Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gurabia (Middle Eastern Shortbread Rings)

Gurabia is one of the most popular cookies in the Middle East; a simple mild shortbread that has a hint of orange (usually from Orange Water) and is decorated with a Pistachio nut, which gives it an exotic look.  I was inspired to bake these today after watching "Madame Secretary"--which is one of my favorite dramas.  This past Sunday, she was negotiating peace terms between Iran and Israel and in the agreement, they added that Iran would give Israel pistachios and Israel would give Iran, oranges.  These two countries came together over a soccer game between the children of their countries; what a wonderful thought that children could bring stubborn men together:-D

This recipe brought to mind how many recipes I have from friends who have come from all over the world.  Learning about traditions and especially food, has always given me a common link with these friends.  I don't want to make a political statement about the recent events, but knowing people who have come to America for the same ideals that my ancestors did has made me sad when suddenly they were denied.  Please try this recipe and see how wonderful it is, especially with a cup of tea on a chilly afternoon. Something I would have missed out on if I hadn't know my friends.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 T butter-flavored shortening
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. Orange Extract
1 tsp. Orange juice
1 tsp. Lemon juice
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour

30-35 shelled Pistachios

Preheat oven to 275F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a stand mixer, cream the butter, shortening, and sugars together thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Mix the extract and juice and blend together.  Add the flour and mix just until incorporated.  The dough should form a smooth mass. Add a bit more orange juice if it doesn't.

Pull off some of the dough, about 1 1/2-inches, and form into a ball.  Roll the ball into a smooth 5-inch log.

Tapper the ends slightly and transfer to a baking sheet. Overlap logs into rings and where the ring overlaps, press a pistachio into each cookie.
Bake in the preheated oven for 27 to 30 minutes, or until the rings are slightly colored on the bottom.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for longer storage.  These made for a lovely snack this afternoon. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Chocolate~Chocolate Toffee Biscotti

My baking today was inspired by a friend...a friend I have know through blogging for over five years.  Vee's blog, "A Haven for Vee"is a favorite amongst bloggers and has a ton of followers, including me who go to her blog to have chats with her and feel like we've been friends forever.

Getting back to the inspiration...Today, Vee asked her followers what their favorite song was (among other questions) and what came to mind for me was Rachel Platten's, "Stand by You."   It's a song that has come to express my dedication to our daughter, Kelly during her courageous battle with breast cancer.  I think we all can relate standing by people who need us the most in their darkest hour.  Anyway, the memory of Kelly drinking her coffee in the morning and having her favorite treat of a Heath Bar in the late afternoon inspired this biscotti.

Although listening to the song brought tears to my eyes, I know she is at peace and would have loved to have one of these biscotti's with her cup of coffee:-D

Chocolate~Chocolate Toffee Biscotti
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 T espresso powder
2 T boiling water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups King Arthur All-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup Heath Toffee Bits (you can also chop a couple of Heath Bars)
3/4 cup Bittersweet chocolate chips

Ghiaradelli Melting Chocolate Chips
Toffee Bits

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir the espresso into the boiling water.  Add it and the vanilla to the batter and beat on low to combine.  Add the dry ingredients and mix on low to combine, adding the Toffee Bits and chips as the mixer is running to incorporate completely.

Divide the batter into two logs, approximately 12-inches long x 3-inches wide.
Dampen your fingers a bit and smooth the surface.  Bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes.  I bake with convection, so 25 minutes was perfect.  The biscotti should look dry and slightly cracked.

Allow the biscotti to cool, about 10 minutes, then slice diagonally into 3/4-inch thickness.  Lower oven to 325F-degrees and bake for 8 minutes.  Turn the biscotti over and bake an additional 8 minutes.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.  Melt the Ghiaradelli Melting Chocolate piesces and spread on the bottom of the biscotti.  Then, sprinkle with additional Toffee Bits.  The glaze takes about 30 minutes to set at room temperature, or you can put them in the refrigerator to set quicker if you can't wait...I couldn't! Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chocolate Decadence Cookies

Grab a glass of cold milk because that's exactly what you'll want with these Chocolate Decadence Cookies.  If you're a brownie lover, like me, these are a perfect substitute for the cookie jar and on a cold afternoon curling up to watch a movie.

As my mother would say..."can you really have too much chocolate?" So these are in memory for her and made a delightful treat while I am die cutting for a trade show that I will be attending this coming weekend.  What do you have plan?

Chocolate Decadence Cookies
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 T unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/8 tsp. Kosher salt
6 oz. chopped bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate
2 cups walnuts (or pecans) broken into pieces

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On the stove, heat a frying pan with about 1/2-inch of water to a simmer.  Place a heat-proof bowl in the frying pan and melt the first two ingredients. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

In separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract with the bowl in the same frying pan of water.  Heat this mixture to lukewarm.
Fold the warmed eggs into the chocolate mixture and completely combine.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt and fold to incorporate.  Finally, add the 2 cups of broken walnuts and 6 oz. of chopped chocolate.

Scoop the batter onto the parchment lined sheets.  Bake in the preheated oven for 11-12 minutes.  The tops should look shiny; be careful because it's hard to tell when chocolate cookies are done and you can easily over bake them to a dryness state.
Allow them to cool slightly on the baking sheet before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Now grab that glass of milk.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Orange Brown~Sugar Glazed Cake with Strawberries & Whipped Cream

Keeping up your Vitamin C during these cold months is a great idea; something I learned from my mother who couldn't stress this enough to keep all of us healthy.  I eat an orange every day, for the Potassium, of course, but also it just makes me feel good.  For Sunday dessert, I couldn't help but make this cake that appeared in the latest issue of Fine Cooking.  Adding strawberries (another Potassium-rich fruit) makes me feel like Spring is around the corner.  After all, amidst the ice and snow last weekend, I still have daffodils popping up in my garden.
Luckily, Spring does come early in the South, but with this dessert, you can think it's around the corner too!

Orange Brown~Sugar Glazed Cake with Strawberries & Whipped Cream
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
Zest of two oranges and 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups unbleached Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup fresh orange juice (from zested oranges)
1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 T orange marmalade

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Brush a 9-inch Springform pan with melted butter and line the bottom with parchment paper, brush the paper with the butter again.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape the sides with a rubber spatula and beat once more.  Add the zests of the oranges and lemon and the vanilla extract; mix on medium to combine.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the orange juice/milk.  Once the dry ingredients are well combined, mix on medium for one minute more.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven 40 to 45 minutes.  (A Toothpick inserted in the center of cake may have a few crumbs clinging to it.) Check the cake during the last 10 minutes of baking; if it's browning too much, tent it loosely with aluminum foil.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Use a knife around the edges to loosen it and remove the sides of the pan.
Glaze the Cake:
Poke holes all over the cake with a toothpick in 3/4-inch intervals.  Combine the juice, sugar and marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and whisk often until syrupy, about 10 minutes.  Brush the glaze onto the cake, allowing some to drip down the sides.

Slice strawberries while the cake is in the oven and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  This will help macerate the strawberries and provide some juice.  To serve, whipped some heavy cream (about 1 cup) and 3 T confectioners' sugar together.  Slice a wedge of cake and spoon some strawberries on it. Add a dollop of whipped cream and watch the eyes of your family light up!  Mine did...Enjoy!
And remember...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pizza Party Buns

Each month, King Arthur Flour offers a recipe called "BakeAlong" on their blog--Flourish.  I have been doing them since September and this month was especially inviting with Pizza in the title!  I make my own pizza, but thought...wouldn't these buns be great for snacking.

Superbowl is around the corner and these buns would be perfect.  They can also be made up ahead of time and frozen until game day.

Pizza Party Buns
1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk
3 T olive oil
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
2 1/2 tsp. instant yeast

1/2 cup of your favorite pizza sauce (I use Raos)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or the cheese of your choice)
4 ounces (about 1 cup) chopped or shredded pepperoni (I used veggie sausage that I cooked first)

Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl... you can mix by hand, use a stand mixer with dough hook, or in a bread machine--to make a soft dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise until doubled, 60 to 90 minutes.
Roll the dough into a 12" x 18" rectangle.
Spread evenly with the sauce, cheese, and pepperoni (or your choice of toppings).

Starting with a long end, roll the dough into a log.  Cut the log into 12 to 18 pieces...depending on how large you want the buns to be.  I did 12!
Place on parchment lined rimmed baking sheet(s) and flatten to about 1 inch high.  Cover with plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with baking spray.  Allow the buns to rise once more, about 60 to 90 minutes, depending how warm your kitchen is during the winter!

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Bake the buns for 25 to 30 minutes, until they're a light golden brown.  One change I made was to melt some butter (3T) and added 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder.  I brushed my rolls when they came out of oven.  This not only added extra flavor, but the melted butter gives the rolls a nice shine.
So yummy, and leftovers have been great for lunch; just nuke in the microwave 30 to 40 seconds on a paper plate.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Lemon Bliss Bundt Cake

Lemon is a favorite and this Bundt cake, which is King Arthur Flour's Cake of 2017, is packed with it.  From the lemon zest in the cake, to a lemon glaze and lemon icing, it hit the ball out of the park (a baseball term in honor of my hubby!)

Still "ice in" from Winter Storm Helena...which by the way, when did we start naming winter storms? my baking continued into Sunday making this delicious cake.  Very easy and oh so delicious.

Lemon Bliss Bundt Cake
16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature*
2 tsp. baking powder
3 cups King Arthur All-purpose Flour
1 cup milk, preferably whole milk
Zest of 2 medium lemons
1/2 tsp. Lemon Oil (optional)

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar), sifted
pinch of salt
2 to 3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. light Karo syrup (this is my addition to give it a shine!)

*If you forget, like I do most times, to set out your eggs...simply place them in very warm water for about 5 minutes.  You'll still get the benefit of room temperature eggs that crack easily!

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray a 10 or 12 cup Bundt pan with baking spray and set aside.  I used one of the new designs, Party Bundt Pan.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and lightened in color.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula once all the eggs are added, then beat briefly to re-combine any residue.

Add the baking powder to the flour and in three parts, alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour.  Mix, until everything is well combined, the batter will a bit rough, but shouldn't have any large lumps.  Stir in the lemon zest and oil (if using).

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, leveling it and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the lemon juice and sugar.  Microwave or heat over a burner briefly, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  You don't want to cook the lemon juice, so just until until very warm, but not uncomfortably hot--less than 1 minute should do it.  Set the glaze aside.

Remove the cake from the oven and carefully run a knife between cake and pan all around the edge.  Place the pan upside down on a cooling rack and gently shake the pan back and forth to loosen and remove it.

Brush the glaze all over the hot cake, both top and sides.  Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze continuing until all the glaze is used up.

Allow cake the cake to cool completely before icing and serving.
The crumb is so tender and the flavor is so lemony.  This is definitely a Cake of the Year--Enjoy!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Pistachio Babka

What I love about living in the South is the mild winters; what I hate is when we do get snow or ice, there isn't sufficient equipment to get all the roads clear!  We only got 2 inches yesterday, but with the layer of ice underneath and now the freezing temperatures, we're pretty much housebound!
Well, I'm a gal who has lived through tougher winters in Massachusetts and Connecticut, so when it snows...I bake!

Yesterday, I tackled making Babka.  Do you recall the Seinfeld episode where he and Elaine are standing in line at a bakery to buy a Chocolate Babka?  It's priceless.
Babka is a yeasted, double twisted breaded and chocolate is traditional, but I decided to try a recipe from  Bake from Scratch magazine for Pistachio Babka.  In the Seinfeld episode, they miss out on buying a chocolate babka and have to settle for a Cinnamon-Pecan filled one, which Elaine thinks is the lesser version, but Jerry disagrees.  No fear, I will give you the recipes for not only the Pistachio I made, but for a Chocolate and Cinnamon-Pecan filled Babka to impress your family.

Pistachio Babka
Pistachio Paste:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup toasted pistachios
1/4 cup almond flour
3 T vegetable oil

Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper.  In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water until it registers 240F-degrees on a candy thermometer.  In a small bowl, place pistachios, then pour the hot syrup over them, stirring to coat..  Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

I used my VitaMix, but you can use a food processor to combine the candied pistachios with the almond flour and process until finely ground, about 2 minutes.
With the blender or processor running, add the oil, 1 T at a time to pace a smooth thick paste, 8 to 10 minutes.

Shape into a log and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  It will keep in the refrigerator for 1 month or 6 months in the freezer.

6 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 T active dry yeast
1 T orange zest
4 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 T Kosher salt

In a stand mixer, using the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and zest and mix slightly.  With mixer on low speed, add eggs, milk and vanilla.  Beat until mixture comes together, 2 to 3 minutes.  If the mixture remains too dry and crumbly, add more milk, 1 T at a time. (I did!)
With the mixer on low speed, add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Add salt, beating just until combined, about 3 minutes.  Increase speed to medium and beat until a smooth and elastic dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  (If the dough does not pull away from the bowl, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.)
Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough in bowl, turning to grease the top.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.  After dough has risen, refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Alternatively, the dough can be made one day in advance and the entire rise may take place in the refrigerator overnight.
While the dough is rising...make the filling of your choice.  Each filling makes enough for 2 loaves.

Pistachio Filling:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup + 2T King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 cup Pistachio Paste ( you can also buy it pre-made through King Arthur Flour)
1/2 cup finely ground Pistachios

In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 4 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides as needed with a rubber spatula.  Whisk the almond flour and salt.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture until combined.  Add the Pistachio Paste and pistachios and beat just until combined.

Chocolate Filling:
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
3/4 cup (12 T) unsalted butter
3/4 cup confectioners' (icing) sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate and butter over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and whisk in confectioners' sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Let cool to room temperature before using.

Cinnamon-Pecan Filling:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 T ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup finely chopped pecans

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg at medium speed until creaming, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed--3 to 4 minutes.  Fold in the chopped pecans.

Assemble the loaves:
Divide the dough in half.  On a heavily floured surface, roll half the dough into a 12" x 18 " rectangle.

Egg Wash: 1 large egg and 1 T water.  Brush edges with the egg wash.  Spread the desired filling, leaving a 1-inch border on long sides of dough.
Starting at one long side, roll up dough, jelly-roll style, and press edges to seal.  Using a sharp chef's knife, cut roll in half lengthwise.  Carefully twist dough pieces around each other and place in a 8" x 4" loaf pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with melted butter and lined with parchment paper.

Cover the tops of the loaves with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to double, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and bake the risen loaves for 30 minutes.  Cover with foil, and bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes our clean, about 25 to 30 minutes more.

While Babka bakes, prepare Simple Syrup.
Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolves.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Pour Simple Syrup over warm loaves while still in pans.  Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pistachio is my hubby's favorite flavor, but next time, I'm doing Chocolate!  Enjoy!