When in Doubt…Leave it at 350

baking, cooking, and other adventures

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rugelach March 6, 2012

Filed under: Bread,Cookies,Tuesdays With Dorie — pastrybrush @ 6:34 pm
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This weeks Tuesdays With Dorie was hosted by Jessica of My Baking Heart and Margaret of The Urban Hiker. They picked the recipe for Rugelach, which is located on pages 325-327 in Baking With Julia.

For the recipe it gives you the option of making your own levkar filling, either prune or apricot, or you can just buy one. Levkar is just another way of saying fruit butter, well that is essentially what it is. Since I happened to have some prunes and apricots on hand because I have been making Emma’s baby food, I decided to make both levkars for the filling. To figure out which one I preferred I filled half of a recipe with each. The dried fruit for the filling was a mixture of dried apricots, golden raisins, and figs with walnuts and almonds.

I took my time making these cookies and made it a 3-4 day project. The first day I made both Levkars, and put out my butter and cream cheese to soften overnight. Day two I made the dough and chilled it. Day three I rolled out and filled the dough, and then put it in the fridge overnight. Day four or maybe 5 🙂 I finally sliced and baked them. I decided to not roll them in the cinnamon sugar nut mixture because I didn’t want the hassel, the mess, and I had waited long enough to taste these cookies.

Funny thing happened, at first I was only going to make one levkar so I asked Mike what his preference was and he said prune. I secretly wanted the apricot but I didn’t say anything. Once the cookies were made and we each tried them, I preferred the prune filling and Mike preferred the apricot. I guess things work out that way :). Mike took the extra to work and most of the apricot cookies got eaten. I think that is because Mike told them the other was prune filled and hey were wary.

Oh well, more for me. I figured out that I preferred the prune filling because it brought the flavor of the cinnamon to the front of your taste buds. It was just one of those nice added bonuses when the flavors worked perfectly and accentuated another ingredient which happened to be a favorite of mine 🙂


Tuesdays with Dorie: A Fig Cake For Fall November 1, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Cake,Tuesdays With Dorie — pastrybrush @ 8:24 pm
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For the week of October 25th, Ursula of Cookie Rookie chose A Fig Cake for Fall, which is located on page 198 in Baking: From My Home to Yours.

I actually did this recipe on time for once but because it wasn’t Vegan I did not want to post it during Vegan MoFo.  I was trying to follow the rules and be respectful.  I was initially going to try to make this vegan, but the more I looked at the recipe…and the screw up with the brownies, I wanted to make sure it was right the first time.  So I opted to make it the omni way and forgo posting until October was over.

Funny thing is, when I decided I wanted to make this I had just been to Trader Joe’s and noticed that they had fresh figs…score.  Too bad I didn’t buy them at the time.  I went in a couple of days later and they didn’t have any.  Come to think of it, I was in there two days ago and they didn’t have any either.

After Mike heard me complaining about the lack of Fresh Figs, he ended up coming home one day with some.  I asked him where he got them and he said one of his co-workers actually has a fig tree and brought some to work.  Miracle thy name is Lisa.  I guess all the stars aligned and I got my figs 🙂  I decided to bake this cake in a pan that I wouldn’t have to turn it out of, and that was pretty.  Cut to the pie plate my mom brought me back from Poland….love it.  The Fig Cake actually fit perfectly into.  The cake came out nice and lovely, with a nice lemon and cornmeal notes in the cake.  This is a recipe that I would specifically buy figs just to make.  It showcases the fig on the top of the cake and then gives you a nice dense light lemon flavor in the cake.  Next time, I will get Mike to eat more of it, or just take it into work 🙂


Tuesdays With Dorie/Vegan MoFo: Vegan Apple Nut Muffin Cake October 4, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Cake,Quick Breads,Tuesdays With Dorie,Vegan — pastrybrush @ 11:10 pm
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This weeks Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Katrina of Baking and Boys.  She picked Dorie’s Apple Nut Muffin Cake which is located on page 37 in Baking:From My Home to Yours.  Since this month is Vegan MoFo aka Vegan Month of Food, all of my post for October will be Vegan.  If I am given a recipe that is not vegan than I will make it vegan to abide by the rules, which I did for this recipe.

I am also going to be posting more this month because I have realized I have been neglecting my blog.  It will surprise you to know that I have already baked/cooked up a few vegan things already and now I just need to find time to sneak away from the baby to type them up 🙂

This cake turned out wonderful.  No one would be able to tell that it was vegan.  It was very moist because of the apples and the texture reminded me of a banana walnut cake without the banana flavor.  I would definitely make this again.  The changes to the recipe that I made were very easy, and actually made for a healthier version of the cake since I used vegetable oil instead of butter.  I took a few hints from the Ladies over at Post Punk Kitchen via Vegan with a Vengeance to make this recipe Vegan and it was perfect.

You can find the original recipe on Katrina’s blog, Baking and Boys.

Below is the vegan version that turned out FANTASTIC!!!

Vegan Apple Nut Muffin Cake

1/2 cup rice milk

1/2 cup apple juice

1 tbsp ground Flax Seed mixed with 3 tbsp water

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon pecan extract (I didn’t want to dig the almond extract out)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1  3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1 medium apple, peeled, cored and cut into small dice

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup dried figs, diced (I was out of raisins so I opted for figs)

Getting ready:  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Use an 8-inch square silicone pan, or oil an 8-inch square baking pan.  Put the pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk together the rice milk, cider, ground flax seed with water, vanilla and pecan extracts, oil, and vinegar.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and salt to combine thoroughly.  Toss in the brown sugar, making sure there aren’t any lumps by running it through your fingers, then add the oats and whisk the dry ingredients a few more times to mix.  Switch to a large rubber spatula and stir in the liquid ingredients, stirring just until everything is moistened—as with muffins, less mixing is better than more.  Gently stir in the apple, nuts and figs, and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for a couple of minutes before running a knife around the sides of the pan and unmolding the cake; invert and cool until warm, or to room temperature.


Tuesdays With Dorie: Fig Upside-Downer September 14, 2010

Filed under: Baking,Cake,Tuesdays With Dorie — pastrybrush @ 2:55 pm
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This weeks Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Sabrina of Superfluous.  She chose Dorie’s Cranberry Upside-Downer, which is located on page 206 in Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Okay, I guess you have noticed that the post name is different than the recipe picked.  Well that is because cranberries haven’t magically appeared at the grocery store lately.  When they do appear I will be jumping out of my skin and grabbing bags and bags of cranberries.  Since I don’t work at the pastry shop anymore (we moved almost a year ago), I won’t be able to readily get my hands on the cran-raspberry tart that we use to make/serve.  So I will be making myself one.  I might take to sharing it 🙂

Okay, back to the recipe at hand.  I recently remembered that Figs had just started to appear at the local Trader Joe’s, so while on my weekly shopping extravaganza (it has turned into one), I picked up a container.  At the time I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I had to buy them 🙂  Yesterday, I remembered that Tuesdays was coming up and cranberries were just another dream.  It turned into a Fig Upside-Downer day with some Pecans thrown in along with a Sourwood Honey glaze.

It turned out pretty, but I have yet to sample it. Since  I have been being pretty strict with my food intake, I only made half a recipe.  It baked up perfectly in a 6 x 2 round cake pan, at 350°F for 30-35 minutes.  I am still trying to be strong, so we will see what happens to this Upside-Downer.

Okay, I know what is going to happen.

I will end up trying a bite and then forcing the rest of it on Mike 🙂


Holiday Cookies Part 1 December 22, 2008

100_1765OH Holiday Cookies how you took up a week of my life


Oh how I have been putting off writing two entries on my cookies 🙂

I guess I got exhausted from making all the holiday cookies and then making dessert for Dancer’s Avon Party.  Lately I haven’t been making much of anything because for the past few days I have had a problem moving my neck.  It just started randomly one morning.  I was unable to really look down or touch my left ear to my left shoulder.  I have no idea what happened, but I am slowly gaining movement back.


Anise Cookies

For the Vegan Bloggers out there a few of these would be very easy to VEGANIZE.  Especially the Butterballs 🙂

For this holiday season I actually didn’t make as many varieties of cookies as I usually do.  A few of the cookies that I made are actually “Secret” family recipes so I won’t be sharing the recipes for them: Anise Cookies, Anise Walnut Biscotti, and Hazelnut-Chocolate Chip Biscotti.  The Hazelnut Biscotti actually are a variation of the Anise Walnut Biscotti.  I usually make the base for the anise biscotti and then add whatever flavors I like.  I have been known to make Cinnamon Chip Biscotti, Cherry-Almond Biscotti, Cranberry-Walnut, Chocolate Chip-Walnut, etc.  If you have your own Biscotti base recipe you can just experiment with flavors like I do and you can usually never go wrong 🙂

There are a few cookies that I made this holiday season that I have already posted about.  The first cookie is Anise Pizzelles.  I have been eating anise pizzelles since before I can remember.  My Grandma’s next door neighbor use to make them and bring them over all the time when I was a kid.  I thought about using my Stovetop Pizzelle Iron to make these, but once I started making all the other cookies the last thing I wanted to do was mess with that.  I ended up getting out my electric iron and that worked out perfect.  Especially since this time I decided to put the dough in the fridge overnight.  Since the dough was chilled I was able to roll it into balls and it made the time pass a lot quicker.  It only took about 25 minutes to make all of them instead of the usual hour and the clean up was so much easier.

The other cookie is actually a biscotti.  I ended up making the Cherry- Almond Lenox Biscotti from Tuesdays With Dorie.  This time around I only made a half batch and they didn’t turn out as pretty so the ugly ones have taken up residence in my stomach 🙂  They are so tasty.  For the recipe just cruise on over to the presenter for that week and search their site.  It should be there.  Or just buy Dorie’s book already, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

One of my favorite cookies that my mom would make when I was growing up is what she called Butterballs (recipe at the bottom of the post).  The rest of the world refers to these as Mexican or Italian Wedding Cookies.  I have seen a bunch of different recipes out there for these cookies and they all are the same basic recipe except using a different nut and they have a different name.  For the version that I make I use finely ground walnuts, and do a double coating of powdered sugar (once when they come out of the oven and after they have cooled).  It makes them look prettier and you can catch if someone has been sneaking in to eat your cookies because they will be covered in powdered sugar 🙂

100_1731A couple of years ago around Christmas time I was at the grocery store and found Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips, and made cookies out of them.  From that moment on I was on the look out for the Andes Baking Chips.  In recent years they have been hard to find so anytime I would see them I would buy 5 bags.  So this year I had a backstock and ended up making 3 batches of Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I have found if I use my small cookie scoop to scoop them out that they make a perfect cookie shape.  I have only made one modification to the recipe.  I use unsalted butter plus 1/2 tsp salt instead of salted butter.

Next cookie, ITALIAN FIG SPIRALS (recipe at the bottom of the post).  I found these cookies while looking through Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies. If you do not own this book you should go out and buy it right now.    These cookies are probably one of the most popular that I make.  If you like Fig Newtons these are BETTER.  I have made these with dried Mission Figs which give you the dark purple color and then recently I started making them with a dried White Fig and they have an orange color and still taste fantastic 🙂

I have already mentioned in a previous entry that I tried my hand at Venetians (aka Rainbow Layer) this year.  They turned out fantastic even with the disaster that was the red layer.  I was so surprised.  If you don’t know what a Venetian (recipe at the bottom of the post) is it is a three layer almond cake with the layers being green, white and red to represent the Italian Flag.  In between each layer is a thin layer of Apricot Jam and then it is covered in chocolate.  The incident was the last layer to go one.  I was in a hurry and didn’t let the layer cool completely and when I went to put it on it completely fell apart all over the counter.  So I pretended it was a puzzle and put it back together and pushed it down. Actually what surprised me more was that I didn’t care or try to throw out the cake.  I was actually calm and tried to fix it.  Everyone that tried these “cookies” LOVED them.  The best compliment was when everyone at work said they tasted better then the ones we carried, included my boss and the pastry chef.  TAKE THAT!!!!  Too bad they won’t let me make them for the store :/


Source: My Mother

1 cup unsalted butter,  room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely ground walnuts

extra confectioners’ sugar for decorating

Preheat oven to 375°F

Cream the butter and sugar until combined.  Add a pinch of salt, vanilla, and the flour.  Mix until everything is combined.  Then add in the walnuts and mix until they are fully incorporated.  Scoop out 1 tbsp at a time and roll into a ball.  Place on a parchment line cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Place extra confectioners’ sugar in a paper bag or ziploc bag.  When cookies come out of the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  Then toss them in confectioners’ sugar until fully coated.  Let them cool to room temperature and toss them in confectioners’ sugar again.

100_1713Italian Fig Spirals

Source: Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies page 167

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 egg

3 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely snipped dried figs

1/3 cup orange marmalade

1/4 cup orange juice

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and baking powder.  Bea until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon.  Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Meanwhile, for filling, in a small saucepan combine figs, marmalade, and orange juice.  Cook and stir just until boiling; remove from heat.  Set aside to cool

Divide dough in half.  Roll half of the dough between pieces of waxed paper into a 10×8-inch rectangle.  Spread half of the filling over dough rectangle to within 1/2 inch of edges.  Beginning with the short side, carefully roll up the dough, using the waxed paper to lift and  guide the roll.  Moisten edges; pinch to seal.  Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper.  Repeat with remaining dough and filling.  Chill for 4 to 24 hours or until firm enough to slice

Preheat oven to 375°F

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Cut rolls into 1/4 inch slices.  Place the sliced 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

100_1758Venetians (Rainbow Layer Cookies)

Source: Italian Desserts by Maria Bruscino Sanchez

6 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp almond extract

12 oz almond paste

3 cups flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups apricot preserved

2 cups dark chocolate (I actually ended up using two bags of chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Grease and line three 15 x 10 inch cookie sheets, with sides, with parchment.  Grease parchment.  Set aside

In an electric mixer with a wire whisk, beat egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, and cream of tartar until stiff, 2 to 3 minutes.  Set aside

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and remaining 1 cup of sugar.  Add egg yolks and almond extract.  Break up almond paste into small pieces.  Add and mix until well blended and smooth.  Add flour and salt.  Mix until well blended.

With wire whisk attachment, fold in egg white mixture.

Divide the dough into three equal portions.  Add a few drops of red food coloring to one and a few drops of green coloring to another.  Leave one dough natural color

Evenly spread each dough into prepared pans.  each layer will be thin.

Bake each batter for 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Remove the pans from the oven.

Cool on wire cooling rack.  Remove and discard parchment.  Place the green layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Spread one cup of apricot preserved over the green layer.  Slide the white/yellow layer of cake on top of the preserves.  Spread remaining cup of preserved over the white/yellow layer.  Slide the red layer over the preserved.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Weigh down with a cutting board on top.  Refrigerate overnight.

Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Spread in a thin layer over the top of the red layer.  Let set until dry.  Flip the cake over onto parchment.  Melt the remaining chocolate and spread over the green layer.  Let set.  Using a serrated knife, trim the edges.  Cut into 1 inch squares

Makes approximately 80 cookies.


Vegan Adventure #19 and VeganMofo #4 October 6, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Cake,Vegan — pastrybrush @ 7:00 am
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Ever since I was at work about a month ago and saw fresh figs in the fridge, I wanted to find some and make something nice and sweet.  Of course my grocery store wasn’t carrying them at the time and the only place I could go to get them was Costco, but you need a membership to shop there.  That went out the window really quick.  On Tuesday I was wandering around the grocery store and was in the produce section and noticed a small container of fresh figs.

THIS IS MY CHANCE!!! (more…)