Monday, February 28, 2011

Inside Out Burgers

Out of all the people that won the contest of the Food Network star, Guy Fieri has really become the most popular.  Outside of his two shows, he also has played host to food contests and been in several commercials. 

I think some of his appeal is that he is portrayed as the down to earth chef that makes real "man food" cuisine. "Man-food" is defined as a dish high in meat, made for taste (not for the calorie or fat conscious) and usually goes great with beer. This chef can be found at tailgate parties, the local diner and at the grill with steaks.  Easy to relate to as opposed to another chef that cooks squab in a pristine white chef's coat.

This inside out burger recipe falls right into the "man-food" category.  The patty has bacon, onions, chorizo and cheese all sandwiched between two mounds of beef. Then it is placed on a toasted Kaiser roll and topped with a chunky tomato sauce topping.

If you want to keep any sports fan from going to the pub to watch the game, break out the beer and these burgers.  Eventually, the pub may lose a few more patrons, so remember that this recipe is for 4 burgers.

Inside Out Burgers & Tomato Topping
courtesy of Guy Fieri/Food Network

Ingredients/tomato topping
One pinch each: mustard seed, allspice, celery salt
1/2 tsp dill
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs minced garlic
3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tbs sugar
1/4 cup diced red onions
8 Roma tomatoes (skinned, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces)

In a saucepan over medium heat cook oil and onions together until onions are carmelized.  Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the additional ingredients.  Place saucepan back on stove and turn down heat to low.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

4 Kaiser rolls (split and toasted)
3 tbs uncooked chorizo (out of casing)
1/4 lb chopped bacon
1/2 cup minced red onions
1/2 lb sliced Swiss Cheese (8 slices)
1 lb ground chuck (80/20 mix)

Cook bacon and onions in pan over high heat, stirring until fat on bacon is translucent but not crisp.  Then stir in the chorizo and cook for an additional 3 minutes until done.  Spoon mixture onto paper towel and set aside.

Take the ground beef and divide into 8 equal pieces. Press each of the pieces into patties (4 inches wide). On each piece place one slice of cheese and fold in corners.  Then spread 1/4 of the chorizo/onion mixture onto the cheese.  Place more cheese on top, again folding in corners of the slice. Top it all off with another beef patty. Seal the sides and make sure that no chorizo or cheese sticks out of edge.  The patty should measure 4 inches wide and about 1 inch high. Continue this process until all four patties are formed.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Put patties in a pan and cook on stove top at medium heat for 4 minutes on each side.  Then transfer to a baking pan and cover with foil.  Bake in oven for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and serve immediately on toasted Kaiser rolls with the tomato ketchup sauce.

Friday, February 25, 2011

White Chocolate Kiss Cookies

When it comes to chocolate, there are many differences in flavor and texture according to the brand and the percentage of cocoa.  Some people feel that white chocolate is not really chocolate at all.  It is actually made up of mostly cocoa butter.  Regardless of the brand, it is important that you use a good quality chocolate when baking.  One of the major things to avoid is chocolate that contains coconut or palm kernel oil.

This particular cookie recipe has melted white chocolate in the batter and a dark chocolate kiss on top.  The cookie texture resembles a shortbread.  The sweetness comes from the chocolate, so very little sugar is used in the batter.

I made several dozen of these cookies instead of just 2, so there was variation from the original instructions.  Below is the recipe as stated with my modifications at the end.  One thing to remember is not to over bake.  The cookies are white and brown very little on the edges.

White Chocolate Kisses
adapted from Chocolate Christmas Cookbook

24 Hershey Kisses (milk or dark chocolate)
2 eggs, room temperature
6 oz white chocolate (chips or chopped pieces)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
8 oz or 2 sticks of butter, softened and cut into cubes
1 tbs granulated sugar
1 tbs confectioners sugar (optional for dusting)
2 cups flour

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Unwrap all chocolate kisses and place in a bowl and put in fridge until ready to use. Unwrapping at the time you are ready to top the cookies may cause little foil pieces to get on your cookie batter.

Put the butter, sugar and salt in a large bowl and cream all ingredients together with an electric mixer. As you beat the mixture, stop occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  It should take about 5 minutes for the mixer to create a smooth creamy batter.

Then add the eggs, one by one, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Then beat for an additional minute and scrape down sides of bowl.  The batter will now resemble scrambled eggs.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Fill bottom of double boiler with water and place on stove set at high.  Place top pan over bottom of boiler and fill with chocolate.  Melt chocolate, stirring once in a while as it melts.  The melting process should take about 5 minutes.

I have never found white chocolate to be the same consistency of other chocolates when melted. It still remains quite thick and not pourable when melted, so if yours is the same do not worry.  The thick consistency has no negative impact on the cookie taste or texture.

Add the white chocolate and vanilla extract to the batter.  Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds, stopping at 10 second intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn off the mixer. Then add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until no dry ingredients remain.

Place heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.  There should be 12 cookies on each sheet placed evenly apart.  Take out the chocolate kisses from the fridge and put one on each cookie.  The kiss should be centered and pressed 1/4 of the way into the dough.

Put baking sheets into oven, one on top and one on center rack.  Bake for 7 minutes, then rotate the baking sheets and switch racks.  Then bake for an additional 7 minutes.  Remove and leave on baking sheets to cool.  As an option, after cooling, dust the cookies with confectioner's sugar.

Variations when Making more than 2 dozen:
      -bake one pan at a time at 325 degrees for 16 minutes rotating sheet after 8 minutes
      -wait until pan is cool prior to 2nd use
      -wipe down both sides of parchment paper and pan with a paper towel before 2nd use
      -do not sprinkle cookies with confectioner's sugar if shipping or storing.
     - 1 12 oz bag of chocolate kisses is enough for 6 dz cookies.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Boardwalk Cinnamon Rolls

I have been to Disneyland and Disney world.  They are both nice amusement parks and I am sure that a Disney Cruise is fun.  However, what I did not realize is that there is a population of people that are obsessed with the whole Disney culture.  These are people that subscribe to the Disney magazine and the priority of family discussions is their upcoming Disney vacation(s).  In the end, everything is on schedule and organized.  Everyone knows and agrees what they will be doing at any minute on their vacation.

As for me, there are a few food places at Disney that I would like to go.  One of them, if you have not already guessed, is the Boardwalk Bakery.  I know, I am just a predictable foodie and would probably miss out on some good things since I am not obsessive about the Disney culture.

Below is a recipe that comes from Boardwalk.  Once you taste these, I am sure that you will understand why this bakery is not one to be skipped over if you find yourself on a Disney vacation.  The recipe states that it serves 4, but note that the rolls are over inch in height and measure 4 1/2 inches square.

Boardwalk Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Disney Recipe website

Ingredients/sweet dough
1/2 cup water
2 beaten eggs
6 1/2 tbs butter (room temp)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs dry milk
2 1/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 pkg dry yeast (I used quick rise)

In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together (salt, sugar, bread flour, all purpose flour, yeast and dry milk).  Then add the eggs, water and butter.  Mix with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are combined to create a dough.  Knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes on a floured surface.  Place dough back in bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.

3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup and 2 tbs butter at room temp
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp of flour
1/4 cup and 2 tbs light brown sugar

Place first 4 ingredients in a medium size bowl.  Then place a sieve over the bowl and push all the brown sugar (takes out clumps) through into the bowl.  Brush the remaining brown sugar on the bottom of the sieve into the bowl.  Beat all ingredients together with an electric mixer until smooth.

With a spatula, scrape sugar mixture out of bowl and into a 9X9 inch pan.  Smooth out the top, making sure that all is evenly distributed in the bottom of the pan.  Set aside.

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Blend cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. Set aside. Place egg in a separate bowl and beat.

Lightly flour a smooth surface and roll out the sweet dough into a 6X12 inch rectangle.  Brush top side of dough with the beaten egg, covering all edges and corners.  Then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of the dough.

Carefully take one of the short sides of the dough and tightly roll it to the other short side, forming a log with the cinnamon sugar inside. To keep the log intact, pinch together the 12 inch length where the end overlaps the dough. Using a long knife, cut the log into 4 pieces.  Then place each piece, with cut side up, into the prepared pan.  Leave space between each piece and between pan and sides.  These pieces will rise quite a bit and all sides will come together.  Cover and let rise again until doubled, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Once rolls have doubled in pan,  place pan over baking sheet and put in oven. The pan underneath will help catch any topping that spills over while baking.  Bake rolls until they turn a deep golden brown, which should take about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Then invert on baking sheet or large plate, holding pan over the rolls for 30 seconds to make sure all topping drips onto rolls.  Serve immediately.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tropical Cream Cheese Cookies

I am certainly glad I do not have any food allergies.  Being allergic to gluten must be the worst, because I see that there are several blogs that have recipes for the gluten intolerant. Imagine having to create a whole new world of food to eat because of an allergy.

Sometimes food allergies are only present at a young age. By the time a child is five, the allergy usually goes away. This is common with egg allergies.  In the meantime, parents are faced with the dilemma of substituting "fake egg" products or totally eliminating any food with eggs.

Any child with an egg allergy is entitled to a treat every once in a while, which brings me to this recipe.  It may not call for any eggs, but flavor was not sacrificed.  They are crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle with a tropical taste of toasted pecans and coconut.

Plan ahead when making these cookies, for the dough has to be prepared the day/night before baking. This recipe makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

Tropical Cream Cheese Cookies
courtesy of  Cooks Ilustrated via Baking Blonde

2 cups of sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks or 3/4 cup of butter
6 oz softened cream cheese
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour

Take out a saucepan and melt the butter on low heat.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  First, the coconut will need to be toasted. Take rimmed baking sheet and spread coconut evenly in pan. Place in oven for 5 minutes.  Then remove from oven and stir, folding the coconut on the edges of the pan towards the center and vice-versa.  Place in oven for an additional 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.

To toast the pecans, pour the pieces in another rimmed baking sheet and follow the same procedure stated above.  Once toasted, remove the pecans to cool and turn off the oven.

In a medium bowl, beat the melted butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer.  While beating, the mixture will first begin to look like cottage cheese, but it will eventually get to a smooth consistency.  Take a sieve and place over the bowl and push all the brown sugar through it.  This process will eliminate the brown "rocks" that are in the bag.  These lumps do not melt while baking and can be noticeable if not removed.  Then add the granulated sugar and beat again until all is combined.  Mix the vanilla extract into the batter and set aside.

Sift the baking soda, flour and salt together in another bowl. Fold the flour mixture into the batter with a wooden spoon until no dry areas remain.  Blend in the toasted coconut and pecans with the batter, making sure all is evenly distributed.  Cover bowl and place in refrigerator overnight.

The next day, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take the cookie dough out of the fridge.  You will find that the dough is about like fudge, so it will be a little difficult to scoop out.*  With a spoon, scrape out enough dough to make a heaping tablespoon and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Once baking sheet is filled up, place sheet in oven to bake for 12-14 minutes, turning baking sheet at halfway point.  The cookies are done when they are light brown on the bottom as well as edges.  Remove and let cool on pan 3 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack.

Continue this process, noting that the longer the cookie dough stays out of the fridge the baking time will shorten. 

*If you feel that the dough (when first removed from the fridge) is too difficult to work with, you can let it sit a little while at room temperature before using.  Be careful that it does not get too warm, for you do not want the cookie to spread into a flat mass.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brandy Alexander Pie

After Wall Street closes for the day, you will find a group of well dressed men with loosened ties hanging out at the nearest bar to the financial district.  They will be at the table with smouldering cigars in the ashtray and several brandy snifters full of Cognac.

Cognac, if you don't already know, is very expensive and coveted by the upper class.  Actually back in 2007, a truck was hijacked filled with $168,000 worth of Cognac.  Unfortunately for the hijackers, they are now in cell block D serving several years sentences.

I opted to use brandy in this recipe instead of Cognac.  Due to baking more than drinking, thieves will only find the low grade spirits at my house.  Also, the Wall Street crowd will not be here anytime soon.....

Brandy Alexander Pie
adapted from    

3 eggs (separated by yolks and whites)
1/4 cup chocolate liquor or creme de cacao
1/4 cup brandy or Cognac
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2/3 cup sugar (divided by third cups)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
Chocolate curls or grated chocolate for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix together melted butter and graham cracker crumbs with a fork.  Place crumb mixture in a 9 inch pie pan and press crumb mixture evenly on bottom and up the sides.  Bake the crumb crust for 10 minutes. Remove pan and place it on a rack to cool.  Turn off oven.

Fill a saucepan with the 1/2 cup of cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over it.  Whisk in the egg yolks, 1/3 cup of sugar and salt until all is combined.  Place pan over low heat (do not boil) and continue to whisk until mixture thickens and the gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat.

Blend both liquors into the gelatin mixture with the whisk. Pour into a medium size bowl and place in refrigerator.  Pie filling will need to be cooled until it becomes pudding consistency. The filling should mound up when pushed with a spoon. This should take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, so it will need to be checked for consistency after 15 and every five minutes after.

During the cooling time, prepare the other ingredients. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a bowl until they are stiff.  Add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until mixture forms firm peaks.  Set aside. In other bowl, still using the electric mixer, whip the cream until light and fluffy.

Lightly fold the egg whites into the chilled pie filling. Then add the whipped cream, still folding until all is blended together. Place pie filling in prepared pie crust, smoothing out evenly into pan. Garnish with chocolate curls or grated chocolate. Chill pie in fridge for at least 4 hours or more prior to serving.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

PBC Doodle Cookies

The PBC is not for Palm Beach County nor Pakistani Broadcasting Corporation-it is for peanut butter and chocolate.  If you already knew that, then you can consider yourself a true foodie. For the ones that did not, your state of mind is elsewhere.  We all have experienced that blank look from someone at least once...

Regarding this recipe, I originally thought that it would result in a cookie with a crumbly chocolate exterior and a Reese type of filling in the center.  The deduction on the filling was correct, however the chocolate exterior is like a fudgy brownie.  This consistency was probably a result of the peanut butter not just in the filling but in the chocolate dough. Since the recipe advises twice on the short bake time and cautions on over-baking, the fudgey exterior is the intended consistency.

The classic combination of peanut butter and chocolate flavor comes together to create a decadent candy like-cookie that brings to mind Reese's candies.  The fact that the consistency was fudgey and not crumbly was not a bad thing.  Several tasters gave rave reviews, so I was happy to have brought the peanut butter and chocolate lovers together once again.  This recipe makes 17 ping-pong ball sized cookies.

PBC Doodle Cookies
adapted from recipe book called Chocolate Christmas

8 tbs or 1 stick of butter (cubed at room temp)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (divided into fourths)
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together in a medium size bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, beat together butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar (extra 1/4 cup is reserved for later) and 1/4 cup peanut butter.  Beat for a total of 3 minutes occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla, continuing to beat for an additional 30 seconds or until all is combined into the batter.

With a wooden spoon, stir all of the flour mixture into the batter.  This will result in a crumbly dough. Then squeeze together the dough with your hands to form a clump.  Place the bowl of dough in the refrigerator for exactly 20 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Now, move on to making the filling.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup of peanut butter and powdered sugar to a small bowl and combine all with an electric mixer on low speed for 20 seconds.  Turning the speed to medium, beat for an additional 10 seconds.  Then stir the mixture with a wooden spoon and make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed.

Place a wax sheet of paper on the counter and divide the filling into 17 equal portions (approx 1 tsp size).  Each portion should be rolled into a small ball and placed on the wax paper.

Then the chocolate dough will need to be formed.  It will also have to be divided into 17 portions.  Shape each portion into a deep cup and drop in 1 filling ball.  Close the top and roll into a ball, making sure the filling is sealed inside.  This dough has a tendency to crack, so make sure all gaps are closed.

Once the 17 cookies are formed, roll each in the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.  Place about 9 or 10 cookies, evenly spaced, on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for a total of 6 minutes (no longer) until barely firm.  Remove cookies from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

These cookies will last up to 10 days at room temperature and can be stored in freezer up to 2 weeks.  If freezing, bring to room temperature before eating-even if you like frozen cookies (since I personally know the source of this odd preference-it had to be said).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Loca Luna's Turtle Cake

Well, I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day filled with romance and chocolate treats. One of my favorite treats are turtles. Those chocolate pieces embedded with big pecans and buttery caramel are hard to resist.  Even better, put those flavors into a cake and you will have something truly unforgettable.

Chocolate, caramel and pecans are included in this recipe, but I know you are wondering what is the white streak running through the bottom of the cake. It is the over the top factor-a cream cheese mixture that is simmered over heat to create an sweet, candy-like confection.

No, you will not find the typical, fluffy cream cheese swirl that is in several baked goods in this cake. The method may be the same but the results are far better. Even though swirled into the batter, most of the mixture sinks down to the nuts on the bottom.

Based on that, it is important that you line your baking pan with parchment and wait until the cake is 100% cool before icing and removing from the pan.  Also, it takes 2 hours for the icing to set.  The recipe makes no reference to removing cake from the pan, so it may be better to make the cake a day before serving and take it out of the pan only when ready to cut and serve. This cake serves about 12 to 16 people, depending on how big or small the pieces of cake are cut.

Loca Luna's Turtle Cake
adapted from Bon Appetit (prior to 2000)

3 eggs (room temp)
1 1/4 cups of water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 cup toasted chopped almonds
1 (18.25 oz) German chocolate cake mix    
1 8oz pkg cream cheese (at room temperature and cubed)
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (room temp)
3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

5 tbs whole milk
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cups of caramel ice cream topping (also regular dulce de leche can be thinned over heat with cream to make it drizzling consistency)

Prepare a 9X13 inch metal pan by greasing with butter. Also, line with parchment on the bottom and two long sides, folding over excess on the long sides to use as lift "handles" to remove the cake after baking.  Grease the parchment on the side facing up, covering bottom and sides.  Flour all the inside of the pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with only 1/2 cup of the pecans and 1/2 of the almonds.  The rest of the nuts will be reserved for later use.

With an electric mixer beat (at low speed) cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil and water together in a large bowl until it becomes a batter and no dry ingredients remain.  This should take about 30 seconds.  Then put the mixer at medium speed and beat for 2 minutes more.  Pour batter into pan and set aside.

Place butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Once the butter is completely melted, sift in the powdered sugar in half cup increments, stirring after each.  This mixture will form into clumps. Start mixing in the cubes of cream cheese.  Continue stirring and adding all cubes of cream cheese.  Once cream cheese is completely melted and no lumps remain, remove from heat.

Pour cream cheese mixture over cake batter in wide ribbons. Then take a knife and swirl through the batter, being careful not to over mix.  As stated before, this process did not create any swirl in the finished cake-most of it sunk to the bottom.  I believe that the sinking of the mixture was the intent since the recipe stated that the bottom of the cake would be very moist. I am not really sure of the reason for the knife "swirling".

Bake the cake for about 50 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool cake on rack (note previous comments concerning cake cooling).After cake is cooled, prepare the icing.

In a medium bowl, sift together powdered sugar and cocoa.  Then fill a saucepan with the milk and butter. Then place the pan over medium heat. Once the mixture is melted and simmering, turn down heat and add powdered sugar.  Stir or whisk the mixture over heat until the sugar is melted.  Add the chocolate chips and vanilla extract and continue to mix. After chocolate is melted and icing is smooth, remove from heat.

Sprinkle remaining nuts over cake and then drizzle the warm chocolate icing over the top.  Let stand until icing is completely set, which should take about 2 hours.  Then add the final touch by drizzling the caramel over the top.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower and Onions

Cauliflower was not a very common vegetable in our house growing up.  I just remember it as a raw vegetable on party plates for dipping.  Now that I have reviewed several recipes, it appears that there is a vast amount of ways you can prepare cauliflower.  The most common is to roast or puree.  Actually, pureed cauliflower resembles mashed potatoes, but there is lots of dairy ingredients included to get it to the "creamy stage".

I chose this particular recipe because it requires very little ingredients.  The result is a simple, tasty dish that even veggie haters can enjoy.  Roasting time is about an hour but the prep time is only 10-15 minutes. This recipe serves about 4-6 people.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower and Onions
adapted from  allthatspatters.blogspot,com

2 tbs of lemon juice 
4 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 onions (cut into cubes)
2 tsp minced or 4 cloves (halved) of garlic
1 head of cauliflower (cut into small florets)
optional garnishes: parsley flakes, chives, red pepper or grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a pan by lining with foil. The vegetables can be cooked in a roasting pan, 9X13 Pyrex pan or large casserole dish.

Prepare the dressing by whisking together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.  Take a large bowl and mix together garlic, onions and cauliflower.  Add the dressing and toss the vegetables, making sure all is evenly distributed.

Spoon vegetable mixture evenly into prepared pan and place in oven. Total bake time is an hour, but it will need to be stirred every ten minutes. It will be stirred for a total of 5 times.  Once completely roasted, pull out pan and garnish as desired.  Serve hot.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake

As you can see, this is not your typical fruitcake.  Normally fruitcakes are very dark in color. The difference could be that this cake is not soaked in brandy, rum or simple syrup as the recipe suggested.  Loaded with walnuts, chocolate chips and 3 differently prepared berries, it packs quite a bit of flavor as is. However, some people prefer a more chewy cake with the liqueur soaked in, so I have included that step below.

There are a lot of specialty fruit ingredients since the recipe comes from King Arthur Flour.  One is a package of raspberry "jammy bits".  These bits are small squares of sweetened fruit juice that burst into little pools when baked, as shown in the above picture.  The candied cherries were not easy to find either and were ordered from KAF.

The baking time varies on this recipe based on the variation of pans (mini loaves, regular loaf).  I baked mini loaves which took about 30 minutes. For the best flavor, wrap and let the cake rest for at least 24 hours prior to serving or soak weekly (with brandy,simple syrup or rum) for up to 2 months.

My overall opinion on this recipe is that it is packed with too many flavors for my tastes.  I do like cherry and chocolate but this is just too much in this cake.  As a matter of fact, it did not sit very well on my stomach, so I will not be making this again.

Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake
adapted from King Arthur Flour

3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups of diced walnuts
1 1/2 cups (10 oz) candied red cherries (chopped or whole)   
1 1/3 cups (8 oz) raspberry jammy bits
2 cups (12 oz) chocolate chips
2 cups dried cherries
1/2 cup kirsch, rum or brandy for soaking dried cherries or 1/3 cup water
3/4 simple syrup or brandy for cake soaking glaze

Fill a small bowl with dried cherries and one of the following: water, brandy or rum.  Cover and cook in microwave for 1 min and 30 seconds.  Set aside to cool.

Grease heavily the pan(s) of your choice (2 standard loaf pans, mini pans, etc).  Also line bottom and long sides with parchment and overlap some on the sides.  Then grease top side of parchment. The cake part surrounding the add ins is very light, not dense like normal fruitcake.  The parchment lining will keep your cake from crumbling when releasing from the pan. Do not use a bundt cake pan for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Take a large bowl and with an electric mixer cream sugar and butter together until smooth and fluffy.  Add the salt, baking powder and the vanilla.  Continue to beat until all is incorporated in the batter. Then add the eggs, one at a time and beat after each addition.With a wooden spoon, mix in 1 cup the flour and then 1/2 of the milk.  Continue to stir in flour and milk in increments, ending with flour.

Once all is combined, add chocolate chips, nuts, jammie bits, soaked cherries (with juice) and candied cherries.  Mix with a wooden spoon until evenly distributed.  Spoon batter into pan(s), until 3/4 full. Even out the top of the batter with a wet knife. Watch closely, the baking time is between 30 minutes and 1 hr 40 minutes due to the pan variation.  When top is golden brown and tester comes out clean, the loaves are done.

Some people leave the cakes in their pan until ready to serve.  However, if you want to take them out, wait 15 minutes and run a knife along the short edges (no parchment) and pull out each loaf with the long parchment "handles". Then place on a wire rack to cool.  For glazing, brush when warm with brandy, rum or simple syrup and then cover.  Use glaze on cake once a week until ready to serve.  Cake can be served at least 24 hours from the day baked or up to 2 months later.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ricotta Pancakes & Honeycomb Butter

Make your breakfast extra special with these pancakes that are crispy on the outside and airy on the inside.  Due to the fluffy egg whites in the batter, it will not be pourable.  The pancakes are formed by spooning out the mixture and leveling it on the griddle for cooking.  Once cooked, they hold up well in the oven. You can prepare the whole batch while keeping the initial ones warm.

While the pancakes are good, the honeycomb butter makes them extra special. As the butter melts, it will leave delicious little traces of the honeycomb.  To save time in the morning, make the butter the night before.

The recipes below make enough for 4-5 servings with extra honeycomb leftover.  The extra honeycomb can be used on ice cream or in hot tea.

Honeycomb Butter
adapted from The Best American Recipes 2001-2002

8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tbs plus 1 tsp honey
2 tbs water
1 tbs light corn syrup 
1/2 cup sugar

Prepare a baking sheet by covering with foil and pull out a blender or food processor.

In a medium size saucepan, fill with sugar, corn syrup, 1 tsp of honey and water. Place over medium heat and cover.  Check and stir periodically until mixture comes to a boil and all sugar is dissolved.  Uncover and turn up the heat and continue to boil without stirring.  As it cooks, lift the pan off the heat and swirl a few times.  The cooking will be completed when the syrup becomes a deep golden color.

Remove pan from heat and quickly stir in the baking soda.  This will cause the mixture to foam up and look creamy. Pour syrup onto prepared baking sheet and let cool completely.

Peel candy off of the foil and place back on the foil.  Unwrap foil from baking sheet and fold over candy. Then cover with a kitchen towel. Break the candy into pieces by using a meat mallet or your hands. Measure out 1/2 cup of the crumbs for the butter and place the rest in a zip lock bag for storing.

Fill a food processor or blender with the butter, salt and remaining tablespoon of honey.  Blend until smooth and creamy.  Add the candy crumbs and pulse until evenly distributed.  Empty mixture onto a sheet of wax paper and roll up paper so the butter is formed into a 6 inch log.  Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Ricotta Pancakes
adapted from The Best American Recipes 2001-2002 

4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/3 cup cottage cheese
1 cup whole milk ricotta
3/4 cup milk
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs or more of butter (for greasing griddle)

In order to keep the pancakes warm while you cook the others, have a baking sheet out and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, blend the ricotta, milk, cottage cheese and egg yolks with a wire whisk.  Take out a sifter and place it over the bowl.  Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into the batter.  Then whisk together until all is combined.   Set aside.

Pour the egg whites into a separate bowl and beat with an electric mixer.  Continue to beat until egg whites just reach the stiff peak stage.  Using a spatula, gently fold egg white mixture into batter.  Make sure that the egg whites are completely distributed into the batter.

Brush a griddle or a 12 inch skillet with the melted butter and place over medium heat.  The pan should be hot but you do not want it to smoke.  Spoon out 1/4 of a cup of batter and spread to form a 4 inch pancake.  There should be room to place a total 4 to a batch in the pan.  Let cook for 3-4 minutes or when underside turns to a golden brown. Flip and cook the other side in the same manner.  Put each on a baking sheet, cover with a towel and place in oven to keep warm.  Continue this process until no batter remains, brushing griddle occasionally with more melted butter to make sure nothing sticks to the pan.

To serve, stack a few pancakes together on a plate with honeycomb butter in between and on top. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Avocado Egg Rolls with Dipping Sauce

Finally, I have found a good appetizer to serve for the Super Bowl.  These egg rolls surpass the standard chicken wings or nachos. Think of a very "chunky" form of guacamole stuffed in an egg roll wrapper and fried.  That explanation alone qualifies it as a favorite with beer and definitely "man" food.

Now, the dip is another story.  Even though it has cilantro, it has quite a bit of honey.  The sweet dip offsets the savory of the egg roll.  I liked it because I am not into real spicy foods, however my husband as well as male friends stated that they would rather have hot salsa as a dip instead of the sweet.

Note that the dip recipe contains some hard to find ingredients. I left out the tamarind paste. It only called for 1/2 tsp, so I do not think had much impact on the taste.

The recipes for the dip and egg rolls are actually a copycat recipe from Cheesecake Factory.  It is for 2-4 servings.

Avocado Egg Rolls with dipping sauce
adapted from

Ingredients/dipping sauce   
1 tsp ground cumin
1 pinch of saffron
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp tamarind pulp
2/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 chopped green onions
1 tsp of minced garlic
1/2 cup of chopped cashews
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey

Take a microwave safe bowl and mix together the honey, both vinegars, tamarind pulp and saffron.  Once the tamarind is dissolved, cover bowl with a paper towel and heat in microwave for 1 minute. Set aside.

Put all the other ingredients (except for the olive oil) in a blender, then pour in the tamarind mixture. Puree until all is fairly smooth.  Place in a bowl and mix in the olive oil.  It should resemble pesto when completely combined.  Cover and place in fridge until ready to use.

Ingredients/Egg Rolls

1 beaten egg
dash of salt
1/2 tsp cilantro leaves
2 tbs chopped,sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 tbs finely chopped red onion
1 avocado-peeled, pitted and diced.
4 egg roll wrappers

If you want to bake the egg rolls, line a baking sheet with foil and spray will non stick oil coating.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To fry them, preheat your oil to 375 degrees (pan or deep fry).

Set the egg roll wrappers as well as the beaten egg aside.  In a large bowl, combine all the other ingredients with a wooden spoon until evenly distributed.  Take the filling and place a line of it in the center of one egg roll, having a corner at the top and bottom of the line and leaving about 3/4" border at each end.  Fold bottom border up onto filling.  Then brush beaten egg on all edges of the rest of the wrapper.  Roll both sides up over the filling and fold the top corner or border down.  Continue with the rest of the wrappers.

To deep fry the egg rolls, place 2 at a time in your fryer and let cook for 3-4 minutes until browned. We fried ours in a pan of oil for about 3 minutes on each side.  If baking, place on prepared sheet and brush or drizzle with oil.  Baking time will vary, so check for crispness after 3 minutes.  They may need to be turned and cooked another 3 minutes.  Once done, slice each in half at an angle and serve with desired dipping sauce.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes

It is real hard to ignore the bright pink and red aisles at the grocery store.  Yes, Valentine's day is right around the corner. However, I did I not follow in the color tradition with a recipe for pink strawberry cupcakes. You could say fresh ingredients beat out the color pink

The use of real strawberries in baking does not make things "pink".  The acid in the strawberries actually makes things a brown color.  If you are looking for a pretty pink cupcake or cake, you are looking for something artificial-either something with food coloring or a boxed mix.  Also, the "pink" recipe or mix most likely will not have fresh strawberries in it.  So for those seeking a truly fresh strawberry taste (even though brown in color) in a cupcake, the recipe is below.

This recipe makes 20-24 cupcakes. The original recipe was for a sheet cake and the frosting was way too much for the cupcakes, so it was scaled down.

Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes
adapted from homesick texan blog

1 tsp vanilla
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
10 oz or 2 1/2 cups of stemmed chopped strawberries
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups plus 1 3/4 teaspoons of sugar (separated)
2 cups flour
3 tbs and 1 tsp water

The equipment needed for this recipe is four bowls, a saucepan and a food processor or blender.

In the first bowl, put in the chopped strawberries. Add water and sprinkle with 1 3/4 tsp of sugar.  Set aside for 1 hour at room temperature to release the juices. Then place the chopped strawberries in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times.  Transfer 1/4 cup of the strawberry mixture to a small bowl for the frosting. Set aside.

In the next bowl, mix buttermilk, vanilla, eggs and baking soda. Set aside. Then in the last bowl, sift together the flour and sugar.

Take out the saucepan and melt the butter on low heat. While this is melting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the muffin tin(s) by greasing the top edges of the holes and placing paper liners in them.

Once the butter is completely melted, pour and whisk into the buttermilk batter. Then pour this liquid into your flour/sugar mixture.  Fold ingredients with a wooden spoon until all is blended. Lastly, add all but 1/4 of the strawberries to the batter.

Scoop out batter with a spoon and fill each muffin cavity 3/4 full. Bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes, using a toothpick to test exactly when done.  Once baked, let cool for 2 minutes in pan and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Frost cupcakes after completely cool.

Fresh Strawberry Frosting

1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lime juice
1/8 tsp lime zest
1/4 cup crushed strawberries
1/2 stick or 4 tbs butter (room temp)
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 oz cream cheese

Place butter and cream cheese in a bowl and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed.  Batter should be smooth with no lumps.  Then sift in the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup stages. Blend all the powdered sugar in with a wooden spoon after each stage.  Lastly, mix in strawberries, vanilla, lime zest and lime juice. Should you want a thicker frosting, add more cream cheese until desired consistency is achieved.  Frost cupcakes accordingly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Toffee Temptations

Well, the blogging has started back up.  Re-doing all the pictures from 2010 gave me good practice with my camera.  I also am getting pretty good at scaling down recipes-I now know how many tablespoons are in an egg! I believe the smallest batch of cookies I made for a picture was two.  Anyhow, I am ready to start back to regular blogging.

This recipe was printed in the Fort Worth Star Telegram and came from Tamara Reese. It actually was the winner of their cookie contest for 2010.  These crunchy cookies are chock full of goodies like pecans, toffee chips and chocolate chips, so it's no surprise that they came in first. Also, note that the recipe makes a whopping 7 dozen.

Toffee Temptations

1 1/2 cups toasted, chopped pecans
8 oz bag of Heath Toffee Bits
2 cups semisweet choc chips
3 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup butter flavor crisco shortening
3/4 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbs Mexican or regular vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tbs baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Fill a large bowl (approx 6 quarts) with the butter and shortening and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  This should take about 3 minutes, depending on how soft the butter and speed of the electric mixer.  Beat in both types of sugars, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. Once combined, continue to beat and add eggs one at a time.  Then mix in vanilla extract. Set aside.

In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt). Add 1/3 of this flour mixture to butter batter and mix with a wooden spoon.  Continue with the second and third additions, making sure all flour is incorporated into batter.  Then mix in the oats, chocolate chips, pecans and toffee bits.  The batter will be quite stiff, so you may need to mix by hand.

Scoop out rounded tablespoons of dough and place on prepared cookie sheet.  You should be able to get 12 cookies on a standard cookie sheet.   Place cookie sheet in oven and bake 11-14 minutes, depending how crisp you want the cookies.  Once baked, let cool on cookie sheet about 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.