Sunday, August 28, 2016

Polish Pound Cake

Let's face it, there are a lot of different types of cakes out there to choose from. As a food blogger, I have found my food cravings are a lot more specific than they were prior to blogging. Recently, I found myself craving a buttery moist, slice of cake with tender crumb.

This particular recipe was spot on when it came to my preferences at the time. It teams both butter and shortening together to create a velvety texture. It also uses a vanilla/ butter/ nut flavoring which makes it unique, yet memorable. Lastly, sprinkled throughout this delicious cake are crunchy walnuts and sweet maraschino cherries.

Now that the craving has hit home, let's move on to the the details of this special recipe. You will need a 10 cup bundt pan in order to make this.

Polish Pound Cake
adapted from All Recipes

2 tbs vanilla butter nut flavoring
5 eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
1-4 oz jar maraschino cherries (drained/chopped)
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 2/3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups sugar

Prepare a 10 cup bundt pan by greasing and flouring the interior. Make sure all cracks and curves are well coated.

Toss the cooled walnuts in 1/3 cup of flour. In another bowl, whisk together 2 1/3 cup of the flour and salt. Set both bowls aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and shortening. Cream together until completely blended. Add the sugar and the flavoring and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Once the mixture is fluffy with no lumps, add one egg and beat for about 20 seconds to distribute into the batter. Repeat the process with each egg, adding them one by one.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the evaporated milk. Fold in the flour/salt blend in three increments until no dry streaks remain. Mix the floured walnuts into the batter. Lastly, toss in the cherries and distribute throughout the batter by stirring with a wooden spoon.

Pour or scoop the batter into the pan, making sure it is smooth and even. Place pan in cold oven and turn the temperature gauge to 300 degrees. Let bake until toothpick comes out clean. The cake will bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes up to 2 hours. Start checking at the 1 hour 30 minute mark. Mine took about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Let the cake rest in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes. It will be crusty on top, so take a small knife and run along the top edge. Then invert cake onto rack to finish cooling.

Tips and Notes:
1. Probably adding more nuts and cherries would be a good idea, be sure to dust all the walnuts prior to mixing in.
2. Do not slice until completely cool.
3. I used LorAnn vanilla butter nut flavoring and just added 1 tbs, since it is strong then regular extract.
4. Prior to serving, you can dust with powdered sugar. You can also glaze the cake, but it really is sweet enough on its own.
4. The batter in the pan was only 1 inch below the top edge. There is no leavening ingredient in the recipe so the cake does not rise very much.
5. I used Luxardo brand maraschino cherries, which you can find at some liquor stores. However, one jar is double the amount called for in the recipe.
                                           **LAST YEAR: Boo Boo Pie**

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sierra Nuggets

Sometimes variety can be a bad thing. We get too much to choose from and then we don't want anything. That situation can also be too overwhelming. For instance, I have always wanted to go to this place that has a selection of 1000 styles of eyeglass frames. It is a nice thought, but in reality I know that I would spend all day there and probably could not make up my mind between several frames. Eventually, I would either leave with nothing or settle on one; thinking I should have got the other.

This particular cookie recipe can be the solution to having too many types of cookies to choose from. One of these gems holds a lot of flavor and texture. As you are eating these cookies, your taste buds will recall a myriad of different cookies.

They have crispy edges and an inner chewiness.You may also come across some crunchiness from the walnuts in the cookies. With oatmeal, cornflakes, spices, coconut, nuts and chocolate, they are bursting with a variety of flavor. The variety is there, but it is nicely balanced. Labeling these as simply oatmeal cookies or spice cookies would be more deceptive instead of descriptive.

In reality, taste is the major concern here, not the label. So, let's move on to the baking.....This recipe makes 6-7 dz cookies.

Sierra Nuggets
adapted from Guittard 

1 cup chopped, toasted nuts
2 cups or 12 oz milk chocolate or semisweet chips
1 cup cornflakes
1 cup sweetened,shredded coconut
3 cups of rolled oats
1/2 tsp mace
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
3 tbs milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together all four spices, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Set both aside.

Place butter and both kinds of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together the butter and sugar by beating at medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg mixture and then beat on low until combined. Remove bowl from stand mixer.

Now, it is time for the add-ins to the batter. Using a wooden spoon, mix in one add-in at a time until evenly distributed. Blend in the order as listed: corn flakes, oats, sifted ingredients, coconut, chocolate chips and nuts.

Using a scoop or spoon, drop by heaping teaspoons onto prepared baking sheets. They mounds should be placed about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes and rotate and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Check cookies to see if they are a golden hue and spring back when lightly touched, if not, bake for an additional few minutes.

Remove pan and let rest on rack for 2 minutes. Then transfer cookies to rack to completely cool.

Tips and Notes:
1. Walnuts, pine nuts and peanuts were the suggested type of nut in the recipe, but you can choose whichever you prefer.

2. For a thicker cookie, add more flour to absorb the butter and refrigerate dough prior to baking so it does not spread as much. Test your dough to see how it bakes up.

3. The recipe does suggest making a bar cookie if you are short on time. Use a 10x15 pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Be sure to use plain corn flakes, not frosted. The cookie is sweet enough without this added sugar.

5. A note on ounces when it comes to brands of chocolate chips. Nestle still carries the 12 oz bag, however the more gourmet chocolate brands have been reduced to 11.5 oz. Keep this in mind when buying ingredients.
                                    **LAST YEAR:Honey Glazed Berry Scones**                      

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Peach Upside Down Rum Cake

Well summer is at an end. School is right around the corner as well as cooler weather. In order to say goodbye to summer, I decided to make this peach upside down cake. The addition of rum makes it a delicious adult dessert.

Teaming juicy carmelized fruit with fluffy tender cake is nothing short of an amazing combination. These days, upside down cakes are not just limited to pineapple. I have seen cranberry and pear- the list goes on. The only thing to take into consideration would be the juiciness of the fruit. For instance, an orange upside down cake would be quite different from apple. Peaches put out quite an amount of juice, so please review tips and notes on this issue in particular if you plan to make this.

In this recipe, the caramel is made in a skillet and then the fruit goes in. After that, the batter is put on top and it then goes in to bake. You can use a cast iron skillet or a springform pan. It comes together quite quickly once all the prep work of peeling and slicing the peaches is completed.

Peach Upside Down Rum Cake
adapted from the LA Times

1 tsp almond extract
3 tbs lemon juice
3/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
6 tbs and 3 tbs butter at room temperature
2 lbs peaches peeled
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

Start by preparing the peaches by slicing into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you are not baking this in a cast iron skillet, you will use a 9 inch springform pan. This pan should be lined on the bottom and 1 inch up the sides with parchment paper.

Fill a 10-12 cast iron skillet (if you intend to bake the cake in it) or saucepan with the 3 tbs of butter. Place pan over medium heat and melt. Once melted, stir in the brown sugar. Continue to stir until brown sugar is no longer grainy, it will become smoother as it cooks. Then, mix in the honey and lower the heat.

As that is cooking, drain the peaches in a sieve. Slowly add the peach slices to the brown sugar mixture, stirring to insure that all sides are coated. Stir gently until all slices are glossy. This should take about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. If you are baking in a cast iron skillet, make sure all the peaches are spread evenly along the bottom of the pan and let the pan cool. Otherwise, empty the saucepan into the springform pan and spread peach mixture evenly along the bottom. Set aide.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium size bowl. Then take out a larger bowl and add the 6 tbs of the butter and white sugar. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add one egg and almond extract, then beat for 30 seconds. Add the remaining egg and beat.

Once all is blended, fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the egg batter. Pour in 1/2 cup of rum and stir until blended. Add 1/2 of the remaining dry ingredients and fold in. Stir in the remaining amount of rum and lastly, fold in the rest of the sifted ingredients.

Using a large spoon, drop spoonfuls of batter on top of the peach mixture. Once all is on top of the peaches, smooth the batter to the edges. Place pan or skillet in oven to bake until tester comes out clean. This should take about 45 minutes if baking in a cast iron skillet or longer with a springform. pan. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before flipping over and removing parchment. The cake is best served at room temperature.

Tips and Notes:
1. I baked my cake in a 12 inch springform pan. There was still enough of a peach layer to cover the bottom completely, so there was no change there. I believe a 9 inch pan would have a much thicker coating of peaches at the bottom. Regarding the batter, it was 1 1/2 times the ratio of the above recipe.
2. My caramel mixture turned quite watery after adding the peaches. In order to compensate, I added another 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup more of honey.  I let it cook down a bit more to let some of the juices evaporate, so it became more like caramel again.
3. The rum flavoring of the cake was quite prevalent. As you know, the flavor gets stronger with time. Should you not want to use rum, feel free to use peach nectar or some peach liqueur.
                                                **LAST YEAR: Citrus Snap Cookies**

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Breakfast Muffins


Today I wanted to test some muffin recipes I found on line. The first is a lemon poppy seed muffin that is made with oil and in comparison is a muffin made with butter.

As far as taste, the lemon muffin was moist and had a well balanced flavor of lemon. The syrup soak on top really gave it a nice pop of citrus.This muffin, even though moist, was denser than the other.

The spice muffin rose a lot taller and fluffier than the other. It was more like the traditional muffin you find in bakeries and coffee houses. However, I wished it was a little less dry. Also, a lot of the streusel ended up on the pan instead of on the muffin. Next time I would try an extra tablespoon of oil in the batter and a different type of streusel. This muffin had a cinnamon-nutmeg flavor, but it could use some more spice.

Overall, my vote is for the lemon poppy seed. Using oil seems to bring out a moister baked good. Better in texture and stronger in flavor than the spice muffins, the decision was not a difficult one. Both recipes are below and each make about 1 dozen muffins.

Buttermilk Spice Muffins
adapted from Mimi's Cafe 

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup plus 1 tbs buttermilk

Ingredients/Nut Topping
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease or line muffin tin cavities with paper cups.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. Fill another bowl with the butter and sugar. Beat together until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat until blended thoroughly. Continue with this process for the each of the remaining eggs until all is blended in.

At this time, the nut topping should be made. Simply add all topping ingredients to bowl and mix together until everything is evenly distributed. Set aside.

Now, back to making the batter...Add 1/2 of the sifted ingredients into the batter and fold in, using a wooden spoon. Then blend in the buttermilk. Lastly, stir in the remaining sifted ingredients just until combined.

Using a scoop, fill the muffin cavities 3/4 full of batter. Once all the batter is used up, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of topping over all the muffins. There is a time factor here, the longer you take the more apt the topping will sink, so act quickly.

Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean. This should take about 20-25 minutes. Let muffins cool in pan for a few minutes then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
adapted from LA Times Food Section, 05/08/2002

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbs poppy seeds
1 cup plus 2 tbs sugar, divided
1/2 cup oil
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (well shaken)
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1/4 cup lemon juice ( for syrup)
2 tbs lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a muffin tin by greasing the cavities and upper edges with butter. As an alternative, just grease the upper edges of the cavities and line with paper cups.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Using another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, egg, zest, extract, poppy seeds and one cup of the sugar. Fold in the sifted ingredients until just combined.

Using a scoop, fill the muffin cavities evenly with the batter. Place pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean. This should take about 20 minutes. The muffins will be slightly golden in color on top when done.

While the muffins are baking, prepare the syrup. Fill a small microwavable bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Heat on high for 1 minute.

Once the muffins are done, let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then dip the top of each in warm syrup and place on rack to finish cooling. After dipping if any syrup still remains, spoon on top of the muffins to soak in.
                            **Last Year:Almond Marzipan Roulade**


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chocolate Walnut Scones

This scone is more on the cookie side than biscuit/bread side. In fact, the mouth feel and texture remind me of the same sensation you get when you bite into a cookie. Not just any cookie, but the Mexican wedding or Russian teacakes in particular. That buttery, melt in your mouth crumb is nothing short of amazing.

Part of the texture can be contributed to the ground walnuts in the batter. The combination of nuts and rich bittersweet chocolate makes for a delicious way to start the day. Pair this treat with tea, coffee or a tall ice cold glass of milk for a wonderful mid-day snack or morning brunch.

The dough comes together quickly with basic ingredients. The most time you will spend is forming and freezing the dough prior to baking. This recipe makes about 1 dz scones.

Chocolate Walnut Scones
adapted from La Brea Bakery

1/4 cup sour cream (or cream fraiche)
1 cup plus 2 tbs whipping cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tbs cubed frozen butter
1 tbs vanilla extract
1tbs and 1 tsp baking powder
2 3/4 cups pastry or cake flour
6 tbs sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup walnuts (toasted and cooled)
1 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

1/4 cup walnuts, grated with a microplane
2 tbs sparkling sugar
2 tbs whipping cream

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Dust a flat surface lightly with flour.

Fill a food processor with the nuts and 3 tbs of sugar. Pulse until it becomes sandy and fine. In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking soda, and flour. Stir in remaining 3 tbs of sugar.  Pour dry flour mixture into the food processor and combine in pulses until evenly distributed.  Once all is blended, drop in butter cubes and run processor until mixture can be clumped together, like damp sand. Empty into a large bowl.

Fold in chocolate pieces and make a well in the center of the mixture. Then take out a small bowl and stir together the whipping cream, sour cream (or cream fraiche) and vanilla extract.  Pour the liquid into the well and fold together until just combined. Mixture will still be a bit crumbly.

Empty contents onto prepared flat surface. Lightly dust your hands and knead the dough a few times and shape into a ball. Roll out the dough, forming a disc 1 1/2 inches thick. Dust a 1 1/2 inch cutter with flour or spray with non-stick oil. Cut dough into circles, re-rolling scraps as needed.

Once all the circles are made, take 3 circles and form a shamrock by pressing them together on the baking sheet. Continue with this process, spacing the shamrocks 1 inch apart.

Take the filled baking sheets and place them in the freezer for an hour. At the halfway point, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the freezing time is complete, the scones will need to be topped. Brush each with whipping cream, sprinkle on the sparkling sugar and walnuts.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly toasted on the edges. Place pan on rack to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to rack until completely cool.
                            **LAST YEAR: Almond Marzipan Roulade**   

Chestnut Cake

I have to admit, this one is a violation of the seasons. However, the can of chestnut spread has been calling from the pantry ever since I purchased it. I decided to put an end to it by finally making this cake. Also, I seem to be stuck in the realm of duo layers when it comes to icing or frosting my cakes. I like the taste as well as appearance, but that does not mean that I will not go back to the traditional buttercream.

The issue with the duo flavors is that the white layer is a whipped cream frosting, which is not the best type of icing in the heat of the summer. The remedy for that is some stabilizer and refrigeration.

Regarding taste and texture, this cake was a success. The blend of chestnut flour and butter created a tender and moist slice of heaven. Should you be a cake lover and not one for icing, I suggest making this in a 9x12 inch pan and just dusting with confectioner's sugar. If you like all the components of a layer cake, then you will find that the sweetened chestnut spread with the light whipped cream frosting is nothing less than delicious. Chestnut spread was new to me, but it has now been added to my "special" flavors list.

This is not an "everyday" recipe due to the specialty ingredient of chestnut, however, it is definitely one worthy enough to be at the top of the list when it comes to holiday baking.

Chestnut Cake
adapted from Chestnut Hill Tree Farm

1 or 2 sticks of butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2/3 cup chestnut flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

12 oz sweetened chestnut spread
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbs of stabilizer (optional)
2 tbs of sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease the interior of  one 9x12 pan or two 9 inch round cake pans. If making layers, Line the bottom interior of the round pans with parchment paper and grease the face up side.

In a small bowl, sift together the two types of flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and sugar. Beat until mixture is fluffy and light. Add one egg yolk and blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Repeat the process with each egg yolk until all 4 are mixed into the batter.

Empty 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the batter and fold in, using a wooden spoon. Then, using a small bowl, mix together the vanilla extract with the milk. Pour half of that mixture into the batter and stir together. Follow with 1/2 of the remaining dry mixture. Mix in the rest of the milk/vanilla blend and fold in the last of the sifted ingredients. Set aside.

Place all the egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer and beat until stiff. Fold the stiff egg whites into the batter, gently, so volume is not lost. Fill prepared pan(s) with batter. For the two round cakes, the batter should be divided equally. I found that it worked out to 3 cups of batter for each pan.

Put pan(s) in oven and bake until top springs back when lightly touched and tester comes out clean. This takes about 30-35 minutes. If making a layer cake, let cake cool in pans about 10 minutes and invert onto to rack to finish cooling. Parchment paper can be removed right after cake is inverted onto rack. Regarding the 9x12 inch cake, it is served from the pan, so it cools completely in the pan.

During the cooling time, the sweetened whipped cream icing can be prepared. Pour the cream and vanilla extract into a bowl. Add the sugar and stabilizer (if using). Using clean/dry beater blades, beat mixture until cream is fully whipped and light. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the layer cake, spread 6 oz of the chestnut puree onto the top of one round cake, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edge. Then spread the whipped cream frosting over the top, covering all the way to the edge. Place the other cake layer on top, the cover the top surface the same way as the other cake layer. Smooth the remaining whipped cream frosting on the sides, covering all the cake. As a last touch, if you prefer, cover the top of the cake with the chocolate sprinkles.

Frosting the 9x12 inch cake is just a matter of smoothing the chestnut spread on the surface and then topping with the whipped cream frosting.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tips and Notes:
1. The cake sides can be also covered with the puree, but special care has to be taken when frosting with the whipped cream so you do not mix the two. Refrigerating the cake for about an hour after being covered with the puree before frosting with the whipped cream to help stabilize it more.

2. I added 1 tbs of oil to the batter to insure a moist texture.

3. Chocolate is a great pairing with chestnuts, so covering the whipped cream topping with chards of chocolate is also an option.

4. The batter could be baked up in individual servings as well, using rings or muffin tins. Just be sure to adjust the bake time accordingly.
                           **LAST YEAR: Brownie Bread Pudding**

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hummingbird Cookies

There are cake spin offs from cookie recipes and vice versa. Some of the spin offs prove to be a delicious genius idea and some miss the mark all together. Most of the cake to cookie recipes result in cookies with a cake-like texture. I have to admit, that type of texture is usually not my preference, but this recipe is tasty enough to make me reconsider that.

The special combination of flavors and texture in this recipe offers the best of both worlds. Without icing, the are subtly sweet with crunchy pieces of pecans and chewy bits of dried pineapple. If you are in the mood for something sweeter, top these gems with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle on some banana chips and pecans. Whichever way you decide to prepare them, they will quickly disappear. This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Hummingbird Cookies
adapted from Southern Living

1 1/2 cups of regular oats
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped dried pineapple
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 medium sized ripe banana (mashed)

Ingredients/Frosting and Topping
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup crumbled banana chips
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the salt, flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Set aside. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter, vanilla extract and brown sugar. Cream together until fluffy, beating for about 3-4 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Add one egg and mix at medium speed for about 30 seconds. Repeat the process with the other egg.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the mashed banana until evenly distributed into the batter. Pour in the sifted ingredients and fold into the batter until no dry streaks remain. Mix in the oats. Lastly, fold in the pineapple and nuts.

Place mounds of the batter 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, using a tablespoon or small  melon ball scoop. Using a glass with the bottom dipped in water, press down mounds into flat circles, about 1 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter. Place prepared sheet in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until done. Cookies will have a golden edge and be firm on top when done.

Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet prior to transferring to a rack. Frost cookies once completely cooled.

To make frosting, mix together salt, heavy cream and vanilla extract. Add cream cheese and beat for 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl when needed. Sift 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar into the cream cheese mixture and beat until blended. Repeat the process until all the powdered sugar has been mixed in.

In a small bowl, mix together the pecan and banana pieces. Using a knife or spatula, spread frosting onto the cooled cookies. Once a dozen have been frosted, sprinkle pecan/banana chip blend on top of the frosting and lightly press to adhere. Repeat the frosting and sprinkling process until all the cookies are covered.

Tips and Notes:
1. The recipe states to use a glass that is floured on the bottom to flatten the dough. The water method works much better.

2. I am in a high humidity area and the moist surface of the cookies (unfrosted) had me cautious about stacking them together, so I let them dry out overnight before storing. Also, I waited until the night before serving to frosted them.
                                **LASAT YEAR:Banana Fudge Bundt Cake**

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bourbon Cherry Bars

In the heat of summer, a lot of us are taking advantage of the fresh berries at the store. A dessert made with fresh berries is always welcome, however, these types of items must be kept cold or served right away. The alternative to that is turning to the "dried" form of fruit. I am very picky when it comes to dried fruit. It must be somewhat chewy and gummy, not hard. Some brands miss the mark and the fruit part of your dessert is leathery instead of chewy.

Regardless if I plan to plump the fruit in a type of liquid or use it as is, I look for the biggest and freshest prepared pieces. I know the size is not an option when it comes to berries, but a bag that is clumped or stuck to the dried fruit inside is better than the alternative to a package that is loose and airy. Also, spending the time to seeking out big slices of dried apples or pineapple is well worth it.

Some people may see this recipe as a little "off season" but when it comes to tasty desserts, but seasonality has little influence on the decision to eat or not. One bite of the delicious layer of pecan topped with bourbon soaked cherries and a nutty glaze will give you the realization that eating a piece is the only thing to do.

Bourbon Cherry Bars
adapted from The Oregonian

1/4 cup orange juice
1 egg
1/4 cup bourbon
3/4 stick or 6 tablespoon of butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup plus 1/4 toasted, cooled pecans
2 cups dried cherries
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the interior of an 8 inch square baking pan. Line bottom and two sides of the pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 of the sides.

To make the bottom layer, start by creaming the butter with the salt and only 1/2 a cup of brown sugar. Blend in the egg. Set aside.

Using a blender or food processor, pulse together the flour with only 1 cup of the pecans. Pulse until the mixture has fine pieces of pecans in the flour. Be careful not to over process the mixture causing the pecans to become a nut butter. Once the processing is done, empty the contents into the creamed butter/sugar batter and blend with a wooden spoon.

Put all of the pecan dough into the prepared pan and press into the bottom. Form it into a smooth, even layer covering all along the bottom of the pan. Place pan in oven and let bake for about 20 minutes. It will have a golden brown hue when done.

While the first layer is baking, create the second layer. Empty the cherries into a blender or food processor and pulse until cherries are chopped into 1/4 inch pieces. Take all the cherry pieces and place in a saucepan. Add the bourbon, remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar, cinnamon and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until all sugar is dissolved and mixture resembles pie filling. All the liquid is to be cooked out.

Smooth the cherry mixture over the pecan layer. Let cool completely before icing. Mix powdered sugar with 3-4 tablespoons of water and drizzle over the top. Then sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of nuts evenly on top. Once icing has set up, remove from pan by using the parchment. Then cut and serve.

Tips and Notes:
1. Using bourbon or a bourbon/water mixture for the icing is an option. Remember the bourbon will remain strong since the icing is not cooked, so do not over do it.

2. Don't panic because the bottom layer (prior to baking) is like a very thick frosting instead of a dough, that is the way it is supposed to be.
                                      **LAST YEAR: Peach Kolaches**