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Archive for November, 2010

Ricotta Cheese Crostata

This months Bakers Challenge  was brought us by Simona  from briciole. It is a simple, yet delicious, Italian tart traditionally made with a jam filling or pastry cream and fresh fruit. I chose to do another  Italian filling; ricotta cheese with Marsala soaked raisins.

The pastry dough is extremely easy to work with. I used almond flour in combination with all-purpose and whole wheat flour.  You can’t really tell from the picture but there is a lattice crust on top. It was very simple to do and makes any dessert look elegant. I covered mine with some sliced almonds before baking to enhance the nuttiness of the crust but you can leave your plain so the lattice is the focal point; just brush the lattice with an egg wash before baking to give it a nice shine.

There are so many variations for fillings, so use your imagination and have fun!

Pasta Frolla (Italian shortbread pastry) 

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar (I like to use vanilla sugar)*
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons  unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup almond flour, or almond meal, or coconut flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons [90ml, 85 g, 3 oz] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Superfine sugar is often also referred to as ultrafine, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground.

I make vanilla sugar by putting the pods of vanilla beans (after I have scraped out the seeds) into my sugar container. Shake it well after 1 or 2 days to evenly distribute. It will infuse the sugar with the most heavenly vanilla fragrance.

Filling:

2 C whole milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 C sugar
zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp Foira di Sicilia or vanilla extract
1/2 C raisins, soaked in 1/4 C Marsala wine (or rum) for at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours.

Combine all the filling ingredients, except the raisins, in a food processor and whirl for 1 minutes. It will become very smooth and creamy. Drain the raisins and stir into the cheese mixture. Pour into the prepared crust. Place your reserved pie strips in a lattice fashion across the top and sprinkle generously with sliced almonds. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a golden brown. Let cool completely before taking it out of the tart pan.
This will keep very well in the fridge for up to 5 days, but bring it back to room temperature before serving.

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A delicate cookie, light as air, with a subtle taste of pumpkin pie. Perfect for the season and quite delicious. It uses pumpkin pie spice, a wonderful concoction of nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon zest, ginger, cardamom,and clove. You take the dough and place it in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch open star tip and pipe into “S” shapes  for a pretty effect. I used my moms good old spritz cookie press from the 1950’s with a nice plain tip.  These are actually really simple to make.  You could probably even just roll the dough into small balls and gently press them down with the bottom of a glass. This makes about 30 cookies.

PUMPKIN PIE COOKIES

1 C Unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C granulated sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/3 C pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla or seeds of 1/2  vanilla bean
2 3/4 C all-purpose flour

Brown butter glaze (see below)

Pre-heat your oven to 400 F.  I always use parchment paper to line my cookie sheet since cleanup is breeze, but you can use an ungreased cookie sheet if you don’t have any.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice and beat until combined. Beat in the pumpkin puree and the egg. Slowly add the flour until just combined. Place into a pastry bag with an open star tip, or a spritz press and pipe out “S” shapes, wreaths, or strips. It’s your cookie, do what you want.
Bake for 7 minutes and cool on a wire rack.
When cool drizzle with brown butter glaze and a light sprinkle of nutmeg, if desired. These cookies keep well stored in an airtight container for 3 days or you can freeze them for up to 3 months.

BROWN BUTTER GLAZE

2 Tablespoons unsalted  butter
1 1/2 C powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Heat the butter over low heat in a small saucepan until the butter is golden brown and nutty smelling. Take off the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Add a drop more milk if it is not thin enough.

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These are a great comfort cookie. They taste like chocolate chip macaroons. This recipe is from the great Maida  Heatter’s  Brand New Book of Great Cookies . This book is a classic with some really great recipes and is also a great read. You really feel her joy when looking through her commentaries. In this recipe  have made just the slightest of changes; I use bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet,  and I add 1 tablespoon of corn syrup. You could use bagged chocolate chips if you don’t want to chop your own chunks, but you won’t get the same chocolate experience. This one is a keeper. It yields about 30 cookies.  Enjoy!

CHOCOLATE CHUNK –  COCONUT – PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

6 Ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks
1 C  (4 oz) salted peanuts
1/2 C  granulated sugar
1 1/4 C sifted all-purpose flour (I always use unbleached)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 C smooth or chunky peanut butter
1 Tbls light corn syrup (Maida calls for 1 Tbls sour cream)
1/2 C packed dark or light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 C (3 1/2 oz) packed shredded coconut (I use unsweetened)

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or tin foil, shiny side up, and set aside.

Place the peanuts and granulated sugar in a food processor and pulse the machine until the nuts are chopped into medium-sized pieces (about 7  pulses). Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In the large bowl of a standing mixer beat the butter until soft. Beat in the vanilla, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Beat in the brown sugar and the egg. Add the sifted ingredients and beat on low-speed until mixed.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the peanut/sugar mixture, the cut up chocolate, and the coconut.

With 2 spoons, form the dough into mounds. Wet your hands with cold water and roll each mound into a ball; place them 2 inches apart from each other on your prepared cookie sheets. Dip a fork into cold water and gently press down in one direction on each ball to flatten it slightly.

Bake one sheet at a time for 12-14 minutes. When done the cookies will be lightly browned, but the tops will still feel quite soft, do not over-bake. They will become crisp when cool.

Store in an airtight container for 1 week of freeze for up to 3 months.

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Pistachio Pinwheels

Since Thanksgiving is just 2 weeks away in the States, I have already been planning out the recipes I want to try this season for when I go to New York.  The day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the Holiday season and the official date of my holiday cookie baking. To start the wheel rolling, I am making Pistachio Pinwheels.  You can use any flavor jam or preserves you like, but don’t use  jelly –  it’s too thin and will liquefy during baking. Oh, and feel free to try different nut meats as well. How about walnuts with a fig jam filling?? I just happen to love pistachios and raspberries so that it what I am going with. This recipe is courtesy of Cuisine at Home Holiday Baking

PISTACHIO PINWHEELS

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C shortening
3/4 C granulated sugar
1/2 C packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp pistachio extract or almond extract
3/4 C finely chopped pistachio nuts

Filling:
1 1/3 C raspberry jam
4 tsp. cornstarch

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside.
Using a hand or standing mixer, cream the butter, shortening, and sugars in a bowl until the mixture is light and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Add the egg and pistachio extract; beat on low-speed until fully blended. Add half of the flour mixture and beat until well combined. Add the remaining flour, beating only until the flour is incorporated. Stir in the nuts.
Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap, pressing dough into a rectangle about 1 1/2 inches thick. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours or more.
While the dough is chilling, stir together the jam and cornstarch for the filling in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes then place in the fridge for at least one hour (while your cookie dough is chilling) .

Roll one portion of the dough out between parchment paper to form a 10 x 12 inch rectangle, 1/8 inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment. When I trimmed mine it was 9 x 11. Spread 1/2 C of the cooled filling over the dough leaving a 1/2 inch border all the way around. Roll the dough tightly into a log along the long side using the parchment paper to help you keep it even and tight. Wrap the log in parchment twisting the ends of the paper. Repeat with the other portion of cookie dough. Chill logs 4 to 24 hours.

Preheat your oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Cut the well chilled dough into 1/2 slices and place on your baking sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake, one sheet at a time,  until lightly browned around the edges, about 15 minutes

MAKE AHEAD DIRECTIONS:

Wrap logs in foil. Freeze up to 3 months; thaw in the fridge before cutting and baking

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