Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chocolate Dipped Cherry Shortbread

These chocolate dipped cherry shortbread were created as part of a cookie package I sent to my friend in Japan. I wanted one of the shortbreads I sent to somehow involve chocolate, and what better way to incorporate it than in a nice thick layer on one side of the cookie. These turned out way better than I could've imagined.

I don't love dried cherries (I love fresh ones but the dried ones taste a bit weird to me) but they were really perfect in this cookie. The shortbread was "slightly chewier than classic shortbread" (as the recipe promised) - so not your crisp type of shortbread. Just a truly awesome dense slightly chewy buttery shortbread. Deliciously delicious. I will make these again for sure.

Anyone know why the chocolate developed little spots on it? You can see the spots in the second picture.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Banana Nut Shortbread
Strawberry Shortbread Cookie Bark
Earl Grey Tea Shortbread
Any Way You Want It Biscotti

Chocolate Dipped Cherry Shortbread
Adapted from The Good Cookie

Makes 12.

The original recipe was for vanilla scented shortbread cookies. I omitted the orange zest and added cherries, then dipped them in chocolate after cooling. I'm not sure how much chocolate I used - maybe 2 oz, maybe less. I also halved the recipe and used two 4.5" tart pans (this is how I've written the recipe below). If you want you can double the recipe and use two 7.5" tart pans or two 9-inch glass pie pans instead.

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300F. Have two 4.5" fluted tart pans with removable bottoms at hand.

2. Place the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until blended. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour mixture and pulse 6 or 7 times, then process for 6 seconds, or until the crumbs are fine and powdery. Add vanilla and cherries. Process for another 5 to 7 seconds, until the crumbs are clumpier and the dough holds together easily when pressed, and the cherries are a bit more chopped.

3. Press the dough evenly and firmly into the tart pans, pressing into evenly into the bottom (not up the sides). Bake the shortbread for 40 to 45 minutes, until it is just barely colored a creamy beige; don't let it brown. Place the pans on a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.

4. Remove the rims of the pans if you are using the tart pans, and cut each round into 6 wedges while it is still very warm. Transfer the triangles to the wire rack and cool completely.

5. When the shortbread is cool, melt the chocolate. Dip one side of each wedge in the chocolate, invert and let cool until hardened.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Applesauce Spice Bars

The preamble to this recipe for applesauce spice bars says you shouldn't pass these bars up, and I probably would've if it didn't say that! I'm not too into apple-y desserts or things with raisins, but these bars were good. In addition to raisins, they have chopped pecans and diced apple. I loved the bits of diced apple in the final bar. And the caramel-y glaze was so yummy. AND the cake is really moist. Overall it's a really delicious little cake with interesting additions. Instead of cutting them into small bars, you could bigger pieces and serve it as dessert. Or eat it for breakfast. Or a snack. Mmm.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Mom's Banana Apple Bread
Applesauce Oat-Bran Muffins
Cinnamon Swirl Buttermilk Pound Cake
Sweetened Condensed Milk Cake

Applesauce Spice Bars
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the bars:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 baking apple, such as Rome or Cortland, peeled, cored and finely diced or chopped
1/2 cup plump, moist raisins (dark or golden)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the glaze:
2 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Getting ready:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan, line the bottom with parchment paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

To make the bars:
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.

In a medium pot, melted the butter over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir with a whisk until it is melted and the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

Still working in the saucepan, whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing until well blended. Add the applesauce and vanilla, and whisk until the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is once again smooth. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently stir int he dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear, then mix in the apple, raisins and nuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the bars just start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and let the cake cool while you make the glaze.

To make the glaze:
In a small saucepan, whisk together the cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup. Put the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Adjust the heat so that the glaze simmers, and cook, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Turn the bars out onto a rack, remove the paper and invert the bars onto another rack, so they are right side up. Slide the parchment paper under the rack to serve as a drip catcher; grab a long metal icing spatula and pour the hot glaze over the bars, using the spatula to spread it evenly over the cake. Let them cool to room temperature before cutting into 32 rectangles.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

I saw Lisa post about this Hungarian mushroom soup quite a while ago and always had it in the back of my mind to try it. It's an easy soup to make, yummy and something a little different (at least for me). This is one of those warm, comforting soups. (And I love sour cream in soup!)

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Mushroom Crescents
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms in Mustard Wine Sauce
Middle Eastern Chickpea Soup

Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Adapted from Cathy T (AllRecipes) found on Lisa's Kitchen

My adaptations were to use 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of oil (instead of 4 tbsp butter), vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, 1 tsp of dill instead of 2, and 1/2 tsp salt instead of 1 tsp. I'd also recommend sauteeing the mushrooms longer than 5 minutes - I'd sautee them maybe 10 minutes until most of the water was released.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions in the butter for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 more minutes. Stir in the dill, paprika, soy sauce and broth. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

2. In a separate small bowl, whisk the milk and flour together. Pour this into the soup and stir well to blend. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Finally, stir in the salt, ground black pepper, lemon juice, parsley and sour cream. Mix together and allow to heat through over

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pear Pie

I've been trying to make more pies and tarts to improve my dough rolling skills. I'm not a huge apple pie fan but I thought that a pear pie sounded intriguing. As it turned out, you can't really tell that it's a pear pie versus an apple pie but regardless - it was delicious! The spices that were used were a bit different than what I'm used to in apple pies so that was a nice twist. The crust was yummy and flakey. The streusel topping was so good, but I think it's hard for streusel not to be. I'd definitely make this pie again. Plus, I discovered my favourite kind of pear is Anjou!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Mini Pear Loaves
Apple Pie with Brown Sugar Streusel Topping
Pecan Tassies
Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

Pear Pie
Adapted from Caprial's Desserts

I didn't end up using all the streusel.

5 firm pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Pâte Brisée (recipe follows)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
Streusel Topping (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, toss the pears with the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; let sit for about 15 minutes to give the pears time to get juicy.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

On a well-floured board, roll the dough out into a 10 inch circle. Fit the dough into a 9 inch pie plate, fold the edges under, and flute. Pile the pears onto the crust, dot with the butter, and top with the streusel. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the crust and/or streusel starts to brown too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil loosely. Let cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

Pâte Brisée

Makes enough for a single-crust pie or a 9 to 10 inch tart.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp (39 g) shortening
1/2 cup (4 oz) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to combine. With the mixer on low speed, add the shortening and better and mix just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the ice water and mix just until the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and form it into a disk with your hands.

Streusel Topping

Makes about 2 cups

1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, diced

Combine the sugars, oats, cinnamon, flour, and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla extract and the butter, a few pieces at a time, and mix until crumbly. The streusel will keep refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Peanut Butter Squares with Milk Chocolate and Oats

A lot of people loved these peanut butter squares - I think due to the crazy yummy peanut butter icing (which is really similar to the icing used on the Elvis fluffernutter cake I made last year). The bar itself was okay. Overall, the square was just okay for me - which was kind of a disappointment because the recipe comes from the Rebar cookbook (a personal favourite) but since lots of others liked it (and asked for the recipe) I'm sharing it with you. I think the squares would be good with no icing, and with added coconut and maybe peanut butter chips.

The background of these photos looks so blue (whereas it should be more white-ish) - anyone know how I can fix this (ie. with Adobe)?

If this sounds good, you might like:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
Chocolate Scotcheroos
Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters
Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Squares with Milk Chocolate and Oats
Adapted from Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook

Makes 12 squares

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz (120 g) milk chocolate, chopped into large chunks

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp soft butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8" x 8" pan and set aside. Cream together the butter, sugars and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

2. Combine the oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add this to the butter/peanut butter mix and stir well. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Spread into the prepared pan and bake 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Prepare the icing by creaming together the peanut butter, butter and vanilla. Blend in icing sugar. Stir in cream until you get a nice spreading consistency, using more if necessary.

4. Cut into 12 squares.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

German Chocolate Cake

I've never tried German chocolate cake before but I knew I'd love the coconut pecan caramel filling. The traditional version has a coconut pecan filling and topping, but this version I made has a coconut pecan filling (no topping) and chocolate icing. I'm sure it's good both ways!

Some people have asked what the difference between German chocolate cake and regular chocolate cake is. Cookie Pie provided this information (thanks!): "German's was actually a type of chocolate made by Baker's Chocolate Co., and it was used in the original cake recipe in the 1950s, which was called German's Chocolate Cake. Over time the 's got dropped, and now everyone thinks the cake is German, but it isn't." (Source)

As far as I can understand, German chocolate cake was made with a sweetened chocolate that they called German chocolate. And the coconut pecan filling and topping is also unique to the German chocolate cake.

Everyone really liked this cake including those who don't usually like chocolate cake. As for me, I thought it was good but the cake itself wasn't my favourite. It was kind of "light" whereas I prefer cakes that are nice and dense. Ooo now I'm thinking of making German chocolate cupcakes with just the coconut pecan filling on top. Or maybe a slice of brioche toasted and spread with the filling.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Rich Chocolate Cheesecake
Tiramisu Cake
Elvis Fluffernutter Cake
Chocolate Cinnamon Cake

German Chocolate Cake
Adapted from The Cake Book

Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 12

The original recipe suggests to use the coconut pecan filling as a filling and also on top - if you want to do that then double the recipe. I'd also make a bit extra chocolate icing next time. Also, note that the coconut pecan filling needs to cool for an hour so I'd start making it once the cakes are in the oven, or after you take them out.

German Chocolate Cake
2 cups (228 g) cake flour
1/3 cup (27 g) natural (not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz (113 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup (242 g) sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Chocolate Frosting
3 ounces (85 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (113 g) confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Pecan Filling
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (125 g) granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup (85 g) sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (63 g) pecans, toasted and chopped

Make the Cake

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Dust the pans with flour.

2. Sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, and set aside.

3. Combine the chocolate and boiling water in a bowl and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool until tepid.

5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add 1 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat at high speed until well blended and light, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the tepid chocolate and mix until blended. If your mixer has a splatter shield attachment, attach it now. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream into two additions and mixing just until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and set aside.

6. In a clean mixer bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at low speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and mix just until blended. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the whites are fluffy and begin to form soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Then increase the speed to high and whip the whites until they are glossy and smooth and form stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the chocolate batter one-third at a time. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops.

7. Bake the cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on wire racks for 20 minutes.

8. Run a small knife around the edge of each pan to loosen the cake. Invert each cake onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Make the Frosting

1. Put the chocolate in a medium stainless steel bowl and place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove the bowl from over the pot and set the chocolate aside to cool until tepid.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar and beat at high speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the tepid chocolate a low speed, mixing until blended and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase the speed to high and beat until the frosting is lightly aerated, about 1 minute. Use the frosting immediately, or cover tightly and set aside at room temperature for up to 3 hours.

Coconut Pecan Filling

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, egg yolks, and butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted and the mixture thickens and bubbles. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 minutes longer.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, coconut, and pecans. Cool for about 1 hour, or until the mixture is spreadable, before using.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; let soften at room temperature before using.

Assemble the Cake

1. If necessary, using a serrated knife, trim the sides of each cake layer, so that it is straight, not sloped. Place one of the layers upside down on a cardboard cake round or serving platter. Spread the cake with the coconut pecan filling. Top with the other cake layer, bottom (smooth) side up.

2. Using a small offset metal spatula, spread the frosting over the sides of the cake in a smooth layer, filling in any gaps between the layers (there will be plenty of frosting for this; if you have any frosting left over, you can put it into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip (such as Ateco #6) and pipe a row of rosettes around the top edge of the cake). Spread the remaining filling on top of the cake. Serve the cake, or refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before serving.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sunflower Rice Bowl

I took Fresh at Home out from the library and fell in love with it. The next time I buy cookbooks this will definitely be one of them. I can't remember everything that's in there but there are tons of recipes for interesting "bowls" like this sunflower rice bowl (among other things). And while it may seem complicated because there are so many components, most components are quite small so it's not too time consuming. I was astounded at how delicious this was - delicious AND healthy? A truly rare find. I try and make healthy meals most of the time and most of them are okay, some not really okay and not very often at all they're really tasty. Actually that's why my blog has mostly baked goods - because while I do cook fairly often, if I don't love it then I won't post about it. And it's hard to go wrong with baked goods. ;)

The sunflower rice bowl is a perfect combination of marinated tofu steaks, creamy sunflower dressing (with grapefruit juice), soy/ginger/lemon sauce, mixed herbs, spinach, carrots, rice and more sunflower seeds. I warn you though - don't pour on more of the grapefruit dressing than is recommended as your bowl will not be as balanced and you won't have as delicious an experience. I was also amazed at how you could marinate tofu in water - well water, soy sauce and some spices but still. Everything I've read says you must press tofu before marinading it if you want the tofu to suck up the marinade - but this way works too!

This sunflower rice bowl is also what converted me onto grapefruits. I used to hate grapefruits - now I can't get enough of them. They're SO juicy. For a while I was eating one everyday and dreaming of grapefruits while at the gym - a serious obsession you can see.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Curried Tofu Salad
Lemon Miso Tofu and Eggplant
Matthew's Delicious Tofu
Asian Beet and Tofu Salad

Sunflower Rice Bowl
Adapted from Fresh at Home

Serves 2

6 marinated tofu steaks (recipe follows)
1/4 cup filtered water
8 cups fresh spinach
3 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup creamy sunflower dressing (recipe follows)
2 cups grated carrots
2 tbsp simple sauce (recipe follows)
2 tsp mixed herbs (recipe follows)
4 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds

1. Grill or broil marinated tofu steaks for 3 minutes per side or until lightly browned.

2. Put water and spinach in a skillet over high heat. Cover and cook 1 minute, just until spinach is wilted.

3. Divide cooked rice between 2 large rice bowls, and drizzle both with half of the creamy sunflower dressing.

4. Top with wilted spinach, grilled tofu steaks and grated carrot.

5. Drizzle with simple sauce and remaining creamy sunflower dressing.

6. Sprinkle with mixed herbs and toasted sunflower seeds. Serve.

Marinated Tofu Steaks

The recipe calls for a 250 g (9 oz) block of tofu but the ones I buy are sold in 350 g. There's definitely enough marinade to do even more than 350 g. I used reduced sodium soy sauce instead of tamari. The way they suggest to cut the tofu results in big pieces of tofu so I prefer cutting them into small cubes.

1 block firm tofu (350 g)
2 tbsp coriander, ground
4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 cups filtered water

1. Cut the block of tofu into 4 1/4" thick slices, then cut the slice diagonally into triangles.

2. Combine the coriander, garlic, soy sauce and water in a bowl; mix well. Pour marinade over tofu triangles.

3. Marinate for at least 1 hour.

Creamy Sunflower Dressing

2/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup grapefruit juice
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup filtered water

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and frothy. Stored in a sealed container in the fridge, it will last for up to 3 days.

Simple Sauce

I used reduced sodium soy sauce instead of tamari.

1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2" fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 tbsp lemon juice

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and cool. Serve.

Mixed Herbs

1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried dill
1 tbsp dried thyme
1/2 tbsp dried rosemary
1/2 tbsp dried sage

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Low-Fat Winter Fruit Granola

I really love the sweet crunchy style granola but when I make granola at home it feels counterproductive to add so much oil and sugar (to something that to me is supposed to be healthy) so I opt for granola recipes like this one. And this one was good - though I wouldn't add the crystallized ginger next time. I like ginger but don't love it in sweet things. I mistakenly added the dried fruit too early (instead of stirring it in at the very end) but it wasn't all bad because it made the dried apples wonderfully crunchy. I saw this chocolate chocolate chunk granola at Whole Foods not too long ago... I really must make an exception to my "healthy granola" rule and try making that one!

Some people have asked where I got the cup from - it was a gift many years ago and I have no idea where my friend got it from! It has Totoro on the other side though.

Other healthy snacks:
Sunny Jungle Bars
Cocoa Nibbles
No Fail Granola
Applesauce-Oat Bran Muffins

Low-Fat Winter Fruit Granola
Adapted from The Best Life Diet Cookbook found on Ezra Pound Cake

You can easily replace the almonds with another nut, the dried fruit with whatever other dried fruit you want, and omit the ginger. I didn't use almond extract - just vanilla.

Makes 24 1/4-cup servings

4 cups regular rolled oats
1/4 cup unprocessed wheat bran
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped dried pears or apples
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped dates
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Combine the oats and bran in a large bowl.

In a small pan over medium heat, stir in the canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla and almond extracts. When the mixture begins to bubble, pour it over the oat mixture and mix well.

Pour it onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Add the almonds and stir the mixture thoroughly. Continue to bake until the oats and almonds are lightly toasted, about 10 minutes more, stirring again halfway through.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Bake until the oats are crisp, about 5 minutes longer.

Remove the pan from the oven and stir the mixture. Let the granola cool for 5 minutes, the stir again.

When completely cool, store the granola in an air-tight container for up to 4 weeks.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I first made these a few years ago at Christmas. They were delicious but a real pain in the butt. I had a really hard time rolling up the little crescent shapes without the filling falling out - and I made it even more difficult for myself by not using any jam in the filling which would've helped things stick. I made these again at Christmas this year and this time used mini chocolate chips (you have to use either mini chocolate chips or fairly finely chopped chocolate), blackberry jam, and walnuts. And once again they were delicious. And I have come to accept the fact that I can't make 16 equally size crescents out of a round of dough I've rolled out. I really need to work on my rolling out dough skills.

If you've never had rugelach, I highly recommend you try making it. It's made with a most tasty cream cheese dough and wrapped around whatever kind of filling you like. Traditionally I think they're made with jam, nuts and maybe chocolate - but there are so many other possibilities out there. Peanut butter chips and jam. White chocolate and strawberry jam. Toffee, nuts and chocolate. Chocolate coconut. These also freeze really well - not that you'll have trouble getting rid of them.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Pecan Tassies
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dunkers
Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Toblerone Cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Use the amounts of jelly, nuts, dried fruit and chocolate as guidelines for coming up with your own creations. I don't think I've ever added the cinnamon.

Makes 4 dozen

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp plus a pinch of salt
1 large whole egg, plus 3 large egg yolks
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (4 ounces) walnut halves or pieces
pinch of ground cinnamon
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (12 oz) jam, melted
2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 tsp salt; beat until combined and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating to combine after each. Mix in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, beat in flour to combine.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into three equal pieces, and shape into flattened disks; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325F, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line there baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a food processor, pulse together the walnuts, remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the cinnamon, and pinch of salt until finely ground; set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one disk of dough into a 10 inch round about 1/4 inch thick. Brush the top evenly with melted jam. Sprinkle with a third of the walnut mixture and a third of the chocolate chips. Using the rolling pin, gently roll over the round to press the filling into the dough.

Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the round into 16 equal wedges. Beginning with the outside edge of each wedge, roll up to enclose filling. Place about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and filling ingredients. Lightly beat the whole egg, brush over tops.

Bake two sheets, rotating halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining baking sheet. Rugelach can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Coconut Madeleines

Patricia (of Technicolor Kitchen) often posts madeleine recipes that I drool over, like her recent basil and parmesan madeleines. I found this coconut madeleine recipe on her blog and had to make them. These are some of the yummiest madeleines I've ever made and the only madeleines I've ever made that still taste good a few days later. Usually I find you have to eat them on the first day in order to enjoy the slightly crispy edges contrasing with the soft cakey centres. But these had deliciously crunchy outsides, moist buttery slightly dense insides and were the perfect madeleines. I think I might've overmixed them but it didn't seem to effect their taste!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Matcha Coconut Madeleines
Honey Earl Grey Madeleines
Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake
Creamy Coconut Cake

Coconut Madeleines
Adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey found on Technicolor Kitchen

Makes 36.

2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140g) unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup (140g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted an cooled
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

In a large bowl, whisk the the eggs, egg whites, granulated sugar, and vanilla together until smooth.

Sift the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt together into a medium bowl, then fold into the batter. Finally, fold the melted butter and
coconut into the batter until completely smooth. The batter should look fairly thin. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. After chilling, the batter should be thick and very firm.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Generously butter two madeleine pans. Fill each shell mold with about 1 tablespoon of
batter, depending of their size – I filled mine up to ¾ of their capacity, eyeballing it. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the madeleines are firm and golden brown with a small hump in the center, 10-12 minutes.

Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack, popping them out with the tip of a sharp paring knife, and let cool – it's important to unmold them right after the oven because they might stick to the pan once cool.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

(Orange) Dreamsicle Tart

That is quite the blob of whipped cream I put on top, making this tart not look as awesome as it actually is.

This dreamsicle tart was the first thing I baked from Caprial's Desserts and oh what an introduction to this lovely baking book it was. There are so many yummy looking things to try in this cookbook (caramel pear tart with a graham shortbread crust for one) and I love how they offer up interesting modifications to many of the recipes - this tart is a modification of their lemon cream tart.

And what is a dreamsicle tart? Well basically an orange creamsicle in tart form mmmm. So it's an orange custard/cream topped with whipped cream - and don't be tempted to sweeten the whipped cream even a tiny bit as the custard is quite sweet on its own. The tart is supposed to be made using their "three-nut crust" but I thought a shortbread tart would be yummier. (Actually I've yet to try a nut crust for a pie and should do that.) Anyway, the shortbread crust was also amazing. It was just like a shortbread cookie, with the perfect texture.

I halved the recipe and made little tartlets - if you decide to go this route make sure you don't put the dough too thick in the tartlet pans because it puffs up a lot and you won't have any room for the filling! Also - I recommend taking the crust out of the tartlet pans before filling them otherwise they might be hard to remove (which is why mine are still in their shells in the pictures!)

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Key Lime Pie
Raspberry and White Chocolate Pie
The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart
Coconut Cream Pie

Dreamsicle Tart
Adapted from Caprial's Desserts

Shortbread Crust
2 cups flour (250 g)
1/2 cup powdered (confectioner's) sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, diced

2 1/3 cups milk
5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
5 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of 1 orange
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups whipped cream

Shortbread Crust
Place the flour, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the butter and process until the dough forms a ball on top of the blade. Remove the dough from the food processor; if it's too soft to work with, refrigerate until it's easier to handle. Press the dough into either a buttered 10 inch tart pan or buttered mini tart shells. If using mini tart shells, make sure not to use too much dough (and/or use pie weights) otherwise the dough will puff up and you won't have much room for the filling. (The easiest way to this is to first press it into the sides of the pan, then finish with the bottom of the pan.) Refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat a standard oven to 375F. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes (check earlier if using mini tart shells); let cool completely.

To prepare the filling, place the milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring just to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Slowly whisk 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper it, or bring it up to the same temperature. Whisk in the remaining milk, pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and again cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and is very thick, about 2 minutes; remove the pan form the heat. Add the butter, orange juice, orange zest and vanilla, let sit for 2 minutes, and then stir until the butter is completely melted. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, and then pour it into the baked shell. Refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars

These are the most addictive baked good I've made in a long time. Not that a lot of other things I've baked haven't been delicious but these were just deadly. Not only are the flavours delicious (chocolate + marshmallow + peanut butter) but the texture combination is great too. Fudgey brownie, gooey marshmallow, chocolate peanut butter with rice krispies. I'm really hungry for dinner right now so I can't think of much else to say about these - just know that your life is incomplete without them.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Oreo Crunch Brownie Bars
Chocolate Scotcheroos
Hello Dolly Bars
White Chocolate Brownies

Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars
Adapted from Buttercup Bakes at Home found on Nosh With Me & Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

Note: Most marshmallows contain gelatin (an animal product). You can get vegan marshmallows but apparently they're hard to find. Alternately, you can use marshmallow fluff which does not contain gelatin.

Brownie Ingredients:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients:
1 bag mini marshmallows (I think mine was 7 oz)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter.

In a medium pot, melt the chocolate, butter, and 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir occasionally while melting. Set aside and cool for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside. In a large bowl, place the eggs and whisk thoroughly. Add in the sugar and vanilla. Stir the melted ingredients into the egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in the dry sifted ingredients and mix well. Fold in the remaining 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the corner of the pan comes out with moist crumbs.

Remove the brownies from the oven, and immediately sprinkle the marshmallows over them. Return the pan to the oven for 3 more minutes.

While the brownies are baking, place the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat, add the cereal,and mix well. Allow this to cool for 3 minutes or so.

Spread the mixture evenly over the marshmallow layer. Refrigerate until chilled before cutting. Cut into 24 bars.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fresh Pear and Curry Pasta

I know this dish may not look that exciting - the colours a bit bland, and maybe the idea of pears with curry kind of strange. But trust me, this dish is delicious. The recipe comes from a cookbook that I think you can easily trust any recipe that comes out of it not to fail, and most likely it will be yummy like this one. I don't think I've ever seen anyone other than me post recipes from these cookbooks though - The Best of Bridge cookbooks. I guess because they're Canadian but these are the kind of cookbooks everybody needs.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Artichoke Rotini Pasta
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms in Mustard Wine Sauce
Soba Noodles with Zucchini Ribbons

Fresh Pear and Curry Pasta
Adapted from The Best of the Best and More

My only modifications were to use 1/2 tbsp oil instead of 2 tbsp, and to use extra garlic. I also used ketchup instead of tomato paste to make it easier. If you don't have a ripe pear you can just cook the pear longer to soften it. Oh I also omit the 3 tbsp cilantro. The recipe can easily be vegan by omitting the cream and using some other kind of sweetener than honey.

1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp medium curry paste
1 tsp tomato paste (or ketchup)
2 tbsp honey
2 cups vegetable broth
1 unpeeled ripe pear, sliced in thin wedges
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp cream or milk
Enough pasta for 2

In a frying pan over medium heat, saute onion in oil until soft. Add garlic and curry paste and stir 2-3 minutes. Add tomato paste and honey and stir another 2 minutes. Add broth, increase heat to medium high and boil gently, reducing liquid to less than 1 cup. (This takes about 15 minutes; now is a good time to start cooking the pasta.)

Add pear slices and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cream and stir another 2 minutes. Pour over pasta and toss gently.