Saturday, October 28, 2017

Banana Bread Pudding

Today's post is all about the evolution of bread pudding. Back in the eleventh century, kitchens were quite a bit more frugal than they are today. There was a great effort in making use of leftovers and, in the case of bread pudding, that meant using stale bread. However, the up to date version is not perceived as frugal. In fact, this dessert has found its place on many of the menus at upscale restaurants.

While stale bread still remains as an ingredient in some recipes for bread pudding, plain baked bread or toasted breads are now considered acceptable. It is the "soaking" factor of the bread that creates the custard-like texture. Most bread puddings have a custard/bread base as the main component with little or no topping. 

As you can see by the picture, this recipe is not the standard. This bread pudding was made with cubed French toast/cinnamon swirl bread- it did not have to be stale or toasted. The recipe measurements were scaled down and it was still baked in a 9x13 inch pan. This change evened out the various textures and flavors of the dessert. The custard layer was about 1/2 inch thick, leaving room for all the special add in's to share in the spotlight. One bite contains quite a bit of delicious flavor as well as textures.

With creamy custard, crunchy pecans, soft bananas and a toasted topping of buttery brown sugar-it is hard to believe that this dessert originated as just a method to use up leftover/stale bread!

Banana Bread Pudding
adapted from The Disney Chef

Ingredients/ Bread Pudding
4 ounces or 2 large eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
6 oz or 3/4 cup of milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 ripe bananas
8 slices of cinnamon swirl bread (cubed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup sanding sugar (50/50 mix of white to brown sugar)

Ingredients/Vanilla Topping (optional)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1/4 plus 2 tbs sugar

Start by preparing the bananas. Cut one in half, setting one half aside.Take one half and 2 bananas and mash together. You can mash them by hand in a zip lock bag or mix them in a blender. Set the mashed bananas aside. Then slice the remaining bananas into rounds, about 1/4 an inch thick. Set these aside also.

Fill a medium size bowl with the eggs, butter, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Whisk together and then fold in the mashed bananas and pecans. Take out a 9x13 pan and add the bread cubes and sliced bananas. Mix together and then smooth out evenly in the bottom of the pan. Then pour the egg/sugar mixture over the layer. Let sit for 10 minutes and then stir, making sure that the pecans are evenly distributed and all the bread cubes are moistened. Let the flavors meld, undisturbed, for an additional 15 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the process is completed, brush the surface of the bread pudding with the butter and sprinkle the sanding sugar evenly over the top. Place in oven and bake for 25-35 minutes. Bread pudding is done when surface is a golden brown and liquids have caramelized.

To make the topping, place a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter is melted add the flour. Let cook and stir while the mixture thickens. At the stage it reaches the consistency of cake frosting, stir in the remaining ingredients. Continue to cook and stir for an additional 5 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency of sauce. Pour over each serving of warm bread pudding.

Tips and Notes:
1. Should you want a thicker serving, double the recipe but use the same size pan and baking longer.
2. For more sauce, double the recipe except for the egg.
3. Feel free to experiment with applesauce & sliced apples or pumpkin puree and cubed fresh pumpkin.
4. Half the pecan ingredients and replace with raisins if preferred.
5. Watch the topping carefully as it cooks, it can quickly change from a sauce to a thick custard.
                                 **TWO YEARS AGO: Buttermilk Fig Cake** 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Gingerbread Spice Cream Puffs

When spicy food is mentioned, we all envision different types of food. Traditionally, most spices are reserved for a specific category, either sweet or savory. However, the latest trends in food have many spices transcending over both categories. Today, there are recipes for rosemary lemon cake or chocolate chip cookies with cayenne pepper.

One spice that has always existed in both categories is ginger. There are so many savory recipes that use ginger-you can probably have a meal with every entree and side dish containing this spice. Also, finding a dessert that contains ginger is not a difficult task, especially around the holidays.

Let's not count the days until the holidays (it is a scary thought since there is so much to do and plan)! Instead of counting days, I decided to roll out a recipe for a "holiday" spiced treat-sort of a preview of things to come. This recipe is for little cream puffs or profiteroles that are filled with passion fruit cream. Instead of using plain pastry for the outer shell, I have added gingerbread spice to the dough. In addition to the spices in the dough, the puff shells, after baking, are topped with a sugary version of the same spice. The end result is a delicious combo of tart and spicy- something special to put you in the holiday spirit.....

There are many recipes for the profiterole shells, however, I experimented with one that had minimal ingredients. A recipe without sugar and milk.This was my first time in creating this type of pastry and the "puff" factor was an issue. I was expecting the dough to rise more in baking. While a pastry chef may consider creating cream puffs and easy task, a newbie should be prepared for trial and error. Due to the level of difficulty, additional attempts with the dough may yield the tall round profiteroles we recognize. However, bear in mind that the shape has no impact on the delicious flavor of these little gems.

The recipe makes a little over 3 dozen. Be sure to read through the whole recipe and the tips at the end prior to making these.

Gingerbread Spice Cream Puffs
by Flourtrader

Ingredients/Gingerbread Pastry Shells or Profiteroles
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp gingerbread spice mix (see recipe below)
1 cup water
4 eggs
4 ounces or 1 stick of butter
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Ingredients/ Passion Fruit Cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup passion fruit puree
4 egg yolks
2 tbs plus 2 tsp butter (melted)
1 1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs plus 1 tsp gingerbread spice mix

Ingredients/Gingerbread spice mix (adapted from Genius Kitchen)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

The first step is making the passion fruit curd. Start by filling a saucepan with the sugar, puree and egg yolks. Whisk together and place over medium heat. Continue to whisk while the mixture is cooking. With time, the sugar will dissolve and it will thicken into a pudding-like consistency. The cooking process should take about 12-15 minutes. Test for correct consistency by checking to see if it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and pour in melted butter. Stir until butter is melded into batter. Empty saucepan into a heat proof bowl and cover the surface of the fruit curd with plastic. Place in refrigerator to cool completely before using.

Prepare for the profiteroles by lining two baking sheets with parchment paper. Also, in order to pipe the dough, assemble a piping bag with a coupler fitted with a plain decorating tip. The opening of the piping tip should be no bigger than 1/4 an inch. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a saucepan with the water, spice mix, salt and butter. Let the mixture come to a boil and then remove from heat. Add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. When ready, you will notice that the dough no longer has a shine to it and it does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a mixer and add one of the eggs. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Repeat the process with the additional eggs, adding one by one. The end result will be a batter thick enough to hold its shape.

Fill the piping bag with some of the dough. Pipe tablespoon size mounds onto the baking sheet, spacing about an inch apart. Place in oven to bake until puffed and golden brown, about 27-35 minutes. Let cool on parchment paper for about 3 minutes, then transfer to rack to completely cool. Continue until all the batter has been baked into profiteroles. Clean the coupler and decorating tip. Set these tools aside for additional use in this recipe.

Once the final batch of profiteroles has completely cooled, take a small paring knife or wooden skewer and punch a hole in each one. The whole should be located in the center of the bottom of each pastry. Then you are ready to create the additional elements.

Beat the heavy whipping cream in a medium size bowl until it forms stiff peaks. Take the passion fruit curd out of the refrigerator and measure out 1/2 cup plus 2 additional tablespoons. Fold that amount into the whipped cream. Assemble another piping bag with the same coupler and decorating tip as used previously. Fill the bag with the passion fruit cream. Pipe the cream into the profiteroles, filling until the cream starts to overflow the hole. Follow this process to fill all the pastries.

Lastly, the topping will be completed. Using a small bowl, stir together the gingerbread spice mix and the sugar. Take each of the filled profiteroles and dip in the butter, covering the top surface only. After dipping in the butter, dip into the sugar mixture and place upright on a serving plate. After topping these little gems, they are ready to serve!

Tips and Notes:
1. The bake time on the standard profiterole recipes span from 20 minutes to 40 minutes- so keep an eye on these when baking. The pastries will lose their sheen and be light and dry with toasted edges when done.

2. Due to the additional of spices, the pastry shells bake up darker in color than the standard.

3. The pastries have some height to them but are always flat on the bottom.

4. If not serving immediately, store in refrigerator.

5. The spice has a more prominent flavor the next day. If you do not opt for the topping but still want a gingerbread flavor-increase the amount of spice and try a recipe that includes milk and sugar in the dough.

6. A single profiterole is about 2 bites which is a lot smaller than a cream puff.

7. Consistency is important when making the dough. If you find that it is too liquid, add a little more flour if needed. Additional time beating the dough will also help.

8. You will have about 3/4-1 cup of passion fruit curd left over. It is delicious as a cake or cupcake filling or just poured over ice cream.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Mini Sweet Potato Cakes**


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

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

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

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

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


Click on this link Caramel recipe

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**