Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mixology Cupcakes

With New Years right around the corner, I thought it would only be appropriate if I mixed up some spirits to make a cupcake treat.  This one has 3 types of alcohol in it, so I did not skimp on the mixer at all!  Even though I am not a certified mixologist when it comes to bar drinks, I think these are well worth presenting at a New Year's Eve party.

The base is a cupcake made with port wine.  Then, I poked holes in the top with a wooden skewer and brushed some syrup on top made out of Godiva liqueur.  It not only made the cupcakes have more flavor, it made them very moist.  Instead of leaving it at that, I frosted them with a fluffy Amaretto frosting.  The final touch was chocolate sprinkles on top.  The recipe makes 20 cupcakes.

Before I get to the recipe, I wanted to write a few thoughts about the coming of the New Year.  It is a time when the door is open to set things straight.  In other words, to get your house in order before 2012 gets here.  This may mean settling differences you may have with family or friends.  Or it may mean that you fix that door that has been creaking for the last 6 months. By doing that, the new year will be a fresh start.  Once your house is in order, then it is time to sit down and raise a glass to say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012! I wish all of you a happy New Year and that at midnight tonight, you are ringing in the New Year the best way you know how! Cheers!

Mixology Cupcakes
by fhourtrader

4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup red wine
1 2/3 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt, plus 1 pinch

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare muffin pan by greasing the top edge of the cavities.  Then line with cupcake papers.  Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking soda and 1/4 tsp of salt.  Then whisk in the sugar.  Pour in 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and stir until all is blended.  Mix in 1/4 cup of red wine.  Then repeat the same, adding the two liquids in 1/4 cup intervals until all the wine and oil is mixed in.

In a small bowl, beat one egg yolk with a fork and then add to batter.  Stir batter with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth and the egg is mixed in.  Continue with the same process for each of the egg yolks, so all is blended into the batter.  Set aside.

Fill a separate bowl with the egg whites and a pinch of salt.  Then beat at a high speed until the egg whites hold stiff, but not dry, peaks.  Fold the egg white mixture into the sugar/wine batter until no white streaks remain.

Then fill the cupcake liners with the batter. You can either pour it into the paper liners or use an ice cream scoop.  The cups should be filled evenly, about 3/4 full.

Place cupcakes in oven and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Remove and let cool in pan for 1 minute and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

Once cool, take a wooden skewer and poke holes in the top of the cupcakes.  The holes should be about 3/4 the depth of the entire cupcake.

Ingredients/Godiva Syrup
1/2 cup Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
2 tsp sugar

Stir together ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat.  Let cook and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.  Then remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes.

Using a pastry brush, brush syrup over the top of the cupcakes and let soak in.  Continue with the process until no more syrup is left.

Regarding the frosting below, it cannot be made in advance.  It must be prepared and used immediately.

adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs of butter (room temp)
4 egg whites
3 tbs and 1 tsp water
2/3 tsp vanilla
pinch of cream of tartar
2 tbs Amaretto
pinch of salt

Place sugar and water in a saucepan and stir. Put over medium high heat and let come to a boil until the sugar dissolves.  Then let cook until it reaches the soft ball stage or 238 degrees.  This can happen very quickly and if your mixture turns from white or clear to an amber color, it probably has gone past the soft ball stage.  Once proper consistency and temperature is reached, remove from heat.  Then pour into a heat proof bowl to let cool.

In a medium size bowl, beat egg whites for 30 seconds.  Then add the cream of tartar and salt.  Then beat on medium high until stiff peaks form but mixture is not dry.

Once the sugar syrup has cooled to lukewarm temperature or cooler, pour 2 tablespoons into the egg white mixture and beat for 30 seconds.  Then add the rest of the syrup and beat for 3 minutes.  Set aside.

In another bowl, cream the butter till fluffy. Add 1/4 cup of the butter to the sugar batter and beat for 2 minutes.  Continue with this process of beating the butter into the sugar batter in intervals.  Lastly add vanilla extract and amaretto and beat for 1 minute.

Then cut the corner off a gallon zip lock bag and place decorating tip inside, sticking out of the corner.  Fill the bag with the frosting and then ice the cupcakes.  Lastly, top with chocolate sprinkles.
                              **LAST YEAR: Pink Champagne Cupcakes**

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hendrix Pie

While I was cooking the filling for this pie, the batter was turning a purple color.  The thought that came to mind was the old song of Jimmy Hendrix called "Purple haze"  Even though he was before my time of delving into listening to lots of music, I do remember the tunes from this legendary singer and guitar player.  Some things, no matter how young you are, stick in your head.  So I decided to let that memory pop out, at least to name this creation.

This pie is made up of fresh pomegranate juice (I have the t-shirt stains to prove it), cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk. On top is a layer of sweetened sour cream. The base is made of ground almonds and graham cracker crumbs.  It is not shown in the picture, but the final serving on this does have a pomegranate syrup drizzled over it.

My husband was trying to get me to come inside with the fruit, but I did not feel like scrubbing that wretched stain of the fruit from ceiling to floor.  Best to let that fruit stain the outdoors rather than my kitchen cabinets.  The juice actually did get into my eye, but its attempt to stain that failed.

Anyhow after tasting the pie, I would say that the pomegranate flavor in the filling is subtle. However, the syrup and seeds does give it the extra zing of pomegranate bliss.  My favorite part was the bite with the fresh seeds on top. The sweet-sour topping as well as the almond crust did add some extra notes of tasty flavor.

Hendrix Pie
by flourtrader

4 tbs melted butter
3 tbs sugar
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup plus 2 tbs fresh pomegranate juice (I used 1 large pomegranate)
1/2 flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 8oz package cream cheese (room temp)
3 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup cold water

Ingredients/Sour Cream Layer
8 oz sour cream
2 tbs sugar
pomegranate seeds for decorating edge (optional)

1/4 cup fresh pomegranate juice
3 tbs sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the inside of a 9 inch pie pan.

For the crust, mix together graham crumbs, sugar and ground almonds.  Stir in melted butter until all ingredients are no longer dry.  Pour in prepared pie pan and press crumbs evenly in bottom and on sides.  Bake in oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden on edges.  Remove and let cool.

To make filling, beat cream cheese in a medium sized bowl for 1 minute.  Add the sweetened condensed milk and beat until thoroughly blended into the cream cheese.  Mixture should be smooth.  Set aside.

Prepare a double boiler with water and place bottom pan over heat and let come to a simmer.  While this is heating up, take the top pan (not placed over heat yet) and fill with the egg yolks.  Whisk until mixture is smooth and then add the water, whisking for another minute.  Add the salt and flour, teaspoon of sugar and continue to whisk together.  Then add the pomegranate juice and stir until all is blended.  At this time, I noticed that there were some lumps of flour in the batter.  I poured the batter into a bowl, cleaned the pot and then placed a sieve over the top pot of the double boiler and strained the mixture from the bowl into the pot.  The flour lumps that remained in the bottom of the sieve were pushed through using a spoon.

Place the top pan of batter over the bottom pan of simmering water.  Whisk the mixture constantly and cook for about 2 minutes.  Mixture should be like a thick pudding.  Once you reach that consistency, remove the pan and turn the heat down to medium.  Pour the cream cheese mixture into the batter and whisk for one minute to blend.  Then place the bowl back over the pan of water.  Cook and whisk the mixture again for about 5 minutes or until batter is very thick and smooth.

Remove pan and pour batter into graham cracker crust.  Smooth the top and then place it in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours or until set.

During this time you can make the sour cream topping.  Beat together the sour cream and the sugar until well blended.  Once the filling has set, pour the sour cream topping over the pie and smooth out using an offset spatula.  Place pie in refrigerator for another hour, then decorate the edges with pomegranate seeds.  Place pie in fridge for another three hours before serving.

One hour prior to slicing, you can make the syrup.  Place both juice and syrup in a small sauce pan and heat until sugar is dissolved.  Pour into heat proof bowl and place in fridge to cool.

To serve, cut with a sharp knife and place on plate.  Then drizzle with cooled syrup.
                   **LAST YEAR: Limoncello Cream Cheese Tarts**

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Timeline Ice Cream Stacks

This strawberry ice cream dessert has the makings of something an adult would eat.  However, its hue does bring me to a different timeline in my life, which is my childhood. To me, pink represents childhood.  When I think of this color my mind takes me back to when I was little and the world seemed large and filled with such wonder.  I remember the spinning pink tea cups at Disney World, fluffy cotton candy, my pink and white stuffed dog named "poochie" and pink puffy slippers.  Pink had a way of making me feel special and all girlie.

While I still like pink today, I am not so encased in it like I was in my childhood. I sometimes wonder if there was no pink when I was growing up, how different I would be today.  I do believe color does influence your outlook and state of mind.

This dessert is made up of an oatmeal crust with 2 layers of strawberry almond ice cream.  In between the layers is chopped up almond chocolate bars.  You can form this dessert in two different ways and the recipe includes the options.  The servings will be 10 with the use of the three inch ring molds and 20 with the 9X13 pan.

Timeline Ice Cream Stacks
by flourtrader

One large 4.5 oz almond chocolate candy bar, chopped
One 8 oz package of oatmeal cookies, crushed
4 tbs butter melted
2 tbs almond extract
1/2 gallon strawberry ice cream

If using ring molds, line a cookie sheet with wax paper and place each mold on top, with one side edge face down.  Make sure the molds are evenly spaced.

Remove the ice cream from the carton and place in bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 an hour.

Mix the melted butter and the crushed oatmeal in a small bowl.  If using a 9X13 pan, press the butter/cookie blend into the bottom of the pan, making sure all is even.  For the ring molds, place 3 tbs of the blend inside each mold and press down, evening the crumb mixture. Place in freezer for 15 minutes. 

Take the ice cream out of the fridge and add the extract and beat for 3 minutes at medium speed.

Remove the molds or pan of cookie crumbs from the freezer.  For the pan, spoon 1/2 the ice cream over the top of the crumbs.  For the molds, spoon 1/4 cup of the ice cream into each.  Smooth the top of the ice cream and place in freezer for  another 15 minutes.

Remove and scatter 3/4 of the crushed candy bar pieces over the layer of ice cream, making sure all inside edges are covered.  This step is important for the ring molds because you want the chocolate pieces to show through on the outer edges.  Then spoon the remaining ice cream over the top of the candy bars and freeze for about 5 minutes.  Remove and scatter the remaining candy bar pieces over the top.  Freeze for at least 4 hours.

To serve, remove from freezer and let sit about 10 minutes before cutting from pan.  For molds, remove from freezer, wait 5 minutes and remove from the wax paper, push ice cream stack from the bottom out of the mold and shift the stack to a plate to serve.
                          **LAST YEAR: Alfajores**

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reflections and Seasonal Thoughts

I have taken some time to reflect on my blogging as well as the blogging community.  In general, blogging can have its ups and downs.  However, my overall thought is that it was a good decision to move forward and go public with my blog this year. The positive aspects of blogging far outweigh the downs.

Also, as much as I would like to, there really is not enough hours in the day to pay tribute to all the food blogger friends that have enriched my life in these past months with their friendship as well as knowledge.  I am glad to be a part of the community and I appreciate each and every one of you.

I have said it before and I will say it again.  In my book, you are all top 9! Congrats and well deserved!

Also, I wanted to give a big shout out of thanks to Balvinder (aka Neetu) at Gluten Free Food for giving me the Fabulous Blog Award.  She does have some talent in the kitchen and it is reflected in each of her posts.  There is quite of bit of variety there, so I am sure you will find something to your liking, so hop on over to Gluten Free Food and introduce yourself if you have not yet!

Now, before you get deep into celebrating, I wanted to also take a moment to say have a safe and wonderful holiday!  Until we meet again in the blogosphere.....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Chocolate Banana Slices

It has been some time since I have indulged in a chocolate covered banana, so when I saw this recipe, I could not pass it up.   The recipe was found in a rather hi-brow dessert cook book so I was not to sure that I could achieve the same that was in the picture.

Even though the recipe had a step that involved making some type of foil collar to put around the cake, I decided to go ahead and make it. The collar was to hold the mousse layer at the same height right to the edge of the cake so it would set evenly.

In the long run, I skipped that step anyway. I just trimmed off the edges after the mousse set up so all of the cake was evenly covered with the mousse layer.  I have included both options in the recipe below.

This is definitely the recipe for someone who loves chocolate dipped bananas and if you also like them covered with peanuts, you can sprinkle them on top of the chocolate layer before it sets.

Chocolate Banana Slices
adapted from Kaffeehause Cookbook

3 eggs, room temp.
2 tbs milk
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sifted cake flour
3 tbs Dutch cocoa
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
vegetable oil spray (if doing foil collar method)

1 1/2 tbs rum
6 oz finely chopped bittersweet choc
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise

1 tsp corn syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

To make the base or cake layer, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the inside of a 8X11 cake pan.  Place parchment on the bottom and dust the bottom and sides with flour.

Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, mix for about 1 minute.  The put a pot of water over medium high heat and let come to a simmer.  Take the bowl from the stand mixer and place it over the simmering water, making sure the bottom does not touch the water.  Let the mixture cook while whisking constantly.  Continue to whisk and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the batter is hot to the touch.  You can test both qualities with your finger to detect any graininess as well as the heat factor.

Transfer bowl back to the stand mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, beat the batter on high speed for about 3 minutes.  The batter should be triple in size and fluffy after beating.

In another bowl, sift together the salt, cocoa and cake flour.  Set aside.  Then take out a saucepan and melt the butter on medium heat. Add the milk and heat until simmering.  Remove and stir in the vanilla.

Take half of the sifted mixture and fold into the egg batter.  Once blended, fold in the other half.  Scoop out a spoonful of the batter and stir it into the milk mixture. After that is blended, stir it back into the batter.  Spoon out batter into pan and smooth the top until all is even.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched  Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes and then invert onto rack.  Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely before adding the next layer.

To make the filling place a sauce pan with the cream over medium heat.  Let come to a simmer and remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and pour in the rum and let sit for 3 minutes, without stirring.  Then whisk until smooth.  Cover bowl and place in freezer.

After 15 minutes in the freezer, remove and beat with an electric mixer for 1 minute.  Cover and place bowl back in the freezer.  Continue with this process until the mousse is very thick and holds its shape like frosting.

Place the sliced bananas on top of the cake, cut side down.  Then smooth on the mousse.

If using a foil collar, spread the mousse evenly and leave about 1 inch from the edge of the cake.  Fold a 40 inch long strip of foil in half lengthwise.  You will have a strip 6 inches tall.  Spray the foil with the vegetable oil and wrap around the cake, oil side in and tape together at the ends.  You may need to crimp the foil to get a tight fit.  Then, using an offset spatula, smooth the mousse over the remaining 1 inch edges so it is touching the foil.  Place the cake on a serving tray and put in refrigerator to let the filling set.  This should take about 2 hours.

If not using a foil collar, follow the directions in the first sentence of the above paragraph. but smooth the mousse all the way to the edge of the cake.  Make sure it does not go over the side of the cake.  Place the cake on a serving tray and let the filling set.  This should take about 2 hours.

Then you can make the glaze. The above recipe came up short for me and I was unable to completely cover the cake, so I added an additional half of the glaze ingredients listed with the original measurements ( 2 tbs heavy cream, 1 oz chocolate and 1/2 tsp corn syrup).  Pour the cream into a saucepan placed over medium high heat.  Let come to a simmer and remove from heat.  Whisk in corn syrup and chocolate until mixture is smooth and resembles a dark hot chocolate.  Let cool for 5 minutes.

If you opted to use the collar, remove it from the cake. Pour the glaze on top of the set mousse layer and use a spatula to smooth it out, covering all of the edges as best you can.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until glaze sets.

If you did not use a collar, trim the edges where the mousse layer was uneven, using a hot, wet knife.  Use that same method for cutting servings.  Serve chilled.
                 **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Coconut Candies**

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coconut Apple Walnut Bread

I recently attended a charity event that went awry.  What was intended for the needy did not pan out completely.  Somehow 1/3 of it got twisted to be for friends and neighbors :(

Anyhow with that being said, it was time to go to the kitchen and get out of that negative funk by diverting my attention to making something delicious!  I did get to open my jar of coconut oil and use a little bit of brandy for this loaf, so needless to say I had the light on inside my oven awaiting the final product.  I was not disappointed, so I will not delay anymore.  The recipe is below.

Coconut Apple Walnut Bread
adapted from Free Coconut Recipes Website 

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I used a mix of chips and shreds)
1/2 cup chopped raisins
2 eggs
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup unpeeled minced apples
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour (I used all purpose)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Grease and flour a 9X5 bread loaf pan.  Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour.  Set aside.  Beat the coconut oil until fluffy and then add the sugar.  Beat for an additional minute.  Add one egg and mix in at medium speed for 30 seconds.  Repeat the process with the next egg.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the brandy until evenly distributed.  Mix in the minced apple.  Add the dry ingredients and fold into the batter, making sure no dry streaks remain.  Then mix in the coconut, raisins and walnuts.

Once all the ingredients are blended, spoon batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top until all is even.  Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, which is about 50-60 minutes.
Cool loaf in pan for about 10 minutes and then run a knife around the inside edge to loosen the bread.  Invert onto a rack to finish cooling.  To serve, slice evenly with a serrated edge knife.  I ate the bread plain and slightly warmed up for breakfast.  Others may prefer it toasted and spread with cream cheese.
                     **LAST YEAR: Chive Parmesan Scones**                  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tunnel of Cheesecake Blueberry Bundt

There are so many bundt recipes out there, but as far as the cake mixes they have disappeared from the grocery story aisle.  I did see a site that offers gourmet mixes on line, but as far as Pillsbury or Betty Crocker mixes they do not even have it in their line anymore.

My favorite of the bundt cakes are the filled ones.  This particular blueberry one is filled with almond flavored cream cheese. After baking, I found that it does make for a wonderful breakfast slice or afternoon snack.  Due to it being so lightly sweetened, it almost passes for bread instead of a cake.  I chose not to include the icing, which I am sure sweetens up things.  I had some marscapone cheese left from my last round of cupcakes, so I used it instead of regular cream cheese.  Also, the tunnel has almond extract in it which I thought paired well with the blueberry.

Tunnel of Cheesecake Blueberry Bundt
adapted from Land O Lakes Butter

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds, finely chopped

1/2 tsp almond extract
6 oz cream cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbs flour

2 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tsp milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 12 cup bundt pan and coat the inside of the pan with the chopped nuts.

Then you will need to make the filling.  Beat the sugar with the cream cheese until smooth.  Then add the egg and beat for about 1 minute.  Lastly, add the flour and the almond extract and blend until all is evenly distributed.  Set aside.

To make the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In another bowl, cream together the butter, vanilla extract and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients and then 1/2 of the sour cream.  Repeat that step and then fold in the last of the flour.  Then stir in the blueberries.  Divide the batter in half and spoon one half into the bundt pan and smooth the top with a knife or spatula.  Then make an indentation in the batter about 2 inches wide and one inch deep.

Take a gallon sized zip lock bag and cut one corner, making a one inch wide hole.  Fill with the cream cheese mixture and pipe evenly into the indentation of the blueberry batter.  Once all the filling is used, spoon the other half of the batter over the top.  Smooth carefully making sure that no cream cheese is exposed.

Place pan in oven and bake about 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan 20 minutes and then invert on to rack to finish cooling.

To make glaze, place cream cheese in bowl and then sift the confectioners sugar over the top.  Add extract and only 1 tablespoon of milk.  Beat until all is blended and smooth.  Then add additional tablespoons of milk to achieve desired consistency.  Then drizzle glaze over cooled cake.
                              **LAST YEAR: Cinnamon Donut Muffins**

Friday, December 16, 2011

Brown Mercedes Muffins

A long time ago I worked with someone that had an 1977 dingy brown Mercedes.  He had talked about getting a new paint job done on the car.  I asked what color he was going to get it painted.  "The same" he replied.  I told him that he should get it painted a different color, something with a little bit more flash.  He advised that while he liked the performance of the car, having one was never about flash or image.  Attracting attention was not something he was into.  I wondered about him the other day.  Perhaps he is still happily scooting down the road, unnoticed, in that same murky brown classic.

These muffins are kind of like that old car.  They have a wonderful flavor, but a rather humble appearance.  Which means that you will not have someone bolting across the room at the sight of these.  Serving these will be more civil, instead of a bunch of snatching hands.

The taste is really the game changer of that calmness. Just one bite of the fluffy muffin will drive your taste buds straight through a dark hazelnut tunnel. If that is not enough, there will be an occasional bump of chocolate chips and salty nuts.  So take your taste buds for a test drive with these humble brown muffins, the keys to get things started are below.

Brown Mercedes Muffins
from flourtrader

1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped, skinned and salted hazelnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup Nutella
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup or 5 tbs and 1 tsp butter (room temp)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
sparkling, slow melting sugar (optional for sprinkling on top)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease top edge of 14 muffin cavities, then fill with paper liners and set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In another bowl, beat together the butter and Nutella for one minute.  Add both sugars and beat again at medium speed for about 2 minutes, stopping to occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl.  While maintaining the same speed, beat in the egg and vanilla extract, making sure all is blended and mixture is smooth. Set the batter aside.

In a third bowl, whisk the yogurt and the applesauce together.

Take about 1/3 of the sifted ingredients and fold into the nutella/sugar batter.  Then add 1/2 of the yogurt/applesauce and stir until blended.  Follow the same steps again and then add the last third of the sifted ingredients.  Stir until no dry streaks remain.

Take 2 tablespoons of the measured out chopped hazelnuts and set aside.  Pour the remaining chopped nuts into the batter and then add the mini chips, stir until all is evenly distributed.

Using a scoop, fill each of the 14 muffin cavities evenly with the muffin batter.  They should be about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle the top of each with the reserved nuts. Then, if you have opted for the sparkling sugar, sprinkle it evenly on top of each muffin.

Place pans in oven and bake about 24-27 minutes or until done.  Pans will need to be rotated and  rack switched (from one to the other) halfway through the baking time. When done, top will spring back when lightly touched.

Remove pan and let muffins cool for a few minutes then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
                       **LAST YEAR: Spicy Sausage Calzones**   

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

3P Theory Biscuits

In medieval times, people had a very high regard for the strawberry. They were a symbol of peace, prosperity and perfection, hence the theory of the 3 P's.  Today, fruit rarely draws such attention.  I imagine if I had a gigantic strawberry statue in the front of my drive today, people would only think it to be strange or that we grew strawberries here!

While strawberries remain as a favorite of mine, I do agree that they have changed with time. The need for us to make bigger foods has somehow overshadowed the need for great taste.  I still stand by the little sweet strawberries as being the best and the bigger ones to be somewhat bland. When I went to the store to get the strawberries, I took some time in trying to get the container that had the smallest strawberries. 

The biscuits are not real sweet because I did want to keep them out of the sweet bread category.  I first experimented with plain yogurt and then various flavors.  The contrast flavors such as almond or banana did not carry into the final product, so I opted for just a subtle base of flavor which was vanilla.

Another thing discovered in creating was that the second pan of biscuits rose more and was fluffier than the first.  It may have been due to the cold yogurt inhibiting the rise.  The solution to that was to have the dough be covered and sit for some rise time and then bake them all at the same time. This recipe makes about 18 biscuits.

3P Theory Biscuits
by flourtrader

1 cup of finely chopped strawberries
1/3 cup and 1 tbs sugar
1 eight oz carton of vanilla yogurt
1 lightly beaten egg
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease 2 baking sheets. Take the bowl of chopped strawberries and stir in 1 tbs of sugar and set aside.

Sift together the baking powder, baking soda, salt and both kinds of flour.  Then stir in 1/3 cup of sugar. In another bowl whisk together the egg, yogurt and melted butter.  Fold the yogurt mixture into the flour until no dry streaks remain and then blend in the strawberries.

Cover bowl of dough and let rise for 15 minutes.  Then drop batter by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets.  Place all pans of biscuits in oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, turning pans at the halfway mark.  Biscuits are done when they are lightly browned on top.
                     **LAST YEAR: Wedding Cookies**

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pier Thirty Nine Bars

The namesake for these bars has to do with San Francisco.  At the corner of Pier 39 there is a coffee shop that sells Biscoff coffee, according the package of the Biscoff cookies.  Since this is a bar made with Biscoff, I thought that it would go well with the coffee!  Sadly I am not in San Francisco, so I guess I will have to make due with just these bars to satisfy my craving for the flavor of Biscoff.

It is a moist bar, falling between the brownie texture of fudgy and cakey.  Outside of that unique Biscoff flavor, the cinnamon streusel topping adds a delightful crunch.  Also, with the streusel, it can be a delicious breakfast treat as well as a snack. 

The streusel here can be made to your own preference.  You may want big buttery clumps while others like theirs more crumbly.  However, remember that the wait time required before use will cause it to dry out more.

Pier Thirty Nine Bars
by flourtrader

Ingredients/ Streusel
4 tbs of butter
2 tbs ground Biscoff cookies (I used a blender to grind)
1/2 cup flour ( or more depending how crumbly you like the topping to be)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs finely chopped walnuts

Melt butter in a small saucepan and then remove from heat.  Let cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients except for the walnuts.  After sifting, stir in the nuts.  Pour this dry mixture into the melted butter and stir with a fork until crumbs form.  Squeeze the mixture to make a large clump and then break apart so you have some pebble sized clumps.  Set the mixture aside for 15 minutes before using.

Ingredients/Bar base

1/4 plus 1/8 tsp baking powder
2 tbs of ground Biscoff cookies
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs flour
1/4 cup Biscoff spread
1 tbs butter
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1 egg
6 tbs sour cream
1 tbs dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (for sprinkling on top)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 inch square pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder and ground Biscoff cookies and set aside.

Place a saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter.  Then add the oil and the Biscoff spread.  Stir and let the spread melt into the butter and oil.  Once melted, turn the heat down to low.

In another bowl beat the egg with the granulated sugar until it becomes thick.  It should take about 2 minutes to reach that consistency.  Add the dark brown sugar and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Then beat in the vanilla extract.  Your mixture should be quite thick at this point.

Pour in the warm Biscoff mixture and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping ocassionally
to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing to make sure it is all even.

Then take some of the streusel mixture and clump it in your hands again and break apart.  Then sprinkle it onto the batter.  Continue with the process until all the streusel is sprinkled on top of the batter.  Using a light touch, press the sprinkled crumbs onto the top of the batter.  Sprinkle on the mini chips and press lightly again.

Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean and cake is pulling away from the sides of the pan.  This should take about 25-30 minutes.  Remove pan and let cake cool in pan on rack.  Cut into squares when ready to serve.
                          **LAST YEAR: Cranberry Fudge Pie**

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Goodies, Gadgets and Thanks

First of all, I wanted to say thank you to all the wonderful foodies in the blog community that buzzed those gingerbread latte cupcakes up to top 9!  I have always felt that you guys are the only ones that really understand all the trials and tribulations that go into a single post.  Yes, we would all like to crank out quality food posts with only 1 hour of total commitment time, but we are each operating at different levels of skills, so the level of effort varies.  However, I recognize that every foodies post is a creation done out of passion and commitment.  Glad I am in this special circle with all of you!

Well, Friday was a pretty fun day.  The best part was going to a few specialty markets and, next to that, I had a package waiting for me when I got back.  The above picture shows a few of the things that arrived by mail.  The fluted edged cookie cutters I have been wanting for a long time as well as the square cutters.  These will definitely come in handy!

Aside from that, below are just a few things of the things I got at the market:
After reading about how the above mix is used by several ski resorts, I could not pass this up-yum!
These little chips I never ever see at the regular grocers....between the flavor and the color, I definitely have a lot of ideas on how to make use of these chips running around in my head...
It may be cold outside, but tropical flavors are hardly forgotten about.  I have been wanting to bake and cook with this ingredient for awhile, so I was very happy to find this.

I probably will not get out to these particular markets for a few months, so I think these will serve me well in the meantime!  I am sure all foodies have something they want in the way of kitchen gadgets or specialty ingredients that lingers in the back of their mind prodding them to go out and buy it already!  So it is time to go to that special market and get those little green Matcha teddy bears or whatever you have been pondering over for so long.

Please note that I have not received any funds for blogging about the products shown in this post.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes

Coffee combos have been popping up everywhere in baked goods since the cold season has hit.  I was slated for another donation, so I was looking for something that had a little pizzaz rather than just a standard chocolate cupcake.

I had saved this recipe a few years ago, but it was originally posted in a blog back in 2007.  It has a nice blend of spices as well as a touch of chocolate and coffee.  Definitely packed with flavor and the cupcake texture is just right.  The only ingredient change I made was to sub espresso powder for the coffee extract.  The recipe below does not have that reflect any ingredient changes but I have switched around some of the steps which I feel makes things easier.

The special process with the baking soda on the cupcakes is a must, I made the mistake of sifting it in with the flour on the first batch and had poor results.  This recipe makes 1 dozen, but I made 4 batches so I am now quite familiar with the process!

Oh and those specks in the frosting is none other than coffee grinds.  So coffee lovers rejoice!  For those that are no so keen on the coffee, you can skip the syrup and coffee frosting.  Just use double the amount of the spice frosting.

Today, I am off to Central Market for some great produce and specialty food and ingredients for this holiday season!  While I have a list, I am sure there will be a few impulse buys as well.  While it is a long drive, the visit has always been well worth it.

Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes
adapted from Cupcake Project 

Ingredients/Simple Syrup
2/3 cup water
1 tsp coffee extract
2/3 cup of sugar

Mix sugar and water in a saucepan and then place over medium high heat.  Stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in extract.  Let cool.

1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs Dutch cocoa
1 1/4 cup flour
1 egg yolk
1 egg
5 tbs unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease top edges of muffin cavities of a 12 cup muffin pan and line with paper liners.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the first 7 ingredients and set aside.  In another bowl, beat together the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy.  This should take about 2 minutes.  Then beat in the egg yolk, egg and molasses until evenly distributed.

Fold the sifted flour mixture into the batter, making sure no dry streaks remain.  Take out a small microwavable bowl and add milk.  Heat in microwave about 30 seconds.  Sprinkle the baking soda into the milk and let foam up and then stir once and pour into batter.  Blend milk mixture into the batter until smooth.

Fill the 12 muffin cavities evenly with the batter.  They should be about 3/4 full.  Place muffin tin in oven and bake until tester comes out clean.  Mine were done in exactly 20 minutes.

Remove tin from oven and let cool for 2 minutes and transfer cupcakes to rack to finish cooling.  While they are cooling, you can start on your frosting.

Ingredients/Coffee Frosting

1/2 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tsp of coffee extract
2 tbs coffee grinds
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

With a mixer on high speed, beat cream until it reaches a soft peak consistency.  Then fold in the mascarpone with a wooden spoon. Add the coffee grinds and extract, stirring so all is evenly distributed.  Sift 1/2 cups of powdered sugar into cream mixture and beat on low speed for 30 seconds.  Repeat process 2 more times until powdered sugar is mixed into frosting.  Cover and place in fridge while you prepare other frosting.

Ingredients/Spice Frosting
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp Dutch cocoa
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup marscapone
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Regarding the measurements for the first five ingredients, the instructions say to use only a total of 2 teaspoons of the whole mix..  Instead of wasting anything, I halved the measurements on those 5 and had 2 1/2 teaspoons total and used it all.  You can decide which and then blend those first five ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Whip the cream and fold in the mascarpone as stated in the first frosting recipe.  Stir in 2 or 2 1/2 teaspoons of the spice mix.  Sift in 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar and beat on low speed for 30 seconds.  Continue with the same process until all the powdered sugar is blended.  Cover and place in fridge.


Using a wooden skewer, poke holes in the top of each of the cupcake and ladle about 2 teaspoons of the syrup on top.  Let soak in for about 15 minutes.

Now, if you have a special piping bag that allows for duo frosting, fill as instructed with both frostings.  If you do not, follow the instructions below. While the method below is not perfect, it can help in making the two separate frostings flow together evenly. 

Cut a small corner out of a gallon freezer bag and place a large piping tip inside the bag and poke part of it through the hole.  Put the bag in a large cup, fold it over the top and lay the cup on its side..  Take out one of the bowls of frosting and spoon it all into the bottom side, being careful not to touch the opposite side.  Take out the other bowl of frosting and spoon the frosting into the bag and on top of the other.  Set cup upright and unfold top edges and squeeze icing down to tip.

Now your are ready to frost the cupcakes and enjoy!
                             **LAST YEAR: Red Velvet Cupcakes**

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate Irish Potato Mini Cakes

With all the holidays coming up, I am looking for more individualized desserts instead of big pies or cakes.  This particular recipe is actually for a 12 cup bundt cake, but I halved the recipe and made these little cakes.

The interesting thing is that the moist texture comes from the mashed potatoes.  You definitely need to use real mashed potatoes, not instant.  Also, this recipe has Irish Cream liqueur in it.  Not just a few tablespoons but a whole cup, which makes these extra special.  I would say they tasted like little brownie cakes with  a zing of Irish cream.

The original recipe for the whole bundt cake is below.  Should you decide to make mini cakes, cupcakes or try any other deviation from the whole cake, the baking time should be adjusted.  I have not stated the time for mine because I consider my pan to be out of the norm.  The cavities are bigger than mini muffins but not as big as cupcakes.

Chocolate Irish Potato Cake
adapted from 365 Great Chocolate Desserts

1 3/4 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4  one ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 tbs espresso powder or instant coffee
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup Irish Cream liqueur
powdered sugar (optional, for dusting cake)

Make sure that the melted chocolate as well as the mashed potatoes have cooled before starting on this cake.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and generously grease a 12 cup bundt pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Take another bowl out and cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the espresso powder or instant coffee (whichever one you decided to use), melted chocolate and mashed potatoes.  Beat until all is smooth and evenly distributed.  This should take about 2 minutes.  Add an egg to the batter and beat for 30 seconds.  Continue with this process until all the eggs are incorporated into the batter.

Fold half of the flour mixture into the chocolate batter, making sure no dry streaks remain.  Then blend in the cup of the Irish cream.  Lastly, fold in the rest of the flour mixture until the all ingredients are well combined.  Spoon evenly into prepared cake pan.

Place pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean.  Baking time should be about 45-50 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes and then invert cake onto a rack to finish cooling.  If you have elected to dust with powdered sugar, do this step prior to cutting and serving. 
                                **LAST YEAR: Annie's Banana Cookies**

Monday, December 5, 2011

Babbling Brook Inn's Famous Cookies

There are so many wonderful cookie recipes floating around, I sometimes wonder if I will every get to making all the ones I want to try.  Just like a foodie-to many recipes, not enough time.

Anyhow, I made these cookies for donation last week and was not even sure I would post them here.  However, I did receive a call that the recipients raved about them, so it changed my mind.

The best thing about these cookies is that they are have a myriad of textures and flavors.  With ingredients like granola, oats, nuts and chocolate chips, the cookies are quite hearty.  The strange thing about the cookies is that after baking, they are left on the cookie sheet and covered with foil for about 4 minutes before you transfer them to the cooling rack.

Also, the recipe stated it makes about 20 cookies and to mix 6 of the ingredients in a small bowl. 20 cookies are made with an ice cream scoop of dough, but I halved the size and got 7 read it right-7 dozen!  So that would mean that scooping as they stated would have made 3 1/2 dozen.  Perhaps they were creating edible frisbees to get only 20 cookies??  Small bowl-not sure how they got over 11 cups of ingredients mixed up in a small bowl either.  Luckily this recipe can easily be halved for a smaller number of cookies.

Babbling Brook Inn's Famous Cookies
adapted from Recipes from American Country Inns & Bed & Breakfasts

2 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (I used pecans)
2 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup of raisins (I omitted)
2 cups orange almond granola (I used vanilla almond)
2 1/2 cups of rolled oats (I used quick cooking)
2 tsp baking powder
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups or 4 sticks of butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In one bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In another bowl, sitr together the first six ingredients.  Set this bowl aside also.

Cream together the butter and two sugars in a large mixing bowl.  Once it is light and fluffy, beat in the vanilla extract, eggs and water until all is smooth and evenly distributed.  Fold in the flour mixture until no dry streaks remain.  Lastly add the mix of the first six ingredients using a wooden spoon or clean hands.

Using a cookie scoop (if you want really large cookies) or a soup spoon, drop mounds of cookie dough onto baking sheet, spacing about  2 1/2 inches apart for large cookies or  1 1/2 inches apart for the smaller ones.  For the cookie scoop size, you should have about 9 cookies per baking sheet and the smaller size, about 11 cookies per sheet.

Place filled baking sheet in oven and bake for 7-8 minutes.  Then open the oven door, turn sheet and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes.  While cookies are baking, take out the foil and tear off a piece big enough to cover the baking sheet.  Remove baking sheet and, using pot holders to protect your hands, place the foil over the sheet of  cookies.  Let cool on pan for 5 minutes, the transfer to a rack with a spatula to finish cooling.

Repeat the forming and baking steps for the rest of the dough.
                          LAST YEAR: S'more Cookie Bars**

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sinbad's Basra Treats

The story of Sinbad indicates that the sailors home base was the city of Basra, which is known for its high quality of dates grown there.

This candy has a chewy base layer made up of macadamias, coconut flavoring and chopped dates.  The top is laden with white chocolate and a chocolate dipped macadamia for decoration. They are quite rich and tasty.

After making these, I have been toying around with the idea of making them into balls instead of using the cups.  The chewy layer is quite sticky so they may be better for serving prepared in balls instead of of in cups, but I am wondering about the extra sweetness added by coating them with more white chocolate. The recipe below makes 3 dozen candies.

Sinbad's Basra Treats
by flourtrader

1/2 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts plus 36 whole nuts for decoration
1 cup ground vanilla wafers
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 tbs shortening
1 cup chopped dates
1 tsp coconut extract

Line mini muffin tins with liners.  I used paper, but next time I will definitely use the sturdier foil cups.

In a small bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk and the coconut extract. Then take out a larger bowl and whisk together the ground nuts and vanilla wafer crumbs.  Pour the coconut/sweetened milk mixture into the bowl of nuts and wafer crumbs.  Stir until no dry streaks remain.  Blend in the chopped dates, making sure all is evenly distributed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for about 30 minutes.

After the dough is chilled, roll the mixture into 36 one inch balls and place each in lined mini muffin cavities.  You might have to do this in dozen batches if you have only one pan.  If so, just place dough back in fridge until the others have set so you can use the same pan again. Fill a small bowl with warm water.  Dip a soup spoon into the warm water and let the water drip off.  Using the back of the spoon, flatten the balls of candy into the paper cups.  The candy should touch all sides of the liners and be smooth on top.

Then set up your double boiler and fill the top pan with white chocolate chips and shortening.  Place over heat and stir until all chocolate and shortening is melted and smooth.  I had a problem with this because I do not have a double boiler and the steam caused the chocolate to quickly seize up.  Anyhow, spoon about a teaspoon of chocolate onto the date candy layer.  Then dip half of a whole macadamia nut into the chocolate and place on the center of each candy. Repeat this process until all candies are coated in chocolate and decorated.   Place pan in fridge for about 20-30 minutes or until chocolate has set.
                               **LAST YEAR: Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls**

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Emerald River Parfaits

One of my favorite flavor combinations is chocolate and mint.  Actually, it was also one of my grandmothers favorites. My grandmother on my mother's side of the family passed away prior to me being born so I never knew her.  It is funny what kind of traits you carry from generations past, even if you never met them.

Anyhow, the bottom layer of the parfait is a chocolate cream made with semi sweet chocolate and the top is made with white chocolate and mint.  The mint is derived from crushed Altoid mints.  This is a wonderful way to get a strong mint flavor infused into desserts.  I got the idea from David Lebovitzs' mint brownies.

This creamy dessert is a great way to end the meal.  It is definitely a recipe that I will make again. This recipe makes 4 dessert parfaits

Emerald River Parfaits
by flourtrader

Ingredients/Chocolate Layer
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin

Get out 4 wine glasses or any decorative glasses that hold 12 oz.  You will not be filling to the top, as shown in the picture above.

Place 1/4 cup and 2 tbs heavy cream in small bowl.  Sprinkle gelatin over top and push down with spoon to make sure it sinks.  Let stand for 7 minutes to soften.

Put remaining heavy cream ( 1 cup plus 2 tbs) and sugar in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Cook until mixture comes to a simmer.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips. Continue to stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.

Place pan back on heat and whisk in the gelatin/cream mixture.  Keep the heat low, for you do not want it to get to a simmer. Continue to stir until gelatin is dissolved.  Place a mesh strainer over a bowl with a pour spout.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the strainer.

Now it is time to fill the wine glasses.  Taking the bowl, pour some of the chocolate batter into a 1/3 measuring cup.  Then slowly pour it into the center glass, making sure that nothing drips on the outer edges.  Continue with this process, measuring out each addition for the next three glasses.  I kept measuring out even down to tablespoons to make sure the layer would be even for all 4 glasses.

Refrigerate for about 4 hours or until set.

Ingredients/Mint Layer
Same as chocolate layer except:
white chocolate chips replace semi sweet
include 2 tbs powdered Altoid mints (I used a blender to convert to powder)

Follow the instructions for the first layer above and add the powdered mints to the cream/sugar mixture prior to adding the white chocolate.

Pour the mint layer in the center of the glass, over the set chocolate layer.  Refrigerate another 4 hours or until set.

Optional: Prior to serving, garnish with sweetened whipped cream and an Andes Candie in the center of the cream.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Old Fashioned Cookies**

Monday, November 28, 2011

Citrus Sri Lanka Cookies

  The above cookie is made with simmered spices and orange extract. Since Sri Lanka is the major source for cinnamon, I have named the cookies accordingly.

In preparing these, I tried different sources for flavoring. Dried orange zest, orange juice, Grand Marnier as well as orange extract.  However, nothing held the orange flavor as well as the extract.  The only other thing I have considered is orange oil, which may give it a fresher flavor.

The cookies have a cinnamon/clove spice taste with a tart orange flavor.  The spices are picked up in the simmering process along with the coating after they are baked.  This cookie would be perfect for an afternoon tea.  This recipe makes about 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies.

Citrus Sri Lanka Cookies

Ingredients/ Cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1 1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter flavored shortening
1/3 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp orange extract

2 tbs ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
4 tbs sugar

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.  Fill a small saucepan with water, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks.  Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

In a medium size bowl, cream together sugar, butter and shortening.  Then add orange extract and beat for 1 minute at medium speed. Add 1/4 cup of the spice water and beat for an additional minute. Discard the remaining boiled cloves and cinnamon sticks, but keep the spice water in reserve.

Using a wooden spoon, fold the sifted ingredients into the batter, forming a dough that holds together.  If it is too dry, add a teaspoon of the boiled spice water and mix until it reaches the correct consistency.  I had to add two teaspoons to mine.  After that, you can discard the remaining spice water.

Shape the dough into a ball inside the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge 20-30 minutes or until dough can hold its shape and be easily formed.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Also, mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl.

Once the chilling time is complete, take dough out of fridge and shape into several 1 inch round balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the bottom edges start to brown.

Remove pan from oven and take each cookie and roll gently in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on rack to finish cooling.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Banh Mi Sandwiches**
Please note that this is the last of my vacation and I will be back blogging as normal tomorrow afternoon and the comment option will be available on new posts after today.  While vacationing with the family is enjoyable, I know I will probably be missing all my foodie friends by now and be anxious to get back into the swing of blogging.             

Friday, November 25, 2011

Oatmeal Butterscotch Muffins

The yearly physical is always a nice reminder that you are not what you used to be back in your younger days. As you get older, the hereditary health issues start revealing themselves. You leave with comments floating around in you head like, "you need to work on your cholesterol level" or "you need to eat more nuts and grains".
I know about all the benefits of oatmeal but I prefer to have a little bit more variety for breakfast. This put me in a mode to find something appealing for breakfast with oatmeal in it instead of just a plain bowl of oatmeal.  Also, I did not want to be eating oatmeal cookies for breakfast. So below is what I came across.  Not sure if it is better or worse than eating cookies, but one of these muffins was very filling.
You can definitely taste the oats, especially in the top toasty part.  Even though the oats are prevalent, you get an occasional bump of sweetness from the butterscotch chips.  I get my sweet fix and I am getting my grains.  Makes me happy as well as my doctor. This recipe makes about 3 dozen muffins, but it can be easily halved should you not want as many.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Muffins
adapted from Recipes from American Inns and Bed & Breakfasts

3 cups of flour
1 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 tbs baking powder
1 18 oz box of oatmeal or 7 cups (instant or regular)
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups or 3 sticks of butter
1 quart of low fat buttermilk
1 1/2 cups of butterscotch chips tossed with 2 tbs of flour

You will need to start with four bowls of ingredients.  In the first bowl, mix together the oatmeal and buttermilk.  Then stir in the brown sugar.  This will need to set for at least and hour for the liquid and sugar to be absorbed.  Place the 6 eggs in the second bowl and beat with a fork until lightly frothed.  In the third bowl, sift together the salt, baking soda, baking powder and flour.  Lastly, melt the butter in the fourth bowl and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease the top edges of the cavities of the muffin pan and place cupcake liners inside.

After your oven is preheated, butter has cooled and oat mixture has sat for an hour, you are ready to make the batter.  Mix the butter into the oats until liquid is absorbed.  Then blend the eggs into the batter.  Fold the dry ingredients into the batter until no dry streaks remain.  Lastly, fold in the butterscotch chips that have been mixed in the flour.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill the cavities with the batter.  They should be about 3/4 full.  Bake for 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.   Let cool in pan for about 2 minutes then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.
                            **LAST YEAR: Pecan Brown Butter Bread**
Please note that comments are not open due to my being on vacation for the Thanksgiving Holiday, since I will be unable to reciprocate or answer any questions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Peach Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce

I have never made bread pudding before nor eaten it, so I was not sure what to expect.  I was wondering if it would be like french toast or something a little different.  After making this recipe and tasting it, I was pleasantly surprised.

While baking, the bread transformed to a custard.  You could not even tell that there was any bread in the dish at all.  It has a creamy almond custard taste for the bottom component and is topped with peaches, cinnamon, almonds and brown sugar.  The picture above does not show the dish with the sauce, but to me it was a vital component to making this dish complete in taste.

In the picture the peaches look to be on top of the custard.  I did skip the step of pressing down the slices into the pan, so that task may help to envelope the peach in the bread pudding instead of having it only on top.  Either way, I am sure the dish is just as delicious as the other.

Peach Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce
adapted from Recipes from American Inns and Bed & Breakfasts

Ingredients/Bread Pudding
1/4 cup and 2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
15 oz can sliced peaches in heavy syrup, drained
3 1/2 cups cubed bread (1/2 inch square), crusts removed
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
4 1/2 tsp ground almonds

Grease an 8 inch square baking pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together milk, eggs, sugar and almond extract.  Place cubed bread evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan.  Pour in egg mixture, making sure all bread is covered.  Then place peach slices on top, distributing evenly and pressing down with a spoon.

In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and brown sugar.  Then sprinkle on top of the bread pudding.  Lastly sprinkle with the ground almonds.

Place pan in oven and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, which is about 45-55 minutes.  While this is baking, you can prepare your sauce.

Ingredients/Amaretto Sauce (makes 1 cup)
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp flour
1/4 cup or 1/2 a stick of butter
2 tsp Amaretto

In a small saucepan, stir together flour and sugar.  Add butter and half&half.  Then place over medium high heat and stir until butter is melted.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and stir in Amaretto.

Place a serving of warm bread pudding in a bowl.  Then ladle with some of the sauce and serve.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Shortbread Squares**
Please note that this post is not open to comments since I am on vacation due to the Thanksgiving holiday and am unable to reciprocate or answer any questions.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Coconut Custard Bars & Holiday Blogging Status

I have been craving some coconut pie recently and I did not want to make a large one.  In reviewing some recipes, I came across this one for these bars.

The bottom is a shortbread crust and the middle is a smooth custard with rum and coconut.  It is all topped with chopped cashew nuts.   In reviewing several recipes, they do use coconut milk in the custard, which is the accepted standard.  For those of you looking for a blast of coconut, note that these bars have only a subtle flavor of coconut.

They are a tasty stack of layers.  The sweet buttery pastry crust is a nice base for the silky custard.  The custard has notes of rum and a bit of chew from the coconut.  Also, regarding flavor and texture, the cashew crunch on top does so much more for the custard than the standard coconut topping that you get with a pie.

Also, please note that I will be on holiday from 11/22 thru 11/29.  I have someone that will be releasing posts that I have in edit mode.  However, since I will be unavailable to comment or answer any questions, my comments will be closed at noon CST on 11/22 and opened back up at noon CST on 11/29.  I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Coconut Custard Bars

adapted from The Good Cookie Cookbook

1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
2 tsp cold water
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter, cut into cubes
1 1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch square baking pan and line bottom and 2 sides with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on each side.

Sift together flour and salt.  Then whisk in sugar.  Using a pastry cutter, blend in butter cubes until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.   Make a well in the center of  the dough and set aside.

In a small bowl, beat together water, egg yolk and vanilla extract until completely blended.  Pour into dough and mix with a wooden spoon until dough forms a smooth clump and no dry streaks remain.

Press dough into bottom of pan, making sure it reaches all corners and has an even thickness.  Place in oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until it has a golden hue.  Remove and let cool completely in pan before filling.

Ingredients/Filling & Topping
1 tbs vanilla extract
2 tbs dark rum
1 egg yolk
2 eggs
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs flour
pinch of salt
1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup toasted cashew nuts, chopped (salted or unsalted, your preference)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the shredded coconut of the cooled pastry crust.

Then place the eggs, egg yolk and sugar in a medium sized bowl.  Using a wire whisk, blend the ingredients until smooth.  Then add 1/4 cup of the coconut milk and blend with the wire wisk.  Continue adding the coconut milk in 1/4 cup increments and whisking after each addition until no more milk remains.  Then stir in the flour, vanilla extract, rum and salt.

Holding a sieve over the pan with the crust and coconut, pour the filling into the sieve. Move the sieve around so the filling falls in more than one area of the crust.  You do not want all the coconut to float to the outer edges, so moving it keeps this from happening. The filling should cover the whole top of the crust.  Lastly, sprinkle the cashews evenly over the top.

Bake for 25-40 minutes or until the filling is set.  Mine took about 35 minutes.  Remove pan and let cool completely.  Then slide a knife between the bars and the pan on the sides without parchment.  Lift bars out of pan and place on platter.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before cutting and serving.  Bars should be refrigerated for storing.
                                              **LAST YEAR: Whole Grain Mustard Rolls**

Friday, November 18, 2011

Alex's Labyrinth Coffeecake

History indicates that it was Alexander the Great that discovered plantains.  Since this cake is filled with a maze or labyrinth of plantain puree, I felt the above name of this coffeecake to be very fitting.

Now, to describe the components of this coffeecake.  The cake part is airy and sweet, pretty much typical for most yeasted coffeecakes. The filling, however, is what usually makes a cake like this stand out.  To create the filling, plantains are cooked in a pan of butter, brown sugar and brandy.  Then they are pureed with all the syrup from the pan along with some ground cinnamon and vanilla extract.  The filling is smoothed onto the dough and then topped with toasted pecans and rolled up.  The top of the coffeecake laden with powdered sugar streusel.

The cake part has that light and airy texture with a touch of sweetness. You can taste the plantain filling along with the kick of brandy.  The filling is not too sweet because I wanted to retain a stronger, more natural taste of the plantains.  Should you want more sweetness, you can sprinkle more brown sugar onto the filling prior to rolling it up.

Alex's Labyrinth Coffeecake
by flourtrader

3 ripe plantains
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups of chopped toasted pecans for sprinkling
extra brown sugar for sprinkling (optional)

To make filling:
 Place a saucepan over medium high heat and melt butter and add peeled plantains.  Lightly brown plantains, turning once.  Remove from heat and turn heat to low.   In a separate bowl, mix together the brandy, vanilla and cinnamon.  Place the saucepan over the low heat and add sugar.  Then pour in the brandy spice mixture. Turn heat to medium and cover plantains.  Cook for 30 minutes, turning and shifting plantains from time to time until the syrup gets thicker.  Remove from heat and let cool.

After plantains have cooled, place in food processor and pour in the pan syrup.  Pulse for about 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes a smooth paste.  Empty paste into a bowl and cover.  Place bowl in fridge while preparing bread dough for coffeecake.

3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbs rapid rise yeast
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, softened and cubed
1/3 cup non fat dry milk
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup of sugar
2 1/2-3 cups of  regular flour
2 1/2 cups bread flour

1 beaten egg
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup flour
4 tbs butter

Generously grease a 10 inch tube pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the warm water and the yeast.  Let sit for about 2-3 minutes to dissolve and foam up.  Then whisk in eggs, sugar, salt, dry milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice.  Add the butter pieces and all of both types of flour.  Using a paddle attachment, beat the ingredients on low speed  for about 3 minutes or until combined.  You will have a sticky clump. Let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.

Change the batter blade in the mixer to a dough hook and knead the dough for 12 minutes on low speed.  You will need to periodically add some flour during this time to help create a smooth dough.  The dough will get to the point where it is no longer sticking to the side of the bowl.

Preheat the oven to 100 degrees and turn it off once it reaches that temperature. Place the dough in a well greased bowl and dot the outside of the bowl with a piece of the dough, marking where the dough level is inside the bowl. Cover with a towel and place inside the oven.  Let rise until dough has doubled in size, which should take about 45-60 minutes.

After the first rise, remove the dough from the bowl, punch down and place on a smooth, floured surface.  Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes. While that is resting, remove plantain puree from fridge.

Then roll out dough into a 20 inch square.  Using a knife, or clean hands, smooth plantain puree on the surface of the dough.  Then sprinkle with toasted pecans and lightly press down so they stick onto the filling.  Should you want your filling to be sweeter, sprinkle a layer of brown sugar over the layer of nuts and press down lightly again.  Then roll up dough in jelly roll fashion.  Place dough in tube pan, arranging so it is fairly even, without a large overlap.

Now it is time to make the topping.  Whisk together flour and powdered sugar and cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Preheat oven again to 100 degrees and turn off when temperature is met.  Brush the top of the dough with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with the topping. Lightly press down crumbs so they adhere to the dough. Then tear open one side of a gallon zip lock bag and place over the bowl of dough.  Put pan in oven and let dough rise until it is 1 inch over the top of the pan.  This should take about 45-60 minutes.

Once the second rise is completed, remove pan of dough from oven.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place pan of dough on top.  Put in preheated oven and let bake 50-70 minutes or until golden brown.  Mine took about 60 minutes.  Remove baked coffeecake from oven and let cool on pan about 20 minutes.  Then invert cake onto baking sheet and then invert again onto serving platter. Slice and serve warm or cold.
                                       **LAST YEAR: Key Lime Bars**

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweetheart Snow Bowls & A Shout Out

This dessert is definitely one you will want to share with someone, perhaps your beloved husband or child, because the dessert is way too big and indulgent for one.  However, if you want this to yourself, I won't tell anyone!

 The bowl is made of a chocolate cookie which is brushed with melted chocolate on the inside for sturdiness as well as flavor.  On the edge is sweetened whipped cream edges made to look like snow rather than a shapely piped design.  Then it is filled with strawberry vanilla ice cream.  I added a little touch by pouring some Godiva chocolate liqueur over the ice cream.

In researching ice creams, I have found that the standard homemade is best served after 30 minutes of freezing right after you are done making in your ice cream machine.  The longer it is stored in the fridge the harder and icier it gets, including the fruit. If you do store this, it is best to let get soft before serving.  Also, the smaller you chop your strawberries the less like you are to notice the iciness.  The sugar does ward off some of the freeze, but it will not help if you store for hours in the fridge.  The other option is to puree the fruit.

The bowls do require a mold, which was actually the bottom side of a mini ball cake pan. If you do not have a mold, you can cut squares and rectangles to make a box (kind of like gingerbread houses) and seal with chocolate to make the container.  Or you can just make the cookies and decoratively stick them into the ice cream prior to serving.

Now before I get to the recipe, I wanted to give a shout out of thanks to Stephanie over at  Cooking Cowgirl.  Recently she did her first give away and I won some goodies.  It was a hectic week so it did take me awhile to respond but she was very sweet and patient about it. Stephanie has been blogging for a little over a year now, but there is a lot of tasty variety on her site. She even has a tab for food gifting ideas.  I have latched on to her special recipe for some very flavorful blondies-black walnut, dark chocolate and toffee-yum!  So if you do not know her yet, pop on over there and introduce yourself!

Now on to the recipe, this makes 12 chocolate bowls and 1 quart of ice cream.

Sweetheart Snow Bowls
by flourtrader

Ingredients/ Chocolate Bowls
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter
2 squares of unsweetened chocolate
12 oz (or more) semi sweet chocolate chips

Prepare pan by greasing domes including around the bottom edge. In a double boiler, melt unsweetened chocolate.  Remove pan and let cool.

Sift together salt, baking powder and flour.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Then beat in vanilla and egg.  Pour in the cooled chocolate and beat again, making sure that all is well blended.

Fold the dry ingredients into the chocolate batter until no more dry streaks remain.  Cover dough and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place two sheets of wax paper on the counter.  Remove dough from the fridge and put in between wax paper and roll to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into 4 3/4 or 5 inch circles.  Remove each piece and shape over the molds, smoothing and making sure there is a 3/4 inch gap between the mound and the flat part of the pan.  This isn't a perfect process, so you will have to work with the dough a bit.  Bake in oven 8-12 minutes or until done.  My baking time was 10 minutes.

Remove pan and quickly cut off any cookie parts that baked onto the flat of the pan, so all you have is a bowl shape which will be the top edge.  Let cookies cool about 3 minutes and carefully remove from mold. If you wait too long, the cookies will stick and crack when you try to remove them. Place on bowls cookie sheet, with the side you are going to fill face up, and put in freezer.

After all the cookies are baked and in the freezer, place chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium high heat. Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally.  Once melted, remove from heat. Take the cookie cups from the freezer and brush the inside with the melted chocolate.  Place back in freezer until you are ready to fill.

Ingredients/Ice Cream

2 cups finely chopped and hulled strawberries
1 tsp ground vanilla beans
2 eggs
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tbs fresh lemon juice

Mix together strawberries, 1/2 cup of sugar and lemon juice.  Cover and place in fridge for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. After an hour rolls by, mix ground vanilla beans with whipping cream.  Cover bowl and place in fridge for 1 hour.  Once the strawberries are completely chilled, strain out juice and put strawberries and juice in separate bowls.  Cover and put strawberries back in fridge.

Beat eggs in a small bowl until they have a light froth, about 2 minutes.  Add the remaining sugar in 3 increments of 1/4 cup, whisking after each addition.  Then whisk in vanilla/heavy cream mixture and milk.   Pour in the strawberry juice and mix to blend.

Pour ice cream batter into your ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's instruction.  On the last few minutes of the process, add in the strawberries.  Once finished, empty ice cream into a large bowl and freeze for 30 minutes.

Ingredients/Whipped Cream Border
1 cup whipping cream
3 tbs sugar

Place cream and sugar in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.  Your cream is now ready to be used.

Assembly Instructions:
Take whipped cream and place in a piping bag with a large tip.  Remove cookie bowls from freezer and pipe cream around the top edge.  You can either make a pretty piping or be reckless and make it look more like a snow border.  Fill with scoops of ice cream.  Drizzle with your favorite topping, I poured some chocolate liqueur over mine.
                                      LAST YEAR: Asian Braised Short Ribs**