Bravetart: Homemade Lofthouse-Style Cookies

These have surpassed my famously popular chocolate chip cookies to become my daughter’s favorite cookie. If she’s particularly upset about school, the thought of coming home to one of these cookies freshly baked for her will snap her out of it every time.

The recipe comes from Bravetart’s cookbook, which Food52 Baking Club went through in November last year, but it’s also been published on the Serious Eats website if you don’t have access to the book. They remind me of my childhood and since we can’t get the store bought packaged Lofthouse cookies here, these were a must bake.

I won’t go into the details of the process of making them at all, but I will point out two interesting things that make this cookie recipe different from others. First, it uses egg whites rather than whole eggs – but you don’t have to whip them or anything before incorporating into the dough – instead, you whisk them with some cream and vanilla. That’s the second thing, cream – I’ve used buttermilk in cookie recipes before, but never cream. It only uses 2 Tablespoons which is kind of inconvenient if you don’t normally have cream in your fridge, but it also uses 1/3 cup in the icing so I suppose it isn’t too bad. I try to plan it that I’ll have something in mind to use the remainder so it doesn’t go to waste (the egg yolks can be a problem in that regard too).

I use a cookie scoop to portion them out, they bake perfectly every time and I always use a bit of blue food coloring in the icing because that’s what I used the first time I made them and now that’s what my darling daughter expects! I put whatever sprinkles I have on hand on top of the icing – it’s been a great way to finish off leftovers from various projects but it’s quickly run down my supplies because I make these so often. (I’m trying to make my own sprinkles next week!) These cookies are definitely going to be handed down from generation to generation because they will forever be associated with cheering my girl up on a bad day.

Sweet: Blackberry and star anise friands

I’m so excited to report I’ve finally acquired Sweet on Kindle. I’ve been waiting for it to be on sale as it’s a hot commodity at the library and you are literally on the waiting list for months between borrows. And while we have made something new this week from the book, I thought I’d finally get around to posting about the blackberry and star anise friands we made a while back.

The blackberries we used were foraged…our first time foraging for blackberries that grow like a weed here in Canberra…and they were really worth the time as they were super cute and juicy and delicious. That being said, I’m a bit disappointed with the result of these friands. =(

I loved the flavor of the star anise, which I ground using my mortar and pestle, and it paired nicely with the blackberries. It’s just that the glaze is too dark and it doesn’t look nearly as beautiful as the picture in the book which has a beautiful light pink glaze. How did they do that?!! I followed the directions exactly, but I got this dark purple glaze which I think makes them look not nearly as appetizing. I tried to cover it up by sprinkling on some icing sugar, but that hasn’t helped. Seriously, disappointing.

I won’t go over the process – the recipe can be found on Ottolenghi’s website – it’s a typical friand where you brown the butter and whisk the egg whites and mix in the dry ingredients which is made up of flour and almond meal. I don’t know if it would be worth trying this recipe again to see if I can get a lighter glaze – as I said, the flavor was good, it’s just the appearance that’s disappointing – there are a lot of other recipes I think I’d like to try first. Am I still glad I made them?! Sure, but this is my least favorite of the recipes I’ve made from Sweet thus far. Guess you can’t win them all.

Throwback Thursday: Sour Cherry Streusel Cake from Classic German Baking

Throwback to June 2017 when Food52 Baking Club was going through Luisa Weiss’s book Classic German Baking. Sooo many delicious looking desserts that just had to be baked ASAP.

Her Sour Cherry Streusel Cake or Kirschstreuselkuchen very quickly became one of my favourite recipes and I’ve probably made it half a dozen times over the last 9 months. The recipe can be found online, so there’s no excuse not to try it for yourself. And as long as you keep a jar of tart cherries in your cupboard and have basic baking ingredients on hand, this is a cake you can whip up in a jiffy if you suddenly find yourself in need of a cake.

There’s 3 basic components in this recipe: the streusel, the cherries and the batter. The streusel you mix by hand and is made of flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt. The cherries are really interesting as you drain the juice and bring it to a boil with a bit set aside to create a slurry with some cornflour and then whisked in to make it get thick and syrupy. Then you reincorporate the cherries and set it aside to cool while you make the batter. And the batter is a dead simple basic butter cake – where you cream butter and sugar and some eggs and vanilla then add your dry ingredients and a little milk (I usually use buttermilk). Then you layer it up in a 9×13 inch pan and bake in a moderate oven for 45-50 minutes.

It turns out great every time, and while I’m actually a little disappointed with the lack of color in the streusel this time around, it still tasted fabulous. I used a new type of gluten free flour and it behaved a little differently. This is another thing of interest, how adaptable this recipe is to gluten free. We regularly bake for a gluten free guest and so this is an easy recipe for me to make for her by simply replacing the plain flour with gluten free and everything else remains the same. The cake is not overly sweet making it easy to eat more than one slice and the red color on the cherries is so elegant that it would sit very nicely on a high tea platter.

I’m really surprised this is the first time I’ve posted about this book because it is one of my absolute favorites. I look forward to sharing more from this book soon!

The Fearless Baker: Bourbon-Rosemary Peach Pie

Happy first birthday to Food52 Baking Club! This month, all my Baking Club posts will be throwbacks, and to start us off, I’m finally posting about that amazing peach pie I made for Pi Day several weeks ago now.

The recipe came from last month’s book, The Fearless Baker and I’ll say straight off the bat, the all-buttah pie dough was a knock out. Best pastry ever! I chucked all the ingredients in the food processor (flour, salt, butter, water) and then portioned it in half and refrigerated it as recommended. Then I rolled out the bottom half and popped it in the fridge until it was ready for filling and attempted a fake lattice for the top. I used a simple egg and water and salt egg wash on top and I was just so impressed with the recipe. It’s a bit dark around the edges but I wouldn’t change a thing.

The pie filling on the other hand, I’m not really too sure how to write about. I followed the directions to the letter and it still ended up liquidy. Fabulous tasting, but liquidy all the same. In it was peaches, bourbon, rosemary, brown sugar, butter, salt and cornflour, and the oddest thing is how much bourbon you start out with for what you end up with – you basically cook it down to a syrup, letting it reduce like crazy, but I think it sort of lost the bourbon taste in the process. And I didn’t really get smacked with a rosemary taste either, so overall the pie I wanted, I didn’t really get. I kinda think if I were to make it again I’d just use the amount the recipe wanted to end up with at the end rather than a whole cup of bourbon. And more rosemary, I can’t seem to get enough of it lately.

Of course we served it warm with ice cream – is there any other way to eat peach pie?!!

Throwback Thursday: Golden Brioche Loaves from Baking: From My Home to Yours

It didn’t take me long to return to  Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours, the book that we went through in the Food52 Baking Club last month. I searched through our Facebook group for brioche because I wanted to make the Mushrooms on Brioche from Simple and thought I should just make it from scratch. What I quickly found out was that Dorie’s recipe was super popular. And now I can see why!

Dorie describes it as “elegant” and it really is that. And again another example of how bread isn’t hard to make – it just takes time and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a good stand mixer that will do the hard labor for you. First, you mix yeast into some water and milk and then add flour and salt and mix to just moisten the flour before adding eggs and sugar. Then you incorporate butter in small chunks and you beat the dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and put it into a greased container at room temperature until it’s nearly doubled. Then you deflate the dough and refrigerate it overnight, deflating again every half hour until it stops rising.

The next day you shape the dough by dividing it in half then each half into four. You shape the smaller portions into 4 logs that you lay crosswise in 2 bread tins and you leave at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans. Here is where I came unstuck. I used the wrong pan size. And so my brioche doesn’t really have much height. Next time I will definitely use smaller tins.

You brush on an egg wash and bake it in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. And the result: golden and deliciously buttery crumb that takes everything up a notch flavour and comfort wise. I cannot wait to make this again!

The Fearless Baker: Drop Biscuits and book review

Today we created something perfect. I was torn with what to bake today for my third and final recipe from The Fearless Baker for the month, should I make the Lemon Buttermilk Glazed Loaf or some scones?! Then I looked in the fridge and noticed we had no cream but didn’t want to commit to an hour of oven baking, so I flicked through some more and came across Erin McDowell’s Drop Biscuit recipe. And ding, ding, ding – we have a winner!

My favourite scone recipe is Date and Lemon Scones that Gary Mehigan made on MasterChef Australia in its first year. The addition of lemon zest just does something to the date flavour that makes it so much richer and I love cracking one open hot out of the oven and slathering it in butter before devouring. So when I saw in the headnote that Erin’s mom would add dried fruit, nuts or chocolate chips to the biscuits, I straight away declared we’re going to try these with dates and lemon zest.

The process was so simple. We chucked the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt into the food processor and pulsed it, then added the cubed butter and mixed until it resembled breadcrumbs. At this stage we added some lemon zest and the dates, the blades chopped them up for us, while the dry mix insured they wouldn’t puree. Lastly we added the wet ingredients that had been mixed together, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mixed until the dough just came together.

Scoop them out with 1/4 cup measure onto a lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with raw sugar and ours baked in a moderate oven in 15 minutes.

Don’t they look gloriously golden and crunchy on the outside?! Inside they were soft and warm and flecked with bits of dates. I am so happy with this recipe that I don’t think I’ll go back to my Masterchef scone recipe ever again, especially since I ALWAYS have buttermilk on hand, but rarely have cream.

This book has been so fun to bake from and there are still many recipes I’d love to try – especially her pies and her cakes (including the lemon buttermilk loaf I mentioned above). There are also some raspberry ripple bars that have been calling to me and the peanut butter and jelly whoopie pies. Oh and the butterscotch blondies! Really the list could go on.

Erin’s flourless cocoa cookies I declared as the best naturally gluten free cookie I’ve had. These biscuits are incredible, and the madeleines were my first successful attempt! There’s also a peach pie that I will post about soon that was absolutely stunning.

I did have an incident in December where I *tried* to make the salted caramel swirl meringues and they failed miserably. The caramel sauce itself was good, but I think the weather was too temperamental to be baking meringues successfully and it just ended up one big flat swirly disc – there’s no photo because it was that bad. I turned it into a trifle with some stone fruit and whipped cream, but by the end of that dish, I didn’t want to look at another meringue for a long time. So I doubt I’ll try it again.

This is definitely a book worth picking up, it’s very approachable for the novice baker, but also has some recipes that look more challenging. I love Erin’s sense of humor, especially in her description of the different pastry decorating techniques. This is definitely not the end for this book on my blog – but from here on it’ll be relegated to Throwback Thursday.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

Throwback Thursday: Custard Yo-Yos from Sweet

There is something about the sandy buttery texture of these biscuits that takes you to your happy place and if you are looking for the perfect indulgent treat, these most certainly are it.

I’ve been making these yo-yos since December when Food52 Baking Club was going through Ottolenghi & Goh’s baking book, Sweet. I worked out rather quickly that simply replacing the flour with gluten free flour would allow for a lovely gluten free option on the cookie platters I gave out at Christmas, and I made batch after batch of these with the first bunch of rhubarb I’ve ever purchased from the grocery store.

Well rhubarb season is over, so it was time to start experimenting with other fillings as our primary school fete is coming up and I’m looking after the cake stall and think these could be a huge hit if I get them just right. These are my first try with changing the filling, and the only thing I did was replace the rhubarb with strawberries (and I even took the time to roast them for 30 minutes in the oven).

The biscuits themselves are a mixture of gluten free flour, custard powder, pure icing sugar, salt, butter and vanilla which are then rolled into 15g balls and flattened with a fork before baking. They’re sandwiched with the roasted strawberries that have been pureed in a food processor with butter and pure icing sugar and a little lemon juice which give that delightful pink color and a tart fruity contrast to the sugary buttery biscuits.

Really they aren’t all that difficult, but they are delicate and you have to be super careful not to overbake or underbake them. I lost my first tray by overbaking which was a bit sad, but the rest came out perfectly as I adjusted the timing.

My only criticism of the recipe is that the icing is either really soft or really hard, rather than being that perfect in between. They set solid if in the fridge but can become a melty mess if you try to serve them at room temperature. I’m getting to the stage where I think I may give up on their icing recipe and look elsewhere for a solution that will be fete appropriate, as the cake stall is going to be outdoors. I do want to keep the strawberry though, as that seems to make them a bit different to the vanilla or lemon or passionfruit fillings you normally see.

Regardless of that, I love this recipe and have written it out in my recipe book for safe keeping. It’s nice to give the gluten free person in your life something that doesn’t feel like they’re compromising. These make a really sweet gift!

The Fearless Baker: Lemon-Rosemary Madeleines

I’ve had my Madeleine pan in the freezer for over a week now, waiting for some free time to have another go at making them. And since I had lemon zest and rosemary on hand, it seemed too perfect not to try Erin McDowell’s variation from The Fearless Baker. And spoiler alert…

…they have a hump! I think I’ve finally worked out what to do with my oven to achieve that characteristic Madeleine appearance and I’m so happy that it wasn’t all that difficult after all, and the recipe was really quick to throw together.

You whisk together eggs and sugar until it’s light and frothy, add vanilla and lemon zest and then add your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt). Slowly pour in some melted butter and continue whisking until fully incorporated, then stir in some chopped fresh rosemary. I then refrigerated the mixture for about an hour and preheated the oven.

I scooped the dough using my #30 scoop and popped them into the oven (a much cooler oven than recommended) and baked them for 12 minutes. I did pull them out at 10 but they were still liquidy in the center, but 2 minutes more did the trick.

I wish they weren’t SO golden around the edges, but I’m not sure I can really correct that with my current set up. This recipe made 22 using my normal pan and the first batch I cooked at the recommended temperature and at 8 minutes they were starting to have a hump but they were already looking pretty dark. So the second batch was done at a lower temperature for longer and next time I make them I’ll try that same method!

We really enjoyed the flavour of these. I put in extra rosemary and I could have easily added more, I love the flavour so much. I have one more recipe for this book this month, and it’s an absolute beauty.  That’ll be up on Friday!

The Fearless Baker: Flourless Cocoa Cookies

This month, Food52 Baking Club is working through Erin McDowell’s book The Fearless Baker. I had the library order this book a few months ago, knowing that this was going to be coming up and was able to get my hands on it for about a week in December, and boy, oh boy am I excited to have it back!

I’ve made these flourless cocoa cookies a few times now, and I have to say they are by far the nicest naturally gluten free cookie I’ve had. They are like a cookie on the outside and while others have described the inside as a brownie, I’d say it’s more like a chocolate truffle – delectably rich and delicious.

People have had trouble with the sticky and thick batter, but I’ve found if you just use a handheld mixer to do the work, the trouble is virtually non-existent. And scooping the dough with a spring loaded cookie scoop keeps them uniform in size and while the shape isn’t smooth, that’s actually part of the charm.

Did I mention they have only 7 ingredients?! You simply whisk some eggs, add icing sugar, salt, cinnamon and cocoa, then stir in some vanilla and chocolate chips. You can seriously have the batter ready to go within 5 minutes. Scoop them onto a baking paper lined cookie sheet, sprinkle some salt on top and in my oven they took 8 minutes to get firm without overcooking.

I have had rave reviews about these every time I’ve made them and they will definitely be staying in my cookie rotation for the foreseeable future. A good start to what should be a great month of baking!

Throwback Thursday: Rose Hibiscus Shortbread Fans from Dorie’s Cookies

I’ve previously done a Throwback Thursday post for Dorie’s Cookies, the book Food52 Baking Club covered in its very first month. This book is seriously an encyclopedia of every type of cookie you could possibly want to make. And every picture is so beautiful.

We made this recipe when we threw a little afternoon tea for Mother’s Day last year (it’s online here). Everything that we made had some form of pink in it – well the sweets, that is. And the fact that this recipe has tea in it, made it even more appropriate for our special afternoon tea table.

I’ve since come to adapt it as a gluten free cookie. In the side bar, Dorie gives the suggestion that rather than part rice flour part all purpose you can use fully all purpose flour, so I take that amount and replace it with gluten free flour, and it turns out great every time.

I had a hard time finding plain hibiscus tea, so started out with a passionfruit hibiscus blend which was nice, then today I noticed that Dorie suggests Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea – and I had Raspberry Zinger tea in my cupboard so I thought I’d give that a whirl. It took almost 2 tea bags, so I sprinkled the rest of the tea leaves over the shortbread along with the sugar sprinkles. A whole new level of deliciousness was achieved. I’m already planning a trip to the markets where I source Celestial Seasonings here to stock up on some more.

I definitely recommend this recipe to anyone who loves tea and shortbread. It really is the perfect cookie. And it’s really quick to put together. You put the tea leaves in with the sugar and smash them about a bit. Then you add the butter and salt and cream the mixture, then the extracts, then the flour. I no longer bake this in a springform cake pan, I free form the circle of dough on a cookie sheet and roll it nice and even. I score the disc into 12 wedges completely, and use the fork prong trick along the edge. I baked this for 20 minutes at 150C and it was done just perfectly. The icing is simply icing sugar and a tablespoon of milk whisked together. Nothing fancy, it doesn’t need it. I’ll be enjoying this over the next few days with my afternoon cuppa.