Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cranberry Black Walnut Coffee Cake

Because black walnuts have such a strong flavor, there are not a lot of recipes that use this ingredient. Using this type of nut in a recipe does require the proper balance of flavor, which involves a lot of trial and error. The other consideration is the development of flavor over time. Cookies, for instance, are usually in the cookie jar for a few days before they all disappear.

When I saw this recipe, I was deliberating about using English walnuts instead of the black, but I am glad I chose the black. The black walnuts provided a perfect amount of subtle flavor that was well matched with the cranberry and cinnamon. The moist cake, warm cranberries and crunchy streusel really hit the spot.

I would say that eating things that remind us of the fall makes us happy. The flavors conjure up thoughts of the holiday seasons with family get togethers, sitting in front of the fire and cool crisp days outside. Sometimes we all need an attitude adjustment and a slice of this coffee cake may just be the key-especially on a Monday morning.

Cranberry Black Walnut Coffee Cake
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking

3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk
2 inches stick cinnamon
1 cup apple juice or apple cider
2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts (black or English), toasted and ground

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (black or English)
1/3 cup of cold butter, cut into small cubes

Start by making the cranberry topping.  Fill a saucepan with 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, cranberries, stick cinnamon and apple juice (or cider).  Place over medium high heat and stir constantly, letting the mixture come to a boil.  When the sugar has dissolved, lower the heat and let simmer.  As it simmers, the liquid will reduce. It will take about 15 minutes of cooking for the cranberry topping to reach the correct consistency. Remove from heat and discard cinnamon stick. Set the mixture aside and let cool completely before using, this is your first bowl.

Grease the interior of a 10 inch springform pan and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. For the second bowl, sift the cinnamon, flour, salt and baking powder in to this bowl. Add the ground nuts,granulated sugar and remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Stir so all is evenly distributed. Also, set this bowl aside.

Proceed to making the streusel topping by combining the cinnamon, flour and brown sugar together in a small bowl, the third bowl. Add the cubes of butter and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the sugar mixture. Once no dry streaks remain and mixture can easily clump together, stir in the walnuts.

Get your second bowl and make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Take out a 4th bowl. Crack eggs into this bowl and beat with a fork for about 1 minute. Mix in the melted butter, milk and vanilla. Pour this egg mixture into the well of dry ingredients in the second bowl. Stir until blended and mixture becomes a batter.

For assembly, pour the egg batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top so it is even. Spoon the cranberry mixture (from the first bowl) over the top of the batter, leaving a 1 inch border. Lastly, sprinkle with the walnut streusel topping.

Place pan in oven and let bake until edges are golden brown. Cake will start to pull away from edge of pan when done. Bake time is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes before removing the outside ring of pan. Slice and serve warm.
                                    **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Liqueur Suicide Cheesecake**

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Marbled Pumpkin Chocolate Bundt Cake

People that bake occasionally really do not have much concept of how a recipe can actually end up being a visual work of art. A carefully placed series of strawberries on a cheesecake all the way to a contrasting marbled cake can be as visually pleasing to the eye as well as pleasing to the palate.

The "visual aspect" does play an important part when it comes to choosing food, especially at a younger age. It took me quite some time to actually try guacamole, simply because I was turned off by the look. Now, as a food blogger, I am more open to try things before making a decision regarding food and yes, I do think guacamole is pretty tasty!

This particular recipe blends spicy, pumpkin flavor with rich chocolate in a cake. The end result is a tasty, as well as stunning, dessert. This bundt cake has great texture. The use of oil instead of butter always yields a more moist cake. The chocolate part of the cake is extra rich, using dutch process cocoa while the spicy pumpkin swirl offers a tasty accent of flavor to every slice.

Marbled Pumpkin Chocolate Bundt Cake
adapted from Kiss My Bundt

Ingredients/Pumpkin Batter
7 1/2 to 8 oz pumpkin puree (1/2 15 oz can)
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 granulated white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Ingredients/Chocolate Batter
1 egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 3 tbs sugar

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Then generously grease and coat the interior of a 12 cup bundt pan with flour.

For the pumpkin batter, crack the eggs into a bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed about 3 minutes. Eggs will have a frothy consistency. Turn the mixer down to low speed and slowly stream in the white sugar. Then toss in scoops of the brown sugar. Continue to beat until batter becomes thick. Add the pumpkin puree and the oil. Combine with the mixer on medium speed until completely blended. Set aside.

Using a separate bowl, sift together the remaining dry ingredients for the pumpkin cake. Also, set this bowl aside.

For the chocolate batter, fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the egg, milk and oil. Beat for about one minute. Set aside.

Sift the baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, flour and salt into a medium size bowl. Stir in sugar until mixed evenly. Empty 1/3 of the batter into the egg/oil mixture and fold together. Continue
with this process until all the sifted ingredients has been blended into the batter. Lastly, mix in the
 boiling water.

Go back to the pumpkin batter and fold in the sifted pumpkin spice ingredients. Add and stir in increments, just like the instructions for the chocolate batter.

Now that you have created 2 batters, you will start the layering process. Using 1/3 of the pumpkin batter first, spoon it into the bundt pan, making sure batter makes a complete circle inside the pan.  Then pour on 1/3 of the chocolate batter. Repeat this process until you have filled the cavity of the pan with 6 layers of alternating batter. The batter layers in the pan start with pumpkin and end with chocolate.

Bake until tester comes out clean.  Cake should take about 45 minutes to bake.  Remove cake and let rest on a cooling rack about 20 minutes. Then invert onto rack to finish cooling. When cool, transfer to serving plate.

Tips and Notes:
1. The chocolate batter will be very runny, that is why the pumpkin batter goes first into the pan.
2. The chocolate is very rich, so much so that the prumpkin flavor to chocolate is not 50-50.  Should you want  a 50-50 ratio of flavors, you will need to experiment more with the recipe. However, this cake disappeared very quickly, perhaps waiting a day before serving may have allowed the pumpkin flavor to develop more.
3. Glazing or topping the cake is optional, but I would have chosen a cinnamon glaze since it pairs well with either chocolate or pumpkin, if I was going to glaze or frost the cake.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Pecan Snails** 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Frosted Pineapple Cookies

All the summer tourists are now back home. If you have ever lived in a tourist area, you will find that the residing population always have nicknames for the tourists. In Florida, we always called them "snowbirds". That is due to a lot of people visiting from the northern states who have very little exposure to the sun. The north has their days where they use nicknames as well. You will often hear the term of "leaf peepers."

With that being stated, just like the "snowbirds", the summer recipes will be gone until next year. This marks the last one. Even though it is still hot in Texas, I will comply with the calendar seasons. For this year, the "official" first day of fall is September 23rd. Goodbye to citrus and berries and hello ginger and spice.

To close out the summer, I chose a cookie recipe that has a buttery base with chunks of pineapple. It uses crushed pineapple instead of dried pineapple. Also, the frosting on top incorporates pineapple juice and lemon zest for an extra pop of fruity flavor. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies. As a reminder, the recipe has not been altered but there are important tips and notes at the end to help you succeed when creating these. Now let's get to it....

Frosted Pineapple Cookies
adapted from Copycat Recipe website

Ingredients/ Cookies
1 egg
1 8oz can of crushed pineapple
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup packed brown sugar

3 tbs reserved juice from canned pineapple
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp lemon zest

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. The preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, fill the bowl with sugar and butter. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, stopping periodically to scrape down the interior sides of the bowl. You now have a cookie batter.

Take out a small bowl and a sieve. Open the canned pineapple and pour into the sieve, letting the juices drain out into the bowl. Reserve 3 tbs of the juice for use in the the frosting. Empty the contents of the sieve into the cookie batter. Then add the vanilla extract and egg. Beat the mixture until all is blended smoothly.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and set aside. In another bowl, sift together the baking powder, baking soda, flour and salt.  Using 1/3 of the sifted ingredients, fold into the batter.  Continue with the process in two more increments, until all the dry ingredients are mixed into the batter.

Using a scoop, drop batter onto prepared cookie sheet. Since the cookies do spread, space the batter lumps about 2 inches apart. Place cookie sheet in oven and bake until golden on bottom and around edges. This should take about 17-20 minutes. Transfer baked cookies to cooling rack.

Once the cookies have completely cooled, it is time to make the frosting.  Mix together the zest and 2 tbs of juice in a medium size bowl. Sift the powdered sugar into the same bowl and then mix with a  spatula. Blend in more juice to make a spreadable frosting. Frost cookies by drizzling on top. Let frosting set up before storing or stacking cookies.

Tips and Notes:
1. The spreading of the cookie when baking is a result of the amount of juice that remains after the pineapple is drained. I wanted thicker cookies, so after draining, I pressed out a lot of the juice. Also, I saw one complaint on the original recipe stating that the cookies ran all over the pan-too much liquid.

2. Reserve all the juice from the canned pineapple. This way you can have the opportunity to make more frosting if you prefer. The original recipe shows just a drizzle on the cookies instead of being frosted like the picture above. I definitely made more frosting.
                           **LAST YEAR:Pastry Project:Croissant Dough**

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Peach Pecan Cheesecake

Using fresh fruit in a recipe that requires baking does have its challenges. First of all, you have the juice issue which may add too much liquid to the recipe. The other challenge is the acid in the fruit. In review, I would say that the citrus fruits are the most acidic and the other end of the spectrum would be bananas. The mid range would be peaches, apples and melons.

While most cheesecake recipes have a fruit sauce that you ladle on top, this one actually has diced peaches baked in. That texture, along with the crunch of chopped pecans and a cookie crust, is an excellent contrast to the creamy cheesecake. The cream cheese batter bakes up with a nice depth of flavor, incorporating a blend of dark brown sugar and peach schnapps. The chopped additions of diced peaches and toasted pecans offer an occasional zing of flavor.

My co-workers really liked this dessert and it disappeared quite quickly, so I this particular recipe is marked as a keeper. The instructions are for 1 nine inch cheesecake.

Peach Pecan Cheesecake
adapted from Cheesecake Extraordinaire

3 tbs chopped toasted pecans
3 tbs melted butter
11 vanilla sandwich cream cookies

Ingredients/Peach Pecan Filling
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 1/4 cup peeled and diced fresh peaches
5 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
24 oz cream cheese
1 egg yolk
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbs heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup peach schnapps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.

Using a food processor or blender, grind the cookies into a fine powder. Empty contents into a small bowl and stir in the pecan pieces. Pour in the melted butter and mix until all crumbs are damp and can clump together. Transfer mixture to springform pan and press into the bottom, forming a flat, even layer on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with brown sugar and cream cheese. Beat until smooth. Sift in the cornstarch and beat for 30 seconds, so it is evenly distributed into the batter. Add egg yolk and beat on low speed for 15 seconds. Repeat this process for each egg. Once all the eggs are blended, add vanilla extract, peach schnapps and whipping cream. Beat again on low speed for about 1 minute.

Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in pecans and diced peaches. Pour the batter over the crust in the springform pan. The baking process will be in intervals. Bake the cheesecake for the first session at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 225 degrees and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The cheesecake will be done once the center no longer looks wet or shiny.

Take the cheesecake out of the oven and run a knife around the inside, between the pan ring and the cheesecake. Also, turn the oven off. Put the cheescake back in the oven for another hour.  After the hour has expired, place in refrigerator to chill overnight.

Tips and Notes:
1. Use only fresh fruit, canned and frozen will have too much liquid for this recipe.

2. None of the recipes in this book use a water bath in order to keep the cheesecakes from cracking. The book does offer other pointers in order to minimize cracks, but none are guaranteed to prevent all cracks. The eggs should not be over beaten into the batter, which is why the instructions state using low speed when blending. Also, running a knife around the interior edge right after baking helps because the cheesecake will contract upon cooling. Other tips include: making sure your oven is at the correct temperature and not overbaking the cheesecake.

3. So you did everything right and you still have a cracked cheesecake? The author suggests using a wet knife to smooth it out on top when the cheesecake is still hot. However, due to discoloration, a dry knife is recommended with chocolate cheesecakes. This will not fix "Grand Canyon" cracks. Those are the big cracks that result when the cheesecake is overbaked.

4. Do not cover your cheesecake when you place it in the refrigerator to chill. Covering will cause moisture to form on top.

5. For best flavor, cheesecakes should be made 1 day in advance of serving.

6. If you are making a cheesecake with topping, slicing prior to the topping is easier. Slicing should be done with a thin, hot and sharp knife.
                                            **LAST YEAR:Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese**