Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lavender and Lemon Cookies it not the Superman of herbs? I love it in my warm bath, the sachets that fill my chest of drawers and to my surprise, in my baked goods.

I had been meaning to bake with lavender for sometime, and was so excited to finally try out this recipe. These buttery, delicate cookies were the perfect pastry to make for my friend's baby shower. They weren't overly sweet, and the lavender had a subtle, earthy flavor which complemented the tartness of the lemon.

I'll admit that the first batch came out with some less than desirable dark edges, so I adjusted the temperature to 350º instead of the 375º that's listed in the recipe. Thanks to my craftiness and/or desperation, I managed to salvage them by using a cookie cutter to carefully cut flower shapes out of the already baked cookies. The shapes worked out so well that I decided to do the same with the remaining batches.

The cookie dough can be made in advance and stored in the freezer until ready to bake. There's also no need to pull out the KitchenAid mixer, since the entire recipe can be completed by using only a food processor. It's a lazy baker's dream!

Lavender and Lemon Cookies
Adapted from Baking Illustrated via When Harry met Salad

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest + 2 tablespoons juice from 1-2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender
  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a food processor, process the sugar, lemon zest and lavender until the sugar looks damp and the zest and lavender are fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add to the sugar mixture; pulse to combine, about (10) 1-second pulses.

Scatter the butter pieces over and pulse until the mixture resembles fine cornmeal, about (15) 1-second pulses. In a measuring cup, beat together the lemon juice, egg yolk and vanilla. With the machine running, add the juice mixture in a slow stream (should take about 10 seconds) and continue processing until the dough forms into a ball, 10 to 15 seconds longer.

Turn the dough and any dry bits onto a clean work surface and gently gather into a ball. Working quickly, roll the dough into a cylinder about 12" long and 1-1/2" in diameter. Center the dough on a piece of parchment or plastic wrap and wrap tightly, twisting the ends together to seal. Chill the dough until firm and cold, about 45 minutes in the freezer or 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

Remove the dough log from its wrapper and use a sharp knife to slice the dough into 3/8" thick rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1" apart. Bake until the centers of the cookies just begin to color and the edges are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. Cool on sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 4 dozen.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Baileys Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

My sister Heather, who works as a reporter for NBC in Buffalo, NY, is in town visiting with her boyfriend this week. Despite our nine year age difference (I surpass her in age, not necessarily in maturity), we are quite close and see each other at least twice a year.

Her "welcome home" consisted of me baking one of her absolute faves - chocolate chip cookies.

They're not your traditional chocolate chip cookies, mind you; these suckers are enhanced with Baileys Mint Chocolate Irish Cream. I had been looking to get rid of the numerous bottles I had stockpiled during my at-home solo karaoke sessions this past winter (embarrassing, I know), when I stumbled upon this recipe.

What also makes these cookies different is that the recipe uses cake flour, not all-purpose. This results in a puffier, more tender cookie that is slightly paler in color. And I hardly need to mention that they are so much more delicious!

Baileys Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from RecipeZaar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Baileys Mint Chocolate Irish Cream
  • 2-1/4 cups cake flour (sift before measuring)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pkg. (6 oz.) bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375º F.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until smooth. Add egg, vanilla and Baileys; blend well. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to mixture a little at a time, until thoroughly blended. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Drop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The trifle in all its glory

Ahhh, the's synonymous with summertime parties and backyard BBQ's. Typically composed of layered fruit, cream/custard and cake, this dessert is so lovely it MUST be displayed in a super regal glass bowl.

My friend Sultan (a beautiful mother-to-be!), and her husband are hosting a BBQ this evening, so I thought I would re-work a recipe that I had posted previously into a trifle.

If you're pressed for time you can use store-bought cake (gasp!) or lady fingers. Before serving, be sure to place the trifle in the refrigerator for a few hours to allow the individual flavors to meld.

Mascarpone and Sherried Berry Trifle

For cake:
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk 
For berries:
  • 1/2 cup Fino Sherry [I replaced it with Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine]
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 cups mixed berries, cut if large 
 For cream:
  •  8 ounces mascarpone (1 cup)
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). Line bottom with a round of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer at low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing after each addition until just combined.

Spread batter in cake pan, smoothing top. Rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Discard paper and re-invert cake onto rack to cool completely.

Macerate berries:
Bring wine and sugar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Put berries in a bowl and pour hot syrup over them, gently tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.

Make cream and assemble trifle:
Beat mascarpone and cream with sugar in a large bowl using cleaned beaters until mixture just holds stiff peaks.

To assemble the trifle, spoon a layer of the mascarpone cream into a large glass bowl. Add a layer of cake, breaking the slices into pieces that fit. Then soak the cake with a layer of berries and their juices. Keep going to make 3 or 4 more layers, depending on the size of the bowl, finishing with a layer of mascarpone cream and top with a few more berries. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Raspberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

For months, I have been listening to my friend Analia complain about how a certain Seattle-based coffee retailer no longer carries her beloved raspberry scones.

So I finally made her a batch to shut her up.

I had always thought of scones to be a British pastry, but Analia said that they are quite popular in Argentina (where she's originally from) and are commonly served with tea, mate, or a side of beef...jajaja.

Scones are incredibly easy to make. This particular recipe is great because the dough requires very little sugar, as most of the sweetness comes from the lemon glaze. If you don't have a pastry blender, use the pulse mode of your food processor to incorporate the cold butter into the flour.

The original Tyler Florence recipe actually calls for blueberries which I replaced with the raspberries. I found the result to be just as tasty, and my friend Analia is a little more pleasant to be around.

Raspberry Scones with Lemon Glaze
Adapted from Tyler Florence, Food Network

For scones:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
For lemon glaze:
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 lemon, zest finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

Make the scones:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough. Fold the raspberries into the batter.

Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1-1/4 inches. Cut the rectangle in 1/2 then cut the pieces in 1/2 again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in 1/2 on a diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

Make the glaze:
Technically you should make this simple lemon glaze in a double boiler (i.e. over a pot of simmering water with a heatproof bowl set on top) but it's even simpler to zap it in the microwave. Mix the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest and butter. Nuke it for 30 seconds on high. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving. Yields 8 scones.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I hereby declare it's gelato season

Summer. Now that's what I'm talking about...warmer temps, longer days and of course, gelato.

So the official start of summer doesn't begin until June 21...ah, formalities. Considering Chicago only has three real full months of warm weather, I must get a jump on gelato season now.

Unlike most gelato recipes, which are egg yolk based, this one uses corn starch as a thickening agent. The result is a much lighter gelato ("lighter" meaning calorie content, not flavor or richness).

For you frozen dessert devotees, I would recommend purchasing an ice cream maker since there really is nothing like homemade ice cream. I own a Cuisinart brand (automatic, not the old school hand-crank variety) which I bought for around $60. Oh, and as for recipe books, The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz has some really unique and interesting frozen desserts.

Mocha Chip Gelato
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2001

  • 1-3/4 cups 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1 tablespoon instant-coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted and cooled
  • pinch of salt

In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and cornstarch.

Whisk together sugar, cocoa, and remaining 1-1/2 cups milk in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring. Whisk in coffee granules. Stir cornstarch mixture again and whisk into coffee mixture. Return to a boil, whisking, then remove from heat.

Add vanilla, a pinch of salt, and half of chocolate to saucepan, stirring.

Set saucepan in a large bowl of ice water to cool, whisking frequently.

Freeze chocolate mixture in ice-cream maker. When nearly frozen, add remaining chocolate and churn until blended. Serve gelato sprinkled with almonds. Makes 4 servings.