Twist Cookies (Kourulacka)

My mother's side of the family is one hundred percent Albanian and making traditional Albanian food is something that has become very important to me and these cookies are no exception.  I love making these simple twist cookies.  I can remember my grandmother making these and having them at family gatherings. 

As a kid I liked these cookies because they were a light buttery-lemon cookie.  Even when I was younger I preferred simple tasting baked goods- pound cake, plain donuts- these were always some of my favorites. Now I enjoy the simplicity of the cookie and dunking them in my coffee.   I know other Eastern European countries make similar cookies, and it would be easy to make variations on these by adding different flavoring or topping with a different glaze, but this is my families recipe and I like sticking to tradition.


½ lb butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
6 cups flour, sifted
5 tsp. baking powder
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract

1 tbsp water
1 egg yolk beaten

Preheat oven to 370 degrees.   Slightly grease baking sheet or use parchment paper.

Cream sugar and butter until light. Add eggs and beat well.  Slowly add the flour alternating with the vanilla and lemon extract until blended. Knead slightly to form soft dough.   Pinch off about one tablespoon of dough at a time.  Roll with your hands into a rope about 6 inches.  Put together the tow ends and twist. Place on cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Prepare topping by mixing egg yolk with water. Using a pastry brush, coat prepared dough with topping.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly brown.

A new little apron...

This has nothing to do with baking, but I wanted to share that Mr. Apron and I have added a new member to the Apron Family.  This is Oliver.   (Mr. has given him the full name Oliver T. Puppy- the "T" standing for "the".)   He a 10 week old Cavachon (Caviler Bichon Hybrid).  

Neeless to say Oliver has been taking up a lot of my time.   It is hard to get anything done, with little Ollie running around.  I think I need to get a pet bed for the kitchen so he can be with me when I am cooking! I have a feeling some doggie themed cookies might be coming soon!

Flirtini Cookies

I love doing cookies for bridal showers.  I think bridal showers great opportunity to do favors unique to the bride.  (And I am personally a big of edible favors.  I don't really need anything else cluttering my house.)

In this case, the bride is big flirtini (pink martini) fan so I was asked to make cookies in the image of this drink.

Normally flirtinis do not have an olive, so I took a bit of artistic license with that.  I really like how these came out.  Once again I used the new Duff food coloring

The inside of the bag also included instructions on how to make a flirtini that was customized to the bride.  

Monkey Cookies

This weekend Mr. Apron and I went to the first birthday party for the daughter of one of our good friends.   The birthday girl loves monkeys and I really wanted to make monkey cookies for the occasion.  (I even found, without trying, a pink sleeper with monkeys all over it for a gift!)

We had to drive almost one and a half hours to the party so when I was looking at monkey cookie cutters I really wanted something that would hold up to the travel. I immediately nixed the idea of doing a full body monkey.  Kept imagining the tails and arms falling off on the way to the party.   So, when I saw the monkey face cutter, I thought that would be a good choice!  

I was pretty happy with how this came out.  I like the little hairs on top (you can see those best in the first photo). I think little details like that really complete cookies. Since it was only two colors didn't take very long to decorate.  The brown coloring would not create the dark brown I was looking for, so I had to add a little black to darken it.  If you are trying to achieve a similar color, I would recommend adding a touch of black. 

Cannoli Cake

Last week I was asked to make a cannoli cake.  I loved the idea from the start.   I just had to figure out what exactly comprised a cannoli cake. Obviously it needed cannoli filling, that was the easy part, but what type of cake should it be? And what kind of frosting?  There were so many possibilities!

After much consideration I decided on a butter yellow cake, something light that would balance out the ricotta filling.  I decided that cutting the cake in thirds would be best to allow for more filling to be added.  

The cake was being made for one of my friend's boyfriends and when she asked me to make this cake, she told me that cannoli's were his favorite and he loved the mini chocolate chips and the chocolate drizzled on top.   The chocolate drizzle gave me the idea to use a ganache under the buttercream, with chocolate also drizzled on top.  I also decided to mix in the mini chocolate chips with the cannoli filling. 

But the best idea was to top the cake with actual mini cannolis!  I will admit I did not make the cannolis on top. I felt that should be left to the experts. They came from Modern Pastry in the North End of Boston (which has the best cannolis in Boston).

To Assemble Cake: 
Cut cake into thirds after leveling.   Place bottom layer on cake board.   Spread one-third of the cannoli filling on the bottom layer.  Repeat with middle cake layer and filling.  Place finally layer on top of cake.   Save remaining filling for garnish.

Put strips of parchment paper under cake.  (This will help keep the boar clean and make clean up a lot easier.)  Pour the glaze onto the middle of the top cake layer and let it flow down the sides of the cake.  Use a spatula to help cover the sides completely.  Save leftover ganache.  Let the cake sit until the glaze fully sets, at least 1 hour. (I refrigerated it overnight). 

Frost cake with buttercream.  Drizzle remaining ganache over butercream.  Spread remaining ganache in the center of the cake.  Garnish with mini cannolis.

For Ganache :
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ tsp. vanilla extract
To make the glaze, combine the heavy cream and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; cover and let stand for 8 minutes.  (If the chocolate has not completely melted, return the saucepan to low heat and stir constantly until melted.)  Stir in the vanilla extract very gently until smooth.  Cool the glaze until tepid so that a spoonful drizzled back into the pan mounds slightly. 

From Baking Illustrated

For the Filling:
2 lb. ricotta cheese
2 cups whole milk
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup cornstarch

Mix the sugar, milk and cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat until smooth and dissolved. Stir the sugar mixture into the ricotta until combined. Return to saucepan and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (a few large bubbles should pop at the surface when it has thickened), about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. Filling should be cold when used to fill the cannoli shells.

From Brown Eyed Baker 

For Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, 4 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating for about 2 minutes after each addition, until icing reaches desired consistency; you may not need to add all the sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

From Magnolia Bakery  

Butter Yellow Cake:
6 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).  Spray two 9-inch x 1 1/2 inch (23 x 4 cm) cake pans with Bakers Joy, line bottoms with parchment paper, then spray again with Bakers Joy. Set aside.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg yolks, 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk, and vanilla extract.

In the bowl of your electric mixer combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or until blended.  Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup (180 ml) milk.  Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Gradually add the egg mixture, in 3 additions, beating about 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the egg. 

Divide the batter and pour into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with an offset spatula.  (Pans will be about half full.)  Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center. 

Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool, in their pans, for about 10 minutes.  Then invert the cakes onto a greased rack.  To prevent splitting, reinvert cakes so that tops are right side up.  Cool completely before frosting.

From Joy of Baking