Monday, April 27, 2009

Surprise Mixed Berry Tartlet

So Saturday night (can I still say last night if it's really 4 am Monday morning already?) was my first outage night off. Jay has been super awesometastic making me lunches with huge amounts of good foods and snacks, taking care of the kitties, and taking care of the house. He has even dealt very well with my grumpiness the few times I saw him at home while coming or going from my shift. Then he stayed up until after 1 in the morning with me on my night off so he could see me longer. He is totally the best ever! So I wanted to do something nice for him. He had been talking about wanting a tasty fruit dessert in celebration of spring so I decided (at about 5 in the morning) to whip up a little fruity pie, tart, whatever you wanna call it for his breakfast.

I actually had some leftover pie crust in the fridge and some mixed berries in the freezer. I know that fresh berries would have been better in the spirit of spring, but this is what I had. So I rolled the crust and used it to line the bottom and sides of a little white creme brulee dish. I then took a good handful of my frozen berries and stuck them in a small pot to thaw. When I realized that they may overcook in spots from the lack of liquid I poured in a little pomegranate juice just to cover the bottom of the pan. I let this sit on low until the berries were heated through. I added a little bit of flour and mixed it in well to thicken up the juices of the fruit. I let this sit on the stove a little while longer just for extra insurance against the taste of uncooked flour. While this was simmering I mixed up some butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and oats. I cut the butter into the rest of the mix to make a crumby topping. I then put the berries into the pie crust, careful not to overfill it and trying to get more berries in there than juice. I crumbled the topping over the berries, place the dish on a cookie sheet and popped it in a 350 degree oven until the top and crust were brown and the fruit mix was thick and bubbly. Favorite got this served to him in bed with a nice cup of tea!

Favorite was very excited despite also being VERY zonky. He delighted me in my early morning baking by saying that his breakfast was "absolutely delicious" and "extremely satisfying". Win! That was all I needed to fall asleep happy and fulfilled (plus he shared a bite or two with me!).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Honey Cake

So I've officially started working 12 hour night shifts. I will be working nearly 80 hour weeks (all between the hours of 6pm and 8 am) for the next 30 days or so. Needless to say there will not be a whole lot of baking going on. Although I DO have Saturday nights off and since Favorite will still have to go to bed like a normal person, I may end up spending the wee hours of Sunday mornings baking snacks to take to work.

But enough about that! Recently, though I can't seem to remember when, Favorite came home and said "I need dessert!! What can we make?" I was very excited that he wanted to cook with me so I broke out a few recipe books and began making suggestions. For simplicity as well as delicious-looking-ness we chose to bake up a Honey Cake. This was an interesting recipe as it first had you melt the butter and brown sugar over low heat. To this you add the honey. We used an interesting mix of honies we had in the house. Two were very dark "Wald Honig" honeys from the forests of Germany, one was creamed honey from a local bee keeper, and one was a light colored raw honey complete with comb in the jar. Then you mix the liquid (after it has been cooled) into the dry mixture with the beaten eggs. It all came together very easily although I didn't use my Kitchenaid and considering the thickness of the batter I definitely should have.

The mix of high quality honeys made this cake very tasty and the high amount of sugar made for a fabulous little crust on the outside of the cake. It tasted great with a cup of strong black tea. Looked pretty good too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Do-Si-Dos, a Dance with Peanut Butter Cookies

Look at these fabulous peanut butter cookies!!

Did a Girl Scout show up at my door this week?

Was I keeping these in the freezer for a moment of weakness?


I made them in my very own kitchen!

Mmmmm Do-Si-Dos have always been my favorite of the GS cookie selection (I can hear all of you Somoas lovers out there in vehement disgust) and when I found a copy cat recipe for them on the internet I knew I had to try it out. I found a recipe at Baking Bites along with some other GS favorites. The recipe as written makes a crazy huge amount of cookies, so knowing my penchant for eating as many Do-Si-Dos as are set in front of me I cut the recipe down to 1/3. While some comments on the recipe site state these were too salty, too bitter from the leavening, or had filling that was too buttery, I thought they were fantastic!

There ARE a couple caveats to that glowing review however. For one thing, I used unsalted butter. I thought this was the norm in baking, but in case you want to make these with salted butter, don't. I also cooked my cookies a little longer than the recipe states to achieve the crispness I desired, otherwise the cookie ended up a little chewy, very much unlike the GS version. I also added a little more powdered sugar to the filling than is stated although this was more to get a thicker filling than to change the flavor. Since I was cutting things in thirds I wasn't quite sure my filling ingredients were measured accurately so I just added stuff til it looked right. Even though I made mine thicker I still preferred to leave the cookies in the fridge to really set up the middles so they wouldn't goosh when I bit them. Although, to be fair, this is also how I keep my GS cookies.

So! Next time you get a hankering for some cookies from those little green clad darlings and you haven't seen them canvassing the neighborhood in a while, think about producing some out of your own oven. Just make sure you have a nice cold glass of milk to wash them down!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cashew Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies befuddle me. I have made many a shortbread cookie and they almost always get good reviews, but they seem to always leave me doubting the final product. Is it too crisp? Too floury? Did I bake it too long? Is the texture right? One of the reasons I find them so confusing is that you are not supposed to achieve browning, which always leaves me worried to overbake which inevitably leads to me underbaking. Also, there are two general methods by which to make the dough and they seem in direct conflict with one another. The first method, the method I generally use, is to use really cold butter and to cut it in to your flour and sugar until it is like sand. Then you mix it with you hands just enough to get the dough to come together, careful not to manhandle it and get the butter all melty. I believe this is in an effort to produce tiny pockets of butter in the dough in order to yield a crisp light cookie. The other method is to use a mixer or food processor to blend the butter into the dry mix until it all holds together. This seems to me that it would end up overblending the mix and making a tighter, less delicate texture to the cookie. I had never actually tried this method before though so I thought it was time to give it a shot. Behold the Cashew Shortbread Cookie!
The recipe for this cookie came out of a Land O'Lakes cookie book. This is an interesting fact because the thing I liked least about these cookies was the butter and I had used store brand butter. I am seriously beginning to doubt the quality of this store brand butter as anything that relies on the butter to come out well (like my ultra greasy Bocca Di Nonna) comes out greasy and has strange results. For example, the first portion of this recipe called for me to brown the butter for the dough (and also some for a frosting that was never made). I have browned butter before, just recently as a matter of fact when I was at my mom's house making browned butter frosting with Dayna. The strange thing that happened was instead of my butter browning, little FLECKS of my butter browned and almost burnt while it left the rest of the liquid golden and clear. This was when I gave up on the browning and poured off the liquid and threw away the bits. I then had to let the butter sit in the fridge for some hours until it hardened up again to make the dough. I then mixed the resolidified, not browned, butter into the rest of the dough ingredients according to the recipe. This was blended together with finely chopped cashews and then rolled into balls (another thing I've never done with shortbread!) before placing them on the cookie sheet. The cooled cookies were supposed to be frosted, but given Favorite's dislike of frosting, I chose to simply push a cashew half into the top of each cookie while they were still warm and pliable.

All in all these cookies came out alright. The bottoms of the cookies spread a little too much and ended up browning, they were a little greasy, and as I suspected they did not acquire the delicate texture I think a shortbread should have. If I were to make these cookies again I think I would try better butter and go back to my old cutting in the butter technique. As a matter of fact, I may just start buying better butter either way as I am tired of my cookies coming out funny and would like to see if my store brand butter is the culprit.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Green Tea Cake with Adzuki Cream

The cake has been assembled! I finished making my matcha and red bean cake.

The cake part of this cake is a matcha sponge cake that I cooked in a jellyroll pan and then sliced into quarters. The filling is a sweetened whip cream with red bean paste. For those of you unfamiliar with red bean paste, or adzuki paste, it is made with cooked red beans, sugar, a pinch of salt, and a small amount of shortening for texture purposes. The beans are mashed and strained to remove hard bits and pieces of skin, and then it is all mixed together and simmered until thick. It is little labor intensive to make, but if you can't find it at your local store it's better to make it yourself I think than trying to buy it online. Plus then you have the added comfort of knowing the proportions of ingredients in your bean paste and having it be fresh and delicious and not taste like can!

So I made the bean paste early in the day because it takes HOURS to cook the beans. I then made the sponge cake and allowed it to cool. I whipped up the cream, added some sugar (not too much because the bean paste is sweet too) and then mixed in some bean paste until I liked the color. The recipe said 4 tbsp, but I might have put in up to twice that. Just taste it and stop adding when you like the flavor. I slathered the whipped cream mixture between the layers, stacked them up and then coated the whole thing. I put it in the fridge then to allow it all to set up a little. After dinner I made some gunpowder green tea and cut up the cake. I recommend using a bread knife and being delicate about cutting because if you're not you will squish out a lot of the filling and it just won't look very nice. Favorite had been questioning my judgement of mixing red bean paste with the green tea cake, but one bite changed that: "This is insanely delicious!!" So, we drank a whole pot of tea and ate more than half the cake in about 10 minutes.

I had seen this cake before and searched high and low on the internet for a recipe (had I known the filling was just whipped cream and bean paste I could have winged it, but I didn't). A lot of what I found was the green tea cake with chocolate. I didn't want to do that because it seemed to me the chocolate would overwhelm the delicate flavor of the matcha. The only version of this cake I could find was one for a jellyroll, but obviously the change in structure didn't hurt the tastiness of the cake. Here is the recipe for anyone else out there having a hard time locating one:

Matcha Cake with Adzuki Cream


  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • sugar to taste
  • 4 tbsp red bean paste


1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Grease parchment cut to fit jelly roll pan.
3. Beat egg yolks and ¾ cup of the sugar.
4. Add vanilla, water, and match powder at low speed.
5. In separate bowl beat egg whites with a pinch of salt.
6. Beat ¼ cup of sugar into egg whites until firm peaks form.
7. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl.
8. Gradually add dry mix to yolk mixture.
9. Fold half of meringue into yolk mix until smooth.
10. Carefully fold in remaining meringue.
11. Pour batter into jelly roll pan and bake for 8-15 minutes.
12. Turn cake onto wax paper dusted with powdered sugar and peel off backing parchment.
13. Allow cake to cool.
14. Whip cream and add sugar to taste.
15. Add bean paste.
16. Spread whipped mixture onto cooled cake and cut and stack layers until desired size.
17. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Toffee Chip Cookies

So another item that I am blogging post mortem (they are all gone) are some Toffee Chip Cookies. These, like the coffee cookies from the last post, called for refrigeration and slicing (which again I did not do!) but they seemed to work out with the mooshing method better than the coffee cookies. They were sweet and satisfying and a little crisper than typical drop cookie comes out. I made these with my sister Dayna and we ended up frosting some of them, ok, MOST of them, with a browned butter frosting that made them SUPER sweet but irresistible nonetheless. These were going to get a sprinkling of pecans, but they left the cooling rack at about the same rate they went on so the pecans never happened.

Coffee Frosted Coffee Cookies


So things have been crazy again lately and I have once again lapsed in my blogging diligence. I HAVE been baking though, but it has been kind of razed baking, not the kind where you slowly prep everything and take photos and admire the results. I will tell you my tales, though, even if I don't have all of the photographic evidence.

First off were the Coffee Frosted Coffee Cookies. I think in my Ultimate Cookie Book they were actually called coffee sandwich cookies or something, but I neglected a good portion of the recipe which was requisite for the sandwich part. My impatience has caused the end product to suffer once again.The image is terrible, I know. Anyhow, these were pretty simple cookies flavored with instant coffee granules. The cookies themselves were kind of tea cookie like. A little biscuity, but satisfying. The frosting was a cream and powdered sugar base flavored with instant coffee and coffee liquer. It really gave these a punch since none of the alcohol was cooked off. So the reason these cookies did not come out optimally was because it was a last minute throw together and I realized the recipe wanted me to chill the dough for some ridiculous number of hour so I could pat it into a rectangular log and slice off thin square cookies to make my sandwiches with. I, instead, used my cookie scooper and squashed then flat with my fingers. They tasty good, but were not of show quality for sure. Oh well.

I've also recently acquired some matcha powder which I have been trying to get forever. I made a really quick and easy shortbread that came out simply beautiful, though I thought the flavor was a little too delicate and could've stood a tad more matcha powder. They went so quick I did not get a snap of them. Never fear, they were simple and tasty enough that I will definitely make them again.

So this is a super lame post, but stay tuned because I have some adzuki beans boiling on the stove and a matcha genoise cooling on the table. There is a tasty layer cake in my future!