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
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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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
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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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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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
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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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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.

Vanillekipferl – Gevulde Speculaas

I’ve always enjoyed food history and recreating memories from the past through cooking and baking. I had never realized how much my mother’s cooking was influenced by our German heritage. I guess as one gets older, things that were taken for granted now take on a whole new meaning. Today’s blog features a couple of those very special European treats. 

VANILLEKIPFERL or Vanilla Almond Crescent Cookies  –  Although this little crescent cookie originated in Austria, it has become very traditional in Germany. ‘Vanillin’ became very popular in the early 20th century, after artificial vanilla flavoring was invented. I’ve noticed there are numerous recipes that call for egg yolks in them. My personal preference is to make them without – just a few less calories. ‘Vanilla Sugar’  which is used in many German baked goods can be either bought in the Dr Oetker  brand or you can easily make it yourself. If you like the flavor of anise, you may want to try adding some anise seed to the cookie dough and when baked, dust these with  ‘Anise Sugar’.

GEVULDE SPECULAAS  or Spiced Cookies (Squares) Filled with Almond Paste  –  You’re right, this is very much a Dutch specialty. Some years ago I had the opportunity to spend a little time in the presence of a Dutch baker.  Among the many things I learned at that Dutch bakery was their love of almonds and those unique speculaas spices. In the mid 18th century, the recipe for ‘Spekulatius’  made its way to Germany from Holland and has become another traditional favorite. The origin of the cookie’s name may have derived from the Latin word ‘Spekulum’, signifying ‘mirror image’, which alludes to the wooden mold whose mirror image appears on the cookie. Since I became ‘hooked’ on that ‘speculaas spice’ combination, I like to make a small  pan of these very rich  and wonderful tasting goodies each Christmas. 


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Vanillekipferl / Gevulde Speculaas

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course dessert
Cuisine Dutch, German

Servings


Ingredients
Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Almond Crescent Cookies)

Gevulde Speculaas (Spiced Squares filled with Almond Paste)

Speculaas Spice (about 3 Tbsp)

Course dessert
Cuisine Dutch, German

Servings


Ingredients
Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Almond Crescent Cookies)

Gevulde Speculaas (Spiced Squares filled with Almond Paste)

Speculaas Spice (about 3 Tbsp)

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Vanillekipferl
  1. In a food processor, place flour & butter & pulse to combine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Place mixture in a large bowl. Add ground almonds, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 pkg vanilla sugar, salt & extract. Knead dough with your hands in bowl until it comes together, about 5 minutes. Divide dough into four equal pieces, shaping each into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap place in a sealed plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove one ball at a time from refrigerator. Roll into a rope 12 inches in length. Cut into 12 even pieces, rolling each with the palm of your hands to a 3-inch length. Form into a crescent shape & place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. When you have filled the baking sheet, bake for about 12 minutes, just until tips of crescents turn a light golden brown. Using another COLD baking sheet repeat with remaining dough.

  3. Allow cookies to rest on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup powdered sugar remaining package of vanilla sugar. Carefully coat warm cookies in sugar mixture; place on a wire rack to finish cooling. Allow to sit out overnight then transfer to an airtight container for storing or freezing.

Gevulde Speculaas
  1. In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt & spices. Add chunks of cold butter & pulse into a smooth dough (you can do this by hand if you prefer). If the dough is too dry. you can add a little milk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

  2. Either grease or line a 8 x 8" baking dish with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. Divide dough into 2 portions. Roll out each portion on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as baking pan. Put one layer in pan & press lightly to fill the bottom. Lightly beat egg with a teaspoon of cold water. Spread 1/3 of egg over dough in pan.

  3. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of plastic wrap, until it is exactly the size of pan. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and spread the next 1/3 of egg over it. Place the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, making it as smooth as possible. Spread the last 1/3 of the egg wash over dough. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.

  4. Bake about 40 minutes or until they test done. Allow speculaas to cool completely in the pan, then cut into the portion size you prefer.


Recipe Notes
  • If you would like to make the 'Anise Seed Crescent Cookies' instead of the Vanilla Almond version, use vanilla extract instead of almond & add 1 Tbsp of crushed anise seed to the batter. For the 'Anise Sugar', blend (at a high speed), 1 Tbsp aniseed with 1 cup of granulated sugar until it makes a powder.
  • Although Gevulde Speculaas are at their best when fresh, I have never heard any complaints after they have been frozen. I always make sure they are wrapped in an airtight way before freezing.
  • In regards to the 'speculaas spice', I like to make extra so I can use it in anything you would normally use apple or pumpkin pie spice in.