Can you Kolacky? Here’s the recipe.

Kolacky

My friend, Danusia, is originally from Poland, and came to Nashville by way of NY and Florida. She and her husband Bill came to dinner one day and she brought a LARGE bowl of these little irresistible pastries: Kolacky. Or Kolache. She said her mom made these all her life (a Polish recipe) but Danusia found the exact same recipe on Kroger’s website.

Kolacky

That night we all enjoyed the lovely dessert but there were so many (and so therefore leftovers), which didn’t last long since I single-handedly ate the rest by the end of the next day. Read: they’re SO good.

After some months passed without them I felt the need to re-create the yum and searched for the Kroger recipe. And found it. The tiny pastries have a cream cheese dough, soft and pliable. And the only other thing you need is jam.

Kolacky dough

Kolacky dough

The recipe below is a close version of Kroger’s since I can’t help but tinker.

ready to bake

ready to bake

And then I made a batch in chocolate. (Anything good, is also good in chocolate.)

chocolate dough

chocolate dough

isn't it fun to bake?

isn’t it fun to bake?

Bake these. They last for days (if you don’t polish them all off first). And they are capable of providing infinite delight.

Kolacky - 2 flavors

Kolacky – 2 flavors

Kolacky Pastries

For the cream cheese dough:

2 ounces cream cheese

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup flour

pinch salt

For the chocolate cream cheese dough:

2 ounces cream cheese

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup flour

pinch salt

1/4 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons sugar

Filling/Topping:

1/2 cup jam strawberry, apricot, orange, or your favorite

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pulse the ingredients for each dough separately in a food processor until large dough curds form. Pull together dough and  knead a little, then flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for an hour or 2 or overnight.

Roll each dough out separately (working with one disk of dough at a time) to about 1/8” thick. Using a 1-1/2 inch or 2-inch square cutter, cut out squares from the rolled out dough. Place a 1/2 teaspoon of jam in the center, Pinch together two opposite corners of the dough squares and fold slightly, pinching to close (so the dough stays together). Repeat with all the dough. Bake on a parchment-lined sheet pan for 20 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool completely before dusting lightly with powdered sugar.

Sweet Tomato Galette

Sweet Tomato Galette

Sweet Tomato Galette

Here come the tomatoes. And we’d better be ready. They will appear at the table in all their savory guises– or all alone, by themselves, because that’s usually all that’s needed.

summer tomatoes

summer tomatoes

But here’s a sweet twist on tomatoes. I offered up something similar in culinary school for a student contest. Made it to finalist. But now many years later I think I’ve perfected it even more. It’s a surprising taste. Sugar and Tomatoes. A taste you’ll cherish from now on.

I start with 2 medium tomatoes, sliced about a 1/4″ thick into half-moons. Lay them out in a colander and salt them well. Let them release some of their juices for about 1/2 hour.

salted tomato slices

salted tomato slices

Then I make my favorite tart pastry recipe. (See below.) Roll it out into an informal circle.

rolled pastry dough

rolled pastry dough

Then move it to a parchment or silpat-lined pan.

pastry dough

pastry dough

Drizzle a light layer of honey.

drizzle honey

drizzle honey

And start laying out the tomato slices in a circular pattern.

layer tomatoes

layer tomatoes

Filling in the center. Then sprinkling with sugar. I used Demerara sugar and white sugar, but use your favorite-tasting sugar.

Demerara sugar

Demerara sugar

Fold in the edges of the dough. Brush with an egg wash…

brush with egg wash

brush with egg wash

Sprinkle more sugar over the dough. Here I’ve also added some sparkling finishing sugar.

ready to bake

ready to bake

You need a good amount of sugar. That’s what makes the tomato flavor pop in this not-usual direction. Bake for about 35 minutes in a 375 degree oven until golden. Let it sit a bit before slicing. Sometimes juices accumulate in a puddle around the tomatoes when you first take it out, but then absorb into the galette as it cools for a few minutes.

baked tomato galette

baked tomato galette

Add to the sweet-savory combo by tearing a few basil leaves on top. The flavors do an unusual dance on your taste buds, then relax long enough for you to say: “Can I have another slice?”

tomato galette

sweet tomato galette

Sweet Tomato Galette

2 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4” half-moons

salt for sprinkling

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons Demerara sugar, divided

3 tablespoons white sugar, divided

2 tablespoons sparkling finishing sugar

1 egg for egg wash

5-6 basil leaves, torn

For the pastry dough:

1.5 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch salt

1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)

1/4 cup cold white wine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Make the pastry: Add the flour, sugar, salt and butter to the bowl of food processor. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly with small pea-sized pieces. Add wine. Pulse until mixture comes together as a dough. Turn dough out onto a work surface and press together into a thick disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes-1 hour.

Meanwhile, salt the tomato slices and let drain in colander for about 1/2 hour.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll it out into an informal circle on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/8” thick. Move to a parchment or silpat-lined sheet pan. Drizzle honey evenly over surface.

Place tomato slices in an overlapping circle, leaving about a 2-inch border of dough. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar, and white sugar. Fold in edges of the dough, overlapping. Brush dough with egg wash. Sprinkle more of both sugars over dough and the sparkling finishing sugar.

Bake for about 35 minutes until golden. When cooled, sprinkle with basil leaves.

Make My Galette Mini

mini fruit galettes

mini fruit galettes

I’m a galette lover. They are oh, so, splendidly free-form. Roll out your pastry dough into a rough circle, or oval, or oblong, or isosceles triangle (remember those?)–almost any shape works. Place your filling roughly in the center and fold over the dough borders. Bake. Tastes as wonderful as any pie you worked at fitting into a pan. Actually. It may even taste better. It’s non-conformist nature adds a taste of the wild.

Me and my love of the itty-bitty, took a galette a step further and made mini-galettes. Individual serving galettes. This takes a bit more time (as anything in many small shapes will) but I LOVE the results.

rolling dough for mini-galettes in my class

rolling dough for mini-galettes in my class

getting galettes ready to bake

getting galettes ready to bake

We make them in my classes and the thrill mounts as the little darlings of a pie come together.

Ready to bake mini-galettes

Ready to bake mini-galettes

Choose your fruit filling to go with the season. Peaches would be lovely now. Or berries and cherries. We’ve baked them with pears and apples, apricots and plums, blackberries and strawberries. ALL GOOD. Add a spoonful of whipped cream or ice cream to your own little fresh-baked galette and relax in the galette glow.

Mini-Galettes 

For the crust:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

pinch salt

10 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes

1/3 cup cold white wine

For the filling:

2-3 peaches or pears

1/3 cup walnuts, broken into small pieces

1/3 cup dried cranberries or blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons flour

1 egg, beaten in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until butter is broken up but not totally blended— still some small chunks. Add the wine, process until a dough forms in a clump. Take dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape into a thick disk, wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

For the filling: Peel the pears, cut into quarters, cut each quarter in half width-wise, and cut each piece into small chunks. In a mixing bowl stir together the pears, nuts, cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, and flour.

Make the galettes: Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a large circle or oblong, about 1/8” thick. Cut 6-inch circles of dough. Roll up scraps and cut out more circles. In the center of each circle, leaving a 1-inch border, place 2-3 tablespoons of filling. Fold over the border edges like a galette, making folds and flattening slightly. Brush dough with egg wash. Bake for about 30 minutes until the dough is golden, and filling is bubbling.

mini fruit galettes

mini fruit galettes

Would you like a little chocolate tart?

 

Chocolate Tarts in pan

Chocolate Tarts in pan

Whoa. What a blast in class tonight. We were cookin’ with gas even tho I have an electric stove top. But we knew what we were doing. It was like a little tornado in the kitchen. Spinning energy that stirred up every dish with friendly hot-happy enthusiasm. Oh yeah. Thank you great cooks who come cook with me!

Amidst the black pepper-infused fresh fettuccine (we thought we had over-peppered the pasta dough, but, oh, no, it was peppery and beautiful), and the veal stew with artichokes & white wine, and the escarole sautéed with garlic and dried cranberries, were the little charmers that made it out of the oven with modest sweetness and then wowed us when we crowned them with whipped cream and orange zest. Yay, dessert, we would never desert you. Little chocolate tarts …we bow to your genius.

How to? Easy. (I’m always interested in that special kind of easy that creates wonders.) (The kind I’ve seen over and over in Italian kitchens where the simple is the sublime.) (That’s my goal.) (Always.)

For the Crust:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon sugar

pinch salt

1/2 stick cold butter (4 tablespoons), cut into small cubes

1/8 cup ice-cold white wine (or a bit more if needed)

Pulse dry ingredients in a food processor. Add butter, pulse till broken up but still with big chunks. Add wine. Pulse till it comes together in a ball of dough. Press dough into a flat, thick disk. Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Roll out dough. Cut 3.5 to 4 inch circles. Fit dough gently into medium cupcake tin cups. Add some parchment in each, fill with dried beans, blind bake for 12 minutes in 375 degree oven. Remove parchment and beans.

For the Filling:

Heat 2/3 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan. When hot add 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, 1/2 teaspoon each: vanilla extract, orange extract, instant espresso powder. Whisk smooth. Beat an egg in a small bowl. Add a couple teaspoons of hot chocolate mixture to temper, whisk in. Then add egg to chocolate mixture and whisk till smooth.

Spoon filling into crusts. Bake for 10 minutes.

IMG_5053

When cool. Beat 1/2 cup heavy cream into whipped cream (with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar). Add a dollop to each tart. Sprinkle with some orange zest.

Chocolate Tarts w Cream

Chocolate Tarts w Cream

Try eating these with a fork in dainty forkfuls. Or by hand, just bite into them (with dainty bites). Or if you’re really feeling ambitious, pretend you’re on the Flintstones where any bite is a big one and munch the whole thing at once.

(It’s all a matter of style.)

Chocolate Tarts w Whipped Cream

Chocolate Tarts w Whipped Cream

 

Sometimes You Feel Like A CupCake

Cupcakes

Cupcakes

I always feel like a cupcake. I cannot make cupcakes (unless we’re making them in class) because when there are cupcakes in the house…I will eat them all. Yes, I grew up in an Italian-American household but American cupcakes were entrenched in my mom’s kitchen menu.

This recipe is hers. And I have baked these cakes for years and years. They have all kinds of significance. Dessert for a dinner. Dessert for a catering client. Dessert for a birthday.

Birthday Cupcakes

Birthday Cupcakes

And when I lived in NY and watched NY Jets football with my NY Jets buddy, Gerri, I made cupcakes to bring us luck! Every time the Jets were in trouble or if it was 3rd & a long 18…we each ate a cupcake to give them some luck, umph, fan power…whatever would bring about a 1st down! It worked…some of the time.

Jets Cupcakes

Jets Cupcakes

Jet Fans

Jet Fans

Make these over the holidays. They are perfect! Not too dense, not to crumbly. And the icing is perfect for human bites…not a tower of creamy sugar, but a true icing…an elegant schmear of sweet.

Cupcakes w/ Chocolate Icing

For the cupcakes:

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup milk

1 ½ cups flour

2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

For the icing:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar (you may need a little more)

2-3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup brewed espresso (hot)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Use a 12-cupcake tin with medium-sized cupcakes. Line it with cupcake papers.

Cream the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment in a stand mixer until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts. Mix until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add ½ of the flour mixture to the batter, mix until incorporated. Add half of the milk and mix well. Add the rest of the flour and mix till combined, add the last of the milk and mix until smooth.

Spoon batter into the cupcake papers – each one about 3/4 full.  Bake until golden – about 20 minutes.

For the icing:

In a medium mixing bowl press out the butter with a spoon to make it smooth. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa and mix until the butter is blended into small pieces with the sugar & cocoa. Add the vanilla and mix well. Make the espresso in an espresso pot or use instant espresso coffee. When hot, add a couple of tablespoons to the mixture and stir rapidly to combine. If frosting seems too thick, add more espresso until it becomes the right consistency.

When cupcakes are completely cooled, frost the tops using an offset spatula or small spatula. Smooth on 1-2 tablespoons per cupcake.

Ewww! You’re gonna eat that?

IMG_3277

French rolling pin, my favorite

When I was a little kid my mom steered me away from sweets. If I picked up a tootsie roll she’d scrunge her face into a frown and say: Eww. You’re gonna eat that? 

That’s the story I’m told. She’s a sweets lover (whipped cream being especially alluring). My sister, too, can happily munch cookies and candy every day. Me? Bakery displays used to appeal to me as much as the nuts & bolts bins at the hardware store. Eyes glaze over, not even seeing anything.

But that has, unfortunately, changed. I think it started in culinary school. I went to culinary school while I was still living in NYC. I was on the culinary, not pastry, track. But they interrupted our frying, braising, roasting and fabricating meat, for a quick 6-week pastry module. We whipped through puff pastry, cakes, caramel, and candies–each day bringing on a new technique.

It felt like a mini-vacation. No grease, no slimy hands, no potential salmonella, no leg joints, silverskin, or fish scales. Just butter and flour. Eggs. Everything felt lighter and happier. I feel in love with our puff pastry croissants, pain au chocolate and raisin rolls. I suddenly wanted to trail at my favorite NY cafes to learn how they made those pastries that would now pop into my eyes (and mouth) when I came in for a cappuccino or cafe au lait.

Since then I like to bake. It first felt a little foreign in my hands, but I’ve warmed up quickly. These little baked mini-pies have been haunting me since I first made them. In this recipe the filling is blueberries, strawberries, aleppo pepper & cinnamon. But I’m now dreaming of adding mascarpone. I’ll let you know how that comes out!

Mini-Pies w Fruit Filling

To make the crust, pulse in a food processor: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, pinch salt. Add 1 stick cold unsalted butter (that has been cut into cubes). Pulse until broken into small pieces. Add 1/4 cup of very cold white wine. Pulse until dough comes together in a ball. Remove and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

IMG_3272

unsalted butter, the baker’s friend

IMG_3274

like magic, food processor makes your pastry dough

Meanwhile make the filling. Combine 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup strawberries (cut into small pieces the size of blueberries), 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper.

IMG_3280

isn’t it great when food is as pretty as it tastes good?

Roll dough out and cut into 3-inch squares (or choose your shape & size). Place about a teaspoon of the mixture in the middle. Fold into a triangle and press sides together with fork tines to seal. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Repeat with the rest. (You can knead lightly and roll out the scraps to make a few more.)

IMG_3284

your own personal assembly line!

Makes about a dozen. Lightly beat an egg with a little water. Brush egg on top. Make a small slit in each and sprinkle a little sugar on top.

IMG_3292

dough, pin, cutter, little pie

Bake at 400 degrees F. for about 20 minutes until golden. YUM.

IMG_3296

I can eat at least five of them