Thursday, March 20, 2014

Coconut Macaroons

We have a favorite bakery in Portland, one of the many establishments we like to frequent when we visit southern Maine.  Standard Baking Company is one of those places you go to buy the best.  Standard is a European style bakery without the fuss, featuring fresh crusty loaves of fragrant breads, buttery flaky croissants and an array of delectable treats that will definitely have you wanting more.  My husband and I always grab a hot cup of coffee and a treat to snack on as we walk down Commercial street on Portland's waterfront.  My favorite is their coconut macaroons, a seriously delicious, moist and chewy delight.  Thankfully they published a cookbook!
Here is their recipe for coconut macaroons.


Recipe by Alison Pray and Tara Smith

4 3/4 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut, (macaroon coconut) 
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup egg whites from 6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Makes about 40 macaroons
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Position two oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

1.  In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, combine all the ingredients and cook stirring constantly until you reach a temperature of 130° on a candy thermometer.  Mixture will be thick at first but will soften a bit and be quite sticky as it gets warmer.  Be careful not to scorch the bottom.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
2.  Scoop the batter into rounded tablespoons and drop onto parchment lined pans, evenly spaced.  At this point with your fingers dipped in water, you may form these mounds into neat little balls or you can form them into little pyramids as they do in the bakery.  Using wet fingers to prevent sticking, use your thumb and first two fingers to form each mound into a pyramid shape.

3.  Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate baking sheets front to back and top to bottom.  Bake an additional 5 to 6 minutes until the edges are browned.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Apple and Oatmeal Cake for St. Patricks Day

Growing up in a French/Italian family, St. Patrick's day was never really celebrated as a big feast day for us, however my Mom did put together a pretty decent boiled dinner for the occasion.  While raising my own family, that corned beef and cabbage tradition continued.  As I became more adept at cooking and trying new dishes, finding traditional meals to cook for my family from different parts of the world was really fun!  Our St. Patrick's day meal really needed an update, so for the past several years finding really good and interesting dishes such as this Apple and Oatmeal cake, was a very happy find indeed.  This is a very moist cake made with layers of cooked apples and oatmeal.  Very little sugar is used and a hint of lemon peel and cinnamon is added.  It's a pretty little cake, that I baked in a 6 inch X 3 inch pan, it gives this cake a nice height.  It can be served alone with a light dusting of powdered sugar on top or with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.  Either way, a fine cake deserving of a wonderful ending to a St. Patrick's day meal or any meal for that matter!

Recipe from Theodora Fitzgibbons "Irish Traditional Food"

1 lb. cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped coarsley
2 rounded tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 rounded tablespoon of raisins
1 stick (4 oz.) butter
1 rounded tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup or honey
10 oz. old fashioned oatmeal
finely grated peel of 1/2 a lemon
2 large eggs, beaten

powdered sugar, optional  

6 inch spring form pan or a 6X3 inch cake pan, lined bottom and sides with parchment paper and sprayed with pan spray.

preheat oven to 375° F.

1.  Combine apple chunks with the sugar and cinnamon and cook on medium heat until soft and all water is evaporated.  You may have to mash cooked apples with a fork depending on what kind of apples you use.  A dry slightly chunky puree is what you want.  Add the raisins to the cooked apples and allow to cool.

2.  Melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup or honey in a saucepan.  Remove from heat.

3.  Combine the oatmeal and lemon peel in a bowl.  Add the melted butter mixture and the beaten eggs, combine well with a spoon.  Divide this mixture up evenly in three separate bowls.

4.  Press 1/3 of the oatmeal mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spoon 1/2 the apple mixture over the oatmeal layer and spread evenly.  Cover the next 1/3 of oatmeal over the apple layer and press evenly and repeat with the rest of the apple then oatmeal.  Pressing the final layer of oatmeal gently but evenly over the top.

5.  Bake in preheated 375° oven for 30 minutes or until a light golden color on top.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack.  Flip cake out on a plate, remove parchment paper and place your serving plate over the top and carefully flip again.  Center cake on your plate and sift a little powdered sugar over the top if desired.  Enjoy!


Monday, March 3, 2014

Apple Cookie Pies

Friends of ours invited us for dinner this week and I wanted to make them a little something as a thank you.  I love a cookie that offers a surprise inside and these little gems do not disappoint.  A buttery crisp cookie filled with a delicious, not to sweet apple filling.  Packaged in a little cellophane bag and tied with a raffia ribbon, it makes a great hostess gift.


For the dough...

350 g.(2 3/4 cups) all purpose flour, sifted
200 g. (14 Tbs.) butter, at room temperature
130 g. (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling...

2 golden delicious apples
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon butter

1 egg, beaten in a small bowl for egg wash
coarse sugar

Makes 32- 2 1/2 inch cookies
Preheat oven to 350° F.

1.  To make the dough, in a mixing bowl, add butter and sugar and salt.  Mix on high speed using the paddle attachment, until fully combined.  Reduce the speed on your mixer and add egg and vanilla and mix to combine.  Add flour in 3 batches and mix until all is incorporated well.  Do not over mix.

2.  Divide dough into 2 parts and flatten each half into a disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while apple filling is being made.

3.  To make the filling, peel and core the apples and cut into 1 inch chunks.  In a small sauce pan, combine the apple chunks, sugar and butter.  Cook over medium heat until apple softens and most of the juices evaporate, being careful not to scorch the apples.  Remove from the heat and mash the apples with a fork until smooth.  Allow to cool completely.

4.  Remove one of the dough disks from the refrigerator and on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to about an 1/8th of an inch thickness.  Using a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut as many circles as you can and then gather up the scrapes and roll and cut until all the dough has been cut. 

5.  Use a 1/2 teaspoon, scoop to fill half of the dough rounds and with a finger dipped in water, moisten each edge of the unfilled rounds and place together with the filled, pressing lightly to seal.  Repeat the same process with the other half of the dough.  Place the filled cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, one inch apart.  Brush each cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Poke a hole in the top of each cookie to allow steam to escape.

6.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, or until the edges start to turn a light golden color.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  Enjoy!