Category Archives: Biscuits

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I have been away for long yet again.  This time I do not wish to offer any excuses. It’s sheer LAZINESS. Well if I may say, the weather is also partly to be blamed for my hibernation. I am so frustrated – it is supposed to be Spring but the weather here has been absolutely unforgiving. The snowstorm that concluded yesterday dumped about 8 inches of snow. Can’t wait for sunshine! Anyways, the weekend weather is finally expected to be in 70’s and that is good enough motivation for me to get started with baking.

For this month’s “We need to Bake” Aparna choose a beautiful yeasted cookie – called the Torcettini di Saint Vincent (Sugar crusted Twisted Cookies from the Valle d’Aosta ). This recipe is originally adapted from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri.

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Torcettini are smaller versions of Torcetti (meaning small twists), and these pear/ teardrop shaped twists are made of a dough of flour, yeast and butter which are shaped and then rolled in sugar before being baked.  These cookies are not too sweet as there is no sugar directly added in the dough. I like recipes which do not use too much of sugar, eggs and butter. This one is just a perfect one with minimal ingredients. 

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They tasted similar to Palmiers. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside,these cookies are truly addictive. No one can have just one:).

Torcettini (Torcettini di Saint Vincent (Sugar Crusted Twisted Cookies)

51

Yield: 24 - 30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water, about 110F
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (or 1 tsp instant yeast)
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon lime/ lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • about 1/3 cup sugar for rolling the cookies

Instructions

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, in a small bowl and keep aside.

Put the flour and the salt in the food processor bowl (or a largish regular bowl if kneading by hand) and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the butter is well mixed and the flour-butter mixture looks powdery.

If making chocolate Torcetti, remove 2 tbsp all-purpose flour and add the 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder mentioned in the recipe. Don’t add the lemon zest/ anise. Use orange zest and maybe add 1/ 2 tsp instant coffee powder with the flour.

Add the yeast-water mixture and pulse till it all comes together as a ball. Do not over process or knead. Place the ball of dough in a oiled bowl, turning it so it is well coated with the oil. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise quite a bit.

This dough does not really double in volume, but it should look “puffy” after about an hour or so. When you pinch off a bit from the top you can see the interior looking a bit like honeycomb. Press down the dough and deflate it, wrap it in cling warp and refrigerate it for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.

When ready to make the cookies, take the dough out and lightly roll it out into an approximately 6” square. If the dough feels sticky, scatter a little sugar on it. Using a pizza wheel cut the dough into four strips of equal width. Cut each strip into 6 equal pieces, by cutting across, making a total of 24 pieces. The measurements are not very critical in this part because this just makes it easier to have 24 equal sized bits of dough, as compared to pinching of bits of the dough.

Roll each piece into a pencil thick “rope” about 5” long. Sprinkle a little sugar on your work surface and roll the “rope” in it so the sugar crusts the dough uniformly. Form the “rope” into a loop crossing it over before the ends.

Place the Torcettini on parchment lined baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2" between them. Leave them for about 20 minutes or so till they rise/ puff up slightly. Don’t worry, they will not “puff up” much.

Bake them at 325 F for about 25 minutes till they’re a nice golden brown. Cool the cookies completely, on a rack. Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature.

http://www.thefoodielovers.com/2013/04/torcettini-di-saint-vincent-sugar-crusted-twisted-cookies/

Thanks Aparna for yet another interesting recipe. I loved it!

Bon Appétit

Nina

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Olive SB 3 main
January is usually a month of New Year resolutions and staying healthy is one of the most common one. Gyms record the highest number of new memberships. True to the spirit of this season I have made an attempt(yet another!)to be health conscious. Apart from completely switching to olive oil, I have tried to minimize the use of butter/shortening in anything I bake. But there is no way you can completely do without it, can we? Can you even imagine Croissant/Puff Pastry without butter?

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Shortbread is one such recipe which uses up a lot of BUTTER. A while back I baked the – TRADITIONAL SHORTBREAD with three main ingredients – Butter, flour and sugar. I came across the non buttery one in the book “Olive Oil Desserts by Micki Sannar” and decided to bake it immediately.

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To cut down little more calories I replaced ½ cup of all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour and didn’t use up ½ cup granulated sugar required to roll the baked shortbreads. I really didn’t miss anything in this new version. It was crumbly,soft and very addictive. If you really love shortbreads and are looking for a healthier option, this is a perfect recipe. Its truly a guilt free indulgence:)

OLIVE OIL SHORT BREAD

Ingredients:

3/4 cup pure olive oil
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar(powdered Sugar)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon butter extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder

Direction:

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat a 9×9 inch pan with olive oil cooking spray. In mixer bowl, combine all ingredients and blend on medium high speed until dough is smooth. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. SLice into rectangular shapes and score with a fork before baking. Bake for 35-40 minutes( mine took about 32 minutes). When cool and while in pan, slice again and roll in granulated sugar if you like.

After baking,you may choose to roll them over granulated sugar. I felt it wasn’t necessary.

Bon Appétit

Nina

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I must confess that if it was not for Daring Baker’s Challenge I wouldn’t have “dared” to bake so many things. Even in my wildest of dreams I wouldn’t have thought about making-Armenian Nazook,Batternberg Cake,Dutch Crunch Bread,Povitica….and so on. DBC is such a wonderful platform to give folks an opportunity to pursue and hone their baking skills! What makes this even special is the exposure it gives to baking delicacies of different countries and ethnicities.

It is entirely my privilege to be a part of this forum. This month’s challenge reminded me of the Nanaimo Bars that we baked few years back on DBC. Very soon it going to be four years with Daring Baker’s and I have loved every bit of this exciting and enriching journey. Lets go ahead with yet another fascinating challenge – A traditional Dutch Pastry called GEVULDE SPECULAAS ( Stuffed Speculaas).

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Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

To start with we had to make the speculaas spice;the almond paste and then the speculaas dough.The entire recipe can be made in one day but to enjoy the full flavor it was recommended to refrigerate the almond paste and dough for a few days before assembling it.

Francijn mentioned about the history of Netherlands and spices – Until 1800 cloves, mace and nutmeg are exclusively found on the Maluku Islands, in the East Indian Archipelago. That’s why these islands are called “the spice islands”. To make one’s fortune in Europe through the spice trade, one needed a monopoly on the European trade. Since 1500 the Portuguese owned that monopoly.
The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, too, wanted to get rich from the spice trade, and established the Dutch East India Company around 1600, to join forces. Since 1660 the monopoly on spice trade was firmly in Dutch hands. In the Dutch Golden Age, roughly the 17th century, the republic got rich through this trade, and flourished like never before, economically, artistically and scientifically. In many Dutch cities the heritage of this century is still visible. Sadly, this wealth must be considered in the light of war and repression. The Dutch used much violence and oppressed people to establish and defend their monopoly.

Only after World War II Dutch India became independent from the Netherlands. Until that moment the trade of spices, coffee, rubber, tobacco, opium, sugar, indigo and tea from Dutch India contributed significantly to the Dutch economy.
In light of this historical involvement of the Netherlands in the spice trade, the contents of my kitchen cupboard are not surprising. Anise seeds, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, lemon grass, mace, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, curry powder, cumin, coriander seeds, cloves, galangal, mustard seed, nutmeg, paprika, allspice, saffron, vanilla, fennel, white pepper, black pepper. And that’s without the long list of herbs.

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SPECULAAS SPICES

When spices had become commonly available in the 17th century, bakers’ guilds began to make their secret spice mixtures. A mixture that gloriously survived the ages is “speculaaskruiden” (speculaas spices). Speculaaskruiden contain at least cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger, and these spices to taste: pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and nutmeg.The smell of speculaaskruiden is overwhelming, especially when you take the trouble to mix them yourself. The deliciously warm and woody aroma is a perfect fit for the chilly Dutch winter months.
From the golden age onward, this spice mixture was used to bake a crisp, buttery biscuit: speculaas. For centuries it remained a luxury item, baked only in the holiday season, and often given as a present. Sometimes bakers made the dough three months in advance so that the flavor would permeate the dough.Ever since the 15th century, the 6th of December has been celebrated as the nameday of St. Nicholas, combined with an exchange of gifts on the evening before. But in the age of the Dutch East India Company St. Nicholas became associated with speculaas. And that is not so strange, as St. Nicholas was the patron saint of sailors as well as many bakers’ guilds.

In the course of time many recipes using speculaas spices have been created. Speculaasjes (“speculaas cookies / windmill cookies”) which are shaped using a wooden mold, speculaasbrokken (“speculaas chunks”), kruidnoten (“spiced nuts / miniature spiced cookies”), gevulde speculaas (“speculaas stuffed with almond paste”). And that is not the end of it: speculaas spices can be used in custards, cakes, muffins, bread toppings, cheesecake crusts and so on.
Recipe Speculaas SpicesSpeculaas spices can be bought in a store. But it’s more fun to make your own mixture, so that you can adjust the flavor. Here is a representative recipe from the extensive Dutch tradition.

Mandatory:
cinnamon 40 to 60 % of the total amount
ground cloves 1 or 2 parts
mace ½ or 1 part
ginger ½ or 1 part
Optional:
white pepper ½ or 1 part
cardamom ½ or 1 part
coriander ½ or 1 part
anise ½ or 1 part
nutmeg 1 or 2 parts
A convenient way to mix the spices is as below:

GEVULDE SPECULAAS – TRADITIONAL DUTCH PASTRY

SPECULAS SPICE
Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1 teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.
Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½ or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.This method yields at least 4 and at most 18 teaspoons of spices, so if you plan to mix just a few spices, use bigger or more spoons to get a reasonable amount.

Take your time to smell the ingredients individually before you decide how much to add. And remember the proportions,that will make adjustments easier next time. Store the spices airtight, dry and dark, they will not spoil for a long time.

ALMOND PASTE
Ingredients:

1-1/3 cups ground almonds
5/8 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Add Almonds and sugar, grind for one or two minutes. Add the egg and let the food processor combine it. You’ll end up with a sticky mass of almonds paste. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the paste unbaked.

SPECULAAS DOUGH

Ingredients:
1¾ cups all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons speculaas spices
3/4 cup unsalted butter

Directions:Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.Cut the butter in dices and add.Knead until smooth.Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.You can choose to make the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste, that will benefit the flavor. Freezing is no problem.

ASSEMBLING

Ingredients:
speculaas dough
almond paste
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg
shallow baking pan, 8×10 inch (20×26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)

Directions:
Grease the pan. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F. Divide the dough into two portions.Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.) Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough. Decorate the pastry with the almonds. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.

While mixing the spices – I smelt each and every one of them. I could feel it’s wonderful aroma fill up the entire house while baking. The nutty almond filling sandwiched between two layers of crunchy Speculaas dough was yum. The sweet level was perfect, just like the way I like – not too sweet.

While I was planning to decorate the pastry with almonds,I came across Hannah’s comment in the DBC forum. She had decorated her pastry so beautifully and I was totally inspired by her creativity. I decorated mine in a similar way!

Thanks Francijn for such a lovely challenge!

Bon Apetite!

Nina

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The other name for Procastination is “me”…lol all I wanted was a Summer break….soon it became a fall break and now I had to push myself hard to get back to blogging before a longggg winter break.Our Summer was well spent,enjoyed every bit of it. Wish it lasted for long, its freaky 18F|-8C now. I am not someone who enjoys winter, hate it when it gets dark by 4:30pm,so much to pay attention to clothing – cant step out without layers n layers of clothes – sweaters/cardigans,winter jackets…and lets not forget ear protectors,caps,gloves etc. And how can I forget the main thing…FLU! My little one is down with cold and cough and she passed it on to both of us. Oh my!

Anyways let me stop cribbing and get back to this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge. Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

As a family, we enjoy eating cookies. I make both the sweet and the savory ones, though the later is more preferred. We were asked to choose one of the twelve recipes suggested by Peta.I decided to make the Piped Shortbread Cookies and my Savory Spiced Shortbread Cookies .

The Piped Shortbread Cookies were very easy to make. We loved its texture…it was a perfect melt in the mouth cookies titillating every taste bud and thus making it all the more irresistible. I couldn’t get the perfect rings like the one that Peta made, but nevertheless the taste is all that mattered. The Savory Shortbread Cookies are something that I’ve been making for a while now. I got the original idea from this blog but have worked on it as per my liking. Again,these cookies are easy to make and taste great with different kinds of herbs and spices.

PIPED SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/8 cup cornflour
a teaspoon vanilla extract
nuts,chocolate chips or maraschino cherries for topping

Directions: Preheat the oven to moderate 300°F.Combine butter, flours, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Mix on low speed until combined and then change to the whisk beater.Beat for 10 minutes.Pipe into rings.Decorate with maraschino cherry pieces to look like little wreaths or leave plain.I used a spoonful of Holiday Fruit mix for topping.Bake in preheated moderate oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.Cool completely and drizzle with melted chocolate or icing (frosting) if you want to.

To pipe shortbread beat for 10 minutes NO MORE – if you overbeat the mixture it won’t hold when it cooks.
A cool oven is important. If your oven is too hot the butter and sugar boils and you end up with lacy cookies that fall apart as soon as you try to do anything with them.Between piping put the bowl and the piping bag away from your oven so it doesn’t get hot but don’t put it in the refrigerator because it gets too cold and you can’t pipe it.

SAVORY SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Ingredients:

4 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
3-4 tablespoon yogurt
3-4 thai green/red chillies minced
1-2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
4-5 mint leaves finely chopped
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon carom seeds
¼ teaspoon sesame seeds
Salt as per taste

Directions : Preheat oven at 325F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar. When it is creamy, add rest of the ingredients except the yogurt. On low speed, mix all the ingredients. Add the yogurt one tablespoon at a time. At first it will be crumbly(shudn’t be wet) and then when they start coming together, using hands gently knead for a few seconds. Roll the dough into 1/4″ thickness(use flour if needed). Using a cookie cutter make small circles and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, rotating once halfway. Increase the baking time if you prefer extra crispy cookies. Since it doesn’t contain much sugar the top will not brown, but be careful to watch as the bottom will brown soon. They will firm up well once they cool.

Thanks Peta for the lovely challenge.

Bon Apetit!

Nina

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