Sunday, January 27, 2013

Return to the Daring

I skipped last month's Daring Baker's Challenge...there was just so much going on...and I have a lot going on this month, too!  Getting ready for our wedding on March 9, work, moving, etc.  But in the midst of keeping K while D was moonlighting, I was able to do this month's challenge.  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!  I made this over several days.  The dough was actually easy to work with.  I had some trouble with the almond paste when I formed the stuck to the wrap when I tried to transfer it.  The flavor was good in the cake and my co-workers enjoyed them.

Recipe Speculaas Spices
Speculaas 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.
cinnamon 40 to 60 % of the total amount
ground cloves 1 or 2 parts
ginger ½ or 1 part
nutmeg 1 or 2 parts
A convenient way to mix the spices is as follows:
Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves,  1 teaspoon of ginger. 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.
Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.

Recipe Almond Paste
As we are going to make stuffed speculaas, we will need almond paste. You can buy it in a store, but homemade almond paste tastes better.
7/8 cup (210 ml)(125 gm)(4½ oz) raw almonds (or 1-1/3 cups (320 ml)(125 gm) (4½ oz) ground almonds)
5/8 cup (150 ml) (125 grams) (4½ oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) lemon zest

If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows. Bring water to a boil, add the almonds, cook them for one minute, drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins.
Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)
Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.
Add the egg and let the food processor combine it - if it is powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers.
Store the almond paste 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.

Recipe Speculaas Dough
1¾ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
¾ cup (150 grams) (5-1/3 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) speculaas spices
3/4 cup (1½ stick) (175 gm) (6 oz) unsalted butter
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.  I used food processor.  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 and baking the Gevulde Speculaas
Grease the pan. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas 4. 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. 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.  Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.  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. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013


When I was little, my mom served a dessert one night when my cousins were over.  It was a dessert with a shortbread pecan crust topped with chocolate pudding, cream cheese mixture, and cool whip.  Well, my cousin Joe decided that it would be fun to tell my brother, then about 2-3 years old, that the dessert smelled good and that he should smell it.  Well, he did and....SMACK!  Joe slammed his face into the dessert.  It "exploded" all over the living room, Philip screamed, and Aunt Margaret made not only Joe but his brother and sister clean up the mess!  Ever since that day, we called that dessert "Joe's surprise!"
  A couple of months ago, I found a recipe on pinterest that was exactly like that dessert except that the base was chocolate chip cookie instead of shortbread.  Well, I thought that D would really like it, so I pinned it.  Come December, I decided that it would be the perfect dessert for Christmas.  Everyone liked it!  My dad, I think, preferred the shortbread crust but D, of course, loved the chocolate chip cookie crust.  :-)  I love when he likes what I make!!  I didn't have two chocolate puddings but used one chocolate and one (random) pumpkin.   It added a little cinnamon to the mix.  Yum!  This really is a GREAT dessert!  Try for yourself.  I think it may have to go into the rotation of desserts D likes, along with the brownie trifle he loves.  :-)

Joe's Surprise Remade a.k.a. Chocolate Chip Cookie Delight adapted from Taste of Home
1 tube (16-1/2 ounces) refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough or one recipe chocolate chip cookies (about 2/3 dough used)
1 package (8 ounces) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 carton (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
3 cups cold skim milk
1 package (3.9 ounces) instant chocolate pudding mix (sugar free)
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant pumpkin/vanilla pudding mix (sugar free)

Preheat oven to 350.  Press cookie dough into an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Fold in 1-3/4 cups whipped topping. Spread over crust.

In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mixes for 2 minutes then refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Spread over cream cheese layer. Top with remaining whipped topping. Sprinkle with nuts and chocolate curls if desired. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours...will be more firm if you have time to refrigerate overnight.  Enjoy!

Yield: 15 servings.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Favorite Bite

The other snack dessert I made this Christmas was a snickerdoodle cookie dough bite.  The original recipe had rolos in the middle; however, I am a Reese's, I substituted Reese's for the rolos.  Um...YUM! My favorites all in one...snickerdoodles, Reese's, and cookie dough.  :-)  Now, to me, these had a better texture than the chocolate chip dough bites.  They had a bit more texture and were less "sticky." 

Reece's Stuffed Snickerdoodle Bites from Cooking Classy 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
28 Reese's candies
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and cream of tartar until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Stir in milk and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients and mix until combine. In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together 3 Tbsp granulated sugar and 3/4 tsp cinnamon. Scoop dough out 1 (even) TBSP at a time, then press one Reese's candy into the center of scooped dough and roll into a ball. Roll each dough ball into cinnamon sugar mixture. Chill or serve immediately. Store Cookie Dough Bites in refrigerator. Enjoy!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dessert Bites

Yikes!  I didn't realize it had been so long since I posted.  I've made several different things for my residents at work but before that, we need to finish up Christmas stuff.  Next up, chocolate chip cookie dough balls.  When my dad tried these, his comment was "It's like eating dough..." Well....yes...thus, cookie dough balls.  I did feel like the texture was a little bit too "sticky."  I needed to keep them cool, which made the chocolate chips quite hard.  They were still good though.  I shared with the residents who were on schedule to work at Christmas and they enjoyed them.  Next post I'll share MY favorite, the snickerdoodle balls.  YUM!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites from Cooking Classy 
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips, chopped
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped


1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt until pale and fluffy about 3 - 4 minutes. Stir in milk and vanilla extract. Add in flour and mix just until combine (dough will seem dry at first but it will come together). Mix in chopped chocolate chips. Scoop dough out 1 equal tablespoon at a time and roll into balls. Place on parchment or wax paper. If drizzling with chocolate, place 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe container and microwave on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Pour melted chocolate into a small ziploc bag, seal bag and cut a very small tip off the corner of the bag. Drizzle chocolate over tops of truffles and allow to set.  For more firm cookie dough bites, chill 1 hour in refrigerator. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.Enjoy!