Fresh Peach Jam

In my first year of harvesting from my peach tree, I learned a few lessons.  I was so intent of picking my peaches at the absolute prime level of ripeness that in the process of testing the fruit for ripeness and picking them off the tree, the fruit would get bruised or  slightly squished.  At first I didn’t mind and enthusiastically ate the blemished fruit immediately.  But when it started to feel like I was in a competitive peach eating contest, I decided to to switch tactics and instead make peach jam.  One of my favorite things about making homemade jam is that you can take advantage of the flavor from perfectly ripened fruit, control how much sugar to add, and add in spices like cinnamon to make it extra special.

IMG_9191[1].JPG

Fresh Peach Jam

Makes about 5 half-pint jars
(from Canning for a New Generation- Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)

Ingredients

12 ounces Granny Smith apples (about 2 large)
4 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 6 cups)
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Prepare your jars for canning (by sterilizing them).
  2. Cut the apples into quarters, and cut the cores from them.  Put the cores and seeds in a cheesecloth bag, tie it off, and set aside.
  3. Gently combine the peaches and sugar in a wide, 6 to 8 quart preserving pan.  Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until the juices just cover the peaches.
  4. Pour the peach mixture into a colander that’s set over a large bowl.   Stir the peaches gently to drain off the juice.
  5. Return the juice to the pan.  Add the apple quarters and cheesecloth bag.  Bring to a boil over high heat.
  6. Boil stirring occasionally, until the syrup is thick and reduced.  This takes about 15 minutes.
  7. Return the peaches (and any accumulated juices) to the pan.  Add the lemon juice and cinnamon, stir gently, and bring to a simmer.
  8. Simmer, stirring frequently until the peaches are very tender.
  9. Remove the jam from the heat, and stir gently to evenly distribute the fruit in the liquid.
  10. Remove the cheesecloth bag and the apples.
  11. Put the jar lids in a medium-sized bowl.  Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids.  Let sit for 5 minutes.
  12. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel.
  13. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top.
  14. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars.  Remove the jar lids from the hot water, and drain the water off the lids.  Put a flat lid and ring on each jar, and adjust the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.
  15. Return the filled jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process.
  16. Remove the jars to a folded towel, and do not disturb for 12 hours.  After 1 hour, check to make sure the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately.  Label the sealed jars and store.

Fresh Peach Cake

One of the most delicious things I’ve eaten so far this year are the juicy, sweet peaches from my tree.  And if that weren’t enough, my peach tree pumped out peaches at such a plentiful rate that I had to find other creative ways to eat peaches.  Enter the Fresh Peach Cake.  This thick, tender, fluffy, vanilla cake is layered and topped with fresh, ripe peaches, and the cinnamon sugar sprinkle adds a sweet crunch to the crust on top.

I was rich is peaches this year.
IMG_9088[1]

Peaches abound on top of the cake, but they’re also layered within the cake too.
IMG_9130[1]

Even people who claimed not to like peaches liked this Peach Cake.
IMG_9133[1]

Fresh Peach Cake

Makes one 9-inch square cake
(from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?)

Ingredients

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 large or extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced (if you don’t fully peel the peaches, the skill will create an unappetizing greyish hue after baking.  Also if the slices are too thick, they’ll sink too far into the cake batter.)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar for 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add the sour cream and mix well.
  6. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  7. In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  8. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until combined,
  9. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon.
  10. Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan.  Use a small offset spatula to spread the batter all the way to the edge of the pan.
  11. Top with half of the peaches, laying in single layer, evenly distributed.
  12. Sprinkle 2/3 of the sugar mixture on top.
  13. Spread the remaining batter on top.
  14. Arrange the remaining peaches on top.
  15. Sprinkle remaining sugar mixture.
  16. Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake

Two years ago, I lived in downtown Los Angeles among the hustle bustle of high-rise buildings and endless construction and traffic.  My valiant efforts at growing herbs on my rooftop patio were constantly thwarted by the sooty layer of city grime that always covered my plants.  So, when we moved to a house in the suburbs with a yard, high on my wish list was a garden of edibles including fruit trees.  Fast forward to the present, and those fruit trees have produced their first crop.  After eating more white nectarines in a month than I’ve previously eaten in a year, I decided to bake with them too.  This Nectarine Upside-Down Cake takes everything good about nectarines and amps it up 100% with a caramelized layer of nectarines resting on top of a tender, vanilla-almond cake.

Even though the tree was small, the fruit was plentiful.
IMG_9094[1]

Tree-ripened, just picked, super sweet and juicy nectarines are a little slice of heaven.IMG_9095[1]

Upside down cakes look so demure and unassuming in the pan…
IMG_9106[1]

But when you flip the pan over, the nectarine party is in full swing.IMG_9107[1]

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake

Makes one 9-inch round cake
(adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

7 1/2 ounces (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter (3 tablespoons melted, 12 tablespoons softened; more for the pan)
3 tablespoons demerara or other raw sugar
4 to 5 nectarines, cut into wedges (you can keep the skin on)
6 3/4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or paste
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven,  and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Pour the 3 tablespoons of melted butter into the pan, and tilt so that the butter covers the bottom.
  4. Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the bottom.
  5. Lay the nectarine wedges over the bottom in snug concentric circles, starting from the edge. Set aside.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  7. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 12 tablespoons of softened butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  8. Beat in the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next.
  9. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
  10. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined; the batter will be very thick.
  11. Use a silicone spatula to spread the batter over the nectarines, being careful not to move them. Smooth the top.
  12. Bake until the cake is dark brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
  13. Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert onto a cake plate. Remove the cake pan and parchment, and let the cake cool completely before serving.

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies)

It’s never a good day in my kitchen when baked goods come out of the oven ugly.  But I’ve found an exception to that rule.  These Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies) are the most addictively delicious ugly cookies ever.  They’re crispy on the edges like a delicate thin sheet of caramelized sugar and chewy in the center with crunchy pockets of flavor speckled throughout from the Fruity Pebbles clusters.  From start to finish, these cookies take extra time, effort, and patience, but the enjoyment from eating them is endless.  IMG_9041[1]

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies)

Makes approximately 15-20 large cookies or about 3 dozen smaller cookies
(from Milk Momofuku Milk Bar)

Ingredients

Fruity Pebble Crunch

1/4  (17-ounce) box (2 1/2 cups; 120g) Fruity Pebbles cereal
1/4 cup (20g) milk powder
1 tablespoon (12g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1g) kosher salt
6 tablespoons (85 g) butter, melted

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies

16 tablespoons (2 sticks; 225g) butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
2/3 cup tightly packed (150g) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon (2g) vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (240g) flour
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1.5g) baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons (5g) kosher salt
1 recipe Fruity Pebbles Crunch
1 1/4 cups (65g) mini marshmallows (I used fruity marshmallows but regular mini’s work too. Make sure the marshmallows are not stuck together.)

Directions

Fruity Pebble Crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the Fruity Pebbles, milk powder, sugar, and salt until well combined.
  3. Add the butter and mix until the cereal is fully covered.
  4. Spread the cereal mixture on a parchment or Silpat-lined sheet pan.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until the cereal mixture looks toasted, smells buttery, and is crunchy when cooled slightly and chewed.
  6. Cool the Fruity Pebble crunch fully before storing or using in a recipe (this took about 15 minutes for me). (Note: the Fruity Pebble Crunch can  be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for about a week or in the fridge or freezer for about a month).

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies

  1. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar on medium-high for 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7-8 minutes.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix until the dough comes together (no more than 1 minute).  Scrape down the bowl with a spatula,
  5. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the Fruity Pebble crunch until evenly distributed through the dough (30-45 seconds).
  6. Stir in the mini-marshmallows until incorporated.
  7. Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, portion the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Flatten the dough balls slightly.
  8. Wrap the sheet pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week.  Or put the dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  (Important note: do not bake the cookies using room temperature dough.  They will spread too much and become a big mess.).
  9. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  10. Place the chilled dough disks at least 4 inches apart on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan (I usually only bake 6 cookies per sheet pan.)
  11. Bake the cookies (1 cookie sheet at a time, and rotate half way through baking time to ensure even baking) until the edges are slightly browned, and the center is no longer doughy (You will have to experiment with bake times.  If you refrigerated your cookie dought, the approximate bake time for 2 3/4 ounces dough discs is 18 minutes; bake time for a tablespoon cookie scoop is about 7 minutes.  If your cookie dough is frozen, add about 1 minute extra to the bake time.).
  12. Cool the cookies on the sheet pan.

Note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Almond Flour Brownies (Gluten-Free)

I’ve been having some unusually good brownie karma lately.  After making an especially delicious batch of candied bacon brownies, I was emboldened to bake a batch of gluten-free brownies using almond flour.  In a word, these brownies are perfect.  They have a crispy, shiny top crust and an uber fudgey center.  The almond flour adds a “je ne sais quoi” overall richness to the chocolately flavor while keeping everything moist and tender.  If you don’t have almond flour in your pantry, it’s worth buying just to make this recipe.

IMG_9030[1]

Almond Flour Brownies

Makes 16 brownies
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (2 1/4 ounces) cocoa powder, Dutch-process or natural
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (5 1/8 ounces) almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease or line with parchment an 8″ square pan that’s at least 2″ deep.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs.
  4. In a medium size bowl, stir together the almond flour, cocoa, and baking powder.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well mixed.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges.
  7. Bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few damp crumbs.  Do not overbake, or the brownies will be dry.
  8. Remove the brownies from the oven, and cool for about 15 minutes before cutting.

Note: Store the brownies in an airtight container at room temperature for several days or freeze for longer storage.

Candied Bacon Brownies

THIS is how you make brownies epic-ly delicious – swirl candied bacon throughout the brownie batter and sprinkle even more candied bacon on top.  The result is a fudgey, chewy, rich brownie with a smoky, salty kick.  Never have pork and chocolate tasted so good together.

IMG_8995[1]

Candied Bacon Brownies

Makes one 9×13″ pan of brownies
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Candied Bacon

12 ounces thick cut, uncooked bacon
light brown sugar, to coat

Brownies

1 cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 9×13″ pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly, or line with parchment paper (I prefer to line with parchment paper because it’s less mess to clean up, and it’s easy to lift the brownies out of the pan).

Candied Bacon

  1. Spread the bacon in a single layer on a wire racked placed over a large, rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Coat the strips of bacon with a heavy sprinkling of brown sugar.
  3. Bake the bacon until it’s crisp but not totally browned (about 20 to 25 minutes).
  4. Remove the candied bacon from the oven, and place it on a plate or parchment to cool. Do not cool the bacon on paper towels as it will stick. When the bacon is cool, crumble or chop it coarsely.

Brownies

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugars, salt, flour, and espresso powder.
  2. Add the eggs, oil, and water, mixing just until smooth.
  3. Stir half of the chopped candied bacon into the brownie batter.
  4. Spoon the brownie batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining candied bacon on top of the brownie batter.
  6. Bake the brownies for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, with a few wet crumbs clinging to it.

Note: Brownies should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than 4-5 days.

Caramel Candy Bars

I’ve reached the point in my baking repertoire where a shortbread cookie layer topped with caramel and finished off with a rich layer of chocolate has become a bit mundane.  It’s delicious, but where’s the fun in so much predictability?  These Caramel Candy Bars provide a refreshing deviation from the norm with the addition of all things almond, including almond extract,  almond flour, and chopped almonds.  In a further unexpected twist, half of the shortbread dough is sprinkled on top of the caramel to create a streusel layer that is then topped off by a generous layer of chocolate and toasted almonds.  While these Caramel Candy Bars require a bit of time and work, the results are anything but ordinary.
img_71461

Caramel Candy Bars

Makes one 9×13 inch pan
(from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook)

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces) brown sugar
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 cup (3 1/4 ounces) toasted almond flour or finely ground toasted almonds

Filling

2 cups (16 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (11 ounces) light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup (8 ounces) cream (light, heavy, or whipping) or evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting

1 cup (6 ounces) chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
3 tablespoons (2 ounces) light corn syrup
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) chopped toasted almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan and line the pan with lightly greased aluminum foil.

Crust

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and confectioners’ sugar until well combined.
  2. Beat in the egg, and scrape the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the vanilla and almond extract, and mix until well blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the four, salt, baking powder, and almond flour until well combined.
  5. Stir the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until well combined.
  6. Divide the dough in half.  Press half the mixture into the prepared pan.  Save the remaining half to use as the streusel topping (Press the dough into a log, and freeze it while making the caramel.)
  7. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until it’s lightly browned around the edges.  Remove it from the oven, and cool slightly while making the filling.

Filling

  1. In a large (3 1/2 to 4-quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the brown sugar and corn syrup.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes without stirring, to wash any sugar crystals off the  insides of the pan.
  2. Uncover the pan, stir in the butter, and continue to boil, stirring often, until the caramel reaches the soft ball stage, 234°F on a candy thermometer.
  3. While the syrup is boiling, gently heat the cream in the microwave or over low heat on the stovetop until it’s hot but not boiling.
  4. Remove the syrup from the heat, and slowly stir in the hot cream.  Be careful as the mixture will bubble up.
  5. Return to the heat and cook until the mixture reaches firm-ball stage, 245°F to 248°F.
  6.  Stir in the vanilla.
  7. Pour the caramel over the baked crust.  Let the filling cool for a few minutes.
  8. Remove the dough log from the freezer and use a coarse grater to grate the crumbs over the top of the hot caramel, or use your hands to crumble the reserved crust mixture over the hot caramel.
  9. Bake the bars for 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Remove the bars from the oven and cool them on a rack.

Frosting

  1. In a saucepan set over medium heat, or in the microwave, stir together the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter, until melted.
  2. Spread the frosting over the cooled bars.
  3. Sprinkle the almonds over the warm chocolate, and let the bars rest until the chocolate firms up, several hours or overnight.  You can refrigerate the bars to speed up the firming process.
  4. If you’ve refrigerated the bars, let the bars come to room temperature before cutting into 1 x 2-inch bars (if you cut the bars right out of the oven, they may be difficult to cut and break off unevenly).

Beer & Pretzels Caramels

I’ve made so many variations of caramels that it’s about time that I experiment with beer caramels.  Typically, the smell and flavor of beer is a bit too strong for my taste, so I started out conservatively by using a pale ale with a somewhat intimidating name and label (New Belgium Voodoo Ranger) but seemingly less aggressive flavors of citrus and tropical fruit from eight hops and low bitterness.  The end result was a caramel with a hint of citrus and fruitiness and a slight dryness in taste.  You can definitely taste the beer, especially at the end, but the caramel flavor still shines through.  I layered mini pretzels on top since I’ve been told that pretzels go well with beer, and they provide a good textural contrast and a bit of saltiness.

img_8483

img_8482

IMG_8484[1].JPG

Beer & Pretzels Caramels

Makes 80 pieces of caramel (depending on size.  I like to cut them small as these are packed with flavor)
(from Craftbeer.com)

Ingredients

2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup corn syrup
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12 oz. bottle of your favorite beer (pale ales work well)
Sea salt
Pretzels (I used mini pretzels)

Directions

  1. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan with high sides, melt butter and brown sugar over medium heat until well combined.
  3. Slowly add beer and corn syrup, and stir well.
  4. Add the sweetened condensed milk, and keep stirring constantly.  Be careful as the mixture will bubble up quite a bit.
  5. Cook caramels to 244-246°F.  This can take up to 20-30 minutes.  Do not stop stirring once the sweetened condensed milk is added or the caramel will burn.
  6. Once the caramel reaches you reach 244-246°F, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  7. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan.
  8. Sprinkle a light layer of sea salt on top of hot caramels.  Use less sea salt if you’re also including salted pretzels.
  9. Lay the pretzels on top of the warm caramel.
  10. Let the caramel set until firm enough to cut.  I used the refrigerator to help speed up the cooling process.

Homemade Oreos

The grocery store cookie aisle is no longer the only place where you can find delicious Oreos, because this recipe for Homemade Oreos is one of those rare instances when a knockoff is a surprising improvement over the real thing.  These “Faux-re-os” taste just like Oreos, with a creamy vanilla filling sandwiched between two intensely dark, chocolately cookies.  The homemade version has a slightly softer texture and a more condensed, rich flavor. But just like store-bought Oreos, these cookies will transport you into a cookie eating twilight zone where you start off with eating one, and suddenly a whole row of them have disappeared.

IMG_8408[1]

Homemade Oreos

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on the size
(from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer – All the Good Cookies)

Ingredients

Cookies

1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Black Cocoa but the orginal recipe also recommends Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Cocoa)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Filling

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

Cookies

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the egg, and mix well.
  5. Add the egg yolk, and mix well.  Scrape down the sides as needed.
  6. Add the vanilla, and mix well.
  7. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and baking powder until well mixed.
  8. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the egg-sugar mixture, and beat until well combined.
  9. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.
  10. Using a level small (2-teaspoon size) cookie scoop, drop the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  11. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough.
  12. Transfer to the oven, and bake until the edges begin to firm up, about 9 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets on the oven racks halfway through the baking time.
  13. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheets for 3 minutes.
  14. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.
  15. Repeat with the remaining dough on cool cookie sheets.

Filling

  1. Place the butter and shortening in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk and beat until creamy.
  2. On low speed, add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and beat until combined.
  3. Increase the spped of the mixer to high and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Assembling the Cookies

  1. Spread a scant teaspoonful of filling onto the bottom of half of a cookie, and top with another cookie.
  2. Gently squeeze the cookies together so the filling spreads to the edge.

Note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen up for to 3 months.

Mini Almond Cakes with Chocolate Ganache (Gluten-Free)

Gluten-free sweets lovers rejoice!  These Mini Almond Cakes with Chocolate Ganache are perfect in so many ways.  The cake is light, tender, and spongey with just a hit of almond flavor while the chocolate ganache is rich and creamy.  Plus, these cakes are barely palm-sized, so they’re easy to share, which is a good thing because these cakes are best eaten warm or within eight hours of baking.
A few things to know before you bake these:

  • Allow enough time to chill your ganache (30-60 minutes in addition to prep and baking time)
  • Finely chop your chocolate so that it will melt smoothly into the heated cream
  • Don’t overdo it on adding almond extract as the flavor can be quite strong
  • It really cuts down on prep time to use both a food processor and a mixer
  • Whipping egg whites is the key to the spongey, light cake texture so make sure to follow through on this
  • Don’t overbake the cakes on the first round of baking as it will be more difficult to insert the chocolate ganache balls for the second round of baking

IMG_8384[1]IMG_8385[1]

Mini Almond Cakes with Chocolate Ganache (Gluten-Free)

Makes 12 cupcakes
(from New York Times Cooking)

Ingredients

Ganache

⅓ cup (80 milliliters) heavy cream
3 ounces (85 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Almond Cake

6 tablespoons (85 grams) melted unsalted butter, cooled, plus more for muffin tin
¾ cup (85 grams) almond flour or meal
¾ cup (94 grams) confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
Few drops almond extract (optional)
3 tablespoons (24 grams) cornstarch
1 ¼ teaspoons (4 grams) baking powder
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar

Directions

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Put the cream in a glass measuring cup (a 1-cup size works well), and heat it in the microwave (approximately 45-60 seconds) until it’s bubbling (or you can heat the cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan).
  2. Add the chocolate to the heated cream, and let it sit for 1 minute.  Then stir the chocolate and cream together until smooth.
  3. Transfer the chocolate ganache to a small container (preferably metal) and freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  4. Scoop the chocolate ganache (a small cookie scoop works well for this), and roll into twelve 3/4-inch balls. Since the ganache is very soft and can be messy to handle, you don’t need to create perfectly round balls.  Place the ganache balls in the refrigerator until needed.  Ganache balls can be prepared up to 1 week ahead.

Almond Cake

  1. Heat the oven to 350F.
  2. Butter a muffin tin or line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  3. Using a food processor or blender, mix the almond flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until powdery, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the two eggs and almond extract, and process until smooth, 30 seconds longer.
  5. Pulse in the butter, cornstarch, and baking powder.
  6. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl, and set aside.
  7. Using an electric mixer, whip the two egg whites until very foamy.
  8. Gradually add granulated sugar while beating the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  9. Using a spatula, gently and carefully fold a third of the egg whites into the almond mixture to lighten it. Then, fold in the rest of the egg whites just until no streaks remain.
  10. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin tin, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
  11. Remove the ganache balls from refrigerator, and place one ball in the center of each cake, pushing it down halfway into batter.
  12. Return the cakes to the oven, and bake until light brown and a toothpick inserted into cake (and not the chocolate) comes out clean, another 8 to 10 minutes.
  13. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably within 8 hours of baking.