Foodbuzz

Friday, October 13, 2017

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies


Sometimes a person is in the mood for cookies. Today's wishes are not for chocolate chip cookies or buttery shortbread, but something a little bit more healthy. Something more along the lines of oatmeal cookies would squelch my craving.

Not just any oatmeal cookies will do. Seasonal flavors would have to be included with this cookie recipe. I came across a recipe that included pumpkin puree and spices-which just what I was looking for. For even more seasonal flavor, I tweaked the recipe a bit to include dried cranberries and walnuts.

The cookies turned out to be chewy in texture with a bit of crunch from the walnuts. Also, they are a very hearty cookie full of fall flavor. As you know, oatmeal cookies fall under comfort food-so for that special category I consider this recipe a keeper. Another bonus is that the time it takes to create these cookies is minimal. The recipe makes about 2 dozen.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tbs maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup raw sugar (extra for sprinkling)
2/3 cup of oats (old fashioned, not quick cooking)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts (chopped)

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

Sift the flour, cinnamon, allspice and baking soda into a medium bowl. Stir in the oats and set aside. Take out another bowl and fill with both types of sugars, vegetable oil, pumpkin puree, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir until thoroughly combined together. Then fold in the sifted ingredients in 1/3 increments. Mix just until no more dry streaks remain.

Lastly, add the dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. Stir together until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Using a scoop, place mounds of the dough on one of the baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Dip the bottom of a glass in water and flatten each mound, creating a 2 inch diameter with the dough. Then sprinkle on some of the raw sugar.

Bake each pan of cookies in the oven separately until done. Cookies should be firm and lightly browned on the edges when done, approximate baking time is 17-20 minutes. Once done, remove from oven and transfer cookies to a rack and let cool.
                             **LAST YEAR: Triple Caramel Mudcake**

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake


The end of this month marks the day of Halloween. For a lot of countries it is a day of remembrance for those that have passed. There are several different traditions across the world, however, in the US a lot of us will be creating jack-o-lanterns. If you are unfamiliar with the US tradition of making jack-o-lanterns, the pumpkin is scraped out or removed of all the seeds and then the shell is cut and carved into a design (usually a scary face) and then a candle is put inside and lit to have a glow.

The jack-o-lantern originated from a story about of a man named jack who passed away but never went to heaven or hell. The devil gave him a burning coal to light his way and Jack carved out a turnip to place it inside to use for a lantern. Even though the story started with a carved turnip, things eventually evolved into using a pumpkin for the carving. However, outside of Halloween, today there are quite a number of fruits and vegetables that are used in the art of food carving.

You might not be an artist, but you can still have a successful pumpkin carving session this year by bringing out a delicious pumpkin cheesecake for the grand finale. The silky spicy filling topped with a maple sauce and crunchy nuts will have your guests wanting seconds - even if they have to carve another pumpkin for it!

This recipe makes one 9 inch cheesecake or 16 individual ramekin servings.

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients/Crust 
1 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbs butter, melted

Ingredients/ Filling
1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree
3 tbs maple syrup
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
24 oz of cream cheese (room temp)
3 eggs (room temp)
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp gnd cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Ingredients/Topping
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup pecan pieces

Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Then pour in butter and mix again until it reaches a sandy texture with no dry streaks. Empty into a spring form pan and press evenly in the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Fill a bowl of a stand mixer with the cream cheese. Beat on high speed, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl until the mixture becomes smooth and silky. This should take about 2 minutes. Add one egg and beat for about 30 seconds, or until incorporated into the cream cheese. Repeat the same process with the remaining eggs. Then pour in the syrup and sweetened condensed milk and beat for 30 seconds.

Add the pumpkin puree and beat for another 3 seconds. Lastly, beat in the salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour the filling into the pan, it should be the consistency of cake batter. To remove large air bubbles, tap the pan lightly on the counter.

Place in oven and let bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done. Cheesecake is done when it is no longer glossy on top and is solid in mass with the exception of a slight jiggly center. Remove from oven and let cool completely and then cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

The topping, used only at the time of serving, can be made in advance and refrigerated. Pour the cream and syrup in a saucepan and stir together. Then place over medium high heat and let come to a boil. Let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes. The end result will be a thick sauce. Mix in the pecans. Pour into a heat proof bowl and let cool for about 20 minutes. Then cover and place in refrigerator to get cold.

Once you are ready to ladle the topping over the cheesecake, take a moment to mix together again.

Tips and Notes:
1. I found that due to the mixing, this yields a lot of batter. When using rings or ramekins, fill each leaving only 1/4 of an inch from the top edge.

2. The spices are just right for my tastes, however, feel free to add more to filling or add spices to graham crumb mixture.

3. For a more pourable topping, cut down on the cook time and test for the right consistency.
                                      **TWO YEARS AGO: Caramel Apple Nut Pie**

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Butterscotch Walnut Cupcakes

Fall has arrived and with it comes the change in the leaves. Some people head up north to witness the change, the locals call them "leaf peepers". Around here in central Texas there is the dreaded thought of raking all those leaves. The people that do not have trees in their front yard will be looking to pass blame for all the leaves in their yard.

As for me, I am looking forward to fall baking. Gingerbread, pumpkin pie are only a few things that come to mind. The heavier, bold flavors are going to be more prominent in desserts, which brings me to these butterscotch walnut cupcakes. The textures and flavor combination makes this recipe a keeper. The moist texture comes from walnut oil which also adds a nutty flavor to each cupcake. The buttercream is made with gelatin and less sugar than most, giving it a lightness. The caramel on top with the walnut turns up the sweetness along with adding some more crunch.

The recipe below makes about 2 dozen cupcakes.

Butterscotch Walnut Cupcakes

Ingredients/Cupcake
By flourtrader

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup walnut oil
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients/Caramel

Click on this link Caramel recipe

Ingredients/Buttercream
adapted from Cooking Channel

1 1/4 cup or 2 1/2 sticks butter
2 tbs plus 1/4 cup water
1 tsp powdered gelatin
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup half and half
1 tsp vanilla extract
24 whole walnuts for topping

Prepare 2 cupcake tins (12 cavity each) by filling each cavity with paper liners. Toss the walnuts in about 1/2 cup of flour and use sieve to remove excess flour and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Separate the yolks from the eggs and place the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the whites until they reach soft peak stage. Continue to mix and slowly pour in the granulated sugar until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside.

To make the cupcakes light, take out a large bowl and sift the cake flour first and then measure it out. Sift it a second time with the baking powder. Stir in the brown sugar until evenly distributed. Add the vanilla, egg yolks, half and half and walnut oil and stir together. Then mix in the chopped walnuts.

Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the batter and fold it in, continue in 1/3 increments until all is incorporated into the batter.

Using a scoop or spoon, fill each cupcake cavity about 3/4 full of batter. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes. Place pans on rack to cool about 2 minutes and then transfer cupcakes to rack to completely cool before frosting.

Make the caramel by following the link in the ingredient list above. Set aside to cool.

For the buttercream, start with the gelatin. Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the 2 tablespoons of water and stir. Set aside to bloom for about 5 minutes.

Fill a saucepan with the remaining amount of water, brown sugar and half and half. Stir together and place over medium heat. Stir mixture until the sugar is dissolved. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture and change to low heat setting. Mix and let cook until gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until the butter becomes silky in texture, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pour in gelatin mixture and beat on medium high speed. The beating time ranges from 10 to 15 minutes. During this time, there will be several texture changes, so do not be alarmed if it curdles or looks grainy. The end result will be a fluffy buttercream.

Once the buttercream is created, pipe decoratively onto cooled cupcakes. Then place a dollop of caramel in the center surface of the top. Lastly, finish with a walnut in the center.

Tips and notes:
1. Feel free to put your own spin on this recipe by variation of nut oil ingredient.

2. Some of the cupcakes will sink a little upon cooling but the buttercream will remedy the appearance.

3. The smaller the pieces of nuts in the batter, the less chance they will sink to the bottom of the cupcake. Dusting the walnut pieces with flour is an important step.
                             **LAST YEAR: Banana Rum Coffee Cake**
                                         








Sunday, September 24, 2017

Almond Frangipane Cookies

One of the things I have learned in baking is that there is a vast difference between the recipe favorites of the home baker versus the professional. Most home bakers prefer items that yield tasty results without a huge investment of time. The items created by professionals usually contain more than one component and require extra effort due to presentation. However, do not let the word professional deter you. There are lots of recipes created by professionals that can be made at home- as long as someone is willing to expend the time.

As you can see by the picture, these cookies are far from those big wonderful chocolate chip cookies you find in the cookie jar. They are made up of 2 components, buttery shortbread and frangipane. Once the two cookies are sandwiched together, they are topped with almond slices and a glaceed cherry half. Then the bottoms are coated with white chocolate and colored sugar. All of that flavor is packed into a cookie that is only about 1 1/2 inches around.

In summation, you have something bite sized with a flaky texture from the cookie and chewiness from the frangipane. Then there are all the "extras" that come from the bottom coating and the topping. If this recipe appeals to you, please read all the tips and notes at the end which will help you to be successful in the kitchen. This recipe makes 2-2 1/2 dozen and uses ounces as a unit of measure.

Almond Frangipane Cookies
adapted from Dessert Professional

Ingredients/Butter Cookie
2 egg yolks
4.3 oz powdered sugar
6 oz unsalted butter (cut into cubes at room temp)
11.8 oz cake flour

Ingredients/Frangipane Filling
1 egg
4 oz almond paste
2 oz butter
.42 oz or 1 1/2 tsp of sugar
.17 oz or 1 tsp cake flour

Ingredients/Top and Bottom Coating
2.1 oz water
1 oz honey
2.7 oz sugar
3.5 oz white chocolate
4 oz sliced almonds
24 glaceed cherries (cut in half)
2.4 oz colored sugar

The first component to create are the cookies. Start by filling the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and sift in the powdered sugar. Beat on medium high speed until fluffy, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides. This should take about 3 minutes. Then beat in the egg yolks until fully blended, about 30 seconds. Fold in the flour in three increments.

Once the dough is created, take out plastic wrap and roll out onto a flat surface-about 2 feet long. Place the dough on the plastic wrap and form into a rectangle, cover and place in refrigerator to chill for about 1 hour.

During the chilling time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the interior of 2 small/ 12 cavity mini muffin tins or use non stick or silicon pans. Take this time to form the other components of the cookies. For the filling, place butter, sugar and almond paste in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at medium speed for a total of 15 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl every 5 minutes. Add the egg and blend in on low speed. Lastly, use a wooden spoon to blend in the flour. Set aside.

For the top coating, fill a saucepan with the honey, water and 2.7 oz sugar and place over medium high heat. Let the mixture come to a boil and let cook for about 1 minute. Let cool and pour in a small bowl and set this by the bowl of sliced almonds and the bowl of halved glaceed cherries.

Lightly dust a flat surface with flour and prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out into a square, about 1/8 inch thick. Place it on the prepared baking sheet and put in the oven and par-bake for about 4 minutes, or until edges have a golden hue. Remove the pan and start cutting out 1 1/2 inch rounds. Once all the dough has been cut, then the assembly can start. There should be a minimum of 48 rounds.

Stack the rounds together in pairs. Place one dough round from each pair into the muffin tin cavities. Spoon a dime sized amount of the frangipane filling on top. Then top with another round, pressing lightly to form a sandwich cookie. Place 3 or 4 almond slices decoratively on the surface of the cookie rounds and put a cherry half in the center (see picture). Brush lightly with honey glaze and place in oven to bake until golden. Cookies will take approximately 12-15 minutes to bake. Let cool in pans for about 2 minutes, then carefully use a spoon to scoop the cookie out. Place on cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat the process of forming/baking/cooling until all cookie rounds are baked sandwich cookies.

For the bottom coating, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler until smooth. Set up a bowl by filling with the colored sugar. Take each cookie and carefully dip the bottom into chocolate, using a small spatula to scrape off any excess. Then dip chocolate coated side into colored sugar and place on parchment paper. Continue until all cookies have a bottom coat. Once the chocolate has completely set up, the cookies are ready to serve.

Tips and Notes:
1. There was too much filling left over, so try starting with half the recipe and then making more, if needed. The recipe suggests piping this onto the cookie, but I did not feel it was thick enough to be piped, so I used a spoon.

2. The glaze was too watery and did not add as much of a golden hue to the cookie when baked, so the recipe should be tweaked more-perhaps less water. Brushing on the glaze and keeping the almonds and cherry from moving was difficult, so I glazed the surface prior to adding the almonds and cherry. I just dipped the almonds in the glaze to put on top and did not due anything to coat the cherries.

3. I did not complete the bottom coating, so I have no comment on this component in regards to what it added to the cookie in flavor. I found the cookies without the bottom coating to be delicious without the added sweetness. Carefully consider the bottom coating. White chocolate is very sweet, so it may overpower the rest of the flavors of the cookie. The level of sweetness in any dessert is a personal preference.

4. Some of the frangipane filling ended up baking outside the edges of some of the cookies. If you notice this when removing the pans from the oven, use a butter knife to run around the outer edges of the cookies and then let cool.

5. The main idea for presentation is to make the top look like a flower with the almonds the petals and the cherry in the center. Due to the small size of the cookies and various sizes of sliced almonds, I chose just to do the three slices. How many slices you use is a personal preference.
                                      **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies**

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Apricot Sweet Rolls


In today's world there are a special group of people that are always studying the exchange rate of money. As a result of the study, exchanges take place with the participants expecting to cash in on the conversion.

I feel that the non-monetary or barter system can be a little more interesting. Instead of money-let's consider exchanging sustainable items. Someone fixes your car and they receive 3 watermelon plants. Another example is that you receive 3 chickens a day in return for your work. I know, you are thinking that money is better, but exchanging that for chickens or watermelons requires you to depend on a store. If it was readily available right outside the door, it would not only be fresher but probably better for the environment.

Which brings me to a story about the main item in this recipe-apricots. Some time ago there was a doctor who declined to take any money from his patients. Instead he asked them to plant a apricot tree on his land. In the end, he had a large apricot orchard. This was not just because he liked the taste of apricots, he knew that he could capitalize on the medicinal qualities of the fruit.

So, if you are a blogger or baker remember that outside of the delicious taste of things- there are other factors that you can capitalize on with food. In the meantime, head for the kitchen and make a tasty batch of these sweet rolls. With almonds and apricots, you can enjoy all that wonderful flavor and also get the medicinal qualities found in the fruit as an extra bonus. This recipe makes 1 dozen rolls.

Apricot Sweet Rolls
adapted from Bake from Scratch Magazine

Ingredients/Filling
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup dried apricots
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs butter (quartered into pieces)

Ingredients/Glaze
vanilla bean/split and seeded
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup water

Ingredients/Sweet Rolls
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup warm milk (divided into 3/4 and 1/4 cups, heated to 110 degrees)
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup melted butter

Start on the filling by placing the apricots in a small saucepan. Add water, making sure that the dried apricots are under about 1 inch of water. Place over high heat and let come to a boil. Then change the temperature to low and let the apricots cook. Once the apricots are soft, remove from heat. It should take about 20 minutes of cooking time.

Place a colander or sieve over a small bowl and drain the apricots. Pour 2 tablespoons of the liquid into a small container and discard the rest. Set the apricots and the reserved liquid aside.

Add the remaining filling ingredients to a food processor or blender. Then add the apricots and reserved liquid. Pulse the mixture together, so that all the apricots are broken up into smaller pieces. The end result should be the consistency of jam. Let the jam cool completely and then cover and place in refrigerator.

The next step is to create and form the dough. Sprinkle the yeast into 3/4 cup of the warm milk and stir. Let sit for at least 10 minutes or until ready to use. Take out a medium sized bowl and sift together 3 2/3 cup of the flour and salt, set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with sugar, butter, sour cream, remaining milk (1/4 cup), egg and almond extract. Add 1/2 of the sifted ingredients and mix on low speed. Continue beating and add in the yeast blend, stirring once again prior to adding. Once these elements are combined, blend in the remaining sifted dry ingredients.

Change out the beater blade on the mixer to a dough hook. Switch the speed to medium and beat for about 4 minutes. The end result should be a smooth dough. If it remains sticky, blend in the additional 1/3 cup flour.

Prepare a large bowl by oiling the interior, either using a oil-soaked pastry brush or cooking spray. Also, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Form the dough into a circle and place in the oiled bowl and then flip over so the other side is oiled as well. Cover and set aside to rise in a warm place. It should take about an hour to double in size.

As the dough is rising, prepare the glaze by combining all ingredients in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Let the mixture come to a boil, take out the vanilla bean and remove the saucepan from heat. The seeds will remain as dark specks in the golden glaze. Let the glaze cool completely before using.

After the rising session, punch down dough and let stand for 5 minutes. Dust a flat surface lightly with flour. Empty the dough out onto the surface and roll out into a rectangle. Keep rolling until it reaches a size of 21 x 13 inches. Take the jam out of the refrigerator. Using a small spatula, spread the jam evenly over the surface of the dough. Do not leave any border and spread the mixture out, covering all of the edges.

Starting from one of the short sides, fold the dough into a letter size rectangle, resulting in a 13 x 7 inch mass. Extend the dough another inch, making it 13 x 8 inches. Sharpen the short edges of the dough by slicing off a half inch from each 8 inch side. Then cut the dough into 12 one inch wide strips. Carefully twist each strip and curl around to form a loose knot, tucking the ends underneath. Place all the formed strips on each baking sheet. There should be six pastries evenly spaced on each baking sheet. Let the pastry dough rise again for about 30 minutes, covering and placing in a warm area. During this second rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the oven reaches the desired temperature, place one baking sheet in the oven and let the pastries bake until done. Let the pastries bake for about 7 minutes and check to see if they are getting to brown on top. If so, cover with foil at this time. Let the rolls bake an additional 8 minutes before using a tester to check if the pastries are done. Baking time could take up to a total of 20 minutes. The end result should be rolls that are golden brown on the surface. Remove from the oven and top with the brown sugar glaze. Follow the same instructions on the additional tray of rolls. Serve warm.

Tips and notes:
1. The additional rise time of the 2nd tray while the first is baking does not alter the end result. Both trays had the same texture and size.

2. The recipe states to add the sliced almonds after the filling is blended. However due to cutting and forming, I elected to add them prior to the blending.

3. The filling does not scorch when resting on the pan while baking.

4. The glaze does not add a lot of sugar to the surface, allowing the almond/apricot to be the primary flavor of the rolls.

                                                    **LAST YEAR:Hazelnut Praline Cakes**

 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hibiscus Butter Cake


Things never seem to stay exactly the same. It is as if time is always redecorating. Sometimes the change happens quickly and sometimes they take time. Those shoes you loved in the store just were not the same at home and places you used to visit in the past are now unfamiliar.

In relationship to food, I have been told that your taste buds change with time. The things you once loved turn into a different flavor or your preferences change. However, I am happy to say that I still enjoy a good slice of cake-so time has not changed my taste buds that much. In addition, I still crave a taste of the unique and trendy flavors.

Which brings me to this recipe. I have been thinking about the taste of flowers; cherry blossom, geranium and hibiscus. I believe that the decision was locked in when I saw a jar of hibiscus flowers in syrup. The main use for the flowers were to drop into champagne filled glasses for an extra special occasion. I knew that syrupy flowers were not the right type of component for the cake. Then the idea of freeze dried came to mind, but the product was not easily found. What could be easily found was hibiscus tea leaves.

Then I went searching for methods of using tea in baking and landed on a recipe in which the methods were already tested and steeping the tea with melted butter was the winner.

This is a 3 layer six inch cake with lemon and the familiar berry/tart flavor of hibiscus. It is covered with a strawberry lemon buttercream and the layers are filled with both the buttercream and sweet strawberries. Nifty in size and deliciously unique in flavor- one slice is really worth trying.

Hibiscus Butter Cake
adapted from Oh Honey Bakes 

Ingredients/Cake
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 sticks of butter
5 tbs hibiscus tea
6 egg whites
3 1/4 cups flour

Ingredients/Jam
1 lb of strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs lemon juice

Ingredients/Buttercream Icing
1/2 cup strawberry jam (from above recipe)
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp lemon extract
5 egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 or 3 sticks of butter (cubed)

In order to create the cake, start by infusing the tea with the butter. Place a saucepan over medium heat and fill with the butter. Then add the tea. As the butter melts in the pan, due to the tea leaves, it will turn a deep burgundy color. Let the mixture come to a boil and cover. Remove from the heat and let rest for about an hour for the hibiscus flavor to meld with the butter.

Once the resting interval is complete, place a sieve over a heat proof bowl. Pour the butter/tea mixture into the sieve and let the melted butter drain out while pressing into the tea leaves. Use a spatula to scrape any remaining amount of butter (clinging to the bottom of the sieve) into the bowl. Let the mixture come to room temperature before using.

As this cools, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the interior of three six inch cake pans and place parchment in the bottom of each pan. Grease the surface of the parchment paper as well. Fill each with about 1 tablespoon of flour and shake pan until the whole interior is covered and invert to empty out excess.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar and butter/hibiscus mixture. Cream the mixture together, beating at medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add each egg white (one at a time) and blend with the mixer for about 30 seconds. Continue with this same process until all 6 of the egg whites are blended into the batter. Fold in the lemon zest and set aside.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the batter. Then stir in 1/2 cup of the buttermilk. Repeat the same process, starting with the dry blend and using all the remaining buttermilk. End by folding in the last amount of the sifted ingredients.

Measure out the batter and divide evenly into thirds. Fill each pan with a third, making sure the surface of the batter is even. To remove air bubbles in the batter, tap the bottom of the pan lightly on the counter. Place each in the oven and let bake for 20 minutes. After that interval, rotate and bake for about 5-10 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the interior edges of the pans and invert onto cooling racks. Once completely cooled, the layers can be assembled.

As the cake is cooling, start on the topping/icing. Core all the strawberries and set aside 4 whole strawberries for garnish. Chop the rest of the strawberries into 1/4 inch pieces. Separate out 1/2 cup of the chopped strawberries, empty into a bowl, and fold in 2 tbs of sugar. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator.

Fill a saucepan with the lemon juice, the remaining 1/2 of sugar and chopped strawberries. Place over medium heat and let cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat. The end result should should be thick, like jam. Remove from heat and drain into a heatproof bowl with a sieve, using a spoon the press out all the liquids. Cover bowl and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream, set up a double boiler using a bottom pot an adding water, filling it 1/4 inch full. Let the water come to a simmer. Take out a metal bowl and fill with the egg whites and sugar. Place the filled metal bowl over the pot of simmering water. Whisk the mixture until it is no longer grainy and the sugar is dissolved or until it reaches 140 degrees. It should have a foamy consistency when ready.

Empty the egg white/sugar mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer. Using a whisk attachment, blend the ingredients on high speed for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, check the temperature of the outside of the bowl to determine if it has reached room temperature. If so, switch the mixer blade to the paddle attachment and low speed. As the icing continues to be mixed, start dropping in the cubes of butter until all is blended into an icing texture.

Take the strawberry jam out of the refrigerator and beat into the sugar/butter mixture. Once blended, stir in the lemon extract and lemon zest.

To assemble the cake, start by trimming the domed layers into a flat surface. Place one of the layers on a plate and cover sides and top surface with buttercream. Then divide the remaining mixture of strawberries and sugar in half. Spoon half of the mixture evenly onto the layer covered in buttercream. Then top with another layer of cake and repeat the process of covering the layer. Place the last layer on top, making sure the cake is level. Frost the sides and top with the remaining butter cream and slice the 4 strawberries vertically, leaving about 3 cm uncut at the bottom. The strawberries can be fanned out and placed on the center of the cake. 
  
Tips and notes:
1. This recipe yields a very tall cake. I kept one layer as a small cake and stacked and frosted only two layers.

2. The buttercream will curdle when blending, which is to be expected. It may take a while of mixing to get to the proper consistency, so be patient.

3. Bear in mind that butter cakes are more dense than regular cake. However, it still retains a moist texture.

4. If you are topping the cake with the berries, do that right before slicing and serving.

5. Even though the tea leaves have a rich berry tint to them, the cake layers have a white interior. 

6. The hibiscus flavor becomes more prominent after 1 day.
                              **LAST YEAR: Vanilla Bean Scones* 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sawmill Toffee


Today there is a cool breeze outside and the temperature is much cooler than what Texas normally has in August. Even though the temperature may switch back to 100 degrees and hotter in a few days, the thoughts of autumn and winter are on my mind.

Pumpkin, gingerbread and spices are definitely the foods for the cooler weather. Along with that are the special holiday treats that only seem to appear once a year. One of those treats is homemade fudge. My mother used to make fudge around the Christmas holidays. I recall my sister and I having to take turns to beat the fudge until it reaches the correct consistency. At the time, it seemed like it took an eternity for it to get to that point-especially when both of us were ready to eat when we were recruited for the task!

Unlike many fudge recipes, this one is quick and easy. You will not have to experience the task of "beating until it reaches the correct consistency". Instead, butter is creamed with sugar and the rest is simply mixed in.

Needless to say, the name of this recipe is very misleading. It should be named fudge instead of toffee. When served from a frozen state, it has that same silky texture that we expect when indulging in a piece of fudge. In addition, each piece has an occasional crunch from the pecans. Also, when flipped out of the pan, you have a thick dusting of graham cracker crumbs on top. Like most fudge, each bite packs in the big flavor we all love- rich, sweet chocolate.

Sawmill Toffee
adapted from Bon Appetit-Favorite Restaurant Recipes

Ingredients
2-3 tbs butter (melted)
3 eggs
1 tbs orange liqueur
8 oz unsweetened chocolate (melted/cooled)
1 1/4 cups or 2 1/2 sticks butter (room temp)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 lb powdered sugar
Whipped cream (optional for serving)

Start by preparing a 10X15X1 inch pan by buttering the interior. Then take out a bowl and whisk together the melted butter and the graham cracker crumbs. Once all the crumbs have been damped by the butter, empty contents into pan. Press the mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan, using the back of a spoon or small spatula. Cover pan with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to cool for at least an hour.

Take out another bowl and fill with only 1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (kept at room temperature). Beat the butter until it is smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. This should take about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Using a sieve or sifter, empty the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Then add 1 cup of the sifted sugar to the butter mixture and beat on low. Once no more dry streaks remain, beat for about 30 seconds on medium speed. Repeat this process until all the powdered sugar has been incorporated into the butter. Set aside.

Then fill a saucepan with the remaining 1/4 cup of butter and place over medium heat. Once melted, pour in the pecan pieces. Stir the mixture until the pecans release a butter-nut aroma, indicating that they are completely toasted. This should take up to 5 minutes. Once toasted, empty the nuts into a small bowl to cool.

Go back to the butter/sugar mixture and add one egg. Beat for 30 seconds. Continue adding and beating each egg into the batter, one at a time. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk or stir until it is completely distributed throughout the mixture. Lastly, fold in the toasted pecans.

Remove the graham cracker lined pan from the refrigerator. Also, fill a small bowl with some cold water. Using a large ladle, scoop out chocolate fudge and drop into top right section of the pan. Continue with large scoops until all the fudge is in the pan. Then smooth out the fudge evenly by dipping a spatula or knife into the water and sliding over the surface.

To complete the process, take a pastry brush and dip it in the orange liqueur and brush over the surface. Then take a knife and make cuts in the surface to mix in the orange liqueur. Lastly, smooth out the surface again. Cover and place in freezer for about 3 hours to set.

Once set, it is ready to cut, flip and serve. Prior to serving you can top with a scoop of whipped cream if desired.

Tips and Notes:
1.The graham coating is very loose and powdery. In order to remedy that, add some additional melted butter until it clumps into a more solid mass. However, remember that this is to be more of a dusting and not a baked hard crust, like you would have with a cheesecake.

2. I am big on crunchy pecans, so if I was to make this again I would increase the amount used in this recipe.

3. The original recipe states to chill the fudge. Tasting the consistency of it chilled in the refrigerator vs chilled in the freezer, I much preferred the freezer. The refrigerator did not get the mixture to set up as firm as fudge.

4. The brushing of the liqueur on top did not lend any flavor to the fudge. Should you want to experience the taste of it in the fudge, try increasing the quantity and experimenting with mixing it in the batter. You can also separate the batter in half, making one layer and brushing it with the liqueur. Then cut it in with the knife, as instructed in the original recipe. Top with a second layer of fudge and follow the same instructions.

5. Bear in mind that the pieces of fudge are between 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick, they are not like the 1 inch cube size of most fudge pieces.


                                   **LAST YEAR:Polish Poundcake**

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Boston Cream Pie Cookies



Today I am thinking about the subject of opinions. Opinions can be requested as needed and they can be constructive at times. However, we all have to deal with the unwanted and the overload. There is a percentage of people that abuse the use of opinions. These are the people that want to control you, believe they know what you want and believe they know what is best. In the company of these people, bear in mind that you are the only person that has to be with you for the rest of your life, so do and think what you want. Also, be confident that as you do that, these people are continuing to use their time in futility trying to control you.

The control factor also can be linked to the practice of following recipes. You can move forward and make the exact recipe and be content with the instructions or you can alter them a bit as you see fit. Altering them can turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing, but you run the same risk with following a recipe. I have made some desserts I have been unhappy with and followed the recipe to a "T".

This recipe makes a little over 1 dz sandwich cookies and contain all the great flavors of the traditional Boston Cream Pie. The cookies strongly resemble the flavor of "Nilla" wafer cookies and while they bake up crisp, sandwiching them with the vanilla custard tends to soften them up as time goes by. Below is the recipe for the cookies I baked, in the tips and notes you will find further information for creating the original recipe.

Boston Cream Pie Cookies
adapted from Rosie's Bakery Cookie Book

Ingredients/Vanilla Custard
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
3 tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar

Ingredients/Cookies
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/2 cup or 1 stick plus 1 tbs of butter
1 cup plus 1 tbs sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup plus 2 tbs cake flour
3/4 tsp baking soda

Ingredients/Chocolate Glaze
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbs and 1 tsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs confectioners sugar

Start by making the filling. Pour 1/2 cup plus 1 tbs milk into a medium sized saucepan. Add the cream and stir. Measure out the sugar and mix into the milk mixture. Place saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Then heat until it reaches a boiling point and remove. Set aside.

Take out a small bowl and whisk together the remaining milk and cornstarch. Once the cornstarch is blended into the milk and no lumps remain, add the egg yolk. Whisk until incorporated into the liquid. Pour this mixture in a steady stream into the saucepan with the sugar/milk blend, stirring as you pour. Then place saucepan over medium heat again and let filling cook, stirring constantly until it reaches the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.

Lastly, pour the filling into a heat proof bowl and cover the surface with wax paper or plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for approx 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the bowl.

You can make the cookies while the filling is setting up in the refrigerator. Start by taking out a mixer, preferably a stand mixer, and a large bowl. Fill the bowl with the butter, sugar, orange zest and vanilla extract. Cream the ingredients together with the mixer at medium speed, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. This process should take 3 minutes. Then add each egg yolk, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Lastly, whisk in the whole egg and set the mixture aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Using a medium size bowl, sift together both types of flour and baking soda. Then fold into butter/sugar batter. Once there are no more streaks of flour in the batter, take out a scoop or a spoon and place rounded tablespoons of dough on the baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Place pan in preheated oven and let bake for 10-11 minutes or until golden brown on the edges.  Let cookies cool on pan for about 2 minutes, then transfer to rack to completely cool.

Then take out your filling from the refrigerator when the chilling time is completed. Stir to make sure mixture is spreadable. Using a rounded tablespoon, scoop up some filling and smooth evenly on the flat side of one cookie. Then top with another cookie and press down lightly, making sure that the size pairing is the same. Continue with this process until all cookies are now sandwiched together with the filling.

The final component will be the chocolate topping. Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Then add the chocolate, breaking or chopping into chunks. Take out a small saucepan and fill with the cream and heat until it just comes to a simmer. Remove and pour the hot cream over the chocolate butter mixture. Let set for 2 minutes then whisk until all the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Add the confectioners sugar and stir, creating a smooth, shiny chocolate coating.

At this time, you can dip the sandwich cookie in the chocolate or drizzle it on top. Once all the cookies are coated, place on wax paper lined baking sheets and put in refrigerator for chocolate to set. These can be kept in the refrigerator for storage, but should be served at room temperature.

Tips and Notes:
1. I rarely use salt in recipes, but the original has 1/4 tsp which is added to the cornstarch/milk mixture and the cookies have 1/2 tsp of salt sifted with the flour and baking soda.

2. I used orange zest, but the original recommends lemon zest.

3. Should you want these to be more like whoopie pies, follow the original instructions that include incorporating 1/2 cup and 2 tbs of buttermilk prior to adding the sifted ingredients. This should create a cake-like texture, while making the cookies thinner with the additional liquid.

4. If you like the idea of banana pudding, try using banana custard instead of vanilla.
                                  **LAST YEAR: Sierra Nugget Cookies**

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies


Sometimes when you look into how things started in comparison to where they stand today, it can get a little mind boggling. Some of the most successful people today started out as a failure or they were warned of future failure. I read where one of the best comedians were booed off the stage the first time they did stand up- Eddie Murphy. Also, Clint Eastwood was advised that no one would have the slightest interest in spaghetti westerns. I am not sure how much truth this information has, but it does make you think about the beginning versus the end result.

In regards to this recipe, the reason behind the creation of peanut butter is quite different than we would think. Most people view peanut butter as a good protein for sandwiches to pack for children's lunches to bring to school. However, back in the day it was created, the sole purpose was to provide protein to those people that did not have any teeth.

Since most of us have teeth, that does not mean that we cannot enjoy the great taste of peanut butter. What is even better is having that flavor enveloped in some rich chocolate. This recipe brings the two together, creating a moist fudgey brownie with a rich peanut filling in the center.

So forget about how many teeth you have and forget about your age, this classic combo is something that can be enjoyed by all. This recipe makes 1 to 1 1/2 brownies using a pan with square shapes, but a muffin or cupcake pan with circular shapes can be used.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies
adapted from Pennlive.com and Southern Living

Ingredients/ Peanut butter filling
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs creamy peanut butter
3 oz softened cream cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
3 tbs whipping cream
1 egg

Ingredients/Chocolate Brownies
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup melted butter
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
4 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup flour

Ingredients/Ganache Topping
1 cup chocolate chips (semisweet or dark)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Prepare a 12 cavity pan (round or square cavity) by lining with cupcake papers.

The first component to make is the filling. Blend the cream cheese with the peanut butter using a mixer on medium speed. Once completely mixed together, beat in the sugar and whipping cream. Then whisk the egg in a small bowl and pour into the peanut butter mixture. Beat at medium speed until mixture is smooth, the consistency should be like a cake batter. Cover the top and place in freezer to chill for about 30 minutes so it can be scooped like ice cream.

While the peanut butter filling is chilling, start on the brownies. Prepare a double boiler and heat until pot with water comes to a simmer. Maintaining the same heat, place butter and chocolate in top pot to melt. Stir in intervals until all is completely melted together. Remove top pot and stir in sugar. Let the mixture cool for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Once cooled, add one egg and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Repeat this process with each egg until all are incorporated into the batter. Stir in the vanilla extract. Using a wooden spoon mix the flour into the batter in 1/4 cup increments.

Using a squirt bottle or spoon, create a 1/4-1/2 inch a layer of chocolate batter in the bottom of each cavity, smoothing until even. Then pull out to chilled peanut butter filling. Add one heaping teaspoon of filling to each batter lined cavity, being sure that the filling is centered and does not touch the sides. Then spoon more chocolate filling into the cavity, until each is 3/4 full.

Place in oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until tester indicates brownies are done baking. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Prepare the ganache topping by pouring the chocolate chips into a shallow bowl (like a pasta bowl). Spread the chips out evenly into the bottom of the bowl. Take out a small microwave bowl and fill with whipping cream. Place in microwave and heat for 30-45 seconds, just so cream is simmering.
Pour hot cream over the chocolate chips and let mixture rest without stirring for about 5 minutes and then stir. Stir until all chocolate chips are melted and cream is blended.

Using a spoon or knife smooth some ganache onto the cooled brownies, being careful not to get any chocolate on the paper liners. Before serving, make sure the ganache is set on the brownies.

Tips and Notes:
1. For a better appearance, try greasing the interior of the pans instead of using cupcake papers. Also, cupcake papers, when pulled off the brownies, do stick a bit. If I was to make these again, I would not use the papers.

2. Make sure that the peanut butter filling is thick but not rock hard. If too frozen it will cause brownie to expand and then sink in the middle. There will be some sinking even with the correct temperature, but not enough to be noticeable when coated with ganache.

3. You can use crunchy peanut butter if you want a little crunch added to the texture.

4. The brownies are middle of the road when it comes to texture. They are not extra fudgey nor are they light and cakey.

5. The peanut butter filling came from a Southern Living recipe. The Pennlive site recipe included a different blend for the filling- 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1/4 cup peanut butter and 1 tsp vanilla. A double boiler should be used to melt the first two ingredients together and once melted the vanilla is stirred in. The mixture is then cooled and shaped into balls and used to fill the pan cavities in the same manner as instructed above. I declined from this recipe due to one comment stating that the mixture was hard to work with. However, the blend seems to be more of a candy type filling for the brownies, if you are interested in this option.
                                                                                                                                                                                              
                                   **LAST YEAR:Peach Upside Down Rum Cake**


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Choco Berry Ice Cream Pie


The Texas heat has really kicked in due to the arrival of August. Most of us watch the temperature gauge and sit in the air conditioning when time permits, however, there are the few that live for the outdoors when the sun is at the hottest.

The real test for toleration comes either when there is no heat in the winter or no air in the summer. This weekend was the test for me since the air conditioning went out. Luckily, there was another place where I could stay with air conditioning, but it did not have all the amenities of the house.

I still intended to create a delicious dessert, but with the kitchen being 93 degrees, my creativity was a bit limited. It did not take much time for me to decide on making some ice cream. Not just ice cream, but something a little more challenging and unique. So the ice cream idea evolved into and ice cream pie. This recipe has been created by adapting and combining several component recipes together.

This ice cream pie has a tasty combination of strawberries and chocolate. A pie with an oreo cookie crust filled with sweet strawberry ice cream would have been quite satisfying at the end of a meal. As a food blogger, I could not resist on taking this recipe to another level by adding more cookies and chunks of dark chocolate candy loaded with almonds to the ice cream.

So if you are looking for a delicious way to beat the heat, head for the kitchen and pull out the ice cream maker-this recipe is well worth the time and effort. Be sure to review the tips at the end of this recipe that will help you have more success in creating this dessert.


Choco Berry Ice Cream Pie
by Flourtrader

Ingredients/Crust
3 tbs melted butter
18 crushed oreos

Ingredients/Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups half and half
1/3 cup water
1 pint hulled and sliced strawberries
8 oreo cookies, broken into chunks
3/4 cup chopped chocolate almond candy (milk or dark)
1/4 cup chopped chocolate almond candy (for topping)
2 eggs
2 tbs lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon squeezed)
3/4 and 1/3 cup sugar (divided)

The first step is to create the strawberry blend for the ice cream. Fill a bowl with the lemon juice and whisk in 1/3 cup sugar. Add the sliced strawberries and stir, making sure all the slices are coated with the sugar mixture. Cover the bowl and place in refrigerator for about an hour, allowing the strawberries to sweeten in the sugar mixture.

After about 30 minutes, start on the cream mixture. Whisk the eggs together for about 2 minutes in a medium size bowl until frothy. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and whisk again. Continue adding the sugar and blending in 1/4 cup increments. As you whisk the mixture, it will thicken and become less grainy.

Using another bowl, mix the water, half & half and heavy cream together. Then pour into the egg mixture and stir until blended. Then take out the strawberry mixture from the refrigerator. Before mixing the strawberries with the cream, you can decide on a few options. For a less chunky and more strawberry flavor you can choose to mash the strawberries in the juices. Another choice is to drain off as much of the liquid from the mixture as desired and leave the slices of strawberries in tact. Bear in mind, however, that the bigger the chunks of strawberries more ice will form with the berries.

Once blended, fill ice cream maker and follow instructions that came with it. As the ice cream is thickening, start on the crust.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, blend the crushed oreos with the butter. Empty mixture into a 9 inch pie pan and press evenly up the interior sides and bottom to form a crust. Place in oven and let bake for about 10 minutes. Then place on rack to completely cool. 

Using a small bowl, mix together the oreo cookie chunks and 3/4 cup of chopped candy. This blend should be mixed into the cream component only when you have completed the instructions given with the ice cream maker. This is when the cream has been converted into a thick ice cream.

Then fill the prepared crust with the ice cream mixture and smooth the top. Freeze for a minimum of  four hours or overnight, depending on how solid you want the filling in the pie. Prior to serving, sprinkle the remaining (1/4 cup) rest of the chopped candy on the surface of the pie.

Tips and Notes:
1. Consider adding about 1 tbs of invert sugar in order to keep the filling from being too icy, recipe can be found here.

2. Feel free to play around with the dairy products by using goat's milk or almond milk in place of the half and half and water. I have yet to do this, so I cannot comment on the results.

3. Also, you might want to change the crust to an almond/graham blend instead of crushed oreos.

4. For the strawberry blend, I crushed the strawberries in the mixture with a large fork. I wanted a more strawberry flavor throughout the ice cream, than strawberries with cream filling.
                                       **LAST YEAR: Breakfast Muffins**

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake


Sometimes it is just the look of desserts that make you think of an expensive, lavish place where reservations are made six months in advance in anticipation of being at the same place as the famous and well to do.

At this place there are no pretzels or gatorade, just a fountain of champagne and the best caviar that money can buy. Also, the desserts are just heavenly concoctions of cream, chocolate and butter. All to be eaten in moderation. Even though there are wonderful entrees, we reserve a good amount space from our daily intake requirements in order to experience the last course-dessert.

So in order to be a part of all the above and have this wonderful cheesecake, follow the recipe below and click your heels together twice and say there is no place like an expensive sioree!

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake
adapted from Cakes

1/4 cup butter (melted)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 tsp gnd nutmeg
2 tbs brown sugar
2 eggs
2-8 oz packages of cream cheese
4 oz chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbs confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cups cherry pie filling

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, stir together melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, nutmeg and sugar. Butter the interior of a 9 inch springform pan and press the mixture of the graham cracker crumbs into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. Crust should be lightly browned when done. Remove pan and place over cooling rack.

To create the filling, set up a double boiler and place the chocolate in the top pot. Let the chocolate melt while the water is simmering. Once melted, remove top pot and let cool.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with sugar, cream cheese and vanilla. Beat for about 3 minutes on medium speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mixture should end up smooth and creamy. Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds. Continue to add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Keep the mixer running and switch to low speed and stream in the chocolate until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place pan in the oven and bake for about 35-45 minutes. Cheesecake is done when surface is no longer shiny and center is no longer jiggly. Remove pan and let cool completely on a rack.Then transfer to refrigerator to cool until set, this should take about 6 hours.

Once the cooling interval is over, start on the topping. Place cream, vanilla and confectioner's sugar in a medium bowl and beat until thick and fluffy. Remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator and take off the outer ring of the spring form pan. Using a spatula or knife cover with the cherry pie filling. Then pipe on the whipped cream topping as desired.
                                             **LAST YEAR:Chestnut Cake**

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chocoate Banana Loaf Cake


Today's post is a little about what I call the family of people. We all have our own family, but then there is other people outside of that. These are people that you interact with, either on a regular basis or randomly.

Sometimes I like to think about the random people. These are the people that are not part of your family and have no impact on your income, so there is nothing to gain. How you interact with these people can reveal a lot about yourself. Some people go through life very self centered and not focusing on the things or people around them. Others may use a chance meeting with strangers as a door to let them vent their frustrations.

Chance meetings are actually an opportunity. You get this one little opportunity to help someone, make them smile or make them laugh. If that happens it is a nice feeling. Today, for instance, in the produce section an older lady looked at the jackfruit on display and said, "My word, I have never seen such a thing!" I laughed and told her what it was and what it tasted like. Then she commented on how big each of these fruits were and that she would not be able to eat all of one. I responded by saying that once the big and tall shop closes their employees come in and buy them all. She gave me a funny look at first and then we both started laughing.

So, as you go about your day, take notice of the people around you and have a friendly interaction with them, you will be glad you did.

Now I bring you a recipe that has 2 elements that interact deliciously with one another-bananas and chocolate. This marbled loaf comes together easily and has a moist texture with a tender crumb. In each bite there is a hint of unique flavor that stems from the third element of nutmeg.

Chocolate Banana Loaf Cake
adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours

Ingredients
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs rum
1/2 cup and 2 tbs butter
zest from 1/2 lemon
squirt of lemon juice
1 1/2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar (packed)
3 oz bittersweet chocolate (chopped)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Prepare a 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 X 2 1/2 inch loaf pan by buttering the interior and dusting with flour. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Set up a double boiler and fill top pot with 2 tbs butter and chocolate. Let the water in the bottom pot come to a simmer. The chocolate and the butter should start to melt. Stir to blend and remove from heat and separate top pot from bottom once all is melted and blended.

Fill a medium sized bowl with the zest and lemon juice. Using a fork, mash the bananas until they have the consistency of applesauce. Then stir in the rum and set aside.

In a second bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Set this bowl aside also.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle blade, beat the remaining butter (1/2 cup) at medium speed until light and smooth. This should take about 3 minutes. During this process, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides at intervals.

Continue mixing the butter and add both types of sugars. Follow the 3 minute process outlined in the previous paragraph. Then beat in each egg, one at a time. Add the extract and mix until distributed throughout the batter.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients. Stir in the milk and once blended with the batter, fold in the rest of the dry, sifted ingredients. Pour in the mashed bananas, mixing so there are no dry ingredients on the side of the bowl. The end result will be a lumpy, somewhat curdled-looking batter.

Separate out 1/3 of the batter to another bowl. Add the chocolate to this little bit of batter and mix until completely blended.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out some of the ivory batter and empty into one corner of the pan. Then take a scoop of chocolate and empty into pan, next to the ivory batter. Continue with this process, alternating the batters, so that all has been scooped into the pan.

Place loaf pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean. This should take about 1 hour and 20-30 minutes. However, take a moment after baking for about 30 minutes to check for over-browning of the surface of the cake. If you find that it is getting too toasty, cover lightly with foil.

Once completely baked, remove from oven and place on cooling rack. After about 15 minutes invert pan onto cooling rack to empty out the cake. Then carefully flip the cake so the right side is up and let cool completely onto rack.
                                      **LAST YEAR: Hummingbird Cookies**

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Orange Meltaways


I am sure you have heard of the saying "it's the little things that count." Little things can count as good as well as bad. We all pick up on certain indicators that tell us we do not want to be around someone, be it socially or in a closer relationship. Some of the factors that turn us off may be ridiculous and others may be understandable.

Someone with bad hygiene is understandable. However, I have been in conversations where the factor may be little, but that does not make it less of a turn off. One person told me that he worked with someone that clicked their pen constantly. He said he could not spend any time with her because that habit, as he said, worked on his last nerve. Other things I have been privy to are discussions concerning women with "big hairy man hands" - unfeminine and a definite turn off. One lady told me that she did not like a man calling her a "broad". That term is so old, I told her that he must have had a previous life back in the days of Speakeasy clubs and newsboys!

This leads me to the subject of English high tea. Back in the days when proper etiquette was the basis for judging people, just the manner in which a man held his teacup could easily mark him as an unsuitable partner.

So, if you find yourself at high tea with someone that is unsuitable or has that "little" thing that you cannot tolerate, let's hope that there is something that you can enjoy while suffering through the company at the table. Which brings me to these orange meltaway cookies, which live up to their name in texture as well as taste. They are a perfect choice when served with tea or coffee. This recipe makes 3 dozen, depending on size and thickness. To get the look of the cookies above, you will need a 1/2 diameter star tip, coupler and pastry bag or zip lock freezer bag (quart size).

Orange Meltaways
adapted from the International Cookie Book

Ingredients/Cookies
zest of 1 small lemon
zest of 1 large orange
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 egg yolk
2 tsp lemon juice
2-4 tsp orange juice
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter plus one tablespoon (softened and cubed)

Ingredients/Glaze
1/2 cup strained apricot preserves
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp orange zest
3-5 tbs granulated sugar

Start by getting everything organized and prepped. Prepare the zests according to quantity stated for both glaze and cookies, strain the preserves and measure out the juices. Also, cut the butter into 1/4 inch cubes. Set all the small bowls of these ingredients aside. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Also prepare a piping bag or zip lock bag with tip and coupler.

Sift the powdered sugar into a stand mixer bowl. Take out another bowl and sift together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder, set aside.

Add about 5 cubes of the butter to the powdered sugar and beat on low for about 2 minutes. Then increase the speed to medium and add butter cubes in increments (about 3 at a time) while continuing to beat the mixture. Pause this process a few times and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once all the butter has been blended and the batter is smooth, turn off the mixer.

Take out a small bowl and add the egg yolk. Use a fork to break up the yolk, then whisk in both types of zests. Stir in the lemon juice and only 2 tbs of the orange juice.  Pour into the sugar/butter batter and blend together on medium speed.

Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in the dry ingredients. Once blended, let the mixture rest for about 3 minutes. Then test the dough to see if it is the proper consistency to pipe. If it seems too thick, add some of the remaining orange juice to make the dough more pliable.

Fill the prepared pastry bag with some of the dough and pipe onto parchment lined baking sheets in 1 1/2 inch shell shapes and spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. After piping, let the dough rest again on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes.

As the dough is resting, prepare the glaze by whisking together the strained preserves, zest and juice.

Once the resting interval is completed, place both baking sheets in the oven and set the timer for about 6 minutes. Then rotate baking sheets and place them on the opposite oven rack. Let bake again for another 6 minutes and check. Cookies will have a light golden edge when done. Place both baking sheets on cooling racks.

Brush the surface of the cookies with the glaze and then sprinkle lightly with sugar. Place back in oven for an additional 4-5 minutes. During this time the topping will caramelize and the cookies will turn a darker color on the edges. Remove baking sheets from oven and let sit for 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a rack and let cool completely.

Tips and Notes:
1. I used parchment paper and the recipe states to grease the baking sheets with cooking spray. Parchment paper will have to replaced after every baked batch, but it makes for easy clean up- especially since there is a baked-on caramelized topping.

2. You can form these cookies without the pastry supplies. In place of the piping instruction, roll the dough into 1/2 inch balls and place on baking sheets. Use the tines of a fork dipped in water and press down the dough to flatten. Press once placing the fork tines from right to left and dip in water and press a second time from top to bottom. Make sure that the dough is lower in thickness than 1/2 inch and not under 1/4 an inch- it may take more than 2 pressings.

3. Even after the glaze is set, the surface of the cookies will still have a bit of stickiness to them, so do not stack.   
                              **LAST YEAR:Neopolitan Cheesecake**





 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Passion Fruit Tart


The weather can have an effect on baking. I guess that is why some of the best and tastiest recipes are made in the wintertime. The only damage I can think of that the cold will do is maybe cause something to seize up more quickly than needed, such as when you are making fudge or candy. The heat and humidity, however, are more difficult opponents in the kitchen. These evil offspring of nature's seasons, unfortunately, sometimes make their home in Texas.

So when they come to stay in the summer, I have to start crossing things off my baking list. The first thing to eliminate is meringue. Now, this particular tart recipe calls for a topping of meringue, so I opted to do the stabilized whipped cream for the topping. Also, like all recipes you find on the net, this one had suggestions and comments. The one I took note of was that the passion fruit flavor was very subtle, so I increased the amount used in the recipe. Even though the end result was very tangy, the whipped cream topping worked to tone it down. The toasted bits of coconut on top was another suggestion that I implemented, that added some more texture to the dessert.

I used a standard shortcrust pastry recipe to make this 9-9 1/2 inch tart. The filling has to chill for at least 8 hours, so plan on this time if you decide to make this tart. The recipe below only represents the filling and topping with some tweaks. I have included a link back to the original recipe if you are looking for the additional instructions and ingredients for a pastry shell as well as meringue topping.

Passion Fruit Tart
adapted from Epicurious 

Ingredients
1 fully baked 9- 9 1/2 tart shell
1 cup thawed passion fruit puree
1 tbs cornstarch
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter (cubed)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (toasted)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tbs whipped cream stabilizer

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer (with the whisk attachment) with the eggs and sugar and whisk until blended. Then sift the cornstarch into the mixture, add salt, and whisk again. Set aside.

Place a saucepan over medium heat and fill with the passion fruit. Remove from heat once it reaches a simmer stage and prior to boiling. Set aside and then go back to the egg mixture and turn the mixer up to medium. As the egg mixture is whisked, pour a slow, small stream of the hot passion fruit into egg batter. Continue whisking and slowly pouring until saucepan is empty.

Then take the bowl out of the mixer stand and pour liquid back into the saucepan. Place over medium heat and let cook, whisking constantly. As it cooks, add a few butter cubes and continue to whisk. Once cubes are melted and blended, repeat the process until all butter cubes are melted and incorporated into the mixture. The batter will need to be cooked and whisked until it reaches the consistency of pudding. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Watch the heat, filling is to come to a boil but is to be removed from heat at that time.

Once the filling is the right consistency, pour into a sieve placed over a heat proof bowl. Push filling through sieve. Once sieve is empty and bowl is full, cover the surface of the filling with waxed paper. Chill the mixture for at least 8 hours. You also can chill it overnight.

After chilling time is up, beat whipped cream until soft peaks form and then add the stabilizer and beat until thick and fluffy.  Remove passion fruit curd from the refrigerator and fill the tart with the curd. Spread out with a spatula until tart shell is evenly filled. Smooth out the top. Then top with the stabilized whipped cream and sprinkle the toasted coconut over the surface.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Babka** 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bakehouse Blueberry White Chocolate Muffins


There are wild berries that grow in Texas but nearly all of the colors of the edible berries have a poisionous and sometimes fatal berry that matches the color. So, unless you have the specific knowledge to identify the difference, it is best to refrain from eating wild berries in Texas. Some of them will actually irritate the skin as well.

Now there are quite a number of delicious berries in the grocers or at the farmers market to choose from without taking such a risk out in the wild. I noticed that the blueberry has been scarce in my blog posts, so I decided it needed a little promotion. After all, it is considered to have the most health benefits of all the commonly found berries at the grocery store.

There are some berries I can eat raw and enjoy, but unfortunately the blueberry is not one of them. In my opinion, they need something more. In this particular recipe, that something more is sweet white chocolate with a touch of cinnamon. That combo in itself says "no butter required".  Outside of flavor, the key to a good muffin is to have a nice moist texture without sticking to the paper liner.

This muffin recipe delivers on all factors, so I consider it a keeper. I guess that is why the recipe makes 3 dozen.

Bakehouse Blueberry White Chocolate Muffins
adapted from the Cooking Channel

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips
5 eggs
3 cups plain yogurt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups canola oil
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 1/2 cups flour
2 tbs cinnamon
3 tbs and 1/2 tsp baking powder
powdered sugar (optional for dusting tops)

Prepare pans by greasing the edge of the cavities and filling with paper liners. There should be a total of 36 cavities, 2 or 3 pans.  Preheat the oven to 365 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Then stir in the sugar. Set aside.

Take out a second bowl and fill with the eggs. Whisk until yolks and whites are completely blended. Then stir in oil, yogurt and buttermilk.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in half of the wet ingredients. Stir mixture together and add the remaining liquid blend, until a batter is formed. Fold in the berries and chocolate chips, dispersing them evenly throughout the batter.

Once mixed, using a scoop or large spoon fill the cavities of the muffin tins.

Place pans in oven and bake for 12 minutes and then rotate. Bake for an additional 12 minutes. Muffins are done when tester comes out clean, after 25-30 minutes baking time.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack. After 5 minutes (if you prefer) you can dust with powdered sugar.

Tips and Notes:

1. The batter rises quickly, before the blueberry and chocolate chip additions, this means cavities can be filled full for not much rise takes place while baking.

2. Dusting with powdered sugar should only be done if you plan on serving right away. The other option once completely cooled, brush with butter and dip in cinnamon sugar.
                                      **LAST YEAR: CIRCUS COOKIES** 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Donut Trials: #4 Coconut Donuts



The recipe hails from Seattle's Top Pot Donuts and was released to a magazine. The dough yields a good coconut flavor when fried. The key to the flavor is the coconut milk and coconut extract. In addition, the sweet crunchy topping promotes the coconut flavor even more. Since the recipe does not contain yeast, the donuts' texture is much like a cake donut. The crispy outside and fluffy interior alone will make you come back for seconds. Keep this in mind, for the recipe only makes about 10-12 donuts. 

Coconut Donuts
adapted from Saveur Magazine

Ingredients
1 egg
1 1/4 cups canned coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tsp coconut extract
4 tbs melted butter
2 cups sweetened coconut
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups powdered sugar
canola oil for forming and frying

Whisk the egg in a small bowl until the yolk is blended evenly with the white of the egg. Empty mixture into a large bowl. Add sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup of coconut milk, 2 tsp coconut extract and melted butter. Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Set aside.

Take out a smaller bowl and sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until a dough forms. It will be sticky.

Preheat 2 inches of oil in a 6 quart saucepan or deep fryer to 370 degrees. Take out a cooling rack and place over a sheet of wax paper on a flat surface.

Forming the dough will be done by hand. Lightly oil clean hands. Then pinch off about 1/4 cup of dough. Shape into a disk with a 1 1/2 inch hole in the center. Carefully drop donut into the hot oil. After one side cooks in oil for about 1 1/2 minutes, flip over and let the other side cook for the same amount of time. The outside should be toasty and golden brown when done. Remove donut from oil with a slotted spoon and place on cooling rack. Continue, following the same steps, with the remaining amount of dough.

For the topping, start with a parchment lined baking sheet. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the coconut on the baking sheet, smooth out evenly and break up any clumps. Place in preheated oven for 2 minutes, remove and stir. Repeat that process 3 more times or until the coconut is nicely toasted.

To make the glaze, sift confectioners sugar and remaining amount (1/2 tsp) of salt together in to a bowl. In another bowl mix both extracts and coconut milk together. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and whisk until a smooth glaze is formed. Dip the top side of the donut into the glaze and then into the toasted coconut. Place on rack for topping to dry. Repeat the process until all donuts are covered.
                                  
                           **LAST YEAR:Pineapple and Spice Cupcakes**

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Donut Trials: #3 Spudnuts


There are a lot of entrepreneurs in the business of making spice blends. Most people believe that this is an easy task. It can be, if all you are doing is mixing spices together. However, there is a whole other side to spice blends that is more scientific and a little bit amazing. The scientifically formulated spices have specific flavor transitions when they hit your taste buds. You first taste a smokey barbeque flavor, then the spicy heat and, lastly. a chaser of a sweet brown sugar flavor. No matter how you use this particular spice blend, the flavor will transition in the same manner every time.

Now, I am no scientist, but this is one donut recipe that falls into the sweet and savory category. It has black pepper in the batter along with mace. Also, after frying, it is coated in a salt/sugar/pepper blend. While crisp on the outside, the interior has a sponge-like texture that stems from the egg and potato ingredients. Except for the sugar blend coating-this donut is more savory than most. This recipe makes about 1 dozen donuts.

Spudnuts
adapted from Saveur Magazine

Ingredients
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tbs melted butter
10 oz of potato cubes (about 1 inch square from peeled baking potatoes)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup sugar
1 tsp ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp ground mace
non stick spray
canola oil for frying

Start by taking out 3 bowls and cutting out 12 four inch squares of parchment and spray each with non stick spray. 
 
Pour 2 quarts of water into a pot. Put pot over medium high heat and add a few pinches of salt. Let come to a boil and then add the potato cubes. Let the potatoes cook, watching to make sure the water does not boil over. The potatoes will soften and be fully cooked after about 20 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and then pass through a ricer placed over one of the bowls. Set aside. In the second bowl, sift together the mace, flour, baking powder, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Set this bowl aside also.

For the third bowl and final bowl, add the eggs and whisk until white and yolks are blended. Pour in the butter, add the zest and 1/3 cup of sugar. Stir together until evenly distributed and fold in the riced/cooked potatoes until the mixture is smooth.

Using a wooden spoon, mix the sifted ingredients into the wet mixture in 3 increments. Continue to blend until no dry streaks remain. Form into a ball and let sit undisturbed for about 10 minutes.

As the dough sits, set up your fryer or use a pot with a deep fry thermometer. Fill with 2 inches or more of oil and heat up to 370 degrees.  Dust a flat surface with flour. Using floured hands, transfer the dough from the bowl to the prepared surface. Then flatten the dough round with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into donut shapes with a 3 inch cutter, using the dough scraps and donut holes to pat into another 1/2 inch thick circle for cutting. Place each cut donut on a prepared parchment square.

Before frying, whisk together the remaining amount of salt, sugar and pepper. Pour into a gallon zip lock bag. Then place a cooling rack over paper towels.

Once the oil is at the right temperature, use the parchment square to flip each raw donut into the hot oil. Only fry in batches of 3-4 donuts at a time. The donuts will take about 3-4 minutes to cook in the oil, so set the timer at 1 minute and 30 seconds and then flip and cook the other side for the same amount of time. Scoop out with a mesh skimmer and place on cooling rack. Let cool for a few minutes and then add to the zip lock bag of coating. Shake until fully coated and place back on rack to completely cool. Repeat the cooking/cooling/coating process until all donuts have been fryed and coated.

Tips and Notes:
1. If you are not into the salty/sweet, try turning this item into a more savory treat by adding freeze dried chives to the batter before adding the dry ingredients. You can also forming these into hush puppy type of appetizers with a garlic sauce for dipping by altering the shape and fry time.

2. Note that the dough is not rolled out. Less handling of the dough will avoid having a tough donut in the end.

3. This recipe never stated to maintain any temperature while frying. This means that the fluctuation in temperature when the dough is added to the oil is expected, so do not panic if the temperature reduces. The only setting to worry about is the initial 370 degrees.

4. As stated in the previous recipes if using a fryer do not use the wire baskets. The raw donuts are to be dropped straight into the oil.
                                          **LAST YEAR:Mojito Bars**