Lemon & Cardamom Madeleines

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Madeleines are so much fun to make at home, especially because they are best when eaten warm and crispy from the oven. The batter is easily flavoured with spices, zests, lavender, rose water or vanilla and it can be conveniently stored in the fridge for up to 2 days. To achieve that classic madeleine hump, make sure to refrigerate the batter for at least 12 hours before baking.

Lemon & Cardamom Madeleines

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Lemon Glazed Madeleines 

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (175g)
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar (130g)
Rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter (120g), melted and cooled to room temperature
Zest of one lemon
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean

Method:

Whisk to combine the flour and ground cardamom.

Add the lemon zest and vanilla seeds to the melted butter and whisk to combine.

Add the sugar, salt, and eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat for 5 minutes on medium speed until thickened (hand beaters will work as well).

Sift the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold with a spatula until no streaks of flour remain.

Add the melted butter to the bowl and quickly fold the ingredients together just until the butter is incorporated.

Scrape the batter into a glass bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the batter and chill the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 2 days.

To bake:

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Brush the madeleine molds with a small amount of melted butter, and once it has cooled dust with flour and tap out the excess.

Use a spoon to place a small scoop of the batter in the center of each mold. The molds should be approximately 3/4 full, but make sure to leave the batter mounded in the center to achieve the classic hump.

Bake the madeleines for 8-9 minutes, or just until they spring back to the touch.

Immediately knock the madeleines out of the tray and onto a wire rack to cool.

They are best when eaten the same day, and even better when hot and crispy from the oven. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

100% Kamut Shortbread Cookies

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100% Kamut (Khorasan) Shortbread Cookies

What better way to experience the marvelously rich, buttery aroma of organic Kamut flour than in a classic shortbread cookie. Kamut flour is an ancient ancestor of our modern wheat, containing 20-40% more protein and a heck of a lot more flavour. After experimenting with both spelt and Kamut flour, I found that it is necessary to adjust the classic ratio of butter and flour when using high absorption flours to make shortbread. An additional quarter cup of flour per cup is sufficient to provide structure without yielding a dry cookie. The final result is a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread with an entirely new flavour and texture to savour.

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 cups sifted Kamut flour (10.5oz)
1 cup unsalted butter, preferably cultured (8oz)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar (100g)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method: 

Remove the butter from the fridge and cut it into 1 inch cubes. Let the cubes warm at room temperature until they are pliable but still cool to the touch.

Butter a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Use a whisk to ‘fluff’ or slightly aerate the flour.

Place the butter in the bottom of a medium mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer, beat the butter for approximately 1 minute on medium speed until it is smooth and slightly fluffy. Scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl to ensure that all the sugar is incorporated.

Dump the flour into the bowl with the butter. Using a large wooden spoon or a stiff spatula, gently stir the ingredients until no streaks of flour or butter remain. The dough will be crumbly, and will gather in clumps rather than form a ball of dough.

Carefully turn out the clumps into the center of the prepared tart pan. Spread the dough so that it is evenly dispersed and press it down with your fingertips, gently but firmly. Use a piece of plastic wrap to prevent the dough from sticking to your finger tips.

Place the pan on a small baking tray, and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the fridge and use a small knife to cut the dough into 12 wedges. Return the tray to the fridge for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Remove the tray from the fridge. Sprinkle a thin layer of granulated sugar over top the chilled dough.

Bake the pan on the tray in the preheated oven for 60-65 minutes, or until the top of the dough is golden brown with darker brown edges.

After the tray is removed from the oven, wait at least 15 minutes for the pan to cool slightly then carefully cut along the lines that separate the cookies with a sharp knife. Lift the pan off the tray and let the cookies cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

The cookies will be delicate, so handle and store with care. They will keep for one week in an airtight container.

Brown Butter Spiced Madeleines

Earlier this week I ventured into the heart of hipster Toronto, to visit my old haunting grounds in Kensington Market. This is one of my favourite places in the world for several reasons, but what really keeps me coming back is the sheer density of food, art, and fashion jammed into one energetic space. Nothing gets me excited like the thought of more culturally diverse markets, spice stores, and delicatessens than I know what to do with. It did not take me long to spot a bakery that had sprung up in my absence, and I was dancing when I realized I was in for a treat. Go to Blackbird Baking Co. and get yourself some bread, because the wholegrain Pullman I took home set a whole new standard. And if vegan restaurants and vintage clothing is more your thing, there is plenty of that in the area as well.

With it being fall, the season in which we add spice to everything, my main mission was to restock my depleted spice cabinet. A fist-full of whole nutmegs, ground ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, all-spice, and Chinese 5-spice together create the base of a solid winter horde. Since balancing spice is an acquired skill, I thought what better to learn than to whip up batches of bite-sized madeleines, each flavoured with a slightly different combination of spices. After much munching, this version emerged as the winner.

Brown Butter Spiced Madeleines
adapted from Epicurious, Spiced Madeleines

Ingredients: 

3 3/4 oz unsalted butter, browned and cooled*
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (94g)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon (or 1/2 teaspoon regular cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
large pinch all-spice
pinch salt
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 large eggs, at room temperature

*Click here to learn how to make brown butter

Method: 

Brown the butter. Whisk in the vanilla extract and let cool to lukewarm.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, all-spice, and salt.

Whisk the eggs and sugars together until well combined.

Add the flour to the egg/sugar mixture and gently whisk, or fold with a rubber spatula, until no streaks of flour remain. Quickly fold in the cooled butter just until you have a uniform batter.

Cover the top of the batter with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Butter and flour a madeleine pan. Fill each cavity 2/3 full with the chilled batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350ºF and bake for another 6-8 minutes or until the centers spring back to the touch.

Turn the madeleines out onto a wire cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar just before serving, or drizzle with a simple glaze of water and icing sugar once they have cooled.

Homemade Gingersnap Cookie Crust

Ever since I started baking, I have been turning down cheesecake recipes across the board for one singular reason – those damn cookie crusts. Too stubborn to bring store-bought cookies into my kitchen, I stealthy avoided this dessert until I finally did what I knew needed to be done all along. It was time to make some cookies.

Graham crackers, here I come.

Gingersnap Cookies
adapted from David Lebovitz and Alice Waters

Yield: 24 cookies
Ingredients:

2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (280g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2/3 cup unsalted butter (150g)
2/3 cup granulated white sugar (133g)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup fancy molasses
1 large egg

Method:

Pull the butter from the fridge and cut it into small cubes. Let the butter sit at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place the egg in a mug with warm water to quickly bring it to room temperature.

In a large bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.

When the butter has softened slightly, scrape it into to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, or until the butter is soft, smooth, and a little fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the granulated sugar and beat just until the mixture becomes smooth, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Add the vanilla, molasses, and room temperature egg. Beat on medium speed until smooth, scraping the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are combined. It is normal for the mixture to curdle slightly when the mixer has stopped. Unhook the bowl and add the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon or a small, sturdy spatula just until the dough has formed and no streaks of flour remain.

Quickly and gently roll the dough into 1oz balls, flattening each ball with the palm of your hand immediately after rolling. Place the flattened balls on a baking tray and chill them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Bake the cookies on a parchment lined tray for about 12 minutes, or until the edges have begun to darken slightly and the bottoms are a shade darker.

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Ginger Cookie Tart Shell

Yield: one 9 inch tart shell

Ingredients:

12 ginger cookies
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Method for Fully Baked Tart Shell:

Butter a 9 inch tart shell with a removable bottom.

Crush the cookies by pressing two between the palms of your hands and grinding them together. Break up any large pieces with your fingers until all or most of the crumbs are a fine sandy texture.

Sprinkle the sugar over the crumbs and stir to combine. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted butter evenly over the crumbs, and then use a fork to quickly disperse the liquid and combine the ingredients. The crumbs should hold together when you squeeze them gently in your fist. If they are still a little dry, use the rest of the butter until you reach the desired consistency.

Dump the crumbs into the center of the tart shell. Using the back of your fingers, lightly disperse the crumbs evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use a straight-edged measuring cup or drinking glass to press the crumbs evenly against the tart pan. First press down the bottom of the shell, then hold your thumb against the rim of the pan and squeeze the crumbs against the side with the cup, while using your finger to press down from the top to form a solid edge.

Freeze the tart shell while you wait for the oven to preheat to 350° F, at least 20 minutes.

Bake for 12 -13 minutes, or just until the crust is dry.

Let the shell cool completely before filling. Alternately, the crust may be refrigerated and used as directed in another recipe.

Making Chocolate-Hazelnut Rugelach

Rugelach is one of those transcendent desserts, not unlike madelines, that one has a hard time calling “cookies” and leaving it at that. These bite-sized pastries consist of a rich cream cheese laden dough, much akin to pie pastry, rolled with a filling of your choosing. Dried fruit, preserves, nuts and chocolate are all common additions, making rugelach the ideal vehicle for our dark chocolate-hazelnut paste.

Below you will find my recipe for the chocolate-nut filling, as well some hints on preparing the dough and assembling the cookies. The delicious and surprisingly simple cream cheese pastry recipe comes from leitesculinaria.com, and was written by Tracey Zabar for her book One Sweet Cookie.

I modeled my chocolate-hazelnut paste after a Taste of Home Magazine recipe for DIY chocolate-hazelnut spread, and after some experimentation I settled on several alterations.

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, but I prefer to use granulated sugar over ready-made icing sugar whenever possible because the latter contains a fair amount of cornstarch. To ensure that the sugar dissolved, I cooked the milk/sugar mixture on very low heat while stirring with a heat proof spatula until I could rub some of the liquid between my fingers without feeling any granules. I also substituted half (3 oz) of the milk chocolate for dark chocolate, and swapped the cows milk for fruity coconut milk.

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Recipe: Dark Chocolate-Hazelnut Paste

Adapted from: Taste of Home Magazine, DIY Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients

Baker’s Note:

Most likely when you purchase hazelnuts, they will come with their thin, papery skin still attached. While some people do not bother to remove it, I find that I can sometimes detect the skin’s slight bitter taste and I prefer to rub as much off as possible before chopping or grinding the nuts. The quickest and most effective way of doing this is to preheat the oven to 350° F, and line a heatproof bowl with a clean dish cloth. Toast the hazelnuts on a tray for 5-8 minutes, or until the skin begins to crack and peel, then quickly toss them into the bowl and cover with the towel. Let the hazelnuts steam for 15 minutes, then briskly rub the towel together to remove the skin.

3/4 cup whole hazelnuts (filberts), lightly toasted and skin removed
3 oz dark chocolate
3 oz good quality milk chocolate
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon mild honey
1/4 cup well stirred coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon flavorless oil

Method

Finely chop both chocolates and place in a large microwave safe bowl.

Combine the coconut milk, sugar, honey, and salt in a small saucepan and heat on low until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture just up to a simmer, then remove the pot from the heat.

Immediately poor the milk mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Stir gently until smooth.
Note: If not all of the chocolate completely melts, microwave the bowl for 15 seconds and stir again until smooth.

Place the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts begin to form a paste. Add the oil and process until a paste forms.

Scrape the chocolate mixture into the bowl with the nuts, and process briefly, just until the paste clings together and forms a ball.

Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. Bring to room temperature before use.

Note: If your food processor is like mine, and not quite capable of producing a smooth nut paste, do not fret. Simply process the hazelnuts as much as possible and continue on with the recipe. The result will be a rich chocolate and nut paste rather then a smooth spread, and it will be excellent when paired with pastry, sandwiched between cookies, or layered in tarts or pies.

Dough & Assembly: Cream Cheese Rugelach

Source: Tracey Zabar, One Sweet Cookie
Link: http://leitesculinaria.com/78021/recipes-cream-cheese-rugelach.html

Baker’s Notes:

  1. I followed the recipe for the pastry as written, but found that after my processor had cut in the cream cheese, I had a damp but sandy bowl of tiny crumbs rather than a cohesive dough. To adjust, I dumped the mixture into a large mixing bowl and used my hands to form the crumbs into 4 equal balls, which was quite easy considering the cold dough quickly clung together.
  2. After rolling the dough and trimming the edges, I chilled the rectangles in the fridge until they were firm so that the filling would spread more easily across the pastry. I also discovered that the best way to evenly distribute the filling was to use my fingertips to quickly and gently smooth it over the dough. When had I finished rolling the logs, I placed them in the freezer for about an hour to chill them, then I cut the logs into 1 ½ inch pieces as directed, and froze the fully assembled cookies overnight.
  3. In the morning, I made an egg wash by whisking together 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of water, and brushed each cookie lightly but thoroughly with the wash before pressing them into some vanilla sugar.
  4. I baked the rugelach at 375° for 30-35 minutes on a large metal tray lined with a silicone mat. The silicone barrier helped to ensure that the bottom of the pastries did not burn before the center of the roll had cooked through.
  5. After removing them from the oven, I quickly transferred the cookies to a cooling rack so they did not sit in the moisture that had formed on the tray during baking (I suspect this was mostly oil from the chocolate filling).

The rugelach are best eaten on the first or second day, but they will keep for several days more refrigerated in an airtight container.

Coffee-Nut Shortbread Cookies

Satisfy your cookie cravings with a smooth, rich and nutty shortbread flavoured with coffee and roasted hazelnuts.

The problem with having your heart set on something is that it may take some time and a bit resourcefulness to get exactly what you want, but often what you end up with is the most delicious and effort-worthy version of your idea. This week I was firmly set on baking a nutty shortbread, but specifically one that was flavoured with a taste that I look forward to every day: coffee.

As it happened, I came across a recipe for hazelnut and brown sugar pan shortbread and suddenly remembered a stash of hazelnuts tucked away in my freezer waiting for such an occasion. There were only two obstacles between me and my cookies, how to procure finely ground nuts and instant espresso powder without food processing equipment or proximity to an Italian supermarket. Luckily both snags were easily solved with a plastic freezer bag, a wooden rolling pin, and an inexpensive spice grinder.

To achieve a rough nut meal, simply toss toasted and cooled nuts into a plastic freezer bag and take a heavy rolling pin to them. Avoid the instinct to give the nuts a good pounding, which will only tear the plastic, and apply heavy pressure as you roll the pin over a hard surface. The finished product will not be as fine or as even as machine processed nut flour, but for this recipe it will be just as yummy.

In the past I have used instant coffee (which on its own I abhor) to flavour desserts by dissolving the granules in a tablespoon or two of boiling water and then using the liquid as if it were a mild extract. However in the case of shortbread and many other cookie recipes I would hesitate to add the additional liquid, so another brilliant option is to combine fine espresso powder with the rest of the dry ingredients. To convert course instant coffee grains into a fine powder, I popped a half cup into a small electric spice/coffee grinder and gave it a few whizzes, just until the granules were reduced to a light and perfectly whisk-able dust. Do make sure to use your new ingredient in moderation, as finely grinding the coffee greatly increases the potency per tablespoon. For a large double batch of shortbread, I used only 1 tablespoon of the flavouring.

And the result was almost as satisfying as the first roast of the morning. The dark aroma of coffee heightens the richness of the shortbread and brings out the creaminess of the butter, while the presence of toasted hazelnuts and brown sugar rounds off the entire ‘latte’ experience. A drizzle of chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream wouldn’t hurt either.

Matcha Sugar Cookies

Two months before Christmas, and already all I am thinking is cookies, cookies, cookies. After last year’s “soft cookie” mishap (hint: do not gift wrap crispy cookies in the same container as moist ones, unless you want a sad limp box of biscuits), I’ve decided to stick to a sampling of everybody’s favourite: shortbreads. Excited to use my newly arrived organic matcha, I put together a test a batch using two tablespoons of the vibrant green tea powder. As soon as the dough came together, I realised from the colour, texture and smell that my key ingredient was incredibly potent. I learned that if you are working with a high quality tea, you can and should use a fraction of what the recipe calls for. The second lesson was that matcha powder needs sugar the same way cocoa powder does, so I switched to a basic sugar cookie recipe and found success. I added half a tablespoon of matcha to the recipe, scrapped in a beautifully plump organic vanilla bean, and pressed the cut shapes into granulated sugar to add extra sweetness and some sparkle. In the end I had a mildly flavoured and pleasantly sweet little cookie that would be lovely to share with a tea-drinking friend.

And so two months of cookies kicks off not with a shortbread, but with a simple cut-out. I did however have time to sneak in a test batch of dark chocolate shortbread, and they were so naughty I plan on seeing how they go over at my sister’s shop this week. I will try to get some good shots of the ladies mid munching, these bittersweet cookies are an absolutely blissful experience.

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