Monday, February 24, 2020

Nothing But the Truth: Cherry-Almond "Bakewell Tart" Bars

I cannot tell a lie: I was only using #CherryMonth as an excuse to make these "Bakewell Tart" bars! The idea for this recipe had been on the back burner for quite some time, so when I finally had all the ingredients together, I got to work.

And boy, was it work! Mixing the dough turned into a hands-on workout, but the end result was smooth and dreamy. The cherry spread I used for the filling was a bit tart, but only because I used a juice-sweetened brand. The glaze, however, was perfect: just a drizzle to hint at that flawless white pool so iconic of those miniature Bakewell Tarts you see stores:

cherry-almond bars

Cherry-Almond "Bakewell Tart" Bars

1 cup butter, softened
7 oz. (about 10 Tablespoons) almond paste
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
10-13 oz. cherry jam, spread, or preserves
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon milk (half and half would also work)

Butter an 8x8- or 9x9-inch baking pan; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, cream butter, salt, and almond paste together, breaking up the paste with the back of the spoon—it may be lumpy, but that's okay. Stir in one cup of the flour, then start stirring in the second cup. If the dough isn't coming together, scrape any bits off the spoon and get in there with your hands! Mix and knead everything together until there is nothing stuck to the side of the bowl, and you have a smooth dough. Reserve about a third, then flatten out and press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until set and slightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and carefully (that pan is HOT) spread the cherry jam evenly over the base (if your jam isn't spreadable, give it a vigorous stir to loosen). Pinch off bits of the reserved dough and scatter over the jam, then return to the over and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are a deep golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges. Remove and let cool completely.

In a small bowl, stir together confectioner's sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze diagonally across the entire surface of the cooled bars. Let the glaze set, then cut into 16 pieces.

cherry-almond bar

Notes: Bakewell Tart is traditionally made with either cherry or raspberry jam, but I think blackberry, peach, or even plum jam would be great here. Almond paste can be quite expensive, so if you have some almond flour knocking around, you can try making your own! Store any leftover bars tightly covered at cool room temperature for up to three days, or in a airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.


Friday, January 03, 2020

All's Fair: Cranberry-Almond Teacakes

For the first time last Fall, I entered the baking competition at my local harvest fair. There were lots of entries, of all shapes and sizes, including an outrageously decadent-looking pan of cinnamon rolls! And while I didn't win anything, these Cranberry-Almond Teacakes still say "blue ribbon" to me :-)

cranberry-almond teacakes

Cranberry-Almond Teacakes

Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup dried cranberries

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature

1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with muffin liners; set aside.

Stir flour, baking powder, salt, and ground ginger together in a small bowl. Add the dried cranberries and toss in the flour mixture, breaking up any clumps as you go. In a large bowl (or the pan you used the melt the butter, if it's big enough), cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, then mix in extracts and eggs. Blend in half of the dry ingredients, stir in the milk, then add the remainder of the dry ingredients and combine until just smooth. Divide evenly among the liners (about 2/3 full each). Sprinkle tops with about 1 teaspoon each almonds and sugar, then bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

cranberry-almond teacakes

Notes: Why "teacakes?" Well, they're not sweet enough to be cupcakes, yet they're still too delicate to be muffins! These are perfect, as you may have guessed, with a cup of tea for elevenses, or even as a mid-afternoon snack. The crumb is tender and rich, and the little bit of ginger adds a pleasant warmth. The headiness of the almond extract is divine!


Monday, December 09, 2019

Short and Sweet: Chai-Spiced Shortbread Cutout Cookies

Every year, I like to make a lightly-spiced shortbread cookie, cut into seasonal shapes for holiday gifting—and eating! In previous years, I've used cinnamon, cardamom, or ground ginger for the main flavoring. This year, I decided to make a thoroughly warming, comforting, chai-spiced version. These cookies are rich, delicious, and will last several weeks stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Sprinkling the tops of the cookies with a little granulated sugar before baking allows them to twinkle in the light, and provides a little burst of crunch and sweetness as well. These are perfect for the holidays, or any day when you need a special treat!

Chai-Spiced Shortbread Cutout Cookies

Chai-Spiced Shortbread Cutout Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons chai spice mix (or see notes below)
2 Tablespoons (or so) granulated sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt, and chai spice mix. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla, then blend in flour mixture until smooth. Divide dough in two and wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap, flattening into discs as you go. Chill dough for several hours, or overnight.

When ready to make cookies, remove one disc of dough from the fridge about 30 minutes beforehand, line baking sheets with foil or parchment paper, and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unwrap and roll dough out on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin (lightly flour the rolling pin and the dough as well). Roll out evenly to about 1/8" thick, then cut using shapes of your choice with cookie cutters dipped in flour. Transfer cutouts onto prepared sheets an inch or so apart, and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar, if using. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly golden around the edges (cookies will puff up during baking, but settle back down when close to being done). Re-roll scraps, flouring as needed, and keep cutting shapes until the dough is completely used. Repeat with the other disc of dough.

Chai-Spiced Shortbread Cutout Cookies

Notes: This recipe will yield about 4 dozen cookies when using two-inch cutters. If you don't like chai spice, use whatever spice mix you enjoy, like pumpkin or apple pie spice. Before starting, I like to scoop out some plain flour into a small dish for my "bench" flour, sprinkling where needed and for dusting the cookie cutters. I don't have a pastry board or any other special equipment, so I simply roll my dough out on a piece of wax or parchment paper. This actually makes it very easy to rotate the dough when rolling to achieve an even thickness!