Almond Cherry Cake

[Almond Cherry Cake]Searching for a suitable dessert to make for Easter Dinner at my mom’s house is a delicious challenge. While most of us enjoy a chocolate whatever-you-bake special dinners are a chance do something different. I had some cherries in the freezer that I wanted to do something with. An hour lost to the Internet provided several options. In the end I opted for this lovely creation on the right.

Notes under the cut

Brown Sugar Cookies

Browned butter and dark brown sugar combined equals something delightful. These cookies are pretty sweet yet I’m pretty sure you’ll find yourself reaching for a second one.

We came across the original recipe in Cook’s Illustrated. While we enjoy reading the magazine, and watching the TV programs by the same producers, I think they tend to overwrite their recipes. I’ve tried to simplify the instructions while giving you advance notice that some ingredients are used in different steps.

Brown Sugar Cookies
Servings: ~30 cookies
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 14 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 2 cups plus Tbsp. all-purpose flour (~300g)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking pans with parchment.
  2. Place 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a the bowl of a stand mixer and set it aside. Heat the remaining butter in a stainless-steel skillet over medium heat until melted. Continue to cook until the butter is dark golden brown and you smell a nutty aroma. You’ll want to swirl the melted butter after it melts to ensure even browning. Add the browned butter to mixer bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. While the butter cools mix the granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate, until well combined. In a separate bowl whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, soda, powder and salt). Finally combine the egg, extra yolk and vanilla in a small bowl and beat until blended. All 3 bowls can be set aside.
  4. When the butter is cooled add the remaining dark brown sugar and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg mixture. Beat again until combined and scrape once more. Finally add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. This is a dense dough so you might want to give your mixer a break if it sounds like it is straining.
  5. Use a disher to scoop out 12 balls of dough. Roll each between your hands and then toss with the reserved sugar. Place 12 coated dough balls on one of the baking sheets. Bake for 7 minutes, rotate the pan, and finish baking for 6 additional minutes.
  6. While the first pan of cookies bakes you can scoop up, form and coat the remaining dough. I usually usually end up with about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Notes:
I use a #40 disher to get ~30 cookies. You can tell the disher size by the number stamped into the sweep inside the bowl of the disher. In theory the stamped number indicates the number of scoops necessary to fill a 32 oz. container. Dishers are widely used in food services to control portion size.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Certain cakes go best with certain icings. A carrot cake with out cream cheese frosting is just isn’t the same. I also use this for red velvet cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings: enough to frost a 13″x9″ cake (or probably 2 8″ rounds)
Prep time: 2 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. room temperature cream cheese
  • 12 oz. room temperature unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 24 oz. powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. milk or heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low for about 30 seconds to break out both and move to high for 2 minutes to cream both ingredients together.
  2. Reduce the speed to low once again and add the vanilla. Beat on medium for 30 seconds to incorporate.
  3. Once more reduce the speed to low and add about a third of the sugar and a tablespoon of milk. Beat until combined and repeat with the second third of sugar and another tablespoon of milk.
  4. Add the remaining sugar and once combined with the frosting increase the mixer speed to high. Beat for 1 minute to incorporate air and increase the volume of the frosting.

Notes:
It’s important for the cream cheese and butter to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before making this frosting.

12 oz. of cream cheese is 1 1/2 packages and 12 oz. of butter is 1 1/2 sticks at my mega-mart.

Giant Purple Cookie

I think Ted came home from work with the suggestion for this recipe from a co-worker. In original form it is called “Crustless Cranberry Pie”. A web search turned up a numerous variations on the recipe so we picked one that seemed reasonable. We’ve made it a dozen plus times and love the result. We usually call it ‘giant cranberry cookie’.

Tonight I had no cranberries. Blueberries seemed a fair substitute. The color is definitely eye catching before baking.

Giant Purple Cookie
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350°F. Grease a 9″ glass pie pan and set it aside.
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the blueberries and walnuts, stir gently to coat.
  3. Combine the melted butter, eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl. Use a fork to combine the ingredients and then pour into the dry ingredient bowl. Stir to combine. The batter will turn purple.
  4. Transfer the batter to the greased pie pan and distribute evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the dish 180° halfway through baking.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes on cooling rack before serving.

Zucchini Quick Bread

It’s summer time and the gift of excess produce is in full swing. This past week a co-worker sent me home from work with 4 abnormally long cucumbers, 2 large zucchinis and a crock neck yellow squash. Since were heading to a get together later today I thought I’d make zucchini bread to bring along.

In the back of my head is the thought that one of the hosts is vegan. So I did a little web crawling and combined a few dairy and egg free recipes with my favorite zucchini bread recipe and came up with the following. Enjoy.

Zucchini Quick Bread
Servings: 2 loaves
Prep time: 45 minutes (see notes)
Total time: 2 hours (plus cooling)

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini, approx. 2 lbs.
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Trim the bloosom end off of the zucchini. Coarsely grate it on a box grater. Transfer to a salad spinner and fluff to aerate. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Spin vigorously to remove excess moisture. Empty liquid and repeat until no liquid accumulates in the bottom of the bowl. Set aside.
  2. While grated zucchini drains you can preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom of 2 loaf pans (mine are about 9″x5″.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices) in a bowl and whisk until the spices are well distributed.
  4. In a large bowl mix together the applesauce, sugars, oil and vanilla until well combined.
  5. Add 2 1/2 cups of grated, drained, zucchini to the wet mixture and stir to combine. Then add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. A few bits of dry flour is OK.
  6. Divide batter between the 2 prepared loaf pans. Bake for 65 minutes, rotating the pans 180° half way through cooking.
  7. Transfer to a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Notes:
The long prep time is to allow the excess liquid to drain from the grated zucchini. Getting rid of some of the liquid in the zucchini helps to lighten the final product .

Since this quick bread has no eggs it will be denser than other quick breads. Of course the zucchini by itself will often make this a dense bread.

We keep two types of cinnamon in the house, both from Penzey’s. We tend to use Ceylon in most quick baked goods (quick bread, cakes, cookies, etc.) while the Vietnamese is used in savory things or yeast breads.