Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I may be posting this a little later than I intended, but I believe that even though it may traditionally be a Christmas treat, lebkuchen is delicious any time of year. My mother's family descends from Germany, and I love making German pastries as a way to connect to my heritage. Lebkuchen is a traditional German Christmas cookie, similar to gingerbread. While gingerbread is usually sweetened with molasses, lebkuchen is usually made with honey, which gives the cookies a distinct sweetness and flavor. These cookies are soft and flavorful, with spices that remind me of the holidays, and a sweet, sugary glaze. 

Melt together brown sugar, butter and honey.

Add spices, baking soda, flour, almond flour, and egg to form dough.

Chill dough overnight in a plastic bag.

Roll dough out between 2 layers of parchment paper.

Use cookie cutters to cut dough.

Bake cookies and brush with sugar glaze.

Guten Appetit!

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

85 mL honey
115 g dark brown sugar
30 g butter
225 g all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
50 g almond flour

25 g powdered sugar
2 tsp water

1. Place honey, brown sugar, and butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until sugar melts, and remove from heat.

2. Sift together flour, spices, and baking soda.

3. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the beaten egg to the saucepan and mix well. Add remaining egg and flour mixture, and mix until completely combined. Mix in almond flour.

4. Pour batter into a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight, or up to 3 days.

5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 320 F/ 160 C. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Roll dough out between two sheets of parchment paper to about 5 mm thick.

7. Cut dough with cookie cutters. It is best to use shapes that are approximately 1 inch wide.

8. Bake cookies for 8-9 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool on pan for about 5 minutes, before placing on cooling rack.

9. Whisk together powdered sugar and water to make a glaze.

10. Brush cookies with sugar glaze twice, then allow to dry. Cookies will keep fresh for at least one week in an airtight container.

-Posted by Jennifer

Friday, December 27, 2013

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Whoopie Pies

Blog checking lines: The December Daring Bakers' Challenge had us all cheering- the lovely and talented Bourbonnatrix of Bourbonnatrix Bakes was our hostess and challenged us to make fun, delicious, and creative whoopie pies! Delicious little cake-like cookies sandwiching luscious filling in any flavor we chose... What is there to say but "Whoopie!"

I remember seeing recipes for whoopie pies everywhere a few years ago, but never had an opportunity to try them myself. Therefore, I was excited to finally try these cookies for this challenge. I decided to stick with the traditional chocolate flavor for the cookie, but filled them with a mint cream cheese frosting to give them a holiday touch. I rolled the whoopie pies in Andes peppermint baking chips for an added crunch and flavor. The result was rich and delicious!

Getting ingredients together for the cookies

Scooping cookies out in tablespoon-sized balls.

Baked cookies

Filling the cookies with mint cream cheese frosting

Rolling whoopie pies in peppermint pieces


Whoopie Pies
Makes about 16 small pies

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Beat together butter, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl. Once batter is smooth, beat in egg.

3. Sift in cocoa powder and stir until combined.

4. Beat in about a third of the flour, and then 1/3 cup of the milk. Continue alternating between beating in the flour and the milk, scraping the bowl occasionally, until all has been mixed in.

5. Drop the dough in tablespoon-sized balls on the prepared baking sheets. Leave room between the cookies for them to spread.

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set. Remove from oven and allow to cool on pans before carefully separating them from the parchment paper to cool on racks.

7. Sandwich cookies with cream cheese filling (recipe below) and roll in crushed peppermint pieces for garnish.

Mint Cream Cheese Filling

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp mint extract
Peppermint baking chips/crushed peppermint candy (optional)

1. Beat together cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar, milk and mint extract until well combined. If filling is too thick, add a little more milk.

-Chocolate whoopie pie recipe adapted from recipe by King Arthur Flour, available at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-chocolate-whoopie-pies-recipe. Mint cream cheese filling recipe adapted from recipe for YourCupofCake's mint buttercream, available at http://www.yourcupofcake.com/2011/05/andes-mint-cupcakes.html.
-Posted by Jennifer

Friday, September 27, 2013

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Pastel de Tres Leches

Inma was our September 2013 Daring Bakers' hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy... just plain delish!

This challenge came at a perfect time for me, as I recently moved back to South Florida, and have been enjoying the delicious Hispanic desserts that are popular in the area. This cake is very sweet, yet light, due to the fluffy texture of the cake batter. I chose to make the traditional Tres Leches, and top it with fresh whipped cream and strawberries, but I would also eventually love to make one of my favorite variations- Mango Tres Leches! The recipe was very simple... the only difficult step was waiting for the cake to soak overnight before cutting into it! I was initially nervous about adding too much of the milk syrup, but found that the cake was able to hold all of the syrup without becoming soggy. 

Bake cake and poke holes to absorb three milks syrup.

Make three milks syrup.

Pour syrup over cake and allow to absorb.


Pastel de Tres Leches
Serves 12

Vanilla Sponge Cake
5 large eggs (separated)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (sifted)

Three Milks Syrup
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp rum

Sweetened whipped cream, to finish
Fresh fruit, to finish

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9" round cake pan.
2. Separate egg whites and yolks. Beat egg whites for 3-5 minutes, until soft peaks form. Slowly sprinkle in sugar, and continue beating for about 5 additional minutes, until stiff peaks form.
3. In another bowl, beat egg yolks for 5-6 minutes. Yolks will become creamy, puffy and light in color. Stir in vanilla extract.
4. Carefully fold egg yolks into egg whites. Gradually sprinkle the flour onto the egg mixture, and fold in carefully. Be careful not to allow batter to lose too much volume.
5. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 25 minutes. Toothpick inserted in cake should come out clean.
6. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool completely.
7. Once cake is cool, use a fork to poke holes all over.
8. Make syrup: Bring the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream and cinnamon to a boil in a saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until slightly thickened. Allow syrup to cool, then add rum.
9. Slowly pour cooled syrup over cake, brushing syrup onto sides of cake to ensure that liquid is evenly distributed.
10. Allow cake to rest overnight in fridge to completely soak up syrup.
11. Complete cake by icing with sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit, as desired.

-Adapted from recipe by Chef Paulina Abascal, as published in Revista Secretos de la Pasteleria Caserais magazine.

-Posted by Jennifer

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Milano Cookies

In a "celebration" of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we'd like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe to try!

I've been participating in the Daring Bakers' Challenges for a few years now, so I had to look pretty far back into the archives to find a recipe I hadn't tried. As soon as I found this recipe for Milano cookies, I knew I had to make them.  Milanos are one of my favorite types of store-bought cookies, so I loved the idea of making them at home.  To make the challenge even better, the recipe originally came from Gale Gand, who is one of my pastry chef idols. After making these delicious cookies at home, I don't know if I'll ever want store-bought again!  They were surprisingly simple to make, and I loved the combination of the light, citrus flavored cookies with the rich chocolate filling.

Make cookie dough, and pipe into 1 1/2 inch segments.

Bake until golden-brown around edges.

Make filling by melting chocolate with scalded cream and orange zest.

Sandwich cookies with chocolate filling.


Milano Cookies
Makes about 30 sandwich cookies

12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
Zest of one orange

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Cream butter with electric mixer, and mix in sugar.  Slowly beat in the egg whites, then add the vanilla and lemon extracts. Carefully mix in the flour until just incorporated. Do not overbeat!
3. Pipe out 1 1/2 inch segments of the batter onto a parchment-paper lined sheet pan, using a pastry bag with a 1/4" round tip. Leave at least 2 inches between each cookie, as they will spread in oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown around edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on pan.
4. Scald the cream over medium heat.  Pour warm cream over the chocolate chips, and allow to sit for about 1 minute.  Whisk the mixture until chocolate is melted. Whisk in orange zest. Allow mixture to cool slightly.
5. Spread chocolate filling on the flat side of one cookie, and press another cookie on top.  Repeat with remaining cookies.

-Adapted from recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gale-gand/milan-cookies-recipe/index.html

-Posted by Jennifer

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Crostata di Marmellata

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers' host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens!  Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There's nothing like pie! :-)

This challenge was different than most, because it offered a choice between 4 different types of pies.  While all of the choices looked delicious, I ultimately chose to make the Crostata di Marmellata, as I have never attempted to make a lattice crust before, and wanted to challenge myself to try something new.  This pie was quite tasty, although very sweet.  I really enjoyed the crust, which tastes like a lemony shortbread, and is definitely good enough to be eaten on its own.  I would love to experiment with different fillings for this pie next time, to tone down the sweetness a little bit.

Prepare strawberry jam filling.

Mix together pastry crust, and line pie dish.

Fill the par-baked crust with strawberry filling and use remaining pastry dough to create a lattice.

Bake and enjoy!

Crostata di Marmellata

3-1/3 cups strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
1-1/2 cups sugar
7 tsp pectin
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Pasta Frolla (Italian pie pastry):
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cups sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1-2/3 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

1. Make filling: Stir together all of the filling ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, while stirring constantly.  Allow mixture to boil for exactly one minute, then remove from heat.  Allow to cool completely.

2. Begin making pie pastry by creaming together butter and sugar with a stand or hand mixer, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in egg, vanilla and lemon zest, until thoroughly mixed.  Add the flour and salt, and beat just until dough comes together, about 1 minute.

3. Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4. Lightly grease a 9" pie dish.

5. Roll out 2/3 of the dough on a lightly floured surface to fit the pie dish.  Transfer dough to pie dish and roll the edges to provide a surface to attach the lattice later.  Use a  fork to prick the bottom of the crust all over.  

6. Refrigerate pie dough in pie dish for 30 minutes. 

7. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line pastry in pie dish with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or dry beans).  Bake for 15 minutes.  

8. Remove pie weights and parchment paper.  Allow crust to cool.

9. Preheat oven to 400 F.

10. Spread the strawberry filling over the pie crust.

11. Roll out remaining pie dough into thin strips to fit the pie dish.  Arrange the strips over the filling, in a lattice pattern.  Pinch the ends of the strips to the rolled edges of the crust.

12. Bake pie for about 20 minutes, until lattice is golden.

13. Allow to cool completely before enjoying. 

-Adapted from Carol Field's "The Italian Baker", available at http://carolfield.com/category/books/the-italian-baker/

-Posted by Jennifer

Friday, March 1, 2013

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Raincoast Crisps

Sarah, from All Our Fingers in the Pie, was our February 2013 Daring Bakers Host, and she challenged us to use our creativity in making our own crispy flatbreads and crackers.

I was originally a little disappointed with this challenge, as there was also a cracker challenge last summer.  However, I was intrigued by the recipe that Sarah provided for Raincoast Crisps, which I had never heard of before.  The technique for making these crispy flatbreads is completely different from the crackers that I made last summer, and I ended up really enjoying this challenge.  The crisps are tasty and healthy, and make a great snack with cheese.  While the original recipe called for raisins, I left them out this time.  I think they would also taste great with dried cranberries.

Mix the ingredients to form a batter, which is baked in a loaf pan.

Slice into thin pieces, and bake.

The crisps taste great on their own, or with cream cheese and pepper jelly!

Raincoast Crisps
Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/8 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/8 cup honey
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/8 cup flax seeds
1/8 cup sesame seeds
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare an 8" x 4" loaf pan by greasing with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add buttermilk, brown sugar and honey, and stir a few times.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until just mixed.

3. Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes, until golden-brown.  Remove loaf from pan and allow to cool completely, preferably overnight.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F.

5. Cut loaf into very thin slices, and cut each slice in half.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 15 minutes.  Flip slices over and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until crispy.  Watch carefully to make sure they don't burn!

6. Allow to cool, and enjoy!

Original recipe available at http://www.thedaringkitchen.com/recipe/crisp-crackers-and-flatbreads

-Posted by Jennifer

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Gevulde Speculaas

Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers' Hostess, and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch: That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste, and dough!  Delicious!

One of the most rewarding aspects of participating in the Daring Bakers' Challenges has been the opportunity to try recipes from other cultures, that I likely would never have heard of before.  Gevulde Speculaas is one of these recipes. This dessert did not take very long to put together, and the spice mixture makes the house smell amazing when baking.  I loved the combination of almond cream with the spice dough, and I would definitely make this again.

Blend together spices to create Speculaas spice mixture
Make the Speculaas dough

Make almond cream, and spread layer of almond cream between two layers of Speculaas dough.

Decorate with whole almonds and bake.


Spice Mixture
Makes enough for one Speculaas recipe

1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp cinnamon  

1. Mix spices together.

Speculaas Dough

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons speculaas spices
3/4 cup unsalted butter, diced

1. Knead all ingredients together until smooth.  If dough is dry, you may add a little milk. 

2. Wrap dough in cling-wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Almond Paste

1 1/3 cups almond flour
5/8 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp lemon zest

1. Combine ingredients with hands or food processor, until paste is formed.  Refrigerate until ready to assemble dessert.

Assembling and Baking Gevulde Speculaas

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Lightly grease a round 10-inch pan.
3. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces, and roll out on floured surface, to fit baking pan.
4. Press first layer of speculaas dough in pan, and spread almond cream over it.  Place second layer of speculaas dough over almond cream layer. 
5. Decorate pastry with whole almonds and bake for 40 minutes at 350 F.
6. Allow pastry to cool completely in pan before cutting.
7. Enjoy!

Adapted from original recipe available at http://www.thedaringkitchen.com/sites/default/files/u11/75_Speculaas_-_DB_Jan_2013.pdf

-Posted by Jennifer