Two-Bite Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Yield: about 6 dozen biscotti
Recipe: 87/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 38

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    Chocolate. Almonds. Bite size. This recipe was a bit more complex than others but is very well explained, utilizes some of my favorite ingredients and generates a ton of biscotti. I just had to try it. I found that there was a little something something missing in the taste of these biscotti, but I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it. Maybe it is the use of cocoa powder as opposed to other types of chocolate that changed the flavor profile of these compared to what I am used to. They have a nice bite and flavor to them nonetheless. Furthermore, keep in mind that this recipe was designed to make biscotti, so they are dry and harder than cookies, which is normal and to be enjoyed with a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate!

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ₁⁄₈ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer fitter with the whip attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on high speed until they hold a ribbon when the beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Fold these dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
  4. Scrape the batter into a pipping bag fitted with a large plain round tip, and pipe three rows of batter, about 12 inches long and 1 ½ inches across, onto each tray. The batter will be the consistency of cake batter and so a bit liquidy for pipping. You will need to move fast! Leave about 2 inches between each row.
  5. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the sliced almonds on top of the biscotti batter on each tray.
  6. Bake for about 16 minutes, until the tops of the biscotti appear dry. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. In the meantime, lower the temperature of the oven to 325°F.
  7. Transfer each row of biscotti to a cutting board and slice on the diagonal into thin biscotti that are about ¾ inch wide. Return the biscotti to the baking tray and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

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Valerie

Apple-Raisin Walnut Bars

Yield: about 20 bars (one 8-inch square pan)
Recipe: 87/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 63

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     Oh how the months have passed me by! They fled at the speed of light. Almost December already! Finally having some free time on my hand and a spare apple to use, I decided to make these apple-raisin walnut bars. Let me tell you, these are delightful!! They are ultra moist with all the right flavors: apple, the sweetness of raisins and that touch of cinnamon. I had never used applesauce in a recipe, especially not combined with grated apples, but this combination generated such moistness that I will use this trick in the future. Let’s not forget the pleasant texture and nutty flavor provided by the walnuts. Don’t be fooled by the presence of raisins, this recipe makes for a delicious dessert or late-night snack. If you closed your eyes you (maybe) even wouldn’t know that they’re there. You have to trust me on this one. Go for it.

Ingredients for bars:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large apple, peeled and coarsely grated
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup walnut pieces

Ingredients for glaze:

  • ⅓  cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or apple juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and beat after each addition.
  4. Stir in the applesauce and vanilla extract.
  5. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and beat well until blended.
  6. Stir in the grated apple, raisins and walnut pieces. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the pan comes out clean. When there is about 15 minutes left of baking, start preparing the glaze.
  7. For the glaze, stir all the ingredients together in a small saucepot except for the vanilla extract. Bring up to a simmer, stirring often. Once the mixture comes to a simmer, continue to cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  8. Once the cake comes out of the oven, pour the glaze over the hot cake and let it cool completely in the pan before removing it to slice into bars. Enjoy!

Valerie

Maple Crème with Almond Crackle

Yield: 4 to 6 individual crème brûlées
Recipe: 86/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 192

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      Having plenty of cream in my fridge meant that I was going to make a custardy-type dessert, such as this maple crème topped with an almond crackle. It is not a crème brûlée per se because the top has not been coated with sugar that was burnt and caramelized to create the typical hard crust. In its place, a nut crackle is used to create the crunchy feeling usually obtained by the caramelization of the sugar. This is rather a lighter version of the classic dessert as it uses less whipping cream and half-and-half to complement it. I think that I accidentally slightly undercooked this dessert as the consistence of the inside was a bit less firm than I expected. I am still getting used to finding the right “jiggle” for custards and crème brûlées! Nonetheless, the dessert taste great and the addition of maple syrup made it decadent and flavorful.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cups half-and-half cream
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ⅔ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 recipe Nut Crackle (almond)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Arrange four 6-ounce (180 mL) ramekins or other baking dishes in a much larger baking dish that has sides that are at least the height of the ramekins.
  2. Whisk together all the ingredients (except the crackle). Pour them into the prepared ramekins.
  3. Pour boiling water around the ramekins so that the water comes up to about two-thirds of the height of the ramekins.
  4. Bake the crèmes between 35-45 minutes, until they are set around the outside but still jiggle a bit at the centre. Allow the custards to cool in the water-filled pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the water to cool to room temperature before chilling for at least 4 hours.
  5. The crackle can be prepared while the crèmes are in the oven. To serve, break the crackle into pieces and place the, on top of the crèmes immediately before serving.

Notes from Anna:

  • This is a lighter version of the original crème brûlée since the recipe calls for half-and-half cream as opposed to heavy (whipping) cream.
  • The brûlées can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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Valerie

Nut Crackle

Yield: about ½ cup (enough to garnish 1 cake or tart, or 6 individual desserts)
Recipe: 85/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 321

Needing a garnish for a dessert that I wanted to make, I made this simple yet elegant nut crackle garnish. For my particular dessert I doubled the recipe, and for some reason the “crackle” never really solidified completely, making it difficult to break into pieces. Perhaps I should have kept in a bit longer in the oven to cook the syrup more, but I am not sure if that was the problem. I will keep you posted!

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup sliced or chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) pure maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminium foil and grease well with butter.
  2. Sprinkle the foil with the nuts, then pour the maple syrup overtop, stirring just slightly.
  3. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the syrup is bubbling vigorously. Let the crackle cool completely and store at room temperature until ready to serve.
  4. To serve, peel the foil away from the crackle and break it into pieces to use. The crackle will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.

Valerie

Cinnamon-Apple Almond Streusel Squares

Yield: one 8-inch square pan, about 20 squares
Recipe: 84/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 72

Cinnamon Apple Streusel Bars

     Surplus of both apples and free time has led me to make these cinnamon-apple almond streusel squares. As Anna writes in her cookbook, this dessert does indeed smell like apple pie in the making, but it takes considerable less effort to make! The taste is as expected: the deliciousness of apples merged with cinnamon and butter. The format of these squares makes them easy to eat and to share!

Ingredients for base:

  • ¾ cup ground almonds
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup icing sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces

Ingredients for streusel:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 ½ cups peeled ad coarsely grated tart apple such as Granny Smith
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. For the base, mix together in a food processor the ground almonds, flour and icing sugar. Add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture is a rough and crumbly texture. Alternatively, you can mix all the ingredients but the butter in a bowl, then cut in the butter using your hands or a fork. Press this mixture into the prepared pan and chill it while preparing the streusel.
  3. For the streusel, stir together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder. Cut in the butter by hand until a rough and crumbly mixture is obtained.
  4. Stir in the grated apple until it is coated with the flour and sugar mixture. Gently press this onto the chilled base.
  5. Bake for about 35 minutes, until it just begins to turn golden. Cool completely before slicing, and dust with icing sugar to garnish.

Valerie

Tangy Lemon Walnut Squares

Yield: one 8-inch square pan, about 20 squares
Recipe: 83/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 58

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      Lemon desserts are not my favorite thing on the planet, but when one cannot eat chocolate one has to adapt. I made these bars mostly because walnuts are involved and they are easy to share, which is a bonus and makes it easy to bring to work! Perhaps I was a bit biased to start with, but I was not a big fan of this recipe. I found that the base was much to thick compared to the lemon layer, which made for a more dense and nutty bar. If I must redo this recipe I would halve the walnut base and double the lemon layer, which in my opinion is meant to be the star ingredient in this recipe. However, since my colleagues seem to like these lemon walnut bars, perhaps it is just a personal preference. Let me know if you try them!

Ingredients for base:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces
  • ⅓ cup icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces

Ingredients for lemon layer:

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup white corn syrup
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. For the base, combine the flour and walnut pieces in a food processor. Pulse until the walnut pieces are finely ground.
  3. Add the icing sugar, lemon zest and salt and pulse.
  4. Add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture is a rough, crumbly texture. Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and press down, pushing the crumbs slightly up the edges of the pan (about ¼ inch). Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool before filling.
  5. For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs and corn syrup until smooth.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice and cornstarch together. Stir in the zest and baking powder, and quickly whisk this into the egg mixture. Pour the filling over the cooled crust.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes, until set with just a little jiggle in the centre. Cool to room temperature before removing from the pan, then slice and dust with icing sugar

Valerie

Caramel Walnut Shortbread Squares

Yield: one 8-inch square pan, about 25 squares
Recipe: 82/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 62

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     These past two weeks have been very tough for me. My friends and I made a (very stupid, in retrospect) bet about who could go on the longest without their favorite food. Mine, of course, was chocolate. Why did I agree to this ridiculous bet? I still wonder… daily. In any case, I have had no form of chocolate in over two weeks! That includes hot chocolate, chocolate milk, chocolate bars, chocolate desserts and even cocoa powder. It hurts. All that to say that last night I desperately needed to bake something that did not contain chocolate and could satisfy my sweet tooth.

      I thus present to you – caramel walnut shortbread squares. These little bars of heavenly gooeyness were an instant hit at work. They received an “honorable mention” from a few colleagues and definitely goes on my list of top desserts I have made from this cookbook (or ever, for that matter). The bite of the shortbread base actually makes the whole bar perfect. It supports the scrumptious gooey caramel and walnut topping. At first I thought that the walnut to surface area ratio was going to be too high. It is, I mean, there are a lot of walnuts on these bars, but they are best that way. If you want a sweet, gooey and satisfying dessert, definitely try these bars.

Ingredients for base:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cool unsalted butter, cut in pieces

Ingredients for filling:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups walnut halves**

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. Stir the flour, sugar and salt together.
  3. Cut in the butter until the mixture is a rough, crumbly texture. It should not come together as a dough. Press this mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 minutes, just until the edges begin to brown. Cool while preparing the filling.
  4. Place the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepot and bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered and without stirring, occasionally brushing the sides of the pot with water until the sugar caramelizes to a rich amber color, about 4 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the cream and butter until it is blended and looks like caramel. Watch out for the steam! Note: if the sugar sticks to the whisk or pot, return the pot to low heat and stir evenly until evenly melted. Allow the caramel to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, then whisk in the brown sugar and vanilla extract.
  7. Gently whisk in the caramel, then stir in the walnut pieces. Pour this mixture into the prepared pan over the base and spread the walnut pieces evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges are bubbling. Cool the squares to room temperature before slicing.

Notes from Valerie:

  • *  I had no more light brown sugar, so used dark brown sugar instead. Tasted great!
  • ** I used walnut pieces instead of walnut halves, since I had those on hand and evidently the taste        would not be altered.

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Valerie