Sweets for Any Occasion

Sweets for Any Occasion

Without a doubt these luscious creations would be a welcome addition to any table.

This spring California Walnuts teamed up with Food52 to challenge its cooking community to create their best recipes with walnuts. With almost 200 entries that included everything from muhammara dip and creamy asparagus walnut pasta, to a goat cheese pizza—the results were nothing short of delicious!

We have selected three sweet recipes to share with you that took top honors in the contest. Without a doubt these luscious creations would be a welcome addition to any table.

Bright and festive Strawberry-Kissed Walnut Sables are a fun interpretation of the classic linzer cookie. Open-faced, with dollops of strawberry jam, these nutty creations blend earthy walnuts with hints of fruity goodness in a no-fuss, easy to make cookie.

Another perfect eat-with-your-fingers favorite is baklava. Mrs. Z’s Secret Ingredient version includes graham crackers that hold the filling together and makes these syrupy confections easier to enjoy without honey dripping everywhere.

The first place win went to Aliwaks who created The Walnut Variation: A Cake. Layered with meringue, whipped cream and flavored with maple syrup, vanilla and plenty of crunchy walnuts this is truly a showstopper of a cake! Both impressive and satisfying, this creamy, delicious cake is sure to become a new favorite.

Indulge in the sweeter side of walnuts. The versatile nut is equally good for breakfast, snacking or salads and sides, but why not celebrate their sweet side with these three winning recipes from our friends at Food52.

 

Strawberry-Kissed Walnut Sablés

By cristinasciarra

My goal for this batch of cookies was to bridge the transition weeks as the weather grew colder. Nutmeg and toasted walnuts add warmth, while drops of strawberry jam brighten each sablé and remind one of sunny afternoons.

 

Heat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the walnuts on top. Bake them for 10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Turn off the oven, remove the walnuts, and allow them to cool. Once cool, use the heel of a mug (or a mortar and pestle or food processor) to crush them into crumbly bits.

If you have a fancy-pants stand mixer, fantastic: Fit it with the paddle attachment. If not, a hand-held mixer with beater attachments works just fine. Put the softened butter in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until the butter is a bit whipped, about 1 minute.

Add all three sugars, the salt, and the nutmeg. Continue mixing until everything looks creamy and incorporated, about 3 more minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the egg yolks, mixing to combine.

Turn off the mixer and add the flour. Start the mixer again on the very lowest setting to avoid a flour flurry all over your countertops. Mix until the flour is just combined, then fold in the walnut crumbles and mix again until just combined.

Scoop out half the dough and lay it on some plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap to help you, roll the dough into a log about 10 inches long. Repeat this process with the second half of the dough. Place both logs into the refrigerator and let them chill for no less than 2 hours. (These logs will also remain happily in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for a couple of months.)

When the logs are well-chilled, heat the oven to 350° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Keep the baking sheets off of the oven -- you want the cookies to be as cool as possible before baking.

Cut the log into 1/3-inch slices. (Note: I am not an expert cookie slicer. As a result, my sablés oscillated in thickness a bit. It’s fine if yours do, too.) Lay each cookie on a baking sheet, making sure to leave a little space between them.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of jam into a plastic baggie. Seal the top, then cut a small hole into one of the bottom corners. Dollop a small circle of jam into the center of each cookie.

Move the baking sheets to the oven. Bake the sablés about 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn golden. Let the sablés cool for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling. These cookies taste better a few hours out of the oven.

Makes 50 to 60 cookies (depending on your cutting skills), or 25 servings (serving is two cookies)

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 160; Total Fat 10g; Saturated Fat 5g; Mono Fat 2.5g; Poly Fat 2g; Cholesterol 35mg; Sodium 50mg; Carbohydrates 17g; Fiber 0g; Protein 2g

 

Mrs. Z's Secret-Ingredient Baklava

By cookbookchick

This is my mom's recipe. I don't know where she got the idea for her "secret ingredient," but it produces the best baklava EVER. If you like baklava but can't get past the cloying sweetness, this is the one to try -- you will never go back or be satisfied with the stuff you get in Greek restaurants again.

Baklava Syrup

 

Baklava

 

Combine all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes until a thin syrup is formed -- no longer. Allow to cool to room temperature while you build the baklava.

Heat the oven to 350° F.

Crush graham crackers into fine crumbs by putting them in a locked plastic bag and pounding them with a meat tenderizer, rolling with a rolling pin, or blitzing in a food processor -- whichever works best for you.

Grind the nuts finely with a manual nut grinder (best) or in a food processor (taking care not to go too far, or you will have nut butter).

In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, nuts, sugar, and cinnamon.

Lay out the filo dough on a clean kitchen towel. (Of course -- who would use a dirty one?) Lay another towel on top of the filo to help prevent it from drying out.

In a roasting-type pan as close as possible to the size of the filo (the Food52 test kitchen used an 8 x 8-inch square), begin building the baklava. Layer 6 to 8 sheets of filo in the bottom of the pan, brushing each sheet lightly with butter before adding the next. I use a silicone brush to do this. (Many Greek cooks I've watched, including my mother -- the aforementioned Mrs. Z -- simply drizzle the butter from a teaspoon. So don't worry if you don't have a pastry brush.)

Sprinkle the nut mixture in a thin layer over the filo dough. Cover with 3 to 4 more sheets, each brushed lightly with butter. Repeat until nut mixture is completely used up. Cover with 6 to 8 filo, brushing each layer lightly with butter. (No one has claimed this is a diet dessert!)

Refrigerate the uncooked baklava for an hour or two until the butter solidifies. Then, cut with a sharp knife (before baking!) into small squares or diamond shapes. If you want the traditional diamond shapes, start with a corner-to-corner diagonal cut. Stick a whole clove into the center of each piece.

Bake at 350° F for no longer than one hour. If the baklava dries out, it is ruined. It should get very lightly golden brown.

As soon as you take it out of the oven, pour the room temperature syrup evenly over the hot pastry. The rule is hot pastry, cool syrup -- or you'll get a soggy dessert! Start with about half of the syrup, letting the pastry absorb it -- you may not use it all. I like to serve baklava on a platter, each piece nestled in a pretty paper or foil cupcake cup.

Makes 24 servings

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 490; Total Fat 36g; Saturated Fat 12g; Mono Fat 7.5g; Poly Fat 14g; Cholesterol 40mg; Sodium 110mg; Carbohydrates 40g; Fiber 2g; Protein 6g

 

The Walnut Variation: A Cake

By Aliwaks

Recently, I discovered The Worlds' Best Cake -- a lovely vanilla affair with whipped cream, meringue, and almonds. Ever since I made this soft, chewy, crisp, crunchy, and billowy cake, I've been pondering variations on the theme. This is the Walnut Variation: coffee-flavored cake, cinnamon meringue, toasted walnuts, and maple vanilla whipped cream.

 

The night before: Separate eggs and let egg whites sit on the counter overnight, covered with a clean cloth. Pour cream into a saucepan. Split and scrape vanilla bean into the cream and heat until just boiling. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and chill overnight.

The next day: Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare a 9 x 12-inch cake pan with buttered parchment. (Alternatively, you can prepare two 9-inch round cake pans.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar until creamy and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt. Add mixture to butter and sugar in 3 increments, mixing fully between additions.

Whisk together egg yolks and milk. Add to batter in 3 increments, incorporating fully each time. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

In a clean mixing bowl (I wipe down my bowl and whisk attachment with vinegar), whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar and cinnamon and whip to soft peaks.

Spread the meringue over cake batter, cover with toasted walnuts and bake 35-40 minutes, until the meringue is crackly. Let cake cool completely.

Meanwhile, remove vanilla bean from cream. Add maple syrup and whip cream to soft peaks. Cut cake in half and place one half on a cake plate, meringue side up. Cover with whipped cream. Top with remaining half, meringue side up. You will end up with a 2-layer square cake from your single- layer rectangular cake. (If you're doing this in two round cake pans, just top one with the other.) Let sit 1-2 hours.

To go completely over-the-top, serve with a dark chocolate sauce punched up with a few dashes of walnut bitters.

Makes 1 cake, or 16 servings

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 320; Total Fat 20g; Saturated Fat 11g; Mono Fat 5.5g; Poly Fat 2.5g; Cholesterol 110mg; Sodium 180mg; Carbohydrates 32g; Fiber 1g; Protein 5g

 

Recipes Courtesy of Food52 for the California Walnut Board

Contact Torme Lauricella Public Relations

(415) 956-1791; walnuts@torme.com