Monday, May 31, 2010

Dried Cherry Shortbread Cookies

Before I write anything, I must say, this is my 200th blog post! It's been a long, fun ride blogging my baking adventures. Here's to many more baked goods and blog posts. To celebrate such a milestone, you'd think that it would be fitting to post about something really exciting and different but I think these down home, simple shortbread bars are just the ticket. I made them to b ring to my brother and sister in law and how easy they were to make! I mixed the dough by hand, which required little effort and beat cleaning a mixer. I added chopped dried cherries to these instead of the cranberries that the original Martha recipe calls for. Powdered sugar, instead of regular granulated sugar, lent a smooth, velvety feel to the dough and to the final cookie. I cut them into rectangles while still warm before they had a chance to set up. The cherries, besides giving a nice tart flavor, lent a jeweled appearance to these deceptively simple and delicious cookies. Here's to many more!

Dried Cherry Shortbread Cookies
from Martha Stewart's Cookies

1/2 cup dried cherries
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 325. Line an 8 inch square pan with foil. Set aside.
Chop the cherries and set aside.
Place all the ingredients in a large bowl,
and beat until a smooth dough forms.
Add the cherries,
and knead until evenly dispersed.
Press into the pan
and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cut into desired shapes before allowing to cool completely. How simple was that?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Apricot Nectarine Buckle

Tea cake + fruit= must make cake for me. I love the idea of baking with fresh seasonal fruit and there were some bruised apricots and nectarines that needed to be used. I'd been searching and searching for yeasted kuchen type cakes but I gave up that idea for now. Ill return to that eventually. There's a whole crop of new baking books coming out, with a couple specifically focused on fresh fruit desserts. I cant wait to get my hands on a copy of those. Birthday's coming up.... In any case, since I was baking a cake to bring to my brother's for Shabbat, I decided to whip this up while I was at it. (If you havent noticed with me yet, once I start baking, I cant stop. Really. I made this in addition to shortbread, which you'll hear about it, the banana streusel snack cake, and peanut butter bars....) Back to the cake. This cake which I adapted from Williams-Sonoma was so easy. The cake, studded with apricots and nectarines and topped with a sprinkling of sugar is a cross between shortbread and cake. It's called a buckle because the fruit is placed on top of the batter and pressed in. The batter then bakes up and around the fruit giving it a kind of buckled appearance. I cant even tell you how fast this disappeared. Once again, I was skeptical about fresh fruit in a cake because sometimes people really abhor cooked fruit. As usual, I surprised myself because this cake was gone in five minutes and I received compliments with the words, love, love and love. It was a winner of a cake and Im glad because it is infinitely adaptable in terms of which fruits to use and will carry me through the summer as a refreshing and simple dessert. Ice cream, anyone?

Apricot Nectarine Buckle
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

3-4 apricots
3-4 nectarines
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 sticks margarine or butter, softened
1 cup sugar plus more for sprinkling
2 eggs


Preheat your oven to 350. Grease a 9 inch springform pan. Set aside.
Slice the larger fruit into fourths and the smaller fruit into thirds. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Place the sugar and margarine in a bowl,
and beat until uniform and creamy.
Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
The batter will look slightly curdled, but that's okay.
Add the flour mixture all at once,
and mix to form a thick dough/batter.
Spread into the prepared pan.
Top with the fruit and gently press the slices into the batter.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean about 45 minutes, I think it took me.
Remove from the oven and when able to remove the ring from around the cake. Cool completely.
This is what was left after three minutes of cutting into it. I'm not kidding.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nectarine Upside Down Cake

Spring is in full swing. That means mouthwateringly fresh cherries, apricots, grapes and nectarines at the shuk. That means, I'm totally there and indeed on Sunday, I went into town and picked up some apricots, grapes and nectarines. (The cherries are still too expensive.) When I looked at the nectarines, I noticed that some of them were bruised and so I set out to look for recipes that called for nectarines. To complicate things more, I'm trying only to use the things that I already have in my pantry and fridge to clean out in the next couple of weeks. The winning recipe? This Nectarine Upside Down Cake, a variation of the Pineapple Upside Down Cake from the KAF Baker's Companion. Although this cake is a classic, I have to admit that I've never tasted one let alone made one so it gets points for expanding my repertoire. I must say though that this cake requires little effort and the result is nothing short of beautiful. I substituted fresh orange juice for the pineapple juice and dotted dried cherries in between the nectarine slices instead of the traditional cherries. The topping of margarine and brown sugar caramelize the top of the fruit and its juices lend moisture to the bottom of the cake as well. I thought the girls would be turned off from a cooked fruit cake, and some were and went straight for the banana cake, but they surprised me again and actually enjoyed it. Nothing of it remained. This type of cake is one I will definitely try again with different fruit and perhaps complementary cake flavors. Out of pure necessity, I baked this cake in a nine inch cake pan because I dont own a cast iron pan. Feel free to use either one.

Nectarine Upside Down Cake
from KAF Baker's Companion

5 tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4-5 nectarines
small handful of dried cherries
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar

Preheat your oven to 350.

Pit and slice your nectarines. Set aside.
Place the margarine in a 9 inch pan.
Melt and swirl to coat the entire pan.
Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the margarine.
Arrange the nectarine slices in concentric circles around the pan.Place the cherries in the open spaces between the nectarines. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
 Place the eggs in a large bowl, beat until light and lemon colored.
Add sugar a bit at a time,
beating all the while.
Drizzle in the fresh orange juice and vanilla, again whisking all the while.
Add the dry ingredients,
and whisk to blend.
Pour over the fruit, spreading to cover, if necessary.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted come out clean.
Invert the pan onto a serving plate leaving the pan on for five minutes, giving the juices and fruit all a chance to detach. remove the cake pan and rearrange any fruit that has shifted. See that nectarine slice, bottom right? Just tuck it back into place. Serve!

Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks

These cookies are the third type of cookie that I made for Shavuot and the only thus far unblogged recipe. So here it is. There's not much to say about these plain, humble looking cookies except to say that the twist of adding milk chocolate chunks adds something special to it. I chilled the dough overnight, as the dough requires chilling to render it scoopable, and overnight fit better into my baking schedule than a three hour time block did. I dont think the cookies suffered a drop. I made them into smaller cookies and came out with a larger yield than just the 24 cookies the recipe states. Based on the size of my cookies, their cookies must be huge! Im happy with these. As far as the three types of cookies go, these were the last to be finished, but were definitely appreciated by peanut butter lovers.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks
from Baked

1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup creamy peanut butter
6 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

Place the margarine and sugars in a bowl.
Beat until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the eggs one at a time,
beating until smooth after each addition.
Add the vanilla and peanut butter and beat just until incorporated.
Looks kind of silky at this point.
Add the dry ingredients,
and the milk chocolate chunks at once (I like to add at the same time to prevent overmixing),
and beat until a soft dough is formed. Chill at least three hours or overnight.
This is the nice, firm, chilled, scoopable dough.
Preheat the oven to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment. Scoop cookies and place at least an inch and a half apart on the prepared baking sheets. Push down on the dough balls to make a flat circle. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, rotating half way through the bake. Remove from the oven and let cool on pan for 5 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Feed to hungry girls.