Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cookie Carnival-Toasted Almond Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are a favorite treat around our house so I was very pleased when I saw what this month's recipe was. The husband is especiallly fond of lemon treats. The crust is nice and tender. The filling is smooth and velvety. This will go into the favorite recipe file and will definitely be made again. The only thing I would try different next time would be to add more almond extract to the filling. When I tasted it pre-bake I thought it was fabulous with just a hint of almond extract in it. Once they were baked though, I couldn't really taste it at all. I enjoyed the recipe enough to check out the book from which it came. I am always on the look out for great, new sweet treat recipe books. 

This month the Cookie Carnival is hosted by Holly at Phe/Mom/enon so go on over to check out the round up. 

Toasted Almond Lemon Bars

From The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

Makes 1 dozen bars

"Everyone loves lemon bars.  I make mine extra special by adding toasted almonds to the shortbread crust."

For the Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 Tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

For the Lemon Filling:
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 7 lemons)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

To Toast the Almonds:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden and you can smell them.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Before You Start:
Position a rack in the center of your oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13 - inch pan with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.  Make a parchment "sling" by cutting two pieces of parchment paper, measuring 16 1/2 inches long by 12 inches wide (you can also use aluminum foil).  Place one piece across the length, and the other across the width of the pan, with the excess hanging over the edges.  You will use this sling later to lift the finished bar from the pan.  Spray the sling with the cooking spray.

To Make the Crust:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, almonds, and salt to combine.  Add the cold butter in pieces and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball.

2. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom and 1 1/4 inches up the sides.  (This crust, once it is baked, needs to act as a liner in which to pour the liquidy lemon filling.  So be sure to do a good job of pressing the dough up the sides - no cracks!).  Cover the dough with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights ( you can use dried beans or uncooked rice as pie weights as well).  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Carefully remove the pie weights and the liner and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the whole crust is golden.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

To Make the Filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth.  Add the almond extract and flour, and whisk until smooth.  Add the lemon juice, and whisk to combine.

To Complete the Bars:
1. Pour the lemon filling into the prepared crust.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm and lightly golden.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

2. When cool use the parchment sling to lift the entire bar from the pan and onto a cutting board.  Slice into twelve 3 x 3 1/2 - inch bars.  Remove from the pan and, using a small sifter, dust with the confectioners' sugar.

The bars keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.  For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks.  Do not unwrap before defrosting.  Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Cream Tart

I got to make this delicious dessert - Dorrie's Chocolate Cream Tart.

I learned a lot from making this as I haven't made a tart crust or custard before. First I messed up the crust. It wasn't moist enough with the ingredients listed, it didn't feel right but I pressed it into the pan anyway. Then in reading I found that it was much like a pie crust and Dorrie said to error on the side of moist dough. So began my second crust; I did it much like a pie crust with forking in ice water until I had the right consistancy. Next I got to make the chocolate custard.

Here is my first shot at making the custard. It was delicious to the taste but not the texture. The recipe says to add butter to make it "velvety". I knew I'd gone wrong!

Here's my second shot - velvety!! I added cold milk to the egg yolk, sugar, cornstarch mixture to make it a better consistancy, then a little hot milk, this time I added it gradually until it was thick and creamy and...smooth!

As usual - helping hands, Jacob saw me pressing it into the pan and said "help you?" He climbed on the counter and proceeded to "help". He was cute, he didn't apply any pressure just kept his hands in one spot for a minute or two and then moved on.

Mmmmm..... doesn't that make it look so appetizing?
This is a VERY rich tart. I could hardly finish my one piece. It was delicious and definately a chocolate lovers delight. If you would like to try your hand at a tart crust and a chocolate custard that is quite divine check out the recipe at Scrumptious Photography. Thanks Kim for picking this great dessert and making me step outside my baking comfort zone!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TWD To Be Continued....

So, I have a million reasons (all really, really great I assure you) for why my entry this month is going to be a Wednesday with Dorrie. But just know it involves a broken bottle of nail polish splattered across the floor, an event of "playing with your computer, Mommy", a broken garage door, an incident with little neighborhood friends that included hair-pulling, biting, scratching, dragging, a naked 3 year-old boy and an escaped dog. Let's just say my day didn't quite go as planned. But tomorrow is a whole new start, a fresh, sunshiney, perfect day. I garuntee you I will wow you with Dorrie's recipe for Chocolate Cream Tart as picked by Kim of Scrumptious Photography. So, stay tuned because it's ...To Be Continued....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TWD: Four Star Bread Pudding

In an attempt to live a healthier life and balance the foods that are enriching to my body and the foods that taste amazingly delicious I have decided that baking is not going to happen in our home for a few months. It has been about four weeks and my husband stated on Friday that I am depriving our children of their childhood. I had to laugh. To some degree I agree. Baking goodies should be part of a child's growing up experience. I will be back at it soon, but hopefully this can help me be wise about our food decisions here. Okay thus the we are so very lucky to have a guest baker add to the delights of Dorie. My fabulous friend, Erica, so kindly agreed to do the baking for me. She did a great review and has some fun pictures. Erica has a blog of her own called Just for Me and You. Hop on over if you are interested in winning some AWESOME products. This week the blog is featuring See Kai Run and there will be more later this week too. So let's turn it over to Erica.

Four-Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

I have to admit, “bread pudding” is not my favorite combination of words. When I think of bread pudding, I think of a bland, mushy concoction served at grandma’s house. However, any recipe titled Four-Star Chocolate is destined to pique my interest. I determined to reserve judgment and even found myself excited to try my hand at my very own mushy concoction.

The ingredients in this dessert are all very common and easily accessible; in fact, I found most of them already stocked in my fridge. I opted for challah as my bread base, and chose to omit the raisins. Assembling the pudding was the most fun. It was a simple process that even the kids participated in. Nothing is sweeter than baking that can be a family affair. We each had our turn smooshing the bread into the custard, or more appropriately, “giving the bread the back-of-the-spoon treatment.” There was no aspect of this dessert that was difficult, which made it a delight to create, regardless of the end result.

The Verdict:

The chocolate flavor of the bread pudding was divine; perfectly rich and decadent. In the end though, flavor can only take you so far and bread pudding is still bread pudding, and I am simply not a huge lover of bread pudding. The taste was definitely fabulous enough to have me finish my serving, but the texture of the pudding kept me from returning for seconds. In the end, if your heart holds a special place for bread pudding, this recipe will knock your socks off. Conversely, if the thought of bread pudding does not get you salivating, this recipe will not be enough to make you a believer.


I made the bread pudding in a 7-x-11 inch baking pan. If I were to make this again, I would choose to use a 9-x-13 to decrease the density and cooking time.

If you are interested in this recipe visit Lauren at Upper East Side Chronicle for the details.

Thanks again Erica!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TWD: Fifteen Minute Magic: Chocolate Amaretti Torte

I realize I'm a day late on this post, it seems to be consistent with the craziness of my life right now. With a home on the market, three little boys in my care, and an over-scheduled husband, I made a spontaneous trip to Minneapolis to visit my sister-in-law. I had full intentions of making this last week; however, I had a tough time tracking down Dorie's amarettini cookies (it seems that Italian specialty stores are slim in Lincoln, NE).

Anyhow, I found what I thought was a great substitute for the aramettini cookies. I used a delicious cracker cookie that is often called a Swedish or Norwegian cookie. My neighbor gave us a tin of these a few years ago for Christmas and they have become a family favorite with hot chocolate! I usually find them at TJ Maxx, but was thrilled to find them at Super Target. They have a bit of cinnamon in them, which I thought was great in the torte. The cookies were a great texture with my almonds and they smelled delicious! Also, I was able to use my sister-in-law's food processor and it was amazing. Another item to add to my wish list. I thought this torte was a great treat for my wonderful hosts! I know everybody would love to have me and my three boys for a week, but a torte makes them even more excited to have us! Matt, Camie and I all decided the recipe was a keeper! I really liked the texture of the cake and the chocolate glaze finished it off beautifully. We all agreed, however, that we would prefer the whipping cream without the almond extract.
I think this would be a lovely dessert to serve at a luncheon, or just to eat at home. I'm not sure how Dorie made it in 15 minutes (amazing in the kitchen, I know!), but it took me a little longer.

We sat down to eat a slice of this chocolate goodness at 10:30 p.m. after a long day with kiddos and it hit the spot in a big way. I loved the recipe and will definitely make it again! To see the complete recipe check out Holly's blog!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What we are up to

Recipes are to come, but I thought I would show you pics of what we have been up to lately. Well....last week during general conference...I swear it is like the super bowl (food wise) in this house. Yummo!

Blueberry Cinnamon French Toast

Sweet Potato Apple Muffins

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

No TWD post today....

I'm so sorry! I had every intention of posting today. I even brought the recipe to Colorado with me, purchased the ingredients, and made a shortbread crust. But let's just say Mom and Dad don't use much butter, so a pound of butter exists far beyond its expiry date, and they lack a whisk. I'll probably make this when I get home and post it just for sport. It looks like a yummy pie and I think we'll enjoy it. If you want to check out the banana cream pie, check out Sing for your Supper.