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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Yum, I love cornbread! I think it should have a hint of sweet, a bit of crunch, and it should be moist. When I was flipping through a Southern Living magazine that Ron bought me for Christmas, I found a recipe that I wanted to try. Actually I found about 50 recipes I wanted to try, but this was one for cornbread.

I have to admit that I've only made cornbread one other time from scratch and it was kind of a bomb. Since then I've gotten by using the Jiffy cornbread mix that comes in a box. Yes, that's right, the $0.59 box of cornbread is what I had resorted to using, until now. When I made this recipe for the first time I was either really hungry (which I could have been) or it was just so darn good, because I could have eaten the whole pan and not eaten a spoonful of the chili it was supposed to complement. Enjoy!

Super-Moist Cornbread
Makes 8 servings

1/3 cup butter
1 (8-oz) container of sour cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 (8 1/4-oz) can cream-style corn
1 cup self-rising white cornmeal mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1/3 cup butter in a 2-qt baking dish in the oven for 5 minutes or until butter melts.

Whisk together sour cream, eggs, and cream-style corn in a medium bowl. Whisk in 1 cup cornmeal mix just until combined. Whisk into melted butter. Pour batter into baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Triple Berry Crisp

I always love a recipe that is easy to make, tastes great, and is healthy for you. This recipe for triple berry crisp is one that would fit in that category. I found it one day while reading the box of my Cascadian Farms granola, which then led me to their website, which then led me to this delicious recipe.

You can use any combination of berries that please your palate. I have used raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, tayberries, and blackberries. The website recipe uses frozen berries which I have used, but I love it when I have fresh berries instead. I just make sure that whatever I am using I have a total of 28 ounces of berries in my recipe.

I have also used vanilla ice cream as a complement, but my favorite is fresh whipping cream since I can control the amount of sugar and ingredients in it. Wow, typing up this post makes me really want a serving of it right now. Enjoy!

Triple Berry Crisp
Makes 6 servings

8 ounces blueberries, fresh or frozen
10 ounces strawberries, fresh or frozen
10 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups Cascadian Farms oats & honey granola, or another granola
ice cream or whipping cream, if desired

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish, mix berries, sugar, and flour until fruit is coated (do not thaw if using frozen berries). Bake 10 minutes (20 minutes if using frozen berries).

Stir. Sprinkle with granola.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until light golden brown and bubbly. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with ice cream or whipping cream.