Cantuccini

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Two weeks ago I was wondering if I would be able to pull off the lefse with no special gadgets and then we come to this week’s recipe and it is about as easy as you can get!…literally: measure, mix, and shape. We are making classic biscotti which are called cantuccini.

This variation uses almonds, cinnamon, and vanilla.  It took all I had not to add a little bit of chocolate in there but I figured maybe I shouldn’t mess with it the first time around.  I have to say I am glad I went with the traditional recipe!  I, of course, have mine in the freezer for after Easter, but everyone else who has tried them has loved them!!…some even without dunking!! ;)  These were worth making because the house smelled SO good while they were baking!

My dough was a little sticky but I just added flour as I kneaded.  I would have to say the hardest part of this recipe was cutting the biscotti and keeping them all looking pretty.  Otherwise…super easy!!  It’s a keeper!

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Potato Lefse

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So you ask, what is potato lefse?  I had no idea either until I made this recipe. Turns out they are a very thin, crepe like flat bread from Norway.  The really interesting part is that they are made almost entirely from potatoes.  Talk about resourceful…potatoes that get turned into a flat bread that can be used for bread or a dessert.  Who knew!  Haha!

These potato lefse come with their own cooking utensils…some from Norway…a dowel for lifting and turning, a round disk for rolling the dough out and sleeves for the disk and rolling pin.  I have none of these things and was wondering how I would mange.  I don’t even have a potato ricer which they recommend using as well.   I am very grateful to my fellow bloggers who answered my post on the P & Q page to help me out a bit.  They posted video and encouraged me to improvise..which I did and had amazing results so thank you!!

The dough is pretty basic to make…boil 3 medium potatoes, finely grate (which I used the small holes in my grater which worked perfectly), add heavy cream, sugar, salt and butter.  Stir into a smooth mixture which looked a lot like mashed potatoes. :)  This is put into the fridge over night un-covered.  The next day you add a bit of flour to create the dough.  I was a little apprehensive of how sticky the dough would be with all the necessary “sleeves” for everything but I found the dough to be really easy to work with.  I just kept my work area well floured and had no problem.

The dough gets divided into 12 balls and then rolled out and cooked on a skillet or griddle.  I used my stove top griddle and just a regular spatula..no problem.  Instead of the dowel to pick them up I just used my rolling pin the same way you do for a pie crust.  These are cooked much like pancakes..just wait for the bubbles and some browning and turn.

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photo4As you cook them you are to keep them warm in a towel covered with plastic wrap.  I thought that was a little strange but I did it anyway.  These are to be eaten warm.  They suggest with butter, sugar, and cinnamon which we did.  My son also tried one with Nutella on the inside.  We all thought they were good…interesting.  It is hard not to expect it to taste similar to a tortilla since it looks so much like one but it has it’s own taste and texture.  I thought these were a lot of fun to make and I enjoyed the challenge.  Not sure I would make them again…but if I had a bunch of leftover potatoes I would now know what I could make to use them up. ;)

 

Mocha Brownie Cake

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This cake got rave reviews! I was a bit skeptical since the other two chocolate brownie recipes from this cookbook didn’t go over that well with my tasters.  This one however, everyone loved!!  I have been told it needs to go into my baking rotation. :)  I have actually not tasted the cake yet.  My piece is in the freezer since I gave up sweets for lent.  I recall this happened last year too…with the mocha chocolate chip cookies haha!!

The great thing about this recipe is it is fairly easy and most items I usually have on hand.  I might have to invest in a double boiler though…the contraption I came up with worked but didn’t look very pretty. ;)

After melting the chocolate and mixing up the ingredients…it is that easy…it goes in the oven for about 45 minutes.  It needs to cool for 20 minutes and then into the fridge for an hour to really cool so that it can be cut into layers.

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While the cake is cooling, you prepare the ganache which was super easy!  Basically heat the cream, butter, sugar and pour over the chocolate chips…add coffee.  Let it sit and then stir. Funny how ganache can make something look so elegant yet be so easy to prepare.  I like that!!

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The fun and tricky part was assembling the cake.  The cake needs to be cut into three layers.  Then working with one layer at a time adding the ganache.  After each layer it must go back in the fridge for 15 min to firm up.  I found the cake and the ganache very easy to work with.  The recipe calls for the final icing of the top and sides to be plain but I just couldn’t do that.  :)

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We have been having quite an exciting ride with my son’s high school basketball team this season so I had to use the opportunity to decorate the cake!! :)  Since my son is a senior this year, that only adds to the excitement.  His team went all the way in the CIF playoffs making it to the final game, which our school has not done in 14 years.  They got to play at the Honda Center which was really exciting for the boys.

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We unfortunately lost but still moved on to play in the State Championship Tournament.  As of this post we have surprisingly won the last two rounds and have moved on to the quarterfinals of the state tournament which we play in tonight.  Anyway, had to take that opportunity and decorate the cake haha!

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Buttermilk Scones

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People are still talking about that Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake!!  That was definitely a keeper given how many requests I have had…both for the recipe and for more of the cheesecake! ;)  It is always fun when you find a good one.

This month’s first recipe is Buttermilk Scones….pretty straight forward, easy recipe.  I have a great Chocolate Chip Scone recipe that I make on special occasions so for once I knew how to make the recipe. :)

There was only one main difference:

  • On my chocolate chip scones I drizzle a powdered sugar icing on top
  • The buttermilk scones have you baste on melted butter and top with granulated sugar before you bake.

I wasn’t sure how this would turn out but surprisingly that was my favorite part.  It made a great, crunchy “crust” like topping.  I liked that!

I think this recipe is good but, given that my usual recipe uses regular milk which I normally have on hand, I don’t think I would be making these again.  I might use that butter and sugar crust though! :)

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Chocolate-Mascarpone Cheesecake

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Today is the day for posting and I am not completely done with my cheesecake!  The problem  is that you bake the cheesecake one day but it isn’t ready to serve until the next day…sooo I have the cheesecake baked and will blog what I know but I won’t have a final picture and the results of what people think until tomorrow.

This recipe is another funny one for me.  I am not a cheesecake fan at all so that is probably the reason I have never made one before.  Those of you who have read many posts know I am not a huge dessert fan period which begs the question I have heard many times “why do you bake things you don’t even like?”.  I guess that is a justified question but it cracks me up because the main reason I enjoy baking doesn’t really have anything to do with actually eating what I make.  I think for me the joy comes from two things: 1) it provides a wonderful creative outlet for me and a feeling of competence when my creations turn out and 2) I feel a deep sense of contentment when I can produce something that makes other people really happy.  That is why I bake. :)

This cheesecake recipe uses a lot of cream cheese and mascarpone!  It is fairly simple though.  I did make a few changes after getting some hints from fellow blogger Cathleen.  Instead of adding the crumb crust after baking as the recipe calls for, I made an oreo cookie crumb before filling and baking.  I was also very intrigued by Cathleen’s cheesecake because she added this beautiful chocolate ganache to the top which I will be adding as well. (Got that part finished finally..still waiting to taste)

I made the cookie crust by dismantling oreos and scraping out the filling…it was all I had on hand so I went with what I had.  Baked the crust up for 15 minutes meanwhile beating the cream cheese on medium low to prevent air being added to the batter.  This particular recipe uses cream cheese, mascarpone, sour cream and very small amounts of flour, sugar, vanilla and 3 eggs….adding to that, melted bittersweet chocolate.  To cook the cheesecake properly and prevent cracking you bake it placing the pan in a roasting pan filled with hot water.  I added a foil liner to prevent water from seeping into the springform pan.

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This cooks for about an hour and comes out looking like this..

photoCThis is the spot I am at now…waiting for the cheesecake to come to room temperature.  After that, I am suppose to chill it for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Once I have the chocolate ganache on top I will take a picture of the final product and let you know what everyone thinks since I am pretty sure I won’t be tasting this one…but who knows…I might be persuaded.  ;)

Follow-up: I sent this cake out to many tasters this time as it is a rather large and thick cake; my usual tasters, my bible study small group, my son’s girlfriend, brother and sister-in-law’s family and the response was pretty much unanimous!!  Everyone LOVED it…as long as you like cheesecake.  It did not turn my son and I into cheesecake lovers but we both said it was better than most we have tried.  I have to say it is a beautiful cake to take somewhere and not really that difficult.  Here are some finished pictures:

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Onion Bialys

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This was a new one for me.  I have never had an onion bialys…wasn’t sure what one was.  The picture looked a lot like a bagel but without the hole in the middle.  That area was to be filled in with a sautéed onion mixture.  Sounded yummy to me.

The recipe starts out with making a sponge…surprise, surprise!  This one was a little different from the ones we have made before in that it had a few more ingredients including sautéed onions and optional black pepper, which I included.

This rested for 1.5 hours.  Add flour/salt and rest for another 1/5 hours.  Not too long in comparison to other bread recipes.

After the rising, you work with the dough forming 12 bialys.  This dough was very easy to work with, not sticky at all.  I found that I didn’t need dust the towels.  One thing that did concern me was when the recipe compared these to the Oasis Naan.  I was not successful with making that “flatbread” flat.  I made sure I was so diligent with using the fork to prick the center…doing it all three times to ensure they would turn out with a well in the middle and round on the edges.  I filled the center area with the sauteed onion mixture and put them into the oven.

These smell SO good while they are baking!  Just plain bread baking smells wonderful but add in the sautéed onion and it makes your mouth water.  I couldn’t wait too long after removing them from the oven to taste one.  They were delicious…BUT looked very much like a bagel.  Seems I have issues with using a fork to preserve an indentation.  Thankfully the look of these bialys had nothing to do with the taste!! :)  Everyone loved these!  If I made them again, I would make more onion mixture for on top of the bialys.  Even though it gets a little burned, it is so delicious and really adds to the flavor!  Maybe if my indentation had held it wouldn’t have burned. ;)

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Vanilla Chiffon Roll

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The week I made this recipe I needed a diversion.  My daughter left to study abroad for the spring semester in London, England and although I was very excited for her, it was a bit unsettling as we waited to hear that all was good!  I can now report she has hit the ground running and loving the city and all the sights! :)

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This recipe was a bit deceiving…it didn’t sound all that difficult but as you got into it there were many steps and it used MANY bowls, appliances, and utensils!!  Just to go through it quickly this is what I encountered:

Made the cake batter which included

  • sifting the dry ingredients (with my new sifter!)
  • whisking the egg yolks, oil, water, and vanilla
  • mix the yolk mixture and dry ingredients together

Meanwhile

  • whipping the egg whites into thick, shiny peaks
  • gently fold 1/3 of whites into the yolk mixture and then all of it together

I poured the batter into the prepared pan and baked for the 12 minutes.  My cake puffed up pretty good.  I wasn’t sure if that was what it was suppose to do.  After I took it out and let it cool it fell considerably but looked more like what I expected.

Made the mousse

  • Put the walnuts and oil in the food processor creating a paste
  • Added the melted chocolate and set aside
  • Made the simple sugar syrup and gradually added it to the egg yolks whisking without stopping
  • Fit that bowl over a make shift double boiler and whisked the mixture until foamy and hot to the touch
  • Then beat the mixture on high until pale and holds a soft ribbon…and it cool to the touch.
  • fold in the reserved nut mixture
  • whip the heavy cream and fold it delicately into the walnut mixture and refigerate

I have never made chocolate mousse and I would have to say I was very proud of myself!  It tasted great and looked correct…light and fluffy!

Assemble the cake

  • Un-mold, trim, and flip the cake
  • Spread the chilled mousse evenly
  • Roll the cake and chill for at least two hours

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I think mine had too much chocolate mousse in the middle and didn’t become a pretty roll but I didn’t hear anyone complain about too much mousse.  :)

Finishing the cake

  • Sprinkle the top of the roll with sifted cocoa powder to create a pattern
  • Add candied walnuts..which I made from scratch following the recipe in the back of the cookbook.  That was an interesting process….I kept feeling like I needed to add liquid to the sugar to get it going.  Totally burned two of my fingertips removing the walnuts from the fork and placing on the wax paper.  I won’t make that mistake again!!

I would say this whole process took me about 3 hours.  Nothing about it was particularly hard, but it took time with so many steps.  I was happy to do it and everyone enjoyed tasting it, BUT I can’t see myself ever making this again.  I would be so stressed out making this for an occasion of some sort.  It just took too long and as my son said, “It is really good Mom, but not great.  Probably not worth it for the time it took you”…haha.  I think he is right.  ;)