Baking Through Fika: Toffee Cookies

This always happens.  After Halloween things just get a little nuts and before I know it it’s Christmas!  Anyone else feeling like that?!  In a mere 4 weeks we’ll be ringing in 2016.  Crazy.

I’ve been slacking off a little on the blog and on this Fika project.  After a couple of mishaps I got a little frustrated, so I wasn’t as excited about continuing and possibly encountering failure yet again.  And to be honest I wasn’t expecting much from this simple cookie.

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But these unassuming cookies are quite good and something I see myself making again, especially if I need to whip up dessert in a hurry.  These are great with a cup of coffee or tea (of course they’re included in a book called Fika!) but would also make a nice addition to a cookie platter.  They freeze nicely, so you could make them ahead of time and take them out when you need them.

Since the ingredients are so few the kind of vanilla you use is going to make a difference.  I’ve been partial to this Watkins Clear Vanilla lately, but it isn’t the same as pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, both of which would be terrific.  You could add a touch of almond extract if you were feeling adventurous or play around with all kinds of extracts really…maybe peppermint and then dip these in chocolate?  I might have a weekend project to work on…

I wasn’t sure about why they were called toffee cookies at first.  But the flavor is rich and buttery like toffee.  So I guess the name is fitting.

I made these twice thinking the first time I flattened the logs of dough too much and they spread more than they should have resulting in a pancake-like cookie log.  The next time I chilled the logs and hardly flattened them at all.  There was some change, enough that I’d still chill and flatten less, but not a huge difference that I’d say you absolutely MUST chill the dough.

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These really are quick, simple and delicious.  This would even be a great cookie to make with young kids.  Put them to work measuring, mixing, rolling and cutting.  I sliced these with a pizza cutter which made it a quick and easy task.  I don’t know about your kids, but mine love the idea of the pizza cutter and might get a little carried away with it so I’d have to do that job myself 🙂

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Toffee Cookies

Adapted ever so slightly from Fika

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter, softened slightly
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine butter, sugar and corn syrup in a mixing bowl and beat until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add in flour, salt, baking powder and extract and beat until it the dough together.
  4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 3 equal-sized pieces.  Roll each into a rope about as long as the baking sheet and about as thick as your thumb and carefully transfer to the baking sheet.  At this point you can chill the dough on the baking sheet for half an hour if you have the time.  If not, then just go ahead and put them in the oven.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they begin to brown.  Transfer the entire piece of parchment to a cutting surface and using a large knife or pizza cutter slice the warm cookies on an angle into pieces 1/2-3/4 inch thick.  Let cool and enjoy.

Baking Through Fika: Apple and Cream Millefeuille

This is probably not a comparison that any pastry chef would ever wish upon their wares, but I am no pastry chef, so I have no problem with it.  This tasted like an apple toaster strudel!  The best apple toaster strudel you have ever had.  Ever in your life.  Ever.

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When you search images of millefeuille, French for “a thousand leaves”, what I have here is not exactly what you will see.  You probably know them as Napoleons, layers of puff pastry filled with all kinds of sweetness.  Most of these fancy pastries are beautiful and well trimmed with lovely, even layers.  I’m the gal who’s ok with making something taste like a toaster strudel, so my millefeuille is not well trimmed, and the layers are not even.  But it is so delicious, and really that is all that matters.

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One of the things about this cookbook that I don’t love is that sometimes there aren’t crystal clear instructions or it calls for an ingredient that requires you to make something extra for which there is no recipe and are no instructions.  In this recipe a cup of pastry cream or vanilla pudding is on the ingredient list.  I’ve made pastry cream before, but never in a small batch.  Thankfully I found this recipe for pastry cream that made just the perfect amount.  I did have a little scare when the fat separated out from the milk and I thought I was going to have to start over.  The internet saved me again with this quick fix for a broken pastry cream!

It also calls for whipping cream, but do not tell you to whip it.  If I hadn’t done much baking I would not have thought to whip it.  Maybe the authors of this book are just testing the baking knowledge of its readers, which I find to be tricky.  Tricky Swedes.

The recipe says to use 2/3 cup of apple sauce.  I used 3-4 tablespoons, just enough to cover the bottom layer of pastry.  Anymore and I was afraid it was going to just spill over the edges.

Red currant jam is called for…I used apple jelly.

Other than all that, this is a fairly straightforward recipe 😉  Thankfully it uses store-bought puff pastry and is easy to assemble.

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The pastry cream can be made a day or two in advance, but don’t assemble this much more than a couple hours before you plan to serve it.  It is best enjoyed fresh.

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Apple and Cream Millefeuille

Ingredients

Millefeuille

  • 1 sleeve of frozen puff pastry
  • 1 cup pastry cream (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream whipped to soft peaks
  • 3-4 tablespoons apple sauce
  • 3-4 teaspoons apple jelly
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon milk or water
  • a few drops almond or vanilla extract

Pastry Cream

  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Pastry Cream

  1. In a small saucepan warm the cream over medium-low heat until tiny bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, but do not boil.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add in the egg yolks, and whisk together.
  3. Slowly pour the warm cream into the egg yolk mixture, a tablespoon or so at a time. Continue to whisk as you pour.
  4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat. Whisk constantly while it comes to a simmer. Once simmering, it will begin to thicken. Once large bubbles pop on the surface, continue to cook for a few more seconds while whisking, then remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Scrape the pastry cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface, then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Millefeuille

  1. Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions and pre-heat the oven to 425°F.  Unfold the sheet and use a paring knife or pizza cutter to slice into 3 equal pieces (most sheets are already folded into thirds, so this should be easy.  Place the pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet and prick all over the a fork.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden.  Let cool, then trim to neaten the edges…or not 🙂
  2. Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream.
  3. Place one layer of pastry on a serving platter.  Spread applesauce evenly into this layer.
  4. Place another layer of pastry on top and spread evenly with the pastry cream.  You could also put the cream into a pastry bag and pipe it nicely.
  5. Place the last layer is pastry on top upside down so that you have a nice flat top layer.
  6. Heat the apple jelly in the microwave until easily spreadable, then spread on the top of the pastry.
  7. Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk/water and extract until smooth.  Spread over the jelly and let set.  Slice and serve or refrigerate for an hour or two.

 

Baking Through Fika: Checkerboard Cookies

This one was harder than I thought it would be.  It had a simple ingredient list and seemingly simple instructions.  But I just didn’t really deliver on the execution.  Gotta love being humbled in the kitchen!

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As you can see, my cookies are not sweet, dainty squares divided into equally sized plain and chocolate shortbread quadrants.  They are wavy, oddly shaped, and so far from dainty.  BUT they were yummy.  So yummy, in fact, that my son who much prefers a packaged sweet to my baked goods referred to them as the “special black and white cookies” when he told me what he wanted for dessert.  I thought he meant Oreos.  When I gave him an Oreo he says, “No, mom, the special ones you made!”  It was a rare moment, and a good one.

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There is a certain amount of precision required to make these cookies look like they should.  In order to get those straight edges you must really make each part neat, and then piece everything together neatly.  I just made rough rectangles by hand and the results were a more rustic cookie.  Here are some ideas I have for making them better.  Anyone out there have good tips to share?

  • Chill the dough after dividing it so that it’s just a bit firmer.  When I used the dough it was very soft, and too malleable.
  • Use a dough scraper as your straight edge to get neat edges on each piece, then chill them separately before joining them together.
  • Use the dough scraper again after putting the pieces together, and be sure to put them together on a flat surface that you can transfer directly in to the fridge to chill again.
  • When creating the long rectangles of dough, they become long and difficult to move.  If you made two sets of long rectangles, a total of 8 (4 chocolate and 4 plain) they would be easier to move and place together.

I’ll have to give these another go and see if any of those things help!

Even though these weren’t the prettiest of cookies, they had good flavor, buttery and slightly soft with a subtle chocolate flavor.  They’re nice along side your cup of coffee or tea and would make a nice addition to a Christmas cookie plate.  Not that I’m already thinking about Christmas…

Checkerboard Cookies

Checkerboard Cookies

From Baking Through Fika

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until combined, then add in the vanilla followed by the flour.  Mix until evenly combined.
  2. Divide the dough into two equally sized pieces.
  3. Mix the cocoa into one half of the dough until it’s incorporated and the dough is a consistent color.
  4. Divide each half in half so that you have 4 pieces, two plain and two chocolate.  If your dough is especially soft, you may want to chill it for 10-20 minutes.
  5. Form each piece into a long rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.  Make all the pieces the same length and width.  (This is the part where dividing the dough further might be helpful.)  Place one chocolate rectangle next to one plain.  Then place a plain piece on top of the chocolate and a chocolate piece on top of the plain.  Press together lightly, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  7. Remove from the fridge and unwrap.  Slice (a large chef’s knife is good for this) into slice that are about 1/4 inch thick.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  They spread a bit, but not too much, so space them 1/2 an inch or so apart.
  8. Bake for about 10 minutes, until they are set and the edges are just beginning to brown.
  9. These store very well once cooled at room temperature in a container.  They would also freeze very well.

 

 

 

Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad with Feta, Pine Nuts and Arugula

Fall is coming and with it the return of the roasted vegetable at our house!  Summer is just too hot to have the oven on at high temps for too long, so I rarely if ever roast veggies during the summer months.  There’s been a touch of cool weather in the mornings here recently, so it was time to bring back the glory that is the roasted veggie!  But since it is still pretty warm a cool, fresh salad is the perfect way to enjoy them.

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Cauliflower is not something I enjoy much in its raw state unless it is drenched in good ranch dressing. But when roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper and some garlic it is transformed in to something super amazing.  Here it also gets a tasty boost from cumin, which makes it next to impossible to resist snacking on before mixing it in with the rest of the ingredients for this salad.

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The cauliflower gets combined with chickpeas, feta and pine nuts then tossed with a citrusy sumac dressing and peppery arugula.  Sumac is a spice I’d never heard of before reading this recipe in the most current issue of Fine Cooking.  I couldn’t find it at my grocery store and had to order it from amazon.  If you don’t have it or can’t find it, don’t worry.  It’s a nice spice and goes very well with all the flavors in the salad, but I didn’t find it to be a stand out in the dressing.  It may not be the same without the sumac, but it will still be great.

I served this along side pork tenderloin and crusty bread the night I made it.  The next couple days I ate it with some additional arugula and spring mix for a super satisfying lunch.  The arugula will get wilted, so adding in some new lettuce is a good way to keep it fresh.  If you wanted to make this ahead of time you could toss everything together except for the arugula and refrigerate it overnight.  Toss with the arugula right before serving and enjoy!

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Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad with Feta, Pine Nuts and Arugula

From Fine Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2-1/4 lb.), trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 3 ounces crumbled feta (1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup dried currants (I did not use these)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  On a large rimmed baking sheet toss cauliflower with a good drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and the cumin.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway through, then remove from the oven and let cool.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together lemon juice, sumac, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some fresh ground pepper, then whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Add the cauliflower, chickpeas, pine nuts, currants (if using), and feta to the dressing and toss together.  Refrigerate now to server later or toss with the arugula and serve.

Sparkling Princess Castle Cake

My daughter turned 3 last week.  She requested a princess birthday party, and I was happy to oblige.  We didn’t have a full blown birthday party this year, but we did have grandparents over for lunch, cake and presents.  It was a great low-key party and she loved it.

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When I started looking at cakes for this princess party I found so many beautiful and some truly over the top cakes that I knew I did not have the time nor the skill for.  Like this and this.  But then I found some castle cakes that looked great and actually do-able for the amateur cake maker.  Here are the links to the cakes that inspired the cake I wound up making for Betsy.  This and this for the cake itself and then this for the towers.  As you can see I pretty must combined a bunch of great ideas others had to put this together.  Thank you, internet, pinterest and all of those creative types who share your great ideas with the rest of us!

To make the towers I brushed melted almond bark on to cake cones, I made more than 10 but 10 is all I used.  After it dried I used a little more of it to stick them together.  For shorter towers simply use one cone.

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I also used the almond bark to coat 5 sugar cones (again, I made more than 5 just in case which was good since I did knock one on to the floor and it shattered) that I then covered in pink sugar.

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With the left over almond bark I dipped the ends of both large and small marshmallows and then dipped them in pink and white sugar.  I did a bunch of these and did not use them all.

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I also piped what I thought might be windows or doors out of some of the almond bark and sprinkled them with pink sugar.  I did not have a set decorating plan, as you can tell.  I only ended up using one of them.

Using 2 boxes of cake mix I baked up a 9×13 cake, an 8-inch square cake and 2 round 4-inch cakes.  Cake mix for the win!

I whipped up a batch of this frosting.  It was just enough to frost everything.

I bought a cake board at a local cake shop in Sugar Land that I just found out existed thanks to my friend Katie, Cake Craft Shoppe.  I see many more trips there in my future.  They have decoarting classes, too…

After leveling all of the layers using this handy tool, I started layering the cakes and put on a crumb coat.  First the 9×13.

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Then the 8×8.

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Then the two rounds.

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After chilling it all I put on another coat of frosting.  Then I started decorating.  I used plain mini marshmallows, white sugared minis and white sugared large marshmallows.  When we were shopping one day Betsy saw these pink sprinkles and had to have them.  They’re bubble gum flavored and taste terrible (unless you’re 3) but I loved the way they looked on the cake.

I pressed the bottoms of the towers into the very top and corners of the 9×13 cake.  I left off the top sugar cones since I had to store this overnight and my fridge would not accommodate the height.

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When it was time to have cake I simply placed the sugar cones on top and walked very carefully to bring the cake to Betsy.  She loved it, as you can probably tell.

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At some point after the candles were blown out someone (I think it might have been me?) knocked one of the cones off.  So, if you want a more sturdy ice cream cone tower then I suggest sticking them together with some icing.

Here’s a list of what you need to make the cake.

  • 2 boxes of cake mix and ingredients called for
  • 1 recipe vanilla buttercream (this is my favorite)
  • 10 cake cones (plus a few more just in case)
  • 5 sugar cones (plus a few back ups)
  • almond bark (1 package was more than enough)
  • mini and large marshmallows
  • pink and white decorating sugar
  • piping bag and tip (for door or windows)
  • pink decorating candy (I got these at Target)

And just in case you cared, here are some more photos of the birthday girl and the fam.

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Happy birthday, Betsy!  We love you.

 

 

Baking Through Fika: Summer Torte

As promised, here is a much more complicated recipe from Fika!  I destroyed my kitchen with this one, so you know it’s good.

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For my third dessert I tried my hand at a layered cake filled with a lemon mousse, topped and filled with fruit and frosted around the edges with sweetened whipped cream and almonds.  Are you drooling yet?!

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I ran into a few little issues with the ingredients in this recipe.  Since these recipes are Swedish, some of the ingredients are not things you’d find in a non-European kitchen.  Here are the ingredients I struggled with and how I worked it out.

  • Potato flour: I did not have any potato flour (anyone out there use it on a regular basis?) and was not about to go buy some for a measly 1/4 cup.  After a little research I decided to grind potato flakes into a flour-like consistency.  It worked just fine.
  • Gelatin sheets: This is a European thing, or at least it seems to be based on my limited internet searching.  I could order gelatin sheets on Amazon, OR I could find a way to use powdered gelatin.  Turns out that 4 gelatin sheets (called for in the recipe) is just about equivalent to 1 packet of powdered gelatin.  Sprinkle it over 1/4 cup of cold water before using it.  Problem solved.
  • Jelly Sugar: This turned out to be a non-issue since I simply decided to skip this part of the recipe!  You are supposed to use the sugar to make a glaze for the fruit on top of the torte, which makes it nice and shiny.  I just chose not to glaze the fruit, and it was fine.  But just so you know, jelly sugar is not just plain ol sugar.  It contains pectin which causes it to gel when mixed with water and heated.  I’m interested to try it, but since it wasn’t easy for me to find I didn’t use it.  When talking about this with my Aunt Vivie, she suggested heating up some jam and glazing with that.  Wish I’d talked to her before making this!  I think that would be a great alternative.

It wasn’t just the ingredients that tested my baking knowledge and skill!  The methods for making the lemon mousse filling and the cake were things I had never done before.  The filling ended up being just as it should be (at least I think it was) but the cake was maybe not as tall as it should have been, and it was sunken in the center.  When I sliced it in half the middle of the top layer was significantly thinner than the outer edges.  BUT when all was said and done, this was super good.  I’m glad I made it during the summer, it is a perfect summer dessert.

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This is best eaten within a few days, so make it for guests (it serves 6-8) or for a family who will eat it within that time!  In my house I am the only one eating stuff like this, so I pawned it off on a few friend and visitors who were kind enough to help me finish it.

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Summer Torte

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup potato flour
  • 1/3 cup flour

Lemon Mousse

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 envelope powdered gelatin (4 gelatin sheets)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon

Fruit and Garnish

  • Some combination of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries (3-4 cups total)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1-2 teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 couple hefty handfuls of sliced almonds (toasted if desired)
  • 1/4 cup jelly sugar heated with 1/4 cup water OR heated apricot jam OR nothing

Directions

Cake

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.  Grease a 10-inch springform pan or line it with parchment.
  2. Heat a pot of water over medium heat.  Beat the eggs and sugar with a hand mixer until light and fluffy in a bowl placed over the hot water.  Once the mixture reaches 140F (about 7 minutes) remove from the heat but continue to beat for a few minutes.
  3. Sift the potato flour and all purpose flour over the egg mixture, then fold it into the eggs until just combined.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the lower third of the oven for 15-18 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Lemon Mousse

  1. Whip the cream to medium-stiff peaks and keep in the fridge.
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water and let bloom.
  3. Beat the egg and sugar until light, then beat in the lemon zest.
  4. Pour the lemon juice into a small saucepan.  Add the gelatin and heat over low to melt the gelatin.  Once melted, remove from the heat.  Stir in a spoonful of the melted gelatin into the egg mixture, repeat 2-3 times to temper the eggs, then add all of the gelatin mixture and mix to combine.  Fold in the whipped cream.

Layer and Assemble

  1. Prepare the pan by first cutting a cardboard round the size of the cake.  Line the spring form pan with plastic wrap, then place the cardboard round in the bottom of the pan.
  2. Divide the cake in to two layers and place one layer (the sturdier of the two) into the pan.  Spread a good layer of the mousse (not quite half) onto the cake, then place half of the fruit on top.  If you are using strawberries be sure to slice them.
  3. Place the other layer on top and repeat with some (but probably not all) of the lemon mousse and the rest of the fruit.  You can use whole strawberries on top (stems removed).  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  4. Before removing the torte from the refrigerator whip the cream with the sugar and extracts.
  5. Remove the torte from the pan and spread the cream around the edges, then press the almonds into the cream.  Slice and serve!

Baking Through Fika: Chocolate Jitterbugs

I’m continuing my Baking Through Fika project!  My mom and I sat together, looked through the cookbook and marked a few recipes that she and I plan to bake together.  Tackling a daunting project seems less daunting when someone is going to do it with you (the Prinsesstårta is the one I am fearing the most!) so I am looking forward to making some of these recipes with my sweet mom!

When deciding which recipe to make next I looked through Fika and chose the recipe that I had all of the ingredients for and one with a short list of instructions!  I know I’m going to get myself into trouble if I continue on this path, saving all the tougher recipes for the end, so next time I’ll try something a little more complicated.  But this time I went with an easy one.  Chocolate jitterbug cookies!

Chocolate Jitterbugs

I’d never heard of these before seeing them in this cookbook.  Jitterbugs are made by taking a shortbread cookie dough which is rolled out, spread with meringue, rolled up jelly roll style, then sliced and baked.  I’m not sure if these chocolate ones are typical, but in doing a little searching I found them made more often with a plain shortbread cookie dough.  I will have to try them that way sometime…

These aren’t too chocolate-y, and are not terribly sweet.  They are light in texture and pair well with a cup of afternoon coffee or a glass of cold milk.  The cookie is soft and the meringue is slightly crunchy, a great combination.  I brought them to a family weekend and they were finished off quickly.

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Here are a few tips not included in the recipe if you decide to make these!

  • When mixing up the chocolate dough you will probably need to use your hands to bring the dough together, it is pretty crumbly.
  • When rolling everything up the chocolate dough might crack, so be as careful as you can be!
  • When rolling the meringue might ooze out, and that’s just fine.
  • When slicing use a serrated knife, and work quickly, but don’t stress about making things perfect.  There will be mess, and that is fine.  After the cookies bake it won’t matter that they looked messy.
  • The ends of the roll (unless you perfectly rolled your dough!) might be uneven and not make the prettiest cookies.  I tossed the ends into the trash, but you can bake them if you’d like!

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Chocolate Jitterbugs

From Fika

Ingredients

Cookie Dough

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk

Filling

  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions

  1. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder.  Whisk in a pinch of salt.
  2. With a hand mixer combine butter, sugar and egg yolk and beat together.  Add in the flour mixture and beat until it comes together.  Bring together with your hands, then wrap in plastic wrap and refigerate for an hour.
  3. Right before you remove the dough from the fridge, beat the egg white until it is foamy.  Stream in the sugar and continue to beat until very creamy and thick, 3-4 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with a non-stick mat or parchment paper.
  5. Roll out the dough between parchment to roughly 8×12 inches.  Spread the meringue onto the dough, then carefully roll up, starting at a long side.  Place on a cutting board and chill for 15 minutes.
  6. Use a serrated knife to slice the log into pieces 1/3-1/2 inch thick.  Place on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Baking Through Fika: Strawberry Rulltårta

It has been a solid 2 months since I last posted anything here.  Not because of anything in particular, just because of life in general.  I have taken two trips this summer, but I’ve also been home a lot, enough to have been blogging at least a little.  But I didn’t.  It amazes me sometimes when I look back on the blog and see that I posted frequently during an especially busy time and now, when things aren’t really that busy, it takes me this long to post and I miss June and July Daring Bakers after not missing a challenge for over a year, during which time I had a baby.  How did I have the time then?!  Hopefully this new project will give me some incentive to blog more regularly.  I’m pretty excited about it!  These posts will also be featured on Alpaka Van!  Something else I am pretty excited about.

If you’ve been to IKEA and you’re in to food, then there is a good chance you’ve noticed this cookbook before.  I bought it because it was a cookbook, of course, but it was also very visually pleasing.  Every recipe includes a photo of the ingredients similar to this one.  Isn’t is great?

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The title, Fika, is a Swedish tradition which kind of translates to “to have coffee”.  It’s a time when you gather in the afternoon and enjoy coffee (or tea) and sweet treats, typically with company.  I had the pleasure of enjoying fika in Sweden when I visited with my mom and sisters 8 years ago.  I am in full support of bringing the tradition home.

I’ve decided to bake my way through Fika.  I love the simple recipes and the clean and creative images of the ingredients.  Another reason I was drawn to bake through this book is that my sisters and I have grand plans to open up a shop together (one day…*sigh*) and my role would be to do the baking, so I have to get some practice with Scandinavian style baked goods.

Starting with a simple rulltårta or jelly roll seemed like a good choice.  I’d never made a jelly roll before, but how hard could it be?  Turns out that it can be tricky.  The first time I used a non-stick silpat…but it stuck terribly.  The next time I used parchment which, while much better, still did not release the cake cleanly.  Any tips?

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Before turning the cake out onto a clean dish towel you sprinkle it with sugar, which makes for a beautiful and sweet exterior.

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I filled the cake with strawberry jam, Bonne Maman is my go-to.  I thought about other jams, and even a nice spread of Nutella, but in the end strawberry just seemed right.  It really needs nothing more, but a dollop of whipped cream never hurt a soul…

The cake is light and sweet, and the tart jam is a good contrast.  The slight crunch of the sugar is also a nice contrast against the soft cake and filling.

This is best made and served the same day, but can be kept in the fridge for a few days and still taste wonderful.  It just starts to get a little soggy as the cake absorbs the jam.

I am so looking forward to this project and can’t wait to try another recipe from Fika!

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Strawberry Rulltårta

From Fika

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar + extra for dusting the cake
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 3/4 cup strawberry jam or fruit puree

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 475°F.  Line a large baking pan with parchment and move oven rack to the bottom third.
  2. Beat the eggs and sugar on high for 4-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Add in to the egg mixture, gently fold a couple times, then add the milk and extracts.  Continue to gently fold together until combined, but not overly mixed.
  4. Spread the batter evenly onto the prepared pan.  Bake for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cake with sugar.  Place a large, clean dish towel over the cake and carefully but quickly invert it.  Peel off the parchment carefully.
  6. Spread the jam over the warm cake, then roll it up and place seam side down on a cutting board.  Let sit for a few minutes, then slice and serve.

 

 

 

Homemade Ricotta and Ricotta Toasts

A few weeks ago I made my first batch of ricotta cheese!  It was so much easier than I thought it would be.  The recipe is from Fine Cooking. Thanks to the use of whole milk and cream it is rich and luscious.  While I am sure it would take your lasagna to the next level, I wanted to use it in a way that allowed it to really be showcased, not masked behind tomato sauce and heavy meats.  These toasts were the perfect way to use it.

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Many ideas I came across for ricotta toasts were sweet with ingredients like honey, figs, strawberries and grapes.  I wanted something that would qualify as dinner, so I decided on roasted asparagus with lemon and thyme and tomato and basil.  This will definitely be something I’ll make again this summer, it’s light but still satisfying.  I can also see adapting this to serve as an appetizer or as part of a brunch.  I’m helping host a baby shower in a couple months, and I think these would be perfect.

To make the toasts I took slices of hearty bread

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Brushed them with olive oil (butter is also great)

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And grilled them (a panini press or grill with do, as will broiling them in the oven.)

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Top with a tablespoon or 2 of the ricotta.

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Layer on some roasted asparagus.

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Sprinkle with fresh thyme and lemon zest, and maybe a bit of salt.

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Slice and serve.

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I also made some with slices of fresh tomato, chopped fresh basil and some sea salt.  I will never tire of that combination.  And it’s perfect for summer when fresh basil and ripe tomatoes are in abundance.

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Do you have any great toppings for ricotta toasts?  I’d love to hear what you’ve tried!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

From Fine Cooking

Makes 4 cups of cheese (can easily be halved)

Ingredients

  • 1 galllon of whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Directions

  1. Fold cheesecloth to make 3 or 4 layers, wet and then squeeze the excess liquid out.  Line a colander with the cheesecloth and set in a clean sink.
  2. Put the milk and cream in a large pot.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and slowly warm the milk and cream over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s 185°F, about 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, and then slowly pour the lemon juice over the surface of the milk. Once all of the lemon juice has been added, stir gently for 1 to 2 minutes to encourage curds to form.
  4. Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander. Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to loosely cover. Drain until it reaches your desired consistency, 30 minutes for a soft ricotta and up to 24 hours for a very firm, dry, dense ricotta. 30 minutes to an hour created the consistency I liked for the toasts.  Be sure to refrigerate if draining the ricotta for more than a couple of hours. Transfer the drained ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

 

Daring Bakers: Lamingtons

The last post on Hottie Biscotti was the April Daring Bakers challlenge.  A full month of no posts!  I know you’ve been wondering just what has happened to me.  Well, I have just been doing a poor job of keeping up with the blog.  Honestly I don’t know when I would’ve posted next if I didn’t have a commitment to keep up with The Daring Bakers.  Blogging has taken a back seat lately.  Being a mom is a lot of work and sometimes (or a lot of the time this past month) sitting down and watching TV during nap time is more valuable and enjoyable to me than taking photos or writing a blog post.  Anyone else have dry spells in blogging?

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Anyway, I was glad to have this fun challenge to get me back here. I’d never seen or heard of Lamingtons before.  I’d never even made a sponge cake!  So, thanks for the great challenge, for having me try something new, and for getting me to blog, Marcellina!

For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant.

I ate one of these with my afternoon coffee today and loved every bite of it.  The delicate cake with the thin layer of chocolate and slightly crunchy coconut made for a really special treat.  It’s basically a Mounds bar in cake form, so if you like those you should have no problem liking Lamingtons.

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Making the sponge cake is fairly simple when it comes to ingredients and baking, but it is tedious.  Having a stand mixer is super helpful since you beat the eggs and sugar on high speed for 15 minutes.  I was thankful to be able to turn on the timer and tend to other things while my mixer did all the work!  When you fold in the flour mixture it’s important not to deflate the eggs, but you also want to get all the flour incorporated, so there’s a delicate balance.  I don’t think that I achieved a perfect sponge, there were a few little pockets of unmixed cornstarch and baking powder in one part of the cake, but overall the flavor was incredible and the texture was light and airy.  And I don’t know what truly proper sponge cake should be like, so maybe mine was nowhere near acceptable.  But it worked!  So I’m going to call it good.

Here is my set up for dipping and coating the cake.  Doesn’t it look neat and clean?

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The chocolate glaze is delicious, a breeze to mix up, and easy to work with, at least at first.  The only problem I ran in to glazing and coating the pieces in coconut was that the delicate cake lost little pieces in the chocolate which, after about a dozen pieces of cake, made for a yucky mess that was no longer easy to work with.  So I ended up not even bothering to coat all the pieces.  My kids gladly ate the extra cake for dessert and felt very fancy.  If I really needed to coat them all I’d make a second batch of glaze that I could switch to once the first batch became not so wonderful.

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Here is the mess I made.

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But here is what came out of all that mess.  Totally worth it.

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Lamingtons

Makes 24

Ingredients

Cake

  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup castor sugar (I used regular granulated with no issues)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2¾ cups unsweetened desiccated coconut, to assemble

Chocolate Glaze

  • 3 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • ½ to ¾ cup milk

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare a 4 ½ cm (1¾ inch) deep 9”x 13” baking pan by lining with non-stick paper and greasing the paper.
  3. In a stand mixer bowl place eggs, sugar and salt. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high for 15 minutes.
  4. While the eggs and sugar are beating sift the cornflour and baking powder at least 3 times.
  5. After 15 minutes add vanilla and beat on high for another 5 minutes. The mixture should have at least tripled in size, be light in color and very foamy.
  6. Sift flour mixture over the egg mixture. I like to use a whisk but you can also use a large metal spoon to lightly fold the flour in. Some people like to use a wooden spoon but I find it too heavy. Heavy handling now will result in a flat tough sponge. If you are using butter, thoroughly fold it in now but lightly.
  7. Spread mixture into your prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Some cooks at this stage drop the pan onto the bench top to even out the air bubbles.  I did this, but just once and not from very high 🙂
  8. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 22-25 minutes. The sponge will rise quite a lot but then settle back down. Don’t be tempted to open the oven to peak.  When baked the sponge will have shrunk very slightly from the sides and should feel springy when pressed gently.
  9. Turn the sponge out immediately onto a wire rack to cool and reverse sponge so as not to mark the top. Allow to cool. It is best to keep the cake for a day before making the Lamingtons as the cake will be easier to handle.

Chocolate Glaze

  1. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Stir in the butter and ½ cup milk.
  3. Set the bowl over a pan of hot water.
  4. Stir until icing is smooth adding more milk to thin the icing if needed. I find I need more than ½ cup but not quite ¾ cup of milk.

Assemble

  1. Dip each piece into the chocolate icing, let the excess drip off.  Keep the bowl over the pan of warm water to keep the chocolate smooth.
  2. Roll in coconut.
  3. Place on a wire rack and let sit for 2 hours.  Refrigerate or freeze.