20 May 2015

Almond Flour and Jam Roll-up Scones

Blanched Almond flour is a wonder in the kitchen. Heart-healthy, low-carb and packed with protein, antioxidants, iron and other vitamins like Vitamin E, it's a welcome shift away from white flour, even if not a permanent change in the kitchen. With summer rolling around, everyone wants to eat lighter, and these scones are a welcome treat in Spring. Almond flour always contributes a soft texture to baked goods, as well as moisture. So pour yourself some organic coffee or tea, bake these scones and reap the benefits. This gluten-free powerhouse of a culinary staple isn't hard to find. Online stores such as Nuts.com have different packaging options.

The texture of the almond flour scone I've shared here is a bit different than wheat, but since I use cold butter, you still get those crispy edges. Keeping the dough cold will help it roll up and slice better. I took the master almond flour scone recipe I've been using, tossed in a few chopped almonds, kissed it with lemon and vanilla, and a little coconut sugar, then patted the dough thinner than usual in order to slather a bit of strawberry jam and coconut sugar atop, and then rolled it up. These scones whip up fast and are a great weekend breakfast. While I prefer them cooled a bit from the oven (about 10-15 mins on a rack) they can also be stored in a container in the fridge and rewarmed in a low oven for a few minutes.

Looking for more? Try my other popular recipes for muffins, and more muffins.

Almond Flour Roll-up Scones

Makes 6
1 1/2 cups Blanched Almond Flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon toasted almonds chopped finely

2 Tablespoons/ 1 ounce VERY COLD butter (cut into tiny cubes and placed in freezer while you prep)

1 large organic egg
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To fill:
About 2-3 Tablespoons strawberry jam
Pinch coconut sugar

Oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Measure/cube your butter and let it sit in the freezer. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, zest, sugar and almonds in large bowl. Set aside. Mix egg, honey, vinegar, vanilla and place in fridge. Work butter into dry mix with pastry blender until you have pea-sized and finer crumbs. Pour in wet mix and stir from outside in until a nice chunky dough forms. Dump onto parchment and with bench scraper, shape into rectangle and fold it over itself a few times. Dust with tiny pinch almond flour if necessary.

With the scraper, push the sides to an even rectangle about 5 x 7 and 1/2 inch thick. I like to keep things cold, so here and there, I place the dough in the freezer for a moment. Now spread the jam in the center, sprinkle coconut sugar and starting with the side close to your body, roll up dough into a log. Place in freezer again for a minute or two, then cut into 6 slices. Place them with the pinwheel facing up and brush with any of the wet/egg mix left in your measuring cup and a pinch coconut sugar if desired. Bake 20-23 minutes, until browning and a toothpick comes out of the center clean, then cool on pan on a rack for a few minutes, before moving the scones off pan and onto rack. Enjoy!

15 May 2015

An act of trust

My mother-in-law to be made biscotti around the holidays this year and when we dunked them into coffee on Christmas I was immediately reminded how lovely they are. Her's were studded with pistachios and apricots and anise and nice and toasty. Homemade twice-baked biscotti is so much better than what you'd get in a package. Unlike other cookies, they do have a longer shelf life but when you've molded the fresh dough yourself it's a game-changer. At about three points since Christmas I stocked those add-ins in my pantry only to reach for them and find: we've snacked on the pistachios and they're now gone, the apricots got chopped into granola, and the anise is there, waiting to be used in a sweet application (though it does like to be crushed into meatball mix). Last week I decided I would let her's be her's and go a different direction with the inspiration.  

I happened upon a recipe from Cook's Illustrated using a good amount of almonds (check) and almond extract (check) and loved it. As is not unusual in Cook's recipes, which often contain a hack, making the dough was a bit of an act of trust. Because of the process of aerating the egg and sugar first in a food processor (which you'll use first to grind some of the almonds til powdery; this cuts the gluten down), the dough is a bit more sticky. After the first bake, things don't look all that exciting. You'll be staring at a mass of what looks like an undercooked, stout loaf of bread (see above). But this is ok and what biscotti is all about at this stage. 

You'll then slice it on the bias, hopefully more accurately to the 1/2 inch than me--some of mine ran more like 3/4 inch--and place them on a wire rack to bake for another 35 minutes. At which point they will emerge toasty and golden, but not tooth-shattering. Yes there is some babysitting here but the results are worth it. Biscotti keep airtight for over a week...maybe 2. We've been pulling them out of the jar for dunks in warm afternoon coffee and tea. I don't even think this heat wave will stop me from making them in the near future again.

Almond Biscotti
Barely tweaked from Cook's

Notes: This is Cook's Illustrated, which I don't recommend messing with. Biscotti don't run high on the butter and sugar spectrum anyways. My only change was to add a little lemon zest and make a half recipe to fit on my baking sheet--which is reflected below. I think it is easier to work with one "loaf" of dough, especially on your first time. The dough, as I mentioned, is sticky, but nothing to be concerned about once you get it into the oven. Don't be intimidated by the amount of steps, either. You're ultimately mixing wet and dry and doing a double bake. No mixer needed but food processor is recommended for some of the work though not mixing the actual dough. You could use a blender I'd imagine for the grinding and egg aerating. Use your judgement on the first bake for when to pull it--you'll want to see cracking tops and light golden hue. If your dough was a little sticky, you may need a few minutes longer than the recommended 30. 

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp (3 1/8 ounces) whole almonds, lightly toasted
3/4 cups + 2 Tbsp (4 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, plus 1 Tbsp white beaten with pinch salt
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 teaspoons almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Few swipes lemon zest

Vegetable oil spray

Adjust oven rack to middle and heat to 325 degrees. Using ruler and pencil, draw an 8 by 3-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper, then place parchment on a sheet pan, ink side down.

Pulse 1/2 cup almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses; transfer to bowl and set aside. Process remaining 2 Tbsp almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; process to combine, about 15 seconds. Transfer flour mix to second bowl. 

Process 1 egg in now empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 1 minute. Slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds. Add melted butter, almond extract, lemon and vanilla and process until combined, about 10 seconds. 

Transfer egg mixture to medium bowl. Sprinkle half of flour mixture over egg mixture and, using spatula, gently fold until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and chopped almonds and gently fold until just combined.

Using floured hands, pat dough into a rectangle, using lines on parchment as guide. Spray each loaf lightly with oil spray. Using rubber spatula lightly coated with oil spray, smooth tops and sides of rectangles. Gently brush tops with egg white wash. Bake until golden and just beginning to crack on top, 30-33 minutes or so, rotating pan halfway through baking.

Let loaf cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. Using serrated knife, slice on slight bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lay slices, cut side down, about 1/4 inch apart on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 35 minutes, flipping slices halfway through baking. Let cool completely before serving. Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for 2 weeks. 

05 May 2015

Again and again

I can't resist sharing these on here. A simple cookie made from good butter, oat flour (mostly), and a customizable spice mix (I went for cardamom and orange zest--Again--), they are cut with a nice dose of salt and sweetened just enough to round things out. With no eggs or leavening to measure out, they come together in a flash and will be churned out in my mixer again and again. That's the kind of stuff that should be talked about. Taking them for a dip in dark chocolate is the icing on the cake, but of course optional, as you do have to wait for them to set up a bit. Once they do, they hold up nicely for a few days in a container. 

I'm just crazy about this shortbread and its reliance on oat flour.  Experimenting with different flours is always on my radar but oat flour is made in 5 seconds by opening your pantry. Simply grind rolled oats in a coffee grinder finely to yield your desired amount. My other secret? Don't clean the grinder first. You'll get a little coffee flavor into your spiced shortbread. Surfing around the web to do a bit more research before diving into this, I found that traditional Scottish shortbread, was originally often made with oat flour, as it was a food of the poorer class. Little did they know they were tapping into the secret to tender cookies: lower the gluten. 

Lastly, I'm on ShopRite's Blog this week with a little homage to mason jars and baby's breath. Check it out : )

Adapted from Food52
Yeild: 1 1/2 dozen

Notes: The original recipe uses lavender--I didn't have any. Spicing these is of course your preference. I like a little of a few things: almond, orange, cardamom, ginger, as I think they complement the chocolate dip. You can try other blends though. Also, creaming the butter and sugar together with the flavorings is a tip I always do now a la Alice Medrich--as well as keeping a ruler around : )

56 grams rolled oats (about a 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons)
32 grams all purpose flour (1/4 cup)

1/2 tsp fresh orange zest
1/4 tsp cardamom (slightly heaped)
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp sea salt (slightly heaped)
25 grams (2 Tablespoons) granulated sugar
55 grams (1/2 stick) good unsalted butter, room temp

Turbinado/flake salt to sprinkle
1-2 ounces dark chocolate


In a 325 oven, toast the oats for 8 minutes, until a little fragrant (can be done in advance if needed). Set aside to cool, then grind till powdery in a coffee grinder. Whisk oat flour and all purpose flour together.

In a mixer with the paddle, place butter, extract, zest, salt, sugar and spices. Blend on medium until light and fluffy, 2 minutes or so. Scrape down the sides and beat another few seconds.

Add flour in 2 additions. Scrape down between them a little, until the dough is just coming together and pulling away from the side of the bowl. It doesn't need to be all one mass. Look for chunks.

Dump dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into an even log 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and wrap. Chill 2 hrs.

To bake: oven to 350. Racks in top third and bottom third. Line 2 sheets with parchment. Slice the log into 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch thick coins, place on the sheet pans evenly apart. Sprinkle each with a few grains of sugar, a flake of salt if desired, then dock each coin with a fork once or twice.

Bake 18-22 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and back to front, about 12 minutes in, until golden at the edges and firm to touch. Cool on the pan 5 minutes on a rack, then slide parchment to rack to cool completely.

To dip in chocolate, melt half of chocolate in a double boiler, then slowly add the rest off the heat , stirring vigorously after each addition to cool it down. Dip in shortbreads and let set up completely, an hour or so.

20 April 2015

A pleasant surprise

“You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck!”


There is an unpleasant feeling to wandering. But when you land where you land, oh what relief. 

I have been lately keeping track of the subtle differences between purposefully trying something new and shying away from new. I'm not talking about your keepers. We all need a rolodex of keepers. The muffins you know, the non-guesswork roast salmon you crave weekly, meatballs, the walk in the same park, coffees from the usual place that gets the frothed milk ratio just so... It is good to be in tune with where you're going. And then there are inevitable moments when you're drawing blank. This is perhaps the perfect time to pick something random, not on the usual drawing board. 

Having purposely forgotten to restock all-purpose flour twice this week, when something needed to be baked, I settled on these all-rye sables on the drawing board. Perfuming the creaming butter and sugar with a little orange and almond, and beating in the last of the dark rye flour in my freezer, I hoped for the best. I was pleasantly surprised. These cookies, not shortbread per se and not a chewey drop cookie either, have a pleasant, sandy snap. I'd classify them as "thins" or even sables; they're too tender to be crisps, and the egg makes the dough a bit more pliable than your typical shortbread sable. How about just thins? Nicely tan ones at that. And boy, they're good. 

A few notes: Anyone looking for a great asparagus recipe? Yes, you are because it's finally in season. See my new favorite way of cooking the stalks on this month's ShopRite Blog.

Anyone looking for a different art exhibit in NY? (who isn't...) Check out these mesmerizing, traditional ancient masks at the Rubin (the above photo is a Beggar mask of traditional Noh theater)

Rye Orange Almond Snaps

Adapted from Epicuious via  Liana Krissoff's Whole Grains for a New Generation

Notes: I scaled down this recipe by about 4. You'll still get a lot of cookies if you do too. I kept an eye on them toward the end but pulled them when they looked just to be browning but not overly so. The additions here were mine. Feel free not to roll in almonds or use almond extract.

2 1/2 cups/ 230 grams  Dark Rye Flour

3/4 cups granulated sugar

2 sticks/ 225 grams unsalted butter

1 egg

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp almond extract

A handful toasted crushed almonds and 2 Tablespoons sanding sugar for finishing

-In a mixer, cream butter and sugar til fluffy, add zest, extract, salt and egg and incorporate fully. Scrape down sides, then gradually add flour, mixing on stir/ low until just combined.

-Dump dough onto plastic wrap, form into a 2 inch cylinder and chill an hour (min)

-Preheat oven to 350 and spread sugar and almonds if using, onto parchment. Carefully roll the cylinder to coat the sides evenly, pressing a little if necessary. 

-Slice into 1/8 inch thick rounds and space 1 inch apart on parchment lined sheets. Sprinkle a little almond sugar on top if desired. Bake about 16 minutes, or until the edges are turning golden. 

-Cool on a rack completely. Store airtight. 

26 March 2015

Big top blueberry muffins

Sometimes you just want a muffin with a big top. I'm tempted to end this post at that, but it'd defeat the purpose : ) These muffins were a last minute idea to continue chipping away at my carefully frozen stash of last August's Jersey blueberries before fresh seasonal berries kick in again. When I stumbled upon the recipe, from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery, I knew I was in good hands, (remember her banana bread?) and when I realized the batter can be made a day before baking, I immediately got out a mixing bowl. As the dishwasher ran last Friday evening after a day of the season's final snow, and we were feeling quite healthy from a supper of Japanese salmon and rice, I decided that bakery-style berry-streaked muffins were a qualified indulgence for the next morning.

I was inspired last week by a quote I read from Jenny (Dinner, a Love Story): "When we prioritze dinner I find a lot of other things fall into place." Behind this seemingly simple statement, she is referencing sports practices, school pick-ups and other modern family negotiations, but it's bigger than that. The essence of this idea that I find applicable in the kitchen and beyond it is this: to know what you are going to do. Waking up to a clean counter and a bowl of rested batter in the refrigerator is a particularly zen moment. Then, all you have to do is preheat the oven, grease the tin and scoop the thick batter into the molds, mounding it a little higher than you would normally. The resulting muffins are perfectly sweet, gloriously puffed, with slightly crisped edges, soft interiors and berry-licious flavor. But for me, it's knowing I already did the work, that will keep me coming back. 

Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Flour via Fine Cooking)

Notes: The original recipe uses a pound of flour. Below is a half recipe which should give you 7-8 big muffins. I made a quarter batch which gave me four. But they freeze well so it's worth making more : )

1 3/4 cups (225 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (I swapped a few Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2.5 oz (5 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled
1 large egg
1/2 an egg yolk (optional)
1/2 c + 2 Tbsp  (120 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120 grams) crème fraîche, at room temperature 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
zest of half a lemon
Heaped 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

-Oven to 350, rack in the center
-In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Set aside.
-Pour butter into medium bowl and whisk in the sugar, followed by the milk, creme fraiche and egg. Mix well.
-Pour wet over dry and fold together gently. When there are a few streaks flour left, sprinkle in the berries and fold to combine. Batter will be lumpy. Do not try to smooth or overmix. 
-At this point you may cover the batter and refrigerate up to 24 hrs. 
-When ready to bake, grease muffin tins and spoon batter into cups, mounding above the top by about 1/2 inch. 
-Bake until golden brown and springing back when you touch the middle and a wood skewer comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Let cool on a rack in the tin for 15-20 min. 

12 March 2015

Small Batch Grain-Free Brownies

A little while ago, I was an adventurous home cook wondering if we would have to, for a serious health issue, cut out all grain and sugar (well, if my husband-to-be would--but to not go along at least part of the way would be cruel). Lucky for him I don't tend to hover over the bread basket anyway. I spent a lot of two summers ago baking with almond flour, which was both delicious and and intersting, but had never touched coconut flour, the other popular paleo choice. Thankfully, we've adjusted to include grain and sugar but as always, in moderate amounts, and have concluded that balance is the best prescription. But when I got a bag of coconut flour for Christmas, the memories of all that almond flour resurfaced. Still an adventurous home-cook, but not willing to sacrifice taste for special ingredient needs, I found myself searching for a good starter recipe to use the flour and stumbled upon SlimPalate's brownie recipe from his cookbook, which the inimitable Topwithcinnamon had lightly adapted/auditioned. 

I have now made them about four times. Besides providing the perfect healthy snack to accompany obsessive weddingwire scanning, they are delicious, with minimal, easily sourced ingredients. A tad on the cakier side and strong on the chocolate, they will fool anyone who doesn't "need" a special diet sweet. No matter what dietary restrictions you may or may not possess, they are a keeper. They offer a few customizations on the nut front, feature (optionally) browned butter, contain no granulated sugar or gluten, come together in a flash, last a good few days in a container on the counter and satisfy that mid-afternoon sweet-treat. Or if you're like my husband-to-be (!), that mid-morning, mid-afternoon or mid-night sweet treat. 

Coconut Flour Brownies
makes 8 large or 12 small
adapted via SP via TWC 

Notes: I like to make these in a loaf pan. I'm not sure how this began but I just know it's the right size for halving a typically full batch intended to be baked in an 8 x 8 pan. It also offers good release utilizing the high parchment "sling."

2 Tbs (14 grams) coconut flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 1/2 Tbs (7 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon and/or finely ground coffee (optional)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 oz (42 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used a Lindt 90% bar)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz (half a stick or 4 Tbs) organic butter
1/4 c (75 grams) honey
1 large organic egg
1-2 Tbs chopped toasted nuts, cacao nibs (optional)
Flaked salt to sprinkle (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line a loaf pan with a sheet of parchment, lining it up to the top of the pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together coconut flour, salt, baking soda, cocoa powder (and cinnamon/coffee if using).

In a small sacuepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir frequently as it bubbles and just as soon as it begins to brown, remove from heat. Immediately toss in chopped chocolate and stir to melt. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and allow to cool a few minutes, then stir in honey and vanilla. Test a finger in the mix. It should be just a little warm, not hot (you don't want to cook the egg). Add egg and mix to incorporate, so the mixture is glossy. Add in flour mixture and stir until no flour is visible, about 20 strokes. Pour into prepared pan, sprinkle nuts and nibs over, if using, and a few grains salt.

Bake about 20-25 minutes. I usually do 25. Test with a wood skewer, it should come out very close to clean with no wet batter. Top will look set and dry but middle will still be soft to touch. Allow to cool completely in the pan, about 2 hrs, until removing and cutting. You can chill the pan 10 minutes before cutting, and also cutting with a plastic knife is a trick. Store airtight a few days. If they last. 

02 March 2015

Lenten Lentil Meatballs

We went to The Meatball Shop in the West Village maybe two years ago and I picked up a postcard on the way out with a recipe on the back for their veggie balls, which I had ordered and found delicious. The physical reminder to test it sometime got shoved into one of my cookbooks, but I came across the card last week while cleaning and flipping through books which inevitably get stubbed with torn papers, recipes and notes. I put it aside on my desk for the Lenten season. The fact that the postcard was sturdy, not flimsy, meant that it wouldn't get lost in the mix. The same can be said about these 'meat'balls; sturdy, not flimsy, and a total stand-out even among a week of omnivourous meals.  

Let me cut to the chase and say that if you are going to bother with any sort of multi-compnent vegetarian meal, whether it be for a veggie crowd option, religion or simply wanting a day off from cooking meat, make these guys. There's a bit of prep work required, but it's worth it. The sauteed celery, onion, carrot, garlic, mushroom, thyme and tomato paste are all essential to creating the aromatic base that infuses the hearty cooked lentils. Eggs, breadcrumbs, walnuts, parmesan and parsley bind, bulk out and deliver flavor. 

This recipe makes a ton. Even halving it, we still had a nice tray of hearty veggie balls for dinner for 2, and the next day's lunch. Which is, if you're like me on a Saturday and don't remember to plan anything for lunch until 3:00 pm, very convenient. They reheat in a low oven for a few minutes beautifully. The only thing in your court is the sauce: use their basil-spinach pesto below or a simple tomato sauce. I used a little of both. On a non-Friday, I am looking forward to trying their chicken balls, also available on their website. But as far as Lent goes, you can bet that even the staunchest omnivore is unlikely to turn up his nose at these on a meatless day, which is most likely why The Meatball Shop has them on their menu. 

Lenten Lentil Meatballs

2 cups lentils
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated rennet-free Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

-Combine the lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.
-Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture.
-Add the eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts to the cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
-Roll the mixture into round golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing 1/4 inch of space between the balls and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. 
-Roast 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.
Basil Spinach Pesto via TMS
1/4 cup roughly chopped, toasted walnuts
4 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan/Pecorino
Blanch spinach and basil into the boiling water for 1 minute, then strain the greens, and plunge them into a bowl with ice water. Drain again and squeeze tightly to get as much water out as possible. Chop roughly.
Combine the greens and walnuts with the salt, olive oil and Parmesan in a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is reached. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired.