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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: cookies

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The desserts below are perfect for summer. They are refreshing and keep well in the freezer. I like to make these types of desserts to have on hand in the freezer for family and company. They can be made on cooler days and they taste so good on a hot day. Of course, what could be better than a cookies and ice cream combination.

Watermelon Basil Sorbet

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3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 cups yellow watermelon cut into small cubes (outer skin and seeds removed)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large sprig of fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons meringue powder plus 2 tablespoons water

Directions

Cut up the melon and place in a big ziplock bag. Freeze overnight.

Whisk together the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium/high heat until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat, add the basil and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Remove the basil and chill the syrup.

In a small bowl, whisk together the meringue powder and water. Whisk until you create a lot of foam.

This is an egg white substitute. You could use egg whites if you prefer, but since they are not cooked in this recipe, it is safer to use the substitute. This adds a creamy texture to the sorbet.

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In a food processor, combine the frozen fruit, chilled syrup and egg white mixture. Blend just until smooth.

Sorbet is ready to serve right out of the food processor. If you don’t plan to consume it right away, be sure to store it in the freezer.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Rounds

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32 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup finely ground pecans (pecan meal)

Directions

Heat to oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar.

Add the remaining ingredients. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the kitchen counter. Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap. Form the mixture into a log on the plastic wrap.

Wrap the dough in plastic and roll the dough a few times to make an even log. Refrigerate for an hour.

Cut the log into ¼ inch slices and place on the prepared baking pans an inch apart.

Bake the cookies 20 minutes, switching the pans on the racks after 10 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the pans ten minutes and then remove them to a cooling rack.

Easy Oatmeal Cookies

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Makes 18 large cookies

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries)

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour through fruit) in a large bowl.

Combine the wet ingredients (butter through egg) in a measuring cup.

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Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until combined using a wooden spoon or spatula.

Using a small muffin scoop or 3 tablespoons for each cookie, form into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly.

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Bake 10 minutes, switch the pans on the racks and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Peach Almond Sundae

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vanilla frozen yogurt, softened
  • 2 cups chopped peaches, peeled 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 8 amaretti cookies, crushed
  • 1 cup whipped cream

Directions

 Cut the peaches into 1/2-inch-thick slices and cut the slices in half.

In a mixing bowl, combine the peaches, brown sugar and amaretto. Cover and chill until serving time.

In each of four dessert dishes, layer the ingredients in the following way: 1 cup frozen yogurt, ¼ of the peach mixture and 1/4 cup whipped cream. Sprinkle a crushed amaretti cookie on top. 

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Christmas cookie recipes are shared by people of all generations as they come together to make cookies and share memories. Holidays are a time when all the special recipes are brought out for celebration. Ingredients, which we may not use the rest of the year, are used for these special recipes. These small pastries and the time spent making them symbolize the spirit of the holidays. Whether it is Italian Christmas cookie recipes or special recipes from other countries, their history can all be traced back to old Europe with ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, dried fruit and nuts. The art of making Italian Christmas cookie recipes is using fresh simple ingredients and turning them into wonderful tasting pastries. Cooks learned to lighten and enrich pastry mixtures with eggs, butter and cream; then they would sweeten them with fruit, honey and sugar. Early cooks learned to use spices like cinnamon, cardamom, anise, allspice and cloves in the right proportions to produce some very aromatic and flavorful products. Italian Christmas cookies with fillings, like the fig cookies; are very common in many of the European countries. The following are some of the most popular Italian cookies.

Types of Italian Cookies

Amaretti – dome-shaped macaroons are soft inside and crisp on the outside. They originated in Venice during the Renaissance and they are made with almond paste or ground almonds, along with egg whites and sugar.

Biscotti – These Italian cookies are long and curved. Traditional biscotti do not contain oil or butter. They have a crunchy, crisp texture and they come in different flavors, with almond, chocolate and vanilla biscotti being three examples.

Brutti ma Buoni – meringue cookies with nuts. The inside is soft and chewy and the outside is crispy. The name of these cookies translates to mean “ugly but good” which is a fair description.

Butter Nut – Italian butter nut cookies are sometimes known as Mexican wedding cakes (they are not Mexican food though), Swedish tea cakes, snowdrops, sand tarts, or butterballs. These little round treats are sweet, soft, and usually coated in powdered sugar.

Pignoli -This is a pine nut macaroon cookie. Pignoli recipes are especially popular in the south of Italy.

Pizzelle – These Italian wafer cookies are Italian through and through, although many cultures have adapted the traditional recipe and given the resulting cookies a different name.

Taralli -cookies that come in sweet or savory varieties and they are usually ring-shaped. Taralli are served as snacks and some feature fennel seeds, ground nuts, vanilla, anise, or other interesting flavors.

 Whether you are using jams, dried fruit or cream recipes, here are some traditional recipes for cookies baked at Christmas time in Italian and Italian American homes. In tomorrow’s post I will share with you the cookies I bake for Christmas. 

Brutti Ma Buoni                                                                     

24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray for greasing the cookie sheet
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and extra for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and dust it with flour.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites, until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the hazelnuts, almonds, sugar, cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon of flour, vanilla, and amaretto until all the ingredients are evenly distributed (without deflating the egg whites too much).

Spoon heaping tablespoons of batter onto a cookie sheet, leaving approximately 1-inch between each cookie. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until firm to the touch. If you prefer chewier cookies, under bake them slightly. Remove the cookies from the oven, transfer them to a wire rack, and let rest for a 1/2 hour, or until cooled.

Italian Fig Cookies

A sweet dough is filled with fruits, nuts and jam, almost like a Fig Newton. Making them is time-consuming, but the dough and filling can be made in stages and refrigerated for several days before the cookies are assembled and baked. Using a stand mixer and food processor takes some of the effort out of the process.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Up to 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups dried figs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Make the Dough 

Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add the egg, salt and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and then add them to the butter mixture. Mix well. Switch to the dough hook and knead at the low setting for 5 minutes, adding milk as needed to make a slightly sticky, soft textured dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Divide the dough into four pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Make the filling:

Put the figs in the food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Stir in the honey, cinnamon, marmalade and walnuts.

Form and Bake the Cookies

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch square on a floured surface. Cut the dough into 2- by 3-inch rectangles. Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling into the center of the rectangle.

Fold both of the longer edges toward the center of the cookie and pinch the seam together. Put the cookie, seam side down, on an ungreased baking sheet leaving 1 1/2 inches between cookies.

Make two slits in the cookie with a sharp knife. Start at each open, unpinched side and cut toward the center the cookie, being careful not to cut the cookie in half in the process. The cookie will bake into the shape of an X. (See picture)

Work in batches, keeping dough refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or ice the cookies after they cool with 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar mixed with just enough milk to make a smooth consistency. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Italian Hazelnut Cookies                    

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned (see Tip)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible; preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

2. Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Scrape into a large bowl.

3. Beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.

4. Drop the batter by the tablespoon, 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

5. Bake the cookies until golden brown, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Tip: Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins.

Espresso Crinkles                                                                        

Lightly coat your hands with flour to make rolling the dough into balls easier. The dough freezes well. Freeze the dough after step 1, thaw in the refrigerator, then proceed with step 2. The powdered sugar coating gives these cookies an appealing cracked finish. Serve with coffee to echo the espresso.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites

Directions:

1. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine oil and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat; heat until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Add espresso granules to pan; stir until blended. Remove from heat. Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl; cool 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla. Add egg whites, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring gently just until combined. Cover; chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350° F.

3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dredge balls in remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar; place balls 2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops are cracked and almost set. Cool cookies on pan 2 minutes; remove from pan. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Yield: 2 dozen

Biscotti Farciti Alla Nutella

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For the cookies:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 3/4 cups Nutella, divided
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Demerara sugar (see Note)

Directions:

To toast the oats:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the oats on an ungreased baking sheet. Make a thin layer to ensure that they roast evenly.

Bake the oats for 10 minutes or until they turn tan and have a strong, nutty aroma. Use a spatula or spoon to stir the oats occasionally, to prevent scorching and ensure even toasting.

Transfer oats to a large metal bowl and set aside.

For the cookies:

Preheated oven set to 350º F.

Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine room temperature butter, 3/4 cups Nutella, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat on medium speed, frequently scraping down the sides of bowl, until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 4 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In two additions, add flour mixture to butter mixture, mixing on low speed until well incorporated, then add oats and mix until dough comes together and oats are incorporated.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands. Scoop 1 level tablespoon dough, roll into a ball, then flatten to about 1/8-inch-thick. Place on  prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing cookies at least 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cookies are puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment paper to wire racks to cool completely. (Cookies can be stored, unfilled, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

To fill the cookies: Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread about 1 tablespoon Nutella over the flat sides of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, flat sides together.

Once filled, cookies are best same day, but can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Note: Demerara is a natural brown sugar, an English version of turbinado sugar but with slightly larger crystals. When sprinkled on cookies and pie crusts, it adds sparkle and crunch. Turbinado is a good substitute while granulated sugar will work in a pinch.

Mascarpone Fig Jam Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup softened Mascarpone Cheese
  • 2 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Fig Jam or Jam of Choice

Directions:

Beat together the butter and sugar until light.

Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until smooth.

Add the mascarpone cheese, and beat until smooth.

Sift together the dry ingredients, and fold them into the butter mixture, mixing just until combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place sheets of parchment paper or silicone baking liners on two cookie pans.

On a lightly floured counter or board, roll the dough into 1/2 inch balls.

Using a blunt round object like the end of a wooden spoon, create an indentation in the center of each cookie.

Place the cookies 2 inches apart, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or just as the cookies begin to color.

While still warm, use the spoon to redefine the circle, and then carefully spoon a little jam into each cookie.

Let sit at room temperature until the jam is set.

Store in an airtight container.

Nutmeg Bites                                                                                                   

Cookie Dough

  • 3 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Rum Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons rum

Directions

1) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all ingredients and blend on medium speed until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 2 minutes.

3) Wrap and chill the dough for 1 hour. Towards the end of the chill time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

4) Drop tablespoon-sized dough balls onto the baking sheet. A teaspoon scoop makes this job easier. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The edges will be slightly browned and the cookies will be round and domed.

5) Cool the cookies completely. Prepare the icing by blending the softened butter and confectioners’ sugar. Add rum one tablespoon at a time until you have a spreadable icing. Top each cookie with a dollop of icing and a dash of nutmeg.

Yield: Approximately 3 to 4 dozen cookies.

Hazelnut-Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches                                                     

4 dozen sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • Granulated sugar
  • White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling (see recipe below)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can. Stir in any remaining flour mixture and the nuts by hand. Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. A level teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll balls in granulated sugar to coat. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheets. With the bottom of a glass, flatten balls to about 1-1/4-inch circles.

Bake in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until tops are just firm. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

Spread bottoms of half of the cookies with a rounded 1/2 teaspoon White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling. Top with remaining cookies, bottom sides down. Makes 48 cookie sandwiches.

White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling:

In a small saucepan, heat and stir 6 ounces chopped white chocolate and 3 tablespoons whipping cream over low heat until just melted. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts.


pumpkintreats

The word “pumpkin” arrived in the English language in the 17th century, derived from the French, pompon, which came from the Latin, pepon, denoting a large, ripe melon. Melons were known to the ancients, but not pumpkins, which were New World vegetables. However, such facts did not deter modern writers translating Apocolocyntosis, Seneca’s satire of Claudius, as the “pumpkinification” of the late emperor. In the 19th century, the pumpkin connoted folly and empty-headedness, as gourd and colocynth did in ancient Roman times. Colocynth, the fruit of a trailing vine, is native to the Mediterranean region and Asia and is sometimes referred to as a bitter apple or a bitter cucumber.

Marina di Chioggia

Northern Italian and Sicilian cuisines feature numerous pumpkin dishes. The most highly prized pumpkin is Marina di Chioggia. This heirloom pumpkin from Chioggia, near Venice, weighs around 3-4 pounds and has a grey-green warty ribbed exterior and bright orange flesh.

The Italian word “zucca” is used to describe both pumpkins and gourds and “Fiori di zucca” is what we call zucchini flowers. The varieties of pumpkin grown in Italy are typically the big orange Halloween pumpkins as well as dark green ones. The quality and flavor of the pumpkin depends largely on the quality and nature of the terrain and soil. Two fruits from the same plant can be remarkably dissimilar in taste. Recipes and seasonings vary according to regions. During its winter season, pumpkin is used for the filling of tortelli, a stuffed pasta, and to flavor risotto. Pumpkin gnocchi are also popular.

Some popular Italian dishes made with pumpkin:

Tortelli Mantovani di zucca – fresh pasta pillows filled with roasted pumpkin puree seasoned with diced Mostarda di Cremona (candied fruits in mustard seed oil), crushed amaretti and a touch of nutmeg (or mace or cinnamon), and dressed with sage and butter sauce.

Tortelli

Risotto di zucca, made by gently sautéing tiny cubes of pumpkin with onions before adding the rice, for a quick no-fuss meal. Especially if you use the no-stir method for making risotto!

Zucca al Forno

Zucca alla Veneta , lightly floured pumpkin slices are sautéed in olive oil and then arranged in layers, with a torn basil leaves and raisins scattered over each layer. A dressing made by boiling white wine vinegar with a clove of garlic, salt and pepper is poured over the layered pumpkin slices and left to marinate, covered, overnight.

Sicilian Zucca Agrodolce is made by pan-frying pumpkin slices and marinating them in a sweet and sour sauce. The sauce is made by frying cloves of garlic in olive oil until golden. Sugar is then added to the pan and cooked to a golden caramel. White wine vinegar is then added to the pan and the sauce is boiled until it becomes syrupy. Roughly chopped mentuccia leaves are scattered over the fried pumpkin before pouring the hot syrup over. While this dish can be eaten hot, it is much better left overnight and eaten the following day at room temperature. Note: The term “mentuccia “is usually translated as wild Italian mint.

Zucca al Forno , comprising a slow-roasted whole pumpkin filled with mascarpone, Emmenthal cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sautéed onions, wild mushrooms and nutmeg, is spectacular both visually and gastronomically. The natural sugars of the pumpkin caramelize and meld with the cheeses as it cooks.

There are numerous Italian regional variations of pumpkin preserves and pumpkins can be used on their own for preserves or in combination with other autumnal fruits, such as figs and quinces.

Italian Spiced Pumpkin Butter                                                                                                

Makes 4-1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • Two 15-oz. cans pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/4 cups pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Chopped hazelnuts (optional)

Directions:

In a 5-quart Dutch oven combine all the ingredients except the nuts. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, 25 minutes or until thick. (If mixture spatters, reduce heat to medium-low). Remove from heat; cool.

Ladle into jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cover; store in the refrigerator up to 1 week or freezer up to 6 months.

To serve, top with chopped nuts.

Pumpkin Cookies

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray.

Whisk together pumpkin, sugar, yogurt, oil and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in cranberries. Stir together flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, allspice and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet with a wooden spoon, mixing just until just blended.

Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls onto a prepared baking sheet, spacing cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Scones                                                                                                                                                        

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter or reduced fat butter, such as Smart Balance, cubed 
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the pumpkin, milk, vanilla and one egg until combined. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Using a pastry blender, two forks or your fingers, quickly work the cold butter cubes into the dry ingredients. Work until the mixture resembles a crumbly, sandy mixture.

Add the wet ingredients to the crumbly mixture using a rubber spatula. Only stir until combined.

Carefully add 1/2 cup of the chopped pecans. Reserve the remaining 1/4 cup chopped pecans to sprinkle on the top of the scones.

Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Quickly knead dough by folding and pressing gently for 10 to 12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges. Place wedges 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a fork. Using a pastry brush, brush each scone lightly with the egg. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and the remaining pecans.

Bake for 15-18 minutes. Be careful not to over bake or the scones will dry out. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or store in an airtight. Scones also freeze well.

Pumpkin Cake with Rum Sauce                            

 Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground allspice, cloves, and ginger

 Directions:

Combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, butter, molasses, and egg and beat until light and fluffy in an electric mixer. Add the remaining ingredients and beat slowly just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Pour into a greased 8-inch square baking dish and bake in a preheated 350 degrees F. oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and serve with rum sauce (recipe below).

Serves 8 to 12.

Rum Sauce

 Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A pinch of nutmeg

 Directions:

Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Add the milk and rum. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve warm. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

 


Lighter Baking Techniques

Fruit purées like applesauce or mashed banana (or even vegetable purées made from pumpkin, carrots, and sweet potatoes) make muffins and other baked goods tender and moist while allowing you to reduce the overall fat and sugar in the recipe. Normally it’s fat that helps baked goods stay moist, because it surrounds the starch granules and protects them from gluten development, locking in moisture. But the pectin in fruit and vegetables does essentially the same thing, making it possible to cut back on the fat in a recipe without sacrificing moisture. Fruit purées also provide sweetness, so you can add less sugar to your batter.  A fast track for making baked goods healthier is to use oil instead of butter, lard, or shortening. That’s because oil is unsaturated fat (“good fat”), while butter, lard, and shortening are mostly saturated fats (“bad fat”). For muffins, quick breads, coffee cakes, and even pancakes, trading all the solid fat for oil works perfectly.  You want baked goods to be healthy, but you don’t want them to taste healthy. By using half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose, you get the antioxidants, fiber, and essential minerals of the whole grain, but you also hold onto the tender lightness produced by white flour. 

Avoid Overbaking

Reduced-fat baked goods tend to bake more quickly than those made with full fat. If left in the oven too long, they can become dry. If you’ve lowered the fat significantly, try lowering the oven temperature by 25° and/or check the product for doneness a few minutes before the end of the usual baking time.
A toothpick test does not always work with reduced-fat baking. Instead, look for lightly browned edges that are beginning to pull away from the pan. Cakes should spring back when gently pressed in the center.
Success in lower-fat baking comes from trial and error, so don’t be afraid to experiment. And don’t try to lighten up a recipe too much. After all, a cake or quick bread that serves 12 people and contains only 1/4 cup of oil and 1 or 2 eggs is already pretty light!

Use these guidelines to make some of your favorite sweets more healthful.

1. Use fruit purées to cut down on fat and sugar.Purées work best in recipes that already have a fruit or vegetable element, like banana bread, carrot cake or blueberry muffins.

Try substituting 1 cup purée for 1/4 cup of the butter or oil in your recipe; taking the sugar down by 1 or 2 tablespoons., depending on the sweetness of the purée; and reducing the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.

2.Swap solid fat with liquid fat.

In other words, instead of butter or shortening, use oil. If a recipe calls for 1/4 cup butter, use 1/4 cup oil instead.

This works best for moist sweets like muffins, quick breads, coffee cakes, and pancakes, where you can substitute all of the solid fat with oil.

3. In most bakery recipes (muffins, cakes, cookies, coffee cakes, bars, brownies, nut breads, etc.) you can substitute whole wheat for two-thirds or one-half the white flour called for.

Compared to 1/4 cup of white flour, each 1/4 cup of whole-wheat flour adds 3.5 grams of fiber and various phytochemicals, and doubles the amount of magnesium and selenium.

The extra fiber helps slow digestion and increase fullness.

4. In most bakery recipes, you can reduce the sugar called for by one-fourth– and sometimes by one-third —without a big difference in taste and texture.

For example, instead of adding 1 cup of sugar, you can add 3/4 cup or you can use an alternative sweetener approved for use in baking.

This cuts the calories from sugar by 48 calories for every tablespoon of sugar you take out or replace with a substitute.

5. In many bakery recipes, you can cut the fat ingredient (butter, margarine, shortening, or oil) in half.

In other words, if a cake recipe calls for 1 cup of butter or margarine, you can usually use 1/2 cup instead. Remember to replace the missing fat with a similar amount of a moist but healthy ingredient (fat-free sour cream, orange juice, low-fat yogurt, applesauce, etc.).

This change cuts both fat and calories, since each gram of fat translates into 9 calories as opposed to 4 per gram for protein or carbohydrate.

6. Cook with reduced-fat or fat-free products when available — and when they taste good.

Try fat-free sour cream, fat-free half-and-half, reduced-fat cheeses, light cream cheese, light mayonnaise, extra lean meat without skin or visible fat, reduced-fat or light sausage, less-fat turkey bacon, light salad dressings, and light margarine for frosting.

Many cut calories and saturated fat along with total fat. Fat-free sour cream and half-and-half, chicken broth, wine, strong coffee, fruit purees, and fruit juice add moisture, and sometimes flavor, to recipes where you aren’t using a lot of fatty ingredients.

7. Extra ingredients and embellishments can often be removed or cut in half.

If a recipe calls for chocolate chips, you can use less. If it calls for dotting your casserole or pie with butter, you can skip this step. In a cake recipe, you can use half the original amount of frosting (in a double-layer cake, just frost the top and middle and forget the sides).

In some cakes, bars, and cookies, you can skip the frosting in favor of a light sprinkling of powdered sugar. Using 2 tablespoons of frosting instead of 4 will shave 130 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and 2 grams of saturated fat. Each tablespoon of chocolate chips you skip cuts the calories by 50 per serving, the fat by 3 grams, and the saturated fat by almost 2 grams.

8. Replacing a whole egg with egg white or egg substitute can be a good nutritional savings, especially if you are watching your cholesterol.

One whole egg contains 5 grams of fat and 210 milligrams of cholesterol. The equivalent amount of egg white or fat-free egg substitute contains no fat and no cholesterol.  

Eggs help to bind batters and also have leavening properties. Egg yolks provide fat, which contributes to the fine, tender texture and color of baked goods.

Egg whites are a drying and leavening agent. If more than one egg is called for in a recipe, consider replacing some of the whole eggs with egg whites or egg substitute.

For best results, combine whole eggs with egg whites or egg substitute. In a lower-fat recipe, too many egg whites will make a baked good dry and rubbery.

Here is a good guide to keep in mind:

  • 1 large egg = 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg = 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 large egg white = 2 tablespoons egg substitute

Italian Cream Cake

This layered cake is the perfect dessert for a birthday or special dinner party because it is moist and full of flavor from the chopped pecans and cream cheese frosting. Yield: 20 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Cream Cheese Icing:

Yield: 2 2/3 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon light butter
  • 1 (8-ounce) package Neufchâtel ( 1/3 less fat) cream cheese
  • 1 (1-pound) package powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake:

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon butter extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 egg whites (at room temperature)

Directions:

Prepare Cream Cheese Icing; cover and chill.

Coat bottoms of 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pans); line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray, and dust with flour; set aside.

Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine 2 cups flour and baking soda; stir well. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in pecans and extracts.

Beat egg whites at high speed of a mixer until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Fold egg whites into batter; pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes. Let cool in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen cake layers from sides of pans using a narrow metal spatula, and turn out onto wire racks. Peel off wax paper, and let cool completely.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate, and spread with 2/3 cup Cream Cheese Icing; top with another cake layer. Repeat with 2/3 cup icing and remaining layer, ending with cake. Spread remaining icing over cake.

Nutrition Facts: 1 slice equals 297 calories

Italian Chocolate-Chestnut Torte

10 servings

Purchase chestnuts in syrup, or marrons glacés, and the chestnut flour at a well-stocked supermarket or gourmet food store or order online. If making torte up to 1 day ahead, cool, cover airtight, and chill.
Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon rum 
  • 1/4 cup chestnut flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup chopped chestnuts in syrup, drained, or marrons glacés
  • Cookie crust (recipe follows)
  • Powdered sugar
  • 8 to 10 whole chestnuts in syrup, drained, or marrons glacés (optional)

Directions

1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate in a microwave oven on full power (100%) until soft, about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.

2. To chocolate, add mascarpone, ricotta, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, egg yolks, rum, flour, and chopped chestnuts; stir until well blended.

3. In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat whites until they hold stiff peaks. Gently fold whites into cheese mixture; scrape into cookie crust and spread level.

4. Bake in a 350° oven until filling is firm when pan is gently shaken and springs back when lightly touched in the center, about 30 minutes (20 minutes in a convection oven).

5. Cool on a rack about 20 minutes. Run a knife between cake and pan rim; remove rim. Let torte cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes; proceed, or chill airtight up to 1 day.

6. Sift powdered sugar over torte. If desired, decorate top with whole chestnuts spaced evenly around rim.

Cookie crust

In a food processor or blender, whirl about 45 vanilla wafer cookies (6 oz. total) until finely ground. Pour crumbs into a bowl and add 3 tablespoons low-fat margarine, 1 tablespoon each honey and rum, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon; mix well and press evenly over bottom and 1 inch up sides of a 9-inch cake pan with removable rim.

.

Nutrition Facts: 1 slice, Calories: 248

Ricotta Semifreddo

“Semifreddo” is an Italian term that refers to any number of frozen or chilled desserts. This recipe is for a frozen orange-scented mousse made with ricotta cheese.
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 slice)
Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (16-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
  • Fresh orange sections (optional

Directions

1. Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, milk, honey, orange rind, vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon salt, cream cheese, and ricotta in a blender; process until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Pour cream into a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/4 cup whipped cream into ricotta mixture, then, fold in the remaining cream.
2. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze at least 8 hours or until set. Remove semifreddo from freezer, and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Discard top piece of plastic wrap. Invert loaf pan onto a serving platter, and tap to remove semifreddo. Discard the remaining plastic wrap, and slice semifreddo crosswise. Serve with orange sections, if desired.

Nutrition Facts:Calories: 226

Cherry Tortoni

If you don’t have 3-inch ring molds, which look like round cookie cutters, use smooth-sided mini charlotte molds with removable bottoms. Or you can freeze the mixture in a 9-inch springform pan and cut it into wedges for a more homey presentation.

Yield: 10 servings (serving size: 1 [3-inch] tortoni and 2 1/2 teaspoons sauce)
Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto (almond-flavored liqueur)
  • 1 (12-ounce) package frozen pitted dark sweet cherries
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 12 vanilla wafers
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Dash of salt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 (8-ounce) container frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed

1. Combine 1/3 cup sugar, amaretto, and sweet cherries in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves and cherries are soft, stirring occasionally. Combine 1 tablespoon water and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Stir cornstarch mixture into cherry mixture; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Spoon cherry mixture into a bowl; cover and chill 1 hour. Strain mixture through a sieve over a bowl and reserve. Cover and chill juice.

2. Place almonds and wafers in a food processor; process until coarsely ground.

3. Combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water until a thermometer registers 160° (about 6 minutes), stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon whipped topping into a large bowl. Gently fold one-fourth of egg white mixture into whipped topping; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Fold 1/2 cup almond mixture into egg white mixture; gently fold in strained cherry mixture.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; place 10 (3-inch) ring molds on parchment. Spoon 1/2 cup egg white mixture into each mold; sprinkle the remaining almond mixture evenly over tops. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; freeze 4 hours or until set. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature. Run a knife around the outside edge; remove from molds. Serve tortonis with the reserved cherry juice.

Nutrition Facts: Calories: 177

Angeletti

Makes 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) Smart Balance butter blend for baking, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for rolling the dough
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Glaze:

  • 1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons multi-color sprinkles, for decoration

Directions
1. Heat oven to 375° F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and eggs until blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined (do not overmix).
3. With floured hands, roll level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and the bottoms are pale golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
4. Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and the vanilla until the mixture forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more water if necessary).
5. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and set, rounded side up, on a rack placed over a piece of parchment paper.  Decorate with sprinkles. Allow the glaze to set, about 20 minutes. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Tip: Use a small spring-loaded scoop for easy portioning.

Nutritional Information
Serving Size: 1 cookie, Calories 81



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