangular tart (7'x10").

Francisco's Banana Walnut Tart
adapted from Dessert Circus at Home

Ingredients/Shortbread Dough
1/2 cup and 2 tbs cold unsalted butter, diced
1 2/3 cup cake flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1/3 cup water

Ingredients/ Caramel Walnut Topping
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk (whole, not 2%)

Ingredients/Almond Filling
4 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 large egg ( equals 2 tbs of scrambled egg)
2 tbs flour
1/2 cup almond flour
4 bananas
extra sugar (for sprinkling over top)

For the crust, sift together flour, sugar and salt.  Add the cubes of butter and use a pastry cutter to blend the butter into the dry ingredients.  The other method is by hand, grabbing handfuls of butter and flour, then rubbing your hands together to combine.  However, you would need to periodically run your hands under cold water and dry them.  That way no heat from your hands would melt the  butter. Either way, your mixture should end up as coarse crumbs with some small chunks of butter.

Then add all of the water to the dough and blend with a spoon or by hand.  Once the dough can hold a ball shape, prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour.  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on your work surface for about 30 seconds.  Then flatten into a disc and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, make the almond filling.  Add the butter, almond flour and sugar to a mixing bowl.  Beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes.  The beating should help the sugar dissolve into the butter, creating a light and fluffy texture.  Then mix in the 1/2 egg, beating for about 3 minutes.  This process with make the mixture lighter in hue and put air into the filling.  The air will aid in the rising process when baked and keep it from being too dense. Lastly, fold in the flour, stopping once there are no dry streaks.  Set aside.

The caramel walnut topping starts by pouring the sugar in a saucepan and then placing it over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon and let cook until the sugar is melted and becomes caramel colored.  Then pour in a stream of the heavy cream and continue to mix. Repeat the same process with the milk.  Once all is blended, take out a candy thermometer and then stir in walnuts.  Stir occasionally while the mixture cooks.  It should heat up to a temperature of 225 degrees as registered by the thermometer.  At 225 degrees, remove the saucepan from the heat and empty contents into a heat proof bowl to cool.  Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Again, dust the flat surface with flour.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Using your hands,  pat dough a couple of times on each side to soften it a little prior to rolling.  Roll out dough to 1/4" thick.  Make sure it exceeds your pan sides by 2 inches all the way around.  For the rectangle tart pan, you should have more than 2 inches excess.  Make the excess beyond 2 inches on the length of the dough and cut off to reserve for the smaller tarts.

For the big tarts, roll the dough over a rolling pin.  Then unroll dough into the tart pan and press into pan, forming into the interior shape of the pan.  Make sure the dough covers all inside surfaces tightly, using your hands.  It should all be compressed along the interior sides, corners and bottom.  Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan edges, making a clean cut of the excess.  If making the mini tarts as well, roll out all of the excess dough and cut in circles 5 1/2 inches in diamer, cutting and re-rolling as necessary.  Follow the same process to shape the dough in the pan and cut off excess.  Then dock the dough on the interior bottom of the tarts with a fork, to make sure it will not bubble when baked.

Take the almond filling and smooth over the interior dough, covering all the bottom of the tart dough evenly.  If making mini tarts, use about 1 tbs and 1 tsp of filling for each.  Then peel and cut one of the bananas into 1/4 inch rounds, cutting and discarding the small ends.  Lay the slices on the almond filling, starting with the outer edge and going inward.  Keep cutting the bananas and layering until there is only the center has the almond filling exposed. Leave a 2 inch circle (if using a 10 inch tart pan) or a 2x3 inch rectangle ( if using a rectangular tart pan) and 1 1/4 inch circle (if using a mini tart pan).

Cover the exposed almond filling with the caramel nut mixture and smooth over the top.  If using the mini tarts, measure out 1 tbs of the nut mixture and spread over the center of each.  Then sprinkle sugar over the top of the banana slices. Bake the tarts for about 35-45 minutes.  Each tart is done when the shortbread crust gets toasty and the filling forms a crust.  Remove from oven and place tart pan over rack to completely cool. 

Tips and Notes:

1.  Caramel can quickly burn, so to avoid this, turn your heat down to medium for it to cook up to the right temperature and be patient. Hope you have a candy thermometer that clips to the edge of your pan, I had to hold mine by hand the whole time....

3.  A dense pudding filling inside a tough cardboard pastry shell is not what you want, so avoid over mixing or beating when preparing the dough and adding the flour to the almond filling.

4. The recipe suggest dusting with powdered sugar or brushing with apricot glaze (1/4 cup apricot jam heated and mixed with 1 tbs water) for a nicer presentation.

5. The layering of the bananas can be single slices or have a slight overlap, whichever you prefer.

6. If preferred, add a splash of rum to the almond cream mixture for some extra flavor
                                         **LAST YEAR:Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake                           

Monday, August 18, 2014

Citrus Syrup Teacakes

I have always thought that citrus was a summer fruit-with the exception of oranges. Oranges are available year round.  The sweeter of the orange family, the clementines, are actually a winter fruit. However, the tropical regions have a different seasonality.

The food industry can be tricky when it comes to getting ingredients.   The name of something may just mean the flavor, not the real thing.  Bacon bits are a good example.  As far as fruit, I am always reading that some type fruit is being presented as another. Today's recipe lists clementines as the major flavor ingredient.  At the grocers I found a box under the produce rack that said clementines. Inside the box were smaller containers, labeled sweet snack.  In the end, they were listed as mandarins on the receipt.  Apparently in Chile, the seasonality of these fruits has one on its way out of season while the other is just coming in season.

This recipe has a limited amount of ingredients, it has no butter, oil or milk. These cakes were dense and nutty, perfect for soaking up the tangy syrup drizzled on top. Most of the cake type of recipes in this book create heavier baked goods, which are a better to serve with tea.  They do not crumble and are great for dunking .  The method of preparation is unique-every part of the fruit is utilized, except for the seeds. Almonds may not be the first item that comes to mind when pairing with sweet clementines, but the combination does get a thumbs up in my book.

Be sure to plan in advance on this one, there is a 2 hour simmer of the clementines prior to mixing and baking.  This recipe makes 1 dz tea cakes.

Citrus Syrup Teacakes
Adapted from the Perfect Afternoon Tea recipe book

Ingredients/Cakes
2 cups ground almonds or almond flour
1 cup sugar
3 clementines
6 eggs

Ingredients/Syrup Topping
juice of 3/4 lemon
1 clementine rind, pith removed and cut into strips
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 cup and 2 tbs of water

Prepare a muffin tin by lining the cavities with cupcake papers.

Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil.  Slowly drop in all the whole unpeeled clementines.  Let boil for 2 minutes and reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 2 hours and remove from heat.  This process aids in reducing bitterness and softens the fruit.  Remove fruit from water and let cool.

Once the fruit has cooled, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Cut the clementines in half and remove any seeds.  Place the halves in a food processor or a blender.  Process or blend the fruit until it becomes a puree.  Set aside.

Put eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat on low speed until foamy.  Fold in the ground almonds and then the puree.  Pour the mixture into the 12 cupcake cavities, making sure they are filled evenly.  Place pan in oven and let bake for 30-35 minutes.  The top center of the cakes should be set but there will be no browning on the edges of the cupcakes. Remove pan from oven.

Let cupcakes cool in pan for 2 minutes, and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.  During this time, prepare the citrus syrup.  Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Then add the lemon juice and strips of rind.  Bring to a boil.  Once it reaches that point, turn heat down and let the mixture simmer for about 2-3 minutes.  It should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Once the cakes are cooled, drizzle the syrup over the top.  Each cake should have about 1 tablespoon of syrup on top.
                                           **LAST YEAR: Blondie Pie*                               
  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

JD's Birthday Cake


Well if you are wondering who JD is, it is Jack Daniels- the founding father of the famous Jack Daniels Whiskey.  It would seem natural that whiskey be one of the key ingredients for his birthday cake.

This cake does not have oil, milk or water.  The liquid that does make this cake moist is the melted butter and the sweetness, other than the topping, comes from brown sugar.  Please note that this cake does not rise high and fluffy, it will be dense and about 1 3/4 inch thick.  However, the texture is definitely one of cake and not like bars.

Since I did my spring cleaning late this year, this particular recipe was perfect.  This item is proof that delicious cake does not always require lots of time or exotic ingredients. So if your friends just let you know they will be arriving shortly, pull out this recipe.  Other than the bake time, it comes together in a snap. 

JD's Birthday Cake
adapted from Jack Daniels Cookbook

Ingredients/Cake
1 cup melted butter, cooled
2 cups packed light brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup whiskey
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1-6 oz package of semi sweet chips/regular or mini
1 cup chopped pecans

Ingredients/Glaze
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
3 tbs whiskey

Prepare a 9/13 inch pan by buttering the inside.  Then line the bottom and 2 long sides with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the long sides.  Butter the face up side of the parchment. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, whiskey and brown sugar together and set aside.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix the dry ingredients in with the wet until smooth.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle the surface of the batter with chocolate chips and pecans.

Place in oven and bake until center is firm and edges start to pull from pan.  This should take about 45-50 minutes.  Remove and let cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes.  Then pull up on parchment and transfer cake to rack to finish cooling.

To make glaze, stir together butter,whiskey and vanilla.  Then sift in the powdered sugar and stir until smooth.  Using a squirt bottle or a fork, drizzle glaze on top of cake.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Orange Grand Marnier Cake**