Learning from Bad Cookies

Interesting article on how to bake a better cookie.  I have certainly learned over the years.  This is good basic information
image

1. Amount of Flour

Getting the flour ratio right is crucial to a nicely textured cookie. Too much and your cookie will be dry, crumbly, and chalky. Too little and your cookies will burn easily, spread a TON, and will feel greasy to the touch. Not good!

2. The Mixing Method

It is tempting to dump all your ingredients into a bowl and stir them together all at once. Surprisingly the results aren’t terrible, but the cookies were inconsistent in flavor. On the other hand, our over-creamed batch resulted in overly tough, puck-like cookies. Finding a happy medium between doing the most and doing the least is important for both the texture and flavor of your cookies.

Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

3. Baking Powder

There’s a reason baking powder is never called for in cookies: Adding it results in cookies that have a Play-Doh texture and a vaguely chemical taste.

4. Eggs

You gotta have ‘em! Leaving them out will result in overly sweet balls of dough. Crunchy on the outside, doughy in the middle, and completely unsatisfying.

Soft & Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

5. Sugar

Not enough and your cookies will taste more like shortbread, too much and they’ll be crunchy, burnt, and obviously way too sweet.

6. Bake Time

We’ve all burnt a batch of cookies, so you likely know the deal with over-baked cookies. They’re dry, crumbly, and come with a slightly bitter burnt flavor. Still edible, though! Under-baked cookies are doughy, soft, and slightly greasy. Luckily, if that’s your issue, you can pop ‘em back in the oven and give them a little more time.

Learning from Bad Cookies

Make Your Own Vanilla

Vanilla is expensive and Imitation Vanilla is just that, and if you taste both they do NOT taste the same.  I never thought about making my own Vanilla till a group of cooks on Facebook of all places were talking about what kind of vanilla to use.

A good number of professional cooks and home cooks make their own.  It is just something I never thought of doing, but love the idea.  I am going to be making Vanilla this week.  I might make enough to give as gifts.  What a great idea!

Many people are often familiar with clear or imitation vanilla extract. The difference between pure vanilla and imitation vanilla is simple; the pure vanilla extract is made from whole vanilla beans extracted using 35%+ alcohol – that’s it! Don’t be fooled by extracts that claim to be pure. Imitation and clear vanilla utilize artificial flavors and harmful chemicals. Pure vanilla extract should be dark brown; the color of Vanilla Beans used in the extraction process.

Here is how simple it is to make your own Vanilla:

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Glass Bottle or Jar
  • 7 Vanilla Beans
  • 1 cup Vodka 70 Proof/35% Alcohol (or you can also use Bourbon, Rum or Brandy; any brand/quality)

Directions:

how-to-make-vanilla-extract

Step 1: SLICE

Slice each bean once long-ways and place in a bottle. (If it helps to cut them into smaller, tootsie roll-sized pieces so they fit in the bottle more easily, go for it).

how-to-use-vanilla-beans

Step 2: POUR

Pour one cup of vodka, rum or alcohol of your choice. Make sure vanilla beans are completely submerged.

vanilla-beans-in-vodka

Step 3: SHAKE

Shake once or twice a week.

Step 4: WAIT

Wait about 8 weeks
Presto, your alcohol has turned into delicious vanilla! Store it at room temp and out of direct sunlight, and you can enjoy this puppy til’ the last drop!

homemade-vanilla-extract-recipe

What makes homemade vanilla extract so much better than “store bought”? First, you have control over the quality and type of vanilla used in the extract. Using premium grade vanilla beans will provide significantly better flavor and aroma than commercially produced extracts. Did you know that you can make vanilla extract from different types of vanilla beans? Each different vanilla variety will create a unique flavor!

Do you prefer bold and smokey? If so, try Ugandan vanilla beans. Traditional, rich and creamy? Use Madagascar Vanilla Beans! Floral aroma with a unique cherry-chocolate flavor? Venture to the Tahitian vanilla beans. You can even blend various varieties together! The floral, fruity, cherry-like notes of the Tahitian variety blend wonderfully with the nutty-chocolate character of the Bourbon varieties.

After 8 weeks the vast majority of the extraction process is complete. At this point, the vanilla is ready to use and the vanilla beans can be removed. If the vanilla beans are left in the bottle, the flavor will continue to evolve just like a fine wine (just be sure the beans are always submerged in alcohol).

Whether you are a seasoned baker, procrastinating about making vanilla extract, or looking for the perfect holiday gift this year it is easy and will save you a lot of $$$$.

Making vanilla extract is a fun, easy way to bring a favorite recipe to the next level.

Make Your Own Vanilla

Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies

Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies: a perfect treat of sinful chocolate ganache sandwiched between two hazelnut espresso cookies. I found this recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s “The Perfect Cookie Book”.  Next time I would just buy the hazelnuts already skinned.  That took way too long, and even though I like the taste, it took forever to roll the dough out to 1/8″ and actually my rolling pin only measure 1/6″, so that is the thickness of mine. These and Snickerdoodles, that I made yesterday will be delivered to our local Senior Apartments, for their Friday movie night.

Hazelnut ExpressoTruffle Cookies.jpg

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Process hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds.
  2. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and ground hazelnuts together in a bowl.
  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add egg and yolk, one at a time, espresso powder, and vanilla and beat until combined.
  5. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  6. Transfer dough to counter and divide in half. Form each half into a 5-inch disk, wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Let chilled dough soften on the counter, about 10 minutes. Roll 1 disk of dough into a 14-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick, on a lightly floured counter.
  9. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 30 circles; space circles 1/2 inch apart on prepared sheets.
  10. Gently reroll scraps once, cut into circles, and transfer to prepared sheets.
  11. Bake until edges are lightly browned, about 7 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.
  12. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Let cookies cool completely.
  13. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Place 1 3/4 cups chocolate chips in a bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate chips; cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Refrigerate ganache, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 40 minutes.
  14. Spread 2 teaspoons of ganache over bottom half of cookies, then top with remaining cookies, pressing lightly to adhere.
  15. Microwave remaining 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips in a bowl at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle chocolate over cookies and let set, about 30 minutes, before serving.
Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

I found this article online and made a few corrections and additions, but it has great information.

These baking mistakes threaten your beautiful bundts, bread, and bar cookies. Here’s what you should do instead…

In cooking, you’re encouraged to riff: Edamame in your stir-fry? Sure! A splash of rice wine vinegar in your pan sauce? Why not! Curious about herbes de Provence in your chicken rub? Give it a whirl!

In baking, however, creativity should be directed toward what you decide to make and how you decorate it—not how you cook it. That’s because baking is a science; cooking is an art. Science has rules. Art? Not so much.

You don’t read the recipe.

As you do with any IKEA furniture, you should read through the steps and gather your tools before you start mixing and whipping. Otherwise, you might get started and realize you’re one short a cup of cocoa powder of what your recipe needs. Or worse, you’ll start mixing up the dough for the birthday party you’re going to tonight and then realize it’s supposed to chill overnight. Oops!

The fix: Pull your recipe up on your phone, or get it from your cookbook. Read the ingredient list, and assemble everything that’s listed. Then, read the directions. You can even go so far as to “pretend” each step. This way, you can double check you have every ingredient and every appliance or tool you need.

You decide to wing it instead of measuring the ingredients.

The “a little of this, a little of that” mentality may suit you well in cooking, but in baking, it could backfire. After all, consider this: cookies, cakes, and bread contain many of the same ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, butter, for example. In the right ratios, they make a specific type of baked good. In the wrong ratios, they could be a disaster. That’s why it’s vital to measure every ingredient, from the flour to the tiniest bit of cinnamon.

The fix: Use your measuring spoons and cups. You need the right ratios to get the best results. Save the winging it for your salad dressing.

You don’t respect the comma.

Has the comma in “1 cup flour, sifted” ever confused you? What about the comma in “1/2 cup pecans, chopped”? The comma is telling you something very important. Do you know what?

The fix: The comma is telling you to first measure the ingredient and then perform the task. Measure the cup of flour, then sift it. Or measure the half cup of pecans, then chop them. There’s a big difference between half a cup of chopped pecans and half a cup of pecans that were measured, then chopped. It can dramatically affect your final result.

You use liquid measuring cups for dry ingredients (or vice versa).

Liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups measure things differently. Though it’s not a significant amount, it’s enough that it could affect the texture of your final product.

The fix: Use wet measuring cups (typically, the glass type you pour from) for everything liquid: water, oil, honey, milk, molasses, corn syrup, etc. Use dry cups for everything else, from flour and sugar to chocolate chips and yogurt. With the dry cups, be sure to use a flat surface, like the back of a knife, to swipe across the top of the cup to remove excess before adding to the batter.

You dip your measuring cup into the flour.

Dipping a measuring cup into a bag or jar of flour packs the flour into the well of the measuring cup. It may seem like the easiest way to scoop flour, but you’re actually getting more flour than you really need. Too much flour will turn into dense bread, hard cookies, and stiff cakes.

The fix: You need the same amount of flour each time to get consistent results, and you can do this in two ways: The less accurate option is to use a spoon to lightly scoop flour into a dry measuring cup, then use a flat edge (like a knife) to level off the flour. The most accurate way to measure flour is with a digital scale. A cup of all-purpose flour should be 130 grams.

You don’t preheat your oven.

We’ve all been there: You’ve just finished rolling out a tray full of cookie dough only to realize your oven is cool as a cucumber. So to save time, you turn the oven on and just stick the pan in any way. Bad idea. The quick and sudden heat is an important part of the baking process. If the dough heats slowly, you may have a mess on your hands.

The fix: If you realize the oven isn’t pre-heated when you’re ready to bake, just let the dough or batter sit while the oven heats up. Most ovens can be heated in about 10 minutes time. If you’re working with a temperature-sensitive dough, pop it in the fridge until the oven is ready.

You’ve never measured your oven’s temperature.

I have some bad news: Your oven could be lying to you. Just because it says 350°F doesn’t mean it really is. That means your brownies or pastries may not bake properly because your oven could be too hot, or even too cool. And 25°F in one direction can make a big difference in the final product.

The fix: Invest in an oven thermometer. Hang it from the grates in your oven the next time you turn it on. Let the oven pre-heat fully, and then see what the thermometer says. That will give you an idea of how correct your oven is—and how you need to adjust the oven when you bake in it.

You substitute baking powder for baking soda.

They might share a similar name, and they even look similar out of the box. But baking soda and baking powder are quite different. Baking soda must have an accompanying acid (lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, for example) to activate it; baking powder, on the other hand, has that acid already. If you use the wrong one, your baked goods will take a hit.

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

Millionaires Shortbread Cookies

Millionaires.jpgIngredients

Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup corn syrup

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt Chocolate

8 oz bittersweet chocolate (6 oz chopped fine, 2 oz grated)

For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of 13- by 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir with rubber spatula until the flour is evenly moistened. Crumble dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Using your fingertips and palm of your hand, press and smooth dough into an even thickness. Using a fork, pierce dough at 1-inch intervals. Bake until light golden brown and firm to touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack. Using a sturdy metal spatula, press on the entire surface of warm crust to compress (compressing crust while warm will make cutting finished bars easier). Cool crust to just warm, at least 20 minutes.

For the Filling: Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is homogenous and sugar is melted 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to boil. Cook, stirring constantly and scraping corners of the saucepan, until mixture registers 235 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in salt. Pour over crust and spread to even thickness. Let cool until filling is just warm, about 20 minutes.

For the Chocolate: Microwave 6 ounces chopped chocolate at 50 percent power, stirring every 15 seconds until fully melted but not much warmer than body temperature, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 ounces grated chocolate, and stir until melted, returning to microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time to complete melting if necessary. Spread chocolate evenly over the surface of filling. Refrigerate shortbread until chocolate is just set, about 10 minutes. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cutting.

Using foil, remove shortbread from pan and transfer to cutting board; discard foil. Using a serrated knife and sawing motion, cut shortbread in half crosswise to create two 6 ½- by 9-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half to make four 3 ½ – by 9-inch strips. Cut each strip crosswise into equal 10 pieces. (Shortbread can be stored at room temperature, between layers of parchment, for up to one week.) I just cut mine into squares, so they are not too big, as they are quite rich. (but yummy)

I like to put on parchment paper on a cooking tray after cutting and separating the cookies to freeze, then you can keep them a bit longer.

Millionaires Shortbread Cookies

Cookies for the Senior Center

I found out a week or so ago that the residents at our local Senior Center love sweets.  Well, I love to cook, so am going to try to make weekly treats for them.  This morning I dropped off Chocolate Chip Cookies with pecans and Peanut Butter Cookies.  Here are the recipes I used:

cookies.jpg

Chocolate Chip Cookies

INGREDIENTS

1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

14 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1-1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped pecans or chopped toasted walnuts

PREPARATION

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using a heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to a large heatproof bowl.

Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.

Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.

Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.

Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

Our perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe had to produce a cookie that would be moist and chewy on the inside and crisp at the edges, with deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness. Melting the butter gave us the chewiness we were looking for. Cutting back on the flour and eliminating an egg white also improved texture and brought the brown sugar flavor to the fore.

To give our chocolate chip cookie recipe the crisp edges and toffee flavor we wanted, we let the sugar dissolve in the batter for 10 minutes, then baked the cookies at a high temperature so the edges darkened while the centers stayed so.

2/2 Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still so, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway.

Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies
These cookies have a strong peanut flavor that comes from extra-crunchy peanut butter (in our taste test we preferred Jif) as well as from roasted salted peanuts that are ground in a food processor and worked into the dough. In our testing, we found that salted butter brings out the flavor of the nuts. If using unsalted butter, increase the salt to one teaspoon.

 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup extra-crunchy peanut butter, preferably Jif, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 cup roasted salted peanuts, ground in food processor to resemble bread crumbs, (about 14 pulses)

1. Adjust ovens rack to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. 
3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes with electric mixer, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary. Beat in peanut butter until fully incorporated, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Gently stir dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture. Add ground peanuts; stir gently until just incorporated.
4. Working with generous 2 tablespoons each time, roll dough into 2-inch balls. Place balls on parchment-lined cookie sheets, leaving 2 1/2inches between each ball. Press each dough ball twice with dinner fork dipped in cold water to make crisscross design. 
5. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking time (from top to bottom racks and back to front) until cookies are puffed and slightly brown along edges but not on top, 10 to 12 minutes. (Cookies will not look fully baked.) Cool cookies on cookie sheet until set, about 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack with a wide spatula to cool completely. 

 

Cookies for the Senior Center

2019 Challenge

Last year I challenged myself to read 75 books in the year and made it, finishing the last two in December. This year I am attempting, and I do say attempting a different type of challenge.  I bought the book by Kevin McPhearson called “Reflection of a Pond”

McPhearson.jpg

For a little over a year, he painted the pond in his back yard. I thought it might be a great idea to work on my brushwork and color skills in my artwork.  I live on a beach with a beautiful view.  Depending on the day, I see the mountains, amazing sunrises, boats, people, the marina and love the view every day. I am going (to try) to paint my view at some angle every day this coming year.

The paintings will be small at 5″ x 7″ and I am not going to only focus on part of the view, because as I see it there are three sections to my view.  To the right and mostly south, I see a park and a small falling apart dock.  In the middle, I see the break-water and a few boats and off to the left is the marina where the ferries come in and out.

I started this six days ago on January 16th, and in all honesty am a little overwhelmed by the idea.  I decided I was not going to set up my easel in my living room, but take photos and paint them from my Ipad in my studio.  I am a messy painter and I think my house would be safer without the possibility of my cat wandering through the paint and spreading it throughout the interior.

Day 1.jpg

DAY ONE

Sunrise, where I live, is sensational. This time of year it is usually a little after seven, so I have gotten in the habit of waking up and checking to see if it is beautiful or if it is gray.  If it is gray with no sun, then I know I have to wait till later or for a later day.  Keep in mind that these are small and quick studies.

Day 2.jpg

DAY TWO

I am starting to relax a little with my second painting, knowing that most likely they will never sell, but they might make a fun show or a fun book, but I am savoring the differences in the colors of the morning.

Day 3.jpg

DAY THREE

Some days are peaceful and don’t seem to sing to me, but this morning on day three, the sky was amazing and constantly changing.  The interesting thing about sunrises here is that they can be totally amazing one minute and literally gone the next.  You have to try to capture the essence of what is happening quickly.

 

Day 4.jpg

DAY FOUR

I am starting to experiment a little more with texture and using a palette knife a little more.  I am hoping during the year to gain control of the palette knife using it for the dock and sometimes for everything.  The boat to the right of the dock, looks more like a rock than a boat, but it is a learning experience.

Day 5.jpg

DAY FIVE

On this morning it was misty and you could barely see the boats through the fog.  I moved to the marina area to focus on the painting and love the almost eeriness of the painting.  It could be a city or a marina or another country, but I had fun just playing with the color, which is the opposite of Day 6.

Day 6.jpg

DAY SIX

So often, as most of you know, we awaken to gray, grey and grayer, so I decided to attempt a tonal painting using only Payne’s Gray, Titanium White, and French Ultramarine Blue.  I tried my new camera lens which is a 150 -800 mm to see what I could do with a close-up shot.  I had fun with just the three colors and the closer view.

Going forward I will try to paint daily with different colors or different views and see what happens.  I will post every few days with my newest painting.

I will continue to post food posts, as I love to cook.  Today I made Peanut Butter cookies and Chocolate Chip cookies to take to our local Senior Center for their Bingo Game tomorrow.  I know they love sweets and not too many of them cook.

 

2019 Challenge

Tiramisu

I have made this several times and several different ways, but find this the easiest and yummiest.  I make two sponge cakes and cut them to 7″ X 7″ squares.  I used a paper cutter to make the shape in paper and then cut the cake easily to the right size.  This one is cut already.  I use the left-over edges to make two mini tiramisus for the family if this is going to a party. Not as pretty, but still tastes yummy.

This is basically the recipe from the Best British Baking Show.  I tried America’s Test Kitchen and did not think it tasted as good or was as pretty.

Tiramisu.jpg

mini.jpg

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • softened butter, for greasing
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • 100g/3½oz caster sugar (baker’s sugar)
  • 100g/3½oz self-raising flour

For the filling

  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 150ml/5½fl oz boiling water
  • 100ml/3½fl oz brandy
  • 3 x 250g/9oz tubs full-fat mascarpone cheese
  • 300ml/10½fl oz double cream ( you can use 36% heavy cream)
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted (confectioner’s sugar)
  • 65g/2¼oz dark chocolate (36% cocoa solids), grated

For the decoration

  • 100g/3½oz dark chocolate, (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Method

SPONGE

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C(fan)/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 35x25cm/14x10in Swiss roll tin and line with baking parchment. BE SURE TO MAKE TWO AND ONE COULD BE CHOCOLATE

  2. For the sponge, place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and, using an electric hand-held mixer, whisk together for about five minutes, or until the mixture is very pale and thick. The mixture should leave a light trail on the surface when the whisk is lifted.

  3. Sift over the flour and fold in gently using a metal spoon or spatula, taking care not to over mix. THIS MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE QUALITY OF YOUR SPONGE CAKE

  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and tilt the tin to level the surface. I JUST USE A SPATULA TO MAKE IT EVEN.

  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen, golden-brown and springy to the touch. Cool in the tin for five minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

FILLING

  1. For the filling, dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and add the brandy. Set aside to cool.

  2. When the sponge is cold, carefully slice the cake in half horizontally, so you have two thin sponges of equal depth.

  3. Using the loose base of a square cake tin as a guide, cut two 18cm/7in squares from each sponge. Discard the sponge trimmings (or keep for cake pops or a sneaky single-serving trifle). OR TWO MINI TIRAMISU

PUTTING IT TOGETHER

  1. Line the base and sides of the square tin with long rectangles of baking parchment; there should be plenty of excess parchment which you can use to help lift the cake from the tin later.

  2. Place the mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in the cream and icing sugar to make a creamy, spreadable frosting.

  3. Place one layer of sponge in the base of the lined cake tin. Spoon over one-quarter of the coffee brandy mixture. Then spread one-quarter of the mascarpone frosting over the soaked sponge. Scatter over one-third of the grated chocolate.

  4. Place the second sponge on top, spoon over another quarter of the coffee mixture then spread another quarter of the frosting over the soaked sponge. Scatter over another one-third of the grated chocolate. Repeat with the third sponge and another one-quarter of the coffee mixture and frosting and the remaining grated chocolate.

  5. Place the fourth sponge on top and spoon over the remaining coffee mixture. Using a palette knife spread a very thin layer of the remaining frosting over the top of the cake – this is called a ‘crumb coat’ and will seal in any loose crumbs of sponge.

  6. Wipe the palette knife and spread the rest of the frosting in a thicker layer over the cake. Chill for at least one hour in the fridge before turning out.

DECORATING

  1. While the cake is chilling, melt half of the chopped chocolate in a small bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. (Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.) Gently stir the chocolate until it reaches a melting temperature of 53C/127F.

  2. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the remaining half of chopped chocolate and continuing stirring gently until the chocolate cools to 31C/88F or lower and is thick enough to pipe.

  3. Place a sheet of baking parchment on the work surface. Use another sheet to make a paper piping bag.

  4. Spoon the melted chocolate into the paper piping bag. Snip off the end and pipe decorative shapes onto the baking parchment. Leave to set until required.

AND FINISH

  1. Dust the chilled tiramisu cake with the cocoa powder before turning out onto a serving plate, using the parchment paper to help lift out of the tin. Decorate with the chocolate shapes.

Tiramisu

Salted caramel shortbread

Salted Caramel Shortbread Recipe

Salted caramel shortbread

  • Easy

Sweet and salty flavors are an ongoing trend and this shortbread recipe is the perfect way to blend these flavors. It’s quick and easy baking and will please a crowd.

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter 300g  ( 10.5 oz)
  • Golden caster sugar 150g  (3/4 cup superfine baker’s sugar)
  • Plain flour 350g  (2 3/4 cup)
  • Rice flour 100g  ( I used all regular flour) 
  • Semi0sweet chocolate 150g, chopped  (6 oz)
  • Salt flakes for decoration

caramel

  • Golden caster sugar 100g   ( 1/2 cup superfine baker’s sugar)
  • Salt flakes

METHOD

  • STEP 1

    To make the caramel, heat the sugar in an even layer in a frying pan until it melts and then starts to bubble to a golden brown. Swirl the pan if you need to keep the melting and browning even. Add a good-sized pinch of salt flakes and tip the caramel onto an oiled baking sheet set on a wooden board. Cool and then break into chips with a rolling pin. ( I used a meat pounder to break up mine)

     

  • STEP 2

    Beat the butter and sugar in a food processor until you have a smooth paste. Add all of the flours and a pinch of salt and beat to form a dough. Tip onto a lightly floured board, pat out gently and sprinkle with the caramel chips. Fold in half and then transfer to a 20 × 30cm (or similar) tin and push into an even layer. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.  ( This did not work so well for me, so I cut it in half, pushed the first half onto an 8 x 12 cake pan, added the broken caramel, then patted the second half on top. – Worked great! )

     

  • STEP 3

    Heat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas (350 ℉) 4. Bake the shortbread for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, mark into fingers with a knife and then cool completely. Cut along the marked lines into pieces.  (I put a rack on top, flipped it out, then flipped it over with another rack.  Easy…  Used my biggest knife to cut right through)

     

  • STEP 4

    Heat the chocolate in a bowl set over (but not touching) a pan of water or microwave until it starts to melt, stir until smooth and take it off the heat. Lay the shortbreads next to each other with a tiny gap between them on a cooling rack and spoon over the chocolate in strips and it doesn’t have to be perfect. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle with some salt flakes and then leave it to set. ( I used a piping tube to do it)

    short.jpg

    Here is what mine look like and they taste wonderful!

Salted caramel shortbread

Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?

 Muffins and quick bread, dips, and pies almost always start with the same instruction: “Preheat the oven to 350°F.” Why?

Why is that?

What makes 350°F the magical temperature?

Why is it that so many types of baked foods from cake to bread go in a 350°F oven and come out perfectly after a relatively brief bake?

The answer to that is one part science and one part, well, human laziness.

Putting something in a hot oven sets off a series of chemical reactions that turn the gooey dough into a bouncing bread or sheets of puff pastry into flaky pastries. A temperature of around 350°F is hot enough to complete a lot of these steps quickly.

Step 1. At 90°F, fats begin to melt and combine with the gluten proteins (flour). Gases from the baking soda or baking powder are released, which helps make the baked good tender.

Step 2..At 140°F, the gluten proteins (flour) begin to swell and dry out. That’s when cake or cookies go from wet batter to dry food.

Step 3. At 300°F, sugar starts to caramelize.

Step 4. The Maillard Reaction, a point at which foods begin to brown and develop their distinctive flavor, happens around 320°F.

So why 350°F? It’s good enough to make all those necessary steps happen quickly, even if your oven runs a little cold and it’s not so hot you have to worry about burning.

But how did we decide to bake things at 350°F and not 340°F or 360°F?

That requires a trip back to the turn of the century.

Before we had ovens that could be warmed up in 5-degree increments like we do today, we had ovens that could bake at three settings: slow, moderate, or high. Recipes for baked goods often called for “moderate ovens.”

After World War II, oven manufacturers capitalized on some technological improvements from the war. Newer models of ovens gave cooks slightly more control by letting them set their gas and electric ovens in 25°F increments. Today, many modern ovens will let you set your oven in 5°F increments.

Attempting to adapt antiquated recipe instructions to match the modern day appliances, recipe writers converted a “moderate” temperature to 350°F, which was typically halfway between an oven’s lowest setting, around 200°F, and its highest, around 500°F.

Is 350°F really the best temperature for baking?

No, probably not. Ovens are notoriously unreliable, so setting your oven to 350°F promises you’ll land somewhere between 330-370°F. You’ll hit 350°F only if your oven is well-calibrated. That being said, most ovens have hot spots and cool spots, so it’s not a good bet that you’re really cooking at precisely 350°F.

Recipe writers and food marketers know that it’s better to err on the side of caution with the “moderate” temperature than to get very specific and have a failed recipe.

Some baked goods, like crusty baguettes,  benefit from baking at a higher temperature, but a too-high temp could sink it. The higher heat will help the bread rise more quickly and set the crust before the gluten in the bread has a chance to dry out and stiffen.

The same can be true for muffins: the muffin tops rise taller in the higher heat, and you can lower the temp to finish baking them and prevent them from drying out.

Likewise, many chocolate chip cookie recipes bake at a higher temp as high as 425°F or start hot and finish at a lower temp. The hot start gets the dough to the caramelization and Maillard Reaction stages faster and then slows the cooking down to keep the cookies from drying out or burning.

Until ovens become almost foolproof and manufacturers can guarantee an oven really is the temp it says, we’ll stick with the magical 350°F. It’s good enough to get the job done.

I like keeping an oven thermometer close at hand to check my oven temperature from time to time.

Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?