Blackberry Jam Sandwiches with Lemon Icing {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Challenge recipe was, indeed, a challenge for me. Although Kayte, the official baker for this recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section, reported great success with these cookies, mine didn’t work out so smoothly. I’m sure at least part of the problem was my attitude going into it. I’m not a fan of fussy cookies, and with the mixing, chilling, rolling, cutting, filling, and icing required, these definitely fall into the fussy category.

My problems began with the dough. It only has six ingredients — butter, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon extract, egg yolks, and flour — and I mixed it precisely according to the instructions. The dough came out OK, although it seemed a bit on the dry side. It had to be chilled for at least an hour or two before rolling, although the recipe notes that it can be refrigerated for up to three days.

My dough sat in the fridge for about two days until I was ready to roll it out. Kayte reported that the dough was easy to work with and rolled out without tearing or breaking. As soon as my dough hit the board, I knew I had a problem. My dough was dry and crumbly, and neither pressing it nor letting it rest at room temperature seemed to help. I managed to press out enough dough to cut nine cookies.

The cookies baked up nicely, and while they were in the oven, I melted and reduced the blackberry jam to use as filling for the finished cookies. By the time the cookies were cool enough to assemble, the filling had set and needed to be rewarmed. In reheating the jam, I overreduced it. It was liquid enough to spread on the cookies, and the assembly was easy enough. Unfortunately, when the filling cooled, it was gummy and slightly bitter from having been overcooked.

The final piece to these cookies was a simple lemon icing made of confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, and water. Easy enough to make, it is then drizzled over the top of the cookies. Because I ended up with fewer cookies than the recipe called for, I cut the icing down quite a bit. In doing so, it came out too thick to drizzle. After trying, and failing, to make nice streaks of icing on the cookies, I spread it on with the back of a spoon. It turned out to be a bit too much icing, although it did counter the gumminess of the jam a bit.

Overall, these were good cookies. And while I know what I did wrong with the jam filling and lemon icing, I’m still not sure what happened to the cookie dough. I’ll be making the chocolate sandwich cookies and raspberry linzer disks in the next few weeks, both of which employ a very similar dough and the same chilling-and-rolling method. It will be kind of like getting a do-over on the cookie dough and a chance for me to see if I can figure out what went wrong this time around.

Lemon Loaf Cake {TWD-BWJ}

This is the second April recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie. Unlike the pizza rustica, which involved mixing and rolling crust, making filling, and shaping a lattice topping, the lemon loaf cake was a quick batter that went from bowl to oven in about 5 minutes. In fact, the most complicated part of the whole thing was denuding the lemons.

The cake baked up beautifully and smelled fresh and lemony when it came out of the oven.

I served the lemon cake for dessert after a dinner of the pizza rustica. Both were big hits with my family.

Our hosts for this week were Truc of Treats and Michelle of The Beauty of Life. Visit their blogs for the recipe. And check out the TWD main page to see what everyone else thought of this recipe.

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs {Recipe}

I’m not sure where I first saw marbled tea eggs, but I’ve wanted to try them for some time. The opportunity finally presented itself just before Easter. I bought 3 dozen eggs for the kids to color (hey, they were on sale for $1.19/dozen). I boiled all the eggs, but the girls started to lose interest around the second dozen. And that’s when I decided to commandeer about a half dozen eggs and try making tea eggs.

As dramatic and, yes, delicious as these eggs are, they are really easy to make. Having already hard-boiled the eggs, it was just a matter of cracking the shells and then simmering the eggs in a spice-tea mixture for a few hours.

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 bags strong, clean-flavored black tea
  • 1/2 cup ponzu sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Directions

  1. Place eggs in medium saucepan and cover with cold water by about 2 inches. Bring the water to a full boil, then turn off burner. Cover the pan and let sit for 7 minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan, but don’t dump the water. Allow eggs to cool.
  2. When eggs are cool enough to handle, crack the shells without removing, using the back of a spoon or flat edge of a table knife. Try to get as many small cracks as possible.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the water in the saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Return eggs to the pan and add water to cover eggs by at least 2 inches.
  4. Bring water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer eggs for 2-3 hours. The longer they cook, the darker the marbling and stronger the flavor. Add water as needed during cooking to keep eggs fully submerged.
  5. Refrigerate unpeeled eggs in cooking liquid in glass or ceramic container.

Note: If you don’t have ponzu available to you, substitute an equal amount of soy sauce and the zest of 1 lime.

These eggs are as delicious as they are visually stunning. The ponzu and spices give them a great citrusy, spicy, slightly salty flavor. And the tea lends to both the color and taste.

You can serve these eggs warm, cold, or at room temperature; plain, with a little salt, ponzu, or soy sauce; by themselves or cut up and served on rice or noodles. You could even make deviled eggs with them, or slice them in half and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and caviar. The possibilities are almost endless. But, to tell the truth, my favorite way to eat them is with the barest sprinkle of salt.

Now that I’ve finally tried tea eggs, I want to make them again with different spices. Maybe next time I’ll leave out the star anise and add some whole cloves and allspice. Or perhaps Chinese 5-spice powder. One thing’s for sure: I’m not waiting until next Easter to make more of these beauties.

Tart Lime Wafers {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge is a great make-ahead cookie. The dough is formed into rolls, which can be refrigerated or frozen until you are ready to slice and bake them. Kind of like the cookie dough you see in tubes in the dairy case, but without all the nasty preservatives.

The dough is mixed up in the food processor, and I could tell by reading the ingredient list that it was going to be a lot. I’m pretty sure Nick Malgieri must have a 14-cup food processor, because several of his recipes have filled by 11-cupper to the brim. I thought about cutting the recipe in half, but I really wanted that extra roll of dough to freeze, so I went with the full recipe.

I started by mixing flour, sugar, salt, and lots of lime zest in the food pro, then adding 3 sticks(!) of butter.

Next I added eggs, then mixed until the dough formed into a ball.

I had to stop and scrape the dough down into the bowl a few times, but eventually it came together.

I scraped the dough out onto a floured pastry mat, divided it in half, then shaped each piece into an 8-inch cylinder.

The next step is to roll the cylinders in lime sugar, which I made using lime zest and King Arthur Flour sparkling white sugar.

I spread the lime sugar out on the pasty mat and rolled each log until it was well coated.

I had a lot of lime sugar left over, so I packed it up and stashed it in the freezer. I’m not sure what I’ll use it for, but coating the rim of a mojito glass comes to mind.

Nick gives great instructions for tightening up the dough cylinders using parchment paper and a dough scraper. Mine went from the loose logs you see above to this:

I wrapped the cylinders in plastic wrap and stuck one in the fridge to bake the next day and the other in the freezer for later use.

To bake the cookies, I sliced the dough into thin disks and placed them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I baked the cookies at 350°F for about 15 minutes, until they were slightly puffed and just starting to brown around the edges.

These cookies were a huge hit around my house. Sweet, tart, buttery, crispy — they reminded me a lot of a shortbread cookie. And they were perfect for dunking in tea or coffee.

This is definitely a recipe to repeat. And it makes a generous amount of dough, so you can bake one roll and freeze the other for later. Re-roll the dough in the leftover sugar, slice, and bake, and you can have these fresh, delicious cookies anytime.

Cornmeal & Pine Nut Biscotti {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for Modern Baker Mondays is another biscotti. Like its predecessor, spicy hazelnut biscotti, this is a classic, crunchy, twice-baked biscotti. Although I’ve never had biscotti with pine nuts, what really surprised me about these cookies was the addition of cornmeal.

The dough mixed up quickly in the food processor. It came out powdery, much like the hazelnut biscotti dough. And like that dough, it came together on the dough board with a little mixing. Even though I had to press the dough firmly but gently to get it to stay together, I knew once it hit the oven, the butter would melt and pull the dough together.

After I put the logs of dough in the oven, I looked at the recipe again and realized I hadn’t added the correct amount of pine nuts. The recipe called for 3/4 cup pine nuts, but I only added 1/4 cup. I thought it seemed a bit light on the pine nuts while I was adding them, but by the time I figured it out, it was too late to fix it.

I baked the dough logs, then cooled them while I mixed up tart lime wafer dough for later in the week. After the logs had cooled, I sliced them into biscotti, then put them back in the oven to crisp.

I was a bit worried that these cookies might have an overly strong cornmeal flavor, but they were really good. As Nick says in the notes, the sweet corn flavor is enhanced  by the lemon zest and vanilla in the recipe. And even though they were light on the pine nuts, they still had a nice, nutty flavor, too.

This recipe is part of the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. Check out the challenge page to see what other bakers thought of this and other recipes in the cookies section.

Pizza Rustica {TWD-BWJ}

This is my second forray into Tuesdays with Dorie, and I’m happy to report that I liked this recipe a lot better than the Irish soda bread I made a few weeks ago. This recipe is from Nick Malgieri, and it reminded me of a savory version of his Neapolitan Easter pie.

I should say up front that I’m sure there’s some historical reason for the name, but it really isn’t anything like a pizza. It’s more of a savory cheese pie, akin to a quiche, but not as custardy.

The crust is simple to whip up in the food processor. The surprise here is that, although this is a savory pie, the crust is quite sweet. I found my dough a bit on the dry side, so I wet my hands and kneaded a bit of water into the dough before rolling it out. It worked beautifully.

The filling also came together quickly. It consisted of ricotta cheese, eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, sweet Lebanon bologna (my substitution for prosciutto), mozzarella cheese, and spices. I began by stirring the ricotta to soften, then mixed in the remaining ingredients one at a time. I spooned the filling into the crust and smoothed the top.

I rolled out the remaining dough and cut it into strips with a  ruffle-edge pastry wheel, then made a criss-cross lattice pattern on top of the pie.

I baked the pie for about 40 minutes at 350°F, until the crust was golden brown and the filling set. The recipe says to cool the pie completely before eating. I let mine cool for about 20 minutes, but we were hungry and decided to eat it while it was still warm.

It seemed like it needed something light and refreshing to go with it. I wanted to make a frisee salad, but I didn’t have any greens in the fridge. I’m not sure what made me think of it, but I decided to toss together a quick carrot salad to eat with the pie. It turned out to be the perfect accompaniment.

The pie was rich, sweet, savory, and salty all at the same time. I’m not sure how it would be with prosciutto, but the sweetness of the crust paired beautifully with the salty-sweet of the Lebanon bologna. And the carrot salad provided just the right coolness and acid to balance out the dish. We all agreed that this is a dish we would gladly eat again.

This post is part of Tuesdays with Dorie. Check out the group website to see what everyone else thought of this dish. Our hosts for this recipe were Emily and Raelynn. Surf on over to their blogs for the pizza rustica recipe.

Next up: Lemon Loaf Cake. You’ll have to check back in a few weeks to see what I thought of it, but here’s a preview:

Dinner and dessert

 

Pine Nut Macaroons {ModBak}

The next recipe I made for the Modern Baker Challenge combined something I love (pine nuts) with something I’m not so crazy about (macaroons). In my book, macaroons rank right up there with meringues. They have the same lighter-than-air quality that makes me wonder why I bother with them. And like meringues, they don’t keep well, so you have to plan on eating them the day you make them.

Given my lack of enthusiasm and the must-eat nature of these cookies, I decided to make a half batch. I didn’t have any almond paste, so the first order of business was to mix up a batch of homemade almond paste. I measured out 4 ounces of the almond paste, mixed it with granulated and confectioner’s sugars, and beat them together in the stand mixer while I gathered the rest of my ingredients. I added vanilla and an egg white to the dough and stirred it just until everything was mixed together.

I spooned the dough into a pastry bag and began piping the cookies onto the baking sheet. I could tell right away that the dough (which was more like a batter) was too loose, probably due to the egg white. I buy my eggs from a local farm, and they aren’t sized or graded. The recipe calls for large eggs, but mine were probably closer to jumbo. The dough/batter started to spread on the cookie sheet, so I piped the macaroons as far apart as I could.

The final step before baking is to flatten and moisten the cookies (unnecessary in my case), then to sprinkle them with pine nuts. I pressed the pine nuts into the dough a bit, then baked the cookies in a 375°F oven. The recipe said to bake them for about 20 minutes, but mine were starting to smell quite done by 15 minutes, so I took them out.

They weren’t pretty (hence the reason I didn’t take any pictures). They baked together into one big, flat, brittle-like mass. But they smelled good; and they had that macaroon shine to them.

I let them cool on a rack, then broke off and sampled a piece. And another. And another. Then the girls appeared and started breaking off pieces, too. And before long most of the pan was gone. They had a great nutty flavor from both the almond paste and pine nuts. And the shattering crispness of the macaroons was balanced by the slight bite of the pine nuts.

So even though these weren’t a rousing success, I’d like to try them again to see if I can achieve results closer to what Sara accomplished when she made them. Based on flavor alone, they are worth a second go-round.