Ricardo's Kitchen

Classic recipes, modern takes and simply explained

So British Lavender Shortbread

In celebration of the early spring which we in Mexico enjoy I decided to use the extravagant lavender from my garden. I chose lavender shortbread for their buttery flavor and crisp contrasted by the pungent and floral lavender flowers. These cookies are great for tea and will keep for quite a long time. Make lots since family members will make them fly off the plate!

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The lavender I grow is French Lavender (lavandula dentata) since I have not been able to find the more delicate English variety. In comparison this kind is more pungent and has tones of camphor and mint but is just as floral and sweet.

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To start the cookies I cut a handful of fresh lavender stalks. They say dried is better but who even has time to pick this stuff ahead of time? I rinsed the stalks in water several times to clean them and separated the flowers and buds from the hard stalks. I then rinsed these and dried them between towels.

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First in a small bowl whisk or sieve the flour and salt.

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The butter, the same one from Saturday’s apple pie, local and amazing as always. Make sure its soft and at room temperature.

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You want to start by creaming your butter for about 3 minutes until its light in color and fluffy.

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Scrape down the bowl a few times to get it all.

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Now add the granulated sugar and beat until even fluffier and lighter.

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Once your sugar and butter are done add the beautiful lavender.

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And mix until the buds are incorporated throughout. Now you want to add your vanilla extract and repeat.

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Once this is done add your flour, half the bowl at a time twice and mixing in between, and blend until it is barely incorporated.

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Using a spatula gather the dough, cover it with plastic or aluminum and refrigerate it for about half an hour while you clean up and preheat the oven, to 325° f.

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Pull the dough out of your fridge and while still cold make balls about 3/4 of an inch in your hand, place them on a greased or lined baking sheet and press them with the palm of your hand below your thumb for a flat top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden. Notice I overcooked them a little which  I strongly warn against.

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A tad over baked but good nonetheless!

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Now pour yourself a cup of tea and grab a cookie. You’re supposed to wait for them to cool down, but I won’t tell anyone :)

Recipe

Printable Version

Quite British Lavender Shortbread

Yields about 50 small cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons fresh lavender flowers and buds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Procedure

  1. In a small bowl sift or whisk together the flour and salt, put it to the side.
  2. In a large bowl cream the butter until it is light and fluffy, about three minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl if necessary.
  3. To the butter add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture is fluffy and almost white, about three minutes. Scrape down the bowl if necessary.
  4. Add the lavender and vanilla extract and mix just until combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture in two parts mixing it on low twice, mixing just until a stiffer dough forms.
  6. Scrape down the bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Grease or line a baking sheet.
  8. Preheat your oven to 325°.
  9. Make small balls with the dough, about an inch and a half in diameter, place them on the baking sheet and press them with the palm of your hand.
  10. Bake the cookies in the middle rack of the oven for about 20 minutes or until they are lightly golden.

Old Fashioned Apple Pie … With a twist

Now here is quite a recipe for you! An old fashioned, traditional American pie with a secret ingredient which gives it a wonderful depth of flavor. With the still cool nightime temperatures I was craving a tasty treat from home. Make this in winter, spring, summer or fall its good all year long. I’ve been baking this pie for about five years now so I can say the experience backs me up.

Printable version

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Because local is always a good idea I bought some apples which were as local as possible. These are Mexican grown apples from Chihuahua. Grown in the old fashioned way, no pesticides, chemical fertilizers from small family owned farms. As everything should be grown, I think.

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Speaking about local food, here’s my butter. This is butter from farms just minutes away from my house and locally produced. It’s nothing like most commercial butter, not a single preservative, no additives, and not watered down in any way!! Make sure it’s really chilled and straight from the fridge. This ensures a flaky crust.

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Ok so for the crust. Which is a traditional pate brisee pie crust, my fave from years of baking,

I start by mixing in a medium bowl; all purpose flour, sugar, salt, and a little secret, baking powder. I find it adds more air to the already flaky and crunchy crust.

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Ok so I add my butter, cut into little squares

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and starting with a large fork and finishing with my hands I cut in the butter until pieces form about a quarter of an inch across, don’t worry about larger pieces of butter in there. They add surprise pieces of extra crunchiness to the crust!

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Next I add ice water and loosely mix with the fork just until the dough starts to clump together. Make sure you don’t over mix or knead, you’ll get a bland and chewy crust, and no one likes a pie with a boring crust.

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Turn your dough out onto a silpat or clean and floured surface. Now what i do is clump the dough together without kneading just so it forms into an uniform dough.Image

Once the dough is in a large ball you cut it in half and store both pieces well wrapped in the fridge. You can do this and keep the dough chilled for up to a week but the minimum to roll it well is an hour. At this point you can start working on your apples.Image

So now you want to peel, core and slice the apples into slices about a quarter of an inch thick.

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Next I’ll add flour, sugar, and your traditional apple spices; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. Next is a bit of a secret ingredient, brandy. Any good brandy you’d drink is good. And some good mexican vanilla extract, the one I use is grown in the rainforests of Veracruz.ImageImage

Mix until all is well combined. Now you can put this mixtures off to the side while you roll out your crust.

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Pull your dough out of the fridge, since its chilled it should be pretty easy to roll out. To get started you can hit the dough a couple of times with a rolling pin just to get the dough on the right shape. Next with the pin, roll the dough out using even movements and always rolling in one direction. Roll until the dough is about an 1/8 of an inch thick and bigger than your pie pan.

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To get the crust onto the pan without making a mess I roll the whole pastry onto my rolling pin and put the pin on the pan and unroll. I then tuck in the dough so it fits snugly in the pan.

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Using a fork poke some holes in the bottom to let steam out. Don’t go crazy though, from experience, let’s just say it ruins the pie.

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Pour your apple filling in the center mounding it in the middle. Dot your apples with butter. Roll out your other ball of pastry and slice it in inch wide strips for the top lattice crust. Don’t be overwhelmed by a lattice crust though, it’s not that hard to make but you’ll get better with time.

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Lay five of the strips spacing them an inch apart.

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Starting on one edge fold over every other strip and lay a strip perpendicularly.

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Unfold the strips and fold over every other one that is alternate. Lay another strip across. Work your way across the pie like this until you cover it all.

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Now i fold over the excess crust from the bottom to the top and using my thumb and index fingers from my left hand and my index finger from my right hand to crimp the edge.

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Once I’ve done this I’ll brush the pie with melted butter and dust it with coarse sugar for both a sweet crunch and sparkle.

Bake your pie in an oven about 350 f. for about an hour until the crust is golden brown.

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And with patience an hour later you will have yourself a good old fashioned American apple pie. Notice how since its just pulled out of the oven the filling is bubbling and oozing out.

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After a long wait of SIX hours you can slice your pie and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!!

Recipe

Printable Version

Traditional Apple Pie

Yields a 9 inch pie

Ingredients

Crust

 (Pate Brisee) recipe from Martha Stewart

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Filling

  • 2 pounds apples, peeled and cored
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup brandy or cognac
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Procedure

  1. To prepare the crust combine in a medium bowl all purpose flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Dice your cold butter into small cubes and using a pastry blender or a large fork cut in the butter until the butter is in small pieces about 1/8 inch across. Don’t worry if there’s a few larger pieces, they add extra crunch to the pastry.
  3. Add your ice water and mix just until the dough begins to hold together.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a cleaned and floured surface and using your hands press the dough into a ball.
  5. Cut the dough in two equal pieces, wrap them and refrigerate them to make the dough firm. You cam store the dough for up to a week in the fridge.
  6. For the filling, peel and core your apples. Slice them into inches a quarter of an inch across and put the slices into a large bowl.
  7. Add the flour, sugar, spices, brandy and vanilla. Mix to thoroughly combine.
  8. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and pull your chilled pastry out of the fridge.
  9. Grease a glass pie pan using butter and roll out your pastry by dusting a surface with flour and rolling in one direction until the pastry is 1/8 inch thick.
  10. Roll the dough unto the rolling pin and unroll on top of the pie pan
  11. Add your filling to the shell, dot the filling with the tablespoon of butter, diced, and make the lattice crust as explained above. Fold over the edge of the shell pastry and crimp for a decorative edge.
  12. Brush the pie with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place the pie in the middle rack of the oven and lower the temperature to 325 degrees.
  13. The pie will bake for about an hour or until the crust is golden brown.
  14. Place the pie on a cooking rack and let cool about an hour to serve warm or for up to six hours for firmer slices.

Carrot and Zucchini Muffins

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We all crave that special treat every once in a while, some of us more than others. That’s why this recipe is great, not only do you get a moist and succulent muffin but you can enjoy it free of guilt because of its healthy ingredients. Made with moist zucchini and fresh carrots these carrot and zucchini muffins are a healthy treat and wonderful as breakfast. Last but not least they are really easy to prepare and given you have fresh ingredients you get an amazing muffin.

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First of all preheat your oven well ahead of time and grease or line a cupcake or muffin tin. I strongly prefer to use muffin liners for easy clean up, although I suggest you spray your liners so your muffins don’t stick.

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In a large bowl add sugar, egg and the little bit of oil.

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Whisk these together until its evenly mixed.

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Now add your freshly grated carrots and zucchini, as well as almonds or another nut, if you wish.

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Mix this into the batter to evenly distribute the vegetables.

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Add the remaining ingredients including flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

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Mix this into the batter.

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Now pour your batter evenly into your cupcake liners and make sure each has the same amount of batter. Bake them for 18 – 25 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.

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Let your muffins cool for about 10 minutes afterwards you can move them to a cooling rack.

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And there you have it! Moist and really healthy carrot and zucchini muffins.

 

Printable Version

Carrot and Zucchini Muffins

Yields 12 cupcakes or 6 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1/4 chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease or line a muffin or cupcake tin.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, oil, salt, egg and vanilla extract.
  3. Add freshly grated zucchini, carrots, and if you want chopped nuts.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix them into the batter until just combined. Pour the batter into the muffin tins and tap the pan against the countertop to get rid of any air bubbles.
  5. Bake the muffins for 18 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
  7. Enjoy!

 

Almond Cranberry Biscotti

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These Italian cookies are one of my all time favorites. Originating in 13th century Tuscany they have been a worldwide favorite for many years. They’re so easy to make you can make them in about 40 minutes. What makes these awesome is the wonderful crisp and nuttiness from the almonds contrasted by the cranberries’ tart and soft chewy texture. I suggest having these with some fresh pressed espresso or a cappuccino since the flavors and textures complement each other so well. When making these make sure that you form even loaves and check constantly on your oven’s temperature so they do not burn, you want them to cook evenly to achieve the great golden hue and crispy texture. Another thing I would suggest is to slice them a little thinner than I did, that way you get more cookies and a crisper texture. Have fun baking these wonderful and hearty italian treats!

IMG_0021First you want to add the flour, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and thoroughly combine them. Make sure you mix it all evenly so the loaves rise evenly and the salt ends up distributed through the whole dough. Doing a good job in this step also prevents any lumps in the flour to be broken up, resulting in a soft uniform dough.

IMG_0025 The next thing you want to do is in a larger bowl add the eggs and granulated sugar. You want to beat these two until they are pale and creamy, once you reach this stage add the softened butter and the almond extract. You want to beat this until well combined, shown on the next picture.

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IMG_0032The next step is to add the flour mixture little by little, mixing the dough every time to distribute the flour evenly. Add the whole bowl of flour mixture until the mixture resembles a sticky dough.

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You may think the dough is a little sticky and wet but this will be fixed once you add the cranberries and the almonds which are dry and will help make a stiffer dough.

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Add the dried cranberries and the sliced almonds, using a spoon or the beater on low speed incorporate both ingredients until they are evenly mixed into the dough which by now should be more stiff and easier to handle, if it’s still sticky you can add a little flour since the moisture content of flour varies due to the day’s humidity.

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I added some flour to help me roll the dough since my dough was a bit sticky.

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Next you want to take the dough, divide it into two equal parts and shape each half into a roll. Place these rolls on a lined or well greased baking sheet and flatten and shape them into the shape of flat loaves. You will now bake them in your preheated oven until they’re lightly golden brown.

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After they’ve baked you want the loaves to cool for a few minutes so you can handle them comfortably. After about 15 minutes of cooling at room temperature you will slice the loaves diagonally and at a thickness of your choice. I sliced mine about an inch thick but its preferable to make thinner slices for a crisper texture. Now you want to place them back in the oven for about 10 minutes or until they’re lightly toasted.

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Hope you enjoy these biscotti cookies with a hot cup of espresso. Ciao!

Almond Cranberry Biscotti

Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease or line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar at medium speed until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the butter and almond extract. Little by little, add the flour mixture into the egg mixture until it forms a sticky dough. Beat in the dried cranberries and the almonds.
  4. Lightly flour the dough and shape it into 2 slightly flattened 10-inch loaves on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Let the loaves cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Using a serrated knife, slice the loaves 1/2 inch thick diagonally, or thicker if you want less crispy cookies. Arrange the slices on the baking sheet cut sides up and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the biscotti are lightly browned and crisp. Let cool completely before serving.
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