The Perfect Little Cookie!

English: These are palmiers, or sugar cookies ...

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My brain hasn’t fully processed the fact that the Summer is over, let alone, Thanksgiving and with Christmas right around the corner, we’re “busy bees” at the bakery.

I really want to organize a “Recipe Exchange” where customers bring their favorite dessert/appetizer with copies of the recipe to share with the group, but time just keeps ticking away.  There just aren’t enough hours in a day!  Oh well,  maybe it’s not too late to pull that off, even if it’s an online exchange!  Anyhow, that idea and a favorite customer of ours made me think about the “Cookie Exchange” parties that I participated in for many years with my friends.  What a concept!  You bring several dozen cookies with copies of your recipe and by the end of the celebration you return home with an assortment of holiday sweets perfect for making gift platters or just enjoying with your family.

A cookie that we make and is a popular favorite, no matter what time of year, is the Palmier, also known as an Elephant Ear.   There’s a lot to love about this little cookie from its delicately crunchy texture, to its sweet cinnamon taste and its adorable heart shape.  Plus, if you forego making the puff pastry from scratch and opt for store-bought instead, you can whip these little gems up within minutes.  It’s also a great cookie to make with your kids!  I should note here that this is a French pastry and in France they do not use cinnamon, only sugar.  I am a “mut” and my husband is Italian, plus we love cinnamon, so our recipe is loaded with it.  You can get really creative here and add different spices and nuts is you please.

Get baking for the holidays and add the tasty Palmier to your repertoire.

Puff Pastry

2 cups all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup cake flour, 
10 ounces butter, cold (2 1/2 sticks), divided, 
1 1/4 tsp salt, 
3/4 – 1 cup cold water

Take 8 ounces of butter (2 sticks) and shape into a block roughly 1/4 inch thick. If you are using stick butter, slice each stick into three long pieces and make a 2×3 block. Press butter together well and refrigerate.

Combine flours and salt in food processor. Pulse lightly to combine. Add remaining 2 ounces (1/2 stick) of butter and cut in until dough looks like sand. With the motor running, add 3/4 cup water. If dough has not come together, add remaining water slowly
flatten dough into a smooth disk, wrap and chill for 1 hour.

On a well floured surface, roll dough out into a large (10 inches or so) circle. Set butter block in the center and fold up the extra dough as though you were folding an envelope: fold over the sides, the fold the top down and the bottom up. Turn the seam side down and roll until envelope has quadrupled in size. Use short strokes, keeping the pressure as even as possible, and lots of flour.
 Fold the dough in thirds as though you were folding a business letter. This is one turn. Wrap and refrigerate dough for at least one hour and up to two days.
 To make turns 2, 3 and 4, place chilled dough seam side down on a well-floured surface and roll out again into a large rectangle. Try to keep the dough as evenly rectangular as possible. Fold as you would a business letter. Wrap and chill.
 Dough can be frozen until ready to use.

Palmiers


1 recipe for puff pastry,
lots of sugar and cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll out your puff pastry on a floured surface until it is as thin as you can get it. Cover generously with sugar and cinnamon. Starting at the right side, roll the pastry until it reaches the center. Repeat with the left side.
Cut roll into 1/2 inch segments.
Spread more sugar onto your work surface. Fold each segment into a V shape and press it down into the sugar and cinnamon mixture, flattening it with the palm of your hand.   Place each Palmier on the baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes in a pre-heated 400 degree oven until golden brown.

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Summer’s end and a fantastic recipe with homegrown tomatoes?

I view Summer as a precious gift!  Why does it go by faster than any other season?  Does it seem to anyone else that the kids start school earlier and earlier each year?  Summer is my favorite season!  I love everything about it, the warmth, the extension of daylight, the fresh local food, the kids being home.   My fretting about Summer’s end begins around, about the 4th of July.

You might be wondering, what the heck this has to do with “cupcakes and sprinkles”?  Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with the bakery, but we’ve been reminded of the season’s end a lot lately.  Our normally “happy go lucky” visitors come in looking sullen, contemplating the return home and back to the “grind”.  Our youngest customers, including our own children appear obviously dismayed by the thought of school days, homework, projects and schedules. What happened to the days when Summer vacation started at Memorial Day and lasted through Labor Day weekend?

This Summer, in particular, seems to have vanished.  Owning a  business in a resort town, the tourist season is obviously the busiest and we’re not complaining.  Plus, “time flies when you’re having fun”!   Our children, my niece and our parents have helped us more than ever this season, working in the kitchen, at the counter, setting up at Farmer’s Market and serving during Art Strolls.  We’ve had an absolute blast!  It’s awesome owning a business and priceless watching your family take as much pride in it as you do.

Not to be a total “downer”, of course there are many exciting things to look forward to in Berlin this Fall and Winter…Fiddlers Convention, Octoberfest, Victorian Christmas and 2nd Friday Art Strolls.  Heck, in my humble opinion, September and October are two of the best months to be on the shore.  The weather and water are still warm, the monster crowds and traffic are gone, the crabs still running.  We also have exciting, new sweets and savouries that we’re working on and “rolling out” this Fall and during the holidays.

When experimenting and testing new recipes, Summer gives us the best possibility of using homegrown, fresh, local ingredients.

Tomato Pie

Super Easy and Delicious

This season we have great farmers and gardeners provide us with some of the best tomatoes I have ever eaten.  We’ve made them “every which way, but loose” and one of our favorite recipes is a savory Tomato Pie!  So to conclude my rantings of Summer’s end on a positive note, I’m sharing this super easy recipe for all to enjoy!  Savor every last day of Summer and all of the “gifts” it has to offer.

Tomato Pie

one prepared pie crust (I would give you Shelly’s recipe, but she would kill me.)

4 large tomato

1/2 cup good mayonnaise

1-1/4 cup parmesan cheese

fresh herbs to taste

Slice tomatoes, place on paper towels and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Let rest for 30 minutes.  Prepared pie crust, prick and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes until lightly browned.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese on bottom of pie crust.  Place drained tomatoes in circular pattern on top of cheese.  Add remaining cheese to mayonnaise and add chopped fresh herbs to taste.  We love the combination of basil and oregano, but you can use creative license here.  Spread this mixture on top of tomatoes and bake pie in oven for 15 minutes until golden brown.   Prepared side salad, open a bottle of wine and dinner is served!

The Sweet Life…striking “the balance”…working it out!

No one has to tell us about diets, indulging in sweets in moderation and watching the waist line.  Our stretchy pants feel the pain of having to taste most everything that leaves the building everyday.  Plus, I’m sure that you’ve read our previous post about “you can have your cake and eat it too” so I am not going to elaborate on that subject.  So what, you ask, am I blogging about now?  Well, it’s our newest endeavor.

We want to connect our customers with our local fitness centers, personal trainers/coaches and share healthy eating tips.  You think it’s “weird” that the owners of a dessert cafe are blogging about fitness?  Let me be clear, we definitely want you to get “BAKED” at the beach, but it is as important to us that our customers are happy and most importantly healthy.  We hope you know that this is why we are committed to baking au’naturale.   We seriously believe that good health and happiness are all about striking “the balance” between the “healthy” and the “indulgent”.   Sometimes that balancing act is just down right difficult.

This  idea came to me when I saw a customer of ours at the gym.  She kindly commented on our facebook post and picture of our Monster Cream Puff asking, “Do you think I could eat half of one if I walk for 30 minutes on the treadmill”?  “Why yes”, I replied and voila the proverbial lightbulb in my head went off.  Why not  connect with the local fitness gurus and share fitness tips, “specials” and wellness strategies with our fans?  Why not ask our fans to share their success stories, tips and recipes.  I don’t know about you, but I can use all of the help that I can get!

No matter if you are a local, just visiting or vacationing at the beach, there are a plethora of fitness centers to choose from and most offer yearly, seasonal, monthly, weekly and daily rates.  Some are even open 24 hours a day.  Fitness centers are not a “one size fits all” and gyms here are no exception.  They offer different fitness philosophies, different work out schedules, classes and styles and varying approaches to reaching your fitness goals.  Most of the centers provide personal coaching, some are class oriented, some more “free weight” minded.  Some follow specific diet regimens like the Paleo Diet which one of our friends and customers recently shared a dessert recipe from.  It was so delicious, Chocolate Babies are now on our “favorites” menu.

Shelly and I come from a large family who celebrate every occasion with food and we own a bakery for gosh sakes. We are constantly striving to strike “the balance” and so we work out almost every morning together.  I personally can’t imagine the strain on our stretchy pants if we didn’t.   One of the factors that we considered when joining a gym was the convenience of the location to the bakery and our children’s school.  Let’s face it, some days are harder than others and for us convenience was a major consideration.  I’ll be honest, the struggle for me is walking through the gym door.  Once I make it past that threshold, I’m “golden” and I always feel physically and mentally better for it.

So, in addition to providing you the very best all natural desserts, breads and beverages, we’re also going to be “rooting out” fitness tips, gym specials and healthy dessert recipes for your overall wellbeing and enjoyment.  We’ll be providing more gluten free, diabetic friendly and vegan dessert options at “BAKED” and are interested in your own personal success stories, winning tips, strategies and recipes.  Visit us on facebook, share your strategies and join our quest to strike “the balance” for a happy, healthy, sweet life.

Chocolate + Bourbon + Pecans = Delicious Pie!

With the Preakness only days away, we’re can’t help but think about the Triple Crown of horse racing and what better dessert to serve up than a warm Chocolate, Bourbon and Pecan concoction similar to the Kentucky Bourbon Derby Pie!

The “Derby Pie” was the creation of Melrose Inn owners Walter and Leaudra Kern in 1950 in Prospect Kentucky and is often associated to the Kentucky Derby.  Their son assisted and the name was actually chosen by pulling various name ideas out of a hat.  In 1969, the Kern family trademarked the name “Derby Pie” and by 2008 had sued to protect this copyright more than 20 times.

The Kern’s Kitchen’s recipe is top secret, only known to a small group of family members and one employee.  Because of the lawsuits, others who make similar pies have had to rename them and alter the recipe slightly.  The “Derby Pie” is also known as the Pegasus Pie, a reference to the Pegasus Parade at the Kentucky Derby Festival and as the May Day Pie, in reference to the first Saturday in May.

Traditionally the pie is a chocolate and walnut tart in a pie shell usually with a pastry dough crust. It is also commonly made with pecans, chocolate chips and Kentucky bourbon, although butterscotchcaramel, and other types of nuts are common additions. In our recipe, we use Shelly’s “secret” all butter crust and opt for Calabaut chocolate chips, pecans and of course, Kentucky Bourbon.

The best way to describe this confectionary concoction is to say, “it’s like eating a chocolate chip, pecan cookie in a pie form” and “it is absolutely fabulous served warm with or without vanilla ice cream”.  You don’t have to wait for the Kentucky Derby to enjoy this delicious dessert, it’s the perfect dessert any day of the year!

Single Pie Crust * we use our secret all butter crust

2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 to 4 tablespoons bourbon
1/4 cup corn starch
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits
Combine the eggs, sugar, melted butter and bourbon. Add the cornstarch to the mixture, blending in slowly.Stir in the pecans and chocolate bits. Pour into an unbaked 9 inch pie shell.Bake in a pre-heated 350°F oven for approximately 45 minutes.

Italian Easter Pie…Oh My!

Right after graduating from college, I had the privilege to work with a wonderful Italian woman named Jean.  She was a fabulous cook and her specialties included, of course, traditional Italian dishes.  It was Jean who turned me onto the tradition of the Italian Easter Pie!

Now, I am married to a wonderful Sicilian man whose mother was one of the best cooks on the planet, but the Italian Easter Pie, thanks to Jean, was a recipe that I was able to introduce to them.  In fact, in contains all of their “favorite ingredients”, but what is the history behind it?

Since Easter is preceded by Lent, which is a time of fasting, particularly from meat on Fridays, Easter Sunday is a time to celebrate and indulge.  For Italians, the celebration includes the rich, cheesy, quiche-like Italian Easter pie filled with eggs, cheese and Italian meats.  Depending on the region, Easter Pie has many different names and recipes.  In Naples they call it “pastiera” and it is made with ricotta and whole grains to symbolize rebirth.

Sicilians make it with macaroni, pork, cheese and eggs.  Calabrians prefer ham, sausage, hard cooked eggs, mozzarella and ricotta.  “Pasqualina” as they call it in Liguria contains spinach, ricotta, cheese and eggs.  From Umbria to Marches, the pie is really more of a bread.

No matter what you call it, where and when you eat it or the combination of ingredients you choose to fold into it, Italian Easter Pie is a delicious addition to any brunch, lunch or holiday celebration.

RECIPE

For the crust:

• 2 cups all purpose flour
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 2 sticks butter
• 2 eggs

For the filling:

• 6 eggs
• salt and pepper to taste
• 8 oz. ricotta cheese
• 2 oz. shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
• 3 oz. diced  ham, I prefer capicola
• 3 oz. diced salami, I prefer sorpresssata
• 3 oz. diced pepperoni

Directions
To make the crust, mix the flour and salt and place it in the bowl of a food processor.   Cut the butter into cubes and add them one at a time to the dough.  Pulse the food processor just enough to work in the butter into the consistency of a coarse meal.  Add the eggs and pulse the dough until it comes together in a ball.  Cut the dough in half so that one half is a little bigger than the other.  The smaller half will be the top crust. Wrap each in plastic wrap and rest the dough for an hour in the fridge.

For the filling, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.  Then blend the cheese into the eggs. Dice or  julienne the meat, or put it in the food processor for a finer textured pie and add this to the egg/cheese mixture.  I usually add 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Roll out the larger piece of dough on a floured board until it will fill a 9-inch pie shell. Add the filling. Then roll out the smaller piece of dough until it will cover the top.  Crimp it around the edge to seal it.  Brush with a beaten egg wash and  poke some holes or slits in the top crust to allow the steam to vent.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.