Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nibby Buckweat Butter Cookies

This is my first time using cacao nibs. They have the texture of crushed coffee beans, and the aroma of dark-dark chocolate, but they taste smoother, like tiny crunches of unsweetened chocolate, but without the sugar and vanilla flavours that we typically associate with a chocolate bar.
These cookies come together quickly, and can be bake as needed since they are essentially a slice and bake cookie. The buckwheat flour lends a toasty flavour to the cookies that really accentuates the lightly browned crispy outer edges especially when these are right out of the oven. the buckwheat cookie base is flavoured simply with vanilla but the tiny bits of cacao nibs dispersed throughout them add bitter spots of dark cocoa favour making these a sophistacated cookie wth a familiar yet alluring blend of flavours. Buckwheat nibby cookies make an elegant nibble but still provide a satisfying cookie experience. They are the perfect kind of cookie to nibble on with an afternoon coffee or after dinner with a cappuccino.

Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies
makes approx 4 dozen cookies
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cacao nibs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Whisk the all-purpose and buckwheat flours together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and salt for about 1 minute, until smooth and creamy but not fluffy. Mix in the nibs and vanilla. Add the flours and mix just until incorporated. Scrape the dough into a mass and, if necessary, knead it with your hands a few times, just until smooth.
  3. Form the dough into a 12x2 inch log. Wrap and refrigerate for at lest 2 hours or preferably, overnight.
  4. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough logs into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the cookies at least 1-1/2-inches apart on the baking sheets.
  6. Bake until the cookies are just beginning to colour at the edges, 12-14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies in the pans on the racks. Let cool completely. the cookies are delicious fresh but even better the next day. They can be stored in an airtight container at least one month.
adapted from:
Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blueberry Lime Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Based on the success of my last cream cheese pound cake, I strengthened my resolve to make this one, a blueberry lime cake that I've had bookmarked forever. The cake is quite similar to the earlier one except that it is perfumed with delicate, floral lime zest and bursting with teeny blueberries.
The batter is thick and sturdy the way pound cake batter should be. You can see the baking powder in action almost as soon as the batter mixes. It bakes up easily in an hour, and after it cools, if you can wait that long, it gets drizzled with a simple lime glaze that roll down the cake in a zigzag pattern, gussying up cake that otherwise slightly resembles a giant blueberry doughnut. This is the kind of comforting rainy day cake that reminds you that just because it's November doesn't mean you can't eat likes it's still summer, which by the way, I'm sure it still is summer somewhere in the world.

Blueberry Lime Cream Cheese Pound Cake
makes 1 12-inch bundt cake
serves between 12 and 16th

for the cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest
  • 8-oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2-1/2 cups room-temperature blueberries, washed and drained on paper towels
for the glaze:
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice, or more if needed

  1. Position a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 12 cup bundt pan.
  2. Make the cake: sift the flour, baking powder, salt, into a medium bowl. stir the sugar with the lime zest until zest is evenly dispersed and perfumes the sugar.
  3. With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth, about 1 minute. add the lime sugar mixture an beat on medium until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. With the mixer sill running, add the whole eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. beat in the egg yolk. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Stop the mixer one last time to scrape the bowl and then beat at medium speed until the batter is smooth and light, about20 seconds. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan,spreading it evenly with the spatula. Run a knife through the batter or tap the pan lightly to eliminate any air pockets. bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, 50-55 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto the rack, remove the pan and let cool completely.
  5. To glaze the cake: In a spouted measuring cup, whisk the icing sugar with the lime juice until smooth. the glaze should be thin enough to pour. If not, add more lime juice, 1 teaspoon at a time. Put a baking sheet under the rack to catch drips and drizzle the glaze over tops and sides of the cake. Let the glaze set fully before transferring to a cake plate and serving.
adapted from: Fine Cooking magazine

Monday, September 26, 2011

Maple Rosemary Walnuts

This is a savoury cocktail snack that is secretly so easy and so addictive it ought to be illegal. Whole walnuts caramelized in a dry pan with maple syrup, a few finely chopped sprigs of rosemary, some flaky salt caramelize in a dry pan in a about five minutes. Who knew that "tree blood," and some herbs would be so delicious? The walnuts taste woodsy, sweet, bitter and salty, and a little bit like Thanksgiving stuffing. Obviously you could skip the rosemary, but then you'd just have Maple Walnuts, which doesn't have quite the same ring.
This recipe is the time to use that fancy flaky sea-salt, it adds the right amount of salty addictiveness without dissolving, so you only need a liberal sprinkle once the walnuts come out of the pan. Spread them on a baking sheet and once they cool, you have a sweet savoury snack- food, that takes the edge of pre-dinner hunger pangs, adds bite to salads and tames the effects of D.I.Y. cocktail party drinks. That is if you can keep them around long enough.

Rosemary Walnuts

2 cups walnut halves
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
pinch of kosher salt

In a small bowl, stir together maple syrup, rosemary, and a pinch of salt. Heat a dry skillet (I used nonstick) over medium-high heat. Add walnuts to the hot skillet and pour in maple syrup mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until maple syrup has caramelized, about 3 minutes (it will coat the walnuts and the pan will look almost dry). Spread walnuts out on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a bit more salt if desired. Let cool.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wild Blueberry Creme Fraiche Tart

It's wild blueberry season again! Wild blueberries a.k.a. my favourite thing about late summer (yes I do realize it is september! Summer's not over 'til the leaves change colour!) are teeny tiny blueberries that are tarter and cuter than their cultivated cousins.
This season, I decided to bake something less rustic, and more elegant. Enter the Wild Blueberry CremeFraiche Tart, a recipe I had been saving until I could get my hands on my favourite forest fruits. This tart is made of a simple filling of blueberries, sugar, flour and lemon zest nestled in a simple roll-out tart dough, huddling under a rich blanket of tangy smooth creme fraiche.

This is one of the easiest and most successful tart doughs I've ever used. It comes together quickly, and rolls without much cracking, to a thin layer that fits almost perfectly in the pan. The only problem is that weighting is really essential as the dough did shrink more than I would have liked. That said, it was soft,tender and golden brown even after stay of about 40 minutes total in the oven.
The wild blueberry filling is tart and satisfying. It holds it's shape when you cut into the tart, and the tiny berries burst in your mouth like fruity caviar. I added about a tablespoon of lemon zest to the original recipe and it was just the perfect amount to keep the blueberries tart but to emphasize their inherent blueberry-ness.

The creme fraiche topping gets added much like one would add a sour cream layer on a cheesecake, and in fact sour cream would probably make an excellent substitute if creme fraiche is not viable. The creme fraiche layers gets baked last after the blueberry layer has been in the oven for 20 minutes, and it is baked until it starts to bubble and brown in spots as the juicy blueberries burst through the creme layer in purple spots. The broiled creme fraiche topping really added a layer of creaminess to counterpoint the zesty blueberry filling, and give another texture to this dessert.
Another thing to note , is that this tart is best eaten the day it is made (if it lasts that long!), as after a few days in the fridge, the creme fraiche absorbed some of the juices from the blueberries and turned a vibrant shade of magenta, delicious magenta.

Wild Blueberry Creme Fraiche Tart
makes one 8 inch tart, about 8 servings.

Tart pastry:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 cups wild blueberries
  • 3/4 cup creme fraiche
  1. To make pastry: Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter until coarse crumbs, using a pastry blender or your fingers. Beat together egg yolk, lemon juice, and water. Sprinkle enough lemon mixture into flour base to bring dough together. knead into ball. wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Roll to fill an 8-inch loose bottom tart pan. press into pan, trim excess and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Place a sheet of foil or parchment on pastry and fill with rice or dried beans to weigh the pastry down. Bake for 15 minutes. remove foil and bake 5 minutes longer.
  5. To make filling: Combine flour, sugar and lemon rind. Mix with blueberries. place in tart pastry and bake for 20 minutes. Spread creme fraiche over blueberries and bake for another 30 minutes or until creme fraiche has bubbled and is slightly browned in places.
Adapted from: LCBO Food and Drink Magazine Summer 2005

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Peach and Raspberry Cornmeal Cobbler

A friend recently brought me a carton of Ontario peaches, and a quick perusal of the interwebs told me that my gifted peaches wanted to share the limelight with some raspberries in this sunny cobbler.
Fruit desserts, like this one are perfect for summer when you want something quick and easy to use up seasonal produce. You can toss together the fruit with some sugar, starch and lemon juice, top with a quick and easy biscuit recipe and you've cobbled together (if you will) a bubbling pan of comfort food-y goodness without much effort but for a lot of payoff.
This recipe is best eaten fresh out of the oven with some vanilla ice cream or yogurt, so that the biscuit topping doesn't lose its magic when it is stored for a few days. That's not to say you can't reheat it, but there is nothing like a warm peach cobbler and the anticipation leading up to it, when it's fresh from the oven. Trust me on this, I speak no lies.

Cornmeal biscuits are everything that is good and wonderful about both biscuits and cornbread. The recipe results in a faintly sweet, lemon scented biscuit that is crispy on top, but so tender it's almost cake-like on the inside. Breaking into the biscuit-layer the crackly yellow topping parts to reveal a saucy peach -raspberry filling. Peaches and raspberries complement each other so well, its a classic pairing, like a peach melba kinda thing. The baked fruit turns pink and orange the colours blending together like a sunset under yellow cornmeal clouds.

Peach and Raspberry Cornmeal Cobbler

makes 8 servings

  • 7 cups firm ripe peaches, pitted and peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juiceC
Cornmeal Topping
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 2/3 cup milk
  1. In a large bowl toss together peaches, raspberries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice: scrape into 8-inch square baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, soda and salt. Using pastry blender cut in butter until crumbly. Drizzle with milk stirring t form a soft sticky dough. Drop topping by tablespoon onto peach mixture.
  3. bake in 375 degree F oven until bubbly and biscuits are golden and no longer doughy underneath when lifted, about 50minutes to 1 hour.
adapted from: Canadian Living August 2009

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cherry Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake

This is officially my consummate pound cake. All the other pound cakes I've made pale in comparison. I shall write sonnets about this cake. This will be my afternoon tea-casual brunch- last minute dinner-party-everyday-cake. Everyone needs a cake like this in their arsenal.
Fact: Cream cheese makes everything delicious and this cake is no exception to this rule of life. The cream cheese in this recipe contributes a fine, even crumbed texture and a moist interior as well as a subtly tangy flavour that balances what would otherwise be all sweetness and no bite.
the almond extract contributes a subtle, well-rounded flavour that complements the inherent nuttiness of the cream cheese and underscores the sweetness of the dried cherries. You could leave the cherries out if you wanted....this is The Consummate Pound Cake and it doesn't rely on gimmicks, but hey, why not gild the lily with plump dried cherries that add chewy spots of brightness to a delectable cake. Add a dusting of powdered sugar, and you are ready for any occasion that requires an afternoon tea-casual brunch- last minute dinner-party-everyday-cake.

Cherry Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake

makes one 10-inch Bundt cake
  • 1/4 cup-1/2 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped, if desired
  • 3 cups all-purpose or cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  1. If desired plump cherries in 2 tablespoons kirsch or hot water for 20 minutes. (I skipped this step as my dried cherries were pretty soft already.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to blend and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat at medium speed until well blended and light, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the flour mixture at low speed, mixing just until blended. add the cherries (and any remaining liquid), and mix until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. bake the cake for 55-65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.
  6. Unmold the cake onto the rack and let cool completely.
  7. Dust the cake lightly with confectioners sugar right before serving.
  8. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Adapted from: The Cake Book By Tish Boyle

Monday, September 12, 2011

Black Forest Cookies

This cookie recipe has made it up onto my top 20 list of favourite cookies, the recipe comes from a New York City bakery, called Baked, which I have only ever visited in my dreams and in my kitchen thanks to their cookbook.
This recipe was inspired by the classic flavours and kitsch appeal of traditional black forest torte, a ubiquitous cake in old-school European bakeries. True to form, this cookie has all the appeal of the best possible version of a black forest torte, in a convenient bite-sized package.
This cookie dough is more cake batter than cookie dough, with very little flour, a base made by beating eggs to the ribbon stage, and a whopping 16 ounces(!) of deep dark chocolate melted into the batter. Once you mix the batter, it is very loose and liquidy, it looks more like it should make a cake than cookies, but a chill in the fridge firms the dough up, into a dense fudge-like cookie dough. It took Herculean effort not to eat vast quantities of raw cookie dough. Don't even get me started on the substantial amount of the dried cherries, and white and dark chocolate chips distributed throghout the batter. These cookies are rich and decadent to say the least, and that is exactly what I want to see in a chocolate-chocolate cookie.
The recipe says you can make 24 tablespoon-sized cookies,but I made at least 40 teaspoon sized cookies and the batter is so rich you wouldn't really want anything bigger anyways.
The baked cookies are dark, with crackly pebbly tops from the chips , and soft fudgy centres. The white chocolate chips create pockets of vanilla creaminess while the dried cherries almost disappear in the darkness of the cookie, only to resurface as sweet tangy counterpoint to the overall chocolate cacophony.
If you have periodic, chocolate cravings, these are the cookies to satisfy you.

Black Forest Cookies

makes 24-40 cookies(I made really teeny cookies, I got a lot out of the batter)
time: 1 hour mixing, overnight refrigeration, 20 minutes baking time total

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 salt
  • 16 ounces dark chocolate(60-70% percent cacao- I used a mix of bittersweet, unsweetened and semisweet), coarsley chopped
  • 10 tablespoons, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • I cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, and sat together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large non-reactive metal owl, combine the dark chocolate and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on high speed until the mixture is pale and thick, about 5 minutes(the batter will get to ribbon stage.)
  4. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and the vanilla and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and beat again for 10 seconds.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined, about 10 seconds. Do not over mix.
  6. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and dried cherries. The dough will look very loose, but it will harden in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper.
  8. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart, bake for 10-12 minutes, the time may be more or less than this depending on your oven, until the tops of the cookies are set and begin to show a few cracks. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before removing from the baking sheets. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Adapted from: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito