Cannoli Tart

I was browsing through an article of the “50 greatest desserts of all time” and came across a recipe for a cannoli tart. I love cannoli…though they are a great pain in the keister to make sometimes. The recipe seemed simple enough and though I was lacking a tart pan (I just used a regular pie pan, so pardon my very unpretty crust) I decided to have a go at it.

I was excited because I had just purchased a new food processor (I had one of those mini ones for years…and it just got to the point where I had to admit that owning a large one would be ever-so-helpful as my home baking skills increased) and I couldn’t wait to try it. I think I was a little over-zealous in my pulsing technique because my dough didn’t come together as nicely as it did for this blogger (jealous!) but it worked nonetheless.

The best part – it tastes JUST LIKE a cannoli! It was a hit in my office and is a really nice, light dessert that doesn’t feel too decadent after a big meal.

My only amendment to the recipe came from the use of the Amaretto. In hindsight, I would have subbed some almond extract (not too much, perhaps 1/4 tsp) for some of the Amaretto to really boost that almond flavor. I’m including this amendment in the recipe below. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE CRUST:

  • 2 cups Sifted Flour
  • ½ cups Plus 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ⅓ cups Cold Butter
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon Milk

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 2-¼ cups Ricotta
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons Amaretto
  • 1/4 teaspoon Almond extract
  • ½ cups Chocolate Chips Or Chunks

PREP INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350ºF

For the crust:
In a food processor, add flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon and pulse a few times. Add butter, and pulse until butter and flour have formed pea-sized crumbles. Add egg and milk and pulse until a large ball is formed.

Place the dough ball in between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Roll dough out large enough to fit a deep dish pie pan or deep dish tart pan. Grease pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Gently place the dough into pan. Refrigerate while you make your filling and your oven is preheating.

For the filling:
In a food processor or mixer, blend ricotta, egg, sugar, and amaretto until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into crust.

Bake at 350ºF for around 25-35 minutes, or until your crust has slightly browned and the filling has puffed a bit. Serve cold or at room temp sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with chocolate.

Easy Key Lime Pie

I have come to a very dangerous realization. Key Lime Pie is insanely easy to make. I’m not sure I wanted to know this. Now that I do, I fear that I will be making it ALL the time. It’s pretty much my favorite dessert of all time and last year, my husband and I trekked to Key West, FL for one of the greatest vacations we’ve ever been on (and we’ve been to quite a few places!) and I tried some of the world’s best. I have to say, this versions kicks some serious a$$.

KEY LIME PIE
(courtesy of Ann Richardson, Allrecipes)

Ingredients 

– 9 inch graham cracker crust (make your own, or store bought)
– 3 cups (16 oz) sweetened condensed milk
– 1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream
– 3/4 cup key lime juice (if you are using key limes, you’ll need about 20 of those suckers)
– 1 tablespoon grated lime zest (HINT: avoid the pith so you don’t get overly bitter zest)

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees.

COMBINE condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice and lime zest in a mixing bowl and blend well.

POUR mix into graham cracker crust.

BAKE for 5-8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of the pie. DO NOT BROWN. Chill pie thoroughly before serving.

GARNISH with whipped cream if desired.

It’s literally that easy. The addition of sour cream gives it a velvety smooth texture and cuts through the sour. MMM. Enjoy!

Baking Fails

For every successful bake I have, I have at least two unsuccessful ones. No one is perfect, least of all me. I can post all the pretty pictures of beautiful bakes I want, but the truth is…I fail more often than I succeed. Baking is a science and thus, there are so many things that can go wrong. Rather than hide these failures, or pretend like I am so adept in the kitchen that I am immune to making mistakes, I’m going to share a couple recent bakes that went wrong. Why? Because…I’m human. We all are. Nothing comes easy.  You have to work for it. You have to want it. You have to practice. You have to embrace your mistakes because how you come out on the other side of them is what shapes your success.

I know, I know – you are yelling at your screen, “get to the good stuff already!” So here are a couple “bad bakes” from the last couple weeks.

The Eclair.

I have made plenty of pâte à choux before. And I will make plenty more. I can make excuses…I was in my mother’s kitchen…in a different environment…with her new ovens…the weather was wonky (all these being true)…but something, I can’t put my finger on exactly what, went wrong. I ended up with flat eclairs. The upside? They were tasty AF. So…we ate them anyway. Just not pretty enough to make the cut for their own blog post. FEAR NOT, FOLLOWERS. I will be attempting them again! Also, don’t judge my horrible attempt at a chocolate glaze. In my defense, I didn’t use a recipe…I just threw some ingredients in a saucepan and it didn’t go well. Again, tasty. Just not quite right.

 

The Passionfruit Cheesecake.

Disclaimer: I legit suck at cheesecakes. This time was no different. Over the last weekend, I tried to make this particular cheesecake TWICE. Oh yes. Twice. Both abject aesthetical failures, one being edible, the other not so much.

I scoured three different grocers before finding passionfruit. And they cost me $1.99 EACH. For this recipe, I needed about 10 of them. So that means I spent $40 on a single recipe. I was so pissed, you don’t even know.

So the first time, I read the recipe as needed “passionfruit puree” – so I whipped up some passionfruit puree (which, as you may know, means you scoop out the pulp, you add some liquid and you create a thick mixture). 45 minutes into the bake, the cheesecake was jiggling waaaay more than it should. I baked it another 10 minutes…still a jiggle fest. So I check the recipe. It says PASSIONFRUIT PULP. PULP!!!!!! Not puree. So I added too much liquid and the cheesecake wasn’t going to set.

The second time, I carefully followed the ingredients, did everything the recipe called for…and it looked like this:

IMG_2976

SO SAD. I began researching…I followed the recipe TO THE LETTER. What went wrong?? Here are my theories.

  1. I didn’t grease the springform pan.
  2. I didn’t bake it with a water bath so it wouldn’t crack.
  3. Apparently, you aren’t supposed to whip a lot of air in with the eggs. So while I followed the instruction and added them in one at a time and mixed well after each…I did so on high speed and beat the crap out of that batter. So, loads of air, plus no flour to stabilize the cheesecake…means that as it cools, the air bubbles pop…and DEFLATEGATE.

Lesson(s) learned. The upside to this one, texture was creamy and smooth, passionfruit flavor came through very strongly and it was actually tasty to eat. Just not a pretty cheesecake and cutting it…it fell apart. I fed it to a couple of my colleagues who said that it was fine if I wanted to keep “messing up” my bakes if it meant they could eat it. Thanks guys 🙂

Moral of the story? I struggle to perfect recipes everyday. I’m a home baker. There are so many things I don’t yet understand about baking. And now, when you see me blog…just remember that, chances are, it took me a few times to get it right, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t nail it the first time. Mistakes in the kitchen are how some of the best recipes have been created, so embrace it!

Mini Pavlova

I first heard of the pavlova dessert when it was featured on the Great American Baking Show in a showstopper challenge. I thought they were so beautiful and looked incredibly yummy and of course, I wanted to try to make them. I settled on trying a “classic” pavlova (meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit) to try and get the hang of it first. It’s actually a rather easy-to-follow recipe…it just requires patience and attention to the little details.

MINI PAVLOVA

Ingredients:

6 eggs whites, ROOM TEMPERATURE
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Frosting:

1 1/2 cups COLD heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons white sugar

For topping:

Fresh fruit like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.

Directions:

PREHEAT oven to 225° F with the rack in the center of the oven.

LINE a large baking sheet with parchment paper (you may need two sheets). HINT: if you use two sheets, make sure you avoid the top rack and bake the pavlovas in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

BEAT 6 room temperate egg whites on high speed for 1 minute until soft peaks form. With mixer on low, gradually add 1 1/2 cups of white sugar and beat for 10 minutes on high speed, or until stiff peaks form. The mix will be smooth and glossy.

IMG_2963

FOLD in (using over/under motion) 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract, then add 2 tablespoons of corn starch and hand mix until well blended. HINT: pre-measure these three ingredients while the mix is beating for 10 minutes as you want to quickly make these additions without letting the mix sit for too long.

PIPE meringue onto parchment paper (I used aWilton 1M open star tip). Using a spoon, indent the center to allow room for the cream.

IMG_2964

BAKE at 225° F for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then, turn off the oven and DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. Leave the meringue in the hot oven for another 30 minutes.  The outside will be dry, crisp and very pale while the inside is like a marshmallow.

TRANSFER the pavlova (leaving it on the parchment paper is best) to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile…

BEAT cold heavy whipping cream in a stand mixer with 2 tablespoons of sugar for about 2 1/2 minutes.

PIPE the frosting onto the pavlovas and top with fresh fruit.

I found that it’s best to leave them in the fridge as if left out at room temp, the whipped cream will start to fall through the meringue. It’s still delicious, but not quite as pretty to look at.

IMG_2971.JPG

These babies are sugar bombs. The whipped cream is necessary to curb some of the sweetness of the pavlova. But they are a unique texture that is sure to win some fans at your next gathering!

Irish Cream Cupcakes

I love a festive cupcake – heck, I love cupcakes for all occasions. So, even though I’m not an Irish lass, I celebrated with some green and a nip of Bailey’s to mark St. Patrick’s Day!

This super moist cupcake packs a little surprise with the addition of just a few mini chocolate chips and frosting can easily be adult-only or kid friendly to your liking.

IMG_2914

Let’s get started, shall we? Recipe adapted from http://www.food.com

Cake Ingredients

3/4 cup unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
6 tablespoons butter
1 2/3 cup cake flour (you can sub all-purpose if you want)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Frosting Ingredients

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 (1 lb) package confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream (sub heavy cream for kid friendly cupcakes)
1/8 teaspoon gel/paste food coloring

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tin with liners (I made about 24 cupcakes with this batter).

MIX cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl until dissolved; set aside.

MELT the 6 tablespoons of butter in a microwave proof bowl or cup; set aside

STIR flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.

ADD buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and cocoa mixture to flour/sugar mix and beat until fully incorporated.

STIR in mini chocolate chips.

DIVIDE batter among liners. HINT: for perfectly even cupcakes, use a disher (aka, a mechanical cookie scoop) to divide the batter among the liners. If you use the Oxo brand, I use two medium scoops per liner.

BAKE 18 – 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

TRANSFER cupcakes to wire racks to cool.

Meanwhile…

BEAT 1 cup room temperature butter until fluffy.

STIR in confectioners’ sugar until blended.

ADD Bailey’s (or heavy cream) and beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).

STIR in food coloring until blended.

PIPE or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

ENJOY!

Nestle®Buncha Crunch Oatmeal Cookies

My local grocer was having a sale on all the specialty baking products they bring in for the holidays. I got my hands on a bag of the Nestle Buncha Crunch Baking Bits.

Buncha Crunch

Couldn’t pass up this gem! On the back of the bag was a recipe for oatmeal cookies and I knew I just had to try them. First of all, I love a good, chewy oatmeal cookie and second, who doesn’t enjoy chocolate covered rice crispy treats!? The combo sounded like a winner and so I set to making the cookies.

The recipe is very easy and if you can’t find any Buncha Crunch Baking Bits…just chop up some Nestle Crunch Bars for the same affect.

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) of butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
4 cups quick or old-fashioned oats (recipe calls for 4 1/2 cups, but I found that 4 is more than enough)
1 package (13 oz) Nestle Buncha Crunch candy
Directions
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl with a whisk. Set aside.

BEAT butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

STIR in oats and Bunch Crunch.

DROP by rounded tablespoon onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

BAKE for 8-10 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet for two minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I found that, in my oven, it took 11 1/2 minutes to get a golden color as I definitely went bigger than 1 tbsp per cookie, but ovens vary, so definitely start with 8 minutes and check on the cookies. If you like them slightly under-baked, pull them just as the edges start to brown.

I brought these to my office to celebrate a colleagues birthday and they were definitely a hit! Highly recommend if you are a fan of oatmeal…and feel free to adapt this recipe with other treats like chopped up peanut butter cups, chocolate chips or butterscotch depending on your mood. This is a great oatmeal base that doesn’t include spices like cinnamon (that you often find in oatmeal raisin recipes) and I find it pairs much better with sweet chocolate treats.

6D3DAF3F-714B-4A43-A198-685C1DC524C8

Lemon Blueberry Hamantaschen

IMG_2900

To celebrate Purim, I always make hamantaschen…one of my favorite cookies! Much like a thumbprint cookie, these jam filled treats are a delectable dessert any day of the week or at your Purim feast.

What is Purim, you ask? There was this bad dude named Haman during the ancient Persian Empire. Haman was the royal vizier to King Ahasuerus. So… Ahasuerus gets loaded at a party and after making ridiculous demands of his wife, Vashti…who refuses and then he’s like, GIRL BYE…he then has all the fair ladies of land paraded before him so he can choose his new bride. One of these women is Esther, who lives with her first cousin Mordecai. The King makes her his new bride and Esther, wisely, decides not to reveal the fact that she is Jewish to him. Fast forward to Haman’s appointment to viceroy…the title totally goes to his head and he’s prancing around demanding everyone bow down to him and whatnot. Mordecai refuses and Haman gets his panties in a twist. Haman finds out Mordecai is Jewish and is like, “I’m going to kill him. And not only am I going to kill him, but I’m going to kill all the Jews in the empire.” Haman has issues. Haman convinces the King to back him and to decide when he’s going to put his evil plan into action, he casts lots (“purim”) to choose the date. Esther finds out what’s going on…but she’s afraid to approach the King. Her cousin Mordecai is the voice of reason and suggests that she was elevated to her position as Queen for the very purpose of saving the Jews. She has a change of heart after fasting and praying for three days and she invites the King and Haman to attend a feast. At the feast, they are having a great time so Esther says…”let’s do this again tomorrow!” Meanwhile, Haman is building gallows to hang Mordecai the next day…the King can’t sleep and is like, “let me go over the books”…and he realizes he never did anything special for Mordecai back when he discovered a plot to assassinate the King. So…the King goes to his viceroy and says, “Dude. What should I do to honor a man who has performed great service to his King?” And Haman, with his huge ego, assumes that the King is talking about him (natch). So he’s like, “put him in royal robes, parade him around like he’s super important on a horse, and make the people cheer for him.” Imagine how pissed Haman is when he realizes that the honor is then bestowed upon the guy with enough balls to stand up to him and refuse to bow! Finally, Haman and the King go to the final night of the feast with Esther and she’s like, “B-T-dubs, guys – I’m Jewish. Oh, and honey, Haman is trying to murder me and all my peeps.” The King is like, “Haman…you’re a dick. As punishment, you will be hanged on the very gallows that you erected for Mordecai.” That was kind of a long story, but juicy, no? Esther saves the day, Mordecai becomes the King’s second in command and we all get to eat HAMANTASCHEN!

I always thought that the triangle shape was because Haman wore a three pointed hat. That’s what I remember from the folklore of my youth, anyway. Wikipedia has other theories if you are interested, but let’s get on to the good stuff!

I recommend making the filling first (it takes a bit of time to set up – a few hours at least) and then move onto the dough!

Lemon Hamantaschen Dough 
(I just adapted a standard recipe to include lemon)

1 cup of salted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between additions. Add the lemon juice and zest. Stir in the flour, mixing just until combined. Chill the dough until firm (wrapping in cellophane or parchment paper).

Roll out dough to 1/8″ thickness and cut out 2″ circles. Use a spatula to transfer the circles to a parchment lined sheet pan. Spoon a 1/2 tbsp. of filling (we’ll get to that in a minute) into each circle and pinch together the sides to make a triangle shape.

Here is a little step-by-step picture tutorial of shaping the hamantaschen (HINT: you don’t want to simply pinch the ends together – you’ll get a leaky cookie – you want to fold the flaps over each other):

Place the hamantaschen on the parchment lined baking sheet so that each is about an inch apart from the others (I put mine closer together, but they don’t spread much) Let’s say an inch as better safe than sorry. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden on the edges and darker golden on bottom.

Lemon Blueberry Jam
(Courtesy of Taste of Home)

4 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups sugar
1 package (3 oz) lemon gelatin

In a large saucepan, slightly crush 2 cups of blueberries. Add remaining berries and sugar, mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; stir in gelatin until dissolved. Pour hot jam into jars or containers. Cover and cool. Refrigerate.

I had some little jam containers that I had washed and saved, so I just poured the jam right into those to cool in the fridge.

IMG_2897

You can use whatever filling you want…lemon curd, apricot jam, strawberry jam, or even orange marmalade. Get creative and enjoy!

IMG_2903