November 26, 2015



I'm a fan of anything that isn't too sweet and these yummy Mandelbrot fit the bill.  These Jewish cookies are the perfect snack and a great accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea.  If you haven't heard of mandelbrot before they are very similar to Italian biscotti, except they're less likely to break your teeth!  

I found the recipe for these cookies on the blog, Goddess of Bakedom, from Sarabeth Levine.  She of her namesake jams, preserves and East Coast restaurants.   The literal translation of mandelbrot is "almond bread", but Sarabeth's version doesn't contain any nuts at all.   Rather, she fills her cookies with jam, which I think is a fantastic interpretation.  The dough can also be used to make another favorite Jewish cookie of mine, hamantaschen.  

I think my sugar-fearing relatives will definitely like these cookies.  They're going to be added to the list of holiday cookies I'm making this year.

November 15, 2015

Wellesley Fudge Cake

I may not have had the GPA or SAT scores to get in to Wellesley, the private women's liberal arts college in Massachusetts, but I will be bold and say that I possess enough of a culinary IQ to conquer their eponymous chocolate cake.   

Have you ever heard of Wellesley Fudge Cake?  I sure didn't until my search for an atypical chocolate cake lead me to this recipe on Cook's Country.  Who would have thought that this bastion of higher learning was also the origin for some impressive fudge?  

Bloomed Dutch-processed cocoa gives the cake its deep chocolate flavor and buttermilk makes it super moist.  Similar to how traditional fudge is made, the frosting is cooked on the stove top.   Even better, when the frosting cools completely on the cake it forms a really lovely crust.  With all that fudge you would assume this cake was overly sweet.  Fear not, it's far from it.  

So while my undergraduate degree may not bear the name of a famed Seven Sister at least my dessert will!

November 9, 2015

Butter Cookies and a Lesson in Tempering Chocolate

When I was a kid and it was Tết or the holidays I could normally count on a relative or family friend to bring a tin of Delacre Belgian Cookies to the house.  They were such a treat and my favorite cookie from the assortment was the long butter cookie dipped in chocolate.  I'm elated to report that I think I've been able to make a Butter Cookie that is a very legitimate replica at home.

I refrained from making these types of cookies for a long time because I knew it required tempered chocolate.  Believe me when I say chocolate work is my Archilles heel in the realm of baking.  Tempering just seemed to involve too much science, not to mention all the mess that goes along with chocolate.  

But it was while watching an episode of The Great British Bake Off that I finally gathered up the courage to give it a go.  The contestants were working on a chocolate challenge and I noticed that several bakers were using infrared thermometers to temper. Yep, the kind of infrared thermometer found in a  hardware or home improvement store.  How cool!

From a google search I found several techniques to temper chocolate on Valrhona's website, found here.  I ended up using the "seeding" method and got fantastic results.  It is true what they say - the tempered chocolate hardened in mere minutes at room temperature and was shiny and not tacky to the touch.  Why did I avoid it for so long when it was so easy?  Even better, there was no mess to clean up, just one glass bowl.     

The butter cookie recipe is from Gretchen's Bakery and is a basic spritz cookie, a holiday favorite of mine.  To shape the cookies you need either a cookie press or sturdy piping bag and decorating tip.  Just a forewarning though that if you use the piping bag, like I did,  make sure your hands and arms are strong because the dough is stiff.   Good exercise I say!

With my newfound confidence in tempering it's like a whole new world is opening up to me.   I'll say one thing though, these cookies will definitely be making it on this year's Christmas cookie list.

November 2, 2015

Butter Toffee Popcorn

My brother seems to think he's the king of caramel popcorn and while that may be true, in his mind at least, I will arrogantly declare that I am the queen of Butter Toffee Popcorn.  I had previously posted a recipe on this blog for caramel popcorn that, in retrospect, just wasn't up to par.   Then I found this recipe for butter toffee popcorn on Cook's Country and that all changed.  Thus began my self-proclaimed reign as popcorn sovereign.  Long live the queen!

This recipe is fantastic.  The only tweak I made was to substitute cashews for the peanuts.  I wanted to add a little extra decadence but I think using any kind of nut will work just as well.   

A note on the popcorn: I find I get the best results using fresh popped corn, not microwave popcorn.  My favorite way to make homemade popcorn is with the Whirley-Pop.  Just two ingredients, kernels and vegetable oil, and in less than 5 minutes you've got fluffy, crispy popcorn. 

I'm thinking of making this popcorn to give as gifts during the holidays - what a more appropriate accompaniment to my popular cashew toffee.  

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