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Christmas Jewel Bars

Jewel Bars
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar DIVIDED
  • 18 tbsp butter (1 1/8 cups)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups mixed nuts
  • 2 1/4 cups red and green glace cherries cut in half
  • 2 1/4 cups chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. In either a large bowl or food processor combine the flour with 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

  3. Either cut in the butter with a pastry blender or pulse food processor until coarse crumbs form. If there are a few small pieces of butter it is okay.

  4. Press mixture evenly into a baking tray.

  5. Bake for 15 minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl.

  7. Add the remaining brown sugar and salt.

  8. Add in the cherries, nuts and chocolate chips. Mix well.

  9. Spoon mixture overtop of baked cookie layer. Press down firmly to adhere layers.

  10. Bake for an additional 20 minutes.

  11. Cool completely before cutting and serving.

This is my all time favorite Christmas goodie. My mom started making these when I was a kid. She thinks she found the recipe on the back of a chipits bag. I started making them myself about 8 years ago and adjusted the recipe to my taste. They are easy to make, look beautifully festive and taste delicious – the three main requirements for any holiday treat.

These can be made two ways: in a food processor or by hand with a pastry blender. I highly recommend the food processor as it cuts down the prep time by over half.

This recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups of glace cherries. I use a mix of red, green and dried cherries. I cut the glace cherries in half.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Then combine your flour and 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar in either your food processor or a large bowl. Add the butter and cut it in. This can be accomplished by hand with the pastry blender or blend it in your food processor until coarse crumbs form. If there are a few small pieces of butter, don’t worry.

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Press the mixture firmly into a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

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Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining 1 cup of packed brown sugar and salt. Add in the cherries, mixed nuts and chocolate chips. Stir until evenly coated (you will need to do a quick stir again right before pouring it out).

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Spread cherry mixture evenly overtop of the baked cookie crust. Press down firmly on the cherry mixture to adhere the layers. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

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Enjoy! Happy Holidays from The Blue Radish.

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Simple Strawberries and Cream Layer Cake

Are you in charge of dessert for a Memorial Day barbeque? This cake is made with a box cake mix, strawberries and a secret whipped cream to hold it all together. This cake is fast, delicious, and for the beginner baker. Visually stunning and soft as a pillow, this cake will have your friends and family begging for more.

The secret is in the whipped cream. You need to use “stabilized” whipped cream so that it doesn’t lose its shape and volume over time. I have previously used gelatin to stabilize my whipped cream, but I recently discovered a secret that is much easier. Just add a little cream cheese (no, you can’t taste it) to your whipped cream and it will hold its shape for a week. Yes, a WEEK!

I developed this cake for the beginner baker or those too busy to spend much time on making a dessert. It does, however, look and taste like you spent all day on it. I used a Betty Crocker White Cake box mix, but any white cake mix will do. I made the cake in two 8 inch circular cake pans. I prepared the pans by spraying them with cooking spray and then dusting with a coating of flour. To achieve this, after applying the cooking spray, place a small amount of flour into the pan. Tap the flour around until the bottom and sides are covered. Then tap out any excess flour.

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The box cake mix makes about 4 cups batter, so pour 2 cups into each pan (or make one cake after the other if you only have one pan). Cool the cakes completely on a wire cooling rack.

Slice the bottoms off of about 2 lbs of strawberries. Set aside.

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Now to make the stabilized whipped cream. In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar with a handheld mixer.

In a second bowl, beat the heavy cream until it starts to form soft peaks. Add the cream cheese mixture and continue to beat with the handheld mixer until stiff peaks form. You can lightly fold in 3-4 tbsp of strawberry jam to create a “streaked” look or simply leave the whipped cream plain.

Scoop the whipped cream into a Ziploc bag and cut off the corner to create a piping bag.

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Now assemble the cake. Carefully cut the domes off the tops of the cakes so that they are level.

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Put the first cake, cut side up, onto your cake stand. Top with a thin layer of whipped cream and then apply a layer of whole strawberries, cut side down.

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Pipe a generous amount of whipped cream between the strawberries, including the ones on the outermost layer.

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Put the second cake on top, cut side down and press lightly to level.

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Put a light layer of whipped cream on top and decorate with the piped whipped cream and remaining strawberries. I did little pillows around the edge, then an inner ring of strawberries and a large pillow of whipped cream in the center. But be creative with your design!

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Chill until ready to serve. Enjoy!

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Simple Strawberries and Cream Layer Cake
Ingredients
  • 1 box white cake mix I used Betty Crocker and used egg whites only
  • 2 lb whole fresh strawberries
  • 8 oz soft cream cheese room temp is best
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3-4 tbsp strawberry jam optional
Instructions
  1. Make the white cake mix according to box directions in two 8 inch circular cake pans. If you only have one pan, make one cake after the other. (You should have about 2 cups batter per pan) Prepare the cake pans by spraying with cooking spray and dusting with flour. Cool on wire cooling rack.

  2. Once cooled, cut the tops off the cakes to make them level.

  3. Cut the bottoms off the strawberries and set aside.

  4. In a small bowl, whip together the cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar with a handheld mixer.

  5. In a second bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.

  6. Add the cream cheese mixture to the heavy cream and beat until stiff peaks form.

  7. Optional: lightly fold in 3-4 tbsp of strawberry jam to form pretty streaks (don't mix in too much or the streaks with disappear).
  8. Scoop the whipped cream into a ziplock bag and cut off a bottom corner to create a piping bag.

  9. Assemble your cake: Put the first cake, cut side up, onto your cake stand.

  10. Apply a thin layer of whipped cream onto the cake.

  11. Place the strawberries, cut side down, onto the cake. Make an outer ring first and then fill in the rest of the space as tightly as you can.

  12. Pipe the whipped cream in between the strawberries, including the outer ring.

  13. Put the second cake on top of the strawberries, cut side down, and press lightly to level.

  14. Apply a thin layer of whipped cream to the top of the cake.

  15. Decorate with piped cream and strawberries to your taste. I did an outer ring of small cream pillows, then an inner ring of strawberries and a center pillow of whipped cream.

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Kaluha Chocolate Almond Torte. Gluten Free!

It was my Mom’s birthday and she can’t have gluten. I wondered how to make a gluten free cake that everyone would enjoy? Some of our attempts to make gluten free cakes in the past were less than delicious. We decided to try making this cake as it is “naturally gluten free” meaning you aren’t making any substitutions with the flour. It is made with almond meal and eggs to create a soft, fluffy texture. It was so scrumptious we made it twice. Next time, I’m going to make two and layer them with raspberry cream between the layers.

You do need a spring form pan for this recipe. I wouldn’t try to make it in a regular pan. It would stick.

First, melt your chocolate with the kaluha. (You may substitute water for the kaluha if you like). You can either melt them in a double boiler or a microwave. If using a microwave, stop and stir the mixture every 30 seconds and be careful not to overheat the chips (they will return to a solid state). Once melted, add the brown sugar and melted butter. Finally, add the vanilla extract and stir well.

Remove the double boiler from the heat at this point (if you used one – I didn’t bother) and add the almond meal. Whisk to combine. Add in the egg yolks, one at a time, stir.

Next, beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture and sliced almonds.

Pour the batter into your spring form pan. Let it settle for a few minutes. You can use a spatula to smooth out the top if needed.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until done. (Check doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done).

Let the cake completely cool.

Melt together 1/3 cup of chocolate chips, 3 tbsp. of butter and 1 tsp of kaluha either in your double boiler or microwave to create a sauce. Drizzle over the cake.

Sprinkle on powdered sugar and garnish with raspberries. Enjoy!

Kaluha Chocolate Almond Torte
Ingredients
Cake batter:
  • 8 oz semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp kaluha may sub water
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter melted then cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp almond meal
  • 5 large eggs separated
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp kaluha
Garnish:
  • powdered sugar
  • raspberries
Instructions
Batter:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Grease your spring form pan.

  3. Either in a double boiler or the microwave melt together the chocolate and kaluha. If using a microwave, stir mixture every 30 seconds and take care not to overheat.

  4. Add the butter and vanilla. Mix well.

  5. Remove the double boiler from the heat (if using) and whisk in the almond meal. 

  6. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, stir in between each one.

  7. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

  8. Fold the chocolate mixture and almond slices into the beaten egg whites.

  9. Pour batter into the greased spring form pan and let it settle. You may use a spatula to flatten the top.

  10. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until done. (Check doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is done).

  11. Allow cake to cool completely.

Sauce:
  1. Melt together in either a double boiler or the microwave the sauce ingredients. Stir well.

  2. Drizzle sauce over cake.

Garnish:
  1. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cake.

  2. Garnish with raspberries.

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Croatian Lemon Cookies

I saw these cookies on Pinterest and wanted to try them. However, the recipe was in Croatian. So I copied it into google translate and got part recipe, part gobbledygook. So I looked for another recipe. I couldn’t find anything in English, but found a second recipe and a YouTube video (both in Croatian). Between the three I was able to piece together a close approximation of the recipe, and while my lemon shaping could use work, the cookies were divine.

Here’s how to make them. First mix together the egg yolks, butter, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and milk. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing thoroughly to form a dough. Knead the dough about 10 times, form it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat the egg whites until fluffy. Slowly add the sugar whole continuing to beat the mixture. Add in the rum extract, vanilla and lemon zest. Then fold in the almond meal. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Roll the dough out to 1/8th inch thickness and cut 2 inch circles using a cookie cutter or jar lid.

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Place about 2 tsp of filling in the center of the dough circle. Fold over and pinch closed. Turn cookie seam side down and shape into a lemon. (Ensure the dough has pinched closed to that the cookies don’t break open when baking).

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Bake on parchment/baking paper at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.

Make a three bowl station. Fill two with milk and one with sugar. Color one milk bowl green and one yellow with food dye.

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Dip the ends of the cookies into the green dye and the submerge the whole cookie batter the yellow dye. Then roll the top of the cookie in the sugar. Allow to dry.

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Enjoy! These cookies have made my Christmas baking list. The next time I make them I will make the lemon ends more pinched and long to prevent them from disappearing when I bake them.

Please follow this blog so you don’t miss out on my next culinary adventure. Happy baking!

Croatian Lemon Cookies
Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
Filling:
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp rum extract
Coloring:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • yellow food coloring
  • green food coloring
Instructions
  1. Dough:

    Combine the egg yolks, shortening, butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl.

  2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

  3. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in portions, mixing well in between each addition to form a dough.

  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead 10 times. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.

  5. Meanwhile make the filling:

    Beat the egg whites until fluffy. Add the sugar slowly in portions, beating well in between each addition.

  6. Beat in the lemon zest, vanilla and rum extract.

  7. Fold in the almond meal. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  8. After 2 hours, remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out to 1/8 inch thickness.

  9. Cut 2 inch round circles in dough using a cookie cutter or jar lid.


  10. Fill each circle with approx. 2 tsp of filling.

  11. Fold dough circle in half and pinch closed (pinch close tightly to prevent it breaking open when shaping and baking).

  12. Turn cookie over so seam side faces down. Pinch ends to make a lemon shape.

  13. Bake at 350 degree,s on a parchment lined cookie sheet, for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

  14. Make the coloring stations:

    Use three bowls. Put the sugar in one bowl and split the milk between the other two bowls. Color one bowl green and one bowl yellow with the food dye.

  15. Dip the ends of the cookie in the green dye, then roll the whole cookie in the yellow dye.

  16. Roll the top of the cookie in the sugar and allow to dry.

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Pumpkin Spiced Loaf Cake

Well, it’s that time of year again when everything is pumpkin spiced. I love it, so I’m not complaining. This year I turned a typical pumpkin loaf recipe into a bundt cake with a pistachio garnish. It was incredibly moist and delicious. And, of course, it’s fast and easy to make.

First mix together the wet ingredients and sugars.

In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Add your nuts and raisins and mix. Add the dry to wet and mix until just incorporated.

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Crush or chop about 4 tbsp. of pistachio nuts. Sprinkle them into the bottom of a greased bundt pan.

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Pour the batter into the bundt pan and smooth out the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Spiced Pumpkin Loaf Cake
Ingredients
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 tbsp chopped pistachios
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees


  2. Mix wet ingredients and sugar together in a large bowl


  3. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients, walnuts and raisins (do not add pistachios).

  4. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just incorporated.

  5. Grease a bundt pan and sprinkle pistachios in the bottom.

  6. Pour in batter and smooth out top.

  7. Bake for one hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

  8. Cool on wire rack.

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Nougat, Torrone, or Gaz? A candy, by any other name, would taste as sweet.

Whether it’s French Nougat de Montelimar, Italian Torrone or Middle Eastern Gaz, this chewy white candy with scents of orange, rose or vanilla is a delectable treat. This is my mom’s absolute favorite candy, but it’s definitely not cheap. I wanted to learn how to make it for her next visit and it’s been an epic sugar filled journey to come up with an easy recipe.

I started with a recipe for Gaz. It didn’t use rice paper like the French nougat or Italian Torrone recipes which appealed to me. But the recipe was HORRIBLE. I ended up with a brown, hard, overcooked sugary mess the first two times I made it (sugar mixture was too hot). The third time it whipped up beautifully and then didn’t set (sugar mixture wasn’t hot enough). The fourth time I got the consistency perfect and took an excited bite. It tasted like I was chewing on a glade air freshener. WAY TOO MUCH ROSEWATER! So back to the drawing board I went.

I experimented with glucose, corn syrup and honey as sweeteners. I boiled the candy to different temperatures and used various shaping methods (though I never bought that rice paper…) What I ended up with is a quick, relatively easy recipe. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work the first time – this recipe doesn’t take long, so just try again.

First, whip up one egg white and set it aside.

Then, in a medium sized saucepan, on medium heat, combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water (add rose water now if using). Stir until sugar dissolved and the mixture starts to boil.  Now add your honey (you may substitute light corn syrup). Bring to a boil while stirring. Boil for one minute. Turn the heat down to low.

Take one tablespoon of the hot sugar mixture and add it to your whipped egg whites. This tempers the eggs (warms them up) so they don’t cook when you add them to the saucepan. Mix in the sugar until combined.

Add the egg whites to the saucepan. Increase heat to low-medium. (Add orange zest or vanilla now if desired) Using a hand held mixer, beat the mixture until thick and glossy (about 8 minutes).

Remove from heat and fold in nuts.

Let mixture cool for 15 minutes.

For the easiest method of shaping: Drop the candy, 1 tbsp at a time into a pile of flour. Yes, flour. No, not icing sugar. This is how the candy is made in the middle east and it’s way easier than using rice paper. You can’t taste the flour on the candy and this candy is very, VERY sticky without it.

Sprinkle flour over the top of the spoonful of candy and flip it around in the flour to ensure all sides are covered. Then roll the candy into a ball and place on a flat tray or container. The balls will flatten into discs. Refrigerate overnight to set and keep in fridge until ready to serve.

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If you want a traditional rectangular shape here’s how I accomplished it.

I didn’t cool the mixture for 15 minutes. I immediately poured it into an 8X8, heavily floured pan. Using wet hands I pressed it down into a thin layer. I put this in the fridge for 30 minutes so it would partly set. After 30 minutes I cut around the edges with a knife to release the nougat from the pan and jelly rolled it.

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Then place the jelly roll on a floured piece of parchment paper. Roll to flour all sides. Then roll the nougat in the paper, on the counter, to lengthen and compress it. Then I shaped four sides against the counter to make it square. You can brush off any excess flour.

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Refrigerate overnight to set. If you cut the rectangle into smaller shapes, ensure you flour the cut sides. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Traditional combinations are:

corn syrup/glucose, rose water and pistachios (Middle Eastern Gaz)

honey, orange zest and almonds (Italian Torrone)

honey, vanilla, pistachios and almonds (French Nougat)

Nougat
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp rose water optional
  • 1/4 cup honey/corn syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla optional
  • 1 tsp orange zest optional
  • 1/2 cup nuts pistachios and/or almonds
  • flour
Instructions
  1. Beat egg white until stiff

  2. In a medium sized saucepan combine water (rose water if using) and sugar. On medium heat, stir constantly until sugar dissolved and mixture begins to boil
  3. Add corn syrup or honey and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Turn heat down to low

  4. Add one tbsp of hot sugar mixture to egg whites to temper them. Stir until mixed

  5. Add egg whites to saucepan. Add vanilla or orange zest now if using

  6. Turn heat to low-medium and beat with a hand mixer until glossy and thick. (about 8 minutes)

  7. Remove from heat and fold in nuts

  8. Either let rest for 15 minutes to cool OR pour into a well floured 8X8 pan. If in pan, place in fridge for 30 minutes to partly set

  9. If not using pan, drop candy by the tablespoon into a small pile of flour. Flip the candy around until all sides covered with flour, then roll into a ball. Place ball in a flat bottomed container and refrigerate overnight

  10. If using pan, remove from fridge after 30 minutes. Cut around edges to release the nougat from the pan. Roll into a jelly roll to remove from pan

  11. Place jelly roll on well floured parchment paper. Roll to cover all sides in flour

  12. Roll nougat, wrapped in the parchment paper into a long, thin roll, then shape into a rectangle. Refrigerate overnight to set

  13. Store candy in floured container in fridge until ready to serve

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Apple Flower Tarts

Autumn is around the corner and I’m getting excited to do some baking with fall fruits. These apple flower tarts are a lot of fun to make. I made them one morning with my teenaged daughter. They are both pretty and delicious and are not too hard to make.

First thaw out 2 puff pastry sheets. Unfold them on your counter and roll them with a rolling pin until the surface area about doubles in size. Then, using a pizza cutter, cut the pastry into 2 inch wide strips.

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Butter each strip and then sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon on top.

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Core your apples. I used a mix of red and green apples for variety. They all tasted great.

Slice the apples VERY THINLY. Thin enough that the slices are almost transparent.

Lay the apple slices along the edge of the pastry strip. The bottom of the slices should be about 1/2 inch from the edge of the strip.

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Fold the strip over.

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Roll into a flower.

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Place in a greased muffin tin.

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Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the pastry in the middle of the flower is done.

Remove immediately from the muffin tin to cool on a piece of parchment paper to prevent sticking when the sugar cools down.

Enjoy!

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Apple Flower Tarts
Ingredients
  • 1 package puff pastry sheets thawed
  • 6 various apples
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4-6 tbsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Unfold the pastry sheets on your counter. Using a rolling pin, roll until almost double the size. Keep the shape a square or rectangle.

  2. Cut the pastry into 2 inch strips.

  3. Butter the strips.

  4. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over the strips.

  5. Core the apples. Slice VERY THINLY. Thin enough that they are almost transparent.

  6. Lie the apple slices along the edge of the strip, ensuring at least the bottom 1/2 inch of the apple slices overlap onto the pastry. 

  7. Fold pastry over the bottom of the apple slices. Then roll into a flower.

  8. Place into a greased muffin tin and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until the pastry in the middle of the flower is done.

  9. Immediately remove tarts from the pan to cool on a piece of parchment paper to prevent sticking.

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Hungarian Sour Cherry Cake

As a kid, I had a Hungarian friend. Her family always made this cake. I LOVED it. I have been thinking about it for over 20 years, but I have never seen sour cherries for sale. Until last week…when I saw canned tart red cherries for sale in my local grocery store. I was so excited. This is the best coffee type cake I have ever had. Both sweet and tart at the same time, I can eat an entire pan.

You can use fresh or frozen sour cherries if you can find them. I found the canned tart cherries at King’s Supermarket.

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This cake is pretty easy to make. First drain your cherries and then coat them in 1 tbsp. of flour. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, sugar, grand marnier and vanilla. Once the mixture is fluffy, beat in the egg.

Add 1/2 the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Beat well to thoroughly combine. Then add 1/2 the milk. Again, beat well to combine. Then repeat with the remaining flour and  milk. The batter will be the consistency of icing.

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Scoop the batter into a greased 9X13 pan. Sprinkle the cherries on top and bake for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees.

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Hungarian Sour Cherry Cake
Ingredients
  • 14 oz canned tart red cherries or 2 cups fresh/frozen sour cherries
  • 2 cups flour plus 1 tbsp
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
Instructions
  1. Drain cherries and toss with 1 tbsp. of flour. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix well.

  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla and grand marnier. Once fluffy, beat in the egg.

  4. Add 1/2 the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Beat well to fully combine.

  5. Add 1/2 the milk and beat well to combine. Repeat with remaining flour and milk.

  6. Scoop batter (it will be thick) into a greased 9X13 pan. Sprinkle cherries overtop.

  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. 

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Croatian Potato Plum Dumplings

Croatia is on my travel bucket list. I have heard that it is breathtakingly beautiful. Located in Eastern Europe and bordering the Adriatic Sea, its cuisine is wide, varied and definitively regional. Potato dumplings made with cheese or plums are native to the Croatian region of Dalmatia. They are considered both a lunch (which is the main meal in Croatia) and a dessert.

These plum dumplings are not hard to make, but they are time consuming. They are different than anything I’ve tasted before, but I did like them. Mind you, I love to try new foods. I’ve had guinea pig (disgustingly rubbery), cow’s udder (you might as well eat a sponge), alpaca (not bad), witchitty grubs (surprisingly good) and blood sausage (not good). I always get sick when I travel because I insist on eating all the local foods. Thankfully, these dumplings won’t make you sick and you will still get to try something different.

I cooked them two ways. First, you need to boil them. Traditionally, you then fry them with breadcrumbs. I found they tasted like stewed plums and fried mashed potatoes when cooked this way. With the second batch, I rolled them in toasted breadcrumbs and baked them. I then poured some stewed plum sauce on top. I personally preferred them this way because the dumplings were a little drier. This recipe makes 40 dumplings so I was able to freeze 1/2 of them for later.

To make these you need to first peel and chop 4 lbs of russet potatoes. Boil them until tender and then mash. You then mix in flour, semolina, salt, nutmeg and butter. Once slightly cooled, you mix in 2 beaten eggs to form a dough. (You may add more flour if the dough is too soft and sticky to work with.)

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Take a small handful of dough and roll it into a ping pong sized ball. Flatten it into a disc and place a plum (pit removed) in the center. Wrap the dough around the plum and roll it back into a ball.  Place on a parchment lined baking tray.

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Boil the dumplings in a large pot until they float. Then transfer them to a skillet with butter and breadcrumbs. Turn carefully to coat and fry all sides.

Alternatively, instead of frying, coat boiled dumplings with toasted breadcrumbs and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Watch carefully for burning. Cover with plum sauce.

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Croatian Potato Plum Dumplings
Ingredients
  • 4 lbs russet potatoes peeled and chopped
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 3 lbs prune plums pits removed
Step two:
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Sauce:
  • 2 cups plums chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
Instructions
  1. Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain and mash.

  2. Add butter, flour, semolina, salt, and nutmeg to mashed potatoes. Mix well.

  3. When slightly cooled, mix in eggs to form a dough.

  4. Make ping pong sized balls with the dough and then flatten into a disc in your hand. Put one plum in the center of the disc and wrap dough around it. Roll into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking tray. (Freeze 1/2 on the tray to prevent sticking. Once completely frozen you can transfer the dumplings to a bag or container)

  5. Boil dumplings until they float.

  6. Method 1: fry in butter and breadcrumbs.

  7. Method 2: coat in toasted breadcrumbs and then bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Watch carefully for burning.

Sauce:
  1. Combine sauce ingredients with 1/4 cup water in a small sauce pan. Simmer until thickened. Serve over the dumplings.

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Fig and Goat Cheese Tartlets

I discovered my love of fresh figs when I was in Australia. Figs always seemed to be in season there whenever I visited. They are both a pretty and flavorful late summer fruit. (Though certain varieties are available in the early summer as well). I really like figs. I especially like fig jam, but I don’t need fresh figs for that, so I decided to make these yummy tartlets when I found fresh figs in my local grocery store this morning.

These tartlets combine the flavors of fig, goat cheese, vanilla and honey. Even my one year old loved them. In fact, I had a hard time taking the final picture because he kept bugging me for more (he ate 3!).

The tartlets are pretty easy and fast to make. The longest step is pressing the pastry dough into the tart pan. I just set my kids up with an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and I was easily able to finish making them.

Make the pastry first. I used a sweet pastry crust. First combine in a large bowl the flour, salt and sugar. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender until crumbly. Then add one slightly beaten egg and mix it in using a fork until completely incorporated into the dough.

Turn the pastry dough out onto your counter. It will be very crumbly. Work it into a ball (you may need to knead the dough a couple of times) and then flatten it into a disc. Cover the disc with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes (this makes the dough easier to work with).

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While your dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then make the filling. Beat with a hand mixer the goat cheese, vanilla, and eggs until smooth and creamy.

Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and cut into 12 equally sized pieces. Press each piece into a tart cup.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon in your filling. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Cool completely.

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Place a slice of fresh fig over each tartlet and drizzle with honey. Enjoy!

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Fig and Goat Cheese Tartlets

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
Filling
  • 8 oz goat cheese
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp honey more for drizzling on top
  • 5 fresh figs
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar.

  2. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender.

  3. Add the beaten egg and mix in well with a fork.

  4. Turn dough out onto the counter. It will be very crumbly. Form it into a ball. You may need to knead it a couple of times. Flatten the ball into a disc.

  5. Cover the disc with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes (this will make the pastry dough easier to work with).

  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  7. Beat the filling ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy.

  8. Once adequately chilled, remove pastry dough from the fridge and cut into 12 equally sized portions.

  9. Press each portion into a tart cup.

  10. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven.

  11. Spoon filling into tarts and return to oven for an additional 15 minutes.

  12. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

  13. Place a slice of fig on top of each tartlet and drizzle with honey.

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Blackberry Stew and Dumplings

It’s blackberry season! I LOVE blackberries. I pick them by the bucketful. I always return home cut up and stained purple from trying to get to that AMAZING group of blackberries halfway through the bramble. I have made blackberry jam, blackberry crumble, blackberries and cream, and blackberry stew.

This dish is typically considered southern due to the dumplings. I used my grandmother’s dumpling recipe and added in some sugar, vanilla and nutmeg to make them sweet. I also didn’t make large dumplings because I feel they don’t look appetizing. Instead I created a dumpling layer on top of the stew that I broke up into smaller pieces so that I had a combination of purple and white colors in my stew.

Here’s how to make this simple and delicious, late summer dessert.

In a large saucepan or pot (you want a lot of surface area on the top to provide room for your dumplings to steam) simmer 4 cups blackberries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup water for 20 minutes. Check the sweetness level at 10 minutes and add more sugar if desired (the riper the berries, the sweeter the stew will be). Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

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While your stew is simmering, combine your flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender. In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat lightly with a fork the eggs, milk and vanilla. Slowly pour, about 1/4 cup at a time, the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. In between each addition, gently mix the wet into the dry ingredients using a fork. Move the moistened sections to the side and add more milk/egg mixture to the dry areas until thoroughly moistened and combined.

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After the stew has simmered for 20 minutes, turn the heat down to low and drop the dough, by the teaspoonful, into the stew. Don’t worry if the dumplings touch, you are creating a top layer of dumplings. Alternatively, you can drop the dough in large spoonfuls to create round, fluffy, separate dumplings.

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Cover and let the dumplings steam for 20 minutes. Do NOT lift up the lid. You will let out the steam and the dumplings won’t cook.

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Uncover and stir to break up the top layer. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Blackberry Stew and Dumplings
Ingredients
  • 4 cups ripe blackberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar may add up to 1 cup if desired
  • 1 cup water
Dumplings:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the blackberries, sugar and water. Simmer for 20 minutes. At 10 minutes check sweetness level and add more sugar if desired. Stir occasionally

Make the Dumplings:
  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and sugar in a large bowl

  2. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender

  3. In a small bowl or measuring cup beat together the eggs, milk and vanilla

  4. Add the wet ingredients in stages. Use a fork to mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Move the moistened pieces to the side and add more wet ingredients until all combined
  5. Drop by the teaspoonful into the stew. Turn the heat down to low and cover for 20 minutes. DON'T PEEK. The dumplings are steaming

  6. Stir the stew to break up the dumplings. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream

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Matcha Green Tea Crepe Cake. French Mille Feuille.

Mille Feuille is French for a thousand sheets. This cake is made up of 20-25 layers of thin crepes and cream filling. It’s not one thousand sheets high, but that’s still a lot of yummy layers.  I used matcha green tea powder to flavor the cream and made a whipped cream filling, rather than the traditional pastry cream, to make it easier.

I once had this cake at the fancy food fair in the basement of the NYC Plaza hotel and have been craving it since. I decided to try making it and it was a lot of fun.

You can put any kind of filling you prefer in between the layers of crepes. The matcha green tea is not overly sweet, so this cake pairs well with blueberries and a blueberry sauce to give it that touch of sweetness. Alternatively, you could increase the sugar in the whipped cream filling, but I love how the blueberries and green tea flavors complement each other.

First though, you need to learn how to make crepes. By the end, you will be an expert.

Blend all the crepe ingredients together in a blender, just until the lumps disappear. Don’t over blend, you will have difficulty getting rid of the bubbles.

Refrigerate the batter for 30-60 minutes to let the bubbles settle out.

Grease a 10 inch saucepan with butter and heat on medium heat.

Once hot, pour about 1/3 cup of batter directly into the center of the pan. Lift up the pan and tilt it around in a circular manner to spread the batter evenly to the edges. Keep rotating until the batter thickens and starts to slow down. Place back on heat.

Here is a video to help explain. I’m sorry the lighting is not great, but it will give you an idea of how to make the crepes.

Cook until the edges start to brown. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds. You will want to throw away your first crepe. It’s job is just to soak up the excess butter on the pan and to give you some practice.

Place crepes on a flat surface to cool.

I trimmed the excess off the edges of the crepes to give the cake a cleaner look.

Now make your filling.

Mix together your heavy cream, powdered sugar and matcha powder. Beat until it starts to thicken.

Mix the water and gelatin in a small saucepan. Heat on low and stir until dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and then pour in a steady stream into the cream while beating it. Beat until thick and stiff. The gelatin will help stop your cream from “melting” over time.

Place one crepe on your cake stand or plate. Spread filling on top to about 1/8 inch thickness. Get the cream close to the edges. Place another crepe on top.

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Press down lightly on each crepe to ensure the cake stays level. Repeat until all crepes used. Top with more cream and blueberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with blueberry sauce.

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Matcha Green Tea Crepe Cake
Ingredients
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 9 tbsp melted butter
  • 6 tbsp sugar
Filling
  • 2 pints heavy cream
  • 2 tsp matcha green tea powder
  • 6 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp gelatin
  • 1 tbsp water
Garnish
  • blueberries
  • blueberry sauce or syrup
Instructions
  1. Mix all crepe ingredients in a blender.

  2. Blend just until lumps disappear. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes to let bubbles settle out.

  3. Grease 10 inch saucepan with butter. Heat on medium heat until hot.

  4. Pour approx. 1/3 cup of batter into the center of the pan. Lift pan off heat and tilt in a circular motion to evenly spread batter to edges. Continue until batter slows down and becomes thick. Place back on heat.

  5. Cook until edges start to brown. Flip and cook another 30 seconds.

  6. Cool on a flat surface

  7. Mix cream, matcha powder and sugar with hand mixer until it just starts to thicken

  8. In a small saucepan, on low heat, combine gelatin and water. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

  9. Add dissolved gelatin in a steady stream to the cream while beating. Beat until thick and stiff.

  10. Place first crepe down on your cake platter. Spread 1/8 inch thickness cream on top, getting close to edges.

  11. Add crepe on top. Press down lightly to ensure cake is level. Repeat until all crepes used.

  12. Add cream to top layer. Top with blueberries and serve with blueberry sauce.

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Thai Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice is arguably one of Thailand’s most famous dishes. The very first thing I was taught in my cooking classes in Thailand was how to make sticky rice.

Now, the traditional way to cook this rice is to steam it in cheesecloth in a bamboo steamer. Both cheesecloth and bamboo steamers are readily available in North America, but if you don’t have them, don’t fret. You can still make this delicious dessert.

First off though, you need to find Thai sticky (sometimes called sweet) rice. Your nearest Asian or gourmet food store (Whole Foods etc.) should carry it. Do yourself a favor, while you’re there, pick up some palm sugar. While you could substitute brown sugar, it just doesn’t taste as good.

So now you have your ingredients, you need to prepare your rice. You will need to rinse your rice several times in water to remove the starch. Then you need to soak your rice for several hours (overnight is best). Make sure the rice is covered by 1-2 inches of water.

When you’re ready to make the dessert, follow either the traditional or MacGyver method to steam your rice as shown below.

Traditional:

Place rice in cheesecloth. Wrap and put in your bamboo steamer. Put steamer over pot of boiling water and steam for approximately 30 minutes or until rice is soft and slightly translucent.

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MacGyver:

Place your sticky rice in a sieve. Put sieve on top of a pot of boiling water. Place tea towel over sieve and then pot lid. (the towel acts to both absorb excess moisture while keeping the rice moist, mimicking the bamboo in the traditional steamer). Steam as above.

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In a separate saucepan, heat the coconut milk on low heat. Do not let it get too hot, the coconut milk will curdle. Add your palm sugar and salt. Stir till dissolved. Taste and adjust sugar/salt as desired.

When your rice is cooked, transfer it to a large bowl. Pour 3/4 of the coconut milk sauce into the bowl. The rice will soak it all up. Once the rice has soaked up the milk (about 5 minutes) stir it once.

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Serve with sliced mango and pour the extra coconut sauce on top.

 

Mango Sticky Rice
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Thai sticky/sweet rice
  • 2 cups high quality coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4-5 mango
Instructions
  1. Rinse the rice several times under cold water. Then soak for several hours (overnight is best) ensuring the rice is covered by 1-2 inches of water

  2. Put a large pot of water on to boil

  3. Either place rice in cheesecloth in a bamboo steamer or in a sieve covered with a tea towel and pot lid. Place steamer on top of pot with boiling water.

  4. Steam rice for approximately 30 minutes or until soft and slightly translucent

  5. In a saucepan, on low heat, combine the coconut milk, palm sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved.

  6. Transfer cooked rice into a large bowl. Pour 3/4 of the coconut sauce into the bowl. Allow the rice to soak up the sauce (about 5 minutes). Then stir the rice once.

  7. Serve with sliced mango and more sauce

 

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Pavlova Meringue Cake from Down Under

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When I was 19 years old, my family emigrated to Australia. I was in university so I didn’t move with them, but I spent my summers and Christmas holidays down under. My younger sister lamented that everything in Oz tasted a little “off”. Even Oreo cookies and Heinz ketchup were made using different recipes. She used to hoard ketchup packets from McDonalds because they were imported from North America. My parents would drool in the basement of the David Jones department store where they had an imported food section. I used to try and smuggle in Kraft Dinner for my Dad, but customs always seized them. Apparently those bright orange flavor packets actually contain some cheese. Who knew?

Some food was much tastier though. Especially the cheeses. If you ever find yourself in the land of Oz, definitely order yourself a cheese platter. It’s not only cheese that the Aussie’s specialize in though….there is also pavlova.

Pavlova is traditionally a single layer of meringue topped with whipped cream and lots of seasonal fruits. I was ambitious and decided to do a layered cake. Once you know how to make meringue it’s easy to make one or three layers depending on the occasion. I will explain in detail how to make the three layer cake and how to easily adjust the recipe to make a traditional pavlova.

To make three layers, you really need a double oven. Unless, of course, you have three hours to spend watching meringue baking and cooling. To start you’re going to preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Line a flat cookie tray with parchment paper. Trace out a 7-8 inch circle. (I traced a side plate.) Repeat with a second tray and try to fit in two more circles. (If you’re making a single layer, just trace out one 10-12 inch circle).

Sprinkle cornstarch over the circles to prevent the meringue from sticking.

In a large bowl separate out your egg whites. You cannot have even a single drop of yolk or grease in your bowl. If you do, start over. It won’t work.

Here’s the trickiest part…beat the eggs until they are stiff and forming small peaks, but are NOT DRY. You do not want to overbeat the eggs or they will collapse when folding in the final ingredients.

One tablespoon at a time, add the sugar and beat between each addition until fully incorporated. This will take some time. Be patient. You are making the meringue now. (If you have a stand mixer I would use it!) Continue to whip the egg whites while adding sugar until they are thick and glossy.

Fold in the vanilla, lemon juice and cornstarch until fully combined.

Equally divide the meringue mixture between the three circles.

Using the back of a spoon or spatula work the mixture, from the center out, to the edges of the circle, forming a disc. (This is actually quite easy). Smooth the top of the disc as best you can. Ensure that your discs are flat so that you can stack them. (If making a single layer build up the rim slightly so that it will hold in your whipped cream and fruit).

Bake for one hour. After one hour turn off the oven, but leave your meringues inside to cool for another 30 minutes. This will prevent further cracking.

 

After completely cooled, carefully peel the parchment paper off the meringue. Place your first layer on a flat plate or cake platter.

Whip up your filling ingredients until stiff. Spoon into a ziplock plastic bag and cut one bottom corner off to allow you to pipe out the cream.

On your bottom layer, pipe cream from the center out, in lines. Top with fruit. (If making a single layer, you’re done!)

Repeat for second layer.

Add top layer. Evenly spread cream on top and add more sliced fruit. Garnish with more fruit.

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Refrigerate until ready to serve and plate with extra sliced fruit.

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Pavlova Cake
Ingredients
  • 8 egg whites room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
Filling:
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extra
  • 5-6 kiwis peeled and sliced
  • 5-6 strawberries sliced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees

  2. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper

  3. Trace out 3, 7-8 inch circles. Sprinkle with cornstarch

  4. In a large bowl, separate out your egg whites. Ensure that no yolks or grease enters the bowl. If it does, start over

  5. Beat egg whites until stiff and forming small peaks, but NOT DRY.

  6. Slowly add sugar, one tbsp at a time, beating well in between each addition. This will take time. Be patient. Beat until mixture becomes thick and glossy.

  7. Fold in vanilla, lemon juice and cornstarch until well combined

  8. Divide mixture evenly among the three circles

  9. Using the back of a spoon or a spatula, spread,(from the center out), towards the edges of the circle. Make a flat disc and smooth out best as possible 

  10. Bake for 1 hr. After one hour turn off the oven, but leave the meringues inside to cool for 30 minutes. This prevents further cracking

  11. Once completely cooled, carefully peel off parchment paper

  12. Place bottom meringue on a flat plate or cake platter

  13. In a large bowl, beat together heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar until stiff

  14. Spoon whipped cream into a Ziploc bag. Seal and cut one bottom corner off to allow you to pipe out the cream

  15. Starting from the center of the meringue disc, pipe cream to the edges in lines

  16. Top with kiwi and strawberries.

  17. Repeat for second layer

  18. Add top meringue. Spread whipped cream evenly over the top and garnish with more fruit

  19. Store in fridge and serve with more sliced fruit

Recipe Notes

To make a single layer traditional Pavlova, divide the recipe in half. Make one 10-12 inch meringue. Build up rim of disc slightly to hold your whipped cream and fruit in.