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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Stroopwafels!

stroop-break

I first had stroopwafels in Amsterdam– I wish I could say that I bought them from a street vendor and savored them, still warm, as I strolled the moonlit streets taking in the sights and sounds of the city… but in reality I bought a pre-packaged stroopwafel and ate it on the train as I went back to my hostel for the night. It was still really, really good, though.

Sadly, packaged stroopwafels in the US aren’t quite as good as the ones in Amsterdam, and are much more expensive. I hadn’t quite given up on the dream of having one fresh from the waffle iron, so I decided to enlist the help of my trusty pizzelle iron to try and make my own!

I saw a few different types of recipes– some with melted butter, some with only softened butter; some with yeast and some with baking powder; some with more eggs and some with fewer. And there were a bunch of different recipes for the “stroop” (syrup) filling, involving brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, and “pancake syrup” in various proportions. Eventually I settled on a recipe and went full steam ahead!

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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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Candied Lemon Peel, Two Ways

After making all of that lemonade concentrate (and it took about 20 lemons!) I had a whole bunch of perfectly good lemon peels that I just couldn’t let go to waste. So I decided to make candied lemon peel. I’d never tried to make candied peels before– I’ve candied kumquat slices before (tasty) and had a failure of candied blood orange slices (I let them boil too long in the syrup and they completely caramelized and burned)– so I thought it was about time to give it a try.

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Baklava

baklava

After using two cups of walnuts in my hedgehog cookies, I still had a lot left. I could’ve made more cookies, I suppose, but I was out of chocolate sprinkles and plain cookies didn’t seem nearly as interesting. I was trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my walnuts when I saw the half-package of phyllo in my freezer (left over from a strudel adventure) and knew immediately that I had to make baklava.

Baklava is apparently a dessert that you either love (because of the delicious honey-soaked crispy layers and toothsome nuts and general awesomeness) or hate (because you’re a heathen). Can you tell which side I’m on?

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Ispahan Panna Cotta (raspberry, rose, lychee)

ispahan panna cotta final

While I was in Paris for my breadbaking course, I made a point of visiting famous pastry shops (okay, not just famous ones) and picking out the most delectable-looking desserts to enjoy, regardless of cost or calories. After all, it’s not every day one is in Paris and able to experience all of the delicious things the city has to offer! And one of the most important delicious things on my list was the Ispahan macaron at Pierre Herme.

The Ispahan is a dessert made of two pink macaron shells, sandwiching fresh raspberries, lychees, and a rose buttercream. The combination of flavors was perfect. Absolutely perfect. It was an exquisitely balanced meld of sweet and floral and fruity, with creamy and crispy and juicy textures in each bite… I just can’t do it justice with mere words. A perfect dessert. This from a woman who usually goes for chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. I knew I had to recreate it here at home.

I’ll get to a perfect reproduction later, but until then I’m just trying to get the general flavor profile right. I decided to start with panna cotta, figuring that it’s light and creamy, doesn’t have egg yolks or butter to disguise the delicate flavors of rose and lychee, and is simple enough that I wouldn’t feel bad about wasting tons of time and effort if it didn’t turn out well.

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