Pistachio Apricot Teacakes

Pistachio Apricot TeacakesOnce upon a time, there lived a Holiday Cookie Queen. Every holiday season she would select 8 or 10 different cookie recipes and bake dozens upon dozens of each to festively package and give to the townsfolk. Seeing how joyful the townsfolk were to receive these holiday treats, she and her trusted friend, the Duchess of Cookie, decided to share the cookie joy all year long and they made and sold cookie dough for the masses to take home and bake for themselves.

As the years passed, the Holiday Cookie Queen gradually ran out of her magical cookie touch. She had instilled her love of cookies in the many, many folks who enjoyed baking her cookie dough. She had simply given away all her cookie zen. She could bake not a single cookie.

Time passed and the Holiday Cookie Queen ever so slowly regained her cookie baking energy and zeal. She baked a few dozen here and there. She sampled the cookie delights of others and found great inspiration. Finally she began to bake holiday cookies again and found renewed joy in sharing them with her closest kinfolk.

The holidays have come and gone and the Holiday Cookie Queen is now resting up. And baking pies. She did, however, leave me with the recipe for her favourite cookie of the season, pistachio apricot teacakes. She wanted me to let you know that these would be delightful to share with your closest kinfolk any time of the year.

Pistachio Apricot Teacakes

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shelled raw, unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, minced
Additional icing sugar

In a large bowl, cream butter and icing sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well.
Meanwhile, sift together flour, cardamom and salt in a medium bowl.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until all the flour is incorporated.
Stir in pistachios and apricots.
Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough and form into balls. Place one-inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake at 300 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes until the cookies feel firm and just begin to take on some colour.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets. Roll in extra icing sugar then place on cooling racks and cool completely.
Store between sheets of waxed or parchment paper in airtight container. Roll again in icing sugar just before serving, if desired.

Makes 3 dozen

Sorry-for-myself Cake

I am going to apologize right now. Sorry. Sorry for wingeing. Due to a seemingly endless string of energy-sapping life incidences, I am tired and cranky. And tonight, in particular, I am feeling sorry for myself. Sorry that I’ve been neglecting my sourdough starter. Sorry that I haven’t written thank you notes and letters. Sorry that I’m so unorganized. Sorry that I can’t get things done in a timely manner. Sorry that I’m running out of steam.

I was feeling so sorry for myself that I baked myself a cake, (yes, I was feeling sorry that no one bakes me cakes). I didn’t need anything fancy, just something flavourful and simple and that didn’t require me to run out and buy anything.

French-style yogurt cakeI settled on a French-style yogurt cake. The recipe called for lemon zest and juice but I didn’t have the energy to zest and juice so I threw in a dash of vanilla. I did remember (and being able to remember anything these days is a major accomplishment) that I had some leftover homemade mincemeat in the fridge. I poured in half the batter, dotted it generously with the mincemeat and smoothed the rest of the batter over.

A quick cooling on the balcony on this unusually frigid night and voilà! Cake for a sorry Ms. Crankypants.

OK, I’m done with feeling cranky and sorry for myself now. Thanks for listening. I hope you bake a cake for yourself the next time you find yourself weary, tired or cranky.

Homemade Nutella

“You know, Mom, I don’t like nutella. I never have.” *walks away with a smug shrug* I looked up from the sauté pan and shot my child that one-eye-brow-raised look that parents give that says, “Did I really give birth to you?” or “How are you the product of your parents?”

I had been excitedly telling the almost-ten-year old about a nutella making project I’d been thinking about for some time. As with a lot of my food DIY projects, I can’t remember how the idea came about. Sometimes I come across a recipe or method for making something that I really want to eat and sometimes, to be honest, it’s not something I hanker for at all but I’m drawn to the technique, concept or ingredient and I am compelled to make it. Having a captive audience to eat the final result is also a motivator.

Deflated and knowing I’d have a limited eating audience, I was almost ready to drop this nutella project. Then I discovered that a food-forward friend’s birthday falls on World Nutella Day, February 5. Imagine having a birthday on such an auspicious day! Homemade nutella would be the most fitting of gifts.

12297176606_1d48d25420The project was a go! I wanted a sophisticated, full-fat, full-dairy, dark chocolate, not-too-sweet version and settled on an adaptation of David Lebovitz’s recipe (this guy is the bomb, check him out if you haven’t already). He uses whole milk but I substituted cream to lengthen the shelf life. Sometimes you can find already skinned hazelnuts which eliminates the skin rubbing step entirely.

12297060953_42d2a40c7aAfter refrigeration, the nutella firms up, so you might want to leave it at room temperature for a while until it’s spreadable. It’s perfectly fine, though, not to wait and scoop and eat it straight from the jar.

Homemade Nutella

2 cups (about 225 g) whole hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups cream
3/4 cup powdered milk
2 tablespoon mild honey, optional
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of salt

Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring a couple of times, for 10 to 15 minutes or until they begin to brown and the skins split a little. If you are lucky enough to find already skinned hazelnuts, toast for 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the cream and the powdered milk in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Add honey and whisk to dissolve.
Add chocolate and salt to the hot cream and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk until all the chocolate is melted and incorporated.
When the nuts are brown, pour them all onto a tea towel, gather the corners and edges of the towel and rub them to remove their skins. Skip this step if you’re using skinned hazelnuts.
Place the warm nuts into the bowl of a food processor and grind them until a paste forms. You may still have some nutty bits. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the hot cream mixture and process until well mixed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
The nutella will seem runny but will thicken up when chilled. You may also have some nutty bits left. If this really bothers you, you can strain the mixture. I wouldn’t bother.
Pour into jars, seal, refrigerate and use within 3 weeks, if it will last that long.

Makes 2 generous jars (one for yourself and one for a friend, World Nutella Day Birthday or not)