Baking Through Fika: Radio Cake

With any cookbook you are going to encounter some duds and some stand outs.  I’ve made a couple of duds from Fika that I don’t see myself ever making again.  But then there are the stand outs, and there are two types of stand out recipes.  Some are delicious but take so much work that you’re unlikely to repeat them.  Other stand outs are delicious and not overly complicated which makes them much easier and enjoyable to make again.

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This radio cake didn’t seem like it would fall into either stand out category, really.  It just seemed safe.  It looked easy (a big plus for me!) and like it would be ok in the flavor department.  Turns out this is a true stand out that I can easily see myself repeating since it is simple to prepare, delicious, and lovely to look at.  It’s also unique, something I’d never made or eaten before.

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You can keep this simple or dress it up.  A plain slice of this would be fine to enjoy as an afternoon treat by yourself.  Or you can add some whipped cream and cookie crumbs and serve it to your dinner guests.  Speaking of dinner guests, you can make this hours before if not a full day before you need to serve it, making it an even better choice to serve guests for dessert.

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This is pretty rich and can be changed based on the type and quality of chocolate you use.  I used Ghiradelli bars, one 60% and one 70% cacao.  It was rich, a thin slice was plenty for me.

The recipe calls for Marie butter cookies.  I couldn’t find those, so I used a digestive biscuit cookie that I hadn’t tried before.  I finished the package I bought for the cookies and went back and bought two more just for snacking.  It has an almost graham cracker-like taste with a hearty texture that pairs well with the chocolate and cream (if you’re wise enough to add a dollop).  These cookies were too big to fit three in a row in my loaf pan on the bottom layer, so I broke them in half to fit.

As you can see in these photos, I didn’t do a great job of putting the plastic wrap in the loaf pan.  There are all kinds of creases in the chocolate.  In my defense, plastic wrap is a pain to keep smooth so I was lucky to get it in there at all!  I placed one sheet horizontally and a second vertically.  I guess there’s a way to smooth the top after you’ve inverted  it on to a platter, but I’m not sure what that is.  I’d probably make it look worse if I tried to make it better, though, so leaving it alone was a better choice for me!

To slice this I thought at first of using a large chef’s knife, but then thought that a bench scraper would be a better choice to make one nice clean cut.  I warmed it underneath hot water, dried it, then cut straight down on the cake for a nice clean slice.  Not a beautiful serving tool, but a functional one.

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Now.  Those eggs.  I’m not sure if they’re warmed enough by the addition of the melted butter/chocolate mixture.  To be safe they need to be warmed to 160°F.  I did not check that they were.  Bad.  I know.  Grab a thermometer and check them after mixing.  If it’s not warmed enough you could set it over simmering water and whisk away until it does.  I escaped without any issues, but will check next time for sure.

I loved that the wonderfulness of this “cake” was such a surprise!  I just thought I was checking off another Fika recipe, and it wound up being terrific.  Looking forward to seeing what the next recipe holds.  Here’s hoping it’s another pleasant surprise!

Radio Cake

From Fika

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces butter
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate (roughly chopped)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Marie cookies (about 25) or large digestive cookies (12-18) extra cookies crushed for garnish
  • sweetened whipped cream for garnish

Directions

  1. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl either in a double boiler or in the microwave in 30-45 second increments stirring in between until melted and smooth.
  3. In another bowl beat eggs, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla until light.  Add in the melted chocolate mixture and beat to fully combine.
  4. Spread a layer of chocolate in the pan, then lay cookies down in a row on top.  Cover with chocolate, then cookie, repeat until you have 3-4 cookie layers and end with chocolate.
  5. Chill for at least an hour.
  6. Invert on to a platter and peel off the plastic wrap.
  7. Slice and serve with whipped cream if desired.

Almond Joy Popcorn

One of the great things about cooking and baking is that there is never a point at which you know it all.  There are flavors and foods you haven’t tried or methods that are new to you.  With this recipe I learned how so very easy it is to pop your own popcorn on the stove-top!
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For some reason the thought of popping it on the stove has always seemed like it would take too much time and effort.  But it’s actually very simple and fun, too!  My kids thought it was amazing.  You also get the added benefit of being able to control fat and salt.  When I pop popcorn in the microwave I either burn it or have a bunch of un-popped kernels.  With this method it was just about perfect, very few un-popped and no burnt pieces.

This is a Fine Cooking recipe from the Dec/Jan issue.  They give you the basic popping method, and then there are 7 popcorn recipes from cinnamon toast (can’t wait to try!) to pepperoni pizza.  I chose this chocolate and coconut one and added some sliced almonds.

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This is best eaten the same day as it’s made, but it still ok the next day.  Not sure beyond that.  Like a salad with lots of stuff in it, the good stuff tends to sink to the bottom of the bowl, so be sure to scoop from the bottom.

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Almond Joy Popcorn

From Fine Cooking

Basic Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (for the coconut popcorn use 3 tablespoons of coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels

Directions

  1. Put the oil and 2 or 3 popcorn kernels in a heavy-duty 4-1/2- to 5-1/2-quart pot. Partially cover and heat over medium-high heat until the kernels pop.
  2. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels.
  3. Cover the pot most of the way and shake the pot back and forth constantly once the heavy popping starts.  It helps to have two pot holders or heavy kitchen towels at this point.
  4. After about 3 minutes, the popping should slow down; when you can count to 5 without a pop, it’s done. Remove from the heat, and give the pot a final shake. Transfer to a large bowl and season as you like.

Almond Joy Popcorn

Ingredients

  • One recipe basic popcorn  (unprepared)
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, chopped fine
  • fine sea salt

Directions

  1. Toast the coconut by spreading it out onto a rimmed baking sheet and baking in a 300°F oven for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Toast until golden brown and fragrant.  Set aside.
  2. Pop popcorn according to the recipe above.
  3. Immediately after popping pour into an over-sized bowl and toss with the chocolate, coconut, almonds and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Once it’s evenly coated refrigerate for 5 minutes, then gently toss again breaking up any large chunks.  Season with more salt if desired.

Baking Through Fika: Pepparkakor (Gingerbread Cookies)

When I first bought the Fika cookbook and saw this recipe I knew we’d be making these for Christmas.  But as all things seem to go in my house, I almost forgot to make them!  Here they are just in time.

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I thought it was going to be this perfect afternoon with my two older kids.  All laughter and smiles, Christmas music playing in the background, my little guy playing happily in his high chair watching us and not fussing.  But once I started getting everything together for our cookie decorating I was reminded that rarely does that perfect experience you’ve created in your head actually come to fruition.  Not only is that just the way life goes, but kids are just unpredictable.  My daughter was having a longer than normal nap, and if we wanted to get finished before dinner we had to go on without her.  My son was just impatient with the process of getting it all ready.  I had the cookies made ahead of time, but had to make frosting and gather sprinkles, and then I had to explain to him what to do when all he wanted to do was do it!  A few times while I was getting everything set up he said, “I think I’ll just go do legos/play outside/get my cars instead, mom.”

Thankfully he did sit down with me for a good while and decorate.  And he liked it! He was even bummed when we ran out of cookies to decorate.  I’d love to instill, if not a passion for cooking and baking, at the very least a good understanding of the kitchen in my kids. I recently started participating in Kids Chefs Club.  Every month you receive a cooking tool, a card with activities and recipes, and access to online content to help your child learn about being safe in the kitchen, kitchen tools, nutrition and basic kitchen skills.  The first month my son got the apron he’s wearing in the pictures below.  Every time he helps me cook he wants to put it on.  We are going on our third month.  My kids’ desire to help me with meals has increased a great deal.  That has been both very exciting and very challenging.

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Cooking with kids takes longer and is messier than cooking on your own.  It also takes a good bit of patience and a great deal of letting go!  I like control in the kitchen, so letting my kids help has been tough, but really good for me, and it’s been great for them.  If you’re interested in trying Kids Chefs Club here is a discount code that will give you 20% off any membership plan, either 3, 6 or 12 months.  It’s valid until the end of the year, December 31, 2015!  Just use HolidayFriends15 at checkout.  If you need a last minute gift, this would be a great one.

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Now about these cookies!  They are spiced wonderfully and I really enjoy the crunch they have…if you bake them right 😉  I forget how much I love cardamom sometimes, but then I notice it in something and am reminded of how warm and unique and wonderful it is.  These take a little time and patience.  Instead of simply creaming butter with sugar to begin, you must boil together sugar, molasses and water which you then mix into the butter. After cooling it down, you make the dough.  Then you have to chill the dough for at least 24 hours.  If I’m not in a time crunch, this type of recipe is good for me since I often don’t have the freedom to complete a recipe start to finish without interruption from the kids.  So spreading it out over a couple days was no problem!  I wasn’t stressed thinking, “Oh! I have to finish those cookies!” I was able to finish part of the recipe and think, “Now I just have to wait.  The recipe says I can take a break.  Thank, you recipe.”

My first batch was the best.  Working with a little dough at a time (since it warms up and gets soft pretty quickly) roll and cut your cookies. Bake for 4-6 minutes at 400°F, “but don’t overbake!” says the recipe. I did 5 minutes and they were a teensiest bit dark but good.  My next batch I did for 4 and a half minutes.  They were soft coming out of the oven and I just thought they’d set up nicely after they cooled.  So I did 4 and a half minutes for the rest of them.  After the first batch they did not get that nice crunch that pepparkakor should have. They still tasted great, but were on the soft side.  I tried to bake them more after they’d cooled with not much luck.  Now I know that while overbaking is bad, so is underbaking.  You basically need perfect baking time.  Good luck!  I’d rather have them a little overbaked (but not burnt) to be honest, nice and crunchy.  But that’s just me.

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To decorate I used royal icing so that it would harden completely.  It isn’t the tastiest, but you get mostly spice from the cookie and a simple sweet crunch from the icing.  This recipe is what I used.  It’s more than you need, and you will have to add some water to make it more pipe-able.  Just a teaspoon at a time until you get it where you want it.

I’ve seen so many insanely beautiful holiday cookies all over blogs and on Instagram lately that I was feeling like I’d better do something awesome.  But there’s no joy in trying to do something just as or more awesome as other people.  So we had fun with these and didn’t worry about all those other people.  Enjoy and have fun with these!

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Pepparkakor

From FIKA

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 1/2 ounces butter cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon (equal to 1 1/2 teaspoons) ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 3 cups flour plus more for rolling

Directions

  1. Combine sugar, molasses and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and add in the butter, stir to melt completely.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Mix flour and the rest of the dry ingredients together.  In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix to combine.  Place dough in a plastic bag and chill for 24-48 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F
  4. Work with a handful of dough at a time (return what you’re not using to the fridge) and roll out on a floured surface, cut desired shapes and move to a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 4-6 minutes, until cookies begin to brown on the edges.

Swedish Spritz and Christmas Cookie Trays

While I love this time of year I must admit that it stresses me out!  I start to get bogged down in the to-do lists and parties and gifts and travel arrangements and forget to savor the season and really focus on Christ and the miracle of his birth and the wonder of it all!  I’ve been trying to reinforce with my kids that Christmas isn’t just presents, Santa, cookies and Jingle Bells, but I’m not being the best example by stressing out about all of those things.  Does anyone else have this problem?!  Any advice on how to find balance?

Today is the last day of preschool before Christmas break and I’ve tried this year to keep things simple for teacher gifts.  A cookie tray and a gift card to one of their favorite stores.

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All of the cookies on this tray can be made ahead of time and frozen for at least a couple of weeks which makes them great for the craziness of this time of year.

Here is the link for the Molasses Cookies and here is the Rosemary Pecan Shortbread.  Both of these are wonderfully spiced and amazingly delicious.  My husband does not like sweets and the molasses cookies are some of his favorites.

Cookie Tray

And here is the Spritz recipe!  It’s a family recipe that my mom, aunt and grandmother used.  These are straightforward butter cookies.  If you don’t have a cookie press you could maybe roll them in to balls and then roll them in sugar, but I haven’t tried that before.  Don’t be scared of a cookie press, though!  My mother in law passed down to me the one pictured below a few years ago and I just now worked up the courage to use it.  I wish I’d not waited so long!

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A few tips:

  1. Use an ungreased cookie sheet!  I used parchment for my first batch, which was a mistake.  The dough didn’t stick to the parchment, it just stayed on the press!  Very frustrating.  There is enough butter in these that sticking shouldn’t be an issue 🙂
  2. Watch these carefully in the oven.  If they burn they’re just not very good.
  3. Place the red hots on the cookie in such a way that they’re not too close to the edge.  If they get too much heat from the metal of the pan they’ll melt.

SWEDISH SPRITZ

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • coloring (optional)
  • red hots or sprinkles

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Cream butter and sugar together thoroughly.  Add in the egg and extracts and beat well.
  3. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together, then add to the butter mixture and beat until combined.  At this point you can color some of the dough if you want to.  The green trees have always been a favorite of my family!
  4. Fill cookie press with dough and fit with a plate.  Force dough out according to the directions for your press on to an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart.  Press red hots into cookies if using.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes.  You may need to rotate them if you oven bakes unevenly.
  6. Cool and serve.  These freeze very well.

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!