We love shortbread cookies, and we love chocolate. Combining the two is a step from ecstasy. Also, this gave me the excuse… I mean opportunity… to use the hexagonal cookie cutters Fran (aka QC) bought me.
Using hexagonal cutters reduces dough waste as there are no gaps between each cut.
INGREDIENTS • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature • 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour • ¼ teaspoon salt • 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl place over a pan of boiling water. Turn the burner down to simmer and heat with stirring until the chocolate is nearly all melted. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.
The more important thing is I was able to try out my new hexagonal cookie cutter. I never liked the square, or triangular (folded squares) hand pies. Circular were good, but the space between the circles wasted a lot of puff pastry. The hexagonal cutter was nearly as efficient as cutting squares, but look more like round pies.
I used a larger cutter for the top to assure good coverage of the smaller bottom. I docked the bottom piece with a fork to manage the puff of the pastry.
The edges of the covered pies were pinched with the fork, and egg wash painted on, a steam vent cut on the top and sparkling sugar sprinkled on each pie before baking.
We saw this pastry on GBBO. I hadn’t made any complex pastries in a while so thought this would be fun to try. I made a few changes to Prue Leith’s recipe. I used my own recipe for the creme patisserie and choux. The recipe and method below are as I made it.
I also found a new puff pastry I wanted to try. You may know my preferences in puff. Trader Joe’s is good but doesn’t puff as much as Pepperidge Farms. This new one is Wewalka European Bakery Style which seem to have a puff ratio about in the middle. It has good flake an layers. The only problem is they do not recommend freezing it before using.
Puits d’Amour – ‘wells of love’
INGREDIENTS Puff pastry Compote: • 250g strawberries, hulled and chopped • 25g caster sugar • 1 tbsp lemon juice • 50g raspberries Crème Pâtissière: • ½ c sugar • ¼ c corn starch • Pinch salt • 2 c whole milk • 4 egg yolks • 2 Tbl butter 4 ½ tsp demerara sugar, to brûlée Choux Pastry: • ½ c (65 grams) AP flour • ½ tsp granulated white sugar • ¼ tsp salt • 4 tbsp (55 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces • ½ c (120 ml) water • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten Sparkling sugar
Add the strawberries to a pan with the sugar and lemon juice and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the raspberries and cook for a further 5–10 minutes, until reduced to a thick compote (but not a jam). Remove from the heat, cool, then chill. Crème Pâtissière
Whisk eggs and milk together and add to all other ingredients (except vanilla) to a medium saucepan.
Bring to boil whisking constantly
Cook until thickened (it will look lumpy, its ok)
Sieve lumpy mixture into a bowl and add 1 tsp vanilla, mix thoroughly
When incorporated, cover with plastic directly on the cream and cool.
Remove from the heat and pass through a sieve into a clean bowl. Add the butter and stir until melted. Leave to cool, cover with cling film and chill until cold.
Cut Pastry Disks
Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/Gas 7. Lightly dust your worktop and roll out the rough puff to a 35cm square. Using the 10cm cutter, cut out 9 discs. Place on the baking sheets and prick each disc all over with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes. Choux
In a bowl whisk the flour with the sugar and salt.
Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture, all at once, and stir until combined. It will look like mashed potatoes. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). The dough will film the bottom and sides of the saucepan and make cleaning a pain.
Transfer the dough to an electric mixer and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about 1 minute).
Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon).
Pipe the choux in a circle ½cm in from the edge of each disc. Brush each choux ring with beaten egg and sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until puffed, crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To assemble, spoon the crème pâtissière into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle. Spoon the strawberry compote into the pastry shells and pipe the crème pâtissière over the top. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of demerara sugar on top and, using a blowtorch, brûlée the sugar. Serve immediately.
I saw these on GBBO and decided to give them a go. (Kind of English slang for “try to make them”.) Millionaires Bars are layers of shortbread, caramel and chocolate.
I used a jelly roll pan, which is about 25% bigger than the specified pan. This caused each layer to be thinner than I expected. As they were setting I considered increasing the recipe quantities by about 50%. After cutting and eating them I think I am going to leave them the way they are. They ended up being about 1/4” thick and if I cut them into 1” square pieces they will be perfect bite sized pieces.
Self induced problems: 1) Forgot to use the parchment paper making me worry about releasing the bar from the jelly roll pan. No problem. I cut around the outside and across the center. Each large piece came out easily. 2) I should have poured the chocolate on the caramel before it set. Not doing so caused the chocolate to not adhere to the caramel. Cutting the bars into 1” squares, so you can just pop them into your mouth without taking a bite and “breaking” them, converts the problem into an enhancement.
Overall, these are delicious cookies. The caramel was heated to 242 deg which made it a perfect softness and texture. The chocolate wasn’t tempered but resulted in a nice layer with a good snap. The short bread base was difficult to push to the edges of the pan, but perhaps rolling it out before placing in the pan would help. I also skipped the macadamia nuts as my pantry was bare. If you saw my pantry, you wouldn’t believe that possible.
INGREDIENTS • ⅓ cup granulated sugar • 1⅓ cups unsalted butter, softened and divided, plus more for greasing • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour • ½ tsp. table salt • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar • ⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk • 3 tbsp. golden cane syrup (or honey as a substitute) • 1 tsp. flaky sea salt • 7 oz. dark chocolate baking bar, chopped • ½ cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
Preheat oven to 300°. Grease a shallow 11×7-inch baking dish with butter.
Line baking dish with parchment paper, allowing paper to extend by 2 inches on each side; grease parchment.
Beat granulated sugar and 2/3 cup butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add flour and table salt; stir with a spoon, and then combine with your hands to form a smooth dough (try not to overwork it). I ended up adding a couple of Tbl water to the dough so it would come together,
Press dough into pan in an even layer, and prick surface all over with a fork. Bake in preheated oven until pale golden and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan, about 45 minutes.
Combine brown sugar, condensed milk, golden syrup (or honey) and remaining 2/3 cup butter in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until butter melts and mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until the caramel bubbles become larger, mixture thickens and turns a rich, glossy caramel color, about 10 to 12 minutes. Pour caramel evenly over the shortbread, and sprinkle with sea salt. Cool completely until set, about 1 hour.
Melt chocolate, stirring often, in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Pour melted chocolate evenly over caramel layer; spread with an offset spatula until level and smooth. Sprinkle with nuts. Let stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. Use a knife to release ends of bars from pan; use the parchment paper as handle to remove from pan. Cut into bars.
Every Little Leaguer heard to “keep their eye on the ball” ad nauseam. It’s good advice—in more ways than being able to hit a ball.
I had some fresh blueberries and a sheet of puff pastry left over from a previous bake so decided to make some blueberry hand pies. At the same time, as long as the over was hot, I made our granddaughters’ heart shaped Valentine’s Day cakes.
I made the blueberry filling and set it aside to cool to room temperature, then made the two cakes (plus five cupcakes from the extra batter. QC has to have her input, doesn’t she?) I rolled out the puff pastry, cut it into 9 pieces about 3.5” square, put about a half teaspoon of filling on one side, painted half with an egg wash, folded each square into a triangle and sealed the edge with a fork before slashing a small vent hole in the top. Cover with egg wash, a sprinkling of sparkling sugar and put into in the oven at 425 deg for 18 minutes. (The directions said 18- 22 min.)
Well… there’s 18 minutes, and then there’s 18 minutes. In this case 18 minutes was about 3 minutes too long. My hand pies were “well done,” instead of “just right” done. I did not keep my eye on the ball… or the hand pies. QC said they tasted fine, but were too dark to leave the bakery. Oh the trials and tribulations of being the QC department for such a demanding Manufacturing organization. Lesson learned.
The cakes and cupcakes were perfect. More on that closer to Valentine’s Day.
Actually, it is a lemon knot in my stomach. Dan and Frances gave me some lemons from a neighbor’s tree, permission granted of course. I happen to see a simple recipe for Lemon Knots and decided that would be a great place to use one of the lemons. It was.
It is a very easy recipe, especially since I do not make my own puff pastry. I tried rough puff once, but found the full puff purchased in the market is better than what I could make at home. I may make full puff one day, just for the experience. I’m thinking about it. No promises.
Now, what to do with the other 11 lemons….
I added some sparkling sugar after the egg wash. It provides a little crunch and sweetness balance to the lemon zest.
Raspberries were on sale ($2.99/package,) the forecast was for light rain, and it was a non-golf day. Whaddya expect? Scone morning everyone!
Dropped berry scones make a delicious, easy, breakfast in 30 minutes. This recipe makes 6 large free-formed scones. I formed these by hand shaping them into hamburger-like 3” diameter patties.
I froze half of them for a future breakfast. Scones can be frozen for up to 3 months, then thawed on the counter for an hour before reheating in the oven. Even easier is to microwave them, still frozen, in 30 second bursts, being careful not to overheat them.
I saw a recipe and “how to” video on making cream puffs. I usually make my choux into eclairs or profiteroles, but thought some sweet whipped cream filling would be a nice change.
Natasha Kravchuk used 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk instead of just a cup of water. Unlike Natasha, I used an egg wash to darken the tops and give the choux a nice sheen. Other than that, it was the same recipe I normally use. Same with the whipped cream except she used 2x the amount of sugar and vanilla. She also piped the whipped cream leaving the center empty. She (and I ) added a fresh raspberry inside before covering with the cut off top.
Also, I saw a hint to wet the parchment paper before piping the choux. I am not sure if it made a difference but the choux rose nicely and didn’t collapse. A few did have bottoms that bowed in. They were sent to QC for evaluation. We were so concerned we sent a larger number of samples than usual.
After baking something last week that required a lot of egg whites I had about 8 egg yolks left over. Of course, not being one to waste anything I put them in a container and stored them in the fridge. As they will only last a week or so I decided I needed to use them, and since today is my “day off” and remembering Creme Pat uses lots of egg yolks (4) and choux pastry uses lots of egg yolks (4) I suddenly had a solution. Eclairs!
I also watched an old episode of GBBO where Brendan made choux swans I really wanted to try my hand at them.
I made a batch of choux and piped a couple of dozen eclairs. I made about a half dozen of them shorter and thicker. Those would become the bodies of the swans. When cooled, cut the top of the swan bodies off with scissors. Then cut the tops lengthwise to form wings. Use a fine circular piping tip (#8) to pip the swan head and neck. Pipe a thin (5mm) ‘S’ about 5cm high. These will bake in about 10 minutes. If the necks are thinner they will burn. Trust me on this.
To assemble, pipe a good amount of Creme Pat into the body of the swan. I dipped the swans head and edges of the wings in the chocolate glaze used to coat the eclairs. Gently, (trust me again) push the bottom of the neck into the Creme Pat, then add the wings, chocolate edge up. Take a picture. Enjoy.
Raspberries were on sale here last week so I bought a double pack to add to my Raisin Bran. Unfortunately, the weather changed about the same time and for me Raisin Bran is a summer breakfast. This weather deserves oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar… or perhaps some delicious raspberry dropped scones.
Don’t over mix the dough. If necessary add a tablespoon or two of water to make the dough stick together when trying to make a doughball, which is a snowball made of dough.
These scones are basically a free-form biscuit made by forming the dough into six or seven 200g balls, (each about the size of a small fist) placing on a parchment lined baking sheet and flattening to about an inch thick.
Raspberry Drop Scones
INGREDIENTS • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour • 1 tablespoon baking powder • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt • 1/3 cup sugar • Zest of 1 small lemon (I used a small mandarin orange) • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes • 150-175g fresh raspberries • 1 cup heavy cream • Coarse or turbinado sugar for topping METHOD
Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and zest. Pulse a few times to incorporate.
Add the cubed butter and pulse to incorporate. The mixture should resemble very coarse sand.
Empty the flour mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the cream and stir until just barely incorporated.
Gently fold in the berries. It’s fine if the raspberries break up a little – it adds a nice pink stain to the dough. The dough should just be moist, not wet, but also not crumbly or powdery looking. If it looks too dry, add a tablespoon of cold water.
Spoon the dough into 12 equally-sized pieces on the parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle some coarse or turbinado sugar over the top, if desired.
Bake for 16-19 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The scones should be lightly golden and cooked through.
Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes then carefully remove to a cooling rack.