Almond buttercrunch toffee– a great last-minute gift!

I am at the end of the second year of a 3-year postdoc, and one of my colleagues recently lamented that I was going to leave soon, and she suddenly smiled, finding the bright side of my remaining year: “we still have TWO seasons of your Christmas cookies!”

As I have spent more time in my postdoc, I’ve made more friends and I now have a core group of colleagues with whom I socialize– which is fantastic– but that means an additional 4-5 people for whom I need to make holiday treats. This year, I decided to make candy. I have made caramels in the past, although they are temperamental and time-consuming to wrap. I’ve also made chocolate truffles, which are also messy and time consuming. I decided to branch out and make fudge, and this delicious toffee.

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I went straight to our baking guru, David Lebovitz, and decided not to toy with his recipe, as experiments with candy can often be disastrous. It is simple, and the only special equipment you need is a candy thermometer. Otherwise, it’s a super easy and quick recipe, and the results are delicious.

As a bonus, when you chop the toffee into pieces, you get little shards of toffee, nuts, and chocolate. Don’t let them go to waste! They would be awesome as an ice cream topping or sprinkled on top of your morning yogurt.

Next year, I may substitute the almonds for pistachios. Or I’ll cut back on the almonds and add chopped dried cherries to the top. The possibilities are endless!

Birthday cake (almond cake!!)

I have many, many excuses for my lag in posting. And some of them are good and others are lame (too much work, I have been captivated by Game of Thrones and RuPaul’s Drag Race, we’ve been searching for a new apartment)… These are all true. So at some point in the near future, we need to pack up our crazy kitchen equipment and move into another apartment, a few blocks away. There is nothing I dislike more than moving. It sucks. But our landlord is trying to sell our apartment, and all the imposition is making me irritated. I take it back– I clearly hate dealing with real estate agents and cleaning my apartment incessantly for showings and open houses more than I hate moving.

In any case, I made this sweet little treasure of a cake a few weeks ago. I have many lovely friends who now have wee babies who need birthday cakes, so I decided to make the ultimate sacrifice and test out this recipe so that my friends, who will only get so many child birthdays in which they will be able to select the cake, can use their baby’s birthday as an excuse to make this. It also was my birthday, and there’s nothing I like more than cake and ice cream together. I paired this baby with some homemade chocolate ice cream– it was heavenly.

IMG_0411I also wanted a recipe that was quick and easy; I spent my birthday alone (don’t cry for me; Jess and I had a lovely dinner the weekend before when she was home), so I wasn’t about to sit around making a hugely complicated cake so I could sit around and eat it by myself. I turned to my go-to guy, David Lebovitz, and he had this lovely almond cake recipe on his website.

I love almonds and I was particularly drawn to the fact that most of the work was done in a food processor. It was so quick and easy to put everything together. It’s also endlessly adaptable– you could slice the cake in half horizontally and put something awesome in the middle, like dark chocolate frosting, and then frost the whole thing, or you could serve it as is, with a little powdered sugar on top and some fresh summer fruit and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. It is such a lovely cake– not too sweet, but moist and cakey. It also keeps well.

I did my duty, mom-friends. Go forth and bake.

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Adventures in tartland (Apricot raspberry marzipan tart)

Hello, friends. We here in twophdsbaking-land apologize for the tardiness of our posts. As you probably know, we also have day jobs, so we tend to bake on the weekends, but these past few weeks/ weekends have been filled with lovely, wonderful things that have taken us away from the kitchen, like baby showers and out-of-town guests. By the end of this month, we’ll have attended 3 baby showers– we just finished 2 of 3. Needless to say, we’ve been spending more time playing baby shower games and eating cupcakes than baking. We are so thrilled for all of our friends and relatives who are expecting– this is a really exciting time for all of them, so we’re happy to have a respite from our oven.

However, that makes for infrequent posting. I have been percolating some ideas about peanut butter cookies, and maybe– just maybe, I will get to some soon. But I digress.

What we make in our test kitchen, we often send out to friends who are willing to eat treats. That usually means we make cookies, but I also enjoy a good cake or tart recipe, and I never get to make them because I have no reason to. Maybe I need to make more friends in our new city so that we can have them over for dinner and then they can eat copious cakes and tarts.

My work had an end-of-school year party at my boss’ house, so I decided I would try a fruit tart recipe, since our grocery stores had suddenly exploded in summer fruit. We also wanted an excuse to buy a tart pan. I love fresh apricots, so I settled on David Lebovitz’s Apricot Marzipan tart, from his book, Ready for Dessert. He said raspberries made for a good add-in, so I added them both for a little tartness and color.

Delightful, right? Yum.  Continue reading