Sugarbird's Sweet Nothings

I am passionate about food. And cooking. And baking. And running. Come and find a new recipe, a funny story, some strong opinions and whatever else I feel like throwing in the mix today.

Archive for the ‘Biscuits’ Category

October 11th, 2010 by Clarabella

Macaroons – Take II

I will rarely admit it, but I don’t like being beaten at anything. Or by anything. So the last time I attempted Macarooons (and failed miserably) is a thorn in my side. It is a little black cloud of disaster that I can’t escape.

Ok. Maybe I take this far too seriously. But I love my baking that much, and I care that I can (should) do this one thing in my life reasonably successfully, that I cannot help taking a miserable failure very personally. So, last week it was time for Macaroons Take II. And who did I turn to? The famed David Lebovitz. Rumours online have it that he is the king of ice cream and the master of patisserie. So who better to turn to for Macaroon salvation?

Being a mild chocaholic I decided on the chocolate macaroons with chocolate ganache filling. How wrong can you go with all that chocolate?

Read the rest of this entry »

September 26th, 2010 by Clarabella

Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

So my kitchen looked like this when I started (below). This is the result of cooking/baking 3 different things at the same time. My sugar cookies and their icing, sushi for dinner and roasted banana ice cream (my first test of my new ice-cream bowl for the trusty kitchen-aid). Now I’m as good at multi-tasking as any other capable woman, but I only have so much counter space in my little kitchen, so I can;t say it wasn’t challenging. But I guess that is just perfect for a daring bakers challenge hey 🙂
I really enjoyed this challenge. I honestly don’t remember the last time that I make biscuits with cookie cutters. The rolling and cutting and rolling and cutting of the dough had a very soothing effect on me and I just let my hands do the work and then let my mind wander away – back to the cool, tree-shadowed paths of my morning run. A peaceful place. With just the sounds of the runners feet on the damp soil and our heavy breathing; the cool air chilling our lungs and our sweat-soaked shirts… sorry, I digress. Back to the biscuits.

The biscuit recipe itself was beautifully simple and the only change I made was to add almond essence to it instead of vanilla. I have a weakness for anything reminiscent of marzipan, macaroons and amaretto, so the almond vanilla substitute was a no-brainer. I did find the all rolling, chilling, cutting, chilling steps rather time consuming but with the amount of butter in these biscuits they do need all the help they can get to stay together once faced with the onslaught of heat from my rather zealous fan-oven, so the work was worth it.
May 5th, 2010 by Clarabella

Smitten Pop-Tarts

Over the last few months I have totally fallen head-over-heels for a blog called Smitten Kitchen. The recipes, photography and witty prose are everything that I could only ever dream that my blog could be. She also happens to have thousands, or maybe even tens or hundreds of thousands of readers and I have none really (in effect I am talking to myself which is both a bit weird and a bit sad). The author Deb truly is a fantastic writer and manages to transport her readers to her tiny little oven of a NYC apartment. After reading her posts for a while you feel like you come to know her husband and darling baby son and you just want to be invited round for dinner. I suppose that this is one of the amazing things about the internet. It can make people who are on opposite sides of the globe feel like they are neighbours.

I have tried a few of her recipes recently and I will eventually force myself to move on to another recipe source, but her creations just look so absolutely fantastic I just want to make them immediately so that I can ‘taste the picture’. The latest re-creation is pop-tarts. Living in the UK and never having been to America (only Canada which is not the same) I have not had very much exposure to pop-tarts. I do believe that I have had them once before on a long-ago trip to Canada where upon seeing them in the shops, we just had to get some as pop-tarts for breakfast is what they do on TV. I honestly do not really remeber what they tasted like, so they cannot have been particularly awful or particularly great. Simply forgettable. Besides, my appreciation for food was not as developed all those years ago so I did not have the sense to read the lable to see the horrors in the ingredients list.

So pop-tarts is was this weekend, and previously having been terrified of pastry due to a couple of long-ago super-glueishly stick or sandy dry pastry attmepts, I had mot made any in SO long until last month. Now, after a couple of attempts I have made friends with the pastry gods and now am feeling quite comfortable with it (I know that saying this will probably jinx me but I’ll chance it).

Homemade Pop Tarts

Adapted from King Arthur Flour by Deb at Smitten Kitchen (baking goddess)

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

Cinnamon Filling (enough for 9 tarts)
1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg, to brush on pastry before filling

Jam Filling
3/4 cup (8 ounces) jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

Alternate fillings: 9 tablespoons chocolate chips, 9 tablespoons Nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut paste or 9 tablespoons of a delight of your choice, such as salted caramel or a nut paste

To make cinnamon filling: Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.

To make jam filling: Mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Use to fill the pastry tarts.

Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. If you’ve used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.

Divide the dough in half (approximately 8 1/4 ounces each), shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3×5 inches. You can roll this out immediately (see Warm Kitchen note below) or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Assemble the tarts: If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8? thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9? x 12?. [You can use a 9″ x 13″ pan, laid on top, as guidance.] Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside. Cut each piece of dough into thirds – you’ll form nine 3? x 4? rectangles.

Beat the additional egg and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough. This will be the “inside” of the tart; the egg is to help glue the lid on. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, keeping a bare 1/2-inch perimeter around it. Place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining tarts.

Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

Charming tip from King Arthur: Sprinkle the dough trimmings with cinnamon-sugar; these have nothing to do with your toaster pastries, but it’s a shame to discard them, and they make a wonderful snack. While the tarts are chilling, bake these trimmings for 13 to 15 minutes, till they’re golden brown.

Bake the tarts: Remove the tarts form the fridge, and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Cool in pan on rack.

March 8th, 2010 by Clarabella

Cake & Biscotti

So last weekend we were invited over to a friend’s house for dinner and I was pondering what to bring as dessert. I browsed through my cake book that my dear mom gave me at Christmas and my eye fell on a Coffee/Ginger dessert-style cake. I love coffee, and ginger and a cake combining the two seemed like a great idea so I went for it. Now in the all too perfect picture of the cake in the book, it looks like a reasonable sized cake to cut in half. I don’t know if my version did not rise as it should have or if I knocked some of the air out while folding, but when the cake came out of the tin and I saw what I had to cut in half, my stomach did a bit of a back-flip. But I had my darling man to the rescue. I voiced my trepidation for the challenge ahead and he managed to whip up an ingenious cake-cutting guide in no time at all. This cake-cutting gadget consisted of 2 wooden rods, coincidentally about half the height of the cake, placed in a ‘V’ shape on either side of the cake that guided my knife so I did not go off center and ended up with a perfect cut. I was super impressed and could not stop grinning. Who needs those pricy kitchen gadgets? Not me! So after filling and icing and decorating the cake I was fairly happy with the results, but I cannot say that it was my best ever creation.

(it never looks like it does in the book!)

This weekend the order of the day was Biscotti. I had read a post on my favourite foodie blog ‘Smitten Kitchen’ about Biscotti and as I had not made any for a few months I thought I’d try my hand at the Chocolate Hazelnut ones posted on her blog. I love the super crunchiness of biscotti and how they are butter-free and thus slightly more guilt-free than regular biscuits. They are the perfect dunkers as they will rarely go soggy and end up falling in your coffee/tea/milk and these hazelnut/chocolate ones are not too sweet or rich, they are just perfect. Have a go at the recipe on Smitten Kitchen. Here is a warning though, the dough is super, super sticky, so flour your work-surface very, very, very well or it might get even more messy than it should be. This recipe makes quite a lot of biscotti so have a few greased & lines trays ready for the dough-rolls – mine barely fit in my 2 biggest trays!