Until I became a pastry chef, the only paste I was familiar with was that horrible white goo I used in elementary school. 25+ years later the smell of it brings back memories of dull scissors and construction paper. Paste to me has a whole new meaning in regards to using nuts. Knowing how to make a nut paste and learning how to incorporate nuts into a recipe is a vary valuable bakery tool. If you go into a grocery store you can usually find almond paste somewhere around the pie fillings. If you have never been exposed to a nut paste, please look for it on your next shopping trip. In the La Crosse area, you can find almond paste at Woodmans, Festival Foods, and The People's Co Op. My homework for you is to start with the store bought product so you understand how good it is and what type of consistency it has. My second homework assignment is to learn how to make it on your own. Here is my elevator sales pitch on why you should learn this: It takes about 30 minutes. It is as easy as roasting nuts and boiling sugar. You can make it with ANY type of nut. It should be made in bulk and you can freeze another round for the next time you want to impress.
The next question I am sure you have is: What am I going to do with a nut paste? You can add it to cake batter, candy, frosting, chocolate truffles, cookies, eat it with bananas, apples, toast, and you could even make your own Nutella. Last week I had a request for a cashew and pecan cake. I knew instantly that I could accommodate this request because I know how to make a nut paste.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 cups whole nuts
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
In a 350^F oven, roast the nuts until they are fragrant. Check often because nuts are expensive and they can burn easily! You are looking for them to brown just slightly and for the oils to release from the shell. Your kitchen will smell amazing!. Remove from the oven, cool, and place the nuts in a food processor. In a pan, boil the sugar, maple syrup (or honey) and water together it reaches 230^F. Turn on the food processor and give the nuts a running start, slowly add the boiling sugar and be careful not to splash yourself. Continue to run until the mixture has cooled slightly. When it is warm enough to touch, add the soft butter and mix until combined. Remove from the processor and wrap tightly. Keep at room temperature for up to one week or freeze for up to three months.
If you are curious how to make an amazing cashew cake, simply use my favorite David's Almond Cake recipe. Substitute almond paste with a homemade cashew paste.
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:
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.
4/9/15: I am reposting this old blog post in anticipation for spring rhubarb. I plan on baking this almond tart with chopped rhubarb dipped in sugar. YUM. I will post pictures of it soon. This was one of my best recipes from 2014.
It is not only my job, but my passion in life to make and share the best recipes. THIS IS THE BEST DESSERT I HAVE MADE in a long time. It is the complete package: it is beautiful, it has multiple consistencies (think crunchy crust, chewy almond inside, and soft cooked plums), and it also has multiple flavors such as juicy tart plums, almonds, and it even has a salty sweet thing going on. I wish I could call this a Jen Barney original, but this recipe comes directly from Alice Medrichs's Pure Dessert Cookbook.
*A little note on using plums for this recipe: This is a very easy recipe that does not require a lot of ingredients. In my opinion, the more simple a recipe is the more important the quality of ingredients becomes. The plums you use need to be at their peak flavor. They should be very ripe, juicy, slightly tart, and full of flavor. In Wisconsin, this means it is a late summer/fall dessert. The plums we get in the winter and spring are not going to cut the mustard!
- 5 plums, medium size.
- 1/2 cup unblanched almonds, whole almonds, or almond flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/8 cup (3.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons firm but not hard unsalted butter
Generously butter a 9" tart pan. Preheat the oven to 375^ F. If you do not have a tart pan just use a pie pan. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they look like little sand granules. If you are using almond flour you and skip this step. Add all of the dry ingredients to the almonds. Pulse until they are all mixed together. Add the butter and eggs last and pulse until just combined. Press the batter into the tart pan until there is an even layer. Cut the plums in half and remove the pit. Leaving a 1/2 inch margin around the outer edge, arrange the plums with the flesh facing up. If you push the plums up to the outer edge the juice will seep into the edge of the pan a cook into a caramel that will taste delicious, but it will be very difficult to unmold and cut the tart when it cools.
Eat warm or at room temperature. Maybe make two and share with EVERYONE you know!
Until next time,
Check out our video for further instructions on how to make this wonderful dessert.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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!
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
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
6 fun size Butterfinger bars, chopped
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!