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Entries in Baked Goods (53)

Friday
Jun282013

Apricot Almond & Cherry Almond Muffins

The one problem I've found with my new job is that my route to work passes directly by my favorite bakery in the city, The Wooden Spoon.  If you live in Denver and haven't been in, its a must visit in the Highlands.  It's the only bakery I've found in Denver that rivals Flour in Boston.

But I digress.  The problem with passing The Wooden Spoon twice a day is that it is hard to resist the siren call of freshly-baked muffins, scones, croissant, and cookies.  Who wants to eat a Greek yogurt at their desk for breakfast when they could eat a mixed berry scone instead?  

After one to many visits to The Wooden Spoon, I took matters into my own hands and made muffins at home.  I wasn't looking for the healthiest muffins (if you want healthy and SUPER delicious, make these Carrot Quinoa Muffins), but something that I wouldn't feel guilty eating for breakfast and that tastes great.  This recipe is based on a Flour recipe from this cookbook, but I've made it healthier by substituting 0% Fat Plain Greek Yogurt and buttermilk for whole milk and creme fraiche and decreasing the sugar.  I don't think you sacrifice flavor at all and still have what Joanne Chang declares in her cookbook as "The muffin recipe to end all muffin recipes."  

I went a bit overboard at the farmer's market and had both apricots and cherries that needed to be used, so I made a double-batch of muffins.  You could omit the almonds, but they are a wonderful compliment to stone fruit such as apricots and cherries.  It turns out that this is because amonds and stone fruit are related -- if you crack open the pits of stone fruit, you'll find a soft, small kernel that looks, smells, and tastes like almond! However, don't eat the kernels as they may release a very small amount of cynanide into the body!

Apricot Almond and Cherry Almond Muffins
Adapted from The Flour Bakery cookbook 
Yield = 18-24 muffins 

A few notes.  First, this recipe is easily adaptable.  I made it both with cherries and almonds and you could easily subsitute other fruit.  For example, the original recipe is for a raspberry-rhubarb version (1 cup raspberries, 1 cup rhubarb).  Second, with the Apricot Almond Muffins, I filled the muffin tin as instructed to almost overflowing.  With the Cherry Almond Muffins, I filled each to about 3/4 full.  This yielded about 24 muffins and I liked the slightly smaller size.  However, if you want a big muffin with a huge mushroom-esque top, fill them to the brim!

Ingredients
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cups non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups diced apricots (approximately 5 apricots) OR 1 1/2 cups pitted, chopped cherries

Preparation
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins (if you have 2), coat the non-stick cooking spray, or line with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk until thoroughly mixed.  Slowly whisk in the sugar, butter, buttermilk, Greek yogurt, and almond extract until well combined.  Pour the butter-sugar mixture into the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold gently just until the ingredients are combined.

3. Gently fold in the almonds and the apricots or cherries until evenly distributed.  The batter may seem lumpy, but don't try to smooth it out.  The batter can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

4.  Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups 3/4 full.  This yielded 18 muffins for me.  The original recipe asks you to fill the muffin cups until almost overflowing.  I did this the first time around and it create quite a mess - I thought 3/4 full and getting a few extra muffins was the better way to go. 

Sunday
Apr212013

Pistachio Shortbread

Recently, I've been in a cookie slump.  It started with an attempt to bake some gluten-free cookies that were a crumbly (and odd-tasting) mess.  Next was the homemade Thin Mints during Girl Scout cookie season.  They weren't bad, but they weren't great and they didn't hold a candle to the real thing.  

But yesterday, I perused the newest issue of Bon Appétit and the recipe for Pistachio Shortbread caught my eye.  I've been looking at pistachio ice cream recipes (does anyone have a favorite?) but they all want you to use pistachio paste and while I know I can make it myself, that extra step is really dissuading me from moving forward.  

If you, like me, need a pistachio fix, look no further than these cookies.  A few pulses in your food processor, an hour in the refrigerator to chill, and 15 minutes in the oven and you'll have a delicious cookie.  These have a strong pistachio flavor, aren't too sweet, and are quite pretty with the flecks of green pistachio throughout.

Pistachio Shortbread
Bon Appétit May 2013    

  • 1 cup unsalted, shelled raw pistachios (about 4 1/2 ounces) (be sure the pistachios are unsalted - I buy mine in the bulk section of Whole Foods or Sprouts or online at nuts.com)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
     
  • Preparation
    1.  Pulse pistachios in a food processor until finely ground but not a paste, about 30 seconds. Add flour, sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla; pulse until mixture is the consistency of cornmeal. With machine running, drizzle in 2 tablespoons ice water (a crumbly dough should form; do not over-process).  My dough appeared to still be too dry so I added another 1/2 tablespoon and it was fine -- before you add more water, try to get the dough to clump together because it is probably moister than you think.

    2.  Transfer dough to a sheet of parchment paper and pat into a rectangle. Top with another sheet of parchment and roll out to a 12x8-inch rectangle (the neater the edges of your rectangle, the less likely you are to end up with funky-shaped edge cookies like I did - see photo above). Transfer dough (in parchment paper) to a baking sheet and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

    3.  Place rack in middle of the oven; preheat to 350°. Remove top sheet of parchment paper from dough and discard. Cut dough lengthwise into 8 equal strips, then each strip crosswise into quarters, forming 32 rectangles (I think I probably ended up with about 40 cookies because of my mishapen rectangle). Place rectangles on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart.  Note that the cookies almost double in size during baking.  I ended up baking the cookies in two batches, two trays at a time because I made smaller cookies and spread them out.

    4.  Bake shortbread until golden brown, rotating sheets halfway through, 14-18 minutes (the original recipe said 18-20 minutes, but I checked my first batch at 15 minutes and they were done). Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

    Shortbread can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

    Friday
    Mar012013

    Molly Wizenberg's Cinnamon Rolls

    The month of March really snuck up on me.  February certainly didn't feel short with its chilly, dark days and falling snow, but somehow the month flew by.   We took a much-needed trip to warmer weather for a wedding in Miami and spent a weekend with friends at a remote ski area in southwest Colorado called Wolf Creek.  We cozied up in a rustic cabin called the Lonesome Dove, wore ourselves out on the slopes during the day, and curled up with tea and a movie at night.
    One of my favorite things about getting away for the weekend is that the time is spent together - there are no chores to get in the way or other social engagements to keep.  You can really focus on whatever you are doing, whoever you are seeing, or wherever you are that weekend.  
    On the flip side, we've been away three weekends in a row and the laundry and mail are piled high and I haven't cooked in weeks.  I am looking forward to just being home this weekend. 
    You know what would be perfect for our first weekend morning home in weeks?  Molly Wizenberg's Cinnamon Rolls.  You can't go wrong with cinnamon rolls and these are soft and sticky and the frosting is the perfect complement to the sweet dough and cinnamon sugar filling.  I've been meaning to make these since Molly's recipe appeared in Bon Appétit and now that I know they are easy to make and SO good, I'm kicking myself for having waited so long.  

    Molly Wizenberg's Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting
    Bon Appétit March 2008

    Notes:  Read this recipe through before beginning to allow yourself enough time to make the rolls.  The dough must rise twice so you have to allow appropriate time for that to occur.  I actually made the dough the night before (through step #2 below), let the dough rise in the fridge overnight, and then continued with the recipe in the morning.  Ali also blogged about this recipe and she made the rolls through step #5, refrigerated them overnight, and baked them in the morning.  Either way, just don't plan on starting these at 8 AM and having cinnamon rolls one hour later.

    Ingredients
    Dough:
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • Non-stick vegetable oil spray
    Filling:
    • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    Glaze:
    • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preparation

    For dough:
    1.  Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

    2.  Lightly oil large bowl with non-stick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

    For filling:
    3.  Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.

    4.  Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15x11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

    5.  Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with non-stick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

    6.  Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

    For glaze:
    7.  Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.


    Sunday
    Dec092012

    Profiteroles

    When I first met Rob, I was a law school student who didn't know the first thing about cooking.  I owned one pot.  I have no idea what I ate for dinner most nights (cereal?) and the first meal I cooked for Rob was goat cheese and mushroom quesadillas (this was a major triumph at the time... and I had to purchase a non-stick pan to make them because I didn't have one).  Rob doesn't really like mushrooms.  I was a vegetarian.  

    When we moved to London, the exchange rate was atrocious and eating out all the time was not an option.  The woman who owned our flat lent me a copy of Joy of Cooking and I finally started to learn my way around a kitchen.  Eventually, I got over the fact that Brits don't refrigerate their eggs.  I still remember having some classmates over and successfully making a Flourless Chocolate Cake that people actually seemed to enjoy.

    Back in Boston, I subscribed to Gourmet.  Most of the recipes were way too complicated for me, but when the March 2008 issue arrived I knew I had to make profiteroles.  I can't remember now whether I'd ever had them before, but the image on the cover was irresistible. 

    Have you ever seen such an enticing dessert?  The pastry portion, which is the profiterole, is a pâte à choux or a light pastry dough.  Translated from French, profiterole means "a small profit."  Perhaps someone was being cheeky?  

    Miraculously, the first batch turned out well.  Apparently I made them in my pajamas (see above - Sheepy Time!) and I was so proud that I made Rob take my photo.

    Profiteroles can be finicky.  I've had to start the choux over on numerous occasions.  This is a recipe where you need to measure certain ingredients out ahead of time (I've noted them below).  That said, it isn't complicated and it can all be done a day ahead of time.  The chocolate sauce is out of this world good.  You'll have some leftover and you'll likely spoon it on most anything... or just eat it on its own.  Dangerous... but delicious.

    Notes about making the profiteroles - After you melt the butter and water, the instructions tell you to add the flour at once and to stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the side of the pan.  Be sure to measure out your flour ahead of time.  If you get to this step and the dough doesn't pull away from the sides and form a ball, I'd suggest starting over (see the photo above for my dough "ball").  This has happened to me and the result is that the profiteroles don't rise.  I'd also suggest cracking the eggs into a bowl ahead of time so they are easily added to the batter.  You can still just drop one yolk in at a time (with the surrounding whites), but it will be much easier to do from a bowl.

    The dough will be very sticky.  I've found the easiest way to pipe the dough is in a ziploc.  Even better, there is no clean up.

    Notes about making the chocolate sauce - Measure your cream and chocolate ahead of time and have your salt nearby.  Don't be dissuaded when, after adding the cream, the mixture will caramelize on your whisk or fork (see above where there is a huge chunk attached to my fork).  As the mixture heats up, this will eventually melt.  I've made the chocolate sauce ahead of time and it keeps in a sealed container in the refrigerator for at least a week.  Of course, it is best served immediately.

    Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce
    Gourmet Magazine - March 2008 

    Ingredients

    For profiteroles:
    • 1 quart coffee ice cream (or vanilla or really any flavor you like)
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 3/4 cup water
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 large eggs
    For chocolate sauce:
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 7 ounce fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Equipment:
    • Equipment: a small (about 1 1/2-inch) ice cream scoop; a ziploc bag (trim one corner once the dough is in the bag and squeeze the dough from that corner)or a large pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch plain tip 

    Preparation:

    Chill a small metal baking pan in freezer. Form 18 ice cream balls with scoop and freeze in chilled pan at least 1 hour (this will make serving faster) (I've never done this step but if you are serving this to a group or at a dinner, I am sure this is advisable).

    Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Measure out flour and set aside.  Bring butter, water, and salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until butter is melted.  Reduce heat to medium, then add flour all at once and cook, beating with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from side of pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds.  Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.

    Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each addition.

    Transfer warm mixture to pastry bag and pipe 18 mounds (about 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 inch high) 1 inch apart on baking sheet.  Try to avoid having pointy peaks as they will be more likely to burn (just press them down gently with your finger).

    Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes total.  Prick each profiterole once with a skewer, then return to oven to dry, propping oven door slightly ajar, 3 minutes.  Cool on sheet on a rack.

    Make chocolate sauce:
    Heat sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling pan occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.

    Remove from heat, then add cream and a pinch of salt (mixture will bubble and steam).  Return to heat and cook, stirring, until caramel has dissolved.

    Remove from heat and add chocolate, whisking until melted, then whisk in vanilla.  Keep warm, covered.

    Serve profiteroles:
    Halve profiteroles horizontally, then fill each with a ball of ice cream.  Put 3 profiteroles on each plate and drizzle generously with warm chocolate sauce.

    Notes:  Ice cream balls can be frozen up to 1 day (cover with plastic wrap after 1 hour).  Profiteroles can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.  Recrisp on a baking sheet in a 375°F oven 5 minutes.  Cool before filling.

     

    Tuesday
    Sep042012

    Palisades Peach Pie

    I know my recent cooking posts have all been about peaches (and I promise this will be the last).  First it was our own peaches, which we enjoyed grilled with ricotta, sliced in our morning cereal or yogurt, and in a Raspberry Peach buckle

    Now it is the massive box of peaches I purchased at a roadside stand on my way home from Waterton Canyon last weekend.  I'll blame the long trail run and dehydration for my desire to purchase pounds and pounds of the fruit.  I ate three peaches before I even got home. 

    Palisades is a town nestled along the Colorado River on the western slope of Colorado that is known for its peaches.  Random aside - we drove all the way to Palisades for a soccer game in high school and I swear their team name was the Peaches... the school website says they are the Bulldogs, but maybe they realized a few years ago that a peach is not very intimidating?!  Anyway - the peaches from the western slope are famous throughout the state (there is even a Peach Festival that I hope to attend next summer) and I look forward to their arrival at the farmer's market each year.

    It seemed to me that the obvious peach dessert I had yet to make was a pie.  Because peaches are easily overwhelmed by other flavors, I stuck to using only peaches.  I've made a Peach Blueberry Crumble that was absolutely delicious - but it might as well have been a Blueberry Crumble.  The same was true of the Raspberry Peach Buckle.  It was awesome and we gobbled it up, but the raspberries dominated the peaches.  These peaches are fragrant and juicy and taste of summer... they don't need to be masked by anything else!

    Palisades Peach Pie
    Crust Recipe from Cook's Illustrated 
    Filling adapted from the Farmer's Market Desserts Cookbook 

    Crust Ingredients

    • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon table salt
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
    • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
    • 1/4 cup cold vodka
    • 1/4 cup cold water

    Filling Ingredients

    • 3 pounds ripe but not squishy peaches (about 12 medium peaches), halved, pitted and sliced
    • 1 lemon
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch (or quick-cooking tapioca if you prefer)

    Make the crust:
    1.  Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).  Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade.  Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses.  Empty mixture into medium bowl.

    2.  Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture.  With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.  Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.  Let dough soften at room temperature prior to rolling.

    Make the filling:
    1.  Remove the disks of dough from the refrigerator.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place the oven rack in the middle.

    2. To make the filling, put about half of the peach slices into a heavy saucepan and the other half in a large bowl.  Grate 1/2 teaspoon zest from the lemon and add to the peaches in the pan, along with the granulated sugar, salt, and cornstarch.  Place the pan over medium heat and stir gently until the sugar, salt, and cornstarch are completely dissolved and the peaches begin to give off a little juice, about 2 minutes.  When the juices just begin to bubble and thicken, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the contents to the bowl holding the remaining peach slices.  Halves the lemon, squeeze 2 teaspoons juice from it, and add to the peaches.  Toss to coat evenly.  Set aside to cool while you roll out the pastry.

    3.  Roll out one disk of dough into a 12-inch circle.  Flip the dough into a pie dish, fitting it gently into the pan without stretching or pressing the dough.  Trim the edges to leave a 1/2 inch overhang.  Refrigerate while you roll out the top crust.

    4.  Roll the remaining dish into a 10-inch circle.  Distribute the peaches evenly on the bottom crust.  Cover the peaches with the top crust as you see fit - crimp the edges, use cut-out shapes (pictured in this post), or make a lattice crust.  If you leave the crust as a solid sheet of dough, be sure to take a paring knife and cut a few decorative vents near the center of the top crust.  If you'd like, brush the top crust with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

    5.  Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet (very important - mine bubbled over considerably) and transfer to the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake until the crust is a rich, golden brown, about 50 additional minutes.  Let the pie cool on a wire rack for at least an hour prior to serving (if you can wait!).

    6.  Refrigerate leftover pie, tightly covered, and reheat the pie at 350 degrees.