Saturday, October 18, 2014

Linzer Cookies

I won't even bother to tell you when I made these because it was more than a while ago, in fact more than several whiles ago. The motivation to attempt making these cookies stemmed from trying to recreate some delicious cookies from a local bakery that my sister's friend had gifted to us. They turned out to be sable cookies with nuts rather than Linzer cookies, but despite the error, I ended up with some delicious cookies. I decided to sandwich some of these with chocolate ganache rather than the more traditional jam and they made absolutely delicious nutty chocolaty sandwich cookies.

The recipe comes from Sarabeth's Bakery and they're just fantastic. Nutty, crumbly, buttery all in one. The recipe is a bit more involved than other cookies since you need to roll out the dough and cut the cookies out, but not much more. If you didn't want to cut them out with cookie cutters, you could also just cut the dough into squares or rectangles with a knife. I made tiny little sandwich cookies, so it took longer to cut them out, but you can make them however you like. The original recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I've also made them with pecans and they're delicious as well. The cookies stay crisp about a day or two after they've been filled, but will continue to soften as they sit, so don't wait too long to finish them.

Linzer Cookies
Adapted from Sarabeth's Bakery

3/4 cup(3 oz) hazelnuts
2 1/2 cups pastry flour or cake flour, sifted
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
Raspberry preserves or ganache, for filling

In a preheated 350 deg F oven, toast the hazelnuts for 10 min and remove the skins by rubbing them together in a kitchen towel. Cool completely, then place the nuts, and 1/2 cup of the flour in a food processor. Process until finely ground.

Mix the nut-flour mixture with the remaining flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 min. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the egg.

On low speed, add in the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a rectangle about an inch thick, and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hrs.

When ready to make the cookies, working with half the dough at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut cookies out with cookie cutters of your choice. Transfer cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet with an offset spatula.

Roll out and cut out cookies from the remaining dough. Gather up the dough scraps and repeat rolling and cutting out cookies. Refrigerate the dough before continuing to roll it out if it becomes difficult to work with. Refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 min to let them firm up.

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F. Bake two pans of cookies at a time, one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack, until they are lightly browned on the edges. This will take 15-17 min for larger cookies, 8-10 min for small cookies. Rotate the pans halfway through and switch from top to bottom. Let the cookies cool completely on the pan.

Sandwich the cookies with raspberry preserves or ganache. Let them sit for 8 hrs or overnight to settle and soften slightly. Store cookies in a covered container at room temp. for up to 5 days.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Healthy Brownies? Must make!


I've been wanting to make brownies for a while. I have to admit that while I like brownies, my favorite chocolate dessert is actually a simple slice of chocolate cake, any kind, I don't discriminate. However, I figured that it just wasn't right for this blog not to have a brownie recipe. I've tried brownie recipes now and again, but for some reason never got around to posting them, probably because they just weren't perfect yet. Recently, I came across a recipe for Fudgy Brownies using applesauce courtesy of @amandalolita on TwoGrand. You don't really taste the applesauce, it just lends some moisture to the recipe. A healthier but delicious brownie? I just had to give it a try. So, I got to work making some applesauce from the many apples I had.

These brownies come together super quickly and would certainly please any fudgy brownie lover. I've been loving using honey in my recipes lately, but if you don't really want to detect the taste of honey here, you could substitute with maple syrup instead. Whole wheat pastry flour instead of white whole wheat would also work or just go with all-purpose flour, you're not using a lot here anyway.

Applesauce Brownies
Recipe adapted from Jillian Michaels
Makes 16 Brownies

1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt, half the amt of fine salt
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup mild honey or maple syrup, warmed until runny
1 large egg
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg well for about a minute, then mix in the applesauce and the instant coffee. Add in the honey, oil, and the vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients mixing until well combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 min just until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean with a few crumbs. Let cool completely before cutting. Store the brownies, covered, for several days at room temp. Freeze for longer storage.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Healthier Applesauce Cinnamon Bread


Recently, there's been an influx of fruit in my household whether it be from friends, family, purchases of our own accord, etc. Anyway, the point is that I had an abundance of apples, so I thought I could try out some new apple recipes. I'm always on the hunt for new recipes and lately I've been getting some great recipe recommendations from TwoGrand if you read my last few posts. I made some applesauce for an applesauce brownie recipe that will be up next week, but I thought I would try an applesauce bread with the remaining applesauce.

I've been loving quick breads and simple everyday cakes lately because they're just so quick and easy to make. They also make for a fantastic snack or breakfast. You could bake any of the quick bread recipes I've posted in muffin tins as well, but I like the crust to cakey interior ratio of a hearty slice. I wanted to go with a healthier applesauce bread, so I adapted this one from Taste of Home.  I reduced the nutmeg because I find it can be a bit too strong and I used three whole eggs because I hate having to use up leftover egg yolks or egg whites. I skipped the topping just because I don't think it's necessary and I used 1 tsp of cinnamon in the bread as in the original recipe, but since I skipped the topping, I would use the full amount of cinnamon next time.

I only had a heaping cup of applesauce left, so that's what I used, but the original amount of applesauce will make this bread even more moist. For the flours, you could certainly use all all-purpose flour or all whole wheat pastry flour. All whole wheat flour would probably make this a bit dense, but feel free to give it a try. For add ins, nuts would be great as would some grated or diced apple. I think this recipe would also work really well to make pumpkin bread just by subbing the applesauce with pumpkin puree.

Healthier Applesauce Cinnamon Bread
Adapted from Taste of Home
Makes one 9x5 inch loaf

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt, half the amt of fine table salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup honey, warmed over the stove or in the microwave until runny
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp. milk

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment or spray with a light coating of oil if it is nonstick.

Sift the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs well for 1-2 minutes. Then, whisk in the oil, milk, applesauce, and honey, mixing well. Add in the dry ingredients, incorporating about a third at a time and mix until just combined.

Scrape the batter into your prepared loaf pan with a spatula and bake for 50-60 min until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before removing to cool completely. Bread will last for several days wrapped at room temp. Refrigerate or freeze in individual slices for longer storage.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Simple Paneer Tikka Masala

One day quite a few weeks ago, I decided to do something with the paneer I bought a few weeks before that at the Indian market. I'm a fan of tikka masalas, so I thought I would try my hand at Paneer Tikka Masala. I decided to go with this one from Swasthi's Recipes that she adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor and I was super impressed with the results, if I do say so myself. Apart from ordering Indian takeout, this is sure to satisfy any Indian food fix. I know the pics look messy and not terribly appetizing, but just trust me when I say you have to give this a try.

I've toned down the spice level quite a bit for my taste, but you can of course season it to your taste. The recipe is a bit more involved, but less so than traditional tikka masalas. Although this recipe is for paneer, I could easily see it being used for chicken, beef, and other hearty vegetables. As with most curries and stews, I found it to taste best the day and days after it was made. Serve it with rice, naan or chapati, some veggies and you've got one fantastic meal.

Simple Paneer Tikka Masala
Adapted from Swasthi's Recipes

Paneer and Veggies
15 oz paneer, cubed
1 cup thick yogurt, greek or plain yogurt that's been strained
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 cups cubed bell pepper/onion

Mix all the ingredients above except for the bell pepper/onion and marinate in the fridge overnight or longer.

When ready to prepare the tikka masala, preheat your oven to 400 deg F or heat a frying pan over medium heat with some oil. If cooking in the oven, place the paneer cubes on a lined baking sheet, spray with some oil, and bake for about 20 min, turning halfway. If cooking over the stove, pan fry the paneer for a few minutes on each side. While the paneer is cooking, add the bell pepper/onion to the leftover marinade. When the paneer is done, set aside and either bake the veggies for about 5-10 min or pan fry for a few minutes. Next, make the sauce/gravy.

1 cup chopped tomatoes
about 25 roasted cashews
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
6 green cardamon
a few peppercorns
1 small cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
10 cloves
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup water
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves(kasuri methi)
1/3 cup milk, cream, or a large dollop of yogurt
oil or butter
salt, to taste

Blend the tomatoes and cashews in a blender until smooth. Set aside.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add a few tbsp. of oil and add the spices(cumin seeds, cardamon, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cloves). Toast the spices for a few minutes until they become fragrant. Add in the chopped onion and sauté until it begins to turn golden brown.

Add the ginger garlic paste, sauté for another minute. Then add the tomato puree and chili powder, cooking for another 5 minutes until you see the oil begin to separate from the mixture. Add the water, garam masala, and fenugreek leaves. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it cook for another 5 minutes or so until it has thickened to your liking. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Add the cooked paneer cubes to the sauce, simmering for a few minutes before adding the veggies. Simmer for another minute, then add your choice of milk, cream, or yogurt. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with rice, naan, or chapati.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Coconut Flour Banana Bread

In case you haven't noticed, I've been very interested in trying out grain-free recipes lately. I would also like to give some gluten free recipes a try, but haven't gotten around to that yet. So far, they've all been pretty fantastic and it's great to be able to enjoy a baked good more often that I also feel good about. I still think there's room for a baked good made with butter and sugar now and again as an indulgence and you'll definitely continue to see them here, but on the whole, I do think it's important to treat these things as treats.

The most recent grain-free recipe I tried was this Coconut Flour Banana Bread from SparkRecipes. I don't think you can really ever have enough good banana bread recipes, as evidenced here on this blog as well. This recipe is another one that was recommended to me by Amanda, aka amandalolita, on TwoGrand and it's another winner. I have quite a few more recipes saved on TwoGrand that I've been meaning to try, so you'll probably see those soon. The coconut flour and coconut oil I subbed in this definitely make this a super coconutty banana bread. If you wanted to bump up the coconut flavor even more, you could also add some shredded coconut to it. When I made this, I left out the cinnamon in the recipe because I wanted a more typical banana bread, but I would keep it in next time because cinnamon would go really nicely with the nuttiness that coconut flour brings. I've dialed back the cinnamon in the recipe below, but feel free to go with the original amount for a super cinnamony banana bread. That's not a bad thing.

I found that I didn't like this banana bread so much warm from the oven and I really thought it was much better when fully cooled because the texture becomes more cake-like when cooled. The flavors also seem to meld a bit better when it's cooled. This banana bread freezes well, so it's great to make ahead and store for those busy days when you want a treat, but don't have time to turn on the oven.

Coconut Flour Banana Bread
Recipe adapted from SparkRecipes
Makes One 9 x 5 inch loaf

3 medium bananas, super ripe but not black, mashed
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
2 tbsp. honey
6 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped nuts(walnuts, pecans, etc.), optional

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Prepare a 9x 5 inch loaf pan, line with parchment if necessary. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the bananas and coconut oil together. Add in the honey and vanilla, whisking well. Then add in the eggs, whisking thoroughly once again. Add in the dry ingredients and stir together with a spatula or a wooden spoon. Fold in the chopped nuts, if using.

Transfer the batter to a loaf pan and bake for 45-50 min until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the loaf pan to cool completely. Banana bread will last for a few days at room temp or for several weeks in the freezer. Freeze in wrapped individual slices for ease.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Healthy Chocolate Cake

Yes, it's true. You can have cake and enjoy it without feeling an ounce of guilt. That's because this cake is made mainly of black beans, eggs, cocoa powder, and sweetened with honey. I've been immensely enjoying a slice of this cake for breakfast along with a dollop of plain yogurt and some fruit. Who would've thought that you could have cake for breakfast? Well, actually I guess you can whenever you want, but this is one cake you won't feel bad about enjoying.

I first saw this cake on The Real Girl's Kitchen and it looked and supposedly tasted just like a regular chocolate cake, so it got me thinking. Then after some web searching, I found the same basic recipe on Healthy Indulgences, which was also praised highly by the author, so I decided to give it a go. I was very pleased with the results and while the texture is not exactly the same as a traditional chocolate cake, the flavor still satisfies those of us who are chocoholics. I used my own cooked black beans in this cake and found the resulting cake to be a bit dry and not quite smooth enough, even when the beans were thoroughly blended. So, the next time I make this cake, I would probably try it with canned beans to see how the cake turns out. I also found that 15 oz of cooked beans was a bit too much since I think a 15 oz can only contains about 12 oz of beans, so I've adjusted the recipe to use a bit less.

To make this a little bit less healthy, you could certainly make a frosting to top it with, but I decided to keep it simple.

Black Bean Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Real Girl's Kitchen and Healthy Indulgences
Makes one 9 inch cake

1 15 oz can of unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained (or 12 oz of cooked black beans)
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp kosher salt (half the amount of fine salt)
6 tbsp. unsalted butter or 5 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. honey
6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or dutch-processed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F. Line a 9 inch cake pan with a parchment round. Then butter and dust with cocoa powder. You can skip the buttering and dusting if you have a nonstick pan.

In a blender, combine the beans, vanilla extract, salt, instant coffee, and 3 of the eggs. Blend on high until everything is smooth. In a medium bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, beat the butter or coconut oil with the honey for 3-5 minutes on medium high until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining two eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.

Add in the bean mixture and mix until well incorporated. Then add in the cocoa powder mixture and mix until well blended, about 1 minute. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Bake for 40-45 min until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 min before removing from the pan to cool completely. Cake will last wrapped in foil at room temp. for a few days. Freeze in individual slices, well wrapped, for longer storage.