Blueberry Oat Slices

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: about 4 to 5 dozen cookies
Recipe: 131/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 32

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    It’s been a little while since I baked something from the cookbook. Something new, anyway. I am always looking for a little cookie or something to nibble on in the evenings, so I decided to make these blueberry oat cookies. I always tend to cut sliced cookies thicker than the recommended ¼-inch, I think because otherwise I feel like they are too thin and don’t really count as a snack. To be honest, I was not a fan of these cookies. Although the texture is nice, I found the flavour to be severely lacking and they were not nearly sweet enough. I am not a huge fan of dried fruits, and even though these blueberries were rehydrated, I don’t think that they brought a lot of flavour to the cookie. A bit disappointing when they are blueberry oat slices. I will of course finish eating them, but would not make them again. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried blueberries
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup icing sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup regular rolled oats
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the dried blueberries and let them soak for 15 minutes. Drain the blueberries and spread them out on a paper towel to dry. 
  2. Beat together the butter, icing sugar and sugar until fluffy. 
  3. Add in the egg and vanilla extract. Mix well to combine. 
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder and salt. Stir this into the butter mixture until incorporated. 
  5. Stir in the rehydrated dried blueberries. Shape the dough into 3 logs of about 1 ½ inches in diameter, wrap each in plastic wrap, roll them to round out their shape and chill until firm, about 2 hours. 
  6. Preheat the over to 350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Slice the chilled dough into ¼-inch slices and arrange them on the prepared baking trays, leaving about one inch between them. You may need to bake several batches. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown colour on the bottom. 

Valerie

Raspberry Crumble Bars

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: about 16 bars
Recipe: 130/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 72

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     This recipe was fun and simple to make. Pulse all the ingredients except the raspberry jam together, press half of it in the pan and layer the raspberry jam and the rest of the crumble mixture on top. It smelled nice and fruity while baking. Although I was very careful to gently press the crumble top layer, it ended up a bit too compact for my liking. I think it would have been better if the top layer was more loose and more crumbly (these are crumble bars, after all). Adding in some oats to the leftover crumble mixture before sprinkling in atop the raspberry jam would also add a nice texture.

   Unfortunately, I was not really a fan of these bars. Although the texture added by the cornmeal is nice, I found the bars too dense, both in texture and flavour, and could only eat a few bites at a time. There is also something unusual about the taste and I found them too sweet, probably due to the raspberry jam. Perhaps this might be different based on the brand of raspberry jam used, but for me to find a dessert too sweet it must really be in excess. If I were to remake these I would probably try to just puree some fresh raspberries and use that as a middle layer instead. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom or ground allspice
  • 1 cup cool unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup raspberry jam

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Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so the paper hangs over the sides a little.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together briefly the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and cardamom or allspice to blend. Add the butter and pulse until crumbly. Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor, whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl, then cut in the cool butter pieces using your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. Put 3 cups of this crumble texture into the prepared pan and firmly press down so that the mixture is even around the pan.
  4. Stir the raspberry jam to soften it and spread it evenly over the pressed crumble.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture on top and press down gently.
  6. Bake the bars for about 30-35 minutes, until they just begin to brown around the edges. Cool the bars to room temperature, then chill them for at least 2 hours before slicing into 16 or 18 bars, depending on how big you want them. 

Valerie

Chocolate Pavlovas

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: 8 individual pavlovas
Recipe: 129/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 301

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     It is clear to me now that I really am not good at making meringue desserts. I have tried twice now to make Pavlovas, and they always crack. Very finicky desserts, these. I don’t know what I am doing wrong but I can never get them right. I followed tricks on the internet to try to prevent it from cracking, the main one being to let them cool down in the oven after baking by shutting off the temperature and cracking the door open. However, by doing this I think the Pavlovas continued to bake and they were sadly overbaked and quite dry. I also put one blueberry too many on the baked and cooled Pavlova, and it simply collapsed under the weight. Sadly I was not a fan of this recipe, not only because of my technical failures, but the taste was also quite strange to me. I did not enjoy the mixture of balsamic vinegar and chocolate, although it did smell good as it was baking. Disappointing effort on my part, but it was still nice to try! Let me know if you have any tips and secrets for a fool-proof Pavlova that doesn’t crack!

Update – I have been munching on the unassembled Pavlova shell over the past couple of days and I actually quite like it. Perhaps without the cultured crème fraîche I can appreciate more the flavour of the chocolate pavlova itself. Not all is lost.

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 recipe Crème Fraîche
  • 4 cups mixed fresh berries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Cut two sheets of parchment paper to fit 2 baking trays, and trace 4 circles about 4 inches across on each paper. Place them on the trays, marker side down. 
  2. Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until they are foamy, then slowly add the sugar and continue whipping at high speed until the whites hold a stiff peak when the beaters are lifted. The egg whites should be thick and glossy.
  3. Stir the cocoa powder and cornstarch over the whites and fold in gently.
  4. Quickly fold in the balsamic vinegar and vanilla extract. 
  5. Dollop a generous cupful of meringue onto each circle drawn onto the parchment paper. Gently press an indent into the centre of each, but don’t flatten or spread the meringue too much.
  6. Bake the Pavlovas for 75 to 90 minutes, until they are dry on the outside. Let them cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
  7. Serve the Pavlovas with a dollop of crème fraîche on top of each, and sprinkle with fresh berries. The Pavlovas will keep, unassembled, in an airtight container for up to a day.

Valerie

Crème Fraîche

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 1 cup
Recipe: 128/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 320

Crème fraîche

     I had never before done crème fraîche and although I was nervous to make it as I am with all fermented foods, it was pretty straight forward to make. Mine cultured for 36 hours as it is pretty humid here, and the cream thickened quite a lot. Since I was making this to accompany a dessert, I naturally assumed that this cream would be a bit sweet, forgetting of course that it is fermented with buttermilk so it does taste a bit sour. I realize now after trying a few different things that I really do not like anything sour in my desserts, especially not sour cream. However, if you do, this crème fraîche will be perfect for you and you can add little dollops on a variety of desserts. To each our own! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Stir the whipping cream and buttermilk together, and pour the mixture into a plastic or glass container. Place this container into a bowl and fill the bowl with hot tap water, just to the level of the cream. Place this in a warm, draft-free place to culture for 24 to 48 hours. Time will depend on humidity.
  2. Check the fragrance of the cream for a fresh citrus or sour aroma, and chill the crème fraîche without stirring until set, about 3 hours.
  3. To use, spoon off the crème fraîche and dispose of the liquid whey at the bottom. The crème fraîche will keep in the fridge until the best-before date of the cream.

Valerie

Raspberry, Lemon, and White Chocolate Rugelach

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: 16 large cookies
Recipe: 127/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 46

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    Flour is once more abundant in my home. Well, not abundant but many pounds more than I had a few weeks ago. As such I have ramped up my baking once more and I was excited to try these raspberry, lemon and white chocolate rugelach. I had never heard of these Jewish delicacies, but I am very glad to have discovered them. These were truly one of the best cookies I have ever made. I say cookie, but truly they are more in between a cookie and a pastry. A cootry? A paskie? That sounds better.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ package (4 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup raspberry jam
  • 60 g (2 oz) white chocolate, cut in chunks, or ½ cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 egg white, for brushing (optional, see notes)

    These paskies smelled fantastic while baking, looked quite cute and tasted delicious. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I did not expect them to be that good. I don’t know why I thought this since raspberry and chocolate is a match made in heaven, so thankfully I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet yet not overly sweet pastry. Cookie. Not sure. Anna Olson proves once again that cream cheese is truly a secret weapon in pastry. The dough was perfectly flaky and just melted in the mouth with each bite. Truly a scrumptious treat to enjoy with some nice tea.

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Directions:

  1. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Beat in the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest.
  3. Add the flour and the salt and stir until the dough evenly comes together. Shape the dough into 2 discs, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  5. On a lightly floured surfaced, roll out the first disc of dough into a circle about 12 inches (30 cm) across and just shy of ¼ inch thick. Trim away the rough edges.
  6. Stir the raspberry jam to soften it, then stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Spread half of the jam over the surface of the dough, right to the edges. Sprinkle half of the white chocolate over the jam.
  7. Cut the dough into 8 wedges, and roll up each cookie from the large edge to its point, very much like a croissant, and place the cookies one inch apart on the baking tray.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 with the second disc of dough.
  9. Whisk the egg white until it is very foamy and brush each cookie with it.
  10. Sprinkle the cookies generously with sugar.
  11. Bake the rugelach for 20-25 minutes, until they are an even golden colour. Let the cookies cool on the tray before removing them to store.

Note from Anna:

  • These can be made egg-free by simply brushing the tops of the rolled cookies with milk in place of the egg white.

Valerie