Chocolate-Mint Nightcaps

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With all the baking we are doing with two cookbooks now…and Thanksgiving dinner, it was nice to have an easy one to fit in when I had the time. These are basically cake’ish chocolate cookies that are sandwiched together with a chocolate ganache.  If that wasn’t enough chocolate, you add a swirl of chocolate ganache on top to form a “nightcap”.

In all honesty, these weren’t anything too special…they look like they should be, but they were just ok….good, but ok.  I personally wouldn’t make them again.  You can make the parts ahead of time and then assemble the cookies when you need them, but I am always thinking, “if I was taking them somewhere or having people over, how would this work for me?”  They were a bit fussy for my liking…especially without the “wow” factor.  There are better recipes.

The Rugelach That Won Over France

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I was so excited to become part of the baking and blogging world…almost 3 years ago now!  When we started “Baking with Julia”, one of the first recipes we did was Rugelach.  At that time I had never heard of, nor tasted Rugelach, and neither had my tasters.  We knew then, we were in for a great adventure.  That Rugelach had a similar butter and cream cheese dough with some flour and sugar mixed in but the filling was very different.  We made our own prune lekvar and then added nuts and dried fruit and then the pieces were rolled in sugar and cinnamon.  They were beautiful and everyone enjoyed them.

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DSCF4634This “Rugelach that won over France” recipe was a bit different.  I found the dough to be easy to work with in the initial stages…kind of broke easily when you sliced the dough.

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The filling for this recipe is sweetened coconut, chocolate, dried cherries, and pecans…and the dough lightly buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. The dough is filled and then rolled into 12in logs and frozen for an hour to help with the cutting.

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After an hour of chilling, they receive an egg wash and sanding sugar sprinkled on top.  This is where things got difficult.  I had no problem cutting the rolls except that very often I would hit a dried cherry or pecan piece and that would make the dough tear apart.  I found it hard to keep them looking “pretty” and there wasn’t much I could do about it.  Perhaps my ingredients weren’t chopped finely enough but it would have been hard to make them much smaller. Anyway, did the best I could and popped them into the oven.  Baked them the full 17 min as instructed to ensure the centers would be cooked…might have been a little long in my oven.

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I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I would get from my tasters, but surprisingly everyone loved these!  My in-laws were part of the tasting this time and my mother-in-law said, and I quote, “I am wild about these cookies”!!! They both couldn’t get enough of them.  They were small cookies so you had to have a handful to feel satisfied…and I even made them bigger than was called for in the recipe.  I didn’t think they were as pretty as the other rugelach that we made but it seems that they are just as yummy!

Cranberry Crackle Tart

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So this one was a surprise!

I was not really into this recipe and neither were my tasters after I described it…not really cranberry people I guess and it seemed to be an odd combination.  I have baked with dried cranberries, but never fresh.  As I contemplated baking it or not, I came to the conclusion that this recipe is exactly why I joined BWJ in the first place…to try new things/recipes that you would never try on your own.

The recipe is actually very easy:

  1. I chose to make the sweet tart dough…curious how the other choice, galette dough worked for others. Using parchment paper you roll out the dough and fit a pie pan, prick the bottom, freeze for 30 min, and then pre-bake.
  2. After the crust has cooled, you spread jam over the bottom.  Seemed like an odd addition at the time but oh wow…it really added something.
  3. Meanwhile, with a mixer you beat two egg whites with sugar until shiny.  Gently fold in the raw cranberries and fill the crust.
  4. Bake for about an hour…that is it…super simple.

This is where I was surprised…I did not have high hopes and was even unsure if I would send out the text to my tasters.  This is a hard tart to cut and still make the slices look pretty.  As I was cutting and arranging pieces, I tried a piece of one and was amazed.  It was good, really good.  I tried another bite and thought, hey maybe I am a cranberry person. :)  I sent out the texts and let everyone know that this was worth trying.

These are a couple of the texts I received back:

“Soooo good!!! Kinda like eating a tart, pie, cookie all in one. The tastes all go together really well”

“The cranberry tart was amazing!!!”

I guess we all learned something from this recipe…you have to bake the new recipes and expect an adventure…you never know, it just might surprise you!  Can’t believe I am saying it but, this one is a keeper. :)

Amaretti

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These cookies are made from an almond paste base, with sugar and egg whites mixed in. They are a type of macaroon common in Italy…classic with a thin, crisp outside and a soft, chewy interior.  The recipe calls for almond paste found in a can vs a tube so that you can achieve superior consistency.  Both stores I checked only had the tube form of almond paste, so I may not have gotten “superior” quality but  I think I still got a good cookie out of it. :)

These cookies are a bit different…in a few ways.

1. The dough is made from so few ingredients, it has a strange consistency.  The batter is piped into mounds on a lined baking sheet.

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2. The next step is to wet a cotton or linen kitchen towel…leaving it wet.  Folding the towel into a 2 in wide strip, I was to let the center droop and gently dap the top of the cookie until the top was smooth. slightly flattened, and glistening.  The recipe says this takes away the ridges from piping the dough and also gives the cookies their crinkly top which is characteristic of this cookie.

photonov9It seemed like a strange step, but surprisingly it worked!  The cookies are then baked and cooled on a rack.

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I made these the same day I made the Palets de Dames from BCM.  My tasters thought both of these cookies were very unique in taste and texture.  These amaretti were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  I am not always a fan of almond flavored things, but as I ate the cookie it grew on me.  I think I liked the texture more than the flavor but I think they were good. The store where I bought the almond paste told me they only carry it during the holidays so maybe this is more of a holiday season cookie.  Not sure I was sold on them, but as always…glad we tried them!

 

 

Palets de Dames, Lille Style

 

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So here it is; our first “Baking Chez Moi” recipe.  It is all very exciting for us bakers.  I am committed to finishing the Baking with Julia cookbook just for the accomplishment of it, but oh, to get a new cookbook…and one that has so many recipes that I can’t wait to try…gets you excited!! :)

This first one, is a simple one; both in taste and baking.   Palets de Dames are an easy cake’ish cookie, resembling a top or open parasol, finished with a sweet icing.  I found them to taste like a thick sugar cookie…right up my alley!  Our cookbook tells us they are found in every patisserie in the northern French city of Lille which borders Belgium.  For some reason I assumed the pointed part of the cookie would be the frosted side since they wouldn’t sit well otherwise, but now that I am looking more closely at the picture in the cookbook, it looks like I might have picked the wrong side.  I guess the flat side should be frosted…who knew haha!  I don’t think it matters which side, they tasted great!

The cookies consist of butter, flour, sugar, vanilla and eggs.  The batter is a very soft dough, resembling more of cake batter than cookie dough.  The batter is put in the fridge to chill for a minimum of one hour. The chilled dough is rolled into balls and then baked until set and slightly browned.  The final step is dipping the cookie in icing made of confectioners sugar, milk, and lemon juice.  (After dipping a few, I found it much easier to use a knife and spread the icing on)

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Most all of my tasters loved these cookies with the exception of my husband who thought they were a little bland.  I actually loved them.  This recipe is a keeper…easy and tasted great! :)

 

Alsatian Onion Tart

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I am so glad to be back and baking again!…I think my tasters are glad that I am back too!!  What a wild couple of months…started with moving my youngest into college and then a whirlwind of traveling….first to the New England states and then a trip to Miami Beach.

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All fun, and all good…but I am glad to get back to baking!  Such exciting news too…we are adding a new cookbook to use as we finish the Baking with Julia.  This one is called Baking Chez Moi, also by Dorie Greenspan…thus the baking group “Tuesdays with Dorie”.  I am SO excited to start this new cookbook…totally up my alley…lots of chocolate and lots of apples!!  Yay!

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This Alsatian Onion Tart was a good one to get back into the swing of things again…very easy and quite tasty!  There were three basic steps:

Prepare the Pastry:

The recipe suggested using a lid to make the round tart.  Very easy…then I used the scrap to make a rectangle piece as well.

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photo 2-1Make the Topping:

Diced onion simmered in chicken broth…cooled and then add heavy cream and pepper

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Oh my gosh these onions made me cry!  Super strong today!

Assemble and Bake:

Pierce the dough liberally, then layer the onion and bacon

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I wasn’t sure how this was going to taste but it smelled great cooking.  I tried a piece and it was really good!  I would say this would be a great addition to a brunch…it would go really well with eggs!  I sent out my text that the tart was ready and since it had been awhile, everyone was excited to try something new.

I love getting the reviews:

“Thumbs up!!! We really like it!  Rilee ate a piece on the way back from your house. We just had ours!!  Thank you”

“Just a note to let you know I had my bacon/onion tart for dinner!  It’s GREAT!! Really good!”

This is one of those recipes that I would totally make again if I had the need.  It was very good!  It’s a keeper.

 

 

Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes

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I am getting this one in…barely!  I have had a lot going on moving my son into his college dorm so I finally got to the baking today.  Thank goodness this one was fairly easy. :) The only changes I made was to halve the recipe and use my 6 muffin tin.  I was careful to not push the plum too far into the batter but I must have since it disappeared.  I will be sure to share these with my tasters, but for now I am the only one to have tried them and it was yummy!  I would have preferred apple instead of the plum, but very good and very easy!