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**

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hawaiian Zephyr Cupcakes

These cupcakes get their name because of two things.  The first thing-pineapple, it makes me think of Hawaii.  I remember staying on the island of Kauai and the place had no air conditioning, just these big windows with shutters.  You could open the shutters and get a nice cool breeze.  The gentle breeze, or zephyr, is the second thing.

This cupcake is very moist and gets its pineapple flavor from pineapple soda in the batter as well as pineapple juice that it brushed on over the top while the cupcake is still warm.  The top has a honey rum glaze sprinkled with toasted pecans.  Also, the crowning touch is a dollup of cinnamon whipped cream with fresh pineapple bits on top.

I am very happy with the results and I will definitely be making these again! The recipe makes about 1 dz cupcakes.

Also, thanks to all of you that voted me in to Top 9 yesterday, it made my day!
Hawaiian Zephyr Cupcakes
by flourtrader

1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 cup pineapple soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbs butter, cubed
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
pineapple juice (drained from 8 oz can of pineapple tidbits)

3 tbs honey
2 tbs rum
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup toasted ground pecans

1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
8 oz can of drained pineapple tidbits

For cupcakes, grease the top edge of muffin cavities and fill with paper liners.

Sift together baking soda, salt, baking powder and flour.  Whisk in sugar and set aside.   Take out a small saucepan and fill with butter cubes and soda.  Place over medium heat and cook until the butter is melted and mixture starts to boil.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Also place a cooling rack over a sheet of wax paper, making sure all the space below the rack is covered.

In a small bowl, beat together egg, buttermilk and the vanilla extract.  Set aside.  Then pour the cooled pineapple butter into the flour blend.  Stir with a wooden spoon until no dry streaks remain.  Lastly, blend the buttermilk/egg mixture into the batter.

Pour the batter evenly into the 12 liners.  Each liner should be about 2/3 full.  Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, which is about 15-20 minutes. Once baked, let cool in pan for about 2 minutes then remove and place on cooling rack.

Using a pastry brush, brush the pineapple juice over the tops of the warm muffins.  Let soak in and then brush a second layer over the top.  Let cupcakes cool completely before glazing.

To prepare the glaze, fill a small sauce pan with honey and rum.  Place over medium heat and let come to a simmer.  Remove and add powdered sugar.  Stir with a wooden spoon until no dry streaks remain and then beat for 2 minutes to make sure all the powdered sugar lumps are dissolved.

Then dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes in the glaze, making sure the excess drips off before placing upright on cooling rack. You may have to tip the saucepan to get complete coverage.  Also, when you get down to the last one or two, you may have to pour the glaze onto the cupcakes because there is not enough to dip the cupcake into.

After they all are glazed, sprinkle with the toasted pecans. It will take a few hours for the glaze to set.

The topper is something you will want to do right before serving.  Fresh fruit as well as whipped cream is better when eaten right away than stored in the fridge for hours.

In a small bowl beat cream, sugar and cinnamon together until soft peaks form.  Place a dollup or pipe the cream onto the center of the top of the cupcake.  Then place a few pieces of pineapple tidbits on top.  Now they are ready to serve!
                                          **LAST YEAR: Chinese Chews**            

Friday, November 11, 2011

Avocado Bread

This is one of those recipes that has a hidden ingredient with health benefits..  This is a recipe for a sweet bread that contains avocados and pecans.  You would never know by the taste that an avocado is in there.  I enjoy avocados, but I am sure I would benefit more by having them more often.  However, there are a number of people that do not like avocados.   Those that do not, will enjoy this bread and you can be happy that you slipped them some healthy avocado!

For those that do not know the benefits of avocados, below is a list of a few:
-aids in preventing breast cancer
-contains cataract preventing substance
-rich in folic acid which protects the heart
-helps prevent hypertension

This recipe makes one loaf.  The author suggest cutting the bread thin and serving with cream cheese spread.  The cream cheese spread is made with soft cream cheese, lemon zest and lemon juice. You can add as much or as little of the lemon ingredients, according to your own taste preference. This is a great item for afternoon tea or paired with a fruit salad.

Before I get into the recipe, this is a reminder that it is Veterans Day.  Please take a moment and think about all the sacrifices of our troops have made in the past and present. We currently have troops deployed in four countries: Bahrain, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.  

Avocado Bread
adapted from Judy Gorman's Vegetable Cookbook

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg (room temp)
1 mashed avocado
1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar

Grease the inside of a 9X5 inch loaf pan and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sift together the flour, salt , baking soda and baking powder.  Then stir in the sugar and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat together the avocado and the egg until smooth.  Add the buttermilk and blend with a wooden spoon.  Fold this batter into the flour mixture until no dry streaks remain.  Fold in the pecans.

Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top so it is all even.  Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.   Remove from oven, invert onto a rack and invert again.  Let cool completely before cutting and serving.
                               **LAST YEAR: Miss Grace Lemon Bundt Cake**

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bon Bon Cookies

Well, I have been looking at a lot of Christmas cookie recipes trying to find something tasty as well as festive.  If you are familiar with my blog, you will know that I like cherries.  I have done quite a number of baked goods with that flavor/fruit.

This recipe has been around for some time.  In fact, it was one of the Betty Crocker's favorite cookie between 1955-1960.  This recipe comes from that red Betty Crocker cookbook that was published in 1963.  There are are lot of great recipes in this book, some old standards and some I have never seen made before.

These little bon bons are a great cookie that lends themselves to a variety of ways to make them.  The above type is the plain vanilla ones filled with a candied cherry.  The recipe has instructions to make chocolate and even penuche ones and suggests various fillings: nuts, dates, chocolate pieces.  However, with todays array of chips,candy pieces and sugared nuts, the options are many.  I am thinking that the chocolate ones could be filled with a peanut butter chip or andes mint chips. I do have plans to play with the variety a little more.

These basically taste the same as any of the butter/powder sugar cookie recipes.  They are not as rich and crumbly as Russian tea cakes, so the sweet filling inside adds just what the dough needs.

I did try the chocolate ones, but they do not come out very pretty.  Be aware that they are a light milky brown, not a rich brownie color.  However, the dark chocolate icing does dress them up a little.

These are easy to prepare and the recipe does not make that many, therefore you can easily make several varieties without having to burn the midnight oil. This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Bon Bon Cookies
adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookie Book

1 1/2 cups of flour
1/8 tsp of salt
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 pieces of your choice of filling (nits, chocolate, candied cherry, dates..etc)
food coloring (optional)

1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp of heavy cream
1 tsp of vanilla
food coloring (optional)
decorative topping (sprinkles, colored sugar, nuts, etc)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together flour and salt, set aside.  In another bowl, cream together the butter, vanilla extract, powdered sugar and, if desired, 2 drops of food coloring or more depending on your preference.

With a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the batter.  If dough is too dry add cream until desired consistency is achieved.   Then evenly divide dough into 24 pieces.  Take each piece and surround 1 piece of the chosen filling, rolling it into a ball.  Place on ungreased baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart.  Bake until set, but not brown.  This should take about 12-15 minutes.

Remove baking sheet and transfer to rack to cool.  While these are cooling, you can make the icing.  Place all icing ingredients in a small bowl and mix until smooth and all is evenly distributed.

Once cookies have cooled, dips tops in icing and sprinkle top with chosen decorations.

For cookie variations:
Chocolate-melt 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate in double boiler and follow the above directions, adding the chocolate after butter and sugar are creamed together.

Penuche-follow directions for regular cookies above, only replace the confectioners sugar with 1/2 cup packed brown sugar.

For chocolate icing variation:  follow instructions for icing above, but add 1 oz melted unsweetened chocolate and use a total of 3 tbs of cream instead of the amount originally stated.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Frangelico Ice Cream**

Monday, November 7, 2011

Brazilian Bourbon Blondies

Some days you are really reminded that food bloggers are such a unique niche of people out there.  When talking about my blog, there are 2 responses I sometimes get.  One is that wierd look-you know- the ones that say I have no clue of what you are talking about, but I do not want to ask.  The other one is "Now what is this blog thing??".

Not all of us dive into the social media or even concern ourselves about it.  Funny, my mom said that my uncle has a computer and all he has on it is the game of solitare.  Oh, he spends time using it, but he also spends time sleeping in front of it.

I am not sure what I would do without having the computer and all my blogger friends that share a comment interest of food.

Anyhow, on to the recipe.  The recipe below is reflective of the changes I made from the original recipe.  The sugars called for were in measurements of 3/4 of a cup.  Due to the sweetness of the white chocolate, I changed it to 1/2.  The other thing is that it took longer to bake than the recipe stated.

The bars are moist and chewy, not cake-like.  I my opinion, the flavor blend kind of reminds me of a cinnamon praline.  The white chocolate gives it the chewy texture while the brown sugar and bourbon is the height of the flavor along with the cinnamon spice.

Brazilian Bourbon Blondies
adapted from Sophisticated Cookie

2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 cup chopped unsalted Brazil nuts (boil for a few minutes if salted to remove salt)
1/2 cup white choc chips
3 tbs bourbon

Grease an 8 inch square baking pan and line the bottom and two sides with parchment, leaving an overhang on each side to use as handles.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Sift together flour and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.  Beat together butter and two types of sugars until light and fluffy.  Set is aside also.

Melt white chocolate in a double boiler.  The recipe states to let cool for 5 minutes, but my chocolate set up too fast.  I did not let cool.  Pour melted chocolate into butter/sugar mixture and beat until completely blended.  Then, with a wooden spoon, blend eggs and bourbon into the batter.

Fold the flour mixture into the batter until no dry streaks remain.  Lastly, mix in the chopped brazil nuts.

Spoon the batter nto the pan and smooth the top so all is even.  Place pan in oven and bake for 20-35 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.  The recipe said 20-25 minutes but mine took about 33 minutes.

Remove and cool in pan before cutting. Then lift out by the parchment handles.  Cut and it is ready to serve.

The cookbook states that complete cooling is required in order for the chocolate in the bars to set up.  Also, there is a note about many blondies are cakes masquerading as blondies because eggs are used to create the texture.  I guess the author feels that "real" blondies as well as brownies require chocolate.  That is probably how some baked goods got the name of bars instead of blondies.
                       **LAST YEAR: Frangelico Ice Cream**

Friday, November 4, 2011

Renegade Cookies

So what is in this name?  This cookie is somewhat inspired by the non conformists of the world.  Without them, the world would be a pretty boring place.  The thoughts crossed my mind such as:

The girl that has to wear a uniform to school but makes sure she wears her striped toe socks for the class picture.
The man with a car load of kids with the words "Pampers forever" painted on his back windshield.
The 80 year old lady that never hesitates to yell out a resounding "Amen" during the church sermon with attendees exceeding over 1000 people.
Lastly, the three guys that went to illegal drag racing and decided to have their own race by pushing their cars instead of driving them.

Anyhow these cookies are a little non conforming also.  They are made with sour cream and have chunks of almond paste in them.  The paste did not retain its form of a chunk when baking-it just melded into the batter.  I would say they have a cakey, light texture and not too sweet.

If you are looking for a little extra layer of flavor, you might want to drizzle some chocolate on top.  For me, after all the halloween candy, I was quite happy with the simple taste of the almond.

So this weekend, please consider unlocking your bonds of conformity and channel your inner "maverick" when you go to the kitchen to cook or bake.  You may be pleasantly surprised by the end result.

Renegade Cookies
by flourtrader

Ingredients (makes approx 4 dz cookies)
1 package of almond paste (7.5 or 8 oz)
1 cup sugar
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
1 egg (room temp)
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp of salt

Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  Take out the almond paste and slice and then cut into 1/4 inch squares.  Place each piece on the prepared baking sheet and place in freezer.  This is to keep the paste in separate pieces so it can be distributed evenly into the cookie batter.

Then line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.   Set aside.  In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth.  Then add egg and both extracts to the batter.  Beat for about 1 minute and add the sour cream.  Beat for another 30 seconds.

Take out the almond paste pieces and stir them into the flour mixture.  Then fold the flour mixture into the batter until no more dry streaks remain.  Cover and place cookie dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Place heaping teaspoons of cookie dough onto baking sheets, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.  Remove and let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Transfer to rack to complete cooling.
                                  **LAST YEAR: Macadamia Nut Muffins**

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dark Essence Cake

Before we get into the whole description on the flavor of this cake, let me clarify two things.  First, this cake does have a lot of sugar in it to offset its tartness.  Second, it has to be baked low and slow to retain the flavor-that means about 2 hours baking time.

Now I will further describe the cake.  The dark essence name stems from the fact that this cake has 100% pure concentrated black cherry juice in it.  So concentrated that 2 tbs and a lot of water makes up 8 oz ounces of regular juice.  If you love the deep flavor of black cherries, then you will definitely enjoy this cake-a whopping 2 cups of the black cherry concentrate is in this cake.

I did not want this cake tasting like one of those cheap hard candy suckers, nor did I want the cherry flavor fizzling out in the midst of the cake baking.  The use of the concentrate worked out as expected. The cake has such an intense earthy flavor that it lingers on your palate.  Also, the aroma of the cake is enough to entice everyone into the kitchen.

The inside is quite moist and rich, but the outside turned out rather toasty.  It is best sliced thin and served with cream anglaise or whipped cream.  I would have cut the cake so you could see the texture inside, except it was slated as a donation.  I wish I had taken a picture of the inside of the  cupcake I made to sample the taste. However,  I did not think of the picture until it was too late.

Dark Essence Cake
by flourtrader

1 tbs vegetable oil
6 eggs
2 cups concentrated 100% black cherry juice
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups packed light brown sugar
5 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups or 3 sticks of butter (room temp)
confectioners sugar (optional for dusting)

Prepare a 10 inch tube pan by generously greasing and lightly dusting the inside with flour.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In one bowl mix the two sugars together.  Then, in a separate bowl, beat the eggs until light and fluffy.  If using a whisk to beat by hand, this should take about 5 minutes.  Using an electric mixer should take about 2 minutes.  Then stir in the vegetable oil.

The third bowl should be filled with the butter.  Cream the butter with half of the sugar mixture, beating until smooth.  The other half of the sugar mixture should be stirred into the beaten eggs.

Add the egg mixture to the butter/sugar mix and stir until all is blended together.  Using a wooden spoon fold in 2 3/4 cup of flour to the batter.  Once there are no dry streaks, pour in 1 cup of the juice and mix until smooth.  Repeat process by adding the rest of the flour, mixing and then stirring in the last of the juice.

One the ingredients are completely mixed together, spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth out the surface.  Place cake in the preheated oven and set the timer for 2 hours.  After two hours, check for doneness using a tester.  If not done, place back in oven and check every 5 minutes with tester.  Baking time can range from 2 hours to 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Remove pan and cool for about 30 minutes.  During this time cake should pull away from the sides.
Invert cake onto rack to finish cooling.  Once completely cooled, you can dust with confectioners sugar.  This cake is best served in thin slices with creme anglaise spooned over the top.

Also, if you are looking for some unique oatmeal cookie recipes, check my last years post on the link below.  It has a link to a blogger dedicated to only making oatmeal cookies.  On August 17th he did an updated list by recipe name links and the list is huge!
                         **LAST YEAR: Filled Oatmeal Cookies/Golden Girls**