Lime Berry Tart

The small pleasures of life are found in the little things, in the landscape by the window, in the sky in spectacular colors, in the great sea that sends waves towards us, in a quiet strip of endless beach.

In people who make us smile, in people who understand us even without words, in dishes that go into the oven and create the most incredible smell throughout the house, in rolls of stuffed pasta that are slowly baked in the oven.

The little pleasures in life lie in the little things we almost always take for granted, just assuming they will always be there. Over the last number of years, it has come very clear to me there are so many ‘little’ things to appreciate and be grateful for daily. My sister, Loretta once said to me, ‘nothing ever stays the same’. At the time I was much younger and didn’t give much though to those words. As the years have passed, I understand what she meant.

Today, July 25th is Loretta’s birthday. I am very grateful to have her in my life. Although we don’t live in close proximity, our connection is always there.

I find this quote from Steven Aitchison so fitting, ‘If I could give you one special ability in life it would be the gift of seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you …. then you would realize just how amazing you truly are’.

Today, I am making a blueberry themed dessert in honor of Loretta’s birthday because she is a huge blueberry fan.

BIRTHDAY WISHES LORETTA WITH LOVE!

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Lime Berry Tart
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword lime berry tart
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Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword lime berry tart
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Shortbread Crust
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F.
  2. In your food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt & butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. This should only take about 30 seconds. Press the crumbly mixture into a 4 X 14-inch tart pan (making the sides slightly higher than the center. Do this by pressing the mixture up towards the edge of the pan).
  3. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden brown. Make sure to watch it carefully to make sure the crust doesn’t burn. Once the crust has finished baking, remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool completely.
Filling
  1. In a medium heatproof bowl, place eggs, sugar, lime zest, lime juice, and heavy cream, if using, & whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (bain-marie). Cook on moderate heat, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes thick (mine was ready in 10 minutes, but it can take up to 20). It should coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave a clear pass if you run your finger through it. The filling will thicken more once cooled.
  2. Remove from heat & immediately strain mixture through a sieve. Add butter, a few cubes at a time, and whisk until completely melted and incorporated, and mixture is smooth. Take your time with it—the whisking makes for an airy and light texture. Allow to cool to room temperature before filling the tart.
  3. Fill the tart shell with the lime filling, smooth it as best you can & decorate to your liking. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours until chilled.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies

We are now officially into fall, so its time to think in terms of a bit of pumpkin. I had not considered pumpkin as part of a sandwich cookie before, but oatmeal with pumpkin and cream cheese makes good sense to me. There’s more to oatmeal cookies than the recipe on the Quaker Oats box. In fact there’s a lot of amazing combinations out there but first a bit of food history.

Oatmeal cookies evolved from oatcakes, a type of plain flatbread made centuries ago by the British and the Scots. Raisins and nuts were added to the mix somewhere around the Middle Ages to make them tastier. When oatmeal cookies became elevated to the ranks of ‘health food’, a recipe for them appeared on containers of Quaker Oats. These recipes were circulated widely and oatmeal cookies were soon common in households throughout North America.

An important part of these cookies lies in the spices. Rather than using a pre-made ‘pumpkin pie spice’, I like to give them a personal touch by using my own combination. This way, you can control the flavor better. Feel free to adjust the spice mix to suit your taste or just simply go with cinnamon.

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Oatmeal Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies
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SANDWICH COOKIES
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Cookies
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SANDWICH COOKIES
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Cookies
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Instructions
Spice Mix
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together spice mix combination from recipe notes & set aside.
Cookies
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & 1 1/2 tsp spice mixture; add oatmeal & pumpkin seeds; mix together.
  2. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream butter until light & fluffy. Add sugars & beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add pumpkin puree, egg yolk & vanilla; mix to combine. Add flour mixture, mixing ONLY until combined. Place dough in refrigerator & chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough into 2 tsp sized balls & place on cookie sheet. Press with a dampened for to flatten a bit. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until done but not browned. Allow to cool for 1 minute before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese & butter until smooth. Add in pumpkin & mix until fully incorporated. Add remaining spice mixture & powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, allowing each prior amount to fully mix into the filling before adding more.
  2. Spread or pipe filling on half of the cooled cookies & top with remaining cookies. This recipe makes 5 dozen filled cookies so you may want to freeze some.
Recipe Notes
  •  Spice Mixture Recipe (2 1/8 tsp):
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp EACH nutmeg & cloves
  • 1/8 tsp EACH ginger, cardamom & white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground star anise

 

Strawberry Lime Cheesecake Cups

The flavor of lime has not always been one that I have enjoyed. It always seemed to have an overall harsh characteristic about it. After we spent a few holidays in the Yucatan, Brion started using lime juice in his chicken soup and really enjoyed it. From there I swapped out the lemon juice for lime in our guacamole. Now here I am putting it in cheesecake. Who knew it could be that good!

A squeeze of lime juice is vital to many classic dishes. It’s the kick in a margarita, the spark that ignites many curries and the tart foil to sweetness in a host of desserts. Conveniently, for such an indispensable ingredient, limes are available year round.

Lime pairs well with apple, berries, cherry, ginger, papaya, plum and strawberry to name a few. Today, I’m using it in a cheesecake filling. It seems like a nice little dessert to start off the month of June.

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Strawberry Lime Cheesecake Cups
Votes: 1
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Keyword cheesecake
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Keyword cheesecake
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cheesecake Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar & lime juice & beat well. When cookie cups have completely cooled, pipe the filling in them & top with a fresh strawberry. Refrigerate until served.

Mexican Sweet Buns or ‘Conchas’

The quintessential Mexican ‘Conchas’ are a type of sweet roll topped with a cookie crust, shaped for it’s namesake, a seashell. Though its precise origin is not known, all conchas are made from an enriched, yeasted dough similar to brioche or challah. What isn’t really clear, is the point at which a baker decided to cover a small round of sweet dough with a thin layer of cookie dough and then bake it.

Traditionally, the bread roll itself is not flavored, but the cookie dough topping has either a vanilla or chocolate flavor. This topping is an essential element on the sweet roll but the color or the way it is scored or decorated can be done in many different ways. Sometimes, brown or white sugar or even colorful sprinkles are dusted over the topping.

Conchas are sometimes split in half horizontally and filled with anything from whipped cream, custard or even refried beans. Some bakeries have been experimenting with new concha flavors. Cinnamon, walnut, agave nectar with golden raisins and pecan flavor are some that have been introduced.

It seems that conchas are at their best when eaten fresh which makes good sense being made from a yeast dough. It’s going to be interesting to see if I can create some of these little conchas with such a mysterious past.

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Mexican Sweet Buns or 'Conchas'
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Sweet Buns
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Sweet Buns
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Instructions
Sweet Dough
  1. In a dish, add yeast to lukewarm WATER & allow to sit for 5 minutes so yeast can activate. In a large bowl, whisk together lukewarm MILK, sugar, butter, salt & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine. Add flour, about a 1/3 at a time, combining after each addition. Once all the flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes. The dough should be elastic & slightly sticky but easy to handle.
  2. Place dough in a large greased bowl & turn the dough over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Topping
  1. In a bowl, beat the sugar, margarine & vanilla together until light & fluffy. Stir in flour & mix until a thick dough forms. Add additional flour if needed. Divide dough into 3 or 4 even pieces & tint each with food color. If the dough becomes sticky from the food color, add more flour. Cover pieces with plastic wrap until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. When dough is ready, turn out on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces ( press dough into a 14 x 14-inch rectangle; with a sharp knife cut into 4 strips in each direction). Shape each dough piece into a ball by tucking the corners under ( don't roll between your palms, this will just deflate the dough & make it tough). Place dough buns on a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  2. Roll out the topping pieces on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter or pastry ring. Use the pastry ring to score lines into the dough to resemble the ridges on a seashell (concha). Transfer the scored topping dough rounds to the buns using an offset spatula. If the topping doesn't adhere naturally, use a pastry brush to apply a few dots of water on the underside before applying to the buns.
  3. Allow the buns to rise for about 40 minutes. Before its time to bake, preheat oven to 375 F. Bake buns for 18-20 minutes or until they are just lightly browned on the bottom.
Recipe Notes
  • The topping is made with margarine as it will yield a crunchy & flaky texture.

Christmas Cookies

December has arrived and when I was growing up, it was officially ‘baking season’ for my mom. Many of the ingredients for the special things she would bake at this time of year were just too expensive to have on hand all the time. While we were at school, over the weeks prior to Christmas, she would bake many different kinds of cookies and squares. When we would arrive home in the late afternoon, there was no trace of what she had baked. Every cookie tin and various other containers were being filled with these glorious goodies. It all became part of the mystery and suspense of the season.

Like many traditions, the origin of the Christmas baking ‘bonanza‘ comes from medieval times. Winter solstice rituals were conducted long before Christmas became the huge commercial holiday it is today. Celebrations revolved around food. By the middle ages, the Christmas holiday had overtaken solstice rituals and the pastry world was experiencing some big changes. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper as well as dried exotic fruits were becoming available. Expensive delicacies like sugar, lard and butter all became treasured ingredients that could only be afforded on this most important holiday.

Unlike pies and cakes, cookies could easily be shared and given to friends and neighbors. Our modern day Christmas cookies are baked for similar reasons. They’re given as hostess gifts in festive tins, used on giant dessert trays and of course they make for wonderful family baking traditions.

Most homemade holiday cookies were simple rounds or squares until import laws changed in the 19th century introducing inexpensive cookie cutters made of tin and emphasized shapes.

I realize ‘mincemeat’ doesn’t appeal to everyone’s pallet. These days the ‘all-fruit’ varieties have made it much more appealing. In a previous blog, I had used a lemon curd filling in these tender little cheesecake cookies. Since Brion and I both enjoy the all-fruit mincemeat, I thought I’d do a Christmas version. Pairing the flavors of anise, mincemeat and lemon was real nice.

The Irish Cream cookies are an easy no-bake version. If you like this liqueur, I’m pretty sure these boozy little bites will work for you.

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Mincemeat Cheesecake Cookies / Irish Cream Cookies
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cookies
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Mincemeat Filling
  1. Combine mincemeat filling ingredients & refrigerate until needed.
Cheesecake Cookies
  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese & butter until fluffy & smooth; 1-2 minutes. Add sugar; beat another 1-2 minutes then add eggs & anise extract & continue beating 1 more minute.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, anise seed & salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to the butter mixture & stir just until incorporated. Do NOT over mix. Divide dough in half.
  3. Between 2 sheets of parchment paper, roll each half of the dough to a 1/8"-1/4" thickness. Remove top sheet & using a 2 1/2" (6 cm) round cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Using top sheet of parchment, lay rounds about 2" apart. Slide a plastic cutting board under parchment paper & transfer to freezer for about 30 minutes. (I found this made it much easier to continue the procedure).
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove cookies from freezer. Spoon about a teaspoon of COLD mincemeat filling onto center of each circle. Wet edges a bit with water or beaten egg. Fold cookies in half & using a fork, press edges to seal. (If your mincemeat filling is well chilled, I found it didn't run out of the cookies while being baked).
  5. Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes. Cookies should be light in color, not browned & just starting to brown on bottom. * Length of baking time may vary from oven to oven. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Lemon Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients & beat to a drizzle consistency. When cookies are cooled, drizzle with glaze.
Irish Cream Cookies
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine Irish cream, corn syrup, butter, white chocolate & salt. Heat while stirring until butter & chocolate have melted. Gently boil for about 2 minutes.
  2. Turn off heat & stir in puffed rice & oatmeal. Let stand for 2 minutes. If the mixture is a little runny, you may need to add a little more oatmeal ... about 1/4 - 1/3 cup).
  3. Using a spoon, you can either drop by spoonfuls on buttered parchment or press mixture into a buttered 1/4 cup measuring cup to form more precise cookie rounds. Let stand for at least an hour or until cookies are set. They will be soft but chewy. If you wish, decorate with holiday motifs.

Anise-Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

Spring gives good reason to celebrate the taste of fresh lemon. Next try pairing it with cream cheese and anise in some tender little cookies. Amazing!

Cheesecake itself, has been a dessert many of us have loved for years. Using cream cheese has become so common, it is used in just about any application you can think of sweet or savory. Cheesecake cookies are the perfect back drop to showcase the unique taste of anise.

Slightly sweet, anise has an appealing licorice-like flavor and aroma. It has been a popular herb in holiday and special occasion treats for centuries, around the world. Since it requires at least 120 frost free days to ripen the seeds, anise is difficult to grow in cooler regions. The fact that it has a long tap root also makes it hard to grow in a container indoors. Seeds, extract and oil are all used in cooking, but the leaves can also be tossed in salads or dropped into the water when boiling shellfish.

To complete this cookie creation today, I made an eggless lemon curd to sandwich them with. I found this recipe was best made over two days. Use the first day to prepare the dough, bake the cookies and make the lemon curd. Waiting a day to assemble the cookie sandwiches gives both cookies and curd ample time to cool. This is definitely a cookie designed with flavor in mind.


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Anise-Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

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Course dessert

Servings

Course dessert

Servings

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Lemon Curd
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine lemon juice, sugar, lemon zest & salt, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Add the cornstarch mixture & the milk, stirring well to combine. Cook until mixture begins to thicken, about 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly until the first few bubbles appear on the surface. Add butter & food color; continue to cook until resembles thick pudding. Transfer to a dish; cover with plastic wrap & allow to cool completely before placing in refrigerator. Chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or preferably overnight.

Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Beat cream cheese & butter together at high speed until fluffy & smooth; 1-2 minutes. Add sugar & beat until fully incorporated & fluffy; 1-2 minutes. Beat in eggs, lemon zest, anise extract & seeds.

  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix ONLY until blended, DO NOT OVER MIX. Batter will be sticky. Using a small scoop, drop cookies onto prepared baking sheet.

  4. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Cookies should be light in color, not browned & just starting to brown on the bottom. Cool cookies on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Assembly
  1. The following day, lay out half of the cookies; spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of lemon curd onto the center of each cookie. Top each with the remaining cookies & gently press together until the filling reaches the edges of the cookies.

Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes with Rosewater Frosting

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Many people believe Mother’s Day was developed as a commercial holiday to sell cards, candy and flowers or to celebrate the domestic role of women in the home and family. Really, this day is more about women’s commitment to the past, present and the future. Most often, mother’s take the lead in passing down family stories, life lessons and traditions.

Mother’s Day isn’t a new holiday with some of its earliest celebrations being traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. Here in Canada, we set aside the second Sunday in May to honor our mother’s with expressions of love and gratitude.

Although my mother is no longer on this earth, her wonderful memory will live on forever. It is also with love, Brion and I celebrate his mother, Dolores, for her loving and kind ways.

I was trying to come up with something special to bake for the blog recipe today. Lately I have enjoyed using rose & orange water in my cooking. Sweet and fragrant rose water is an elegant steam distillate of rose petals. The key is to use it sparingly as a little goes a long way. Used raw, the flavor is very floral and aromatic. When baked or roasted, that flowery essence mellows out, imparting notes similar to vanilla, with a fruity, more subtle aroma. There are a variety of ways to use rose water from cake and cookies to cocktails and even in roast chicken.

This flavor combination definitely takes the meaning of ‘special’ to a whole new level. Just what I was looking for. 

                                        

 

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Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes with Rosewater Frosting
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Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes
Rosewater Buttercream Frosting
Servings
Ingredients
Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes
Rosewater Buttercream Frosting
Votes: 8
Rating: 3.63
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Instructions
Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line muffin tin with paper liners & set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour baking powder, soda, cardamom & salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together softened butter, oil & sugar; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg is added. Slowly add sour cream & vanilla. Fold in flour mixture being careful not to over mix batter.
  3. Divide batter between the muffin cups. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven & place the individual muffins on a cooling rack.
Frosting
  1. In a large bowl, combine powdered sugar, butter & 1 Tbsp milk. With an electric mixer, beat on low until sugar is incorporated then move to medium-high speed. Add rosewater a 1/4 tsp at a time (taste to prevent it becoming to strong for your liking) then food color. If the icing is not the proper consistency add another Tbsp of milk.
  2. When the cupcakes are cool, frost each one using a large angled star tip. Top off each cupcake with a sprinkle of the reserved chopped pistachios.
Recipe Notes
  • To make your cupcakes real special, decorate with some dried rosebuds.
  • I was able to find rosewater easily in the ethnic section of the grocery store.