Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

These pumpkins were so much fun to make! Way better than carving a real pumpkin and having to grab out ooey, gooey pumpkin guts. Wait, I still get to do that too so I guess I get the best of both worlds.

I actually worked on these cookies over about a week's time which was a nice experience. I'm usually of the mind frame of waiting until the last minute because I want them to be the freshest possible. However with these particular cookies that just wasn't going to work. Well, I shouldn't say that. It worked for about half of them.

I made two batches, one for my son's preschool class treats on his "star" day and one for my class at school a week later. His cookies for preschool were baked on Sunday, iced on Monday, and eaten on Tuesday. It was a long night on Monday after working a full day, coming home and making dinner, putting him to bed and then getting started on decorating. Let's just say the picture I had in my mind wasn't what came out on the cookies. The only saving grace I had that night was the reassuring thought that they were going to be eaten by preschoolers who hopefully had not yet developed into sugar cookie snobs.

Looking back on it they really didn't turn out too bad. The other batch was also baked on Sunday night, a few were iced on Monday. Most were then put into the fridge where I took them out every few days to add the icing. One day I iced all the stems. Another day I got almost all of the orange finished. The last day I finished the orange and did the green leaves and curling stems. It was so much fun on that last day to be able to add detail and not feel rushed.

I'm really happy with how they turned out. My husband ended up buying me a decorating tip and smaller disposable bag because the squirt bottles I typically use were just not small enough to get the leaf and curly stem detail. More practice needed, but not too bad at the end of the day. Enjoy!

You can find my favorite recipe for sugar cookies and royal icing here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daring Bakers - Povitica

 The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

I have seen Povitica in mail-order specialty food catalogs and have always been intrigued by it. I love specialty foods, especially if they come in the form of sweet breads! I rarely purchase any of these foods, a little too rich for my wallet, but I definitely drool over the photos. You can imagine then that I really looked forward to baking this months challenge.

Povitica (pronounced poh-vee-teet-sa) is also called potica depending on what Eastern European country you come from. It is always fun completing challenges that are based in cultures different from mine.

I thought that the best part of this challenge was cutting into the bread! It was almost like opening a present on Christmas morning and not knowing what you were going to get. The outside packaging was so unassuming so I was on pins and needles waiting to see how the swirls turned out. You can see from the photos at the top that the two loaves of bread turned out quite different. But even within the same loaf the swirling was varied. The photo on the top left is the same loaf as the photo below, but one cut was made in the middle where the two ends met and there was less filling and the other cut was toward the end of the bread in the heart of the filling.

I did have some issues with the dough which I guess can be expected when you have to roll it out until it is almost transparent. Let's just say I didn't get it quite that thin. I know I complained last month about having to roll dough out to a certain size or shape but this month it was almost the other extreme. I wasn't sure how big I was supposed to roll it out nor what shape it was supposed to be in. At one point the directions said a 10-12 inch diameter which suggests a circle, but the rolling up process suggests a rectangle. I'm still not 100% sure and I think I got a cross between the two shapes. Mine looked a bit more like a wrinkly elephant ear.

I also ran into trouble with trying to figure out what type of filling to use. I decided to bake only two loaves instead of a full batch of 4 and I knew I wanted to use the traditional walnut for one of the fillings. At first I thought I would use a sweet pecan filling for the other but then I realized it would be too close to the walnut. Then I thought I'd use a cream cheese chocolate chip filling but I realized I didn't have cream cheese and I forgot to stop by the store twice when I had the opportunity so that was a no go. I finally scrounged in my fridge and realized I had a jar of apple butter which I could top with raisins and a few chopped walnuts. I think I liked the walnut filling better since it was a bit more mild when paired with the bread, but there were sometimes that I did like the tartness of the apple butter.

I enjoyed making this bread and now that I know a few tricks on how to and not to roll it out I think I will be making this around the holidays for some special gifts.

Makes 4 loaves

Activate Yeast:
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast

2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons table salt
4 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
8 cups all-purpose flour, sifted then divided

Walnut Filling:
7 cups ground walnuts
1 cup whole milk
1 cup unsalted butter
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup cold strong coffee
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
melted butter

To Make the Dough and Activate Yeast:
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180 degrees F), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. Allow to cool slightly until it is about 110 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into 1/2 cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to stand 5 minutes.

Once milk is cooled to 110 degrees F, mix the scalded milk, 3/4 cup sugar, and the salt until combined. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups of flour. Blend thoroughly; slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. (You may not use all your flour.) Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will weigh about 1.25 pounds each). Place dough in 4 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place.

To Make the Filling:
In a large bowl, mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa. Heat the milk and butter to boiling. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough. (If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.)

To Roll and Assemble the Dough:
Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered. (I had to clip mine down so the cloth didn't move.) Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly).

Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches in diameter. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons for melted butter on top and work into dough. (This part made my edges stick to my sheet.)

Continue to roll out your dough until it is thin enough to see the print of the sheet through it. Spoon filling evenly over dough until covered. Lift the edge of the dough and gently roll it jelly roll style. (You can also roll both edges in toward center until they meet - it will look like to long rolls sitting next to each other.)

Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift the end and fold it back to the halfway point. Then lift the other end and fold it back to the halfway point. Flip it upside down (seam side down) and set in greased loaf pan.

Brush the top with the coffee topping mixture or if you prefer, you can also used egg whites in place of coffee mixture. Cover pans lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees F and bake for an additional 45 minutes. (Check bread every 30 minutes - if it is browning too fast cover loosely with aluminum foil.)

Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter. Allow to cool in loaf pan until completely cool. It is recommended to slice it by turning it upside dough and slicing with a serrated knife.

Half Batch Ingredients:
Makes 2 loaves

Activate Yeast:
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon dry yeast

1 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted then divided

Walnut Topping:
3 1/2 cups ground walnuts
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 whole egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup cold strong coffee
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
melted butter

Quarter Batch Ingredients:
Makes 1 loaf

Activate Yeast:
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons table salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted then divided

Walnut Topping:
1 3/4 cups ground walnuts
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk from a large egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons cold strong coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
melted butter

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Almond Joy Banana Bread

Highlights magazine  . . . who would have thought that a kids magazine could lead to a batch of banana bread. My son was reading his magazine with dad and they came across a story of some kids baking up a batch of banana bread. He, of course, immediately wanted to bake up a batch but instead of it being a traditional banana bread he wanted it to have almonds. We ended up making one loaf with just almonds and the other loaf with coconut, almonds, and chocolate chips. Yummy! Enjoy!  

Almond Joy Banana Bread
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Place oven rack in lowest position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of loaf pans.

Mix sugar and margarine in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt just until moistened. Stir in coconut, almonds, and chocolate chips.

Pour into pans. Bake about 60 to 75 minutes (about 25 minutes for mini loaves) or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 5 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans. Cool completely before slicing.

Makes 2 loaves

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cranberry Zucchini Muffins

More zucchini bread experimentation as we harvest the plethora of plants that are taking over our garden. Dense would be a great adjective to describe this muffin. Heavy and chock full of cranberries and chopped walnuts. Filling the tin to the top is definitely the way to go. I love how the muffin tops are like large crowns popping up over where the muffin would normally end. I would recommend these as a great hearty muffin. Enjoy!    

Cranberry Zucchini Muffins
Source: Simply Recipes

1-1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups zucchini, grated
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons baking soda
pinch of salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the zucchini mixture and mix in. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir these dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. Stir in walnuts and dried cranberries.

Coat each muffin cup in your muffin pan with a little butter or vegetable oil spray. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin batter equally among the cups, filling the cups up completely. Bake on the middle rack until muffins are golden brown, and the top of the muffins bounce back when you press on them, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick or a thin bamboo skewer to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan, let cool another 20 minutes.

Makes 12 to 14 muffins

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Raspberry Cheesecake


Chocolate crust, creamy cheesecake, sweet yet tangy raspberry sauce . . . yum! These flavors and textures match together perfectly. This cheesecake recipe holds a special place in my life because it was the very first cheesecake that I ever made 15 years ago. Holy cow, 15 years ago! Has it really been that long? My very first Taste of Home magazine (mailed to me 15 years ago) introduced me to this delicious dessert and while I have made other cheesecakes since then it is definitely one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Raspberry Cheesecake
2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs, crushed
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

Raspberry Sauce:
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1 cup whipping cream
2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed

Combine the three ingredients for the crust; press into bottom and 1-1/2 inches up sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Chill one hour or until firm.

Puree raspberries in blender. Press through a sieve; discard seeds. Add water if necessary to measure 1 cup. In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in raspberry juice; bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla until fluffy. Add egg whites; beat on low just until fluffy. Add egg whites; beat on low just until blended. Stir in cream. Pour half of filling into crust. Top with 3/4 cup raspberry sauce (cover and refrigerate remaining sauce). Carefully spoon remaining filling over sauce.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until center is nearly set. Remove from oven; immediately run a knife around pan to loosen crust. Cool on wire rack 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight. Add orange juice to chilled raspberry sauce; gently fold in raspberries. Spoon over cheesecake.

Makes 12-16 servings

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Apple Pie Bread

Another recipe I found while flipping through a magazine at the pediatrician's office. I think I saw 4 or 5 recipes in that particular magazine that interested me enough to come home and look their recipes up online. As I said before, I must have been hungry because it seemed like I wanted to make just about every food item I saw!

This bread comes together pretty easily and is super moist. There are two downfalls however; one is that the streusel-nut topping doesn't get baked in. It just sits on top of the bread so that when you take it out of the loaf pan half of the topping falls off the bread and onto the counter. You can still eat it with a spoon and it is yummy but the point is to have it on the bread. The other downfall is that it falls apart super easy when you cut it. Again, you can use a fork or spoon to eat it but it is frustrating to have it fall into a bunch of little pieces when slicing it. I thought maybe after sitting in the fridge it would slice easier, but not so much. It was tasty, but good luck with getting it to not fall apart on you. Enjoy!

Apple Pie Bread
Source: Better Homes and Gardens

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups peeled apple, shredded (about 4 medium)
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup raisins

Streusel-Nut Topping:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in sugar until combined. Add buttermilk and baking powder; beat until combined. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour and salt; beat until combined. Stir in apple, nuts, and raisins.

Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Make Streusel-Nut Topping; sprinkle over batter. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chicken Meatloaf

My original menu plan and recipe called for a turkey meatloaf. I thought, "Great, now I can use that ground turkey meat that has been in my freezer for months." Not until I pulled it out to thaw did I realize that it was actually ground chicken and not ground turkey. Oops.

I don't think the taste (what there was of it) was altered much. It wasn't a great recipe, in fact I will probably use a different meatloaf recipe I have for future meatloaf meals, but at least I branched out and tried something new. I guess that's all I have to say about it which is pretty sad in and of itself. Enjoy, should you decide to try it!

Chicken Meatloaf
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg
1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray loaf pan with non-stick spray.

Combine all ingredients mixing by hand. Press into prepared loaf pan and cook for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Leaf Sugar Cookies

All last year I wanted to make leaf shaped sugar cookies but I couldn't find any leaf cookie cutters locally. I didn't want to buy online, and I couldn't get down to the big city to check out the cookie cutter store. A whole year has gone by and I finally made not one, but two trips to the big city just to get a leaf shaped cookie cutter!

I guess technically it was three times that I made the trip. The first time we were just passing through and we got there about an hour after the store closed. No big deal, we'll just stop by on way back through tomorrow. Um, nope. Didn't happen to notice the sign on the door when stopping by the first time that stated that the business would be closed on the next business day. Oops, a bit out of the way so hubby was not a happy camper. A week later, a special trip, and voila, leaf shaped cookie cutter in my possession! (I'll also have you know that I purchased a few Christmas ones and another apple because who knows when I will be getting down there again.)

Was it worth it? Absolutely! One happy boy who got to take cookies for his preschool star day, one happy mama who now has a leaf cookie cutter, and one happy hubby who gets to eat the spoils.

I used my tried and true sugar cookie recipe that you can find here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pineapple Zucchini Muffins

My neighbor gave me this recipe a few years ago when we had an overabundance of zucchini from our garden. I tried many different zucchini recipes but for some reason I never got around to this one. Well . . . I guess I can't say "for some reason" because I know the reason. She titled her recipe Spicy Pineapple Zucchini Muffins and when I think of spicy I think of chilis and jalapenos and spicy things like that which just don't go with zucchini bread in my mind. Once I actually looked at the ingredients and realized that the spicy was just cinnamon and nutmeg I realized that it wasn't much different from any other zucchini bread recipe. You might be saying, why didn't you just look at the ingredients two years ago when you got the recipe to see that there weren't jalapenos or anything like that in it. That's because my neighbor wrote the ingredients and amounts within the recipe and I guess I was in too big of a hurry to decipher her cursive handwriting.

What's funny is that when I mentioned to her a few weeks ago that I finally used the recipe to make some zucchini pineapple muffins she couldn't even remember having the recipe at all. She had no idea what I was talking about. Go figure. Enjoy!

Pineapple Zucchini Muffins
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans.

Beat eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until thick and foamy. Stir in zucchini and pineapple.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir into mixture. Stir in walnuts and raisins.

Divide batter evenly between 2 loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; turn onto a wire rack to cool thoroughly.

Makes 2 loaves