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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rustic Cranberry Bread

Here is something just a little healthier to offset all the sugary baking I normally do. I bought a 10kg bag of whole wheat flour then realized afterwards that ww flour has a shorter shelf life than all-purpose. I suppose you can expect to see more whole wheat baking from me soon! Does anyone have any good recipes that use up a lot of ww flour? I have heard that you can substitute half the flour in a recipe with whole wheat but whenever I do this the thing comes out tasting too 'healthy'. lol. My belief is, if you're gonna splurge, then SPLURGE!

I have a friend who is a crazy healthy eater. When he was getting tested to get into the police force the doctor tested his cholesterol and said it was the lowest he'd ever seen. Now whenever I make something 'healthy' he gets to be my taste tester. I made this bread for him and he just adored it toasted with cream cheese.

Rustic Whole Wheat Cranberry Bread
1 large boule or 4 smaller rolls

1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1.In stand mixer bowl dissolve honey in warm water. Add yeast and let stand for a few minutes, until foamy then stir in melted butter.

2. Combine all dry ingredients except for 1 cup bread flour, in a separate bowl. Using the dough hook, Gradually add dry mixture to the yeast mixture. Add in the last cup of flour gradually, just enough for the dough to come together and be only slightly sticky.

3. Cover and let rise for 1-1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
Gently deflate dough and shape into a round ball or smaller rolls. Cover and let rise for another 30-45 minutes until doubled.

4. Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 30-45 minutes or until instant read thermometer reads 190 degrees F. I like to bake these directly on a pizza stone, but you could use a baking sheet instead.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cranberry Cream Cheese Braid

This festive braid falls into my favorite category of baking: yeasted and shaped sweet breads. Like a loyal I love the way the dough waits patiently for you in the fridge if you're not ready to use it immediately. You can do things on YOUR schedule

Cranberry Cream Cheese Braid
Makes 2 Braids

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups all-purpose flour (approx.)

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce***

1. Dough: In large bowl, stir 2 tsp of the sugar with warm water until dissolved. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, heat milk, remaining sugar, butter and salt until butter is melted; let cool to lukewarm. Stir into yeast mixture along with eggs. Stir in 3 1/4 cups of the flour, about 1 cup at a time, to form shaggy dough. Dough will be soft.

2. Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding the remaining flour as necessary. Transfer to large greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Filling: While dough is rising, beat the cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla together until smooth. The cranberry sauce should be thick, not runny. If yours is too runny place it in a pot on the stove and add flour or cornstarch (1-3 tsp depending on how runny it is) and simmer to thicken. Cool before using.

4. Assembly: When dough has risen, gently punch it down. Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, roll each portion into a 15" x 9" rectangle. Place on greased baking sheets. Spread the cream cheese filling lengthwise down center third of each rectangle. Spread the cranberry sauce on top. On each side, cut 1-inch thick strips towards the centre - do not cut through the filling. Starting at one end, "braid" the strips by folding them alternately at an angle across filling. Seal ends. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes. Optional: Brush with heavy cream or egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet.

***I have also seen similar recipes that use blueberries or pineapple. I'm pretty sure any fruit would go well with the cream cheese filling.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Maple Walnut Twists

I am in love with this sour cream sweet dough. It is a little stickier to work with than other doughs but the reward is a tender, moist, fluffy sweet dough for anything from cinnamon buns to these maple walnut twists. This dough also rises really well. Maple is one of my favorite flavors any time of the year but especially during the fall and especially paired with walnuts. I got rave reviews from my co-workers when I brought these twists in. The nice thing is that they look a lot more difficult than they really are. The addition of maple extract to all 3 parts (dough, filling and glaze) really makes these burst with flavor.

Maple Walnut Twists
Makes 1 - 12" Round

4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water (110°F-115°F)
1 pkg. active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp maple (or vanilla) extract

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp maple extract

2 tbsp butter, melted
1-2 tbsp milk or cream
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup icing sugar


1. Dough: Dissolve 1 tbsp sugar in the warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Do not stir. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir briefly with a fork, cover and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbly.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the 3 cups of flour, remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the salt. Add the slightly firm butter and continue to mix until meal-size crumbs form, about 2 to 4 minutes depending upon the temperature of the butter.
3. Mix together the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add the sour cream mixture to the flour along with the dissolved yeast, and mix on low until a rough dough is formed. Dough will be soft and sticky. You may need to add a little flour to make it handle-able but add as little as possible or else the dough will become tough.
4. Lightly butter a medium bowl. Turn the dough into the prepared bowl, smoothing the top with lightly floured hands. Brush the top lightly with a small amount of softened butter. Cover and let rise for 45-60 minutes at room temperature.
***For later use: cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. When ready to use, let it come to room temperature and finish rising.

5. Filling & Assembly: Grease or line a 14-inch pizza pan. Combine all filling ingredients in a small bowl. On a lightly floured surface divide dough into 3 equal portions. Try to use as little flour as possible when rolling and handling dough. Roll one portion into a 12-inch round and transfer to the prepared pizza pan. With your hands, spread 1/3 filling mixture on the dough, all the way to the edge. Roll out the second dough portion and place it on top of the filling on the first. Spread with 1/3 filling then repeat with the last portion of dough and last portion of filling.

6. With kitchen scissors, cut 16 strips around the dough circle starting at the outer edge. Leave about 2 inches in the centre of the dough to keep the whole thing connected. Gently twist each strip 4-5 times and tuck the ends under, pressing gently to keep them from unraveling. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 20-25 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on pizza pan on wire rack.

7. Glaze: Combine all glaze ingredients and mix to the consistency of molasses. Drizzle over slightly cooled maple twists. If the twists are too hot the glaze will just melt and run off.

Creamy Caramel Corn

Do you ever have something you want to make or a recipe that you want to try but for some reason you keep putting it off? That's how I felt about making caramel corn. I expected it to be time consuming, messy and to have a burned sugary mess on my hands. None of the above happened and it really couldn't be easier! The hands-on time is minimal, the clean-up was a cinch. The hardest part is waiting for it to bake in the oven.

All you do is pop your corn (I used my air-pop popcorn maker but you could use microwave popcorn or make it the stovetop way. My son had never seen popcorn being popped before. He was so excited as the little kernels rattled and swirled around the air popper then all of a sudden reached their popping temperature and all began exploding into puffy pieces of joy (in the eyes of an almost-3 year old). It was priceless and one of those unexpected yet utterly rewarding mother-child bonding experiences. Working full time means that I only see Zach 2-3 hours/day from Monday to Friday - between when I pick him up from daycare and before he goes bed. I miss the year of maternity leave I had where we got to connect with other parents at mom-baby events and do swimming lessons, spend a day at the park, etc.

Ok, back to the corn. :)
After your corn is popped it takes literally 5 minutes of boiling the caramel on the stove. Then you dump it over your popcorn, stir it, put it in the oven. It's so easy, cheap and so much better than storebought. Looking back now, it seems silly that I ever paid for caramel corn. Let alone the $10 they charge for a medium bag at Kernels Popcorn at the mall.

The best part about making your own is that you can CUSTOMIZE!!! This first batch I made was plain but you can bet that next time I am going to add pecans or honey roasted peanuts. Since I love my sweets I might also opt for a higher caramel to corn ratio, maybe doubling the caramel recipe. Seriously, if you like caramel corn, try this.

Caramel Corn
Makes 5 Quarts | adapted from Paula Deen

1 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light or golden corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
5 quarts popped popcorn (1/2 cup unpopped kernels)
1-2 cups nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Set out 2 large roasting pans (or lasagna pans). Pick through the popcorn to remove any unpopped kernels. Place popcorn and nuts (optional) in a very large bowl.

2. Over medium heat, combine first 4 ingredients and boil for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour over popped corn and stir to coat well. Divide the popcorn between the 2 roasting pans. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
**Tip**: Leave one pan in the oven while you stir the other so it doesn't cool and harden. Bake for longer if you like crisper popcorn.

3. Remove from oven to cool, breaking the popcorn apart when it is cool. Store airtight.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fruit Leather

This is my favorite way to use up rapidly ripening fruit or too much fruit. You can use your oven or a special food dehydrator appliance. The best home food dehydrators are made by Nesco. Almost any combination of fruits will work, so be creative! These rolls pictured here are apple-mango. I used 2 gaga apples and 1 mango with a few spoons of sugar to sweeten. Mine were done in 12 hours using a dehydrator.

**TIP**: I find that apples gice the best textured leathers and work especially well when mixed with other runnier fruits such as berries. They are often complement almost any fruit and are a good 'filler' to stretch expensive fruit further without compromising the taste.

When making fruit leather, there is no set recipe. So much of it depends on the specific fruit you are working with, its sweetness and your personal taste preferences. Here are some general tips from

Fruit Leather Master Recipe
yields about one baking sheet

4 cups fresh or canned fruit (peaches, plums, berries, apples, pears, grapes)
Lemon juice
Sugar/Honey (as needed)
Spices (optional)

1. Rinse, peel, remove stems, de-seed and chop the fruit. Taste it to see how sweet it is. If still a little tart, you may need to add some sugar in the next step.

2. Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add a half cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook on a low for 10-15 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir. Use a potato masher to mash up the fruit in the pan. Taste the fruit and determine what and how much sugar, lemon juice, or spices to add. Add sugar in small amounts to desired sweetness. ***Note: The fruit seems to get sweeter after drying as the flavor becomes concentrated. Add lemon juice one teaspoon at a time to help brighten the flavor of the fruit. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices if desired.

Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, another 5 or 10 minutes (or more).

If you are working with grapes - strain the juice out of the mashed grapes to make grape juice.

3. Puree cooked fruit in a blender/food processor until very smooth. Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silpat/silicone mat or grease it with a neutral oil (ex. canola oil). Pour out the purée into the baking sheet to about an 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.

4. Place the baking sheet in the oven at 140 degrees F. If you have a convection setting, use it, it will speed up the process and help dry out the purée. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes to form fruit leather (8-12 hours, can do this overnight). If you have a food dehydrator, use it instead of the oven, set at 135-140 degrees F. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, but has a smooth surface.

5. When ready, you can easily peel it off the Silpat mat. To store, cut into 1 inch strips, roll each strip up in waxed paper and tie with a of string. Store airtight. Can be stored in freezer up to 1 month.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie

This is my (better late than never) Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Even though we Canadians celebrated this holiday over a week ago, in my world it's never too late for pie! You could alternatively say that i'm EARLY for American Thanksgiving instead LOL.

This silky smooth and creamy pie comes together so easily in a food processor. The 1/3 cup sour cream really helps give the filling great texture. You can easily do a bunch of steps in advance, like baking the crust or making the filling and keeping it in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

***The recipe says it makes one 9" pie but I had so much filling left over that I made a second (shallower) pie! I recommend either halving the filling in this recipe or making extra pastry for tartlets or a smaller pie to use up the extra filling. The recipe below is as it appears in the book.

Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie
Makes 1- 9" pie | Dorie Greenspan

1 9-inch partially baked single crust

2 cups (canned) unsweetened pumpkin puree
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for topping

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.
2.Put all of the filling ingredients in a food processor and process for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Rap either the bowl against the counter to burst any surface bubbles, and pour the filling into the partially baked crust.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and continue to bake for 35 to 45 minutes longer or until a knife inserted close to the center comes out clean. (If you don't want to create a slash, tap the pan gently—if the custard doesn't jiggle, or only jiggles a teensy bit in the very center, it's done.) Transfer the pie to a rack and cool to room temperature.
4. Serving: Serve the whipped cream either chilled or at room temperature
Storing: Like most pies, this one is best served the day it is made. However, you can make the pie and keep it refrigerated.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TWD: Banana Nut Biscuits

I deviated quite a bit from the original recipe which was for Sweet Potato Biscuits. I don't really like sweet potatoes unless they're cooked like fries with chipotle mayo or aioli. Mmmm... yum....

Anyways, back to the biscuits. A popular substitution other TWD bloggers used was pumpkin, but I finished my last can of that making pie and I'm a little pumpkin'd out to tell the truth. I was in the middle of raiding my pantry for substitution ideas when my son came up and asked me for a snack: a banana. Ping! A light went off. Mashed banana instead of mashed sweet potato! They're a similar starchy texture with a hint of sweetness just like the potatoes. My bananas were not overripe so the texture was just perfect. Next I threw in some nuts - pecans - because banana-nut is such a great combination. I sprinkled them with sugar to top and baked them to golden brown perfection.

Here is my adapted biscuit recipe. It is probably a bit sweeter than the original biscuits would have been. Check out Prudence Pennywise, our host for this week's TWD for the original recipe.

**TIP Re: Cleanup**
For easy clean-up put newspaper underneath your wire rack to catch crumbs. When you're done, roll up the newspaper and discard - no more crumbs on the counter! Plus, it's like recycling, right?

Banana Nut Biscuits
Makes 12 | adapted from Dorie Greenspan

2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup very cold butter
1 cup mashed banana
1/3 cup chopped pecans
heavy cream or sour cream (if needed to reach desired consistency)
sugar for sprinkling tops

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix to combine.
3. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives, until it resembles oat flakes.
4. Using a fork, stir in bananas and pecans. If the dough is too dry or won't come together, add sour cream or heavy cream, 1 tbsp at a time, to desired consistency.
5. Pat into a large rectangle about 3/4" thick and cut into triangles. Sprinkle tops with sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pumpkin Loaf

This simple quickbread smelled so good in the oven that it was like torture waiting for it to be done and then to cool before digging in. It tasted even better the next day after the spices had a chance to meld together. (And after I slathered it with cream cheese frosting!) Orange and lemon zest in the batter were an awesome complement for all the spices. Moist, tender, delicious, they'd make great muffins too. The only thing this recipe is missing is GINGER! I was surprised to see it wasn't included in the ingredient list but refrained from adding it to give her the benefit of the doubt. While the loaf was still good, it was missing something and next time I will definitely add 1/2 - 1 tsp ginger powder.

The recipe comes from Carole Walter's book on coffee cakes and sticky buns. I have only made 2 of her recipes but several of them sound promising. The book lacks pictures, which is one of its downfalls. I like the book but not ehough to buy it, so I keep borrowing it from the library! There is a good mix of old classics with new creations. I tend to stick to the classics, personally. The book has some errors but they are listed on her website.

Pumpkin Loaf
Carole Walter | 9x5" loaf

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups canned pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup medium chopped, toasted pecans (optional)

1. Position the shelf in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 325°F. Well butter the loaf pan.
2. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice in a medium bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. et aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed for two minutes or until lightened in color. Add the brown sugar, taking about 2 minutes, and the granulated sugar taking about 1 minute. Add the orange and lemon zests and beat for one minute longer. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
4. On medium-low drizzle in the oil. Reduce the speed to low and add the pumpkin puree. Mix until thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients in two additions and blend for 10-15 seconds just until incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the pecans.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 - 65 minutes or until the top feels springy to the touch, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Melting Moments (Cornflake Cookies)

My mom has fond memories of these growing up as a child and has been asking me to try making them. They are basically a shortbread cookie rolled in cornflakes and topped with a bit of candied cherry. They must be a British or European thing because I've never heard of them before and all the recipes I found were in in grams and from non-North American sources.

Well, they certainly do live up to their name and they truly do melt in your mouth. I would definitely make these festive looking cookies again!

Melting Moments (Cornflake Cookies)
Makes about 20

375g butter
135g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
475g flour
3 tsp baking powder

1 egg white
200g crushed cornflakes
Snipped candied cherries (optional)

1. Sift the flour and the baking powder together.
2. Cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy (this is essential, make sure it's really light)
3. Add in the egg yolk and vanilla.
4. Fold in the sifted flour and mix well to form a soft but dough. Not too soft, just the right texture to shape into rounds later. Add in milk if it's too dry or flour if it's moist.
5. Shape teaspoonfuls of the mixture into rounds and roll them in the egg white then in the crushed cornflakes and flatten slightly. Top each with a piece of cherry if desired.
6. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD: Allspice Crumb Muffins

Thanks to Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table for choosing these muffins this week. Visit her site for the recipe. They were a nice, spicy treat, perfect for thanksgiving breakfast (Canadian) this weekend. I added 3/4 cup raisins for texture and omitted the streusel since many people said theirs ran off the muffin anyway. They turned out nothing short of delicious, although more cake like than muffin like. Next time I might add some finely chopped apple and use cinnamon instead of allspice for a change.

These gave me a chance to use my new silicone muffin liners which I happen to have fallen in love with. I don't generally like silicone bakeware because it doesn't brown properly, is flimsy and seems to give off a funny smell. However, these liners are great and they make me wanna bake more muffins and cupcakes. Totally non-stick and make me feel like I'm taking a little step towards saving the environment by cutting down on the paper-liner garbage without adding any oil (no non-stick spray).

I thought I would be baking up a storm for Thanksgiving, but I have been so busy lately that I didn't even get a chance to make any special desserts, not even a cheesecake. Our family decided not to do the turkey thing this year because of our busy schedules. Instead, we drove down to the Seattle Premium Outlets where I bought myself a bunch of new kitchen stuff from Kitchen Collection. I envy Americans because you guys have KC and we don't! That store and Le Gourmet Chef are my two factory outlet faves. I love shopping and also don't mind not having turkey since I have personally always found Thanksgiving and Christmas to be too close together- too much food in too little time! Another good thing is that it means Christmas dinner will be even more anticipated this year!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Marbled Mocha Cake

I have never seen a cake disappear as quickly as this one did when my mom brought it in to work. People actually talked about it and emailed her the day afterwards with rave reviews. More than one person proclaimed it the best coffee cake they've had. The recipe calls for 2 cups of sour cream which make for a really moist and tender cake. This is definitely a grown up cake with tons of coffee flavor and an espresso glaze to match. It has just the right amount of sweetness to bring out the chocolate flavor and complement the espresso without being cloying. Even though I opted to keep it simple, you could easily dress this cake up for a party or bake it and decorate it as a layer cake. Thank you Gourmet Magazine for yet another 'keeper'.

The original recipe makes a 3-toned marble cake (1/3 yellow, 1/3 espresso & 1/3 chocolate) but I misread the recipe and I mixed both the espresso and cocoa together so I ended up with a 2-toned cake. It seemed to work, so I included both options in the directions of the recipe.

Marbled Mocha Cake
1- 10" Bundt Cake | Gourmet Magazine

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsps salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 tsps vanilla extract
2 cups sour cream
4 tbsps cocoa powder
4 tbsps instant espresso powder
5 tbsp hot water, divided

1 1/2 tsps instant espresso powder
2-3 tbsps milk
3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted

1. Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour Bundt pan. In separate bowls, dissolve espresso powder in 1 tbsp hot water and cocoa in 1 1/2 tbsp hot water.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
3. Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just incorporated.
4. For a 3 toned marble cake mix 1/3 of the batter into the espresso mixture and 1/3 to the cocoa mixture in separate bowls. (Or mix 1/2 batter into espresso and cocoa all together for a 2-toned marble cake). Spoon batters into the Bundt pan, alternating to distribute evenly. Marble with a knife then bake 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes then invert to cool completely.
5. Combine all glaze ingredients together and pour over fully cooled cake.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

The picture sucks but the cookies don't.

I'd like to share my very favorite peanut butter cookie recipe with you. These bake up thick and chewy, not thin and crisp like so many other recipes do. The proportion of peanut butter in this recipe is higher than for others, so the PB flavor really shines through. I have baked these with both kinds of peanut butter and they have been yummy either way but I prefer the ones made with a processed PB like JIF or Kraft or Skippy. I also make them bakery sized - jumbo cookies. Whatever size you make, be sure to flatten them with a fork (while making the crisscross pattern) to about 1/2" thick. The dough doesn't have to be cold, but don't let it ge too warm either or the cookies will spread too much in the oven.

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 18 bakery-sized or 36 normal-sized cookies

1 cup peanut butter (not 'natural' or 'old fashioned')
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2.In a large bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla one at a time. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into creamed mixture. With your hands, roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls (or use a cookie scoop). Place 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Press each ball with fork tines to create the crisscross pattern.
3.Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are just lightly browned. Do not overbake or they will not be chewy. Cool on cookie sheet. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Buttermilk Waffles

I am a little obsessed with America's Test Kitchen. I have both the ATK Family Baking Book and the Family Cookbook. Neither one has failed me on any recipe. Both these books are sturdy, ring-bound and well indexed so recipes are easy to find. They have short ingredient lists and typical of ATK, explanations as to why they do things the way they do. Both these books are my "go to" books. Even if I don't necessarily end up using the exact recipe, it gives me a jump-off point or reference point for when I'm making something.

No more thin, floppy Eggo waffles for me! Whenever I make these I always have leftovers which I then cool thoroughly then freeze. When I need a waffle fix I just thaw for 15-20 seconds in the microwave then pop them in the toaster. They're just as yummy as when they're fresh from the waffle iron.

Buttermilk Waffles
America's Test Kitchen | Makes 4-6

1 cup flour
1 tbsp cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg separated
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
Nonstick cooking spray

Start preheating your waffle iron. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. In another mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolk with buttermilk and melted butter until combined.

Clean your whisk and beat the egg white to soft peaks.

Fold in the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, the batter will be quite thick. Then add the egg whites and gently fold them into the batter.

Spray your waffle iron with some nonstick spray and spread the batter onto the iron. Cook until the waffles are golden brown, about 2 - 5 minutes depending on your machine instructions.

For freezer toaster waffles, leave the waffles golden and slightly underdone. They can be frozen then popped into the toaster for a quick breakfast.

Most of the time I prefer my waffles plain with nothing but a generous amount of maple syrup but you can do a variety of things to make them more interesting.
- Dried fruit or fresh fruit: craisins, blueberries, chopped up strawberries, etc.
- Citrus zest: next time I will try adding a little orange zest
- Chocolate chips or butterscotch chips

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sour Cream Cinnamon Nut Coffee Cake

This recipe was adapted from Carole Walter's book: Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins and More. It was the picture of the sticky buns on the front cover that drew me into borrowing this book from the library. Yet another testament to my obsession with sticky buns! I haven't had a chance to make those buns yet but it's on my to do list.

Overall, I'm impressed by the book but I cannot stand her writing style. It's way too long with unnecessary repetition of words. Just the directions, plain and simple please, no poetry needed! So, I heavily edited the directions portion of the recipe below because I think she used the word "cake" at least 15 times. While I liked the book and I respect Carole Walter, it wouldn't make my top 5. I'm glad I borrowed rather than bought this book, especially with the $35 USD price tag, I can think of other baking books I'd rather own such as Flo Braker's Baking for all Occasions.

Nevertheless, do try this coffee cake. It is a harmony of moist cake and crunchy pecans scattered throughout the swirl. I also found it to be a good keeper, even tasting better the day after it was made. I made it into 1 Bundt cake and had a little batter left over so I also made a mini loaf which I gave away to a friend.

Sour Cream Cinnamon Nut Coffee Cake
2- 9x5" loaves or 1- 9x13" pan or 1- 10" tube pan

Nut mixture:
1 3/4 cups toasted pecans, chopped
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup unsalted butter, slightly firm
2 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and baking soda. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Generously butter your baking pan(s), line with parchment and butter the parchment.
3. Combine all nut mixture ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
4. Cream butter in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until smooth and lightened, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, taking 6 to 8 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla extract.
5. With the mixer on low add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just blended after each addition.
6. Spoon 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the nut mixture. Cover with the remaining batter and smooth it. To prevent the nut mixture from being disturbed, do not pick up the spoon as the batter is spread. Sprinkle with the remaining nut mixture, pressing it gently into the batter.
7. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden brown, springy to the touch, and a wooden skewer inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Store tightly covered for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Classic Pound Cake

poundcake sliced

This is the real deal. Unlike other pound cake recipes, this one does not have sour cream or cream cheese. It gets all its flavor and moistness from the original pound cake ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, eggs (oh, and an optional pinch of salt and dash of vanilla). There's no chemical leavening here either. No baking powder or baking soda. The cake gets its height from beating in the eggs well and one by one.

The end result is a tall, mouth-wateringly golden, fine-grained cake with a crisp crust and tender crumb. With such rich ingredients packed into such a small package, a thin slice goes a long way. My search for the perfect pound cake recipe has come to a close. This one's a keeper!

Classic Pound Cake
9x5" Loaf | Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt; set aside.
2.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined.
3.Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake until cake is golden and cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, 10 to 15 minutes. Turn out cake onto the rack to cool completely. Cake can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 3 days.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cinnamon Puff Pastry Twists

I am in love with the puff pastry dough by Dorie Greenspan for the book "Baking with Julia". There is a link to the pastry recipe below. I have never made real puff pastry from scratch (although I have made quick/rapid/rough puff pastry before). To my surprise, it was so easy and the results were so satisfying. I completed the turns over 2 days (4 turns the first day, 2 the second day before rolling and cutting the pastry). It was a great feeling of accomplishment when I opened the oven door and saw how beautifully they had risen. Even more magical was the experience of biting into one of these twists to reveal all the paper-thin layers and knowing that they had been created by my own hands. Sorry Pepperidge Farms, I'll be making my own puff pastry from now on.

Baking in the oven

Cinnamon Puff Pastry Twists
Makes 16

1 lb Puff Pastry Dough (half the recipe)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

1. In a bowl, mix the sugar with the cinnamon. Dust the work surface with cinnamon sugar. Roll out dough to an 8" square. Scrape it up and rotate it regularly, dusting all the way with sugar. Roll it to an even 1/8" thickness. Sprinkle with lots of sugar.
2. Cut into strips about 1/2" wide using a pastry wheel, and then twist into straws by both ends in opposite directions at once. Place the straws on a parchment lined baking sheet and press each end onto the sheet to secure. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 12 minutes, or until they are browned and lightly crisp. Cool for 15 minutes. Storage: Put leftover sticks in a ziplock bag or freeze for up to 1 week.