Lemon Shortbread Tart

Lemon Shortbread Tart

Happy first week of Spring, baking gods and goddesses!

For so many reasons, Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. I love rain showers, adore the sweet sound of chirping birds, and delight in the arrival of the year’s first blooms and blossoms. I also get positively giddy as some of my favorite fruits and vegetables come into season, livening up my culinary repertoire with new colors, tastes, and textures. Before bidding farewell to citrus season – which, despite their association with heat and summer, is actually during the winter months – I must must must make this recipe.  I’ve had my mind (and eye) on this bright, beautiful lemon tart for months, but for some reason have held off making it until this very week. Holy cow – it was SO worth the wait!

Very reminiscent of lemon snow bars (also known as lemon squares), this recipe pairs a soft, sweet shortbread crust with a smooth, tart, very lemony filling. Everything about it is absolutely perfect – it’s easy to assemble, looks beautiful, and tastes heavenly. I can’t recommend it more highly; my co-workers even proclaimed it “the best thing [I’ve] ever made”.  Bake it NOW, and enjoy!

LEMON SHORTBREAD TART

Inspiration: AllRecipes.com

Yields: 1 tart (16 servings)

For shortbread crust:

  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For lemon filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3 large fresh eggs
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp confectioner’s sugar (optional)

To make crust:

  1. Combine butter, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer; mix ingredients thoroughly with a paddle attachment. Mix flour into butter mixture to make a smooth dough. Press dough into a 9-inch tart pan; refrigerate crust for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).
  3. Bake crust until light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

To make filling:

  1. Whisk sugar, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup flour in a bowl until smooth. Pour lemon filling into hot crust. Cover edges of crust with strips of aluminum foil to prevent burning.
  2. Bake tart until filling is set, about 20-30 minutes. Cool completely and dust with confectioners’ sugar (if desired).

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, baking gods and goddesses!

So I’ve been on a *wee* bit of an Irish cooking/baking spree since last weekend. Besides the Shepherd’s Pie, I also made boxty and colcannon – neither of which lasted long enough to photograph. Oops. I exercised *slightly* more self-control with this recipe for Irish Soda Bread, which – despite enjoying it in Ireland half a dozen times – was my first stab at baking it. Holy deliciousness! It took all of 10 minutes to throw together, and is easily my favorite new recipe of 2015.  I used golden raisins instead of currants – which I’m sure is some kind of soda bread blasphemy – but I thought they were a fantastic substitution. I also brushed the loaf with melted butter three times throughout the 55 minutes it baked, and sprinkled it lightly with sugar. The result was a sweet, crunchy crust and a soft, dense interior. I can’t wait to make it again. Enjoy!

IRISH SODA BREAD

Inspiration: Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten

Yields: 1 loaf

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants/raisins
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 cup raisins or currants
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
  3. With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants or raisins with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
  4. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it should make a hollow sound.
  5. Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Happy Pi Day, baking gods and goddesses!

I was SO tempted to make a sweet pie today – I have dozens of recipes I utterly adore – but decided to give a nod to St. Patrick’s Day next week and make this Irish classic instead. It was my first attempt at a savory pie, and I absolutely love the outcome! Mine is technically a cottage pie, as I substituted ground beef for lamb, but have left the original ingredients in the recipe below. Definitely use fresh herbs if you have them on hand – they really made all the difference in this pie’s flavor. Enjoy!

SHEPHERD’S PIE

Inspiration: Alton Brown’s Good Eats

Yields: 8 servings

For the potatoes:

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk

For the filling:

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas
  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
  4. Add the peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Blood Orange Marmalade

Blood Orange Marmalade

Happy Friday, baking gods and goddesses!

I hit the Little Italy Farmer’s Market in San Diego for the first time two weeks ago, and was so overwhelmed by the incredible bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, I didn’t even know where to look! Asparagus, strawberries, kale, citrus galore – I was in sensory overload and absolute culinary heaven. The first thing my eyes lit upon was the most vibrant, sunset-hued carton of ripe blood oranges, and I instantly snatched them up. I’ve been interested – but never dabbled seriously – in fruit preserving for years, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a go.

This recipe is slightly labor intensive – blood oranges are notoriously messy – but well worth the extra effort. While it would be ideal to slice the oranges with a mandolin, I didn’t have any issues thinly slicing them with a knife. Make certain your marmalade reaches 220 degrees during the boiling process, and passes the plate/saucer/wrinkle test. Mine turned out a wee bit runny, but has been absolutely delicious on scones, and as a topping for vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

BLOOD ORANGE MARMALADE

Inspiration: Food in Jars

Yields: 4-5 half pint-sized jars

  • 1 pound ripe blood oranges
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  1. Wash blood oranges well, then dry. Trim away both ends and slice the oranges in half.
  2. Using a very sharp knife, trim away the core of the oranges and pluck out any seeds that you find. Set the cores and the seeds aside.
  3. Cut the orange halves into thin slices. Go as thin as you can manage (I recommend sharping your knife before starting this project). Finally, cut each sliced half in half again, so that you have a number of thin blood orange quarters.
  4. Bundle up the pithy cores and any seeds in a length of cheesecloth and tie it tightly so that nothing can escape. Put chopped oranges in a medium Pyrex bowl and cover with 3 cups water. Tuck the cheesecloth bundle into the bowl and cover  with a length of plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight (this process helps break down the pith).
  5. When you’re ready to cook your marmalade, remove the cheesecloth bundle. Combine the soaked fruit and water with 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Add fruit-sugar mixture to a deep, wide-mouth pan set over medium-high heat. Bring the marmalade to a simmer and cook until it is reduced by more than half, reads 220 degrees F on a thermometer and passes the plate/sauce/wrinkle test (see link above). When the mixture has finished cooking, pour marmalade into sterilized, half pint jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and place on a folded bath towel to cool to room temperature (lids will make a popping sound as they seal).

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Cupcakes

There are bandwagons in life I don’t mind missing. Fifty Shades of Grey. Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Twitter. The Seattle Seahawks. I don’t get the appeal of lots of popular things, and that’s okay – to each their own! That said, I’m officially jumping on the red velvet bandwagon like it’s the freaking Marshawn Lynch of desserts.

Because seriously, these cupcakes are so good. Life-changing good. If I wasn’t making a conscious effort to improve my diet, I’d eat one of these at every.single.meal. My cat even ate one – surreptitiously – and then stared at me lovingly for the next hour. That’s right, they’re cat approved. What else could you possibly need to know about them?

They’re easy to make, super light and fluffy, and the orange cream cheese frosting is divine. They were gobbled up by my co-workers in record time, and the requests for more keep rolling in. Fair warning: this recipe makes A LOT of cupcakes – approximately 30. It’s a great dessert option for a larger group of people, but not ideal for a small family. Enjoy!

RED VELVET CUPCAKES WITH ORANGE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Inspiration: More From Magnolia

Yields: 28-30 cupcakes

For cupcakes:

  • 3 1/3 cups cake flour
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cups caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tbsp red food colouring
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda

For Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature and cubed
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cubed
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 5 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly grated orange zest

To make cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 28 to 30 individual muffin tins with paper cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, sift cake flour and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together food coloring, cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Add to batter and beat well.
  4. In a liquid measuring cup, stir salt into buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with sifted cake flour. With each addition, beat until flour and buttermilk are incorporated, but do not over-mix.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together apple cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix until smooth, approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute. Scrape batter from sides of bowl using a rubber spatula, if needed.
  6. Spoon batter into cupcake liners. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Remove from oven, immediately transfer cupcakes to wire rack and cool completely.

To make frosting:

  1. In the large bowl of an electric mixer over medium speed, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract, orange juice and orange zest and beat well to incorporate.
  2. With motor of electric mixer running on medium speed, gradually add sugar, 1 cup at a time, until frosting is smooth and creamy. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate icing for 2 to 3 hours, but no longer, to thicken before using.