Chocolate Easter Nests

I’ve been so in love with this idea since I first saw it two years ago. It has probably already circled the internet a few times, but if you haven’t, by chance, seen it, I would say this might be the one Easter idea that is worth doing, especially if you are short on time. In fact, I am thinking of having these be my kids’ Easter baskets this year–small, simple, beautiful, and ready to fill with a few candies and eggs.

This recipe comes from Alice Medrich, who I think is incredible, and I originally saw it on Food52. I used to do a lot of candy making at Easter–caramel and peanut butter eggs, molded chocolates, homemade Peep-type things, but now I really just do this and some breads. It’s the right amount. And again, so pretty.

Chocolate Easter Nests

  • 4 ounces (115 grams) dark chocolate or 6 ounces (170 grams) milk chocolate, chopped [I ended up adjusting a little according to the look, too]
  • 4 to 6 cups thin salted pretzel sticks (such as Snyder’s of Hanover)
  • Equipment: Two-quart stainless steel bowl to use as a mold
  1. To prepare the mold, press a sheet of plastic wrap across the bottom and up the sides of the bowl, as smoothly as possible and with as few air bubbles as possible, letting the ends hang over the bowl. If necessary, press another sheet into the bowl crosswise to cover any bare sides of the bowl. Tip: If you wipe the bowl with a damp sponge or cloth, it will help to adhere the plastic a little better, but be sure that chocolate never comes in contact with a moist surface. And no, foil is not better for lining the mold!
  2. Put the chocolate in another (clean, dry) medium stainless steel bowl. Bring about an inch of water to a simmer in a wide skillet. For dark chocolate, set the bowl directly in the water and adjust the heat so that the water is not quite simmering. For milk chocolate, turn the heat off under the skillet and wait 60 seconds before setting the bowl of chocolate in the water. [If you’re familiar with melting chocolate in the microwave, it’s also very doable and easy. Just microwave only in 30 second segments, stirring between each turn. It doesn’t take long and requires attention not to scorch, but it can be easier.]
  3. Stir the chocolate frequently with a clean, dry spatula until the it’s melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the water and let the chocolate cool to lukewarm, (about 90° F–this will temper the chocolate relatively well, too, so you don’t have white streaks). Pour about 4 cups of the pretzels into the chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to turn the pretzels gently in the chocolate until they are completely coated; add more pretzels if you can, as long as you can get them coated. It’s okay if some of the pretzel shows through the chocolate, but they should be coated and the chocolate should still be sticky. Continue to turn the chocolate-coated pretzels in the bowl until the chocolate seems a little thicker and cooler, but not yet starting to set.
  4. Use your fingers to arrange the pretzels in the bottom and up the sides of the lined mold.
  5. Refrigerate to set the chocolate. To unmold, lift the plastic liner out of the bowl. Set the basket down on a serving platter and peel the plastic gently away from the pretzels. Serve filled with chocolate truffles, stemmed strawberries, or other treats.

Crazy Good Falafel

I haven’t made falafel in years, because I just knew my kids would turn their noses up at it, but then we had a great experience at a Shawarma cafe while we were abroad last summer, and suddenly they were open to it. Okay, I think they were more into the chicken than the falafel, but at least they tried it (and I remembered that they liked it. They contested that when they saw these on the table.) At any rate, I had thought we had turned a new leaf and I was delighted. So, with the little extra time I can devote to actually soaking beans and the like, I pulled out my old recipe, rearing up to make it, when I thought to compare it to a new recipe from Bowls of Plenty from Carolynn Carreno. This new recipe was very similar to my old favorite, but included sparkling water, and knowing how much better tempura and onion rings are with sparkling water, I thought it was genius. And, it is. So, here’s crazy good falafel for you. So good, in fact, my fourteen-year-old not only requested it for her birthday, but also for dinner every night of the week. Enjoy.

Crazy Good Falafel

FOR THE FALAFEL
½ lb. (1 cup) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
½ small Spanish yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves
¼ c. fresh parsley
2 T. fresh cilantro
1 T. kosher salt, plus more as needed
½ t. ground cumin
½ t. ground coriander
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
1⁄8 t. ground cardamom (optional; if you have it, use it)
½ c. sparkling mineral water
½ t. baking soda
2 to 3 c. canola oil (or another neutral- flavored oil), or as needed, for frying [I used peanut oil and thought it was quite delicious!]

1) To prepare the falafel, combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, salt, cumin, coriander, pepper and cardamom (if you’re using it) in a food processor and pulse until the chickpeas are finely ground. Turn the mixture out into a bowl and stir in the mineral water and baking soda. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour to soften the ground chickpeas.

2) Pour 3 to 4 inches of canola oil into a small saucepan. Fasten a candy or deep-fry thermometer to the side of the saucepan or drop in an unpopped kernel of popcorn into the oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until the thermometer registers 350° F or the kernel pops. Remove the popcorn kernel if you used it. (I learned this trick from the venerable cooking magazine Cooks Illustrated, a great magazine if you want to learn to be a better or more knowledgeable cook.)

3) While the oil is heating, give the falafel mixture a good stir and scoop it into 1-ounce (2-tablespoon) portions; roll into balls, and put the balls on a baking sheet or plate. The mixture is very wet and can be awkward to work with; the moisture is what makes the falafels as light as they are. Carefully drop the balls in the oil, adding only as many as will fit in a single layer, and fry them for 1 to 2 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy, turning them as they cook so they brown evenly. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer the falafel to paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with salt. Fry the rest of the falafel. Enjoy with hummus, cut veggies, or in a pita. I loved adding some pomegranate seeds as well!

Salted Caramel Meringues

This is the recipe that popped out at me when I opened Erin McDowell’s The Fearless Baker. This book is full of fun and beautiful recipes, and I have already made a couple, but this one is a good one for a few pantry staples (especially if you happen to have salted caramel sitting in your fridge–which luckily, I did), so it might inspire those of us who are rather homebound.

My main alteration for next time would be to play with the baking times. I’ve liked baking meringues hot and fast rather than low and long (doesn’t that sound very 21st C.?) because I’m not a great ahead-of-time thinker and I’ve had terrific luck with it (like my Christmas Dream Drops), but I did as the recipe suggested here and went for low and long. It didn’t work great–I probably pulled the pans too soon, and the meringues collapsed. They tasted great and were still pretty, but I will go longer next time, or go fast and hot. Haven’t decided yet. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these beautiful little cookies! My twelve-year-old is already asking for them again . . .

Salted Caramel Meringues

4 large egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. fine sea salt
1 c. Salted Caramel Sauce

Preheat the oven to 325. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until lightly foamy. Raise the mixer speed to high and add the sugar in a slow, steady stream. Continue whipping until the meringue holds medium peaks, 5-7 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and mix to combine, about 1 minute.

Gently scoop the meringue onto the prepared sheets using a scoop or two spoons to create 1/4 c. dollops, leaving 1 1/2 inches between each. Use a small offset spatula to slightly flatten the mounds, keeping them circular. [I didn’t flatten them, but I did depress a mound in the center and then filled it with the sauce, and then swirled.]

Drizzle 2 teaspoons of the caramel sauce over each meringue (you can transfer the caramel to a disposable pastry bag to do this, or just use a spoon), then use the tip of a paring knife to gently swirl them together, keeping the swirl to one or two wide strokes (the more you swirl the more likely the meringues will deflate).

Transfer the meringues to the oven, lower the oven temperature to 250 and bake until the meringues are very dry to the touch (the caramel will melt slightly into the cookies.) How long this takes depends on how dry the weather is–anywhere between 45-90 minutes [aim for the longer–I live in a dry desert climate, and it wasn’t fully done at 60 min.]. When the meringues are dry, turn off the oven and leave the sheets in the oven until the cookies and sheets cool completely.

Salted Caramel Sauce

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. corn syrup
1/4 c. water
1 t. vanilla extract
4 oz. unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 t. fine sea salt

Note: I think this is a particularly well written caramel recipe! If you’re a newcomer to caramel, the author explains the process very well.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. You can stir the mixture before it boils to help dissolve the sugar, but stop stirring the moment it starts. Boil the syrup until it’s a medium amber color. Once it starts to color, tilt the pan occasionally–it’s easier to see the true color of the caramel when you’re looking at less of it (or it may seem darker than it really is). As soon as it’s close to medium amber, turn off the heat–the caramel will retain some heat, so it’s good to allow for carryover cooking.

Add the butter to the caramel and stir gently to combine. Stir in the cream (be careful–the caramel may bubble up and steam a lot. Just keep stirring and it will die down). The sauce should be smooth and creamy. If it seizes up and you see lumps of caramel that haven’t fully dissolved in the sauce, return the pan to low heat and stir occasionally, until the sauce is smooth. Stir in the salt and vanilla. Remove from heat and cool.

Old Mill Bread

A beautiful everyday loaf that slices amazingly for sandwiches.

I have made so many everyday loaves over the years. I have a collection of favorites, and yet since I make them so frequently, I still look for new ones to add to my cache. This recipe comes from one of my favorite wholesome baking books, Recipes from the Old Mill by Sarah E. Myers and Mary Beth Lind. Despite having tried close to half of the recipes before, I somehow had never noticed this one, which reads “This is my favorite bread, the one I always come back to.” How did I miss that? I always want to try a baker’s favorite go-to bread! So, I pioneered it last week, and I think my husband mentioned three times, while cutting it one morning, what a fan he was. So, now it’s part of the honored collection.

Old Mill Bread

2 c. boiling water
1/2 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. honey
2 t. salt
2 packages dry yeast (2- 2 1/4 t.)
1/2 c. warm water
1/4 c. oil
1/2 rye flour
1-2 c. whole wheat flour
3-4 c. flour

Mix together boiling water, cornmeal, honey, and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, dissolve yeast in warm water.

Once the cornmeal mixture is lukewarm, add the oil and the yeast. Mix well, then add the rye and wheat flour. Continue to add the water flour until you have a soft, but not dry, dough.

Knead by hand for 10 minutes, or in a standing mixer for 5-6 minutes at level 4. Once well kneaded, place the dough into a greased bowl and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

Punch down and divide into three parts (for the picture, I divided the dough into just two sections, to make two extra large loaves, instead of three). Taking one amount at a time, flatten into a rectangle (about 12 in. by 8 in. with the short side facing you) and then tightly roll to make a loaf, tucking the dough into the sides as you roll if it starts to balloon out. Place into greased bread pan and shape the remaining two dough balls.

Let rise again for 45-60 min. Twenty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 35-45 minutes (until 190 degrees). Immediately turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack once done, to prevent the loaf from getting soggy.

Cinnamon Raisin Variation: After the first rise, once you have created a rectangle, sprinkle the dough with brown sugar, raisins, and cinnamon, and roll in a similar fashion to before.

Pilgrim’s Bread

Of course, these have to be paired with Crescent Rolls–I’ll have to post the recipe later–or my kids might revolt.

When I came across this recipe in the Farm Journal’s Homemade Breads book last year, it seemed like an absolute no-brainer for Thanksgiving dinner. I reworked it a little. I made the dough into rolls rather than a loaf, and added a bit more water and molasses. Then, to show off the whole grains inside, I sprinkled seeds on the top. I was super happy. I don’t know that guests really even eat the bread at Thanksgiving dinner, after being saturated with potatoes and the like, but the rolls are always the best the next day when you get to stuff bits of turkey and cranberry sauce in them. And what’s really great on Friday is that all the work is done.

Pigrim’s Bread

2 1/4 c. water (might need up to 1/4 c. more)
1/3 c. honey
3 T. molasses
2/3 c. corn meal
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 c. stirred whole-wheat flour
1 c. stirred rye flour
2 packages dry yeast (4 1/2 t.)
2 t. sugar
1/2 c. warm water
2 1/2 t. salt
3 1/4 – 4 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 T. mixed seeds (sesame, pumpkin, chia) to sprinkle
1 egg white, mixed with 1 t. water and lightly beaten

In a 2-qt. saucepan over high heat, bring 2 1/4 c. water, honey, and molasses to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. With wire whisk, gradually beat in corn meal until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens, and 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in oil. Let stand to cool until warm (105-115 degrees).

In a small bowl, stir together the whole wheat and rye flours.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle the yeast and sugar over 1/2 c. warm water; stir until dissolved. Add salt, corn meal mixture, 1/2 c. whole wheat flour mixture and 1 c. all-purpose flour. Using mixer at low speed, beat until well blended. Increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes.

Stir in remaining whole wheat flour mixture and enough additional all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. Place in a large, greased bowl and let rise 1 hour.

Punch down. Divide into 18 pieces. Shape each roll (I did knots–long snake and then tie) and place on a baking sheet. Rise again for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. After the second rise, brush with a beaten egg white, and then sprinkle with seeds. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

My cute daughter holding the basket of goods.

Cinnamon & Spice Oat Scones

These scones are probably one of the simplest and healthiest bakes I know. Really, they just change a bowl of oatmeal into a delicious portable snack. They aren’t that sweet, but I love them perfectly how they are and continue to make them frequently. I’ve noticed my kids will eat them, but not devour them, which is probably a good sign, really, that they are healthful and filling.

They also don’t have any wheat, if that’s a help to you, and they last for a couple of days, making a good on-the-go breakfast. They are from Genevieve Ko’s Better Baking, one of my favorite baking books on the shelf (and I won’t disclose how many that is!). She has a different title for them (she calls them oat soda bread scones), but I think my name better describes them and reflects the way I’ve spiced them.

oatmeal scones ko

Cinnamon & Spice Oat Scones

  • 2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
  • one packet English breakfast tea leaves (original) or Bengal Spice herbal tea bag (my favorite!)
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 T. sugar (turbinado is good for sprinkling on top, if you have it)
  • 3/4 c. buttermilk
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I own a scone pan, which I used for the image above. I got it from King Arthur Flour, if you’re looking).
  2. Process the oats and tea leaves in a food processor until finely ground; it’s okay if there are still some small bits of oats. Add the raisins and pulse until chopped. Add the baking soda, salt , and sugar and pulse to combine. Add the buttermilk and pulse until the dough comes together, scraping the bowl occasionally.
  3. Using a 3-T (2 in.) cookie scoop or a 1/4 c. measure, drop the dough by scant 1/4-cupfuls onto the prepared pan, spacing them 1.5 inches apart. Flatten the tops slightly with your palm, then slash a cross in the top of each with a sharp knife. Sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake until the scones are cooked through and the bottoms are light golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  5. Slide the parchment paper with the scones onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Swedish Gingerbread

While my memory serves me, and before winter expires, I’m chronicling some of the more memorable holiday baking I did. Hopefully this will make next year easier, unless I decide to reinvent the wheel, like usual.

We did a couple of things this Christmas to celebrate my family’s Swedish ancestry, including a family gathering that spotlighted Swedish Christmas food. I had clipped this recipe from a Saveur magazine years ago, but hadn’t yet made it, so it was finally time. There were a lot of desserts at the gathering (that’s how we celebrate!) so I was surprised to see that so many of these delightful cookies had been eaten. I worried that the amount of cloves would deter the kids, but quite the opposite: it made them distinctive and delightful. I can’t wait to make them again. A new Christmas favorite! Saveur reports getting this recipe from an 80-year-old bakery in Stockholm called Vete-Katten. Worth a visit!

swedish gingerbread saveur

Swedish Gingerbread Cookies

34 c. flour
3 t. ground cloves
12 t. ground cinnamon
12 t. ground ginger
14 t. baking soda
11 T. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
12 c. golden syrup or dark corn syrup
12 c. heavy cream
2 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1 egg white, lightly beaten

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and baking soda; set aside. In another large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and golden syrup using a handheld mixer set to medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Add the reserved spice mixture and the heavy cream in 3 alternating batches, beginning and ending with the spice mixture, until the dough just combines. Transfer dough to a work surface, divide in half, and shape each half into a flat disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 1 hour. (Can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, and in fact, we still rolled some out 5 days later, and they were great.)
  2. Heat oven to 350°. Unwrap 1 disk of dough and place on a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to a 1⁄8″ thickness. Cut out cookies using the cookie cutters of your choice and place cookies 2″ apart on parchment paper–lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, rerolling scraps. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until browned and set, about 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
  3. To make an icing, if you like, whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and egg white in a medium bowl until smooth. Transfer icing to a resealable plastic bag (or a pastry bag). Snip off a bottom corner of the bag and pipe icing onto cookies in a decorative pattern.

Coconut & Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pistachio Chocolate ChipI picked up a cookbook recently called Sugar & Spice (by Sarah Seneviratne), thinking it would have ideas right up my alley, and though I haven’t found myself in it very often, I was so happy to try this amazing recipe. The author calls this her “go-to” chocolate chip, rather than selling it as a riff on the classic. When I tried it, I thought, “yeah, this could be a new ‘go-to’ but it also is so unique!” So, I’ve renamed them to reveal a little more of what they bring to the table. Even so, my name also doesn’t give them full disclosure, because it doesn’t incorporate how much the vanilla shines through and carries the flavors together. This might be my favorite part! 

In terms of the kid factors, everyone but my littlest (who is only vanilla, all the time) loved them. That is high marks, especially because pistachios aren’t really everyday around here. So, if you’re in the process of expanding your chocolate chip recipe repertoire, here’s yet another for your basket, and it really is a keeper. 

Coconut & Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 c. (4 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. melted virgin coconut oil
  • 1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70 percent cacao), chopped (about 1 c.)
  • 2 1/2 oz. (1/2 c.) shelled raw pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. (3 oz.) shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (optional but I chose without)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, combine the coconut oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until creamy. Stir in the vanilla and egg. Add the flour mixture to the coconut oil mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the chocolate, pistachios, and coconut.
  3. Scoop the dough in 2-tablespoon scoops and place on the prepared baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart. Sprinkle each cookie with a bit of sea salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the sheets on racks for about 5 minutes.

 

Sweet Cheese Strudel

This bread is our favorite Easter morning breakfast. In February, my oldest daughter Lucy usually starts asking me if I’ll make it this year for Easter, and she’s also been known to request it for her birthday. The original recipe comes from Beth Hensperger’s Bread for All Seasons. I’ve done everything here the same as the original, except sometimes I only use cream cheese (I don’t add the goat cheese), and I also braided this plait instead of rolling it like cinnamon rolls–and it turned out beautifully.

It’s a simple but dramatic loaf and one of the best ways to start any morning. I think perhaps tomorrow I’ll also add some blueberries into the filling–just a few! Oh, also note that it rests in the fridge overnight, so start the day before.

Sweet Cheese Strudel

Yeasted Sweet Cheese Strudel or  Cream Cheese Braided Danish

2 1/2 t. active dry yeast
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 c. sour cream
6 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
2 eggs
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 t. salt
3 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (exact measure)

Sweet Cheese Filling
8 oz. fresh goat cheese (not Feta! that rookie mistake was embarassing), at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature [sometimes, I just use 16 oz. of cream cheese instead of goat cheese, and it is great either way]
2/3 c. sugar
1 egg
2 t. pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 large lemon

Brandied Almond Crust
1 egg yolk
1 t. good-quality brandy [or almond extract]
2 T. light brown sugar
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/2 c. slivered or sliced almonds

1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of the sugar over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Warm the sour cream on the stove top or in a microwave to about 105 degrees, then add the butter pieces. Stir to melt.

2. In a standing mixer (or equivalent), combine the remaining sugar, eggs, lemon zest, salt and 1 c. of flour. Add the warm sour cream and yeast mixtures. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute, switching to a wooden spoon as necessary if making by hand. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 c. at a time. The dough will be rather soft and have a silky, translucent quality. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Cover the bowl with 2 layers of greased plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge overnight.

3. The next day, make the sweet cheese filling. With an electric mixer, blend together the cheeses, sugar, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest until smooth and well combined. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

4. Using a large dough scraper, scrape the chilled batter onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 3 equal portions. Roll out each portion in to an 8-by-12-inch rectangle, dusting lightly with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Spread each rectangle with one-third of the sweet cheese filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Starting from a long side, roll up jelly-roll fashion and pinch the seam together to seal. Pinch both ends to seal and tuck them under. (In the picture above, I spread the filling down the center and then cut the dough on both sides into one-inch strands, and folded them over each other to create the braid. I like the look much better.)

5. Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, at least 3 inches apart. Using a serrated knife, score each finished cylinder in 5 places across the top, no more than 1/4 inch deep. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

6. Bake in the center of the preheated oven 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the brandied almond crust. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, brandy, brown sugar, and allspice and beat briskly with a whisk. Using a pastry brush, spread the crust mixture gently over the tops of the partially baked strudels. Immediately sprinkle each strudel with one-third of the almonds. Quickly return the pan to the oven and bake until the strudels are golden, sound hollow when tapped, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, another 15-20 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the strudels from the baking sheet to a rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Lemon and Blueberry Teacakes

 

Lemon and Blueberry Teacakes

I was so excited to buy Ottolenghi’s new baking book, Sweet, in late fall, but have found myself so busy that I haven’t baked from it yet. Recently, though, when I was looking for a good springtime treat to share with friends, I came upon this recipe from that book. It looked terrific, and it tasted even better. I even got rave reviews from the piano movers who happened to be at our house when the cakes came out of the oven.  And since many of house in my house are lemon lovers, I’m sure I’ll use it frequently. (Note: I usually buy almond flour at Costco these days, if you are looking for an affordable and easy option.)

Lemon Blueberry Teacakes

Makes about 12 cupcakes

3/4 c. + 1 1/2 T. (190 g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1/4 c. + 1 T. (45g) all-purpose flour
2 c. (190g) ground almonds
3/4 c. +  3 1/2 T. (190g) sugar
4 eggs
1/4 c. (60 ml) lemon juice
finely grated zest of one lemon
1/4 t. salt (the original amount is 1/8)
1/4 t. baking powder
2/3 c. (100g) blueberries

Glaze:
a few squeezes of lemon juice
freshly grated lemon zest of one lemon (my addition)
1 1/3 c. (160g) icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180°). Grease all 12 molds of a regular muffin pan with butter and dust lightly but thoroughly with flour. Tap away any excess and set aside.

Place the butter, granulated sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed until light, then add the eggs and almond meal in three or four alternating batches. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add this to the mixer and turn the speed to low. Finally, add the lemon juice and eat until combined. Spoon the mixture into the molds and divide the 2/3 c. blueberries between the cakes: push them down slightly so that they sink into the batter. The reason we do this is to ensure that each cake gets an equal number of berries.

 

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before tapping them out gently onto a cooling rack so that they are sitting upside down. Cool completely.

To make the icing: combine the confectioners’ sugar and zest and juice in a bowl and stir until it has a thick pouring consistency. Spoon the icing over the cakes and dot the remaining blueberries in the center (or strawberries!). Serve.