food amongst family and friends

Austrian Shortbread December 30, 2012

Filed under: Bars,Make Ahead — blisteringlydrunk @ 11:53 am
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ShortbreadThis was my breakfast this morning: coffee with homemade eggnog and a slice of Austrian shortbread. Christmas leftovers make me happy.

I have to start this post by confessing that every single square, cookie and appetizer I made for Christmas this year came from Smitten Kitchen. I ordered her new cookbook in the Fall, it arrived in late October, and I’ve been staring at it every day since it arrived. I’ve already made the squash and caramelized onion galette 4 times. Heaven!

This shortbread comes from Epicurious via the Smitten Kitchen blog. What sets this recipe apart from other shortbreads is not the ingredients, but an interesting tweak to the process. Once the dough has come together, you freeze it, then grate half of it into the bottom of the pan, add a layer of raspberry jam, then grate the remaining dough on top. The result is a lighter, airier shortbread. I took Deb’s advice and added a good dose of lemon zest – I wouldn’t make it any other way.

Aside from being super tasty, this is a convenient recipe to make when you have lots on the go. You can make the dough well in advance, freeze it, then grate and bake it the day that you need it. Once baked, it will stay moist and soft and delicious for at least a week if you keep it at room temperature in an airtight container.

Note – the Epicurious recipe says that you can substitute 1 cup of flour for 1 cup of cocoa, producing a chocolate raspberry shortbread. If you go that route, leave out the lemon zest.

yields a 9×13 pan of deep squares

1 pound unsalted butter, slightly softened
4 egg yolks
2 C sugar
4 C flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1-2 t lemon zest
1 C raspberry jam, at room temperature
1/4 C powdered sugar

Cream the butter until soft and fluffy. Add the yolks and mix well.

Whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt, then add to the butter and egg yolk mixture. Mix just until the dough starts to come together, then turn out onto a floured surface and form into two balls. Wrap each ball in plastic and freeze at least 2 hours. You can make this ahead and freeze it for up to a month.

When you’re ready to bake, get the oven heating to 350 F.

Take one ball of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it – you can do this by hand on a box grater, but a food processor is much easier if you have one. Shake the shortbread flakes into the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, making sure to evenly distribute the flakes.

Spoon the jam into a piping bag with a wide tip or a zip-lock bag with a corner cut off. Squeeze the jam over the surface as evenly as possible, leaving a 1/2 inch border. I squeezed out the jam in a tight zigzag pattern, then used a butter knife to lightly spread it and fill in the gaps. Remove the remaining dough from the freezer, coarsely grate it and shake evenly over the entire surface.

Bake until lightly golden and the center no longer wiggles. This took just shy of 50 minutes for me, though the original recipe said it could take up to 60 minutes. I suggest checking it at 45 minutes, check the edges for browning and decide how close you are. As soon as you take it out of the oven, dust with the powdered sugar and let cool.

Note – leave this whole until you’re ready to serve. The shortbread will last longer as one solid piece than it will cut into little squares.



Spring Treats: Cranberry Lemon Squares April 13, 2012

Filed under: Baking,Bars,Desserts,Make Ahead,Uncategorized,Vegetarian — blisteringlydrunk @ 9:36 pm
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This is the third time I have started this post; twice now my computer has failed me, so I’m hoping this one is the charm, because I used all mine up on the first two posts. So, let me be blunt; these squares rock, easily my baking find of the year; perfect blend of tart and sweet, and if spring had a taste, this is what is would be (yes, I know, cranberries and lemons are more of a Christmas thing, but trust me). Also, they froze beautifully, so they are easy to make ahead. So just make them already. Shout out to ELS for the awesome recipe!


3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

Zest of one big lemon

1 cup butter, cold and cubed

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 – 4 Tbsp cold water


2 1/2 – 3 cups frozen cranberries (depending on how tart you like it)

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp white sugar

Juice from your zested lemon

2 Tbsp corn starch

1. Preheat oven to 400  and spray a 9×13 glass baking dish.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in your food processor or a large bowl. Pulse or whisk to blend. Add butter and pulse (in processor) or use a pastry cutter until crumbly, with no visible hunks of butter.

3. Transfer to a stand mixer (or using a handheld electric) and add egg and vanilla. Once mixed, add water 1 Tbsp at a time until the dough comes together. Mix very well between each addition, as it will take a while for the dough to form even after you add the water. I used about 2 1/2 Tbsp.

4. Press a little more than half (I always seem to have a big half, so use that one) the dough into the bottom of the pan.

5. Combine lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl, stirring until smooth. Add the cranberries and mix thoroughly. Pour over the bottom layer, then crumble remaining dough on top.

6. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for another 25 minutes or until edges and topping are golden brown. Let cool completely (and I mean completely) before cutting.




My Favourite Things – Gingerbread Bars December 21, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Bars,Desserts,Make Ahead — blisteringlydrunk @ 1:06 pm
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That’s right, I’m still alive, you can call off the search party. I have no idea where the month of December has gone, but it has obviously not been spent posting all the delicious things I’ve been cooking; sorry (I feel a New Year’s resolution coming on). This has become my favourite Christmas treat over the last few years; I think Katie made them the year my first daughter was born (almost 6 years ago) and the next year I stole the recipe and have made them every year since. So instead of boring you with the new stuff I tried, I thought I would go for an old(ish) favourite. The recipe, I believe, came out of a Bon Apetit magazine, but don’t quote me on that. They are the perfect gingerbread – somewhere between cookie and cake, just the right amount of spice, and almost impossible to wreck. And, the best way to eat them, as you can see, is with good vanilla ice cream and totally evil drunken sauce (or good quality caramel sauce for the kids and non boozy folks out there). Try them, you won’t regret it. Unless you don’t like gingerbread, in which case, skip it.

2 cups flour

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp each, nutmeg and ground cloves

1/2 tsp each, baking soda and salt

10 Tbsp butter, room temp

3/4 packed dark brown sugar

7 Tbsp white sugar, divided

2 large eggs

1/4 cup light (fancy) molasses

1. Preheat oven to 350 and butter and flour a rimmed cookie sheet (like you would for a loaf pan).

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour through salt). In a large bowl, using your electric mixer (a stand mixer would be great here), beat together butter, brown sugar and 6 Tbsp white sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in molasses. Add dry ingredients, and beat just to blend.

3. Here’s the tricky part; spread batter/dough evenly into the pan. I’m not being facetious; this is a serious pain in the butt. Every year it makes me crazy, but last year we decided to flour our hands (repeatedly) and press it out, which seems to work the best. The dough is somewhere between cake batter and cookie dough and its very sticky and resistant to spreading. Alternately, I would try a spatula sprayed with cooking spray.

4. If you used flour to press it out, skip this step, but otherwise, sift 2 Tbsp flour over the top of the bars. Then sprinkle with the remaining Tbsp of sugar (I cut this back from 2 Tbsp and it’s still lots; do it to your taste).

5. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 21 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack, then slice and remove. I slice it big (into about 15-18 bars) for dessert as shown, or smaller (into 24-28) to put on a plate of squares. These freeze beautifully if you are trying to plan ahead.




Browned butter cocoa brownies May 25, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Bars,Cakes — blisteringlydrunk @ 5:05 pm
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I don’t have much time, but it occurred to me that this is the second time I have made these and forgotten to photograph the evidence, other than this one sad remaining (and now no longer remaining) brownie. These are (and I had to make my old favourite recipe to confirm this – I take brownies very seriously) the best brownies I’ve ever made and they are very simple. The browned butter is a stroke of genius and using cocoa instead of chocolate makes this fast and simple. If you like brownies, you must try this. Thank you, Bon Apetit! Add nuts is you want, I personally don’t want anything diluting the chocolatey goodness.

10 Tbsp unsalted butter, roughly chopped

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp (generous) salt

2 large eggs, chilled

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp flour

1. Preheat oven to 325 and line a 9″ (or 8″) square pan with tinfoil, leaving an overhang, and then spray with non stick spray.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until it stops foaming and browned bits form in bottom of pan, stirring often.

3. Remove from heat and immediately add sugar, cocoa, vanilla, 2 tsp water and salt. Stir to blend and let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be pretty hot).

4. Beat in eggs vigorously, one at a time, until mixture is shiny and thick. Add flour, stirring to combine, then beat for 60 strokes (your arm should be tired when you are done, unless you are Popeye and you just had your spinach). If you want nuts, now is the time.

5. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 22 – 25 minutes, or until just a few moist crumbs are clinging to a toothpick inserted in the centre. Let cool in pan on rack, then remove using foil overhang and slice.




Homemade Lara Bars April 17, 2011

This Saturday was the Annual Climb and Run for the Wilderness, where for the 4th year in a row, we (the kids, the husband, and I) have climbed all the stairs in the Calgary Tower. This year, some of us also took the stairs back down. Some people do this as many times as their bodies will carry them and collect money for the Alberta Wilderness Association . We are not there yet. I am looking forward to the year when I am only required to haul my own body weight up and down those stairs, but until then, I’m only going to do it once and I require refueling at the top. Hence the homemade Lara bars. These are my favourite easy, to-go, long shelf life, lightweight snacks to keep around for outings with the kids. Everyone loves them and they are full of good energy and they can be made in 10 minutes including clean up and prep. This is my favourite flavour combination (chocolate/cherry/almond) but please feel free to mess with the nuts, spices, dried fruits, whatever until you find your perfect bar; I think if you keep the ratio of fruit to nuts (or seeds) and keep at least half of the fruit as dates, you can do whatever you like. I usually freeze what I am not planning on using right away in packages of 2 or 3 bars so I can just grab them and go whenever I need to – they thaw very quickly at room temp. Also, the recipe can be cut in half or quartered or doubled or tripled; you are limited only by your imagination and the size of your food processor. This recipe make a 9×9 pan, which I usually cut into 16 squares.

1 cup (about 10-12) fresh, pitted Medjool dates

1 cup tart, sweetened dried cherries (dried cranberries will get the job done if you can’t find good cherries)

1 1/3 cups whole almonds

a large handful or 2 of dark chocolate chunks

1 tsp of cinnamon

1. Put the almonds in the food processor and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped. Pour into bowl or measuring cup and set aside.

2. Add dates and cherries to the processor and pulse until it starts to form a ball. Use your fingers to break it up a bit, then add the chocolate and cinnamon and pulse a few more times.

3. Use your fingers to break the ball up again and add the nuts back in. Pulse a few times to start the mixing and then dump the whole thing on a clean surface and work it all together in a kneading kind of fashion.

4. Once it is all sticking together, press into a 9×9 pan lined with plastic wrap. You can keep it, wrapped in the plastic in the pan or cut into squares and wrap individually or in groups. Stays good in an airtight container on the counter for a couple weeks or in the freezer for several months (though mine usually don’t last that long).




Banana Nutella Brownies March 23, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Bars,Quick and easy — blisteringlydrunk @ 6:11 pm
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Easiest.  Brownies. Ever. 3 minutes to mix, 10 minutes to bake. They’re delicious. Cure your chocolate craving now.


makes 12 mini brownies, recipe taken from Try it You Might Like it

1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 brown banana
1 egg
5 T flour
1/4 t cinnamon, heaping

Whisk together the Nutella, banana and egg, then stir in the flour and cinnamon until well mixed. Drop by the spoonful into well greased mini muffin tins and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. You can push treats into the top before baking, if desired – I used white chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts.

Eat up!


Raspberry/ Blackberry Breakfast Bars February 24, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Bars,Make Ahead — blisteringlydrunk @ 5:18 pm
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As the mother of two young children who can eat their way through almost any outing, I am constantly on the lookout for healthy, portable snacks. This would also apply to long hikes  through alligator infested swamps, or breakfast in the hotel when traveling clandestinely to meet with other secret agents like yourself. Or whatever. Sometimes you need something you can grab and eat on the run, that doesn’t taste like cardboard and is also healthy and filling. This is it. And my fairly picky 4-year-old loves these, which means they taste like dessert, because that’s the only thing she eats without complaint.

I have borrowed this from Everybody Likes Sandwiches and added my usual flair (at least 6 pieces), I hope you like it.

2 cups rolled oats

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or half all purpose and half whole wheat)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

6 Tbsp butter, cubed

1 cup plain yogurt (I used 2.5%, but I think fat free would be just fine)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup agave syrup

3 cups frozen berries (I used raspberries and blackberries, but whatever is in your freezer should work), roughly chopping half of them

2 Tbsp raspberry jam (I used this because I had it, but I wouldn’t rush out to buy some if you don’t, maybe just add an extra Tbsp of agave syrup instead)

2 Tbsp raw sugar (I used white, but raw would be way better if you’ve got it)

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9×13 glass pan with parchment paper, leaving enough hanging over the sides to lift out the finished product.

2. Mix the first 6 ingredients (to cinnamon) together in a large bowl. Add chopped butter and mix together with your hands until the mixture is crumbly. (Upon reading this, I snorted and grabbed my pastry cutter, which accomplished nothing because of all the oats. It really does work better with your hands. I had a flashback to my Mom teaching me to make meatloaf and forcing me to put my hands in there and squeeze the egg yolk until it broke and then mix it with all that raw hamburger. That was gross. This isn’t. Just pinch around in there till the butter busts up. No big deal. Thanks for making me overcome my fears Mom!)

3. Stir together yogurt, lemon juice, and vanilla (I did this right in my measuring cup) and then add to your crumbles. Mix with a sturdy spoon until it just comes together.

4. In a small bowl, mix together berries, cornstarch and agave syrup.

5. Press about 2/3 of the crumbles/pastry into the pan. You will have to really press and spread to get it to cover the bottom evenly, but it will work.

6. Spread the berry mixture over top and then dab the jam over top of that.

7. Crumble the remaining dough over top and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 50 mins, or until bubbly and slightly browned. Let cool completely before cutting. Stays good for 3 or 4 days on the counter, longer in the fridge, and much longer in the freezer.

8. Make sure you have on hand a one-booted helper around to lick out all the bowls.