Biscoff Blondies

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So, my buddy said, “Who likes blondies? Why can’t you make brownies like a normal person?”  I have to put up with such comments in order to eat a delicious dinner at her house… :) Dessert is not the focal point of a meal (in her world…), so I feel compelled to contribute a dessert to her dinner parties. I will have you know that she enjoyed these very much and kept the two leftover blondies to enjoy for breakfast the next morning. She may be a convert! :)

These blondies were moist, sweet, and tasty but not as “Biscoffy” as I had expected. We gobbled them up nonetheless!! This recipe was adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, via Jhuls of thenotsocreativecook.wordpress.com.

Yield: Makes 16 Blondies

  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons (1/3 cup or 75g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup (200g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread
  • 1 1/4 cups (225g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 8×8 or 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, stir the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined.
  4. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk, then add the vanilla. Stir in the cookie spread.
  5. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Be careful not to overmix, which will result in crumbly, hard blondies. The batter will be very thick. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes (on convection) to 25-26 minutes (standard oven). The blondies may appear very soft, but they will set up as they cool. Allow the blondies to cool completely- about 3 hours – before cutting into squares.

Note: Recipe may easily be doubled and baked in a 9×13 pan for approximately 35 minutes. Blondies stay fresh at room temperature for 1 week.

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One Year Ago:

Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Why did I not think of this concoction myself? Ice cream sandwiches are one of the best summer treats. The combination of brownies with ice cream is one of my favorite desserts, and, of course, I am a fan of the “chipwich.” This recipe was adapted from Everyday Food. I couldn’t wait to make them after seeing the recipe!

Even in the freezer, the brownies stayed soft and chewy and were absolutely delicious in this upgrade of an ice cream sandwich. I used salted caramel (slow-churned “light”) ice cream- so many other flavors would be wonderful as well.  I think we will try cookies and cream next time. :) SO GOOD!

Yield: Makes 12

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 pints ice cream, softened
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 10-by-13-inch jelly-roll pan with cooking oil spray. Line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on short sides, then spray paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together butter and sugar, then whisk in eggs and salt.
  3. Add flour and cocoa and mix until just smooth. Spread in pan. Bake until brownie is dry to the touch and edges have begun to pull away from pan, 8 minutes (on convection) to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes. Using paper overhang, transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  4. Transfer brownie to a work surface and cut in half crosswise. Cover pan with a large sheet of plastic wrap and place one cake half on it. Spread with ice cream, invert remaining brownie half on top, and wrap tightly in plastic. After wrapping, gently push the softened ice cream to fill to the edges of the brownie.
  5. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Unwrap, cut into 12 pieces, and serve.

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One Year Ago:

Blackberry-Raspberry Hand Pies

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There are pie crust lovers and pie filling lovers. This one is for the crust lovers- like my husband. :) They are cute and pop-tartesque but I prefer lots of filling. I did love their presentation! I changed my dinner-party dessert plans at the last minute and used store-bought crust, but included the crust recipe below. (for next time…) This recipe is from Martha Stewart Living. We ate the leftovers – warm- for breakfast. :)

Yield: Makes 8

For the Crust:

  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if necessary
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Filling:

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup fresh blackberries
  • 3/4 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

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  1. To Make the Crust: Whisk together sour cream, lemon juice, and ice water in a bowl. Mix together flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in a large bowl. Add butter and beat with a mixer on medium-low until mixture resembles coarse meal with some blueberry-size clumps remaining. Gradually beat in sour-cream mixture until just combined but still crumbly. (Squeeze a small amount of dough to see if it holds together. Beat in more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if necessary.) Divide dough in half, gather into 2 flat rectangles, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until just firm, 45 minutes.
  2. Roll out each rectangle of dough into a 7-by-14-inch rectangle on a piece of floured parchment with a floured rolling pin. (Dough will be very thin.) Transfer rectangles on parchment to 2 baking sheets and refrigerate until firm, 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the filling. Stir together berries, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl.
  4. Slide 1 dough rectangle, still on parchment, onto a work surface. With a long side facing you, cut dough crosswise into four 3 1/2-by-7-inch strips.
  5. Mound 2 tablespoons berry mixture in center of bottom half of each strip. Brush edges with egg wash and fold top half over fruit to enclose. Press firmly (I used a fork) to seal and trim bottom edge, leaving folded top edge uncut. Cut vents in each pie and place about 2 inches apart on baking sheet lined with fresh parchment. Transfer to freezer. Repeat with remaining dough and berry mixture. Freeze hand pies until very firm, at least 45 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Lightly brush pies with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake, rotating sheets and switching racks halfway through, until pies are golden brown, 28 to 30 minutes on convection or up to 40 minutes in a standard oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

One Year Ago:

Perfect Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

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I initially made these cookies to bring to a friend’s home to watch the 4th of July fireworks… but, because of rain, the fireworks were postponed. It was impossible to postpone eating these cookies though! :) This recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook results in perfect cookies- sweetened with maple syrup and chewy from shredded coconut. They are my daughter’s favorite cookies. All-American and perfect for July 4th! We ate them with ice cream and blueberry pie. Delicious!!

Yield: Makes 5 to 6 dozen small cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins

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  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; stir in the coconut. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add the maple syrup, and mix to combine.
  5. Add the egg and vanilla; beat until well combined, about 1 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two batches; mix until just combined. Add oats and raisins; mix until combined.
  7. Chill the dough in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, at least 30 minutes, and up to one day, prior to baking.
  8. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, scoop dough and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  9. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown, 14 to 15 minutes on convection, or up to 20 minutes in a standard oven.
  10. Let cookies cool on sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer parchment and cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

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One Year Ago:

Fourth of July Blueberry Pie

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Two of our Fourth of July guests said that this was the best pie they had ever eaten- made me feel absolutely wonderful! :) This pie recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. It is loaded with blueberries and has such a festive presentation. I was so happy to already have a small star cookie cutter from making sugar cookie princess wands! We indulged and ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. Perfect.

Yield: One 9-inch pie

For the Pie:

  • all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • pate brisee (recipe follows), or store-bought pie crust (Trader Joe’s crust is wonderful)
  • 8 cups (about 4 pints) fresh blueberries, picked over
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 T heavy cream
  1. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out one disk of dough to a 12-inch round. (I cover the dough with plastic wrap.) With a dry pastry brush, sweep off excess flour; fit dough into a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate, pressing it into the edges. Trim dough to a 1/2-inch overhang all around. Fold edge of dough under, and crimp as desired.
  2. Roll out remaining dough in the same manner; transfer dough (on parchment) to a baking sheet.
  3. Chill pie shell and dough until firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. Place blueberries in a large bowl; with your hands, crush about 1/2 cup of the berries, letting them fall into the bowl as you work.
  5. Add the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice; stir to combine.
  6. Spoon mixture into chilled pie shell, mounding berries slightly in the center. Dot with butter.
  7. Remove dough from the refrigerator. using a star cookie cutter (1 1/2 to 2 1/2-inches), cut out stars; set aside.
  8. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and cream. Lightly brush rim of chilled pie shell with egg wash.
  9. Arrange the reserved stars in a circular pattern on top of the fruit (with the tips touching), gently pressing over the berries, until covered.
  10. Brush the entire surface of rim and stars with eft wash, being careful not to let it pool.
  11. Freeze (or refrigerate) pie until firm, about 30 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with the rack in the lower third.
  13. Place pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I cover the outer edge with a silicone pie-crust shield to prevent over-browning. Bake until the crust begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes.
  14. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking, rotating sheet halfway through, until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling and have thickened, 40 (on convection) to 50 minutes more.
  15. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool completely. The pie is best eaten the day it is baked, but it can be kept at room temperature, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.

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For the Pate Brisee:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)
  2. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Note: The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

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One Year Ago:

Strawberry-Graham Scones

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My entire family really enjoys strawberry picking- and eating all of the strawberry-laden goodies that I make when we get home. :) My list of must-have “tried and true” recipes is growing and we need more berries every year! After making pancakes, jam, and cookies, I needed to try one new recipe. This was IT. These scones were fabulous- SO tender and moist. This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit. My son asked me to make one hundred of them. :) Wonderful!!

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Yield: Makes 10 scones

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups graham flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 ounces strawberries, hulled, cut into 1/2″ pieces (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • turbinado sugar, to taste, for sprinkling
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Combine all-purpose flour, graham or pastry flour, baking powder, salt, and ¼ cup sugar by pulsing in a food processor or whisking in a bowl.
  2. Add butter and pulse in a food processor, or cut with a pastry blender, until the texture of coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.
  3. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl, add strawberries, and toss to combine.
  4. Whisk milk and egg yolk in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients, and, using a fork or pastry blender, gently mix just to combine.
  5. Using your hands, gently knead a few times just until a shaggy dough comes together.
  6. Transfer dough to parchment paper and flatten to 1″ in thickness.
  7. Cut into ten 2 1/2-inch rounds using a biscuit cutter, filling any gaps with remaining dough.
  8. Sprinkle scones with turbinado sugar. Chill in freezer 20 minutes (this will help scones hold their shape).
  9. Bake scones until golden brown, 18 minutes (on convection) to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly.

Note: Scones can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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One Year Ago:

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Orange Chiffon Easter Bunny Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

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My grandmother was a wonderful baker. Years ago, My mom gave me a bunny cake pan that had been my grandmother’s, along with her bunny cake recipes. I take it out as an Easter decoration! :) I always say that I am going to make a bunny cake for Easter but have been apprehensive; the cake pan is like a cake pop pan in that the batter is supposed to rise into the second half of the pan and fill the mold. This year, (finally!) I had the brilliant idea to bake each half of the bunny separately and then ice them together! Seems like an obvious solution now…. My mom was so happy to see the bunny cake! :)

This cake was incredibly moist, light, and bright-flavored from the orange zest and juice. This recipe was adapted from Cupcakes! via Wilde in the Kitchen and The Not So Creative Cook and was originally for 24 cupcakes. DELICIOUS!

Yield: Makes one Bunny cake and 3 cupcakes, or 24 standard cupcakes

For the Orange Chiffon Cake or Cupcakes:

  • 1 ½ cups cake flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup water
  • grated zest of one half of an orange, about 1 1/2 tsp
  • ¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed, about 1/2 of an orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F and prep the cake pan (and 3 muffin cups) with cooking spray; alternatively prep 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. Sift together cake flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in oil, egg yolks, water, zest, juice and vanilla extract. Beat the mixture until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until whites are glossy and smooth.
  4. Add whites in three portions to the batter mixture, folding gently until no streaks remain.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan, about 1/4-inch below the top and/or pour about ¼ cup of batter into each muffin cup, should be about ¼-inch below the tops of the liner. Bake for 22-24 minutes (convection) for the cake, or 14 minutes for cupcakes (convection), or until tops are golden and cupcakes test done with a toothpick.
  6. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool for 1 minute in pan. Remove cupcakes from the pan and rest them on their sides to cool completely.

For the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting: (you will have extra if making the cake)

  • ½ cup butter, 1 stick, room temperature
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (I used light cream cheese)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest of 1/2 of an orange, about 1 1/2 tsp
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 jellybeans for the eyes & nose
  1. Cream together butter and cream cheese.
  2. Add vanilla and orange zest, beating until smooth.
  3. Add powdered sugar and salt; beat on medium for about 2 minutes, until frosting is light and fluffy.
  4. Frost one half of the bunny, then fill a pastry bag, with desired tip, with the remaining frosting. Pipe the seam. Frost the cupcakes.
  5. Glue jellybean eyes & nose to bunny with frosting.
  6. Dust the cake with powdered sugar & serve.

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I made a Carrot Cake Bunny Cake as well… Yes, a Bunny Cake Baking Monster has been created! TWO Bunny Cakes for one Easter… Madness! :) I made a mistake by making half of this fabulous recipe to fill my mold. :( Because of the weight of the cake and the thickness of the cake (really the thinness!) it was not as successful in appearance as the Orange Chiffon Bunny Cake. It was sooooo delicious though! I used the orange cream cheese frosting as well. Next year, I will make the full recipe (as below) (with extra cupcakes) and post a new photo. This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Jodi Elliot of Urban Farmer in Portland, Oregon. It was a “staff-favorite” recipe, my favorite recipes to make! I liked how the carrots were weighed versus measured after being grated. It was very moist and delicious!! I can hardly wait to make it again… :)

For the Carrot Cake:

  • 1 cup pecans (4 ounces)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 9-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment. Butter the paper and flour the pans. (Alternatively, butter and flour the bunny mold and additional cupcake liners.
  2. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes, until fragrant. Cool and finely chop the pecans.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk and vanilla.
  5. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, 5 minutes. Beat in the liquid ingredients.
  6. Beat in the dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in the carrots and pecans. Divide the batter between the pans and bake the cakes for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until springy and golden. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then unmold the cakes and let cool completely.
  7. Frost, decorate, and dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar as in the Orange Chiffon Cake above. Serve.

One Year Ago:

Vanilla Bean Macarons

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I planned to make French macarons for Easter after seeing the March cover of Martha Stewart Living; it was covered in beautiful multi-pastel-colored macarons. So springy and festive- and delicious!! After really reading all of the recipes, and the recipes all over the internet, I decided to make vanilla bean macarons. They don’t have the pretty pastel spring colors, but they had the most appealing flavor to me. :) Don’t worry, I plan to make a bunny cake too!

I was a little intimidated to take on the task of making macarons. I chose the recipe from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel because their recipes are so precise- all the guesswork is removed. I closely followed the recipe (it’s only very slightly adapted)… they said it made 14 macarons… it made 14 macarons! Foolproof and fabulous. According to the book, macarons are their biggest seller. They are 2 1/4- inches in diameter; next time I would make them more petite, but I didn’t want to mess with perfection! Great!!

Notes:

  • Macarons (like any meringue) are best made on a dry day. The outside shell is crisp and fragile, the inside chewy.
  • For optimal results, weigh the ingredients.
  • Equipment needed: candy thermometer, a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip, & a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch plain tip. (I only have fluted 1/2-inch pastry tips… so my macarons have a little ripple on the surface! I also used a 1/4-inch plain tip for the filling… it was okay.)
  • It is optimal to make them in a convection oven, on the middle rack, and left undisturbed during cooking. (Baking in a standard oven is possible, but may affect the texture.)
  • Their flavor develops as they stand. This recipe recommends wrapping them in plastic wrap and freezing for 24 hours (or up to 2 weeks); transferred to the refrigerator for 3 hours or so, then returned to room temperature before eating.

Yield: 14 2 1/4-inch macarons

For the Macarons:

  • 212 grams almond meal/flour (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 212 grams powdered sugar
  • 82 grams egg whites
  • 90 grams egg whites (about 5 large eggs in total)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 236 grams granulated sugar, plus a pinch for the egg whites
  • 158 grams (2/3 cup) water
  • 250 grams Vanilla Bean French Buttercream (recipe follows)
  1. Make a template for the macarons: Lay a sheet of parchment paper on the work surface with a long side closest to you. Trace 4 evenly spaced 2 1/4-inch circles alone the top long edge, leaving a 1 inch of space around them. (A compass could be used; I used a biscuit cutter and a fine-tip sharpie.) Trace 3 circles below them, spacing them between the first circles. Continue with another row of 4, followed by another row of 3. Turn the parchment paper over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up the corner of the parchment and spray the underside with nonstick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat for the second sheet pan.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (convection) or 400 degrees (standard).
  3. Place the almond meal in a food processor and pulse to grind it as fine as possible, about 1 minute.
  4. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together.
  5. Mound the almond-flour mixture, then make a 4-inch well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula.
  6. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Set aside.
  7. Place the remaining 90 grams of egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  8. Combine the 236 grams granulated sugar and the water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 degrees F (110 degrees C). (It will continue to cook.)
  9. While the syrup continues to cook, add the pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to  medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 degrees F (120 degrees C), reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.
  10. When the syrup reaches 248 degrees F (120 degrees C), remove the pan from the heat.
  11. Turn the mixture to medium-low speed, and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk; the meringue will deflate.
  12. Increase the speed to  medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm to the touch, the meringue should have cooled; if not, continue to whip until it is cool.
  13. Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the “ribbon” slowly moves. The mixture shouldn’t be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn’t be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be slightly stiff than too loose. (The consistency is VERY important!!)
  14. Transfer the mixture to the pastry bag with the 1/2-inch tip.
  15. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough of the mixture to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the the first pan.
  16. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the pastry bag. (I tapped it on the counter.)
  17. If using a convection oven, bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. If using a standard oven, place the sheet pan in the oven, immediately lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp.
  18. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. If using a standard oven, preheat it to 350 degrees again.
  19. Pipe the remaining meringue mixture into the circles on the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.

For the Vanilla Bean French Buttercream Filling:

  • 38 grams granulated sugar
  • 38 grams granulated sugar (76 grams divided in half!)
  • 63 grams egg yolks (from about 4 large eggs)
  • 75 grams whole milk
  • 250 grams (8.8 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  1. Whisk 38 grams sugar and the yolks together in a medium bowl, set aside.
  2. Combine the milk and the remaining 38 grams in a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. When the milk is at just below a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture.
  4. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat.
  5. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling; it should be very thick.
  6. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment, turn the mixer to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.
  7. Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter.
  8. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hold its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.
  9. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, add them to the buttercream, and mix on low for about 30 seconds to distribute the seeds evenly.
  10. The buttercream can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using. Thirty minutes before using, place it in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and allow it to soften. Then mix on low speed to return the buttercream to the proper consistency for piping of spreading.

To Fill the Cookies:

  1. Transfer 250 grams of the buttercream (you will have leftovers… yum!) to the pastry bag with the 3/8-inch tip. (I used a 1/4-inch tip.)
  2. Turn half of the macarons over. Starting at the center, pipe 15 grams (1 T) (eyeball it!) of the buttercream in a spiral pattern on one upside-down macaron, not quite reaching the edges. Top with a second macaron and press gently to spread the buttercream to the edges.
  3. Repeat with the remaining macarons and filling.
  4. Wrap individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Before serving, defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature. Alternatively, they can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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Mini-Cheesecakes

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I live in fear of overcooking my baked goods… and I usually shorten the baking time stated in a recipe, especially because I bake on convection. I made these mini-cheesecakes twice because the first time I made them they were undercooked! They were still edible (of course!) and tasty, but not perfect enough to give to my friend for her birthday. :) (We have been eating a lot of cheesecake lately… so glad they are “mini” portion-sized!!) It was difficult to tell that they were undercooked until after they were chilled- I had baked them until they were puffed and set.

For the second batch, I increased the baking time and added two pinches of salt. Thank goodness (…for many reasons… could/should we eat another batch?) they were cooked perfectly. :) They are pure and simple. Perfect to give to my cheesecake-purist friend for her birthday!! …and to bring to Fiesta Friday #11 at the Novice Gardener! This recipe was adapted from Carla Hall of The Chew. She baked them in mini-muffin pans (with 1 teaspoon of crust, baked for 10 minutes) with optional toppings which would be great for a party. A fun touch was to serve them inverted- mine with a fork, my husband’s with a spoon. To each his own! :) Nice!

Yield: Makes 8 mini-cheesecakes

  • 4 honey graham crackers
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 T  granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 T milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 pinches of coarse salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (convection)(175 degrees C).
  2. Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to crush. Add melted butter and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed.
  3. Place liners (I used parchment paper liners) into muffin tins and press 1 1/2 tablespoons of the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each. Using the bottom of a glass, compact the crumbs to form a crust.
  4. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth.
  5. Blend in milk, and then mix in the egg, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth.
  6. Scoop or pour filling on top of crusts. (I use a cookie scoop.)
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 17 minutes, or until puffed, set, and slightly brown on the edges. Cool to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator until serving.
  8. Serve inverted. Can top with berries or chocolate sauce, if desired.

One Year Ago:

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Mini “M&M” Cookies

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Both of my kids performed in their school talent show last weekend. They were backstage for FIVE hours!! I wanted to pack a special treat for them to have for the show (and to bring to share with their friends). My son requested M&M cookies. I made them using a simple recipe (from the bag!!) and packed them up. I didn’t plan to post them… but we loved them! Such a surprise. :) They were also colorful and cute. Similar recipes called for much more sugar and salt but these were perfect. The kids really enjoyed them. Great!

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12 ounce package “M&M’s” Chocolate Mini Baking Bits
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts, optional (I didn’t use nuts)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. In large bowl cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla.
  3. In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt; blend into creamed mixture.
  4. Stir in “M&M’s” Chocolate Mini Baking Bits and nuts, if using.
  5. Drop by tablespoonfuls about 2 inches (50mm) apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. (I used a small cookie scoop.) Bake 10 to 11 minutes (on convection) or until edges are lightly browned and centers are still soft. Do not overbake. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; cool completely on wire racks. Store in tightly covered container.

One Year Ago:

Warm Chocolate Puddings

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I dressed up a take-out pizza and salad night with this special dessert. Just as easy as box-mix brownies and much more fabulous! They are more like mini-soufflé cakes than warm puddings. This recipe was adapted from Everyday Food. I used Trader Joe’s 72% cacao Belgian dark chocolate and topped each pudding with salted caramel ice cream. They would have been just as delicious with vanilla bean ice cream- or coffee ice cream- or no ice cream?!? I’m bringing this wonderful dessert to Fiesta Friday #10 at the Novice Gardener this week. Enjoy! :)

  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Trader Joe’s 72% cacao Belgian dark chocolate)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Ice cream (any flavor), for serving (optional) (I used salted caramel)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (on convection). Place four 6- to 8-ounce ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in 2 tablespoons sugar, then egg yolks and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Still beating, gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until mixture is stiff and glossy.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, mix about 1/3 egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture just until combined. Divide among bowls. (Puddings can be prepared in advance up to this point; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 1 day.)
  5. Bake until tops are puffed and cracked but insides are still quite soft (a toothpick inserted in center will come out gooey), 10 to 12 minutes on convection, or longer if puddings were previously refrigerated. IMG_8168
  6. Serve, warm or at room temperature (puddings may sink as they cool), topped with ice cream, if desired.

One Year Ago:

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Bouchon Bakery Shortbread

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Shortbread cookies are simple, rich, and perfect. :) In this version, the cookies are cut into precise rectangles and then dusted with granulated sugar prior to baking. I LOVED the crisp presentation. This recipe is from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. I followed the recipe very precisely, weighing all of the ingredients- with the exception of the sugar dusting. I may have been more generous….

I brought these cookies to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at a friend’s home. They were a huge hit! I have many requests for another batch. :)

  • 180 g (6.3 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 90 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 g (1/2 + 1/8 tsp) Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp (5.9 g) vanilla bean paste
  • 270 g (1 3/4 cups + 3 T) all-purpose flour
  • 2 T (24 g) granulated sugar, for dusting
  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn to medium-low speed and cream until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the 90 grams of granulated sugar and the salt and mix on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  3. Add the vanilla bean paste and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to distribute it evenly.
  4. Add the flour in 2 additions, mixing on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds after each, or until just combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any flour that may have settled there.
  5. Mound the dough on the work surface (I put it on plastic wrap as well) and, using the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together into a 5-inch-square block. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
  6. Positions the oven racks int he upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees (convection). Line 2 sheet pans with Silpats or parchment paper.
  7. Unwrap the dough and place it between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. With a rolling pin, pound the top of the dough, working from left to right, to begin to flatten it, then turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. (This will help prevent the dough from cracking as it is rolled.) Roll out to a 9-inch square. If the dough has softened, slide it (in the plastic wrap or parchment) onto the back of a sheet pan and refrigerate it until it is firm enough to score.
  8. Using a chef’s knife and a ruler, score the dough horizontally 3 times to mark four 2 1/4-inch-wide strips. Then score it vertically 5 times at 1 1/2-inch intervals (for a total of 24 sections). If the dough is not cool to the touch refrigerate it. Once it is firm, cut through the markings. (The dough can be shaped in advance. I always refrigerate the cut dough at least one hour prior to baking; I think that the cookie shape stays more sharp.)
  9. Dust the tops of the shortbread with the 24 grams/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar (I didn’t measure!!!) and arrange on the prepared sheet pans, leaving about 3/4-inch between them.
  10. Bake until pale golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes in a convection oven, 17 to 19 minutes in a standard oven, reversing the positions of the pans halfway through baking.
  11. Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. The shortbread can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days. (We ate all of ours right away!)

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One Year Ago:

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