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.