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Merry Marzipan

A basket of warm scones full of sweet marzipan nubbins.

Imagine waking up on Christmas morning to warm scones that hide little nubbins of sweet marzipan.

How’s that for a holiday gift to bring a smile bright and early?

“Marzipan Scones” is a recipe from the new book, “Baking Style” (Wiley) by noted baking authority Lisa Yockelson, of which I recently received a review copy. The book is full of  recipes for homespun cookies, breads, muffins and cakes  that just make you want to turn on your oven and spend an afternoon baking your heart out.

These scones are quite unusual. They look like bread and taste like cake.

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An Autumn Apple Treat

A crust to bring tears to your eyes. And a filling with a secret ingredient.

We all know it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.

But boy, what’s on the outside sure can titillate, thrill and work us into a frenzy, too.

Oh, come on. You know I’m right.

Take this “Open-Faced Apple Galette with Quince Paste.”

What attracted me in the first place to this recipe from Flo Braker’s “Baking for All Occasions” (Chronicle Books) was what was inside. After the rectangular galette emerges from the oven with its filling of sliced apples, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and allspice, it cools just until you won’t burn your fingertips. Then, you carefully slip tiny pieces of sweet, deep, rose-colored quince paste between the apple slices.

The quince paste, which you can pick up in the cheese section of any well-stocked grocery store, not only adds color, but a brighter, more complex autumn flavor to this wonderful rustic dessert. I loved the interplay between the sweet-tangy, tender apples (I used Pink Lady ones) and the sticky, gooey sugary quince with its subtle acidic note.

The recipe calls for Golden Delicious, but I used Pink Lady apples.

Yes, I loved the inside. But boy, let me tell you about the outside, too.

It’s a beaut.

Braker, who lives in Palo Alto and has been teaching baking for 35 years, sure knows how to put together a crust.

If there ever was such a thing as a perfect crust, this could be it. It’s very buttery, so crisp it shatters when a fork cuts through it, and so multi-layered flaky that my husband thought it nearly bordered being puff pastry’s more svelte cousin.

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Being Frugal with Ricotta, Part 2

Fruit-studded ricotta biscuits perfect with jam, butter or all on their own.

After staying up late to witness last night’s historic presidential election, all you sleep heads might need a little pick-me-up today.

Look no further than these tantalizing Ricotta Biscuits with Dried Cherries, Apricots & Raspberries.

We refer to ricotta as cheese. But did you know that it’s really not? So says the must-have, go-to book, “The Food Lover’s Companion” (Barron’s) by the late Sharon Tyler Herbst and her husband, Ron Herbst.

Ricotta is technically not a cheese because it has neither a starter or rennet in it, the Herbsts state. Ricotta is actually reheated whey (the watery liquid that separates from the solids or curds when making cheese). When the whey is reheated, “protein particles rise to the surface, are skimmed off, strained, then placed in perforated molds or baskets to drain further.” The result is ricotta.

This great recipe comes from “Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook” (Sasquatch Books) by Seattle bakery owner, Leslie Mackie, with Andrew Cleary.

These fruit-studded biscuits were the perfect way to use up the last of my leftover ricotta. In my posting yesterday, as you recall, I raved about another baked good that put some of that remaining ricotta to good use.

The dough for these biscuits is very wet and loose. So much so that I needed a dough scraper to turn out and fold the “dough” as it called for in the directions. I also needed a spatula to lift the cut biscuits onto the baking pan. Either that or they would have stuck all over my hands. Yes, this dough is a mess to work with, but don’t let that discourage you from trying it.

These treats taste like biscuits and look like scones. They are not dessert-like sweet, but pleasantly sweet enough from the infusion of all the fruit. The recipe says it makes eight biscuits. It does if you want ones the size of individual meatloaves. Personally, I think you can make 16 biscuits out of this, easily. Freeze some to enjoy with coffee or tea for breakfast another time. As winter approaches, you’ll be so glad you have a stash of these hearty babies tucked away.

Ricotta Biscuits with Dried Cherries, Apricots & Raspberries

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