Bubbly With Tasha

a very important appointment

A couple of weeks back I was lucky enough to be invited to a sparkling wine tasting party. My friend Tasha and a few of her girl friends had joined the Chandon wine club. When a shipment arrived they all got together to share.

I’d done some research to come up with what would pair with sparkling wine.  Shortbread.  Almond. Fruit.  All three of my favorites. However the combo – an apple or pear tart was not something I’d ever made before.  But this turned out to not be a problem.  I found the perfect recipe on the Joy of Baking website that produced a perfect tart on the first try.

Apple Frangipane Tart

It is a free-form tart, so requires less than perfect crust shaping skills. And frangipane! Where have you been all my life?  A delectable combo of almond meal, butter, sugar, egg and vanilla that I would have eaten by the spoonful if I did not need to make a tart.   Tasha and I tested the first “practice” tart and found it to be a winner.  The crust has a nice buttery shortbread texture, just a bit of sweetness and salt.  Then the sweet, almond frangipane layer, topped with granny smith and a sprinkle of white and brown sugars and sliced almonds.  It was the perfect combo tart and sweet.

The tasting party was lots of fun.  Two bottles of bubbly, a yummy pot luck dinner and new lady-friends to meet.  Unfortunately the bubbly was all gone by the time we got around to eating tart.  Not that any one minded. It was a lovely, not too sweet end to a great evening.

Sugar Mamma Rating: Money

Make this tart for your next dinner party.  It looks way impressive with very little effort. However, make sure you plan to eat it the same day you make it.

Apple Frangipane Tart

Adapted from Joy of Baking

Note: Almond meal is available in the grocery store, with the specialty flours and grains in the baking section.

Frangipane (Almond Cream):

1/2 cup chopped blanched or natural almonds (can use almond meal)

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pie Crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon granulated white sugar

1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into pats

1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water

Apples:

3 large Granny Smith Apples peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch slices

Topping:

1tablespoon granulated white sugar

1tablespoon brown sugar

¼ cup sliced almonds

Frangipane: Combine flour, almonds or almond meal, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until finely ground. Then add the rest of the ingredients and process until you have a smooth paste. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Pie Crust: Combine the flour, salt, and sugar and in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds)

With the processor running, pour water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until the pastry just holds together when pinched.  Turn the pastry out onto the counter and shape into a ball, cover and refrigerate for about one hour or until firm. Once the pastry has chilled sufficiently, remove from refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into a 12 inch circle. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the apples.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Assemble Tart: Remove the chilled pastry from the refrigerator and spread the frangipane evenly over the crust, leaving a 2 inch border. Arrange the apple slices evenly over the frangipane layer, leaving a 2 inch border of crust. Fold the border of pastry up and over the apples (sealing any cracks) and brush the pastry crust with a little cream. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of sugar (half white, half brown) and sliced almonds over the crust and apples.

Bake the tart for 50 to 60 minutes or until the apples are tender and the crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve either warm or room temperature, preferable the same day you bake. Delish with vanilla ice cream, but we just gobbled up the slices with our hands like it was pizza; yummy almond apple tart pizza.

Happy Valentines Day

krispie love

It is the first night in a week that the oven is not currently in use.  The boys are watching Harry Potter movies, and I am in bed with a glass of port and my lap top.  Really, not much else I could ask for, except for maybe some grilled steak. I was all ready to eat dinner then test out an idea I had for Chai Latte cookies…until, while my back was turned, the dog ate my steak dinner off the counter!  The best I could do after this setback to was retire to my bed with a drink.  Dog wasn’t even the least bit sorry, either. But I guess if I’d eaten that steak and a batch of cookies, I would have a tummy ache, so I suppose I should be grateful.

Now that all my baked goods have been eaten, sold, given away or mailed out I desperately need to get caught up on my blogging. I owe you all a post about my Chandon sparkling wine club night and my BAKE SALE WEEKEND. Let’s just say it has been busy and tiring and I am running low on butter and eggs.

 

scone love

 

Peanut Butter Bacon Cookie

 

I’ve been meaning to try these cookies since I came across the recipe on my favorite baking blog, Joy the Baker, last year.  I mentioned to one of my care package recipients that Peanut Butter Bacon cookies were in the pipeline, so I figured it needed to happen sooner than later.

However when I went to make them last weekend, I noticed the recipe I’d printed out from the internet did not include butter OR flour…that could not be right, could it?  Divorced from the blog post that went with it, I had no way to know that indeed, this was a flourless cookie recipe.  Not wanting to waste 5 beautiful slices of bacon, and not sure if a cookie could even be made without butter and flour,  I went with my go-to peanut butter cookie recipe, tweaked the fat a little bit to accommodate the bacon and a little extra bacon fat, and forged ahead.

I don’t know if it just needed more bacon, or if the bacon is supposed to be very subtle, but I would not have been able to recognize them as having bacon.  It just added a really nice extra dimension to the peanut butter flavor.  A little smoke, a little extra salt.  Very nice. I was not crazy about the chunks of bacon, not the right texture to bite into when eating a PB cookie.  So I would recommend a thinner slice of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled well.  Avoid the thick cut.

I also had some Bourbon Smoked Sugar from the Spice Tin http://www.thespicetin.com/ that I sprinkled on top of the cookies.  I did not really get a smoky taste, not sure what the taste was. But probably not worth the extra $. Though it did sound impressive, and did not taste bad. They would probably taste pretty good with some milk chocolate chips. Next time I will try the flourless recipe, and see how that goes.

Feedback from Jo Pumpkins of the Sugar Mamma Cookie Tasting Panel of Experts: “The peanut butter cookie was off the rockers.”

 

Peanut Butter Bacon cookies with Bourbon Smoked Sugar

Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies

Adapted from Betty Crocker and Joy the Baker

Yield: 30 cookies

Ingredients

    • ½ cup granulated sugar
    • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
    • ½ cup peanut butter
    • ¼ cup shortening
    • 1 egg
    • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
    • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 5 slices of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled or finely chopped

Directions

  1. In a skillet over medium high heat, fry up bacon until cooked through and let cool on paper towels until cool enough to crumble or chop.  Finely chop or crumble and set aside.
  2. Reserve about a tablespoon or two of the bacon grease and let it cool.
  3. With a hand mixer or stand mixer, Mix sugars, peanut butter, shortening, cooled bacon grease.
  4. Add egg and mix thoroughly
  5. Stir in remaining dry ingredients until just incorporated
  6. Fold in bacon
  7. If dough seems too soft to roll into balls, Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm. My dough seemed dry enough that it did not need to be chilled.
  8. Heat oven to 375ºF.
  9. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls.
  10. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten in crisscross pattern with fork dipped into sugar, then sprinkle with more sugar. Or just roll the whole thing in sugar, before flattening with a fork.
  11. Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown.
  12. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet.
  13. Cool on a wire rack.

Shortbread!

I have a terrible memory. Tonight I found a box of dark brown sugar I brought home two weeks ago.  Somehow it made it in from the car in a bag of used books I bought at the library.  Sure could have used that last week!

But sometimes having a bad memory pays off, like tonight.  In addition to finding the lost box of brown sugar in a bag of books in my bedroom, I also found a tin of Maple Shortbread cookies I baked on Friday.

Fresh out of the oven they were tasty, a bit heavy on the butter. At the time I was not sure if this was the maple cookie I was ready to commit to.  I packaged the best looking ones in the boxes of goodies to out on Sunday, holding back a few that were over baked.  I figured I would probably throw them away, but instead stashed them in a tin and forgot them.

Five days later they were like a whole new cookie.  They were crisp, not crumbly and the maple flavor had mellowed nicely and overtaken the butter as primary flavor.  Even almost burnt they were delish!  Mr. Sugar Mamma and my girl Tea have declared the Maple Shortbread to be their new favorite cookie.

So round up those now empty Christmas cookie tins that you never know what to do with, fill them with Maple Shortbread cookies and forget about them for a couple of days.  Warning: unless you have a horrible memory, this might be hard to do.  Totally ignore that fresh baked cookie smell as they come out of the oven.  It will be totally worth it to allow these cookies to sit un-eaten for a few days. Trust me!  Sugar Mamma Rating: Solid:  Make them now, impress the ones you love (in a few days).

Maple shortbread ready for the oven

Maple Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup pure maple sugar (I was not able to find in the grocery store so bought online)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup rice flour or corn starch (substitute all purpose flour if you do not have on hand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment

Add sugars, flours and salt to the bowl of your food processor.  Pulse once to mix ingredients.  Add pieces of butter and pulse until all butter is cut into dry ingredients.  Add vanilla and pulse a few seconds to incorporate.  Dough will be dry and sandy.

Transfer to another bowl or the counter and use your hands to work the dough into a ball. It should come together easily.

You can chill the dough for an hour before rolling, but I had no problem rolling it right from the mixer.

Sprinkle dough and counter lightly with flour and roll to ¼ inch thick.

Cut with cookie cutter

Place cookies on sheet and sprinkle with a little maple sugar

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until just lightly brown.  Watch carefully so that any smaller/thinner cookies don’t burn.  Underdone is better than over done.

Let sit on the baking sheet a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container, and avoid any temptation to eat them before they have sat for at least one day.  Really. Worth. The. Wait.

Note: The original King Arthur recipe involves creaming the sugar and butter first. My experience with this method results in puffy cookies, which I don’t really like in a shortbread.  I will probably try out the original recipe at some point in the future, just to test if there is a difference.

I Heart Pizza

This valentines themed pizza happened purely by accident.  I could not wrestle the dough into a round shape. I am a former professional pizza dough wrangler,  but this sucka had a mind of his own and would not cooperate.  I slapped it on the stone, and this is the shape he took.  Awwww, I love you too, pizza!

Carb-ohhh Loading

I am still trying to overcome my bread hangover. The last four days were spent shoving as many different home made cookies and home made bread items into my face as possible.  Maple Short Bread, Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies, Croissants (best batch yet),Bagels, Magic Morning Muffins, Soft Pretzels (total failure, so I had to eat most of them myself) Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bark, Breadsticks and Pizza.

Even after all that I was still hoping to come home and test out the mini bundt pans I found again as I was cleaning and organizing the kitchen last night at 10 pm.  But there was pizza to be made tonight for dinner,  a pan of brownies and a sink full of dishes clamoring for attention.  Anyway, I haven’t posted all weekend, and I am determined to get caught up.  Photos right now, full run-down to come.  Enjoy.

On a Train Bound for Bagel Town

It is shaping up to be a weekend for bread.  Among other things, I need to replenish the supply of croissants for Mr. Sugar Mamma’s breakfast. And the little Sugars are begging for bread sticks and soft pretzels.  AND my special ingredients for bagels came in the mail from King Arthur Flour.  Bagels?  have I lost my damn mind?

Bagels were one of the first yeast doughs I took a shine to.  Not particularly because I loved the way they turned out, but because my mom made them, which gave me confidence. This was a point in my life when I lived exclusively on bowls of granola, pancakes, beer and rice krispie treats.  The ability to bake something – anything – was a sure way to impress people.  Most of all, I took up bagels because it was the best way to totally blow off my college classes for a whole day.  Typical morning, February 1992:

Me (to roommates): Should I go to class or should I stay home and bake bagels?

Roommate 1: Bagels.

Roommate 2: totally

Roommate 3: hell yes

Me:  Yay bagels!

So I think this weekend I will be making a return to Bagel Town.  It will be a perfect way to put off doing laundry or cleaning house.  Hell yes!

I’ve been slacking on my post regarding last weekend’s croissants.  The good news is they were the best batch, texture wise, that I have made yet. The bad news is, I screwed up at least three different steps, so I wouldn’t even know how to replicate them again.

I messed up measuring the flour when mixing the leaven and  I added too much sugar.  Then, in my attempt to proof the final rolls at 80 degrees with a broken oven thermometer, I managed to proof them too hot and the butter melted out!  Making croissants is beginning to feel like having another child.  So needy! I spend hours on the internet researching what to try next, I can’t venture far from home so I can roll dough every hour.  Gotta keep the kitchen at a toasty 80 degrees all Sunday morning – and this happens every weekend. For me it’s not an option; the family has tasted fresh croissants, and they expect them now regularly.  I would personally not ever recommend making croissants on a whim.  You can’t just do it once, you have to keep working at it and working at it.

Having said that, my Magic Morning Muffins are the best excuse any one could ever have for sacrificing an entire weekend and a pound of butter. You see, you need croissant dough to make these bad boys. And let me tell you, it is sooooo worth it!  Crisp croissant outside covered in a layer of crispy caramelized cinnamon brown sugar.  Sprinkled with more sugar, ’cause there is nothing better than wearing what is left of this awesome breakfast on the front of your shirt and in your mustache for the rest of the morning.  Inside, the dough stays soft and buttery and the currants and orange zest are a lovely little surprise for your taste buds as you are happily munching away.

If my dog some how managed to steal the last one off the counter when I was not looking I would seriously wrestle it away from him, brush it off, stare him down with a look of death and eat it in front of him. That is how much I love these things.

So if you are down, find yo’ self a recipe for Croissant dough, or find someone who loves you who will make you some, and get busy.

Magic Morning Muffins

adapted from Tartine’ heavenly morning buns

The recipe for croissant dough can be found in the Tartine cookbook.
Yields: approximately 12 buns

2 pounds croissant dough
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 clementines
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
pinch salt
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted
extra white sugar for coating muffin cups and for rolling finished buns

1. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and salt.

2. Prepare a muffin tin by  brushing bottom and sides of each cup with melted butter. Put a teaspoon of sugar in each muffin cup and swirl around to evenly coat. Tap out excess sugar.

3. Roll out croissant dough into a 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch-by-18-inch rectangle, with the long side in front of you. Brush dough with melted butter, and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over the whole rectangle—the sugar layer should be about 1/8-inch thick. You may have some of the mixture left over.

4. Starting with the long side of the dough, roll rectangle into a cylinder. Cut cylinder into 1 1/2-inch discs. Fit each disc into the buttered and sugared muffin tins so that the swirl pattern is visible on top. You may have some extra rolled bun dough left over or just choose to bake fewer buns (if you do, cut them all and freeze individually on a pan). Once frozen, place in a resealable plastic bag and store in freezer.

To bake buns that are frozen: Prepare pan as above, let buns defrost in the prepared cups (this will depend on how warm your kitchen is, about 45 minutes), then continue with step 5.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let rolls rise in a warm but not hot place for approximately 45 minutes. The rising time will vary depending on how cold your dough was to start and how warm a place they are put to rise. They should rise approximately to 1 1/2 times their original size. Place the muffin tin on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or foil to catch any drips while baking.

6. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or longer, depending on your oven. When done, the tops should be well browned and the sugar melted. Remove pan from oven and immediately turn buns out onto a clean baking sheet or work surface.. Let the buns set for 5 to 10 minutes, then toss in a bowl with some sugar to coat. These buns are best eaten the day they are made. If eating the next day, heat them up first in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes before serving.

Variation: add 1/3 cup currants and 1/4 cup pecans to the cinnamon sugar filling

Magic Morning Muffins proofing in the pan