Friday, September 30, 2011

Banana Crunch Cookies

The last banana cookies I made were very flat and I wanted something with some substance.  I had never tried this recipe but I first made a small batch and did not bake but a few, just to see how they turned out.  Luckily I was quite pleased, especially since these cookies were slated for donation.

The other cookies I made were peanut brittle.  They were good, but I felt that these were much better.  I am a little tired after making a total of 12 dozen, but since I only do it once a month, I have plenty of time to recover.

Now, about these cookies.  They are very cake-like and are better the next day.  The banana flavor does need some time to develops.  Also, since it still is hot here, I have stored these in the fridge.  This way the chopped crunch bar pieces in the cookie stay crispy.  A banana cookie with the crunch of a chopped up crispy bar-sounds pretty good, right?

The brand of bar I used was the big size of a Nestle Crunch Bar.  Each huge bar makes about 1 cup of chopped pieces. Since these were for donation, I used 2 tsp of vanilla extract, however, if you are on a banana craze you can make them with 1/4 cup of banana liqueur instead. The recipe states that it makes 2 dz cookies, but I ended up with over 3 dz.  Guess it depends on how large you want your cookies.

Banana Crunch Cookies
adapted from The Sophisticated Cookie.

1 1/2 cups chopped Nestle Crunch Bar
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup mashed ripe banana (not over ripe)
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 cup banana liqueur
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour and the baking powder and set aside.  In another bowl, beat together the vegetable oil, extract (or liqueur) and sugar until smooth.  Add egg and beat again for 30 seconds until blended.

Fold the dry mixture into the wet until no dry streaks remain.  Stir in the mashed banana and then the chopped crunch bar pieces.  Once completely mixed, drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet, spacing  about 2 inches apart.

Put cookies in oven to bake until done, which takes about 10-12 minutes.  Cookies are done when edges and bottom are slightly browned.  Remove cookies and let rest on cookie sheet for 2 minutes.  Then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
              **LAST YEAR:Altoid Chocolate Mint Brownies**

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Orange Poppy Seed Tea Cakes

There has always been a dilemma when it comes to what classifies as a cake, muffin, bread or scone.  Each one of these connotates a specific texture in each person's mind.  So before I lead you down the wrong path with the name of this post, I will be very specific regarding the texture of this baked good.

It is very dense, much like a scone.  The batter is very thick and has the same leavener ratio to flour as a lot of cookie recipes.  This is not a fluffy light cake by any stretch of the imagination.

The citrus flavors in the cake are very subtle which pairs nicely with the poppy seeds.  I found that with the light glaze, that there is enough flavor even though the recipe suggests  using butter or jam to spread on the split cakes.  

I used dariole molds to bake these in.  It gives the cakes a nice tall shape as you can see, however, it does take some time to prepare the molds prior to baking. This recipe makes 8 cakes.

Orange Poppy Seed Tea Cakes
adapted from Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book

1 tsp lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tbs orange juice (cake)
grated rind of 1 1/2 oranges
1 1/2 tbs poppy seeds
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs melted butter
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbs orange juice (icing)

Prepare muffin pans by lining with paper cases or greasing the cups with butter.  If using molds, butter all insides and then line the inside edge with parchment paper.

Measure out the flour in a small bowl.  Remove 1/4 cup and 2 tbs of flour and place in another small bowl and set aside to reserve for later.

In a larger bowl, sift together the large amount of the flour and the baking powder. Then stir in the sugar.  Make a well in the center of the ingredients.

For the wet ingredients, mix together butter, oil, poppy seeds, lemon rind, lemon juice, orange rind and 2 tbs of orange juice.  Beat in egg for 30 seconds, then add the other egg, beating 30 seconds after addition.

Pour the wet ingredients into the well of the flour mixture and stir until no dry streaks remain.  Let batter rest for 1 hour.  Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

After the batter rests, fold in reserved flour mixture.  Your batter will be quite lumpy.  Fill the muffin cups or molds 3/4 full, making sure batter is even. Place pan in oven and let bake for about 25 minutes.  Cakes are done when they have risen and are golden on the top.

Remove pan from oven and let cool in pan for a few minutes.  Then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

In the meantime, icing can be made.  Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Stir in orange juice and add a small quantity of water to get to the correct consistency.  Then drizzle over cooled cakes.

                            **LAST YEAR: Fried Peach Pies**

Monday, September 26, 2011

B52 Cookies

In case you are unfamiliar with the bar drink called a B52, I will explain.  It is a drink that is made up of layers of liqueur.  The sequence of the layering is based on the weight of the liquid as is layered in this order:  Baileys Irish Cream on the bottom, Kahlua or coffee liqueur in the middle and Grand Marnier or orange liqueur on top.  There is some bartender skill involved to make sure that the liquid does not mix and the layering stays intact as pictured below.
Anyhow, this recipe duplicates the layered flavors in a cookie form.  It has one basic dough that is separated into thirds and flavored.  Then the dough is stacked in layers and cut to form the cookies.

My cookies did not turn out with perfect edges, but I feel that maybe a sharper knife and freezing the dough longer would have helped.  However, these are homemade and not manufactured, so maybe the non-perfect edges are a good thing.

As far as taste, you can taste the liqueur flavors in each of these layers and the chocolate chips compliment each flavor layer.  The texture and ingredients in the cookie base very much resemble sable cookies. Now on to the recipe, it makes about 2 dozen cookies:

B52 Cookies
courtesy of Sophisticated Cookie Cookbook

2 tbs Baileys Irish Cream
2 tbs Kahlua
1 tsp instant espresso powder
2 tbs Grand Marnier
1 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 cup flour

Sift together flour and baking powder in a medium size bowl.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  This should take about 2 minutes on medium high speed.  Then beat in egg until blended.

With a wooden spoon, fold flour mixture into butter/sugar batter until no dry streaks remain.  Then stir in the chocolate chips so they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.  Divide the dough into 3 pieces and place each in a separate bowl.

Take a small bowl and add the Kahlua and espresso and still until the espresso dissolves.  Set aside.

Line up your bowls of dough.   Going from left to right you will flavor the dough.  In the first bowl, mix the Baileys Irish Cream into the dough.  In the second bowl of dough, stir in the Kahlua/espresso mixture.  In the last bowl, stir in the Grand Marnier.

Each piece of dough will need to be checked for consistency before rolling out between pieces of waxed paper.  I found that my Kahlua dough was a not as stiff as the other dough, so I placed it in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Once the pieces are of rolling consistency, each will need to be placed between sheets of wax paper. You will need to keep track of the flavors, so it is best to roll them out and line them up in the same order as noted above. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick, 3 inches wide and about 10 inches long.  Place each piece of dough on a separate baking sheet and place in freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove baking sheets and peel off the wax paper of the Baileys dough.  Place back on baking sheet.  Then peel the wax paper off of the Kahlua dough and stack on top of the Baileys dough, making sure that the edges are even as possible.  Lastly, remove the wax paper from the last layer (Grand Marnier) of the dough and stack it on top of the Kahlua dough.  Wrap the whole block in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.

During this time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease baking sheets.

Remove block from freezer once chilling time is complete.  With a sharp knife, square off all sides so that the rectangle has sharp straight edges.  Then cut the block in 2 separate pieces, measuring 1 1/2 inches wide by 10 inches long.  Place one piece of dough so the 10 inch length is running left to right on a flat surface. Then slice the dough vertically into 1/2 inch wide pieces.  Repeat the process with the other piece of dough.

Place each square of dough 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until done.  When done, cookies will be firm and lightly browned on the bottom.  As you can see by the above picture, these cookies do not brown on the top or the edges.  Remove cookies from baking sheet and transfer to a rack to cool. Cheers!
                     **LAST YEAR: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread**

Friday, September 23, 2011

Apple Butter Crunch Coffeecake

This is an old recipe that I had in my archives.  I did not even have the title written down, but the ingredients reminded me of fall and I was looking for something that included apple butter.

This recipe does use a boxed cake mix, so if you are not into semi-homemade you need not go further.  Outside of the apple butter, it does have some interesting ingredients like yeast and wheat germ.

This recipe is a prize winner from a contest and I can understand why. One bite has a fluffy moist texture of the cake with spices and then the crunch of the crumbled ginger cookies and pecans on top.  This is perfect to wake up to with a cup of coffee.

Apple Butter Crunch Coffeecake
courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens/Year 2000

1-2 tbs apple juice
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup apple butter
2 tsp butter (for glaze)
1/3 cup butter (for streusel)
1 cup crushed gingersnap cookies (for homemade recipe click here)
1/4 cup wheat germ (regular or honey crunch)
1/3 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1 package spice cake mix
2 tbs brown sugar
1 package or 2 1/4 tsp of fast acting yeast
1/4 cup chopped white chocolate or chips
2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar

Prepare a 9X13 inch pan by greasing the inside with butter and dusting with flour.  Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together cake mix and yeast in a large bowl and set aside.  Then, in a smaller bowl, mix wheat germ, gingersnaps and brown sugar.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in 1/3 cup of butter until the mixture becomes crumbly.  Fold in the walnuts.

To the dry mix of cake mix and yeast, add water, eggs and apple butter.  Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed for 2 minutes, then switch speed to high and beat for an additional two minutes.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Smooth the batter so it is evenly spread in the pan.  Take the gingersnap mixture and sprinkle evenly on top of the batter.  Place pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, which should be about 30 minutes.  Let cake cool in pan while you prepare the glaze.

Place sifted powdered sugar in a medium sized bowl. In a smaller, microwave safe bowl, add white chocolate and 2 tsp of butter.  Cover, place in microwave and let cook for 15 seconds.  Take out and stir, then microwave again for 10 seconds.  Stir the mixture and check the consistency to make sure all is melted.  Be careful to watch during this process, microwave performance does vary.

Add chocolate mixture and apple juice to powdered sugar.  Stir until no dry spots remain.  Should you find it to be too thick, add a little apple juice and mix until you reach your desired drizzling consistency.  Then drizzle glaze over warm cake.  Cool at least 1 hour before cutting.  It is delicious served warm or at room temperature.
                      **LAST YEAR-Shortbread Caramel Cupcakes**

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sausage Rolls

Well I have decided it is about time for something savory.  The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the name is those crescent/cocktail wieners that we all see at parties. However, I wanted something that was a little closer to homemade.  Also, I seem to recall I got sick one time on those.

These rolls are not that difficult to prepare and require very little of your time. The best thing about this recipe is that it leaves you with a variety of choices when it comes to the type of meat filling.  Any ground meat will do, however, I find that it is best to use something with a lot of flavor in it, which is usually sausage.  Also, these are even better served with a dipping sauce.  I have listed some combinations below:

Bratwurst/BBQ Sauce
Chorizo/enchilada sauce
Italian Sausage/ Garlic or marinara sauce

I still have yet to make these using chorizo, but it will not be long.  I have done the other suggestions above. One bite of the flaky pastry and the spicy meat is all it took for me to be addicted to these.  Try serving these at your next party, you will be glad you did.

Sausage Rolls
courtesy of The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book

1 beaten egg for glazing
3 tbs cold lard
3 tbs cold butter
3 tbs cold water
9 oz raw sausage meat
1 1/2 cups flour
pinch of salt

To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a medium size bowl.  Then, with a pastry cutter, cut in the lard and butter until the consistency of the flour changes to fine crumbs.  Then add water and stir until the mixture turns into dough.  Shape into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Once the chilling time is complete, take out the dough and place on a smooth, floured surface.  Roll dough into a rectangle measuring 7X12.  Cut dough into 2 strips, each measuring 3 1/2 X 12.  To make sure that your dough isn't sticking to the surface, run a large thin knife underneath each piece of dough.

Then divide your sausage evenly into 2 pieces.  Shape each piece into a long roll, measuring 12 inches in length.  Place each piece of sausage in the center of  the pastry pieces, running the 12 inch length parallel with the dough length.  Brush the 12 inch edges of the pastry with water and fold over the sausage and press the edges together to seal.

Then, using a sharp knife, cut each long roll into 8 pieces.  Flip the pieces over with the seam side down.  Then brush them with the beaten egg and place on baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes until crisp and golden.  Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce.
                                    **LAST YEAR:Chicken Avocado Parmesan

Monday, September 19, 2011

Little Buddy Cakes

I would say that the classic flavors of  peanut butter and chocolate have been buddies for a long time.  These little cakes bring those flavors together to form a cake version of the Reese cup. Measuring only 1 1/2 inches in diameter, they have 2 layers of vanilla cake and a peanut filling.  Then they are dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with coarse salt.

The unusual ingredient in the cakes is bread crumbs.  If you did not know it was bread crumbs, you would say there was ground peanuts in cake layers.  The bread crumbs in the cake, when layered with a peanut filling actually mimics a nutty texture and taste.

This recipe on makes 1 dozen.  After I tasted them, however, I regretted that there was so few! Now on to the recipe:

Little Buddy Cakes
by flourtrader

1/4 cup vanilla pudding mix
1/4 plus 2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs

Ingredients/Peanut Filling
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp butter

Ingredients/Chocolate Coating
8 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tbs plus 2 tsp shortening
coarse salt for sprinkling

To make cake, grease an 8X8 inch pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Cream together the butter and sugar in a small bowl.  Add the vanilla pudding mix and beat until evenly distributed.  Then beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract.  Lastly, fold in the bread crumbs until no dry streaks remain.

Spread batter into pan and smooth out evenly with damp hands or a knife.  Bake for 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack.

While cake is cooling, the filling can be made.  Put the peanut butter and butter in a microwave bowl and microwave for 30 seconds.  Remove and stir in the confectioners sugar. If it seems too thin, add more tablespoons of sugar until preferred consistency is met.  Set aside.

Invert cake onto smooth surface rack and remove the parchment paper. Using a 1 1/2 inch cutter, cut out 24 circles, or cut into 24 even squares.  Smooth the peanut filling on 12 of the cut outs and then stack each of the cut outs on top, like a sandwich cookie.  Taking a knife, smooth the sides of the filled cake.  The filling should be flush with the cake.

For the chocolate coating, set up a double boiler and let water come to a simmer.  Then fill the top section with the chocolate and shortening. Lay a sheet of wax paper over a baking sheet and place it close by the boiler on a flat surface. Once the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, it is time to dip your cakes.  Using a spoon, dip each cake into the chocolate. Roll around to make sure all sides are coated and no cake shows through. Spoon it out of the chocolate and let the excess drip off.  Then place each cake right side up onto wax paper.

Let all cakes rest on pan at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Then sprinkle the tops with coarse salt and place baking sheet in the refrigerator until the chocolate has set.  After that, they are ready to serve!
                                  **LAST YEAR: Tahiti Blondies**

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nocello Walnut Muffins

We all like recipes in cookbooks and on the net to have pictures.  Somehow it is hard for me to use a recipe if it does not show a picture.  I guess it is just a comfort level having it there.

The funny thing about the recipe I found for these muffins is that I did not like the picture.  It just was too dark and the tops look burnt.  The tops were sprinkled with brown sugar and brown sugar is the type of sugar used in the batter also.  Because of the appearance, I chose to use granulated sugar in these.  I also substituted sparkling sugar for the brown sugar on top.

The strangest thing about the recipe is that you add the liqueur to the butter mixture.  The butter is melted first, but I am not sure if the butter solidified or curdled after the liqueur was added.  It did not seem to alter the final taste though.  It was just a little bit difficult to get it mixed in with the dry. I have made an adjustment because of that.

These muffins are a great item to have with coffee or tea in the morning.  They have a moist crumb and a crunch from the sugar topping and walnuts inside.  The Nocello and the spices add the right balance of flavor.  This recipe makes 1 dozen muffins.

Nocello Walnut Muffins
courtesy of The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book

3/4 cup milk
2 tbs Nocello or any walnut liqueur
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temp
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of allspice
pinch of cardamon
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup light brown sugar or granulated sugar
2 cups flour
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
sparkling sugar for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a muffin tin by greasing the top edge of the cavities and lining with paper cases.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamon and baking powder.  If using brown sugar-measure out (lightly packing) 1/2 cup and take out 1 tbs and reserve for topping.  Then stir in the light brown or granulated sugar.  Then mix in the walnuts.  Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter and milk.  Then stir in the Nocello/walnut liqueur.  After all is blended, pour into the formed well of the dry mixture.  Carefully fold the ingredients together, taking care not to over mix.

Fill the 12 paper case lined cavities with the batter,  making sure all are evenly filled.  Sprinkle the light brown or sparkling sugar on top of each muffin.

Place pan in oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Muffins are done when the batter has risen and the tops have a toasty golden hue.  Let muffins cool for 5 minutes in pan and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
                                                **LAST YEAR: Hazelnut Cookies**

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cranberry Invasion Cake

Well I still have that large bottle of creme de noyaux, so I decided to make a cake with it.  I thought that the almond flavor would go well with some cranberries.  My biggest peeve about swirled cakes, breads and coffee cakes is that there is so little of that swirl included, you can barely taste it.  I set about making a cake with a big flavorful swirl in it as you can see.

This picture is actually my the first draft of the recipe.  If you notice, there is a lot of crumbs on the plate.  That is actually almonds.  One of the changes I made is that the almonds go in with the cranberry mixture, that way they are in the cake and not apt to fall off, like in this picture.   There were some other trials and errors, but I will save you all that detail.

The cake is better served the next day.  With time, the flavor of the creme de noyeau develops more.  The burst of cranberry flavor with the almond cake is exactly what I was looking for in taste as well as texture.  Now on to the final recipe that I arrived at:

Cranberry Invasion Cake
by flourtrader

Ingredients/Cranberry Filling
1 1/2 cups cranberries
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted almonds (optional)
3/4 cup water

1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup creme de noyaux
1 cup sour cream
1 tbs vegetable oil
red food coloring

Prepare a 10 cup bundt pan by brushing all the inside with melted butter and then dusting with bread crumbs.  Set aside.

To make the filling, place all ingredients (except for the almonds) in a medium size sauce pan.  Put saucepan over medium high heat and stir.  Cook filling for 15 minutes or until thickened.  Filling mixture should reduce down to 1/3 of the original mixture.  This is basically a cranberry sauce, so it will thicken quite a bit when cooled.  Transfer mixture to a heat proof bowl and let cool completely before using. 

Now, you can start making the cake.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees or if you are using a dark pan, 325 degrees.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.  This should take about 2 minutes.  Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds.  Then beat in the additional egg.  Pour in the creme de noyaux and the vegetable oil.  Beat on low speed until evenly distributed.  At this time, put in 2 drops of food coloring and beat.  Continue with this process until desired color is met.

Fold 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the batter.  Then blend in 1/2 cup of sour cream. Repeat this task, ending with the dry ingredients, until completely mixed together.  Be careful not to over work the batter.

Spoon 1/2 of the cake batter into the pan and smooth it out even.  If using almonds, mix them into the cooled cranberry filling.  Carefully spoon the filling on top of the cake batter in the pan.  The trick is to get it even but not touch the edges of the pan.  If you touch the edge with the filling, that section will most likely stick and you will have difficulty getting your cake out of the pan.

After you have used up all the filling, spoon the rest of the batter on top and smooth it out. Place cake in oven and bake for about 50-55 minutes or until done.  Cake is done when tester comes out clean and it is golden brown on top.

Let cake cool in pan set on a wire rack for about 20 minutes.  Then invert on to rack to finish cooling.  If you have some difficulty, slide a butter knife around the edges and then try to invert cake.  Once cooled, you can dust with confectioners sugar or drizzle with glaze (click here for recipe).
                            **LAST YEAR: 18 hour Guinness Burgers***

Monday, September 12, 2011

N&N Bars

These bars are a combination of Nutella and nibs.  Most of you are familiar with Nutella, but the nibs are actually chopped up cocoa beans.  They are commonly referred to as cocoa nibs.  They have a nutty,sharp chocolate taste and bring a unique texture and taste to baked goods.  Also, I like to sprinkle them on vanilla ice cream.

As you can see by the above picture, these came out with a tan hue and speckled with the cocoa nibs.  They are more on the cakey side than fudgy but are much more dense and chewy than cake.  Also, the bars are not extremely sweet like a chocolate brownie.  Nutella does have less grams of sugar per serving than chocolate.

This subtle sweetness goes great with the dark chopped cocoa nibs.  The added crunch is just enough to add a dimension of flavor, while letting the Nutella flavor shine through.

N&N Bars
by flourtrader

2 eggs
2 tbs melted butter
3/4 cup Nutella
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa nibs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line the bottom of  an 8X8 baking pan with parchment paper.

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

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs together.  Then stir in the sugar, melted butter and the vanilla extract.  Once blended, mix in the Nutella until evenly distributed.

Fold the sifted flour mixture into the batter until no more dry streaks remain.  It should be a very thick batter, like fudge.  Lastly, add the cocoa nibs and mix until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Transfer the mixture to the pan.  With damp, clean hands, spread batter evenly inside the pan.  Place pan in oven and bake 25-30 minutes.  It is done when tester comes out clean and surface is no longer shiny.  Let cool in pan for 30 minutes and then invert onto plate.  Remove parchment and invert again and let cool completely and cut into squares to serve.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Cranberry Walnut Scones***

Friday, September 9, 2011

Big Brahman Rolls

These rolls are named after the closest neighbor that I have.  He comes over sometimes on the spur of the moment, usually without an invite.  We will get back to him later on in this post.

These bread rolls are one of my favorites.  They come out of the oven soft and light with a toasty outside. The recipe is fairly easy.  Make no mistake about the size though-12 of these fit snugly into a 9X13 pan and the are about three inches in height.  One of these is actually enough for two people, but for bread lovers maybe one.  The recipe is made with honey and has a 3 to 2 ratio of bread flour to whole wheat.

Now back to my neighbor, who has the namesake for these rolls:
 This isn't an actual picture of him, but it is very much a likeness. Brahman cattle are a very hearty breed, they can withstand drought better than most cattle breeds. Good thing, because it has been especially dry this summer. Yes, this neighbor sometimes wants to come for a visit.  I guess when he gets bored, he jumps the fence, or so the rancher tells me.  Hard to imagine that much weight scaling any fence!  It is kind of startling to see him wandering across the yard in the morning. I find the breed name of this cattle very fitting for these large rolls. Now, on to the recipe....

Big Brahman Rolls
by flourtrader

2 eggs
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter-1/2 softened and 1/2 melted for glazing
1/4 cup honey
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbs rapid rise yeast
3 cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour

Grease a 9X13 inch pan with cooking spray or oil.  Also grease the inside of a large bow. Set both aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast and the warm water.  Set aside for a few minutes for the yeast to react with the water and foam up.  Pour into a large bowl of a stand mixer and add honey, salt, eggs and 1/2 cup of softened butter.  Using the batter blade, beat ingredients together until blended, for about 1 minute. 

Change the speed of the mixer to low and add 1 cup of bread flour.  Let the mixer run for about 2 minutes, then repeat the process by adding one more cup of flour, alternating between the two types of flour. Let the mixer run for 2 minutes after all flour has been added and then change out the blade for a dough hook.

With the mixer on low, the dough hook should knead the batter for about 8-10 minutes.  As the mixer runs, you will be adding more flour to reduce the stickiness of the batter.  The bread is done being kneaded when it is smooth and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl.

Place dough on a floured surface and shape into a ball and place in the greased bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.  This should take about 45 minutes.

Then lightly punch down dough and let sit uncovered for another 20 minutes to rest.  After the 20 minutes, punch down again and separate into 12 equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball and place side by side into the prepared pan.  Then take the 1/2 cup of melted butter and brush or pour evenly over rolls.  Cover lightly and let rise again for 20-30 minutes or until doubled in size.  

During this rising time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Place pan of rolls in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until done.  When done, rolls will have a hollow sound when tapped and be toasty on top. Let cool slightly prior to serving.
                                              **LAST YEAR:Chicken Scarpariello**

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dynamic Duo Cupcakes

Do not let the above picture fool you.  You might say that this cupcake has a split personality. The left half is chocolate with ground chocolate chips and the right half is mint.  If that was not enough, I have topped this with dark chocolate ganache and mint butter cream icing.

I have wanted a way to have 2 distinct cakes in one cupcake for awhile, but the idea of cutting an layering was out of the question.  I wanted the cake parts to bake together, but still be as one solid cupcake.  To my surprise they have cupcake and cake dividers.  You just put them in middle of the cavity and pour your batter into each side.  Then remove the divider prior to baking.

Sounds pretty simple, but what I did not realize is all the other factors.  With two different batters, there may be different textures, each side may rise to a different height and they may bake at two different temperatures and times.  It was not going to be as easy as I thought. A boxed cake mix would have been perfect to use, but I did not give in.

I made two batters of similar ingredients.  However, the textures and thickness did turn out different.  One was like a brownie batter and the other batter was thin enough to be poured.  I still went on and surprisingly the cupcakes did turn out well.
 These cupcakes were for donation, so the recipe makes about 4 dozen.

Dynamic Duo Cupcakes
by flourtrader

Ingredients/ Chocolate Cake
3 eggs
1 3/4 cup milk
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (room temperature)
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2  tsp vegetable oil
1 cup ground semi sweet chocolate (I used food processor and chocolate chips)
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups plus 2 tbs of flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs baking powder

Ingredients/Mint Cake
3 eggs
1 3/4 cup milk
1 cup or two sticks of butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp mint extract
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Ganache Topping
see filling recipe here 
or use a mix of 8 oz semi sweet chocolate melted in a double boiler with 1 tsp shortening.

Ingredients/Mint Buttercream Frosting
courtesy of Cupcake Bake Shop
1 1/2 cups or 3 sticks of butter
6-7 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs milk
1/8 tsp mint extract or more to taste
green food coloring

If you are making the ganache topping, this will need to be done first.  Click over to the link and prepare as stated.  Once it is in the fridge chilling, then you can start on making the cupcakes. 

For the chocolate batter, cream together the butter and sugar.  Then beat one egg into the batter for about 30 seconds.  Continue this process with the remaining eggs, one by one.  Then add the extract and vegetable oil and stir until blended.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder.  Then fold 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter/sugar batter.  Stir in 1 cup of the milk until all is evenly blended.  Mix in 1/3 of the flour and continue to mix, adding the rest of the milk.  Fold in the last part of the flour and stir until no dry streaks remain.  Lastly, fold in the ground chocolate.  Cover and place in fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease top edge of cavities in muffin pan.  Then line with cupcake papers and place the plastic dividers in the center of the cavities.

To make the mint cake, follow the same process as stated for the chocolate, except for the ingredient changes.  Leave out the vegetable oil, cocoa and ground chocolate.  You will replace the vanilla extract with mint.  Also note that this cake does call for a little bit more flour than the chocolate.

Take out the chocolate batter and fill one side of each muffin cavity to the top.  Continue until each cavity has chocolate batter on one side of the divider.  Then fill the other side of each divider in the cavity to the top with the mint batter.  Carefully pull out the batter dividers.

Bake cupcakes for 23-30 minutes or when tester comes out clean.  If you chose to do a chocolate drizzle on top of the cupcakes, now is the time to melt the ingredients in a double boiler. Once melted, remove pan from heat and pour into a heat proof bowl to cool.  Let cool at least 20 minutes prior to putting on cupcakes.

Once cakes are done baking, let cool in pan for 2 minutes then transfer to rack to cool.

After cooling, you can drizzle the melted chocolate or spread a thin layer of cold ganache on top.  Let topping set for about 1 hour.

To prepare the frosting, cream the butter until smooth.  Then add the rest of the ingredients and beat until all is evenly distributed. Taste to see if you want to add more mint extract.  After making the extract adjustment, add 3 drops of food coloring and beat again.  Continue to add the food coloring and beat until you reach the color you want. Frost cupcakes as desired.

                                           **LAST YEAR: Walnut Pillow Cookies**

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Jacks Cookies & Award

These cookies have no special ingredients, so there is no trip to the grocery store.  Actually there is only 5 ingredients that make up these little gems.

This recipe proves the point that it does not take a lot of time or fancy ingredients to make something tasty.  Basically these cookies are a shortbread rounds with mini chocolate chips.  When you bite into them, you get the buttery crumble taste from the dough and then the sharp dark chocolate flavor.

These cookies are actually sold in a bakery, which squashes the idea that people do not buy what they can make at home.  In these hectic times we live in, some people do not make time to bake or cook.  I knew someone that the only thing in their fridge was V-8.  Also, remember the show Becker? That guy did not even make coffee at home, he purchased everything he ate or drank.

Anyhow, the recipe is below.  It makes about 2 1/2 dz cookies.

Happy Jack's Cookies
courtesy of  Happy Jacks Bakery

1 1/2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips (I used mini, instead of regular)
2 cups flour 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup softened butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Then sift in the powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute until completely blended. Stir in the vanilla extract.  Lastly, fold in the flour with a wooden spoon.  Once there are no more dry streaks,  stir in the chocolate chips.

Take dough and roll into 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls.  Place on evenly on baking sheet.  The cookies do not spread very much, so you can put several on a sheet.  Bake for 10-14 minutes or until set with a light golden brown on the bottom. Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet and then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

                                                   **LAST YEAR: Godiva Liqueur Cupcakes**

Also, I have received this award from my foodie friend, Dzoli. She has a wonderful blog with lots of delicious and interesting posts, so you might want to stop by here  and say hello.  Also, I am paying if forward by passing the same award below to other foodie friends that I feel have exceptional blogs:

Sandra-Sandra's Easy Cooking
Carsely-The deep dish
Liz-That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Kim-The Farmers Wife
Alisha-The Ardent Epicure

Friday, September 2, 2011

Harvest Spice Bites

I have been working at making donuts for awhile and I finally decided just to drop the dough in the oil instead of trying to make picture perfect donuts.  I am glad I did because these are now more of a bite size item than a big donut.

This particular recipe has some ingredients that you probably will not find in your kitchen.  The first is pureed butternut squash.  I found a bin of this in my freezer.  As we get further into the season you should be able to make your own fresh puree or purchase it canned.  Note that the puree used is a simple blend of cooled, cooked squash and a little water.  Do not use the puree that most people consider a side dish, it is a recipe that has additional ingredients such as butter. The other specialty ingredient is liquid pie spice extract.  That is a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and ginger flavors.  You can use traditional powdered spices, which are a blend of 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 allspice and 1/4 nutmeg.

These donut bites turned out much like a cake donut, fluffy on the inside with a crispy outside.  Without the sugar coating, they do have the slightly sweet taste of the squash with light undertone of the spice flavors.   These are a special treat with morning coffee or tea. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen donut bites.

Harvest Spice Bites
by flourtrader

1 1/2 cups pureed butternut squash
3 tbs melted butter
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract 
2 tsp pie spice extract (or mix of powdered spices noted above)
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
Canola oil for frying

Sift together baking powder, salt, baking soda, flour and spice blend (if using powdered spices).  Set aside.

In another bowl, beat together eggs, sugar and butter until smooth.  Add vanilla extract, milk, butternut squash puree and pie spice extract (if using).  Beat for 30 seconds on medium speed or until evenly blended.

Fold the flour mixture into the bater with a wooden spoon and mix until no dry streaks remain.  Cover and place in the fridge.

Prepare a pan by filling with 1 1/2 inches of canola oil.   Layer 3 sheets of paper towels on top of 2 baking sheets for the donuts to drain on. Place a deep fry thermometer in the oil and heat the oil to 365-370 degrees Fahrenheit.

At this time, you will need to decide on a topping for the doughnuts.  Joy the baker has compiled several options from Bon Appetit, which you can find here.   I just opted to roll them in white sugar.  Prepare your topping and place in a bowl beside the baking sheets.  If you are using a glaze, place a cooling rack over a flat surface covered with wax paper.

Once the oil reaches the correct temperature, drop batter by round spoonfuls into the oil.  A soup spoon is a great size to use.   Only drop four at a time to cook at once.  Let cook for about 2 minutes on each side and then remove and place on paper towels to cool.  Let cool for 3 minutes and roll in sugar mixture or dip in glaze.  After coating the sugar ones, you can place on a plate.  If you dip them in glaze, place the donuts on a cooling rack to set.  Repeat process with the remaining batter.