Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Cream cheese cinnamon rolls . . . what a great thing to partake of on Christmas morning! This happens to be the second Christmas in a row that we have woken up and feasted on cinnamon rolls, last year it was after present opening and this year it took place before. The big difference is that this year I was prepared and decided to make up the rolls the night before so I could relax with my family on Christmas morning. Boy am I glad I did!  

These particular rolls are amazing and have just the right combination of sweet bread, raisins, nuts, and icing. Although they are a bit of work on the front end they are definitely worth it! My husband is still talking about them a few days later and already has a request in for the next batch.

Stay tuned for the abbreviated step by step photos after the recipe. You can find many delectable treats at the site where I got this recipe. (Thanks for a great recipe, Joy!) Enjoy!

(Oh, by the way, if you like your icing drizzled you only need to make half a batch. If you like it coated heavily, stick with a full batch. Get it . . . "stick".)

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls
Source: Joy the Baker

1 -1/4 oz package active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon, plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water, heated to 115 degrees 
1/2 cup milk at room temperature
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for kneading
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons maple syrup
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup water heated to 115 degrees F. Stir to combine and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes.

Add remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat with a wire whisk until well combined. Fit the bowl onto the mixer, fitting with the dough hook attachment. Add the flour and salt and mix on medium speed until the dough just begins to come together. Turn the machine on medium-high and knead the dough for 4 minutes.

Add the butter and continue to knead for about 6 minutes. The dough will be wet and sticky. Place the dough on a well floured work surface, and knead about 1/3 cup all-purpose flour into the dough. Set the dough in a large greased bowl to rest. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

While the dough rises, make the filling. Combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, pecans, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, salt, and cloves into a large bowl. Stir to combine. Stir in the maple syrup. Set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, dump it from the bowl onto a heavily floured work surface. Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Work the dough for about 1 to 2 minutes. Once it's no longer sticky, place a kitchen towel over the dough and let rest for 5 minutes before you roll it out. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with a knife until it is smooth and spreadable.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10x10 inch square or circle. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough. Fold into thirds like you would fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Take the open ends of the rectangle and it into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square.

Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and use the rolling pin to gently roll it into a 10x20 inch rectangle. You may find that some cream cheese sneaks through. Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you. You will roll from the short sides of the dough.

Brush the top of the dough with half of the melted butter. The rest of the butter will be for after the rolls are baked. Pour all of the filling onto the dough. Spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch border at one of the short edges of the dough so the roll can be properly sealed. Lightly press the filling into the dough.

Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder seam side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp, thin knife (or dental floss), trim off the uneven edges (or keep them in for a few uneven slices). Cut cylinder into 8 equal slices.

Nestle slices, cut side up and evenly space in a buttered 9x13 metal baking dish. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. You may also refrigerate the rolls overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover the rolls. If you refrigerated the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, whisk together the sugar and buttermilk in a small bowl until smooth.

Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack. Brush with remaining melted butter. Let cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle over the rolls. Serve immediately.

 The yeast getting frothy . . . the dough getting kneaded 
(or rather beaten to death in the kitchenaid) . . .

Dough ready to be gently kneaded, then set to rise for the first 2 hours . . . filling mixed . . .

Kneaded after rising . . . cream cheese spread . . . first fold . . . second fold . . .
third/fourth fold . . . rolled out in rectangle . . . filling spread . . . 

Perfectly sliced rolls (notice the dental floss) . . . ready for a second rising (or the fridge) . . . 
perfectly golden brown!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - No Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

I wasn't able to participate in the Daring Bakers challenge this month. I am a bit sad because it is the first time since I started back in February that I have not participated. I'm probably not even supposed to post the blog checking lines above since I didn't participate, but I still wanted you to be able to see the challenge this month and all the stollen that is out there from the other Daring Bakers.

I really, really thought long and hard about making the stollen (aka fruitcake) but I just decided that this was one time I was going to have to say no. You know, when you get too much on your plate and something has to give. This was it. Not only do we have a bit on our plate, but we are also fasting from sugar so it seemed a bit of a hoop to jump through to make it and then take it for others to enjoy at a Christmas party or something. I am certain they would have enjoyed it, but I ended up taking a savory dish instead of a sweet so that I could enjoy it too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes

For some reason these cupcakes were the thorn in my side! You can probably tell by the photo that I really couldn't get a great shot of these. That's because they were almost impossible to frost. I actually frosted these in two batches. The first batch frosted fairly well because the cupcakes had only been baked the night before and weren't overly moist. The frosting was a bit thick and gave me a bit of a hassle by pulling up the top layer of the cake so it then got mixed into the white frosting. And while it wasn't great for look, it didn't happen with all of the cupcakes.

Not so for the second half of the batch. Yikes! These had been in a covered container for about three days and while the cake was extremely moist, it was too moist. The frosting pulled the top layer of cake off so fast in was amazing. And frustrating. And I didn't even get to taste them because I am fasting from sugar. But those who did try them said they were very good.

If you do attempt to make these cupcakes I would suggest sticking them in the freezer for a bit before you frost them to give the top layer of cake a chance to harden up. I should have done this but didn't have time. Also, you can either make the cupcakes from scratch or you can do the abbreviated version from a box. Enjoy!

Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes
Makes about 18 cupcakes 

1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peppermint Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
16 hard peppermint candies, finely crushed (about 1/3 cup)
Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cupcakes, place brown sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in vanilla extract.

Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, combine powdered sugar, cream cheese, and peppermint extract in a bowl, stirring until smooth. Spread about 4 teaspoons frosting on each cupcake; sprinkle evenly with candies.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mini Caramel Apple Pie

Mini desserts are just so cute! And around the holidays it is so much easier to swallow (pun intended) a sweet dessert if it is small and bite sized. These were fairly easy to make. I think the most time consuming part was peeling and grating the apples. They were delicious, especially with a bit of ice cream on the side right after they came out of the oven. Mmmmmm! Enjoy!

Mini Caramel Apple Pies
Makes 12 servings (I actually got a bit extra)

2 refrigerated pie crusts (for 9-inch pie)
4 large tart apples, peeled and grated
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

caramel sauce/ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

Unfold piecrust and cut dough into 12 equal pieces and line each muffin cup.

In a bowl, combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and oats. Fill each crust to the top with the apple mixture. Bake for 20 minutes.

To prepare the topping, combine cream cheese, sugars, and vanilla in a bowl and beat until well blended.

After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and spread the topping on the mini pies. Drizzle with caramel sauce. Bake 5 minutes longer, or until the edges are golden brown.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hot Artichoke Dip

Hot artichoke dip, yum! This is most likely the richest, creamiest hot dip that you will ever consume in your life. In fact, the reason why in the picture the bowl looks like it is barely filled is because that is all I could scrape out of the pan after everyone dug in. It is a very easy recipe to half, and half was plenty for 6 people as an appetizer. It reheats okay, but the cheese and the fat in the mayo tend to separate a bit, kind of like alfredo sauce with leftover fettucine. And don't make the same mistake I did of trying to remember the recipe without glancing it. I ended up melting 2 cups (2 CUPS!) of butter by mistake. Enjoy!

Hot Artichoke Dip
2 cups artichoke hearts (chopped)
2 cups parmesan cheese
2 cups real mayo
1 small can green chilies (diced)
tortilla chips, bread, or whatever you want to use for dipping

Chop and dice. Mix, heat, and eat!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Iron Cupcake Challenge - Black Forest Cupcakes

After taking the summer off I decided to give the Iron Cupcake Challenge one more go. The theme this month was Germany. I scoured various sites trying to find out what Germany is known for, besides beer and bratwurst, and I found quite a few different things. The one recipe that seemed to stand out to me though was Black Forest Cake. I love chocolate, I love cherries, and I love whipped cream! What could be better than the three of them combined and all wrapped up in a cute little package.

I found a recipe on a site that I have frequented before so I figured I couldn't go wrong with her recipe. Well, that might not have been true. It's not that the recipe was bad, it's just that it wasn't really great. For some reason the cupcakes just tasted kind of ho-hum to me, and that's even after I brushed some of the cherry liqueur on the top of the cupcake as well as using a dropper to drip it into the cherry filling. My biggest dilemma now is what to do with the other 374 mL of Kirschwasser Cherry Brandy. Hmmmm . . .

I did enjoy my first experience with using the cone method to fill a cupcake! It was especially fun to try it on a mini cupcake since there isn't much room for error. All in all the cupcakes went together smoothly, if not a bit time consuming, but the overall taste just wasn't what I was hoping for. Maybe next time. You might find you enjoy them more than I did!

Black Forest Cupcakes
Source: Annie's Eats

For the cake:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. espresso powder
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups buttermilk

For the filling:
1 lb. fresh cherries, washed, pitted and destemmed
2 tbsp. sugar
Maraschino cherry juice or cherry liqueur

For the frosting:
1¼ cups heavy cream
6-7 tbsp. sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For garnish:
Fresh (or maraschino) cherries, with stems
2 tbsp. sugar
Chocolate shavings

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line wells of cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder together; whisk to blend, and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ of the way full.  Bake 10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes or 18-20 minutes for full-size cupcakes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, add the fresh pitted cherries to a bowl. Mash with a wooden spoon or potato masher until the cherries are no longer completely intact. Mix in the sugar and toss to coat the fruit.

To fill the cupcakes, use the cone method to remove a portion from the center of each cupcake. Spoon in about 2-3 cherries. Drizzle some maraschino cherry juice (or cherry liqueur) over the fruit.  (Additionally, this can be brushed over the edges of the cupcake to further deepen the cherry flavor.)

To make the whipped cream frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start beating on medium-low speed, slowly increasing as the cream begins to thicken up to medium-high speed. While the cream is being whipped, gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar a spoonful at a time. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. (Be careful not to overbeat!)  Fold in the vanilla extract.

Frost the filled cupcakes with the whipped cream. Garnish as desired with a cherry and chocolate shavings. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Little Camper's Birthday Cake

Our family's youngest member celebrated his birthday this past Friday! His request for a cake included a road, campground loop, and a camping trailer that looks like ours. I thought I did a pretty good job of getting all the requested items on and then some considering that it was only a 9x13 cake. Think what I could have done with a half sheet or full sheet!

This was also the first time that I made sugar cone trees, and I must say that the frosting has to be just the right temperature to pull those things off. Too cold and the frosting won't squeeze out, too warm and it's like soup dripping down the cone. By the way, the freezer works great for storing them so that little eyes can't see them and so that the needles don't drip off your trees. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Crostata

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

What perfect timing for a daring bakers challenge! I have put off baking goodies for most of this month because we've been watching our waistlines. I also knew the holidays were coming up and there would be plenty of excuses for me to bake. I was so excited that I would be able to use this challenge in my Thanksgiving festivities!

I made both a Caramel Apple Crostata and an Apple Cranberry Crostata. They were both easy to make and delicious! Even though they look very similar to my traditional apple pies the crust is very different. While my usual pie crust is light and flaky, this crust is more dense like a shortbread. It was delicious but it definitely tasted like shortbread to me and since I love my pie crust recipe I probably won't make a crostata like this again. When I make another it will be filled with pastry cream and fresh fruit which I think will go wonderfully with the shortbread.

For the crust, I used the first version of the pasta frolla that was offered to us in this challenge. If you'd like the recipe, email me. I did have to add a teeny bit of water after everything was mixed together because it seemed a tad bit dry like things were not going to mix/stick together well.

I added cranberries to half of the apple mixture and I drizzled caramel over the other half of the mixture once it was in the tart shells. I also chose to make two of the crostatas with a lattice top and two with a star cut out of dough. They turned out great! Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Filled Cresent Rolls

Have I ever mentioned that my son is preschool age? Along with that, have I ever mentioned that I am a teacher? No. Well, preschool age son and a mother who is a teacher add up to schooling happening at home (at least for now). And as preschool lessons can be a bit hands-on, sometimes our food choices go along with what he is doing for preschool. Enter exhibit A, pizza filled crescent rolls.

How many of you have crescent shaped objects in your home? Not many, I bet. When I saw that this was our shape for the week (and we usually go on a scavenger hunt to find items in our shape of the week), I started wracking my brain to come up with something. I thought about croissants because I think they are on my top 100 list, but I figured that they were more time consuming than I wanted and my almost 4 year old would most likely not appreciate all the effort they required. Crescent rolls were the next best thing.

I wanted to make it fun and I figured he wouldn't likely eat a ham and cheese filled roll, so we went with a pizza filling. Pizza sauce, pepperoni, and cheese. Yes, I know, it's not original but it does suit what a preschooler would find exciting.

Along with a savory roll we also made our dessert out of crescent rolls.  I know the photo below is not super appetizing (I know what comes to mind when I look at the picture but I'll refrain from mentioning it on here), but it did actually taste pretty good. We cut up pieces of a snickers bar and then placed a few inside the crescent roll. They then melt into ooey, gooey yumminess while the roll is baking. I know this post is definitely not showcasing gourmet, as most of mine are not, but it was definitely a hit for the preschooler in our house and that was the intended audience! Enjoy! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes

These pancakes got rave reviews when we had them on Halloween morning! I had made regular, buttermilk, apple, and blueberry pancakes but had yet to make a pumpkin variety. I thought that since our pumpkin carving would be taking place later that afternoon pumpkin pancakes would be a great way to start the day. My son loved them! He asked for seconds, thirds, and fourths. We sprinkled a bit of powdered sugar on some, and drizzled maple syrup on others. Both seemed to go over well and they went down without a fight!
The batter started out a bit thicker than I like so I added a bit of buttermilk to thin it out.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Source: Pinch My Salt

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree (can use canned puree)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together the first eight ingredients (the whole wheat flour through nutmeg). In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients (buttermilk through brown sugar). Mix wet and dry ingredients together, just until combined. (If batter is a bit thick, add buttermilk.)

Drop pancakes onto a medium-hot griddle. Pancakes are ready to flip when the edges start to turn dry and it looks like small bubbles are forming on the surface.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dirt Cupcakes

For some reason I love making dirt cupcakes, especially in the Fall! Last year, at the end of October I made cupcakes that were decorated as spiders, pumpkins, and dirt. While the others were laborious and time consuming, the dirt cupcakes were easy and fun. I decided that this year I wasn't going to mess around with difficult decorations and instead just went straight to fun!

You can either use a box cake mix or make them from scratch. I have used both. This year, for the sake of time, I went with box mix. I made two batches, one yellow cake and the other chocolate. Yes, I used the frosting in a can because sometimes it's just easier. After frosting both sets of cupcakes, I set a gummy worm in the middle and then sprinkled crushed up chocolate animal crackers over the top. The animal crackers worked great. Last year was a disaster. I couldn't find plain chocolate cookies so I instead bought oreos. Unfortunately, when you crush oreos the filling still shows white and all the cookie crumbs stick together. I ended up scraping the filling out of the oreos and crushing just the cookies. Like I said, this year was much easier. Thank goodness for chocolate animal crackers! Enjoy!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

When my son is asked what he would like for a "fun" dinner during our meal planning I can usually count on my one hand the choices that he will pick from. If he had free reign over his meals they would consist of chicken nuggets, hamburgers, pancakes, hot dogs, or macaroni and cheese. I guess that's why God created parents.

We don't often have macaroni and cheese because we still don't do a lot of dairy in his diet, but since we are nearing his birthday (and we usually try a bit of dairy around then) I decided to add it to our menu. I am not a huge fan of the box type mac and cheese, so I decided to go all out and use a recipe from my copy of The P.ioneer Woman Cooks, a recipe that is about as far from the box stuff as you can get.

You can either use all cheddar cheese in this dish, or you can mix and match any cheese you want. I decided to do a 1/2 pound of cheddar, a 1/4 pound of monterey jack, and a 1/4 pound of pepper jack. I swear, that 1/4 pound of pepper jack should not have as big of an influence on those 8 servings of pasta, but holy cow, it did! Not only that, but it resulted in my son not eating more than one bite before stating that he didn't like the black stuff (ground pepper) in his dinner. It was really the pepper jack cheese but I wasn't about to admit that to him. On a happier note, he ate the leftovers the next day no problem, and I was amazed at how much more tame the pepper jack cheese was the second time around.

I believe you can find the recipe on her website, but mine came from her cookbook. Enjoy!

Macaroni and Cheese
Source: The Pioneer Woman

4 cups dry macaroni
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard
1 pound cheddar or other desired cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook the macaroni until very firm. The macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain. (If you're in a hurry and don't want to bake the macaroni and cheese, cook it until it's done.) 

In a small bowl, beat the egg.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large baking dish. (I used a 9-inch square pan.)

In a large pot, melt the butter and sprinkle in the flour. Whisk it together over medium-low heat. Cook for 5 minutes, constantly whisking. Don't let it burn.

Pour in the milk. Add the mustard and whisk until smooth. Cook for 5 minutes or until very thick, whisking constantly. (We had to cook it for much longer than 5 minutes and finally turned the heat up to medium-high or high, whisking constantly, in order to get it to thicken.) Reduce the heat to low.

Slowly pour 1/4 cup of the sauce into the beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the egg. Whisk until smooth. Pour the egg mixture back into the sauce, continuing to whisk. Add in all but 1/2 cup of the cheese and stir until melted. Add the seasonings. Taste the sauce and add more seasonings as nbeeded.

Pour in the cooked, drained macaroni and stir to combine. Pour into the baking dish and top with remaining cheese. (If you fully cooked the macaroni in the first step, then serve immediately.)

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Do you like chocolate? If so, you will love this recipe! Yes, it is zucchini bread, but after you take a bite it's pretty hard to convince yourself that it is healthy, because it certainly does not taste like it. And let's be honest, even though it has zucchini as an ingredient it's probably not the most healthy of breads out there! Cocoa powder, sugar, ooey gooey chocolate chips . . . and if you add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to it (which I may or may not have done) it sends it over the top. Enjoy!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Makes one 9x5x3 inch loaf

1 1/2 cups shredded raw zucchini
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup safflower or canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the center of oven. Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon and ground allspice. Set aside.

In the mixer, beat the oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until well blended (about 2 minutes). Fold in the grated zucchini. Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the bread has risen and  a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and cool completely.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Doughnuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I don't think it is a coincidence that my last recipe post was about apple spice cake and my daring bakers post is about apple fritters. Nope, not a coincidence at all! I told you when Fall rolls around I have apples, pumpkins, and spices on the brain. I think apple fritters have to be my all time favorite doughnut, but over the years my tastes seem to change with my age. I have turned more to cake doughnuts in the last few years when I frequent local bakeries and doughnut shops, and have shied away from the deep fried flavor and texture of the fritter.

In some ways I am a bit surprised at what I am about to post. I had never, before this challenge, fried anything. I know, shocking, huh. My deep frying thermometer has only been used for making candy up until this point. I think that for some reason I just have this inherent dislike for anything deep fried. Don't get me wrong, I will occasionally partake of some deep fried goody, but on the whole it's just not a part of our diet. Plus, I am really not a fan of having the smell hang in the air for hours, but that's beside the point.

We were presented with many doughnut recipes to choose from, but because I really wanted an apple fritter and I wasn't sure what made it a fritter compared to a cake or yeast doughnut I decided to just find my own recipe. The one I chose was so easy! You can whip it up in a bowl with a wooden spoon, no electric mixer required and no wait time for the yeast to do it's job for the doughnuts to rise.  I know it doesn't look like much, but it smells and taste wonderful!

I was a bit anxious about the deep frying portion of this challenge. I think part of that was because I had no idea what to expect, but also the thought of oil being heated to 360 degrees Fahrenheit makes me very wary. It actually went quite smoothly. I wasn't sure whether the oil would have a rolling boil or what, but it did not change in its look at all. In fact, if there wasn't a thermometer in there you wouldn't have even known the temperature changed. The hardest parts had to be dropping the dough off of the spoon so that it didn't splash the oil and having it stay together as one piece of dough. The neat thing about the apple fritters was that they were almost self-regulating for their cooking time on each side. It was about 1 minute 20 seconds for the first side and most of them would flip over on their own to cook the second side. Almost like they had little internal clocks or something!

After another minute or two on the other side, I fished them out of the pan, set them on paper towels to get the outer coating of oil off, and then set them on a wire rack. I then either dusted with cinnamon and sugar or I drizzled with a powdered sugar icing. Both coatings were delicious! You can see how light and airy they ended up cooking, and there were a few of the thicker ones that had a teeny bit of wet dough in the middle so you'll want to make sure you cook them long enough. Enjoy!

Apple Fritters
Source: No Fear Entertaining and The Picky Apple

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup chopped apple

2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir in milk and egg until just combined. Fold in apple; set aside. Make the glaze by stirring milk and powdered sugar together in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat about 48 ounces of a flavorless oil (like Canola) on high. Oil is ready when it reaches 365 degrees (or when dough floats to top). Carefully add dough to oil in heaping teaspoons. Cook until brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, then flip. Cook another 1-2 minutes, until both sides are browned.

Transfer briefly to paper towels to absorb excess oil, then transfer to cooling rack. Drizzle with glaze or coat with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Best served warm.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Drizzle

For some reason, September and October seem to spurn in me a desire to bake some sort of bread or dessert with apples or pumpkins. This year proved no different, so I decided to combine the mood of the season with something off of my top 100 things to bake list. I was really just searching for a great spice cake recipe when I happened to come across this one with apples thrown in.

This really was a great spice cake! It was moist, it tasted like delicious cinnamon, it had chunks of apple, and it was even better the second day after baking. The caramel sauce I could take or leave. It was good, but it was very sticky when eating it with the cake and it immediately hardened if you drizzled it over ice cream or even onto a plate. I know the second photo of the entire cake looks a little dry and a little plain, but it was actually really moist and once you added the caramel drizzle and the ice cream or whipped cream, it was heavenly. Enjoy!

Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Drizzle

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 to 4 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 cups)
1 cup chopped assorted nuts, such as pecans and walnuts
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Working over a large sheet of parchment paper, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; gather sifted ingredients into center of sheet; set aside
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs; mix on high speed until lemon yellow. Fold reserved parchment in half lengthwise; with mixer on medium speed, gradually shake in dry ingredients until just incorporated. Add apples and nuts to batter; mix to combine. Add vanilla, mixing until incorporated. 
Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack. Invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely on rack, and serve drizzled with caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until thickened to desired consistency.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spinach Salad

For some reason, as of late, salad recipes have been jumping out at me from my recipe pages. Is it that my cookbooks are trying to tell me something, is my psyche sending subliminal messages, or is my body just craving more fresh veggies. Who knows! I do know that I have a huge amount of salad recipes and was all set to try a few out, even going so far as to put them on my breakfast menu, and this is about as far as I've gotten. No matter how good I want to be (usually in the evening after consuming a few m&m's) it is hard to actually put it into practice. I tend to fall back on my comfort foods, especially for breakfast, and seem to come up with plenty of excuses why I can't get chopping on those fresh fruits and veggies.

So, back to the spinach salad. The recipe calls this a crowd pleaser for a potluck so you'll have to adjust the amounts based on how much you and your eating partners would like to consume. Enjoy!

Spinach Salad
Serves potluck portions

8-9 ounces of fresh spinach or baby spinach
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans recommended)
1/4 cup finely chopped or grated onion (Vidalia or red onion recommended)
2-3 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup dressing (raspberry-walnut vinaigrette recommended)

Always rinse the spinach before preparing the salad. Dump the spinach into a large colander, rinse, drain, and dry gently with a towel. Transfer to a serving dish. Toss the spinach with the dried cranberries, nuts, and onion. When ready to serve, pour dressing over the salad and toss. Add crumbled bleu cheese.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flower Pot Cookies

For the start of our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) year I made these flower pot cookies as a giveaway gift. I tried to decorate the cookies to look like the flowers on the pot, and as you can see they are close but not exact. I guess I could have put a few more lines in there and it would have looked okay. Isn't it funny when you have one picture in your mind and then you put it next to the real thing and it's not quite like you had pictured it!

You can find the cookie recipe here. Enjoy!

And the cookies below were given to the MOPPETS workers (those who watch the kids) for their first thank you gift of the year.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Bisque

I haven't tried a new soup recipe in a long time. For some reason, even though I enjoy soup the recipes don't usually stand out to me when I'm flipping through cookbooks. This soup did catch my eye though, partly because I'm visual and it looked delicious but also because it had artichoke in it and I'm a fan of artichoke.

My husband and I both give this bisque two thumbs up. It was even great reheated the next day and the next. We enjoyed ours with a side of pugliese bread which offset the burning lips from the roasted red pepper. Seriously though, I usually am not a fan of hot or spicy foods and I was able to eat this soup just fine. Also, I know that looking at the recipe and ingredient list you might say, "No way, there's too many things going in there", but remember that it does serve 8 to 10 (and it really does) and it is worth it and you can always halve it. Enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Bisque
Makes 8-10 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, minced
2 stalks celery, minced (1/2 cup)
1 large carrot, minced (1/2 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces butter
1 cup flour
3 14-ounce cans chicken broth
1 16-ounce jar roasted red peppers, pureed
2 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken-flavor bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dry sherry (I didn't have it)
8 ounces marinated artichokes, minced
shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese

In a large saucepan, combine olive oil, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic (you can mince garlic and vegetables in a food processor). Cook over low heat until soft. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, and cayenne pepper.

Increase the heat to medium, add butter and melt. Stir in flour and cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes.  (If I recall correctly, I had to immediately add the chicken broth and such because once I added the butter and flour it clumped up all together so I couldn't cook it for 3-4 minutes.)

Add chicken broth, roasted red pepper puree, water and chicken bouillon and stir until thickened. (I believe I used a whisk to break it up a bit better since the flour and butter created clumps.)

Simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, adding water or broth as needed.

Stir in cream, sherry, and artichokes and heat for 5-10 minutes. Garnish with shredded Parmesan or Asiago.