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Cover: Founding Flavors

Recipes with Baking

03Mar 13

14 Must-have Supplies for Making Memorable Homemade Desserts

The more I bake, the more I’m convinced that anyone is capable of creating wonderful and impressive homemade desserts.  The secret is ensuring you have the proper equipment and use top-notch ingredients.  But, accumulating the proper supplies can be overwhelming, especially when you are new to baking.  There are so many products on the market and, often times, they are sold as items exclusively used for making one particular kind of baked good.  The reality is that you can produce an array of desserts from donuts to croissants to lemon meringue pie with the same 14 must-have baking supplies listed on www.foundingflavors.com.


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30Dec 12

Happy Holidays and For Heaven’s Sake Buy an Oven Thermometer!

This Christmas, I learned the importance of ensuring that your oven temperature is accurate when I attempted to make Black Forest Cake.  I was so excited as I navigated through the grocery aisles looking for sour cherries, powdered sugar, and chocolate.  I had found the perfect recipe so my fear of a disaster or having to endure several trails and errors was completely eliminated.  I could already hear the oohs and awes of family and friends as I walked in with my Black Forest Cake.  And, once I started beating the eggs with sugar and folding in the sifted flour, I took care to listen to the sound of the batter as it thickened to ensure it was just right.

I felt très Julia Child, waltzing around in my festive apron and opening the oven to bake the chocolate sponge cake layers at 325°F.  After exactly 15 minutes, I pulled out the cake because I was following the recipe to a T.  As I let it cool, I noticed it was about an inch flatter than what it should have been.   “No worries,” I told myself. “Who needs a three layer cake, when you can have a two layer cake!”  Well, that was the moment that my Christmas Day baking took a turn because not only was it an inch flatter, it also happened to be undercooked at the top, which by undercooked I mean that the batter started oozing out when I cut into it with a knife.  And, the bottom… was overcooked.  Just lovely.

Now, I was not only running late to Christmas dinner but I had no Black Forest Cake!  I frantically ran around town looking for a bakery to be open to salvage the day.  The pain of picking out another cake was too much to bare, so instead I selected an apple tart to ease the baking dagger going through my heart.  I had done everything right…the ingredients, the timing, and the mixing.  What had gone wrong?

While certain ovens may not distribute heat evenly or factors such as the weather might impact the final result of baked goods, like a sponge cake, people all around the world are still able to successfully create these desserts in their kitchen.  While you might not be able to prevent certain factors from occurring, there are some that can be remedied such as ensuring that the temperature displayed on your oven is the actual temperature inside your oven.  For me, this was the issue with the Black Forest Crisis of 2012.  Consequently, I have purchased an oven thermometer, especially after learning that ovens set to the same temperature can vary up to as much as 90 degrees!  So, do yourself a favor, and invest in an oven thermometer so that your culinary self-esteem doesn’t take a hit by your oven’s temperature being off!


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02Dec 12

Canela-Apple Cookies

The holidays are my favorite time of year.  Not just because everyone seems to be a little friendlier or because of the endless decorations and music, but because it brings me back home.  Sometimes physically and other times mentally.  This past week it was the latter that brought back memories of my grandmother’s holiday baking.  Growing up, my grandparent’s house was always well stocked with all sorts of goodies but the most coveted treats were her perfectly pressed cinnamon and sugar cookies.  The second she’d place them out, one-by-one we’d suddenly appear in the kitchen, as if by coincidence.  As I started thinking about these cookies, I also remembered several of her other desserts, including apple filled empanadas.  And, that’s how I got inspired to combine a bit of the two and create the Canela-Apple Cookie.   It has an outer cookie layer that resembles the flavors in her cinnamon and sugar cookies, is lined with a touch of homemade caramel, and then filled with spiced baked apples.


Cinnamon and sugar cookies
All-purpose flour: 2 cups
Baking soda: ¼ teaspoon
Butter, unsalted: 6 ounces or 12 tablespoons
Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
Egg, whisked: 1
Vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon

Homemade caramel
Alcohol of your choice: 1 teaspoon (I used Curacao triple sec but other excellent options include brandy and bourbon.)
Butter, unsalted: 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons
Cream of tartar: 1/8 teaspoon
Heavy cream: 2 tablespoons
Sugar: 1 cup

Spiced apple filling
Alcohol of your choice: 2 tablespoons (I used Curacao triple sec but other excellent options include brandy and bourbon.)
Apples, gala: 2
Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
Nutmeg: ½ teaspoon
Sugar: ¼ cup

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine all of the cookie ingredients in a bowl and mix.

3. Flour your baking surface and roll out the dough into a thin layer.  If the dough starts to stick to the rolling pin, simply place a bit of flour on the surface of the dough.










4. Create your desired shape using a cookie cutter.  Since it is the holidays, I opted for a snowman.








5. Gently lift the cutout using an icing spatula or knife.

6. Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

7. Once out of the oven, let the cookies cool.

8. Then, mix sugar and cinnamon on a plate and gently dip the front side of the snowman in the mixture until it is fully coated.








9. Line up the snowmen in pairs because each Canela-Apple Cookie will require two cutouts.

10. Now, you’ll prepare the caramel by placing one cup of sugar in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir occasionally as you allow the sugar to melt.








11. Once the sugar has melted and has a light amber color, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  The caramel mixture will bubble up a bit so keep stirring until your left with a caramel that has a smooth consistency.








12.  The caramel will start to harden so you’ll need to work cautiously and quickly as you use a spoon to drizzle caramel onto one snowman for each pair of cookies.








13. Now, it’s time for the apple filling.  Chop two gala apples into small squares and then combine the spiced apple filling ingredients into a saucepan and cook over medium heat.








14. Once apples are tender, use a potato masher to gently break the cooked apples apart.








15. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

16.  Use a spoon to place the apple filling over each caramel lined snowman and then gently press the remaining snowmen on top to create a cookie sandwich.








17. At this point, the caramel has hardened, which is why you’ll need to let the cookies sit for at least three hours so that the caramel melts into the apple filling mixture.  If you don’t have time to wait this long, you can skip the homemade caramel altogether and purchase a pre-made caramel spread.

18. Use a decorative platter to serve your cookies and enjoy!

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14Oct 12

Margarita Infused Cupcakes

I was recently invited to a casual weekend gathering and decided, naturally, that I’d bring dessert.  As I contemplated what specific treat to make, I decided I’d add a personal touch to my creation by honoring the host.  And, seeing as how the host was a fan of tequila, a margarita flavored cupcake seemed like the perfect choice for an outdoor barbeque.  Next time someone invites you over, try to personalize whatever hostess gift or offering you bring.  It is a great way to turn a casual “what should I bring” moment into a well-thought-out gesture that shows how much you appreciate the host’s hospitality.

To create the margarita flavored cupcakes, I started with a recipe for vanilla cupcakes and then adjusted, eliminated, and added ingredients to design my alcohol infused dessert.  You can even increase the amount of alcohol if you prefer a stronger taste.  Pass no judgment please, but let’s just say that after my husband suggested the idea, we may have made a mad dash to the pharmacy to pick up a syringe.  Despite the pharmacist’s concern and bewilderment when we indicated that the only thing we’d be injecting were cupcakes, we immediately ran back home, filled the syringe with triple sec and tequila, and proceeded to enhance the cupcakes’ taste with alcohol.  The result? A fabulously creative and clever cupcake that could possibly leave you feeling slightly tipsy both pre and post baking!


Margarita Infused Cupcakes
  • Cupcake recipe:
  • Butter: 8 tablespoons
  • Skim milk: 1 cup
  • Cake flour: 1¾ cups
  • All-purpose flour: 1¼ cups
  • Unrefined brown sugar: 1½ cups
  • Baking powder: 1 tablespoon
  • Salt: ¾ teaspoon
  • Eggs: 4
  • Tequila: 1 shot
  • Triple sec: ½ shot
  • Lime zest: 1 teaspoon
  • Frosting:
  • Tequila: 2 ½ teaspoons
  • Triple sec: ½ teaspoon
  • Lime juice: 2 teaspoons
  • Skim milk: ½ cup
  • Butter: 8 tablespoons
  • Powdered sugar: 8 cups-10 cups
  • Green food coloring
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F and place paper liners in a cupcake pan.
  2. Combine softened butter and milk in a mixer.
  3. Add in cake flour, all-purpose four, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Add in eggs, one at a time.
  5. Finally, combine tequila, triple sec, and lime zest.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner three-fourths full.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Let cupcakes cool completely.
  9. Once cooled use a brush to dabble a bit more tequila on the surface of the cupcake.
  10. To create the frosting, combine tequila, triple sec, lime juice, milk, butter, and four cups of powdered sugar in a mixer.
  11. Add powdered sugar as necessary to thicken the consistency of the frosting.
  12. Add green food coloring. I wanted a soft lime green color and used about 2-3 drops.
  13. Fill a pastry bag with the frosting and start to decorate the cupcakes.
  14. You can add decorations to the cupcake. I opted for a lime slice.
  15. It was at this point, that after tasting the cupcakes, I decided I wanted a stronger margarita flavor and added alcohol with a syringe.


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12Oct 12

Puff Pastry: A Work in Progress

Puff pastry is a light, flaky dough that can be used for a variety of savory or sweet treats.  For my first attempt at making this dough, I used a more traditional recipe that called for an equal ratio of bread flour to butter.  While I knew I’d be using a lot of butter, the reality of just how much butter is used in the production of puff pastry hit me as I formed a 20 tablespoons block of butter worth 2,000 calories!  Even though I really, really wanted to reduce the amount of butter, I stuck to the exact ingredients because I wanted to see how the final product would turn out as it was originally intended.

What followed was a lengthy process of rolling out the dough, creating a single turn (folding the dough similar to a letter before it is inserted in an envelope), and letting the puff pastry rest in the refrigerator for half an hour before repeating the process four more times.  Two hours later, the dough was finally ready to be baked. The good news was that it only needed ten minutes in the oven. While I considered the presentation of the final result to be a success, I had issues with the taste. The puff pastry was not bad at first but, immediately after a few bites, I could feel the residual butter on my lips. I don’t know about you but there is nothing worse than feeling disgusting after you consume something. It doesn’t matter how delicious the item might be, it is just not worth it. And, that is exactly the way I felt about my puff pastry.

Instead of shunning puff pastry for life, I started thinking about how I was going to recreate the dough so that it maintained its flaky texture but did not make me feel like I had to run five miles on the treadmill. After doing some research, I decided to try making the puff pastry again using roughly 40 percent of the butter originally called for in the recipe. But, as I rolled out the dough, I could already tell that the product was not going to turn out that great because the consistency was tough and rubbery.  This time, I had gone to the opposite extreme and used too little fat.

Frustrated but determined to find a solution, I decided to think through my ingredients. For starters, I knew I needed to add a little more butter. But since I was deciding to opt for 1 part butter to 2 parts flour, I decided to switch out the bread flour for all-purpose flour because it has a lower percentage of proteins, which means that the dough will not be as glutinous and, consequently, be able to rise more easily. Since I’d already had two unsuccessful attempts at puff pastry, I found myself feeling fearless and decided to add some unrefined brown sugar and vanilla extract.  I know, I know, it sounds super risky and dangerous. So after rolling, turning, folding, and letting the puff pastry do its thing, the moment of truth was 400°F and 10 minutes away.

While I won’t necessarily say that the third time is a charm, I will say that it is definitely the path to improvement. The result was a flaky consistency on top and a chewier texture in the middle. I happened to like it, especially with fifty percent less butter and no residual fat on my lips!  Since it is still a work in progress, please let me know your thoughts on the puff pastry recipe I’ve provided below.



Puff Pastry: A Work in Progress
Recipe type: Dough
  • All-purpose flour: 1¼ cup
  • Salt: ¾ teaspoon
  • Unrefined brown sugar: 1 teaspoon
  • Unsalted butter: 10 tablespoons
  • Vanilla extract: 1 tablespoon
  • Water: ½ cup
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, salt, vanilla extract, and water until it beings so form into dough.
  2. Roll the dough into a ball. Add a small amount of water, if necessary.
  3. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  4. Take the remaining butter, which should be soft, and mix in the sugar. You should be able to form the butter and sugar into a 3x3 inch square block.
  5. Refrigerate the butter block for 15 minutes.
  6. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into an 8x8 inch square.
  7. Place the butter block on top of the dough square and then flap the outer edges of the dough over the butter block to make a smaller square of dough with the butter tucked inside.
  8. Use your rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 10-inch wide rectangle.
  9. Make one single turn, cover the dough with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes. To create a single turn, fold the dough similar to a letter before it is inserted in an envelope
  10. Repeat step 8-9 three more times.
  11. After fourth single turn, let the dough sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
  12. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
  13. Depending on what you are using the puff pastry for, shape the dough and bake for 10 minutes.

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02Oct 12

OatCho Treats

A few months back, I was having lunch at Lime Tree Cafe in Dubai when I stumbled across one of the most memorable desserts that I’ve had in a while.  It was a triple chocolate brownie filled with gigantic chunks of white, milk, and dark chocolate.  I remember thinking to myself, “how do they get the chocolate to just the perfect consistency so that it oozes into your mouth without having to pre-heat it before it is served.”  So when I recently came across an article on yahoo entitled Best-Ever Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies, I remembered my Lime Tree Café treat and decided to adjust the recipe listed in this article to create a dessert that would resemble the triple chocolate brownie.  And thus, the OatCho treat was born!

For those who have been following the Founding Flavors blog, you probably noticed that I tend to substitute or reduce the amount of certain ingredients to make my desserts a little healthier.  So, it will not be a surprise to you that my first adjustment was to reduce the amount of butter by fifty-percent.  Then, instead of using refined sugar—which is stripped of all nutritional value—I opted for honey.  Next, I added a bit of oats and topped it off with chunks of white and dark chocolate.  The result was a delicious dessert that was a mix between a cookie and a muffin.



OatCho Recipe
  • All-purpose flour: 2 ½ cups
  • Baking powder: 1 teaspoon
  • Oats: ½ cup
  • Salt: 1 teaspoon
  • Butter: 8 tablespoons
  • Honey: 1 cup
  • Eggs: 2
  • Vanilla extract: ½ tablespoon
  • Dark chocolate chunks: 1 cup
  • White chocolate chunks: 1 cup
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and oats in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine softened butter and honey in a mixer for 15-20 seconds.
  4. Add mixed flour, baking powder, salt and oats to the mixer.
  5. Add in eggs and vanilla extract.
  6. Finally, stir in white and dark chocolate chunks.
  7. Using a cupcake pan, place enough dough so that each cupcake mold is three-fourths full.
  8. Bake for 14 minutes.


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01Oct 12

Mastering the Linzer Cookie

So, the original plan was to wow you with my natural baking talent but that, of course, was before I’d actually delved into making Linzer cookies.  Ahhhh, where to start. Perhaps, with the burning of the hazelnuts during the blanching process, a step needed to remove the skin off the nuts? Or, maybe after I pulled out my Linzer cookie dough from the refrigerator only to find that it was thoroughly stuck onto the pan and only a crowbar could remove it. And, how could I forget the electricity outage! When did this happen do you ask? That’s right, right in the middle of the baking process!  And so there I was in the middle of my pitch-dark kitchen at ten in the evening, just me and the Linzers, when I realized something. They were delicious! Yes, a little too moist…okay, mushy but they were actually quite tasty. All I needed now was a few tweaks here and there and the electricity gods to show me some pity. So, after a few more rounds, I finally felt comfortable with my Linzer cookies.

Here is what I learned:

First, after my first attempt at the cookies, I decided that I did not particularly care for certain ingredients listed in the recipe I found, such as ground cloves. While the addition of this spice was not bad it made the cookie taste like a Christmas treat, which is delicious during the holidays but not necessarily a taste I want to have in August!

Second, the original recipe also called for the use of hazelnuts. While the recipe actually stated that I needed to toast my hazelnuts in the oven at 400°F for 10 minutes, I found that in order to avoid burning the nuts it was better to set the temperature to 350°F and only bake the hazelnuts for 6 minutes. This, of course, could depend on your oven and climate but a lower temperature and less time worked best for me.

Third, when I used my food processor to grind the hazelnuts, the nuts were still too coarse, which made it difficult to roll out the dough. Consequently, I made a new batch of dough using almonds instead and found that not only was it easier to finely grind these nuts but I also preferred the overall taste of the dough.

Fourth, when making the jam filling, the recipe called for bringing sugar and jam to a boil. While this filling was yummy, for a fresher taste, I substituted blueberries for jam to create a filling that was just as delicious and easy to make.

Still intrigued and want to try it out? Check out my recipe below.


Mastering the Linzer Cookie
Recipe type: Cookies
  • Linzer dough:
  • Almonds, finely grinded: ⅓ cup
  • Bread flour: ½ cup
  • Butter: 8 tablespoons
  • Cinnamon: ½ teaspoon
  • Egg yolks: 1½
  • Linzer filling:
  • Blueberries: 1½ cups
  • Sugar: ⅓ cup
  1. Mix butter, eggs, and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Then add in the bread flour, cinnamon, and almonds. Once all ingredients are mixed together, remove the dough from the bowl, cover in plastic saran wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  3. While the Linzer dough is in the refrigerator, add the blueberries and sugar into a saucepan and bring them to a simmer using low heat. Allow the mixture to simmer for two to three minutes before removing the pan from the heat.
  4. Take the blueberry filling in the saucepan and sift it through a strainer so that you are left with the liquid portion only.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F.
  6. Remove the Linzer dough from the refrigerator and roll it out. Use Linzer cookie cutters to create both sides of the cookie and place them on a cookie sheet.
  7. Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes and then allow cookies to cool completely.
  8. Place a teaspoon of blueberry filling on the cookie side that does not have a hole and then gently place the cookie side with a hole on top. (Optional: You can dip the cookie side with a hole in powdered sugar before placing in on top of the jam filling.)


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17Sep 12

Let the Baking Begin!

Hello! Every Sunday I’ll be posting my latest blog describing my baking experiences in hopes that it will enhance your day with a bit of laughter, as well as lessons I’ve learned in trying new recipes or techniques that you might find useful. But for today’s blog, I’d like to get you caught up to speed by sharing what I’ve been up to the last few months.

When I first decided I was going to explore the world of sweets, my first task was to find a baking book that could start the process of guiding me through my learning experience.  As soon as the book arrived in the mail, I tore open the package and turned to the first page ready to try my hand at a Black Forest cake or strudel. And that’s when I realized that the first step of baking was going to be patience because there wasn’t any mention of a Black Forest cake in the first chapter, let alone the second or the third! I’d be starting out with the basics, which up until that point I thought were items like chocolate chip cookies. But in the baking world, it turns out, the basics are learning how to make egg wash so that you can add shine to a pastry or blanching nuts to remove the skin off of them. I wanted desperately to jump ahead but I forced myself to remove my chef’s hat and put on my apprentice apron. Can you believe it? Barely five minutes into my journey and I had already been demoted.

But, now that I’ve started to make my way through the first chapter, I have to admit I find myself utterly amazed by these ‘basic’ techniques that really make me feel more like a magician than a baker.  It’s such a rewarding feeling to see the instant results of your work. It’s fascinating to see how all of a sudden a bit of sugar, butter, and flour is transformed into something completely different than its original form.  I also must say that with the time I’ve spent learning some of the baking basics I’ve started to trust my instincts, adapt recipes to my liking, and find various recipes of the same dessert to learn what others have tried.

So, now that you’re an insider into my baking world, let me welcome you again to the Founding Flavors blog! I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you and hearing what you have to say.


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