Sunday, March 28, 2010

Apricot Macaroons

Wow, what a baking day!I just finished making 65 macaroons, a pecan-peach upside down cake (very Southern) and an apple struesel cake.

My favorite are the macaroons. You just can't get this wonderful flavor with the ones in the can! Those have so many preservatives, they could last until the next ice age.

This recipe was given to me by my neighbor, who has served it to appreciative guests for many years.

The year after I first made it, it was featured as a recipe made by Wolfgang Puck, a famous chef, at his Spago’s restaurant.



Combine apricots, water and 1 tablespoon sugar in small saucepan. Poach apricots over medium heat until tender and about 1 tablespoon liquid remains, 3-4 minutes. Cool slightly. Puree mixture in food processor. Add remaining 3/4 cup sugar and egg whites and process until apricots are pureed. (Start with on/off pulsing and then let food processor run.)

Place coconut in a large bowl. Add apricot puree and beat with electric mixer until mixture holds together--when pinched.

Using hands, shape mixture into macaroons, each weighing about 2 ounces. Arrange 1 inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees until tops are well browned, 15-20 minutes. Remove macaroons from pan and cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen.

Nutritional information (per macaroon):
129 calories
14 mg sodium
0 cholesterol
9 grams fat
12 grams carbohydrates
2 grams protein
.83 grams fiber

This time, I made 1 1/2 batches, and used a cookie scoop to form the macaroons. That made it much easier, but the macaroons are smaller.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Milk-Free Ice Cream

Like many people, I have collected tons of recipes over the years. Most of them are filed in notebooks, under their categories. Most of them are ignored, sadly. The notebooks are taking up too much room, along with my cookbooks! My hubby wanted me to throw them out. However, I told my hubby that I would give myself a year to go through as many recipes as possible to cull out what I wanted to save. That year is coming up quickly, at the end of May!

Today, I wanted a non milk recipe for a satisfying cold dessert. I'll be having dinner with a bunch of people, and wanted something different and special. I ran across this recipe for "Non Dairy Ice Cream." I don't even know where I got the recipe, I wrote it down years ago!
Here’s the recipe:;
--20oz. of frozen strawberries. You can take fresh, hull them, and partially freeze them if you want. They need to be partially defrosted anyways.
--1 cup sugar
--2 Egg whites 
--2 bananas

Partially thaw strawberries. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. I mashed it up with a masher, that's my addition to the recipe. Then beat on high until frothy. Freeze overnight to set. Here's a picture of the frozen dessert; I did it in 2 batches, to avoid splashing:

The key is that you need to have freezer space for the large bowl (or two). We had this the other day when I made a "test run." It was delicious, tasted like frothy strawberry dessert. My hubby gave it a "9", only because it didn't taste like milk.

I suppose you could also make this in a graham cracker crust, as a frozen pie!

The Plexiglass solution!

I was all excited when we first looked at this house and saw the newly remodeled kitchen.  And granite tile!

What I didn't understand is that granite tile is different than one whole piece of granite.  As soon as I began baking, the flour got onto the granite tile.  Mostly, it got into the grout.  If it got wet, it turned the brown grout white.  After paying over $500 to have a professional company clean up the grout and seal it, I decided to change things.  I had used a baking sheet, but I guess it wasn't large enough.  I added sheets under the baking sheet sometimes.  Things slipped.  I added cutting boards and silicone baking sheets.  around the baking sheet, but flour got through the cracks where they met.   I tried really hard to keep any flour from getting onto the tile and getting wet--then I would brush the dry flour away with a whisk broom.  That worked, but I was nervous the flour would get wet.

Finally, I decided to see if I could make myself a large "cover" for my kitchen island out of plexiglass.  Then I could put my baking sheet on top of that!  I have used plexiglass before for temporary holiday baking, and it kept my counters neat.  This sounded like a good plan.  I shared it with some of my baking buddies, and got some ideas on how to keep the plexiglass in place.

I checked out Lowes and Ace Hardware ( I had purchased plexiglass from them before).  All of the pieces were no longer than 48".  My island counter is 51".  Ace suggested that I try the local glass company.  The local glass company could cut me the right size, but it was $60!  I decided to go back to Ace Hardware.  Those smiling guys cut the piece cut to size and I had an extra piece to boot, all for under $40! 

Here's a picture of it on my counter.  It's 3" short, but that's ok.  And I don't have to worry about how to round the corners.  It's covered with a film of plastic right now.  If I want, I could remove the plastic and just use the plexiglass as a wonderfully large baking sheet!

I've just begun using this piece, and I just LOVE it!  Maybe this solution can help you?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Avocado Guacamole and Pesto and Pine Nut Breads

Our assignment for the "Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day" baking group was to bake a "Avocado Guacamole Bread"and a "Pesto & Pine Nut Bread."  I'm just about to put away my baking supplies for a short break, but just had to try these breads.

I think I added a bit too much water to this batter, while trying out my new dough whisk.  I think that next time I will add the flour mixture slowly to the water.  That way, I can get every corner of the tub mixed in with the dough whisk before it's too thick.  Then, I will use my hand to enjoy the dough while mixing!

This bread became slightly bent out of shape when I put it on the stone.  We thought it tasted like a good whole wheat bread.  With the tomatoes and avocado in it already, it was just a shortcut to adding cheese for a good sandwich!

I heard a lot of good comments about the great smell of the pesto pine nut loaf as it baked in the oven.  It did smell nice!  The picture above shows it before it went into the oven.  The picture below shows it baked, just before we eat it.  I planned the whole menu for tonight around it--salad, spicy salmon fillet, rice pilaf, sesame/soy green beans!  This bread was a definite "10!"

If you would like to see the other recipes made by other people in this group, just click on this link:

HBinFive is hosted by Michelle
of Big Black

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I decided to bake hamentaschen, I love this cookie.  I heard about a hamentaschen bakeoff, and they really needed entrants.  My friend Marla had made a great batch of them in years past, and I decided to try that recipe.  They tasted just like a bakery's hamentaschen!

Entering the contest was a big step.  The last time I made hamentaschen, they didn't stay closed.  But I've been part of a wonderful group that is baking recipes from "Healthy Breads in 5 Minutes a Day."  They have been really encouraging, and gave me tips for sealing dough.  And my friend, Marla, was very encouraging.

Marla is a great cook.  She can cook a huge feast, in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp!  When Marla buys a cookbook, I buy that one also.  If she says a recipe is good, you better believe it!  We both love cooking from "1000 Jewish Recipes," by Faye Levy.  Faye Levy was trained as a chef in France, and has written over 20 cookbooks.  The contest entrant recipe is from that book--"Eastern European Cookie Dough."

To ease my nervousness about entering a hamentaschen contest, I decided to make a "backup recipe."  I made Working Mom's Hamentashen      This recipe uses yellow cake mix as a base, and is super simple to handle.

Here is the dough, all rolled out. I used a can from chunk pineapple as a 3" cookie cutter.  It worked really well.:

I used date spread as the filling.  Here are the hamentaschen, after removing them from the oven:
I gave my hubby a few of these to take to work.  He emailed me saying that his boss said " to tell you that "you make a mean hamantashan!" Which means he really liked it!"

Okay, now that my "backup" recipe is done, I know I have an entry for the party's bakeoff contest.  They tasted pretty good, just not as good as scratch.  But no matter what, I have an entry.  

So I can relax a bit and make Faye Levy's recipe  This recipe is a bit more involved.  It's a basic sugar cookie recipe that is handled like pie dough--put in fridge to chill, rolled out, and cut into shapes.  I'm not well versed in rolling out dough very much, so this was a challenge.  

I had some panic when I mixed the recipe in my food processor.  I think I overmixed the recipe, and the butter got too soft!  I didn't know whether to dump this recipe and start over, or try to save this batch.  I put the dough in plastic wrap in the fridge while I emailed my baking group members and called Marla.  

It turned out that putting the dough in the fridge was the right thing to do.  My baking group members and Marla gave me some tips.  Marla suggested that next time I take the margarine out of the fridge at the very last second, before mixing the dough.  She said that when making pie crust or recipes like this, the fridge is your best friend.

I separated the dough into 4 parts, and worked on only one part of the dough at a time.  I kept the rest in the fridge. I rolled out that portion of dough and cut the cookie rounds out.

I found a helpful way of shaping the cookie on my bench knife to keep it from sticking to the pastry mat while I worked with it.

 To shape the cookie, I cut out a 3" round.  Then I pinched the top together to make a cone.  Finally, I pulled the bottom part up and pinched the corners.  I ended up with a 3-cornered cookie.  

Last year, the cookies didn't stay closed.  My "baking advisors" suggested that I brush water or egg on the outside edge to help keep the seal.  It worked really well.  Thanks!

Here are the cookies, close up, after they came out of the oven.

I was very happy to win second place in the hamentaschen bakeoff!  Here is the fun trophy I got: 

My hubby now jokes with me that I am his "trophy wife."  When I said I wondered about the first place recipe, he said that I have a whole year to practice for the next contest!

Thanks so much to everyone who encouraged me to go beyond my baking fears of making hamentaschen!