Manchester Tarts

The Manchester tart is an English baked treat with its roots tracing back to none other than the vibrant city of Manchester, England. This retro tart has a shortcrust pastry base that’s layered with raspberry preserves, custard, desiccated coconut and sometimes glace cherries. The combination of sweet preserves, creamy custard, and coconut creates a wonderful balance of flavors and textures.

The Manchester tart was a staple on school dinner menus until the mid-1980s and is now a staple in bakeries and home kitchens, cherished for its simplicity and delicious taste.

Over the years, the Manchester Tart has undergone numerous adaptations and variations, with some recipes incorporating different fruits, toppings, or pastry bases. However, its essence remains rooted in the tradition of British baking, symbolizing comfort and nostalgia for many who have enjoyed it throughout generations.

For my adaptation of these tarts I made a pastry cream to give a lightness and added some fresh raspberries to give some tang to balance the sweetness of the preserves. Instead of using the traditional glace cherry on top, I went with a few more fresh raspberries.


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Manchester Tarts
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Course dessert
Servings
TARTLETS
Ingredients
Tart Base
Pastry Cream
Raspberry Preserves/Fruit
Topping
Course dessert
Servings
TARTLETS
Ingredients
Tart Base
Pastry Cream
Raspberry Preserves/Fruit
Topping
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Tart Base
  1. Combine the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, salt, & vanilla in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix with your hands until the butter is broken down into pieces the size of peas and the ingredients are well combined. Add the egg and mix with a spatula until the dough is smooth and the egg is fully incorporated. Don’t overmix.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and gently shape it into a ball. Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight, until cold but still pliable. It should have the texture of clay.
  3. When the dough has chilled, unwrap the dough and place it on a silicone baking mat on your work surface. Roll it out into a rectangle about 1⁄8 inch thick, using a second silicone sheet on top. The silicone mat makes it easier to lift the rolled-out dough onto the sheet pan later. Make sure to work quickly so the dough doesn’t get too warm.
  4. Place the silicone mat with the dough on a baking sheet.
  5. Using the tart rings, cut out 18 circles of dough. Remove the rest of the dough from around the rings.
  6. Reroll remaining dough between 2 sheets of parchment. Using a sharp knife, slice strips about 10 inches long & 1- inch thick. These strips will make the sides of each tartlet.
  7. Working with one at a time, transfer a strip of dough to one of the tart rings and press it to the sides. Use your fingers to slightly push the bottom of the sides to the dough circle (to seal it). Repeat with the remaining strips of dough. Use a small knife to cut the edge to the rim of the rings.
  8. Transfer the baking sheet containing the tartlet shells to the freezer & freeze for at least 20 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  10. Bake tart rings for about 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & take off rings to allow them to cool.
Pastry Cream
  1. Heat the milk over medium high heat & bring it to a simmer, almost to a boil.
  2. While heating the milk, place the sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, vanilla & salt in a bowl. Whisk until you have a thick, smooth mix then set aside until the milk comes almost to a boil.
  3. As soon as the milk starts to steam or simmer, remove it from the heat. Slowly pour about a half of the hot milk in a thin stream into the egg mix, WHILE WHISKING CONSTANTLY to temper the egg mix. When the eggs have been tempered, add the egg mix back into the hot milk in the saucepan.
  4. Heat the custard base, over medium heat, while whisking vigorously until it starts to thicken – this should take about 1 – 2 minutes. Make sure to reach the corners of the saucepan so that the custard does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. While whisking, let the custard come to a boil (the custard will release bubbles). You may need to stop whisking from time to time for a few seconds to see if the custard is ‘bubbling’. Look for big bubbles breaking the surface of the custard.
  6. Lower the heat and cook for a further 1 – 2 minutes after you see the first bubbles break the surface, and make sure to whisk constantly.
  7. Remove from the heat & add the butter. Whisk in the butter, until it’s completely mixed in.
  8. Pour the custard into a bowl & immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the whole surface. This is to prevent a custard ‘skin’ from forming on top. You can also choose to pass the custard through a sieve to remove any lumps.
  9. Let the custard cool down to room temperature & then let it chill in the fridge for a few hours, until it’s completely chilled.
  10. The custard will have ‘set’ after chilling. So, it is important to whisk the pastry cream to make it smooth before using.
Assembly
  1. Once the base & custard have cooled, spread raspberry preserve over the bottom of pastry cases. Spoon in the custard, then sprinkle with the coconut & chill. Decorate with raspberries and a final sprinkle of powdered sugar on the berries. Serve.
Recipe Notes
  • I used two sizes of tart rings - 2 1/4 + 2 1/2" for these.

Christmas Cookie Wreaths for Gifts

While certain holidays such as Christmas, lend themselves to giving food as gifts, gift-giving should be thoughtful and sincere.

We give gifts during the holiday season to express gratitude, love, or friendship to those near and dear throughout the year. But the custom of giving gifts goes all the way back to the first Christmas when the wise men brought Jesus three gifts — gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Many of the gifts we give and receive at Christmas time, especially ones related to food, have symbolic meaning and tales of folklore behind them. Others are just fun to make and share with family and friends. Sometimes those food gifts become an anticipated tradition that the gifter enjoys making and the receiver looks forward to every year.

These Christmas cookie wreaths seem like the perfect gift for our neighbors. Hope they like them because they where a lot of fun to make.

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Christmas Cookie Wreaths for Gifts
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
WREATHS
Ingredients
Spicy Wreath Base
Cranberry Lemon Pistachio Cookies
Persimmon Linzer Cookies
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
WREATHS
Ingredients
Spicy Wreath Base
Cranberry Lemon Pistachio Cookies
Persimmon Linzer Cookies
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Spicy Wreath Base
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until dough forms. Divide dough in half for 2 separate wreaths. Roll each half into a long strip about 43-inches long. On 2 sheets of parchment paper, draw 2 round circles each about a 13-inch circumference. Place on baking sheets. Following the circle outline, place a strip of dough on each circle. Press with the back of a spoon to flatten to about a 1/2-inch thickness.
  2. Preheat oven to 310 F. Bake cookie bases for about 15 minutes. They should be baked but not overdone so that the centers are soft. Remove from oven & cool on a wire rack until ready to assemble with cookies.
Cranberry Lemon Pistachio Cookies
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder & salt. Place butter & sugar in a bowl & beat with a mixer until pale & fluffy. Mix in egg yolks, lemon zest & vanilla. Reduce speed to low & gradually mix in flour mixture. Shape into a disk; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to 1/8-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch round fluted cutter, cut out wreaths. Cut out centers using a 7/8-inch round or star cutter.
  3. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. bake until just golden, about 12 minutes. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before icing.
  4. Stir together powdered sugar & lemon juice in a small bowl. Spread each cookie with icing & sprinkle with pistachios and/or pepita seeds & cranberries. Yield: 24
Anise Shortbread Stars
  1. In a bowl, sift together cornstarch, powdered sugar, flour & anise powder. Blend in butter with a spoon, mixing until a soft, smooth dough forms. If the dough is too soft to handle, cover & chill about 1 hour.
  2. Between 2 sheets of parchment paper, roll dough out about 1/2-inch thick. Using a star cookie cutter, cut out stars & sprinkle with coarse white sanding sugar. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets spacing 1 1/2-inches apart. Place baking sheets in refrigerator & chill 30 minutes. Halfway through, preheat oven to 300 F. Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are just barely browned. Yield: 18
Persimmon Linzer Cookies
  1. In a bowl, sift together flour & salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar & vanilla until light & fluffy. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as possible. Mix the rest & gently knead until dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap & chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare persimmon puree. In a saucepan over medium low heat, combine persimmons, sugar, cinnamon & salt. Simmer until thick, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly then transfer to a small food processor. Puree mixture until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into rounds with a 2-inch fluted LINZER cookie cutter with a star attachment in the center. Place on lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or just until edges begin to brown. Allow cookies to cool to room temperature.
  5. Spread persimmon puree on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust & decorate cookies with cut outs using powdered sugar & some more puree. Place decorated cookie tops on bottoms spread with puree, making a sandwich.
Assembly
  1. Arrange cookies on wreath base to your liking. You can either 'fasten' them with an bit of icing that will harden (see notes) or just place them on top base. That way they are easy to pick up by guests without to much trouble. The base can be cut into pieces after the top cookies are eaten for some more cookie goodness.
Recipe Notes

ICING FOR ATTACHING COOKIES TO WREATH:

  • 2 Tbsp warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Mix together the warm water, corn syrup and icing sugar for the icing. Make it on the thicker side, so add more icing sugar if needed.

Fall Cookie Leaves

After Christmas, Halloween is one of the most commercial holidays in Canada. Canadians love going over the top for Halloween. Not only with creative costumes but with the exterior and interior decorations of their homes which are often decorated with fall elements like dried leaves and pumpkin-themed decor.

Halloween in Canada is celebrated on October 31 each year. Even though the festival is celebrated with a lot of pizazz and character, Halloween is not a public holiday in any part of the world.

You would be surprised to know that against popular belief of Halloween having a serious North American following, it is a very British-Irish origin story. The Celts believed that on the night of October 31st, the ghosts of the dead would come back to earth and cause havoc. To ward off evil spirits, people would dress up in costumes, carve jack-o-lanterns, and have bonfires.

Halloween is a great way to celebrate the fabulous fall season in Canada with its spooky decorations, costumes, and treats and to remember the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter. 

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Fall Cookie Leaves
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DOZEN
Servings
DOZEN
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Instructions
  1. Whisk together flour & salt in a small bowl.
  2. Beat together butter & sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer or 6 minutes with a hand mixer. Beat in egg & vanilla. Reduce speed to low & add dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
  3. Divide dough into 4 different bowls. Add a couple of drops of color to each portion of dough. Form into disks. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. On a floured work surface, place dollops of colored cookie dough next to each other. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Don't OVER ROLL cookie dough.
  6. Using different leaf cookie cutters, cut out various leaf shapes. Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with cutters and transfer to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging cookies about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if you wish.
  7. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes, do not overbake. Transfer to racks to cool completely.
Recipe Notes
  • You can just sprinkle with coarse sugar or if you prefer, glaze them as I did.
  • Because it just happens to be Halloween, I added a few 'cinnamon sugar tortilla bats' to my tray just for fun.

Late Summer Plum Tart

As peach season wanes and the late summer sun shines brightest, plums arrive in their multicolored splendor. They come in vibrant red, yellow, orange, green, and pink-purple colors.

Plums belong to the same family as peaches, nectarines and apricots. Over 2,000 varieties of plums exist, each with a diverse set of shapes and colors, and they are divided into the following six categories – Japanese, American, Ornamental, Damson, Wild, and European.

One of the best things about plums is how versatile they are. Both sweet and spicy recipes work well with them. Brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon are plums’ best friends.

Plums aren’t the summer darling of fruits and are underutilized. But that means you can easily use them to add an unexpected twist to traditional recipes.

Gently spiced, this plum tart celebrates the summer-into-fall season. Quartered and nestled into the batter, the plums soften into mulberry-colored pockets as they bake.

While a slice of this seasonal fruit tart needs no embellishment, a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream doesn’t hurt.

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Late Summer Plum Tart
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line the sides of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon & cardamom.
  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter & 1 cup sugar until pale & fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg & vanilla; beat on low speed until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture alternating with the milk. Beat on low speed until smooth & thick.
  4. Transfer the batter to prepared baking pan & smooth the top with a spoon or offset spatula. Arrange plums on top, skin side up, in circular patterns. Sprinkle the remaining 2 Tbsp of sugar over plums.
  5. Bake for 60 minutes or until golden on top & set in the center.
  6. Remove from oven then remove sides from springform pan leaving the base in place. Cool completely on a wire rack. Slice & serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Polish Easter Placek

I always enjoy researching and baking traditional Easter breads. Maybe its because I have such fond memories of my mother’s Easter bread which wasn’t fancy but just ‘to die for’. This year I decided to try my hand at making some Polish Easter bread called ‘placek’.

Just for the sake of interest I wanted to post some of the various countries and their traditional Easter breads.

  • Babka (Poland, Ukraine, Belarus): a tall, cylindrical bread often baked in a Bundt-type pan and containing raisins and/or candied citron or orange peel, optionally with icing on the top, thus making it much sweeter than Paska, a broad, round, rich, white bread decorated on the top with symbols, including crosses, flowers, braids, wheat, or other designs representing aspects of Orthodox (Eastern) Christianity—made only for Easter to celebrate the rising of Christ from the dead.
  • Placek (Poland): refers to a sweet yeast bread topped with sugary crumble, with or without golden raisins served on Easter. (Pronounced plah-sek)
  • Cozonac (Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia): a slightly sweet yeast bread containing raisins and walnuts or pecans—a type of Stollen.
  • Folar (Portugal): a bread that may be either sweet or salty and is traditionally offered to godfathers, and priests at Easter in imitation of Jesus’ distribution of bread to his disciples at the Last Supper.
  • Hornazo (Spain): a yeast bread meat pie stuffed with pork loin, spicy chorizo, and hard-boiled eggs
  • Hot Cross Buns (Great Britain): a spiced sweet bun containing currants or raisins (and sometimes other dried fruits), marked on top with icing in the shape of a cross, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday.
  • Kalach (Serbia, Hungary): similar to brioche and usually baked in a braid arranged to form a circle.
  • Mazanec (Czech Republic): a sweet bread eaten throughout Holy Week made of dough containing rum soaked raisins and dried fruit, baked as a round loaf, with slivered almonds on top and a decoration made of icing or powdered sugar in the shape of a cross.
  • Osterbrot (Germany): a yeast bread containing raisins and slivered almonds and usually cut into thin slices, spread with butter, and enjoyed at breakfast or at teatime.
  • Paasstol (Netherlands): a fruit-bread containing raisins and usually filled with almond paste (also made at Christmas).
  • Pasca (Romania, Moldova): a sweet bread served with sweet soft cheese that may also be decorated with fruits, nuts, or chocolate.
  • Pasqua (Italy): a cake containing candied peel but no raisins and topped with pearl sugar and almonds before being baked in the shape of a ‘dove’.
  • Pinca (Croatia, Montenegro): a sweet bread loaf with the sign of a cross carved on top before being baked and eaten at the end of Lent.
  • Tsoureki (Greece, Armenia): a sweet holiday bread commonly seasoned with orange zest, mastic resin (from the mastic tree), or mahlab (an aromatic spice made from the pits of the Mediterranean “St. Lucy’s” cherry tree).

Hope you enjoyed reading this info as much as I did.

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Polish Easter Placek
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Course Brunch
Cuisine European
Servings
Ingredients
Sponge
Crumble Topping
Course Brunch
Cuisine European
Servings
Ingredients
Sponge
Crumble Topping
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Sponge
  1. In a bowl, dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk with sugar & allow to stand until foamy, about 15 minutes. Stir in the flour, then cover the bowl & let the sponge rise until doubled in size, 30 minutes to an hour.
Dough
  1. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter & sugar, then add the eggs in one at a time; beat until fluffy. Add in the salt, nutmeg zest & 1 cup of flour; beat well. When the sponge is risen, add that to the creamed mixture along with the last cup of flour & the raisins. Knead dough until a very smooth, elastic, sticky dough forms.
  2. Using greased hands, place dough into a greased or buttered bowl. Cover the bowl & allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.
Crumble Topping
  1. Cut butter into sugar & flour until it is fully mixed in & crumbly, then stir in the almonds.
Assembly
  1. When the dough has risen, use greased or wet hands to place in greased baking pans. Sprinkle the crumble over the dough, pressing in lightly. Cover the pans, then let the dough rise until doubled or until almost risen to the top.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  3. Bake for 30-45 minutes until golden brown on top. Let the bread cool on a wire rack,
Recipe Notes
  • I used one 12" x 5 " loaf pan & one 5" x 2" round spring form pan for this amount of dough.

Red Velvet Cookies

Red Velvet Cake’s popularity extends far beyond its namesake it seems. Dessert enthusiasts have adapted the original recipe to craft their own, custom made versions of cupcakes, lattes, sundaes, waffles, cookies, pancakes, ice cream etc.

The precise origins of Red Velvet Cake remain elusive, as several times and places have claimed partial credit for producing it, with the different elements coming together as separate puzzle pieces.

One common legend is that it was first created in the kitchens of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. Another story surrounding the cake is that the Canadian department store Eaton’s was responsible for its creation, as it was a popular choice in the retail chain’s bakeries and restaurants in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Although the company promoted the cake by saying the recipe was a closely guarded secret, the cake’s deepest roots appear to be traced more accurately back to the culinary traditions of the USA’s southern states.

The term ‘velvet’ was used in Victorian England to describe cakes with a fine crumb and a soft texture, distinct from other confections such as pound or sponge cakes. In the late 1800’s, what we know as brown sugar was commonly known as ‘red sugar’. So, at that time any cake made with red sugar and fine cake flour could be referred to as a red velvet cake.

Attempts to explain the red cake’s inception include use of boiled beets by bakers affected by rationing during WWII to enhance the color of their cakes. Another possibility is that because natural pigment of cocoa takes on a reddish hue when mixed with acidic substances such as vinegar or buttermilk, both of which may well have been included in early chocolate velvet cakes. Unlike today’s more common Dutch process cocoa, the PH of natural cocoa does cause a chemical reaction with acid causing a very slight reddish hue.

The notoriety of red velvet cake was given a huge boost in the 1930’s when the Adams Extract Company of Gonzales, Texas began marketing its food coloring and flavorings with recipes and photos of red velvet cake. Using food coloring was quicker and better, thus becoming a regular part of the red velvet recipe.

Now it seems when it comes to the white icing, the traditional kind used was a French style roux icing, which is also known as ‘ermine’ icing. These days, however, cream cheese frosting and buttercream frosting are much more popular and synonymous with the red velvet cake.

I’m not a food historian but as you’ve probably noticed, I do love delving into food history. Today’s blog recipe is for some red velvet cookies that are perfect for the Christmas season. Some time ago I saw this idea on the internet. I tucked it away in my ‘must-try’ file …. so today’s the day I’m trying my adapted version.

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Red Velvet Cookies
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
COOKIES
Ingredients
Cream Cheese Filling
Icing
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
COOKIES
Ingredients
Cream Cheese Filling
Icing
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. FILLING SHOULD BE MADE AT LEAST 2 HOURS IN ADVANCE OR THE DAY BEFORE.. In a medium bowl and using hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until creamy and light, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. On low speed, gradually add in the powdered sugar, flour, vanilla & salt. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the filling is light and fluffy.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon-size scoop, scoop out 15 rounded tablespoons of cream cheese frosting onto the prepared baking sheet. Freeze until solid, at least 2 hours and up to overnight. You may have a few scoops left over.
Cookies
  1. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt to combine; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or whisk, beat the softened butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until well combined.
  4. Add in the egg, vanilla & red food coloring; mix on medium speed until mixture is smooth and emulsified with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture rest for 3 minutes, then mix for another 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat the process of resting and mixing 2 more times (a total of 3 rests and 4 mixes) until mixture is thick, smooth, and slightly lightened in color. This step helps dissolve the sugar better, resulting in a thicker, chewier cookie.
  6. Stir in the vinegar. The mixture will separate slightly.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.
  8. If the dough feels too soft or warm to scoop & shape into firm balls, cover and refrigerate for about ½ an hour or until firmer. Using the same scoop you used for the cream cheese balls, scoop out 2 scoops of dough per cookie onto the lined baking sheet, forming 15 equal dough balls.
  9. Using the back of a wooden spoon handle or your thumb, make a deep indentation into each dough ball.
  10. Take the cream cheese filling scoops out of the freezer and working quickly, peel the filling scoops from the baking sheet and place one inside each indentation of every dough ball. If you're working in a warm kitchen, you might want to keep the frosting scoops in the freezer, taking only one by one as you work, to prevent them from softening.
  11. Gather the dough up over the filling scoops to completely cover them. Roll the dough into smooth balls, making sure the frosting is completely wrapped inside and nothing is peaking out.
  12. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then either bake immediately or transfer to a large zipper lock bag and freeze for up to 1 month.
  13. Preheat oven to 350 F. Adjust oven rack to middle position.
  14. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide cookie balls between the 2 sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart.
  15. Bake until the cookies flatten with a slight dome, and the outer edges start to set yet centers are soft and puffy, 10 to 11 minutes. The centers will feel undone, but they shouldn't be shiny or sticky. DO NOT OVERBAKE or you'll get hard cookies. The cookies will continue to bake after they come out of the oven from the residual heat of the baking sheet.
  16. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes before serving. They taste best at room temperature when the cream cheese filling is no longer warm. If you'd like to decorate them with the cream cheese icing, make sure that they've cooled down completely before doing so.
Decorate
  1. In a small bowl, beat together icing ingredients until smooth. Place in a small zip-lock bag & cut a tiny tip off one corner. Drizzle over cookies to create a pattern. Allow icing to set.
Recipe Notes
  • Brion & I found these cookies were best eaten straight out of the FREEZER! I know it seems strange but they are an extremely soft cookie & never really freeze hard. Cold but soft .... Yum!

Pistachio Limoncello Cookies

Its hard to say if its the bright color of the fruit or the crisp flavor …. lemons just remind me of spring. I think, when you incorporate some limoncello liqueur into dessert recipes it takes them to a whole new level. Its tangy, refreshing and balances the sugary sweetness of cookies, cakes and many other confections.

Our first introduction to the taste of some authentic limoncello was in the town of Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. In 2013, Brion & I had a wonderful holiday travelling throughout Italy. The Amalfi coast is known for its production of limoncello liqueur. It is only here, thanks to the Mediterranean climate, lemons grow with a thick skin that is rich with essential oils, fragrant and with a strong aroma. The lemon skin is the most important ingredient when it comes to making limoncello.

Stunning Amalfi , with its electric blue sea, terra cotta rooftops, bright white sand beaches, emerald hillsides and lemon tree lined streets, will be forever etched in our memories.

The hint of limoncello in the icing gives these simple little shortbread cookies such a nice flavor.

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Pistachio Limoncello Cookies
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Servings
Ingredients
Limoncello Shortbread
Limoncello Icing
Servings
Ingredients
Limoncello Shortbread
Limoncello Icing
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Instructions
Shortbread
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch & salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter & sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy & aerated, 4-5 minutes. Add milk & limoncello liqueur; beat for 1 minute.
  4. Sift in half the flour mixture, then fold in with a spatula until just combined. Repeat. Spoon half of the shortbread batter into a piping bag fitted with a large, open star tip.
  5. Pipe batter into 1 1/2-inch wide rosettes, 1 inch apart on a prepared sheets.
  6. Bake shortbread ONLY until edges are lightly browned, 15-16 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.
Limoncello Icing
  1. While shortbread cookies are baking, combine powdered sugar & limoncello. Drizzle over warm cookies. While icing is still wet, sprinkle the chopped pistachios over the tops. Allow to set before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • Trace 1 1/2 inch circles onto parchment paper. Flip the paper over & use circles as a guide when piping rosettes.

Fig Bread

Today, March 28th, marks the date of my mothers birth. Although she left this earth 43 years ago, her memory remains crystal clear. She was a wonderful mother who made our lives so much better in ways we never realized. She set a good example just by the way she lived the ‘best version of herself’.

When this date rolls around each year, I like to post something on the blog that I think she would have enjoyed to make. Baking was a ‘job’ she really seemed to enjoy and our family certainly reaped the benefits of that.

Since Easter is only a week away, I thought a fig bread would be nice. Fruit appears in myths from around the world with figs being regarded as a sacred symbol by many.

Velvety soft on the outside with sweet crimson flesh within, the fig is a captivating food. Widespread and abundant throughout the Mediterranean region, figs have been eaten fresh and dried for storage for thousands of years. The fig found its way to America with Spanish missionaries who brought the fruit to Southern California (USA), in the 1700’s. The variety became known as ‘Mission’ figs.

Easter and Good Friday inspire a particularly rich array of decorative breads and buns that make some of the nicest edible centerpieces.

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Fig Bread Wreath
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, European
Keyword Fig bread
Servings
Ingredients
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, European
Keyword Fig bread
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Bread Dough
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together yeast, 1 tsp sugar & warm milk. Set aside for about 5 minutes until frothy
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, remaining sugar & salt. Add yeast mixture, melted butter & egg. Knead until dough comes together in a ball & no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a greased bowl & cover with a tea towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Fig Filling
  1. Coarsely chop figs. In a bowl, cream together butter, sugar, cinnamon & cardamom; add figs. Stir to combine & set aside.
Assemble & Bake
  1. Fit a piece of parchment paper to cover bottom & sides of a 10-inch round springform baking pan. Deflate dough & divide into 6 parts. One small part of the dough will be used to for the middle. Roll out in a round circle & place a scoop of filling in the center. Pull sides up around filling & pinch together. Place the 'bun' in the middle of the pan, seam down. Roll out another small piece of the dough into a circle. Cut it into parallel strips then place strips over bun in a weave pattern.
  2. Next roll each of the remaining 4 strips into long rectangles (about 6" x 16" each). Divide filling between 2 of the strips, placing a row down the center of each one. Bring sides together over filling & pinch to seal.
  3. Lay one filled strip over each of the 2 remaining rectangles of pastry (seam side down). Cut angled strips on either side of filled pastry. Using these strips, form a braid over top.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Transfer braids to baking pan forming 2 circles around the center ball. Beat egg wash together & brush over surface of bread wreath. Allow to rise for about 15 minutes in a draft-free place.
  5. Bake until golden brown about 30 minutes. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool.
Cream Cheese Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together cream cheese, butter, vanilla & powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle or pipe over fig bread. Decorate with fresh figs if desired.

Pot of Gold Cupcakes

HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY!

It’s that time of year when everything goes green in honor of Ireland’s patron saint. What was once simply a religious feast day back in the 17th century has somehow evolved into a grand celebration of Irish culture.

Of all the Irish myths that exist, the story of the leprechauns and their pots of gold, seems to have infiltrated American culture the most. There are many old European stories describing fictitious creatures that hoard treasures. In Irish folklore, fairies put a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow with leprechaun’s guarding it.

These moist cupcakes use fresh avocado in the batter then are filled with raspberry filling & topped with a lime cream cheese frosting. I think they definitely make a real ‘pot of gold’ treasure fitting for St Patrick’s Day.

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Pot of Gold Cupcakes
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Avocado Cupcakes
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Avocado Cupcakes
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pan with 8 cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder & sugar. Add butter to dry ingredients & rub in until it resembles crumbs.
  3. In a blender. place avocado, egg, milk & lime juice; blend until creamy & smooth. Stir into flour mixture until JUST mixed.
  4. Divide batter between the 8 paper cups. Bake 20-25 minutes or until they test done. Remove from oven & allow to cool before filling & frosting.
Lime Frosting
  1. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream avocado with butter & cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the lime juice & vanilla. Add milk as needed until frosting is light & fluffy. Beat on medium spread for 5 minutes.
Assembly
  1. When cupcakes are cool, cut a cone shape out of the center of each cupcakes with a sharp knife. Fill a piping bag, fitted with an opening that the raspberry will pass through. Pipe filling into each cupcake. Cut a small piece (of cake) from your cake 'cones' & place over filling.
  2. Fill another piping bag (fitted with a star end). Pipe a swirl of lime frosting on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle your little 'pots of gold' with some gold pearls & lime zest if you wish.

Banana Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

Homemade ice cream …the ultimate old fashioned treat has a very worldly history that stretches around the globe.

When I was growing up on the farm, we had one of those ice cream makers with a hand crank that featured an inner canister and churn. The canister and churn held the ice cream custard, which was placed in a bucket that salt and ice or snow could be added to. My siblings and I would take turns churning until the custard magically transformed into the heavenly frozen dessert.

Ice cream is the perfect treat for any season. In the summer you can cool off by enjoying a scoop of ice cream and in the winter you can pair it with a warm dessert. Let’s face it, if you are an ice cream lover, the possibilities are endless.

The first ice cream sandwich was basic: cold, creamy with a little crunch on either side. The purpose was to make the ice cream better than if it stood alone. My original idea for today’s blog dessert was to replicate the flavors of the classic ‘Bananas Foster’ dessert of the 50’s. The ingredients in it were very simple, such as butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla & rum. The end result today became a combo of caramelized bananas & banana cake turned ice cream sandwich!

My inherited love for ice cream has never left me to this day and I might add, Brion has the same ‘affliction’ (which doesn’t help).

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Banana Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Ecuador
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Bananas
Banana Cake
Course dessert
Cuisine American, Ecuador
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Bananas
Banana Cake
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Caramelized Bananas
  1. In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter then stir in brown sugar. Divide evenly between 6 custard cups; slice the 3 ripe bananas & place over sugar/butter mixture. Set on a baking sheet.
Banana Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter & sugar; add eggs, Greek yogurt, mashed bananas & extracts & combine. Slowly add dry ingredient mixture to wet batter & mix only until combined.
  2. Pour the batter over the caramelized bananas in the custard cups. Bake for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  3. Let cakelets cool in custard cups slightly, then invert on a plate. You may have to gently coax the caramelized bananas to loosen with a spatula. Slice each cake half so you can add a layer of vanilla ice cream to the bottom halves. Top each with the other half of the banana cake.