Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lemon basil cake


Where has this year gone? I can't believe the 4th of July is next week, and that means 2012 is almost half over. I also realized that I hadn't made anything for What's Baking, so I had to get on it, pronto.

This month's host is Jill of JBean Cuisine, who asked us to bake with fresh herbs. I was hoping to receive some herbs in our biweekly CSA box, but I was left disappointed (I did get some gorgeous produce, fruit, eggs and cheese though).  

My husband and I went to a local farmer's market and I went through each vendor's booth to see what fresh herbs they had available. I saw cilantro, mint, parsley and basil. I was hoping to pick up some rosemary so I could bake a rosemary focaccia, but I guess that will have to wait until next time. I decided on a bunch of basil since I could use part of it to throw into pasta. 

Although I know that strawberry and basil is a popular flavor combination, we actually forgot to buy strawberries that week!  Oops.  I went online to look for other flavors that would work well in a dessert and came across this lemon basil cake on Suburban Spoon.

I'm glad I added the extra lemon juice into the cake because I love lemon cakes, and I thought that 1/2 cup of fresh basil would be too powerful. I was right - the lemon juice balances out the basil so that the cake doesn't taste too herb-y. This wasn't my favorite cake, but it was still good and I'm glad I tried it.

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lemon extract (found at food specialty stores - I used 2 TBSP of lemon zest and added the juice of 1 lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 TBSP buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed berries, such as raspberries and blackberries
Glaze
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
Directions
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer on medium speed, until creamy. Add the eggs, basil, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Beat until blended.

Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, alternating with the buttermilk and beating on low speed until smooth.

Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and cool completely.

For the glaze, mix the powdered sugar with the lemon juice and zest. Spread or drizzle over the cooled cake.

Place the cake on a serving plate and top with the berries.

Yield: About 12-14 slices, depending on how large of a slice you want!

Source: Slightly adapted from Suburban Spoon

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lemon ricotta cookies with lemon glaze

Are you a fan of leftovers? I am, depending upon what they are and how much time I've got on my hands. When I'm at home watching our daughter on my own, sometimes she doesn't give me much time to cook. There are just some days where I have to rely on leftovers for dinner.

I was taking an inventory of my kitchen and pantry supplies and saw that I had half a container of ricotta cheese left over.  I also had some lemon juice that I didn't use (I used the zest for something else). I didn't want these things to go to waste, so once again, I did some research to look for a recipe that could use up these ingredients.

I came across these lemon ricotta cookies with lemon glaze from Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network website. I read through the ingredients, and the recipe seemed very simple. Since I only had half a container of ricotta and the juice of one lemon, I decided to halve it. Plus, who needs 44 cookies?  Ok, I probably do, but my thighs and hips do not.

The cookie dough came together very easily - in about 10 or 15 minutes.The cookie seemed light and refreshing, almost like a glass of lemonade (except not quite as tart). The glaze didn't overpower the cookie and actually enhanced the lemon flavor but provided a bit of sweetness. They would be great to serve at a cookout or party!

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested (I omitted)
Glaze
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested (I omitted)
Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat (use an electric mixer if you have one) until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (I used my imitation Silpat). Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie - I used a medium cookie scoop) onto the baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of a spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.

Yield: About 44 cookies (I halved the recipe and got 23 cookies)

Source: Giada De Laurentiis, via the Food Network

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Black and white angel food cake

I never thought I'd get around to making angel food cake. Why? It's because it's a rare occasion when I actually have 12 egg whites. I usually have 5 or 6 around after making ice cream, but this time I did end up with 12. I made ice cream and pastry cream and found myself--finally--with a dozen egg whites. Angel food cake was going to happen.

I didn't want to waste this rare opportunity by making a ho-hum angel food cake. Nope, my first full fledged angel food cake was going to be glorious. And being the chocolate lover that I am, I wanted mine dripping with decadent chocolate. Where was one to find such a recipe?

Well, I found it on MyRecipes.com, and it looked very easy to make. I had originally made a caramel peanut-topped brownie cake for my husband's birthday and Father's Day, but that cake was an utter fail. I needed something to redeem myself (and to give him something to eat for his birthday) so I decided to make this black and white angel food cake. I was watching our daughter for the morning and was able to bake this cake very quickly and still had a bunch of time to play and read with our dear Addison.

My husband was ecstatic when I told him that I baked him another cake for his birthday. He was even happier when I told him that it was an angel food cake - one of his favorites. The cake was so light and fluffy that some of us (ahem) had multiple slices the day it was baked. I didn't add cream cheese to my glaze so I could keep it a little bit healthier.  And my husband added some sliced strawberries to his slice (er, slices).

Although I'm pretty bummed that my original cake for the birthday boy didn't turn out as expected, this was a fantastic replacement. I was thrilled to have both the traditional angel food cake and a bit of cocoa taste to satisfy my inner chocoholic.

Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I omitted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa (I used Hershey's Special Dark) 
Glaze
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tub light cream cheese, softened (I omitted)
  • 1 tablespoon 1% low-fat milk (I used soy milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon unsweetened dark cocoa (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
Directions
Preheat oven to 325°.

To prepare cake, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and 3/4 cup granulated sugar, stirring with a whisk; set aside.

Place cream of tartar, salt, and egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in juice and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Sift flour mixture over egg white mixture, 1/4 cup at a time; fold in after each addition.

Spoon half of batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, spreading evenly. Break air pockets by cutting through batter with a knife. Sift 2 tablespoons cocoa over remaining batter; fold in. Spoon cocoa batter evenly over top of vanilla batter; break air pockets by cutting through cocoa layer with a knife. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan; cool completely. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Invert cake onto a plate.

To prepare glaze, place powdered sugar, cream cheese, milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Drizzle half of glaze over cake.

Add 3/4 teaspoon cocoa to remaining glaze; stir well to combine. Drizzle cocoa glaze over cake. Refrigerate 5 minutes or until glaze is set. Garnish with strawberries, if desired.

Yield: 12 servings (slices)

Source: MyRecipes.com; originally from Maureen Callahan in the April 2007 edition of Cooking Light

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chunky peanut butter and oatmeal chocolate chipsters

My husband's birthday and Father's Day are today, so I thought I'd let him choose a few recipes to get geared up for the two joyous occasions. He was flipping through my copy of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours and stopped on page 73. Without me seeing what recipe he had stumbled upon, I guessed that it included peanut butter. And I was right! He paused on the page that included these chunky peanut butter and oatmeal chocolate chipsters. 

This cookie was actually pretty fun to make, even though I'm not a fan of peanut butter. I creamed together the butter and sugar like a normal cookie recipe and then had a blast dropping peanut butter into the mixture. I always add a little extra to make my husband happy, and he always appreciates it!

The dry ingredients smelled amazing. I like that the cookies contained both nutmeg and cinnamon.  It almost smelled like an autumn day in this house! The wet and dry ingredients were mixed together and finally married with some chocolate chips.

While I did not taste these cookies, they certainly looked and smelled appetizing. My husband said that it tastes like a chocolate chip cookie, only with peanut butter. He said that it could have used more peanut butter because the taste was too subtle for him. Otherwise, he happily ate his cookie in about 0.2 seconds.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, especially to mine. And Happy birthday (and Happy Father's Day) to my husband!

Ingredients
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I used regular ground nutmeg)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 TBSP) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup peanut butter - chunky or smooth (NOT natural; I used Peter Pan creamy)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (I used semisweet chocolate chips)
Directions
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. 

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips. If you have the time, cover and chill the dough for about 2 hours or up to 1 day.

If the dough is not chilled, drop rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets.  If the dough is chilled, scoop up rounded tablespoons, roll the balls between the palms of your hands and place them 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press the chilled balls gently with the heel of your hand until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be golden and just firm around the edges. Lift the cookies onto cooling racks with a wide metal spatula. They will firm as they cool.

Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Yield: About 60 cookies (I halved the recipe and got about 25 cookies using a medium cookie scoop)

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, page 73

Friday, June 15, 2012

Easy peach cobbler


I was excited to participate in Sarah's Blogger's Choice Swap again this month and got assigned Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations. Mary Ellen has a ton of great recipes for family meals and focuses on savory dishes. When I run out of ideas for dinners, I'll head over to her blog to see what ideas I can borrow.

For this month's recipe, I wanted to make something that I don't normally bake at home. I've already done cookies, cakes, pies, muffins and bars - all the typical things you'd think of when it comes to baking. One thing I haven't tried yet is cobbler.

I have had cobbler a few times in restaurants and at potlucks or parties, but I've never attempted a cobbler on my own. Mary Ellen's version looked simple enough so I decided to choose this for my baking challenge. Because we normally have an abundance of desserts at my house, I chose to halve the recipe (changes not reflected below). I wanted to get a taste of the cobbler but not have a ton left over.

Although I halved the recipe below, I forgot to adjust my baking times. Oops! As you can see, the cobbler got dark brown on top, but it did provide a nice crunchy texture! I still enjoyed this recipe and would make it again - perhaps with other types of fruits next time for some variation. I did find the cobbler to be slightly sweet for my tastes, but it was probably because the peaches I used were already ripe. I'd cut down on the sugar a bit for ripe peaches but would keep the measurements the same for unripened fruit.

Thanks for this recipe, Mary Ellen!

Ingredients
For the peaches:
  • 8 peaches, pitted and sliced (the original recipe notes that the peaches should be peeled, but I got lazy and didn't)
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (I omitted)
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
For the crust:
  • 1 c flour
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 c boiling water
  • 3 tbsp white sugar mixed with 1 tsp ground cinnamon (I used Penzey's cinnamon sugar)
Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the peaches. Toss to coat, then pour into a baking dish. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine some of the ingredients for the crust: flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Finally, stir in the water until just combined.
Remove the peaches from the oven and drop spoonfulls of the crust mixture over the top. Sprinkle the entire cobbler with the sugar/cinnamon mixture and bake for 30 minutes until bubbly.

Yield: 4 servings (according to Allrecipes.com). My halved recipe could easily serve 4-6 people, so I don't know what types of portion sizes Allrecipes was using!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Homemade blueberry muffin Lärabars

Contest update: Original winner Jennifer did not claim her prize and did not leave a valid email address, so an alternate winner was chosen: Stacey!  Stacey said, "For one month, limit your TV/movie watching to only the time you spend exercising. For example, you exercise 30 minutes a day, three times a week--you get 1 1/2 hours of TV/movie veg time a week. That will get some people moving!Stacey, please contact me to claim your crockpot!

Lärabars are one of those things that I like to snack on, but I'll only buy if they're either on sale or if I have a coupon (which is very rare). They so tasty and good for you, but they are expensive.  I saw use real butter's recipe for homemade Lärabars appear on my Google Reader one day and immediately bookmarked them. I hadn't gotten around to making them until recently because our supply of homemade cereal bars had been plentiful until now.

I didn't realize that Lärabars only contained a few ingredients - including dates. Huh? After I read this recipe, it totally made sense because Lärabars are always so juicy, and it was from the dates! I should have known.

During our regular weekend errand run, I bought all the ingredients I needed to make these bars.  The hardest part about this recipe was cleaning up my blender, and it wasn't even that difficult!  These are even easier than the homemade cereal bars because you don't need to wait 2 hours for the bars to bind together.

I absolutely love these bars and don't think I'm going to buy the real version for a long, long time. I'm excited to try different variations using other dried fruits - I'm thinking of flavors like mango, apple, and fig.

If you want to save money on Lärabars or other pre-packaged bars, give these a try!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried blueberries (I found mine at Trader Joe's)
  • 1 cup dates, pitted (use Medjools over Deglets – they bind better; see note below)
  • 2 cups cashews (try to find either no salt or low sodium - you don't want your bars to be too salty! I bought a pack of low sodium cashews from Trader Joe's.)
  • 1 lemon, grated zest of
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds of
Directions
Chop the blueberries in a food processor (I used a blender since I don't own a food processor). If you whirl them around for a bit and nothing seems to change, stop the processor and examine one of the berries – if it is cut up in several places, it should be ready and will combine easily when mixed. Place the blueberries in a large mixing bowl. Mine never got chopped up, but the bars turned out great.

Chop the dates in the food processor or blender until gooey and scrape those into the mixing bowl with the blueberries.

Chop the cashews in the food processor or blender until they resemble coarse crumbs. Empty the cashews into the mixing bowl. Add the grated lemon zest and the vanilla bean seeds to the fruits and nuts.

Mix or knead thoroughly by hand and press into an 8 or 9-inch baking pan to about 1/2-inch thickness.  Once I kneaded the mixture, the blueberries started becoming mushed, but it turned the bars into a beautiful blue hue!

Refrigerate for 30 minutes then turn the square out onto a cutting board. Slice to desired size and shape.

Note: I was so excited about these bars that I made a second batch. I bought a can of pitted dates from Target (I don't remember the brand), but that batch turned out horrendously because the dates were too hard. Make sure that the dates you purchase are plump, juicy and soft. The second batch of dates broke my blender! The first batch of dates was Dole brand's resealable package from Kroger. The first batch of bars turned out wonderfully.

Yield: Makes 10, 1.7 x 4.25-inch bars.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dorie Greenspan's financiers

I am still stoked about scoring such an awesome deal on two of Dorie Greenspan's most popular books. There is always a new recipe to try and not enough time to do it! I recently made her chocolate éclairs and profiteroles and had 6 egg whites left over from the pastry cream. I remembered reading on David Lebovitz's blog that I could use the leftover egg whites to make financiers.

Instead of checking out the recipe that David had on his website, I decided to trust Dorie this time. I read over the instructions and saw that the batter needed to sit in the refrigerator at least overnight (and up to 3 days). Perfect! I had some time one evening but wouldn't get around to baking this until 2 days later. This batter was very easy to prepare, and once my oven was preheated, I simply popped them in the oven and let them bake. Easy peasy!

I've never had a financier before, but these mini cakes were slightly crispy on the edges, and the texture was almost muffin-like. The ground almonds gave it a nice nutty taste, and I'm sure these would go well with some type of fresh fruit, jam or preserves. The next time I make these, I may incorporate a fruit component or serve with jam. Regardless, these were quite tasty and got the approval from my husband and coworkers.

Also, I wanted to announce the winner of my contest and giveaway, as chosen by SlimKicker.  The original winner was Jennifer, who said, "My challenge idea would be to do a different exercise everyday, alternating between strength and cardio." Since Jennifer did not claim her prize, the new winner is Stacey, who said: "For one month, limit your TV/movie watching to only the time you spend exercising. For example, you exercise 30 minutes a day, three times a week--you get 1 1/2 hours of TV/movie veg time a week. That will get some people moving! "

Please contact me to claim your prize, Stacey!


Ingredients
  • 12 TBSP (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour (I used Trader Joe's almond meal)
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Directions
Cut the butter into pieces, toss it into a small saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Once the butter boils, keep a close eye on it, as you want it to turn a golden brown but not burn. The brown butter should have a nutty aroma. Once you've gotten your brown butter, pull the pan off the heat and set it aside.

Put the sugar and almond flour in a medium saucepan and stir to mix. Add the egg whites, stir, and place the pan over low heat. Never leaving the pan unattended, stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is slightly white, runny, and hot to the touch. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the all-purpose flour, then gradually blend in the melted butter.

Scrape the batter into a heatproof bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter. Chill the batter for at least 1 hour or overnight (You can keep the batter in the fridge for up to 3 days.).

When you're ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter 12 rectangular financier molds or 18 mini muffin molds, dust with flour and tap out the excess. (I don't own a financier or mini muffin mold, so I used regular muffin/cupcake tins).

Fill each mold almost to the top (since I used cupcake tins, I used a medium cookie scoop and only placed one full scoop into each muffin tin. I ended up with 18 financiers this way.). Bake the financiers for about 13 minutes. The rectangular molds might take a little longer to bake, and the mini muffins might take a little less time. The cakes should be golden, springy to the touch, and easy to pull away from the sides of the pan. Unmold the cakes as soon as you remove the pans from the oven. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and allow them to cool to room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Yield: I got 18 financiers (I used regular muffin tins and placed a single, medium-sized cookie scoop of batter in each)

Source: Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Berry fruit tart

I was so impressed with the pastry cream that I made from the chocolate eclairs and profiteroles that I decided I needed another dessert to showcase this newfound love of mine. I turned to my trusty new copy of Dorie Greenspan's book and saw a recipe for a berry fruit tart. Perfect!

I wanted to make the components separately so I could easily assemble the tart when I wanted. I made a batch of the pastry cream one night (only took about 20 minutes) and then baked the tart, cut up the fruit and assembled the final tart another day.

I didn't have any left over pastry cream because the full pastry cream recipe made just enough to fill the tart shell. This fruit tart was a welcome treat for our Memorial Day weekend. The red and blue berries looked ever-so patriotic, and the dessert seemed refreshing without being too heavy. We had fresh berries from our farmer's market and and were happy to include them in this treat.

I absolutely loved how this tart turned out. The colors were so patriotic, and it definitely made quite a stunning display. My only beef is that the pastry cream got pretty hard after 2 days in the refrigerator. I had to whip it pretty good to get it pliable enough to spread into the tart. Next time I make this, I will use the pastry cream the day of to avoid this problem.

Both my husband and I agreed that this has been one of our favorite desserts to date. I've been whipping up sweets for him for almost 10 years, so this statement is pretty significant!

PS. Don't forget about my contest and giveaway! You have until 12pm ET on Friday, June 8th to enter. The winner will receive a Hamilton Beach 6 quart slow cooker!  Be sure to leave me a valid email address so I can contact you if you win!

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups pastry cream, cooled or chilled
  • 1 9-inch tart shell made with sweet tart dough (recipe follows), fully baked and cooled
  • 2 pints fresh, perfectly ripe berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or an assortment)
  • 1/3 cup red currant jelly mixed with 1 teaspoon water, for glazing (I used peach jelly)
Directions

Whisk the pastry cream until it’s smooth. Spoon enough of the pastry cream into the tart to come almost to the rim, and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula.

Lay the berries on the cream however you like. (If you are using strawberries, halve them vertically or cut them into slices.)

Bring the jelly and water to a boil in the microwave or on the stovetop. Using a pastry brush, dab each berry with jelly, or glaze the entire surface of the tart, including the pastry cream showing through the berries.

This tart should be eaten as soon as possible after you assemble it. If you must store it for a few hours, keep it in the refrigerator, far away from any foods with strong odors.


Sweet Tart Dough Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk

Sweet Tart Dough Directions
Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse to combine.

Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients, and pulse until the butter is the size of peas and flakes of oatmeal. A trick I've learned is that you can grate cold butter on a cheese grater instead of cubing the butter. I don't own a food processor, so I used a combination of my blender and a hand-held pastry cutter.

Stir the egg, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition.

When the egg is in, process in 10-second pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds. (Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine will change.)

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly, knead the dough just to incorporate any loose dry ingredients.

To Press the Dough Into the Pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (I used a Le Creuset tart pan without a removable bottom, and it turned out beautifully). Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes.

To Fully Bake the Crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side-down, tightly against the crust.

Put the tart pan on a baking sheet, and bake the crust for 25 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil. If the crust is puffy, use the back of a spoon to gently press it down.

Bake for another 8 minutes or so, until the crust is golden brown.

Transfer the crust to a wire rack (still in the pan), and let it cool to room temperature before filling.

You can wrap the unbaked crust inside the tart pan and freeze it for up to 2 months. To bake it directly from the freezer, add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

Yield:  One 9-inch tart

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Green tea (matcha) white chocolate chip blondies

My family and I have been drinking tea for as long as I can remember. As a small child, I learned how to soak tea leaves and properly serve tea to my elders. It wasn't until fairly recently that I heard of matcha, or green tea powder. I saw matcha popping up on food blogs everywhere, and it really piqued my interest.  From ice cream to macarons, green tea powder was taking over.

During a regular trip to the Asian grocery store, I looked through all the shelves in the tea aisle and finally found what I was looking for. I bought a pack of the matcha powder and thought long and hard about what I should make first.

Since I didn't have some of the key ingredients for ice cream or mochi, I settled on making green tea white chocolate chip blondies. I already had everything I needed in my pantry.  I found the perfect recipe from Bake Something and was eager to make these.

Like regular blondies, the batter came together very easily.  I was initially concerned about the super deep green color of the final mixture but it turned out fine - don't they look beautiful? One thing that I carefully read over in the comments on Bake Something's website was the amount of sugar I needed to add. The original recipe called for sweetened matcha powder, but the product I bought was unsweetened. I followed another reader's guidance and used 1/4 cup of matcha powder and 1/2 cup of sugar.

These green tea blondies are fabulous! They still taste like a white chocolate blondie except that there is a subtle green tea background. I was glad that the green tea wasn't too strong and that the color wasn't too green. My husband had a hard time deciding if he liked these better than regular blondies. I don't want to make him pick, so I'll just have to add both recipes into our regular dessert rotation.

PS. Don't forget about my contest and giveaway! You have until 12pm ET on Friday, June 8th to enter. The winner will receive a Hamilton Beach 6 quart slow cooker!  Be sure to leave me a valid email address so I can contact you if you win!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup flour 
  • 1/4 sweet matcha powder (I had unsweetened matcha powder and used 1/4 cup of it plus 1/2 cup of sugar)
  • 6 oz white chocolate (I used white chocolate chips)
  • 6 TBSP butter  
  • 2 eggs  
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla  
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract  
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted (I omitted)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat oven at 350. Grease and flour an 8x8 baking pan. (I used a silicone square pan and lightly buttered it.)

In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the butter and white chocolate and heat at thirty second intervals until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.

Stir in eggs and matcha powder, sugar (if using) until combined, then add flour, vanilla, and almond extract just until incorporated. Lastly stir in almonds (I did not use) and white chocolate chips. 

Pour into prepared pan and spread into even layer. Bake about 20 - 25 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut and enjoy.

Yield: About 16 blondies (depending on how big you cut them)

Friday, June 1, 2012

My first contest and a giveaway!

This contest and giveaway is now closed.

One of the top questions that my husband and I get is, "How on earth do you not weigh 300 pounds?" Our friends and coworkers all know how much I love to bake, yet we both seem pretty fit (of course, I could probably still lose another 10 pounds!). The answer, quite simply, is diet and exercise.

My husband has been swimming since he was about 6 months old and swam competitively in middle school and high school. He is a member of US Masters Swimming and goes to the pool at least twice a week.

I, as many of you know, figure skate. I'm at the rink at least 3 times as week and usually skate for 45-60 minutes at a time. Although the rink is usually cold, I can work up a really good sweat when I'm practicing my jumps, spins and edges.

In middle school, I was one of those people who drank soda just about every day. I didn't maintain a healthy lifestyle in college and definitely gained the dreaded "Freshman 15." It wasn't until many years after college graduation that I started making some life changes. I eliminated soda and only drank water, milk or 100% fruit juice, and I also tried to avoid foods that were high in fat or sodium.

Today, my husband and I have joined a CSA and try to eat more vegetables and fruits. We don't have any soda in the house, and we do our best to cook at home 6 days out of the week. When the weather is nice, we like to take walks around the neighborhood with our daughter.  And that is how we both don't weigh 300 pounds.

My friends at SlimKicker recently contacted me about hosting a contest and giveaway, and I was excited to be a part of this. SlimKicker is a website that helps motivate you to stay healthy by turning your diet and fitness goals into a game with points, challenges and rewards. They also offer resources such as a food tracker and a calorie tracker app. We did something very similar at work called the Get Fit challenge, and it was a lot of fun (our team came in 13th overall out of 500+ teams!).

To enter this contest and giveaway, leave a comment below with a suggestion on a fun, creative fitness or diet challenge (examples: cut out soda for 4 weeks, take the stairs instead of an elevator, or do 20 sit ups every night for a week). SlimKicker will pick their favorite and give the winner a Hamilton Beach Deluxe 6 quart slow cooker. 



The contest will end on Friday, June 8th at 12pm ET and is open to US residents only. Each person may enter only one time (don't forget to leave an email address where I can contact you). I will contact the winner individually after SlimKicker has chosen the winning idea. I can't wait to hear about your great suggestions for a diet or fitness challenge!

Good luck!

Disclaimer: I am not receiving any compensation, discounts or merchandise for hosting this contest and giveaway. I simply believe in the company's mission to help individuals maintain healthy lifestyles and want to do my part to help our country get fit.

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