Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cabana Banana Bread

While citrus fruit does have a lot of acidity, it does have its place in sweet breads and muffins. Most of us do enjoy biting into a blueberry muffin and getting that unmistakable pop of juice and tartness from the berries against the moist vanilla cake.

Now this particular recipe does not contain any berries. It is the crushed pineapple which lends itself to the same flavor experience. Instead of a backdrop of vanilla cake, it is banana bread that is laced with a little coconut flavor. One slice is quite a mixture of tropical flavors and textures. The sprinkle of coconut adds a wonderful touch of chewiness to the other textures, so don't leave this step out.

This tasty banana bread is great when paired with tea or coffee to start your day, but it also makes for a tasty afternoon snack. The recipe makes 2 -9x5 inch loaves, one for your family and one to give as a gift.

Cabana Banana Bread
adapted from

4 mashed medium size bananas
1/2 cup of shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup of crushed pineapple (well drained)
1 cup pineapple yogurt
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter, room temp.
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the interior of 2 loaf pans and line bottom and two longest sides with parchment paper. Grease the surface of the parchment paper also.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the salt, flour and baking soda. Set aside.

Fill a bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and brown sugar. Beat until mixture resembles wet sand. Add the mashed bananas and mix on medium speed until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat for 30 seconds after each addition. Then stir in the vegetable oil.

Add both extracts, yogurt and crushed pineapple to the batter. Beat on medium speed until evenly distributed, about 1 minute. Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in sifted ingredients. Fill the prepared pans evenly with the batter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of coconut evenly over the top of each loaf.

Place in oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Place pans on rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool another 15 minutes and take off of parchment paper.  Let cool completely prior to slicing and serving.

Tips and Notes:
1. The more ripe the bananas the stronger the banana flavor.
2. This batter can be made into mini loaves, just adjust the bake time.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Gothenburger Cookies** 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

White Russian Crispy Bars

Cereal treats may remind you of your childhood, but with a few tweaks a kid's treat can easily be made for adults. All you need is a little spice and white chocolate.

This particular recipe takes the flavor components found in the mixed drink called the White Russian and incorporates them into the rice crispy bar. To create this distinct flavor, the first modification to the crispy treats is to add dissolved espresso powder. The espresso powder, while strong in flavor, mellows out when blended with the the melted marshmallows for a more balanced flavor. In addition,  a glaze of melted white chocolate and coffee liqueur is poured over the surface. The glaze enhances the bars even more. The final treats are much more than just a coffee flavored snack.

White Russian Crispy Bars
adapted from Chowhound

6 cups puffed rice cereal
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbs butter
1-10-10.5 oz bag of marshmallows
1 tbs espresso powder
1 tsp hot water

8 oz chopped white chocolate (not chips, bar only)
2 tbs coffee liqueur
3 tbs heavy cream

Start by blending boiling water with espresso until the espresso is dissolved. Set aside. Then take out a large pot and add the butter. Place over medium heat and melt butter. Mix in the salt and the dissolved espresso. Add the marshmallows and stir until they are completely melted. Remove pot from heat.

Prepare a 9x13 inch pan by buttering the interior.

Than add the puffed rice cereal to the melted marshmallow mixture and blend until cereal is completely coated. Empty into prepared pan. With oiled hands, press down and spread evenly into pan. Set aside.

For the glaze, place a pan over low heat and add cream. Let cream get to lukewarm temperature (98 degrees farenheit/36 degrees celsius) then add the chopped chocolate. Mix both together and continue to mix until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in coffee liqueur.

Pour the glaze over the crispy treats. Acting quickly, use a knife or a spatula and smooth glaze evenly so surface is completely covered.

Once the glaze is set (takes about 1/2 hr) cut into 2 inch squares.

Tips and Notes:
1. These would be great cut into small squares and used as a garnish on the glass containing a white russian drink at parties.
2. Try other spices, such as cinnamon or apple pie spice or cocoa and mint, for an extra special treat.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Amaretto Cherry Bread**

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Caramel Apple Blondie Cheesecake

Caramel...there is a lot of recent posts with this component, but it does seem to be a good pairing with many of your winter desserts.

A nice layer of sweet caramel on top of cheesecake does sound and look delicious. However, sometimes cheesecake can seem a bit heavy for dessert. That is why we see a lot of "cream cheese swirled" desserts. This cream cheese dessert does increase the spectrum of texture and taste with its unique layering while being lighter than cheesecake alone.

The first and bottom layer is chunks of toasty pecans. They provide a crunchy texture and a subtle nutty flavor. The second layer is a blondie. Not just any blondie, but one with cinnamon spice and chunks of tart apples. Lastly, there is a creamy vanilla layer of cheesecake topped with caramel. To turn it up a notch, in my tips and notes I have included a recipe for a layer of caramelized apples that can be ladled on top prior to the caramel sauce.

Now that I have your attention, let's get into the recipe.....

Caramel Apple Blondie Cheesecake
adapted from Southern Living Magazine, 09/2012

Ingredients/bottom layers
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup of melted butter
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups peeled/diced apples (Granny Smith/tart green apples recommended)

Ingredients/Cream Cheese & caramel layer
2-8 oz pkg cream cheese (room temp)
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
6 tbs melted butter
3 tbs whipping cream
3 tbs honey

Grease and flour the interior of a 9-10 inch springform pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the pecans into a shallow or pizza pan and smooth out to a thin, even layer. Place pan in the oven and let the pecans toast for 4-5 minutes. Remove pan and stir, smoothing out to a thin layer again. Put pecans back in oven for another 4-5 minutes. Once toasted, sprinkle pecan pieces evenly into the bottom of the springform pan. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

For the other layers, the process will be mixed. This is so the blondie batter will not sit for a long time, having the baking powder react too much prior to baking.

Start by sifting together the cinnamon, flour, baking powder and salt together into one medium size bowl. Then take out another bowl and fill with the brown sugar, 1 egg and melted butter, stirring until you have a smooth batter. Set both bowls aside.

Now you will use a stand mixer bowl. Fill it with the granulated white sugar, cream cheese and vanilla extract. Beat the ingredients together, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once smooth, add one egg and beat until blended. Repeat the process with each of the remaining eggs. Remove bowl from stand mixer and set aside.

Go back to the first two bowls (one with brown sugar mixture and one with sifted ingredients). Combine the two, folding the dry ingredients in with the wet. Once thoroughly mixed together, stir in the apple chunks. Spoon this batter on top of the pecans in the springform pan. Carefully smooth the batter into an even layer. Then pour the cream cheese mixture on top.

Place pan in oven and bake until top is no longer shiny and cream cheese layer is set. This should take about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes (depending if you are using a silver pan or a dark pan). Once done, set pan on rack to cool. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, but do not remove the springform ring. Let cool for about 2 hours prior to topping.

To make the caramel topping, fill a saucepan with whipping cream, melted butter, honey and brown sugar. Place the saucepan over medium high heat. The mixture will need to be stirred constantly. It will heat up and come to a boil. Continue to stir and let boil for 2 minutes. Remove and let cool for at least 15 minutes prior to topping cheesecake.

Tips and Notes:
1. The smaller the pan the thicker the layers. I used a 10 inch springform pan.

2. The recipe stated to "spoon" the cream cheese batter over the other layer. The cream cheese batter was very pourable.

3. The cream cheese layer and blondie layer were of even thickness after baked. The photo with the recipe indicated that the cream cheese layer was much thicker and the blonde layer much thinner. This may have to do with the size of the pan used.

4. Should you want more of a pronounced apple flavor, below is a recipe for an apple topping. The apple topping goes on before the caramel layer.
Apple Topping:
Peel and core 5 apples. Slice apples into 1/2 inch wedges. Then fill a skillet with 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1 tsp lemon juice and place over medium heat. Stir constantly, letting mixture cook for about 5-10 minutes. Add the apple wedges. Mix, coating the apples with the sauce. The apples will need to cook with the sauce for about 15-18 minutes to become tender and caramelized. Be sure to continue to stir. Let cool for about 20 minutes prior to topping cheesecake.

5. Should you want to make in advance:create and bake the blondie and cheesecake layer and refrigerate when cool. Then make the sliced apple layer and caramel sauce just prior serving and ladle it on top.
                             **LAST YEAR:Grasshopper Cupcakes** 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Bars

This time I gave in to the pumpkin recipe. I did review quite a bit of recipes, but this one stuck in my head. I guess it was because of the "hidden" ingredient. Looking at this picture, we assume this is just a pumpkin bar with chocolate. However, it becomes much more interesting when we find out that the swirl is actually a blend of cream cheese and melted chocolate.

That chocolatey blend compliments the cake layer of the bar quite nicely. The spicy cake includes pumpkin and oil, so you can imagine the great texture it has. Another bonus is that the recipe comes together fairly quickly, so it is a good choice when you are short on time.

Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Bars
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients/Cake Layer
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 15 oz can pumpkin
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar

Ingredients/Chocolate Swirl Layer
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbs milk
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 cup mini chocolate chips (divided into 1/2 cups)

Prepare a 10x15 inch baking pan by lining the interior with foil and extending 1 1/2 inches over the sides. Fold the extra foil down over the outside edge of the pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the cake layer, sift together the ground cloves, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and flour in a medium size bowl. Whisk in the sugar. Take out a small bowl and whisk the four eggs together. Empty eggs into flour mixture. Then add the pumpkin and the oil and stir until smooth. Fill the foil lined pan with the batter and smooth the top.

The second layer starts by beating the 1/3 cup of sugar with the cream cheese in a medium bowl for about 30 seconds. Set aside.

Take out a microwave bowl and fill with 1/2 cup of the mini chocolate chips. Microwave for about 30 seconds and stir. Microwave an additional 30 seconds and stir again until smooth.

Add the melted chocolate, egg and milk to the cream cheese batter. Beat until smooth. Spoon this over the pumpkin layer. Then swirl the two layers together using a table knife or metal spatula. Be careful that you do not mix the layers, you want to marble them together.

Sprinkle the surface with the remaining 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips. Place pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Sit the pan on a cooling rack and leave to cool completely. Then pull out of the pan by using the foil over-hang. Cut into bars.

Tips and Notes:
1. Since I did not have the size of the pan specified, I used two 8 1/2 inch square pans. I measured each batter layer and then divided it evenly between the pans.

2. As you can see by the picture, the marble effect is only on the surface. The cut bar from a side view still has 2 distinct layers.

3. If your chocolate chips are not completely melted after following the instructions, microwave in 10 second intervals. Check with a spoon after each interval to see if completely melted.

4. Feel free to experiment with your own style of layering by melting up some caramel or peanut butter to blend with the cream cheese to put on top of  brownie or blondie batter.
                               **LAST YEAR: Bacon Buttermilk Scones**