Spring-y Lemon Poppyseed Cookies

This past weekend brought about some gorgeous weather in Chicagoland. I won’t get into what the temperature is outside right now.

In any case, the warm weather got me wanting to make something that felt like spring. I decided on these lemon poppyseed cookies.Image

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon lemon zest (or to taste, I only had 1 tsp left from another baked good I made)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 and 1/3 cups white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Start by creaming together the butter and sugar. Once the mixture looks fluffy add the wet ingredients (egg, zest, juice, and extract). Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt) in a separate bowl and then add the contents of the bowl into the butter mixture. Mix for a minute or so, just until combined. Finally, add the poppy seeds and mix them throughout.

I used my tablespoon-sized cookie scoop to drop the dough onto silicone pad-lined baking sheets. Bake for 5 minutes on one side, turn the pan, then bake for another 4-5 minutes. Let the cookies sit on the pan when they come out of the oven for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Once the cookies are fully cooled, mix together one cup of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to form a glaze. You can either drizzle the glaze on top the cookies like I did or dip each cookie top into the glaze itself. I didn’t have any zest left or I would have sprinkled some on top of each cookie before the glaze hardened.

I brought these to a gathering and they were a hit. Light, refreshing, and a great way to kick off springtime.

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Turf Cakes

Just a quick post today to share the dessert I made for a superbowl party I attended yesterday.Image

I was so excited to get to use my new mini cheesecake pan that I got for Christmas!
I followed this recipe for mini Oreo cheesecakes  from Baked by Rachel, with two small adjustments.
1. I used 8 oz of Neufchâtel cream cheese (which has 1/3 less fat) and 4 oz of regular cream cheese.
2. After mixing together the cream cheese, sugar, and egg, I added in a lot of green food dye to make the cake art green. I say a lot, and I mean a lot. I didn’t want the green to be pastel-colored, and it took a lot of dye to make it this dark. I then added in the Oreo bits, so they wouldn’t just turn into Oreo dust from all the mixing.
If I had more time, I probably would have printed out little footballs (found here) and made them into cake toppers. Oh well, maybe next year.

Potluck Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are my nemesis. Correction: lemon bars were my nemesis. Let me explain.

I consider myself a slightly better than average baker. I’ve made some pretty mean tarts, cookies, biscotti, panna cotta, and even macarons. Many of my baking attempts have seen a deep inhalation as I pulled the tasty treat out of the oven in anticipation (and hope) that the treat came out OK. Most of the time, it works out.

With lemon bars, it never worked out. Either the crust burned quicker than it should have or the lemon topping remained thin and watery when it should have set. Why? I couldn’t tell you. After 3 failed attempts years ago, I resigned myself to the conclusion that lemon bars were just not my specialty.

This past weekend, some friends came over for a potluck that I planned. I knew other people would be bringing desserts, so I decided to give lemon bars one more go. If I failed, there would be other desserts available, so I wouldn’t have to worry about baking a back up item.

Wouldn’t you know it, they (almost) came out perfectly!

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I stuck to a super simple recipe, and I think these came out great.

Ingredients:

For the crust:
2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 sticks butter

For the lemon filling:

4 eggs

4 tbsps flour

1 cup sugar

4 lemons’ worth of fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

To start, I let the butter and eggs come to room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, then start making the crust. I put the butter, flour, and powdered sugar in my mixer and mixed for a couple minutes, until both ingredients are well incorporated and smooth in texture.

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray, and press the crust into the pan, trying to make the dough evenly distributed. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the crust starts to get a little golden in color. Remove from oven and immediately pour the filling over the crust.

While the crust is baking, start working on the filling. Using a mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and zest. Mix for longer than you think you should, as this is how the filling will thicken up when baking. I saw some bubbles forming while it mixed, and that was normal. Mix for at least 2 minutes.

Once the filling is over the crust, immediately return the pan to the oven and continue baking for another 22 minutes. To test the bars, wiggle the pan a little bit. If they are done, the filling will remain firm and won’t wiggle along with the pan.
I think my misstep this time was waiting to pour the filling over the crust. Right when the crust was done baking, Dan arrived home with lunch, so I took a short break from baking. I think that letting the crust cool some caused the filling to not stick as well to the crust. Other than that though, these bars came out great, with just the right amount of tart and sweet, and the right consistency.
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I’m so glad I finally found a recipe that works for me. I’ll definitely be making these lemon squares as my go-to summer dessert.

Orange Pistachio Date Biscotti

OK, wow. With the hopes of not sounding too high on myself here, I have to say that I think these are the best biscotti that I’ve ever made. The taste, the texture, and the combination of flavors really make these great.

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The texture was not exactly what you’d expect from a traditionally hard cookie. These biscotti are softer, and don’t need to be dipped in coffee/milk to eat.

Here’s what you need:

6 tbls butter (softened from sitting out on the counter)

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
zest of 1 orange

raw turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the butter, sugar, salt, extracts, and baking powder.

 Beat in the eggs and then add the flour in, a little at a time, until the mixture is fully incorporated.

Gently fold in the dates, pistachios, and zest and only mix the batter up a little bit.

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Form the dough into 2 logs on a baking sheet prepared with parchment paper. Make sure the tops of the logs are flat and sprinkle the raw sugar on top. Bake the logs for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, remove the logs from the oven, and turn the heat down to 325 degrees.

Then, even though it seems strange and certainly isn’t the usual way I make biscotti, spray the logs with a spray bottle full of water. Don’t drench the logs, but do make sure to fully cover them with the water.

Wait 5 minutes, then cut the logs into biscotti. Lay them with a cut side down on the pan, and bake another 15 minutes. Then, flip each cookie and bake for a final 15 minutes. When they are a little golden, they are done.

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Remove the biscotti from the oven and place them on a baking rack to cool. Once cooled, immediately put them in an airtight container so they won’t get stale.

The date-orange-pistachio combination really is wonderful. I invite you to give this recipe a try, substituting your favorite dried fruits for the dates. I will definitely be using this base recipe and changing out the mixed in fruit, nuts, and even types of extract.

Flower Power

These cookies look straight out of the seventies.

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But their bright colors were just the pick me up needed on a drab, rainy, flood-filled day like today.

Baking these were a breeze. In the same way I made these red carpet star cookies for the Oscars Party I attended, I made windowpane cookies in a flower shape.

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It didn’t make the rain go away, but they were really good to eat. If you’re stuck inside, give these a try.

Nutella Sea Salt Cookies

Dan’s turning the big 2-9 this week. I know, he’s old.

This past weekend, we went out with some friends to celebrate. I asked Dan what he wanted me to make for desert, and he specifically told me no cakes or cupcakes. No cakes or cupcakes? It’s a birthday party, isn’t it? What was I supposed to make?

In the end, I came up with Nutella cookies topped with sea salt, which came out perfectly.

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These could not have been easier to make. I followed this recipe, forming cookies that were a bit smaller than directed.

I wanted something bite sized, since the cookies would be eaten on the go. In hindsight, cupcakes probably would have been more difficult to eat, but I still stand by the thought that everyone needs some cake on their birthday.

As the cookies were smaller, their cooking time was 8 minutes exactly. They came out chewy and sort of brownie like in their consistency.

These are quite a treat for anyone who likes chocolate, not just Nutella-lovers. And the big grains of sea sale really add to the cookies – eating something salty makes sweets seem sweeter.

Go ahead and give these a try!