A Remiss is as Good as a Re-mile

I was remiss in not documenting the baking I did for our synagogue’s Oneg (celebration of the joy of Shabbat after Friday night services) a couple of weeks ago. All of the recipes are posted elsewhere. Search this blog for the various key words for more detail.

We were one of three families providing pastries etc for the Oneg. I made Gooey Strawberry Brownies. (Previously I made raspberry brownies so tried strawberry this time.)  Due to the size of the strawberry jammy bits the brownies ended up very moist and “gooey,” which is not a bad thing. Somehow, only half of the brownies made it onto the serving tray, so sadly, the other half had to come home with me.

I also made sweet whipped cream filled, chocolate drizzled profiteroles. I find choux pastries easy to make and freeze well for a last minute snack when invited out, or if friends stop by. I actually saw them online a few weeks ago and decided they would be good to add to my Oneg selection.

There is nothing like a couple of dozen tartlets with cream patisserie filling and blueberry topping. Tartlets and cream patisserie are quick and easy to make, and again the tart shells freeze for future use, if necessary.  It wasn’t necessary to freeze any, they were decimated at the oneg. I like to glaze pastries with apple jelly to add that nice shine. Last year I could not find any apply jelly in the stores, or even anyone who had heard of it, so I made a couple of pints and am still using it.

And finally I decided to make some fig newtons with some of the huge store of figs I have in the cupboard prior to this year’s harvest.

Oh! I almost forgot.  I had some sugar cookies in the freezer so added them to the mix on a whim. A few months ago I froze them in cylinders so I could just cut them into disks and bake them. I used them all up so need to make another batch.

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Baking in Jammies?

No, not quite. Maybe it should read “Baking With Jammies,” or “Incorporating Fruit Jammies in Your Baking,” or in this case “How I Made Strawberry Jammies to Incorporate in Strawberry Brownies.”

Recently, meaning within the last 4 months, I bought some Raspberry Jammy Bits from KAF to use in making some Raspberry Brownies. They were soooo good and added extra moisture, chewiness and flavor to the brownies, I decided to make them myself. Short story shorter: it didn’t go well. They didn’t gel adequately to form into little sugar-coated bits which would retain some integrity during baking. I ended up storing them in the trash bin.

Even more recently, as in last week, I had some leftover strawberries and decided to give image1it another go. I pureed 2 cups of hulled strawberries and heated it to boiling in a medium saucepan, added 2 Tbl of fruit pectin and mixed until dissolved before adding 2 cups of sugar.  The mixture was cooked over medium-low heat (just boiling) and stirred very frequently. Once it reached 2250 F, I spread it ⅛” to ¼” thick on a caster sugar coated silicone sheet and placed it in the freezer.

After an hour I coated the top of the still tacky spread with more caster sugar. The mixture was still too sticky to cut easily. Using a pizza wheel, I managed, while using some very short words)  to cut half of the spread both lengthwise and crosswise into bits, which I then rolled in more sugar and placed back on the silicone sheet. The strawberry jammy bits were useable but not great.

image2Undeterred, I tossed the second half of the spread back in a small saucepan and cooked for another 10 minutes or so. My candy thermometer died so had to guess the temperature. One trick I remember is to note how long it takes for the stirring marks to disappear. When I first started the second cooking, after the jam started to boil, the marks would disappear in 5 seconds. After 10 min of a quiet boil they remained 7-10 seconds and the jam spun as a wh0le around the spatula. I spread the twice cooked jam back on the silicone and froze again.

An hour later the spread solidified to a crack. I let it warm at room temperature for a few minutes to soften and was able to cut it with the pizza wheel. Actually, this version was just about the correct viscosity (or jamminess) and I could cut it with a long knife, cleaning in hot water and drying between cuts. Roll in more sugar and store in a air tight container in the freezer. Checking a few days later they are still semi-soft and have not fused back into a blob.

image4

Adding the DIY Strawberry Jammy Bits and some chocolate chips to the brownie batter before baking (good alliteration, huh?) resulted in spectacular brownies (NOTE: Do NOT overbake!! The middle of the pan should feel very soft and the edges should look cooked. Don’t let the middle bake to firmness, the brownies will be over baked.)

Fruit Jammy Bit Brownies

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups Berries (I have now used Rasp and Straw Berries and will try others)
  • 2 TBL Fruit Pectin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Caster sugar (Extra Fine) for coating

METHOD

  1. Hull and puree strawberries
  2. Heat puree to barely boiling and add pectin
  3. Once pectin is incorporated add the sugar
  4. Continue boiling until mixing marks stay 7-10 seconds or about 235-2400F
  5. Spread mixture on caster sugar coated silicone mat and freeze
  6. Remove the sheet of fruit from the freezer and coat top with caster sugar
  7. Flip coated over onto a cutting board and coat the now top surface with more sugar
  8. When the fruit sheet is pliable cut into small squares (1/4” across) with a knife
  9. Toss the jammy bits into a bowl of sugar then store in an air-tight container in the freezer

Stairway to Raspberry Heaven

I saw a KAF recipe for Chocolate and Raspberry Brownie Bars. If you are a regular reader, you know I am baking about 800 one and two bite desserts for a fundraiser in March. Since brownies are baked in a sheet pan and cut to bite size, these brownies become a relatively easy way to make 4 dozen desserts (or about 6%) at once.F677178C-384A-4527-AFD1-0640B7565AD4

Basically this is a brownie with both chocolate chips and raspberry jammy bits folded into the batter and coated with a heavy layer of ganache. Once baked, and still warm a thinned coating of seedless raspberry jam is spread over the brownies. (Don’t over bake the brownies!) I cooled the coated brownies in the fridge for a while as I made and cooled to thicken the ganache.

While not essential topping with a raspberry and dusted with confectioners sugar really set this dessert off. (Rats, just ended that sentence with a preposition.)

CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY BROWNIE BARS

INGREDIENTS

BROWNIES

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups dark cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Raspberry Jammy Bits
  • 3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon  water

CHOCOLATE GANACHE GLAZE

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoons light corn syrup (20g)
  • 2 2/3 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan. To make very even bars, line the pan with aluminum foil before baking, leaving foil sticking up above the edges of the pan.
  2. Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Add the sugar and melted butter, stirring until smooth.
  4. Add the flour, chips, and Jammy Bits, again stirring well.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look moist, but not uncooked. Do not overbake! Remove them from the oven.
  7. Heat the seedless raspberry jam with the water, and stir until smooth. Brush over the warm brownies. Set aside to cool for an hour or longer before topping with the ganache.
  8. To make the ganache, heat the cream and corn syrup until they begin to steam. Pour over the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes, add any flavorings, and whisk until smooth. Let cool for 15 minutes or so.
  9. Pour ganache over the brownies while it’s still warm, but has begun to thicken — reheat if it thickens too much as you work. Allow several hours for the ganache to set up fully. You may refrigerate the brownies to hasten the setting of the ganache.
  10. Remove the brownies from the pan using the aluminum foil sling. Heat a knife in hot water, wipe dry and use to cut the brownies. Repeat with each cut.
  11. Just before serving, garnish brownies with fresh raspberries and confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

 

Fig and Oatmeal and Chocolate, Oh My!

I am expecting to harvest over 100 pounds of fig from our single tree in the back yard. We are leaving the very high figs for the birds and squirrels. They don’t seem to understand that and keep raiding my allotment on the lower branches. To date I ate figs, froze figs, made fig preserves, fig spread, fig newtons, fig cake and now fig/oatmeal/chocolate chip cookies. Daniel is making some figgy pudding, I am planning some fig hand pies and we gave away 20 lbs to friends, family and neighbors. What’s next, Fig fudge? Fig ice cream? Fig bread? You know, sometimes there may be too much of a delicious thing.

cookie and milk small

I searched a number of recipes to find one I liked for fig cookies. The one I chose also had oatmeal and chocolate. Think oatmeal/chocolate/raisin cookies except the fig imparts a softer and more subtle flavor and texture the raisin would. I upped the fig content being sure to not use any fully or over ripe figs. They would kick up the moisture content making the cookies too soggy. I also omitted the coconut (not a favorite of Fran.) Chilling the batter is essential. I chilled for 2 hours and it may not have been enough. The first batch were a little flat, the second were better.

Fig and Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Based on post from fiveandspice at Food52.com

Makes about 2-dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons salted butter, at room temp.
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 ounces chopped dark chocolate (I like 70% cacao)
  • 1½ cup chopped fresh figs (not over ripe)

METHOD

  1. Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes) in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the mixer as needed.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together all the remaining ingredients. Stir these into the butter mixture on low speed until fully combined with no dry floury patches left.
  3. Refrigerate the dough 30-60 minutes before proceeding. Heat your oven to 350F. Scoop the dough in 2-3 Tbs. scoops onto baking sheets. Bake each sheet one at a time (keep the full sheets that aren’t being baked in the fridge until it’s their turn) until the cookies are golden around the edges but still look a tad doughy in the middles, about 15-18 minutes, rotating each baking sheet halfway through the bake time.
  4. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

What The Fig!!

Well, it finally happened. The figs in our backyard tree are ripe and ready for harvest. To date, we have harvested about 55 pounds (about 25 Kilos) of figs. Let me be clear. That is the first harvest. We probably have 2 or 3 more to go.  Prolific tree, I just wish the apricot and plum trees would take a lesson. I made several pints of fig preserve and several fig newton filling (alone with some homemade fig newtons), fig and brie tarts and froze a few pounds for future consideration.

Picking the figs proved somewhat challenging. It turns out many people are allergic to the sap and/or leaves of the fig tree. As luck would have it, all of us were, some more than others. Soap (Dawn dishwashing detergent) and water and time worked well to remove the itch and rash. It was gone the next day. Next time, long sleeves and gloves.

After the figs were washed, dried and sorted the best were sliced (about ½” thick) and frozen. Some were laid out on parchment lined baking sheets and put in the freezer. Others were sliced and put into zip lock bags and a simple syrup with Fruit Fresh added were frozen. We shall see which method we like better.

Picking Figs

Picking 2

Picking

Frances and I picked the first half of the harvest. Daniel, The Young and Tall, joined us after his work the next day to  help with the high fruit. Rosie, the Supervisor as ever vigilant.Supervisor

 

Washing, Sorting and Processing

The fruit was washed, dried (wet fruit spoils faster) and spread as a single layer on paper towels in the refrigerator for processing the next day (after rash). Note to self: Use gloves on day two also.

The cut figs were boiled to 220oF and either mashed with a potato masher (Frances’ method) or food processed with a couple quick pulses (my method) and canned. I added a couple more pulses for the newton filling, which seemed about right in the final product.

Here are a couple of tips about making the fig newtons. The recipe makes just the right amount of cookie batter vs. filling, try it. After cutting the rolled dough to an 8”x14” sheet, roll it as rectangular and with as straight edges as possible. It will make the cookies look better.  Also, before trying to fold the dough over and pinching shut cut the sheet in half, or ever thirds, crosswise. This makes the soft dough easier to fold smoothly. More also, be bold when folding. Like flipping eggs in a frying pan. Just go for it. If you don’t fold far enough for the un-filled edges to meet, it’s a bear to try to stretch the top layer to meet the bottom to seal.

For the tartlets, be sure to use enough Brie (or other cheese) to fill half the shell. Too little and the cheese does not add enough flavor. You can always add a piece of cheese to the top to compensate. I also sprinkled the tartlets with a little flaked sea salt to offset the fig sweetness.

Homemade Fig Newtons – HGTV

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pint fresh or preserved figs or 12 ounces dried figs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

If you are using:

  • Fresh figs: Remove stems and boil figs with a cinnamon stick and 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water for 45 minutes. Drain and cool.
  • Dried figs: In a bowl, pour boiling water over figs (stems removed) and let rest 10 minutes. Drain all but 2 tablespoons water and stir in 2 tablespoons corn syrup + ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Preserved figs: Drain syrup.

METHOD

  1. Puree figs in food processor until a thick paste forms (if too thick or thin to spread evenly, add a little water or flour until spreadable consistency is reached).
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  4. Add egg and vanilla, mix until smooth
  5. Add orange juice and combined dry ingredients to bowl and mix until dough forms.
  6. Optional: for dough into a flat thick disk and chill to set butter and make it easier to roll and fold.
  7. Roll dough out on a floured surface into a 8”x14” rectangle about ¼” thick.
  8. Cut rectangle in half lengthwise.
  9. Spread fig paste onto half of each rectangle, lengthwise.
  10. Cut the rectangle in half crosswise, or even thirds to facilitate folding.
  11. Fold dough in half lengthwise to cover fig paste and pinch edges to seal.
  12. Slide each newton log onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  13. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees until crust begins to brown.
  14. Slice into cookie-sized segments and cool. Slice while warm to reducing flaking.

Have a Very Independent Day

Happy Independence Day family and friends! Have a wonderful day, full of independence, liberty, personal freedom, free speech and remember our government is OUR government, NOT our elected representative’s government.

For Daniel and Frances’ 4th of July BBQ yesterday I made a U.S. flag tart with crème patisserie filling, raspberry and meringue stripes and blueberry and meringue stars. I also made red, white and blue macarons.  The only new recipe I incorporated into these two desserts (the other recipes can be found elsewhere in this blog) was the Italian meringue used to fill the macarons and make the stars for the flag.  I wish I had kept the 4 star, 3 star, 4 star pattern, but miscounted in the middle of piping. Yeah, I miscounted on the way to 4. Oh well, next time.

 

As you probably know, there are 3 common methods of making meringue. French meringue is the most common which is made by whisking sugar into beaten egg whites. While the easiest to make, it is the least stable meringue and is perfect for filling or toppings, or folded into batters for sponges, jocondes etc. Italian meringue is made by beating egg whites to stiff peaks then drizzling a simple sugar, heated to 2400 F, into the whipped egg whites. This is the most stable meringue and is great for frosting cakes, top filling pies and mousse. Swiss meringue is made by gently beating egg whites and sugar in a bain marie until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture reaches 1300 F. The mixture is then removed from the heat and whisked at high speed to create volume, then lower speed to cool the meringue and is very stiff. Swiss meringue is often used as a base for buttercream frosting.

ITALIAN MERINGUE

Makes about 360 ml (or 1½ cups), Author: The Tough Cookie

INGREDIENTS

  • 150g (or ¾ cup) granulated sugar
  • 60ml (or ¼ cup) water
  • 60g (or ¼ cup) egg whites (about 2 large egg whites)

METHOD

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Heat over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to medium-high and allow the syrup to come to a boil.
  2. In the meantime, add the egg whites to a medium-sized, heatproof bowl and mix (with a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment) until foamy and the whites are almost able to hold soft peaks.
  3. Once the syrup is boiling, clip on a candy (or sugar) thermometer.
  4. Cook until the syrup reaches 240°F, then take the pan off the heat and slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the bowl with the foamy egg whites, mixing continuously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Don’t pour the syrup onto the whisk, or the syrup may splatter against the sides of the bowl (or into your face!). Instead, aim for a spot close to the whisk.
  5. Once all the syrup has been added, keep mixing until the bottom of the bowl feels cool to the touch and the meringue has cooled down to body temperature.
  6. Use immediately or keep in the fridge (covered) until ready to use. It’s a very stable meringue, so it won’t start weeping, leaking or collapsing.

NOTES

Italian meringue can be made two days in advance and stored in the fridge until needed (covered with plastic wrap).

 

 

 

Tilt-a-whirl Down on the South Beach Drag

The other day, Fran watched Biscuit Week on the GBBO (I had fallen asleep on the couch) and decided Mary Berry’s Viennese Whirls might be a good next bake for me;  I made them this morning and will take them to Daniel and France’s house to day for our day-after Father’s Day dinner.

Baked Whirls

These resemble shortbread cookies/biscuits with raspberry jam and buttercream filling. The cookie should be firm enough to handle, but soft enough to melt in your mouth with each bite. The trick is to adjust the viscosity of the dough to allow it to be piped into 2″ diameter circles using a star tip. To accentuate the whirl shape and  texture, chill the piped biscuits in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before baking. (I didn’t do this and they lost some height and swirl detail.)

 

I was also making some raspberry jam, so I just sieved some to use for the cookies. I also added some meringue powder to help the buttercream harden a little to make the filling a little firmer without having to keep them refrigerated.

 

Completed Whirls

INGREDIENTS

For the jam

  • 200g (7oz) raspberries
  • 250g (9oz) jam sugar

For the biscuits

  • 250g (9oz) very soft unsalted butter
  • 50g (1¾oz) icing sugar
  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • 25g (1oz) cornstarch

For the filling

  • 100g (3½oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g (7oz) icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbl Meringue Powder

METHOD

For the jam,

  1. Put the washed raspberries in a small, deep-sided saucepan and crush them using a potato masher. Add the sugar and bring to boil over a low heat. When the sugar is melted, increase the heat and boil further for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully pour into a shallow container (pass it through a sieve if you’d rather not have seeds in your jam). Leave to cool and set.

For the biscuits,

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 3 baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment. Using a 2″ round cutter as a guide, draw circles on each sheet of paper, spaced well apart. Turn the paper over so the pencil marks are underneath.
  2. Measure the butter and icing sugar into a bowl and beat until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornstarch and beat well, until thoroughly mixed. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle. Pipe 24 swirled rounds (not rosettes), inside the circles on the baking sheets.
  3. Bake in the center of the oven for 13—15 minutes, until a pale golden-brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely and harden.

For the filling,

  1. measure the butter into a bowl and sift the icing sugar on top.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric whisk until very light and smooth.
  3. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle.

Spoon a little jam onto the flat side of 12 of the biscuits and place jam-side up on a cooling rack. Pipe the buttercream over the jam and sandwich with the remaining biscuits. Dust with icing sugar to finish.

Tips/Techniques

For this recipe you will need a piping bag, a medium star nozzle, a large star nozzle, 3 baking sheets. If your kitchen is warm and you have time you could try placing the whirls in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking. This will help them hold their shape while cooking.