Raspberry Crumble Bars

I'm so into these raspberry crumble bars.

I personally have a long history with the fruit and oat bar: a few years ago, finding out the history of the Mazurka bar (and it's an interesting one) became my Big Project. While I always loved the flavor of fruit and oat bars, delving into how they became so firmly planted in Seattle culture was fascinating to me. 

But I've learned something since leaving Seattle: fruit and oat bars taste good everywhere. And this version, from the new book The Yellow Table, is stellar: simple, and perfectly flavored with brown sugar to complement the oats and nuts in the crust/topping. I hope you'll enjoy as much as I did!


RASPBERRY CRUMBLE BARS

Makes 16 bars

Come summer, these raspberry crumble bars are on regular rotation at our house. To keep things simple, the shortbread dough that’s used for the base doubles as a crunchy topping.

  • 1 cup all‐purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick), plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes 3/4 cup old‐fashioned rolled oats (not quick‐cooking)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup raspberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8 x 8‐inch baking pan, or spray with non‐stick cooking spray.
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Turn the dough out into a bowl and use your hands to gently knead in the oats and pecans.

Set aside 1/2 cup of the dough and press the rest into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the raspberry jam evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/4‐inch‐thick border. Arrange the raspberries over the jam, then sprinkle with clumps of the reserved 1/2 cup of dough.

Bake until the edges are golden brown, about 30 minutes. It will be a bit gooey in the center when you take it out of the oven, but it firms up as it cools. Set the pan on a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.
Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bars. Make one cut down the center, rotate the pan and make a second cut down the center to create four large bars. Using a large spatula, lift the bars out onto a big cutting board and cut them into smaller squares.

These are best when served the day they are baked, but you can store any remaining bars, in an airtight container, layered with parchment, at room temperature, up to 1 day. 

Reprinted with permission from The Yellow Table published in 2015 by Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. © Anna Watson Carl. Photography by Signe Birck

What Happens When You Cook Biscuits Like Pancakes?

I know, I'm jumping the gun because it's Sunday and this is definite #whathappenswednesday territory. But it simply couldn't wait, because this question could revolutionize brunch: what happens when you cook biscuits like pancakes?

A few weeks ago, King Arthur Flour sent me a bunch of biscuit making supplies for their "Build a Better Biscuit" promotion. There are some very cool bloggers who have created biscuit recipes--some of my faves are linked at the bottom of the post.

Basically, the idea is that King Arthur Flour wanted we the bloggers to help promote awesome biscuit making and pass on tips and wisdom. Well, I am not sure if I am passing on wisdom, but I am certainly passing on a cool idea. If you want wisdom, though, you're in luck: you can call the King Arthur Baking Hotline 855-371-2253 for carb support and biscuit making and baking tips. 

In the parcel from KA Flour, there were some basic biscuit recipes to get the inspiration going. As I was looking through the biscuit recipes they sent, all of them looked really good--I mean, I love biscuits. But part of my mind couldn't help but wander out of the coloring lines and into experimental territory. And I found myself wondering: "what would happen if I made biscuit dough but then cooked it up pancake style?"

Well, let me tell you, it didn't take me long to get rolling in the dough so as to make this experiment happen.

I made the King Arthur cream biscuit recipe, pretty much to the letter. But then I divided the batch in half. Half of it, I baked per the instructions (425 degree oven for 12-16 minutes). I reserved about 6 of the biscuit cutouts, and then fired up a skillet with a nice knob of butter.

I started the skillet on high heat, but the moment I added the biscuit dough, I lowered it to medium, because I knew that the thickness of the biscuits would require a slower, longer cook time than most typical pancakes (I know this because of my super puffy pancake experiment). 

The biscuit-cakes cooked for 2-3 minutes on each side, and came out like this.

I loved how they retained the side view of a biscuit with the little craggy-textured sides, but also looked like pancakes on the top.

Just to do a comparison, here are the pancake-style biscuits versus the traditionally baked ones. 

So how did they taste? 

 

Interestingly, even though they were the same exact dough as the baked biscuits, the flavor experience was quite different. The pancakes were denser, and felt heartier, even though the amount of butter they were cooked in was about the same as the amount used to brush on top of the baked biscuits. 

They were crispy on the edges, but soft in the center. It was an unexpected, but interesting texture contrast to the biscuit flavor. I wasn't sure how I felt at first, but after a few bites, I was like "yeah, this is a good thing."

I'm not going to say that everyone should stop baking biscuits and start pan frying them from now until forever, but I am saying that this is a delicious and exciting new brunch or breakfast opportunity.

Cream biscuits

traditional version and pancake option

Printable version here - adapted from King Arthur Flour

This recipe yielded about 12 biscuits for me.

2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1 to 2 tablespoons (1/2 to 1 ounce) melted butter, optional, for brushing on top

Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 425°F; move a rack to the top third of the oven.
2) Whisk together the flour and the sugar.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk the vanilla into the cream.
4) Make a well in the flour/sugar mixture, pour the vanilla and cream into the well, and stir until everything comes together. If there's dry flour around the sides and bottom of the bowl, stir in additional cream or milk until all the flour is moistened.
5) Turn the dough onto a well-floured work surface, sprinkle flour on top of the dough, and fold it over several times.
6) Pat the dough into a 7" circle about 1/2" thick.
7) Use a sharp biscuit cutter (2 1/4" is a good size) to cut rounds. Place them on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
8) Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar or cinnamon-sugar, if desired. This is a nice touch if you're going to use the biscuits for shortcake.
9) Bake the biscuits for 12 to 16 minutes, until they're golden brown.
10) Remove the biscuits from the oven, and cool them right on the pan, or on a rack.
11) To make shortcake: Split the biscuits in half horizontally. Top each bottom half with berries or sliced fruit (and whipped cream, if desired). Add the top halves, and top with whipped cream.

Biscuit pancake variation:

follow the recipe up until step 8, omitting the oven preheating. Then, instead of baking, heat up a skillet with a knob of butter. Set the heat to medium-high, and place as many biscuit rounds as comfortably fit. Immediately reduce the heat to medium or even medium low. Cook until golden and browned, flip, and then repeat on the second side. For me, this was about 5 minutes total. 

Serve warm, with butter and syrup or whatever pancake makings you like. 

As promised, some of the other cool biscuit varieties bloggers have come up with:

Easy cherry self-rising biscuits via Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

Pimento cheese biscuits via The Kitchen Prep Blog

Buttermilk bacon sage biscuits via Broma Bakery

Easy buttermilk biscuits with honey cayenne butter via Baked Bree

Apple pie biscuit shortcakes via Beyond Frosting

Roasted beet feta biscuits via Take a Mega Bite

Cheddar rosemary biscuits via Will Bake for Books

What is your favorite type of biscuit?

Birthday Cake Biscuits

If you've ever found yourself feeling like there was something missing from your life, I have the answer. Birthday cake biscuits. That is what has been missing. 

Birthday cake biscuits. Isn't that just the most delightful string of words you've heard all day? 

The idea came to me simply: I had some leftover pink buttercream because my BIRTHDAY was the other day, and I was making biscuits for an upcoming King Arthur Flour "Build a Better Biscuit" baking experiment.

I thought to myself "what if I made a shortcake, but instead of strawberries and whipped cream like the rest of the jerks in the world, I used frosting and sprinkles?".

Well, I knew a good idea when it hit me and I hastened to make it happen. 

To everyone who thinks that shortcake with strawberries is the end-all biscuit dessert, please open your eyes already. I AM OFFERING YOU CARBS AND FROSTING HERE. 

Every bite was better than the last. The creamy buttercream was perfect for keeping the biscuits moist, and imparted a sweet flavor complement that was something like the experience of eating a well-made scone with an awesome glaze, but much better. 

Do yourself a favor and make some birthday cake biscuits.

Birthday cake biscuits

Makes 5 cakes

Grab a biscuit, and spread buttercream on the top.

Roll the sides in sprinkles. Add a second biscuit on top. 

Oh heck, let's add more buttercream.

And more sprinkles on top. Repeat with the remaining biscuits. Put a candle on top and wish yourself a happy early or late birthday. Smile. 

This Buttercream is Made from Chickpea Water and I'm Not Kidding

I'm serious, you guys. This buttercream is made with a most unusual ingredient: chickpea water. Loveletter Cakeshop of NYC went ahead and answered a question I didn't even know I had for this week's #whathappenswednesday: what happens when you make buttercream from chickpea water?

When Brandon Baker (real name, not kidding) of Loveletter Cakeshop reached out to me asking if I'd like to share a recipe for this unusual buttercream featuring "aquafaba" (yes, that is the official name for chickpea water), I was intrigued. When he sent it, I simply knew it had to be featured on the site.

I'll let Brandon take it from here. Here's the good word on chickpea-enhanced buttercream, according to Loveletter Cakeshop:

Aquafaba buttercream: what's the deal?

Everyone deserves a good birthday cake. Except, vegans are probably the only subset of the population that has a pretty hard time finding one. Are you keeping Kosher? No problem. Just vegetarian? Done. Vegan? Hope you like Crisco!

As a vegan myself, eating vegan cake has been an exercise in futility and disappointment, as most vegan cakes taste like grease­-slathered cornbread. C'mon, this is my birthday! I deserve better, don't I? Well, thanks to Aquafaba, vegans worldwide are finally getting their cake and eating it too.

Aqua­whaba? Let me explain. The word “Aquafaba” stems from the Latin words for “bean” and “water”, and you'll soon see how this magical ingredient is able to produce the most delicious vegan buttercream you've ever had. It's so good, you'll be able to serve it to a wedding party of 200 guests and no one will be able to tell the difference. Go ahead, just ask me how I know.

Warning: if you're a novice baker, this recipe is quite involved. There's melting, there's boiling, there's freezing, and you'll probably mess up a few times before you get it right. This isn't a throw-­stuff-­in­-your­-mixer-­and-­beat-­it kind of recipe. But the results are so, so worth it.

Best of all, you can take this foundation and build on it in an infinite number of ways. Want a vegan mocha buttercream? Add espresso. Want a vegan chocolate buttercream? Add melted chocolate and soymilk. Just want to eat frosting by the spoonful? Hey, it's your party big boy.

Let's get to it.

 

Aquafaba Buttercream: Recipe

INGREDIENTS

Adapted from Loveletter Cakeshop's Vegan Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 1 cup (220g) food grade cocoa butter (melted)
  • 1 cup (220g) palm oil (melted)
  • 1.5 cups Aquafaba (the liquid from approximately two cans of chickpeas)
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
  • A splash of soy milk/almond milk
  • An ice cube tray (or two)

Procedure

1. Place cocoa butter and palm oil in separate bowls. Place bowls over hot water to gently melt the oils.

2. When oils have completely melted, combine them and whisk vigorously with a fork until fully incorporated

3. Pour your oil mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze for 30 minutes to an hour.

4. Sift your sugar and cream of tartar into a bowl and set aside.

5. Now it's time to reduce the Aquafaba. Pour your bean juice into a pot and set it on the stove on medium high. You’ll want it to reach about a quarter of its original weight or volume, whichever method you prefer. If you've got a good eye, you can eyeball it. This will take about 15 to ­20 minutes.

6. Add your sugar and cream of tartar immediately after removing the aquafaba from the stove. The more thoroughly you mix at this stage, the silkier your buttercream will be.

7. Pour your mixture into a the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip for 6 minutes or until you've reached a stiff meringue. When in doubt, keep whipping. It's hard to overwhip this meringue. Set aside.

8. Open up your freezer and test your oil mixture by touching it with your finger and ensuring it's rock hard. If it is, remove your tray from the freezer and let it thaw.

9. Here's the crucial step. You're going to throw your oil “cubes” into the meringue, but not until they've thawed enough for your finger to make a dent in them when you press into one. In my experience, it takes about 20­ to 30 minutes of sitting at room temperature before your oil is ready. If you wait too long, your buttercream will be soupy and melted, and if you don’t wait long enough, your oil cubes won't incorporate properly into the meringue. (This is the only difficult step in this recipe, so if you've got this one down, you're nearing the finish line.)

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10. When your oil cubes are ready, throw them into the meringue and mix on medium until your buttercream is smooth.

11. If your buttercream seems too thick, add your soy milk / almond milk very, very slowly until you've got the consistency you're looking for. If you add too much, your buttercream will become too runny, so take caution.

11. Pat yourself on the back and breathe a sigh of relief. You've made it!

NOTES

­I understand not everyone runs a commercial bakery and has cocoa butter just lying around the kitchen. It's OK. You can make this recipe using straight palm shortening, but you may have to fiddle with the proportions to make sure your buttercream is stiff enough. And you'd probably want to omit the milk at the end.

Fair warning: this recipe made with 100% palm shortening won't taste nearly as good as a 50/50 blend with cocoa butter. You know how delicious white chocolate is? It's essentially just sweetened cocoa butter with vanilla and milk added in.

­If you're committed to the cocoa butter, you must make sure that you're buying FOOD GRADE cocoa butter. If it doesn't specifically say the words “Food Grade,” assume it's not. And if you want a more neutral flavor, use deodorized cocoa butter. 

Would you try aquafaba buttercream?

Four Ingredient Ganache Cookie Pie

Four ingredients, yo.

I've never tasted a "doctored" sweet as wonderful as this pie. It starts with a refrigerated store-bought tube of cookie dough, but by simply combining it with cream, chocolate, and pecans, you get something that looks way, way, way fancy. 

Chocolate chip cookie dough dotted with buttery pecan bits and then topped with ganache. Could life get any better?

Seriously. This is a recipe for non-bakers, because it's so easy to make and yields such a delicious result.

Seriously. This is a recipe for bakers, too, because it is a crowd-pleasing winner. If you're super DIY you can even make your own cookie dough, it's fine with me. 

I'm not going to waste any more of your time. You want to make this magic happen? Here's what you do.

Four ingredient ganache cookie pie

Printable version here

You need:

  • 1 tube of refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (can substitute another nut)
  • 4 ounces coarsely chopped chocolate
  • 4 ounces heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a pie plate, and press the cookie dough evenly into the pie plate, as flat as you can.

2. Sprinkle the top of the dough with 3/4 cup of coarsely chopped pecans, and press them fairly firmly into the cookie mixture (but try to maintain an even height). If you chose to omit them, you'd be down to just three ingredients, but I think they make it taste extra-special and fancies up the dough so it's less evident that the dough is from a tube. So do it. 

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. This might vary depending on the brand you use (I used Pillsbury). Remove from the oven and let the cookie-lined pie plate cool for about 20 minutes on a wire rack. I know, you want to eat it now. But don't yet! 

4. Make ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a high simmer. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir until it comes together into a creamy, cohesive mixture. 

5. Pour on top of the cookie dough lined pie plate and spread evenly. Chances are the cookie mixture formed a little crust for you while baking and is slightly elevated around the rim of the plate. This makes the chocolate fill the space quite naturally.

6. Place the pie in the fridge and let it chill for about 30 minutes to an hour, or until firm enough to slice.

7. Once it's cooled, DO enjoy a slice.

ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY. 

Roundup of the St. Petersburg Cupcake Festival, Florida

CakeSpy note: what's sweeter than a cupcake festival? This fantastic recap is courtesy of Aditi at Follow the Red Velvet Road. Enjoy!

Fifth Annual St. Petersburg Cupcake Festival Morean Art Center Downtown St. Petersburg Saturday August 16th, 12:00 – 3:00

After last year’s foray into the Ybor Saturday Market Cupcake Festival, I decided to check out the 2015 calendar of events in the Tampa Bay area to see if there were any other cupcake themed events going on. I was delighted to find a cupcake festival in St. Petersburg, apparently it was an annual one. I didn’t hear about it last year so I was interested and excited to attend this year.

The festival itself is a fund raiser for the Morean Art Center in downtown St. Petersburg (more info here, Morean Arts Center). Patrons of the festival could purchase tickets which were used to vote for the People’s Choice for the best cupcake. There were also designated judges who voted for the best cupcake between novice and professional bakers. Over all, there were awards for first, second, and third place from the People’s Choice as well as the judges. All the money raised went directly back to the art center.

I didn’t realize how popular this cupcake festival was when I first read about it. A few friends and I decided to head over around 12:30, thinking we’d beat the bulk of the crowd. Apparently the entire Bay Area thought to go to this event because the entrance line was out the door. While this sounds delightful, and it’s great for the art center, the space was very limited. When we finally got into the art center, it felt like a herd of cattle being ushered through the space going from table to table and grabbing what we could. Some tables had already run out of cupcakes before 1:30!

There were some amazing bakers there though. The competition was open to non‐commercial, non‐ professional, and commercial bakers alike. There were some personal favorites present, including Sweet IRB from Indian Rocks Beach and Oobalamode from Tampa. I was also excited to see the places I hadn’t heard of and definitely plan to visit while I’m still living in the Bay Area.

Most of the bakers provided mini‐cupcakes as samples for the patrons. Some provided both mini and regular sized cupcakes. Others cut up large cupcakes to give out as samples. I tried a variety of cupcakes including cannoli (which was my ultimate favorite), salted caramel, spicy red velvet, and homemade funfetti. There were also cocktail themed cupcakes including margarita, hops, and irish carbombs. The variety was delicious, and I was very happy to see traditional flavors, like red velvet, represented.

The competition was fierce and it was hard to choose which cupcake to vote for, especially when I only had enough cash to buy one voting ticket. The winners were:

Novice Category:


1st Place: Lemon Blueberry Lavender ‐ Michelle Saxton
2nd Place: Bottom of the 9th Bacon with Caramel Buttercream ‐ Sarah Perkins 3rd Place: Banana Nutella ‐ Jennifer Jacobs
Professional Category:
1st Place: Hopcakes ‐ Lori Schmidt
2nd Place: Strawberry Coulis and Lemon Curd ‐ Michelle Garner

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3rd Place: Cannoli Cupcakes‐ Lori Schmidt

PEOPLE'S CHOICE:

 

1st Place: Jennifer Jacob's Banana Nutella

2nd Place: Michelle Saxton's Lemon Blueberry Lavender

In the end I was very impressed by the event and I can’t wait to attend next year. In the meanwhile, I will be looking forward to attending the Ybor Saturday Market Cupcake Festival again in October.

Follow The Red Velvet Road to more cupcake adventures at followtheredvelvetroad.blogspot.com Follow my adventures on Instagram @followtheredvelvetroad 

Discover This: Vietnamese Coffee

I have a funny story to tell you about coffee in Vietnam.

Photo credit: Colin Erricson

Ok, so here it is. I had a friend who went to a Starbucks in Vietnam (I know, hilarious already!). And apparently there was a bit of confusion when it came to the type of milk she'd prefer. After trying to explain, the employee said "oh, you want breast milk?". 

But I digress. Because we're here to talk about Vietnamese coffee, which is made with the magic of sweetened condensed milk. Yes, it comes from a can, but good-golly does it do something magical to coffee. Seriously--this stuff is amazing, and you might not ever go back to breast milk. 

This recipe is excerpted from the newly-released Simply Vietnamese Cooking by Nancie McDermott. Enjoy!

Vietnamese Coffee, Iced or Hot

Vietnamese coffee is a lingering souvenir of the French colonial presence in Vietnam. Along with delicious baguettes and the fabulous sandwiches they inspired, ca­phé sua da long ago made itself at home, embraced with such passion that it has become something very Vietnamese. You can make it at home with ease, with or without the signature top­ hat contraption used to prepare ca­phé in Vietnamese establishments. If you lack the metal filter but long for the taste, pour 2 tbsp (30 mL) of sweetened condensed milk into a coffee cup or sturdy bistro glass. Brew some espresso, add it to the cup and stir like crazy. Voilà ca­phé sua! Pour over ice and it’s ca­phé sua da.

Serves 1

  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground dark roast coffee
  • 3/4 cup boiling water

1. Spoon condensed milk into a coffee cup or a short drinking glass and place Vietnamese coffee filter on top. For iced coffee, fill a tall glass with ice cubes and set aside. Remove coffee filter’s lid, unscrew inner press and set both aside. Add ground coffee and then screw the press lightly in place to pack coffee down a bit. Add boiling water, cover with lid and let water drip through coffee, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Remove lid and rest upside down. Then place drained filter basket on inverted lid to catch any last drops of coffee. Stir well to mix coffee with milk. For iced coffee, pour coffee into ice­filled glass and serve. For hot coffee, skip the glass of ice or da and sip (carefully) your steaming ca­phé sua.

Tips

If you’re buying ground coffee, look for espresso so that it will be strong and robustly flavored. If you’re buying whole beans, look for French roast or Italian roast and grind the beans as finely as possible.

You’ll find the top­hat contraption in many Asian markets and through mail­order sources. 

Courtesy of Simply Vietnamese Cooking by Nancie McDermott © 2015 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

What Happens When You Bake Cake Batter and Frosting Together?

Listen, you guys. It's #whathappenswednesday!

Well, I'll be honest, this week I didn't get to complete my desired baking experiment because I'm not living at my house at the moment (I'm OK, it's a long story). 

BUT, I still have something to offer. Something delightful from my archives. The important question of the day: what happens when you bake cake mix, and a can of frosting, all together?

Hopefully this doesn't smack of a boring re-run, because if you haven't seen this post, it is really worth reading. 

Find out here. 

I Made Something Savory and I'm Not Sorry.

You heard me. I made something savory. I'm not sorry. This is what I made.

What is it, you ask? Well, it's little cubes of polenta with homemade tapenade and slow roasted tomatoes on top. I know. Fancy. I got the idea from a website called Coconut & Berries.

Basically, what happened was this. Someone contacted me and asked if I could make desserts for her party. I was all, OK.

And then she was like, hey, can you make a vegan appetizer, too? Well, why not?

I've never done such a thing, but it was actually pretty fun. I definitely would manage my time slightly better next time, but I did deliver on time. 

I made za'atar bread, mini peach pies, and these babies: polenta-olive tapenade bites. 

These little guys start out with polenta, plain and simple. But once you cook it, you transfer the still-gooey cereal into square brownie pan, and let it set in the fridge. From there, it will solidify into a solid unit. Once set, you cut it into cubes and toast them under the broiler, then top them with tapenade and tomato slices. 

I've got to tell you, these appetizers came out brilliantly. The polenta, made with vegetable broth, was not too bland, but not too powerfully flavored so as to compete with the other elements. The tapenade added a perfect, salty bite, and the mellow, slow-roasted tomatoes added a touch of sweetness. It was a perfect combo of salty, naturally sweet, and mellow. 

Not only are they cute, but pretty healthy and vegan and gluten-free, naturally. 

Hey, want to make your own? Follow this recipe.

Polenta Tapenade Appetizers

Adapted lightly from Coconut & Berries

Printable version here

  • 1 cup polenta (I used Bob's Red Mill)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 batch of olive tapenade (I did the "vegan" version of this recipe by omitting the anchovy)
  • cherry tomatoes (I used the better part of one of those mini baskets of them)
  • Parsley, for garnish 

Procedure

  1. Prepare the polenta per the package instructions, but using the vegetable broth in place of water. Add the tablespoon of olive oil toward the end of the cooking, for an extra-rich flavor.
  2. Once the polenta is done, transfer it into a greased and parchment-lined square brownie tin. Spread to smooth the top as much as you can. Place it in the fridge for an hour or so, to set. 
  3. Invert the pan on to a work surface; the polenta should come out in one solid piece. Cut it into cubes (I did about 1 1/2 inch cubes)
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set the oven to broil.
  5. Line the cubes on the prepared baking sheet. Place under the broiler for several minutes, or until the cubes are toasty and crisp.
  6. Remove from the oven, and let cool for a couple of minutes. Top with a small scoop of tapenade and a cherry tomato half (I slow-roasted mine by slicing them in half, sprinkling with olive oil, salt and pepper, and baking at 300 degrees until softened and lightly toasty). 
  7. Garnish with a little bit of parsley (I took my pics before I had done this!). You win at parties! 

What Happens When You Bake Cannoli as Mini Pies?

A cannolo (did you know that's the singular, and cannoli is plural? That's fairly new info to me) is a thing of beauty. But really, is fried and filled the only way to enjoy these Italian treats?

While some are of the mentality that "you shouldn't mess with a classic", I disagree. How on earth will you ever make new culinary discoveries if you're too scared to experiment in the kitchen?

This is all to say that recently, when developing a delicious olive oil cannoli recipe for Colavita, I went through many batches of the little tube-like treats, and along the way I found myself thinking "what if I baked the components as mini custard pies?". 

Here's what I did.

Basically, I started out the normal way. I made a batch of cannoli shell dough, and I made a batch of cannoli cream. 

But then, instead of frying and rolling the shells into tubes, I simply pressed them into cupcake liners, so that they looked like mini pie crusts.

Then I filled each shell with cannoli cream.

Then I baked them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. 

And here's how they came out. 

They looked absolutely beautiful.

Taste-wise, they provided an interesting experience. It really brought my attention to the fact that the frying is really a vital part of the cannoli experience. Because while these were quite pleasurable as little cheesecake-like tartlets, I would not have taken a bite and said "this is cannoli-flavored!". 

The shells were a tad...sturdy. I think that while they require a certain structure to be fried, in baked form they were a bit on the dry side. Not terrible, but not "wow" worthy, and perhaps a little bland. Like I said - that frying in oil goes a long way, flavor and texture-wise. 

I'm delighted to report, though: the filling was absolutely gorgeous. Cannoli cream, when baked, really is a thing of beauty. It formed a pleasant little golden crust on the top, and it was almost like eating the center out of one of those cream cheese muffins (really? come on. Cake.) they sell at Starbucks and such. Good stuff. 

You know what helped with the slightly dry crust issue, too? A nice dousing with the way-more-flavorful-than-it-sounds water ganache I have become addicted to. 

Cannoli baked as mini pies? Great idea, but the crust needs adapting. For better results, I'd use the regular cannoli cream, but use a classic pie crust recipe for the shells instead.

OK. So, to review, in case you want to give this a try:

How I did this:

I prepared the cannoli shells per this recipe, but did not fry them.

Instead of frying them, I pressed them into cupcake liners. I didn't use the entire batch to bake, but if I had, it would have yielded about 18 pies. 

I then filled each shell with cannoli cream (from the same recipe). 

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F, and when it was preheated, I baked the pies until golden - about 15 minutes. And then I topped them with ganache, because, why not? Well, let me tell you, I  couldn't resist digging in while they were still warm like that (though the rest did "set" more once cooled).


And voila! 

Have you ever baked a recipe that is supposed to be fried?