Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chocolate Marble Bread (aka Zebra Cake)

Doesn't marbling in baked goods intrigue you? I don't know why I am so drawn to pictures of breads and cakes that have marbling and layers. Maybe it is the fact that it looks like you did something complicated when it was really just the act of swirling an extra large toothpick through your batter. Or maybe it's because there is always a surprise in every slice you cut. Who knows.

I do need to admit right up front that this is really cake masquerading as bread. Really, it is. Even in the description on the original post the author explains that it is a basic vanilla cake batter to which you add chocolate. This goes back to the discussion during our Daring Bakers challenge of what a quick bread really is, cake or bread. Most people agreed that many quick "bread" recipes were just cakes in loaf form. Hence, the Chocolate Marble Bread otherwise known as Zebra Cake by my son.

While I certainly won't feed this to my family for breakfast (as maybe I would with a banana bread), it is a very tasty loaf of bread/cake. Definitely more in the realm of dessert though. Enjoy!

Chocolate Marble Bread
Source: Joy of Baking

4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup milk, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan.

Melt the chocolate along with 1/4 cup of milk over the lowest heat setting on the stove top. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl whisk the sour cream with the remaining milk, and the vanilla extract.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and sour cream/milk mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Spoon half of the batter into a separate bowl. Add the chocolate mixture to one half of the batter and fold in.

With two spoons, place spoonfuls of the two mixtures into the prepared loaf pan alternately (chocolate, vanilla, chocolate, etc). Run a wooden skewer or knife through the two batter to achieve the marble affect.

Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Cool completely.

Makes one 9x5 loaf

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cinnamon Quick Bread

While searching for quick bread recipes to try out for my Daring Bakers challenge I came across this one.The picture was very enticing. Who doesn't like a loaf of what looks like pound cake with ribbons of cinnamon cutting through it? It was irresistible, hence why you see a post for it now.

I did change the recipe up a bit and would recommend you make those changes as well. Not too many tweaks, but a few. I ended up using orange zest as I didn't have any lemons at the time. Really you just need a citrus zest to give it a bit of flavor kick so orange or lemon zest will work.

I also would reduce the amount of cinnamon topping left for the top layer by adding more to the other two layers. I found that just like some of the other quick breads I have baked all that lovely topping falls off as soon as you try to remove it from the loaf pan. Notice the mountain sized pile of cinnamon topping. Okay, maybe mountain sized is an exaggeration, but still. All that yummy flavor should be on the bread not in the garbage.

I would definitely recommend trying this bread. It smells heavenly while baking in the oven and it tastes scrumptious. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Quick Bread
Source: Slightly adapted from Closet Cooking

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup brown sugar
2 heaping tablespoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, vanilla, and citrus zest.

Mix 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, scraping bowl as necessary. Mix in 1/2 of the buttermilk. Mix in another 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Add the remaining buttermilk. Add the remaining dry ingredients and  mix until combined.

Whisk the brown sugar and cinnamon together.

Pour 1/3 of the batter in the greased loaf pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture on top. Pour 1/3 of batter on top. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture on top. Pour the remaining batter on top. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon on top.

Bake for about 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes one 9x5 loaf

Monday, February 27, 2012

Daring Bakers - Quick Breads

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

Where do I even start? Maybe I should just start out by admitting that I am addicted to quick breads. Yes, I can raise my hand and unashamedly admit that I am over the top in love with them. How could you not be? Just the fact that it is a quick bread, it is easy to throw together, it smells awesome while baking, it tastes incredible upon eating, and your family looks at you with adoring eyes because you have baked something so wonderfully delectable. Is that a little over the top? Maybe, but really that's what a good quick bread is like in my house.

In case you couldn't already tell, I loved this month's Daring Bakers challenge! It was the perfect excuse to bake a myriad of different breads, have a slice here or there, stick it in the freezer for later and try another loaf. The only problem, which picture to post as my main picture. It was a difficult choice but I ended up going with the most colorful of those I baked.

How about if I just start at the beginning and take you through some of the quick breads that I baked up this month. Soon after reading our challenge I decided to bake up a recipe from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook that I got as a Christmas present. My husband and I are trying to watch our caloric and sugar intake so it felt like a bit of a splurge to be baking muffins. Also, I tried to pick one that I had all the ingredients for already and it was an added bonus that it had chocolate involved. Say hello to Double Chocolate Muffins! The muffins hit the spot without being overly sweet. The chocolate I used was a dark/bittersweet chocolate so it had a chocolate flavor without being sugary.

I can't post the recipe because that would be copyright infringement, but I definitely think that purchasing Dorie's cookbook is a welcome addition to any baking kitchen.

The next recipe that I tried was a savory little appetizer to be enjoyed while watching the Superbowl. Pepperoni Pizza Puffs pilfered from Pinterest (how is that for alliteration). They were tasty and made you want to pop more in your mouth than I'm sure the recommended serving was. You can find the recipe link here.

For my next baking frenzy I made three different loaves in one weekend. I couldn't decide which recipe to try so I decided to try them all. Of the three, my favorite was the cinnamon bread. It was fairly easy to put together, with the most skill being how to layer it in the loaf pan, it smelled heavenly in the oven and it tasted amazing upon sampling soon after it came out. It only gets better with time!

Chocolate Marble Bread (which really should be called cake) took a bit more skill to bake since you have to separate the batter evenly between the chocolate and vanilla and then spoon it into the loaf pan before swirling it together. But that being said, it was still very easy to make. My son called this Zebra Bread since it looked more like zebra stripes on the sides and top of the loaf. I was really pleased with how the marbling turned out.


And finally, Lemon Loaf. The original Daring Bakers recipe is for Meyer Lemon Loaf but unfortunately I can't add the word Meyer. And you can't know how disappointed I am in that little technicality. For every Daring Bakers challenge where people have commented on using Meyer lemons, I have been sorely disappointed to not find Meyer lemons anywhere in my vicinity. I don't know if we do citrus based recipes during an off-season for my region, or if I'm not shopping at the right stores, or if there are just never any Meyer lemons in my particular area. Whatever the case, you can make this recipe with just plain old yellow lemons and it tastes just fine.

By the way, the reason why you see two different colored loaves is because on this particular baking day it was pretty stormy with rain pouring down and wind howling. My son and I talked it over and decided that since the recipe gave us two loaves of bread we would make one traditional lemon and the other a rainbow color so that we would have the sun and a rainbow to brighten our day. What is funny to me is that when you give him a piece of the plain lemon and a piece of the rainbow lemon he thinks that the rainbow lemon tastes different and much better. There must be some truth to food having a psychological influence, or else you can chalk it up to the fact that he is 5 and fun, bright colors make everything taste better.

Now the part that you are all going to just love. I have decided that these three incredible breads need their very own post so I will be revealing each of the recipes over the next three days. I know, some of you are weeping along with drooling but I promise you will only have to wait another day or two to see the actual recipe.

Check back on February 28th for the Cinnamon Bread recipe, February 29th for the Chocolate Marble Bread recipe, and March 1st for the Lemon Loaf recipe.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I Heart Sugar Cookies

Better late than never, right? I mean, technically, it is still the month of February and I consider this whole month fair game for gooey, squishy, lovey sayings and sweets.

That being said, I did have these cookies baked and cooled a few days before Valentine's. Then life happened. My husband left quickly to go back to be with his brother dealing with some not great stuff and I ended up spending Valentine's without my hubby around. Having to become the primary caregiver of our son while working full-time proved to be just a bit too much in finding time to ice cookies. My mom was over to help (thank goodness or it really would have been a mess) but I was pretty much exhausted by the end of every day. The idea of spending a few hours bent over cookies was not appealing at the time. So, I did what any cookie baker does when lacking motivation. I stuck them in the freezer.

A week and a half later when life slowed down, I pulled them out again and found the inspiration to get them iced and eaten. Enjoy!

You can find the recipe for the cookies and icing here.

And aren't these little candies cute! I ended up making them for my students as a little Valentine treat. They are easy to make and pretty tasty too. Square pretzels with a Hershey hug on top, bake in oven for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and squish down center with a chocolate candy. I had all sorts of holiday colors swirling in my brain for an easy candy idea.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

Making deep dish pizza has been on my to do list for quite some time. I started scouring the internet for recipes a few weeks ago in anticipation of making this for dinner. There are quite a few recipes out there but the one that I chose to use came off of a cooking forum. The main advice giver seemed to have a lot of knowledge about what constitutes a Chicago-style deep dish pizza so I went with all of the forum's advice rolled into one.

And I can say that the pizza definitely delivered! Not that I've ever been to Chicago and would know an authentic deep dish pizza, but it was a tasty dish. I wasn't sure how it would be with the cheese as the bottom layer and the sauce as the top layer since in my neck of the woods we do pizza the opposite way. I also didn't know how the olive oil drizzled on top would turn out, but all in all it worked out just fine. 

You definitely need to plan ahead since the crust takes 6 to 7 hours to rise. Definitely worth it though. Enjoy!

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
Total Time: about 7 hours (6 hour dough rise, 30 to 45 minutes baking)

1 1/2 cups (scant) water (room temperature- about 70-F to 80-F)
1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (don't use bread flour, we want a biscuit like dough)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cooking oil (9 Tbsp Corn or Canola oil and 1 Tbsp Olive Oil)

Add sugar and yeast to water, stir well. If not using instant yeast, allow the yeast to bloom in water for about 15-minutes. If using instant yeast, you can use the water mixture right away.

Stir in flour and salt. Mix well.

Stir in cooking oils.

Mix for 1 minute then knead for 2 minutes. You can use a stand mixer or by hand. Add more flour or warm water, a tablespoon at a time, as needed, to make a workable dough. (Don't over-knead, you want a biscuit like dough for deep dish pizza.)

Form dough into a ball, place in a large mixing bowl, coat dough lightly with oil, cover bowl and let dough rise in a warm place for 6 hours.

Punch down dough and allow it to rest 10 to 15 minutes.

Pizza Filling:
1/2 pound sliced Mozzarella cheese

1/2 pound Italian sausage, hot or mild, crumbled
1/2 pound pepperoni, sliced thin
1/2 yellow onion, cut into thin rings
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and cut into thin rings
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup black olives, thinly sliced

Sauce: (makes 3 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil, crushed
1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds or fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 (28 oz) can Italian-style whole peeled tomatoes, lightly squished
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the herbs, seeds, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and sugar, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely before using.

Roll out or press dough into a 12-inch deep-dish pizza pan. Press dough evenly onto bottom and up inner sides of deep dish pizza pan.

1st - Add a layer of sliced mozzarella as the bottom layer, on top of the dough. Place the cheese in tile-like layers covering the dough on the pan bottom.

2nd - Add toppings, evenly distributed across pizza, as the middle layer.

3rd - Ladle the sauce evenly, as the top layer on the deep-dish pizza.

4th - Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake the deep-dish pizza in a preheated 475-degrees F oven until the top is golden and gooey and the crust is a light golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Makes one 12-inch Chicago deep dish pizza

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sausage, Cheese, and Egg Casserole

Honestly, it has been a while since I made this and I feel so rummy from needing to go to bed that I can't even recall many of the details. In typing up the recipe I do recall a few things though.

One, I wasn't sure what was meant by breakfast sausage. No where could I find breakfast sausage. I knew she wasn't referring to links (which said breakfast sausage on the package), but all the ground sausage was either Italian or Maple or Hot. I finally just went with regular ground sausage and called it good.

Two, I wasn't sure what was meant by Italian bread. I realized from this how a recipe can be very regional. I didn't know if Italian meant a type of bread, like French bread, or if it had to do with being seasoned in a certain way. After looking around a bit I just went with regular French bread and called it good.

Finally, I totally didn't read all the way through the recipe before getting ready to make it. Therefore, when I pulled everything out at 8:00am to make it for breakfast that morning after reading that it only took about 45 minutes to bake, I was completely surprised to read in step 3 that you needed to cover and refrigerate it overnight. I quickly calculated that if I got it prepared I would be able to let it sit for about 8 or 9 hours and we could have it for dinner that night. Who doesn't like breakfast for dinner? My family seemed to enjoy it even though it was served a bit later than planned. Enjoy!

Sausage, Cheese, and Egg Casserole
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

9 eggs
9 slices of Italian bread, about an inch thick, crusts removed, cubed
1 pound breakfast sausage
3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Crumble and cook the sausage according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Lightly whisk together the eggs until combined. Mix in all other ingredients, and then fold in sausage.

Pour the mixture into a greased 9×13-inch baking pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, uncovered for 45 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

I know this square shaped piece of coffee cake doesn't look all that appealing but it really is one of those comfort recipes that has been in my recipe book for a long time. I got it off of a box of Bisquick years ago (yes, I do use Bisquick occasionally, okay more than occasionally) and when they stopped printing it on the box I managed to get it scrawled down on a piece of paper and into my binder. It is easy, it is tasty, but it isn't a super dense meal so we usually have it with a bowl of fruit or something with a bit more substance. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

2 cups baking mix
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg

1/3 cup baking mix
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons firm butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8x8 square pan (or equivalent size).

Stir the cake ingredients together; pour into greased pan.

Stir the baking mix, brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Cut in the firm butter.  Sprinkle the topping mixture over the batter.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Baby Boy Cookies

Aren't these just as sweet as can be? My heart just melts when I think about a new little baby. What better way to welcome a little guy into the world than some sugar cookies just as sweet as he is.

I made these for a baby shower that never ended up happening. Not because the sweet little boy didn't make his appearance, because he did, well actually, they did since it was for two little baby boys. No, it didn't happen because we had a snow storm that ended up closing school for the week in which the shower was going to happen. I thought I was being super prepared by making the cookies on Sunday and icing them on MLK day. Plenty of time to be ready for the shower on Thursday. All I needed to do was to bake the cakes and I was golden. Or so I thought. Then the snow fell . . . and fell . . . and fell. The snow was followed by ice and my first requested "gig" was not to be.

It's not all a sad story. The cookies did eventually get eaten, and by the people who would have most likely attended the shower. I thought about saving them for the rescheduled date but the icing was starting to discolor because I didn't get them into bags soon enough. They were still tasty though. And in the end who can be sad when cute little baby boys are involved. Enjoy!

You can find the cookie and icing recipe here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Taco Soup

Do you have those tried and true recipes that no matter how many times you eat it it always hits the spot and is something you can fall back on when you are in a menu slump? This is one of them for me.

Many, many, many years ago when I was a teenager my stepmom made this for one of our outings on the boat. As an adult it has become a staple in my menu. It is a recipe I know by heart, it comes together fast, and it is a hearty dish.

Taco Soup
1 pound ground beef
1/4 to 1/2 cup salsa
1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can light red kidney bean, drained
1 small can sliced olives, drained
1 can corn
cheddar cheese, shredded
sour cream
tortilla chips

In a large pot, brown the ground beef. Drain meat, if necessary. Add salsa, tomatoes, kidney beans, olives, and corn. Heat through.

Top with cheese and sour cream. Serve with chips.

Makes 5 to 6 servings

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Better Than Sex Cake - Paula's Version

Remember about a month ago when I posted my chocolate version of this cake? Later that week we headed out for another holiday party and I decided to make another version. I mean, I couldn't just make one version of this cake, now could I? I really wanted to do a thorough job with my comparisons.

My second cake consisted of yellow cake, pineapple, whipping cream, and toasted coconut. Easy to make and pretty tasty too.

I hesitate to say this because I don't want to be disloyal or anything but this flavor combo was definitely better than the chocolate one. The problem with the chocolate is that the chocolate cake, pudding, and chunks were all the same chocolate flavor with varying textures, whereas this cake had a variety of flavors and textures that worked nicely together.

So, the verdict: I would definitely make this cake over the chocolate, but it still doesn't hold a candle to the real thing. Enjoy!

Better Than Sex Cake
Source: Food Network

1 box yellow cake mix, plus ingredients needed to prepare
1 (20 ounce) can of crushed pineapple
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 (3.4 ounce) box French vanilla pudding, plus ingredients to prepare
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan.(Toast coconut for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.)

Prepare yellow cake, pour into pan; bake 30-35 minutes until edges pull away from pan.

While cake is baking, combine the pineapple and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Remove cake from oven and using a fork pierce holes into cake. Pour pineapple mixture over hot cake and set aside.

Prepare pudding according to package directions. Spread pudding over cake and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Whip heavy cream and remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread whipping cream over cake and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Makes one 9x13 cake