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Macarons

Macarons are a tasty sandwich cookie that can be customized in many ways. It’s also a very finicky treat to make. There are many ways these cookies can go wrong, but that’s no reason to avoid trying to bake them. Whether you over mix, under mix, end up with hollows, or little nipples on top of your cookies, your oven may be too hot or cold, the non-slip mats may be better for your oven than parchment paper…you’ll still end up with a tasty cookie and a fancy new recipe under your belt!

Rested and baked macarons
Macaron shells after resting and baking. The tops are not flat but the feet are looking good!

There are several different methods to try, too, so if you don’t succeed at first, check out another method that might be easier for you. For my first and second go, I used King Arthur Flour’s recipe. This recipe gives you a nice plain macaron shell to work with. The base recipe is easy to add color and other details to (I added some cinnamon on top of some of mine the second go-round). This ended up being a great first recipe for me, though I do recommend checking out a video or two on YouTube to see someone go through the process. The first time I pipped macarons, I did a swirl instead of a flat pipe and ended up with plenty of air pockets resulting in a hollow cookie (still yummy).

Macaron inside
Inside a macaron. The top shell has an air pocket toward the top. The bottom shell is full. Both are very tasty!

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Plain Macaron Shells (via King Arthur Flour)

1 1/2 cups almond flour (sprinkle lightly into a dry measuring cup and level with a straight edge)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
3 large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp water

Process the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar in a food processor for about 20 seconds (I skip this step). Sift to remove any large pieces and to aerate the mixture (don’t skip this step).

Separate the eggs and put the whites in the bowl you will use to whip them (use whisk attachment). Don’t start whipping yet, but add a pinch of cream of tartar.

Combine the water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until dissolved, then bring to a rapid boil. Boil for about 2 minutes. The temperature should reach 235°F-240°F (I go by temp, not time for this step). Take the syrup off the heat. Immediately start whipping the egg whites using an electric mixer. When they hold a curved peak on the end of the beater, stop, grab the pan of the hot syrup, resume beating, and pour the syrup steadily into the whites as you beat them.

Continue beating until the meringue is smooth, glossy, and forms soft peaks. Remove from mixer.

Fold in the almond flour mixture until everything is evenly combined. Then, start stirring. This will thin the mixture. Stir until the batter runs in ribbons that disappear back into the mass in 10-20 seconds (the batter should be sort of thick, not too runny). Test frequently and stop when you reach this point.

Pipe onto parchment-lined baking sheets. The cookie should flatten out. If it doesn’t spread, stir the batter some more. Cookies can be positioned close together since they don’t spread while baking.

Allow the cookies to rest on the sheets in a dry place with good air circulation (counter top is fine) until you can touch the top and come away with a clean finger (roughly 2 hours).

Toward the end of the baking time, preheat oven to 275°F. Bake 25-30 mins, until firm on top. Remove and let cool completely on the sheet. Use a thin spatula to remove them from the parchment (I’ve been able to lift them easily with my hand). Spread half of the cookies with filling. Top with the remaining cookie.

Macaron chocolate peppermint
Macarons (second attempt) with chocolate peppermint buttercream

 

Chocolate Peppermint Buttercream Filling

This I made up as I went along. I took about a stick of butter and beat it until soft. I added some unsweetened cocoa and mixed until combined. Then, added a splash of milk and mixed again. Then I went back and forth with adding powdered sugar, milk, and cocoa until I got a flavor and consistency I liked for the macarons (not too stiff, not too soft). Add a tiny splash of peppermint extract, mix again, and then you’re ready to go.

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Wacky Cake (egg free, dairy free, gluten free, soy free, nut free*)

Wacky cake is a term I’ve heard for a while now in baking blogs and baking groups. I knew it was a Depression era recipe and that it is a go-to for people with certain dietary restrictions. One of my last bakes in 2019 was my first go at a wacky cake. I had bookmarked a recipe by Kathy P. a while back and dug it up to give it a go. The recipe is originally egg free and dairy free plus she has plenty of recommendations on how to customize the recipe to meet other dietary needs.

For my go, where the recipe calls for oil, I used coconut oil. This added the soy free element to the cake. Note that coconut is sometimes part of a nut allergy and sometimes not. If you need to avoid nuts and soy, go with palm oil instead.

I highly recommend giving this cake a go, even if you aren’t baking for a specific diet. It’s very easy to make, doesn’t require eggs or milk, and, as Kathy P. points out, you can make it in the same pan you bake it in, so there’s very little mess to clean up (see her recipe for the single pan instructions)! And it’s fully of chocolate goodness.

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Kathy P.’s Wacky Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp vinegar
5 Tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda) in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Mix wet ingredients (vinegar, oil, vanilla, water) in a separate bowl and stir to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until you get a smooth batter. Do not beat.

Pour into a greased and floured pan (8″ square, 9″ round, 12 cupcakes)

Note: some wacky cake recipes say that no greasing is required. I placed parchment circles at the bottom of my pans (2 6″ rounds) without greasing or flouring and they came out of the pans fine.

Bake in the oven until it tests as done, about 35 mins for cake, 20 for cupcakes.

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Matcha cake roll with honey Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC)

Matcha, also known as green tea, is a hit or miss flavor for many. Some simply do not enjoy it at all. Some may find it too grassy, a common complaint of strong matcha. Others find it quite pleasant. I enjoy weaker matcha flavor, typically when blended with dairy.

Back in late 2017, I began venturing away from American buttercream frosting and trying both Swiss and Italian meringue buttercreams. I came across a recipe for a honey-sweetened SMBC and had some matcha waiting to be baked with. I had to try a matcha roll cake.

Not only did both recipes turn out well, they worked together perfectly. The buttery flavor and smooth texture of the SMBC was a match with the rich matcha. Not only that, but I managed a pretty nice swirl with the cake. This is still one of my personal favorite bakes.

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Matcha Swiss Roll (from the Little Epicurean)

1 cup (112 g) cake flour
2 Tbsp (14 g) matcha powder
1 tsp baking powder
5 large eggs separated
3/4 cup (156g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Like jelly roll pan with parchment. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together cake flour, matcha powder, and baking powder and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and milk until pale in color.

In another clean bowl, whip egg whites to medium-stiff peaks.

Add dry flour mixture to yolk mixture. Fold to combine. Add whipped egg whites in three additions. Gently fold to incorporate egg whites.

Pour batter into prepared baking sheet. Use offset spatula to spread batter into an even layer. Bake for 8-10 mins until cake springs back to touch. Remove from oven and run a mini offset spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake.

Invert the cake onto a clean kitchen towel. Slowly and gently remove the parchment from the cake. Use the towel to roll the cake into a log. Let the cake rest on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Once the cake is cooled, unroll the cake. Add generous amounts of filling. Use an offset spatula to spread filling to an even layer.

Use your hands and the towel to gently roll the cake back into a log. Place the seam at the bottom of the cake to prevent it from unraveling. Cover log with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins to allow the filling to set up. Slice a bit off of each end for a smooth presentation.

 

Honey Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Wife Mama Foodie)

Makes 4 cups of SMBC

4 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cups honey or maple syrup (or half of each)
1 3/4 cups butter, softened
3 tsp vanilla extract (I only needed 1 tsp for flavor)
Notes: Make sure your bowls are very clean. Do not get yolks in the egg whites.

Combine sweeteners (honey/syrup) and egg whites together in a heat-safe bowl (top part of a double-boiler). Place it over a pot of boiling water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat for 4-5 mins or until the thermometer reads 150-160°F, stirring often. If your mixture ends up lumpy, strain it before beating.

Use whisk attachment on a stand mixer and begin beating the egg mixture on high speed until it is thoroughly cooled, fluffy, and holds its shape well (beat to stiff peaks, can take 8-15 mins, mine took less time).

Switch to the paddles attachment and begin adding butter little by little (I sliced my butter and added 1 Tbsp at a time). The mixture can become curdled (it did), but it will come back together after you beat it for several minutes (it did). Turn the mixer to high speed and beat for several minutes to incorporate lots of air and make the buttercream fluffy. When it is nice and fluffy, mix in the vanilla. If your buttercream is warm, stick it in the fridge for 30-60 mins and then beat again for a few minutes. Use right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge.

*see original posted recipe for instructions on using arrowroot or cornstarch to lighten the SMBC

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Muggles Market and Geek Gala 2019

If you follow Casual Confections on social media, you’ve seen a lot of chatter leading up to the Muggles Market and Geek Gala which both took place last Saturday. Both events were a huge success!

Want to try your hand at making any of the goodies Casual Confections sold or donated to the events? Go for it! These are the recipes I started with and tweaked to end up with the current versions on my menu:

  • Cookie Cat Cookies
  • Butterbeer fudge (gluten free)
  • Dean’s I-Want-Pie Bars (gluten free, vegan)
  • Zuul Slime Cake
  • Strawberry Shortcake-ish Cake
    • Cake – yellow box cake mix
    • Topping – same fluff recipe as above, just add ground freeze dried strawberries, strawberry flavor oil, or strawberry Jell-O mix in place of the vanilla extract. Start with a small amount and add more to taste. Sprinkle with ground freeze dried strawberries.

 

Cookie Cat
Cookie Cat: brownie cookie with strawberry and plain marshmallow fluff
ButterbeerFudgeTray
Butterbeer fudge tray
PieBars
Dean’s I-Want-Pie Bars are very customizable, gluten free, and vegan
ZuulSlimeCake
Zuul Slime Cake: black cocoa cake with vanilla pudding slime
StrawberryShortcakeIshCake
Strawberry Shortcake-ish Cake
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Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies

Carrot cake fans rejoice! Now you can satisfy your craving for that moist, chewy goodness without needing to invest in an entire cake! The cookies can be made as drop cookies or by using a whoopie pie baking sheet (my favorite method for stackable cookies). This recipe includes an easy cream cheese filling. You can also add cream cheese to your favorite buttercream (for this experiment, I used the Italian meringue buttercream recipe from the carrot cake bake and added a portion of cream cheese to it). This recipe does require some refrigeration but comes together very quickly and easily.

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Carrot Cake Cookies via Celebrating Sweets

Cookies:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened slightly
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
2/3 cup finely grated (using the small holes on the grater) carrots (not carrots that are packed in water) – this is the equivalent of half a large carrot or 2-3 medium to small carrots. To measure, place grated carrots  loosely into the measuring cup.
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease two whoopie pie sheets). Placing cookies on an unlined sheet will result in them spreading too much.

Beat butter and sugars for 1-2 minutes until light and creamy. Add egg and vanilla and best to combine, scraping the bowl if necessary.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until just combined. Add the oats, coconut, carrots, and walnuts. Mix until just combined.

Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the fridge and scoop the dough evenly into 2 tsp-sized mounds and place a couple of inches apart on the cookie sheets (make sure they are mounded and not flat). For the whoopie pie sheets method, place enough dough in each well to provide a not too thick but not too thin layer on the bottom. Press to flatten/smooth out slightly, but do not press completely flat. You want the cookies to be similar in size since you are sandwiching them. They do not need to be perfect matches, but you don’t want a tiny cookie and a cookie double its size as a match.

Make for 9-11 minutes, until golden brown and still slightly soft in the center. Rotate your cookie sheets halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet. If you try to move them too soon, they’ll fall apart. Once cool, place the cookies in the refrigerator to firm up a little while you prepare the frosting (this step is optional). If using whoopie pie sheets, gently and slowly twist the cooled cookies so that they loosen in one piece before gently lifting them out of the well.

 

Cream Cheese frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, softend
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus more if needed
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese and butter for several minutes, until combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat for a couple more minutes until smooth and creamy. If the frosting appears too thin, add a little more powdered sugar or place it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to slightly firm up.

Spread frosting on the underside half of the cookies and top with another cookie (if I use the whoopie pie tin, I put the icing on the top of the cookie so that you hold on to the flat sides). These cookies are best within 1-2 days of making them. Store them in the refrigerator and eat them from the fridge or bring them to room temperature before serving.

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Available Now: Carrot cake cookies!

Package of carrot cake sandwich cookies

Carrot cake cookies are everything you love about the dessert, down to the cream cheese filling, but in a snack portion!

Two boxes (update: Only one left!) of six carrot cake cookies are available for purchase today! $15/box + tax.

Local pick up only (Charlotte/Matthews, NC).

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Libby’s Pumpkin Roll

It’s mid-August. The school buses are back out and rush hour is back to its full capacity. It’s still hot outside and summer will be around for a few more weeks, but visions of pumpkin flavored goods have started to dance in our heads.

This year I decided to join in the pumpkin fun. A pumpkin roll is the first of two planned pumpkin treats that are new additions to the menu! For my first pumpkin roll attempt, I started with a recipe for the infamous Libby’s pumpkin roll (recipe is available on the label of the can of pumpkin).

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Libby’s Pumpkin Roll (1 roll = about 14 servings)

  • Cake
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (for the towel)
    • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 2/3 cup (5.3 oz) pumpkin (I used an entire 15 oz can for my first experiment and the cake held together mostly fine)
    • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • Filling
    • 1 package cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
    • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and line a 15×10 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves in a small bowl.

Beat eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into pan. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 13-15 mins or until top of the cake springs back when touched. Immediate turn cake onto towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll cake and towel. Cool on wire rack.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup of powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cooled cake. Spread mixture over cake. Reroll, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

First slice of pumpkin roll
Libby’s pumpkin roll
Pumpkin roll half
Pumpkin roll cake with cream cheese filling and rolled in walnuts.
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Ice Cream Sandwiches

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making a traditional ice cream sandwich, but didn’t really carve out the time to do so. This week, a video from Delish.com came across my feed and I had to try it. They made red velvet ice cream sandwiches using a box mix. I had a box of devil’s food mix sitting in my pantry and some mint ice cream in the freezer and decided to give it a go.

This recipe takes almost no time on task to whip together. While my sandwich ends were more thin and cookie-like and less thick and cake-like, they made for a very tasty treat!

One thing to note, the recipe in the link has fewer details than the video. The butter should be melted. I creamed some softened butter for mine which may have played a role in the cookie vs cake texture.

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Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches (using a red velvet ice cream sandwich recipe)

1 box cake mix
2 large eggs
1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 gal ice cream, softened (apply as much as you like. I prefer a thinner ice cream layer, so I only used about half a carton)

Preheat oven 350°F. Line a large rimmed pan baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine mix, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Mix until evenly combined (mixture will be thick).

Spread the batter onto the prepared baking sheet. My batter was quite thick and I found it easier to drop globs on different parts of the pan and using an offset spatula to slowly work it around until there was a smooth and somewhat even layer of batter across the pan.

Bake until set (about 18-20 mins).

Let cool in the pan completely, then cut the cake in half across the middle to make two large rectangles. Spread ice cream onto one half and then place the second half on top to form one large sandwich. Freeze until ice cream is firm (about 2 hours) then slice it into bars (should yield about 12 depending on size of slices). Serve immediately.

Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwich
Chocolate mint ice cream sandwich
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Black Buttercream

The elusive black buttercream. This has been my main experiment for the past month. Along the way, I made some awesome slate grey colors, some more bitter flavored icing, many many many cakes to use as vehicles for eating the experiments, and used lots and lots of gel coloring.

In April, I took a cake order that was going to be mostly black. The client gave the option of using fondant or buttercream and I opted for buttercream because guests would be more likely to eat and enjoy it. Having read several posts on blogs and in baking groups about working on black buttercream, I figured I would get it in only a couple of trials.

Trial 1 – Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC) is my current go-to for cakes. It isn’t very sweet, has great flavors, takes spices and colors well, and holds up well through various temperatures.

Black Buttercream Trial 1
First run of black buttercream (IMBC)

For this first run, melted milk chocolate, a small amount of black cocoa and some drops of Wilton black gel coloring were added to white IMBC. The chocolate flavor was delicious! The initial color result was a slate grey. Leaving the buttercream out overnight to darken only yielded a very slight change in shade. “Ok,” I thought, “maybe I didn’t add enough black.”

Trial 2 – another run with IMBC.

Black buttercream trial 2
Second run of black buttercream (IMBC)

Trial 2 had a lot more black cocoa, no milk chocolate, and more black gel color (this time I tried Americolor) than last time, but it still was not enough as I achieved exactly the same shade as I had in trial 1. The chocolate flavor in batch 2 was still good despite lacking the smoothness the melted milk chocolate added.

Black Buttercream Trial 2
Second run of black buttercream (IMBC). The slate grey color was fabulous but not the intended target.

There were many issues with the IMBC: the texture was getting thinner as I added more chocolate and gel and I was not satisfied with it, the flavor was very bitter and I was adding a lot of powered sugar in to compensate, and it was taking hours to mess with the color. If I was going to add so much powdered sugar, why not start with something very sweet, like American buttercream (ABC)? During my research, a recipe from Chelsweets kept coming up and I decided to give it a go.

Trial 3 – American buttercream via Chelsweets.com

Black buttercream trial 3
Black buttercream trial 3 – American buttercream via Chelsweets

VICTORY! Not only had I achieved black, but it came together really quickly and the flavor was very good! I had found my black buttercream.

It took about a month, but I was ready to tackle the cake order. This cake order was big for a few reasons:

  1. First cake order for Casual Confections
  2. First bake in the bakery I’m renting space from, Baked Well
  3. First cake where I was trying to match a design
  4. Only my second decorated cake (you may remember the uterus babies as the first)
First Order for Casual Confections in Baked Well
My first official night renting space from Baked Well (Matthews, NC) for Casual Confections orders!

The order was for a Death Note cake: red velvet cake, vanilla IMBC for the pages and lettering, and black chocolate ABC for the icing.

Death Note cake top view
Death Note cake: red velvet cake, vanilla IMBC, black chocolate ABC
Death Note cake side view
Death Note cake: red velvet cake, vanilla IMBC, black chocolate ABC

I did not stage any of the photos, just grabbed a few quick shots on the work table after a few hours of working without a/c, around the repair guy, and running into a few issues with the bake and decorating, I was very tired and needed to clean and close up. The black buttercream turned out really well. As it crusted, I was able to use a wet paper towel to smooth out the buttercream and achieve a leather cover look, which was perfect for the look of a well-worn journal.

Achieving black buttercream was definitely more of an adventure than I expected it to be, but I learned a lot of lessons along the way and now I can whip it up in almost no time!

Black buttercream tongue
Chelsweets was right. Her black buttercream colors your tongue, but not your teeth!

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Black American Buttercream via Chelsweets(makes 4-5 cups)

1 cup (217 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp (37.5 gram) heavy cream
1/2 tsp (2 grams) vanilla extract
1/4 cup (25 grams) black cocoa, sifted (I always ended up adding a bit more to get a deeper black)
1/2 tsp black gel food coloring (add more if the color isn’t quite the black you’re looking to achieve)

Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla.

Add in the sifted black cocoa and mix on low speed until incorporated (scrape down the sides and mix).

Alternate between the powdered sugar and cream, adding each slowly (the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and the cream, a splash a a time). Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached (add more cream for a wetter, looser buttercream, add more powdered sugar for a drier, thicker buttercream).

Once the frosting is fully made, add in a generous squirt of black gel buttercream and mix by hand with a rubber spatula until the frosting is evenly colored.

To allow the shade to deepen, place in sealed piping bags or an airtight container. Leave out overnight at room temperature or place in the fridge for several days.

*Check out the link for additional tips and nutrition information.

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Passover Apple Cake

My second Passover bake this year is an apple cake. Instead of regular flour and baking soda, this cake utilizes potato starch and matzoh cake meal. The recipe for this bake came from ReformJudaism.org.

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“The Absolute, Hands-Down, Best” Passover Apple Cake

Dough:
6 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 tsp potato starch
2 cups matzoh cake meal

Filling:
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
5 large Granny Smith and/or Braeburn apples, peeled and diced

Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 tsp cinnamon

Grease a 9″ spring form pan. Place parchment on the bottom of the pan. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Beat eggs with sugar until blended. Add oil and beat. Sift together potato starch and cake meal. Add sifted items to the egg mixture.

For the filling, mix together the cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice. Mix in the apples.

Put two cups of dough (or half the total amount of dough) into the pan. Spread evenly. Add the apple filling using a slotted spoon, leaving the accumulated liquid behind. Make sure filling is distributed evenly.

Put in the remaining two cups of dough. Spread evenly. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar topping (you won’t see this in my photo as I forgot this step and dusted the top after the cake was baked).

Place the pan on a cookie sheet since liquid may seep out.

Bake for one hour.

Let cool in the pan before releasing.

Unbaked Passover apple cake

Unbaked Passover apple cake (sans cinnamon sugar topping)

Passover apple cake
Passover apple cake sliced
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Passover Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Squares

Passover is a time of family gatherings which means it’s a great time for baking! The challenge with Passover bakes, though, is that they cannot have rising agents. That means that most cakes and cookies are out. For this Passover, I made two bakes. The first is a chocolate raspberry pecan square recipe from Esthero Design.

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Passover Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Squares

Dough:
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
2 cups potato starch
2 6oz bags of ground almonds

Topping:
12 oz chocolate chips (I went with milk chocolate)
8 oz chopped pecans
15 oz raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix the dough ingredients together.

Grease an 11″x17″ cookie sheet and press a piece of parchment paper onto the bottom. (Note: having some parchment paper hang over the sides will help with releasing the bars from the cookie sheet. Otherwise, you may end up needing to cut the bars on your sheet, which isn’t good for the sheet.) Press the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, making sure its distributed evenly. Bake for 20 mins.

Take the dough out of the oven. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. The jam will get easier to spread as it is heated by the hot dough. Sprinkle the chocolate and the pecans over the jam.

Bake for an additional 25 mins.

Allow the squares to cool completely before cutting.

Note: squares taste great frozen!

Passover Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Bars
Uncut tray of Passover chocolate raspberry pecan squares
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Apple Strudel

Earlier this year, a neighbor expressed frustration at the difficulty she was having finding a good apple strudel in town. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I offered to bake her one and she jumped at the chance. SmittenKitchen’s recipe is one that I’ve had bookmarked for a while and I was excited that I was getting the chance to try it out. If you decide to give this recipe a try, be sure to read her comments and tips before you get started. I found them very helpful in understanding what I was getting into. This was my first run at apple strudel or anything like it.

This recipe makes a very large strudel! I was easily able to stretch my dough out and roll up a strudel that was easily 20″ long and robust! It was so much strudel that I decided to offer it up in quarters. I offered my neighbor two quarters but she opted for just one and one quarter was plenty for 1-2 people. In the future, I will half or quarter the recipe unless I’m providing for a larger affair.

Make this recipe will have your house smelling amazing! The apple filling is mouth-watering. The aroma of the panko right before it’s ready is so buttery. The hardest part of making this dessert is waiting for it to bake and cool before you can dig in!
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Apple Strudel 

Raisins:
1/2 cup (180 g) raisins
2 Tbsp (30 mL) dark rum (I omitted this and just did straight raisins)

Dough:
1 cup + 3 Tbsp (150 g) all purpose flour (and more for dusting)
3 Tbsp (45 mL) neutral oil (I used vegetable oil)
1/3 cup water

Filling:
2 lbs (905 g) firm apples (around 5-6 apples) – this round I used Fuji apples and they worked well. Keep in mind that you may need nearly all of a 3 lb bag of apples since the sell weight includes the cores and skins which are removed
Juice of one lemon (or 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 Tbsp (115 g) unsalted butter, divided (I ended up using another 4 Tbsp while buttering the baking strudel)
3/4 cup (40 g) plain, unseasoned panko
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar for dusting

Make the dough:
Place flour in a small or medium bowl. Add oil and water and mix with a spoon or your index finger until a rough dough forms (this happens quickly). Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 10 minutes. After 10 mins, the dough should be soft and silky to the touch. (This dough was really easy to work with.) Form it into a ball and place it on the counter and upend the mixing bowl over it. Set aside for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, prepare the apples (I did this as a first step as it takes me a long time, roughly an hour, to prepare so many apples):
Peel, halve, core, and slice thin in one direction. Then halve and slice crosswise to create thin squarish rectangles of apples. Place them in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the raisins (and any rum left in the bowl).

Prepare the panko crumbs:
In a small skillet over medium-low heat, melt 3 Tbsp butter and add the panko and sugar. Stir to coat and cook, stirring frequently as they can burn quickly. Stir until crumbs are an even golden brown and very fragrant. Don’t let them burn. Scrape into a small dish and set aside.

Apple strudel filling
Panko and apple raisin filling for apple strudel

Heat oven to 400°F and line one large baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the remaining 5-9 Tbsp of butter in a small dish.

Place a clean pillow case, towel, or bed sheet (I went sheet) on a table or counter space. The sheet should be at least 24″x32″. The long side should be horizontal and closest to you. Lightly flour the sheet. Place the dough in the middle and sprinkle it very lightly with flour. Roll the dough in both directions until it’s 10″x13″ or as far as the rolling pin will take it. Make sure the dough is not sticking to the cloth. If it is, reflour the surface. Ball your hands into loose fists, put them under the rolled-out dough, and gently start stretching the dough using the backs of your hands. Alternate this with pulling the dough gently with your fingers to continue stretching the edges thin, too. If holes form, pinch the dough back together. Continue stretching until the dough is about 16″x24″.

Assemble:
Brush the dough evenly with about half of the melted butter. On the right side of the rectangle, a few inches from the end, spread the panko crumbs (crumble them first if they’ve been sitting for a bit) top to bottom in a thick line, leaving a little more than an inch margin at the top and bottom of the strip.

Wrapped strudel
Rolled apple strudel ready for the oven

Scoop the apples with a slotted spoon, leaving any accumulated juice in the bowl. Pile the apple mixture on top of the panko. Gently pull the right edge of the dough up and over the filling as far as it will go without tearing. Working carefully, use the sheet to roll the strudel up all the way. This can be done by pulling and lifting part of the sheet closest to the roll slowly so that the whole strudel rolls itself bit by bit. Place the parchment paper from your baking sheet at the edge of the roll and roll the strudel onto it. Ideally, the strudel will be panko-side down, but if it’s not, roll it again, carefully. Use the parchment paper as a sling to get it and the strudel onto the baking sheet.

Brush the strudel generously all over with some of the remaining butter. Bake for 15 mins, then brush again and return it to the oven, having rotated the pan. Repeat this once more, baking for a total of 45 mins. If your strudel leaks, don’t stress. It’s ok. Mine went the first 15 mins without leaking but during the second 15 mins, it sprung a leak. It still turned out fine.

Leaky strudel
Apple strudel sprung a leak

The strudel should be crisp to the touch and a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool for at least 20 mins on a cooling rack. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before slicing and serving.

Uncut apple strudel
Nearly 2 feet of uncut apple strudel

Note: handle the strudel as little as possible as it will begin to break and crumble if you try to move it or roll it too much after it comes out of  the oven.

Sliced apple strudel
Sliced apple strudel