Monday, October 31, 2011

Spiced Applesauce Cake (Low Fat)

Happy Halloween! I'm quite disappointed that I didn't get around to doing ANY "Halloween Baking" this year... not even a batch of classic witch's finger shortbread cookies. I guess this just means that I have an excuse to do lots more baking AFTER Halloween. I like to chop up the mini chocolate bars and throw them into cookie batter instead of using chocolate chips.

In anticipation for all the UNhealthy baking I will be doing after halloween, this week I made a healthy, fall-inspired quickbread. This fragrant, spicy, wholesome loaf is a warm welcome to the rainy, cold fall weather. With only 2 tablespoons of butter, this is one of the healthier things you could bake this season. Of course, it is not as buttery as a full-fat cake, so don't bake this loaf expecting that kind of a texture. That being said, it is totally, without a doubt worth making and it definitely does not skimp on flavor. So moist and so snackable. Don't pass this recipe up!

For a touch more sweetness and indulgence, try adding a brown sugar streusel on top or serve with a drizzle of caramel sauce.

Spiced Applesauce Loaf (Low Fat)
1 loaf | adapted from

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 small apple, diced
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Add to applesauce mixture; mix well. Stir in the walnuts and diced apples and raisins (if using).

2. Pour into a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Friday, October 28, 2011

White Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake

I made this cheesecake for my mother's birthday. It was inspired by some marbled white chocolate covered espresso beans from Everett, WA. Courtesy of my thoughtful boyfriend. He lives across the border and I only get to see him on weekends. Anyone who knows me knows how much I like sugar and how much I adore grocery shopping in the States. I'm in awe of the variety and pricing of everything compared to Canada. So, when my sweetie visits me in Canada he always brings me something sweet and this past weekend it was these chocolate espresso beans.

This cake has melted white chocolate mixed right into the filling and a swirl of espresso to accent both taste and appearance. It's not to sweet and the chopped nuts suspended throughout provide a nice textural contrast to the creamy cheesecake.

White Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake
9" cake | adapted from George Greary

1 1/4 cups vanilla/graham cookie crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted

3 pkg (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/2 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tbsp cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine cookie crumbs and butter and press into a greased 9" spring form pan.

2. Beat together cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, salt and sugar until very smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Pour in melted chocolate and continue beating. Fold in chopped nuts with a rubber spatula.

3. Pour filling over prepared crust, reserving 1 cup of the mixture. In a small bowl dissolve the instant coffee granules in the 1 tbsp cream. Add this coffee mixture to the reserved filling mixture and stir to combine. Drop by the tablespoonfuls over filling in the spring form pan. Marble gently with a knife.

4. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking until top is light brown and centre has a slight jiggle. 45-55 mins. Cool in pan on wire rack for at least 2 hours, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Maple Pecan Pound Cake

Despite its name "pound cake", this loaf is not heavy in the least. It cuts cleanly into beautiful, mouth-watering slices.

This is the perfect embodiment of fall flavors. The batter is infused with pure maple syrup and the flavors are heightened with maple extract both in the batter and in the glaze. Do not skip the glaze – it takes the cake from being great to AMAZING. It is the kind of glaze with an ever so faint crust on top that yields easily and melts on your tongue like the maple cream filling you find in some filled chocolates. Toasting the nuts is also an invaluable step to maximize flavor.

I bring baking to work at least once a week and I had several co-workers comment that this was one of their favorites. Another hit from "Cake Keeper Cakes" by Lauren Chattman. This is one gem of a book and this is one hell of a cake.

Maple Pecan Pound Cake
1 loaf | Cake Keeper Cakes

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp maple extact
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
14 tbsps (1 3/4 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
5 tbsps pure maple syrup
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsps heavy cream
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tsps fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp maple extract

1. Cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan and dust with flour.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine the eggs, maple extract and vanilla in a glass measuring cup and lightly beat.

3. Combine the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl; cream with an electric mixer on med-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes; stir in the maple syrup until smooth. Decrease mixer speed to med-low; pour the egg mixture into the bowl in a slow stream; mix until incorporated.

4. Decrease mixer speed to low; add the flour mixture, 1/2 at a time; after the last addition, mix for 30 seconds. Stir in pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

5. Bake the cake until it is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up on a rack to cool completely.

6. Glaze: combine the glaze ingredients in a bowl; whisk until smooth. Move the whisk back and forth across the cake, drizzling it over the top and letting it drip down the sides. Let stand until the glaze sets, about 1 hour. Store at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TWD: Caramel Apple Cake for Fall

I am ashamed to admit that I have never tasted a fig in my entire life. This statement still holds true today. I used apples in mine as I am sure a lot of other TWD-ers did as well.

One day I will get around to baking with this with figs, but for now this was a delicious alternative.

Today's recipe was chosen by Alvarosa of Cookie Rookie. The recipe will be found in Dorie's book "Baking" or on today's date on Ursula's blog.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Parmesan Pesto Rolls

You know the huge $7.99 jar of pesto they sell at Costco, the one by the fresh pasta, right beside the produce freezer fridge, well I always buy that jar and end up throwing out half of it because it goes bad before I can use it all up. Well, these rolls are an answer to that problem or to any leftover pesto conundrum. On a side note, does anyone else put on their winter coat before stepping into that produce fridge? I mentally prepare myself, listing the things I need to run (literally, run) and grab from there because it is so cold.

These soft, light, faintly sweet rolls are the perfect vehicle for all that lovely savory pesto filling. It is just a little something different - a little twist on a standard dinner roll. They are so tasty on their own and make a great lunchbox alternative to pizza pretzels.

You could also serve these instead of garlic bread with your next pasta meal.

Parmesan Pesto Rolls
12 rolls | adapted from

1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg (room temperature), slightly beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 – 4 1/2 cups bread flour (more if needed)
2 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast (1 sachet)
1/2 cup pesto
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Place water, milk, egg, melted butter, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add 3 1/2 cups of flour on top of all the liquid mixture sprinkling yeast on top. Using the dough hook, knead until dough is smooth and elastic adding additional flour as needed just so the dough pulls away from the edges. The less flour you use the better for softer rolls. Remember, you can always knead in extra flour later if needed after the first rise.

2. Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a wet towel. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour in a warm area.

3. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and roll into a 10 x 14 inch rectangle. Spread surface evenly with pesto and sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese on top. Roll dough into a log, pinching the seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal slices and place them in a greased muffin tin, cut side up. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from muffin cups and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Oh. My. God. These brownies are the epitome of decadence. First you start with a dense, chewy, fudgy brownie base. Next you layer on a tangy, creamy, layer of cheesecake. Then you drop dollops of brownie batter on top of the cheesecake, run a knife through it to marble and bake for what will seem like the longest half hour of your life.

To test your patience further, these taste best fully cooled. I like them best after they have been in the fridge overnight s the flavors have a chance to meld together and the cheesecake filling has a chance to set. These are as pretty to look at as they are to eat.

Cheesecake Brownies
9" square pan | adapted from Ready for Dessert

6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces (115g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup (130g) sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (70g) flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (80g) chocolate chips

8 ounces (200g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
5 tablespoons (75g) sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Line a 9" square pan with foil, making sure it goes up all four sides. Use two sheets if necessary. Mist with non-stick spray or grease lightly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat in the 2/3 cup (130g) sugar, then the eggs.

3. Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, then the vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.

4. In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, the yolk, 5 tablespoons (75g) of sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Distribute the cream cheese mixture in eight dollops across the top of the brownie mixture, then take a dull knife or spatula and swirl the cream cheese mixture with the chocolate batter.

6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the batter in the center of the pan feels just set. Let cool, then lift out the foil and peel it away. Cut the brownies into squares.

Storage: These will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days. They also freeze well.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Copycat Junior's Blueberry Muffins

The best part of my New York trip was going on a sort of bakery scavenger hunt. I looked up a list of bakeries and we hunted them down. My dear boyfriend is so patient with me. We went to Amy's Bread, Sarabeth's Bakery, Magnolia, and Junior's Cheesecake among others. It was a foodie's dream come true. These muffins I baked for breakfast also serve as a souvenir of our trip. berries didn't end up all at the bottom like with so many other recipes. These were light and fluffy with moist insides and a crunchy top. Perfect.

Simply amazing when eaten warm (with butter if you are feeling decadent). Just like Junior's awesome cheesecakes, these blueberry muffins are definitely memorable. Hot OR cold. With mashed berries in the batter, strewn through the muffin AND sprinkled on top, these are definitely meant for blueberry lovers. What I loved best is that the

Note: The recipe calls for fresh, not frozen, blueberries, but I made this with thawed blueberries successfully. I also added a tablespoon of lemon zest and it really added to the flavor. Definitely use muffin liners to get them out easily. Greasing the pan just won't cut it for these moist muffins.

Junior's Cheesecake Copycat Blueberry Muffins
6 jumbo or 12 regular | adapted from Junior's Cookbook

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest (optional, my addition)
2 extra large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups fresh blueberries (not frozen)
1/2 cup milk

1. Divide berries into three different batches: 2/3 cup portion for mashing, then divide the remaining berries into two equal portions- one portion for folding into the batter, and the remainder for dropping on top.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 6 jumbo muffins tins or 12 regular size muffin tins well.

3. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Continue to beat until creamy and light yellow. Mix in vanilla and mashed berries until well combined. Lower speed to medium. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk in three portions each. Beat batter until just combined, about 1 more minute.

5. Gently fold in one of the portions of whole berries. Fill muffing tins almost all the way full. Drop the remaining portion of whole berries individually atop the muffin batter.

6. Bake about 10 minutes, then reduce oven temp to 375 degrees F and continue baking until golden brown and set in the center, about 15 minutes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mini White Chocolate Macadamia Cheesecakes

These adorable mini cheesecakes are a twist on my favorite cookie: white chocolate chunk with macadamia nuts. Instead of a graham cracker crust, these are made with a vanilla wafer crust. Creamy white chocolate chunks and richly flavored macadamias are suspended in the cheesecake batter. Because the white chocolate camouflages itself amid the filling, it is a sweet and unexpected surprise when one takes a fork-ful and finds delicious chunks, like hidden treasures, inside the cake.

For me, it's all about the cuteness factor for these cheesecakes. However, you could make one large (8" round) cake from this recipe. To make them even prettier, you could use chocolate curls instead of chunks for decoration. I got lazy and opted for the chunks. For tips on making chocolate curls and other decorations, check out Chocolate Garnish Basics from Better Homes and Gardens.

Mini White Chocolate Macadamia Cheesecakes
approx 6 minis | inspired by The Cheesecake Factory

1 1/2 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter

2 pkg (8oz each) cream cheese
3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
8 ounces sour cream
1 tbsp flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

2 tbsp chopped macadamia nuts
White chocolate chunks

1. Crust: Mix vanilla wafer crumbs with melted butter and press into six 3" mini springform pans or lined large muffin tins. Set aside. You may end up with more or less cheesecakes depending on the size of your tins.

2. Filling: Note that all ingredients should be at room temperature before you begin. Remember to scrape down bowl occasionally. Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating until creamy. Add one egg at a time and beat after each egg.

3. When eggs have been mixed into the cream cheese add flour and vanilla. Add the sour cream last and beat well, then fold in white chocolate and macadamia nuts. Pour filling over the crust in the prepared mini pans. Bake until almost set. Approx 35-50 minutes. Cool fully to room temperature then refrigerate overnight before garnishing and serving.

4. Serving: Unmold each cheesecake then arrange chopped macadamia nuts and white chocolate chunks on top. Drizzle with caramel sauce if desired.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Orange Pecan Sour Cream Pound Cake

This is one flavorful pound cake. The edges are brown and crisp and melt in your mouth while the rest of the loaf is moist and tender. This recipe (adapted from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book) produces a tall loaf with bold orange flavor studded with plump, toasted pecans. It holds its shape so well that it can easily be cut into thin slices. Weird fact: I like to cut my food into tiny pieces before eating it, so this made me happy.

The original recipe was for a lemon walnut sour cream pound cake, but I subbed in orange zest and juice for the lemon and pecans for the walnuts. I'm sure the original is equally yummy!

Orange Pecan Sour Cream Pound Cake
adapted from Sweet Melissa Baking Book | 1 loaf

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5" loaf pan. Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

2. Cream butter, shortening, sugar and zest until well combined and fluffy. Add juice and extracts to combine. Then add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

3. Mix in the dry ingredients alternating with the sour cream. Fold in walnuts, reserving some to sprinkle on top.

4. Bake for 75-90 minutes or until wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes before unmolding onto a wire rack.

5. Make glaze: Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and summer for 2-3 minutes or until reduced by half. Brush hot glaze on warm, unmolded cake. Brush again 10 minutes later. Cool fully before slicing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

TWD: (Not So) Basic Biscuits

Today's TWD was chosen by Jennifer of Cooking for Comfort blog. I have made these before following the recipe to a T, so this time I opted to jazz them up a bit. I added chopped red peppers, cheddar cheese, green onions and a dash of chipotle powder. They were so good on their own, but made into ham and cheese sandwiches, they were even more amazing!

Find this recipe in Dorie's book ork on Jennifer's blog (link above).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

Much like an Italian cheesecake, these creamy, sweet-tart muffins were like a burst of sunshine. They are a great way to use up extra ricotta you may have from making lasagna. That's the reason I was led to these muffins in the first place - searching for a recipe that would help me use up my ricotta.

I was happily surprised to find that these were light, fluffy and sweet without being too sweet.

Lemon Ricotta Muffins
Makes 12 | Giada de Laurentiis

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar + 2 tbsp
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup milk
6 Tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs
2 tsp lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper baking liners. In large bowl, stir together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.

2. In medium bowl, with whisk mix together ricotta, milk, melted butter, eggs and lemon zest. Make well in center of flour mixture and pour in ricotta mixture; stir until just moistened.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin-pan cups. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over muffins. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

TWD: Apple Nut Muffin Cake

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick by Katrina of Baking and Boys blog. Katrina is an amazing cook and her site is full of wonderful recipes. She is also a sweetheart blogger who I have "known" for a few years now through TWD. Thanks for this yummy pick Katrina!!! Find the recipe for this cake on her blog.

So, I got back from my NY vacation two days ago and I am so sad to be back. Just like with any vacation, it is hard coming back to all the pressures of reality. The even harder part was saying goodbye to my boyfriend. We usually only see each other on the weekends because he lives in the USA and I am in Canada, so the 9 days of vacation was the most time we had ever spent together. Leaving him and knowing that we will have to go back to weekend visits was so hard.

I was planning on making this bread last night but he surprised me and came up to visit after work! I didn't end up baking last night, but luckily I had made this cake a few weeks prior - even before it was chosen for TWD. I added a streak of streusel through the middle and omitted the raisins and nuts. It was well enjoyed and a definite "will make again" for me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sour Cream Walnut Banana Bread

This tender banana bread keeps resists drying out as it gets its moisture from sour cream and mashed bananas. It is perfect for making ahead and freezing. I let the loaf cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan, then invert the pan and let the loaf finish cooling fully out of the pan on the cooling rack. Once completely cooled, cut into 1" thick slices, wrap individually in plastic wrap then place in a container and freeze. This way, they are pre-portioned and easy to thaw only as much as you need.

Don't skip dusting the pans with cinnamon sugar. The caramelized sugar gives the crust such a nice little crunch that it's worth the extra step. I have successfully substituted full fat yogurt for the sour cream, but full fat sour cream is my first choice. Omit the walnuts if you like. I usually add them but I ran out this time. I find that they add a nice textural contrast throughout the bread.

Sour Cream Banana Bread
Makes 2 loaves

3/4 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups (16 oz) sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9 x 5" loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans.

3. Bake for 1 hour or more if needed, until a toothpick tests clean.