Thursday, April 24, 2014

Southern White Chocolate Pecan Shortbreads

A buttery, pecan-shortbread crust with a thin layer of white chocolate and toasted pecans.  This is as Southern as it gets. This cookie has pronounced toasted pecan taste, it really comes through.  You have to be a pecan lover to enjoy these.  Perfect with coffee or tea.  These are great for holiday gift giving to place in tins.  They travel very well.

Southern White Chocolate Pecan Shortbread
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease 9 x 13 pan

2 cups all purpose flour
pinch salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg room temperature
1/2 cup, chopped, toasted pecans

1 1/2 cups white chocolate morsels
1/2 cup, chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast your pecans on a skillet for a few minutes, be careful to stir nuts with a wooden spoon so they do not burn, but acquire that toasted nut taste.

Grease 9 x 13 pan.  Set aside. 

In mixer cream butter with sugar until fluffy and creamy for about 5 minutes.  Add egg and continue to beat well.  Combine flour and pinch salt.  Slowly add flour to creamed butter mixture to combine ingredients well.  Add nuts and continue to beat for a few seconds more, to mix well. 

Pop shortbread mixture into fridge for 15 minutes for easy handling.  Place shortbread mixture on pan and wet hands slightly and press evenly onto pan.  It should be enough batter to go to sides.  Flatten and even out dough.  Place in oven for 25 minutes.  Remove and place chocolate directly on top of hot shortbread.  When chocolate begins to melt, smear with an offset spatula and spread chocolate evenly.  Add remaining toasted pecans to topping by sprinkling them on evenly. 

Place shortbread in fridge until chocolate is firm.  Remove from fridge and let shortbread come back to room temperature to cut shortbread.  They are a little difficult to cut.  They will be slightly firm, but I use a sharp small paring knife and I use a fork to lift cookie out.  It is so well worth it though.  They are simple and delicious.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Simple Blueberry Cake

This recipe has been in my family for years.  It's just a simple blueberry coffee cake.  When I was just a kid, growing up in Missouri, my mom had a whole garden that traveled the length of our yard donated to berries.  Every time I was outdoors playing, and I felt a little hungry, I remember running to the garden and eating my fill of summer berries.  We had so many berries that she would make preserves and this wonderful cake for neighbors and friends. 
It is a simple and delicious cake.

Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 square cake pan with non-stick spray
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
Wet Ingredients:
1/2 stick soften butter
1 egg room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 sour milk (whole milk with 1 T. lemon juice)
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Dry Ingredients: 
2 cups cake flour ( must be cake flour)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Crumb Topping 
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 stick butter slightly soft

Cream you butter and sugar till fluffy and lighter in color, add egg, lemon extract, grated lemon zest and beat.   Sift your dry ingredients and alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to your creamed butter mixture.  When incorporated add your blueberries.  Put in pan and smooth topping with offset spatula.  With the same bowl after it has been scraped with spatula, you do not have to wash bowl,  add your topping ingredients to bowl  and use paddle attachment. Mix.  You will make a fine crumb texture, add this to the top of your cake evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.  Let cool, sprinkle powder sugar and serve with coffee or tea. 

Valentines Day Cookies

I made these cookies for Valentine's gifts.  I used my favorite sugar cookie cut out recipe.  Used Fondant to decorate and gel food coloring mixed with clear almond extract and a clean paint brush.  Used royal icing to pip designs on cookies to give three dimensional look.  

Sugar Cookie Cut Out Recipe
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
2 Cookie Sheets with silpat or parchment 

2 cups room temperature unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 large room temperature eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
pinch salt

Special note:  There is no leavening in this recipe.  The cookies hold shape and do not spread. This is ideal for cutouts holding their shape.  It is a delicious, shortbread cookies.  You can use lemon or almond extract instead of vanilla or use the seeds of one whole vanilla bean for intense vanilla flavor.

In a stand mixer, cream butter with sugar, until light and fluffy.  Add room temperature eggs and continue to cream.  Add extract and pinch salt.  Slowly add flour until dough is well incorporated.

Place dough into fridge for 30 minutes to chill.  Roll out dough into desired shape.  If I have time I will place cutouts into fridge to firm up.  They will even hold their shape better if chilled before going into oven.  However, when you are doing volume and you are baking from a home kitchen this is impossible.  I still have great results skipping this step.  

Bake for about 8 to 12 minutes depending on how thick you cut them.  For these cookies they were thick and I baked for close to 15 minutes.  You want a slightly golden brown on bottom, not too dark.

Place on cooling rack and decorate as desired.

Royal Icing:
1 pound confectioner's icing
3 Tablespoons powder meringue (I use wilton)
1/2 tsp. cream of tarter 
water: approx. up to 1/2 cup plus more for thinner consistency

If you want to flood cookie you need to thin out accordingly.  First use a thick royal icing to outline the border of each cookie.  Then use a thin icing to flood. You can use a toothpick when flooding to help spread thinned out royal icing and pop air bubbles.  It works like a charm.   Let cookies dry for 24 hours then you can pipe on with a thicker consistency of royal icing to decorate using a piping bag and specialty tips.   Let that dry before wrapping.  

In a stand mixer, mix confectioner's sugar, cream of tarter with meringue powder.  Slowly add water until desired icing consistency is reached.  You might have to use less or more water depending on what consistency you desire.  If too watery, just add more confectioner's sugar.  

Assembly and Decorating
Pre-made Fondant (use cookie cutter to cut exact shape)
Gel food coloring
Artist  Brushes
Heart shaped cookie cutters

Special Note:  Use thin out corn syrup, brush cookies  with thin glaze  or use pre-made piping gel to attach fondant to cookies to adhere.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tulumba Pastries

So, what is a Tulumba? It is a Greek/Turkish beingnet. They kind of look like a churro. They are made using choux paste, piped out of a pastry bag with a star tip into hot oil and soaked in lemon sugar syrup. They are delicious.
What is a choux paste? It is a French dough that is used typically for eclairs, cream puffs, Paris Brest and beingnets. They are simple to make and are quite impressive to serve to guest. If I am having a dinner party, I will make a double batch of Tulumbas, serve it in individual bowls for each guest and make different sauces for dipping, like chocolate, raspberry and crème anglaise. 

 It is very typical in Greece, Turkey and the Middle East to soak their confections in sugar syrup and honey syrup. Either you love it or you hate it. I grew up on these type of desserts and I adore them. If you love baklava then your in the right place. You can make these Tulumbas and not dip them in syrup, but I would sift a lot of powder sugar on top while they are hot and serve with the sauces. I have included sauce recipes below that I use. The texture is crispy and the centers are somewhat hollow, the syrup just adds something to it. It's sticky, crispy and slightly chewy. My 14 year old daughter is the official taste tester and she can't get enough of them.

Tulumba Dough:
choux paste

1 2/3 cup water
3 T. unsalted butter
½ tsp. Salt
1 ½ cups flour
3 eggs

2 cups canola oil or peanut oil for frying in heavy duty pot

Heat the water, butter and salt in pot.

When it starts to boil, lower the heat and add in the flour.
Stirring constantly until the mixture leaves the sides of the pot and becomes doughy.
Remove from heat put aside for a few minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, blend well before adding the next.
Heat the canola oil in a large cooking pot on medium heat.

Fill Pastry Bag with Choux Paste.
Squeeze out pieces about ¾ inch long over hot oil. Break them off with a dull knife and let them fall right into oil.  Fry each piece uniformly, push under using a slotted spoon, until golden brown and crispy.

With slotted spoon scoop Tulumba onto kitchen towel to remove excess oil. Let cool completely.

Lemon Sugar Syrup:
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp. Lemon juice and add large cuts of lemon rind into syrup to boil.

Put all the syrup ingredients into a heavy duty sauce pot and stir well. Bring syrup to a boil and then simmer on medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes until thick in consistency like thin maple syrup. While still warm throw Tulumbas in small batches in warm syrup for about 5 to 8 minutes remove and put into a colander for excess syrup to drip off. Make sure they all soak in syrup. Leave to air dry so that syrup gets sticky. Cover loosely with clear wrap or foil.

These are three dipping sauces I make when I am having a party.

Chocolate Sauce
Makes 2 ½ cups of sauce

1 cup water
½ cup sugar
½ cup light corn syrup or agave nectar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch Processed)
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup or agave nectar and cocoa powder.

Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it is just begun to simmer and boil, remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until melted.

Serving: You should let the Chocolate Sauce stand for a few hours before serving, which will giv e it time to thicken a bit.

Storage: Store the chocolate sauce in a covered container in the fridge for up to 10 days. Rewarm before serving.

Raspberry Sauce: 
(Make 2 cups)
1 half pint package fresh raspberries
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 T. Framboise liqueur optional

Place the raspberries, the sugar, and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and Framboise into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.

Creme Anglaise:
Makes 2 cups

2 cups light cream or half and half
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and caviar removed
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
5 large egg yolks

Have a fine medium sized strainer and bowl ready near stove.

In a stainless steel bowl stir together, using a wooden spoon, the sugar and yolks until well blended. (Do not let this mixture sit too long or a film will develop on the yolks.)

In a small saucepan heat the cream and vanilla bean just to the boiling point. Remove from heat and whisk a few tablespoons of the cream into the yolk remix. Then, gradually add the remaining cream, whisking constantly.

Pour this mixture into a medium sized saucepan and over medium heat, gently heat the mixture to just below the boiling point (170 – 175 degrees F). You will notice that steam will begin to appear and the mixture will be slightly thicker than heavy cream. Do not boil or the eggs will curdle. Check to see if it is the right consistency by holding a wooden spoon sideways that is covered with the custard and run your finger along the back of the spoon. If the streak remains without the cream running down throughout the streak, it is ready.

Immediately remove from the heat and pour through the strainer, scraping up any thickened cream that settles on the bottom of the pan. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Stir until seeds separate. For maximum flavor, return the pod to the sauce until serving time.

The creme anglaise can be refrigerated covered with plastic wrap for a couple of days.

Note: If sauce was overheated and curdling occurs, pour instantly into a blender and process until smooth before straining. If necessary, add a little heavy cream to the mixture before blending.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Yiayia's Koulouria


 This is a traditional Greek Cookie.  I think every Greek Yiayia (Grandmother) has a version of it.  However, I love using this base recipe from my mom and making different flavors.  I have recently done a post on a chocolate version.  I do lemon poppy-seed, orange, coconut, cinnamon-spice, peppermint, etc.  This cookie is perfect for dunking in hot coffee or tea.  Kids usually gobble these cookies up.

I often double the recipe during the Easter Holiday.  These cookies are very popular during Easter time.  It is traditional in a Greek Family to offer Koulouria and a red dye egg to your guest when they are visiting your home during Easter Season.  After Easter Day is over in my family, we continue to celebrate for another 40 days that Christ has Risen and these cookies are always on the table with a basket of red eggs.

Koulouria Ingredients
recipe source:  Mama's Oven
Bake 350 degree oven.  Bake time 20 minutes.
2 Cookie Sheets lined with silpat or parchment.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs room temperature
1 Tablespoon Whiskey
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla pod (remove seeds add to creamed butter)
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt
6 cups all purpose flour

Cream butter in stand mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy.  Add one egg at a time and continue to beat.  Add whiskey, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds.  Continue to beat well.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Add slowly into cream butter mixture.  After everything is incorporated and mixed well.  Scrap down bowl and place in fridge for 10 minutes.

Pinch a walnut size piece of dough and roll into a 5 inch rope.  Bring ends together and twist into traditional Koulouria shape.  Place each cookie on to prepared pan and do egg wash.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Cookies should be golden brown on bottom.

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons water

Mix egg and water with a spoon.  Use a pastry brush to to brush each cookie.  Can sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gluten Free Vanilla-Butter Pound Cake

This is a wonderful pound cake that was given to me by a friend.  It is perfect for afternoon tea.  Enjoy!

Gluten Free Vanilla-Butter Pound Cake

Dry Ingredients
1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch (not flour)
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup dry milk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Pinch salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 sticks plus 4 T. of unsalted butter room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 T. full fat sour cream
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 vanilla bean split and seeds removed
1 1/4 cup whole milk room temperature

Cream butter with sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs and continue to beat for 5 minutes on medium speed.  Add sour cream.   Add vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds and beat until incorporated.  

Mix all dry ingredients together and whisk with whisk to make sure everything is mixed well.  In three stages add a spoonful of dry ingredients and a little milk until all is mixed in with butter mixture.

I used a bundt pan.  Grease and flour your pan with rice flour.  Bake in a preheated 325 degrees oven for about one hour.  Do the toothpick test to make sure the cake is cooked through.

 Let cool for 15 minutes and remove from pan.  I sifted some powder sugar on mine.  This cake can be eaten up to 3 to 4 days if wrapped tightly.  It taste better with age.  

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