Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake with lovely Orange Essence

Torta con Zucchini, Arancia e Cioccolata

Hello friends,
Yeah, yeah ... another dessert but you'll love it - promise! I know, it sounds strange because of the secret ingredient, zucchini! I call it a secret ingredient becuase although there are 3 of them in this cake, you don't see or taste them. Why add zucchini if you don't even taste them, you ask? Well, apart from the health benefits listed below, I'm pretty sure it adds moisture. Another benefit is that you can feed this to a fussy child who won't touch zucchini with a 10 food pole and they won't even know it!

First let me tell you where I got the recipe..I was shopping at Costco (which I still insist on calling Club Price lol) and I wandered over to the cookbook section, as usual. I picked up this cookbook by Maria Loggia. I had never heard of her, nor had I seen her on the Food Network. I quickly flipped through the pages, not expecting much but what I found was page after page of great recipes..I snatched up the book quickly and casually placed it in the basket but my fiancee noticed and said, "another cook book??" in an exasperated tone..to which I exclaimed "YES BUT... THERE ARE SO MANY GOOD RECIPES IN THIS BOOK!!" He rolled his eyes.

He won't complain when I make something out of this world , now will he? As I suspected, he loved this Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake! - He's my biggest fan. (He says that he'll really be my "biggest" fan if I keep this up :)

I guarantee you'll be seeing and reading about my adventures making many of Maria's creations, right here on this blog.  I can't wait to try the stuffed chicken legs, stuffed olives or the fresh ricotta topped with a mixture of olives, pistachios and olive oil!! Check this book out for yourselves, buy one for a loved one or keep it for yourself and show off the next time you have guests over :) . Maria Loggia is a local chef but that's all I know for now..

Note to self: Google Maria Loggia

Health note:
Nutritionally, zucchinis are rich in valuable antioxidants. Plus contain beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid and calcium. Zucchini are also a good source of fiber (4 grams per cup). One cup of zucchini has nearly as much potassium as a banana. Plus it contains the valuable mineral nutrient phosphorus

Zucchini is not the only star here. Dark chocolate is a powerful antioxidant!

RECIPE (finally lol)

Yeah , you guessed it. I cut a piece for myself before taking a picture for my blog lol...So I tried to be artistic with the missing piece. 


2+1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
2+1/2 tsp baking powder
1+1/2 tsp  baking soda
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
3 medium-sized zucchini, quartered lenthwise, white membrane removed, finely shredded (i used a cheese grater)
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temp.
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs at room temp
zest of one orange
2 tsp of pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of orange extract (optional) - I put 1/4 tsp
1/2 cup milk at room temp.
1 cup of pecans, finely ground
1 cup of quality bitter-sweet chocolate chips  - I used dark chocolate chips 50%

Grease a bundt pan with butter + flour for dusting or PAM for baking

When cake has cooled, dust cake with icing sugar and serve with fresh berries and mint leaves.

Preheat oven to 350F. 

In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Put shredded zucchini in a tea-towel or paper towl and wring to remove excess moisture (don't go crazy, just a couple of squeezes :)

In another large bowl, beat the butter on high until it is light and fluffy. 
Gradually the sugar and beat until sugar is comletely incorporated. (scraping the sides of the bowl)
 Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well each time.
Add orange zest, vanilla and orange extract
Beat until light and fluffy
Add zucchini and mix well. 
On low speed, gradually add flour mixture to the batter alternating with the milk
Mix until combined, do not overmix. 
Fold in the pecans and chocolate chips
Pour batter into the greased bundt pan and bake for 55 to 60 min, or until  a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes and thn invert cakeonto a wire rack. 
Cool to room temp and dust with icing sugar. Serve with fresh fruit and garnish with mint leaves.

Enjoy this & have a great day!

David's Nana's Lemon Cookies

Hi Everyone!

This recipe was the runner up in my Lemon Cookie bake-off but let me tell you, they didn't lose by much. Almost a tie! In fact, this is the one I voted for. I absolutely loved them and as I stated in a previous post, they remind me of the cookies my grandmother used to make. What I found interesting is that Nana incorporates orange as well as lemon, producing a more subtle citrus taste.


3 Eggs (at room temperature)
1 cup of sugar
1  cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of orange juice
Zest of one big orange
5 cups all purpose flour
4 generous tsps of Magic baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 F

In a bowl, beat eggs and sugar until smooth,
slowly incorporate oil, orange juice and orane zest.

Add flour, one cup at a time and baking powder, 1tsp at a time

When properly combined, pour batter onto a floured surface and kneed gently until smooth.
Mixture must still be soft but not overly sticky

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil

Cut our a heaping tsp of dough and roll it out into a 10" long by 1" thick "rope"

Then cut in 2" pieces. Hold the end with your finger and overlap the other end to close the ring.

Then twist

Place the cookies on the cookie sheet at least 1 inch apart and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Remove from oven and let cool. Yields approx. 48 to 50 cookies

(Once again, if you make giant cookies like mine lol...You'll have to cook them for a little longer. The bottom of the cookie should be golden and the top, only slightly golden. You can achieve this faster by baking on convection)

1lb of Icing sugar
1 tsp of lemon juice
Gradually add water until it is the right consistancy. Should not be too liquidy.

Then dip each cookie into the icing sugar and place them on waxed paper or parchment to dry. Store in an airtight container for 1wk.

Thank you - and as always, send me your feedback.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The winning recipe! Glazed Lemon Ricotta Cookies

As promised, here's the winning recipe so that you can make them yourselves...

Its becoming more popular to give baked goods as gifts around the Holiday season. Why not do that with these fanominal cookies. You can buy cute pastry boxes from Ares Kitchen Supplies.

Preheat oven to 350
( I like to bake on convection for cookies because you can bake all the cookies at once on two racks; they also turn golden faster)

With a mixer, cream (blend) the following until smooth:
1/2 pound of salted butter (softened)
1 + 1/2 cup of sugar

Still using your mixer...

2 X-Large eggs (or 3 small ones)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Container of ricotta (475 gr)
(Beat together)

Then gradually add:
3 1/2 cups of flour (you'll need some muscle!)

When mixture is properly combined, take a teaspoonful of mixture and roll it between your hands (small meatball size)
TIP: if its too sticky, dust your hands with flour before rolling each ball
When you get the hang of this, try to make the twist or swirl shape.

Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil, for 10 to 13 min. (if you make giant cookies like mine, it'll probably take around 25 to 30 min. I consider them ready when the bottom of the cookies turn golden brown and the tops start to show a little bit of color, a light tan if you will)

Prepare icing sugar while cookies bake.
Mix approximately 3 cups of icing sugar the the juice and zest of 1 to 1+1/2 lemons. Mixture should not be too liquidy.

Allow cookies to cool on a rack. Once cooled, dip the top of each cookie in the icing sugar, let excess drip off and place on some parchment or wax paper to dry.

Lemon Cookie Bake-off - Two recipes go head to head!

Hi all!

My favorite dessert of all time is definitely those Italian, lemon cookies with the sugar glaze. I've been searching for the recipe for a while. I finally got the recipe from a friend of my grandmother's and to my dismay the recipe had no quantity indicated for the flour. It just said "quando basta", meaning "when its enough"...lol...To me, this means nothing...How am I supposed to know "quando basta"?! I made them that time but they were too floury..They were good but you needed coffee or a glass of water to wash them down. *cough-cough*

So recently, my lovely sister-in-law, Johanne gave me a recipe that she got from a friend...It was for Lemon cookies, much like the traditional ones except they are made with Ricotta cheese. Then at work, my buddy David gave me his grandmother's more traditional recipe. (or rather, his Nana, which he affectionately calls her :) Both recipes had clear instructions - no guesswork! YAY!

Anyway, from having no recipe, I now had two. What to do?  Both David and Johanne said that their recipes were amazing. So, I decided to have a lemon cookie bake-off to determine which was, in fact, the best. I planned to make both types and have family and friends vote on their favorite.
So, this weekend I made both types..36 of each! (The recipes were supposed to yield between 45-50 cookies..lol but I made mine huge!! I always do that..cookies, meatballs...HUGE!)

I got some small pastry boxes to distribute and the race was on!

The Lemon-Ricotta cookies came out great. They were light and fluffy with a pronounced lemony flavor, which I loved. I looove lemon!

David's Nana's also came out great, they actually looked a little better because they held their shape really well. They had a subtle citrus flavor, thanks to the use of orange juice and zest and only a little bit of lemon in the glaze. They were also a little more dense and floury. They were like the ones I remembered from childhood...awwww.

Main recipe differences : In the Lemon-Ricotta recipe, the cookies themselves contained no lemon. The lemon juice and zest was only added to the glaze. Whereas, in David's Nana's recipe, there was orange juice and zest in the cookie and lemon juice in the glaze. Also in the Lemon-Ricotta recipe, it called for 3 cups of flour and 1/2 a pound of butter vs. David's which required 5 cups of flour and 1 cup of oil. (both recipes will be posted, starting with the winner)

First, my vote...I loved them both and couldn't decide which I liked best..but after much pondering and  ingesting many, many cookies I decided on David's Nana's cookies. It must have been those childhood memories, because both recipes were excellent. My fiance, Andre loved the Lemon-Ricotta ones. Bianca, my sister, liked the subtle flavor of Nana's cookies.

My friends, who are also followers of Vanilla Bean, were really into the whole voting thing, which I was really excited about. They were judging based on taste, texture and looks. So, they'd take a bite, look up, savor it..and then provide detailed commentary...Aftertaste, no aftertaste, tangy, sugary, floury....
Iron Chef judges over here! lol ...but it's just what I wanted.

The verdict! Johanne's Lemon-Ricotta cookies won!!!! Congratulations!!

Most commented that although both cookies were good, these had a lighter, softer texture.
It was so close..11 to 7! It was a little suspenseful :D At first I was sure the Lemon Ricotta ones were winning, then a few votes came in putting Nana's cookies ahead..lol.. and then, well, you know...

Here are some pics thanks to my poor IPhone which is always by my side, full of flour and dough ...No joke! I'm sure there's flour in there!

Cookie making in progress

Orange zest being added to Nana's batter.

For the shape, take a heaping teaspoon of dough, put a little flour on your hands and roll out, like this.

Then join the two ends together and....

Do the twist!

Here I just wanted to display the consistency the confectioner's sugar should be.

Dip your cookie, and let the excess drip 

Enjoy with a coffee!