Category Archives: cookies, cakes and chocolate

Hazelnut Cake

Hazelnut Cake

Platina, in his 1474 Renaissance cookbook, On Right Pleasure and Good Health, writes on sugar – Sugar comes not only from Arabia and India but also from Crete and Sicily. Pliny calls it the honey collected from cane. The whiter it is, the better. It is good for the stomach and soothes whatever discomforts there are. By melting it, we make hazelnuts and many other things into sweets.

¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup ground hazelnuts
1 stick butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Butter and flour an 8×2 ½-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and ground hazelnuts together until well combined. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, fully incorporating each into the mixture and stopping to scrape down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.

Slowly add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.

Bake for about 28 to 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake rest for about 10 minutes before unmolding. Remove the parchment and cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with fresh blackberries or raspberries.

Serves 8 to 10

Mincemeat Pie

mincemeat pie

Mincemeat Pie

To end the year on a sweet note, this recipe was made in my last class of 2017, A Dickens Christmas at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Arts.

A sweet pie of British origin, mincemeat consists of of mixed dried fruits and spices traditionally served during the Christmas season. Its ingredients can be traced to the 13th century, when returning crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices. In Georgian times the meat was dropped. Mincemeat pie was loved by Charles Dickens.

Mincemeat filling:
2 apples, peeled, cored, chopped2 apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 cup apple cider
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried currants
½ cup dried figs, chopped
zest of one orange
½ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup raisins
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon round nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup rum

Simmer apples, apple cider, brown sugar, apricots, dried cherries, cranberries, currants, figs, orange zest, orange juice, golden raisins, raisins, schmaltz, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and rum in a medium pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid is evaporated, 30–25 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill to let flavors develop. (Filling can be made 3 months ahead; freeze in an airtight container.)

Use as a filling in your favorite pie crust or make individual tartlets like the ones shown above!

Makes enough for 2 9-inch pies
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Flourless Almond Cake

almond cakes

Flourless Almond Cake

The almond is native to modern-day Syria, Israel, and Turkey, though it was spread to parts of Europe and North Africa in antiquity. Romans referred to almonds as “Greek nuts” and showered newlyweds with them as a fertility charm.

This is the perfect Passover cake.

¾ cup sugar
2 cups slivered almonds
pinch ground cardamom
4 eggs
1 tablespoon almond extract
1 stick butter, at room temperature
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted (or get these from Trader Joe’s – they’re amazing)

Butter a round 9 to 10 inch spring-form pan, and cover the bottom with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Place the almonds, sugar and generous pinch cardamom into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the eggs to the mixture followed by the almond extract. Drop in the butter and process until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the mold. Place on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. The cake is done when the top if golden brown, feels springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Unmold the cake, invert onto a platter and remove the parchment paper. Invert the cake again onto another platter to have the top of the cake right side up.

In a small saucepan, mix the honey with the lemon juice. Set over medium heat and simmer for a couple minutes, until it has the consistency of a glaze.

Spread the honey on the outer circumference of the cake – about 1 to 2 inches – using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the glazed area with the toasted sliced almonds and serve.

Serves 12 to 15

This cake is adapted from Patti Jinich’s Flourless Almond and Porto Cake

Cheddar and Herb Scones

cheddar herb scones

Cheddar and Herb Scones

We made these little nuggets of deliciousness in my English Tea Time class at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens over the weekend. They were delicious.

Cheddar is the most popular type of cheese in the United Kingdom and has been produced in the village of Cheddar in Somerset, England since the 12th century.

To learn some fun facts about tea time in England (and for a recipe for Lemon Blueberry Cardamom Scone) click on The Victoria Appetite

3 cups flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup minced chives
½ cup minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 425º F.

In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together with a fork. Add the cold butter pieces and, using your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse sand. It’s ok if some large pieces of butter remain – they’ll add to the scones’ flakiness.

Pour in 1 cup of buttermilk, add the herbs and cheese and mix until the ingredients are just moistened – you’ll have soft dough with a rough look. (If the dough looks dry, add another tablespoon of buttermilk).

Gather the dough into a ball, pressing it gently so that it holds together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it very briefly.

Roll the dough into small rounds, place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops and the bottoms are golden brown. Cool slightly and serve warm.

Makes 12