Almond Meringues

Last night I had three leftover egg whites, but not the energy to make macarons. So I made meringues instead, and now I wish I’d just gone ahead and made macarons because, truth be told…I’m not that big a fan of meringues.

Yes, yes, I totally need meringue practice. It’s good to work with things that aren’t as familiar, and I admit that the combination of egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, flavoring, and sugar that becomes an ethereal cloud of meringue-ness is something with which I need much more experience. But flavor and texture-wise, they’re not something I’d necessarily choose if there were other treats nearby.

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • dash of salt
  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites, almond extract, cream of tartar, and salt on low, then medium speed, until foamy. Slowly add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping on medium-high speed between each addition. Continue adding the sugar slowly and whipping until meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks; this can take about 7-10 minutes.

Fit a large piping bag with a star tip and carefully spoon meringue into the bag; you don’t want to knock all the air out of it. Pipe meringue onto parchment in 2-inch blobs, leaving about 1 to 1 1/2 inches between each cookie. They won’t spread, but you want enough room for the heat and air to circulate around them.

Bake meringues for 40-45 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave them inside for another hour. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets; store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 30 cookies.

 

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Clover Bites

Once again, shortbread comes through as a versatile treat. One of the things I like most about my shortbread recipe, which is based on one from King Arthur Flour, is that it’s delicious on its own but also so easy to dress up. Add extract of nearly any flavor, toss in some citrus extract, tint your dough a fun color, add sprinkles, drizzle it with chocolate; no matter what you do, you really can’t go wrong.

These clover bites – flavored with almond, tinted green, and sprinkled with green sugar – are on their way to Maryland for my favorite little leprechauns as part of their (slightly belated) St. Patrick’s Day package. Shortbread ships very well because it’s fairy sturdy, but I strongly recommend padding your container with some waxed paper, or even bubble wrap, to prevent breakage.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) flour
  • Green gel food coloring
  • Green sugar sprinkles

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and almond extract. Add flour and beat to combine completely, then add enough food coloring to reach your desired shade of green. 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.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls, placing about 2 inches apart on your baking sheets. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand and sprinkle with green sugar.

Bake for 25-27 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and cool for about 3 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 16 cookies.

Mochaccino Bars

People sometimes ask me whether I still bake with things I can’t eat because of migraine life, like chocolate or coffee. Of course I do! I wouldn’t want to deprive others of these amazing flavors just because I avoid them.

These mochaccino bars are adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe, and they’re very easy to make. You could leave them plain, without the chocolate, for simpler cappuccino bars, or drizzle them with a melted chocolate icing if you prefer.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan or spray with baking spray.

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

Measure out heavy cream into a glass measuring cup and stir in espresso powder; set aside.

In your mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until light-colored and thick. Add the sugar and beat until glossy and thickened; this takes about 4-5 minutes. Add the vanilla and melted butter and beat to combine. Stir in the flour and salt.

Set aside 1 1/2 cups of batter; pour espresso cream into remaining batter and beat to combine. Pour espresso batter into the baking pan, then top with spoonfuls of plain batter. Use a knife to marble the batter.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges pull away from the pan slightly and the center is set. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips; let them melt slightly for a few minutes, then spread with an offset spatula to cover the top of the bars completely. Note: if you just sprinkle the top of the bars with the chips, they don’t melt completely and once they harden again, they’ll fall off when the bars are cut.

Allow bars to cool completely; cut into squares. Store, covered, at room temperature.

Makes 24 bars.

Orange Cupcakes

Mike turned 42 this past Sunday. Each year I ask him what he’d like me to bake, and his answer is usually chocolate chip cookies. Then I force him to choose something different, and this year, he picked orange cupcakes. Not just any orange cupcakes, though – an homage to the Hostess cupcakes of our childhood, complete with a squiggle of white frosting across the top.

There are several copycat Hostess orange cupcake recipes out there, and this is a hybrid of several, plus my own take on the filling and frosting. I used buttercream frosting, rather than the fondant-like topping available on the store-bought version, and I’m glad I did. The cupcakes turned out a bit dry, and they needed the extra moisture from the filling and frosting. They tasted amazing, but next time I think I’ll use a cupcake recipe that’s oil-based, rather than butter-based, for a softer texture. You’ll have filling and frosting left over, which you can store at room temperature in airtight containers for 2-3 days for another use.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 1/2 medium oranges
  • juice from 1 medium orange
  • 2 tablespoons milk

For the filling

  • 4 teaspoons butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons milk
  • yellow and red food coloring, for tinting

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with paper liners.

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

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium for 1 minute. Add sugar and orange zest, beating until fluffy. Add egg and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Add flour mixture and orange juice and milk in three alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling about 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely before filling and frosting.

To make the filling, beat butter and shortening together until combined. Add powdered sugar in small batches, beating until combined.  Once all sugar is incorporated, beat on medium speed for two minutes. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat to combine; you may want to add more vanilla to taste, depending on your preference.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, then add powdered sugar all at once. Beat on low, then medium speed, until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add orange extract, vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of milk, beating for about 1-2 minutes to combine. Add additional milk to reach a smooth consistency that will be easy to pipe and spread. Reserve about 1/4 cup frosting for white squiggle; tint the remaining frosting a yellow-orange. I used golden yellow gel food coloring with one drop of liquid red to get my desired shade.

To assemble, use a sharp knife (a melon baller did not work well for these cupcakes, I have to say) to core each cupcake. Place filling in a piping bag and generously fill each hole.

Place orange frosting in a large piping bag fitted with a large plain tip and generously pipe a blob on the top of each cupcake, then flatten it out with an offset spatula.

Place white frosting in a small piping bag with pipe the squiggle on the top of each cupcake.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 12 cupcakes.

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.

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.