Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

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Matcha Tea Cake Cookies

January 16, 2016

As you can probably guess from the lack of activity here, I’ve been a bit preoccupied for the past 7 months! Our daughter Vivienne was born on June 24th after a (very very thankfully) short labor and uncomplicated delivery. So with the arrival of our newest family member, food photography and blogging have unfortunately fallen so far down the to-do list that it’s something that hasn’t even crossed my mind to pick back up until recently.

Poor Vivienne isn’t feeling well this weekend, so while she was getting some much-needed snuggle time with her dad this morning, I decided to try out these easy cookies. I recently cleaned out my cooking magazine stash – I’m hanging on to all my old Bon Appetit issues, but I looked through my copies of Food and Wine and clipped out recipes that sounded like I might actually make now that my cooking and baking time is much more limited. This cookie recipe was in the February 2015 issue, and while matcha isn’t something I usually keep on hand, I cut it out because their color was so striking (plus they sounded easy to make – no creaming of butter and sugar).

Matcha is a ground green tea powder from Japan. If you’ve ever seen a traditional Japanese tea ceremony performed, matcha is the type of tea used. It’s also used in various Japanese confections like mochi. The green color permeates everything that the powder is mixed with, giving baked goods and sweets an almost unnaturally intense hue.

These cookies may not appeal to everyone, but I really enjoyed the way they turned out! They’re not overly sweet and they have a strong matcha flavor (there are two whole tablespoons of the powder in the dough, plus more for dusting on top), and there’s a hint of almond which complements the green tea flavor nicely. I also enjoyed the cake-like texture – I think it suits the flavor better than a more traditional drop-cookie texture would.

If you’ve enjoyed other Japanese confections made with matcha, I think you’ll love these cookies! If you give them a try, let me know what you think!

Matcha cookies

See recipe

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Rhubarb Pie with Cardamom and Orange

April 29, 2015

The rhubarb in our garden is getting bigger every day, and I can’t wait until there’s enough of it to make some delicious summer desserts! Here’s one I made last year that I’m hoping to make again this summer.

This rhubarb pie recipe (from Bon Appetit Desserts) was supposed to have a lattice crust, but I decided to make it when I only had a single pie crust in my fridge, and I didn’t feel like making a second just for the lattice. :) So I used scraps from the single crust and cut out lots of dots to cover the surface with. I’m not sure if a true lattice would have prevented some of the bubbliness and drips around the edges, but the dots effect looked cool and it’s easy enough to use a cookie sheet underneath the pie plate to catch any drips. The filling certainly didn’t lose too much moisture from not being more covered!

I love fruit desserts that are on the tart(er) side, so rhubarb has always been one of my favorite “fruits” in dessert. We really enjoyed the subtle complexity that the cardamom and orange added to the flavor of the filling, without overwhelming the flavor of the rhubarb itself. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this makes the perfect early-summer dessert.

Rhubarb pie with cardamom and orange

See recipe

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Cherry Pie

August 4, 2014

Sour cherries are a truly seasonal fruit: unlike raspberries or blueberries, they can’t be grown year-round in a hothouse. Last year I let the short season pass me by, and this year I was determined not to miss it again. When my parents mentioned that they were going cherry picking a few weeks ago, I jumped on the chance to stock up. My mom asked me how much I wanted, and I told her “as much as you feel like carrying!” :) She’s the best mom ever: she picked me eight pounds of sour cherries, and felt so bad about how long it would take me to pit them, that she came over one afternoon and pitted all of them while watching a movie! So of course I shared samples of all my baking adventures with her… not enough of a thank-you for all her work. I’ll find a way to make it up to her somehow!

I think this is actually the first time I’ve made a sour cherry pie, and this recipe from the Gourmet Today cookbook was highly praised by the author of the Gourmet Project blog, so it’s the one I picked. Bon Appetit featured a cherry pie on one of their recent magazine covers with small holes cut out of the top crust rather than the traditional star-shaped slit. I don’t have any tiny biscuit cutters, but I found that the bottom of a cake decorating tip was the perfect size to achieve this effect! I like the way the larger holes reveal more of what the filling of the pie is (which is better for photographs), although those who feel squicked by the appearance of lotus seed pods would probably prefer a less hole-y crust. :)

The pie was fantastic; not too tart and not too sweet. To thicken the filling, this recipe uses a combination of both ground tapioca and cornstarch. At first I was wondering if this would  make it turn out too thick or gelatinous, but it turned out perfect for the amount of juices generated by the cherries. The touch of cinnamon added a really nice nuance to the flavor without being overwhelming. I would definitely make this pie again during next year’s sour cherry season! Or I may have to break out the gallon-size bag of cherries stashed away in the freezer… maybe mid-February when everyone could use a little touch of summer. :)

Cherry pie

See recipe

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Lattice-Crust Pear Pie

July 14, 2014

All pies, all the time!

Today I’m sharing another pear dessert recipe that I made back in the fall – a more complex pie instead of an easy tart this time! Although honestly the pie isn’t that much more complicated, just possibly more intimidating if you’ve never made a lattice crust before. :)

The most important thing when making a lattice is to not let your dough get too warm. As soon as your dough warms up, it’ll get really soft and tear easily. Which means you need to keep your top dough piece in the fridge until just before rolling it out and topping the pie with it. It’s also definitely to your advantage to have a stiffer dough rather than a soft, easy-roll pie dough. Adding sugar to pie dough makes it softer, so I choose to leave it out for this recipe.

The second important thing is knowing how to properly weave the lattice so it doesn’t look like you just have strips of dough sitting on top of other strips. GimmeSomeOven has awesome step-by-step photos of how to weave the lattice right on top of the pie itself, so you’re not trying to do it on your counter and then transfer the whole thing over (which makes tearing way more likely).

This past November was the first year my coworkers have let me make something for my own birthday. Since one of my coworkers and I share a birthday, I was able to pass it off as making it for her and not really for me. :) They always thought it was weird that I actually wanted to make my own birthday dessert, but since I love baking and I love to eat the desserts I make, I didn’t think it seemed too weird to me! Pear pie sounds a bit unusual, and since I love things that are out of the ordinary, I’d been wanting to try this recipe from Gourmet Today for a while. It was delicious! The texture was similar to apple pie, but a small amount of nutmeg instead of cinnamon allowed the pear flavor to come through without being overwhelmed by spice. I’ll definitely be making this again in the fall!

Note that this recipe requires a 9½-inch deep dish pie plate rather than a standard 9-inch pie plate.

Lattice-crust pear pie

See recipe

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Inside-out German Chocolate Cake

April 7, 2014

We visited my husband’s parents this past Saturday to celebrate his mom’s birthday, and as a surprise, I made her a birthday cake! I wanted to make sure that that cake would be something she would really love, so I got some inside information about her favorite flavors from my sister-in-law: citrus (lemon or lime), chocolate, coconut, or pecans. Not all together, obviously. :) But the last three of those flavors most certainly mesh well, and what better way to present all of them together but in a German chocolate cake?

The last time I made a German chocolate cake was a few years ago when I was still in school, and while the version from ATK was good, I don’t remember it being a totally amazing knock-your-socks-off cake. So I went looking in Bon Appetit and Gourmet for an alternative recipe. This one from the Gourmet Cookbook, called “inside out” German chocolate cake, appealed to me because the directions said it could be made up to 3 days ahead of time. No last-minute baking that morning: Perfect!

The “inside-out” in the name comes from that fact that traditionally German chocolate cake is covered with the coconut and pecans in addition to the filling, but this version is coated with a rich chocolate glaze. I did make one modification to the recipe as written: the original calls for baking the sweetened condensed milk in a water bath in the oven for an hour and a half, but I find it way faster to just caramelize the milk in the microwave. It requires more attention and stirring every few minutes, but it cuts the time down to about 20 minutes.

So the end result? Amazing. My mother-in-law loved it, and my husband’s aunt even said that it was one of the best chocolate cakes she ever had! It’s a very dense, rich cake… a small piece is more than enough to satisfy a chocolate craving. Totally worth the time and effort; I definitely need to make it again once Lent is over and I can allow myself more than one bite ! :)

Inside-out German chocolate cake

See recipe

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Caramelized Upside-Down Pear Tart (Pear Tarte Tatin)

March 20, 2014

One more month until Easter, and then I can eat dessert again! So far I haven’t had too many struggles giving up sugar for Lent… I don’t eat desserts often anyway (despite what my blog might seem to tell you). But when I’ve made something I know is really excellent and I can’t have even a single piece of it, that is when it gets tough! Last week we celebrated Pi Day at work: I made the same sour cream apple pie that I made last year, and once again I couldn’t allow myself to have any. (Last year I went gluten-free, so the flour in the crust made it off-limits.) Next year I’m reallygoing to have to find something to sacrifice that isn’t contained in pie! And coming up tomorrow is the last day at work for one of our technicians as she’s transferring to a different location at the hospital. And people’s last day always means baking! She’s been on a Nutella kick lately, so tonight I’ll be making a chocolate-hazelnut mousse cake with ganache topping. Which, assuming it turns out well, I’ll be sharing with you all. :)

So while I’m thinking about desserts, this is a tart (from the Gourmet cookbook) that I made back in the late fall after we purchased an overabundance of pears at the market. “Upside down” desserts are always fun… you never know exactly how they’re going to look until you turn them out of the pan! And they have that easygoing rustic nature; with all the popularity of painstakingly decorated cupcakes/cake balls/what-have-you, sometimes it’s fun to make something unfussy and imperfect instead. And if you know how to make pie crust, this recipe couldn’t be easier! Just involves peeling/halving/coring the pears, putting them in a skillet with sugar/butter/cinnamon (and you don’t even stir them once they’re in the pan), then covering with dough and baking. An incredibly delicious result for not much effort. I’ll definitely be making this tart again come next fall!

Caramelized upside-down pear tart

See recipe

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Candied Ginger-Cardamom Bars

March 3, 2014

Lent begins this week, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what sacrifices I want to make during this season. This is only the third year we’ve observed Lent: last year I went gluten-free, and the year before my husband and I both ate only vegetarian food. This year I’ve decided I’m going to give up added sugars, both in recipes and in packaged/prepared foods. I’m allowing myself honey, but that will be the only sweetener I can use. (I don’t use artificial sweeteners as a general rule anyway.)

So with that, I’m going to post some desserts from the past few months, before it gets too hard to look at them! ;) These bar cookies from the Bon Appetit cookbook were unusual, both in terms of taste and preparation. That’s not to say they didn’t taste excellent, but I was a bit skeptical at first of how they were going to turn out! The dough is made using the same techniques as press-in tart dough: cutting butter into the dry ingredients, then adding a liquid (in this case an egg), mixing until clumps form, and pressing into a pan. I thought this would lead to incredibly dense and crumbly cookies, but while they were dense, the texture was chewy rather than crumbly. The cardamom-ginger flavor was unusual but worked well with the texture, giving the cookies an exotic touch.

These cookies are too rich for everyday snacks/dessert, but I can definitely see myself making them again to take to a party or luncheon. Enjoy!

Chewy ginger cardamom bar cookies

See recipe