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Almond Cookies with Cranberry Glaze (Gluten-Free!)

3 almond cookies stacked on top each other topped with a bright pink cranberry glaze

    I've been in an absolute baking frenzy this week since I finished finals. I am finally in my senior year (after many many gap years) and am finishing strong with a couple of whopping 18-credit semesters. One down, one more to go! Almost thereeeee.

    These cookies are a fun, easy project for sure. I love that they don't use a mixer and have some lovely, fresh flavors that shine amongst the usual gingerbread/sugar cookie whatsit found at Christmas.

    These are also great for dietary restrictions! While they aren't vegan-friendly (egg whites), they are dairy-free which is perfect for lactose-intolerant folks. They are also gluten-free, utilizing only almond flour! The cookies come together quickly but do take a little longer to bake than the usual cookie, I found that they didn't need as much cardamom or squishing down as the original recipe instructed. The glaze is also a little finicky and takes some eyeballing to get the consistency just right, 2-3 tablespoons of cranberry puree per cup of powdered sugar seemed to do the trick for me!

    Eric Kim and Nigella Lawson are the geniuses behind these beauties! I aimed for a slightly underdone cookie with barely golden edges to make sure that the chewy middle stayed intact. The outsides remain brilliantly crispy, which makes this cookie a textural dream. Enjoy!

Almond Cookies with Cranberry Glaze
Yield: 10-12 cookies

Ingredients for the cookies:
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 2 cups (192 grams) super-fine or finely ground almond flour (not almond meal)
  • 1 cup (201 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large egg whites

Ingredients for the glaze:**
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup powdered sugar   
  • Pinch of salt

**Glaze can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for up to one week. Bring to room temperature or microwave slightly before using, stirring to reincorporate it.

Arrange a rack in the middle or upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a reusable mat.

Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1 tablespoon) into a medium bowl. Reserve the lemon. Add 2 cups almond flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 large egg whites, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the lemon zest. Beat against the side of the bowl with a wooden spoon until so well combined the almond flour hydrates and forms a paste-like dough. 

Using a tablespoon cookie dough scoop or dampened hands, form the dough into heaping 1-tablespoon balls. Place on the baking sheet evenly spaced apart, you should have about a dozen cookies. Using the palm of your hand, press each ball down to flatten slightly until about 3/4-inch thick. These are thick bois and best that way, so don't squish them too far.

Bake until the bottom edges turn a light golden color, about 18-20 minutes, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on the pan before transferring the cookies to a wire rack while you make the glaze. (You can also just keep the cookies on the parchment for glazing, just remove them from the hot pan so they can cool).

Juice the reserved lemon until you have 2 tablespoons of juice. Place the juice and 1 cup cranberries in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer until the cranberries start to burst and the juices reduce slightly, 3-4 minutes. 

Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the cranberries to the strainer and press the fruit through with a spoon or rubber spatula. Be sure to scrape the underside of the sieve (that’s where you’ll find most of the strained pulp). You should have about 2 tablespoons fruit pulp in the bowl, if you have more than that, remove it to a separate dish in case you need more after adding the powdered sugar. 

Sift 1 cup powdered sugar into the pulp and whisk until smooth and well incorporated. Add a pinch of salt to enhance the flavor. The glaze should be bright pink-red and glossy, and when you lift the whisk and drizzle the glaze it should leave a little trail on top before disappearing. If it seems too thin/dark, add more powdered sugar. If it seems too thick and not glossy, add a little more cranberry puree or some milk if you have it.

At this point, the cookies should be cool enough to handle/glaze. Spoon a little glaze onto a cookie and then carefully spread it outwards with your spoon, but not so far that it drips off the edges. Allow the cookies to sit out until the glaze is set, this can take some time so don't worry! 

Once set, store in an airtight container for 2-3 days at room temperature. Use parchment paper to separate if stacking the cookies in layers.

Source: adapted from Eric Kim


No-Churn Raspberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

  I'm just going to slip on in here after not posting for the entirety of 2019, don't mind me. However, like a lot of us lately, I suddenly have infinitely more time on my hands! I am seeking reprieve and some sense of normalcy by diving into some lazy baking recipes, and I'd love to share this in case you need something easy and sweet too.

  Let's get right to it. I don't have an ice cream machine, and I definitely don't have the funds to buy one right now. But I did have a myriad of dairy ingredients taking over my fridge at the dangerous brink of expiration. Also, fresh raspberries.

  Apparently, the way to make ice cream without a machine involves sweetened condensed milk. This stuff has less water content, helpful with ice crystal nonsense. So while you won't get absolutely perfectly smooth and creamy ice cream, you will get something pretty darn close. Heads up, you will have to freeze this overnight to get any kind of form, but for me, that's a price worth paying (especially with all this extra time) if that means I don't have to buy a machine to make it.

  So, what you're getting is a berry and cream sort of flavor with a bit of tang that is on the sweeter side (due to the condensed milk). Trust me, you don't need any other sweetener in this. And the only work you have to put into this is whipping it (done with a hand or stand mixer) and then wait forever for it to freeze. Easy-peasy, and quite delightful. I love the flavor of fresh raspberries and I'm happy to have this tucked away in my freezer, plus another can of sweetened condensed milk is on hand should I feel up to playing with more flavors!

  I think we all deserve to have a little taste of summer in the comfort of our homes. 

No-Churn Raspberry Buttermilk Ice Cream:
Yield: one quart 

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 12 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup raspberries, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A couple generous pinches of salt
  • Splash of liquor, such as unflavored vodka (optional, it will help keep it from freezing too hard but the vanilla also helps greatly with this. It's still a softer ice cream by nature).

In a small bowl, mash half of the raspberries up as much as possible. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve to get out the seeds (unless you don't mind the texture, in which case don't bother straining). Roughly chop the other half of the raspberries and place in the fridge for later.

Combine cream and sweetened condensed milk in a large mixing bowl and whip on high speed with a hand mixer until soft peaks form (you can also use a stand mixer with a whip attachment for this). Don't be shy with this step, give it a good whipping! Add buttermilk and mix on low until well combined. Gently fold in the raspberry puree, salt, vanilla, and additional liquor (if using). 

Pour mixture into a metal loaf pan, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in freezer for one hour.

Remove the pan, stir in remaining half cup of cut-up raspberries and really give the ice cream a good, thorough mixing to break up any ice crystals. Replace the plastic wrap. At this point, it's best to freeze the ice cream overnight (or at least for six hours). I gave mine one more optional thorough mixing right before I went to bed, just for good measure.

Scoop up and eat it! Store in the freezer, obviously.

Sources: adapted from The Dairy Alliance 


Lingonberry Cream Buckwheat Torte (Heidjertorte)

  "Distance means nothing when your kitchen smells like home." -Luisa Weiss

  In her book (which I've loved and read a few times) "My Berlin Kitchen," Luisa is talking about distance in the physical sense. She traveled a lot, and making familiar dishes in different kitchens brought a sense of familiarity to her.

  I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and I think it can apply in a more abstract way as well.

  Loss is felt more keenly on the holidays. I was reminded of this by the shadows in my sister-in-law's generally sparkly eyes over Thanksgiving. Relatives, whether you were impeccably close or not, are always difficult to define as 'gone.' 

  I couldn't help but remember the first few Christmases after Grandma Edna passed. Sure, they were still Christmas-y, fun and filled with family. But there is always the underlying tone of something missing, and after awhile you learn to accept the difference.

  And sometimes you learn that you need a little reminder of that person, too. I saw this recipe (or rather photo) pop up on Luisa Weiss's (aka The Wednesday Chef) instagram a while ago. A fatless buckwheat sponge, lingonberry whipped cream and a slathering of freshly whipped cream to finish it off. Color me intrigued, this cake might as well have been something my grandma made once upon a time.

  So I took away some distance between me and my Grandma's spirit when I filled the kitchen with the scent of freshly-baked buckwheat, tart lingonberry preserves and fresh cream. 

  The sugared cranberries and rosemary on top, however, is all me. There's no way Grandma would have bothered with that nonsense, especially with a big family at Christmas--but she would've though it was very pretty.

  This comes from Luisa's latest book, Classic German Baking. And while I'm not the proud owner of it just yet (and I have approximately zero dollars to invest in anything this time of year), with a little digging I found her recipe reviewed on Taste and went to town. In a matter of minutes, Christmas dessert was decided, and I was eagerly searching my grocer's shelves for lingonberries and buckwheat.

  If you're thrown off by the combination of flavors in this cake, good heavens don't be. The lightness of the fatless sponge perfectly compliments a wholesome buckwheat flour. And while it is slightly bitter and plain on its own, combined with generous helpings of rich whipped cream and the pleasing sweet tartness of lingonberry preserves, it's truly a magical cake in its own right. Refreshing after a heavy, long meal.

  Life goes on, Christmases go on and I'm so grateful to have had the grandma I did that to this day she still influences my flavors and baking.

  Happy New Year, to one and all.

 (And a special thank you to my family for bearing with me while I went overboard to photograph a cake with my sister-in-law's wonderful new camera. Incidentally, photo credit to Mercedes Brandt for a few of these snapshots. <3)

Lingonberry Cream Buckwheat Torte (Heidjertorte)
Yield: one 8 or 9-inch torte

Ingredients for the torte:
  • softened unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 6 eggs at room temperature, separated into yolks and whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • A splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp scooped and leveled buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

For the filling:
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, chilled
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups lingonberry preserves

For topping:
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream, chilled
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • Extra lingonberry preserves for decoration (optional)
  • Sugared cranberries and/or rosemary (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch/23cm springform pan with butter, line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment as well.

Place the egg yolks, the 3⁄4 cup sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large mixing bowl with a handmixer fitted with a whisk attachment or regular beaters); turn the motor on to medium-high. Beat to combine then slowly add the hot water and beat for 5 minutes. 
In a separate, very clean bowl, whip the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until the egg whites hold stiff peaks. Mix the buckwheat flour and baking powder together and sift over the egg yolk mixture. Fold in until well combined. Then fold the whipped egg whites into the batter until no white streaks remain.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and place the pan in the oven on a baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top is pale golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the pan from oven and let cool completely on a rack before removing the springform ring. Gently turn the cake upside down to remove the pan bottom and parchment paper. You can turn the cake right side up again, or leave it upside down as the bottom creates a nice, flat surface for the top of the torte.

Place 1 1⁄2 cups whipping cream and sugar in a large, clean bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Fold in the lingonberry preserves and vanilla. Slice the cake into thirds horizontally. Spread the bottom layer evenly with half of the lingonberry cream. Place the middle layer on top. Spread that layer with the remaining lingonberry cream. Top with the top layer. Chill in the fridge while you whip the remaining cream.

In a separate, large clean bowl, whip the remaining 2 1/4 cups of cream with the 2 teaspoons of sugar until stiff peaks form. Frost the top and sides of the torte with the whipped cream, reserving about 1 cup in a piping bag fitted with your decorating tip of choice for the garnish. Chill cake and pastry bag in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Pipe rosettes or whatever decoration you like with the remaining whipped cream. Decorate as desired with lingonberry preserves, sugared cranberries, etc.

Refrigerate the torte for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours before serving. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving it.

Sources: adapted from Taste, originally from Classic German Baking