Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rose's Alpha Bakers: Almond Coffee Crisps

The latest in my whirlwind baking adventure with my fellow Rose's Alpha Bakers is Almond Coffee Crisps from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Baking Bible. The cookies are buttery and flaky; and because they are made without eggs, they are very delicate and melt in your mouth.

crispy with a hint of coffee flavor

Rose described these light and crumbly cookies as "crisp, fragile, ethereal" and they really are. I'd advise making these when you're going to serve and eat them all because they are very delicate (I broke two just lifting them from the baking might think I did this on purpose so I could eat them, but that was just a lucky coincidence!). They were also very fast and easy to make, another plus.

These cookies would go wonderfully with coffee or tea...a tea party, perhaps? I'd love to have a little tea party and serve finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, cookies, tiny pastries, and, of course, tea! These delicious cookies would fit in very well on my tea party sideboard!

mise en place for the cookies - so simple!

I was a little skeptical that the tiny bit of ingredients above would make 36 cookies...but, of course, they did (note to self: never doubt Rose!). The cookies spread quite a bit when baking, so what starts off as little cookies rounds when raw bakes up to nice 3" cookies when baked.

I decided to skip the final step of dusting each cookie with more espresso power. I wasn't sure if that would be coffee-overkill, or just make a mess. Either way, I'm glad I skipped it. There is still a hint of coffee flavor, but it's not overpowering. Overall? Yum! 

I processed the toasted almonds with a few tbsp of the flour mixture until finely ground
and then added the rest of the flour mixture and processed again

the result is similar to almond flour

the sugar and butter are creamed until smooth

then the flour is mixed in...

...and pulsed until the dough comes together

the finished dough is kneaded a few times to make sure all of the butter
is completely mixed in. The dough is extremely easy to make and work with.

tiny little balls of dough are measured out - 10g small!

all of my balls of cookie dough

a dozen balls of dough placed on the cookie sheet...

...and then pressed into flat rounds

they spread quite a bit when baked, into thin, crisp cookies

and done! A delicious plate of almond coffee crisps

time to make a pot of coffee and enjoy a cookie

Bye for now...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rose's Alpha Bakers: The Ischler

It's week three with Rose's Alpha Bakers and up this week is The Ischler. The Ischler is a light, flaky, almond cookie, traditionally made with a layer of both apricot lekvar and a thick chocolate ganache as the filling. I was in a time crunch this weekend (end of the semester paper time!) so I opted to just make the chocolate ganache filling. Next time I will make the apricot lekvar because the recipe looked delicious!

I think I'll call my cookie The Modified Ischler.

Yummalicious! A light nutty flavor, a very tender cookie, and chocolate. A win-win.

Rolled cookies are generally not my favorite to make...rolling...waiting...rolling...waiting. I'm too impatient! However, these cookies were pretty easy to make and I had them done in about 4 hours on Sunday morning.

The cookie itself tastes very similar to my all-time favorite Christmas cookies. If you like either making or just looking at pictures of gorgeous decorated cookies, I highly recommend the book Cookie Craft: From Baking to Luster Dust, Designs and Techniques for Creative Cookie Occasions.

powdered sugar and almonds are processed until fine

so far, so good, until...

opps...made a mistake and added the egg and vanilla before the butter...
It was early Sunday morning, I guess I was still half asleep!
Instead of trying to mix it, I just tossed in the butter and hoped for the best.
It came out fine in the end :)

flour is added and the dough is pulsed until it is crumbly and comes away from the bowl

I added a bit more flour here (about 2 T). The recipe says that the dough will be sticky, but mine was super sticky because I had a hard time measuring out 1/2 of an egg. Even with my scale, I couldn't get 22 grams perfectly, so I ended up using a bit more egg than was called for. This resulted in my dough being very wet, so I added a bit more flour to get it to form a ball in the above step.

the dough is divided into 4 parts, pressed between plastic wrap and then refrigerated...
I actually just rolled mine nearly all the way to save time later

after 2 hours of chilling, it gets a final roll and then it's ready to cut

a quick bake and they're done! They smell fantastic.

the cooled cookies and ingredients for my chocolate ganache

the chocolate pieces are melted and the hot cream is stirred in...
voila, smooth and silky ganache

so cute! I love the chocolate peeping out...

delicious! Light and flaky with a bit of chocolate.

Bye for now...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rose's Alpha Bakers: English Dried Fruit Cake

Another week of baking with my Rose's Alpha Bakers friends. Up this week: English Dried Fruit Cake. I'm a little late in getting my cake posted, but have been juggling the end of the semester and writing two papers...not to mention working full-time!

I actually made the cake last week and brought it to my office holiday party - it was a big hit (although, I made sure not to label it "fruit cake" so as not to scare anyone off!) so I had the cake and the photos done last week...I just didn't have time to write up my post.

a lovely spice cake with apples, raisins, and pecans
I am not a fan of English fruit cakes, so there was no way I was going to add any glacéed fruit. But, luckily this recipe didn't call for any! The recipe called for any mix of dried fruit that you'd like, in addition to fresh apples, so I kept it simple and just added raisins. So, in reality, my iteration of Rose's English Dried Fruit Cake was more of a spice cake with apples, raisins, and pecans (and rum).

The cake itself was very moist, even 3 days later, so I would recommend this cake if you need to bake something in advance. I added the optional rum into the batter itself so it had a nice, little rum background flavor - it was very nice. The cake also make a lot of pieces, so a good cake for a party or a crowd. Next time I would add more spices - definitely nutmeg and probably some ginger as well.


mise en place - a pretty easy cake to make!

butter and sugar get melted down together...

... and then cooked for a few minutes

while the raisins are being "plumped" up in boiling water

the apples and zest are added to the sugar-butter mixture
...I had to try a bite of this, just to be sure...(delicious!)

then the eggs are added one-by-one

the nuts and raisins are tossed in the flour
(next time I would add the raisins directly to the wet mixture because
a lot of flour stuck to the wet raisins even after baking and didn't look good)

not very appetizing-looking batter...

but, ahhh, the finished cakes were much nicer!


...I'd better just try a bite before the party. Yum!

Bye for now...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Birthday/Lasagne Dinner Party: Roasted Portobello, Bacon & Kale Lasagne

I had a dinner party for my birthday a few months back and made two types of lasagne - one with a white sauce and one with a red sauce - Roasted Portobello, Bacon & Kale Lasagne and Two Sausage Lasagne. I wanted something that would be prepped the day before and then baked up without too much effort the day of. It was my birthday, after all, and I didn't want to spend all day cooking. Lasagne is great too because you always get lots of leftovers!

hearty and delicious!

Here is my recipe for Roasted Portobello, Bacon & Kale Lasagne (adapted from this Bon Appetit recipe).

3 T. and 2 T. olive oil
10-12 large portobello mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
8-10 slices of thick cut bacon
4 large shallots, finely chopped
1 large bunch kale
2 t. finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 t. finely chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper

White Sauce:
4 c. whole milk
16 oz. broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 bay leaf
8 T. butter
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. (approx. 8 oz.) shredded Gruyère cheese
1/3 c. shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/8 t. freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

1 pound lasagne noodles, slightly under-cooked as they will finish cooking when you bake the lasagne
1/2 shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (to sprinkle over assembled lasagne)

See below for the step-by-step:

Step 1, making the mushrooms. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cleaned and de-stemmed mushrooms in 3 T. olive oil (drizzle oil over mushroom caps and rub with your hands until the oil coats the mushrooms).

oil drizzled portobello mushroom caps, ready for baking

Place mushroom caps upside-down on two parchment paper covered sheet pans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until tender.

done! These were so fragrant and delicious after baking.
I would definitely make these again and serve sliced or cubed over pasta or a salad
(or just as a meal with some crusty bread). Yum!

Slice each cap into thin strips (approx. 1/4 or 1/3 inch wide) and set aside. A serrated knife works well for this.

slice each cap into thin slices and set aside

Step 2, making the rest of the filling. While the mushrooms are roasting, make the bacon, kale, and shallot filling.

ingredients for the bacon-kale-shallot filling

Cut the bacon slices crosswise into small pieces (approx. 3/4 inch or so). Finely chop the shallots, and both the herbs. Set the herbs aside.

Wash the kale and cut it into a chiffonade (long strips). You can do this easily by laying several kale leaves on top of each other, then roll them into a round (lengthwise) and slice thinly.

leaves are rolled up and cut into thin strips

voila, a chiffonade of kale!

In a medium, heavy-bottomed pan, heat remaining 2 T. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and saute until crisp and browned. Add shallots and herbs. Cook for about 5 minutes, until shallots are tender. Lower heat, if necessary.

cooking down the bacon and shallots; rosemary and thyme are added

Add kale, stir well, cover and cook an additional 5 or so minutes until the kale softens. It doesn't have to be completely cooked as it will continue to cook in the lasagne.

doesn't this look amazing? Bacon, shallots, and kale? I could eat it just like this!

Remove this mixture from heat and set aside.

Step 3, making the sauce. Shred the cheeses and set aside; grate nutmeg and set aside.

ingredients for the white sauce

shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gruyère cheeses

Add milk, broth, and bay leaf to a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat to a simmer. Remove the milk mixture from heat and set aside for 10 minutes, then remove bay leaf and discard.

In a separate large, heavy-bottomed pan or medium pot, create a roux by melting the butter over medium heat. When it begins to get bubbly and foamy, whisk in the flour (lower the temperature, if necessary so the butter doesn't burn). Whisk for about 2 minutes to remove the floury taste.

creating the roux

Whisk in about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture, whisk well (this will help avoid lumps), then add remaining hot milk mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer about 5 minutes, whisking frequently. You don't want the mixture to get too thick because it will continue to thicken after you add the cheeses.

Remove from heat and stir in the two cheeses and the grated nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Set the sauce aside.

the finished sauce

Step 4, boil the lasagne noodles. Cook the noodles as directed by the package, but cook for slightly less time than noted (they will continue to cook when you bake the lasagne). Boil your noodles gently, so they don't get ripped or shredded. Drain and rinse with cool water.

gently boiling my noodles

If not assembling the lasagne immediately, drizzle some olive oil over the noodles so they don't stick together and gently toss (or use your hand to swirl the noodles around) to make sure all noodles get some oil. Carefully lay out all noodles and make sure there is a bit of oil between each noodle, so they don't stick. I used a sheet pan (they fit perfectly!) lined with foil.

my cooked noodles, lightly oiled

fillings made, noodles boiled...I'm ready to assemble

Step 5, assembling the lasagne! If baking right away, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 13x9 inch glass baking dish. Spoon approximately 1 cup of sauce into the baking dish and spread evenly over the bottom. Layer 3 noodles over the sauce, overlapping them slightly, if needed. Spread about 1 1/2 cups of sauce over noodles (use more if needed), then layer 1/3 of the sliced mushrooms over the noodles, then layer 1/3 of the bacon-kale-shallot mixture over the mushrooms.

layering the sauce and two fillings

Three more noodles go next, then about 1 1/2 cups sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, then 1/3 of the bacon-kale-shallot mixture. Repeat with 3 noodles, about 1 1/2 cups sauce, then the remaining mushrooms and remaining bacon-kale-shallot mixture. Top with 3 more noodles and the remaining sauce.

At this point I wrapped my assembled lasagne and refrigerated it overnight.

my assembled lasagne goes into the fridge until the next day

When you are ready to bake the lasagne, sprinkle the 1/2 shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the top of the sauce. Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes (or 1 hour, if out of the fridge), until golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling up. Let stand in a warm place for about 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

baked up hot and ready to enjoy!

Bye for now...