Lavender Shortbread with Earl Grey Glaze

Lavender Shortbread with Earl Grey Glaze

Shortbread has long been a favorite of mine. I love how a few basic ingredients (that I pretty much always have in the house) can be turned into something so delicious. As with cheesecake, I usually tend to stick with vanilla shortbread. Vanilla just shines in such a simple cookie. But it was time to try something new. Not just a new shortbread, but a completely new-to-me flavor: lavender! Of course I’d seen lavender used all over the place, but until now I had never tasted it.

Lavender

When I opened the jar of lavender I was a little concerned. I’m not a huge fan of the scent of lavender, and I was nervous that my shortbread would end up tasting like soap. But I needn’t have worried. These were delicious—crumbly and buttery, with just a soft floral scent.

In the introduction to this recipe, the author of the cookbook mentioned that the first time she tasted lavender it was in a lavender Earl Grey iced tea. Since I can hardly ever leave well enough alone, I just had to add an Earl Grey glaze to these.

Lavender Shortbread with Earl Grey Glaze

Aren’t they pretty?

Lavender Shortbread with Earl Grey Glaze

For the shortbread

1/3 cup (70 g) superfine sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried culinary lavender, plus more for garnish

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 sticks (350 g) unsalted butter, cubed, slightly softened

2 1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour

For the glaze

1 Earl Grey tea bag

1/4 cup boiling water

1 cup (114 g) confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.

2. Combine the two sugars, the lavender, and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for a minute or so, until the sugars smell of lavender. (You can also just rub the lavender into the sugar with your hands.)

3. Beat the butter into the sugar mixture until well combined. Mix in the flour on low speed until just combined.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and pat the dough down as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the top with additional superfine sugar.

5. Bake for 40-55 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan.

6. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan, place on a large cutting board, and cut into 24 squares. Transfer the cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Meanwhile, place the tea bag into the boiling water and steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bag and allow the tea to cool completely.

8. Place the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the cooled tea. Mix well. If the mixture is too thin, add some more confectioners’ sugar. If the mixture is too thick, add some more of the tea.

9. Spoon some of the glaze onto each cookie and garnish with some lavender buds.

Makes 24 cookies

Shortbread recipe from Tea with Bea, by Bea Vo

Triple-Berry Curd

Triple-Berry CurdTriple-Berry CurdTriple-Berry Curd

I served this on top of slices of angel food cake, but this would also be wonderful with pound cake, as a filling for a layer cake, on toast, on ice cream, or with just a plain old spoon.

Triple-Berry Curd

1 2/3 cup mixed fresh or thawed frozen berries (a mixture of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 large egg yolks

1. Combine the berries, sugar, butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 5 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth (or transfer to a blender or food processor, if you do not have an immersion blender). Place pan back over low heat for just a minute or two to heat it back up.

2. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a large bowl. Very slowly stream the hot berry mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly.

3. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and stir constantly over low heat for 2 minutes. Do not to allow the mixture to boil.

4. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. It will thicken when cold.

Makes 2 cups

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

There are so many different flavored cheesecake recipes out there. They all sound amazing, and I keep on wanting to try them. And yet… and yet I keep making the same flavor over and over, nearly every time I make a cheesecake.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

This is for all you other lovers of vanilla out there. It’s a good one.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

FOR THE CRUST

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

FOR THE CHEESECAKE

2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup sour cream

Sour Cream Topping (below)

MAKE THE CRUST:

1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan or removable-bottomed pan (make sure that the sides are at least 2 3/4 inches high), and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of foil.

2. Stir the crumbs, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter, and stir with your fingers until completely combined.  Pour into the prepared pan and pat it into an even layer over the bottom and about halfway up the sides (I used the bottom of a measuring cup). It’s okay if the sides are not perfectly even. Place the pan into the freezer while you preheat the oven.

3. Center a rack in the oven, and preheat to 350°F.

4. Place the pan with the crust on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.

MAKE THE CHEESECAKE:

1. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer witted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat for another 4 minutes. Beat in the vanilla bean paste. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a full minute in between each one. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the heavy cream and sour cream. Stir with a rubber spatula to make sure that there is nothing unmixed at the bottom of the bowl.

2. Bring a kettle or pot of water to a boil. Put the foil-wrapped pan into a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it. Scrape the cheesecake batter into the crust. Put the roasting pan into the oven and very carefully pour enough boiling water into it to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

3. Bake the cheesecake for 1 1/2 hours. The cheesecake will be browned (and possibly cracked), and may have risen a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven, and prop the door slightly open with a wooden spoon. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour.

3. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Carefully lift out the cheesecake, and remove the foil. Leave on a wire rack to come to room temperature.

4. When the cake is completely cool, spread with the sour cream topping. Cover the top lightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, although overnight is better.

SOUR CREAM TOPPING

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mixing well.

Makes 16 servings

*Cheesecake recipe adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

My Cheesecake didn’t crack! 🙂

Chocolate-Hazelnut Swirl Pound Cake with Espresso Glaze

It’s hard to believe that with all the baking I do I’ve never made a pound cake until now, but it’s true! It’s so much fun for me to put together a complicated layer cake, or to try an interesting cupcake combination, that I sometimes forget how delicious a simple everyday cake can be. And this recipe was a no-brainer for me to try. How could it not be? Check it out:

Pound cake? Sure, since I tend to prefer a dense cake over a fluffy cake (not that I don’t like fluffy cake, though!). Vanilla flavored pound cake? Definitely! Vanilla is quite possibly my favorite cake flavor in the world. Then there’s the chocolate-hazelnut spread running through the cake. And the sweet espresso glaze drizzled on top of the cake. How could I possibly NOT want to try it??

And I must say, this cake was delicious! I beg anyone who is looking to bake a simple (but not TOO simple 😉 ) cake, to try this recipe. You won’t be disappointed.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Swirl Pound Cake with Espresso Glaze

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups (180 grams/6 ounces) all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) baking powder

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

2 sticks (227 grams/8 ounces/1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups (250 grams/9 ounces) granulated sugar

1 13-ounce jar chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella, Dellinut, or homemade)

For the Glaze:

1/2 cup (63 grams/2 ounces) sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon brewed espresso

1. POsition oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Grease paper and dust entire pan with flour, tapping out any excess (I just use cooking spray with flour already in it, such as Pam for Baking).

2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (the flour, baking powder and salt).

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed (#4 on the stand mixer) until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture, 1/4 of the mixture at a time, until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions, until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.

6. Spread 1/3 of the batter in the prepared pan (a small offset spatula works well for spreading the batter), then spread half of the chocolate-hazelnut spread on top. Repeat with another 1/3 of the batter and the remaining spread. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the spread into the batter with a butter knife or skewer, but me careful not to overmix.

7. Bake the cake for about 1 hour undisturbed, then check the cake to see if it is done (a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean). You will likely need to bake the cake for a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes, but that will vary based on individual ovens.

8. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Using a thin knife, loosen the sides of the cake from the pan, then invert the cake onto a wire rack. Carefully turn it right side up, and let it cool completely, about 2 hours.

9. Mix the confectioners’ sugar and brewed espresso in a small bow, whisking until smooth and drizzle over the cake.

*Adapted from Sweetapolita

 

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

I have a never-ending pile of cake and frosting recipes that I want to try, so it took me a while to figure out what kind of cake to make for my father’s birthday last week. After narrowing it down to a few choices, I decided to go with the always popular combination of chocolate and peanut butter (I mean, really, who doesn’t love those two flavors together?).

I started with three layers of the most incredible chocolate cake ever (seriously, this is pretty much the perfect chocolate cake – moist and delicious), filled and frosted it with a fantastic peanut butter Swiss meringue buttercream, and dressed the whole thing with a dark chocolate ganache.

I’m just going to brag for a second here, and say that this cake was amazing!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Rich & Dark Chocolate Cake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup premium cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Plein Arôme)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup strong black coffee

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 3 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour evenly into prepared pans (use a kitchen scale if you have one to ensure even layers). Batter will be liquidy.

3. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, rotating pans after 20 minutes, or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake. Cool on cooling rack for 20 minutes, then gently turn cakes out onto racks to cool completely.

*Adapted from Sweetapolita

Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

6 large egg whites (180 g)

1 cup granulated sugar (200 g)

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 340 g) unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup peanut butter

Pinch of salt

1. Combine egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water, whisking constantly, until the temperature reaches 160°F (or, if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot).

2. Attach bowl to stand mixer, and whip with the whisk attachment until the mixture is thick and glossy and completely cool (until the outside of the bottom of the bowl is completely cooled off).

3. Switch to the paddle attachment, and with the mixer on medium speed, add the butter in chunks, one at a time, until incorporated. Keep mixing until it reaches a silky smooth texture. If the mixture curdles, keep on mixing it and it will smooth out again.

4. Add vanilla, peanut butter and salt, and mix until completely combined.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1. Place the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in the top of a double boiler. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the glaze to release excess heat.

2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your cake on a wire rack over the baking sheet. Slowly pour about 3/4 cup of the glaze over the cake. Use a small offset spatula to smooth it out to the edges. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to set the glaze. Remove from the refrigerator and slowly pour the rest of the glaze over the cake. Chill the cake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the glaze is set.

*Adapted from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Serve cake at room temperature!