Thursday, December 31, 2009

Orange Pineapple Muffins

One of the most satisfying things for me to do is to bake something using leftovers or bits and pieces from the pantry that would be otherwise thrown out. It's so rewarding to "recycle" in this way by infusing new life into food. One of my pet peeves is also throwing away or wasting food, so all in all I was happy to stumble upon this muffin recipe.

I had left over pineapple from the hawaiian mushroom pizza I made a few days ago. This recipe produced an extremely moist and fragrant muffin that is actually pretty healthy because it gets a lot of its moisture from the pineapple juice instead of from fats such as oil/butter/sour cream. It has 1 cup of juice and only 1/4 cup of oil!

I brought them to work and the delicious aroma of these nearly drove me crazy in the car. A wonderful, light, morning muffin.

Orange Pineapple Muffins
Makes 8

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp orange zest
1 cup pineapple or orange juice
1/4 cup shortening, melted, or vegetable oil
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Mix together dry ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, beat together egg, orange zest, juice, shortening/oil and crushed pineapple. Add dry ingredients and mix just to combine, do not over mix. Scoop into lined muffin tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gooey Caramel Peanut Brownies

I bet you're all getting sick of my posts featuring caramel! I can't help it though... I'm such a sucker for caramel, butterscotch, dulce de leche... anything along those lines. That sweet, ooey-gooey-ness is MY ultimate comfort food.

I made these bars using a shortcut brownie mix for the base. I like to stock up on cake mixes and brownie mixes when they go on sale because even though I could easily whip up a batch from scratch, sometimes it's nice to indulge in super-processed out-of-a-box fare. To my defense, at least I doctored these to make them seem more home made! I usually have at least one yellow, one white, one chocolate/devil's food, one brownie mix in my pantry - for 'emergencies' - wink wink.

The bars are totally moist and fudgy, no cakey brownies here! They also have a nice dense, firm but chewy texture.

Caramel Peanut Brownies
9" x 13" pan

1 pkg brownie mix & ingredients as needed to make mix (I used Betty Crocker)
1 cup coarsely chopped unsalted peanuts, divided

1 lb. caramels - about 60 pc.
3 tbsp heavy cream (or more as needed)
1/2 cup rice krispies

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
2. Make brownie mix as directed on box, omitting a tbsp or so of liquid so you hve a thicker batter. Stir in 1/2 cup peanuts. Pour into prepared pan. It should be quite a thin layer of batter - about 1/2". Bake until almost fully done - 20-30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, melt caramels with cream in a saucepan on low-medium heat until smooth. Stir in rice krispies. If mixture still seems too thick, add more cream bit by bit. It should be about as thick as honey or Jell-o pudding. Spread over hot baked brownie and return to oven for 8-10 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let sit for a few minutes to melt, then spread evenly with a metal spatula. Sprinkle immediately with remaining 1/2 cup chopped peanuts. Set aside to cool fully (overnight is good!). Do not refrigerate before cutting or they will be too hard to cut through.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TWD: Low and Lush Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake

This TWD recipe for cheesecake was selected by The Tea Lady from the blog "Tea and Scones".

Cheesecake is definitly one of my fortes. It was one of the first things I learned to bake and the one thing that is repetitively requested for any special event in our family: birthdays, thanksgiving, Christmas... This cake was actually our Christmas dessert this year.

For the longest time it was only NY Cheesecake and nothing else would do, but thankfully lately they've been more receptive and as a result I get to experiment more! I adapted this recipe by adding caramel and pecans for a sort-of turtle cheesecake effect. That is why I have included the recipe on my blog. For the original recipe, check out The Tea Lady.

Low and Lush Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake
1 - 9" Cake | Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup caramel sundae topping
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 1/2 pounds (three 8-oz pkgs) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sour cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

CRUST: Stir the crumbs, sugar and melted butter until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Turn the crumbs into the pan and, with your fingers, press evenly over the bottom of the pan and as far up the sides as they'll go. Freeze for about 10 minutes.
Bake for 10 minutes, only until the crust is lightly set and just tinged with color. Pour caramel syrup over crust, leaving 1/2 inch from edge uncovered. Sprinkle with pecans. Rrefrigerate while you make the filling. Keep the oven at 350 degrees F.

FILLING: Cut each bar of cream cheese into quarters and toss the pieces into a food processor with the sugar. Process, scraping down the bowl 2 or 3 times, for a full 2 minutes. The cream cheese will look like white velvet at the end of its beating. Add the eggs, vanilla and salt and give the batter 4 longish pulses, the scrape down the bowl, add sour cream and pulse 2 more times. Pour in the chocolate and pulse and scrape a few times to blend the batter well.
Remove the bowl from the processor and rap it hard on the counter a couple of times to de-bubble the batter. Scrape the batter into the cooled crust.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The top should be puffed and set, but if you tap the pan gently, the center of the cake will still be a little shaky. Turn the oven off and leave door ajar with the cheesecake inside for about 20-30 mins then transfer
to a cooling rack and cool for 2 hours. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.
To serve, run a blunt knife between the crust and sides of the pan, then open and remove the sides of the springform.

STORING: Wrapped well, the cheesecake will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It can be frozen for up to 2 months; defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hawaiian & Mushroom Pizza

I absolutely adore the week between Christmas and New Year's. That's when all the best deals pop up and all the Christmas merchandise (and chocolates!!!) go on sale. I got boxes of Turtles chocolate for $3.49! We were all pretty exhausted from the crowds and busy malls, so this pizza was the perfect comfort food meal. Toppings were simple - hawaiian (ham, pineapple) and mushroom. The real star here was the crus.

The crust recipe comes from the Canadian Living Baking Book. Their description: "The dough for this crisp, airy crust is a dream to work, especially after 24 hours, because the gluten is relaxed and easy to roll."
This is my favorite dough and it rises so nicely in the oven. I find it to be crisp with or without a pizza stone. Sometimes I throw in a handful of herbs or parmesan cheese right into the dough for a little change.

Pizza Dough
1-1/2 lb dough for one 14" crust

3 cups flour (approx)
2 tsp quick-rising (instant) dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups (120°F/50°C) water
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

In bowl, combine 2-3/4 cups flour, yeast and salt. With wooden spoon, gradually stir in water and oil until ragged dough forms, using hands if necessary.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead for about 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tbsp at a time, if necessary.

Place in greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate unrisen dough and let rise for 24 hours. Or freeze in plastic bag for up to 1 month; let thaw and rise in refrigerator overnight.)
Additional Information

Bread Machine: Into pan of 2-lb machine, place (in order) water, oil, salt, flour and yeast. (Do not let yeast touch liquid.) Choose dough setting.

DB: Gingerbread Houses

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Every Christmas I make a gingerbread house with my sister. It's fun but I have to psych myself up for the long process of making the dough, chilling it, making my template, rolling and cutting the dough, baking it, cooling it, assembling it then FINALLY decorating it. I know I could cheat and buy a gingerbread house kit but they taste terrible and I can't bring myself to spend money on something I could make better myself.

I love baking way more than I like decorating (which I find to be messy, time consuming and fiddly). I'd much rather sink my hands into a big ball of dough and knead away. However, because of this DB challenge and the fact that my son wanted to do a gingerbread house, there was no skipping it this year. I made 3 small houses so everyone could use their own creative flair.

We really were down to the wire this year. It felt like Christmas snuck up on us way too soon. We only finished making these on Christmas morning after breakfast!

The recipe I've used for 9 years is here, from It produces a cookie full of spice, soft and tender yet sturdy enough to build into houses. We always eat our houses because are too yummy to waste! This recipe tastes as good as it looks and the dough can be refrigerated for 3-5 days before baking for easy prep during a busy time of year. One of my friends begs me for these cookies every year. My mom likes them so much she'd rather eat them without icing so she can taste the gingerbread without any distractions. Highly recommended. I tripled the recipe for my 3 small houses but you could just double it if you are making one standard sized house.

Tip: Tie the pastry bag with a rubber band to prevent it from oozing out the top when squeezed by little hands.

Gingerbread Cut-Outs
24 -2" gingerbread men

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1.In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.
2.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
3.Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cinnabon Copycat Rolls

Merry Christmas 2009!!!

These are what my family woke up to for Christmas breakfast. I prepped them up to after they were rolled out and cut then put them in the fridge overnight. Took them out this morning for 1/2 hour while the oven was preheating, made the frosting while they baked and voila! Fresh cinnabon cinnamon buns!

The dough was easy to work with, rose high and produced a roll that was tender and fluffy. The frosting melted into the crevices of the roll, melding with the cinnamon sugar and creating the most decadent start to the day. Cinnabon, you've got competition!!!

Living in Canada, I've only ever had a Cinnabon once before, so I'm not sure how authentic these are, but they are damn good period. Here's the original recipe Cinnabon from allrecipes and my adaptation below.

I got 2 new baking books this year - The New Best of Better by Marcy Goldman and Baking by James Peterson. The Marcy Goldman one really interests me. There seem to be a lot of good solid recipes thar don't require fancy ingredients. Something about the book just instills my confidence in her. I'm not as sure about the Peterson one. It's got tons of step by step pics and is very comprehensive, but haven't heard too much feedback about the quality of the recipes. In this style of a baking book I might be more tempted to buy Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. It's got recipes from other famous culinary people and with those 2 big names attached to it, it's probably a surer bet. Any insights??? Lastly, I got Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Julie & Julia DVD.

My stocking stuffer: the coolest cookie shaped key caps! LOL my life is so totally urevolved around food.

Now I've got to get back to helping with making Christmas dinner - mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and turtle cheesecake! Hope everyone had a great day with family and friends and food!!!

Cinnabon Copycat Rolls
makes 12 | adapted from

1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup margarine, diced
4 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

1.Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
2.After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
3.Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. (or refrigerate overnight and let rise 30 mins before baking the next morning).
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls until golden brown, about 20 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Invert baked rolls onto serving platter immediately and leave pan inverted to let the sugar/cinnamon drip back onto the buns from the pan. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Caramel Cappuccino Bars

I have been really into baking bar cookies lately. Maybe it's because they are so easy and quick and tend to be a favorite on party platters. They are so unassuming - innocent little squares bursting with goodies. I think any cookie recipe can be adapted to take on a bar form.

Psst... 2 days until Christmas!

Caramel Cappuccino Bars
9x13" pan | Adapted from "Bars and Squares"

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cups ground almonds
2/3 cups toffee bits

1 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tsp hot water
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

8 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup toffee bits
1/4 cup slivered almonds

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Crust: Combine all ingredients with an electric mixer (paddle attachment) until thoroughly blended. Press into prepared pan lightly and bake until lightly browned, 12-15 minutes.
3. Topping: Dissolve espresso powder in hot water. Whisk in sugar, condensed milk and eggs until smooth. Whisk in flour and baking powder. Mix well. Pour evenly over baked crust. Return to oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until topping is golden. Remove and immediately sprinkle with white chocolate. Let it sit for about 3 minutes to soften/melt then spread out with an offset spatula. Sprinkle toffee bits and almonds over chocolate before it cools and sets.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TWD: Dorie's Favorite Pecan Pie

This was chosen by Beth of Someone’s in the Kitchen with Brina. Dorie calls it: "My Favorite Pecan Pie" found on page 327.

I loved the addition of chocolate chips and the flavor twist from the cinnamon and espresso. I was skeptical to begin with because to me those flavors combined with my idea of pecan pie didn't seem to mesh well together but silly me I should have had more faith in Dorie. It turned out to be complex tasting with great texture and beautiful presentation.

I chose to make this in a 9" tart pan so the ratio of crust to filling would be less. I had a little left over filling which I baked in mini muffin tins with leftover pastry scraps too. Those became my little tasty morsels for snacking while pottering about the kitchen.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reindeer Cookies

So easy, so cute, a great way to get kids involved in baking. My little one loved pressing in the red smarties on the cookies to make Rudolf's nose and chocolate chips for eyes. The pretzels were a little more complicated so I took care of that part.

Just use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe with the chocolate chips omitted, or a peanut butter cookie recipe if you prefer.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

TWD Café Volcano Cookie failure & Turtle Shortbread Bars

I don't know what went wrong with these but they are my first (and hopefully my last) Dorie recipe failure. They didn't stick together and they stuck badly to the pan. Judging from other TWD bloggers they were quite tasty! Maybe I will try them again the next time I'm feeling adventurous.

To make up for my Café volcano cookie failure, I made these decadent turtle shortbread bars. They have a shortbread base covered in a sticky yet soft caramel and topped with pecans and chocolate. They look fabulous on a cookie tray and they cut beautifully (after they have cooled fully). To make them even more tempting, they are super easy and quick to make. The recipe is from one of Robert Rose's publications. It is called Bars and Squares by Jill Snider and is surprisingly full of great recipes that use ordinary ingredients without reliance on cake mixes or pre-made doughs (although a few recipes in the book do use these convenience items). Lately I've been really into Robert Rose books as they are often specific to a type of method or item such as "125 Best Cheesecake Recipes" by George Greary or "250 Best Muffin Recipes" by Esther Brody. Both the aforementioned books have some real gems in them.

Turtle Shortbread Bars
Makes 9 x 13 inch pan

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened

1 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor or mixer, combine flour, brown sugar and butter mixing until it is crumbly. Press into the bottom of a greased 9x13" pan. (I like the glass ones for more even baking and removal of bars). Bake for 10-15 until it begins to brown slightly. Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with pecans.
2. While base is baking, melt together butter and brown sugar in a saucepan, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil, bubbles should appear all over the surface. It will be quite a thin/runny consistency. That's OK! Pour it evenly over the pecans in the baking pan. Return to oven for 10-15 minutes, until it looks almost set.
3. When done, remove from oven and sprinkle immediately with chocolate chips. Let stand for 3 minutes then gently drag the tip of a knife over the chocolate to swirl slightly. Leave the majority of chocolate chips whole/unswirled. Cool fully in pan before cutting.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Raspberry Jam Breakfast Bars

It's fortunate that this recipe makes a lot of bars because they are so addictive. Nancy Silverton describes these as "the single most addictive pastry" that they sell in her bakery. The recipe comes from: Pastries from La Brea. I don't know why this book only got 4/5 stars on Amazon. I loved it and thought it was a real gem! The only negative I can see is that some recipes are more involved and require some advance prep for chilling/rising times, but the results are always stellar.

Don't be put off by the 1 lb of butter called for in this recipe. It makes a lot of bars - a whole jelly-roll pan full!!! With a food processor they come together in minutes (but require 1+ hrs to chill before baking). These sturdy jam bars travel well and unlike other crumble topped bars the topping actually stays on instead of falling off when you pick them up!

Raspberry Jam Breakfast Bars
Nancy Silverton | 10"x16" tray

4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn starch
2 cups butter, chilled and cubed

2 cups raspberry jam

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
10 tbsp butter, cubed
1 egg, beaten

1. For crust, combine all dry ingredients in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until dough begins to come together. Turn onto floured surface and roll into a 10x16 inch rectangle. Place on jelly roll pan lined with parchment or silicone liner. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the topping. Combine all streusel ingredients in a food processor except butter and egg. Add butter and pulse until resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and add beaten egg, tossing with your hands. It should be crumbly and uneven. Chill until ready to use.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake crust for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden. Spread raspberry jam over the crust, leaving 1/4 inch uncovered around the edges. Cover with steusel topping and bake for another 40 minutes, until golden. Cool thoroughly before cutting into bars.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bendy PB Chocolate Cookies

These were supposed to be individual cookies but they spread so much they ended up being one giant cookie which I cut into fingers with a pizza wheel. Appearance-wise, not so pretty. Tastewise, heavenly! These cookies are thin, flat and very bendy. Not crisp, not puffy, not crunchy, not cakey, not fudgey. Just thin and bendy. Does that make sense?

This is the kind of recipe thas is destined to make soft cookies.... ie. it would be really hard to make a crispy cookie from this recipe even if overbaked. Don't ask me about the recipe science behind that statement, that's just my observation :)

Even if you don't like peanut butter much, still give these a try. They're not too peanut buttery, but having the pb in there helps give them their awesome texture.

Bendy PB Chocolate Cookies
Makes 24 - 2" cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (honey roasted is nice)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla. Combine fully.
3. Stir together all dry ingredients including chips and nuts in a separate bowl then dump into butter mixture. Combine fully using a wooden spoon.
4. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased pan. Leave space - they spread! Flatten with a fork dipped in sugar. Bake 10-15 mins until edges are golden brown.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Starbucks' Cranberry Bliss Bars

It's funny how well Starbucks has got us trained...
Frappuccinos = Summer
Pumpkin Spice Lattes = Thanksgiving
Cranberry Bliss Bars = Christmas!!!

Well, this recipe brings some of that holiday cheer into your very own home from your very own oven. Adapted from Recipezaar (#341328).

For those of you who haven't tried them in store, they are similar to a ginger-spiced blondie packed with craisins and white chocolate and covered in a dreamy slightly tangy cream cheese frosting. The bright red dried cranberries provides an eye catching contrast to the stark white frosting - excellent presentation and addition to your holiday spread.

Starbucks' Cranberry Bliss Bars
9x13 pan

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
6 ounces white chocolate, small chunks
1/3 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/4 cup white chocolate, melted for drizzling

Bars: Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 9"x13" pan with parchment paper. (You could use a 10"x15" jelly roll pan for thinner bars, just watch baking time).

Cream butter and brown sugar in electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, but do not over mix. Add dry ingredients in small amounts, scraping down the mixer bowl occasionally. Fold in cranberries, chocolate, and candied ginger.

Spread batter over parchment on pan and bake for 30 minutes or until bars are lightly pulling away from sides of pan and are slightly firm to the touch. Cool.

Frosting: In another electric mixer, blend softened cream cheese with powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, orange juice and orange zest. Refrigerate until ready to use.

When bars are cool, spread frosting evenly on top and sprinkle with chopped dried cranberries. Drizzle with melted white chocolate and return to refrigerator or freezer to set. To serve, cut into triangle shaped pieces. Store in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sables

Barbara of Bungalow Barbara picked Sablés, pages 131-133, for this week's Dorie recipe. Thank you Barbara!!! These are perfect for the holidays and my son gobbled up 3 cookies the moment they were cool enough to pick up off the pan.

Dorie says that in France the sable cookie is so common it is viewed the way we do our chocolate chip cookie. Well, I better move to France then, 'cause I could eat these little rounds every day. The buttery flavor really sings and they are tender yet flaky all at once.

While these were nice for a change, I think I will still stick to my regular tried-and-true shortbread from Nancy Silverton's La Brea recipe book.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Deep Fried Wontons

I used my new deep fryer for the first time! I have a Presto 1L deep fryer which I bought on Black Friday. I feel kinda trashy saying that I bought a deep fryer! LOL -

These days with everyone being health-conscious and intently watching their food intakes I feel guilty for indulging in the act of deep-frying. But, truth be told, I am in love. I'm keenly on the lookout for deep fried food recipes since all I can think about is using it again and swooning about the goodies I can make with my new favorite appliance.

I made deep fried wontons last night and they turned out so crispy and perfect that I just had to blog about them (even though they are not a dessert and this blog was meant to be mainly for sweets). These wontons would be great as an appetizer too. Heated up in the toaster oven the second day they are just as crisp and delicious. Surprisingly, they were not too time consuming to make and wrap and since you can prep them ahead of time and freeze them, they could even become part of a quick and easy weeknight menu!

Fried Wontons
Makes approx. 50 | Adapted from Joy of Cooking

1 pound ground pork or chicken
4 stalks scallion, finely minced
2 tbsp corn starch
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tsp salt and pepper
1/2 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped (or celery)
4 tbsp minced carrot

1 pkg wonton wrappers, covered with a damp towel (I used about 50 pcs)
1 egg, beaten

Combine all ingredients except for wonton wrappers and egg.
Working in batches of 10, place a teaspoon of filling in th emiddle of each wonton skin. Moisten edges of wrapper with beateh egg and fold the corners together to form a little pouch. Place in a large bowl while you fill the rest of them. (At this point they can be frozen and cooked at a later date).
To fry: Heat oil to 375 degrees F and place wontons in for about 4-5 minutes per batch or until cooked through. They will be a dark golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel.
***Alternatively, for a healthier meal, you could make wonton soup. Boil these instead in chicken stock until they are cooked.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Multi-Grain Bread with Sesame, Flax and Poppy Seeds

If you want a hearty, filling bread that is just perfect for the cold and icky weather outside, this is the loaf for you. Goes great with turkey soup and lots of butter!

Despite all the grains this loaf still rose nice and high with a perfectly moist crumb and great texture. I expected it to be a little on the heavy side but it was not at all. I also threw in some sunflower seeds - about 1/4 cup.

Multi-Grain Bread with Sesame, Flax and Poppy Seeds
1 loaf | Bon Appétit, February 1995

1/2 cup unsweetened multi-grain cereal (such as 7-grain)
2 cups boiling water
1 envelope dry yeast
4 1/3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons flax seeds
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 cups water

Place cereal in large bowl. Pour 2 cups boiling water over. Let stand until mixture cools to between 105°F. and 115°F., about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle yeast over cereal. Add 1 cup bread flour, oil, sugar and salt and stir until smooth. Gradually mix in enough remaining bread flour to form dough. Cover dough; let rest 15 minutes.

Turn out dough onto floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 10 minutes. Oil large bowl. Add dough to bowl; turn to coat. Cover bowl with clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 hour.

Mix all seeds in bowl. Punch down dough. Turn out onto lightly oiled surface. Knead briefly. Shape into 12x4-inch loaf.Sprinkle baking sheet with 2 teaspoons seeds. Place loaf atop seeds. Cover with towel. Let rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Position 1 oven rack in center and 1 just below center in oven. Place baking pan on lower rack and preheat oven to 425°F. Brush loaf with water. Sprinkle with remaining seed mixture. Using sharp knife, cut 3 diagonal slashes in surface of loaf. Place baking sheet with loaf in oven. Immediately pour 2 cups water into hot pan on lower rack in oven (water will steam).

Bake loaf until golden and crusty and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.(Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic; store at room temperature.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cinnamon Bun Cookies

December is definitely moving along quickly!!! We put up our tree but haven't done gingerbread houses or gone to see Santa yet. The nice thing is that I've done most of my Christmas shopping. I hate wrapping gifts though and usually procrastinate giftwrapping as long as I can. I'm kind of a tree hugger so I think that passive-aggressively comes into play. I hate all that wrapping paper being wasted and would honestly rather receive a gift wrapped in newspaper/old magazines.

To make these cookies I used a Recipezaar cookie dough for Cream Cheese Cut-Outs. Next I rolled it out, sprinkled a white sugar-cinnamon mixture on it, chilled it, sliced and baked at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes. When they were cool I made sandwich cookies filled with a thick, cream cheese frosting. I think sugar cookie dough would work equally well here although the cream cheese gives a nice tang to the dough to offset the cinnamon sugar sweetness.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Magnolia's Raspberry Cream Cheese Buns

I, a little Canadian girl, survived Black Friday. LOL. I was feeling brave and adventurous last week so my mom, sis and I went down to Seattle on Thursday after work and shopped till we dropped. I could not believe the line ups at Target even just to pay. But, I got a $3 crock pot and a $20 deep fryer, so it's worth it. One line up I wouldn't stand in is at Coach. I couldn't believe it - 2x around the block! It was super fun and your adrenaline gets going and you forget you're even tired in the first place. I wish I were American, cause Black Friday rocks!

Things I want to make with my new deep fryer: donut holes, samosas, spring rolls, churros, apple or banana fritters, deep fried mars bars (do I dare?!)

OK... on to the real yummy stuff.

These are from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook and are wonderfully fluffy and moist, not too sweet or heavy. The cookbook has some good recipes but a lot of duplication of recipes between this and other Magnolia recipe books. This is one of those books I'd recommend checking out of the library instead of buying. A lot of Magnolia recipes are also online. The Magnolia Bakery has 3 locations in New York. Dammit, I want to go to NY - all the good food is there!!! Junior's Cheesecake and Magnolia plus more! I just wonder why they call them buns and not muffins because they sure look like muffins to me! Either way, they're well worth the 5 minutes it takes to throw them together.

The book writes:
These buns have been our most popular breakfast item at the bakery since the first day we opened our doors. The flavors of the cream cheese and the preserves work really well together.

Magnolia's Raspberry Cream Cheese Buns
Makes 12

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
one 8-oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup raspberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the dry ingredients in two parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Drop 3 small dollops (about a teaspoonful each) of raspberry preserves onto the top of each bun and, using the tip of a sharp knife, swirl the preserves into the batter, forming a decorative pattern. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the bun comes out clean. Allow the buns to cool for about 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 27, 2009

DB: Cannoli Sandwich Cookies

So, this month's Daring Bakers challenge was not supposed to involve baking, but my twist still involved my oven. I took the inspiration from common cannoli flavorings - nuts, cheese, orange, chocolate - on the challenge was a baked cannoli cookie with chocolate-mascarpone filling.

The cookie itself is delicate and crumbly, a little like shortbread. This slice-and-bake cookie fits itself nicely into your schedule. No need to even thaw the dough before baking - just slice directly out of the freezer and pop them into the oven. The flavors complemented each other really nicely. I think I will be adding these to my Christmas baking list (with a few changes to make them more festive). Pistachios and dried cranberries with cream cheese frosting. I'm looking forward to it!

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli Cookies
adapted from Good Life Eats

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
6 oz mascarpone cheese
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, for drizzling

1. Beat butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar and brown sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beat till combined.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, zest, and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture. Beat at medium speed. Stir in pistachios.
3. Shape dough into two 6" logs. Wrap with wax paper and freeze until firm. Slice frozen dough into 1/8 inch thick rounds. Place rounds on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned at edges. Cool 1 minute on pan then transfer to wire rack.
5. Fill completely cooled cookies with cannoli filling. Assemble sandwiches and drizzle with melted chocolate. Cool in refrigerator until chocolate has hardened.
6. Filling: Mix filling ingredients together. Chill until ready to use. To fill sandwiches, pipe filling on the underside of one cookie and sandwich with another.
Drizzle with melted chocolate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Caramel Glazed Apple Pie Cake

The pressure is on! One of my mom's colleagues wants to pay me to do her Christmas baking as she's having a lot of visitors over this year and hates baking. She has no idea what cookies/cakes or how much she'll need. I'm totally hanging here - HELP!!! I need your input. Should I stick to the classics like shortbread and gingerbread? Do you have any recipe suggestions? How should I determine what to charge? Right now I'm thinking of putting together a list of favorites and letting her pick from there or use it as a jump-off point for her to give me some direction.

Now, on to the cake: This is a lightning fast cake to put together. It is a very moist cake (it uses 4 apples!) that tastes just like pie but I like to think it's a little healthier :)
The cake is great on its own but the caramel topping pushes it right over the top - tartness from the apples playing off the decadence of the caramel.

The sugar in the cake caramelizes during baking and gives the cake topping a little crunch. I used 4 different apples: granny smith, gala, mcintosh and spartan, for an added dimsnaion of taste.

Variation: serve hot with vanilla ice cream and drizzle the caramel sauce on top of the ice cream.

Caramel Glazed Apple Pie Cake
Makes 9" x 13" pan

1 cup vegetabile oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
4 medium apples, diced small

1 cup caramel sauce or sundae topping (Don't used melted down caramels here or it will be too hard when cooled)
1 tbsp cornstarch or flour

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13" cake pan.
2. With a mixer beat to combine oil, sugar and eggs.Mix together dry ingredients in a separate bowl then add to wet ingredients. Mix just to combine - it will be thick.
3. Stir in apples and pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until deep golden brown on top and starts to pull away from sides of the pan.
4. Cool on wire rack in pan. Combine caramel sauce with flour/cornstarch and pour over cake, spreading evenly. It will melt into the cake, filling it with sweet, caramelly goodness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Peanut Caramel Cupcakes

I couldn't find that chestnut paste Dorie calls for in this recipe, so I substituted peanut butter and loved the results. I cut the tops of the cupcakes at a 45 defree angle and filled them with the filling and some ganache then put the tops back on and froated them. They were quite dense (I put a lot of filling in each) and kinda reminded me of chocolate bars. Pretty rich and compact, so I'm glad I made them small. I imagine this recipe would be well suited to hazelnuts as well.

Thank you to Katya of Second Dinner for choosing this recipe!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bacon Cheddar Breakfast Buns

Oh My God. These are to die for. It's really simple and deliciously rewarding. What's not to love: bacon, cheese, green onions and bread.
You basically make a recipe for 1 loaf of white bread, knead in some herbs and garlic powder, roll it out and spread with ranch and sprinkle with goodies (bacon, grated cheddar, green onions), roll it up like a cinnamon bun, sprinkle some parmesan on top, cut and place in a plan to rise. Bake. Eat. :)

Bacon Cheddar Breakfast Buns
Makes 12 | Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tablespoons bacon pan grease or melted butter
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp dried oregano

1/4 cup ranch dressing
12 pc. bacon, cooked and chopped, grease reserved
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 chopped scallions or chives

Pour the warm milk into a mixing bowl and dissolve sugar in milk. Cool to 110 degrees F then the yeast. When the yeast is foamy, add the bacon grease/butter and 2 1/2 cups of flour and the salt and spices. Mix together and then add remaining 1/2 cup of flour if needed to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.

Knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes, until it begins to behave as if it belonged together. Let it rest while you clean and grease the bowl. Continue kneading a further 3 to 4 minutes, until the dough feels smooth and springy. Let the dough rise until doubled (1 to 2 hours). Deflate it and knead out any stray bubbles, roll it out into a large rectangle and spread with ranch dressing and sprinkle with bacon, cheddar and scallions. Roll up tightly, pinch seam to seal and cut into 12 equal pieces. Arrange in a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover and let rise until almost doubled (45 minutes to 1 hour at room temp or overnight in fridge). *If you are doing the overnight rise, take them out in the morning to bring to room temperature 15 minutes before you preheat the oven.

Just before baking, sprinke the buns with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TWD: Cran Apple Tart

The recipe for "Cran Apple Crisps" (baked out of order as all my Nov. TWD recipes are) was chosen by The Repressed Pastry Chef. Check out her blog for the original recipe. I happened to put my own twist on the crisp, making it into a tart instead of a spoon dessert. I'll take any excuse to use my 9" fluted tart pan. I love that thing. A simple all-purpose pie crust filled with Dorie's apple cranberry filling and topped with her crisp topping. Because the tart pan is so shallow I used only about 2/3 of the recipe (2.5 apples instead of 4, the rest scaled accordingly). I froze the (delicious) extra streusel in a ZipLock container for easy to throw together fruit crisps or muffin toppings in a flash.

When I first put this into the oven the filling was piled so high it looked like an anthill, but thankfully the apples cooked down and in the end it was just the perfect height. Note: this bubbles a lot! I should've known better and put foil under my pan to save myself a lot of sticky puddles in my oven. Served at room temperature the next day it was even better than hot out of the oven. It was a beautiful medley of sweet and tart with contrasting textures from fresh and dried cranberries and bits of coconut in the topping. Nobody could guess there was coconut but when I told them their reaction was: "ahhh.... so THAT'S what it is". They knew something in there tasted different (in a good way!) but couldn't put their finger on it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Best-Ever Shortbread

The shortbread cookie is a favorite in my house. What can I say, they love butter! My son could eat it off a spoon if I let him (which I don't). Because it's so well loved I have at least 25 recipes for shortbread, each one claiming to be "the best". It comes from Nancy Silverton's cookbook called Pastries from La Brea Bakery. I was going to skip it until I read her little blurb before the recipe which said basically that: don't skip this recipe just because you think you have enough shortbread recipes. She claims hers is better than all the rest. AND SHE'S RIGHT!!!

The dough is so easy to manage. I did the whole thing in my mixer, refrigerated it overnight and it baked up beautifully, filling my house with the sweet smell of butter. I think the icing sugar is the key to this recipe. I especially like that it doesn't call for corn starch like many other shortbread recipes do.

Some recipes are too crumbly to roll and cut while others are rollable but too moist, losing their flakiness. This one has the best of both worlds. You could easily roll it and cut out shapes or just do as I did - be lazy and make bars. Just let the dough sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes after you take it out of the fridge so it's easier to roll out.

There are some real gems in Nancy's book, such as this recipe and the one for her cinnamon buns - made using a croissant dough. OMG they are to die for.I have a few others bookmarked too for future baking. However, the book lacks pictures and is a little pricier considering how thin it is. Hmmm... quality over quantity? I only wish I had known about her bakery on La Brea Street, L.A. I went to California back in May. I even remember walking on that street! Now looking back I'm kicking myself for missing the chance to try one of her pastries.

Best-Ever Shortbread
20 fingers | Nancy Silverton of La Brea

1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

In a mixer (with the paddle attachment) cream together butter and sugars.
Combine flour and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add into butter mixture on low. It should eventually come together into one ball. Turn out onto counter and roll into a ball. Saran wrap it and chill overnight.
The next day, remove from fridge and let sit for 15 minutes before rolling and cutting. (Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll out to 3/8" thick and cut into shapes or bars. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 300 degrees F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.
Store airtight.

I got this tip from Cooks Illustrated and it works wonderfully!
When making shortbread (or other cookies) in a round pan, use a small 1" cookie cutter to cut out a circle in the centre of the pan.

This helps avoid the tips of the cookie wedges from crumbling in the centre of the pan when they are cut.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chewy Coconut Cookies

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with coconut. In grade 6 we did a social studies unit on France and we were asked to bake/cook something French to bring to class for the last day of our study. Our group chose macaroons, but the girl in charge of bringing the shredded DRIED coconut was kinda not so smart and brought a whole coconut instead. Imagine that: four 11-year olds trying to make macaroons, totally new at cooking to begin with and then faced with a whole coconut! It was a disaster, but our teacher was kind enough to make us feel good about our attempt. It's the effort that counts, right? tee hee.

I think my main complaint about coconut is the texture. I don't mind the taste. It's weird how totally different fresh and dried coconut are. They taste nothing alike at all, in my opinion. I used to love Malibu until an unfortunate night of drinking too much of it... and now I can't even smell the stuff without feeling nauseous. Anyhow, here are some chewy coconut cookies I made. They are a bendy kind of cookie, sorta on the thin side, a little crisp around the edges but predominently chewy. The softness comes from the coconut as it holds moisture well. In sI've noticed that some chocolate chip cookie recipes use ground dried coconut with the flour to help the cookies achieve a chewy texture. The recipe is from but a very similar one is also in the Gourmet Today Cookbook.

Chewy Coconut Cookies
Makes 1 dozen | Allrecipes

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in the coconut. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly toasted. Cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cinnamon-Sugar Pastry Sticks

Whenever I make pies I look forward to the bits of extra pastry left over from trimming the edge of the pie crust or the dough scraps from when you cut out tartlette rounds. I can't stand to throw food out, so I coat them with cinnamon-sugar and bake them on a cookie sheet until golden brown. They come out buttery and crisp and are perfect to nibble on while waiting for your pie to be done baking.

Today I was in the mood for a sweet baked treat but didn't feel motivated enough to measure out a bunch of ingredients (and do the accompanying dishes afterwards). I was happy to find a plastic-wrapped ball of pie dough in my fridge I had made a few days ago. Whwnever I make pie crust, I always make extra and either freeze or refrigerate it because you never know when you might need a quick crust (like today!)

In the time it took to preheat the oven (to 425F), I had rolled the dough (1/4" thick), cut it into little (1/2" x 3") sticks and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar (1/3 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon). After baking for 10-15 mins they were ready. Super-easy and almost no dishes!

You could do this with any pie dough but here's the one I used: my favorite all-butter dough from Gourmet. No icky shortening here! An all-butter pastry dough is a little less flaky than a dough made with a blend of butter and shortening, but you’ll love the end result — the taste of butter really comes through - mmm-marvelous!

All-Butter Crust
1 - 9" Single Crust | Gourmet, Sept/09

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 5 tablespoons ice water

1. Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps.
2. Drizzle 3 Tbsp ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful: If it doesn'tt hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 Tbsp at a time, stirring until incorporated, then test again. (Do not overwork mixture or pastry will be tough.)
3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: All-in-One Holiday Cake

This recipe was chosen by Brittin of The Nitty Britty. Once again, this month I'm baking all the TWD recipes out of order. This week was crazy-hectic-busy so I needed something that would come together in the midst of making dinner, doing accounting homework, talking on Skype with my school group partners and making sure my son doesn't get into too much trouble while I'm not watching him. I prepped a lot of the recipe ahead of time - chopped the cranberries, walnuts and apples, measured out the dry ingredients and set the butter and eggs out to come to room temperature. This is one of the reasons I like quickbreads so much. Once everything is measured out it's just a matter of whirring the wet ingredients in the mixer, throwing in the dry ones for a few seconds and popping it in the oven.

This cake is the embodiment of autumn. All those wholesome, earthy, spicy flavors melded into one beautiful Bundt. It screams "harvest" and "holidays". A chock full of goodies in every bite. While it may not be the most elegant or dainty cake, it's certainly very pretty. Little red cranberries peeking out amidst chunks of apple and nuts. Mmmm...

I always make sure to grease my Bundt pan reeeaallly well with shortening and flour. I use my hands to make sure it gets in all the little cracks and crevices. My heart always skips a beat in that moment when you flip the pan over to unmold it. Will it stick? Won't it? And then a sigh of relief when the cake slides out intact in all its Bundt-shaped glory. I think for Christmas this year I'm going to ask for a NordicWare Bundt pan. I have a Wilton one right now and it works well enough, but I guess I'm being a brat wanting the "real thing", just like Le Creuset is THE BRAND known for cookware.... or maybe it's just an excuse for me to get another item for my already too full kitchen. :)

All-in-One Holiday Cake
1 - 10" Bundt Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup fresh cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp maple syrup
6 tbsp icing sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9- to 10-inch (about 12-cup) bundt pan. Do not place the pan on a baking sheet—you want the oven's heat to come up through the bundt's open core. Put the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt (and ground ginger, if you're using it) in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Working with a mixer (and using a paddle attachment, if you have one), beat the butter and both sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition; beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin, chopped apples and grated ginger—don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. Working with a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Slide the pan into the oven and bake 60 to 70 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding. Cool to room temperature on the rack.

Maple Sugar Icing: Sift 6 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. Add more maple syrup little by little, until you have an icing that runs nicely off the tip of a spoon. You might need another 1/2 tablespoon of syrup to get the consistency. Put the cooled cake on a sheet of waxed paper and drizzle the icing from the tip of a spoon over the cake. Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.

Serving: Just before bringing the cake to the table, dust it with confectioner's sugar. Because of the apples, cranberries and nuts, this cake doesn't lend itself to being cut into dainty slices—and it's just as well: You really want to get a mouthful of this bundt, the better to appreciate its many flavors. The cake needs no embellishments if you're serving it as an afternoon treat, but it is really nice with softly whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. For brunch, toast the cake lightly and spread it with a little salted butter and/or a slick of pure maple syrup.

Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for up to 5 days, at which point it will be perfect for toasting, or for up to 2 months in the freezer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Oatmeal Wheat Bread

As most food-people are, I too am saddened by Gourmet Magazine's scheduled closure. However, the publication of this big green cookbook called Gourmet Today makes me feel a little better, knowing that Gourmet's recipes will be living on through this book. This bread is the first recipe I have made from the book and it lived up to exceeded my expectations. I would go so far as to say I will look no further than this for a sandwich bread recipe.

Gourmet's publicity manager said, “This book is really being viewed as Gourmet magazine’s legacy, even as a collector’s item. Perhaps there’s a sentimental factor in the new book’s popularity. People are holding onto and archiving past issues of Gourmet, downloading recipes from the Gourmet website, and the book is another extension of that—a way for the legendary brand to live on.” (from Publisher's Weekly). It's a great book, but I wonder how it compares to Gourmet's 2006 publication: The Gourmet Cookbook - the yellow one. I'm such a cookbook whore that it almost causes me anxiety when new editions of books are released because then I'm faced with the dilemma: do I buy it or just stick to the older edition I have? I know rationally that I don't need so many cookbooks but I keep on buying them anyway. Well, I guess I could be addicted to worse things, right?

I was extremely impressed with how this loaf turned out and the amazing smell that filled my kitchen while it was baking. The loaves were light and airy with great texture. I was amazed at how much flour and the recipe called for (5 cups plus 1 cup oats!) especially since the end result wasn't heavy at all. I love how the honey and oats added texture and subtle flavor. The dough was soft and moist and slightly sticky. Not the easiest to work with but not difficult either and SO worth it. Oh my, I could go on and on about this bread's ethereal texture...

Oatmeal Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves | Gourmet Today Cookbook

2 cups whole milk
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats plus additional for topping
1/2 cup warm water (105-115°F)
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup mild honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1. Heat milk in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling, then remove pan from heat and stir in oats. Let stand, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooled to warm.

2. Stir together water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon honey in a small bowl; let stand until foamy, 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.) Stir yeast mixture, melted butter, and remaining honey into cooled oatmeal.

3. Stir together whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add oat mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead with floured hands, adding just enough of remaining unbleached flour to keep from sticking, until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes (dough will be slightly sticky). Form dough into a ball and transfer to an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

4. Lightly butter loaf pans. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times to remove air. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a loaf, then place 1 loaf in each buttered pan, seam side down, tucking ends gently to fit. Cover loaf pans loosely with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

5. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly brush tops of loaves with some of egg wash and sprinkle with oats, then bake until bread is golden and loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove bread from pans and transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pizza Buns

There's just something about the smell of cheese and tomato sauce baked together that is simply mouth-watering. Even if I'm not hungry, the smell of pizza gets my stomach growling. These muffin-sized pizza buns definitely induced that reaction while they were baking. The dough is a little airier and lighter than pizza dough. Definitely a great snack that lets you fulfill your pizza craving without ordering a whole pie. You could easily throw in some cooked bacon and onions or chopped up pepperoni for even more pizza goodness.

Pizza Buns
Makes 12 | Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 1/3 cup warm milk
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3-4 cups flour

3/4 cup pizza sauce
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1. Combine milk with yeast in stand mixer bowl and let stand until foamy, approximately 5 minutes.
2. Add olive oil and stir to combine. With mixer on low using dough hook, add 1 cup flour, sugar and salt. Add the remaining flour as needed to reach the desired consistency. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Lightly oil the top with additional olive oil or butter. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Gently punch down dough and roll out into a large, thin rectangle.
4. Spread pizza sauce over dough and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Roll up starting from long end, pinch to seal the seams and cut into 12 rolls. Place each into a greased muffin tin. Cover and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until almost doubled. Sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.
5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 mins until golden brown.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Junior's Cappuccino Cheesecake

Another success from the Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook. I have been impressed time and time again by the recipes in this book. I look forward to the day I can go to New York and try the "real" thing from the Junior's store, complete with sponge cake crust. Even though the real thing calls for a sponge cake crust I have been sticking to my regular digestive cookie crust when I make these Junior's cheesecakes. I used to be a graham cracker crust person until I discovered digestives. I'm never looking back!!!

The espresso flavor was definitely there but not overpoweringly so. I loved this recipe - a definite keeper - especially since so many espresso cheesecake recipes also include chocolate. I'm a purist when it come to my coffee.

I had a caramel sauce left over from my Whole Wheat Oatmeal Caramel Bars so I drizzled it over the cheesecake before serving. It tasted just like a caramel macchiato! Does that mean that chocolate syrup would make this mocha-like? Mmmm.... so many possibilities.

Junior's Cappuccino Cheesecake
9" Cake | Adapted from Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook

1 - 9" graham cracker crust
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tbsp hot water
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese
1 2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Dissolve instant coffee in 1 tbsp hot water. Let stand.
3. On low speed beat together 1 package cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar and cornstarch until creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl down occasionally. Blend in remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping bowl after each addition. Increase speed to medium and beat in remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar and vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Stir the coffee into the heavy cream then add the coffee-cream mixture to the cheese mixture. Beat until blended but do not overmix.
4. Pour cheese mixture over prepared crust. Bake in a water bath in preheated oven. The edges should be light golden brown and the top a light tan color, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from water bath and cool on wire rack for at least 2 hours (do not touch it at all during this time). After 2 hours, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate fully - at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.
5. Dust with cocoa and decorate with chocolate curls and coffee beans before serving.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TWD: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

Today's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Pamela of Cookies with Boys. She decided on Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies on pages 76 and 77 of Baking: From My Home to Yours. I'm baking the recipes out of order this month, based on what my schedule allows for, so I included the recipe here instead of just the link. This recipe was super simple with super spectacular results.

Molasses spice cookies have a soft spot with me (and with many others). There's just something about the spiciness of the cookies that brings back fond memories. They have all the yummy-ness of gingerbread cookies but with an amazingly chewy texture. These are the best kind of cookies - slightly crispy edges that give way to a bendy, chewy middle. Unfortuantely, mine didn't have the pretty cracks in them that are usually seen on molasses cookies, but they more than made up for that in the way they tasted.

Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies
Makes 30 | Dorie Greenspan

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and pepper.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat for 2 minutes or so to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour and spices disappear. If some flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, to avoid overbeating the dough, mix in the last of the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula. You'll have a smooth, very soft dough.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Freeze for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Put the sugar in a small bowl. Working with one packet of dough at a time, divide it into 12 pieces, and roll each piece into a smooth ball between your palms. One by one, roll the balls around in the bowl of sugar , then place them on one of the baking sheets. Dip the bottom of a glass into the sugar and use it to press down on the cookies until they are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the tops feel set to the touch. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, if the cookies have spread and are touching, use the edge of a metal spatula to separate them while they are still hot. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

The cookies will keep for at least 1 week in the cookie jar. Wrapped airtight, they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Caramel Sticky Buns

Happy November 1! We're in November already. How could time have passed so quickly? It seems like summer was just here and now it's already heading into the Christmas season. For this cold autumn day I made these caramel sticky buns: ooey, gooey cinnamon goodness covered with a creamy caramel topping and studded with pecans. My two favorite sweet flavors rolled into one: cinnamon and caramel. Some people are chocaholics, well, I am a caramel-holic who loves it in all its forms, from super-soft to almost toffee-like. I think the secret here is in the vanilla pudding mix that gets added to the dough.

These buns are a true indulgence. Rich and tender on the inside offset by crunchy pecans and sticky, gooey caramel. While they are best fresh from the oven, they take nicely to storage in an airtight container and reheating for 20 seconds in the microwave.

The dough part of the recipe is from, the topping is my own addition. Dough recipe was written for a breadmaker, although I made mine using a stand mixer and the standard straight dough procedure. Make sure not to add too much flour when kneading so as to keep the dough soft, not dry.

Caramel Sticky Buns
Makes 24 small rolls | inspired by

1 (.25 ounce) pkg active dry yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 (3.4 ounce) pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix*
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups bread flour

3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup butter, very soft
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. In the pan of your bread machine, combine water, melted butter, vanilla pudding, warm milk, egg, 1 tablespoon sugar, salt, bread flour and yeast. Set machine to Dough cycle; press Start.
2. Make filling: Combine cinnamon, brown sugar and white sugar.
3. Make topping: Stir together heavy cream and brown sugar. *Do not substitute any lower fat cream or your caramel will not turn out properly*. Pour topping into a greased 11x15 inch baking pan (lasagne dish). Sprinkle coarsely chopped pecans over the brown sugar mixture.
4. When Dough cycle has finished, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a large rectangle, as thin as you can get it, approximatly 1/8 inch thick. Spread with 1/2 the softened butter. Sprinkle 1/2 brown sugar mixture over dough. Roll up dough tightly, beginning with long side. Pinch ro seal the seam. Slice into 12 equal slices and place in the prepared pan. Repeat with other half of dough for a total of 24 rolls (3 across, 8 down). Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Or, refrigerate overnight and let them finish rising the next morning.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Carefully but quickly invert onto a cookie sheet(before the topping hardens).

*I have successfully used 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder instead of the pudding mix.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Devil's Food Cake and Halloween

It was my son's first halloween trick or treating. Last year he was too young, but this year at 2.5 yrs old, he had a blast!!! OMG it brought back such memories for me... the excitement of waiting for it to get dark out so you can go door to door, the bustle of kids outside, all hyped up on sugar and adrenaline. I love seeing all the decorations, watching fireworks on the street then finally retiring back home to count and sort the candy and have some hot chocolate. I was so happy that I was able to share this experience with my son and watch it through a child's eyes all over again.

He dressed as a little mouse and charmed absolutely everybody by going around saying, "I'm dressed as a mouse! Squeak squeak!" He caught onto the concept of trick or treating really quickly and kept on saying, "next house" to go and get more candy. Surprisingly, his favorite candy are Rockets! Those are my least fave.

Above are the 3 pumpkins we carved. I'm not a very good pumpkin carver... hence why the spider has only 6 legs! I also didn't do a very good job of decorating, but this devil's food cake from the Food Network was sooo deep and delicious. I strongly recommend lining the pan bottoms with circles of parchment for easy removal.

Recipe: Devil's Food Cake

I hope everyone had as great a night as we did.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Whole Wheat Caramel Oatmeal Bars

The use of whole wheat flour and oats makes these caramel bars just a little less bad for you. They strike a nice balance between sinful caramel and chocolate and wholesome granola bars. Creamy caramel studded with melty chocolate chips. There's also a little coconut thrown in there for texture. They have a slight nutty flavor from the ww flour, but if you prefer, you could use all white flour.

Whole Wheat Caramel Oatmeal Bars
Makes 9x13 inch tray

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup butter, melted

1 1/4 cup caramel sundae topping/sauce
OR 32 individually wrapped caramels melted with 6 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan lined with foil or parchment paper. If using the individually wrapped caramels, melt them in a medium saucepan over low heat with the heavy cream, stirring occasionally until smooth.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, oats, coconut, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the melted butter until well blended. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of pan. Reserve the rest. Bake the crust for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove and pour the caramel mixture over the top. Sprinkle with chocolate chips then top with the remaining crust mixture.
3. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the top is lightly toasted (check it around 15 minutes). Cool completely then cut into squares.