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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cardamon Orange Raisin Cookies

Before I made the Regina Biscotti I don't think I ever owned a jar of cardamom. The recipe called for just a tiny bit and, of course, the supermarket only had a large jar for $12 and, silly me, I bought it. Since I can't just let an expensive jar of spices go to waste I've been searching for recipes that use cardamom (if you have one, please direct me to it as I'll never get through this jar!).

I did find a Cardamom Cookie recipe on but it seemed a bit bland for my tastes so I added a few items (upped the cardamom, substituted orange zest for lemon zest, and added orange liqueur soaked raisins). Also, the recipe called for rolling the cookie dough and in order to make my life easier I changed the process to ice-box cookies so I could just slice 'em.

The end result is a tart-dough like cookie with wonderful hints of cardamon, cinnamon, and orange - three flavors that work perfectly together. This dough would also work wonderfully for an orange curd tart or any citrus pie.

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp whole milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked in orange liqueur
  • Soak raisins for at least 4 hours in orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier).
  • Sift together flour, sugar, and spices; stir in orange peel and almonds.
  • Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles cornmeal.
  • Stir in egg and milk until mixture forms into a ball.
  • Drain liqueur from raisins and stir into dough.
  • Divide dough and roll into two logs approximately 2 inches thick; chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Slice off 1/4" thick slices of the dough and place on parchment lined baking sheets.
  • Bake 6 - 8 minutes or until edges are browned.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Truth in Advertising "Best-Ever Nut Brittle"

Update on 10/23/22:  This recipe is updated on our new website: Desserts With Stephanie  . Additionally, we added a step-by-step video on YouTube! 

Whether it be Italian meringues, decorative sugar work, or caramel, boiling sugar brings me back to my days in pastry school. I have this image in my head of 14 students leaning over induction units, pots filled with boiling sugar, staring at candy thermometers. Sometimes we'd be standing and staring for 10 minutes watching the color change and the temperature ever so slowly creep up. It seems like the second you glanced away your thermometer would go haywire and, voila, ruined sugar.

Today I can usually tell what stage I'm at in the sugar cooking process without a thermometer. But old habits die hard and you can still find me staring at my thermometer while working with sugar!

In my opinion, Nut Brittle is one of the most wonderful creations using boiled sugar. I found a recipe on Food & Wine website titled the "Best-Ever Nut Brittle" and I have to admit that after making it I agree with the author's title. The recipe is quite similar to most except it uses a little more butter and although the brittle is a perfect crack the butter seems to add some 'creaminess' to it.  I used an extra 2 ounces of nuts than the recipe calls for as for me the most important part about nut brittle is the nuts (the extra 2 ounces consisted of shelled pistachios for extra color).

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 oz. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 12 oz roasted, salted nuts (peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans)
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Combine sugar, water, butter in corn syrup in a large saucepan and bring to a boil (cook over medium-high heat) until the caramel registers 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer (approximately 10 minutes).
  • Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda (the mixture will bubble).
  • Stir in the nuts, then immediately scape mixture onto a large rimmed nonstick baking sheet.
  • Using the back of a large spoon spread the brittle into a thin, even layer.
  • Sprinkle with salt.
  • Let cool about 30 minutes and break into pieces.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Anniversary Suitcase Cake for World Travelers

Northern New Jersey

We really enjoyed working with our client to design this cake. She threw a party for her parent's 40th wedding anniversary and asked us to help her with a cake that represented one of their greatest interests: traveling the world.

We came up with two vintage suitcases covered in travel stickers and made sugarpaste figures of various items: the Eiffel Tower, a Venetian gondola (not sure why she wanted the pigs - apparently a family joke), and a globe made of cereal treats.

We hope you enjoy viewing our latest cake and happy anniversary to Polina and Mike. May your travels be safe and enjoyable!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Rugelach with Walnut Frangipane

What is the most anxiety producing task for a pastry chef who owns a bakery? Designing a menu for her own party!!  Five years ago when I was still working in the corporate arena I would just run down to the local bakery, pick out a bunch of nice looking desserts, plop 'em on some patters, and, voila!, we have dessert. Well, that part of my life has changed. since I quit my job. I'm quite confident I can create a fabulous a menu for 400 people I don't know, but when it comes to providing dessert for 20 of my friends or family, my hands start to sweat. After all, these are the most important people in my life!

My husband and I throw a small party for some of our closest friends each year and I'm in the process of planning the menu. My less confident side keeps saying everyone expects the ultimate from 'the pastry chef' - the perfect little entremets made using a collaboration of unique and unheard of flavors, exquisite breads, blah, blah... Luckily, my more practical side says they would all be perfectly happy if I just popped down to the local bakery and picked up some goodies.

So I've decided this year to design the menu in-between the two extremes. I'll put my heart into some new recipes and pick and chose from some of my tried and true. One of the new recipes I'll be going with is rugelach with a smear of my favorite walnut frangipane. This is probably the best rugelach I've ever had as the moistness of the frangipane makes for some wonderful texture combinations and the flavors meld perfectly.

This dough is a dream to work with as it rolls out thin enough for the cookies, is never too sticky, and the taste of the dough is amazing - how could it be bad with cream cheese, butter and sourcream!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup walnut frangipane (see recipe here - note: this recipe makes much more than 1/4 cup so be prepared to use it for other goodies; it works wonderfully in apple and banana tarts)
  • Cut cold butter and cream cheese into bits. In food processor pulse flour, salt, butter, cream cheese and sour cream until combined.
  • Shape mixture into four equal disks. Wrap each disk and chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Combine sugar, cinnamon, chopped walnuts and raisins.
  • Roll each disk into a 9" round, keeping other disks chilled until ready to roll.
  • Optional: using an offset spatula spread a very thin layer of the walnut frangipane on each disk.
  • Sprinkle disk with sugar/nut mixture. Press lightly into dough.
  • Cut disks into 12 equal wedges using a pizza cutter or chef's knife.
  • Roll wedges from wide to narrow (you will end up with the point on the outside of the cookie.
  • Place on parchment lined baking sheet (the point should be placed slightly under the cookie).
  • Chill for 20 minutes.
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 22 minutes or until lightly golden.