Nut Wedges

Cookies, Recipes

Last weekend I realized that it was only just about four more weeks until Christmas! It is not even really December yet and does not feel like pre-Christmas-time at all! Never mind. Pre-Christmas time means baking, so off to the kitchen I headed.

Each year I start my Christmas-baking with Nut Wedges. This has become something of a tradition. Nut Wedges are ideal, as with one baking session I will get a big tin of cookies. This immediately gives me the feeling of having achieved something, and also of having a bit of a stock of cookies. Nut Wedges are also my son´s favorites – another reason to start my baking with them!

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The list of cookies I want to bake this year is a long one! “Linzer Augen“, „Linzer Stangen“, Vanilla Crescents, Heart-Shaped Cookies with Rose Hip Jam, Star-Shaped Cinnamon Cookies, Caramelized Nuts in Chocolate, Coconut Wedges, Nut Cookies with Marzipan, and more… Let´s see how far I´ll get!

The recipe for these Nut Wedges is ancient – it is from a TV magazine from the late 80s or early 90s, I do not really remember. Nut Wedges were among the first Christmas cookies I ever made. As back then I was just getting started with baking, I found the recipe challenging, especially as there was a mistake with the measurements. Meanwhile I know how to make these cookies fast and without problems, and I have corrected the measurement-mistake long ago.

I always bake Nut Wedges according to this recipe, as I know it will work!

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Ingredients:

Short pastry / Dough:
2 cups (250 g) flour or whole wheat flour
⅓ cup (70 g) brown sugar
1 stick (125 g) butter
1 egg
1 pinch of salt
½ jar of apricot jam (or another jam you like, e.g. strawberry)

Topping:
3 cups (300 g) ground hazelnuts
1 stick (125 g) butter
½ cup (100 g) brown sugar
3 tbsp. water

Chocolate glazing:
8.8 oz. (250 g) dark chocolate, lactose-free
⅓-½ cup (80 g-100 g) butter

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Preparation:
Short pastry / dough:

Cover a baking sheet with baking paper.

Preheat the oven to 400 ° F (200° C).

Put flour, sugar and salt onto the work surface. Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Add egg and butter to the flour mixture. With your hands, quickly knead to a dough. If possible, let the dough rest in the fridge/a cool place for half an hour.

Alternatively use a kitchen machine:
Knead the ingredients with a dough hook until you get a firm dough. I mostly use this method when making short pastry. It is fast and works well. It also keeps my hands clean!

Roll the dough into a rectangle of about 8×12 inches (20×30 cm). You can do so either directly on the baking sheet (covered with baking paper), or on a sheet of baking paper which you then transfer to the baking sheet together with the dough. Put a baking frame around the dough so you can spread the topping right to the edge.

Evenly spread the apricot jam on the dough.

For the topping, cut the butter into small pieces. Put butter, sugar and water into a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the oven and stir in the ground hazelnuts. Allow the mixture to cool.

Evenly spoon the hazelnut mixture over the jam. Spread with a knife or a pastry spatula and press down a little (using your hands helps!).

Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Cut into small triangles while still warm. You do not have to separate the triangles yet.

Let the triangles cool on the sheet.

For the chocolate glazing, cut (or break) chocolate and butter into small pieces. Put chocolate and butter in a small pot and melt in a double boiler, or at low heat on the oven. Stir well. If the glazing is runny, add more chocolate. If it is not runny enough, add more butter.

Dip the Nut Wedges into the chocolate glazing and let them cool on a cooling rack.

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Keep in an airtight cookie tin.

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(Frustratingly crumbly) Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting

Nice try, Recipes

Life was so busy lately that I simply did not get around to writing for this blog. Work, work, work, helping the kids with their studies, housekeeping, and all the rest. No time for writing.

At the weekend I decided to bake, despite all the work I had to do. I thought it would give me the feeling that there was still something like a “normal” life left. I tried hard to make a pretty and tasty cake, but it did not really work out. It is certainly better to do your baking when you have enough time for it and do not have to do all kinds of additional activities besides!

The recipe I chose was also not ideal, considering that the weekend was quite full already. I wanted to bake this Carrot Cake, which has already gone wrong once. When I baked it in a loaf pan as the recipe said, it looked like this:

 Karotten Walnusskuchen Versuch 1

The cake kept bothering me. The taste was excellent. Dark, moist, not too sweet, with an intense aroma of walnuts and cinnamon and a hint of lemon. I could not understand why it had not risen. That is why I decided to try it again.

This time I baked the Carrot Cake in a round baking pan. I was hoping that this way the batter would rise better than in the loaf pan. I was planning to fill and frost the cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, and to decorate it with caramelized walnuts.

Unfortunately, this second attempt did not work out as I had planned. The cake was baked right through, but it was so moist and crumbly that I had a hard time cutting it into two layers. I ended up turning the cake upside down onto a plate with the bottom of the pan still attached to the cake, then cutting it horizontally in two layers. Next I took the bottom of the pan off, together with the top layer. This worked.

After filling the cake with the frosting, I put the cake together again. I could not match bottom and top layer exactly because the top layer would have fallen apart. The cake therefore looked quite lopsided. It was also so crumbly that I could not spread the frosting onto it without mixing lots of crumbs into the frosting.

Karottenkuchen Walnüsse 1

I also expected the caramelized nuts to be different, but was positively surprised by them.

Karottenkuchen Walnüsse 3

Initially I did not want to present this cake in my blog, but then I thought, why not? It might not look perfect, but the taste was good. I will certainly make it again, if only to find out how to make it turn out exactly the way I want it to be!

Ingredients:

Batter:
4 eggs
1 ¼ cup (225 g) brown sugar
10.7 oz (300 g) carrots, peeled and grated
2 ½ cups (250 g) ground walnuts
½ + ⅓ cups (120 g) chopped walnuts
Grated lemon peel of 1 organic lemon
juice from ½ lemon
½ cup (60 g) flour

2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 pinches salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:
14.3 oz. (400 g) cream cheese, lactose-free
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 ⅔ cups (160 g) powdered sugar, sieved

Caramelized walnuts:
12 halved walnuts
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. whipping cream

Grease a round baking pan and dust with flour.

Preheat the oven to 355° F (180° C).

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar with a kitchen machine or a hand mixer at maximum speed for at least 5 minutes until fluffy.

Fold in the grated carrots, then the ground and the chopped walnuts, the lemon juice and the lemon peel.

Gently fold in the flour mixture.

Pour the dough into the baking pan and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 270° F (130° C). Keep the door of the oven open a bit with a wooden spoon. Bake the cake for about 55 minutes, until it is browned. It will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center came out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
With the hand mixer, beat cream cheese, lemon juice and powdered sugar at medium speed.

Caramelized walnuts:
In a small pan, melt sugar and butter until the sugar has turned golden brown. Stir occasionally. Add the whipping cream. Be careful – the mixture might bubble up and splatter! Stir until all the lumps have dissolved and the caramel is smooth.

Add the twelve walnut halves to the caramel and stir until they are covered with caramel. Take the nuts out and individually place them onto a piece of tin foil. Pour or spoon the remaining caramel over them. Let the nuts cool down completely.

Finishing:
Horizontally cut the cake into two layers and fill with about one third of the Cream Cheese Frosting. Put the cake together and spread with the remaining frosting. Decorate with the caramelized walnuts.

For a quicker version, skip the frosting and the caramelized walnuts. Simply sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar instead and enjoy!

Adapted from:

Trish Deseine (2010), I Love Cake, München: AT Verlag.

Gingerbread with Jam and Marzipan Filling

Off Limits, Recipes

In Austria, in the time before Christmas you will sometimes find Filled Gingerbread in certain bakeries. Filled Gingerbread is usually rather about 2 ½ to 4 inches big and at least an inch thick. Depending on the bakery, there are lots of variations. They might be filled with nougat, marzipan, nuts or jam, glazed with chocolate or sugar frosting, and decorated with nuts or candied fruit.

I love Filled Gingerbread. It is really good, and very rich. Whenever we buy some, we usually cut it into small pieces and have it for dessert.

About two weeks ago I saw Filled Gingerbread in a traditional bakery in Linz. I did not buy any, and unfortunately I did not even take a picture. It looked delicious, but was quite expensive. I let myself be inspired and decided to create my own Filled Gingerbread.

Preparing the dough was simple and fast. I then used my cookie cutters for about one third of the dough and was very happy about my gingerbread-trees, the bears, hearts, stars, roosters and ducks.

Gefüllte Lebkuchen 1

With the remaining two thirds of the dough I played around. I cut out various shapes and decorated them with almonds and nuts. I filled the baked gingerbread generously with raspberry or cranberry jam and with marzipan, then I dipped the edges into chocolate glazing. What can I say. Delicious.

Gefüllte Lebkuchen 2

I am thinking about making more of this gingerbread. I can imagine that rosehip jam or orange marmalade and marzipan would make a great filling, or orange jam and nougat. And coconut flakes on the chocolate glazing, or chopped nuts. There are many combinations I can think of!

Unfortunately, if you have fructose-intolerance, gingerbread is not ideal as it contains a lot of honey – therefore I listed this recipe in the category “Off Limits”. I usually avoid honey, but still made this gingerbread with honey and not with rice syrup, as the honey is essential for the taste of the gingerbread. At least my Filled Gingerbread is lactose-free when it comes to filling and glazing. I can therefore eat small amounts of it.

Gefüllte Lebkuchen 4

Ingredients:

Dough:
4¼ cups (500 g) wheat flour
2 cups (250 g) rye flour
¾ oz. (20 g) baking soda
1 cup (300 g) honey
1 cup (200 g) fine sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
7.2 oz. (200 g) soft butter
grated lemon peel from ½ lemon
1 tbsp. vanilla sugar (not vanillin)
1 package gingerbread spices (or: 3 g ground cinnamon, 2 g ground cloves, 1 g ground ginger, 2 g grated lemon peel)
Milk for brushing the gingerbread
Almonds (peeled), walnuts for decorating

Filling (sufficient for ⅔ of the dough):
7 oz. (200 g marzipan paste
Powdered sugar (for rolling out the marzipan paste)
Raspberry jam or cranberry jam

Glazing (sufficient for ⅔ of the dough):
7.2 oz. (200 g) dark chocolate, lactose-free (Lindt 70%, Merci 72%)
¼ cup (50 g) butter

Preheat the oven to 355° F (180° C). Cover baking sheets with baking paper.

Combine wheat flour, rye flour and baking soda in a big mixing bowl.

In a small pot, warm honey and sugar over low heat. Stir until well combined.

With a strong kitchen machine and a dough hook, knead flour mixture, egg, egg yolks, butter, grated lemon peel, vanilla sugar and gingerbread spices to a firm dough. You can also do this by hand, but be warned – kneading this dough will be quite a bit of work! Leave the dough in the fridge or in a cool place for at least three hours.

Lightly knead the dough through again. Cover the worktop with flour. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about 1/3 of an inch thick.

With a cookie cutter, cut out any shapes you want. Decorate with almonds and/or walnuts, brush with milk and bake for 10-15 minutes until light brown.

Gefüllte Lebkuchen 5

Use the remaining two thirds of the dough for the Filled Gingerbread: either use big cookie cutters, or cut out squares of a bit more than two inches. Decorate the gingerbread you want to use for the top parts with almonds or nuts. Do not decorate the bottom parts. Brush with milk and bake for 10-15 minutes. Let the gingerbread cool.

Cover the worktop with powdered sugar and roll the marzipan into a thin plate of about 1/16th of an inch. Cut the marzipan paste into the same shapes as the gingerbread. You will need one piece of marzipan for two pieces of gingerbread. The marzipan will go in the middle.

Gefüllte Lebkuchen 6

Now fill the gingerbread: take a bottom part and thickly spread it with jam. Place a piece of marzipan paste onto the jam. Take a top part and spread the bottom side with jam. Put both parts together. The gingerbread with filling now consists of a bottom part, jam, marzipan paste, jam, and a top part.

Prepare the chocolate glazing: coarsely chop the chocolate. Cut the butter into small cubes. Melt in a small pot over low heat.

Dip the edges of the Filled Gingerbread into the chocolate glazing. Let it cool on a cooling rack.

Gefüllte Lebkuchen 3

If you want to make filled gingerbread with all the dough, use 10.7 oz (300 g) marzipan paste for the filling, and 10.7 oz. ( 300 g) chocolate and ⅓ cup (75 g) butter for the chocolate glazing.

Dough adapted from: Gasteiger, H., Wieser, G., Bachmann, H. (2008, 12. Auflage). So kocht Südtirol. Bozen: Athesia AG.

Brownie Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Topping

Cupcakes, Recipes

Last Thursday I wanted to make chocolate cupcakes with orange topping for Halloween. I thought the combination of dark sponge, orange topping, and dark chocolate sprinkles would look nice.

It did not work out as planned. I mixed yellow and red food coloring in order to get orange, but got some kind of salmon-pink color. It looked a bit like thousand island dressing – not appetizing. I preferred not to add the color to the topping. The cupcakes still look nice with dark sponge, cream-colored topping, and dark chocolate sprinkles, don´t they?

Brownie Cupcakes 2

For the topping I made a cream cheese topping by Linda Lomelino, from call-me-cupake.blogspot.se. She uses it for her Hazelnut Chocolate Minicupcakes, but says that the topping goes with “almost everything”. She´s right. The topping is light, not too sweet, and simple and quick to prepare. I´ll definitely make this topping more often!

Brownie Cupcakes 4

Ingredients:

Sponge:
6,7 oz. (190 g) dark chocolate, lactose-free (Lindt 70%, Merci 72 %)

¾ cups (170 g) butter

2 cups (200 g) ground hazelnuts

½ cup (50 g) ground almonds

½ cup (50 g) flour
1 tsp. baking powder
4 eggs, room temperature
1 pinch of salt
¾ cup (70 g) powdered sugar

Topping:
10.7 oz. (300 g) cream cheese
1¼ cup (300 ml) whipping cream
1 tbsp. Vanilla sugar (no vanillin)
¾ cup (85 g) powdered sugar, sieved

Sponge:
Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Put cupcake-liners into a muffin baking tray. I have an average Austrian muffin baking tray and get 18 muffins with this amount of batter. I therefore prepare two muffin baking trays (one for twelve muffins, one for six muffins ) and bake one tray after the other.

Break the chocolate into small pieces. Cut the butter into small cubes. Put chocolate and butter into a small pot. Melt in a double boiler, or on the oven over very low heat (which is what I usually do).

In a bowl, combine hazelnuts, almonds, flour and baking powder.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, powdered sugar and salt with a hand mixer or a kitchen machine at high speed until the mixture is fluffy and light yellow.

Turn the hand mixer or the kitchen machine down to low speed. Slowly pour the chocolate-butter-mixture into the egg-mixture. Keep beating while doing this. The mixtures have to combine well. (I prefer to do this with a whisk and not a mixer. The chocolate-mixture is heavier than the egg-mixture and will sink to the bottom of the bowl. With a whisk, I can reach the sunken chocolate-mixture better than with a mixer.)

Carefully fold in the hazelnut-mixture.

Pour the batter into the cupcake liners, each ⅔ full.

Bake for about 20 minutes. They will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool.

Topping:
Beat the whipping cream in a bowl.

In a second bowl, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla sugar.

Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture. Whip until the mixture is smooth and firm. If the topping is runny, put it in the fridge for a while.

Fill the topping into an icing bag and decorate the cupcakes with the topping. If you do not have an icing bag, spoon the topping onto the cupcakes and spread it with a butter knife. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles.

The topping will last for 12 cupcakes.

 Brownie Cupcakes 3

Sponge adapted from: Gruber, R. (2013, 2. Aufl.), 130g Liebe. Wien: Christian Brandstätter Verlag.

Topping adapted from: call-me-cupcake.blogspot.se

Pecan Chocolate Pie

Cakes, Other, Recipes

I love pecans, only they are really hard to get in Austria. When a friend of mine flew to the United States last spring, I asked him to get me a big bag of pecans. He did! So this spring and summer I had a lot of fun trying different pecan-recipes.

I held on to the last pecans in that bag for a long time. They were just enough for one more recipe, and I simply could not decide upon one – there were too many recipes I still wanted to try. I also did not want to use up my entire supply of pecans. Where would I get more?

Well, last month I found an answer to that question: a local supermarket now has pecans! They are expensive, but at least they are available. I immediately bought a bag and am happy that I now know where to restock.

I used a part of those new pecans and the rest of the pecans I got in spring for this Pecan Chocolate Pie. I made the pie in spring for the first time and liked it very much. It has an intense chocolate- and pecan-aroma. There is also a special taste to the pie because of the golden syrup or the sugar beet syrup, which is what I used.Pekan Schoko Pie 2   Pekan Schoko Pie 1

The pie is just right for fall. It will warm you from the inside, and it will make you happy!

Ingredients:

Dough:
½ cup (110 g) soft butter
2 ¼ cup (225 g) flour
¾ cup (80 g) sugar
1 egg

Filling:
½ cup (110 g) soft butter

1 ¼ cup (225 g) fine brown sugar

⅓ cup (110 g) golden syrup or sugar beet syrup

3 eggs

A bit more than 1 cup (260 g) pecans, coarsely chopped

16 pecan-halves for decoration

½ cup (85 g) dark chocolate, lactose-free (Lindt 70%, Merci 72%), coarsely chopped

Pekan Schoko Pie 3

Grease a pie plate (the one I used is 11 inches) with butter.

Preheat the oven to 300° F (150° C).

With a handmixer, combine the soft butter and the flour until you get crumbs of about pea size.

Add sugar, then the egg, until the mixture forms a dough.

Place the dough onto a clean surface and knead it through once.

Lightly cover the surface with flour. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 14-inch circle, about 1/5 of an inch thick. Put the dough into the pie plate. (If the dough is very soft, roll it into a small disk first and put it into the fridge for about 30 minutes before rolling it into a circle.)

With a knife, cut off the excess dough so that you get a nice and tidy edge. Poke tiny holes into the dough with a fork.

Put the pie plate into the fridge and chill for 45 minutes.

Remove the pie plate from the fridge. Cover the dough with parchment paper or wax paper and fill the pie with pie weights. I keep a jar of chicken peas in my kitchen which I use for this purpose only.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool.

Put a baking sheet into the oven.

While the crust is cooling, prepare the filling:

In a small pot, melt butter, sugar and golden syrup at low heat. Remove from the oven and let the mixture cool a little.

Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl.

Add the butter-sugar mixture and combine until the mixture is smooth.

Spread chopped pecans and chopped chocolate in the pie crust.

Carefully pour the filling over the pecans and the chocolate. With my pie plate, the form will be filled to the brim. Decorate with the pecan halves.

Put the pie onto the hot baking sheet. This will allow the pie to bake evenly. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the heat to 280° F (140° C) and bake for another 20 minutes. The pie will be a bit soft in the middle, but will firm up when cool.

If you feel like adding some more calories, enjoy the pie with whipped cream – delicious!

 Pekan Schoko Pie 4

Adapted from: the hummingbird bakery (2011): Süße Sünden, München: Dorling Kindersley.