Saturday, December 16, 2017

Cinnamon shortbread cookies with cinnamon sugar

The Christmas tree is finally up! We trimmed it yesterday evening and my home feels Christmassy and festive and of course I’m already knee deep in holiday baking. I made melomakarona the other day, my all time favorite Greek Christmas cookies, and I plan on making kourabiedes very soon, but today I made another type of cookie that’s become a tradition in my home during the holidays, shortbread. I love all shortbread cookies, but above all those flavored with cinnamon.

I have shared with you before the vanilla and cocoa versions, and here’s the cinnamon one. It not only has cinnamon in the dough, but it has cinnamon on top as well, as I sprinkle the cookies before baking with cinnamon sugar that I make with Demerara sugar and ground cinnamon, that accentuates the flavor of the spice even more, without, however, being overwhelming, and it is fantastic. If you haven’t been sprinkling your shortbread with cinnamon sugar, then you should get on it as soon as possible.

Hope you are already in a festive mood yourselves and baking up a storm. Do try these and let me know what you think. And don't forget to tag me in your photos on instagram if you do make them so I can see them.

Happy baking!

Cinnamon shortbread cookies with cinnamon sugar

This is a shortbread full of butter flavor and a delicate texture. It is, to me, the ultimate shortbread. See here the vanilla and the cocoa versions.

This recipe yields about 35 Christmas tree cookies that have a height of 7 cm and a base with a width of 6 cm. There are so many different kinds of cookie cutters out there so of course I don’t expect you to have the same exact cookie cutters I have, so you may end up with more or less cookies.

Yield: about 35 cookies

150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
55 g icing sugar, sieved
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
220 g all purpose flour, sieved
20 g cornflour (cornstarch), sieved, plus extra for dipping your cookie cutter
1 heaped tsp (5 g) ground cinnamon, sieved
A pinch of sea salt

for the cinnamon sugar
2 Tbsp coarse Demerara sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Special equipment: fine sieve, stand or hand-held mixer, plastic wrap, rolling pin, baking paper, cookie cutters of your choice (see note above for cookie cutters I used), baking sheet(s), small food processor

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the butter and icing sugar and beat, using the paddle attachment (or with your hand-held mixer), on medium-high speed for about 8 minutes or until you have a very creamy and light mixture. Add the vanilla and beat to incorporate. Add the flour, cornflour, cinnamon and salt and beat on low speed. At first you may think that the mixture will not become a dough because it will look very sandy but don't worry, after a minute it will come together (like in the picture below) and gather in pieces around the paddle attachment (or around the beaters) of your mixer.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball and then into a disk. At this point you'll see the actual texture of the dough which should be smooth and firm. Wrap it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

In the meantime, make the cinnamon sugar. In a small food processor, add the sugar and cinnamon and process for 5 seconds to combine. Don’t overdo it because you don’t want the sugar to turn into powder. We want it to add texture to the cookies when sprinkled on top.

Line your baking sheet with baking paper.
Preheat your oven to 180°C / 350°F.

Place the chilled disk of dough between two sheets of baking paper and using a rolling pin, roll it out to 0.5-0.7 cm-thickness.
In a small bowl, add some cornflour and use it to dip in your cookie cutter. In this way, the cookie cutter won't stick to the dough.
Remove the top baking paper from your rolled-out dough and using your cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place them on your prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1.5 cm apart.

Note: It's best if you transfer the cut-out cookies from the baking paper to your baking sheet using a small offset spatula. This way you ensure the shape of the cookie remains intact. You need to work fast because the dough becomes warmer and softer as time passes.

Note: Any leftover dough, shape it again into a ball and place it in the fridge to firm up. Then roll it out same as you did before and cut out more cookies.

Sprinkle each cookie with the cinnamon sugar. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven and bake the cookies for 8-9 minutes or until light golden around the edges. They'll feel a little soft in the middle but that's okay. Be careful not to overbake them.

Note: If you choose a different cookie cutter, either smaller or bigger, or even of a different shape than the one I used (see note at the start of the recipe), the baking times will change. Keep a close eye on your cookies while baking so you avoid any surprises.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to stand for 2 minutes. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Allow them to cool completely before you transfer them to a cookie tin.
They'll keep for 1 week, at room temperature, in a tightly closed cookie tin.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Cake (or brownie) and Greek yoghurt trifles with freeze-dried raspberries and chocolate

So what do you do when you have gloriously fucked up a cake that you so lovingly prepared and it ended up sticking to the pan so badly that when you finally managed to take it out, it only came out in a gazillion, unappetizing pieces? Do you throw it away, do you eat it as is, ignoring its awful appearance, or do you make something else out of it?

This is what happened to me the other day when I made a marble bundt cake. I recently bought a new bundt pan which I naively thought it was going to be like my other bundt pans that are trustworthy and cooperative and only need buttering, but no, this one was different, it required special treatment which I didn’t offer; it needed flouring as well!

So it took revenge on me by making my beautiful cake stick to all its nooks and crannies. At first, being angry at the pan, the cake and myself, I thought of tossing the cake, but then reason prevailed and realized I could repurpose it. After some very kind people on instagram gave their genius ideas, I was inspired to make cake pops (which I took to my friend’s house for whom I made the cake in the first place) and with the rest of the cake I made these trifles for us.

Layers of cocoa-vanilla marble cake, Greek yoghurt with some freeze-dried raspberry powder swirled through it and chocolate shavings. Best.Save.Ever. Because accidents can, after all, turn out to be the most delicious things in the world, and if you too have any kind of cake or brownie that you messed up, yet it still tastes delicious, do make these trifles. You won’t regret it. And by the way, they would make the cutest, festive, individual desserts for the upcoming holidays.

Marble cake (or brownie) and Greek yoghurt individual trifles with freeze-dried raspberries and chocolate

I finally found freeze-dried fruit (raspberries and strawberries) after I’ve been searching form them for ages at my local super-market of all places and I couldn’t wait to use them! They worked perfectly in this trifle but if you can’t get them, use fresh raspberries or pomegranate seeds between the layers to give sharpness and texture.
Freeze-dried fruit are pure fruit, without any additives, and they are like crispy meringues in texture and become powder when ground/crumbled.

I used marble cake (cocoa-vanilla) for this but you can use any cake or brownies (homemade or otherwise).

Yield: 4 individual servings / 4 glasses of 200ml-capacity

3-4 thick cake slices (or 3 brownies), some in small pieces, some crumbled
500 g full-fat Greek yoghurt, drained of any excess liquid
3 Tbsp icing sugar
3-4 freeze-dried raspberries, powdered (you can do this easily by rubbing them between your hands)
Dark chocolate shavings (55-60% cocoa solids)

Mix the icing sugar into the yoghurt. Swirl in most of the freeze-dried raspberry powder, leaving some for topping the trifles. Give it a taste. It should be sweet but still tangy, to create the flavor contrast with the sweet cake. Add more sugar if it’s too tangy for your taste.
Cover the bottom of each glass with a layer of cake/brownie, top with yoghurt (you could add some chocolate shavings here if you’re a chocoholic), then add another layer of cake/brownie and finally a layer of yoghurt. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings and some extra raspberry powder. If you don’t have freeze-dried raspberries, you could add some fresh raspberries or pomegranate seeds between the layers to add sharpness.

They are best served the day you make them but they keep well in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap for a day.