January 13, 2018

Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread

Over the holidays it seemed like one cookie recipe was taking the Internet by storm.  The biscuits in question were these Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbreads from Alison Roman.  Instagram seemed to be inundated with posts heralding these cookies, so of course I had to jump on the bandwagon and give them a try! 

By using salted butter instead of unsalted this recipe openly defies one of the so-called cardinal rules of baking.   Would they be too salty...especially when you sprinkle additional salt on top?  The answer is NO! I can say with resounding conviction that these cookies deserve all the praise that's been heaped on them.  Buttery, crispy and just the right amount of chocolate and salt.  They are seriously delicious!

Even better, they are the ideal make ahead cookie.  I made a double batch of the recipe and divided the dough in to four equal logs that I subsequently froze.  Fresh baked cookies on demand anyone?

January 7, 2018

Biscoff Brownies

You probably already know that I'm a huge fan of The Great British Bake-Off as I've mentioned it enough times on this blog.  One of my favorite contestants from Season 3 was Holly Bell because her bakes consistently looked so delicious and more importantly, down to earth and real.  I follow Holly on Instagram and whenever she posts pics of her baked goods I'm so envious! 

Holly is about to launch a brownie business so I figured she knows her stuff when it comes to these bar cookies.  One version she makes quite often that really got my attention were made with Lotus biscuits or Biscoff cookies as they're more commonly known here in America.  Who doesn't love those spiced speculoos cookies and to marry them with fudgy brownies was true genius!

I have to say these Biscoff Brownies are a real winner.  Just the right amount of fudgy-ness, a delicious cookie butter center and the crunch of the cookie crumbles on top.   I think they'd taste even more amazing straight out of the fridge or freezer.  They're quite rich so for some much needed portion control I cut the sixteen brownie squares in half to make 32 triangles.  But for those of you who want to indulge you can skip that last step!

January 1, 2018

Savoy Cake

Are you a fan of Netflix's The Crown as much as I am?  To say that I'm an enthusiast is a huge understatement.  More like a complete groupie, bar none.  I loved Season 1 and was so excited when Season 2 was released just last month.  Can you say binge-watching...and repeat?  

The further exploration of Queen Elizabeth II's relationship with Prince Philip and Princess Margaret's life were absolutely riveting and I thought the latest ten episodes were outstanding.   Maybe it's because we have no royalty to speak of in America that I'm so fascinated?  And please, Z-list "celebrities" like the Kardashians don't count as royalty!

I'm a self-confessed Anglophile and anything with a hit of British or English royalty will undoubtedly capture my fancy.   When Victorian Savoy cakes were featured as the showstopper challenge on the Season 8 quarterfinals of The Great British Bake Off (another favorite Brit show) I knew I had to make it.  What really intrigued me were the cakes' gorgeously intricate details and sugar crust. 

Those who are unfamiliar with Savoy cakes have probably already eaten them.  How? Well, if you've tasted a ladyfinger, then you've had a Savoy.  That's all they really are - a fatless sponge cake.  Because there is no leavener like baking powder or baking soda used in the cake's recipe it's vital that you get lots of volume in to the batter from the whipped egg whites and yolks.  I can't tell you how invaluable a stand mixer is for this job.  I cringe at the thought of having to make a Savoy by hand back in Queen Victoria's day.

For the Savoy's design I turned to my ever growing collection of Nordic Ware Bundt pans.  The pan I chose could not have been more perfect and fittingly named,  The Crown Bundt Pan.  A critical step to success is taking the additional time required to prepare the pan for baking.  A quick spray of Pam will not be sufficient here, people! You have to grease every single nook and cranny of the mold with butter and then generously coat the entire pan in sugar to ensure your baked cake un-molds with that beautiful crust.  Trust me, it's so worth the extra effort!

So as I anxiously await Season 3 of this beloved series (crossing my fingers it will be in Dec'18) I will have to make do with my own makeshift "Crown."  God Save the Queen!

December 20, 2017

Italian Tri-Color Cookies

I'll be honest with you, I definitely had a lot of hesitation when making these Italian Tri-Color Cookies, also called Rainbow Cookies or 7-Layer Cookies.  Why, you may ask?  Because the first time I attempted them it was a horrible failure.  My Achilles heel was the chocolate coating on the top and bottom.  When I tried cutting the cookies in to bite sized pieces the chocolate completely fell apart and separated from the almond layers.  The perfectionist in me was devastated, to say the least.

But recently I was asked by my friend Maria if I knew how to make them.  Maria grew up on the East Coast (New York City to be exact) and apparently these cookies are ubiquitous staples in every Italian bakery there.  Unfortunately they're not so easily found out here on the West Coast.  Every now and then Maria has a craving for these cookies so I thought I would give it another go and try to give her a taste of home.

Never one to be defeated I set about looking for a "foolproof" recipe - or at least something close to it.  I stumbled upon Smitten Kitchen's recipe and had a very strong feeling they would turn out great.  I'd had previous success with her tres leches cake, one of my absolute favorites.  Just reading through Deb's helpful tips gave me the reassurance I needed.  Be forewarned though: these cookies aren't hard to make but they require some time, most of it inactive though.  

If you like almond flavor these tri-colors are for you!  The festive colors and almond flavor make them the perfect holiday cookie to add to your repertoire.  The true test though would be Maria's review.  I gave her a sample and she said they tasted pretty authentic to her.  Her hubby Lou said the chocolate needed to be thicker..hahaha...I'll remember that for next time! 

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