Baking · recipes

Sunday Afternoon ~ Simple Summer Harvest Peach Cobbler

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For the past few weeks, I have been baking every double or triple batch of recipes I could to prepare for a family engagement party.  Turning my treats into mini-desserts suitable for 100 or more people dropping in, took some careful planning and the glorious ability to freeze as I went along on the countdown to the Main Event.

Hundreds of cookies and mini-muffins later, as well as a dairy-free cheesecake, and converting most of my baking into pareve (dairy-free) versions, the event went off well and the comments came in that it was a beautifully arranged party and everyone had a great time.  Now, on to the Shabbos Kallah with some time to recharge first.

Today, is a gloomy rainy day, with dire predictions of flooding in low-lying areas and generally not a suitable day to run carefree errands.

Best course of action is to bake something delicious and eat it while reading! This combines some of my favorite things.  On a quiet weekend, I try to complete two to three novels.  Some binge-watch, I binge-read. Bliss.

After making hundreds of small pastries, it is time to cut back (at least a little) as it is far too tempting to enjoy so much fresh baking.  Having lost a lot of weight, and seeing it creep up since I began to bake again, I feel the anxiety and push/pull of what I had to give up and how long it has been since I was able to fully enjoy my baking.  I put it aside for a couple of years and missed it.  People have so many talents and artistic creative abilities that I truly envy.  I have a brown thumb although I appreciate the beauty that it provides.  For me, I feel a natural affinity to my baking and recipe development.

My weekly Hungry Harvest delivery included some small ripe peaches.  The season for such delights is very short and even rarer to get peaches at just such a time without being too hard or too sour.

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To use my fresh sweet peaches, I adapted a recipe from “Dessert for Two” by Christina Lane. The wonderful thing about her cookbook is that it truly is smaller scale and everything that I have made so far has been delicious.  To use some of her recipes, I invested in some smaller baking pans as well and used a 6 inch round baking pan for this adapted recipe.

Another incredible thing about this recipe is that it does not contain any eggs! Incredibly, a lovely sweet homemade baked treat with no eggs. The batter comes up around the fresh peaches and their natural juices and forms a luscious cobbler using the best of a summer harvest fruit.

I am sharing it as I made it today so you can have easily 4 (or more if you are only have a spoonful!) servings depending on how big, or little, a piece you enjoy.  Rather than trying to slice it, as it is a softer filling, it was actually much easier to spoon into a small bowl and was delicious slightly warm!

Simple Summer Harvest Peach Cobbler

4 – 5 small ripe Fresh Peaches

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon + 1/4 cup granulated Sugar

1 teaspoon Lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/2 cup all-purpose Flour

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

pinch of salt

1/2 cup half and half cream

1 teaspoon Turbinado Sugar, optional

Slice peaches thinly, carefully removing the skin and the red inner area of flesh around the pit, as it becomes bitter when baked.  Combine all slices in a small bowl with 1 Tablespoon of sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place 2 Tablespoons of butter into a round 6 inch baking pan and place in the oven to melt. But, watch carefully, so that it doesn’t burn.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Slowly, pour in the cream and stir in until just combined.  Lumps are OK so no need to over mix.

Remove the pan with the melted butter from the oven.  Spoon the batter over the surface of the pan without stirring.  Spoon the peaches and all the juice randomly over the top of the batter. Again, no stirring whatsoever is needed!

If desired, sprinkle a teaspoon of Turbinado sugar over the surface of the peaches before baking.

Return all to the oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the batter becomes golden brown and dough begins to separate a bit from the sides.  If unsure, you can put a tester in to be sure that the batter has baked.

 

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Baking · recipes

A Child’s Request – Banana Marble Bread with Chocolate Chips

Such is Mother’s Day – a child asks for something that they have been craving and we always want to make wishes, big and small, come true for those whom we love.

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Each family has their own version of Banana Bread to make the most of the bananas in their home.  But, this child request was from an adult daughter with her own home.  So, off  to the store four days in advance to get bananas and hoping to have them ripen fast enough to bake with for Mother’s Day.

I developed this recipe 25 years ago and kept it pareve (dairy free) so it could be eaten any time. Since it can be sliced and frozen, you can nibble anytime.

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When my son was younger, this was his favorite cake.  When I asked him what children like to eat, he replied, “Just use lots of recipes with chocolate.”

“Out of the mouths of babes… hast Thou founded strength.”   Psalms 8:2

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Banana Marble Loaf

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 very ripe bananas

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups of flour

1 Tablespoon cocoa

1/4 – 12 cup chocolate chips

Pecan halves, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix oil with sugars well.  Add peeled bananas and mix 2 – 3 minutes until all mashed and blended thoroughly.  Add vanilla and beat.  Add eggs and beat well to combine all.  All at once add cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the flour and blend until just moistened.  Mix in 1/4 cup chocolate chips.

Separate out one cup of batter in a separate small bowl.  Add 1 Tablespoon of cocoa and mix thoroughly until dark brown and uniform in color.

If you choose, sprinkle chocolate chips on top of the banana bread before baking. Additionally, if desired, you can add pecans or walnuts to the batter, or sprinkle on the top for decoration. It is all a matter of personal taste.

To assemble, lightly grease 9 x 5 loaf pan.  Pour half of the larger portion of banana batter into the loaf pan.  Spoon chocolate batter randomly over.  Repeat to create 3 more layers, ending with the yellow banana batter on top.  If desired, you can run a knife through the batter two to three times.  This will help to create that wonderful split top and chocolate marbling through the cake.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Makes 1 large loaf.

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We are mothers always, whether our children are with us or not.  Just as we desire the love of our mothers, we cannot deny our children.  The nights of worry, the desire to please, the pain of goodbye…… Through laughter and tears, our doubts and fears, and the swift passing of years.  Our children ~ forever and always.

mothers day_because i said so

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All you need is love, but a cookie now and then doesn’t hurt.

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Baking · recipes

Mixed-Fast Mixed Berry Muffins

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When craving something freshly baked, there are the photos that I drool over on Instagram, and the reality of the time crunch after a full day’s work, some sort of healthy-ish dinner, and a desire for more delicious in less time.

Also, when there is a small household, I need to know that the recipe can be halved, or doubled, and like to be able to freeze the extras.  Although, I am very popular with certain co-workers, because I bring in goodies on a regular basis, I like to keep some treats for an easy snack.

As much as I love baking, let’s face it ~ a Bubby or a Mom ~ needs to find inspiration, as well as completion, in a hurry with ingredients already in the house.

This recipe uses regular vanilla yogurt (not Greek).  If you want to use sour cream, you can, but again, I can only share how I chose to make this recipe.  However, if you do choose to use plain unflavored yogurt, add a teaspoon of vanilla to the batter for flavor.

Muffins are a great way to use fresh or frozen fruit and there is no need to pull out the mixer.  Using two mixing bowls, one for liquid and one for dry ingredients, reduces the number of dishes to wash and only a small amount of counter space is needed for prepping.

Trader Joe’s carries many frozen fruits that are easy to store in the freezer and work very well for muffins.  While beautiful fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are coming back into season, you can use a frozen mixed berry combination.  The one from Trader Joe’s has raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and large blackberries.  Wherever you are, there is an abundance of frozen fruit choices so you can always enjoy any time of year.  Before I mixed them in, I did dice the large strawberries a bit and cut the blackberries in half to match the average size of the raspberries and blueberries.

MIXED BERRY MUFFINS

This recipe makes 6 – 7 muffins depending on how full you add your batter to lined muffin cups.  This recipe doubles easily.

1 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup fresh or frozen berries (I used mixed berries)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup (4 ounces) traditional vanilla yogurt

If desired, sprinkle a little sanding sugar on the tops of each muffin prior to baking.

`Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In another medium sized bowl, combine egg, oil, and yogurt.  Whisk to break up egg and combine liquid ingredients fully.  If using plain unflavored yogurt or sour cream, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Add the berries into the flour mixture and toss gently.  Covering the berries with flour will help to keep them from sinking to the bottom of your muffins and absorb and juices.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the large mixing bowl of dry ingredients all at once.  Mix until just moistened.  Pour batter into paper-lined muffin cups.

Bake at 400 degrees for 18 – 22 minutes.  Use a toothpick to test the center of a muffin; if the toothpick comes out clean, the muffins are ready.

Cool for 5 minutes and remove to cooling rack to cool further.

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Whether you are an experienced baker, a new one, or a harried one, a trusty recipe base that can work with different types of fruits or add-ins is a lifesaver when you need to have something fresh and sweetly baked to serve with love and pleasure.  ❤

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All you need is love, but a cookie now and then doesn’t hurt.

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Baking · recipes

Funfetti Sprinkle Cookies ~ So Darn Cute!

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Any recipe, whether a cake, muffin, or cookie that has sprinkles is now referred to as “funfetti” to categorize the fun multi-colored sugars throughout.  One look at Pinterest will give you many creative ideas of how people play with sprinkles.

For those of us with a kosher home, one of the challenges is creating a good cookie, but turning it into a recipe that does not use butter so we can have it anytime.  Since, many of our nearest and dearest are together for holidays or Shabbos, having a pareve (neither meat nor dairy) treat is always necessary.

Also, not all sprinkles are kosher.  However, Wilton does make a wide variety of sprinkles and colored sugars that are all kosher certified by the CRC (the Chicago Rabbinical Council) and are widely available online from Amazon and many other stores.

I hate to waste ingredients, but if a recipe try does not taste good, out it goes.  I am picky and if it doesn’t taste good to me, then it doesn’t need to take up space in my freezer.  So, I have done the experimenting for you.  I made three different batches this week – one with butter, one with Earth Balance (vegan butter), and one with canola oil.

I made a batch of funfetti sprinkle cookies, with butter, for a friend who is hosting her son’s First birthday. They taste great, but I really wanted to turn it into something non-dairy for my own purposes.

I tried an adaptation of this recipe using a vegan butter spread.  It can be very nice in some baked goods, but the taste and texture was not satisfying in this particular recipe.  The cookie looked very pretty, but I did not like it, so out it went.

Then, I tried again today using canola oil.  I have to say that I was much happier with the texture, the mouth feel, the crunch, and somehow, even though there is not one drop of butter, these have a similar pleasing taste.

Taste is so individual, particularly when eating cookies! Some like them underbaked, so it is more like eating a bit of raw cookie dough.  Their final product is all white.  Personally, I like a cookie that turns golden on the edges, has crunch and crisp, but is soft in the middle.

As a result, I can give a recipe that has worked for me, but must always give the advice to change it up as you like it.  If you prefer a more raw cookie, bake for one to two less minutes.  The cookies will set up on the baking sheet if left for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Carefully move them to the cooling rack as these will be soft at first.  If you prefer your cookies soft, then feel free to eat right away and let them crumble in your hands.  It is all a matter of taste and if you like it, then that is all that matters.

Also, another variant is the flour.  Sometimes, there is still runny egg that is not quite worked in, so a bit more flour is needed.  Adding it 1 Tablespoon at a time is best for this recipe.  Adding too much flour will make these cookies drier and hence “harder” to the bite.

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When I see these cookies, I want to find a child or children to gift them to because they are just so darn cute (the children and the cookies)!  Packaging up a dozen cookies in a cellophane bag will surely make someone’s day.

Funfetti Sprinkle Cookies – makes 2 dozen cookies

3/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2/3 confectioners’ powdered sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 – 2 1/4 cups of flour (spooned into a measuring cup to make a level fill; try right in the middle at 2 1/8 but check for the texture of the dough)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 – 1/2 cup sprinkles

In a large mixing bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the oil and the sugars for 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and the egg, beating for one minute after each addition. Let the mixture beat fully; the dough will be a lovely pale yellow.  While the oil and sugars mix, in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.

After the mixture has had time to beat, add the flour mixture to the bowl.  You can start with two cups of flour, and then add additional flour in by Tablespoon up to 1/8 or 1/4 cup total.  If you want a softer cookie, use a bit less flour.

Mix in sprinkles and let fully blend (or fold in by hand) but don’t overmix. Overmixing cookie dough will cause it to be a tough cookie.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes.

In a separate bowl, add more colored sprinkles, if desired.

Prepare two full size baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

There are two ways to bake these cookies.  You can roll the dough into a 1 1/2 inch ball and place on the baking sheet with space between each cookie. A full size sheet will accommodate 12 cookies.  Bake for 11 – 12 minutes.  Let set on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Or, if you choose, pinch off a walnut-sized piece of dough (rolling it into a ball isn’t necessary) and roll one side in the bowl of sprinkles to get some on the top of the cookie.  Do this with 12 pieces of dough.  Then, wetting the bottom of a large glass, press down on the cookie to flatten to a 1/2 inch thickness.  Bake for 11 – 12 minutes.  I baked mine for 12 minutes and the outside edge was golden. Let set on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool further.

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I always like to have options and sometimes, you just don’t have time or the inclination for the extra step of topping with more sprinkles.  Either way, these are a good tasting cookie and sure to add a bit of fun with each bite.

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All you need is love, but a cookie now and then doesn’t hurt either.

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Baking · recipes

Got Yams? Sweet Potato Bread

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At some point, we end up with too much produce, or potatoes that are starting to look worse for the wear, and much of our grocery money goes to waste.  After Thanksgiving, people don’t know what to do with all of the leftover turkey and sweet potatoes, but it happens any time of the year.

I have written previously about my subscription to the Hungry Harvest food delivery service.  Fresh fruits and vegetables that are rejected by supermarkets because of their looks, or an over abundance from a local farmer, are turned into rescued food donations to those who cannot afford fresh produce and an opportunity to do good and eat well with customizable harvest boxes.

ugly sweet potatoesIf you look at the sweet potato on the upper left, you will see what I mean about it not being ready for its grocery store close-up and is rejected before it even hits shelves. However, by simply cooking the potatoes and using the mashed filling as a delightful ingredient for fresh bread, that ugly duckling potato becomes a star!

You can peel and boil potatoes to soften enough for mashing, but I find baking potatoes in the microwave is so easy and much faster time-wise.    Placing two medium size sweet potatoes in a microwave safe bowl, pierce in several places with a fork.  These holes will allow the steam to release when cooking.  Place in the microwave and cook at 100% full power for 6 minutes.  Carefully, remove the potatoes from the microwave and let cool.

The rest of the ingredients are easy to organize and there is nothing like a fresh loaf of bread for delicious eating.  Whether simply coated with butter or jam, or as a fabulous sandwich with mustard, turkey or egg, and avocado, this loaf delivers great flavor.

Any dough that is a bit sticky when taken out of the bowl, as long as it is not so sticky that it cannot be handled, will be moister.  When shaping the dough, sprinkling a little dough on a non-stick surface to work with it, will also make it easier to form as you choose.

Most of this dough will be elastic after a few minutes of kneading with the dough hook.  However, if there is some small amount of dough that sticks to the bottom or sides of the mixing bowl, scrape them down and add to the dough to rise.  Don’t overmix with flour or the bread will become dry.

Sweet Potato Bread

1 cup warm water

3 teaspoons dry active yeast

2 scant Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup oat flour

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

sweet potatoes or yams – mashed or filling from 2 medium sized potatoes (remove the skin)

2 – 2 1/2 cups Best for Bread Flour

Place the warm water in the large mixing bowl of a stand mixer.  Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the surface of the water and let rest for 5 minutes.  It will become foamy.  Add the whole wheat and oat flours.  Add the maple syrup and brown sugar to the bowl as well as the salt and cinnamon.  Add 2 cups of the bread flour and mix all thoroughly with the dough hook.  Let it continue to beat for 2 – 3 minutes.  The dough should not be dry, however, if it is still too sticky and not separating from the bowl, add additional flour – 1/4 to 1/2 cup total.

The dough will be very slightly sticky.  Remove from the mixing bowl and place in a lightly oiled medium-sized bowl.  Cover with a towel and let rise for one hour.

I turn my oven to 120 degrees F and let my dough rise in the lightly warmed oven.  It speeds up the process and a one hour rise is just right for this recipe to double in size.

Punch the dough down and divide into two.  Shape each portion of dough as you wish, braiding or twisting into a plait, and laying into a full size 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.  You can also braid and twist into a circle and place upon a full size baking sheet.

Let the dough rise again for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat one whole egg with 1 Tablespoon of water until thoroughly blended.  Lightly brush 3 – 4 times over the surface of each loaf.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, or any seed of choice if desired.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.  Check at 25 minutes to determine if the bread needs more time.  When removed from the oven, let cool in loaf pan or upon baking sheet.  Makes 2 loaves.

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Sweet Potatoes are a nutritional superfood containing vitamin B6, other B-Complex vitamins, Vitamin A, Beta-carotene, Fiber, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, and an abundance of minerals and antioxidants.  It aids metabolism and brain function.  Beta-carotene converts into Vitamin A providing nutrients for healthy skin and vision.

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If this recipe is made without the egg wash, this delicious bread is suitable for vegan diets or those who cannot tolerate animal proteins.  Instead of the egg wash, you can lightly brush the surface with a small amount of water or olive oil prior to baking.

A simple three-plait bread will rise into a lovely loaf.  Above, I have shown how to do a criss cross braid, like a tic tac toe board. This can be done with four snake-shape pieces of dough or six.  Weave in an under / over in the center and then braid the four outside edges, twisting the dough.  Fold the dough under and you have a lovely raised round loaf.  I placed these on a parchment paper covered 15 x 10 baking sheet.  In this shape, I found that 25 minutes baking time was sufficient.  Let cool on the baking sheet to keep the heat in a bit longer and they continue to heat through further.

Letting the loaf cool thoroughly will allow for easier slicing.  This bread can be frozen in slices, in doubled Ziploc bags, for smaller households that only need a couple of pieces at a time.

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All you need is love, but a cookie now and then doesn’t hurt.

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Baking · recipes

Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Valrhona Chocolate

Homemade chocolate chunk cookies are yummy.  Most of us are fine with chocolate chips or broken chunks of Ghirardelli or Baker’s baking chocolate.  However, Valrhona chocolate is supposed to be the chocolate of choice for true bakers and chefs.

Since I am experimenting beyond my old comfort zones and baking for enjoyment, I decided to order Valrhona from World Wide Chocolate.  It is not an inexpensive purchase, but I used the “feves” which are deep oval pieces of chocolate that will spread in baking and give much more melted coverage than an average chocolate chip that stays whole and does not melt at all.

Buying and receiving a box full of French chocolate certainly seems decadent.  It is yet another opportunity to try the chocolate that people rave about.

All of this newness in my kitchen is part of my embracing new ingredients and looking forward to another great baking experience in the evenings.   I really look forward to these baking sessions and, in my humble opinion, enthusiasm and creativity are positive emotions that are good to feel!

In my kosher kitchen, trying to store ingredients, pans, bowls, tools, and utensils for Dairy, Meat, and Pareve foods means that I am definitely out of room! But each new recipe, cookbook, and inspiration is great fun and hopefully, building lots of new healthy brain cells as well. 🙂

Some excel at beautiful cakes; I wish that I was one of those people who know their way around a buttercream and beautiful decoration.  I am so amazed at the talent among bakers.  I don’t bake complicated desserts anymore in our small household, but fresh cookies are always on my menu and wishlist.

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Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies (adapted from @BryonyCooks) – DAIRY

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups Valhrona dark chocolate feves (could also use chocolate chips)

This amount can and was done by hand, a stand mixer is not needed for this smaller batch of cookies.  Makes 18 cookies.

Over medium heat, melt the stick of butter.  Keep the heat at low to medium to keep it from sizzling or evaporating.  Cooking slowly, watch carefully.  As the butter comes to foam, you will gradually see the color change to a caramel color.  Remove from heat and let cool while you prepare the next steps.  There will be brown butter and milk solids, be sure to use all of it in the cookies.

In a large mixing bowl, add both sugars.  When slightly cooled, add the brown butter and stir together to blend thoroughly.   Add the egg and the vanilla extract and stir together. Add all the remaining dry ingredients.  Stir well to incorporate the baking soda, salt, cream of tartar and flour.

Mix in the chocolate pieces.

Chill the dough at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Place cookie dough balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Leave 2 inches between as these cookies will spread.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes and golden.  Remove and let cool on pan for a few minutes.  I found that 12 minutes worked best for me to make the medium sized cookies.

The Valhrona chocolate discs don’t need to be chopped further and spread slightly when baked in the cookies.  These cookies are rich and deeply satisfying.  Shared with others, they are impressive even though easy.  Who doesn’t want to eat French chocolate?!

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Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy a little decadence.

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All you need is love, but a cookie now and then doesn’t hurt.

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Baking · recipes

Delicious Anytime Strawberry Scones

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This is one of those recipes that falls into my “What could be bad?” category.  I say this because I think that it is adaptable to a variety of fillings and I love having options!  This makes it easy to create anytime with the ingredients on hand.

Many scone recipes say to form into a circle and cut into wedges, but this batter was wet and sticky; It would not become a whole circle that could actually be cut and then have the wedges separated 2 inches apart.  The more I tried to manipulate it, the more batter I lost as it stuck to the parchment paper and, especially, my hands.  Also, I did not want to overwork the dough as that toughens the finished product.

Let’s be honest – this is all about the warm, moist, strawberry-filled, sugar topped goodness!

After much additional mess, the drop method was just fine and definitely saves some steps.

Another thing about this recipe is that you have to use the products you have on hand.  As luck would have it, one of the ingredients that I was sure was in my refrigerator, was gone.  So, improvise, improvise, improvise!

The liquid dairy in this recipe could be sour cream, whole cream, or in my case, I used half and half.  I have not tried it with milk, but I think that the higher fat content is best.

Also, you could use frozen berries, but I had large ripe strawberries that were somewhere between gorgeous and too far gone (it seems to happens when I turn my back for just a moment…).  So, I used chopped fresh strawberries.   This recipe would work with any berry you like.  The advantage of frozen berries vs. fresh, is that if you fold over the fresh fruit too much, the juices will run as well and muddle the color of the batter. With frozen fruit, they won’t break down in the same way and the berries will stay whole during baking.  Either method will work.

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I also took the opportunity to sprinkle some freshly zested Meyer Lemon peel into my dough so the bright orange flecks you see are not egg, but the beautiful pale orange zest.  The flavor enhancement was very subtle, but quite nice.

They are not perfect wedges, but they looked and baked beautifully.  Avoid over baking or adding too much flour, if you choose to add another Tablespoon, to avoid drying out the scone.  Now that I have tried it this way, and seen how sticky the batter was, I will save myself trouble and more mess by avoiding the kneading step and just use the drop method in the future.  There are no complaints about the final combination of flavors and light crumb.

STRAWBERRY SCONES     Makes 8

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 whole stick) butter

1 large egg

1/2 cup half and half (or sour cream or whole cream)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup diced/chopped strawberries (I used fresh, but you could use a mix of frozen berries)

1 teaspoon to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon zest (optional, to taste)

These are delicious sprinkled with Sanding Sugar (large crystals) or Turbinado sugar.

Optionally, they could be glazed when cool.

Glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

1 Tablespoon of milk

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter, cubed into smaller pieces, and blend until smaller crumbs form.  I found that doing this by hand was much easier, either with a fork, pastry blender, or your fingers.

I added the strawberries at the end and mixed gently, so the flour could coat the berries.  I stirred in the fresh lemon zest at the same time.

In a smaller separate bowl, combine the liquid ingredients.  Add to the dry ingredients all at once and blend to moisten.  Don’t overmix.  If you choose, you can knead with 1 – 2 Tablespoons of flour to shape into a rounded mound of dough.  Or, drop the batter forming 8 rounds of dough.  The dough is wet and sticky. (I found it was better and easier to use the drop method for these scones.  Using a dry cup measure, I dropped the batter onto the cookie sheet leaving 2 inches between each to allow them to puff and spread.)  If choosing to form a round mound, use a knife to score into 8 equal wedges.  Gently separate to allow for spreading.

Sprinkle tops liberally with sanding sugar.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes.  Check the scones at 15 minutes.  Although the tops will look a bit wet, the bottoms can be become dark very quickly.  You can do a toothpick check to see if they are ready.

Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.  While warm they will be crumbly, so move gently.  Or, simply place on your plate, crumble, and enjoy!

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All you need is love, but a cookie now and then doesn’t hurt.

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cooking · recipes

Meyer Lemon-Infused Olive Oil

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I spent numerous hours today dicing, zesting, flash-freezing, juicing…..all to learn how to preserve Meyer Lemons.

These delightful and highly sought after lemons are a hybrid of lemons and mandarin oranges. The skin is more orange than a regular lemon, as well as being thinner, and the size is generally smaller.  Also, the taste is less acidic and lends itself to subtle infusions for baked goods, in fish dishes, or with chicken.   Preserved lemons are very popular in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisines.  The period of availability is very brief and most of the Meyer Lemons available come from growers in California.  In fact, I was told at Trader Joe’s that the season was over and that they were no longer available (I had gone in several days in a row and each day was told that the stock was sold out.  Then, within a week of inquiries, I was told that the availability had ended).

Although I have never been a lemon fan, the scent of the Meyer Lemon is so appealing to me.  It is a luscious citrus smell that is unique and fruitier than a regular lemon.

meyer lemons in colander

Each person has the flavors that appeal to the unique palette; perhaps, it is encouraged by the ethnic styles of cooking in the home, or the geographical base in childhood.  For me, raised in New England, I love apple in my baked goods or drinks, as well as pumpkin, and the autumn spice blends of cinnamon, clove, and ginger.

My husband wants chocolate.  He does not need frosting, fruit drizzle, or fancy sauces.  Straight up, rich, moist chocolate cake with a good crumb (as Mary Berry would say) and a tall glass of milk is his flavor of choice.

My sister adores lemon bars and tarts regardless of the citrus fruit used.  When a family member lived in California, the joy of fresh citrus picked in the backyard was a delight!

In my home, I never made lemon desserts.  It was just one of the things that neither I nor my husband liked.

When we moved into our first house, we had a lovely vibrant neighbor who greeted us warmly.  Her faith and trust that G-d would watch over her ten children wherever they went seemed incredible to me as I worried so over my first.  She welcomed us to the neighborhood carrying a large lemon meringue pie.  It was so kind and thoughtful.  How she had time to think of us with her husband working out of town and the demands of such a large family, I will never know!  We thanked her so sincerely, but, sadly, did not eat that pie.

All these many years later, the hype around Meyer Lemons is too much for me to avoid, so I plunged into the craze and hunted them down to try.  People rave about them and how they wait all year to cook with them because of their unique flavor and “sweeter” and less acidic taste.

I am trying to use them and preserve them for cooking for the very first time in my life.  There will be other posts from my experiments today, but for now, by the time I got to the end of 7 pounds of fresh Meyer Lemons with a decidedly short shelf life, and had spent many hours preparing, dicing, zesting, and adapting, I adopted the attitude of  “What could be bad?”

With my last 3 lemons, and an 8 oz. Ball mason jar, I decided to try to create an infused olive oil.  Will it work? I won’t know as I will refrigerate it and give it time to see how best it absorbs the aromatics, spices, and oils.  However, with the most basic of ingredients, what could be bad?

spices in jar

 

lemons in jar

I kept it fairly simple.  I added two scant teaspoons of Pink Himalayan Salt, a 1/4 heaping teaspoon of black peppercorns, and a teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves.  I thinly sliced the Meyer Lemons as closely as able, disposed of the seeds, and put them into the jar.  I pushed down slightly to release some of the lemon juice.  Then, I layered olive oil over all to completely cover the lemons.  I sealed the jar tightly and put it into the refrigerator.

lemons covered in oil

There seems to be some debate as to whether it is best to refrigerate or put in a cool dark place to marinate.  Also, there is some concern for those that infuse oil with garlic that a form of botulism spores can develop.  Additionally, olive oil should be kept in a cool place and if you live in a warm environment, it is recommended that it be refrigerated.

Most oils do better being refrigerated after opening.  However, peanut oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil should not be refrigerated.  Walnut oil and sesame oil should be.

Meyer Lemon olive oil with black pepper, rosemary, and sea salt sounds like a delicious combination.  Combining it with crushed garlic when ready to use, it will make a terrific drizzle when broiling fish or brushed over a chicken ready to roast in the oven.

Experimenting and trying new things, learning creatively, or enthusiastically expanding any kitchen skills can only add enjoyment and a finer appreciation to the meals I make and push me out of my comfort zone.  This is the time to learn, try, and engage while the house is quiet and find my own pace with a hobby I enjoy.  For me, Sundays are a day for cooking and deep thoughts…before the hustled demands of a new work week.


lemon oil in jar

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All you need is love, but a cookie now and then doesn’t hurt.

Baking · recipes

Chocolate Quinoa Cake – Perfect for Passover and Gluten-Free

With the intermediate days of Passover during the week this year, I wanted to try out several baking recipes.  I have perused many Kosher for Pesach cookbooks, but, truly, the recipes have had mixed results.  As the Yom Tov begins again tomorrow night, I set aside today to experiment and prepare before planning to serve my guests a dessert over the coming days.

Taste is key ~ I needed a dessert that would taste good any time of the year.

cake 4

Today, I made Chocolate Quinoa Cake, by Paula Shoyer  as created in her cookbook, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen.

I have to admit that I was curious, but as quinoa is available Kosher for Passover, it was the perfect time to try.

The result was very good and the texture was absolutely spot on and very tasty.  This cake did not taste like a baked item that was merely “tolerated” because it is Passover.  Rather, this cake would be good any time and the fact that it is Gluten Free and dairy free makes it highly suitable for most diets.

The only negative for me was just the numerous bowls and utensils needed to produce the cake, but the finished results are worth it.  (I only mention this because there is prep time that has to be allotted for the various steps.)  My guests won’t care how many dishes needed to be washed.

Topped with raspberries and a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate, they will be too busy enjoying a delightfully moist and densely chocolate flavored cake.

Chocolate Quinoa Cake by Paula Shoyer

Prepare Quinoa:

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and stir in 3/4 cup of quinoa.  Lower heat, cover the pot, and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Cool and set aside.

Prepare Cake:

If you are using a 12 cup bundt cake or two smaller tube pans, grease pans fully and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons potato starch, if desired, to reduce sticking.  Shake the pan to dislodge any excess starch.  This cake is soft while warm and needs time to cool properly before removing from pan.

1/3 cup orange juice

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (this is available Kosher for Passover)

3/4 cup coconut oil

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder (I used Kosher for Passover baking soda and used 1 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (available in Pareve, non-dairy form, for Passover and year round)

Place the quinoa in the bowl of a food processor.  Next, add the juice, eggs, vanilla, oil, sugar, cocoa, baking powder (or baking soda, if using) and salt.  Process until very blended and smooth.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave, heating at 30 – 45 seconds at a time.  Be careful not to over cook or the chocolate will burn.  Soften enough that you can stir it with a spoon and add to the remaining batter in the food processor.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour into a large bundt pan or two smaller tube pans.  If using a large bundt pan, bake for 50 minutes approximately.  If using two smaller tube pans, reduce time to 40 minutes.  Check with tester to be sure that it is done.  Let cool in pan thoroughly before removing, 15 – 25 minutes at least. Remove to wire cooling rack carefully.

If you choose to create a glaze for the cake, Paula Shoyer suggests creating this

Glaze:

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1 tablespoon sunflower or safflower vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a large microwave safe bowl in the microwave or over a double boiler.  Add oil and vanilla and whisk well.  Let the glaze sit for 5 minutes and whisk again.  Spread the glaze all over the cake with a silicone spatula.

For myself, I chose to melt 2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (appx. half a bar) in the microwave and stirred in a Tablespoon of margarine.  By the way, my chocolate topping was fine; it was my decision to go all Jackson Pollock on the surface of the plate and the cake. 😉

Stirring with a fork, I use it to sprinkle and drizzle the glaze over the cake, topped with raspberries, and served plated.

cake 2

I still have to decide what to do with the second cake, but it gave me an opportunity to try making the Chocolate Quinoa Cake suitable for fewer guests and a small batch baking opportunity.  I could easily freeze the second cake and serve another time topped with whipped topping and macerated strawberries and raspberries.  Or, I know that my husband would be very happy to eat it plain out of hand.

cake 6

I would definitely make this cake again and it is a terrific choice when baking for Passover because of its light moist texture.  This was my first time using coconut oil, as recommended in the recipe.  Kosher coconut oil is available at Trader Joe’s stores.  It does give the cake a slight coconut flavor.  This cake might work with vegetable oil or margarine as well, but that is an experiment for another day.

From slavery to freedom, let all who are hungry come and eat.  If they are coming, let them eat cake!

cake 4

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All you need is love, but a cookie now and then doesn’t hurt either.

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Baking · recipes

Kosher for Passover – Paleo Lemon Blueberry Cake

cake 4

When it comes to baking for Passover, we tolerate a lot of tasteless baking, trying to be grateful for the sweet carbs that we are used to and expecting the same results in our baking.  Ironically, many of us have more company for the holiday than at other times of the year.  Also, as schools are out and there are more restrictive days for Orthodox and observant Jews, we have a lot more time on our hands and more meals to prepare.

Substituting matzo meal for all of the flour is not a good idea.  It is not an even exchange and the texture suffers.  Also, it simply does not rise as high as we are used to as we cannot use baking powder.

Baking powder is a combination of Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) and cornstarch.  Since Ashkenazi Jews do not eat corn over Pesach, we cannot use this item.

I baked this cake in an 8 x 8 pan.  It was recommended to be made into a loaf pan.  If you have a muffin pan that is kosher for Passover, this would be very nice as muffins. Made as muffins and served on a plate in the morning with coffee would not only please your guests, but you would not feel deprived at all.  Again, they will not rise as high as you would be used to during the year, but they taste like muffins.  If there is a recipe that is husband-approved, it is a winner.  The men in my household are picky!

cake 3

In the search for Pesach food that is delicious and fairly easy, I am so glad that I found this recipe.  Also, because it is a Paleo and Gluten-free recipe, it can be used all year long.

Another benefit of this recipe is that it is dairy-free so it can be eaten with dairy or meat meals, or be a treat for those who must not have dairy in their diets.

If you would like to see the original recipe by Ashley, go to https://www.fitmittenkitchen.com/paleo-almond-lemon-blueberry-bread/ is a perfect gluten free and kosher for Passover baked treat.

I am giving the recipe as I made it with great results in my kosher for Pesach house and accessible ingredients.

Paleo Lemon Blueberry Cake

2 cups blanched almond flour

1/4 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

The juice of one squeezed fresh lemon (3 Tbsp appx – I used a Meyer Lemon that is just coming into season)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cups fresh blueberries

2 Tablespoons sliced almonds (I used slivered almonds and sprinkled raw can sugar on top before baking to give a little crust and texture)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a pan with parchment paper.  (Note * I used an 8 x 8 pan for this recipe as it is easy to cut into squares, but you could also use a loaf or muffin pan.  Adjust your cooking time appropriately.)

In medium bowl, combine almond flour, potato starch, baking soda, salt and set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, honey, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.

Pour the dry ingredients into the large bowl of wet ingredients to blend.  Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir.  Stir in the fresh blueberries.  This will be a thick batter to spread into your pan.

Sprinkle with slivered almonds and give a light sprinkling of raw cane sugar, if desired.

Bake for 35 minutes and check to see if tester comes out clean.  If needed, give it a couple more minutes.

Allow the cake to cool for at least 30 minutes or more, or it will crumble when you attempt to slice.

I refrigerated it overnight and sliced it again in the morning.  It really is delicious and the texture was easy to cut while cool.  It is a moist cake so it will only last a few days, but really, it will be gone before you have to worry about it.

There is lots of cooking and baking pre-Passover that may not feel like much like an Exodus.  So, remember that you are providing a wonderful holiday for your guests and try to enjoy that we are free from slavery and our regular responsibilities.

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Let all those who are hungry come and eat….  Chag Sameach.

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All you need is love, but a cookie now and then doesn’t hurt.

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