Archive for March, 2014

Vanilla Bean Poundcake (with a Vanilla Bean Glaze)

March 27, 2014

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I feel like this blog is aging slightly.  It already has 170 posts under its belt, and is 3.5 years old!  It’s really getting up there in blog years (which are measured very similarly to dog years), and I’m sad to say, it’s starting to show.

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Not in the most obvious way – it’s still looking as young and fresh as ever (right?!).  But when I think about what to post, I’m at a bit of a loss these days.  Cookies?  Been there.  Ice cream?  My winter coat has not even retired for the season.  And we all know that tarts are sprawled all over this blog.

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And then it hit me.  This whole time while choosing and making recipes for this blog, I have never once devoted a single post that highlighted dessert’s most basic, most reliable flavor.  It makes sense, really, growing up in a household that always considered vanilla to be optional.  But I have learned from my past and have come to realize that vanilla is the backbone of, well, everything.  And it deserves its own post!

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It also didn’t hurt that my sister sent me this kind-of life changing vanilla powder from Hawaii.  Let’s just call that inspiration.  And just like that, my blog got a second wind!  A vanilla face-lift of sorts.

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Vanilla Bean Poundcake (with a Vanilla Bean Glaze) (adapted from here)

For cake:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup (200 grams) sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste, or 1 vanilla bean, with the seeds scraped out

1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla bean powder (can omit if don’t have)

For glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 tsp. vanilla bean powder (or vanilla extract)

pinch of salt

2-3 tbsp. milk

For cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Liberally butter and flour a regular bundt pan.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and light, about 3 minutes.  Mix in eggs, one at a time, beating well after the addition of each.  In another bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients of the cake.  Alternate mixing in the dry ingredients with the milk, mixing well after each addition, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Stir in vanilla bean powder.  Pour batter into pan.  Rap pan against the counter a couple of times to settle.  Bake for about 30 minutes until tester comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 15-20 minutes then invert onto wire rack to cool completely.

For glaze: mix together sugar, vanilla and salt.  Add milk, one tablespoon at a time until a thick, but pourable glaze is formed.  Add more milk, if necessary.  Pour over cooled cake.

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Cinnamon Palmiers

March 13, 2014

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Elephants are my favorite.  They really are.  This love began in the 2nd grade when we each had to pick an animal and do an entire report on them.  And then present our reports!  In front of our parents!  With posters!  It was intense for the 2nd grade.

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But it was then that I fell in love with elephants.  I learned many things about them – elephants have a great memory!  Elephants are vegetarian like me!  And the way you tell apart Asian and African elephants is by the shape of their ears!  (Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m sure that there are many things that are distinct about them, but this is what my 2nd grade self found.  And what my adult-self remembered).

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Yes, that’s right.  African elephants have ears that are shaped like the continent of Africa!  So smart, those elephants.  What does all this have to do with a pastry, you may ask?  Well, cinnamon palmiers (pronounced “pahl-mee-ays”), are also called elephants ears!  (Which results in me pronouncing them “pahl-mee-ears”).

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Make these sugary, caramelized, buttery treats and look at the shape to see where they are from!  They’re from France, actually.  You should just eat them and read about elephants instead.

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Cinnamon Palmiers (recipe from Food Network)

1 cup sugar, divided
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 sheet puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar and salt and pour it over a clean, flat surface.  Unfold the sheet of puff pastry onto the sugar mixture.

Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon and spread it evenly on the puff pastry.  It should be a thick even coating of sugar.  With a rolling pin, lightly roll the dough until it’s a 13-inch square and the sugar is pressed into the puff pastry on top and bottom. Fold the sides of the square toward the center so they go halfway to the middle.  Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold one half over the other half as though closing a book. You will have 6 layers. Slice the dough into 3/8-inch slices and place the slices, cut side up, on baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 6 minutes, or until caramelized and brown on the bottom, then turn with a spatula (they will be hot!) and bake for another 3 to 4 minutes, until caramelized on the other side. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Chocolate Globs

March 3, 2014

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I’m not going to lie, friends.  The part of the recipe that I was attracted to most was the name.  Globs.  Any word like that – glob, blob, clump, cluster – any of those words preceded by the word chocolate – well, that’s just going to be delicious.  So delicious, in fact, that I was planning on making something much more time appropriate – a French version of a King Cake with puff pastry and almond meal, just in time for Mardi Gras.  It was going to be delicious.  But these cookies, these globs, they did me in.

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You still don’t believe me?!  Just look at these!  They are fudgy enough to be brownies in cookie form.  They are nutty enough to be a brittle within the brownie/cookie.  And they are chocolately enough to, well, make you believe in magic again.  Yes.  They’re that transformative.

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And the fun part is that globs don’t have to follow just one recipe!  The original recipe had peanut butter chips.  I think that coconut and macadamia nuts could be a nice tropical version!  Add toffee, more espresso powder, and walnuts, and oh man.  I gotta go make some more.

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Chocolate Globs (adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

This is going to be hard to do, but don’t eat these cookies hot.  In fact, wait a day before you dig into them.  For two reasons: 1. these cookies are fudgy like brownies – they just taste like melted chocolate when you eat them just out of the oven, but there are so many more things going on!  And I want you to enjoy all of those lovely things!  And 2. you may even be disappointed if you eat these hot.  You will be like, oh man, I put all of these nuts in these cookies, and I really should have toasted them, man!  They taste raw!  But alas, they don’t once you cool them.  And you will appreciate the walnut as a walnut and the pecan and a pecan and the world will be a happy place.

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (or dark chocolate chips)
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
1 tbsp. instant espresso powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
scant 3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup whole walnut halves (do not chop)
1 cup whole pecan halves (do not chop)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a few sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, dark chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate, in 30 second intervals, stirring after each time, until just melted. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

With an electric mixer, beat the eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla until combined.  Add the sugar, raise the speed to medium-high, and beat for 4 minutes, until the batter is thick and falls back on itself in a ribbon.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture until combined.  Combine the 1/3 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and fold it into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula until no streaks of flour are left. In another bowl, combine the walnuts, pecans, the semi-sweet chocolate chips, and the tablespoon of flour, ensuring that each piece of the add-ins are coated by the flour.  Fold it into the chocolate mixture. With 2 soup spoons, drop rounded mounds of batter 1 inch apart onto the prepared sheet pans. Bake for 15 minutes exactly. Cool on the baking sheets.