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by Heather Harris Brady

Okay, here we go with finishing these babies up! Brace yourself, this post is going to be a long one. There are a few things to think about in advance – 1) what type of filling you want and 2) if/how you want to cover the outside of each one.

Filling – I’m using two layers, one lemon curd and one apricot preserves plus some Italian buttercream, because I love it. You can use any type of thick jam or jelly. The thicker the better, because that’s what’s going to glue your layers together when it comes to the outside coating. If you’re going to skip the outside coating (by far the easiest thing!) you can use either jam or buttercream between your layers.

Coating – I tried several different poured fondant recipes and couldn’t find one that was successful enough to share. By that then I was running short on time so I defaulted to chocolate couverture. If I had more time I would have made a batch of ganache for the coating.

If you decide not to use buttercream you can skip the following recipe and go straight to the assembly section below. If you haven’t had true Italian buttercream all I can say is it’s the most luxurious, smooth, rich frosting imaginable. There are lots of recipes out there, but they are all basically the same. Dede Wilson’s from her Wedding Cake Book has always been my go-to. While it’s possible to do this in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, a stand mixer really makes it easy.

Italian Meringue Buttercream, Makes enough to generously frost one 8″ double-layer cake or 24 cupcakes

  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 t. cider vinegar
  • 2 t. high-quality vanilla
  • 1 t. almond extract

Put the egg whites in the mixing bowl and beat to soft peaks. Beat in the 1/3 c. sugar a tablespoon at a time, and whip to stiff peaks. Set aside while you make the syrup.

Combine the water, vinegar and granulated sugar in a heavy saucepan. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar and cook over medium heat to the soft-ball stage, about 235 on a candy thermometer.

When it starts to look syrupy and the bubbles struggle a bit to get to the surface you’re almost there.

When you hit the temperature turn your mixer on high and drizzle the hot syrup directly into the beaten egg whites. You have to be quick and decisive about this. This egg whites will foam up as you beat them together.

Beat until the sides of the bowl are close to room temperature. Then start to add the butter, a few pieces at a time.

It will make your egg whites turn a little soupy but that’s okay! Keep going. When you get all the butter in it will magically come together. (You’re making an emulsion, like mayonnaise.) When it comes together, beat in your flavorings.

Set the buttercream aside until you’re ready to use it.


ASSEMBLY

8 oz. marzipan

Get out your almond cake from the previous recipe.

Decide how many layers you want, and plan your cutting. I’m doing four layers – with lemon curd, buttercream, and apricot in between. (This was a little tall, you might want to stop at three cake layers.) I cut it in half, and then in half again.

I stacked these to create two cake “sandwiches”, one with lemon curd in the middle and one with apricot in the middle. I spread buttercream on top of one, stacked the other on top, and covered the whole thing in buttercream. Put it in the refrigerator to set the icing. (If you’re making petit fours with uncovered sides leave them uniced.)

Divide your marzipan in half and roll it to fit the top of your cake.

Trim it to fit. Turn the cake over and do the same for the bottom. Chill again, as long as you can spare. I also weighted my cake, to make sure the layers would stick together. When you’re ready to finish them get a sharp knife and cut your brick of cake into your desired sizes and shapes.

Keep your knife clean and dip it in hot water for clean cuts.

To finish with couverture melt your chocolate until smooth. Dip the bottom of each cake first and let it set up.

Then grasp each one by the bottom, and dip the uncovered portion. Work fast – especially if you have buttercream between the layers!

I made some little rolled roses with extra marzipan and put one on each cake. The good news is, after all that work, the little cakes are pretty much indestructible once coated in chocolate. Store them in the refrigerator and take them out a few hours before serving. Freeze for longer storage.

Having to resort to chocolate, while delicious, was not the smooth fondant covering I had pictured. I will keep trying to come up with a good reliable poured fondant recipe!

by Heather Harris Brady

Since we’re heading into a big party time of year with graduations and weddings, I thought I’d post something special. These petit fours are big on WOW factor. These tiny cakes are not a recipe to try when you’re feeling rushed, however! Pick a time when you’re feeling extra zen.

We’ll do the cake first, then cover filling and frosting in the next post. You can do this cake ahead of time, freeze it, then finish things up at a later date if that works better for you. This recipe is from Paula Peck’s Art of Fine Baking, and it makes a lovely fine-grained cake that is perfect for stacking. Seasoned bakers will recognize this method as being the same as a classic genoise.

Almond Butter Sponge, Makes one half-sheet

  • ¾ c. sifted flour
  • ¼ c. butter, melted and clarified
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ t. vanilla
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 t. grated lemon rind
  • ¼ c. almond paste

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease half-sheet pan and line it with parchment.

Combine the whole eggs, one egg yolk, sugar, vanilla and lemon rind in the top of a double boiler. Warm gently and carefully to lukewarm.

In a separate bowl cream the almond paste with the remaining egg yolk. I found it easiest to smear the paste out with a spoon and then cream them together. Set this aside.

When the egg mixture feels warm, start to beat it with a hand mixer. Beat at high speed for about five minutes. It will triple in bulk and look like whipped cream.

Pour the almond paste mixture over the top and sprinkle with the flour.

Fold them in, drizzling the butter as you go. Don’t overmix, just fold until there aren’t any streaks of flour.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan without pressing it too much.

Bake about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the cake from the pan and cool on a rack.


Four years ago: Hot Fudge Sauce
Three years ago: Wild Mushrooms Florentine
Two years ago: Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
One year ago: Mexican Sweet Bread (Conchas)


coconutcreamcake_17_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

I couldn’t wait to share this cake with you because I came across a tip that is literally life-changing, thanks to Cooks Illustrated. Apparently if you process heavy cream in a food processor you get frosting – that lasts for days! Who knew?

This is my “When Harry Met Sally” tribute cake because, as you might remember, in the movie Meg Ryan is very particular that her wedding cake be coconut with chocolate sauce. This cake has two layers of coconut cream, with chocolate ganache in the center. You will have enough ganache left over to serve it on the side of each slice. I used finely shredded coconut for this recipe, like this:

Coconut Cream Cake, Makes one 8″ two-layer cake

  • 3/4 c. coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. finely shredded coconut (plus extra for coating)
  • 2/3 c. softened butter
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 t. vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 2-1/3 c. cake flour
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • One recipe coconut pastry cream
  • One recipe chocolate ganache

Combine the shredded coconut and the coconut milk. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and the sugar together well.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and the baking powder.

Beat in the half the flour, then half the coconut mixture – repeat.

You should have a thick creamy batter.

Divide it between greased 8″ cake pans.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the center springs back to the touch.

Cool the cakes on a rack, lightly covered with plastic wrap. Split the layers in half.

Put one half on a plate and cover it with coconut cream. Top with another cake layer.

Put half the ganache in the middle, between the two cake layers.

Now the magic part! Combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in the food processor, with just the blade on.

Process for about a minute, until the cream has thickened.

Now process in 15-second pulses until you have what looks very much like soft-serve ice cream.

Cover the cake with the whipped cream. (Believe it not, it will keep very nicely in the refrigerator for days. I know – I didn’t believe it either. But I tried it and it worked!)

Then with more coconut. I used both finely shredded and the large flakes, just for fun.

Chill thoroughly and serve sliced with the reserved ganache. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.


Four years ago: Migas (Mexican Egg Scramble)
Three years ago: Caramel Apple Cake
Two years ago: Butter Muffins
One year ago: Cheesecake Bars


By Heather Harris Brady

I’ve featured a carrot cake before, with coconut and crushed pineapple, but when I saw this one in Cooking Light I had to give it a try. The browned butter adds a nice depth, and it does get better over the second and third days. I made some adjustments to the original recipe.

Make sure you use larger carrots for this recipe, the ones they typically sell in the bulk section for juicing work well. The small baby carrots just don’t have enough flavor.

If you have a pretty fluted bundt pan now’s the time to use it! I apologize for the weird capitalization, my iPad always gets fussy with blogging.

Carrot Cake with Browned Butter, Makes one 12″ bundt cake

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/3 c. Olive oil
  • 1 c. Granulated sugar
  • 2 t. Vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
  • 1-1/2 t. Cinnamon
  • 2-1/2 t. Baking powder
  • 1/2 t. Baking soda
  • 1/2 t. Fresh ground cardamom
  • 2 c. Carrots, finely grated
  • 2 c. White whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. Milk

Glaze

  • 3 T. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 2-1/2 c. Confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 t. Milk
  • 1/2 t. Vanilla

Put the butter in a saucepan on medium heat and stir. It will melt, bubble and eventually foam up.  As soon as it starts to turn brown (the milk solids in the butter are what will be browning), take it off the heat. Let it cool to room temperature and then preheat the oven to 350.

Put the browned butter in a mixing bowl. Beat in the oil, sugar and vanilla. Then beat in the eggs one at a time. I used a wooden spoon but you can do it with a mixer if you like. Stir in the white whole wheat flour, then half the yogurt, the cinnamon and the cardamom.

Add the rest of the flour, the rest of the yogurt, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the milk.

You should have a thick batter. It might seem a little too thick to you, but that’s okay! We’re adding a lot of moisture with the carrots.

Fold in the carrots.

Spread the batter in a greased baking pan.

Check it at 40 minutes. Your tester should have moist crumbs.

While the cake is cooling make the glaze. Combine the sugar, vanilla and cream cheese in a bowl.

Drizzle in the milk and whisk until you have the desired glazing consistency.

Put the cake on a serving plate and pour the glaze over the top.

I garnished this one with some flakes of coconut and chopped candied pecans.

Store the cake in the refrigerator, loosely covered.

ancientgrainscookies12_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

I came up with these cookies after noticing boxes of “ancient grains cookie mix” at the grocery store – for $7 a box! When I use alternative flours I try to work with the different textures rather than against them. These cookies are chocolate peanut butter because everyone expects peanut butter cookies to have a more shortbready, crumbly texture by nature.

I used a blend of quinoa flour and spelt flour, in combination with some regular unbleached white flour and some extra wheat germ. These are good keepers, and are great with a cold glass of milk on the side.

Ancient Grains Cookies, Makes about 36 3″ cookies

  • 1/4 c. butter, at room tempertaure
  • 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 c. natural peanut butter (The ingredient list should read: Peanuts.)
  • 4 T. dark cocoa (I use Hershey’s Special Dark.)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. quinoa flour
  • 1/2 c. spelt flour
  • 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 3 T. wheat germ
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream until light and fluffy.

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Beat in the eggs one at a time.

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Beat in the peanut butter.

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Then the flours, baking powder and baking soda.

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Beat in the cocoa and then the chips. You should have a nice creamy batter.

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Drop the batter by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes.

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Cool complete and then store in an airtight container. These keep nicely for about five days. Freeze in a ziplock for longer storage. I freeze half the baked cookies and use them to replenish the cookie jar – but they aren’t bad frozen 😉

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Four years ago: Champagne Sabayon
Three years ago: Chard Quiche
Two years ago: Burmese Chicken Soup
One year ago: French Breakfast Puffs


applepiebars15_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

It’s hard sending a child to college, it’s harder still when they come home down two jean sizes! So part of the reason I don’t post as much lately is simply that I spend a lot of time baking and mailing. While I do bake a lot of my son’s favorites to send, I do try to mix in surprises – like these apple pie bars. Apple pie is one of his favorite desserts, but it’s hard to deal with in a dorm room with a tiny fridge and no place to wash up.

Given that, I tried to pack all the pie goodness in these individual servings that he can take out of the freezer as need arises. I started with a base from my chocolate oatmeal bars and took it from there. You could have these as-is, or you could fancy them up by plating them and topping each one with a scoop of ice cream.

Apple Pie Bars, Makes about 16 2.5″ servings

For the bars:
2½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. light brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
2 large eggs
3 cups old-fashioned oats
5 c. peeled and sliced baking apples

For the glaze:
1 t. vanilla
2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. water

Preheat the oven to 400. Combine the sugar and butter in a mixing bowl and mix well.

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Beat in the eggs.

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Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients.

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Reserve a cup of the mixture, press the rest into a greased baking sheet (mine’s about 14″ square).

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You’ll have to flour your hands, the dough’s quite sticky. Put the sheet into the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until the edges start to lightly brown.

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While the crust is baking, heat two tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. When the butter’s melted add the apple slices.

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Saute over medium heat until the apples are just barely tender.

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Reduce the oven to 375. Spread the sauteed apples over the hot crust and sprinkle with cinnamon.

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Then dot the top with the rest of the reserved crust mixture.

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Return the sheet to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, until the streusel is brown.

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Cut into squares while still warm.

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When the bars are cool stir up the glaze (just stir all the ingredients together) and drizzle it over the top.

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Once the glaze has set you can package them (for college shipping!) or store them in an airtight container. I would put them in the refrigerator to keep longer than two days.

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chocolatetaco7_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

It may be a lot sunnier where you are but here after the holidays come the long, gray days of January. To brighten things I like to try new, fun things – especially where dessert is concerned. I made these to surprise my daughter one night at dinner, and she had fun putting them together with me. They would be great with mint ice cream, or any of the pretty colors, but being the girl she is she picked chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! (She takes after me 😉

If you need a lot of these I would double the batter to allow for breakage. A lot will depend on your oven and how it gets, as well as how quick you can get these off the sheet and formed.

Chocolate Tacos, Makes about 8

For the shells:
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 T. dark cocoa (I use Hershey’s Special Dark.)
1 t. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
3 T. egg whites (about three whites)
1 t. 2% reduced-fat milk
1/4 t. vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60%)
1 t. butter

For the filling:
1 pint ice cream

Preheat oven to 400°.Combine first 5 ingredients, stirring well.

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Stir in egg whites, milk, and vanilla.

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Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each corner, forming a circle with the back of a spoon.

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Bake at 400° for about 6 minutes. You have to find the time when the shells are bendable but cooked. It’s better to take them out too soon than wait too long, too long and they won’t bend at all. You’ll have sandwiches instead! Anyhoo, rush them out of the oven and bend them right away. Let them cool and repeat with the rest of the batter.

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When you’ve baked all the shells melt the chips with the butter and stir smooth. Dip the edges of the shells. We drizzled the extra over the top. You’ll notice that I lost three shells – mostly to breakage because I left the first batch in too long.

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Fill the shells with scoops of ice cream and return them to the freezer for 30 minutes before serving.

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When ready to serve plate each taco, drizzle a little more fudge or topping for sauce and some coconut for fun.

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These may made a week ahead, wrapped airtight and kept in the freezer.

chocolatetaco7_little-house-dunes

secretcookies13_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

These cookies are a little kooky for me, but I guess sometimes I’m as susceptible to the charms of decorations as anyone else! And, if you can’t go all out during the holidays – when can you?

These cookies are really all about fun, fun on the outside, fun on the inside. I’ve adapted a recipe from an article I cut out years ago from a magazine.

Secret Cookies, Makes about 30 3″ cookies

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 2-1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. dark chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/4 t. almond extract
  • Sprinkles or colored sugar for coating

Preheat the oven to 375. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl, cream well.

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Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

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Then the flour.

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Stir 3/4 c. of dough into the chocolate.

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Roll a 1″ ball of chocolate dough and then cover it with a thin pancake of vanilla dough.

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Then roll each ball in sprinkles or sugar.

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Put them on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

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Bake for about 10 minutes.

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I added an extra white chocolate drizzle to the plain sugar ones to dress them up for a party!

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lemonsugarcookies11_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

Anyone who’s been with this blog through the winter holidays knows that I have the same cookie lineup every year, but I continue to audition new prospects because never let it be said that I’m one to rest on my cookie laurels 😉

This is the first audition – a soft sugar cookie (which American readers will recognize as Lofthouse style). It has that same addictive cakey quality as the store-bought version, but with the twist of lemon poppyseed. It’s based on a compilation of recipes online with a few changes of my own. Sorry for the crappy picture, we’re really short on daylight at the moment!

I like the Scandinavian white-on-white coloring, but if you want to get crazy with frosting colors or sprinkles now would be the time!

Soft Lemon Poppyseed Sugar Cookies, Makes about 36 3″ cookies

  • 1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. lemon extract or bakery emulsion
  • Zest from two lemons
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 T. poppyseeds

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 c. butter, at room temperature1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 t. almond extract
  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • 6 T. heavy cream

Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy.

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Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Then beat in the lemon flavoring and zest.

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Combine the remaining dry ingredients and half of them to the bowl. Beat well. Then beat in the yogurt.

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Add the second half of the dry ingredients and beat for another minute.

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Scoop the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up as a ball and refrigerate it for at least an hour. When you’re ready to bake preheat the oven to 425. (I know, hot for a cookie recipe!)

Turn the dough out.

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Roll it out to about 1/3″ thick and cut. (I only worked with part of the dough at a time so I could make sure I kept the thickness consistent.)

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Put the cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

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Bake for 6-7 minutes. I took them out right around the 7-minute mark.

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While the cookies are cooling make the frosting. (I didn’t do the step by step here to keep the post length down.)

Beat the sugar and butter together, drizzling in the flavoring and half the cream. Mixture will be thick. Continue beating, drizzling in the remaining cream as you go, until you reach your desired spreading consistency. I have a stand mixer so I just turn it to high and let it run for about five minutes at this point. The longer you beat the creamier your frosting will be.

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When the cookies are completely cool frost them.

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You can leave them out, uncovered for an hour or so, and the frosting will crust over just a bit. I froze mine on the sheet and then stacked them between sheets of waxed paper in a freezer container to freeze until the holidays.

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Four years ago: 12 Days of Cookies
Three years ago: Russian Braids
Two years ago: Apple Clafouti
One year ago: Holiday Biscotti


lemonricottacookies13_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

First off let me note that I have not fallen off the wagon and gone whole-hog on the food coloring – that bright fuschia icing is from freeze-dried raspberries! I know, right? Perfect for upcoming holiday cookies! But I digress.

This cookie story starts with a trip my little slice of heaven on Earth – Whole Foods. I could wander that store for hours. In the bakery of the Whole Foods in question is a display of international cookies, including a lemon ricotta coated in pale pink raspberry icing. They are delicious.

So the quest began. Finding a recipe for the cookie was easy enough, and while I tinkered with it a bit they are basically the same. But the icing was going to be the hard part. I finally hit paydirt when I read a piece on a pastry chef who uses pulverized freeze-dried fruit for macarons.

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I got this bag at Target for $3.99 and only used about a third of it for this recipe. The color is spectacular and I’m going to experiment with this idea more in the future. I touched up the flavor with a bit of raspberry bakery emulsion and voila! These cookies are delicate, cakey and while you could use a lemon glaze if you want I think the raspberry really sets them off.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Raspberry Glaze, Makes about 30 3″ cookies

  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • 1 container of part-skim ricotta (15 oz.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 c. granulataed sugar
  • Zest of two lemons, finely grated
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t. lemon bakery emulsion
  • 2-1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • For the glaze:
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/3 c. freeze-dried raspberries
  • 1-2 T. water
  • 1/2 t. raspberry bakery emulsion

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar together well.

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Beat in the ricotta, then the eggs one at a time, beating well after addition.

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Beat in the flour and baking powder.

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Stir in the lemon zest, juice and flavor. You should have a thick, creamy batter.

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Drop by tablespoons until a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake about 12-15 minutes, until the edges are light golden brown.

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Cool the cookies while you make the glaze. The freeze-dried raspberries are an amazing color, and they taste like raspberry popcorn.

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Put the raspberries in a spice grinder and run until finely ground to a powder.

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Add the raspberry powder to the powdered sugar.

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Drizzle in water until you have the desired consistency.

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Spoon the glaze over the cookies. You can do the whole cookie, or just a lacy pattern if you don’t want as much raspberry flavor.

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Let the glaze air-dry for about two hours and then store the cookies in an airtight container.


Four years ago: Apple Pie
Three years ago: Peanut Butter Pie
Two years ago: Ginger-Chocolate Scones
One year ago: Quick Orange Cinnamon Rolls


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