Maple Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: about 5 dozen cookies
Recipe: 100/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 48                                                                                                                                  
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I have actually (and surprisingly!) never made gingerbread cookies, so I thought that there would be no better dessert to bring at work for the last day before the holidays than these cute gingerbread cookies. The recipe was easy to follow and I took pleasure in rolling out the dough and cutting out cute shapes to make the cookies – I had gingerbread man, tree and snowman cookie cutters. I had never used royal icing to frost any cookies or cakes, and I thoroughly enjoyed decorating the cookies with icing and sugar pieces. Decorating anything, whether it be cakes, cupcakes and now cookies, has always been my favourite part of making dessert! At first try I found that these cookies were mild and did not taste a lot like maple or even ginger, but after the second and third cookies I realized that these are simply a milder-tasting version of the traditional molasses gingerbread cookies but still taste good. These cute gingerbread cookies would please anyone during this merry time of the year. Happy holidays and happy baking!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2  1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the egg, ginger and lemon zest. Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, allspice, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three separate additions while mixing at low speed. Separate the dough in three balls and wrap them in plastic wrap to form three discs. Chill until firm, about 2 hours. Note: The dough will be very soft.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first piece of cookie dough to 1/8 inch thick and cut with a cookie cutter of any desired shape. Arrange the cookies on the prepared baking trays, leaving a gap of ½ inch between them. Repeat rolling and cutting the remaining two discs. Leftover scraps from cutting out the cookies can be wrapped up and chilled in the fridge for another 10 minutes before being rerolled.
  7. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool the cookies on the trays before transferring them to an airtight container. The cookies can be decorated with icing or simply dusted with icing sugar, as desired.

Notes from Anna:

  • The maple adds some sweetness to the cookies, which are milder than traditional molasses gingerbread cookies.

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Valerie

Earl Grey Chiffon Cake with Maple Meringue Frosting

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 10-inch tube cake
Recipe: 95/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 151

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    At my workplace we have this lovely tradition that when it is someone’s birthday, the person whose birthday it was previously is in charge of making or buying a cake for them. Since mine was two weeks ago I had the privilege and mission of baking a cake for my boss. Knowing that he is not a big fan of very sweet desserts, I thought that I would try this recipe for an Earl Grey chiffon cake. I had never made a chiffon cake before so was happy to try it. It was more time-consuming to make than I had expected, many more steps, but in the end I managed. Due to the fact that the egg whites have to be whipped and the tea-chocolate-lemon-dry ingredients mixture prepared separately, you should give yourself a good hour to make the cake. It is not a complicated cake to make per se, but the recipe requires some level of technical skills that have to be put to use. If you take your time and follow the recipe to the tea you should have no problem at all.

    Once I poured the mixture into the tube pan I was a) excited somehow that the pan was ungreased and b) a bit doubting that it would work and that the cake would not remain permanently stuck to the cake pan. My cake took a bit longer to bake than the recipe recommends, about 60-70 minutes instead, but that may just be because of my inadequate and old oven. My favorite part of making this cake was spreading the sexy white, glossy maple meringue frosting onto the cake. What a delight! The frosting was delicious. Flavorful but not too sweet as many frostings are. The cake itself was also very good. A lot of flavors going on there, but not overwhelmingly so. You can definitely taste the Earl Grey tea and the lemon zest, while the chocolate and vanilla are more subtle. Very light and scrumptious cake; so much so that you won’t even feel guilty if you take two slices! I brought the cake to work the next day and it was faced with great feedback. Everyone loved it and claimed that it was the best cake I ever made. Even better than my carrot cake, apparently. I find that hard to believe, but this Earl Grey chiffon cake was indeed delicious. If you are looking to impress someone that is not a fan of too-sweet desserts, I urge you to try this recipe. As Anna herself mentioned in the cookbook, this is also one of my favorite recipes as of yet.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tea bags Earl Grey
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 8 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups cake and pastry flour*
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 oz (90 g) milk chocolate, chopped and melted
  • 1 recipe Maple Meringue Frosting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Steep the tea bags in the boiling water until the water cools to room temperature. Without squeezing the excess liquid, remove the bags, then top up the water to its original ¾ cup measure.
  3. With a hand or stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until the mixture is foamy, then slowly add ¼ cup of the sugar and continue whipping until the whites hold a medium peak. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl or, ideally, into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, sift together the flour, the remaining 1 ¼ cup sugar, baking powder and salt.
  5. Add the cooled tea, vegetable oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whip this mixture on high speed until it is thick, about 4 minutes.
  6. Add the melted milk chocolate and whip on low speed until blended.
  7. Gently fold in half of the egg whites by hand with a spatula until they are incorporated. Fold in the remaining whites. Note: Don’t worry if the batter is a bit fluid.
  8. Pour this mixture into an ungreased (yes, ungreased!) 10-inch tube pan. Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the top of the cake springs back when gently pressed and until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Invert the cake pan onto a cooling rack and cool the cake upside down in its pan. To extract the cake, run a knife or spatula around the outside edge of the cake, then tap the cake out onto a plate.
  9. Use a spatula to spread the maple meringue frosting over the entire surface of the cake. You can use a small spatula to frost the cake inside the centre hole

Notes from Anna:

  • The cake can be stored at room temperature until ready to serve. It will keep up to 3 days.

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Valerie

Maple Meringue Frosting

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 2 ½ cups
Recipe: 94/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 152

    An earl grey chiffon cake with maple meringue frosting evidently calls for… maple meringue frosting. I thus made this lovely frosting recipe and was surprised by the fact that I could do it and furthermore that it was delicious (and not too sweet)! Frostings are usually not my forte, but this recipe is fail-proof and was just the right consistency for spreading. As a bonus, it is very glossy since it consists mostly of egg-whites, so very appealing on cakes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. With a hand or stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy, then add the sugar and whip the whites just to a soft peak.
  2. In a small saucepot, bring the maple syrup to a boil and cook uncovered and without stirring until it reaches a temperature of 242°F on a candy thermometer.
  3. While beating the egg whites on medium speed, carefully pour the maple syrup into the meringue by pouring it down slowly down the side of the bowl. Continue whipping until the mixture has cooled but is not quite room temperature, about 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Notes from Anna:

  • This frosting should be used immediately after frosting.

Valerie

Maple Crème with Almond Crackle

Custards, Puddings and Soufflés

Yield: 4 to 6 individual crème brûlées
Recipe: 87/200
“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