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I baked these apple crumble squares for the contractor and his team way back in early May. They inhaled them! I’m thinking this lot loves fruit so my next treats will focus on the fruity varieties. I found the original recipe here and made some modifications by cutting down the sugar because we don’t love sweet sweets. The pastry is lovely, just the right amount of caramelization and shortcrust texture, the apples are plentiful, soft and sweet and the crumble topping is just the icing on the squares, except it’s crumble and not icing! These are definitely going into my square repertoire. A real tasty treat.

Apple Crumble Squares

Makes 1 23 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) pan

Ingredients for the crust:

  • 170 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 115 g granulated sugar
  • 256 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • zest of one lemon
  • pinch salt

Directions for the crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 23 cm x 33 cm pan with parchment.
  2. Using a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in the flour, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt.
  1. This is a very soft pastry, roll between two sheets of parchment and press into the parchment-lined pan evenly and bake for 15 minutes.
  1. Remove from heat and cool as you are slicing the apples.

Ingredients for the Apples:

  • 5 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 45 g all-purpose flour
  • 65 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions for the Apples:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon and mix well.
  2. Lay a thin layer of apples onto the pastry and sprinkle the flour, sugar and cinnamon over the apples and repeat until all of the apples and flour mixture are utilized.

Ingredients for the Crumble:

  • 65 oats, not quick
  • 100 g dark brown sugar
  • 65 g all- purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 114 g cold butter, cubed

Directions for the Crumble:

  1. Using a plastic blade in your food processor, combine all of the ingredients and pulse until coarsely combined. Sprinkle evenly over the apples and bake for 45 minutes or until apples are soft to poke through.
  2. Cool and slice into squares. Serve at room temperature.

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Our last trip to Europe was a culinary shopping success, but sadly failed miserably in the Fashion area, particularly shoes. My shoe shopping times were constantly thwarted by siesta, and when there wasn’t siesta, I just wasn’t in the mood. I guess it just wasn’t my time. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t shopping, because there was quite a bit of shopping to be had, and I did my fair share, in the culinary field.

I brought back a variety of things that will be revealed in due time but now I shall direct you to this very delicious dessert/snack of peach and coconut jelly squares made with agar-agar. I have been wanting to buy this stuff but I have only ever found flavoured product so when I spotted it at my favourite grocery store in Almeria, I was all over it. Figuring out what to do with it was another story, so many interesting recipes. But what I really needed was a test experiment to see what exactly the texture of jelly that agar-agar creates. You see, we had the most luxurious, smoked fish mousse at our favourite French bistro and I was determined to recreate it. I was fairly certain that it was not made with gelatin because the texture was way to creamy and easily spreadable. It was so silky and smooth spread across some toasted baguette, it was a wonderful textural and taste experience. Making this light dessert showed me the proportions I needed to make a smooth, yet spreadable smoked fish mousse.

This is a recipe modified from this tasty recipe. I used peaches because I had peaches at home (frozen from the previous spring). It’s refreshing and the texture is smooth and creamy but it also has a bit of a gelatinus mouthfeel.

Peach and Coconut Jelly Squares

Ingredients:

Peach Layer

  • 100 mL grilled peach purée (roughly about 2 peaches peeled and chopped)
  • 5 mL lime juice
  • 150 mL water
  • 2 g 1 agar-agar powder
  • 30 g monk fruit crystals 
  • 5 mL vanilla

Coconut Layer

  • 200 mL cup water
  • 1 tsp agar-agar powder
  • 45 g monk fruit crystals
  • pinch of salt
  • 200 mL coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Add the water to a saucepan and add the agar-agar, slowly bring to a full boil, and stir until the agar-agar has completely dissolved. Add the monk fruit crystals and stir until dissolved.
  2. Add the peach purée and vanilla and stir to combine well. Pour into the mould.
  3. For the coconut layer, add the water to a saucepan and add the agar-agar and slowly bring to a full boil and then stir until the agar-agar has dissolved. Add the monk fruit crystals and stir until dissolved, add the salt and coconut milk and stir to combine well.
  4. Once the peach layer has set (this happens as it cools, does not need to be refrigerated), carefully pour the coconut layer over it. Both layers should be warm so that they stick together.

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I’ve been baking like a mad woman for our contractor and team. They seem to really like it. I know that JT does! I’ve made tangzhong cinnamon rolls, rice crispy squares, carrot cake, pineapple upside down cake, chewy lime squares cherry squares, chocolate chunk cookies and so on. We put our Keurig just outside the construction zone with fresh Timmy’s coffee but I don’t think they drink coffee! So I added tea, still no takers! The younger guys don’t even smoke! Go figure!

The demo had moved along at a good pace, uncovering a mess of previous badly done renos. Fortunately, not difficult to fix, just annoying that it was done so poorly! The next weeks will tell if we will finish by the deadline of June 1, as we were hoping to have overnight guests on the 5th! Fingers crossed.

Just before we hunkered down, I had my gluten intolerant BFF and picky-eater hubby for brunch. I’d always wanted to make a cornmeal cake so I figured why not now! This one had a gritty texture but not entirely unappealing. I think next time I’ll use a finer texture or I’ll soak the cornmeal a bit.

Gluten-Free Lemony Cornmeal Cake

Makes one 20 cm (8 inch) cake

Ingredients:

  • 140 g cornmeal
  • 50 g almond flour
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 30 mL fresh lemon juice
  • 150 g granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 120 mL Greek yoghurt
  • 5 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 120 mL lemon juice
  • 70 g sugar

Directions:

  1. Line a 20 cm (8 inch) round cake pan with parchment, buttered lightly. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Whip the butter until light and fluffy add the lemon zest. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. Add 30 mL lemon juice, yoghurt and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients and pour into the prepped pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, combine 120 mL lemon juice and remaining sugar and cook on a slow boil until slightly thickened and sugar is completely dissolved. Reserve for cake.
  6. When cake is done, allow to rest for 10 minutes, then pour the lemon syrup over the cake.

Notes:

  • This cake has a lot of texture, similar to cornbread, it’s not bad, just different.
  • The lemon syrup adds a nice amount of moisture and lemony flavour to this simple dessert.

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We were recently invited to a friend’s home for dinner so I offered to make dessert. When I was perusing the net, looking for a tasty fruit dessert, I came across Tarte Tatin and realized that I had never made it for the blog! Fortunately, I had package of puff pastry in the freezer so I was halfway there, a quick trip to buy apples and I was done!

Don’t be intimidated by having to make caramel, it’s very easy. You just need patience and concentration, never turn your back on it because that is when it will burn!

Simple Tarte Tatin

For the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 large, firm-fleshed apples, we used Gala
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 75 grams butter, cubed
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 30 mL cognac
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, about 250 g (store-bought is fine), defrosted in the refrigerator

Directions:

  1. A day or so before you wish to serve this dessert, peel the apples, core and quarter them. Sprinkle lightly with lemon juice and add to a large bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and store in the refrigerator to allow to dehydrate a bit.
  2. In a cast iron or non-stick pan, add the sugar and cook over medium-low heat until caramelized. DO NOT STIR but you may swish the sugar in the pan as it begins to turn golden to cook more evenly.
  3. Add the butter and swirl until melted and combined with the sugar, add the pinch of cinnamon salt and the cognac and continue to swirl to combine.
  4. Turn the heat to low and add the apples in a circular pattern keeping in mind that the part you can see is actually the bottom of the tarte.
  5. Cook the apples for about 8 minutes on medium-low. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375° F.
  6. While the apples are cooking stove-top, untouched, cut the defrosted pastry in a slightly larger circle than the pan and put into the freezer for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan with the apples from the heat, and top with the pastry, tucking in the sides all the way around.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Turn out, upside-down onto a serving platter and serve warm.

The caramel soaks into the puff pastry making a delicious crust and soft apples!

I made a little-grilled peach tarte Tatin with the leftover puff pastry, waste not, want not.

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I spied this spectacular dessert on my dear friend Liz, That Skinny Chick Can Bake social media account at the end of January and was immediately impressed. Flourless and full of chocolatey goodness, this cake ticked off so many boxes, I absolutely had to make it. Get out your pocketbooks because this cake has an enormous amount of chocolate (500 g plus the ganache!). Pull out all the stops and use the best chocolate you can afford.

This is an extremely rich cake. In fact, it is like eating a giant truffle. I would portion the slices a wee bit thinner but this made for a prettier picture.

My first attempt, I reduced the recipe to make two very small tarts. I went full-out low-carb, which meant replacing the sugar with erythritol and using unsweetened chocolate. It was actually fine for my taste but JT suggested a bit more sweetness would satisfy our dinner guests. My attempt at making a simple syrup from erythritol and water proved successful for a pomegranate syrup I had made (but had forgotten to photograph) so I applied the same formula to this recipe, increasing the water to accommodate the large amount of erythritol. I boiled down the syrup to 1 cup and I wouldn’t try boiling it down any more as it had begun to crystallize on the top.

The semi-sweet chocolate sacrificed much of the low carb aspect so I won’t even do the analysis. I may try increasing the erythritol and going back to unsweetened chocolate to see if that might bring the carbs back to a reasonable level, but I’m going to wait with that experiment until we recover from this version of this decadent dessert. If you have a special dinner, this dessert definitely fits the bill and the splurge. Thanks, Liz, I can always count on you for a decadent dessert.

La Bete Noir (Flourless Chocolate Cake)

For the original recipe, please click here.

Serves about 20 people

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 375 mL water
  • 150 g Erythritol
  • 128 g butter, diced
  • 388  g semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 112 g unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 eggs

Ingredients for the ganache:

  • 200 mL heavy cream
  • 226 g semisweet chocolate, chopped

Topping, as shown:

  • 25-30 g Pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 125 mL whipping cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a 25 cm springform pan by covering the bottom and all the way up the sides with two layers of foil paper. Cut a circle from parchment and place it in the inside bottom of the pan. Place the pan into a large, higher-sided pan and set aside.
  2. Combine the water and erythritol in a small saucepan and heat until boiling, whisking until the erythritol has completely dissolved into the water. Continue to boil and reduce the volume to 250 mL. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Combine the butter with all of the chocolate and heat gently in the microwave until it is melted and smooth. Stir in the erythritol simple syrup. Cool slightly.
  4. Place all of the eggs into another bowl and beat until fully combined. Pour the eggs all at once into the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.
  5. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared springform pan. Fill the larger pan with boiling water to about 3/4 the way up. Bake on the centre rack for about 50 minutes or until centre has set.
  6. When ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. When sufficiently cooled, run a sharp knife along the inside edge to release the cake from the pan. Carefully remove it from the pan and allow to cool completely.
  7. Place an inverted glass on top of a clean piece of parchment and place a wire rack on top of the glass, set aside.
  8. Remove the bottom of the springform pan as well as the parchment from the cake and place it on the wire rack that is resting directly on the inverted glass.
  9. Make the ganache by heating the cream to almost boiling and pour over the chocolate. Mix until the chocolate is completely melted and smoothly combined with the cream.
  10. Pour the ganache over the cake and allow to flow over the top and sides evenly. Allow this to set at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
  11. Decorate the top with the chopped pistachios and serve with a dollop of whipped cream. Be prepared for guest requesting a take-away box for later (at least our’s did). It’s that good!!!

Notes:

  • This cake is extremely rich, so I increased the serving size from 16 to 20.
  • The original recipe did not mix semi-sweet with unsweetened chocolate, it was all semi-sweet.

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Late last summer, I did some prop shopping for a prop-stylist colleague who was swamped and needed a hand. It’s a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, the shopping bit is fun but there is a lot of schlepping! And you have to be extremely organized to be able to return some of the props that weren’t used! That being said, it’s a job I don’t envy, they earn every penny and then some. While I was waiting for a store to open, I stopped into an Italian cafe for a coffee and biscotti. The coffee was fine but the biscotti was atrocious, it was soggy! Imagine that. Such an unsatisfying treat. The worst. So I had to make my own! These definitely hit the spot!

Cranberry and Almond Biscotti Revisted

Makes about 30 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 320 g AP unbleached flour
  • 4 g baking powder
  • 3 g salt
  • 340 g sugar
  • 125 g butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 7 mL almond extract
  • 150 g frozen cranberries, defrosted
  • 70 g almonds, toasted

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Fold in the cranberries and almonds (I used whole)
  3. In the large bowl of your stand mixer, combine the sugar, butter, eggs and almond extract and mix for about 4 minutes.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients until entirely combined (I did this using my whisk attachment so I didn’t break up the cranberries.
  5. Divide the batter in half and shape into relatively skinny logs on the parchment, leaving sufficient space between the two as they will spread during baking.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden.
  7. Remove logs from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each log into 1.5 cm slices. Place cut-side down on the baking sheet (reuse the original parchment) and bake for 10 minutes, flip and continue to bake for 5 more minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely.
  8. Store in an air-tight container or freeze. Serve with coffee or tea.

You’ll need to bake these a little longer because the cranberries are moist.

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You guys know of our dear friends, Paul & T, they summer in Wisconsin and winter in Arizona. This year, they decided to sell their Wisconsin home and move permanently to Arizona. They were kind enough to invite us to the Lake House one last time. Because they are imminently selling their home in Wisconsin, we were not able to bring lasting gifts because their trip home to Arizona will be packed solid with whatever they move from their home in Wisconsin. Food is always a good bet with them, so I’ve been experimenting with recipes and this one, I must say is a winner. Don’t skip the drizzle, it just makes it OTT lemony. You have to love lemons to make this tasty treat, or at least, have someone that does. It probably works with lime too, although I haven’t tried it.

I used this recipe as my starting point, I just loved how they looked, with the drizzle and all. Plus, it sounded like they were really lemony, but I wanted to up the ante so I also added a splash of lemon extract as well as lemon zest to the cookie dough. BANG!

Buttery, melt in your mouth lemon shortbread that has balanced sweetness.

Lemony Shortbread Cookies

Makes 54 cookies, about 3 cm x 3 cm

For the original recipe, kindly click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 227 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 86 g powdered sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla extract
  • 5 mL lemon extract
  • 5 g lemon zest
  • 240 g AP unbleached flour
  • 56 g cornstarch
  • 2.5 mL salt

Ingredients for the drizzle:

  • 80 g confectioner’s sugar
  • 15 mL fresh lemon juice
  • 5 mL lemon zest
  • water (to thin, if needed)

Directions:

  1. Combine the butter and confectioner’s sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, lemon extracts and lemon zest.
  2. Sift the flour, cornstarch and salt into the butter and mix until a smooth dough is formed. It will take about 1.5-2 minutes.
  3. Between two pieces of parchment, roll out the dough to a 33 cm x 23 cm rectangle and cut into little squares (I did 3 cm x 3 cm), refrigerate cookies on the cookie sheet for 30 minutes. They don’t spread much, so you needn’t leave more than 1 cm between each cookie.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Bake for 15-20 minutes, you don’t want them too golden because these are pretty if pale white.
  5. For the drizzle, mix the confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice and zest in a food processor and process until smooth and drizzle-able. If necessary, add water.
  6. Allow the cookies to cool completely before drizzling with the lemony mixture.
  7. Allow the drizzle to set at room temperature before stacking the cookies.

Notes:

  • I baked these on a super hot day, not sure why my version took so much longer than the original recipe.
  • I found the original drizzle recipe made way too much drizzle, it has a good lemon flavour and is intended to enhance the shortbread, not overwhelm it so I reduced the quantities by half.

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