Category: Nuts

hamantaschen

hamantaschen

Did you watch the Oscars? I like watching the Oscars and Emmys (but generally hate the Grammys). I know the awards shows are always unfortunately long, and pretty boring during some parts, and there are always lots of screw ups because…live television, but it’s kinda fun to see what everyone is wearing, what outlandish and/or political stuff people talk about in their speeches, and see people actually having some personality other than the last character they played. I actually thought this was one of the better Oscars in recent memory. The whole “let’s have an offensive comedian host” thing was getting old, and I think Ellen fit the bill pretty well.

And call me a jerk, but I still cannot stop laughing about the whole Travolta mispronunciation situation and subsequent reactions. It’s hilarious.

Anyway…for the past few years, I’ve noticed a slew of recipes/photos of these little triangle cookies floating around the interwebs during March. Considering I hadn’t the slightest clue what they were, I figured I’d do a little research and test them out. Enter: hamantaschen. Hamantaschen, or Haman’s pockets, are apparently a staple of the Jewish holiday Purim. There’s obviously a lot of meaning and history behind Purim, but from what I gather, there is also much feasting involved.  I like feasting. Since I’m no expert on Purim, you should do your own research to learn more. Start here.

Hamantaschen remind me of rugelach in a lot of ways, but the dough is heartier and the cookies are obviously larger. The dough is delicious (uh, hello…butter and cream cheese?) and not too sweet, while also taking enough of a back seat to let whatever filling you choose be the star of the show. And they pack up nicely, which is good because you probably shouldn’t eat them all yourself. But you totally can if you want to. I won’t judge you. It’s Fat Tuesday, so you have the perfect excuse. Continue reading

almond cake

cake 4-

Last weekend, I made a valentine cake. And it was delicious. I was impressed with myself.

I don’t typically make layer cakes. Mostly because transporting a layer cake is a huge pain-in-the-you-know-what, but also because…I am missing whatever gene is necessary to be a rockstar at fancy cake decorating. I am better at what we’ll call “rustic” cake decorating.  My version of rustic cake decorating is 1 part legit creativity and 2 parts preschool-style artwork. I’m totally okay with it. I own it. And oddly, I’m a pretty baller cupcake decorator. It’s weird how that pans out, huh?

almond cake

See what I did there with my new alphabet cookie cutters? So cheesy.

A few things about this cake:

  • You should absolutely make your own almond paste. It is SO MUCH TASTIER than the store bought stuff.  All you need is almonds, honey, water, and sugar. Here’s a link on how to do it — you can half the recipe and have way more than enough for this cake.
  • If you want to have a chocolate-almond layer like I did, bake half your batter as stated in the recipe, and then fold 1/4 to 1/3 cup of cocoa powder into the remaining half before you bake. I actually ended up baking about 2/3 of the batter in round one (plain almond) and 1/3 of the batter in round 2 (chocolate-almond). My chocolate layer was much thinner. Which is fine, as I didn’t want to overpower the plain almond layers. If you want an even showing of chocolate-almond and plain almond cake, divide your batter in half.
  • I baked my cake layers in an 8×8 square pan, and cut the layers in half to make a cake that was 8″ x 4″. If you do this, you’ll need to keep an eye on your cakes as your baking time might be a bit shorter.
  • For chocolate hearts — melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave, put it in a piping bag or a ziploc bag with one of the corners snipped off, and pipe directly onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I put mine in the freezer to help them solidify faster.
  • I also made my own sprinkles. It was fun? But store bought ones are just fine, and probably won’t start disintegrating into the frosting 5 hours after you make it.
  • According to  Molly, this cake is not to be made at any other time of year than Valentine’s Day, but I can’t say that I’ll abide by that rule. It’s too good to wait a full year before making it again!
  • I added a thin layer of blackberry jam between my layers (in addition to the frosting).
  • The “frosting” on this cake is actually just whipped cream. It balances the cake out perfectly. Make sure you whip your cream thoroughly enough that it is structurally sound. Also, this means you can’t just leave this cake sitting out for long periods of time, lest your dairy spoil (ew) and whipped cream start to melt/un-whip itself (double ew).

cake 5-

Almond Cake

recipe, adapted slightly,  from My Name Is Yeh

for the cake:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz almond paste
6 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
pinch of salt
1/2 c sugar

for the “frosting”:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a few drops of food coloring, if you want to color your frosting (totally optional)

plus anything you want to use to decorate your cake! I used homemade sprinkles, edible glitter, and chocolate hearts.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your cake pans and set aside.
  2. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat almond paste and egg yolks until well blended, mix in vanilla and almond extract, and set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar one tablespoon at a time and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  5. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture and then gradually fold in the flour mixture. pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, until a tooth pick comes out clean.
  6. Let cool completely. Sticking them in the freezer helps, and makes them easier to level and frost.
  7. For the frosting, whip up the whipping cream and add the extracts and food coloring.
  8. Level your cake layers (so you don’t end up with a leaning cake…unless you totally dig that kind of thing, and then more power to ya).
  9. Frost and decorate your cake!

chocolate heart

banana bread

banana bread5-

Is banana bread seasonal? Or is it just one of those bread situations that randomly reappears every so often, whenever there are enough over-ripe bananas floating about your kitchen?

Banana bread is weird. It doesn’t feel summery, or fall-ish. It doesn’t identify with any specific occasion or holiday. It doesn’t have a particular vibe about it. It’s just one of those “whenever the time is right” kind of breads. I think of zucchini bread in the same way. Continue reading

polar vortex baking: hearty oatmeal-chocolate-almond-cranberry muffins

oatmeal muffins

Welcome to #PolarVortex2014. Ok, well, the vortex is over for us, but let’s recap. Also, the only thing I can ever think of when I see hashtags now is this.

Last week was “everyone hype up the polar vortex” week. Tom Skilling told us wind chills on Monday and Tuesday would be up to -50. Panic ensues. And by panic, what I really mean is everyone (EVERYONE.) went to the nearest grocery store and purchased anything and everything they could get their hands on. By the time we went on Saturday evening, they were out of onions. ONIONS, I tell you. And eggs. And a million other things. But ONIONS!?!? I mean, seriously? How do you run out of onions?! Continue reading

tiny maple pecan sandies

maple pecan sandies

 

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season! 🙂

These didn’t quite make it up in time for all those festive holiday recipe posts, but they’re still worth your while. Toasted pecans and maple syrup help give them a wintry, warm taste that is a great companion to your morning/afternoon/evening tea or coffee. Best of all, they’re TINY. Which means you can eat a few without feeling like you’ve ruined the age-old new year’s resolution of not eating junk food. Although, if you ask me, things made from scratch with real, pronounceable ingredients are hardly junk food. Besides, didn’t somebody somewhere sometime once say that if you don’t treat yourself once in a while, you’re twice as likely to “cheat” on any diet/exercise plan?  Treat yo self.

In other news, it hasn’t stopped snowing in three days. Oh, and on Monday, the expected HIGH for the day is -8. Yeah. Continue reading