Hazelnut and Almond Brittle

Because it’s not slathered in chocolate or piled high with toppings, I always forget how utterly delicious and super addictive nut brittle is.  This nut brittle recipe is proof that keeping it simple is super.  I used whole hazelnuts and almonds, but you can use nearly any nut you like.  One of my favorite things about this recipe is that although the brittle is hard, once you bite into it, it has an airiness and light crunch to it, and the richness of the nuts provides a good contrast to the sweet caramelized sugar.  I’ve been told that this brittle was so delicious that people fought over the crumbs.

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Hazelnut and Almond Brittle

Makes one 11 x 17 inch sheet
(from Chocolates and Confections at Home with The Culinary Institute of America by Peter P. Greweling)
My notes are in [ ] below.

Ingredients

1 pound (2 cups) sugar
4 ounces (1 1/2 cup) water
12 ounces (1 cup) light corn syrup
1 pound (3 cups) [I’ve used 13-14 ounces of nuts too, and it didn’t seem to skimpy] unsalted hazelnuts, almonds, or other nut that you like [skin on is OK]
1 teaspoon salt
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter, unsalted, soft
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions

  1. Line a large sheet pan [I prefer an 11×17 inch pan so that the brittle isn’t too thick and difficult to bite into.  The orginal recipe recommends a 10×15-inch sheet pan.] with parchment paper [making sure the parchment paper goes up the sides of the pan], or you can lightly oil it [I prefer using parchment because it makes for super easy clean up and it doesn’t add any extra flavors and grease like oil can].
  2. Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant rubber spatula.  Cover and boil for 4 minutes. [This helps melt the sugar crystals that may be clinging to the side of the pan]
  3. Remove the cover, insert a thermometer, and cook without stirring to 240°F. [It should be a very light brown color.  You’ll have to experiment a little with this, as the brittle is more flavorful as it darkens, but you also run the risk of the brittle burning if you brown it too much.]
  4. Add the nuts, and cook while stirring to 320°F [make sure to stir often to ensure the nuts do not burn], or until the batch is light brown [My batch started to brown around 310°F, so make sure to keep an eye on it.  Also, the brittle will darken up when you add the remaining ingredients, so it’s OK if it starts out very lightly browned.].
  5. Remove the pan from heat, and quickly mix in the salt, butter, vanilla, and baking soda thoroughly.  Be careful as the ingredients will bubble up as you add them.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and spread to the edges using an offset spatula. [The texture may seem a little puffy and difficult to spread, but it will settle down it cools.  Just try to make the top as even as possible.  Also, try to keep the brittle from going too far up the  sides of the parchment paper.]
  7. Allow the brittle to cool to room temperature.  Break into the desired pieces. [Depending on what size pan you use and how thick the brittle is, you can use different methods to break the brittle into pieces.  When the brittle is thick, I use a meat tenderizer to break up the brittle.  But that also creates a lot of “wasted” tiny pieces of brittle, which can be used for ice cream topping or sprinkling over other desserts.  I prefer to break the brittle up with my hands as I can control the size better, which is why I use an 11 x 17 inch pan as the brittle is just the right thickness for me.]

[Notes: The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks.

Since this recipe is so versatile, feel free to experiment with different nut combinations. I like pairing almonds with pecans since they have different textures.  I’ve also experimented with adding 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (I add it during Step 5 of the cooking process)  which adds a slight but noticeable cinnamon flavor, and walnuts are a good nut to companion for cinnamon.]

 

 

 

Double Chocolate Cream Cheese Fudge Brownies

You should avert your eyes right now if you’re weak of heart, because these Heath Chocolate Cream Cheese Fudge Brownies may just make you swoon.  These thick, fudgy dark chocolate brownies are swirled with a tangy, smooth cream cheese sprinkled with toffee bits.  While the amount of butter and sugar needed for this recipe may make you gasp, rest (a little bit) assured that the recipe makes a lot of brownies (and you should share them because you don’t need to be eating 3 sticks of butter).

This recipe will take a little bit of extra time to make because you have to make two different batters, but don’t be intimidated by the swirling/mixing of the batters.  Make sure not to overbake the brownies so they stay moist and fudgy.

Dolloping the toffee cream cheese batter on top of the brownie batter.
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The toffee cream cheese has been successfully swirled into the brownie batter.  IMG_6272[1]

Perfectly baked!
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These brownies taste as good as they look. IMG_6277[1]

Double Chocolate Cream Cheese Fudge Brownies

Makes 2 dozen square brownies
(from Abigail Johnson Dodge’s The Everyday Baker: Recipes & Techniques for Foolproof Baking)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

Cream Cheese Swirl

8 ounces (277 g) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces/50g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons unbleached all purpose flour
1 yolk from a large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup (2 ounces/57g) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate or mini chips [I used Heath toffee chips]

Brownies

Nonstick cooking spray or softened butter, for preparing the pan
24 tablespoons (12 ounces/340g) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1 1/4 cups (3 3/4 oz/106g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
2 cups (14 ounces/397g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz/149g) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups (7 1/2 ounces/213g) unbleached all purpose flour

Directions

Cream Cheese Swirl

  1. Put the cream cheese, sugar, and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using and electric handheld mixer fitted with wire beaters), and beat on medium speed until creamy and no lumps remain, about 2 minutes
  2. Add the yolk and vanilla, and beat on medium until blended, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the mini chips [I used Heath toffee chips], and beat on low speed just until blended.

Brownies

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325F.
  2. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan (straight-sided kind) with foil [I like to use heavy duty foil] leaving about a 2-inch overhang on the short sides.  Lightly grease the foil [or spray with baking spray].
  3. Put the butter in a large saucepan, and set over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is melted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Slide the pan off the heat.  Add cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt, and whisk until blended and no lumps of brown sugar remain.  Using your fingertip, check the temperature of the batter- it should be warm but not hot.  If it’s hot, set the pan aside for a minute or two before continuing with the recipe.
  6. Add the eggs, two at a time, whisking until just blended.
  7. Add the vanilla with the final egg addition.
  8. Add the flour, and stir with a silicone spatula until just blended.
  9. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and, using a small offset spatula, spread evenly.
  10. Drop the cream cheese mixture in medium-sized dollops evenly spaced over the batter.  [I like to use a tablespoon scooper].  You should have a total of 12.
  11. Use the tip of the offset spatula, swirl the batters together, leaving large streaks of cream cheese.
  12. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownie batter comes out with only small bits of brownie sticking to it, 40-46 minutes.  [Make sure not to overbake so that the brownies say moist and fudgy.]
  13. Move the pan to a rack and let cool completely, about 3 hours.
  14. When the brownie is completely cool, use the foil edges on the short sides of the pan to lift it from the pan and place it on a large cutting board.  Run a long think knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut into 24 squares, heating and wiping the knife after every cut.  [Since these brownies are so dense and rich, I like to cut slightly smaller squares to make 32 total squares.  I serve them in cupcake liners.]

Note: The baked, cooled, and cut brownies can be layered between sheets of parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container and stowed at room temperature for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Hazelnut Molasses Spice Cookies

These hazelnut molasses spice cookies may look understated and almost overbaked, but if you look closely, they’re studded with small chunks of hazelnut and pack a flavorful punch.  Cinnamon, ginger, and cloves make them reminiscent of a gingerbread cookie but without the spicy bite.  Thin and crispy, rich and buttery, and not too sweet, they’re a perfect complement to tea time.

Note, the dough needs a few hours in the fridge to firm up, so make sure to leave enough time for that.
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Hazelnut Molasses Spice Cookies

Makes about one hundred 2 1/2 inch cookies
(from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies)
My notes are in [   ] below.

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups (7.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) raw hazelnuts, skin left on
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon slat
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup light unsulfured (but not blackstrap) molasses

Directions

  1. Put the flour, hazelnuts, and baking soda into a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground.  Stir in the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves until well combined.
  2. In a mixer bowl, combine the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla, and beat until fluffy.
  3. On low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture followed by all of the molasses.  Add the remaining flour and beat until just blended.
  4. Shape the dough into a cylinder about 14 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter lengthwise on an 18-inch-long sheet of wax or parchment paper. Wrap tightly.  Refrigerate until firm enough to slice, 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  6. Grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper. [I always use parchment paper because it makes for easier clean up.]
  7. Cut slices 1/8 inch thick from the cylinder. [Make sure the dough is evenly sliced so the cookies bake up evenly and are done at the same time.]
  8. Place the slices about 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined or greased cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for 7-12 minutes [the original recipe indicated 10-12 minutes, but my cookies were done by 7-8 minutes so make sure to keep an eye on them.], until golden grown with darker edges [my cookies darkened quickly, so again, make sure to keep an eye on them and check to see how dark the bottoms are too.].  Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway though the baking time.  The cookies will puff up and then settle down before they are done.
  10. For lined pans set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool; for unlined pans, use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to racks.  Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing.

Note: Cookies can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Making Ballroom Dance Jewelry (bracelets, necklaces, hair pieces, etc.)

Note:  First off, apologies if you were expecting a food related post.  In addition to baking, my other hobby is ballroom dancing, and I’m often crafting something for an upcoming ballroom dance competition.  This post is a brief tutorial on how to make silicone-backed ballroom dance jewelry.  And no worries, I’ll be back to food posts soon. 

Silicone backed ballroom jewelry can be expensive to buy.  If you’re a little crafty and have some patience, you can make your own.

Here’s a bracelet I made. It’s held up well and looks great on the competition floor.64370_10101657087590048_1736737903722999371_n

Materials Needed

You’ll probably need to go to the hardware store, a fabric store, and some place that sells rhinestone supplies to gather all your materials.

For Making the Silicone-backed Powernet (this is what supports the jewelry)

  1. Powernet (slightly stretchy material with small holes in it)
    Use nude or another color matching your skin color for bracelets and necklaces; use an  appropriately colored powernet to match your hair color for hair pieces.
    powernet
    2. Silicone
    This is the kind I use, and I bought it at Home Depot for around $5. It’s usually in the section of the store for caulking supplies. It smells really strong so make sure to use it in a well ventilated area.
    glue
    3. Plastic putty “knife”
    This is used to spread the silicone. You can also buy this at Home Depot. spatula
    4. A thick piece of cardboard and parchment paper
    The cardboard from a cereal box will be too flimsy. Try to use cardboard from boxes that things are shipped in. It should be large enough so that you have room to work on your necklace, bracelet, hair piece, etc. on it. You can buy parchment paper at the grocery store in the area for aluminum foil.
    parchment

For Making Your Jewelry

  1. E6000 craft or other rhinestone glue (I prefer E6000)
    Use a strong glue to ensure your stones stay put.
  2. Rhinestones
    Flat backed rhinestones are the easiest to work with.  I also tend not to use the absolute high end rhinestones like Swarovski for my hair pieces and instead save those for my dresses. I usually use mid-level stones like Preciosa or other Czech brands, but I tend to stay away from using plastic (often Korean or Chinese) stones as they’re too dull looking for me. On the slightly lower cost end of the spectrum but still passable quality, I like Clarus rhinestones from Nova Rhinestone located in downtown Los Angeles. Bohemian Crystal  in downtown Los Angeles also has a huge selection of Swarokski and Preciosa stones as well as other stoning supplies.
  3. Toothpick with one end covered in wax, or another other tool used to pick up and place rhinestones
  4. Scissors (to cut the powernet into your jewelry pattern)

Directions

Preparation

There are several steps that you need to take before you can start gluing on your rhinestones and creating your jewelry. But once you do all the prep, things should go faster the next time around.

  1. Cover your thick cardboard with parchment paper.  Tape (scotch tape will not work) or glue the paper to the cardboard, so both pieces don’t move around while you work. Make sure your cardboard/parchment paper is large enough to fit your entire piece you will be making. It’s always good to leave a little extra room.
  2. Place a double layer of powernet on the parchment/cardboard. Make sure there aren’t any wrinkles in the fabric.
  3. Work in a well ventilated area, because the next part involves some strong fumes. Using the plastic putty knife, spread a thin layer of the silicone all over the double layer of powernet. Work quickly so that the silicone does not harden up and form clumps. You want a uniform, thin layer of silicone. Don’t worry about the silicone going through the powernet onto the parchment paper. Your powernet will peel off of the parchment paper when the silicone dries. Let the silicone dry for a couple of hours or even overnight. If you feel like the silicone powernet is sturdy enough to hold the weight of the stones you’ll be using, then one layer of silicone may be enough. However, it’s better to spend the time to put on a second layer of silicone to reinforce the powernet, especially if you plan to use some rhinestones that are larger than 20ss. The reinforced powernet will ensure your jewelry lasts longer.
  4. You might want to make extra silicone-backed powernet so that you have extra for the next time you make jewelry, and you can skip this step next time.

Designing Your Jewelry

  1. While you’re waiting for you silicone-backed powernet to dry, you can spend some time looking for inspiration and designing your jewelry. Some of my favorite inspiration sites for simple as well as beautifully intricate designs for bracelets, necklaces, and hair pieces are: https://ballroomjewels.com/ and http://shop.tzafora.com/
  2. Create a template by drawing an outline of your design on thick paper or thin cardboard (cardboard from a cereal box works well here), and cut the design out.

Making Your Jewelry

After all that prep, you’re finally ready to start making your jewelry. Read through all the instructions before starting.

  1. Peel your powernet from the parchment paper. Turn it over on the parchment so that the side that was originally facing down is now facing up. The side that was originally facing down on the parchment paper will now be the FRONT side of your jewelry. You will be gluing stones on this side of the powernet. The side that you spread the silicone on is your BACK side (the side that will be touching your skin or hair). Using the template you cut out, trace the design onto your silicone backed powernet. You can trace it on the back or front side, but remember to reverse the tracing if you trace it onto the back side of the powernet.
  2. Using your traced template as a guide, glue (using e6000 or other rhinestone glue) your stones on to the FRONT side of the powernet. Make sure to leave some room on the powernet for any attachments (Velcro, hooks, etc.), if needed. (Note: If you want, you can place your stones to get a sense of what they will look like before gluing. This can be an important step if you’re using some large or centerpiece stones that you need to be placed in a specific area. I tend to place and glue larger or centerpiece stones down first, and then I fill in the spaces with the smaller stones. But use whatever method works best for you.)
  3. Once you’ve finished gluing on your stones, and the glue has dried, carefully cut out your design from the powernet. I usually wait to cut out my design until after all the stones are on, because you never know quite how the stones will align themselves.
  4. Add any attachments or closures like Velcro (my favorite) or hooks, as needed.

Hope this is helpful!

Chocolate Covered Crispy Butterscotch Caramels

Take a chewy, rich butterscotch caramel, mix in some Rice Krispies cereal for a bit of crunch, slather on a thick, smooth, dark chocolate ganache, sprinkle a little sea salt on top, and voila, you’ve just been introduced to the perfect little candy, Chocolate Covered Crispy Butterscotch Caramels.  The trickiest parts of this recipe are 1) making sure the caramel gets to the correct temperature (a bit of patience and vigilant attention are needed) and 2) waiting a few hours for the chocolate ganache to firm up so that you can cut the caramels into squares.  So, if you have a bit of patience and a candy thermometer, get to it!  You won’t be disappointed.

The Maldon sea salt I used created little crater-like designs on the chocolate ganache.  And the crater-like surface of the caramel is due to the rice krispies.

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Chocolate Covered Crispy Butterscotch Caramels

Makes 48 pieces
(from Abigail Johnson Dodge’s Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets)
My notes are in [   ] below.

Ingredients

Caramel-Puffed Rice Layer

12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces + 2 tablespoons, softened, for greasing the foil
1 1⁄3 cups (9 1/4 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
3⁄4 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup [light corn syrup also works]
1 1⁄2 cups puffed rice cereal [rice krispies]
1 1⁄2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon table salt

Chocolate Ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped [I like to used Trader Joes dark chocolate bar]
1 tablespoon vegetable oil [I used canola oil.]

Directions

Make the Caramel-Puffed Rice Layer

  1. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan (the straight-sided kind) with foil, leaving about a 1-inch overhang on two sides. Generously grease the bottom and sides of the foil with the 2 tablespoons of softened butter (cooking spray works, too).  [I prefer to line the pan with parchment which works equally as well as foil, and parchment doesn’t need to be buttered.  Just make sure you use enough parchment so that it overhangs two sides by an inch or so.]  
  2. Put the remaining butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, and golden syrup in a large heavy saucepan. Cook, without stirring, over low heat until the butter is melted, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Boil, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 250°F, about 5 minutes.  [It took longer than 5 minutes for my caramel to reach 250°F, so keep a close eye on the caramel during this step.]
  3. Slide the pan from the heat and add the puffed rice, vanilla, and salt. Be careful—the mixture will bubble up, and the steam is super hot. Using a heatproof spatula, stir, without scraping the bottom and sides, until blended.
  4. Pour the crispy caramel, without scraping the bottom or sides of the saucepan, into the prepared baking pan. Set aside to cool until warm to the touch, about 45 minutes.

Make the Ganache

  1. Melt the chocolate and oil in a small heatproof bowl (you can use the microwave or an improvised double boiler).  [I used the microwave and melted the chocolate in 20-30 second increments to ensure that the chocolate would not burn.]
  2. Whisk until well blended and smooth.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate over the still-warm caramel. Using an offset spatula, spread the ganache evenly.
  4. Set aside to cool completely, about 4 hours. [It took longer than 4 hours for my ganache layer to cool and firm up enough to cut cleanly.  You can refrigerate the caramels to harden the chocolate more quickly, but don’t cut the caramels when they’re cold because the chocolate will crack and separate from the caramel layer.]

Finish the Caramel

  1. Use the foil [or parchment] “handles” to lift the entire caramel from the pan. Carefully peel or tear away the foil [or parchment] and discard; set the caramel, chocolate side up, on a cutting board.
  2. Grease the blade of a long, sharp knife with butter or cooking spray and, using a ruler as a guide (or by eye), cut crosswise into 8 equal strips and then cut each strip into 6 pieces.
  3. Serve immediately or wrap in small pieces of waxed paper or cellophane (2 3⁄4-inch squares are the perfect size). Serve in mini cupcake wrappers, if you like.  [I prefer to serve my caramels in mini cupcake wrappers.]  

Note: The caramels can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one month.

Strawberry Swirled Cream Cheese Pound Cake

After buying a ridiculous amount of strawberries during a recent trip to the Strawberry Festival and making endless jars of strawberry jam, I was still looking for ways to use up all the strawberries.  Enter this Strawberry Swirled Cream Cheese Pound Cake recipe.  It’s a mouthful to say and to eat.  Like pound cakes in general, this one is dense, tender, and buttery, but the strawberry swirl cuts through some of the richness by adding a slightly tart, luscious ribbon of flavor.  Since I had so much strawberry jam, I used that in my cake instead of using the strawberry swirl recipe below.

Jetta (golden retriever/Labrador mix) thinking, “Really?  You’re going to eat ALL of these strawberries?”
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I used my “fancy” bundt cake mold which made the cake kind of resemble something by MC Echer.
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I wish the strawberry swirl was a bit more bright red, but baking darkens the color.
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Strawberry Swirled Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Makes 1 bundt cake
(from Browneyedbaker.com)

Ingredients

Strawberry Swirl (I used homemade strawberry jam instead of making the strawberry swirl)

⅔ cup finely diced fresh strawberries
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Pound Cake

1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (the original recipe lists 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, but I like to use a little bit extra, thus the 1 tablespoon listed here)
¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

Strawberry Swirl

  1. Combine the strawberries, sugar, water, and cornstarch in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes very thick.
  2. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature before using.

This is very similar to homemade strawberry jam, which is what I used in my cake.

Pound Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a standard-size Bundt pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cake flour and salt, and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until combined and soft, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the sugar and continue to beat on medium speed, scraping the bowl once or twice, until the mixture is very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each one is completely incorporated before adding the next.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  7. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the flour mixture until combined.  Make sure not to overmix the batter.  You can even finish incorporating the flour using a spatula to ensure that you don’t overmix.
  8. Spoon about ⅔ of the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Top evenly with the strawberry filling, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge of the pan (Make sure the strawberry filling doesn’t touch the sides of the bundt pan or it will burn and leave a sticky mess.) Use a thin knife to gently swirl the strawberry filling with the cake batter a few times. Spoon the remainder of the cake batter on top of the filling and gently spread to the edges of the pan, covering the filling.
  9. Bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached.
  10. Cool the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Note: Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container and stored at room temperature for up to 4 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Tahini Cookies

The day has finally come when it feels like I have made nearly every variation of chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal, shortbread, ginger, snickerdoodle, and chocolate cookie.  So, it’s time to experiment with Tahini Cookies.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Apparently tahini is not just for hummus anymore, as this sesame seed paste (with a texture kind of like smooth peanut butter) is just as delicious in a cookie.  The sesame flavor, while mild, builds in your mouth as you chew it.  And while this crunchy cookie is very lightly sweet, an optional drizzle of honey on top will satisfy any sweet tooth.

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Tahini Cookies

Makes 36 (2 1/2-inch) cookies
(from the kitchn)

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup coarse-grain sugar (I like turbinado sugar)

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together; set aside.
  2. Cream the butter, tahini, and brown and granulated sugars together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg to the wet ingredients, return the mixer to medium speed, and mix until completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and the paddle.
  4. Return the mixer to low speed and slowly add the flour mixture. Stop the mixer when almost all the flour is incorporated, then use a rubber spatula to incorporate the last of it by hand.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the batter starts to firm up, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Place the coarse sugar in a shallow, wide bowl or pie plate.
  8. Scoop the dough by level tablespoons and roll into balls. Roll each ball in the sugar to lightly coat.
  9. Place the dough balls on the baking sheets 2 inches apart, 12 per baking sheet. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each cookie to about 1/2-inch thick.  Make sure not to crowd the cookies as they’ll spread during baking.
  10. Bake two sheets at a time (rotating the cookie sheets halfway through the baking time) until the cookies are a light golden-brown around the edges and on the bottoms, 11 to 14 minutes.
  11. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Zuchinni Muffins (with a cinnamon chocolate twist)

My garden is producing zucchini like mad, so next up in the zucchini baking extravaganza are Zucchini Muffins (with a cinnamon chocolate twist).  These beauties are stuffed full of shredded zucchini (to keep the muffins moist and tender), cinnamon chips, and chocolate chips (to satisfy that sweet tooth) which makes them kind of healthy, kind of not muffins, but absolutely delicious.

IMG_6090

Zucchini Muffins (with a cinnamon chocolate twist)

Makes 27 full sized muffins
(Adapted from King Arthur Fl0ur)

Ingredients

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups grated or finely chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped pecans (the original recipe used walnuts)
1/2 cup mini cinnamon chips (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (you can increase the amount of chocolate chips if you’re not using cinnamon chips)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Line muffin tin(s) with papers, or grease each cup. Since this recipe makes 24 to 27 muffins, you’ll use at least two tins; or bake as many as you want, and refrigerate the remaining batter, to use up to 4 days later.  These also make great mini muffins.
  3. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute at high speed.
  4. In a separate medium size bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon until well combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix together until the flour has been incorporated.  Do no overmix.  You can even finish mixing in the flour using a spatula to ensure that the batter is not overmixed.
  6. Stir in the zucchini, nuts, cinnamon, chips, and chocolate chips.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full.  A muffin scoop works well to portion out the batter.
  8. Bake full sized muffins for 25 to 27 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean.  Bake mini muffins for 13 to 15 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
  9. Remove the muffins from the oven, and after a minute or so gently tilt them in the pans, so their bottoms don’t become soggy. As soon as you can handle the muffins, transfer them to a rack to cool.