Orange Syrup Polenta Cake

polenta-cake

So remember how I made candied citrus peel with the peels left over from my yogurt panna cotta citrus tart? Well, taking my leftovers game to a new level, I’m using the citrus syrup left over from my candied peel in yet another recipe! This cake is dense and moist, fragrant with orange flavor and slightly sticky from the syrup. The cornmeal and almonds help the cake keep its shape so it’s perfect for eating out of hand by the slice, and the overall flavor is just breakfast-like enough that you don’t feel guilty for doing so! (I had some for breakfast the other day with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and regret nothing.)

Another plus is that the recipe doesn’t require a mixer– I enjoy a light, fluffy butter cake as much as the next person, but lugging out my stand mixer and then cleaning it is kind of a pain, so it’s great to have a whisk-only recipe once in a while. And the melting here means no waiting for butter to soften!

Did I mention that it’s flourless and therefore gluten-free? Just another reason to give it a try…

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Candied Citrus Peel

candied-peel.jpg

After making the panna cotta tart with all those different kinds of citrus, I had a bunch of peel left over, so of course I had to do something with it! And since I love candied peel, this seemed like a great opportunity. I had grapefruit, Cara Cara orange, and blood orange peel to work with (the clementine peel was too thin and the kumquats required a different technique).

While I’d made candied lemon peel before it hadn’t firmed up as well as I’d expected, instead staying kind of soft and soggy– fine for use in ice cream or baking, but not so great for snacking. I decided this time to try a different recipe from David Lebovitz, who has some great recipes both on his website and in his books. It was basically the same as the other recipe, calling for blanching the peels (three times this time since grapefruit can be bitter) and then boiling in sugar syrup.

Oddly, my grapefruit peels refused to turn translucent, staying stubbornly white while the other peels turned just fine. After boiling and boiling well past the estimated time in the recipe, I finally decided to just let it go and set everything out to dry together overnight. They turned out better than I’d anticipated– still soft, but not squishy or soggy.

Since I like my peel chewy rather than soft, I let these dry on the baking pan, coated in sugar, for a good 24 hours after the initial overnight drying period. They were much better after the lengthy drying time, and I couldn’t stop snacking on them!

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Yogurt Panna Cotta Tart with Citrus

citrus-tart

I recently took a class on French tarts at my local culinary school, just for fun. I had a great time– I’d never worked with pastry rings before (as opposed to removable-bottom tart pans), nor had I ever made a classic pate sucree to roll into the ultra-thin and ultra-refined French-style tarts. Turns out it’s really easy to do, and the results are fabulous!

Since we had extra dough left to take home, I decided to put it to use making some tart recipes of my own creation. Eschewing rich, heavy fillings (like caramel or chocolate) for the moment, I instead went with something lighter for my first try– a yogurt panna cotta. I find that I don’t make panna cotta nearly enough, probably because it’s so simple that it doesn’t feel “exciting.” So adding it to a tart with a fruity garnish was a natural way to gussy it up a bit and make it interesting.

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Cranberry-Pecan Bundt Cake

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Every year for Thanksgiving, we go to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner– and every year, I bring some kind of baked good to share. Over the years, I’ve developed some criteria to maximize people’s enjoyment of my creation: It has to keep well at room temperature, because the fridge is full already. It has to be easy and neat to eat, so people don’t have to get out plates or forks to get a piece. And it has to be a cake or loaf of some kind (rather than individually-portioned cookies, etc.) because while people are sometimes reluctant to grab an entire cookie or cupcake between meals, they’re always happy to slice off just a teeny-weeny bit to snack on as they pass by.

This bundt cake is perfect for the occasion– it’s got a dense, fine crumb that lets it hold together well when people pick up a slice, it’s not so sweet or decadent that people feel guilty about grabbing some, and it’s appropriately festive, being chock-full of cranberries and pecans. And yes, the flavor combination may sound familiar from my Cranberry-Orange Walnut Muffin recipe, but this cake is a lot richer and denser than the light, fluffy muffins, making it just the right dessert for a family event.

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Chocolate-Orange Ricotta Cupcakes

ricotta-cupcakes

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about these before– these are some of my very favorite cupcakes. Cupcakes that are soft and warm and full of chocolate; cupcakes that contrast the rich creaminess of ricotta with the slight bitterness of good marmalade; cupcakes that one of my coworkers has dubbed “the best cupcakes in the world.” And you can have them out of the oven and ready to eat in an hour.

The base of the recipe is from a lovely blog I read, Orangette, but I’ve tweaked it just a bit to make it a little more decadent (though you’ll still need to go out and buy ricotta). The result is fantastic– if you’ve ever daydreamed about crossing a fresh cannoli with warm chocolate cake, this is what you’d get. They’re wonderful as-is, but if you ever wanted to gild the lily, you could top them with a thin drizzle of chocolate ganache, and watch your dinner guests go into a chocolate coma!

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Glazed Orange Yogurt Cake

yogurt-cake

I blame Target for this cake. Which may not be a bad thing, but I’m going to go ahead and use the word “blame” because I’m still not happy with Target for ceasing to carry my favorite yogurt, Dannon Light n’ Fit Vanilla Greek yogurt. I’d never had it before the Target store opened down the street from my house, but once I tried it I was hooked. I was having it for breakfast daily, and it was sweet and dessert-y enough that I was planning on swirling it with some fruit purée and freezing it into popsicles at some point, when suddenly Target stopped carrying it! The travesty!

Instead, the only nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt I could find was what appeared to be Target’s store brand, Simply Balanced. Willing to forgive (if not forget), I picked up a carton to give it a try.

I was not impressed. Neither as sweet as the Dannon, nor as tangy as regular Greek yogurt, this stuff was just bland, with a distinct aftertaste of what can only be described as “barnyard.” Seriously, this was not something I’d be eating more of on its own– I didn’t even want to think about finishing the container.

yogurt

What’s a girl to do in this situation? Bake cake, of course. Yogurt cake. Orange yogurt cake, to use up some extra orange juice from a recent brunch party. A big one that would use up as much of that blasted yogurt as possible.

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Chocolate Orange Crinkle Cookies

choco-crinkles-baked

For Christmas this year I promised my daughter that we would bake cookies for Santa Claus. Of course she wanted to get really hands-on about it, so I had to choose a recipe that was easy to make and easy to handle, even for kids. Enter the chocolate crinkle cookie. I’d never made them before, but I’d eaten plenty and they were delicious– and the “rolling in sugar” step looked like something kids would really enjoy!

However, recipes seemed to fall into two categories– those with butter and those with oil. How to choose? Ordinarily I would be butter all the way, because it just tastes better in a cookie. On the other hand, oil would make the dough a lot easier to make (no softening and creaming of butter), and the cookies would likely stay moist longer. I decided to go for an oil-based recipe.

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