Croquembouche

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Happy New Year everyone! Wow, we are already done with the much awaited holiday season and about a week into 2016! Seriously, where does the time fly! So, this is to prove the that I did actually work on this recipe at the beginning of the year – to be more precise, a few days into January 2016! Wow, how unexpected life could be!

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I hope this year is off to a great start for all of you! Did anyone make any lofty resolutions? I didn’t! I am finally in terms with the fact that, you either want to do something or not – regardless of whether it is your latest and greatest resolution or not! Honestly, the timing couldn’t be better! Why would you want to try this absolutely show-stopping creation right after all the indulgence in fine things! Less than 2 weeks before the waists start expanding seem like THE perfect time to share this recipe with you all! PLEASE…I really mean, PLEASE, don’t let the pictures fool you into thinking this recipe is super hard! It really is not! Believe me!

This croquembouche recipe (inspired by a recipe on Food Network) is one such thing! It’s true that you can’t stop with one, but if you want to have your cake and eat it too, then, yes, you can pull together all your willpower and stop with one! It’s a satisfying sweet treat that satisfies your sweet tooth without adding hundreds and hundreds of calories!

OK, before you to the recipe, let me warn you not to get spooked by the ingredient list or the long directions. It’s not all the bad. Breeze through the recipe first to get a feel for how very easy the recipe is so you know what to expect. It’s really a pretty fool-proof recipe with an amazing end result. Also, if you are not keen on making the caramel, you can easily skip it! The taste will still be amazing without the caramel coating.

DARN, how I wish I had taken a picture of the little baby after the first bite, revealing the delicious, creamy filling inside! (Note to self: It’s likely you will make this again this holiday season, so can you please post a picture showing the yumming filling(s) inside?)

Croquembouche

  • Servings: 12?
  • Time: 3 1/2 hours
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Ingredients
¼ oz packet unflavored gelatin
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
12 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1½ cup heavy cream
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
6 large eggs
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Preparation

1. Begin by preparing the cream filling. Sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup of cold water in a small bowl and let it soften (bloom).
2. Measure out the milk in a heavy bottom pan. Add the vanilla and bring a simmer over medium high heat. Once the milk starts to simmer, remove from heat and set aside.
3. Whisk the egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, cornstarch and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Gradually whisk one-third of the milk into the egg mixture to temper the yolks. Add rest of the milk and whisk together. Return the pan over medium heat and cook the mixture while constantly whisking the mixture.
4. Cook the custard till the mixture boils and thickens. This will take about 5 to 6 minutes. Continue cooking till the mixture turns into custard consistency. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, a tablespoon at a time. Add in the softened gelatin.
5. Microwave the chocolate chips for 30 seconds, stir and heat again in 30 second increment till the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in 2 tablespoons of hot water. Stir in the coffee and chocolate into ½ the custard filling. Keep the other half plain. Cover both the bowls with plastic wrap with the wrap touching the surface to prevent any film from forming on top and chill the custard for 2 hours.
6. When ready to fill the puffs, whip the heavy cream into soft peaks. Fold half of it into the vanilla filling and the other half into the chocolate filling.
7. Transfer each filling to a large pastry bag with a 1/4-inch tip and set aside.
8. Prepare the pastry puffs while the custard is cooling. Preheat the oven to 450F.
9. Bring 1 ½ cups of water, remaining butter, sugar and salt to a simmer in medium saucepan. When the butter melts completely, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Return the pan to heat and cook stirring constantly till the mixture pulls from the side and turns shiny. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
10. Transfer the paste to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and start mixing on medium low speed for about a minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time till fully incorporated.
11. Transfer the dough to a large pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tip. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and pipe 1 1/2-inch balls of dough onto the paper. You should get about 40 plus dollops.
12. Smooth out any pointy tips of the piped dollops with a wet finger. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, till the dough is puffed. Lower the temperature to 350f and bake until the puffs are golden and feel light. Turn off the oven and keep the puffs inside for another 10 minutes or so. Remove the puffs to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
13. Assemble the croquembouche as close to serving time as possible. Fill half the puffs with chocolate cream and the other half with vanilla by piping the cream from the bottom. You can lightly push in the piping from the bottom and squeeze the filling till the puff feels pretty full. Take care to avoid overfilling so the custard doesn’t explode out of the puffs.
14. Let the filled puffs chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so.
15. To assemble the puffs as a tower, you need to make the caramel. Mix the 3 cups of sugar, corn syrup and 1 cup water in a saucepan, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the syrup till it turns deep amber. Take care not to burn the caramel. Another way to do this is to use a candy thermometer and boil the syrup till it reaches hard candy stage.
16. Immediately dip the bottom of the saucepan in a large bowl of ice water for a few seconds to stop the cooking. Let cool for a couple of minutes. The syrup should still be quite liquidy.
17. Partially dip each filled puff into the caramel and let the excess drip off. Arrange the puffs around the circle. If the caramel hardens, microwave until soft, 45 seconds.
18. Fill the base circle with more puffs for stability, then continue building a conical tower of smaller circles.
19. Dip the tip of a fork into the caramel and wave it around the tower, letting the syrup fall in strands around it. If the syrup is on the liquidy side, the syrup might not form the web look you are after. Let the syrup cool slightly and drizzle it slowly so it will cling better to the puffs and create the web look.

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice-Cream

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Blueberry season is winding down! This to me means two things…get to a u-pick farm FAST for several pounds of the blue gems and finding as many ways to use them up throughout the year as possible!

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Throughout the past several years, July has become the month of continuing our family tradition of picking blueberries at a local farm! I get all excited as soon the farms open for the season. I immediately start to think about how many pounds to pick so I have enough to freeze for the rest of the year. Usually, if we pick about 15 pounds or so, they last till about March or April. That’s a lot of picking! And perhaps that’s why my kids never get super excited about getting ready for this day! I guess the summer heat, rivers of sweat pouring down your back and all the patient work to pick the bluest berries could possibly make you a bit less excited! 🙂 But, to their credit, they always go with us, try their best to do their part, and even have a bit of fun!

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So, after couple of hours of sweating buckets in the scorching sun, we managed to pick almost 13 pounds, little shy of what I would have ideally liked! After sorting through, rinsing, drying and freezing most of the berries, I saved just enough to try hand at my first batch of ice cream – blueberry cheesecake ice cream, combining two of my favorite things!

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The original recipe is found on the Eagle Brand website. With couple of minor tweaks, including substituting bit of milk for some of the heavy cream and incorporating crushed graham crackers, the ice cream turned out to be quite something! Although the recipe called for at least 4 hours of freezing, mine didn’t quite freeze to an ice cream consistency at 4 hours. But that didn’t stop me from serving this as soft serve for dessert following dinner. It was delicious! I did have enough to let freeze all the way. Next day, it was perfect! You may need to let the container stay at room temperature for about 5 minutes to make it easy to scoop.

This is the scoop served "soft-serve"

This is the scoop served “soft-serve”

This recipe is super easy to whip up! Literally! So, go ahead and give it a try! You will be happy you did!

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Blueberry Cheesecake Ice-Cream

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 5 1/2 hours
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Ingredients
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup heavy/whipping cream
1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
Lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 container sweetened condensed milk
1/2 package reduced-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup crushed graham crackers

Preparation:
1. In a small pan, simmer blueberries, lemon juice and sugar till the berries start to burst. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes till the sauce thickens a little. Remove from heat and let come to room temperature.
2. In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream till stiff peaks form. Keep aside while you proceed to the next step.
3. In another medium bowl, using hand held mixer, combine the condensed milk, milk and cream cheese till smooth. Add vanilla and the lemon zest.
4. Slowly incorporate the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture.
5. Layer one third of the blueberry mixture into a plastic container (with a tight lid). Ladle in 1/2 of the ice-cream base. Sprinkle a tablespoon of crushed graham crackers. Now, gently swirl the two layers. Repeat with the remaining berry mixture, ice-cream base and graham crackers. Cover and freeze till completely set. This will take about 4-5 hours.

Serving tip: Let the ice-cream stay at room temperature for about 5 minutes to make it easy to scoop! Serve with additional blueberries and a sprinkling of crushed graham crackers!

Kiwi-Cranberry-Raisin Bars

Hi folks, it’s been a long time! One of those whirlwind of few weeks and I really missed posting.

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So, what better way to make a come-back than with a recipe that calls for an unlikely combination of fruits. Seriously, kiwi, cranberry and raisin? Yes, yes! And trust me, you won’t be sorry that you invited them to the same party!

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The idea to use kiwi came from having a bag of dried candied kiwis sitting around in the pantry waiting to make an appearance in a recipe – any recipe. This was around the time I was contemplating whether to bake homemade treats for school lunches in an attempt to make them a little less “junk”. Although this adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe still has more sugar than I prefer to add, the website has these at under 140 calories per serving size (and their serving size was larger than how I cut my bars). In my version of the recipe, since I used candied kiwi and sweetened cranberries, I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup. I guess that’s not too bad – or so I hope!

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These bars have the right sweetness balanced by the fruity firm, chewy texture of the candied fruits. Needless to say, they were quite a big hit with my family. Give it a try!

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Kiwi-Cranberry-Raisin Bars

  • Servings: 24
  • Time: 45 min
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Ingredients
1/2 cup of dried/candied fruits – kiwi, craisins and raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
3 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, if desired

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper and spray with non stick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Sprinkle water over the dried fruits and microwave for 20-30 seconds. Remove from microwave and set aside to cool.
3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. In a large bowl, combine butter and brown sugar. Use a hand mixer to make the job easier. To this, add the mashed banana, buttermilk, vanilla extract and egg whites one at a time. Mix well to combine.
5. Mix in the dry mixture in two parts just until combined. Fold in the fruits and walnuts.
6. Spoon the mixture into the baking pan and smooth the top.
7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes till the top is set and golden.
8. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
9. Cut into 24 pieces. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Store covered in an airtight container for about 5 days.

Special (Diet) Snickerdoodles

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Honestly, I didn’t know what to call this recipe. I came across the recipe somewhere online and can’t seem to trace back my steps. I was searching frantically for a gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free cookie recipe the other day. As you can imagine, too much “free” meant I was coming up empty with my search results, until I came across this recipe. Even though, it is gluten and dairy free, it was so addictive and delicious, it is definitely going to be a keeper! So, even though the title of this recipe is Special Diet Snickerdoodles, I really have to de-emphasize the diet part as this cookie is too delicious to be a diet cookie!

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I was dismissing all the other recipes as I thought my special guest wouldn’t eat anything with even unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup. Boy, was I glad she actually was OK with that. Yes!

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I couldn’t control my joy when I found out the recipe used almond flour/meal rather than myriads of others that I came across using other not-so-common flours like coconut flour etc. Since I had almond meal and some Vermont maple syrup on hand, this recipe was going to be it!

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This recipe is so quick to make and requires such few ingredients, I am sure this will become a go-to recipe for you even when you don’t have to make this for someone who is gluten and dairy-free!

Special (Diet) Snickerdoodles

  • Servings: 20-24 cookies
  • Time: 30 minutes
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Ingredients:
2 cups almond flour/meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted shortening
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon stevia or refined sugar

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Combine almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl.
3. In a small bowl, combine melted shortening and maple syrup. Add vanilla essence and stir well.
4. Add liquid ingredients to the almond flour mixture and combine to make a wet dough.
5. Make 20-24 equal size dough balls (about 1″ diameter).
6. Stir together 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and stevia (or regular sugar). Dip the dough balls in the cinnamon mixture.
7. Transfer the dough balls to the parchment lined baking sheet. Using tips of your fingers, or glass bottom of a jar, flatten the balls into a disk about 2 1/2″ wide.
8. Bake for about 8 minutes. The center will look soft and uncooked, but the cookies will continue to cook while cooling.
9. Let the cookies cool completely on the tray. Remove then and store in an airtight container.

Almost Perfect Macarons

 

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Have you noticed that macarons and delicately frosted cupcakes are more or less mainstays on a dessert tables nowadays??

My quest for making a perfect French macaron started 3 years ago, after a visit to Paris. I tried a few “home-style” versions at a local farmer’s market and fell in love! They were “cakey”, delicately flavored and more interestingly, came in infinite array of vivid colors. Piles and piles of them, arranged in conical pyramids, with various fillings! Ahh…

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So, after we returned home, I started dreaming, researching and dreaming some more to the point of a macaron obsession! I tried countless recipes, ruined tons of batches, fretted over perfect “feet” and that characteristic texture – fragile and crispy outside leading to a chewy and cakey inside. And after numerous trial attempts, I can say I have a recipe that I will likely stick to – at least until I get a personal training by someone at Pierre Homme (what wishful thinking, I know!). 🙂 OK, you guys, look at my pictures, feel free to try them at home, and let me know if they are quite worth it! I debated whether to share this recipe, but decided it is worth sharing the love with the readers of this blog! After all, macarons can’t be perfected by following a recipe – they really need love, patience, passion and lots of and lots of practice!

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TIPS BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT:
1. Precise measurement is a MUST (if you don’t have a digital scale, I highly recommend getting one. I bought one just so I can make macarons)!
2. Oven-temperatures can uplift or totally ruin a perfect macaron!
3. Folding in the dry ingredients is an art and takes lots of practice! If you under/over mix, your batch is ruined, and you may not even know it till they start cracking while baking and push you into a meltdown!
5. You absolutely need parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Without it, you will have a sticky, gooey mess!
4. Lastly, make sure your mixer and bowl are grease free and you only use either gel or powder colors as macs don’t like grease or water!

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To sum it all up, MACARONS ARE HIGH-MAINTENANCE! But, once you perfect your skill and see those beautiful things emerge out of the oven, I can guarantee you will be floating with pride! I did!

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Fool-proof French Macarons

  • Servings: 15-20 sandwiches
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
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Ingredients
35g egg white
0.5g meringue powder
0.5g salt
20g granulated sugar
60g powdered sugar
45g almond meal/ground almonds
Fillings of your choice: Chocolate ganache, nutella, buttercream, salted caramel, jelly etc.
optional: gel or powder colors

Preparation
1. Begin with carefully measuring out your ingredients.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
3. Grind together (in a spice/coffee grinder) the almond meal and powdered sugar for few seconds till the mixture is fine. Set aside.
4. In a large stainless bowl, whip together the egg white, meringue powder and salt till frothy.
5. Slowly add in granulated sugar till soft, shiny peaks form.
6. If using color, add at this point.
7. Carefully fold in the almond meal/powdered sugar mixture in two batches. A rubber spatula is immensely helpful with this process.
8. STOP mixing when the dry mixture is incorporated and the macaron mix falls in a ribbon and slowly disappears into the mix. This part is extremely critical to the perfect mac.
9. Pipe the mix in 1″ circles on parchment or baking mat, leaving about an inch between circles. Try to keep the size consistent so it is easy to sandwich them with fillings.
7. Tap the tray a few times to pop out any air bubbles. Again, air bubbles, if not removed, will pop in the oven and crack your macarons. Sad, but true!
8. Let the macarons rest for 10-15 minutes.
9. Place the tray in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 290F.
10. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate tray and bake another 5 minutes. The times given are general guidelines. Keep an eye on those babies – I have ruined a few batches just because they decided the same temperature setting used for the previous batch was too hot for the next one! Weird and I am still scratching my head for reasons, but for now, just keep an eye on them.
11. At the end of the baking time, remove the tray from the oven, let the macs sit on the tray for 5 minutes and move them to a cooling rack.
12. Pair the macs of similar size and sandwich them with fillings of your choice.
13. Sandwiched macs must be kept refrigerated for at least 24 hours to let the flavors and texture meld.

Warning: Once you make your first perfect batch, it becomes a near obsession to make more! 🙂

Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

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So, this is really part 2 of the 2-part cupcake posting! I have been meaning to make some sort of treat using the blueberry preserves I had recently made. What better way than to test it as a filling for cupcake! So, that was going to be the second cupcake flavor. Vanilla cupcake with blueberry preserve filling and lemon cream cheese frosting! Yummmm!

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I am not sure where I came upon this recipe! Since I wanted to stick with the “made from scratch” spree, I decided to whip up this quick cupcake recipe. One warning – be gentle with your mixing if you want to avoid big air pockets in the cake. The cake was totally amazing – especially the frosting! Just the right amount of sweetness with a bit of citrusy tang! Delicious! And the bit of blueberry preserve you get in each bite is just perfect!

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(BTW, if you are have leftover frosting, use it as a drizzle for a breakfast treat (sweet rolls or as a spread for crepes!)

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Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 30 min plus decorating
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Ingredients:
6 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 cup milk

Cupcake filling
1/4 cup blueberry preserve

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-oz reduced fat cream cheese
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Lemon zest from 1/2 lemon

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside.
2. Using an electric hand held beater, combine butter, sugar till light and fluffy.
3. Add one egg at a time, mixing well.
4. Combine cake flour, salt and baking powder.
5. Add the flour mixture alternating with milk in two additions.
6. Divide the batter among the 12 cupcake “wells”. Bake for about 20-22 minutes till the top is lightly golden and the center tests done.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and let cool completely on a cooling rack.
8. To decorate, slowly and carefully cut out a 1/2 inch piece of cupcake in the middle as shown in the picture above. Reserve the cut out piece. Fill the hole with a teaspoon of blueberry preserve and place the cut out cake back on top. Now, cover the top with lemon cream cheese frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl using handheld mixer. If frosting is too thick, you can thin it by adding few drops of lemon juice.

Orange-Almond Biscotti

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I think few things go perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea as biscotti. The delicate flavors, the crunchy texture that slowly melds to a soft crumble at the touch of your hot beverage…You get the point.

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They are not the most diet-friendly item out there. So, when I do make some at home, I opt for recipes with less butter and sugar – you know, the light kinds which are really hard to come by, especially if you are looking for the typical biscotti texture. This recipe however is a regular ol’ version, softened just so with the use of half Splenda/half sugar and less butter (about 5 tablespoons for about 20 cookies).

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Biscotti flavor possibilities are endless. This one is one of my favorite combinations – orange and almond! Combination of the citrus notes from the orange zest and the toasted crunchiness of almonds are pure delight. I am looking forward to repeating this recipe with anise flavor – something I have never tried before! 🙂

You can store these biscottis in a tightly closed container for a week or so. So, what are you waiting for? Bake a batch and make next week one to pause and enjoy!

(NOTE: This recipe is adapted from the original from Bon Appetit, Dec 1999)

Orange-Almond

  • Servings: 20
  • Time: 60 minutes
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Ingredients
2 1/4 cups flour (I used combination of white whole wheat and all purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup Splenda for baking
1/2 cup refined sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 egg white for brushing the top

OPTIONAL
Semi sweet or dark chocolate for dipping or drizzling on the baked cookies
Chopped nuts for sprinkling on chocolate.

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
2. Sift flours with baking powder and salt.
3. In a medium bowl, combine melted butter and sugar and whisk to incorporate well.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and orange zest.
5. Incorporate dry ingredients till a soft dough forms.
6. Fold in chopped almonds.
7. Transfer the dough to the parchment. Form into a roll about 18″ long. Gently press to flatten it to about 4-5″ wide. Brush the top with lightly beaten egg white.
8. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Using a sharp knife, slice the loaf about 3/4″ wide. This should result in at least 20 cookies.
9. Place the sliced cookies cut side down on the parchment and return to the oven for another 10 minutes till they crisp up.
10. Remove from oven, let cool completely and store in airtight container for up to a week.

If using optional touch-ups, melt chocolate over double boiler (or in microwave, taking care not to scorch the chocolate) and dip just the ends or entire one side of the cookie. Sprinkle nuts if desired.

Layered Cherry Coffee Cake

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Last night was one of those busy evenings when I was trying to make multiple treats almost simultaneously – occasionally confusing myself as to which sifted flour mixture went with which recipe! 🙂 All fun though! I ended up baking a batch of funfetti sugar cookies, low sugar almond-orange biscotti and this amazing layered cherry coffee cake.

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You see, I have had this canned lite cherry pie filling in the pantry for couple of months waiting for me to do something with it. I would think of many ideas, but never really took the next step to actually making them. So, in an effort to bake some sort of a little breakfast treat, I looked for ideas when I came across this amazing recipe (courtesy Rose Garden Inn Bed and Breakfast). I made a few minor changes such as using lite cherry pie filling, light sour cream and half white whole wheat flour. Also, I toned down the topping by using half the sugar and just about 1/3 cup of flour.

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I have to make a special note about this recipe/batter. My batter was very thick, so after starting to spread half the batter in the 13″X9″ pan, I started to wonder if I should scoop it out and bake as layered muffins. It just didn’t seem like enough batter. Also, after layering the cherry filling, the top batter layer was even more challenging. As you see in my pictures, there are swirls of red from trying to smooth out the batter to cover the entire top surface of the cake. I figured if the taste is good, who cares about the looks. However, to my pure joy and satisfaction, the cake baked perfectly.

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I am planning to make this again over summer with fresh summer berries lightly coated in sugar instead of pie filling and also baking them in individual muffins cups/liners. Who knows, maybe I will even replacing all of the flour with white/regular whole wheat. Can’t wait! In the meantime though, I hope you guys give this a try at your earliest! It will make even an April showers day seem enjoyable!

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Layered Cherry Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 13x9 cake
  • Time: 1 hr 15 min
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Cake Ingredients1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 can lite (low sugar) cherry pie filling

Cake Topping
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons butter

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a 13″ x 9″ baking pan and set aside.
2. Sift flours with salt, baking powder and baking soda.
3. Cream butter. Add sugar and beat till creamy and light, adding eggs one at a time.
4. Add sour cream and extracts and mix well.
5. Slowly add dry ingredients, mixing well to incorporate. You can use a spatula or your electric beater on low setting.
6. Spread half the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing with a butter knife or spatula to cover the bottom. This will be a thin layer.
7. Spread the pie filling over the batter. Follow with the remaining batter, again smoothing to cover the pie filling.
8. Combine all topping ingredients to resemble bread crumbs and spread over the top of the cake.
9. Bake for 50-55 minutes till cake is done.

Baked Chocolate Donut Holes with Citrus Glaze

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Let me start off by saying I am not a huge donut fan. However, occasionally I do enjoy a Boston cream donut or a maple glazed donut with some walnuts on top! Yum! I guess I would enjoy them more willfully if they were not so darn loaded with calories. But then again, all delicious things are, right?!

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Anyway, since I have had my cake-pop maker hiding in the pantry for a while, I figured I will try a “baked” donut hole recipe as a treat for my kids. I have seen many recipes for chocolate muffins and cakes and oodles of other things made with sour cream. In fact, my sweet potato pie bread  is one of them as well. So, when I came across a Huffington post recipe for a chocolate donut hole, I figured I could modify the recipe using sour cream instead of buttermilk. Also, since I am not crazy about plain vanilla flavored glaze, I wanted to switch it out for something more flavorful and fresh – hello lemon glaze! Now, my first choice would have been orange, but lemon is all I had on hand, and lemon it will be for this batch! In addition, since I couldn’t really stomach the idea of attempting to make a healthier version of this already empty calorie treat by frying, I opted to cook these in lightly sprayed “cake pop” maker! Bye bye added fat calories and hello deliciousness!

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Baked Chocolate Donut Holes with Citrus Glaze

  • Servings: About 30+ donut holes
  • Time: 45 min
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Ingredients
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda*
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light sour cream
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
Nonstick cooking spray
Colored sprinkles, sparkling sugar, finely chopped candy bits or nuts, optional

Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Preparation
1. Sift the flours, ground flax, baking soda, cocoa, baking soda and espresso into a medium bowl. * If using regular unsweetened cocoa powder, remember to add 1 teaspoon baking powder as well.
2. Whisk together sugar, sour cream, egg, melted butter and vanilla extract in a small bowl.
3. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture and combine just until a dough forms.
4. Preheat the cake-pop maker.
5. Scoop dough into each well filling only half-way. Close the top and bake until ready.
6. Transfer the cooked donut holes to a wire rack placed on top a baking sheet.
7. Prepare the glaze: Stir all the glaze ingredients till smooth.
8. Gently spoon the glaze over the donut holes and let set for 10-15 minutes. If using any topping, sprinkle them on or roll the donut hole in them immediately after dipping in glaze and then let them set.

Crispy, Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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When it comes to cookies, I would imagine the two leading contenders are probably chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin? Maybe it’s peanut butter something instead of oatmeal raisin. Although I do enjoy a yummy chocolate chip cookie once in a while, I tend to lean a bit more towards chewy oatmeal raisin. The bite and chewiness of oats, soft sweetness of raisins…mmmm….

So, when I decided to bake a surprise batch of cookies for the kids (and…ahem…mom and dad), I thought of combining the two cookies. Although I didn’t add any raisins in this recipe, I might consider adding some the next time I make these cookies.

I try to substitute at least some of the all-purpose flour with something more nutritious like oats, ground flax etc. This recipe lends itself perfectly to that – if you wish to replace about 1/4 cup of flour with ground flax etc. Also, I chose to use mini chocolate chips in this recipe in an attempt to have bit of chocolate in every bite and to reduce the total amount of chocolate. It worked out perfectly.

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Do use only about a teaspoon of dough at least 2 inches apart. The cookies spread well and results in a thin cookie with a perfect crispy texture when you first bite, quickly leading to a pleasant chewiness. This was a huge hit with my family as well as my kids’ friends. I think you will enjoy it.

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If you bake these, let me know how they turn out. I would love to hear about your experience.

Crispy, chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

  • Servings: 30 cookies
  • Time: 60 min
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Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup (heaping) ground flax
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 larger egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Combine flour, oats, ground flax, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
3. In a large bowl, beat softened butter with the sugars till well combined.
4. Add egg and beat for another minute. Stir in vanilla.
5. Slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until just combined.
6. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Dough might feel a bit wet, but that’s OK.
7. Scoop the dough by teaspoon size onto a cookie sheet, spacing each scoop by at least 2 inches.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes till edges are light brown and the cookie has spread well.
9. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes on the tray and finish cooling on a cooling rack.
10. Store in airtight container.