Category Archives: Sweets

Pannelets

ICC-Menu-Project-Dessert

Recipe adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich.

MAKES 20 COOKIES

INGREDIENTS
½ cup (4 oz.) mashed baked sweet potato
1 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut, toasted
½ cup sugar
1 large egg white
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon zest
3 oz. whole blanched almonds, finely chopped
Sugar, for rolling

INSTRUCTIONS
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the sweet potato, coconut, sugar, egg white, salt, and lemon zest. Slowly stir in the almonds until fully incorporated. Chill the dough overnight (and up to 2 days) in the refrigerator to allow the coconut to absorb moisture and the dough to firm up enough to roll into balls.
2. Heat the oven to 325° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop level tablespoons of the dough and roll into balls; roll each ball in sugar and place one inch apart on the baking sheet.
3. Bake for about 20 minutes until the cookies are crusty on the surface but still very moist inside. Rotate the pan halfway through baking to ensure even baking. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet before storing in an airtight container. Cookies will keep for up to five days.

Brownies for Valentine’s Day

As soon as I saw Melissa Clark’s recipe for Olive Oil and Coconut Brownies in the NY Times last week I knew I would have to try it ASAP. I’m always a sucker for sweets made with olive oil, and the idea of sprinkling salt on top of brownies had me instantly salivating. So this weekend, with my dad staying with us and a group of friends coming over for dinner, I pulled out my measuring cups and gluten-free flours, and adapted Melissa Clark’s recipe. These brownies did not disappoint anyone. Gooey and chocolate fudgy with a salty coconut crust and a slight savory hint of olive oil, they are completely irresistible. I packed up most the leftovers and sent them back to NH with my dad as a Valentine’s Day treat for the family, because I knew it wasn’t a good idea to leave me here alone with a pan full of them.

Gluten-Free Olive Oil and Coconut Brownies
adapted from The New York Times
makes about 2 dozen brownies

1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, lightly whisked
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
about 2 tsp. kosher salt (or fleur de sel if you have it)

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a 9×13 baking pan by greasing it with olive oil then lining it with parchment paper. (You really do need the parchment paper, I forgot it when I made my batch and suffered the consequences of brownies sticking to the pan.)

In a small bowl, combine the flours and the almond meal.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with the boiling water until smooth, then whisk in the chopped chocolate. Most the chocolate should melt, but don’t worry about any chunks that don’t, it’ll be good that way. Whisk in the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

Once the wet ingredients are well combined, stir in the flour mixture and mix well. Pour into prepared baking pan, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Carefully (and slowly) sprinkle the shredded coconut over the top of the batter, making sure to cover it as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the salt on top as well, working in a systematic way from top to bottom so you know where you’ve already salted (since you won’t be able to see the salt on top of the coconut). Don’t be afraid to be generous with the salt! Trust me, it’s an important ingredient.

Bake until the coconut is golden-brown on top and the batter is set, about 35 minutes. Don’t bother with a knife or toothpick test for these brownies, it shouldn’t come out clean.

Let the brownies cool completely before cutting into 2 inch squares for serving.

Dinner Party for the January Blues: Baked Salmon with Fresh Herbs, Wine-Braised Lentils, and Poached Pears

We’re in the very midst of bleak midwinter here, and I’ve been craving herbs. My heart full of longing for fresh-out-of-some-lovely-field-herbs I’ve packed my crisper drawer full of fresh-off-some-air-plane-from-far-away-herbs. I just can’t get enough of them. I’ve been grabbing leaves by the handful and flinging them across everything I eat. You’d be surprised just how much that splash of green brightness helps to drive away any lurking midwinter blues. Fruit helps too. Plenty of fruit in bowls in front of chilly windows.

This past Saturday, with six of my friends scheduled to come over for dinner, I woke up craving herbs (and lemon zest) again, and planned my menu accordingly. A whole fillet of rich wild salmon was marinated in a simple pure of garlic, the juice and zest of a meyer lemon, parsley, rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper, then baked till just done and served with a yogurt, lemon, olive oil, mint, parsley, and dill sauce. French lentils were braised with leeks and thyme in plenty of white wine and a splash of orange juice, then mixed with a heaping cup full of diced fresh parsley and mint just before serving. For dessert, inspired by a recent meal at al di la, I slowly poached pears in white wine and sherry, then served sprinkled with fried sweet rosemary and some tart whipped cream. My friend Ryan produced a show-stopping salad to start off our meal of baby arugula, juicy persimmons and pomegranate seeds, crunchy roasted hazelnuts, doused in a appropriately sweet vinaigrette (I wish more people understood that the key to a good vinaigrette is add sugar- thank you Ryan!). And for mopping up that yummy dressing, Julia baked us a loaf of fresh gluten-free bread.

This was a good dinner party. We stayed up too late laughing too hard and playing charades, and my friends actually did all the dishes for me.

I figured out a great trick for prepping pears for poaching: use an ice cream scoop! Very clever, very easy. See?

Pears Poached in White Wine, Sherry, and Ginger with Rosemary

Bosc Pears (a half per person)
White Wine
Sweet Sherry
Fresh Ginger, peeled and sliced (about 2 slices per person)
Fresh Rosemary Sprig
1 Tbs. Butter
Raw Pure Cane Sugar
Whipped Cream or Creme Fraiche (or a mixture of both!) for serving

Peel the pears, slice in half, then hollow out the center using an ice cream scoop (or a sturdy metal spoon) as picture above.

Put the prepared pears and ginger slices in a heavy pot and pour enough white wine over so that the pears are almost submerged. Now add a splash of sherry. Cook, covered, over low heat, for about an hour, until the pears are soft and the steam no longer smells alcoholic. Set aside until ready to serve.

Heat the butter in a skillet until frothing, then fry the rosemary sprig just until crisp, about a minute. Immediatly dredge the rosemary in a handful of sugar, and set aside to cool.

Pour the remaining poaching juices out of the poaching pot into a small saucepan and add some sugar. The amount of sugar you add should about equal the amount of poaching liquid. So if you have about a cup of liquid, add about a cup of sugar, then heat over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to get syrupy, about 10 minutes.

To serve, spoon the hot syrup over the pears, add a dollop of whipped cream, and garnish with a sprinkle of rosemary leaves ( and any rosemary-scented sugar that may have fallen off the rosemary sprig).

Gluten-Free Pecan Puffs

Finally: a gluten-free recipe for my favorite Christmas cookies. With thanks to the SAVEUR test kitchen who came up with a gluten-free version of a very similar cookie, I was able to create this gluten-free version of pecan puffs. They hold their nice round shape in the oven, and melt instantly in your mouth with a puff of powdered sugar and rich nutty flavor. I served these cookies on Friday at my annual Christmas cookie (and charades) party, and they were a big hit. The little bit of chestnut flour in there gives them a nice wintery smokiness. They don’t keep quite as well as their wheat-full versions do though, so go ahead and gobble them all up within a couple days (that shouldn’t be too hard to do).

Gluten-Free Pecan Puffs
Adapted from SAVEUR’s Gluten-Free Vanilla Crescent Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

6 oz pecans, finely ground
13 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners sugar, plus more for finishing the cookies
1 1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/3 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup chestnut flour
generous pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325°.

Cream the butter and the 1/3 cup confectioners sugar until soft, then stir in the vanilla.

Stir the pecans, all the flours, and the salt into the butter mixture, and mix well.

Roll the dough into 2 tsp size balls and place evenly on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet.

Bake until the cookies are just barely starting to brown, about 15 minutes.

While still warm, roll each cookie in the confectioners sugar then let cool completely on a cooling rack.

I like to dust all the finished cookies with a bit of extra confectioners sugar through a fine sieve for a smooth finish before serving.

Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust

This cheesecake was really lovely for several reasons, but the most revolutionary part of it was the crust. This crust may have just changed the way I will make cheesecakes forever, and I’m so glad I stumbled upon the recipe in Fany Gerson’s cookbook My Sweet Mexico, that inspired it. I’ve always loved the buttery ginger flavor of my gluten-free ginger snap crust, and that was the recipe I always fell back on when making cheesecake, but the truth is that the texture was always a bit off. It was a little soggy, a little crumbly, and oftentimes very hard to remove from the pan. This hazelnut crust had no such issues. It was toothsome and held it’s shape wonderfully and (miracle of miracles) actually slid easily off the bottom of my springform pan so I could serve it on the cake stand instead of cutting it off the pan. Hazelnuts, butter, sugar, and flour – basically it’s cookie dough. This crust tastes and behaves very much like a nice thick hazelnut cookie, which was a good base for the fluffier than usual cheesecake filling that I scented with a hint of cinnamon, inspired by Fany Gerson’s recipe. Gerson’s cheesecake included a recipe for chile-spiced quince to use as a topping. I didn’t have any fresh quince, but I had some cranberries in my fridge I wanted to use, so I created a chili-spiced cranberry syrup to serve with the cheesecake. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos before the sauce got polished off. The tang of the cranberries and subtle spice from the chilies were an exciting counterpart to the creamy cheesecake, but as I discovered while eating the leftovers and taking these photos today, the cheesecake is just as good on its own.

Luckily, I guessed right when I choose to make cheesecake for Franca’s birthday yesterday. She beamed and whispered that she’d secretly been hoping for a cheesecake as soon as she noticed it. Eight of us ate around my table here in the kitchen last night to celebrate Franca’s birthday. We had an apple-sweetened butternut squash soup, thick and creamy (but with no actual cream) that Marta and I cooked with white wine and thyme and one little potato (for added starch) then pureed with our immersion blender (perhaps my favorite kitchen tool). Continuing with the apple theme, I baked up a batch of these amazing apple, gruyere, and sage muffins from the blog Cannelle et Vanille (if you don’t already know of this blog, please have a look – she has wonderful gluten-free recipes). The muffins were just the thing to dunk in the soup, and no one noticed that they were gluten-free. We followed our soup with a big mess of salad (not unlike this one) bursting with feta, roasted golden beets, cooked barely, French lentils, candied pecans, and a dill pesto dressing. And then of course we sang a chorus of “Happy Birthday” and dug into this cake.

Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust and Spiced Cranberry Syrup
serves 10-12
adapted from My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson

Note: I used spelt flour for my version of hazelnut crust, but I think an all purpose gluten-free flour would work just fine too, or a whole wheat flour.

for the crust:
3/4 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup spelt flour
generous pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the cake pan

for the filling:
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese (3 (8 oz.) packages), at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tsp cornstarch
4 eggs, at room temperature

for the syrup (optional):
6 oz fresh cranberries
3 pieces lemon peel
2 dried arbol chiles
1/2  cup brown sugar (plus more if needed)
3  cups orange juice (plus more if needed)

Preheat the oven to 350.

To make the cheesecake:

In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat the hazelnuts until they are fragrant and start to darken, about five minutes, then transfer to a bowl and let cool.

Generously butter a 9 by 3-inch springform pan

Combine the brown sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Use your fingers to remove as much of the hazelnut skins as possible (but don’t worry about getting them all off if they’re being difficult) then add the hazelnuts to the food processor and pulverize until the hazelnuts are are coarsely ground,  about a minute. Add the butter, pulsing until the dough comes together in a ball. If the dough is not adhering, add a splash of cold water then pulse again.

Turn the dough out into the buttered pan, and press it down in an even layer, then bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before adding the filling.

While the crust bakes, place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the white sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, sour cream, and cornstarch, then beat until smooth, about another 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Make sure there are absolutely no lumps in the batter, then pour it into the crust (once it’s cooled).

Place the filled pan on top of a baking sheet to catch any drips, then bake until the filling is just set and the top of the cake golden brown, about an hour. Give the cake a good jiggle, and if it still wiggles too much in the middle, give it a bit more time in the oven. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack; it will finish setting while it cools.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, remove the edge of the springform pan, then run a knife around the bottom of the crust and very gently slide the cake off the bottom of the pan onto a serving plate.

To make the syrup (optional):

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the cranberries, lemon peel, chiles, sugar, and 2 cups of the orange juice until boiling. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick and has reduced in volume by about half. Remove from heat, and force the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl, using a rubber spatula to press out as much juice as possible. Discard the skins and pulp that remains, then pour the juice back into the saucepan. Add the additional cup of orange juice, mix well, then bring the sauce to a boil again. Turn down the heat and let simmer another 10 minutes or so, until the syrup is nice and thick. Taste it, and add more sugar if needed. If the sauce gets too thick, add a bit more orange juice before serving.

Drizzle each slice of cheesecake with syrup before serving.

Lemon-Basil Sherbet

I’ve unpacked all my winter sweaters (I seem to collect these bargain-priced used wool sweaters like I collect all those bargain-priced used cookbooks- that is, in almost excessive quantities) and they’re lined neatly on freshly papered shelves where I can look at them all as I think about what kind of stew to make when it’s finally cold enough to wear a wool sweater again. I’m thinking a lot about sweaters today, but not much about making ice creams… Truth is though, this summer’s not quite over, and before it is actually over, I want to share this sherbet recipe with you, which I adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert.  I made this sherbet earlier this summer, and it’s just too good to miss sharing with you simply because my head’s already stuck in autumn’s clouds. Bright with fresh basil and lots of lemon, this sherbet’s light and tart enough to feel cleansing. Let this be your summer palate cleanser; a cold and clean finish to one of the hottest summers I’ve known.

Lemon-Basil Sherbet
serves 4-6

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
a very generous handful of fresh basil leaves (about 1 cup)
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp finely minced fresh basil

In a large jar (or other food storage container), stir together the sugar, lemon juice, and basil leaves, and let stand at room temperature until all the sugar is dissolved, then seal the jar and stick it in the fridge. Let it chill for at least an hour, but preferably overnight (the longer it sits the stronger the basil flavor can be).
Strain the mixture into the milk and heavy cream, pressing on the basil leaves to to make sure you get all the juice out of them. Discard the basil.
Stir in the lemon zest and minced basil, then chill the mixture in the freezer for about half an hour, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker.

Milk and Almond Pudding

I love pudding. I love discovering new kinds of pudding. This is a new one to me, and I love it. This simple milk pudding is based off a traditional Turkish recipe, and comes from Claudia Roden’s cookbook Arabesque. I reduced her recipe to serve two, and simplified the technique a bit, but other than that the recipe is all hers. With a fine grainy texture from almond flour, eating this pudding is sort of like eating cold cream of wheat, but so much better. I tried to make a few different versions of this recipe, dolling it up in various ways, but I found that the pure and simple version, served sans toppings, was my favorite. If you want to garnish it with something… try a sprinkle of ground nutmeg. The pudding needs to be made at least 4 hours, and up to 48 hours, before eating. 
Milk and Almond Pudding
Serves Two

1½ Tbs rice flour
1½ cups whole milk
3 Tbs almond flour
3 Tbs sugar
1 tsp. amaretto (or ½ tsp almond extract)

In a small bowl, mix rice flour with 2 Tbs of water, making sure there are no lumps. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring milk to a boil, then remove from heat.
Add rice flour paste to the hot milk, stirring vigorously to make sure there are no lumps.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon (you don’t want to scrape up any milk that might burn on the bottom of the pan), for about 10 mins, until the mixture begins to thicken.
Whisk in the almond flour and continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon for about 15 mins, until the mixture is like a thin porridge.
Remove from heat, stir in amaretto and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Let cool in the pan until just cool enough to handle, then pour into 2 glasses and let cool completely before covering each glass in plastic wrap and refrigerating.
Serve chilled, with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top if you like.

Almond Cake for Everyone (even the ones who don’t like dessert)

I’ve started a little dessert challenge with myself. Well actually I guess you could say it’s kind of a competition with my friend Jose. You see, Jose “doesn’t like dessert.” Being a dessert making/eating fiend, I somehow find that fact slightly offensive. So every time he sits down at my table for dinner, I serve him dessert and wait in anticipation to see if he likes it or not. I’ve seen him graciously pick at homemade ice creams and custards, but I’ve seen him happily devour my chocolate chip cookies and my flourless Italian chocolate-almond torte. This Sunday, as Laura, Grif, and I watched in anticipation, hoping to be able to eat his rejected dessert serving, Jose happily devoured this almond cake, and even asked for more. The secret seems to be that there needs to be some salt in the dessert… and it needs to have a good texture to it, none of those creamy pudding/ice cream things that I personally love? Also, nuts seem to help? The best part is, Jose himself is actually shocked when he likes my dessert, and lets out all sorts of expletives in praise of it. The competition is ON Jose, I’m already trying to think of what to make next time you come over for dinner…  although we all know that no one would mind having this cake again.

This cake is based on a recipe in my faithful dessert cookbook, Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert. I adapted it to make it gluten-free, then decided to add a “crust” of almond paste, rolling some almond paste into a thin kind of pie crust and lining the cake pan with it before pouring in the batter. The effect was just as I hoped–the cake had a wonderfully crisp and chewy exterior with a soft and melty interior. I served my cake with fresh whipped cream, and sliced strawberries dressed with a bit of sugar and amaretto liqueur. If you don’t have almond flour, simply use 4 oz. (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs) of whole almonds, and make sure to grind them really fine in the food processor, and to make this cake without worrying about it being gluten free, use an equal amount of white flour as I used rice flour mix, and omit the xanathan gum.

Almond Cake with Almond Crust
serves 10 to 12

about 1/4 cup sliced almonds
3 1/2 oz. pure almond paste
2 oz almond flour
2 oz whole unblanched almonds
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 eggs
1 stick (8 Tbs) unsalted butter
1 tsp amaretto
1/2 cup rice flour mix (2 parts brown rice flour, 2/3 parts potato starch, and 1/3 parts tapioca flour) (or just all purpose white flour if not making gluten-free)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanathan (omit if not making gluten-free)

Preheat oven to 350.
Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan, then scatter the sliced almonds over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, evenly distributing extra nuts that don’t stick over the bottom.

Using your hands, form the almond paste into a flat disk, then lay it on top of a nonstick baking mat and cover with a piece of waxed paper, or simply sandwich it between two large pieces of waxed paper.

Using a rolling pin, roll the almond paste out into about a 10 inch round, making it as evenly thin as possible, then carefully transfer it into the cake pan, pressing it over the slivered almonds and up the sides of the pan.

Place the almond flour, almonds, sugar, salt, and almond extract in the bowl of a food processor and process until the almonds are finely pulverized.
Add the eggs, butter, and amaretto, and pulse until blended thoroughly.
Add the flour, baking powder, and xanathan (if making gluten-free version) and pulse until just blended.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.

Bake until the cake is gloden brown on top and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Cool completly in the pan on a rack.

To unmold, slide a knife around the cake to release the sides and invert carefully over a plate.