Wednesday, May 20, 2015

glazed lemon cookies

Our oldest daughter's teacher gave our family a bag of beautiful lemons from a lemon tree that's growing on campus.

I was so delighted!

You can always find lemons, oranges, blackberries/strawberries/and blueberries in my fridge. I use the citrus in my cooking and baking, and my kids love their berries!

I use lemon zest (and a splash of lemon juice) in many of  my dishes, dressings, and desserts.

With so many gifted lemons, I thought it would be fun to make (my favorite) glazed lemon cookies and an amazingly moist and tender lemon bundt cake to share with our neighbors and teachers.

The glazed lemon cookie recipe is one of my favorites, and comes from my loved and trusted Cooks Illustrated Cookbook.

What makes them so special is that they're a combination of a sugar cookie and shortbread. They're tender, slightly chewy, buttery, and lemony.

You can finish them with, or without, a glaze. I actually prefer them without the glaze, but my husband and kids like the extra sweetness that the glaze gives this delightful cookie.

I top the glazed cookies with a few specks of lemon zest for a beautiful finish when I make them to give as a gift, or when I serve them at a bridal or baby shower.


And if you love a cup of hot herbal tea at the end of a long day, then this is your cookie!

Glazed Lemon Cookies
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated zest, plus 2 tablespoons juice from 2 lemons
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Cookie preparation
In a food processor, process the granulated sugar and lemon zest until the sugar looks damp and the zest is thoroughly incorporated, about 30 seconds. 

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt; pulse to combine, about ten 1-second pulses. Scatter the butter pieces over the dry ingredients; pulse until the mixture resembles fine cornmeal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. 

In a measuring cup or small bowl, beat together the lemon juice, egg yolk, and vanilla with a fork to combine. 

With the machine running, add the juice mixture in a slow, steady stream (the process should take about 10 seconds); continue processing until the dough begins to form a ball, 10 to 15 seconds longer.

Turn the dough and any dry bits onto a clean work surface; working quickly, gently knead to ensure that no dry bits remain and the dough is homogeneous. 

Roll the dough into a cylinder approximately 10 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Center the dough on a piece of parchment. Fold the paper over the dough. Grasp one end of the parchment. With the other hand, use a bench scraper to firmly press the parchment against the dough to form a uniform cylinder. Roll the parchment and twist the ends together to form a tight seal. 

Chill the dough until firm and cold, about 45 minutes in the freezer or 2 hours in the refrigerator. (The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.)

Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions; heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray. 

Remove the dough log from its wrapper and, using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the dough into rounds 3/8 inch thick; place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake until the centers of the cookies just begin to color and the edges are golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. 

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 5 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before glazing.
recipe courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

lemon glaze 
.     .     .     .     .     .
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
1½ cups (6 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
.     .     .     .     .     .
When the cookies have cooled, spoon a scant teaspoon of glaze onto each cookie 
and spread evenly with the back of the spoon.
*I prefer to use a pastry brush, and lightly brush a THIN coat of glaze on top. 
Let the cookies stand on a wire rack until the glaze is set and dry, about 1 hour. 
The cookies are best eaten the day they are glazed.

I use the 2-inch cookie cutter from the Williams Sonoma fluted cutter set when I make these cookies. I love the ruffled edges!
You can see more of my 'at home' Kitchen Essentials here

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Monday, May 18, 2015

lemon and honey tart with salted shortbread crust

We're heading into citrus season!

You know what that means, right!? . . . lemon cream sauces, citrus syrups, lemon cakes and cookies, and tarts - like this one.

It's around this time of year when we see lots of lemon desserts make an appearance in magazines, and on blogs.

Although I'm a BIG chocolate girl, I still enjoy a good citrus dessert in the Spring and Summer months.

I shared this lemon and honey tart on the blog for the first time last April when I was planning our Easter dessert menu. Its been a popular lemon dessert for our family since then; and is also one of the most requested lemon desserts that I make for clients.

It certainly packs a lemon punch . . . and the honey rounds it out beautifully. And well . . . the salted shortbread crust . . . . is just amazing!

Please don't let the preparation steer you away from making it!

It might seem like there are a lot steps, and that it will take forever to prepare . . . but I assure you that it's as simple to make as an ordinary tart.

The only extra step is prepping the lemon slices that lay in the tart. Most of that is allowing them to sit in sugar and honey for at least an hour. That's it!

As with any dessert, my greatest advice is to take it slow and enjoy the process. It will show in the finished product!

lemon and honey tart with salted shortbread crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup powdered sugar

FILLING & Assembly
1 LARGE Meyer lemon, if possible (a larger Meyer will yield more slices, which makes for a prettier tart)
1 cup sugar (*I use vanilla sugar)
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (about 10 Meyer lemons)
Coat spring form pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl; set aside. Place butter and powdered sugar in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is smooth. Add dry ingredients to food processor and pulse until mixture resembles medium-size pebbles (dough will not come together completely). Transfer dough to prepared pan. Using your fingers, press dough evenly onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of pan.
DO AHEAD: Crust can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

FILLING & Assembly
Using a mandolin, slice Meyer lemon into paper-thin rounds. If you don't have a mandolin, then use a small serrated knife and cut very THIN slices. Remove seeds. 
Using a whisk, mix the sugar, honey, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add lemon slices and using a spoon, GENTLY toss to coat. Let sit until lemon is softened and sugar is dissolved, 60 minutes.
DO AHEAD: Lemon slice mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Place rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 325°. Bake crust until center is firm to the touch and edges are beginning to turn golden brown, 30-35 minutes.

When crust is almost done baking, whisk eggs and egg yolks in a medium bowl to blend. 
Whisk flour, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl; add to egg mixture and whisk to combine. 
Whisk in lemon juice. Add lemon slice mixture; mix GENTLY to combine.
*If a foam develops on the top of the mixture, use the end of a paper towel to skim it off the top.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°. Pour filling into hot crust. Using a fork, move the lemon slices around so that there is even coverage. 

Bake until filling is set and slightly puffed around edges, 35-40 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely. Chill for at least 4 hours, then unmold. Serve cold.

DO AHEAD: Tart can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

**I've read many reviews that this tart does not work with regular lemons, only Meyer lemons. Regular lemons are too tart and bitter.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

rosette vanilla bean sugar cookies

My little ones gave their teachers these sweet ROSE cookies during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Students were invited to bring teachers flowers last Thursday, but I thought it would be more fun (and original) if our kids brought their teachers EDIBLE flowers . . . as in these ROSEtte cookies.

I wanted a sugar cookie that was extra special, so I added vanilla beans to the dough. I think the specks are beautiful . . . and the extra vanilla more aromatic.

For the base shape, I used a 3.5-inch circle cookie cutter, and then frosted it with a light, fluffy, and not-too-sweet dusty ROSE-colored butter-cream frosting using a large Wilton STAR decorating tip (1M).

I had an incredibly busy week with special orders, so I wasn't able to take step-by-step photos to share with you today; but since sharing these cookies on the blog - I've had many requests for them. So I'm sure that step-by-step photos will soon follow. Until then, Wilton provides a simple pictorial on how to pipe a rosette, here; including a list of the TOOLS that you'll need.

TOOLS I used . . .
Wilton window cake box and pretty ribbon, for gifting

I've been experimenting with various piping techniques . . . and am having so much fun! Come by and see these adorable soccer themed cookies I made earlier in the week for a 7-year-old's birthday, here

I hope this post inspires you to make a bouquet of rosette cookies! 

vanilla bean sugar cookies
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     . 
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (1 ½  sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
 powder sugar (instead of flour) for rolling out dough
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .    

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt . . . set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla seeds on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. 

Beat in the vanilla extract and egg. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix until just combined.

Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or as long as overnight.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

On a lightly dusted powder sugar surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. 

Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart, and bake until just golden around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. 

Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes, then remove the cookies from the pans and let cool completely.

old-fashioned "cooked" frosting
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     . 
5 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     . 
Pour flour and milk into a saucepan.
Whisk over medium heat until the mixture is very thick.
Remove from heat and let cool completely. 
Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Cover top with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from developing on the top.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, and beat another 3 minutes.
Scrape down the bowl once or twice to make sure that it's mixed well.
Add the completely cooled flour/milk/vanilla mixture.
Whip it on medium-high until the mixture resembles whipped cream.

a few more home-made gift ideas . . .

vanilla sugar

orange tarragon syrup

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

orange tarragon syrup . . . a Summer simple syrup

Our little ones gave their teachers Orange Tarragon Syrup last week during Teacher Appreciation Week.

I wanted our kids to give gifts that they could help make . . . and that (I hoped) their teachers would enjoy.

I'm a big fan of infused & flavored simple syrups! Their possibilities are endless . . . and is the best way to sweeten and flavor a beverage.

Since we're fast approaching Summer, I thought we would make a citrus flavored simple syrup . . . and Orange Tarragon is a unique and fun Summer flavor.

Isn't the color stunning!?!

A few of my favorite simple syrups are Vanilla Bean (all year), Gingerbread (in the Winter), and Orange Tarragon, Mint, Blackberry, and Lemon (in the Spring and Summer).

And here are a few amazing lemonades that I love making with flavored syrups . . .

Simple syrups are made the same way, by boiling down water and sugar, and then adding whatever herbs or fruits you choose into a sweet syrup that can liven up any beverage; and is also wonderful spooned over shaved ice, fresh fruit  - and even ice cream.

Summer is fast approaching . . .  and simple syrups are such a  fun way to add an extra special twist to your drinks and dessert menu. 

orange tarragon syrup
.     .     .     .     .     .     .
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
4 - 5 oranges, juiced
bunch of fresh tarragon
.     .     .     .     .     .     .
Bring 2 cups sugar, 1 cup fresh orange juice, 1 cup cold water, and 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring just until sugar dissolves.
Boil 2 minutes. Do not stir.
Remove from heat.
Press through a wire mesh strainer into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out liquid; discard solids.
Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Transfer to a jar; cover and refrigerate up to 3 months.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.

gifting simply syrup
.     .     .     .     .     .
Pour the syrup into a glass bottle.
Wrap the bottles with a fabric napkin or cloth, and then tie the top with twine and a tag.
Add a bottle of sparkling water to the gift set, along with fresh fruit for garnish. 
In this case, I added a bottle of Orange Sparkling Water and an orange.`

a few more home-made gift ideas . . . 

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

vanilla sugar

Vanilla sugar is part of a home-made gift series that I'm sharing this week on the blog.

We celebrated our children's amazing teachers last week during Teacher Appreciate Week.

The PTA organized the week so that the Teachers would be treated to something special every day . . . breakfast on Monday, special days dedicated to bringing flowers and candles, and then lunch on Friday.

I wanted my little ones to bring home-made gifts. There's something extra special about the thought that goes into making something for someone. We made vanilla sugar, ROSE Vanilla Bean sugar cookies, and Orange Tarragon Syrup for our Teachers.

I hope that all the teachers felt spoiled, as I appreciate their hard work and dedication so much. My kids have amazing teachers . . . and I am so grateful to them for providing such a supportive and caring environment for which to learn.

There's something special about going the extra mile and adding fresh vanilla to your recipes, especially when vanilla is your primary flavor.

I started making my own vanilla sugar a few years ago. You can imagine my excitement when I learned how easy it was to make my very own.  See directions below.

I couldn't imagine not having vanilla extract or vanilla sugar, as I add them to almost everything I bake, including lemon and chocolate desserts

Its warm flavor is a perfect pairing in many baked products. I've even noticed that it's a great addition to beverages like hot cocoa, lemonade (yes, lemonade!), coffee, and even tea.

Vanilla sugar is a deliciously simple gift that keeps giving!

Since most people aren't aware of its many possibilities, be sure and include a few of its uses on a tag, or in a note card. Oh! And be sure and attach a copy of this recipe for Vanilla Bean Cream Scones

Go ahead, treat yourself! 

vanilla sugar
.     .     .     .      .     .     .
6 cups granulated white sugar
1 vanilla bean
.     .     .     .      .     .     .
Add the sugar to a glass jar or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
Slice the vanilla bean length-wise, piercing only the top layer of the skin. 
Press the back of the knife against the bean and up lengthwise, squeezing the oily, TINY black seeds out.
Add the seeds and the bean to the sugar. Place the lid on the container and shake it up.
Store for a week, until the vanilla infuses the sugar. 
Use in place of regular sugar wherever you desire.
.     .     .     .      .     .     .
I found these darling jars at Hobby Lobby.

more home-made gift ideas . . . .


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I love reading your comments and appreciate them so much!


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