Almond Crescents

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Almond crescents are buttery, crisp cookies.  You can coat them in confectioners’ sugar, or present them along with a raspberry coulis for dipping.

 

Almond Crescents
From Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies

Yield: 24 cookies

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
 (optional but recommended)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups almond flour
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
 (optional)

 

  1. Position racks to divide oven in thirds and preheat to 350°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts (if using).
  4. Add all-purpose flour, reduce speed to low, and mix until flour is almost incorporated.
  5. Add almond flour and mix just until it disappears into the mixture and the dough comes together.  If the dough is soft and hard to handle, refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  (I skipped this step.)  At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and store in the refrigerator up to 2 days.
  6. Scoop 24 rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.
  7. Using your hands, roll each ball into 
a 4-inch rope, then shape into 
a crescent.  Pinch the ends lightly and place on baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart.  (The shaped cookies can be frozen, wrapped airtight, and stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.  Let them come to room temperature before baking.)
  8. Bake 19-21 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through 
baking.  The cookies will be golden at the tips, pale everywhere else, and set but too fragile to lift without breaking.
  9. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes.
  At this point, the cookies can be cooled completely, wrapped, and frozen for up to 2 months.
  10. If desired, sift confectioners’ sugar into a shallow bowl.  Dredge the warm cookies in the confectioners’ sugar; return to the rack and let cool completely.
  11. The baked cookies keep at room temperature for about 3 days.
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Religieuses (Nuns)

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My friends and I have been watching the Great British Baking Show and decided to try one of the technical challenges – religieuses (nuns), i.e. glorified cream puffs.  A French friend of mind says that she sees them often in pastry shops in France.  They were very tasty, although they were definitely on the fiddly side.  Next time I’ll just make the puffs all the same size and skip both the stacking and the whipped cream collar, which you can’t really taste anyway.

Baking Notes:

  • You’ll end up with a lot of leftover whipped cream.
  • Below I’ve halved the amount of chocolate ganache icing, because we also had a lot left.
  • I’ve translated the ingredient names from British to American English (who’d have thought they’d be so different?), and included American measurements as well.  However, it’s easiest just to use weights and mL to measure them out.

 

Religieuses (Nuns)
Adapted from Mary Berry, via the Great British Baking Show

Yield: 8 religieuses

For choux pastry:

  • 60g/2¼oz (about 2 tablespoons) butter, cut into cubes
  • 150ml/5fl oz (2/3 cup) of water
  • 75g/2½oz (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For pastry cream:

  • 500ml/18fl oz (a little over 2 cups) milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds only OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 75g/2½oz (1/3 cup) caster/superfine sugar OR granulated sugar
  • 20g/¾oz (2 tablespoons+2 teaspoons) corn starch
  • 25g/1oz (1/5 cup) all-purpose flour

For chocolate ganache icing:

  • 75ml/2.5fl oz (1/3 cup) heavy cream
  • 100g/3.5oz semisweet baking chocolate (30-40% cocoa solids if you can find it, but 50-60% is also fine), broken into small pieces

For whipped cream:

  • 150ml/5fl oz (2/3 cup) heavy cream

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 425ºF.  On a sheet of parchment paper, draw eight circles 2 inches in diameter and another eight circles 1 inch in diameter, spacing the circles about 1-2 inches apart.  Flip the parchment paper over and line a baking sheet with it.

  2. To make the pastry cream, pour milk and vanilla extract into a heavy-bottom pan and bring gradually to a boil.

  3. Remove pan from the heat and leave to cool for 30 seconds.

  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow in color, then whisk in corn starch and flour.

  5. Pour vanilla-infused milk onto egg mixture, whisking continuously, then pour back into the pan.

  6. Bring back to a boil, whisking continuously on medium heat, and cook for 1 minute.

  7. Pour pastry cream into a shallow bowl.  Cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and let cool completely.  Transfer to the fridge to chill.

  8. To prepare the choux pastry, put butter and water in a heavy-bottom saucepan and heat on medium heat until butter melts.

  9. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat.

  10. Quickly pour in flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft ball.

  11. Return saucepan to the stove and cook on low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

  12. Remove saucepan from heat and leave to cool slightly.

  13. Gradually add the eggs, stirring well with a wooden spoon between each addition to form a smooth, shiny paste.

  14. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 3/4-inch plain tip.

  15. Pipe round discs onto the parchment paper in the marked circles.

  16. Wet your finger and gently smooth the top of each disc.

  17. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.

  18. Remove the choux buns from the oven and pierce each bun on top with a skewer to allow the steam to escape.  Return to the oven for 4-5 minutes to dry out.

  19. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

  20. To make the chocolate ganache, bring cream to a boil in a small pan.

  21. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and stir until melted and shiny.

  22. Transfer to a small bowl (you want the chocolate ganache to be deep enough to dip the buns in) and leave to cool.  Transfer the fridge to chill until the ganache has thickened to a spreadable consistency.

  23. To assemble the religieuse, spoon the cold pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip.

  24. Using a chopstick or skewer, poke a 1/4-inch hole in the bottom of each choux bun.

  25. Poke the tip into each bun.  Using a finger to cover the little hole you made in the top earlier, squeeze pastry cream into each bun until the pastry cream just starts to come back out of the hole in the bottom.  You can use your finger to wipe away any excess pastry cream.

  26. Dip the filled buns into the chocolate ganache to coat half-way up the sides.

  27. On a large platter, arrange the large buns at least a few inches apart (you want to have enough space to pipe the whipped cream collars around the religieuses later).

  28. Sit a small bun on top of each large bun.

  29. For the collars, whip the cream in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl.  (If the whipped cream is too stiff, the piped stars will look somewhat craggy.)

  30. Spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a small star tip.

  31. Pipe a circle of whipped cream stars around the join where the small bun sits on top of the large bun to form a collar.

  32. Serve immediately, or at least on the same day.

Applesauce Carrot Cake

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This carrot cake recipe comes from The Little Pie Company, which makes amazing desserts.  It’s moist, with lots of textures and flavors, and cuts down on cholesterol by using a combination of egg whites and applesauce.

 

Applesauce Carrot Cake
Adapted from The Little Pie Company’s Pies and Other Dessert Favorites

Yield: 9″ x 13″ cake or two-layer 9″ round cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4-1 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, thick and smooth
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 large eggs) OR 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flavorless vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded raw carrots (about 2 large carrots)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (the packaged variety)
  • 1/2 cup raisins OR coarsely chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts OR pecans
  • Cream cheese frosting

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or two 9″ round cake pans.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, stir together applesauce, egg whites OR eggs, oil, and vanilla on low speed.
  3. On medium speed, beat in sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  4. Stir in flour and beat on medium speed until well blended.
  5. Stir in carrots, coconut, dried fruit, and nuts.
  6. Pour batter into pan(s) and smooth the top.
  7. Bake for about 35 minutes in a 9″ x 13″ pan, or 25 minutes in round cake pans.  The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and when touching the center with your finger leaves only a faint impression.
  8. Cool cake to room temperature on wire rack.  (You can turn out the cake onto the racks when it’s cool enough to touch, but I just left them in the pans.)
  9. While cake is cooling, prepare cream cheese frosting.
  10. Frost cake after it has cooled completely.
  11. Store cake in the refrigerator, covered.  You can serve it immediately, but the flavors will develop as it stands and the cake will taste even better on the second day.

Classic Berry Tart

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Since berry season is upon us, what can be more refreshing than a berry tart?  The sweetness of the pastry cream filling complements the tartness of the fruit nicely.

 

Classic Berry Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 9-inch tart

For pastry cream filling:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons+2 teaspoons (1/6 cup) cornstarch, sifted if you have the patience
  • About 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits, at room temperature

For tart shell:

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour OR 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For topping:

  • 1 pint fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries, or a mix of them
  • 2 ripe kiwis

 

  1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan or 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  (I skipped this step and it was fine.)
  2. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter on medium speed until creamy.
  3. Beat in egg yolk.
  4. Add flour, almond flour if using, confectioners’ sugar, and salt and beat on low speed until mixture just clumps together into a rough ball.
  5. Knead dough gently to incorporate any dry ingredients left.  (At this point, you can wrap the dough well and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)
  6. Press dough into the bottom of the pan, spreading dough evenly across the bottom and 1-2 inches up the sides.  Save a little piece of dough in the refrigerator in case the crust cracks during baking and you need to patch it later.
  7. Freeze crust in pan for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.  (At this point, you can wrap the unbaked crust and keep it in the freezer for up to 2 months.  Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.)
  8. While crust is freezing, make the filling.  In a small pot on the stove, bring the milk to a boil.
  9. Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until well-blended and thick.
  10. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of the hot milk — this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they don’t curdle — then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream.
  11. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly (make sure to get in the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat.
  12. Whisk in vanilla extract.
  13. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate it or, if you want to cool the pastry cream quickly, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is fully chilled, about 20 minutes. (At this point, you can keep the pastry cream, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
  14. While filling is cooling, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°F.
  15. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust.  (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.)
  16. Put pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.
  17. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.  If there are any cracks in the crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges, and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust.
  18. Bake for another 8 minutes, or until it is firm and golden brown.  (Dorie Greenspan suggests keeping the crust in the oven for just a few minutes longer if you dislike lightly baked crusts.  Keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.)  Again, if there are any cracks in the crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges, and very gently smooth the edges into crust.  Bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.
  19. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
  20. When you are ready to assemble the tart, peel and thinly slice 2 kiwis.  Rinse berries and gently pat dry with a paper towel.  If using strawberries, either halve them from top to bottom or slice them.
  21. Whisk the pastry cream vigorously to loosen it and spoon into the tart shell, stopping just short of the crust’s rim — you want to leave room for the topping.
  22. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
  23. Arrange kiwi slices across the surface of the pastry cream.  Heap berry mixture in the center.
  24. Serve tart as soon as possible after assembling it, certainly on the same day.  If you need to keep it for a few hours, cover it and store in the refrigerator, keeping it away from any foods with strong odors.

Bagels

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If you don’t live near a good bagel shop or if you just enjoy a challenge, these bagels are really fun to make and taste great.

To mix home-made high-gluten flour, we combined 98% King Arthur bread flour with 2% Bob’s Red Mill wheat gluten (which said it was 75-80% gluten) by weight.  Although I rarely weigh out my ingredients, this recipe is a lot simpler if you use a kitchen scale!

Original recipe

 

Bagels
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 12 bagels

For sponge:

  • 1 teaspoon (0.11 oz) instant yeast OR active dry yeast
  • 4 cups (18 oz) unbleached high-gluten flour OR bread flour OR home-made high-gluten flour (see above)
  • 2 1/2 (20 oz) cups warm water

For dough

  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.055 oz) instant yeast OR active dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups (17 oz) unbleached high-gluten flour OR bread flour OR home-made high-gluten flour (see above)
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons (0.7 oz) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (0.33 oz) malt powder OR 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz) dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

To Finish:

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting baking sheets
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, ground cinnamon, etc.

 

Day 1:

  1. To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl.
  2. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter).
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly.  It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter.
  4. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir.
  5. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt.
  6. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.
  7. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
  8. Immediately divide the dough into 12 (4.5-oz) pieces and form them into balls.
  9. Cover the balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
  10. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.
  11. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2.5 inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)
  12. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  13. Place pan in refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days).

Day 2:

  1. Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 500ºF.  While oven preheats, bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better; it doesn’t have to be very deep), and add the baking soda.  Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
  2. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute, flip them over and boil for another minute.
  3. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.  (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.)
  4. If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water.  You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination thereof.
  5. When all the bagels have been boiled, bake bagels for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180º rotation.  (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180º.)
  6. After the rotation, continue baking for 5-10 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
  7. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.