I ran across a recipe for a Pear Tarte with ginger and walnuts the other day that looked delicious. I didn’t have any candied ginger nor did I see any in the store, so I decided to make some for myself. As it turns out, the process is not difficult but it does take a faire amount of time.
I haven’t decided if I want to bathe them in sugar or not. It depends on how sticky they remain. For now, lookin’ and tasting wonderful. Next stop….. that tart.
In the picture above, you see what looks like a chocolate cake layer sandwiched between two vanilla sheets. Alas, such isn’t the case. All layers are actually (supposed to be) of the Old-Fashioned White Cake recipe found in the Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I knew that I wanted to make a cake with strong coconut and pineapple accents, so I took the liberty of substituting a couple of things.
Here’s what happened to the middle layer you see above. First, I doubled Magnolia’s recipe since I was making a 1/2 sheet cake. That was the first mistake. I should have tripled the recipe. Second, I thought I’d ramp up the sweetness and substituted one (of the two) cup milk with a cup of sweetened condensed milk. Third, when checking for doneness after 30 minutes, I set the timer for 10 more minutes – then fell asleep on the couch – ouch! Well, I woke up well before any burning occurred, but well after the cake had lost its height and started to become a dense, chewy, wavy cookie. It was hours later before I took the courage to use this layer in the final cake. I like dense, chewy cookies, so I got hold of my trusty cake leveler and reduced the overall thickness of this should-have-been cake and took the risk of making it a center layer (see below).
Here’s how the other two layers (top and bottom) came about. I had to start over. I had contracted to bake this cake for someone, so there was no getting around it. I stuck with the Traditional White Cake recipe but 1) tripled the recipe and 2) substituted regular milk with organic coconut water. I could tell upon pouring the batter into the 1/2 sheet pan that it was going to be perfect – as long as I didn’t fall asleep and overcook it. Indeed, it turned out beautifully, the most evenly cooked, delicate surfaced white cake I’ve ever baked. I let this cake cool slowly for several hours while I got some sleep. I knew I was going to split it and wanted it to be as sturdy as possible.
With three sheets of cake ready to go, the assembly went as follows:
TRADITIONAL WHITE-CAKE RECIPE FROM The Complete Magnolia Cookbook.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1.5 cups sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
if using all-purpose flour, add 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt per 3/4 cup flour
1 cup milk (I substituted this with coconut water because I was looking to concentrate coconut flavors)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
Grease and flour your pan
Whip egg white to soft peaks, cover and reserve in fridge
Cream the butter and sugar
Alternatively add flour and liquids; don’t overmix
Gently fold in soft-peak egg whites
Place in oven at 350 deg F / 180 deg C
Bake for 22-25 min – then test for doneness
Triple the recipe – will be able to split once safely.
Reduce oven temp to 325 (or even 300)
I started checking the cake at 30 min. Mine took 40 min.
ICING – Magnolia Bakery Cream Cheese Icing
1 lb cream cheese, softened
3 oz unsalted butter, softened
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
Double the recipe above
Reserve 1/3 to use in the filling
FILLING – for the half-sheet cake
2 x 12 oz cans of chunked or sliced pineapple in light syrup or in natural juice
16 oz sweetened, shredded coconut
1/3 of the cream cheese icing
Place the pineapple and coconut in a food processor and pulse until combined and there are no large pieces of pineapple. In a large bowl, stir together with icing.
Long time no see! Well, today is not a day of regrets but of Thanksgiving. Actually, Thanksgiving IS just around the corner, but I was thinking about these cookies. They turned out to raves among my colleagues. So, we were all thankful for that.
OK. As happens so often these days, I made some detours in the recipe of the cookbook – but not too much.
Detour #1 : As stated in the caption to the photo above, I replaced crushed hazelnuts with almond powder/flour. I think the hazelnuts were well past their best days. They didn’t smell right. I had TONS of almond flour and sliced almonds on hand so I went with them. As it turns out, the almonds may be the more traditional ingredient. (I’ll need to research that more thoroughly. Or if you know about this, leave me a note.)
Detour #2: Raspberry things. Firstly, I used raspberry jam WITH seeds, not seedless. I am a fan of St. Dalfour all natural jams. Sooooo… Then I added a fresh raspberry in the well in the middle of the cookie. Cool! Wouldn’t you agree?
Detour #3: This was the “I hadn’t seen this done before” part. I made up one batch of Magnolia’s cream cheese filling (leaving out the egg), and spread a layer of that on the cookie before adding the raspberry jam. It went like this (see photos below):
I mention on the “About” page of this blog, that I would be researching and experimenting with recipes that would adapt well to baking in a wood-fired oven and that a number of regions of France had something to offer to this tradition.
Here is the first such recipe, Sablés. Sablés are a simple, buttery shortbread type cookie famous in Brittany, the most northwestern region of France.
BUCKWHEAT / BLÉ SARASIN
This sablé recipe, found on the Epicurious website, is not the gold standard. For that, a standard all-purpose flour would be needed. This recipe calls for buckwheat, a dark, almost black, flour that is well-known in Brittany. The flour is most often called “blé sarasin” in reference to the Moors of Spain. The flour is commonly used in Brittany in savory crêpe recipes called “galettes.” In an authentic “crêperie”, the menu would present a selection of savory main-course galettes, and then a selection of desert crêpes made with lighter flours.
THREE-FLOUR RECIPE (with small modifications)
(for fun and flavor)
The recipe called for Buckwheat, Oat Flour, and White Rice Flour.
DETOUR 1: I didn’t have any white rice flour, so I substituted brown rice flour.
DETOUR 2: I added 1 tbsp of gluten protein – afraid my cookies might fall apart and having no gluten issues
DETOUR 3: The recipe called for light brown sugar. I used half light and half dark brown sugar.
Made roll-up logs of the cookie dough and put them in the freezer, which I hadn’t done before.
Great for making uniform, round cookies.
What a wonderful cookie to this guy’s taste buds. The cookie is much more delicate than a standard sablé, but such a delightful flavor. I will do it again and would recommend you give it a try — if you think you might like Buckwheat.
I baked these cookies a few weeks ago. These are one of a number of recipes in the Magnolia Cookbook that are most commonly baked at Christmas time. I couldn’t wait for Christmas and am glad I didn’t. The cookies are easy to make and loved by everyone.
The batter comes together quickly and easily in a stand mixer. It probably would not be a bad idea to let the dough stiffen a little in the fridge before shaping, but Magnolia doesn’t call for that. As you can see below, my crescent moon cookies are not all uniform and lovely. It’s done by rolling a small ball of dough between your two hands, then laying it down in a crescent shape. It takes some practice, but it’s really quite fun.
TRUE BISCUITS / BISCOTTI / COOKIES
I was afraid of overcooking these little lunar gems, so I undercooked them a bit. My son did a taste test and said they tasted like uncooked cookie dough. OK. I was wounded a bit, but, instead of taking it personally, I did what you’re supposed to do with honest feedback – I acted on it. I put the cookies back in the oven for a few more minutes. (Some for a few too many more minutes.) This, of course, made true “biscuits” (French for cookie) of them, or as the Italians and Starbucks clients would say, “biscotti.”
Anyhooo, after baking once or twice, you let them cool completely (!!) then roll them in confectioner’s sugar. Yes, roll them, DON’T sprinkle them.
The perfect pick-me-up if you’re low on energy. Two small “hits”.
Charity event ! – sort of. I baked three goodies to support our school library, enticing new and old faculty alike to attend a gracious afternoon presentation on the manifold services offered by our librarians. The house of Chezbonneau loves libraries. For friends who have visited our home, it’s a little like walking into a library itself.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT ABOVE
Trésors des Sept Nains (Treasures of the Seven Dwarfs) – Squares of light and dark brown sugar studded with dark French walnuts
Roues de charrette (Wagon wheels) – Oatmeal cookies with raisins, coconut, toasted almonds
Petits bananiers (Little Banana Trees) – Small cakes of banana, coconut, and pecans
M. le patissier de Chezbonneau has made all three of the above-mentioned recipes before. Each recipe was modified a bit in some small way. Each recipe called for light brown sugar. I substituted at least 1/4 cup of light brown sugar with dark brown sugar just to give the recipes a little more rustic depth. I did the same with the flour, using 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour in the mixture for the cookies and banana bread. I also altered the way the deserts were cooked for the “Trésors des Sept Nains”. The squares should be baked in a single pan then cut afterwards. I cooked them in pan of 12 single squares. I reduced the bake time by almost 1/2 since the small squares cook through to the middle much faster. They turned out AWESOME ! – crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
I have some stories to tell in the coming days about the outdoor bread oven in Chezbonneau, France, but for the moment, my story is about a cookie. The story begins with the recipe for Magnolia’s “Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chip Cookie“, but takes a detour to become something quite a bit different. The detour was purposeful.
Remove the peanut butter chips for a simple oatmeal cookie.
Replace light brown sugar with dark brown sugar.
Increase the brown sugar and decrease the amount of refined white sugar.
Increase the amount of cinnamon by just a bit.
Chezbonneau’s recipe for a dark, moist, chewy, hint-of-molasses oatmeal cookie
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
11/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed DARK brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
21/2 cups quick-cooking oats
DIRECTIONS (as per Magnolia’s cookbook)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat well. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stir in the oats. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Bake for 11–13 minutes. (I SUGGEST NO MORE THAN 11 minutes for a moist, chewy cookie.) Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
I have had a hard time getting the oatmeal evenly distributed into this relatively dry batter. I decided to use the dough hook on my mixer to see if that might do the trick, and it did a great job – no over-beating, even distribution of oatmeal late in the game.
I am back on the farm in France still putting everything in order for two months of country living and country baking. I’m not yet ready to tackle baking in the outdoor oven just yet, but the necessity of using our fresh raspberries (framboises) calls.
So, with theses beauties, I am making a raspberry tart with a cream custard filling.
I just finished the custard using the recipe found in The Complete Magnolia Cookbook. This is the second time that I’ve made it and it has turned out great.
Please check back later to see how it has all turned out. I’m headed to town for other ingredients while the custard cools.