Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Strawberry Linzer Cookies

I'd intended on baking these scrumptious linzer cookies for Christmas, but then, well, I broke my foot.  I spent Christmas on the couch with my foot up, not in the kitchen baking (where I'd much rather have been, believe me!).

Now that I'm at least a little bit mobile (still with an aircast.....) I thought I'd bake these as pretty Valentine cookies!   Granted, they'll be LONG gone before Valentine's Day.

The cookies are crisp and sweet, nutty and fruity.  So yummy.

The cookie dough is made with ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, a smidgen of cinnamon and an egg.  Once refrigerated for a few hours, the dough is rolled thin and cut with cookie cutters.

You'll need two cookies for each linzer sandwich.  In half of the cut outs you'll cut a smaller cut out in the center.

The cookies are baked for about 10 minutes until lightly golden, then removed to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once cool, the cookies are spread with jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Finally, the sugary top cookie is placed on the jammy bottom cookie.   Beautiful!

These are so beautiful, don't you think?   You can make them with any shaped cookie cutters you have---circles, squares, hearts, flowers, etc. as long as you have a smaller one to cut out the center for the top cookie.

Here's the recipe, which is from Wilton.

Linzer Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup finely ground almonds
1/2 cup seedless jam (strawberry or raspberry)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
confectioners' sugar

In small bowl, combine flour, ground almonds, and cinnamon; set aside. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture; mix only until incorporated. Divide dough onto 2 pieces; press into small disks, about 1 inch thick. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or until firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 350°F. On floured surface, roll out one disc of dough 1/8 in. thick (keep remaining dough chilled). Cut the dough using the cookie cutter of your choice;  cut half of those with a second, smaller cutter.  These will be the top cookies.  Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Dough scraps can be formed into a disk, chilled for at least 30 minutes and rerolled.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes; remove from sheet and cool completely. Spread bottom cookies with about a teaspoon of jam. Dust the top cookies with confectioners' sugar; gently sandwich cookies together.  Store in an airtight container with wax paper between layers of cookies.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sweet Penguin Cookies

Today is Penguin Day at the kindergarten center!   My daughter is dressed in black and white and ready for a fun day of penguin activities and games.  I made these cute little penguin cookies for her class as a snack!

Cute little girl penguins, and handsome little boy penguins.  So sweet.

I'd like to say I thought of this cute design on my own, but alas, I googled "penguin cookies" and found a zillion adorable ideas.  :)   Such creative people in this world.

Alas, this one is my favorite.  I've named her Karis for a friend who loved penguins.  :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pie Crust Pop Tarts

When I baked the French Apple Tart on Monday for my Tuesdays With Dorie baking club, I made the whole recipe for the pie crust without fully realizing I'd only need one fouth of it for the tart.  I proceed anyway, knowing homemade pie crust freezes well.  My mind began thinking of all the things I could do with pie crust.  Apple Pie.  Peanut Butter Pie.  Chicken Pot Pie.  Empanadas.  Pecan Pie.  Pecan Tartlets.  Pecan Tassies.  Pecan Kringle.  Pop tarts.

Pop tarts!   Yes!

Indulgent, buttery, flaky homemade pop tarts.  Not your average pop tart.

I don't buy pop tarts.  My kids are deprived of storebought, prepackaged treats like that.  Sorry, Hostess and Little Debbie.   I would just prefer baking my own treats!  You know, real butter, real sugar.  That kinda thing. 

I made two different kinds of pop tart-ish treats:   raspberry jam filled, and pecan filled.   First, the jam filled.

I pulled out my favorite scallop-edged heart cookie cutter, rolled the pie dough to about 1/8 inch thick, and cut plenty of hearts.

Then I spooned about 1/2 a teaspoon or so of jam in the center of the heart and spread it gently, leaving 1/4 inch of an edge around the heart.  Using my fingertip, I dabbed a little water around the edge and laid another heart on top.  I used a fork to seal the edge.

I placed the hearts on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and baked till the hearts were puffed and golden, about 10 minutes.  Some of the jam oozed out, but not too much. 

I cooled the hearts on a wire cooling rack, then made a glaze with powdered sugar, a drizzle of vanilla, and a splash of milk.  I spread the cooled tarts with the glaze and sprinkled with jimmies.  Voila!  Pop tarts!!

Next came Pecan Kringle Tarts.   I have a recipe from Betty Crocker for Danish Kringle, so I used that filling for these mini tarts.

Same idea.  I cut the pie dough into scalloped squares, and  put about 1/2 a teaspoon of the filling in the center.

I sealed the edges with a fork and put them on a cookie sheet to bake for about 10 minutes.

Once cool, I used the same vanilla glaze to top these little pastries, along with some chopped pecans.

I couldn't resist.

Flaky, sweet, and delicious!   The perfect way to use some leftover pie crust.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TWD: French Apple Tart

One word.   Mmmmmmmm!   (That is a word, right?)

This French Apple Tart is absolutely delicious!    This recipe definitely tops all other apple tarts and pies I've made, from the crust to the filling to the topping.  Totally scrumptious.

That said, much effort and time are required.

The crust is made with both chilled butter and chilled shortening, which give it both delicious flavor and flaky texture.  

After preparing the dough, either by hand or in a food processor, it is chilled for several hours.  After I chilled my pie dough, I called for some very cute kitchen helpers.   My kiddos were home for the holiday yesterday, so I got them all involved!   We each made our own individual mini apple tarts.

6 year old Hannah is rolling over the tart pan to cut the crust!

8 year old Emma shows off her finished tart crust!

After chilling in the fridge for 30 minutes, the tart crusts are baked with pie weights, dried beans, or rice to prevent bubbles in the bottom of the crust and to prevent the sides of the crust from sliding down.  After baking for 20-25 minutes, the crusts are set aside to cool.

While the crusts are chilling and then baking, I prepare the apple filling.    Tart Granny Smiths are peeled and sliced thin, then baked with sugar, freshly made, soft bread crumbs, a smidgen of flour, and a dash of cinnamon.   The baked apple slices are mashed with their juices, then cooled.   Ohhhh, the kids and I could have eaten this by the spoonful!

While the pie crusts and apple filling are cooling, I peel and slice additional Granny Smith apples for the tops of the tarts.

The tart crusts are filled with the apple filling, and are then ready for the topping.

The kids enjoyed this part the best---arranging the apple slices!  I love, love, love how each tart is different.   What a fun and unique way to personalize dessert!! 

Before baking, the apple slices are brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar.  (I used pearl sugar.)

 Finally, the finished tarts come out of the oven, gorgeous in color, tempting in scent. 

The kids were so proud of their individual desserts, but even more so, they enjoyed each and every bite.

Hannah (6), Emma (8), Matthew (10), and Ainsley (11 1/2) show off their tarts!

From start to end, these French Apple Tarts took the better part of the day to make.  They're not a quick throw-together dessert.  That said, they're worth the time and effort, and if you enjoy multi-step recipes, you'll love this one!

For the complete recipe, please visit Gaye of Laws of the Kitchen.  Or you can find the recipe in the cookbook, Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cascading Flowers Wedding Cake

Congratulations to the happy couple!  Wishing you a lifetime of love, peace, and blessings from the Lord.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Blueberry Muffin Bread

I had a bag of frozen wild blueberries staring me down in the freezer.  Actually, they've jumped out at me a few times over the last few days.  (Read:  freezer needs to be reorganized....)   The blueberries were begging to be baked!  It was obvious!

I obliged.  I whipped up two loaves of this beautiful moist Blueberry Muffin Bread.

I've made this recipe a few times over the years and have tweaked it with the addition of vanilla in the batter and crunchy pearl sugar on top.

The result?   Gorgeous, sweet, delicious bread, studded with bright blueberries, with a crunchy crust on top.  Perfection!

Here's the recipe!

Blueberry Muffin Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 2/3 cups milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup pearl sugar

Grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.   In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the egg, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.  Add dry ingredients and stir just until batter is moistened.  Do not overmix!   Gently fold in blueberries. Spoon into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with pearl sugar.  Bake at 350° for 60 minutes (if you used fresh blueberries) to 75 minutes (if you used frozen blueberries), until a  toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs when inserted in the center of the loaf.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then remove from pan and cool completely.   Enjoy toasted and spread with butter.

P.S.  In case you're wondering, I return to the orthopedist in two days.  I'm praying for the go-ahead to ditch these crutches!  ;)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Almond-Raspberry Coffee Cake

Shhhhh, don't tell my orthopedist.   I propped myself in the corner of my kitchen the other day and baked a coffee cake.    Don't worry.  I had help gathering the ingredients so I didn't have to hobble on crutches and carry ingredients from my pantry.  ;)

Betty Crocker Almond-Raspberry Coffee Cake
(Ultimate Cake Mix Cookbook)

1 package Betty Crocker SuperMoist white (vanilla) cake mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese , softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup raspberry preserves
1/4 cup sliced almonds

 Heat oven to 350°. Grease springform pan, 10 x 3 inches, with shortening lightly flour.
Mix cake mix, sour cream, almond extract and 1 egg in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed until crumbly.  Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture.  Press remaining crumb mixture in bottom and 1 inch up sides of pan. (Lightly coat fingers with flour when pressing crumb mixture in pan to keep from sticking.) Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

Beat cream cheese, sugar and remaining egg in small bowl with electric mixer on low speed until smooth and creamy. Pour over baked crust. Drop teaspoonfuls of preserves evenly over cream cheese mixture do not swirl. Mix reserved crumb mixture and almonds sprinkle over preserves.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until filling is set and crust is golden brown. Cool 15 minutes on wire rack. Run knife around side of pan to loosen cake remove side of pan. Serve slightly warm or cool. Store covered in refrigerator.

I love cake mix cookbooks!   With a few additional ingredients you can take a plain cake mix and make a scrumptious home baked cake or dessert.   Time-saving, money-saving, and downright delicious.

I look forward to much more baking, just as soon as I'm back on BOTH feet again.  Thanks for sticking with me!