Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cherry Shortbread

When I was in England a few weeks ago, we had a "free" day to explore and went to Runnymede.  For all you who know your history, Runnymede is alongside the River Thames and most notably associated with the sealing of the Magna Carta.  It was during the reign of King John in 1215, it was signed and democracy was born.  The most important items to note was that it affected common and constitutional law as well as political representation, beginning the development of parliament.  The ideals of democracy were: limitation of power, equality and freedom.  If is sounds familiar, it was what our own Constitution was designed after over 200 years later!

After our walk through The National Trust land, donated in 1929 by Cara Rogers Broughton and her sons, we stopped at the Tea House to enjoy some refreshment before heading to Windsor Castle.  I had the Cherry Shortbread and my friend had a piece of Almond Frangipane Tart.  I couldn't wait to see if I could replicate this shortbread when I got home; I have a friend who loves shortbread and I wanted to surprise her!  Just as delicious and it will be one I make again.

Cherry Shortbread

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup dried cherries, cut in half


3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 T very warm water
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 T Light Karo syrup

Start by hydrating the cherries in boiling water; making sure you cover them completely.  Allow to stand at least an hour or longer.  Drain well in a sieve, then scatter them on paper toweling to make sure excess moisture is removed.
Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.  If you don't have a springform pan like I use, then make sure the parchment goes up at least two sides so you can lift the shortbread out when it's done.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar together completely.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed.  Add the vanilla extract and beat once more.  Add the flour and salt and mix on low just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

Bring dough together on a board and divide in half.  Press half of the shortbread into the prepared pan, pressing with your fingers to spread completely.  Use either a "docker" or a fork to poke holes into the dough (this allows it to bake evenly.)
Scatter the cherries on top, then, breaking off pieces of the second half, press gently over top to cover the cherries.   I also "poked" holes in this layer, then sprinkled with some sugar crystals lightly.
 Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a light golden brown.
 Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 7 minutes before removing it to a cutting board.  You will want to cut the shortbread while it's warm.
I also decided to add a glaze since shortbread isn't overly sweet.
Very quick and oh so delicious.  It's the perfect afternoon treat with tea or anytime:-D Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Happy Birthday Cookies

Kelly's little boy will turn 9 years old next week; where did the time go?  He's getting so big, but I remember this photo, taken of Kelly and him for a article Kelly wrote for the Mount Holyoke literary magazine when he was just over a year old.

The spitting image of his mama and he definitely has her good heart and concern for others, nurtured by his dad, new mother and little brother.

He also has a wonderful sense of humor and voracious love of reading...like his mom.
He's visiting in Vermont and his dad shared with us a climb they did.  Getting so tall and very grown-up!
We won't get a chance to see him until August, but I wanted to bake him up something sweet just to let him know we're thinking of him.  Happy Birthday Cookies are everything a kid will love; simple but oh so tasty.

Happy Birthday Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 T "Birthday Cake" flavoring
2 3/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mini white chocolate chips
3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together thoroughly.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed, with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and Birthday Cake flavoring.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and beat on medium/low just until combined.  Use a #20 Scoop to portion out the cookies.
Use your hand to slightly flatten the dough.  Bake in the preheat oven for 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Happy Birthday Cookies are just fun and I know our grandson will love them; his mama would!  Enjoy!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Plum~And~Pretzel Cheesecake Pie & June's Give-Away Apron

Summer means "stone fruit" is in; peaches, plums, cherries, and nectarines.  Saturday, I made Stone Fruit Jam and had some plums leftover, so Sunday, I made this dessert.

Plums are considered one of the first domesticated fruits--they're not found in the wild! There are many species and cultivated all over the world.  I grew up with two plum trees in our backyard and helped my Mom make jam/jelly and cobblers with the produce.  This recipe combines the sweetness of plums with the saltiness of pretzels.  I also thought it went well with the main course of spinach manicotti, roasted asparagus, and kale salad--total Italian on this very warm day in the south!

Plum~And~Pretzel Cheesecake Pie
4 large plums, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 T firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 freshly ground nutmeg

In a medium bowl, toss the plums with the remaining ingredients and let stand about 45-minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees (180C).

Pretzel Crust:
2 cups of finely ground pretzels
10 T unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Grind the pretzels in a food processor, then transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the melted butter and sugar.
Press the pretzel mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and bake in the preheated oven 10 to12 minutes, until golden around the edges.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Lower oven temperature to 325F-degrees (170C).

1 8oz. container (226g) mascarpone cheese, softened
4 oz. (113g) cream cheese, softened
2T firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 T Orange Liqueur (I used Grand Marnier
1 T Orange zest

In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the mascarpone, cream cheese and brown sugar together until smooth.  Add the egg, vanilla, Grand Marnier, and zest and beat until combined.
Spoon into the baked crust.

Drain the plums, reserving 1/4 cup for the glaze and arrange them on top, slightly overlapping in a circular pattern.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

1/4 cup of reserved juices from the plums
1 T Grand Marnier
1/2 tsp. cornstarch

In a small saucepan, whisk together reserved juice, liqueur, and cornstarch.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook until slightly thickened.  Brush over pie.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving or overnight.  Enjoy!

Very late on posting the apron...my apologies, but here it is.  Simply comment on any post this month and you will be entered to win this colorful, summer-like apron.  Good Luck!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cherry Crumb Cake & May's Apron Winner

I'm back from my trip to England a little tired, but every bit a wonderful time and the people were so lovely.  I flew home Saturday and that evening heard the horrible tragedy on the London Bridge.  My friend and I were there on Friday in London, doing the "tourist" thing and I can't imagine the kind of hatred that causes people to carry out terror to innocent human beings.  My heart goes out to all of the victims.
Windsor Castle 
I think I've gotten myself back together again--catching up on grocery shopping, laundry, and putting all my supplies back in their place in my studio.  When I saw these cherries in the grocery store, I couldn't help but think about the cherries in the Pacific Northwest.  I love baking with them, and of course, I see some jam being made when I get some free time.
I also thought about the phrase, "Life is a just a bowl of cherries," a song by Ray Henderson and lyrics by Lew Brown.  Judy Garland sang it in 1956 and although it's mostly a happy song, it's also become a little sarcastic one when you refer to the "pits!"  Notice, I've removed the pits in my bowl above:-)

Cherry Crumb Cake
1/2 cup (1 stick) (113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (55g) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 tsp. Almond extract
1 1/2 cups (188g) King Arthur all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup (60g) whole buttermilk
1 pound (454g) cherries, pitted

Ginger-Lime Crumb Topping:
3/4 cup (94g) King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (5 1/3 T) (76g) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup (28g) chopped pecans
2 tsp. lime zest
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until mixture is crumbly.  Use immediately or it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees (180C).  Spray an 8-inch springform pan with baking spray with flour.  Line with parchment paper and spray pan again.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together at medium speed until fluffy-3 to 4 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  While the mixer is running, add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated.  Beat in the extracts.

Sift the dry ingredients and add half with the buttermilk, mixing just until combined.  Add remaining dry ingredients.  Spoon batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top.
Arrange the pitted cherries on top of the batter.
Sprinkle with the Lime-Ginger Crumb Topping.
Bake in the preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out cleanly...about 1 hour.
Allow to cool in the pan about 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and remove from the pan.
With the help of a wide spatula and the parchment paper underneath, I transferred the cake to a serving dish and dusted the top with confectioners' sugar.  While I was in the UK, I had a dessert one evening and it was served with a sweetened heavy cream (not whipped).  The addition was incredible, so if you'd like to serve a slice with cream, here is my recipe.

Sweetened Cream
1 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 T confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)

Whisk the ingredients together and serve in a small pitcher.  This cake was definitely a big hit at our home. Enjoy!

Before I announce the winner of May's apron, here are some photos taken in the UK.  The studio I filmed at for the craft show, Hochanda, was in Oundle.  So quaint and the people so hospitable; I felt at home.  So much so, that one of the vendors at their farmer's market invited me in to talk "bread!"
Els van de Burgt (owner of Elizabeth Craft Designs) and I at the studio getting ready for our show!

Now, this month's apron winner is Kelly Booth!  Kelly, please email me your address and I will get this lovely apron off to you.
I'm working on June's apron and apologize for the tardiness.  <3 .="" p="">

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cloud Bread

So much to do and so little time before I go to the U.K. to do their craft show, Hochanda (it's like QVC or HSN).  Thanks to my good friend Jeanette who shared this recipe, I was able to "whip" up a lovely warm bread, sans flour, to have my jam on this morning.

This grain-free bread is a healthy way to start the morning with.  Just three ingredients and this recipe is not only easy, but economical.  There's apparently lots of recipes on the internet for this bread; one even adding some sugar, but this was perfect.

Cloud Bread
3 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/8 tsp. Cream of Tartar
3 T (1.5oz) cream cheese, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 300F-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Separate the eggs.  Into the egg whites, add the cream of tartar and beat with a hand held mixer until firm.  In the yolk bowl, cream the yolks with the cream cheese until all lumps are gone.

Add about 1/3 of the egg whites to the yolk mixture and stir to lighten the batter.  Now use a rubber spatula and gently fold in the remaining whites into the yolks.
Scoop out the batter onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  Use an off-set spatula to spread the batter a bit.  It will make six rounds.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.  Use a metal spatula to slide the cloud bread onto serving plates.  I chose my homemade strawberry jam, but hubby wanted an egg/cheese and veggie sausage sandwich.

It's a good way to start your day with protein.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Berry Blitz Torte

For the past six months, I have been doing the King Arthur Flour "Bakealong."  Each month they present with a new recipe to try, with complete directions and an "800" line if you have questions.  This month the recipe was for a Berry Blitz Torte, which just looking at the photo on line, I knew I would be making this elegant-looking dessert.  After reading through the ingredients and directions, I knew it would be easy to replicate a dessert that looks like it came from the most expensive bakery!

A torte is a multi-layer cake that is filled with whipped cream, buttercream, mousse, pastry cream, jam or fruit.  This cake incorporates pastry cream and berries; raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or blackberries.  Although a torte is usually baked in a springform pan, two 8-inch cakes pans created the unusual layers with this light, airy meringue/almond topping.

Berry Blitz Torte (courtesy of King Arthur Flour)

Pastry Cream*
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 large egg yolks
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped

1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh berries (raspberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries or blackberries

In a medium saucepan, stir together 2 cups of the milk, the sugar and the salt.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Whisk the cornstarch, egg yolks and whole egg with the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.  Whisk some of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks/cornstarch mixture to temper the egg yolks.  This keeps them from becoming "scrambled" eggs.  Pour the egg/cornstarch mixture back into the saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly; the mixture will thicken significantly.   Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract.  Transfer the filling to a heatproof glass bowl and top with a piece of buttered plastic wrap--making sure it touches the top of the filling.
Refrigerate until cool, or up to several days.  Before adding the pastry cream to the torte, lighten it up with the whipped cream just before you are going to fill the torte.

*For a quick pastry cream:
1 small box Instant Vanilla pudding
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup heavy or light cream
Whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Place plastic wrap on top and refrigerate until ready to use.  Add the 1/2 cup of whipped heavy cream to the quick version also.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4 large egg yolks (you'll use the egg whites for the topping!)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 T milk
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour (plain flour)

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray two 8-inch cake pans with baking spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and spray again.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter completely.  While the mixer is running on low, add the sugar gradually.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and cream until fluffy.  Add the salt.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, incorporating them completely into the batter.  Add the vanilla extract.  Whisk the flour and baking powder together and add half, all of the milk, and then the remaining flour mixture to the batter.  Beat just until combine.  Divide this batter between the two round pans and smooth the top.

4 large egg whites
3/4 cup Baker's Special Sugar or granulated sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 T granulated sugar + 1tsp. cinnamon

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Gradually add the 3/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat until the meringue is smooth, glossy, and somewhat stiff (but not stiff enough to form rigid stand-up points).
Spread the meringue on the cake batter.  Sprinkle with almonds over the meringue, then sprinkle with the sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until almonds are lightly browned.  The cakes will puff up significantly; don't worry, they'll settle as they cool.  Remove cakes from the oven and cool for 15 minutes.  Carefully and thoroughly loosen the edge of each cake and gently turn it onto a rack lined with wax paper or parchment paper.  Then flip it over with the meringue right side up onto another and one onto a serving tray.

If some of the almonds fall off, just sprinkle them back on top.  When the cake is cooled, fill the bottom layer with the pastry cream/whipped cream mixture.  Add the fresh berries.  top with the second cake layer, meringue-side up.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.
This cake was heavenly!  I think I could literally have eaten the whole thing! Enjoy!

On a sad note...my heart goes out to the people in Manchester, mostly young adults who were enjoying a concert when their lives were taken by terrorists.  I leave for London on Saturday and it is frightening that this is the world we live in now.  
May God comfort the families and hold the victims in his loving arms.