Italian Sandwich Cookies

Italian Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate and orange is one of the best combinations in a dessert: the bright citrus mixing with the creamy chocolate; it’s a match made in heaven. The chocolate cookies have orange in them and taste great with the fluffy, orange frosting. This recipe, which comes from one of my favorite Italian chefs, Giada De Laurentiis, will not disappoint at any event.

Italian Sandwich Cookies

To make the cookie dough, I creamed my sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Then, in another bowl, I combined the dry ingredients including orange zest. This recipe also called for cornmeal as well as flour which added a nice crunch to the cookie. Afterwards, I added the dry to the butter mixture and stirred with a wooden spoon until combined. As it turns out, using a wooden spoon decreases the amount of air that goes into the dough which in turn makes for a better cookie.

Italian Sandwich Cookies

I let the dough cool in the fridge for about an hour and then began rolling it out. I cut out round cookies and placed them on a lined cookie sheet. I used a spatula to transfer the cookies from my work surface to the cookie sheet which made it a lot easier and left the round shape intact. While the cookies baked, I combined orange zest, butter, powdered sugar, and a hint of orange juice to make the frosting.

Italian Sandwich Cookies

When the cookies had cooled and the orange frosting was fluffy, I began the process of making cookie sandwiches. I spooned a dollop of  frosting onto a cookie and topped with a second. When I pressed them together, I made sure that the frosting was evenly spread between the cookies. When I tried one, there was just enough of a crunch from the cookie to contrast the creamy frosting and the chocolate and orange flavors both shown. Next time, I might make my cookies a little thinner but otherwise, these cookies were delicious. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!  Continue reading

Chocolate Soufflé

Chocolate Soufflé

Chocolate Soufflé is one of those desserts you see at fancy restaurants and never even consider the possibility that you could make it on your own. As you dig in, steam escapes and with it wonderful, chocolaty smells. As it turns out, if you have a knowledge of melting chocolate and folding ingredients in, you are on your way to making a delicious soufflé.

Chocolate Soufflé

I started by melting the chocolate. I went with a bittersweet chocolate but semi-sweet works just as well. I placed the chopped chocolate into a glass bowl and put it over a pot of almost boiling water. You don’t want to burn your chocolate but you want all of the chocolate melted. Once it was smooth, I set it aside and got to work on the egg yolks.

Chocolate Soufflé

I first combined egg yolks and cream. Then I slowly added the chocolate to the egg mixture. You want to be careful so as not to scramble your eggs while doing this. When they were combined, I added cinnamon and flour. As it turned out, the cinnamon gave the soufflés a nice hint of spice to contrast the sweet chocolate.

Chocolate Soufflé

Beating the egg whites and sugar was easy and I was left with peaks not unlike snowy mountains. When the whites were beaten, I added half of the mixture to the chocolate and folded it in until combined. Then I added that back to the original bowl of egg whites and folded until I was left with a perfect chocolate soufflé batter. It took a little longer than I thought it would and I worried I had lost some of the air that I had incorporated in earlier but everything went fine.

Chocolate Soufflé

I poured the batter three-fourths of the way up and was surprised the recipe only made four instead of the six I thought it would. They baked for a while and came out puffed and once I had decorated with confectioners’ sugar, they were complete. They tasted dense and chocolaty just as you would expect from Chocolate Soufflé. Next time, I will be quicker with my chocolate because I waited a tad too long before adding it to my eggs which made it difficult to incorporate the other ingredients into. Otherwise, I think this recipe will be a new favorite for any upcoming events. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!  Continue reading

Peach Crostata

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crostata is an Italian tart usually made with a jam-like filling. I’ve always been curious as to the difference between a pie and a tart and as it turns out, a pie is made in a deep, angled dish whilst a tart is made in a shallow, straight-sided pan. In Italy, they make a similar pastry called a torta which has a pureed filling unlike the crostata which is known for chunky fruit such as apricots, peaches, or cherries.  Since it is peach season, I though this peach crostata would be perfect. The local grocery store in my area has proclaimed August “Peach’o’Rama” and stocks some of the juiciest, sweetest peaches around.

Peach Crostata

I began by making the dough by cutting butter into flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. I wasn’t so sure about the lemon but it added a nice tart flavor to the sweetness of the sugar. After the flour and butter combined, I added a egg and vanilla extract and mixed until the dough formed. Then I kneaded it and left it to chill in the fridge. You can actually leave this dough chilling for as long as overnight but to be honest, I’m not sure anyone would want to wait that long.

Peach Crostata

I chopped the peaches and could tell by the color and texture that they were going to turn out great in this tart. I added sugar and flour to really get the juices flowing and to thicken it some and let that sit whilst I rolled out the dough. I first rolled out a larger round that would become the base of the tart. It took a few tries to get a truly circular pastry, but finally, I was able to roll it back onto my rolling pin and into the tart pan. After adding the filling, I rolled out the second piece of dough. Using a pizza cutter, I cut strips and made my very first lattice crust. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and if it hadn’t have been for the heat and the fact that the strips started to break in half, it would have looked like one you would find in any pasticceria in Italy. I egg washed the crust and added demerara, which is a course sugar that you can find on many baked pastries.

Peach Crostata

While the crostata was baking, my house filled with wonderful smells and when it came out of the oven, it was a beautiful golden color. You could see the peaches poking through the top crust and slightly bubbling. It not only looked amazing, but tasted great too. The peaches were sweet and thick. I didn’t realize it, but the lemon zest in the crust brought this tart to a new level; you could taste it in every bite and it accentuated the peaches nicely. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!  Continue reading

Crème Brûlée

Crème Brûlée

If I had to choose between becoming a restaurant or pastry chef, without even thinking I would choose pastry. There is something so inviting about having exact measurements, it reminds me of a science lab report. You have materials (ingredients), a procedure (instructions), and, in my case, a conclusion (this blog post). While some people consider it irritating, I enjoy the simplicity of baking, such as crème brûlée.

Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée sounds and looks like one of the most difficult things to make. I thought this as I was getting out the eggs, cream, vanilla, and sugar. Then I realized that it only has four main ingredients, unlike other recipes that call for everything but the kitchen sink. I started by heating the cream and vanilla. I used vanilla extract but you can also use vanilla beans or paste. I boiled the cream slightly and left it to cool.

Crème Brûlée

Then  I whisked the egg yolks and sugar until they turned a light color and were thick in texture.  By allowing the cream to cool, I didn’t have to worry about the eggs scrambling as I combined them. I added the cream slowly, so as to temper them which also prevented scrambling. Then I strained the egg and cream mixture into a measuring cup so that it would be completely smooth and so I would have an easier time transferring it to ramekins.

Crème Brûlée

I placed the ramekins into a baking dish just deep enough and poured each almost to the brim with the cream and egg mixture. Then I placed the dish into the oven and poured hot water halfway up the ramekins. By baking them in a water bath, I prevented the crème brûlées from cracking and the water also kept the oven moist.

Crème Brûlée

Once they had set in the oven, I allowed them to cool on the counter before transferring them to the fridge. One of the most important aspects of crème brûlée is that the custard is cool when you serve it. The only way to achieve this is to leave the ramekins in the refrigerator for a few hours, as hard as it may seem.

Crème Brûlée

When they were nice and chilled, I coated the top with a thin layer of castor sugar. Using a fine sugar speeds the torching process because the sugar broils faster. I used a kitchen torch to lightly sear the top of my crème brûlée just until I had a nice golden color.

Crème Brûlée

My mom’s very favorite dessert is crème brûlée which put more pressure on me to do well with this dish. When she tasted it, she told me it was as good as what you would find in a restaurant. I used twice the amount of vanilla the recipe required and it made the custard to die for. It was creamy, light, and so flavorful. The sugar topping cracked as we dug into it with spoons and it had the perfect taste.

Crème Brûlée

To be honest, I don’t normally like crème brûlée because normally, the custard is too eggy and the sugar too burnt. This recipe has changed my mind about the dish for good. This dish looks so beautiful and complicated. If you make this for a dinner party, your guests will be awed and you will know just how easy it really is. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!  Continue reading