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Petits Fours for Valentine’s Day

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On February 6, 2016 0 Comments

Petits fours is French, for small ovens. In the eighteenth century, cooks and pastry makers baked miniature confectionaries or appetizers in smaller ovens, next to the main ovens.

Serve these romantic Petits fours to your sweetheart on February 14th! They’re also perfect for that Valentine’s Day party, since they come in single servings.

Prep time: 40 minutes (for glazing & decoration)
Bake time: 30 to 40 minutes
Yield: 12 to 16 single-serving cakes (petits fours)

Ingredients for the Cake:
2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla
2¾ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups milk

Directions for the Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

2. In a large mixer bowl, mix butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until fluffy.

3. Beat for 2 minutes, scraping bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally.

4. On low speed, mix in the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with milk.

5. Pour the batter into prepared pan.

6. Place pan with batter on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

7. Bake the cake 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, place a pointed knife in center of cake to check for doneness – if knife comes out clean, the cake is done.

8. If the knife has batter clinging to it, bake the cake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Check cake once more by inserting knife in its center.

9. Let cake cool in pan on a kitchen counter or a wooden board.

10. When cake is cool, cut it into 12 to 16 equal pieces.
Note: each piece should measure 2 x 2 inches. Set aside on a baking sheet covered with parchment or aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze and decoration for cakes-

Ingredients for the Glaze & Decoration:
2 pounds (32 ounce) confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons juice from fresh lemons
One 4.25-ounce tube green decorating icing (for leaves)
One 4.25-ounce tube red or pink decorating icing (for flower)
One rosette-shaped plastic cake decorating tip -and-
One flat-ended plastic cake decorating tip (both available at cake decorating supply shops or online)
16 cupcake papers
Optional: You can use color of your choice for flower decoration.

Directions for Glazing the Cakes:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine glaze ingredients.

2. Beat on low speed just until blended; beat on high until smooth.

3. Apply glaze evenly over tops, letting the glaze drip on sides of cakes.

4. Set the glazed cakes aside to dry.

5. When cakes are dry, place a rosette cake decorating tip on desired color icing tube.

6. Squeeze tube to create a rosette or flower in center top of each cake.

7. Place a flat-ended decorating tip on green icing tube and pipe a leaf on each side of flower on center top of cakes.

8. Place cakes on flattened cupcake papers set on a serving platter.

9. Alternatively, place cakes directly on serving platter. Cover with tented foil until ready to serve.
Text and Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

PowerBarsHalloween'15

Halloween Oatmeal Bars

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Fun Foods, Holidays On October 23, 2015 0 Comments

These oatmeal power bars are a fun treat to make for that Halloween bash! One look at the ingredients and you’ll approve – no sugar or flour. These bars are so scrumptious and healthy that you won’t have to stop reaching for a second, third, fourth … Happy Halloween!

Prep time: 15 to 18 minutes
Bake time: 10 to 12 minutes
Makes: 24 bars

Ingredients:
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted, slivered almonds
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
2/3 cup raisins
Dash salt

Toast the Oatmeal:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Place oatmeal in an 18 X 12-inch rectangular baking sheet.

3. Toast the oatmeal for about 5 minutes.

4. After 5 minutes, stir the oatmeal – this prevents blackening at the edges of baking sheet.

5. Toast the oatmeal for an additional 5 minutes; stir once more.

6. When oatmeal has turned light golden brown, it is done.

7. If needed, toast the oatmeal for an additional 2 minutes. Set oatmeal aside in baking sheet to cool on counter.

8. Keep oven constantly heated at 350°F.

Prepare the Syrup:
1. In a 1-quart sauce pot, heat together the peanut butter, honey, maple syrup and vanilla until mixture is warm and runny; set it aside.

2. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine the toasted oatmeal, almonds, sesame seeds, raisins and salt.

3. Gently stir in the warm syrup mixture until all ingredients are combined.

4. If the mixture is too loose and grainy, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons maple syrup to combine and amalgamate the ingredients.

5. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

6. Transfer the oatmeal mixture to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

7. With wet hands, pat the mixture to form an 11 X 7-inch rectangle in center of sheet.

8. Using a knife, gently cut the oatmeal mass into 24 bars.

9. Bake the oatmeal bars for 10 to 13 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

10. Set oatmeal bars aside in baking sheet to cool completely.

11. When bars are cool, carefully cut through the squares to loosen them. Serve immediately or store the oatmeal bars in a glass jar in refrigerator.

12. Halloween oatmeal bars will keep, refrigerated, up to two weeks.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

Image.RicottaCake

Ricotta Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Holidays On April 2, 2015 0 Comments

During Easter week, my family and I prepare a variety of celebratory foods. In my opinion, the best is always saved for last – the traditional ricotta cake.

Encased in pasta frolla or a sweet shortcrust pastry dough, the ricotta filling is rich with rum, cinnamon, sugar and eggs. The flavors of this ricotta cake bring back all the memories of Easter in Italy. It doesn’t get more authentic than this. Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

Prepare the Pasta Frolla (Shortcrust Pastry Dough):
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch squares
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold water
One 9-inch pie plate
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling cake
5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream, previously published on this website
1 pint fresh strawberries

1. Combine dry ingredients in a 12-cup mixing bowl.

2. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, blend in the butter until mixture is uniform and resembles small peas.

3. Mix in the eggs. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing gently after each addition.

4. As soon as mixture amalgamates and dough is formed, divide it in half; shape each piece into a ball.

5. Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and freeze 10 minutes.

6. After 10 minutes, transfer dough balls to refrigerator while you prepare the ricotta filling.

Prepare the Ricotta Filling:
16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons Rum
Dash ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a 2 to 3-quart mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, stir together all ingredients.

3. Make sure the ingredients are well-blended; cover the bowl and refrigerate the ricotta filling.

4. In the meantime, roll out the pastry dough.

Roll out pastry dough:
1. With lightly floured hands, flatten one dough ball to a 6-inch circle.

2. Place dough between two floured 16-inch long waxed paper sheets.

3. Gently roll out dough to a 14 or 15-inch circle. To prevent sticking, peel off the waxed paper sheets and dust each side of the pastry sheet with flour two or three times while working.

4. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet. With one hand underneath bottom sheet and the other on top of exposed pastry, quickly flip pastry over and into a 9-inch buttered pie plate.

5. Peel off the second sheet. Gently fit the pastry into plate sides and, using a fork, randomly make holes in the pastry. Trim edges to a one-inch overhang and set aside.

6. Repeat rolling instructions with other dough ball; set aside.

7. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet from rolled out pastry; set aside.

Fill & Assemble the Ricotta Cake:
1. Pour the ricotta filling into the pastry-lined pie plate; set aside.

2. Using a pastry wheel, cut the second rolled-out pastry into 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide strips.

3. Place the longest pastry dough strip across the center surface of ricotta filling.

4. Take the next longest strip and place it one inch apart and parallel to the first strip.

5. Continue placing the strips, one inch apart, until there are about 5 strips across filling surface.

6. In a diagonal fashion, place the remaining strips, in the same manner, over the first layer of strips.

7. Trim overhang pastry to one inch; roll the overhang underneath and tuck it between the plate and the pastry edges.

8. Using 1-inch wide aluminum foil strips, cover the pastry edges (this will avoid blackening).

9. Bake the ricotta cake for about 30 to 45 minutes.

10. After 30 minutes and to test doneness of cake, insert a pointed knife in center of cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, bake the cake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Test again.

11. When cake is done, transfer it to a cooling rack or counter. Let cool to room temperature.

12. Cover the cake with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.

13. Serve cake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, 5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream (see above) and fresh strawberries.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

SweetheartPannaCotta

Sweetheart Panna Cotta

In Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Fun Foods, Holidays On February 6, 2015 0 Comments

Wanna treat your Sweetheart to something special? Try this panna cotta recipe which is made with maple syrup and agave nectar (no sugar). Garnish this Sweetheart Panna Cotta with whipped cream (contains sugar) and your favorite candies!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1/4 cup cold water
2-3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup agave nectar
1-1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
1-1/3 cups Half N’ Half cream

Directions:
1. In a six-ounce glass or cup, combine the water and gelatin. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart sauce pot, bring the maple syrup and agave nectar to a boil.

3. Simmer the syrup and nectar for 8 to 10 minutes, until it reduces by half.

4. Stir in both creams.

5. The agave syrup may solidify. If this is the case, whisk the mixture over low heat until the agave syrup dissolve.

6. Remove sauce pot from heat and stir in the gelatin with a whisk (make sure it dissolves completely into the liquid panna cotta).

7. Divide the liquid panna cotta into six 4-ounce ramekins.

8. Cover the ramekins with foil and transfer to refrigerator to set for 2 hours or overnight.

9. At serving time, garnish the panna cotta ramekins with whipped cream and candies.

Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

Spicy Herb Cheese

Spicy Herb Cheese (Homemade)

In Appetizers / Starters, Holidays On December 12, 2014 0 Comments

Think it’s challenging to make homemade cheese? Not at all. For the holidays this year, instead of buying a ready made cheese ball, buy a cheesecloth, whole, organic milk, distilled vinegar and voila! You’ve churned out fresh, homemade cheese!

This recipe is easy since it only requires a one-hour wait time with hardly any labor. The cheese contains fresh oregano leaves and a chili pepper. This exquisite cheese has a consistency that is between burrata and ricotta. Impress them all – Happy Holidays!

Note: Red dots in the photographed cheese are chili peppers.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Wait time: 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes (for cheese curds to set)

Ingredients:
1 gallon whole, organic milk
1/2 cup distilled, white vinegar
1 cheesecloth, set in a medium-mesh, metal strainer over a medium glass or porcelain bowl or saucepot
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped Serrano or dried red chili pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves or fresh chives
1 cup walnut meats
Assorted crackers or mini-toasts and raw vegetables

Boil Milk & Let Curds Set:

1. Pour 1 gallon milk into an 6 to 8-quart sauce pot.

2. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, warm the milk until it almost comes to a boil. The milk should not boil.

3. When the milk is hot and has almost come to a boil, set the sauce pot with the milk aside on a cold burner or a trivet set on a countertop.

4. Pour the vinegar into the milk – DO NOT STIR. Set the milk/vinegar mixture in sauce pot aside to sit for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, making sure to trim the cheesecloth so that you can push it down into a strainer set over a bowl or sauce pot; allow an overhang of about 8 inches.

6. After 10 minutes, you will see curds setting in the milk/vinegar mixture.

7. At this time, gently pour the milk-vinegar mixture into the strainer set with a cheesecloth over bowl or sauce pot.

8. If the sauce pot underneath the strainer is not large enough to take all the liquid, pour only half of the milk-vinegar mixture over cheesecloth.

9. It will take a few minutes for half of the liquid to go through completely.

10. When half of the liquid has gone through the cheesecloth and if bowl underneath does not look large enough to take all the liquid, set the strainer over another bowl or sauce pot.

11. Pour the remaining liquid over the curds in strainer set over bowl or sauce pot.

12. This procedure may take a few minutes.

13. When all the liquid (this is the whey) has been drained and collected in the 2 bowl(s) or sauce pot(s), transfer all the whey to a large sauce pot.

14. Add the salt, black pepper and chopped chili pepper to the whey.

15. Immediately pour they whey with the salt, pepper and chili pepper over the curds in strainer.

16. You may have to wait a few minutes for part of the whey to go through the curds in strainer.

17. As the whey goes through, keep adding the remaining whey mixture until you have poured all of it over the curds.

18. Set the curds/strainer aside to drain for 1 hour.

Form the Cheese & Refrigerate:

1. After 1 hour, scatter the chopped oregano leaves over cheese curds.

2. Lift the sides of the cheesecloth, bringing it up and around the cheese curds and slightly tighten it. If the cheese curds still appear wet, let them finish draining for an additional 10 minutes.

3. After 10 minutes, tighten the cheesecloth around the cheese, gathering it at the center top.

4. Carefully peel off the cheesecloth from the cheese and place the cheese in a 5 to 6-inch round bowl lined with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap has a 6-inch overhang.

5. Tighten the plastic wrap up and around the cheese and secure it with twine or an elastic band.

6. Cover the cheese in bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours.

Unmold the Cheese & Serve:

1. TO UNMOLD THE CHEESE: Carefully peel off and unwrap the top part of the plastic wrap.

2. Open up the plastic wrap around the cheese, creating an overhang outside the bowl.

3. Place serving plate over cheese and quickly invert it.

4. Remove the bowl and peel off the plastic wrap.

5. Decorate the cheese with walnuts and serve with crackers, mini-toasts or celery and carrots.

Note: Homemade cheese will keep, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated, up to 5 days.

Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real