Grown up Blueberry Pop-Tarts

Why do I feel a bit guilty when I eat a pop tart. Like I have to come up with some well thought out excuse why I want one. Maybe I just want a sugar laden rocket launch to head me into the 9 o’clock morning hour. Maybe I want an excuse to have a frosting covered dual slab o’ pastry for breakfast. With sprinkles. Maybe I’m calling out my inner 5 yr. old. Maybe, just maybe, I just kind of enjoy it. I still feel a bit guilty though- as I peel open with my teeth all kindergarten like, into that flimsy foil that houses the sugar slab of love. You know how there is always that one corner that gets super browned by the toaster and you always go for the corner bit to start?  That super crispy corner gets me every time. Then you hit the warm oozy jam part and it’s like a guilty pleasure. The devil on the left shoulder is telling you, “Oh yeah, it’s good isn’t it?” and the angel on the right shoulder is telling you “You shoulda had bran flakes”. Forget bran flakes….

grown up poptarts

blueberry poptarts 2

poptarts

Blueberry Poptarts

one recipe fearless pie crust

blueberry butter (purchased) Note: you can use any filling of your choice such as a thicker jam or preserves; a more tart filling is best to off set the sweet icing.

Icing:

1 Cup confectioners sugar

2 Tbsp. milk

colored sugar sprinkles

Assembly: Roll out pie crust to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into triangles measuring 3×5 inches. Spread blueberry filling (about 1 Tbsp) into a thin layer; leaving about 1/2 inch border so filling is not too close to edge. Top with second pie crust rectangle and seal edges by pressing together with a fork. Pierce the tops of each tart with the tines of a fork about 6-8 times. Bake in preheated oven at 375° F for about 15 minutes or until crust looks set. Remove from oven and let cool on the tray over a wire rack. Once completely cooled- dip tops into icing and decorate as desired with sprinkles or sugar.

For Icing: mix together sugar and milk until smooth. If icing is too runny add a bit of extra sugar a teaspoon at a time.


Matcha Green Tea Macarons

There is something about matcha that I cannot resist. Matcha green tea ice cream, matcha macarons, matcha milk tea. The flavor is earthy and comforting. It’s not a flavor that everyone loves. I think you either love it or hate it. I happen to LOVE it. I personally can’t imagine anyone NOT liking it. It is divine in these macs. I deviated from my usual swiss meringue buttercream and opted for a more simple American style version here.

matcha green tea macarons
.

Matcha Macarons 2

matcha macarons with matcha buttercream filling

matcha macarons

Matcha Macs 2

Matcha Macs 3

 

Matcha Green Tea Macarons

200 gms almond flour, sifted

200 gms confectioners sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder

75 gms egg white

1/8 tsp. mint green gel paste food coloring

200 gms granulated sugar

50 gms water

75 gms egg white

pinch of cream of tarter

1. In a large bowl combine the almond flour, and confectioners sugar, and matcha powder with a whisk. Add the 75 gms of egg whites, and green gel paste color and stir with a spatula to combine into a paste. Set aside.

2. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine 75 gms of egg whites and the cream of tartar and begin whipping them on medium-high speed.

At the same time combine the 200 gms of  granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan on high heat; bring to 240° without stirring while whipping the egg whites on your mixer simultaneously. You want the cooking sugar syrup to reach 240 degrees at the same time your whites reach stiff peaks. To time this; keep the stand mixer next to the stove so you can peek at the whites while still watching your cooking syrup. If you notice the whites starting to get too stiff before the sugar is done; slow down the mixer to low-speed.

3. Once the syrup is at 240 degrees, stop/take off the heat and start pouring the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl slowly with the mixer running on slow-medium at the same time; careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk to prevent hard syrup forming. Once all the syrup is in, crank up the mixer and whip the whites until very glossy and stiff.

4. Take the whipped meringue and place on top of the almond mixture and start to  fold gently until all of the meringue is incorporated; careful not to deflate the mixture. You are looking for a thick consistency like lava. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and pipe the cookies on parchment lined sheet trays; leaving at least an inch space between cookies. Take the trays and rap them hard on the counter to release any air bubbles. Let the trays sit out anywhere from 30-60 minutes; as long as it takes until when you touch the top of the cookies they are dry and no longer tacky to the touch.

5. Bake the cookies double panned (placing one empty tray underneath the piped cookies) one tray at a time in a 325° oven for about 15-18 minutes until the cookies are no longer wet on the bottom and appear dry. Sacrifice one if you have to test. Let the cookies cool on the tray. Sandwich with the buttercream filling. Store the cookies in the fridge covered loosely for 8 hours or overnight; this helps the cookies become even more chewy as the moisture from the filling helps the texture of the cookie.

 

Green Tea Buttercream

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

230 gms confectioners sugar

3 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. green tea matcha powder

 

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the lemon juice and matcha powder and beat until combined.


Happy Chinese New Year 2015: Chinese Almond Cookies

Happy Chinese New Year 2015. The year of the sheep or as some say; the goat. These cookies are simple and perfect any time of year with a little bit of tea, but very popular during Lunar New Year. May the year bring you prosperity, good health, and above all-happiness.

Chinese Almond Cookies

 almond cookies sliced

almond cookies unbaked

Chinese Almond Cookies for Chinese New Year

Chinese Almond Cookies

yield: about 4 1/2 dozen small cookies

1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp

1 Cup sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp. pure almond extract

3/4 Cup almond meal (almond flour)

1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1 egg (for egg wash)

2 tsp. milk (for egg wash)

blanched almonds for tops of cookies*

* (If you don’t have blanched almonds-you can take whole almonds with the skin on-and soak them in water for 1 hour. After one hour drain the almonds and gently push the skins off by pressing with your first two fingers. Blot almonds with paper towels to absorb any excess water).

 

1. Cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy; about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and almond extract. Whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture and combine on medium speed until almost combined. With clean hands mix together gently until rest of dough is combined. Divide dough into 2 equal portions and roll each into a 1.5 inch wide by 14 inch long log; wrap in parchment paper and chill for 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 325° F. In a small bowl; make the egg wash by whisking the egg and milk until combined. Cut logs into scant 1/2 inch slices and press an almond onto each cookie. Place cookies 2 inches apart. Brush with egg wash. Bake for 17-19 minutes until cookies are light golden brown. Let cool on sheets over a wire rack until cooled. Serve with tea.


Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

There are certain things in life I cannot live without.

A bathtub.

A camera.

Strong coffee.

Real butter.

And salt-(preferably kosher salt).

Don’t even think about taking my salt away. It will not be pretty. You will see an ugly side of me you don’t want to encounter. Remember the scenes when Lou Ferrigno turned into The Hulk? Yeah, it’s something like that. I’m sure as I advance in age some day- some balding, stern Dr. will tell me I have to give up salt- and then I will wrestle him to the ground and feed him a salted caramel cupcake. He will take one bite and come over to the dark side. Immediately.

Please don’t lecture me. It will do NO good. This is right up there with convincing me to floss my teeth every day. Don’t bother wasting your words. Your attempt is futile. I love my salt. I especially love sweet and salty. I REALLY love salted caramel. You will have some salted caramel leftover after making these-You’re welcome.  Pour it over vanilla ice cream.

salted caramel cupcakes

 

chocolate and salted caramel cupcake

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

makes 24-28 cupcakes

2 Cups sugar

1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour

3/4 Cup extra dark brute cocoa (such as Hershey’s Special Dark)

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 large eggs, room temp

1 Cup whole milk, room temp

1/2 Cup vegetable oil

2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Cup hot strong coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two standard size muffin tins with cupcake liners.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar and sift the next 5 ingredients over the sugar directly into the bowl. Combine with a fork to mix. In a glass measuring container mix the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla with a fork. Add  the egg mixture to the mixer bowl and with the paddle attachment beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes; stopping once or twice to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Stir in the hot coffee and carefully mix by hand with a large spatula. The batter will be very thin. Pour batter into prepared lined tins; no more than 2/3 full. Three measured Tablespoons is about 2/3 full; it’s helpful to measure out one into a well and then you can eyeball the rest. A scant full standard size ice cream scoop is another good way to get 2/3 full. Resist the urge to over fill as you don’t want to get cupcakes that spill over the cupcake liner- but rather you want a more flat cupcake. Bake in 350° F preheated oven for about 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow cupcakes tins to cool completely over a wire rack. Frost with caramel frosting and drizzle with salted caramel drizzle.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

4 sticks (2 Cups) unsalted butter, softened

8 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted

2 tsp. whole milk

1 Cup of (cooled) caramel (see recipe below)

2 tsp. kosher salt

In a stand mixer cream together the butter until soft. Add the sugar about one cup at a time and beat until smooth. Beat in the milk then add the cooled caramel and salt and beat until smooth.

Caramel and (Salted Caramel Drizzle)

2 C sugar

1/2 C water

1 1/2 C heavy cream; nuke until slightly warm

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 tsp. kosher salt (save for salted caramel drizzle)

In a medium saucepan place the sugar and add the water and mix gently until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cook over medium high heat and let it come to a boil without stirring; until the caramel reaches a deep amber. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat. Carefully pour in the cream, it will bubble and spout a bit; whisk carefully until combined. Whisk in the butter and then divide caramel by half into two heat proof containers. Add the salt to half the quantity of caramel (for the salted caramel drizzle). Let cool.

Enjoy

 


Strawberry-Lavender Valentine Hearts

In honor of upcoming Valentines Day- I decided to post a few (or many) thoughts about love- with a side of cookie.

Love is complicated. Love is necessary.

Love is food. Love is a kiss.

Love is making the time. Love is communication.

Love is admitting you screwed up. Love is taking care of someone.

Love is not making it ABOUT you. Love is making it about YOU.

Love is forgiveness. Love is an exhilarating rush.

Love is a warm hug. Love is loving yourself- ALWAYS.

Love is walking 10 blocks in the rain on Halloween with tired feet-when you really want to be on the couch eating a snickers in your jammies.

Love is a commitment. Love is not supposed to be perfect.

Love is not talking during Real Housewives; unless there is an apocalypse of course.

Love is camping-even if you’re not really a happy camper.

Love is understanding, even when perhaps you don’t understand.

Love is folding the laundry. Love is DOING the laundry.

Love is seeing and holding your child for the first time.

Love is everything.

Happy Valentines Day~

Strawberry Valentine Hearts 2015

Linzer Heart Cutouts

heart cutter

Strawberry-Lavender Hearts

yield: about 2 dozen

1 Cup unsalted butter, softened

5 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

1/3 Cup honey

3/4 tsp. vanilla bean paste

1 1/2  tsp. dried lavender

2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Seedless strawberry preserves

sanding sugar or coarse sugar

rainbow edible glitter (optional)

1. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the honey in a slow stream and mix until combined. Add the vanilla bean paste and dried lavender and mix. Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl with a fork. Reduce the mixer to low and add the flour in two additions and mix until combined. Remove the dough from the bowl and press into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours. Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface into 1/8 inch thick. Cut into heart shapes with a 2 1/4  inch cutter. Reroll scrapes until all the dough is used. Remove half of the cutouts with a smaller heart shape for the tops. Sprinkle the tops with sanding sugar or coarse sugar. Bake cookies in a preheated 350° F oven one tray at a time for 14-15 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. Allow cookies to cool completely. Sandwich cookies with seedless strawberry preserves. Sprinkle with rainbow edible glitter (optional) to top half of cookies before sandwiching.


Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake

I’ve got a bad case of the winter blah blah blahsss. I’m dreaming of sunny skies, cool night breezes-the kind that beckon sleeping with the windows open, tart red cherries, and sipping cold lemonade on a hot summer day… I thought this coffee cake would lighten the mood with it’s tart burst of cherries and crunchy sugary top it’s just the thing to remind me of summer. I used frozen (thawed) sour cherries. Growing up my Mother used to squirrel away frozen fruit in a huge freezer so we would have any kind of berry or fruit all Winter long for such a baking occasion. I like to squirrel away fruit too- I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

 

cherry streusel cake

 cherry streusel coffee cake

cherry almond coffee cake

Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake

Cake:

1/2 Cup milk

1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon zest

3/4 Cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 granulated sugar

1 lg. egg

1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1/2 Cup (generous) cherry preserves, divided (I like Smuckers)

2/3 Cup frozen tart cherries, thawed (If you can’t find frozen tart cherries- you can substitute 1 Cup of dried tart cherries)

1. Make the streusel as per below and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Prepare an 8 inch pan by lining with a parchment sling so that all sides have an overhang of about 1 1/2 inches. Spray the parchment with baking spray or lightly butter.

3. In a small bowl combine the milk and lemon juice and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the egg and lemon zest and combine well. Add the vanilla and almond extract. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and whisk with a fork.

4. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients alternating with the milk mixture in two additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Take 1/2 of the batter (it will be thick) and spread it evenly in the pan. Take 1/4 C of the jam and heat it slightly in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Spread the jam evenly over the batter, then sprinkle 1/3 Cup of the cherries over the preserves. Note: I blot the cherries dry first with a paper towel to prevent too much liquid in the batter. Take the remaining batter and dot spoonfuls of the batter over the first layer, then carefully spread batter, repeat by spreading the other half of the (warmed) cherry preserves, and sprinkle with remaining cherries.

Note: If you can’t find frozen cherries; you can fold in 1 Cup or more of dried cherries into the batter before spreading batter into the pan. (Still spread the cherry preserves onto the batter as called for in the recipe).

5. Sprinkle the streusel on top and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for 50-55 minutes until the streusel is set (doesn’t look too wet or loose) and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. If the top of the cake gets too brown you can cover with tinfoil for the last 5-10 minutes as needed. Let the cake cool in the pan set over a wire rack.

 

Almond Streusel

1/4 Cup sugar

1/4 Cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

5 Tbsp. butter, softened

1/3 Cup sliced almonds

1. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or in a bowl with a fork) combine all the ingredients except the almonds until appears crumbly. Stir in the almonds.

 


Blackberry Berliner Donuts

I don’t know why but for the last 2 weeks I’ve been craving a donut.  I pushed it back into the corners of my mind and tried to wage war on it by eating yogurt every day. Then I added granola with berries to my yogurt.  That SO did NOT work. On about the 8th day I woke up again and craved a donut. On the 9th day I started fantasizing about what kind of donut exactly it was that I needed. Not just any donut would do. However, I like my donuts simple. Nothing too crazy usually. That does not mean that for time to time I won’t experiment and come up with something outrageous; it’s just that when it comes to a donut craving it’s usually a simple sugar rolled donut or an “old fashioned” donut that calls me. I like my donuts pillowy soft and somewhat plush.  I knew that a cake donut would not do. It had to be yeast, soft, and FRESH. The kind of donut you sink your teeth into.

This is that donut-a pillowy soft, fluffy interior kind of donut. When you bite into it, the sides envelope you like a feather bed kind of hug, then the sweet and tangy blackberry filling oozes just enough in contrast to the grainy sugar crystals that dance across your lips. Uh huh. You reach for your slightly bitter coffee to wash it down. Yep, I know. Some things are worth waiting for….

Happiness is a blackberry filled donut; pillowy soft on the inside and rolled in sugar

blackbery berliners

Make them large or small; below are donut hole sizeblackberry filled donut holes

Blackberry Berliners

yield: about 1 dozen

recipe: adapted from “Glazed Filled Sugared & Dipped” by Stephen Collucci

 

3 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1 1/2 Cups (room temp-slightly warm) whole milk

3 Cups bread flour

3/4 Cup all purpose flour

1/4 Cup sugar + more for rolling donuts in

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/ tsp. nutmeg

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

Vegetable oil for frying

Blackberry seedless preserves for filling (I like Dickensons)

 

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment combine the milk and yeast on low speed for 2-3 minutes. You should see bubbling on the surface.

2. In a medium bowl combine the flours, sugar, salt, and nutmeg with a fork. Add the mixture to the stand mixer bowl and mix to combine. Switch to the dough hook, add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Add in the butter and mix on medium speed until well combined. Mix the dough for about 5-8 minutes until the dough gathers on the hook and pulls away from the bowl. The dough should feel mostly smooth but a little sticky. Form the dough into a smooth ball by gently working it with your hands or with a little floured work surface.

3. Grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Place bowl in a warm, draft-free place and let dough rise until tripled in size. Line a sheet pan with wax paper- you will use this to place the cut donuts onto. Line another sheet pan with paper towels and place a wire rack over the towels.

4. Turn the risen dough onto a floured work surface and lightly flour the top of dough and roll gently into about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3 inch circular shapes or smaller if desired, place on prepared sheet pan lined with wax paper.

5. Fry donuts 1-3 at a time in a 350° F oil for about 1-2 mins per side until donuts are golden brown. Resist the urge to over fry donuts too dark as that will take away from the dough staying pillowy soft. Allow donuts to cool slightly over a sheet pan lined with paper towels over a wire rack. While donuts are still warm poke a hole in the side of each donut. Roll donuts in sugar and allow donuts to cool completely. When cooled then fill donuts with blackberry (seedless) preserves.

6. To fill donuts use a pastry bag fitted with a start tip (I used Ateco 822 size) and gently fill the donuts by squeezing the filling inside the holes of each donut.


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