Holiday Raspberry Walnut Bars…

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. The holidays have been crazy and I haven’t had my usual time to experiment in the kitchen. But to keep in the tradition of trying to post at least once a week, I am going to share a cookie recipe from back in the day.

This is a reprint of a blog I did a couple of years ago. It is such a great holiday recipe that I wanted to give it some prime time, especially now that I have more readers and subscribers. I guarantee you, you cannot go wrong with this recipe. It will be a hit in your holiday cookie baking arsenal!

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars

There’s a lot of reasons for this recipe being so popular. First, and probably foremost, it looks so darn delicious. Second, and not known by those requesting the recipe, it is sinfully easy to make. And third, the recipe turns out perfect first time, every time. I can’t take credit for the recipe, it was one I found a few years ago, I simply can’t remember where I found it. So up front I apologize to whomever I am not giving credit to for the actual recipe.

Lesson Learned 1: The hardest thing about this recipe is preparing the pan. The recipe calls for lining a 8 inch square pan with parchment paper allowing some overhang on both sides. Trying to keep parchment paper from popping back out of the pan when you allow for overhang can be tricky. I found the easiest way to make the parchment paper behave is to take two heavy cans of anything and weigh down the paper in the pan while making the dough. That way when it’s time to spread the dough out on the bottom the paper has been somewhat trained and doesn’t jump around as much.

Lesson Learned 2: It is important to follow the directions of using the parchment paper, having the overhang and spraying the parchment paper with cooking spray. I can’t image what you would wind up with if you didn’t. But if you take the time to do it, it comes out of the pan easily and absolutely nothing sticks to the parchment paper.

Lesson Learned 3: This recipe gives you plenty of dough so don’t worry about using it to fill up the bottom. It says to use two thirds of the dough for the crust and one third to dot the top. I found that gave me way too much dough for the top. You need a lot less dough to dot the top then you think, so don’t be afraid to use more than two thirds of the dough for the crust.

Lesson Learned 4: Avoid the temptation to use too much raspberry jam. A nice even thin coat is all you need. Stick to the amount called for in the recipe.

Lesson Learned 5: Depending on how many bars you want to give out, you may have to make this recipe a couple of times. You can make the bars big or small, but the most you’ll probably get out of this recipe is 24 small bars.

I guarantee these bars will be a hit with your family and friends. You simply must try them!

Raspberry Walnut Bars…

  • Servings: 24 Small Bars
  • Difficulty: Easy-Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Non stick baking spray

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup raspberry jam

1 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang on both sides. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. (I do this right before I am ready to put the dough into the pan).

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. (This does take a little time, most people do not do this thoroughly enough so make sure to take the time to make the mixture fluffy). Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined. Do not over mix. Transfer two thirds of the dough into the prepared pan and press down evenly. Spread the jam on top. Crumble the remaining dough and dot it over the jam. Sprinkle the top with the walnuts. Bake until golden 35-45 minutes. Cool completely in the pan. (this is very important).

Holding both sides of the parchment paper, lift out of the pan, transfer to a cutting board and cut into rectangles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Iced Cranberry Orange Walnut Cookies…

It’s cranberry season, my favorite time of year. I love cooking and baking with cranberries. Their tartness adds zip to both sweet and savory recipes. I especially like them in cookies. I think they balance out the sweetness in cookie recipes and add a festive flavor.

Now need I mention that it is also getting very close to holiday baking season, and every year I try out at least one new cookie recipe. I saw a version of this recipe in an Allrecipes magazine and tweaked it not only from an ingredient perspective but also to adapt it to high altitude baking.

High altitude baking can be tricky and unless you purchase a cookbook specifically written for high altitude baking you are most likely using ingredient amounts designed for sea level. The higher the altitude the lower the air pressure which makes it difficult for the baker. Baking depends on specific interactions of various ingredients such as flour, leavening, fats and liquid. Those interactions change with a change in air pressure. And to make matters worse, baking at 3,500 feet is different from baking at 5,000 feet and as you continue to rise in elevation the trickier it gets. I live at a 5,000 feet and have done a lot of research into how to adapt recipes for that elevation and still have some baking failures. But the more you do it, the better you get at it. The additions to this recipe are specifically designed for baking these cookies at 5,000 feet. I played around with the ingredients and I nailed it! But since many of you are probably at sea level I will use sea level amounts as the base and note what needs to be changed for high altitude.

IMG_8408Lesson Learned 1 – Use the juice from fresh oranges: Fresh ingredients are always the best. This recipe requires both orange zest and juice. Don’t take the easy way out and use bottled orange juice. Plus take a look at the amount of sugar in your orange juice. It’s crazy the amount of sugar there is a most juices. It can be anywhere from 10 to 30 grams. That’s a lot of sugar. Use fresh juice. Any small way that you can control the amount of sugar in anything you make is a good thing.

Cookie batter and scoopLesson Learned 2 – Use a cookie scoop to ensure even amounts of cookie dough: When I was growing up most cookie recipes would say drop the dough in rounded teaspoons or tablespoons onto the cookie sheet. That wasn’t very precise and you want to make sure you can, to the best of your ability, make each cookie the same size. That way every cookie will bake evenly versus having some baked and others raw or burnt.

These days you can purchase what looks like a small ice cream scoop to make the cookie dough virtually the same size on your baking sheet. Working with them can be a little tricky so here is a helpful hint: spray the inside of the scoop with baking spray before scooping any dough. That way the dough will release more easily. I found that even with using baking spray the scoop gets pretty gummed up after scooping out a dozen or so cookies. Once you’ve filled your baking sheet, put your dirty scoop into a glass of warm water. When you’re ready to scoop out more dough, take a paper towel, wipe the inside clean and spray it again. This may sound like a lot of work but the results are evenly sized, evenly baked cookies.

Cooking dough on the baking sheet

Lesson Learned 3 – How to glaze cookies: I’m not a professional baker nor do I have some of the tools that professional bakers have namely pastry bags and decorator nozzles. When I glaze cookies I put the glaze in a plastic bag, work it into one of the bottom corners, twist close the top of the bag and snip the corner where the glaze settled. Voila, a home made pastry bag! Here are a couple of helpful hints for glazing cookies and working with a homemade pastry bag:

  1. Open the plastic bag and put it in a tall drinking glass, spreading the bag open as widely as you can inside the glass. Now you have an easy way of pouring the glaze into the bag and both of your hands are free to do this.
  2. Snip only a very small portion off of one of the corners of the bottom of the bag. That way you’ll have a manageable stream of glaze when decorating your cookies.
  3. Put a sheet of wax paper under a cooling rack and put your cookies on the cooling rack before glazing. That way clean up will be a breeze.
  4. Just free flow the glaze over your cookies. You can do each cookie individually or do one long strip back and forth over a row of cookies. Have fun with it.
  5. Let the glaze set before storing them. Touch the glaze and if feels firm then you’re ready to store them.

These are fabulous cookies and perfect for a holiday get-together. You really should try these and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Iced Cranberry Orange Walnut Cookies

  • Servings: 4 dozen cookies
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Cookie Dough:Iced Cranberry Orange Walnut Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar (minus 1 Tbs. for high altitude)

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (minus 3/4 Tbs. for high altitude)

1 egg, room temperature

1 tsp. orange zest (1 large orange will give you the zest and juice you need)

2 Tbs. orange juice (plus 2 Tbs. for high altitude)

2 1/2 cups flour (plus 2 Tbs. for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cranberries

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Glaze:

1/2 tsp. orange zest

3-4 Tbs. orange juice

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375. Cream together butter and sugars. Beat in egg until thoroughly combined. Add zest and juice and combine.

In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add in batches to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until combined. Stir in the cranberries and walnuts by hand.

Drop dough in rounded tablespoons (the cookie scoop will do this perfectly for you) two inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes (mine baked in 13 minutes – sea level baking on average takes less time). Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

For the glaze: combine all ingredients together. Drizzle glaze onto the cookies. Let the cookies stand until the glaze has set and then store.

Iced Cranberry Orange Walnut Cookies

IMG_8456

Iced Cranberry Orange Walnut Cookies

Apple Walnut Cake…

Well, apple season is just about over for me. By that I mean I am no longer getting bags and bags of apples from my neighbor. All in all it’s been a great season. During it I finally made a decent apple pie, ventured into making my first batch of homemade applesauce, and had fun experimenting with some different apple desserts.

My final apple recipe for the season is an apple walnut cake. I found a basic recipe that I edited for my tastes and wound up with a delightful loaf cake.

The batter...

The batter…

Recipe rating: A- This is a very flavorful cake. I gave it a minus because I had to adjust the baking time to two times longer than what was called for in the original recipe. I read some of the reviews of the original recipe online and decided, as one person mentioned, to bake this in an 8×4 versus a 9×5 pan. There was no mention that doing this significantly changed the baking time. The person writing the review said she wanted a more compact loaf that would give taller slices. That’s what I wanted as well. The only other adjustments I made was adding some additional cinnamon and some walnuts. I was really surprised that it took so long to bake (an hour). Just keep that in mind if you decide to make this. Is it worth the baking time? Definitely, yes!

Lesson Learned 1- Cut the apples into small chunks: This recipe calls for only one apple so make sure you either get a decent sized one or you can use two small apples. I used a medium/large granny smith apple when making this recipe and I had more than enough. You want to cut the apple into small chunks so they will cook completely. I drizzled a little bit of lemon juice over my apple chunks to keep them from turning brown before I could add them to the cake batter.

IMG_1204Lesson Learned 2 – Get down and dirty when you swirl the batter: The process for making this recipe is similar to any boxed sweet bread you buy, that being you add half the mixture to the bottom of the pan, add the apples and brown sugar mixture, add the rest of the batter and put the remaining apple and brown sugar mixture on top. Then you’re supposed to either swirl the batter with a knife or your finger. Forget the knife – it will not do the trick. Stick your finger (clean of course) down deep into the batter and really swirl it around. The apples require a little elbow grease to move them. I have struggled with this swirling technique with many cakes and finally using my finger, going deep into the batter and using a little bit of strength I finally got the results I wanted. Don’t waste your time with a knife. Use your finger and don’t be afraid to really get down into the batter and swirl it.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t be afraid to adjust the amount of cinnamon: I really like the flavor of apples and cinnamon and I really like the cinnamon flavor to be pronounced. The original recipe called for 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I used two and it tasted divine. You wind up swirling the cinnamon and brown sugar through the cake at the end. I just don’t think 1 teaspoon is enough to get a nice blend of cinnamon throughout the entire cake.

This is another great Fall apple recipe. It is very easy to mix – just be aware that it may take longer to bake then anticipated. As with any other cake, it is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy this one!

Apple Walnut Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

2 extra large room temperature eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1 3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup milk

1 large apple peeled and chopped

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 tsp. lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8 x 4 loaf pan. (If using a professional grade non-stick pan like I do there is no need to do this). Mix brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Peel and core the apple. Chop into small pieces. Drizzle pieces with a small amount of lemon juice and stir to make sure all pieces are coated. Set aside.

Beat sugar and butter together until creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla extract.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Stir into butter mixture. Add the milk and mix until the batter is smooth. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Put half of the apple pieces on top and pat them into the batter. Sprinkle with half of the brown sugar mixture. Pour in the remaining batter and top with the rest of the apples and brown sugar mixture. Using your finger, swirl the apples and brown sugar mixture throughout the batter making sure to go deep into the pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

 IMG_1247

acake

Raspberry Walnut Bars…

I made three holiday cookies recipes yesterday and posted pictures of the final results on Facebook. Without a doubt two of the three were big hits with my friends. (The third, chocolate chip cookies, are such a traditional favorite that they did not get much attention). The biggest hit as determined by the number of recipe requests I received were the Raspberry Walnut Bars followed by the Triple Chocolate Brownie Cookies. The latter will be the subject of an ensuing blog, but today we’re focusing on the media favorite.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars

There’s a lot of reasons for this recipe being so popular. First, and probably foremost, it looks so darn delicious. Second, and not known by those requesting the recipe, it is sinfully easy to make. And third, the recipe turns out perfect first time, every time. I can’t take credit for the recipe, it was one I found a few years ago, I simply can’t remember where I found it. So up front I apologize to whomever I am not giving credit to for the actual recipe. And, as with all the recipes I make these days, I will give it may rating and share my lessons learned making it.

Recipe Rating: A++++++++++ (get the message)? I just can’t say enough about this recipe. I remember the first time I saw a picture of it. It looked so good but I thought it would be hard to make. Was I ever wrong. This recipe couldn’t be simpler and it has turned out perfectly every time I’ve made it, including the first time. And it’s not all that often that a recipe turns out picture perfect the first time you make it. So you definitely have to try this one. You will love it.

Lesson Learned 1: Perhaps the hardest thing about this recipe is preparing the pan. The recipe calls for lining a 8 inch square pan with parchment paper allowing some overhang on both sides. Trying to keep parchment paper from popping back out of the pan when you allow for overhang can be tricky. I found the easiest way to make the parchment paper behave is to take two heavy cans of anything and weigh down the paper in the pan while making the dough. That way when it’s time to spread the dough out on the bottom the paper has been somewhat trained and doesn’t jump around as much.

Lesson Learned 2: It is important to follow the directions of using the parchment paper, having the overhang and spraying the parchment paper with cooking spray. I can’t image what you would wind up with if you didn’t. But if you take the time to do it, it comes out of the pan easily and absolutely nothing sticks to the parchment paper.

Lesson Learned 3: This recipe gives you plenty of dough so don’t worry about using it to fill up the bottom. It says to use two thirds of the dough for the crust and one third to dot the top. I found that gave me way too much dough for the top. You need a lot less dough to dot the top then you think, so don’t be afraid to use more than two thirds of the dough for the crust.

Lesson Learned 4: Avoid the temptation to use too much raspberry jam. A nice even thin coat is all you need. Stick to the amount called for in the recipe.

Lesson Learned 5: Depending on how many bars you want to give out, you may have to make this recipe a couple of times. You can make the bars big or small, but the most you’ll probably get out of this recipe is 24 small bars.

I guarantee these bars will be a hit with your family and friends. You simply must try them!

Raspberry Walnut Bars

  • Servings: 2 dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Non stick baking spray

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup raspberry jam

1 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang on both sides. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. (I do this right before I am ready to put the dough into the pan).

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. (This does take a little time, most people do not do this thoroughly enough so make sure to take the time to make the mixture fluffy). Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined. Do not over mix. Transfer two thirds of the dough into the prepared pan and press down evenly. Spread the jam on top. Crumble the remaining dough and dot it over the jam. Sprinkle the top with the walnuts. Bake until golden 35-45 minutes. Cool completely in the pan. (this is very important).

Holding both sides of the parchment paper, lift out of the pan, transfer to a cutting board and cut into rectangles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars