Sunday, June 28, 2015


Russian Teacakes, or otherwise called Mexican Wedding Cookies have graced many a dessert table around the holiday season. Since it is a favorite, there are many recipes that spun off from the original. 

This particular cookie is just that, pulling in the flavors of butterscotch and rum. I know, a bag of butterscotch chips seem to be the remaining orphan at the grocery store. The ones that get all the attention are the chocolate chips, which are the first to go. Even though butterscotch may not be as popular as chocolate, these cookies are a reminder that this flavor can be just as delicious when the right recipe comes along.

So as you are walking down the baking aisle, please consider the butterscotch chips. All they need is a good home.

This recipe makes about 3 dz cookies.

adapted from Just a Pinch website

1 cup finely chopped pecans
6 oz butterscotch chips
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter

1 tsp rum extract
1/2 cup pecan pieces
3 powdered sugar
3-4 tbs milk or water

Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Sift 1/2 cup of powdered sugar into a small bowl and whisk in the salt. Add the sugar blend to the bowl of a stand mixer. Then cut butter into cubes and drop cubes into sugar mixture. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Next, fold in the flour in increments until a dough is formed. Then add pecans and butterscotch chips, blending with a wooden spoon until evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Take the dough and measure out into teaspoons. Shape each into a round ball and place on prepared cookie sheet. Since the cookies do not expand very much, they can be spaced about 1/2 inch apart. Bake in oven until lightly browned on the bottom, about 15-17 minutes. Do not let cookies turn brown on top, that is a sign they are over baked. 

Remove sheet from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. After all the cookies are baked and cooled, place cookies on a plate. Now it is time to start on the glaze.

Place a sheet of wax paper under the cooling rack. Pull out a small bowl and add milk (or water) and extract. Whisk together. Take out a larger bowl and sift all of the powdered sugar into the bowl. Then mix the liquid mixture into the powdered sugar.

To glaze each of the cookies, dip the top into the glaze and swirl to let the excess drip back into the bowl. Place cookie back on rack and put a piece of pecan on the top. Repeat the process until all cookies are topped as stated. Let rest one hour for glaze to set up, then they are ready to enjoy.
                                         **LAST YEAR:Cherry Dr Pepper Cupcakes**


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pesto Potato Rolls

Homemade bread is something that we all enjoy.  However, the thought of making bread does bring to mind an all day project, with kneading and rising time. With most people's busy lifestyles, the time is just not there. There is an alternative. No, it is not the bread machine. Nothing against the bread machine, but the soft, loaf type bread is not always what we want. The alternative would be a no knead bread with not much rise time that is soft and flavorful, which brings me to this particular recipe.

The final result to my bread baking endeavor was fluffy, pull apart rolls with the flavor of butter and pesto - so it was a tasty ending! These rolls are perfect to serve with soup, salad or any Italian meal.

Pull apart bread is very popular and versatile. There are several savory as well as sweet recipes out there. I chose pesto because it happened to pair well with the dinner I was planning. The other thing that interested me about the recipe (outside of the no knead concept) is that it uses potato in the dough.

Now, let's get to the recipe.  This makes about 2 dozen rolls.

Pesto Potato Rolls
adapted from No Need to Knead

4 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbs quick rising yeast
pinch of black pepper
1- 11 or 12 oz russet potato (peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces)
6 tbs purchased pesto
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs melted unsalted butter (slightly cooled)
2 eggs

Begin by buttering the interior of two 9 inch round cake pans (about 1 1/2 inches deep) and set aside.

The next step is cooking the potatoes. Place 1 tsp salt, potatoes and 3 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan over medium high heat. Stir and then cover. The mixture should come to a slow boil. Let potatoes cook for about 20 minutes until done. When done, potato cubes should be able to be pierced with a fork with very little effort. Remove saucepan from heat and mash until all the lumps are gone. Your mixture will be very watery and pourable. Separate out 2 cups of the potato water in a heat proof bowl and discard the rest. Let the mixture cool to about 105 to 115 degrees.

Once the potato mixture has cooled, stir in yeast, pesto, pepper, sugar and other tsp of salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the two eggs together. Add the eggs and 1/2 cup melted butter into potato batter.  Blend until evenly distributed.

Prepare a bowl for rising by buttering the interior. Set aside. Using a wooden spoon, blend the flour into the batter in 1/2 cup increments. After the flour has been mixed in, you should have a smooth and sticky dough. Form the dough into a ball and place in prepared bowl. Turn once to coat each side. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Do not punch down dough after rise time.

Prepare a flat surface by lightly dusting with flour. Roll dough out into 1/3 inch thickness. Then cut out rounds with a 2 1/2 inch cutter.  Keep cutting and re-rolling until the dough has been formed into cut circles. At this point, set up an assembly line. The rounds will be next to the bowl of melted butter (remaining amount of 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) and the pans will be next to the butter.

Dip or brush the top of each round with butter and fold in half. Place in pan with fold on the bottom, or fan side up. Continue to do this until each cake pan has 12 rolls in it. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes.

During the rising time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After the rising time is complete, place pans in oven and bake until golden brown on top. Bake time should be about 25 minutes. Let rolls cool in pans for about 20 minutes and invert twice, so golden tops of rolls are face up. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tips and Notes:

1. When you form the dough in the pans it will be slippery and soft. Dough rounds might not fill pan prior to rise time. Just place folded dough rounds in pan evenly spaced.

2. If you want quick results, you can plan ahead the day before, with the changes as follows:
Form the dough by using regular rise yeast and but only melt 1/2 cup of butter for use in creating the dough. Instead of the instructions for the first dough rise, cover the dough and place in refrigerator overnight. The next day, when you are ready to form the rolls, melt the remaining butter. Follow the same instructions above, starting with the information after the first rise. The rise time for chilled dough (after the rolls have been formed) is 30 minutes.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Virginia Blackberry Roll**         


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pecan Cream Cups

The blend of candy with cookies has always been an appealing idea. Twix is one of the better known brands that has done well by using this type of texture/flavor blend.

This recipe incorporates the same idea with very tasty results. The cup part of this treat is like a shortbread flavored with cinnamon. It is filled with a mixture of marscapone cheese and pecans and then baked. After the cups have cooled, the filling is covered with semi sweet chocolate.

One bite does have you enjoying the crunch of the cookies, then you move on to the creamy filling chock full of pecans. The filling makes me think of pecan pie or pralines, but without as much sweetness. Topping the filling with chocolate makes it more confectionary. Twix has the right idea, a cookie/candy combo is hard to resist. The little cups are great at parties and the texture/ flavor combo will have them coming back for seconds. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dz cups.

Pecan Cream Cups
by Flourtrader

1 1/2 cups marscapone (softened)
2/3 cup chopped and toasted pecans
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Use a non stick mini muffin pan or butter the inside and top edge of mini muffin cavities. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the butter and sugar in a bowl. Beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. In a separate
bowl, whisk the egg with the cinnamon. Add the cinnamon/egg mixture to the creamed butter and
sugar. Blend with mixer on medium speed until incorporated into batter. Set aside.

Using another bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking soda. Fold the sifted ingredients into the wet batter. Place 1 tbs of dough in each muffin cavity. Press each tablespoon of dough into a cup form in the cavity, the same manner as you would in making tart shells. The dough cup should come up to the rim. Trim off excess and blend back in with the rest of the dough for forming additional cups.

Once all the cavities of your muffin tin have a dough cup, start making the filling. Fold the pecans into the marscapone until evenly distributed. Fill the dough cups with the filling right below the top edge, reserving some room for the top layer of chocolate. Smooth the surface of the filling.

Place in oven to bake for about 9-12 minutes, or until the cookie shell turns a golden brown. Remove and place rack to cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Then remove from pans carefully place each on cooling rack. Let cool completely.

While the cups are cooling, set up a double boiler and fill the top pot with chocolate chips. Once the chips start melting, stir a few times. When all the chocolate is melted and the cups have completely cooled, smooth the chocolate on top of the cup filling. Make sure you do not get the chocolate on the cookie edges.

Let rest about 1 hour for the chocolate to set up. Then serve. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Tips and Notes:

1. Filling will rise while cooking and sink when cooling, consider this when filling.

2. The dough cups are a good shell to use as a base for filling with the item of your choice.                              

3. Evenly shaped dough in the cookies cup will insure even baking.
                      **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Angel food cake**

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Strawberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

I heard on the radio station the other day that it was National Donut day. I do like donuts quite a bit, but I feel that they could incorporate some fresh fruit into the flavors.  Jelly filled is actually fruit gel, not big chunks of fresh fruit. Donut makers should split a donut and fill it with fresh fruit once in a while, I think it would catch on.  I would definitely be a patron at that donut shop.

That brings me to this particular recipe. It has a blend of fresh fruit, cream cheese and almonds layered on top of sweet cake. The original recipe called for blueberries, but I decided that with almonds and cream cheese, strawberries is a better flavor match.

This breakfast treat is one that never got out of the house. Most of my desserts are brought to the work place or given to the neighbors. It is only test tasted with one serving before moving on.  However, my husband wanted this one for our household and he managed to make it disappear in a few days.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
adapted from Best Recipes from Country Inns and Bed and Breakfasts

1 cup fresh fruit (any type of summer fruit, with the exception of citrus, chopped if bigger than blueberries)
1 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup plain low fat yogurt
2 plus 1 eggs
1/4 cup apple juice
6 oz cream cheese
2 tsp water
1/2 cup butter
3/4 plus 1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp cornstarch

Grease and flour a 9 inch springform pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a small saucepan with fruit and apple juice. Let come to a boil and then reduce heat and stir.  Simmer on low for about 3 minutes. Add the water and sift in the cornstarch.  Stir again and let simmer. The liquid should thicken up and reduce in a short amount of time. When ready, your saucepan contents should measure about a cup of the fruit/cornstarch mixture. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare a food processor for use. Fill the processor bowl with 3/4 cup of sugar and flour. Then cut the butter into cubes and drop into bowl. Process until mixture resembles sandy coarse crumbs. Empty contents into large bowl.  Remove one cup of mixture and place in another bowl for a different use.

Sift together baking powder, baking soda and salt. Fold into sugar mixture until distributed evenly.  In a separate bowl, place 2 eggs and the almond extract and whisk together. Add the yogurt and whisk again to blend. Pour into the flour/sugar batter and stir. Once blended, empty contents into prepared springform pan. The batter will be a bit sticky, but flatten on the bottom of pan and bring up the sides about a 1/4 of an inch. There should be a little bit of a well from the dough sides going down to the bottom of the dough.

Take out a medium size bowl and beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup of sugar and remaining egg until smooth. Fill the well of the dough with the cream cheese mixture and smooth the top. Then spread fruit mixture over top of cream cheese. Find the reserved crumb mixture and stir in sliced almonds. Sprinkle over the top of the coffee cake, making sure it is covered to the edge evenly.

Place in oven and bake until golden brown. This will take about 45 minutes and filling will be set when done. Cool in pan 15 minutes then remove the outer ring of the springform pan.

Tips and Notes:

1. Because of their size, blueberries yield more volume in a cup than chopped strawberries. Next time, I will up the amount of strawberries. The 1 cup turned out to be a little sparse on top.

2. Another good flavor match since this has almonds would be cherries.

3. Be careful when adding ingredients, the eggs as well as the sugar are used in 2 different components so they need to be added separately.

4. The instructions are to spread fruit over cream cheese.  Just to insure that you are not mixing the layers, it is better to drop by spoonfuls.
                         **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Almond Marsala Cookies**