Tag Archives: Baking

Too busy baking. .

7 Aug

No matter how strong my intentions are to post more,  I generally fail. I really,  really want to put up blog posts,  but life gets in the way.  I could go on about how my fridge hasn’t been working for a month so I haven’t been able to cook. . but who wants to hear about that?

Instead,  I’ll show you some of the things I’ve been cooking and baking at work over the last few months.  And if I can find the time and energy,  I’ll get more posts up.  Really.  ūüôā

Ps: if you want to see more of my cooking/baking,  I post regularly (with my sister) on our instagram account.  You can find us at Desserts_Plus.

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Apple Pecan Baklava

19 Sep

I love baklava, especially made with pecans (I’m highly allergic to pistachios and not overly fond of walnuts, but you can use either of those or a mixture) and I also love apple strudel made with light, crispy phyllo dough. ¬†I realized that combining the two couldn’t be bad and created this Apple Pecan Baklava.

If you don’t follow the tradition of not eating nuts for Rosh Hashana, this would make a lovely dessert for ¬†the holiday — if you do, then just save this and make it for another occasion. ¬†Enjoy!

                          Apple Pecan Baklava

apple baklava

  • 1 ¬† ¬† ¬†lb.¬† phyllo dough
  • 1/2 ¬†cup¬† butter or margarine — melted

                        Apple Layer

  • 2 ¬† ¬† lb.¬† Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 ¬† ¬† Tbsp.¬† honey
  • 1 ¬† ¬† ¬†Tbsp. ¬†cinnamon
  • 1 ¬† ¬† Tbsp.¬† flour

                        Nut Layer

  • 4 ¬† cups¬† pecan halves — approx. 3/4 lb.
  • 2 ¬† Tbsp.¬† sugar
  • 2 ¬† tsp.¬† cinnamon

                        Syrup

  • 2/3¬†¬† cup¬† honey
  • 2/3¬†¬† cup¬† sugar
  • 1 1/4¬†¬† cups¬† water
  • lemon zest — from 1 lemon
  • orange zest — from 1 orange
  • 2 ¬†Tbsp.¬† fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ¬†Tbsp.¬† fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 375¬ļF.

Apple layer:¬† Place the apples, honey and cinnamon into a non-stick skillet, stirring over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until any liquid has evaporated and the apples have softened.¬† Remove from the heat and add flour, stirring until it’s mixed in.¬† Cool.

Nut Layer: Place the pecans, sugar and cinnamon in the food processor.  Pulse until the pecans are coarsely ground.  If you start with ground pecans (3/4 lb.) just mix them with the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.

Assemble: Melt the margarine/butter and use a pastry brush to coat a¬† 3 qt. or 13x9x2″ baking dish.¬† Cut the phyllo sheets in half, then lay one sheet on the bottom of the baking dish.¬† Lightly brush with butter/margarine and repeat with another 5 layers of phyllo.¬† Sprinkle 1/4 of the nut mixture (about 1 cup) over the phyllo, and layer another 5 sheets of phyllo, continuing to brush each sheet with butter/margarine. Repeat the nut mixture and another 5 sheets of phyllo, then add all of the cooked apples, spreading them out in an even layer.¬† Top with another 5 sheets of phyllo, 1 cup of nuts, 5 sheets of phyllo, 1 cup of nuts and then top it off with the final 7 sheets of phyllo.

Use a serrated knife to carefully cut the baklava into pieces.  Traditionally, baklava is cut diagonally, so that the pieces form diamonds.  Make sure you cut right through to the bottom.

Place in a preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes or until a dark golden brown.

Syrup:  As the baklava bakes, prepare the syrup.  Place all of the syrup ingredients into a pot over medium-high heat and stir. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Keep the syrup warm (on a very low element) until the baklava has finished baking. Remove the baklava from the oven and carefully pour the syrup through a strainer, over the baklava.  Once the liquid hits the baklava, it may start to boil and splatter, so be very careful.

Let the baklava cool for at least an hour before serving.  Can be made a day ahead.

 

 

Honey Cake

18 Sep

Tipsy Honey Cake

Rosh Hashana means honey cake. ¬†To start the new year off with a sweet bite, traditionally we serve and eat honey itself or items made with honey. In my family, we’ve always made a version of this boozy honey cake. ¬†The finished cake doesn’t taste overly alcoholic, but it does add to the overall flavour of the cake.

What a list of ingredients! It’s long, but easy to put together and produces a moist and flavorful honey cake. ¬†My favorite honey to use for baking is buckwheat. It has a stronger flavour that holds up to the other flavours in the recipe. ¬†Having said that, over the last few years I’ve found it impossible to find buckwheat honey and have made it with several other types (most typically, clover honey) and it’s still delicious.

The cake recipes also calls for what we call ‘rye’ up here, but I’ve been told in the US is often known as “Canadian whiskey” or “rye whisky”. ¬†You can use rye, whisky or rum.

honey cake 3

2 ¬ĺ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup tea, brewed — strong and hot
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Canadian rye (whiskey)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup canola oil (or other light flavoured oil)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350¬ļF.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and ginger. I like to use a whisk to combine all of these ingredients.

In another bowl, combine the hot tea, honey, rye and orange juice.

Using either a stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream together the oil and white and brown sugars. Add the eggs, mixing them in one at a time. Add the vanilla and orange zest.

Add one third of the liquid and mix on low speed. Add one third of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Repeat until all of the wet and dry ingredients have been incorporated.

Pour into a bundt pan that has been sprayed with vegetable oil and lightly floured. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown too quickly, loosely tent a piece of aluminum foil over the cake for the rest of the baking time. ¬†Let cool completely and then turn the pan over and carefully unmold the cake onto a serving plate. Typically, the bottom of a bundt becomes the top when you take it out of the pan, but I really like the way the ‘bottom’ of this cake comes out and always keep it on the top when plating.

Wrapped well, the cake can stay on the counter for a couple of days.  Freezes beautifully.

Honey Cake 2

 

Quick and Delicious (and easy!) Apple Strudel

9 Sep

Quick and Delicious Apple Strudel

I like a crisp, slightly tart apple for baking — a Pink Lady or Granny Smith would be my choice. ¬†I love the addition of pecans for the flavour and the texture they add, but they are completely optional. ¬†For Rosh Hashana, many people have the minhag (custom) of not eating nuts and the pecans¬†can be left out and the strudel will still be delicious!

I use oil to keep the strudel parve, but if you want to replace it with melted butter, that would work beautifully.

Serves: 12

  • ¬† 2¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† lbs. Fuji apples — peeled, cored and grated (about 6 apples)
  • ¬† 1/3¬†¬†¬† cup raisins, seedless
  • ¬†1/3¬†¬†¬† cup chopped pecans — *optional
  • ¬†5¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • ¬†3 ¬† ¬† ¬† tsp. cinnamon, divided
  • ¬† 3¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Tbsp. flour
  • ¬† 10 ¬† ¬† sheets of filo dough
  • ¬† 3 ¬† ¬† ¬† Tbsp. canola¬†oil

Preheat the oven to 350¬ļF. Prepare the filling by shredding the apples into a mixing bowl.¬† If they are very juicy, squeeze out any excess liquid.¬† Add the raisins, pecans if using, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, flour and nutmeg and mix well.¬† Set aside.

Lay out one sheet of filo dough and lightly brush with oil.  Mix together 2 Tbsp. of sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon and lightly sprinkle the filo with some of this cinnamon/sugar mix.  Repeat with another 4 sheets of filo, oiling and sugaring all but the last sheet.

Arrange half of the apple filling in a row along the longer side of the filo – keeping it about 1″ from each edge.¬† Roll the strudel up, keeping the filling against the edge as tightly as possible.¬† Give the excess dough on each end of the roll a twist and tuck the dough under the roll. Place the strudel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush it with oil.¬† Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar and use a sharp knife to cut diagonal slits every inch or so – just cut through the dough on the top of the roll, allowing steam to escape while it bakes.

Repeat with the rest of the filo and apple filling.

Bake at 350¬ļF for 30-35 minutes – until the strudel is golden brown.¬† Allow to cool, slice all the way through and serve.

apple strudel

 

Sneak Peek: Tahini Cookies

13 Jan

The cookie cookbook is rolling along and I hope to be done soon, so I thought it was time to share a new recipe — a sneak peek, so to speak.

I love sesame seeds, sesame paste (tahini) and sesame oil — basically any form of sesame works for me, but usually in a savory dish. ¬†When I was brainstorming ideas for the cookie book, tahini made it to the notepad, though I’ve never baked or even tasted a cookie made with it. ¬†I was trying to decide which other flavours I would use with the sesame — maybe cardamom or Chinese five spice? — but ¬†I decided the first thing I should do was try baking a cookie that didn’t introduce more flavours and then go from there. ¬†When I first tasted these, I was so happy with the results that I decided they didn’t need anything else.

If you like sesame, these cookies are for you. They’re deceptively simple to make, but the double dose of flavour from the tahini and the sesame seeds is delicious. They’re light, yet rich — perfect with a cup of tea.

Once baked, these cookies are delicate, so handle with care. They freeze beautifully in an air-tight container. Keep them parve by substituting a good quality non-dairy margarine for the butter.

sesame cookies

6 ounces butter — softened (3/4 cup)
1 cup tahini — well stirred
4 ounces powdered sugar — (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces flour — (2 cups)
1 cup sesame seeds, for rolling

Preheat your oven to 350¬ļF.

Cream the butter, tahini and powdered sugar together in a stand mixer until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla and mix through.

Scrape the sides of the bowl down, add the flour and mix on low until it’s thoroughly mixed in and forms a dough.

I use a 1 ounce (2 Tbsp.) scoop to portion the dough, then roll them into balls. Roll the balls in the sesame seeds then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the balls down until they are approximately 1/2″ thick. Leave an inch between cookies because they will puff up a little as they bake.

Bake one pan of cookies at a time on the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the pan and bake another 10 minutes or until the bottom and edges have lightly browned.

Makes 24-30 cookies.

Pumpkin Pie

7 Oct

Pumpkin Pie

‘Tis the season and all. ¬†Canadian Thanksgiving is next week — with American Thanksgiving (and Chanukah) coming in late November. Add to that the fact that pumpkins are available everywhere, it’s the perfect time for pumpkin pie.

I love pumpkin pie and my recipe is nothing crazy — just a good, classic pumpkin pie. ¬†I’ve tested the recipe with cream and non-dairy creamer — both are good. You can also substitute soy, almond or coconut milk if you want to keep it parve and prefer one of those options.

I’ve done taste tests with this recipe using fresh pumpkin that I’ve roasted and pureed myself versus canned pumpkin puree. While I can detect a difference and prefer the fresh pumpkin, the results were split right down the middle by my testers.

If you choose to use fresh pumpkin, use a sugar or pie pumpkin – they contain less liquid than the ‘regular’ pumpkins. Cut the pumpkin in half, scrape out all of the seeds and stringy membranes, place cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a 375 oven for 45-60 minutes, until the flesh is fork tender. Allow to cool then scoop the flesh out of the skin and puree.

pumpkin pie

1 x 9 inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar, packed
pinch salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup half and half of non dairy creamer, soy, almond or coconut milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. After docking, blind-bake a 9″ pie crust (store bought or home-made) for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until the filling is ready.

Place all of the filling ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Or place all of the ingredients in a bowl or large measuring cup and use an immersion blender to puree and combine.  Pour the filling into the par-baked pie crust and return to the oven.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the filling no longer jiggles and the top has browned slightly. Cool and serve.

pecan pumpkin pie slices

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

This is a slight variation on the Pumpkin Pie recipe above, exchanging some of the brown sugar for corn syrup and replacing some of the pumpkin with pecans.   I think I might actually like this one more. . shhhh.

pecan pumpkin pie

1 x 9 inch pie crust
1 cup pumpkin puree — fresh roasted or canned
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
pinch salt
1/2 cup half and half, non-dairy creamer, soy or almond milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 cup pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 and blind bake the docked pie crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and prepare the filling.

Place all of the filling ingredients into a food processor except for the pecans (or use an immersion blender in a large measuring cup or mixing bowl). Puree until everything is well incorporated. Pour the filling into the par-baked crust and sprinkle the pecans on top of the filling.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the filling has puffed up a bit and has browned.  Remove and cool completely before serving.

Maple Pecan Biscuits

30 Jul

Unless I’m working on a recipe, or baking something for a holiday, I don’t often bake at home. ¬†But sometimes the mood hits and I want the house to fill with the aroma of something delicious baking in the oven. Generally, this means I want a¬†simple recipe , something that’s easy enough to prepare during the week, but special enough to make for Sunday morning brunch or to enjoy with a hot mug of tea.

These Maple Pecan Biscuits are just the thing. ¬†A really easy recipe that doesn’t require any special equipment and only takes a short time to assemble and bake. ¬†These are on the rustic side, so don’t waste time trying to make them look perfect. ¬†The dough shouldn’t look uniform when it’s ready to bake — you should be able to spot little pieces of butter mixed in with the chunks of pecans. ¬†And when they’re done, eat them while hot and crumbly with a little butter and a warm drink to wash it down.

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Maple Pecan Biscuits

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup milk (2%)

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Preheat the oven to 350¬į. Place the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast the nuts for 5-7 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown. ¬†Set aside until cool. ¬†Increase the oven temperature to 400¬į.

1pecanmaple

In a mixing bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar together.  Add the butter and use a pastry cutter, forks or your fingertips to work the butter into the dough. You want the work the butter into pea-size or slightly smaller pieces, but not completely incorporated into the flour.
maple pecan 2

In a measuring cup combine the maple syrup and milk and mix. ¬†Pour into the dry ingredients and use a fork to combine. ¬†Use your hands to bring the dough together and then turn it out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. ¬†Pat the dough into a rectangle that has a uniform 1″ thickness.

maple pecan 3

Cut the rectangle into 8 squares, then cut each square in half, into triangles. ¬†Move the pieces around on the tray so that there’s room between all of them.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 16-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

maple pecan 4

Serve hot out of the oven on their own or with some butter. ¬†Though they will keep for a couple of days if they’re well wrapped, these really are best when served fresh and still warm.

Cowboy Cookies / All in One Cookies

14 Feb

imageWhen I was younger we had a baker that used to make Cowboy Cookies. ¬†I don’t know where the name came from, and an online search doesn’t come up with much, but I remember that they were huge oatmeal cookies that had chocolate chips and raisins in them.¬†Perhaps they got their name because of their size and heartiness, making them a great snack for a cowboy.

Another name for these cookies could be the Everything But the Kitchen Sink Cookies — but I like to think of them as an All in One cookie. ¬†This recipe combines a peanut butter cookie with an oatmeal raisin cookie and a spice cookie and a chocolate chip cookie. These cookies are great as they are, but there’s plenty of room to play around with the additions. ¬†Replace the chocolate chips and raisins with dried cranberries and pecans or slivered almonds and apricots — or any other combinations you can think of.

The ingredient list calls for almond butter, but I also make them with peanut butter and like them that way too.

The recipe makes approximately 24 cookies — they will keep in the freezer for a few weeks if they’re well wrapped.

imageCowboy / All in One Cookies

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup smooth almond butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cups raisins

Preheat your oven to 350¬į¬†F.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and two sugars together.  Add the almond butter and mix to combine, then the egg and vanilla.  Make sure everything is thoroughly mixed together.

In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice together.  Add the flour mixture to the stand mixture and mix on low until combined.

Add the oats, chocolate chips and raisins and mix on low until they’ve all been incorporated. ¬† The dough will be very thick.

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Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and use  two spoons to portion the dough into approximately 2 Tbsp. balls.  Use a fork to press the balls down and flatten each cookie, making sure you leave about 1 inch between the cookies.

Bake one sheet of cookies at a time on the middle rack of the oven for 17-21 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies are golden brown.  Remove and cool.  Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days, or in the freezer, well wrapped, for a few weeks.

Hamantashen

12 Feb

Through the years I’ve tried several different types of Hamentashen.  Some of my favorites include almond pastry with apricot filling, gingerbread pastry with pear filling, cream cheese pastry with any fruit filling, yeast pastry and chocolate pastry with cherry filling.  Though all good, sometimes I think there’s nothing better than a plain-old-simple-pastry with assorted fruit fillings.

Here‚Äôs my recipe for Simple Hamantashen dough. ¬†You can fill these with anything you want ‚ÄĒ jam, pie filling, chocolate, etc. ¬†I‚Äôve made my own apricot, pear,¬†poppy seed, prune and other fillings, but there are lots of great fillings out there, ready to go. ¬†Use whatever you like.

I use lemon zest in the recipe because I really love the hint of lemon flavour it adds to the cookies, but you can leave it out and they’ll still be delicious.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup margarine, soft
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • assorted fruit jams, pie fillings or other fillings

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Preheat an oven to 350¬į.

Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the lemon zest, baking powder and salt and mix through.  Add the flour and mix on low until it’s all combined and a ball of dough forms.

Divide the dough into 2 sections, setting one aside. ¬†Roll the other section approximately 1/8‚Ä≥ thick on a well-floured counter. ¬†Use a cutter to cut out 2 1/2‚Ä≥ ‚Äď 3‚Ä≥ circles. ¬†You can keep the scraps and re-roll them once.

Place about 1 tsp. of a filling of your choice in the center of each circle.  Bring three sides of the dough together to make a triangle.  Pinch the three corners together and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Continue with the rest of the dough.

Place the hamantashen in the oven and bake 15-17 minutes, or until the bottom and edges are golden brown.

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You can make the dough the day before you want to make them, keeping it in the fridge, well wrapped.

Makes approximately 4 dozen hamantashen.

Cranberry Pecan Cookies

24 Jan

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These simple cookies are delicious. When I first made them I used an assortment of dried berries (cherries, blueberries and cranberries) but you can use any dried fruits you like.  The last batch I made had some diced dried apricots that were delicious combined with the cranberries and pecans.

You can also play around with the nuts — use almonds, walnuts or pistachios with different dried fruits. Use the combination that appeals to you!


Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups dried cranberries

Preheat an oven to 350¬į F.

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Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter/margarine and the icing sugar until fluffy.  Add the

eggs one at a time, while mixing on low. ¬†Add the vanilla and salt and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times to make sure it’s all well mixed.

Add the flour and mix on low until just combined.  Add the nuts and fruit and mix until evenly distributed.

I like to use a scoop to evenly portion out the dough — the one I use is equal to 2 Tbsp. ¬†Scoop out all of the dough, roll into a ball then flatten into a circle. ¬†Place the dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown. ¬†Remove from the oven and let cool.

These will keep, wrapped for a few days on the counter or a few weeks in the freezer.

Makes about 24.

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