Category Archives: Confections

Chocolate Macarons with Salted Dark Chocolate Ganache

Macarons, often mispronounced “macaroons” and not to be confused with the conical coconut cookies, are all the rage. There are many bakeries and confectionary shops in Southern California that sell these, sweet, beautiful, and pricey French confections. Back in 2006, I applied for a job at Boule Bakery (now permanently closed). Boule was one of the few bakeries in Los Angeles that sold macarons. I remember speaking with the head pastry chef and he explained that the success rate of their macarons was 50%. They were only able to sell half of the macarons they baked due to many factors that effected their outcome. Under-beating macarons will produce thin runny batter causing, a flat rise. Over-beating the macaron will cause them to crack. Also, using cold egg whites can cause the shell to crack as well. Baking 2 pans at a time can also cause them to crack. Not letting the macaron batter to develop a shell can effect the development of their signature feet (the little textured edges). Also using cold almond flour (Almond flour is usually stored in the refrigerator for longer shelf life) or old almond can cause little oily spots on the macarons.

After many trials and errors,I developed a fool-proof method of making the perfect macarons, but you must follow the instructions closely and not take any shortcuts. Make sure your egg whites and almond flour are at room temperature to prevent potential cracks. Let the macaron batter sit out for at least 1 hour once they are piped. This will create a nice macaron shell and produce the feet around the base. Finally, bake only one tray at a time. This will also prevent cracks on the macaron shells. My recipe uses salted, dark chocolate ganache filling to balance out the sweetness of a macaron shell. I’ve been told by several people, including French people, that my macarons is one of the best they have ever tasted. Happy Baking.

Chocolate Macarons with Salted Dark Chocolate Ganache

Make about 2 dozens

Filling

3/4 cup of heavy cream
1 Tablespoon of organic corn syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped preferable 60% cacao
1 1/2 Tablespoons of butter, chopped into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon of Fleur de Sel or other flaky sea salt

Macaroon Cookies

1 cup of almond flour, at room temperature*
1 3/4 cups of confectioners sugar
1/3 cup or Dutch-processed chocolate, preferably Valrhona
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Special Equipment

Parchment paper
Stand mixer
Piping Tip – 1 cm
2 Large piping bag or 2 gallon-sized plastic baggie
Half sheet pans, preferably aluminum

 

  1. To make the filling, add heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract into an medium saucepan. Give it a quick stir. Set over the stove over medium heat. Once the cream mixture comes to boil turn off immediately.Add the dark chocolate and let it sit for 1 minute. Stir and until the mixture comes together.IMG_6115
  2. Add the butter pieces and stir until the ganache is shiny and smooth. Set aside to cool. When the ganache is has cooled, stir in the Fleur de sel. You can make the can make the ganache up to 3 days in advance. Make sure you cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Bring to room temp before piping into the macarons.IMG_6114IMG_6116
  3. With a pencil draw 1 1/2″ circles on a parchment paper, using the large side of the icing tip as a stencil. Make 20 circles. Draw additional 20 circles on another 2 parchment sheets. Place the pencil drawn side down on each of the half sheet pans. Set aside.IMG_6133
  4. With scissors cut the tip of the piping bag, insert the icing tip until tight and secure. Set aside.IMG_6136.JPG
  5. Add the almond flour, confectioners sugar and cocoa powder in a a food processor and a pulse a few times until the mixture is combined. Sift the mixture over a large bowl. Set aside.IMG_6120IMG_6122
  6. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Add the four egg whites. Whisk until starts to get foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar in a slow stream.IMG_6124
  7. After all the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high. Beat 2 to 3 minutes until meringue has reached stiff peak and is shiny.IMG_6129
  8. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add the vanilla extract and fold with rubber spatula. Add 1/2 of the almond flour cocoa powder mixture and fold in pressing down along the side of the bowl, until their are no lumps. Add the remaining 1/2 of the almond flour mixture until completely incorporated without any lumps.IMG_6130IMG_6131IMG_6132
  9. Add the macaron mixture into the piping bag and pipe over the pre-drawn circles in a circular motion. Tap the sheet pans on the counter to remove any air bubbles in the macarons batter. Let the macarons sit out on the counter for 1 hour. This process will help create the signature “feet” of the macarons.IMG_6135
  10. While the macarons are forming its shell, clean the icing tip. You will be using it again for the filling. Cut another piping bag and insert the tip and set aside.
  11. Heat the oven to 350°. Place tray of the macaron on the center rack. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Do not get tempted to add two trays in the oven as this will affect the outcome of the macarons.IMG_6138
  12. Place the baked macarons on a cooling rack. Bake the remaining macarons.IMG_6146
  13. Once the macarons are cooled, add the ganache in the prepared piping bag. Pipe on one side of the macaron cookie and sandwich it together with another cookie.IMG_6141
  14. Pipe the remaining cookies and serve. Store any remaining macarons in the refrigerator, in an airtight container. Enjoy!IMG_6147

Almond Easter Egg Cookies

For this Easter, instead of making traditional vanilla iced sugar cookies, I created a cookie recipe based on one of my favorite flavors: almond. These cute iced almond cookies are moist, not too sweet and have a lovely almond flavor. In addition to almond extract, I added almond flour for more texture, and I also added natrural-dye sprinkles so the cookies will appeal to kids. Finally, this recipe only uses egg whites, which lightens the cookie dough. The recipe is very easy to follow and doesn’t even require a cookie-cutter!

If you love almond flavor, you’ll love these cookies. Enjoy and Happy Easter!

Almond Easter Egg Cookies

Yield: 1 dozen

3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup of almond flour

1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup of granulated sugar

1 egg white

1 teaspoon of almond extract

3/4 cup of organic confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon of whole milk

1 teaspoon of almond extract

India Tree natural dye sprinkles

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, almond flour and salt. Set aside.

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3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

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4. Meanwhile, whisk the egg white until frothy.

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5. Add the beaten egg white and the almond extract to the butter and sugar. Beat until just combined.

6. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture until just combined.

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7. Using a 1 1/2 tablespoons scoop, portion out 12 balls on the cookie sheet.

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8. Roll each ball and shape to resemble a small egg.

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9. Using the palm of your hand, press down to flatten. Bake for 10-11 minutes.

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10. Remove from the oven. Cool for about 10 minutes.

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11. Meanwhile, whisk the confectioners sugar, milk, and almond extract to make the icing. Have your sprinkles ready.

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12. Spoon some icing on each cookie and top with some sprinkles (You will want to add the sprinkles before the icing sets.)

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13. Let the icing harden. Serve the cookies with cold milk, coffee, or tea.

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Toffee with Dark Chocolate and Mixed Nuts

Last year, my husband brought home some delicious toffee. I’m not a huge fan of toffee or candy in general, but this was quite amazing. What I loved about the toffee was the texture – each piece was crunchy but not jaw-breaking, light and not too dense. The toffee also had a nice layer of dark chocolate and some chopped mixed nuts on the top. Overall it was delicious and it inspired me to work on a recipe for it.

Making toffee isn’t difficult, but it does require some attention and timing, as sugar can be a little tricky to work with during the candying process. I find that adding some corn syrup helps prevent crystallization in the sugar. Also, make sure you turn off the heat once you hit soft crack phase, which is at 285°. 300° is hard crack, and some people would argue that it needs to hit this temperature in order to be proper toffee. I my opinion, 300° makes of the toffee a little too hard. Finally, another trick I use is adding a little baking soda to the recipe, which helps lighten up the toffee. With some extra dark chocolate and mixed roasted nuts on top, you won’t be able to have just one piece. Enjoy!

Toffee with Dark Chocolate and Mixed Nuts

Yield: About 1 1/2 lbs.

Non-stick baking spray

1 cup of unsalted organic butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

1 cup of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of organic corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

6 1/2 ounces of finely chopped dark chocolate, preferably 65% cacao

1/2 cup of salted and roasted mixed nuts (peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and cashews), finely chopped

Fleur de sel or flaky sea salt

 

Special Equipment:

1/4 sheet pan (8 1/2″ x 11″ at the base)

Parchment paper

Candy thermometer

Wooden spoon

Pastry brush

Water

Off-set spatula

1. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to 8 1/2″ x 11″ to fit the bottom of the baking sheet. Line the baking sheet and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

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2. Have the vanilla extract and baking soda ready in small mise en place bowls.

3. Add the butter,  sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a medium heavy-bottom copper or an enamel coated cast iron pot. Heat on medium.

4. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until it comes to a boil. Stop stirring. Then attach the candy thermometer.

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5. Get a small bowl of water and a pastry brush ready. Set aside.

6. Stir the toffee mixture occasionally as the temperature reaches 285° on the candy thermometer. You will stir about five different occasions. Do not overstir or the toffee will separate. Also, during this process, you will use the wet brush to mix in any sugar mixture that comes up along the sides of the pan. This helps prevents crystallization.

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7. Once the temperature reaches 285°, immediately remove the pot from the stove and stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. The baking soda will help lighten the toffee.

8. Pour the toffee mixture on the prepared parchment-covered baking sheet. Tap the baking sheet a couple of times. Let the toffee cool for 2 minutes.

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9.Sprinkle the chopped dark chocolate evenly over the toffee. Let it sit for 1 minute.

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10. Using an off-set spatula, gently spread the melted chocolate.

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11. Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the melted chocolate. Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt. Using another piece of parchment paper to gently press the nuts into the chocolate.

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12. Place the toffee in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.

13. When is the chocolate has hardened, remove the toffee from the refrigerator. Peel off the parchment paper.

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14. Break it up into bite-size pieces.

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15. Store in an airtight container. You can also place them in small cellophane bags for gifts.

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies

There is a reason why Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is the best selling candy bar in the United States. The candy bar is the perfect marriage of chocolate and peanut butter and it’s one of my favorite candy bars. I never buy them, but every Halloween I find myself scavenging through my kids’ trick-or-treat bags, looking for that distinct orange wrapper. I wanted to capture that flavor in a cookie, and I chose to create a chocolate cookie with peanut butter flavor rather than a peanut butter cookie with chocolate flavor. At first glance, you wouldn’t know there was peanut butter in these cookies. They look like chocolate cookies with chocolate chunks, but once you take a bite, both the chocolate and peanut butter flavors are pronounced. It’s rich, soft, and slightly chewy. If you are allergic to peanut butter, you can substitute the peanut butter with an equal amount of almond butter. Either way, the cookies will be delicious. A tall glass of milk is a must for these cookies. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies

Yield: about 18 large cookies

1 1/4 cups of Sonora wheat flour* or unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup Valhrona cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 cup of unsalted butter at room temperature, preferably organic
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of organic creamy peanut butter (w/o sugar or salt)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
6 oz of good quality dark chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

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3. In a stand mixer, add the butter and the sugars. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

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4. Scrape the sides and add the peanut butter. Beat for 1 more minute.

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5. Scrape the sides again and add the egg and the vanilla extract. Beat until just combined.

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6. Set the mixer to the lowest speed. Slowly add the dry ingredients until just combined.

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7. Finally, add the chopped chocolates and mix on low for about 15 seconds.

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8. Using a 3-tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop the cookie dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

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9. Press down with the palm of your hand to flatten.

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10. Bake in the the oven for 8-10 minutes. Don’t overbake because you want the cookie to be slightly chewy and soft.

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11. Transfer to a baking sheet and cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm with a tall glass of milk.

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*I like to use the Sonora wheat flour from Grist and Toll.

Meyer Lemon Marshmallows

I was never a fan of marshmallows growing up. The only way I would eat them was toasted over an open fire or in s’mores with chocolate and graham crackers. But that all changed the moment I had my first homemade marshmallow from Little Flower Candy Company. Unlike the store-bought marshmallows that are dry on the outside and chewy on the inside, Little Flower’s marshmallows were soft with specks of real vanilla beans. They tasted incredible and melted in my mouth, and that’s when I fell in love with their marshmallows.

After that experience, I decided to make my own marshmallows and put together some s’mores kits as Christmas gifts for my neighbors. The kits were a hit, and since then I’ve experimented with different flavors. My latest version is a Meyer lemon marshmallow, and has quickly become one of my favorites. The Meyer lemon flavor is assertive but not overwhelming. They taste like mini Meyer lemon meringue pies.

Making marshmallows isn’t difficult but there is some technique involved. When making the syrup, make sure you don’t disturb the sugar when it is cooking or it can crystallize. Also, if you have a copper saucepan, I would highly recommend using it for this recipe. Copper pans are great heat conductors and are ideal for candy-making, but if you don’t have one, a stainless pan will be just fine. The most important thing is to make sure that the pan is clean, dry and doesn’t have an oily residue, as this can effect the outcome of the syrup.

As always, please read the entire recipe before you start. Once you have homemade marshmallows, you will never want the store-bought ones again! Enjoy!

 
Meyer Lemon Marshmallows

Yields: 3 dozen large or 12 dozen mini marshmallows

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of water
1/3 cup of Meyer lemon juice
Nonstick baking spray or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon of Meyer lemon zest, finely grated
1 3/4 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of organic light corn syrup*
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of water
2 tablespoons of powdered gelatin
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
2/3 cup of organic confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup organic cornstarch*

Special Equipment:

Candy thermometer
Stand mixer
Pizza wheel
Plastic wrap

Directions

1. Stir the 2/3 cup of water, lemon juice and zest in a bowl and set aside.

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2. Spray the bottom of 9″ x 13″ pan with nonstick baking spray (or lightly brush with oil). Cover the bottom and sides of pan with plastic wrap, making sure it is smooth and adhering tightly to the surface. Spray on top of the plastic wrap to coat. Set aside.

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2. In a medium saucepan add the sugar, corn syrup, honey and water. Stir just enough to combine. Get a cup of water and a pastry brush ready and set aside.

3. Place the saucepan over high heat and insert a candy thermometer. Dip the pastry brush in the water and brush the sides of the pan to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook until the sugar reaches firm ball stage on the candy thermometer. Do not stir. This will take about 8-10 minutes. Start checking at the 5 minute mark.

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4. While the sugar syrup is cooking, add the lemon juice, water, and zest mixture to bowl in stand mixer. Sprinkle in the powdered gelatin. Let sit.

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5. Check up on the sugar syrup. Once it hits the firm ball stage, immediately take the pan off the stove and let it cool. Keep the thermometer in the syrup and wait for it to drop in temperature to 220°. This will take roughly 7 minutes.

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6. Add a whisk attachment to the stand mixer with the gelatin mixture and set on the lowest setting. Slowly add the sugar syrup into the bowl. It’s important that you add the sugar syrup in a very slow stream. This will take about two minutes.

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7. Once all the sugar syrup has been added, increase the speed to medium high. After about 10 minutes, turn off the mixer and add the salt and vanilla extract. Turn the mixer back on to medium high and beat or about another 10-12 minutes until the mixture becomes a thick and fluffy, like a meringue. Turn off the mixer.

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8. Using a rubber spatula, take the marshmallow mixture and spread it in the plastic wrap-lined pan. Spread evenly to ensure same thickness of marshmallow. Let stand at room temperature for about 3 hours.

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9. Stir confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch and a small bowl. Sift 1/3 of the mixture over a large wooden board or a clean workstation. Take the pan with the marshmallow and flip upside down onto the cornstarch and sugar covered board. The marshmallow should easily fall out of the pan.

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10. Sift another 1/3 of the cornstarch mixture over the top of the marshmallow.

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11. Spray the pizza wheel with baking spray on both sides. Cut into 36 large squares (or for smaller marshmallows, cut each of the 36 squares into 4 smaller squares). Dip the cut sides into the remaining cornstarch mixture to prevent it from sticking to the other marshmallows.

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12. To store, line an airtight container with parchment paper and dust the bottom with the cornstarch mixture. Place marshmallows in a single layer. Add another layer of parchment paper and repeat.

13. The marshmallow will keep for 1 week in the container.
Alternative flavor option: If you want a traditional vanilla-flavored marshmallow, substitute the 1/3 cup of Meyer lemon juice with 1/3 cup of water. Omit the lemon zest and add the seeds of 1 vanilla bean. Increase the vanilla extract from 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon.

* If at all possible, try to use organic corn-based products. Most of the corn syrup and cornstarch sold in the stores are GMO.

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Meyer Lemon Bars

When I go to a bakery or cafe, I usually don’t select lemon bars for my sweet treat. I find most lemon bars too tart and sweet. Also, the traditional shortbread crust a little too tough. Now Meyer lemon bars on the other hand, are delicious, slightly tart with a hint of sweetness. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than regular lemons because they are a hybrid of lemons and mandarin oranges, requiring less sugar when when making Meyer lemon bars. Meyer lemons are also brighter yellow in color and have a thinner skin, giving the bars a neon-like color.

My Meyer lemon bar recipe has half the sugar of other lemon bar recipe. Some recipes put in the zest directly in the curd. I liked the added flavor from the zest, but then curd didn’t have the smooth texture. By infusing the lemon zest in the lemon juice, and then discarding the zest did the trick. I also add cornstarch to the crust to make it more crumbly. That way it didn’t feel like I was biting into a hard cookie. When Meyer lemon season comes along, I bake a couple of batches: one for my family and one for my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law doesn’t like anything with lemon flavor, but loves these lemon bars. I think that’s a good indication that this recipe is pretty good. Happy baking.

Baking Spray
1 1/4 cups of Meyer lemon juice (about 5-6 Meyer lemons)
1 Tablespoon of Meyer lemon zest
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (12 Tablespoons) – soften
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon of organic cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt
Powder sugar for dusting

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1. Coat the bottom and sides of a 13″x 9″ baking pan with not a nonstick baking spray. Set aside.

2. Add the lemon zest to the lemon juice. Set aside.

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3. Heat the oven to 350°.

4. In a stand mixer, add the butter and 1/2 cup sugar and beat on medium speed until creamy (about 3 minutes).

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5. Add the vanilla extract and beat for 30 more seconds.

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6. In a small bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 of flour, cornstarch, and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Set the mixer to the lowest setting and slowly add the flour mixture half a cup at a time.

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7. The mixture will come together and look like small peas. Turn off the mixer.

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8. Using your clean hands, form a ball. Then flatten it and place it directly in the greased baking pan, pressing down until the bottom of the pan is evenly covered with the dough.

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9. Using the tines of fork, prick the dough and several places. The will prevent the dough from rising and forming pockets.

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10. Place the baking pan in the freezer for 10 minutes.

11. Remove the baking pan from the freezer and put it directly in the oven. Bake for roughly 30-35 minutes until slightly golden.

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12. Place on a rack to cool.

13. Turn up the oven heat to 350°.

14. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

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15. Add all the eggs into the flour mixture. And whisk until the mixture is smoot, but don’t over whisk.

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16. Add the 1 1/2 cups of sugar and whisk again until smooth.

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17. Place a sieve over a bowl, and pour the Meyer lemon juice and zest mixture into the sieve. Discard the Meyer lemon zest.

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18. Add the Meyer lemon juice to the egg, flour, sugar mixture. Whisk just until the juice is incorporated.

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19. Pour the Meyer lemon curd mixture over the baked crust.image20. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center is set and edges are golden

21. Cool on a rack for about 30 minutes.

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22. Cut into 24 squares. Place the squares on top of a cooling rack. Place a parchment paper underneath the rack.

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23. Dust Meyer lemon bars generously with the powder sugar. Dust only the ones you will be serving the day of and refrigerate the rest for up to three days. Dust remaining with powder sugar right before serving. This prevents the lemon curd from absorbing the powder sugar during refrigerating.

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Malted Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt

The confections known as chocolate truffles are a delicious treat which you can find at most candy shops. The reason these confections are called truffles is, once the small round balls are coated with traditional cocoa powder, they resemble the fungus. Although they seem really fancy, they’re relatively easy to make at home. All you need is some good quality chocolate and heavy cream to make a ganache center. You can add different ingredients, like spices, liquors or extracts to vary the flavor.

Many years ago, I used to frequent a confection shop in Los Angeles where the pastry chef made amazing truffles. One of my favorites was the malted milk chocolate truffle. They were creamy and smooth with just enough malt to perfectly complement the cocoa flavor. Here is my version of the truffles using dark chocolate and Fleur de Sel, which make great gifts for the holidays. Enjoy!

Malted Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt

Yield: about 3 dozen

1 lb. of dark chocolate (52-54% cacao)
3/4 cup of heavy cream
2/3 cup of barley malt syrup*
1/2 scant teaspoon of sea salt (Fleur de Sel)
1/2 cup of finely chopped roasted hazelnuts or almonds
Pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup of cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona)

1. Chop the chocolate into 1/4″ pieces and place in a large glass bowl. Set aside.

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2. Add the cream, milk, and malt syrup in a small sauce pan. Place the pan on the burner over medium-high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, immediately remove from the heat and pour the liquid over the chopped chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.

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3. After five minutes, take a rubber spatula and slowly stir the chocolate and cream mixture (ganache). Once the ganache just comes together, add the Fleur de Sel. Stir just until the salt is incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to cool for at least one hour.

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4. To prepare your truffle station, place the chopped hazelnuts in a small bowl. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and stir. Set aside.

5. Add the cocoa powder in a bowl. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

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6. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. Using a truffle scoop (.5 ounce scoop), scoop the ganache and roll into a smooth ball. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat the process until you have enough to star the coating process. (If the balls soften, place the baking sheet in the freezer for five minutes once done.)

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7. Roll 1/2 of the ganache balls in the cocoa powder and the other 1/2 in the chopped hazelnuts. Make sure you coat one ball at a time.

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8. Place each truffle in a mini baking cup. Arrange them then in a confection box. Refrigerate until ready to gift.

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*Sold at most gourmet health food stores.