Princess Shortbread

Princess shortbread sounds like a character from a children’s story, right? Perhaps she’s a plucky royal who prefers spending her time baking than learning to knit or play the harp and would pacify a dragon by baking him a fancy cake rather than getting some prince to slay him. Then the dragon could help provide the fire for her ovens, and they’d be lifelong friends.

Anyway…this princess shortbread is named because of the princess cake and cookie flavor I used in it, a lovely combination of vanilla and citrus available from King Arthur Flour. I tinted it pink for Valentine’s Day, and it is now on the way to my favorite little Maryland girls along with some other Valentine gifts, including Captain America and Aquaman dolls (because they only have one Ken for their Barbies, and the Ken selection at my local target was quite lacking). I like to think perhaps Princess Shortbread would hang out with Captain America and Aquaman, but that’ll have to be a story for another day.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon princess cake and cookie flavor
  • 5 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) flour
  • Pink gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and princess cake and cookie flavor. Add flour and beat to combine completely, then add enough food coloring to reach your desired shade of pink. The dough will be ready when it pulls away from the sides of your mixing bowl, but you may need to knead it a bit with your hands to make sure the food coloring gets distributed evenly.

Press the dough into the bottom of the cake pan, using the palm of your hand to create an even surface. Prick all over with a fork.

Bake for 32-35 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and gently loosen the sides, then allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Gently flip onto a cutting board and slice into 16 wedges, then place wedges on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Orange Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake

As an American, drizzle cakes weren’t part of my baking repertoire until I started watching the life-changing Great British Baking Show. They remind me a bit of pound cakes, but not exactly; their texture is a bit lighter, and they’re covered in a syrup while still warm to infuse the cake with moisture. As the cake cools, the syrup forms a delicious crunchy topping. The syrup should soak all the way to the bottom of the cake, but I’ve yet to discover exactly how this is possible. Is my cake too “close-textured,” as Mary and Paul would say? Perhaps. But regardless of that, this cake is absolutely delicious.

I adapted a recipe from Jo’s Kitchen Larder by adding poppy seeds to the batter and increasing the syrup liquid by half a blood orange. I also used the creaming method, rather than the all-in-one method, as the original recipe outlined. This is definitely a cake I’ll use as a go-to in the future.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar*
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • zest of 1 blood orange
  • 100 ml whole milk**
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For the drizzle

  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • juice and zest from 1 1/2 blood oranges

*Superfine sugar, also known as caster sugar, can be made by pulsing granulated sugar in a food processor until it has a very fine, sandy texture.

**There is a 100 ml line on your average liquid measuring cup; it’s about 1/8 inch shy of the half-cup mark. As this recipe was written in grams and milliliters, I converted as much as I could into cups, but 100 ml doesn’t translate as well from metric to U.S. measurements. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch loaf tin with parchment paper.

Sift self-rising flour and baking soda into a medium bowl; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add blood orange zest and eggs and beat to combine. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour, beating to combine completely. Stir in poppy seeds.

Spoon batter into loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Check the cake around 30 minutes and cover with foil if necessary to prevent over-browning.

Just before the cake comes out of the oven, prepare the drizzle; combine superfine sugar, juice, and zest in a small bowl and stir well.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately poke all over the top with a skewer. Spoon drizzle over the cake, allowing it to soak in completely. Cool cake completely before removing from the tin. Store well-wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes about 8 servings.

Blood Orange Muffins

This weekend’s blood orange extravaganza continues with these tasty blood orange muffins. And I learned today that mixing beautiful crimson blood orange juice with powdered sugar will yield something that looks more like raspberry icing. It tastes good though, and that’s all that matters.

Muffins can be a great way to use up fruit curd, especially the homemade kind that isn’t meant to keep for weeks at a time. I’m glad I added some zest to the batter as well, as it really lightens up the muffins and gives them a nice delicate citrus flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup blood orange curd
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 blood orange
  • 4 teaspoons blood orange juice
  • About 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners; this recipe makes 16 muffins.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine beaten eggs, milk, curd, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and zest and stir to completely combine. Add all at once to dry ingredients and stir just until no dry streaks remain.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into muffin tins. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until tops are just golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven, then remove from tins and place on wire racks to cool.

To make icing, combine juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Place in a zip-top bag and snip off the end to pipe, or just drizzle with a spoon. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Citrus Cake

This weekend’s theme seems to be “tastes delicious, but the texture needs work.” Yesterday afternoon I whipped up a foam/sponge cake, similar to what you’d use for a jelly roll but without the actual rolling. It’s too chewy, and I’m not really sure why. Did I over-mix it? Under-bake it? It’s not nearly as light and airy as my spice roll was at Thanksgiving, so I’m going to have to get back into the kitchen and see where things went wrong. I actually suspect I under-baked it and didn’t give the cake enough time to rise.

In any case, this creation is one that, had the texture turned out well, I think would have made the judges of the Great British Baking Show proud. My blood orange curd features in both the filling and the frosting, so flavor-wise this is a wonderful combination of citrus and vanilla.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 blood orange

For the frosting & filling

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons blood orange curd, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla and zest just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into parchment-lined pan and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the top is golden brown and springs back when you touch it. Remove from the oven and flip onto a cooling rack, then gently peel the parchment away. Allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

While the cake cools, make the frosting: in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese until completely smooth. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon curd, beating until smooth; add remaining powdered sugar and curd, then beat until totally smooth.

Place frosting in a piping bag and remaining 1/2 cup curd in another piping bag; set aside.

Trim edges of the cake to create three equal rectangles (you can save the scraps and have them as a snack with some curd later). Place bottom layer on a platter and pipe a border of frosting around the edge, then fill the inside with curd. Repeat with the second layer, then top with the third layer. Pipe remaining frosting on the top.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes about 8 servings.

Blood Orange Curd

I went completely overboard in the supermarket citrus section yesterday and came home with mandarins, lemons, limes, and blood oranges. I’ve wanted to bake with blood oranges for a while now, and since yesterday afternoon I’ve made blood orange curd, citrus cake, and blood orange muffins. I still have at least half the bag left, so blood orange poppy seed drizzle cake is coming next.

This curd is an absolutely delicious creation, featuring some lemon juice and zest to balance the sweetness that comes from the oranges. Curd-making really does require a good amount of intuition, and I suspect I pulled this off the heat just a moment too early; while it tastes fantastic, it was a bit thinner than I wanted it to be, so next time I’ll give it at least another minute.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons blood orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) blood orange juice (about 2 1/2 oranges)
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) lemon juice (about 2 1/2 small lemons)
  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 6 eggs

Preparation

Place a medium bowl and sieve next to your stove. Place eggs in a medium bowl and beat, then set that bowl next to your stove for easy access.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, zests, juices, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble; the mixture will start to look cloudy, then foamy, just before you start to see bubbles form from the very bottom edge of your pan.

Remove from heat and slowly pour into eggs, whisking the eggs constantly as you pour. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook for at least 2 minutes more, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens; it may start to look curdled a bit, but just keep stirring to smooth it out (and of course be careful that you haven’t taken it so far as to scramble your eggs or split your mixture).

Pour through the sieve and use a spatula to force the mixture through to strain out the zest. Press waxed paper directly onto the surface of the curd and cool completely before using. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Makes about 3 cups.

Maple Oat Whole Wheat Bread

Bread baking requires a different set of skills and instincts than I currently possess. Need a cookie? I’m your gal. But bring things like yeast, kneading, and resting into the mix and I feel a bit like I’m back in kindergarten.

Anyone trying to call herself a baker really needs to know how to make a decent loaf of bread, and so I’ve entered a new era of experimentation: yeast breads. Fortunately the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion offers a host of tips and tricks for novices like me, and I’m reading as much as I can; this recipe is their Vermont whole wheat oatmeal maple-honey bread, which I made with maple sugar and regular whole wheat flour, as opposed to white whole wheat as the recipe stated. These loaves smelled amazing while they baked, but I wasn’t as happy with how they turned out texture-wise. Perhaps it was the regular whole wheat flour? Mike loved them, so I guess that doesn’t matter.

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup traditional rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

Preparation

In your mixing bowl, combine water, oats, maple sugar, honey, butter, maple extract, and salt. Let cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flours, stirring with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Fit the dough hook onto your mixer and mix for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth.

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 1 hour; I set my bowl of dough on a towel-wrapped heating pad, set on its lowest setting.

Gently deflate your dough and divide it in half, then shape each half into a loaf. Place loaves in two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pans.

Cover loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow loaves to rise until they’ve risen about 1 inch above the rim of the pan – about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves for 35-40 minutes; check them around 25 minutes and place a tent of foil over their tops if they’re browning already to avoid burning. Remove from oven when they’re golden brown; you can also use a thermometer to test internal temperature, which should be 190 degrees.

Remove from loaf pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store well-wrapped at room temperature for several days, or freeze for future use.

Makes two loaves.

Earl Grey Macarons

I’ve truly lost my mind down the macaron rabbit hole. This is batch number three in less than one week, but I simply cannot help myself. And again, I’ve got store-bought egg whites (not recommended for macarons, but I’m using them anyway) to use up before they expire.

These definitely need more tea flavor, so I think next time I’ll add two full bags – or possibly even three – of the tea. I chose to leave these macarons natural, without any color tint, so you can really see the flecks of tea. Lemon goes very well with Earl Grey, so it’s a great fit for the macaron shells; you could also use a lemon buttercream if you wanted more sweetness, but I like the sharpness of the curd against the mellow flavor of the shell.

Ingredients

  • 120 grams egg whites, at room temperature (about 3 large eggs)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 40 grams superfine sugar, sifted (about 3 tablespoons)*
  • 200 grams powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
  • 100 grams almond flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 bags Earl Gray tea
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Lemon curd, for filling

*You can make superfine sugar by placing granulated sugar in your food processor and pulsing it until it becomes like sand. 

Preparation

Line three large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine powdered sugar, almond flour, and tea and pulse for about 30-45 seconds. Sift into a large bowl, discarding any large bits, and set aside.

Place egg whites and salt in clean, dry, grease-free bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low speed, then increase to medium/medium-high speed and whip until egg whites are foamy and no longer translucent. Slowly add superfine sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla extract and whip again to combine, but be careful not to over-whip; you still want stiff peaks but don’t want to take the meringue too far and have it become grainy.

Add 1/3 of your dry ingredients at a time and fold in with a spatula, turning the mixture about 15 times with each addition, being very careful not to over-mix. The batter is mixed enough when it is sticky and smooth, and you can make an unbroken figure 8 with the batter as it drips off your spatula.

Place batter into a large piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Holding the bag upright, pipe rounds of batter about 1 1/2 inches in diameter onto the parchment, leaving about 2 inches between each circle. Gently tap or drop your baking sheets onto a counter top or table to release any air bubbles.

Let batter sit for about 30-60 minutes; the tops will form a skin that becomes dry to the touch.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bake macarons, one sheet at a time, for about 17 minutes, checking halfway; the macarons should form “feet” on the bottoms, but have smooth tops. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets.

Once macarons are cool, flip half the macarons onto their tops and spread lemon curd on the bottom, then top with another macaron. Store in an airtight container at least overnight before serving.