Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Apricot Almond Ruglach

Recipe adapted from the book Desserts
(Random House of Canada, 1998) 
by Bonnie Stern, Canada’s top food authority.

Falling in love with a cookie is not difficult to do. Falling in love with a cookie that is so easy to make and delicious, well, that's icing on the cake.

The ruglach cookie (aka: rugelach) is one of my favorite cookies. There is something about it that reminds me of times-gone-by. Sure we all love our chocolate chip/sugar/snicker-doodle cookies that can be whipped up with our eyes closed. But the ruglach is delicate and sweet and you can picture grandma making it in the kitchen....tirelessly working for hours to make these cookies! Oh how....awwwww it is!

The truth is, my grandmother never made these cookies. They are not even from my heritage. I was born in Yugoslavia and I believe the ruglach cookie is from Jewish decent. Does it matter? Nope! I am not a cookie discriminator.

And the best part, these cookies are so easy to make that you will start to make them on a regular basis. You make the dough by mixing the flour, salt, butter and cream cheese. Chop up some almonds, throw in some sugar and lemon zest. Divide the dough, roll it out, spread with apricot jam, sprinkle with the almond/sugar/lemon zest mix, cut it in wedges like a pizza, roll up, brush with egg wash, sprinkle the tops and bake. Wallah

(A shout out to my daughter's teacher Mrs. Kollsmith for being my #1 fan of these cookies!)

Apricot Almond Ruglach

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cubed

8 oz (1 package) cold cream cheese, cubed

Filling & Topping
½ cup apricot jam
½ cup chopped almonds (lightly toasted)
½ cup sugar
2-3 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (whole lemon)

1 egg for brushing
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, add flour, salt, butter and cream cheese. Use a steel blade and pulse in food processor or use a pastry cutter and cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour until combined and a dough forms. (Same process as making pie crust.)

Remove dough from bowl and divide in half, then divide in half again so you are left with four equal pieces of dough. (A food scale is very helpful at this point, but eyeballing it works just fine.) Press down on each piece gently until a disc is formed. Completely cover each piece with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making the filling. May be made ahead of time 1-2 days and kept in the refrigerator. 

Stir the almonds, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, stir the apricot jam until it is spreadable. 

Remove one of the pieces of dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Flour the dough and roll it out into a 9- to 10- inch circle.

Spread the jam all over the circle dough. Sprinkle with the almond/sugar/lemon zest mixture. Using a pizza wheel, or scalloped pastry wheel, cut the circle in twelve wedges.  Roll up each triangle of dough into a small crescent from the outside inward. As the Ruglach are formed, place them on the parchment paper lined baking pans.

Beat the egg and water until well combined. Brush the top of each pastry and then lightly sprinkle with the almond/sugar/lemon zest mixture.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Pastries will puff out a little and start to caramelize.

Ruglach pastries are best on the day they are baked.  Makes 48 pastries. Recipe may be halved.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Moist Cake With Tart Cherries

This is a traditional Serbian cake served with coffee (or any beverage) in many Yugoslavian households.  This recipe has been in our family for a very long time. Moist and not too sweet, it is always made with tart cherries as it was with generations beforehand. Delicious!

The Serbian name is
“ViĆĄnjak Torta” – Cherry Cake

Moist Cake With Tart Cherries

3 cups all-purpose flour 
2 Tsp baking powder
¼ Tsp salt
3 eggs
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 Tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk*
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups frozen tart cherries thawed**
2-3 Tbsp flour
Powdered Sugar for Dusting

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Have a greased 9”x13” baking dish ready.  

In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.

Using a stand mixer, mix eggs, sugar, and vanilla until pale and well combined. 

Then add buttermilk and oil, and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture. Mix on low speed. Will be thick consistency, muffin like batter.  

Place thawed and drained cherries in their own bowl. Add about 2 Tbsp of flour and shake them so they get coated with flour, this is very important to assure they don’t sink during baking.

Add cherries to the batter and fold in gently. 

Transfer to the baking dish. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and it is a nice golden color. Edge of cake may brown slightly. We usually cut the edges off before serving.

Remove from oven and let cool. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into squares. Tastes wonderful warm but even better completely cooled or the next day. Nice treat to make ahead.

*If you don’t have buttermilk, in a measuring cup add two tablespoons lemon juice and fill rest with milk to the 1 cup line. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. Since buttermilk is generally not in our household, we use this method to make our own buttermilk in recipes.

**May substitute with fresh tart cherries. Rinse and dust with flour also.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yummy Chocolate Frosting

How fast the summer goes... poof! The kids are back in school and I have a little time on my hands.

I wanted to share this wonderful frosting recipe because I am terrible at making frosting and this recipe is very good and extremely forgiving. Let me explain.

This recipe uses Crisco as the base. I know, I know... but once in a while, we should indulge. It calls for one cup of Crisco. I had purchased the Crisco in stick form. What I didn't realize is that I used two cups of Crisco! Somehow I equated two sticks of Crisco as to how two sticks of butter equal one cup. (Crisco sticks are one cup each.) Could have been a huge disaster, but it wasn't. Needless to say, I didn't' realize my mistake until I was making the frosting for another party and I happen to look down at the Crisco label. Yikes! But you know what, it didn't matter, the frosting recipe is so forgiving. It still tasted light and fluffy and delicious with the extra shortening.  I think this recipe should be called Foolproof Frosting Recipe!

And the main secret I discovered when making frosting.... drum-roll.... water! yep, that's it folks, water! After you start whipping the frosting, you can add water a tablespoon at a time (sometimes even more than what's on the recipe, but not too much). What this does is get rid of the griddy-ness of the sugar and makes the frosting light and fluffy. No kidding. I am guessing this would work in buttercream frostings too. The griddy-ness has always been an issue for me no matter how much I whipped the frosting, it would never be totally smooth. In this case, after I started adding the water, the frosting started becoming fluffy! Now you know my secret.

I wonder if you add whipping cream instead of water if you will get fluffy whipped frosting? That's another project and we don't always have whipping cream in the house.

These cupcakes were for my daughter Natasha's 6th birthday party. By her request, yummy chocolate all the way and a little purple thrown in for good measure!

I also used a cake box mix (shame, shame) to make the cupcakes with a few adjustments from the Cake Doctor. What can I say, I love the Cake Doctor. She makes my life easier!

Yummy Chocolate Frosting

1-2 cups Crisco (2 sticks)

1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2-4 tablespoons warm water
1 pound sifted powdered sugar (16 oz)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons meringue powder (to stabilize the frosting)

Cream the shortening for a few minutes. Add the water and flavoring and mix another minute to combine. Mix the sifted powdered sugar, cocoa powder and meringue powder and add slowly to the shortening. I used Hershey's Dark Chocolate Coca Powder. You can add more cocoa powder if you like it more chocolate-y.
Whip it in your Kitchen Aid on high for about 5 minutes. Add more water a tablespoon at a time for more fluffy frosting. Taste test and continue adding a little more water or put in a piping bag and pipe away.

I used a 1M Wilton decorating tip for the piping and edible glitter for decorations. The edible glitter can be found at Michael's at a great price if you use a coupon.

Does not need to be refrigerated because there is no butter in the recipe.

(The original recipe is from the lovely blog Cooking with Carrie.)

Chocolate Cake Cupcakes courtesy of the Cake Doctor

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Light and Fluffly Snickerdoodle Cookie

I will be the first to admit I wasn't a fan of the snickerdoodle cookie. I always thought cinnamon and sugar were meant for cinnamon rolls or donuts from the apple cider mill, but for some reason, never a cookie! That is until I came across this wonderful recipe. I found it at The Ginger Cook. She was convincing and I had to make it.

This recipe yields such a delicious cookie, that I don't need any other snickerdoodle cookie recipe - ever. It was so quick and easy to make. The kids helped too. Just lovely!

  • 2¾ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Beat in the vanilla.
6. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, mix on low just until the flour is blended.
7. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a separate small bowl.
8. Scoop 1-inch balls of dough and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture to coat. If you find it difficult to work with the dough, refrigerate it for 15-30 minutes and then roll into balls.
9. Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for 9-10 minutes. I don't chill my cookie sheets in between baking, I just make sure they are not hot when I put the next batch on them.
10. Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Magnificent Zebra Cake

When I first saw this recipe on Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook blog, I was intrigued and my first thought was "no way!" But it is possible. Really! The cake is not only delicious, but beautiful to look at. It is a perfect pairing with coffee or tea or wine, you decide.

The consistency is somewhere between pound cake and cake. The secret to making this cake is to just keep pouring the batter in the middle of the pan. After the batter is divided and one part made into chocolate batter, I use a 1/3 measuring cup for each batter and keep rotating.

You start in the middle, pour the first yellow batter, then pour the other chocolate batter on top of that in the middle. Keep repeating until all the batter is gone. I have found that using a 1/3 cup makes the zebra lines more pronounced.


4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups unbleached all-purpose
1/4 tsp salt (sea salt is best for baking)
1 tablespoon (equals 3 teaspoons) baking powder
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder

You’ll also need: mixing bowls, electric mixer, 9 inch non-stick round cake pan. I use a regular 9-inch cake pan outlined in parchment paper.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Lightly grease the pan with oil. If you don’t have non-stick baking pan, grease whatever pan you have then line it with parchment paper (baking paper).
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Beat until the mixture is creamy and light in color. It will look like pancake batter. (I use the Kitchen Aid electric mixer.)
4. Add vanilla, milk and oil, and continue beating until well blended.
5. In a separate bowl, combine and mix flour and baking powder. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat just until the batter is smooth and the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Do not over beat to prevent air pockets from forming in the batter.
6. Divide the mixture into 2 equal portions - comes to about 2 1/2 cups each portion. Keep one portion plain. Add cocoa powder into another and mix well.
7. The most important part is assembling the cake batter in a baking pan. Scoop 1/3-cup of plain batter into the middle of the baking pan. Then scoop 1/3-cup of cocoa batter and pour it in the center on top of the plain batter. Do not stop and wait until the previous batter spreads - keep going. Do not spread the batter or tilt the pan to distribute the mixture. It will spread by itself and fill the pan gradually. Continue alternating the batters until you finish them.
8. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes - 50 minutes. Do not open the oven door for at least the first 20 minutes or the cake will shrink and will not rise. To check if the cake is ready, insert a toothpick into the center. It should come out clean when ready. (I bake mine for 50 minutes, I check it after 40 minutes, but it is never done at that time.)

9. Remove from the oven. Cool for a few minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooking rack. If you did not use parchment paper, then you may want to run a knife around the cake in the pan before inverting the cake. Then, turn the cake back over and let cool. When the cake has cooled, you can sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered (confectioner’s) sugar or leave it plain.

Pour batter from the center, alternating between yellow and chocolate batter.

This is how it will look before baking.

 Just out of the oven.

 Cooling on a rack.

The cake after a few slices. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The BEST Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie!!!

This is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I have come across! It bests all the others I have compiled over the years, and I have tried more than my share.

I have to give credit to fellow blogger bakememore.com for this wonderful discovery. Her website is beautiful, check it out.

When I worked over 11 years ago, a lady at work use to bring these chocolate chip cookies in for everyone, and they were delicious. But she was not one to share her recipes. Whenever we asked, she would say she just added 1/4 cup of flour extra to her recipe (which she said was a standard Choc Chip Cookie recipe) and that's all she did to make her cookies delicious. Well, I have tried adding the extra flour to every ccc recipe I have come across, and no that does not work. I even tried adding it to this recipe and it actually made the cookies drier, so don't add any extra flour to this recipe. Everyone loved her cookies and this recipe reminds of them. I have no idea if this is her recipe, but it rivals her's for sure.

I followed this recipe 99%. I don't melt the butter, I just whip it from room temp. Melting the butter was a step I always forget, so I don't even bother anymore. I take the butter out of the fridge a few hours before I am ready to make the cookies and it works out just fine. If I forget to take it out of the fridge, I microwave it a bit to soften it. Easy.

The one thing I have learned over the years with baking, buy good flour - none of that off-brand cheap stuff that has more fillers than flour. It makes a big difference. My flour of choice is Five Roses Unbleached Flour. They have it all over Michigan, I don't know about elsewhere.

I hope you enjoy this post. It is my first. I give credit to all my fellow bloggers because they have inspired me to take my passion for baking and share it!

Sooooooo Good Chocolate Chip Cookie

• 2 cups + 2 tbls (10 5/8 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 12 tbsp (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
• 1 cup (7 oz.) packed light or dark brown sugar
• ½ cup (3 1/2 oz.)granulated sugar
• 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional – I use sometimes)
• 1 – 1½ cups chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate)

Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 325 °.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Whip the butter, then add sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips.

Roll the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, leaving the dough's uneven surface on top.
Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing about 1-2½ inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 13 to 15 minutes. Do not over-bake, they will continue baking after you take them out of the oven. Leave the cookies on the baking sheet about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack and then a plate when completely cooled.

Yield: About 18 large cookies or 36 small scoop cookies.