Friday, December 21, 2012

Sponge Toffee Candy

This recipe is for a special childhood treat that is like the inside of a Cadbury's Crunchie candy bar. [I wonder if those only sold in Canada?] It is light as air and tinged with honey flavor. Dipped in chocolate or plain, this was yummy as well as fun to make. Words of caution: Make sure you are strong enough to lift the pot and its contents. I used a heavy dutch oven to make this and when it came time to dump it into the pan, I found myself struggling with the pot - filled with scorching hot sugar - because it was so heavy. Thankfully, I manoevered it without any injury, but next time I would definitely use a second pair of hands to help with this step.

Sponge Toffee Candy or Seafoam Candy1 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda, finely sifted
chocolate, for coating (optional)

1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey, and water, and using a wooden spoon, stir constantly over low heat until the sugar is fully dissolved.

2. Put candy thermometer into the mixture to monitor temperature, increase the heat and boil mixture to exactly 270 degrees F (132C).

3. Reduce heat to as low as possible and maintain the temperature 270F for exactly 15 minutes.

4. It is very important that the temperature of the mixture does not fluctuate; if the temperature begins to rise, remove the pan from heat occasionally to reduce the heat.

5. After the temperature has been maintained for 15 minutes, remove the pan from heat, take out the thermometer, and allow the bubbles to subside.

6. Using a wooden spoon, quickly stir in finely sifted baking soda.

7. Immediately and quickly pour the mixture into a large oiled baking dish.

8. (Please note, important: the pouring step requires strength and you'll be handling extremely hot liquids; if you're not strong and agile enough you might want to leave that step to a strong and able assistant.) When candy has completely cooled, remove from pan and break into pieces and dip into chocolate if desired.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Maple Walnut Bars

I am officially a married woman as of December 1, 2012!!! The wedding went beautifully and it was everything I had ever wanted in a wedding. Despite it being in December and having the forecast say 90% chance of rain, the clouds parted and the sun shone through just in time for our photos and our ceremony.

Now that the stress of wedding preparations is behind us, I will have more time to devote back to my dear little baking blog. I've missed baking all these months and hope to dive right back in for the holiday season!

These bars are a cousin of pecan pie. They start out with a shortbread crust then are topped with a similar filling but instead of pecans you use walnuts and instead of corn syrup, you use maple syrup! They are perfect for potlucks, bake sales or just for eating.

Maple Walnut Bars
Makes 9" square pan

1-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Make the crust: Whisk together 1-1/2 cups flour and 1/3 cup brown sugar; then cut in softened butter. Using a standing mixer, or a fork if you're working by hand, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal, dry and crumbly. Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 8- or 9-inch square pan. Bake 15 minutes.

3. To make the topping, combine 3/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, beaten egg, melted butter, cream, vanilla, 1 tablespoon flour, and salt. Beat well; then stir in nuts. Pour batter carefully over half-baked crust.

4. Return crust and topping to the oven. Bake until set, about 35 minutes. Cut into small bars and remove from pan to cool.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fresh Apple Cookies

After a wonderfully warm September on the west coast, the rainy season has finally set in. Last weekend standing out in the rain watching my son's soccer practice was a definite reminder that yes, fall is indeed here!

If I had to pick one flavor to represent this season, it would be cinnamon. I made these cookies a few weeks ago, using handpicked apples from Washington State! They were the cutest little apples I've ever seen. As you can see from the picture, compared to the stack of cookies, they are TINY! However, I must say, their size made them pretty nitpicky to peel and mince.

These cookies feature fresh apples paired with delicious, spicy cinnamon and nutmeg and covered in a light vanilla glaze. (They're also great without the glaze) My son and his whole daycare class loved them. I hope you do too!

Fresh Apple Cookies
adapted from

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large eggs
1/4 cup apple juice or milk
1 cup minced apples, peeled

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons milk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift flour and baking soda together, set aside.
Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer.

2. Blend in salt, spices, and egg. Add half the flour mixture and blend well. Blend in half the apple juice. Add the chopped apples to the remaining flour mixture and stir to coat. Add this and the remaining apple cider to the creamed mixture and stir by hand.

3. Drop by small spoonfuls on cookie sheet and bake 8-9 minutes. While baking, make glaze by blending all glaze ingredients together until smooth.

4. Remove cookies from sheet while still warm (be very careful) and glaze while barely warm.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hokkaido Milk Bread

I love Asian style breads. They are so soft and fluffy with a hint of sweetness. I also like the perfect square shape of the loaves which are often baked in Pullman Loaf Tins. However, I don't have one of those, so I bake mine in a regular loaf pan. This is a super easy recipe with wonderful results. There are other more complex recipes that look like they produce great breads using the Tang Zhong Method but they are time consuming. One day I intend to delve into the world of Tang Zhong, but for now these are an easy way to enjoy some delicious milk bread.

This time I decided to make the milk bread dough into buns for burgers or sandwiches. They sweetness of milk bread reminds me of those Hawaiian Rolls that are oh so good for burgers, so that's where I took my inspiration for these buns from.

It is also a wonderful way to use up extra milk you might have. I often have too much milk in the house because my son doesn't like drinking it but I keep buying it and hounding him to drink it for the calcium. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup heavy cream but you could use all milk instead and add 1/4 cup melted butter to make up for the loss of the milk fat from the cream.

Here are our grilled chicken breast burgers stuffed to the max with sauteed onions, lettuce, tomato, cheese and honey mustard! A sprinkling of flavored sea salt goes a long way, just like this Sea Salt with Chili for a hint of smoky flavor and kick on your burger.

Hokkaido Milk Bread
Makes 2 loaves | Adapted from Rasa Malaysia

1 cup milk
3/4 cup whipping cream
4 tbsp sugar
3 tsp active dry yeast or bread machine yeast
1 large egg
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tbsp salt

1. Bread Machine: Put milk, whipping cream, egg, flour, milk powder, salt, sugar and yeast into the bread machine. Set to Dough function. After the dough has finished it’s kneading cycle, let it proof inside the machine for 45-50 minutes or till it is double in size.

Non-Bread Machine: Warm the milk and cream to 105 degrees F (slightly warmer than body temperature). Stir in sugar to dissolve. Stir in yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes or until yeast is foamy, then beat in egg. In the meantime, mix 4 cups bread flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture. It will be stick. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour if needed. Try to add as little flour as possible to keep your loaf soft. Too much flour will make it dry. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it into a smooth ball. Put the ball in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise for 1 hour (almost doubled in size).

2. Shaping:
Remove from the pan and divide dough into 2 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, flatten the ball and roll out in a rectangle shape. Roll it up again tightly like swiss roll. Place dough in the prepared bread tin. Repeat with the second ball.
Set aside and let rise 1 hr or until it fills 75% of the bread tin. {I shaped mine into 8 balls and put them on a cookie sheet to rise. They made buns approximately the same size as kaiser rolls.}

3. Bake the loaves at 350 degrees F for approximately 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. {I baked my buns for only 20 mins}.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Raisin Bran Muffins

Why I love this recipe: It's made with Raisin Bran cereal. The kind you buy when you start a new healthy eating food kick, then end up forgetting in the back of your cupboard a week later.

You can save leftover batter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week and the muffins taste even better after the batter has sat overnight!

You have the option of making fresh muffins any morning of the week, scoop into ramekin/mug and microwave for 1-2 minutes. I was skeptical when I first read this but it really does work. Of course it's not as good as baking them in a regular oven, but you can't beat being able to enjoy fresh muffins on a Monday morning.

Raisin Bran Muffins
Makes 12 | adapted from Pinch of Yum

1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar (or use a mixture of brown sugar and white sugar)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups buttermilk (or 1 cup milk and 1 cup yogurt)
4 cups Raisin Bran cereal
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1. Mix all the ingredits in the order listed.

2. Scoop into a lined muffin tin and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending on pan size. (Do toothpick test to be sure they are done).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Nutella Layered Cheesecake

TGIF!!! I am off work in precisely 36 minutes and will be heading to Washington to visit my wonderful hubby to be this weekend. We are meeting with a potential caterer to discuss our wedding menu and maybe look at some centerpiece ideas. I'm usually a very organized person but when it comes to wedding planning, I'm lost! I'll have to rely on my little sister's help over the next few months.

Let's talk about this cheesecake. Have you ever met anyone who didn't like Nutella? I sure haven't! With nutella mixed right into the batter, the flavor is to die for. There is a layer of vanilla cheesecake and a layer of Nutella cheesecake. The perfect dessert that is sure to please both vanilla and chocolate lovers.

Nutella Layered Cheesecake
Makes 9" Cake | adapted from The Moonlight Baker

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted

3 pkg. (8oz each) Cream Cheese, room temperature
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Nutella

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9" spring form pan.

2. Combine graham crumbs and melted butter. Press graham cracker mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Bake crust in the center of the oven until set, about 12 minutes. Set aside and cool.

3. Using a food processor, add cream cheese, eggs, sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Pulse until smooth. Put 2/3 of the cream cheese mixture in a bowl and set aside. Add Nutella to remaining 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture in the processor. Pulse until smooth.

4. To assemble, spread the vanilla cheesecake mixture over the cooled graham cracker base, being careful not to disturb the crust. Pour the Nutella cheesecake layer on top of vanilla layer and spread evenly. Bake on the center rack of the oven for about 35 minutes, or until the center jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

5. When ready to serve, remove sides of spring form pan. Garnish as desired then serve. Store refrigerated.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Twisty Garlic Breadsticks

I am such a sucker for breadsticks. What can I say, I love carbs! These twisty garlic breadsticks are wonderful when served with a side of hot pizza sauce for dipping. Mmmm... Heavenly! They are soft, buttery, cheesy and garlicky. I might even like these better than pizza!

Twisty Garlic Breadsticks
Makes 12-16 | adapted from Our Best Bites

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 1/2 cups flour, divided

Butter, as needed to brush on top
Garlic Powder (to taste)
Parmesan Cheese (to taste)

1. Combine water, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer (or bowl) and let stand for about 10 minutes until the yeast is bubbly. Add in the salt and stir. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix well until smooth. Gradually add more flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of your bowl and is a little sticky.

2. Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes or until double in bulk.

3. Remove dough from the bowl and place on a floured surface. Roll into a rectangle about 9 inches wide and 18 inches long. Cut into 12 strips with a pizza cutter. Twist the dough being careful not to stretch it out too much. Place on a greased baking sheet. Cover the pan with a cloth and allow the dough to rise for about 30 more minutes.

4. When there are 15 minutes left on the rise, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Rub some butter on the top of the breadsticks and then sprinkle with garlic and parmesan cheese.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jell-O Orange Wedges

I love this! Great for a birthday party or potluck. It is usually done with orange flavored gelatin powder but it is so much more fun to mix up the flavors for a fun rainbow of colors. If you have kids, they could easily help.

Jell-O Orange Wedges
adapted from Pinterest

8-9 medium oranges
4 (85 g) boxes fruit flavored gelatin powder (various flavors)
2 1/2 cups boiling water

1. Slice the fruit cleanly in half lengthwise (through the axis). Carefully remove the pulp while keeping the half rind fully intact. Ensure that the rinds are fully dry.

2. Set each half rind upright in a muffin pan so you can fill it with Jell-o.

3. Mix the water with the gelatin. You'll want the Jello a little firmer than normal so it holds it shape in the orange wedges.

4. Make sure that the gelatin is well dissolved, and then pour it into the orange halves, filling as high as you can. The Jell-o will shrink a bit when cooling. Carefully transfer to the fridge and let set for about three hours (overnight is best).

5. When the Jello is set, place the fruit open-side down on a cutting board, hold it's shape with one hand and carefully slice in half lengthwise again to form quarters. Be careful not to crush the fruit. A serrated knife is helpful for this.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fannie Farmer's Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe is my go-to for homemade Mac n Cheese. It is so easy, so fast and my son's absolute favorite. It's his job to shred the cheese while I'm making the sauce. This recipe comes from the 1946 edition of "Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cookbook". With time on it's side - this recipe is hands down the best for traditional, homemade baked macaroni & cheese - comfort food.

Fannie Farmer (23 March 1857 - 15 January 1915) was an American culinary expert whose Boston Cooking-School Cook Book became a widely used culinary text. The original version on this book was published in 1896! I love scouring used bookstores for old cookbooks. They are often my first resource for comfort foods and classics.

Fannie Farmer's Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6 | Fannie Farmer

1 (8 ounce) package macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded good quality
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, buttered

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.

2. In a large saucepan melt butter. Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, using a whisk to stir until well blended. Pour milk and cream in gradually; stirring constantly.
Bring to boiling point and boil 2 minutes (stirring constantly). Reduce heat and cook (stirring constantly) 10 minutes.

3. Add shredded cheddar little by little and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Turn off flame. Add macaroni to the saucepan and toss to coat with the cheese sauce.

4. Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

100% Whole Wheat Cinnamon Ring

Only 5.5 months until the wedding! I miss blogging and the wonderful community of foodies I've found online, but sadly I have not been able to post very much lately because I've been so busy planning and organizing. I've still been baking, but the photos I've taken of the baked goods have not made it from my camera to my computer nor to this blog yet. Thanks to you all for continuing to follow me despite my erratic posting as of late.

If you know me, you know how much I love baking sweet yeast breads, but these are exactly the kinds of treats that I should be avoiding with only a few months until the wedding and 15 lbs to lose. That's why I'm thrilled that I found this recipe (adapted from Cooks Illustrated). It is 100% whole wheat and a great way to enjoy cinnamon buns with a little less guilt. There is not a trace of all purpose flour and yet they are surprisingly light, fluffy and moist. The honey in the dough gives the bread a light sweetness that marries perfectly with the cinnamon sugar filling.

I love this shaping method which makes for a lovely flower-like presentation. The method is very similar to cinnamon buns except that instead of cutting it into individual slices, you curve the log into a circle and join the ends. Then you make cuts every inch or so along the ring, cutting only three quarters of the way through, so they are still joined along the inner ring. It's even easier than traditional cinnamon buns, and so much prettier!

100% Whole Wheat Cinnamon Ring
adapted from Cooks Illustrated | Serves 16

1 1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3-4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts/pecans

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 tbsp milk

1. Put the butter, honey and milk in a bowl and heat it for about 1 minute in microwave or until lukewarm. Add the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes or until slightly foamy. Add the beaten egg to the yeast mixture.

2. Mix 3 cups flour and the salt in a large bowl then add the yeast mixture to the flour. Using a rubber spatula, mix until everything is combined and comes together into a ball. You may have to adjust the flour or add some water -- the dough should be tacky, but not sticky. Use as little flour as possible so your dough is not tough.

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead into a smooth ball. Put in a well oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for approx 1 1/2 hours (until almost doubled in size).

4. After dough has risen, gently punch it down then roll out into a large rectangle approximately 1/2" thick. Spread with softened butter then sprinkle evenly with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and nuts. Roll up into a log lengthwise. Holding both ends of the log, curve the log into a circle then pinch the ends together to seal. Place the ring on a baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make slices around the outer edge of the ring approximately 1" apart but do not cut all the way through the ring (the slices should all still be joined). Turn each slice slightly to the side so the slices are fanned out evenly.

5. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about an hour. Bake at 350ºF for approximately 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

6. Glaze: Combine the glaze ingredients until smooth and to the desired consistency. Drizzle over the cinnamon ring.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pink Cake Mix Cookies

In keeping with my very busy schedule, I now present to you another super-quick and easy recipe:Cake Mix Cookies!

What could be cuter than pink cookies? These are made with a strawberry cake mix, but you can use any cake mix and add food coloring if you like. I also added white chocolate chips, which really made these cookies stand out. For the best taste, I usually go for butter flavored or yellow cake mix. This time I opted for strawberry to up the fun-factor. I have made this recipe countless times. I actually make more cookies from cake mixes than I do cakes! They may not be the prettiest looking baked good but they are really really tasty. Oh yeah, added bonus: they are the chewy type of cookie too!

Cake Mix Cookies
Makes 24 | Adapted from

1 (18.25 oz) cake mix (any flavor)
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk (evaporated milk if you have it)
1 cup chocolate/white chocolate chips (optional)
food coloring (optional)

In a large bowl mix cake mix, butter, egg and milk. Shape dough in a ball. Chill for 2 hours. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out with a floured cookie cutters. Place 2" apart on a cookie sheet that has been very lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees F for 6-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

I am so sorry I haven't updated for almost a month! Life has been going way too fast for me. It's MAY already! Exactly 7 months until the wedding and I feel like there is so much stuff left to do. Mainly the details like the menu and the invitations and centerpieces and flowers. Just the kinds of things I do NOT like doing. I'm more of a big picture kind of girl. When it comes down to the details I'm just glad there are people like my sister and my future mother in law to help me out :)

I have not even been able to do much baking lately. The closest I got was making these no-bake peanut butter pretzel truffles. Much like cake balls, you just crush the pretzels, mix with peanut butter, shape into balls and cover with chocolate. mmm!!! Maybe I could make a (cuter) version of these for the wedding! Then again, witih all the peanut allergies I might want to stay away from nuts, lol.

We are going to do an early afternoon ceremony with an afternoon champagne and hors d'oeuvres reception immediately after. Anyone have any ideas for easy foods we could serve? We are going to do a dessert table (of course!). I just hope I have enough time to do the baking without getting too stressed out close to the wedding date.

Peanut Butter-Pretzel Truffles
Makes 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups pretzel pieces
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup milk or semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

1. Put the pretzel pieces into a resealable plastic bag and crush into very small bits (a rolling pin works great for this or a food processor).

2. In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and salt. Stir until all of the ingredients are completely blended and smooth. Add the pretzel bits to the peanut butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the powdered sugar and mix until completely combined.

3. Line a small baking sheet with wax paper. Using a small cookie scoop, or about 2 teaspoons worth of peanut butter mixture, gently shape into a ball with your fingertips. Place the ball on the wax paper-lined cookie sheet and repeat with the remaining peanut butter mixture. Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.

4. When ready to dip the truffles, microwave the chocolate chips and vegetable shortening together in a small bowl at 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth.

5. Working one at a time, dip one peanut butter-pretzel ball into the melted chocolate and use a fork to roll it around, ensuring that it is completely coated with chocolate. Let any extra chocolate drip off and place back on the wax paper-lined sheet. Repeat with all of the peanut butter-pretzel balls.

6. Return the baking sheet to the refrigerator and again chill for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with a drizzle of melted chocolate, if desired. Store airtight in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rustic Pear Tart

In his attempt to eat more healthfully, my dear fiance bought a big bag of pears from Costco. I commend him for his effort but 2 weeks later the bag was still over 1/2 full and the pears were rapidly ripening. I started searching for a recipe to use up the delicious pears and came across this easy, pretty pear tart.

I love the simplicity of the rustic style. No pie plates needed. No crimping of the edges. Just a flat baking tray and a rolling pin. This pie showcased the pears perfectly. It let their natural sweetness shine through.

Rustic Pear Tart
10" Round | Ellie Krieger, Food Network

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons lowfat buttermilk
3 tablespoons ice water

3 medium pears
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon boiling water

To prepare the crust, in a medium bowl whisk together the whole-wheat pastry flour, all- purpose flour, granulated sugar and salt. Add the butter and using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until you get a pebbly, course texture. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk and ice water. Using a fork, gradually mix the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture. Pat the dough into a 4-inch round and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and prepare the filling. Peel the pears, core them and cut into 1/4-inch slices. In a large bowl toss the pear slices with the lemon juice. Sprinkle in the cornstarch, brown sugar and cinnamon and toss until the pears are evenly coated. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a large circle about nine inches in diameter. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and draping the dough over the rolling pin, transfer to the prepared baking sheet. If the dough breaks at all patch it up with your fingers.

Arrange the pears in a mound in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch boarder. Fold the border over the filling. It will only cover the pears partially and does not need to be even.

Bake the tart for 15 minutes, and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, keeping the tart in the oven all the while, and bake for another 40 minutes, until the pears are tender and the crust is golden brown.

In a small bowl stir together the honey and boiling water to make a glaze. When the tart is done remove it from the oven and brush the honey glaze all over the top of the fruit and crust. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nutella Cheesecake Brownies

Exactly 1 year ago today my life changed. On March 31, 2011 I walked into the bank to apply for a Visa card and unexpectedly met my future husband. He was the personal banker helping me with my Visa application. I knew right away - sitting across from him at the desk - that there was something special between us. That day I got so much more than I ever could have imagined. He is now my fiancé and I am the happiest girl in the world.

This triple-threat dessert is just the thing to celebrate with. He loves Nutella, I love Cheesecake. Who doesn't love brownies!? Happy 1 year to Banker Boy and Canada Girl!

Nutella Cheesecake Brownies
9" square pan

Brownie Layer
1/2 cup melted butter, allow to cool
1/2 cup Nutella
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa

Cheesecake Layer
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup hazelnuts skinned, chopped (optional)
3/4 cup Nutella

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line a 9" square pan. Mix together the wet ingredients for the brownie until well combined. You can just used a wooden spoon.

2. Mix in the dry ingredients until well incorporated. Spread brownie mixture evenly in prepared tin. Using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until smooth, light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually until well incorporated and the mixture is smooth and fluffy again.

3. Gently mix in the flour until well combined, but don't over beat at this point. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the brownie mixture and spread evenly on top. Drop spoonfuls of Nutella over the cheesecake layer then marble gently by drawing a knife through the top layer. Sprinkle hazelnuts on top.

4. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until cooked through.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lemon Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting

So lemony and so tangy. You could serve this loaf without any frosting and it would still be delicious, but take my word for it - it is to die for when topped with cream cheese frosting.

The frosting recipe below is the best cream cheese frosting recipe I have ever tried. It has the perfect ratio of cream cheese to sugar and complements the tartness of the loaf. There is definitely no skimping on cream cheese here! If you're like my mom, you will eat this with extra frosting so it's pretty much equal parts cake and frosting :)

Lemon Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 lemon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 pkg (4 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5" loaf pan.

2. Whisk the flour, salt, sugar, lemon peel and baking powder together in a large bowl; set aside.

3. In a medium bowl beat eggs with milk, butter, lemon juice and vanilla. Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

4. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.

5. Frosting: Combine the butter and cream cheese with an electric beater until smooth. Add vanilla then add the powdered sugar to reach desired consistency. Frost the cake with the cream cheese frosting once cooled fully.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

March 6, 2012 was OREO's 100th Birthday!!! I actually made these for that day but forgot to post until now. Oops!

Did you know that when Oreos were first launched in New York in 1912 there were 2 flavors: Original and Lemon Cream. They are made by Kraft Foods (USA) and the Christie Brand (Canada). Over the past 100 years they have experimented with many other flavors including Strawberry Milkshake (Canada), Green Tea (China/Japan), Blueberry Ice Cream (Indonesia/Malaysia), Cool Mint, Banana Split (2008), Sugar Free, Reduced Fat and Cakesters (2007) just to name a few.

Personally, I prefer the chocolate cookies sans filling or the Vanilla Oreo variety. Since I don't like the filling, I twist mine open and scrape out the filling and save it for use in another recipe. When melted, it makes a great drizzle for brownies!

According to Kraft, women are more likely to twist open their Oreos than men! Check out the Oreo Timeline for more interesting facts!

To celebrate, I made mini Oreo Cheesecakes from Martha Stewart's "Cupcakes" book. Instead of crushed cookie crumbs, these feature a whole Oreo cookie placed in the bottom of each cupcake liner, topped with cream cheese filling and baked.

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes
Makes 30

42 Oreo sandwich cookies, 30 left whole and 12 coarsely chopped
3 1/2 (8oz each) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 30 standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole Oreo cookie in the bottom of each lined muffin cup.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in the vanilla.

3. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating to combine and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add in sour cream and salt, beat to combine. Using a large spatula, fold in the chopped Oreo cookies. Divide batter evenly among the cookie-filled muffin cups, fill each cup almost to the top.

4. Bake, rotating muffin tins halfway through, until the filling is set, about 22 to 28 minutes. Transfer the muffins tins to a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove from tins just before serving.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Awesome Apple Cake

I wasn't surprised when I was asked by several people for the recipe for this cake after I brought it to work. This is one of my favorite apple cakes! The recipe uses a generous amount of apples, making this cake incredibly moist and a good keeper. I love the slightly chewy, dark golden brown crust. Baked in a tube pan, it stands statuesque and proud.

Do not substitute a Bundt pan! This is not a cake you want to invert after baking. If you don't have a tube pan (with removable bottom), you could use a spring form 10" pan or bake it as a 9" x 13" cake, however, they will not be as tall. If you don't have pineapple juice, you can substitute orange juice.

Awesome Apple Cake
Makes 1 tube pan | adapted from Smitten Kitchen

5-6 tart apples (I like granny smiths)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange or pineapple juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional - I didn't use them)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

2. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

3. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Starbucks Copycat Vanilla Scones

You might be able to see from the photo that these scones were very flaky with many many layers. They seemed like a cross between a scone and a croissant. I skipped the glaze on these and they were still fantastic. However, for the real Starbucks experience, go for the glaze.

Starbucks also sells a mini version of these. If you want to make those, divide the dough into thirds before rolling out and cutting, then cut each round into smaller triangles and bake, keeping an eye on baking time. They will probably require a few minutes less than the full-sized scones.

Starbucks Copycat Vanilla Scones
Makes 8

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
5 tbsp very cold butter (frozen is best)

1 cup regular sour cream
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
water as needed to achieve desired consistency

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Use the “Grating Method” to add the butter: Grate a block of cold butter against the large holes of a box grater. Toss the butter ribbons with the flour mixture, and then use two knives to cut the flour-coated ribbons into 1/4-inch pieces.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg yolk and vanilla extract until blended. Add this to the flour-butter mixture and stir with a fork until dough forms a cohesive ball. Use a spatula to get the dry bits fully incorporated. It may not seem to have enough liquid at first, but the dough will eventually come together.

3. Place the sticky dough onto an ungreased baking sheet and pat into a disk about 1-inch in height. Cut the dough into wedges and place on the baking sheet.

4. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.

5. Prepare glaze while scones are baking. Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl, and add water one teaspoon at a time, mixing vigorously until smooth and runny. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of glaze over the hot scones. Tip: Brushing rather than drizzling gives a smoother appearance and requires less glaze. Store cooled scones in an airtight container.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pretzel Kisses

These pretty little pretzel kisses are so easy to make and so yummy. The pretzels have just enough salt in them to make these pop. I especially like the ones made with the white chocolate "Hugs". I think they look so adorable with their stark stripes.

What I like best about this recipe is that it can be customized for any occasion with the color of M&M's you use. Pink, red and white for Valentine's day. Pastels for Easter, etc. I got a whole bunch of Hershey's Kisses for valentine's day so this was a great way to use them up.

Pretzel Kisses
Makes 24

24 square pretzels
24 milk chocolate candy kisses
1 (1.69 oz) pkg. M & M's

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place pretzels on baking sheets. Unwrap candy kisses and place one in the center of each pretzel.

3. Place in preheated oven 1 to 2 minutes, until kisses melt. Remove from oven and place one candy-coated chocolate in the center of each pretzel. Chill in refrigerator until set.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baked Bars

The last weekend was so relaxing. We spent it at my future parents in law's place discussing wedding themes, colors and centerpieces. It was a lot of fun looking at wedding blogs and on pinterest. I also feel a lot better now having made some decisions about what direction we want to go with decorations.

Ok, now let's talk about these yummy bars! Sweetened condensed milk is an amazing and vesatile ingredient. I love it in all forms: straight out of the can or caramellized into dulce de leche or baked into a gooey topping like in these bars from the "Baked" cookbook by the guys from the famous NYC Bakery: "Baked". They are so good that they are even named after the bakery itself!

Cut these bars into small squares as they are extremely rich and so so good. When I brought these to work the entire tray disappeared almost as soon as it was wet out.

"Baked" Bars
9x13 inch pan | "Baked"

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
2 1/2 cups ground graham cracker crumbs (about 20 crackers)
1 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 1/3 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 cup (9 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
2 cans (8 oz each) sweetened condensed milk

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13" baking pan. Line with Parchment.

2. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and toasted coconut. Add the melted butter. Combine the mixture, then turn it out into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the crust into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to create a perfectly even crust.

3. Refrigerate the crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool completely.

4. To make the filling, increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Evenly spread the walnuts onto the bottom of the crust. Spread the chocolate chips over the walnuts, followed by the white chocolate, followed by the butterscotch chips.

6.In a steady stream, pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the filling. Shake the pan very gently to make sure the sweetened condensed milk is evenly distributed.

7.Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan every 10 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sour Cream Maple Walnut Muffins

Maybe it's because I'm Canadian... but when I'm looking for a comforting treat to bake, I often reach for the bottle of maple syrup in the pantry. It adds a lovely depth to any baked good, even if the maple flavor is not front and centre. Maple brings out the warmth in any cake or muffin. However, in these muffins, Maple is the star.

Sour Cream Maple-Walnut Muffins
Makes 12 small | adapted from

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
6 tablespoons sour cream
6 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tsp sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place paper liners in 12 muffin cups.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and maple syrup. On low speed, add 1/2 dry ingredients to butter-sugar mixture. Pour in 1/3 sour cream mixture.

4. Add remaining dry ingredients in 2 batches, alternating with sour cream mixture then gently fold in first amount of chopped walnuts. Beat until just blended.

5. In a small bowl, stir together walnuts, cinnamon and sugar. Pour batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle top of each muffin with walnut mixture.

6. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday Baby Boy!

Today my little darling is 5 years old! He is really into hockey - like a true Canuck - and is taking skating and hockey lessons at our community centre. It is beyond cute to see him in all those layers of hockey equipment.

He wanted a hockey party but a lot of the kids at this age don't know how to skate yet, so we settled on a swimming party instead with a hockey-themed cake. In the party room we set off the fire alarm with the sparklers and candles on the cake. Everyone had to be evacuated until the fire department showed up to turn off the alarm panel. I was horrified at the time, but now looking back, it is pretty funny and definitely memorable. The kids said, "the fire truck came! that was the best part of the party!"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hazelnut Cream Cheese Brownies - Fat Witch Bakery

Fat Witch Bakery is in the lovely Chelsea Market in New York City. I have previously mentioned how wonderful that trip was with my then boyfriend, now fiance. It was on that vacation that we knew we were meant to be. Through the overwhelming humidity and frustration of navigating the subway system, we grew closer and learned to laugh at ourselves and enjoy the time together even when we got lost for 3 hours trying to get back to our accommodation.

When we finally found our way to Chelsea Market, my face lit up. I'd heard so much about it before. To be there in person was unreal! So many delicious treats, I didn't know where to turn my attention. These brownies feature Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Cream Cheese. They are not overly rich nor sweet. I like the simplicity of this amazing combination. If you like Nutella and cheesecake you will definitely enjoy these brownies.

Fat Witch Bakery Hazelnut Cream Cheese Brownies
Makes 9" square | Fat Witch Bakery Cookbook

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts

1. Filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg, lemon juice, and vanilla extract, beating until well-blended. Stir in hazelnuts. Cover bowl and refrigerate.

2. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. Melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat to cool.

3. Beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add cooled chocolate mixture. Beat until well-combined. Gradually add flour and salt, mixing just until combined. Stir in hazelnuts. Spread half of the brownie batter into prepared pan, just covering the bottom. Spread chilled filling over brownie batter. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread remaining brownie batter on top of the filling. (This is far easier said than done.) Swirl the layers with a butter knife.

5. Bake 30-33 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean or with dry crumbs. Cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour. Brownies should be covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Recycling and Practical Use for Bottles

Yes, I'm a tree hugger. Yes, I'm that person who always reminds others to recycle. I'm a pack-rat at times, hoarding things that I could possibly use for some other purpose in the future. I load scrap paper in the printer so that I can print on the back side of page. My fiancé sent me this link last week. I loved the idea so much that I had to share it here.

It is a lot like the Copco gadget that you can buy in stores for $5-10. But isn't it more fun and economical to make it yourself? Some uses I can think of are: chocolate chips, shredded coconut, raisins, etc.

All you need to do is:
1. Clean out an empty bottle and cut the bottom of bottle off.
2. Slide the plastic bag through the inside and up through the mouth of the bottle.
3. Fold back the plastic.
4. Screw on the lid. Tada!

Here is the Copco version:

On another note, this is my 501st post!!! When I started this blog 3 years ago I had no idea I would ever reach five hundred posts! Tihs blog has brought me on such a wonderful journey. I have met food bloggers from all around the world. Thank you everyone for reading and commenting on my blog. I love you all!!!