Amaretti Cookies

 

I’ve been wanting to make these Italian meringue cookies for a long time…dreaming of them in fact.  They are wonderfully light and airy with a sweet almond flavor & a chewy yet crunchy texture when you take a bite.  They all but melt in your mouth.  I absolutely love to make Italian desserts and am so inspired by Italy’s cuisine.  I think I might just need to take a trip there soon so that I can experience it all first hand!  These meringue cookies remind me of French Macarons if you’ve ever had those.  You could easily envelop two of these cookies around a delicious filling; chocolate ganache, lemon curd or espresso buttercream would make a great pairing with the almond flavor in the cookies.  I chose to keep it simple though and just enjoy a couple (3 or 4) of them with my latte…life just doesn’t get better than that!

Amaretti Cookies          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 75-80 1 1/2 inch cookies

1 2/3 cups (8 oz) blanched almonds

2 cups (8 oz) confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 large eggs), at room temperature

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

2 tsp almond extract

1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Position racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven.

Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor.  Process until the almonds are finely ground, pulsing to avoid turning the mixture into a paste and scraping the sides as necessary.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted.  Add the almond extract and continue to beat, gradually adding granulated sugar, until the egg whites are fluffy and very stiff with a dull sheen.  Pour the almond mixture over the meringue.  Fold with a large rubber spatula just until the dry mixture is fully incorporated.  Scrape the batter into a pastry bag.  Pipe low domes about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 3/4 inches high, 1 inch apart, on parchment lined cookie sheets.  You can also use a spoon to scoop tablespoons of batter 1 inch apart onto the pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cookies are golden.  Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.  Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool.  Let the cookies cool completely before storing.  The cookies can be kept in an airtight container for weeks.

Recipe from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt in Your Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies

They say that love is in the air, but I’m detecting an enticing aroma of freshly baked cookies.  There are many ways to express your love to someone special, but few are as tasty and memorable as a batch of homemade cookies made with love straight from the heart.

These chocolate-y cookies are rich and buttery with a light crunchy texture and are extraordinary entirely on their own.  However, the mint buttercream filling provides a wonderfully creamy and refreshing flavor contrast.  The fusion of crunchy and creamy is so irresistible it will take hold of all your senses tantalizing every last taste bud.

This recipe was inspired by my insane love for peppermint patties.  I just can’t get enough of them and these cookies share a striking resemblance to my all time favorite treat.  I hope that you and your loved ones have a wonderful day full of love, appreciation and most importantly sweets!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!! xoxo

Chocolate Cookies          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 1 dozen sandwich cookies

1 ¾ cups all-purpose white flour

1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted after measuring

1 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 Tbsp canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, oil and sugar at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, vanilla and salt and mix until well incorporated.  Adjust the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture until just combined.

Divide the dough in half and place each portion between 2 sheets of wax paper.  Roll dough to an 1/8” thickness and refrigerate on a baking sheet for at least one hour and up to 24 hours (still between wax paper), until chilled and firm, but not too hard.  Let dough warm up slightly before cutting.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Working with one portion of dough at a time, remove the wax paper from both sides of the dough and place on a lightly floured surface.  Using a 2” fluted round cutter (or any cutter of your choice) cut the dough and place rounds on the prepared baking sheet.  You can re-roll any leftover scraps, but chill again before cutting.  Chill all of the cut cookies until firm again before baking.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until set.  Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Mint Buttercream Filling

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ tsp peppermint extract

¼ tsp vanilla extract

2 cups plus 3 Tbsp powdered sugar, sifted

¼ cup egg whites, pasteurized

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, add the shortening, peppermint extract and vanilla extract and mix at medium speed until blended.  Adjust the mixer speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar, egg whites and the pinch of salt.  Increase the speed to medium to fully incorporate the ingredients, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Chocolate Ganache

½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

3 Tbsp heavy whipped cream

Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium low heat until slightly simmering (the edges start to bubble).  Be careful not to boil the cream too long or it will scald.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate chips, stirring until well incorporated.  Let the chocolate mixture sit and cool until it becomes a spreadable consistency, about 30 minutes.

Assembling the cookies

Pair the cookies so that the sizes match as closely as possible.  Using a pastry bag fitted with a small or round metal piping tip, pipe about a tablespoon of the mint buttercream onto the bottom cookie.  Pipe using another pastry bag, or spread with an offset spatula, a thin layer of the chocolate ganache onto the other cookie.  Sandwich the cookies together allowing the filling to ooze just a bit at the edges of the cookie.  Let set for about 10 minutes.  These cookies can be kept at room temperature in a sealed container for a couple of hours, but refrigerate for longer storage.  Make sure to bring back to room temperature before serving.

Visit www.frontrowmonthly.com to also view this recipe as well as the latest in fashion news and entertainment.  My recipe post is on page 17 of the “page-flip” under the section Dish.

Coconut Rum Meringues

Does anyone else feel like the holidays are moving way too quickly?  Even as I sit here typing, so many things are running through my head, I find it challenging to concentrate on one thing at a time.  My to-do list has far exceeded the time in which I have to complete it all.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life particularly in the midst of the holidays, but it’s so very important to slow down, crank up the Christmas music, enjoy a cup of warmth (perhaps some spiked hot cocoa?) with something sweet (perhaps some meringues?) in front of the Christmas tree and relish in this wonderful holiday season.  After all, it will come and go before we know it, leaving us with only memories to hold us until next year.  I am as just as guilty as anyone else this time of year…I WAY over commit myself with the excitement of the approaching holiday season and find myself completely overwhelmed!

These coconut meringues and spiked hot cocoa are unbelievably good and with a bit of coconut rum in both, they are sure to help you to relax a little more this holiday season.  These two recipes are my first official published post in Front Row’s Magazine’s December issue and I’m so excited to share them with you!  I have to admit that I consumed about three batches of these amazing cookies before finally discovering the perfect recipe.  They are so light and airy with an amazing texture and go down surprisingly easily (way too easily).  I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Please visit www.frontrowmonthly.com to view this recipe as well as the latest in fashion news and entertainment.  My recipe post is on page 16 of the “page-flip” under the section Dish.  I also have recipes published periodically in the Arts & Culture Section of the magazine.

Coconut Rum Meringues          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 30-36 cookies

2 large egg whites

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

2/3 cup superfine sugar

1 ½ tsp coconut rum

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup shredded coconut, toasted

¼ cup almonds, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place the whole almonds on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 8-10 minutes or until they start smelling wonderful!  I check them after 5 minutes and give them a shake in the pan to ensure even toasting.  Chop the toasted nuts as finely as possible and set aside.  Using the same pan for the shredded coconut, toast the coconut for about 6-8 minutes stirring frequently as it can burn quickly.  Set the coconut aside.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks carefully leaving no trace of egg yolks (this step is easier to do when the eggs are cold).  Store the egg yolks for another use.  Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-high until foamy.  Once foamy, add the salt and cream of tartar and continue beating for about 3 minutes or until the egg whites form soft peaks.  Add the coconut rum and vanilla extract and the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.  Fold the coconut and almonds into the egg whites gently with a spatula until fully incorporated.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and using a piping bag, pipe the egg white batter onto the pan in tablespoon portions, 1” high and about 1” apart.  Bake the cookies for 25-30 minutes or until they turn slightly golden brown or the tops crack slightly.  Let cool completely in the pan.  These cookies are best eaten the day that they are made however they will keep several days in an air tight container.

Spiked Hot Cocoa

Yield: 4 mugs

6 oz. chopped milk chocolate

4 oz. heavy cream

12 oz. milk

1 tsp sugar (or to taste)

2 oz. coconut rum

2 oz. amaretto

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot milk over it.  Blend with a whisk until chocolate is completely melted, then add the remaining ingredients.  Pour the hot cocoa back into the saucepan and keep warm until serving.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Happy Holidays!

xoxo

Triple Lemon Cake

In honor of my sweet husband’s birthday this year, I presented him with the “baking bible” as I like to call it; an enormous collection of my most cherished cake recipes to choose from.  It’s a treasured family tradition to select your favorite birthday dessert on your special day (even though we all get to indulge in it) and it’s actually quite an overwhelming task as I’ve made many delicious sweets over the past number of years.  I think he changed his mind 4 times before finally committing to his most beloved birthday cake…Triple Lemon Cake…couldn’t have chosen better myself!

There really is nothing better than lemon cake; so light and refreshing.  You forget for a moment that you’re actually consuming a pound or so of butter (but who’s counting?).  The lemon mousse filling is so irresistible, it’s tempting to eat it simply on its own…I just can’t imagine the cake without it.  For a lighter result, you can substitute the Swiss Buttercream for Whipped Cream, but for the love of all things sweet, PLEASE don’t substitute the lemon mousse!

I’ve made many variations of this lemon cake and it’s the most requested cake (next to chocolate) that I make.  I seem to modify a component of the cake every time that I make it and this combination is definitely THE ONE!  Actually, the truth is…in the mind of a baker, particularly a fanatical one, I don’t think a recipe is ever absolute.  Part of the challenge and enjoyment of baking comes with the gradual evolution of a simple recipe into something unforgettable.  Next time I make this cake I might try it with a traditional meringue (perhaps toasted) or a whipped cream frosting…we’ll see…

Triple Lemon Cake          {Print Recipe}

Making the lemon curd (for the lemon mousse):

Makes 2 ½ cups

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 cup minus 1 Tbsp sugar

¾ cup freshly squeezed/strained lemon juice

6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

Fill a large bowl approximately halfway with ice and water and set aside.  Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water at least 2 inches, but not full enough to touch the underside of the top double boiler and bring to a boil.

Place the eggs, egg yolks and sugar into the top of the double boiler (off of the heat) and whisk until blended.  Add the lemon juice and mix well.  Reduce the heat to medium low until the water comes to a gentle boil.  Place the egg mixture over the water and heat, whisking constantly and scraping the edges frequently with a spatula (so that the eggs don’t scramble) until the curd is very thick, about 7 minutes.  The curd should coat the back of a spoon when ready or hold a distinct shape on the surface when the curd is lifted and falls back into the bowl.

Push the curd through a fine strainer with a spatula into a medium sized bowl.  Add the cold pieces of butter, letting it sit for a minute and then mixing until combined.  Once all of the butter is melted and incorporated, place the medium sized bowl over the large bowl filled with ice water and let sit until the curd is completely cool.  Once cooled, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight before preparing the mousse.

This recipe makes a little extra lemon curd, but I assure you it won’t go to waste!  Lemon curd is amazing with scones, fruit or simply enjoyed with a spoon.

Making the cake:

Yield: (3) 9” layers

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

4 eggs, room temperature

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder (-1/8 tsp for high altitude)

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 cups granulated sugar

2 Tbsp grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed/strained lemon juice

1 cup buttermilk (+2 Tbsp for high altitude)

Grease and lightly flour (3) 9” cake pans.  After greasing the pans, I like to place a piece of parchment paper cut to size in each pan.  Then I grease the parchment and lightly flour the pan.  This really aids in the easy removal of the cake.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds.  Add the sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice and beat until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the flour and buttermilk, alternately, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Make sure to beat on low speed (unless you want to wear the flourJ) and beat until each addition is well combined.  Pour evenly into the prepared pans.  I use a scale for this step so that I can assure evenly sized cake layers.

Bake at 350 degrees F (325 degrees at high altitude) for about 25-27 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean) making sure to rotate the pans during baking for even browning.  As anxious as you may get, please don’t open the oven door before 20 minutes have passed.  I have been cursed with many a sinking cake out of pure impatience!  Remove from oven and let the cakes cool on a rack, in their pans for about 10 minutes.  Run a knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove from pan.  Let cool completely and refrigerate before filling and frosting.  Prior to refrigerating you can also brush the cakes with a simple syrup.  This step adds moisture to the cake and greatly enhances the flavor.

Making the simple syrup:

½ cup water

½ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup freshly squeezed/strained lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and vanilla.  Brush the warm mixture over the cooled cakes before filling.

Cake recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Making the lemon mousse:

Yield: 4 ½ cups mousse

1 ½ cups lemon curd  (see recipe above)

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream, cold

2 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Whip the heavy whipping cream and sugar on high speed with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream until just combined.  Try not to eat the entire bowl of lemon mousse before filling the cake…it will take an immense amount of willpower…good luck.

Making the Lemon Swiss Buttercream:

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

5 egg whites (pasteurized)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed/strained lemon juice

Combine the egg whites and sugar together in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer.  Set mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.  Whisk mixture until sugar dissolves and a candy thermometer reads 160 degrees F.  Sources say that 160 degrees is a recommended temperature for egg safety.  Even so, I still like to use pasteurized eggs in buttercream just to be safe.  Once the egg mixture reaches temperature, remove the bowl from the heat and attach to the stand mixer and mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the bowl is cool to the touch.  Add the butter a little at a time (about 8-10 additions) and then add in the vanilla and lemon juice.  The buttercream will be beautifully smooth and shiny.

Assembling the Cake:

Place one of the cake layers on a cake plate.  Spread half (or as much as desired) of the lemon mousse onto the cake.  Place the second cake layer on top of the mousse and repeat with the third cake.  Frost the entire cake with the Swiss Buttercream.  Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoy for up to a week.  Before serving, remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 30-45 minutes.  You’ll want the buttercream to soften to room temperature.

This cake is quite a labor of love and definitely a special occasion cake as it has many steps.  Fortunately you can make it over several days before assembling…AND…what better way to express your love to someone close to your heart??  Enjoy!