David's Almond cake

David Lebovitz that is.  THE David Lebovitz.  My good friend and fellow pastry chef Jill Peterson and I LOVE him.  Word of caution: I am really into CAPS when I talk about DAVID!   Through the years I have found a handful people who I trust in regards to recipe content.  David has always come through.  Not only are his dessert recipes stellar, his writing is very funny and I find myself reading through his cookbooks much like a short story novel.  

One of my favorite recipes I use on a weekly basis is his Almond Cake. Usually I would write out the recipe, but this time I am going to link David's post:

 http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/06/almond-cake-recipe/

Please check David out and see for yourself why I admire him so much.  

When you make this recipe yourself here are a few tips from my experience:

  • David calls for 8 ounces of almond paste.  If you are not a professional chef you will find that most grocery stores sell almond paste by the 7 ounce tube.  Only buy one tube and only add 7 ounces, it will still turn out great. 
  • You can find almond paste by the pie filling/Jello section of most grocery stores
  • If you have almonds, sugar, honey,and a food processor at home you can make your own almond paste: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/almond-paste-recipe.html
  • If you do not have a food processor do not make this cake.  I have only attempted to make this once using a mixer and a paddle attachment.  The final texture was weird and it was really frustrating for me to make.  
  • I like to add a little more almond extract than Dave suggests.
  • You can make your own nut paste using any nuts. See the link above to make your own paste.
  • This cake holds very well at room temperature.  As long as it is wrapped well, it actually tastes better on day two and three.  Weird right?
  • This a chameleon recipe and is great for all cake applications: Bundt cakes, cupcakes, layered cakes.  Check out some of the pictures I have taken to your left!  It also pairs with well with everything: chocolate, nuts, and fruits.  

 

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Rosemary and Walnut Paleo Crackers

If you are a baker and you do not have a variety of paleo or gluten free tricks up your sleeve shame on you.  10 years ago coming up with recipes for dietary needs was rare.  The first bakery I worked at was called Queen of Cakes in Edina Minnesota.  At that time, dairy free was the only bakery term that came up.   Oh have times changed!   Consumers have a right to know and choose what they consume.   Transparency is key.  On any given day at the restaurant we will have numerous requests for gluten free, nut free, dairy free, low sugar, grain free, etc.  At the Mint in La Crosse, WI I have had to come up with a variety of snack crackers to accompany gourmet cheese platters.  Over the past 6 months I have tried out at least a dozen gluten free cracker recipes.  It is tricky because a cracker needs to hold up and still have a little crunch to it.  When I was using a variety of different gluten free flours the crackers where too fragile.  I was having the best luck with crackers that had a high percentage of nuts in them.  I stumbled my way into the the blog called Elana's Pantry, which is a great resource for anyone looking for special dietary recipes.  It is here that I found the seed recipe that I would build my own paleo rosemary and walnut crackers.  

I have spent so much time talking about dietary needs that I have failed to mentioned the most important part: These are ridiculously easy to make, the batter freezes well (that means you should make multiple batches at once) and it is delicious.  If you make these for your family or the next party you will get complemented on how flavorful they are.  I have gotten multiple complements from customers from this recipe.  

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Paleo rosemary and walnut crackers

  • 3 cups almond flour (you could make your own by processing whole almonds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 tablespoons dry rosemary
  • *In all honesty you could switch out any herb here.  You could also sub in some honey for the olive oil as well.   YUM!
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Directions:  Throw everything into a food processor and press start.  The dough should come together into a ball.  Remove from the processor and place between two sheets of parchment paper.  Roll to a uniform thickness.   You decide how thick or thin to make them.  Uniform thickness is key, otherwise some crackers will bake quicker and you will have uneven baking coloration.   

Cut your rolled dough into equal portions and space out on a lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350^ F until the edges start to brown.  

Keep in a sealed container at room temperature for up to two weeks.  

As always, thank you for reading through my baking journey.  Have you had any luck working with gluten free flour varieties?  We can learn from each other!

 

Baking Tip Friday. Bake with Caution: THE OFFERING RULE

THE OFFERING RULE: In order to understand how long a new cookie, cupcake, or muffin recipe takes to bake, test one first...and then eat it.  Consider it a sacrifice to the Gods!

This may come as a big surprise, but you do not need to bake all 24 cookies at once.  In fact, if this is a new recipe you should always take the extra 14 minutes and test one cookie on it's own.  Every oven is different and you can't depend on the time given in the instructions.  I have found this to be really important if you are baking a cookie with a chocolate base, because it is really hard to see a cocoa cookie turn golden brown.  Why would you put a whole batch of cookies at risk if you are not sure what you are doing?  

The Offering Cookie is a smart and practical way to make sure dessert comes out perfect.

Am I the only one who has had a very difficult time knowing when a cookie is finished baking?  what other practical cookies tips do you have?

This week's "Offering Cupcake" is a Pearl Street Brewery Lava Stout and Chocolate Cupcake.  How high do you fill a cupcake liner?  Not all batter raises to the same height.  Test one before you commit!

This week's "Offering Cupcake" is a Pearl Street Brewery Lava Stout and Chocolate Cupcake.  How high do you fill a cupcake liner?  Not all batter raises to the same height.  Test one before you commit!

Baking Tip Friday: Cookbook or Diary?

One of my favorite habits I have developed over the years is to write quick dairy-style  notes in the margins of my cookbooks.  For example: If I am following a recipe for a carrot cake I will write the date and who I am making the cake for.  I will include key life events that are happening at that moment in time, what the weather is like, or how I am feeling.   It is really cool to have random memories flood over you when you page through a favorite cookbook.  

Coconut Macaroons

Here is the deal: if you have never tried a coconut macaroon TODAY IS THE DAY!  As I prepare my menu to sell at this year's farmer's market this addition was an obvious choice.  The insider secret to coconut macaroons is that they have sour cream, real vanilla beans, and eggs whites.  Get rid of all of the macaroon recipes that call for sweetened condensed milk.  The sour cream adds complexity.  For those of you who are really fancy, substitute in creme fraiche.  Coconut macaroons hold really well too...they are still moist and chewy days after they were baked.  This recipe was inspired by amazing Pastry Chef, Michelle Gayer, who owns the Salty Tart Bakery in Minneapolis.  

Yield: 24 (1 ounce each) cookies

  • 3 1/3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 5 ounces water (1/2 cup + 1/8 cup)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup or Lyle's golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 egg whites
  • 1/2 ounce sour cream
  • optional: citrus zest for some zip. Orange coconut macaroons around the holidays make me very happy.  If you are looking for a coconut macaroon flavor party, feel free to add essential oil flavors such as lime or rosemary (less is more with rosemary).

Directions:  In a small sauce pan, boil together the water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  Remove from the heat once the sugar is dissolved.*  Place the dry coconut in a blender bowl with paddle attachment.  On a medium speed, slowly poor the hot liquids into the coconut.  Continue to beat until the mixture is no longer crazy hot.  Meanwhile, combine the egg white, sour cream, and optional zest or essential oil.   Slowly add the dairy into the bowl and stop just as all of the ingredients are equally combine.  Prepare a sheet pan with parchment or a silicon mat.  Scoop or portion into equal amounts.  At this point you can bake them.  Bake at 350^F until they are nice golden color, about 15 or minutes.  If you want to make perfect balls refrigerate the uncooked portioned dough  until firm and roll the dough in your hands.  

If you are up to the challenge, dip or drizzle in dark chocolate.  

*The first time I made this recipe I thought I was smarter than the directions and I boiled the sugars together for several minutes until it became syrupy.  This was mistake.  I let too much of the water evaporate and the macaroons came out really tough.  REMOVE THE LIQUIDS FROM THE HEAT THE SECOND IT STARTS TO BOIL!

Check out this video to see how they are made.

Butterfinger Nutter Butter Cheesecake Bars

Say that 10 times fast!  This morning's baking challenge came to me via my friend Theresa.  Well, it was more like "I bought the ingredients.  Look, I have a printed recipe for you".  She had seen a pinterest post from Lauren Latest and wanted them to sell at her coffer shop, Bean Juice. There were no complaints from me.  My final thoughts on this dessert is that it was fun to make and try, but I would not make them again.  These 3 desserts are rich on their own and when combined together I thought maybe it was too much of a good thing.  3's a crowd.  What would I do next time?  I think the Butterfinger is the weakest link.  Adios Butterfinger.   Instead I would make a Nutterbutter crust cheesecake bar and drizzle it with chocolate...which is exactly what I challenge you to make.  This type of bar would be crazy good at a family gathering.  I am just curious....what is your favorite candy bar?  I am snickers girl.  I get it from my mom!  

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Ingredients:

For the crust:

16 whole Nutterbutter bars (1 regular package)

1/3 cup melted butter

For the cheesecake:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 whole egg

Chocolate Frosting:

3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons butter

OPTIONAL:

6 fun size Butterfinger bars, chopped 

Directions: 

Heat oven to 325^F.  Crush or food process the Nutterbutter cookies until it looks like lumpy sand.  Melt butter and add to the crumbles.  In a 9X9 pan (you could use a 9X13 pan for a thinner bar) firmly until the crumbs are tightly bound.  Bake for 7 minutes to set the crust.    

Meanwhile, let's move unto the cheesecake.  I am a big believer in making cheesecake in a food processor.  If you have a processor, simple add all of the cheesecake ingredients and punch down the blend button.  I have had the best luck making cheesecakes with food processors.  The way it mixes does not allow the air to incorporate.  Generally speaking, air and cheesecake do not mix.  If you are using a hand blender it is very important to have the cream cheese and the egg at room temperature.  Start hand blending the sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla.  Add the egg last. Beat as little as possible.   Spread cheesecake batter over the cooked crust.  Optional, crush those Butterfinger bars and sprinkle over the top of the cheesecake.  Bake for at least 20 minutes, or until the middle of the bars are set.  Cheesecake can be tricky thing to bake.  If you know the cheesecake is close but you do not trust your judgment turn off the oven and gently finish baking the bars with the remaining heat from the oven.  

Finish by slowly and gently melting the chocolate and the butter.  Whisk until smooth and spread over the cheesecake.

Give these beautiful Nutterbutter Butterfinger cheesecake bars time.  They need to rest and chill out!  Your bars will cut cleaner if they are totally chilled.  

What's next?  Payday Snickers Twix Fix Mix? Whatchamacallit-you-haul-it?  I think I am onto something.   As always, thanks for reading!   

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