March 30, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Coffee Cake

It's Easter weekend... almost Spring but still kinda Winter (especially with all the cold weather). To me, that means comfort food, especially brunch comfort food. Some of you may have company for Easter or Passover while others just want a special brunch treat. This recipe is perfect for just about any occasion; it is colorful, sweet, rich, and just plain delicious.

The base is a light, fluffy vanilla cake, which is studded with melty chocolate and raspberries. You can use either fresh or frozen raspberries, but, since it's not quite raspberry season yet, I used frozen. They can get pretty liquidy, so I toss them in some cornstarch so that they don't turn the whole cake pink. That would be pretty, but I love the contrast between the cream-colored cake, the dark chocolate, and the bright red raspberries. Anyway, I top the whole thing with buttery almond streusel. It's the same streusel that I use in my Peach Crumb Cake, but, instead of cinnamon, I use almond extract and mix in some almonds. They add even more crunchiness and balance out the sweetness of the cake, the bitterness of the chocolate, and the tartness of the raspberries. This cake is a must-have for brunch, dessert, or just a snack because there are so many different textures and delicious layers of flavors.

3/4 + 1/3 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 + 1/8 tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter, Melted
1/2 Stick Butter, Softened
1/8 tsp Almond Extract
1 3/4 Cups Cake Flour
2 Cups Flour
1/2 Cup + 2 T Slivered Almonds
1 Cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 Egg
3/4 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Raspberries (Fresh or Frozen & Thawed)
2 T Cornstarch

Whisk together 1/3 cup sugar, brown sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, melted butter, and almond extract. Stir in cake flour and almonds. Chill until cold.

Line a 9" square baking pan with parchment. Heat oven to 350F.

Beat the softened butter and remaining sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla. 

Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together. Fold the flour mixture into the batter in three additions, alternating with the milk  in two additions.

Combine the raspberries and cornstarch.

Pour 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with half the raspberries and chocolate, then top with the remaining batter. Sprinkle the remaining raspberries and chocolate on top, and top with the streusel.

Bake the coffee cake for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 1 9" Square
Recipe Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

March 24, 2013

Passover Almond Thumbprint Cookies

Passover isn't exactly the easiest holiday to bake for. You can't use flour or leavening, which cuts out pretty much all of my recipes. But just because it's Passover doesn't mean you have to stop eating desserts. It's pretty much impossible to anyway, and this recipe makes it much easier to bake, eat, and keep Passover.

The cookies are really simple to make; you don't even need a mixer! Just grind up the almonds with some sugar and matzo cake meal, essentially very finely ground matzo that works as a substitute for flour. You can buy it anywhere, especially when it's close to Passover. After you mix the dry ingredients together, mix it into some butter, an egg, and some flavoring. The dough needs to be chilled for a little while to help it set, and then you can roll it into balls and make a small indentation in the center of each one. It's a little pit that you can fill with any jam you like; I prefer strawberry or raspberry since it pairs well with the almonds but really any type works. You could even make a few of each type  to satisfy everyone.

3/4 Cup Almonds, Toasted
2/3 Cup Sugar
2/3 Cup Matzo Cake Meal
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter, Melted
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/4 tsp Almond Extract
Strawberry or Raspberry Jam

Pulse the almonds, sugar, cake meal, and salt in a food processor until fine. Whisk the egg, butter, vanilla, and almond extract together, then fold in the almond mixture. Chill until firm.

Heat oven to 350F and line cookie trays with parchment.

Scoop the dough into 24g balls. Place on the prepared trays and make a small indentation in the center of each. Spoon some jam into the dent and bake for 10 minutes.

Makes 20
Recipe Adapted from Gourmet

March 16, 2013

Beer & Bacon Bread

It's that time of year again: St. Patrick's Day. Time to drink a lot and eat a lot of Irish food. Given the success of my Beer, Bacon, & Pecan Bars, I decided to try the combination again, this time with just the beer and the bacon in bread form. Yes, that's right. This is acceptable breakfast food.

In terms of difficulty, this bread couldn't be easier. Usually you have to proof and knead and proof again, but for this one you just mix the ingredients together and bake it off. It takes less than an hour, and you'll be glad it's so fast because it smells SO good.

First, you get the bacon aroma; I recommend making some extra because you'll find yourself eating a lot of it and you want the full amount in the bread. Then, when the bread is baking, it smells boozy and yeasty and even more bacon-y. It's so hard to wait the full 40 minutes, but it's much better if it cooks all the way through. Trust me, you'll be making this constantly, even if it's not St. Patrick's Day.

1/4 lb Cooked & Crumbled Bacon, Fat Reserved
3 Cups Bread Flour
1 T Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Sugar
12 oz Beer
1 T Butter, Melted

Heat oven to 375F and grease a loaf pan.

Whisk the butter and 1T bacon fat together.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir in the bacon bits, then whisk in the beer.

Press the dough into the prepared pan. Drizzle with the butter and bacon fat mixture and bake for 40 minutes or until golden.

Makes 1 Loaf
Recipe Adapted from

March 8, 2013

Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Biscotti

Biscotti is pretty much the perfect dessert. It's sweet, healthy, crunchy, and can suit any taste. You can make it chocolaty, nutty, fruity, or a combination of all three and more! This recipe happens to have all three; there's the slightly bitter mini chocolate chips, tart but sweet candied orange, and nutty roasted hazelnuts. And as if the combination of flavors wasn't enough, these cookies really aren't that bad for you. There's hardly any fat - just two tablespoons of oil in the whole batch - and not much sugar as well.

Of course you can alter the recipe and use a different type of chocolate or dried fruit or nut since the base recipe can be altered to fit what you are in the mood for, but I happen to love this combination. I first tasted it when I was shadowing the pastry chef at Pricci, a local Italian restaurant. I was lucky enough to try the gelato of the day, a rich, creamy chocolate base studded with candied oranges and hazelnuts. I loved the layers of flavors, so I decided to put it in a crunchy cookie. Actually, the two would be delicious together, so you may see my interpretation of the gelato recipe soon!

3 Cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Sugar
3 Eggs
2 T Oil
2 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
3/4 Cup Chopped Toasted Hazelnuts
1/3 Cup Diced Candied Orange Peel
3/4 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large cookie tray with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl to blend. 

Using a stand mixer, beat sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla  until well blended. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in hazelnuts, orange peel, and chocolate chips.

Shape dough into two logs. Bake until lightly browned and almost firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Cool logs on sheet for 30 minutes and reduce oven temperature to 325F.

Once logs are cool, transfer to a cutting board. Slice logs into 1/2" thick slices. Place the slices back onto prepared trays and bake another 20 minutes or until golden. The cookies will harden as they cool.

Makes 35
Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit