Chocolate Raspberry Walnut Bars

Chocolate and raspberry are great flavor friends, so I have no doubt that these chocolate raspberry walnut bars are delicious. This recipe is a slight adaptation on Marlita’s Chocolate Raspberry Bars from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, using Dutch process cocoa and adding 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts to the top of the bars.

The next time I make these, I might line the pan with parchment instead of greasing it; the bars on the edges were difficult to remove, so I had to cut a very thin sliver of outer edge from each edge piece in order to pop them out of the pan. The first bar out crumbled into several pieces, so it ended up as a sacrifice to the baking gods!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups finely chopped walnuts, divided
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan, or line the pan with parchment paper, extending the parchment over the sides.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, shortening, sugar, salt, and baking powder until light and fluffy. Add cocoa and mix until well-combined.

Add flour and 1 cup walnuts, mixing until well-combined and thick, about 3-4 minutes. Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the baking pan.

Place jam in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until the jam becomes thinner and easy to spread. Pour jam over bottom crust, spreading to each edge. Crumble remaining dough over jam, then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup walnuts.

Bake for 35 minutes, until the jam bubbles at the edges of the pan; the top layer may look slightly underdone, but that’s fine; it will set up as the bars cool.

Remove from oven and cool bars completely in the pan; cut into 24 squares.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Caramel Apple Hamantaschen

This past weekend was the Jewish festival of Purim, and hamantaschen are the traditional Purim treat. I’ve made them before, in poppy seed, raspberry, and apricot varieties, but never really found a recipe that I loved.

Last week at work, my friend Inbal mentioned a recipe she’d seen for hamantaschen with apple filling, kind of like little cookie-sized apple pies. This sounded delicious to me, so I went in search of a recipe and found this one from Tori Avey. I adapted it slightly to use my own recipe for buttery hamantaschen dough, and Mike proclaimed these cookies the best hamantaschen I’ve ever made. While this filling isn’t like pie filling, it is absolutely delicious. Thank you, Inbal, for this great idea!

Ingredients

For the filling

  • 5 Granny Smith apples
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup dulce de leche

For the dough

Note: Depending on the size of your food processor, you’ll need to make two separate batches of dough because all of the ingredients won’t fit (especially in a standard, 7-cup food processor like mine). 

Preparation

To make the filling:

Peel and core apples, then shred them into fine shreds using a hand grater or your food processor fitted with a shredding blade.

In a medium saucepan, combine water and sugar. Bring to a boil, then add apple shreds and cook on medium heat for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture will thicken and start to look like thick applesauce and will clump together when you stir it.

Remove from heat and stir in dulce de leche. Allow the mixture to cool, then chill for at least 1 hour before using. I chilled mine for a few days because I didn’t get a chance to make the dough until last night.

To make the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thickness and cut into 3-inch circles using a cookie cutter or drinking glass.

Place circles on your cookie sheet, and using the tip of your finger, lightly brush the edge of each circle with water; this will help the dough stick when you form the triangle.

Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Fold the bottom up, then fold in the two sides to make the triangle, gently pressing the corners of the triangle to close them and leaving just a bit of filling exposed.

Bake for 15-17  minutes, until cookies are a light golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes about 48.

 

Buttery Hamantaschen Dough

Last night I tried a new recipe for hamantaschen dough, and it just didn’t work out. Fortunately I’d made a decent dough once before, and I realized that all it needed was a bit of orange juice to make it less crumbly and easier to handle. Since I’d already zested my orange, I just cut it in half, juiced it, and used the freshly squeezed juice in the dough as well.

The recipe below would make enough for about 24 cookies, cut with a 3-inch cookie cutter or drinking glass.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, cut into small pieces, softened
  • 2 egg yolks*
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups flour, plus a few more tablespoons for kneading
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • About 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice

*Not sure what to do with your leftover egg whites? Make almond clouds or cocoa meringues

Preparation

Combine butter, egg yolks, orange zest, flour, and salt in a food processor.

Pulse until dough comes together; it will be crumbly.

Add orange juice, about 1/2 tablespoon at a time, and pulse as best you can until the dough becomes smoother – at this point it will probably become difficult to pulse because it will have bunched up on one side of your food processor. That’s okay.

Scrape out the dough from your food processor bowl and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Knead very gently, adding a few more tablespoons of flour, just until the dough comes together and is no longer sticky.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes before using.

What to Do with Leftover Canned Pumpkin

I bake with pumpkin year-round, so canned pumpkin is a pantry staple. It’s rare for me to find a recipe that uses a whole 15-ounce can (let alone the 29-ounce cans I buy during the fall), so I’m always on the hunt for ways to use up the leftovers.

Canned pumpkin will last for about 5-7 days in the refrigerator once it’s opened, so I usually end up baking two pumpkin-themed recipes back-to-back. If you don’t need both recipes for yourself, you can always share with your colleagues or neighbors; it’s rare for me to encounter someone who doesn’t like pumpkin, but I guess you never know!

As I find more recipes, I’ll add them here, but this is a good place to start! Happy baking!

1/2 cup (4 ounces)

2/3 cup (5 1/3 ounces)

3/4 cup (6 ounces)

7.5 ounces (half a 15-ounce can)

1 cup (8 ounces)

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces)

15 ounces

 

What to Do with Leftover Filling

Sometimes, you’ll have leftover filling from cookies or cakes. What should you do with your filling? In some cases – like that of lemon curd or dulce de leche – you can just eat it with a spoon. But what if your filling needs to be baked, or would be better put to use in another treat? As a super-thrifty baker, I always advocate repurposing your filling so you don’t waste ingredients or money, and I found one very simple way to do so.

Yesterday I made a big batch of pecan rugelach and had about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pecan filling left over (I didn’t measure it exactly). I decided to bake it into what I call crescent cupcakes, which are based on the Easy King Cake Cupcakes I made for Mardi Gras and are very easy to assemble. You may need more tubes of crescent rolls depending on how much filling you have left, but you can always bake any unused rolls as you would normally and serve them with dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 regular-sized tube PillsburyTM crescent rolls
  • Leftover filling (I had about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 4 cupcake liners into a cupcake pan.

Unroll the tube of crescent rolls and divide the roll into four rectangles. Press the perforated edges together to seal.

Divide your filling evenly between all four rectangles, leaving a border around the edges.Fold the top of the rectangle down toward the middle, then fold the bottom of the rectangle toward the middle, letting the dough overlap. Fold the right side in toward the middle, then the left side.

Place rolls spiral-side up in cupcake wells and bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from cupcake tin and cool completely before glazing.

To make glaze, combine powdered sugar and cinnamon (or whatever spice you like) in a small bowl. Add water 1/4 teaspoon at a time to reach a thick glazing consistency; you don’t want the glaze to drip down the sides. Glaze each treat and allow glaze to set before serving, or serve warm if you prefer.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days; after that, they get stale.

Makes 4.

Gold Coin Cookies

Basic cookie dough recipes, like the one below, offer great flexibility. You can tint the dough whatever color you like, add other flavors of extracts, roll it into a log for slicing and baking or roll it out for cutting, and decorate the finished product however you like.

I honestly can’t remember where I got this original recipe, but it’s incredibly easy to make and bake and came in very handy for my St. Patrick’s Day-themed gold coin cookies, which are destined for my goddaughter Maureen and her family along with some other loot. Be sure to chill your dough for at least two hours so it’s easy to slice.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Wilton Golden Yellow food coloring
  • Gold or yellow sugar sprinkles, for rolling (I used both)

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until well-combined, scraping the sides of your bowl frequently.

Add flour in three batches, mixing well after each until a soft dough forms.

Add food coloring and tint to your desired shade.

Turn dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead it slightly to make sure all of the food coloring is well-distributed and the dough is smooth. Roll into a 12-inch log.

Place sugar sprinkles on a rimmed baking sheet and carefully transfer the log onto the sprinkles, rolling it back and forth to coat.

Wrap log in plastic wrap, slide it onto a baking sheet, and chill for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with foil or parchment.

Remove log from fridge and discard plastic wrap. Slice into 1/4 inch slices and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until tops are set. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Easy Dulce de Leche

For a very long time, I’ve wanted to make dulce de leche using sweetened condensed milk. If you’ve never had this amazing treat, think of a super-soft caramel-like substance that comes straight from the kitchens in heaven. Dulce de leche (say it out loud: dul-say de lay-chay) is an amazing confection found in South American cuisine, and in the United States, in treats like cheesecake and ice cream.

The “real” way of making this confection involves heating milk and sugar and slowly cooking it over the course of several hours. But if you don’t have, say, four to five hours to stand by the stove and stir your milk and sugar, you can go the easy route, as I did here. And yes, that’s a pig timer on my counter in the photo to the left. I bet he’d like this treat.

What You’ll Need

  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • Large soup or stock pot
  • Enough water to cover the can by at least 2 inches

What You’ll Do

Remove the label from the can of sweetened condensed milk.

Place the can on its side in the bottom of a large soup or stock pot and fill with lukewarm water.

Bring water to a boil, then turn down the heat and continue to simmer for 2-3 hours. VERY IMPORTANT: check your water level every 30 minutes and make sure it’s at least 2 inches above the can. If not, add boiling water to the pot and continue cooking. I simmered my dulce de leche for about 2 1/2 hours.

Remove the pot from the heat, and carefully remove the can from the water. Place on a wire rack to cool completely. BEWARE: do not try to open the can while it’s hot. The dulce de leche could explode out of the can, causing goodness knows what kind of injuries. Nobody wants to have to go to the emergency department because they couldn’t wait until their dulce de leche cooled completely, right?

Once the can is cool, pop it open and pour your dulce de leche into a container to store it in the fridge for about 1 month.