Monday, August 31, 2009

True to My Word

I told you I would post the recipe for the second flavor of cupcakes I made last week. And here it is. Mr. Doughboy seemed a bit ambivalent about them, but Doughnut Hole #1 (who is a culinary talent himself) loved them.

Raspberry Cupcakes with Chocolate Almond Ganache
1 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
5 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp raspberry syrup
1/2 C whole milk
1/3 C fresh raspberries, slightly chopped (leave them in fairly large chunks)
12 whole fresh raspberries, set aside for garnishing
2 Tbsp slivered almonds, finely chopped for garnishing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin cups with paper liners. In medium bowl, whisk together flour baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg, almond extract and raspberry syrup. At low speed on your mixer, add one-half of the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Add the milk and beat just until incorporated. Then add the rest of the flour mixture. Do not overbeat. Fold in the chopped raspberries.

Fill the muffin cups about three-fourths full. Bake about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from muffin tin and place onto a rack to cool completely. Spread frosting on cupcakes once cooled.

Chocolate Almond Ganache
3/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 C heavy cream
scant 1/4 tsp almond extract

Put chocolate chips in a small bowl. Heat cream in a small heavy saucepan. Watch it carefully. Once it is simmering, remove from heat and pour over chocolate chips. Cover bowl and let stand for 1 minute to melt the chips. Remove lid and stir until smooth. Once all lumps from the chocolate are gone, add the almond extract and stir until smooth. Let mixture sit at room temperature until it is a spreading consistency.

Once ganache is the consistency you want, spread it on top of each cupcake. (I like to leave a bit of the cupcake exposed, so I do not spread the chocolate all the way to the edges of each cupcake.) Place a fresh raspberry in the center of each cupcake. Sprinkle chopped almond bits around the raspberry on top of the ganache.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Long Drives and Slow Trots

We've got family members coming home after being away for the whole summer. One of those family members is our granddaughter, Mae. Since she's been gone, she's learned to walk (or rather, "slow trot" according to her father). Mr. Doughboy and I are quite excited to see her. Tomorrow is her first birthday.

So, if you are a baby-sized Mae, you should have a baby-sized welcome home treat, don't you think? Cupcakes are the perfect baby-sized treat. I dropped these off at her house last evening. I didn't know exactly when she and her mommy and cool California grandma would arrive. I hope they made it home last night. Otherwise, they're going to find some dried-out cupcakes on their counter this morning. Please note... no empty sugar treats for Mae. Responsible grandma that I am, I made sure there was a healthy helping of vegetables and fruits in her cupcakes. (Justification at its finest.) Thanks again to Joy the Baker for the wonderful taste combination. Next time I'll post the Raspberry Cupcakes with Chocolate Almond Ganache recipe.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart)
4 C peeled carrots, finely grated
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C vegetable oil
1/3 C buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C crushed pineapple, drained
1 C pecans, finely chopped (you could use walnuts instead, if you prefer)
1/2 C sweetened shredded coconut
3 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp cardamom

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl, mix together carrots, eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, coconut, pineapple and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir flour mixture into wet mixture until well blended.

Fill muffin tins three-fourths full with batter. Bake 25-28 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire racks. Let cupcakes cool in the muffin tin for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from tin and let them cool completely. Frost cupcakes with Dulce de Leche frosting.

Dulce de Leche Frosting (from The Pastry Queen)
1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 C powdered sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 C dulce de leche

Cream the butter and powdered usgar together using an electric mixer on low speed. Add the cream and vanilla; beat on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the prepared dulce de leche and beat until well incorporated. Frost the cupcakes using a pastry bag and large star tip.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Zucchini - Right Where it Belongs

I think everyone makes zucchini bread. When someone mentions they have zucchini, I think everyone else connects the dots right to a loaf pan and zucchini bread. I confess... I'm not a real zucchini bread fan. Never have been. But, over on Tasty Kitchen, I saw a recipe for Zucchini bread that really caught my eye. So... with the final bit of the zucchini given to me by a friend, I tried out this recipe. It's a keeper. I liked it. There are enough other flavors happening to make the bread very tasty indeed.

Orange Pecan Zucchini Bread
4 eggs
2 C shredded zucchini, unpeeled
2/3 C orange juice (I used freshly squeezed)
3/4 C canola oil
3 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 grated peel of an orange
3/4 C chopped pecans
1 C powdered sugar
2 Tbsp orange juice (yep, freshly squeezed again)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease and flour the bottoms of two loaf pans. (The author of the recipe uses 8" pans, but says you can use 9" ones as well. I did that, however, the loaves ended up not being as tall as I like them, so next time I will use one 9" pan and then use mini-loaf pans for the rest of the batter.)

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until they are a deep lemony yellow. Beat in the sugar and then stir in shredded zucchini, orange juice and the oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and orange peel. Pour the flour mixture into the wet mixture and combine together. Fold in chopped pecans.

Bake for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Cut cooking time by one-fourth if using mini loaf pans.) Remove from oven and cool slightly. Mix together the powdered sugar and remaining orange juice to make a glaze. Remove loaves from pans and place on wire rack (with wax paper underneath the rack). Spread the glaze over the baked loaves while still warm. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sharing the Love

Blackberries. I picked 12 pounds of them last week. Got home and wanted to have something to show for my efforts... well, in addition to the two buckets full of blackberries. I knew I wasn't up for making jam. Nor had I made the ganache to use in a mousse yet. But I wanted something to start off the berry celebration. Lucky for me I had a graham cracker pie crust just sitting there empty. So I filled it. With berries. A "quickie" pie, as I like to call them.

This recipe is pretty simple. The blackberry taste is front and center. Mr. Doughboy and I each had a slice. (The Doughnut Holes weren't home, so they didn't get any.) Then, since I knew the upcoming days were going to be filled with bathroom scale-straining projects from all the different dessert and berry creations I planned on attempting, I sent the rest of it to my best friend's house. I'm so grateful to her and her husband and sons for being willing to sacrifice their waistlines for my food porn collection. I bake. I take the pictures... and then I have to off-load the calories somewhere. So this berry mousse pie (and three-fourths of the Chocolate Zucchini Cake) went up the street to its new home.

Blackberry Mousse Pie
1 graham cracker pie crust
1 pkg unflavored gelatin
1/4 C cold water
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 C cream, chilled
3 tsp powdered sugar
2 C blackberries, fresh or frozen

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in saucepan. Let stand about 1 minute. Stir over low heat until gelatin is dissolved (about 1 minute). Remove from heat.

Place berries, sugar and gelatin mixture in blender and puree. Pour into bowl and chill until mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon (about 45 minutes). Beat cream and powdered sugar in a chilled bowl untili soft peaks form. Stir 1/4 of the cream into the blackberry puree mixture to lighten it. Fold in remaining cream. Pour into crust. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving. Garnish with fresh blackberries and creme fraiche or whipped cream.
Note: This pie can also be prepared with strawberries or raspberries. For strawberries, use 2 cups; for raspberries use 2 1/2 cups.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Zucchini's Redeeming Grace

I am not a big zucchini fan. My friends tell stories of squash gone wild. A few cute little seeds put in the ground and next thing you know: A zucchini invasion. For this reason I never plant zucchini. I simply don't like it enough to endure all the zucchini casseroles and breads responsible home gardeners everywhere have to come up with to use up what these overactive plants create.

However. However. There is one thing I love. It's a specific recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cake that my friend Michelle introduced me to about four years ago. She says she got it from Penzey's Spices. All I know is I got it from her. Twice. The first time I tasted this cake I loved it. Seriously. It was at a church social function. I immediately went into stealth mode and stole two extra pieces. Yes, I said "stole" and "church" in the same paragraph. Glass houses, people. Glass houses and stones. That's all I've got to say about that.

I immediately requested the recipe and blissfully used it. Unfortunately I lost it a couple of years ago when we packed up and moved. This summer, as my friends began to bemoan their overabundant zucchini harvests, I began to fixate on that cake. So another lovely friend, Julie, was kind enough to give me three zucchinis. Which I promptly grated up and used to make this cake. Ahhh bliss.

Now, normally, this cake batter is topped with chocolate chips and nuts and then you put it in the oven. This is the best way to taste the essence of the zucchini that's in it. When you make this cake for the first time, I recommend you do that. This time, however, I was in a serious chocolate mood. (My youngest son moved to Florida yesterday and my daughter has been gone for a week into her own place. As you can see, I was in serious need of chocolate.) So, I decided to shake things up a little. I incorporated the chips and the walnuts into the batter and baked it. After letting the cake cool, I frosted it with my all-time favorite chocolate frosting. The cake is delicious and the flavor that is front and center is total chocolate.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 3/4 C white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C milk mixed with 1/4 tsp white vinegar (sour milk)
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 C peeled and finely grated zucchini
1 C chocolate chips
1/4 C chopped nuts (optional)

Grease and flour a 9x13 baking pan. If using a glass pan, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. If using a metal pan, preheat to 350 degrees F. Mix butter, oil and sugar until well blended and creamy. Add the eggs, vanilla and sour milk. Blend well. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Add to the butter mixture and stir by hand to combine. Add grated zucchini and stir well. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts on top and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Chocolate Heaven

Here it is: my super-secret, all-time favorite chocolate frosting recipe. Special thanks to Joy the Baker for the secret ingredient idea.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2 C (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
scant 1 C cocoa powder
3/4 tsp salt
4 C powdered sugar
1 3/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/4 C milk
3/4 C whipping cream
1/2 C Ovaltine powder (yes, Ovaltine. The original Ovaltine)

Cream together the butter, cocoa powder and salt. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl thoroughly (the cocoa powder may have ended up there and may still need to be incorporated). Add all the powdered sugar. Turn the mixer on low and while the powdered sugar gets incorporated pour in the milk, vanilla extract and almond extract. Increase mixer speed and thoroughly beat the frosting until smooth. In a small bowl, stir together the cream and Ovaltine. Pour cream mixture into frosting slowly while beating at medium speed until frosting is the consistency you want it. You may not need all of the cream mixture, so add it in slowly.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nature's Bounty

I am blessed to live in a beautiful place. About 15 miles north is a typical urban area with restaurants, theaters, two colleges, sporting venues, shopping malls and anything else a girl could want. But here, where I call home... where I live and experience each day, it is a much more rural place. I love this area. It has been my solace as I have rebuilt a life for myself and my family. The simple beauty of the nature that surrounds me has helped to give me sure footing as I have carved out a life here -- despite it being quite altered from the life I thought I would have when I arrived. I live surrounded by mountains. Well, actually, I live on one of the mountains. Mountains give off a sense of steadiness and strength. They stay in place despite the weather or the season. Firm and immoveable. Not stubborn, but settled. I like what I have learned from them. You can see them from anywhere in the valley below. The valleys themselves have harvests every year. This year's harvest has been spectacular.

Being the rural place it is, there are farmlands and orchards down in the valley below me. I can look off my porch to see the cherry, apple and peach orchards. I can see the corn and wheat fields. Off in the distance is the farm where I went last week to pick raspberries and blackberries. Many of my neighbors have gardens that grow tomatoes, zucchini, peppers of all sorts, carrots, and onions. So far this year, I've had three different neighbors deliver some of their own garden bounty to share with me. Two of them knocked on the door and presented them as a gift; another did it stealthily and I found the delicious bag of freshly picked tomatoes on my front porch. To this day, I don't know who it was but the tomatoes were delicious.

The fresh-picked corn and watermelon I buy at the roadside booth in town have been enjoyed by my family over and over again.

And the berries from Phelp's Berry Farm! Oh my! Oh oh my. I spent two days making Blackberry sauce (for future dessert recipes - stay tuned for Blackberry Souffle next week) as well as Blackberry and Raspberry jams and Chocolate Raspberry Ganache. You know, I'm not sure which I enjoyed more -- having the berries in the house to cook and bake with, or spending the day picking them. Wearing my "Rice Paddy Hat" (as my children call it) to keep the sun off my shoulders, being outside in the light and the breeze, picking berries with people from all around the area I live in.

Friendly, folksy people who, like me, wait all year for the opportunity to come to the "pick your own" farm and get their cherries, blackberries and raspberries. Groups of neighbors go together. The young mothers bring their children... and I have to tell you... there is nothing like watching and listening to young children picking berries. Mom gives them their own patch to harvest and boy do they go to town. Jabbering, eating, and occasionally putting a berry or two in their basket. Getting so excited when they find a big ripe juicy one that they have to announce it in the loudest voice they've got. "Wow, Mommy, look at this one! Can you make a pie out of this one?"

Little girls in a berry patch. What a great time!

And next come the peaches.

Wait till you see what I'm going to do with all these peaches! I have a favorite orchard (Sabin's) where I go to buy my peaches each year. I drive by their signs each day waiting for them to hammer up the "Peaches Now" banner. I can hardly wait. They are my favorite fruit and this is my favorite season.

So, this year, I've had fresh tomatoes - made into BLT sandwiches and sliced on dinner plates, zucchini put into breads and cakes, yellow squash - sliced and sauteed for side dishes, corn - on the cob, in fresh corn salads and frozen for some corn chowders this winter, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries - making desserts, syrups, sauces, jams and fruit platters. No shipping in fruits and vegetables from other areas. All from the farms and orchards right here in my hometown. This place I love. This place where nature's bounty sits on our dinner table at every meal.

Friday, August 21, 2009


look... I can be the cherry on top!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Slow Cooking Fiesta Time

Slow cookers are extremely convenient for preparing meals. However, all the fajita recipes I've seen add all the peppers and onions into the cooker and by the time dinner is served, the consistency of the vegetables is too soft. This recipe incorporates enough of the peppers and onions to season the meat, but also has you prepare a few of the peppers and onions in a frypan just before serving. I like that better because it gives the finished fajita a subtle crunch as you bite into it.

Oh, and just ignore the large teenage hand trying to steal my dinner! Don't worry. A quick rap on the knuckles with a wooden spoon and he let go of my fajita. (Not quite as friendly as a Leggo my Eggo commercial, but effective, nonetheless.)

Slow-Cooker Fajitas
2 pounds bottom round steak (or flank)
1 C chopped onions
2 jalapeno peppers, diced fine with seeds and membranes
1/2 large green pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 large red pepper, cut into 1/2-in pieces
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 14.5-oz can stewed tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 green peppers, sliced in strips about 1/4-inch thick
1 1/2 red peppers, sliced in strips about 1/4-inch thick
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
2 Tbsp olive oil
15 fajita-size tortillas
Shredded jack cheese
Sour Cream

Cut steak into 6 portions. In slow cooker, combine onions, jalapenos, 1/2-inch pieces of peppers, cilantro, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt. Place meat in cooker over mixture. Add undrained tomatoes. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours.

Remove meat from cooker and shred. Return meat to cooker. Stir in lime juice. Let meat continue to cook while you heat tortillas and prepare garnishes.

Put olive oil in large frying pan and heat. When the oil spreads quickly around pan, put in the strips of green peppers, red peppers and sliced onion. Saute until the peppers are moderately soft and the onion is carmelized. Remove to a serving platter; cover and keep warm. Heat tortillas in microwave until hot. Wrap them in a cloth towel and place in tortilla holder. Set out garnishes of cheese, guacamole, sour cream and salsa.

When ready to serve the fajitas, use a slotted spoon to remove meat from the slow cooker and place into serving bowl.

To serve fajitas, fill the warmed tortillas with the beef mixture. Add whatever garnishes you desire.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cookies vs. Cupcakes

One day I saw a little boy with an Oreo cookie in one hand and a cupcake in the other -- and a little bit of both smeared all over his face. Oh to be a kid again. But, his messy face gave me an idea. How about Oreo cupcakes? What a novel thought. This is my attempt at such a treat. I tried these with a couple versions of frosting but they just didn't have that "center of an Oreo" kind of flavor. Then I remembered a recipe I had found on Real Mom Kitchen for Sugar Cookie Bars. The frosting she used included shortening, and there's GOT to be shortening in that stuff in between the Oreos. So I tried that frosting. It works perfectly with these. So, thanks to Real Mom Kitchen for the frosting recipe for these cupcakes.

Cookies-N-Cream Cupcakes
3/4 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
3/4 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 C sour cream
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 Oreo-type cookies, broken up

1/2 cup butter; room temp
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp milk
Crushed Oreo-type cookies

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper or foil liners. In small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Beat in eggs, one at a time. On low speed, alternately beat flour mixture and sour cream into the butter/sugar mixture. Begin and end with the flour. Add the milk and vanilla and incorporate well into batter. Fold in cookie pieces.

Divide batter into cupcake tins, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes. Cupcakes are done when the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove cupcakes to a rack and cool completely.

For frosting: Combine butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar in 1-2 cup increments until combined, then add milk & mix until smooth and spreading consistency.

When cupcakes are cooled, spread the frosting on them and then sprinkle tops with cookie crumbs.

Alright, time to come clean... the kid I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Well, it wasn't really a kid kind of kid. It was my 18-year-old.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's All About Embellishments

I found an absolutely divine Cobbler recipe on Joy the Baker's blog. It's for Nectarine and Cream Cobbler. (My friend Sue at Hen Pecks is going to love this, since as far as she's concerned nectarines are evidence that God has never abandoned us.) I had company coming for dinner on Sunday and decided this would make the perfect dessert. However, I made a few adjustments to suit what I think is evidence that God is always near: Peaches. I'm a peach girl, much more than a nectarine girl. So I decided to substitute peaches for the nectarines. I had one remaining bag of frozen peaches from last year's harvest. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I didn't really like the consistency of the dessert with the frozen peaches. I decided to make the dish again on Monday, but this time use fresh fruit.

I ran to the store and bought a few peaches. They're not quite in season, but they were good enough. Additionally, since I have an appointment tomorrow morning to go to a 'pick your own' berry farm and get raspberries and blackberries, I needed some motivation to get me ramped up for the hard labor camp I've enrolled in. So I decided to throw in some blackberries as well. Every once in a while I have strokes of brilliance. (It worked. I am now very motivated to harvest berries by the sweat of my brow so that I can have Blackberry Souffles, Raspberry Syrup, White Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Berries and Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake in the coming month.)

The final touch, however was to use cinnamon whipped cream to really set this dish off. And it did. I knew it would as soon as I dipped my finger into the newly-whipped Nirvana to taste test it. Being the responsible baker and hostess that I am, I told my daughter to commandeer the whipped cream that very instant before I took a super-sized spoon and simply had my way with the whole bowl. I told her that no matter how hard I cried, begged, thrashed around or threatened her, she was not to give me back the bowl. Talk about good parenting gone bad. Either that girl is phenomenally obedient or she is just plain heartless. She was not moved in the least by my desperate pleas for just one more spoonful. Of course, the upside is there was enough whipped cream for everyone to enjoy on their Peaches and Blackberry Cobbler.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream
2 C heavy whipping cream
3/4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. With a hand mixer, whip on high speed until the cream is the desired consistency.

Loafing Around... on a Smaller Scale

Aren't these loaf pans adorable? My mother gave them to me. She had seven or eight of them with different designs and she let me take three of them home with me after my last visit. I just think they are so cute. They're the perfect size for mini-loaves of my favorite quick-breads. As luck would have it, I had some overripe bananas, so I made up a Banana Nut Bread batter and broke in my new mini-loaf pans.

Banana Nut Bread
2 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 C canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 C sour cream (can use plain yogurt)
1/4 C chopped walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray loaf pan lightly with cooking spray.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Combine the sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat with electric mixer on medium speed until combined (about 2 minutes). Add bananas and sour cream and mix together by hand just until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Do not overmix. Fold in walnuts if you're going to use them.

Turn batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar over the top of the batter. Place in the center of the oven and bake for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top of the loaf should be a golden brown color and the sides of the bread should be pulling away from the pan.

When done baking, place the pan on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Slide a knife around the edges, invert the pan to release the bread, and cool completely on the rack before serving.

NOTES: 1) If the loaves are browning too much on the top, but still are not done in the center, place a tent of aluminum foil over the top of the bread for the rest of the baking time.

2) If you are using mini-loaf pans, you should decrease the baking time by one-fourth. In other words, for this recipe, plan on baking the mini-loaves for 45 minutes. Begin to check for doneness at about 38-40 minutes.

I just might end up spending the whole week filling these cute things with different batters. Hmmmm..., Chocolate Applesauce Bread, Orange Pecan Loaf, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread, Zucchini Bread, Cinnamon Swirl Bread, Lavender-infused Lemon Bread. The possibilities are endless. Too bad the calories are, too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hello Mr. Chips

I like to have fresh-baked cookies in the kitchen. Sometimes I get in a cookie dough frenzy. Actually, it's my practical side showing up. I tell myself that, since all the cookie ingredients are out, I might as well be efficient and take advantage of the time. I often mix up a batch of two or three different kinds of cookie dough. I will then lightly flour (very lightly) my countertop and roll each cookie dough into a long rope (about 2 inches in diameter). Then I wrap the dough in plastic wrap and hide it in the depths of my fridge where Mr. Doughboy and the little Doughnuts-Holes can't find it. Whenever I want to cook up some cookies, I pull out one of the cookie dough ropes and using a sharp knife, slice a dozen or so cookies (about 1/2 inch thickness), put them on a baking sheet and bake 'em up.

You can use the cookie dough rope approach with these. Don't apply the cinnamon/sugar coating until you're slicing them up to put them in the oven. Put the cinnamon/sugar in a small bowl and press each side of the sliced dough into the mixture. Then put them on the cookie sheet and away you go!

Cinnamon Chip Cookies
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup cinnamon chips

3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Put butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of a mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour in 1/2 cup increments. Stir in cinnamon chips.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl until well combined. Shape cookie dough into round balls; roll in cinnamon sugar. Space 2-3 inches apart on baking sheets.

Bake cookies 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Don't overbake. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Friday, August 14, 2009


... are you sure all these people are my cousins?"

"Yep, every one of 'em."

"Then we're going to need more cupcakes."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You Knew It Was Coming...

We can't celebrate cinnamon without cinnamon rolls. Now, I realize some might consider what I'm about to say blasphemy... but hey, a girl's gotta speak her truth. I. Do. Not. Like Cinnabon. Rolls. They don't tempt me at the mall. They don't tempt me at the airport kiosks. They just don't do it for me. There, I said it.

Now, sit me in my Grandma's kitchen and plate me up one of her cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven and I'm in heaven. Well, I guess I'd have to be, since she's in heaven now. But luckily she left us her recipe. This basic sweet dough recipe can be used for cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, orange rolls, even dinner rolls. You name it. I was raised on it. I love it.

Grandma's Basic Sweet Dough
Combine together 1 C warm water, 2 tsp. sugar and 2 pkgs active dry yeast. Set aside.

2 C milk (warmed)
3/4 to 1 C sugar
1/2 C shortening or butter
4 eggs, well beaten
2 tsp salt
7-8 C all-purpose flour

Place shortening or butter and sugar in large mixing bowl. Pour heated milk over and stir to combine. (The warm milk will melt the shortening or butter.) Let cool. Add yeast mixture. Stir to combine and then let stand 5 minutes. Add eggs, salt and flour. (I add the first 4 cups of flour and incorporate it all together, then add the next 3 cups.) Beat well with beater or wooden spoon. This is a very sticky dough. Let dough proof for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place. Punch down and let raise 45 minutes more.

For cinnamon rolls, roll out into rectangle on flat surface. Spread softened butter on dough (I use Cinnamon Honey Butter, if I have some on hand.) Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon on top of the buttered dough. Roll up dough until you have a nice tight "tube" of dough. Cut into 3/4 to 1-inch thick circles and place on pregreased baking sheet. Cook at 400 degrees F. for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle glaze over warm rolls.

Can also use this recipe for dinner rolls, tea rings, twists, orange rolls, etc.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

(Don't you wish you had a beautiful food model like my daughter-in-law?)

I'm taking a break from cinnamon today. Instead, we'll go to Africa. Land of lions, hyenas, cheetahs, impalas and... zebras. Okay, so this is a lame way to introduce today's recipe: Zebra Cake. I like making Zebra Cake because it feels like playing... like making a mess when you were a kid. Pouring things on top of each other and seeing what happens. Zebra Cake is fun to slice and serve. Guests aren't expecting what they get.

Zebra Cake
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature (I've also used 2% and had it turn out)
1 cup canola oil
2 drops almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed dark cocoa powder (I don't recommend using Hershey’s natural unsweetened cocoa. It is a bit too bitter and takes away from the sweetness of the cake.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan with oil then line it with parchment paper cut in a circle to fit in the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar and beat until the mixture is creamy and light in color. Add milk, oil, and almond extract. Continue beating until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine and mix flour and baking powder. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat just until the batter is smooth and the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. DO NOT OVERBEAT. You do not want air pockets forming in the batter.

Divide the mixture equally 2 mixing bowls. In one of the bowls, add the cocoa powder to the batter and mix well.

Using two ladles or two 1/4 cup measuring cups, pour 1 scoop of the plain batter into the middle of the baking pan. Then pour 1 scoop of the cocoa batter in the center on top of the plain batter. IMPORTANT! Do not stop and wait until the previous batter spreads. It isn't necessary to spread the batter or tilt the pan to distribute the mixture. It will spread by itself and fill the pan gradually. Continue alternating the batters until you finish them.

Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick or cake tester into the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove from the oven. Immediately run a small thin knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the cake onto a cooking rack and immediately turn the cake back over and let cool. When cool, sprinkle cake with confectioner's sugar.

Okay, so I hope you are all so dazzled by my daughter-in-law's photogenic playfulness that you haven't noticed the dish rag hanging from the kitchen faucet in the background. Move along... move along... Nothin' to see here, folks. Geesh!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Celebration Continues

Three guesses. Homemade ice cream? (Nope - strike one.) Caramel mousse? (Nope – strike two.) Ummmmm..... Cinnamon Honey Butter? (Cheater! You read yesterday’s post.)

While regular honey butter is great on dinner rolls and homemade bread, cinnamon honey butter is my go-to combination for making cinnamon rolls and French toast. Rather than be a subtle accent flavor, the cinnamon is front and center. When I make cinnamon rolls, I spread this on the dough in place of stand-alone butter, and then sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon on the top of it. When I make French toast, I sprinkle cinnamon in the egg mixture. However, it’s gone after a few slices of bread have been dipped. So, I make sure Cinnamon Honey Butter gets served at the table so that everyone has a chance to get their cinnamon fix.

Cinnamon Honey Butter
1 cup sweet cream butter
1 3/4 cups honey
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Beat the butter with a electric mixer until smooth. Add in honey and vanilla. Combine well. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and whip all together.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Celebrating Cinnamon

I guess now is the time I should include music by Neil Young: "I wanna live with a Cinnamon Girl. I could happy the rest of my life with a Cinnamon Girl." Okay... we all know he's referring to redheads, right? Ginger and cinnamon. My two favorite spices. Well... there's also nutmeg. I could make a case for nutmeg looking quite auburn as well, so I'm still in the clear.

This week we're going to celebrate cinnamon. And we start off with my favorite Snickerdoodle Muffins.

If you look at these muffins directly from above, you'd think you were looking at Snickerdoodle cookies. The first time I made these, I left them on the counter. My daughter came in, took one look at them and said, "Wow, Mom, these look like Snickerdoodle cookies." Mission accomplished.

Snickerdoodle Muffins
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cream of tarter
pinch of salt
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or ground if you don't have fresh)
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 pkg cinnamon chips (optional)
1/2 cup sugar and 1 Tbsp cinnamon mixed together for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin tins or use paper muffin cups. Fill a small bowl with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Cream the butter and sugar until soft about 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides. Add in the vanilla. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until each is well incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture and the sour cream alternately to the egg-butter mixture. Start with the flour and end with the flour, beating after each addition. If you want to include cinnamon chips, gently fold them into the batter.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out muffin batter one at a time and drop into the bowl filled with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll the muffin around until it is covered completely in cinnamon sugar. Place muffin into prepared muffin tin. Bake them for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown. Depending on the size of your tins, you should get about 14 to 18 muffins.

The wonderful thing about these muffins is that the cinnamon/sugar coating is all over the muffin. When you pull away the paper, you still get that Snickerdoodle-like outer coating.

Note: Tomorrow I will post some flavored butters, including a Cinnamon Butter. It is very good on these muffins, especially when they are still warm.

Friday, August 7, 2009


You know I can't eat that. Daddy says no more cookies."

"Mae, what Daddy doesn't know won't hurt him."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Elusive Chocolate Chip Cookie

It seems in all of bakedom there isn’t a more never-ending quest than the search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. When I was young, I loved one recipe above all others. I was convinced it was the secret cookie recipe that everyone was looking for. Come to find out... it was the Tollhouse Cookie recipe. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve played with using shortening vs. butter vs. butter-flavored shortening. I've added and decreased flour amounts. I've done them with walnuts and with almonds. I’m partial to chewy cookies over crisp ones. In addition to being chewy, I prefer them with a little more cakey volume. But the biggest problem I’ve always had was that the cookies didn’t keep their volume after they cooled. They went flat.

Well, wonder of wonders, I’ve found my new favorite recipe. It’s Regan Daley’s “The Ultimate Chewy and Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookie” recipe. The first time I made it, I followed the instructions exactly. They came out just the way I love them. Since then, the only deviation I’ve made has been to use chocolate chips rather than chop up chocolate bars. They are still 100% delicious.

The Ultimate Chewy and Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookies - Regan Daley

1 C unsalted butter at room temperature
1 C tightly packed light brown sugar
1 / 2 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1 / 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 C plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 / 2 tsp salt
16 oz flavorful bitter or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I now use a pkg of chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or lightly butter them. (I use parchment paper.) In the bowl of an electric mixer, or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or a large bowl if mixing by hand, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks.

Using your hands, shape knobs of dough about the size of a large walnut and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Stagger the rows of cookies to ensure even baking. Bake 12-15 minutes for smaller cookies, 14-17 for larger ones or until the tops are a light golden brown. If the cookies are neither firm nor dark when they are removed from the oven, they will cool chewy and soft. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Spicing up Rice (Part 1)

Being from San Diego, I’ve had the great fortune of eating lots of really good Mexican food. Here in Utah, well, at least here in Utah County, I’ve yet to find a restaurant that serves Mexican rice the way I like it. It’s either too bland, too salty, too tomato-y (is that a word), or to much like Spanish rice. Most Mexican restaurant chains (even in San Diego) don’t seem to have the best rice. It’s usually the Mom and Pop (or rather Madre y Padre) places that have the best rice. This recipe of mine is the one I pull out whenever I’m sitting in Utah jonesing for some authentic Mexican rice.

We had a family reunion in Idaho this summer. That's even further from the Mexican border than Utah is. But thanks to this recipe, there was some authentic Mexican rice there.

Good Mexican rice doesn’t stick or clump together. The way you keep that from happening is to rinse the rice in cold water prior to cooking it. That removes the starch from the rice.

Buen provecho!

Mexican Rice
12 oz tomatoes, very ripe and cored (or use 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes)
1 medium white onion
3 medium jalapenos
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp tomato paste (omit this if using canned tomatoes)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 / 2 C fresh cilantro, minced
1 lime

Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Process tomato and onion in food processor or blender until pureed and thoroughly smooth. Transfer mixture to measuring cup and reserve exactly 2 cups. Discard excess.

Remove ribs and seeds from 2 jalapenos and discard. Mince flesh and set aside. Mince remaining jalapeno. Set aside.

Place rice in an fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear - about 1½ minutes. Shake rice vigorously to remove excess water. IF YOU OMIT THIS STEP YOUR RICE WILL NOT BE DRY AND FLUFFY.

Heat oil in heavy bottomed oven-safe 12-inch straight-sided saute pan or Dutch oven with tight fitting lid over medium high heat about 2 minutes. Drop a few rice grains in and if they sizzle then it is ready. Add rice and fry stirring until rice is light golden and translucent, about 6-8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and 2 minced jalapenos and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant. about 1 1/2 minutes.

Stir in broth, pureed mixture, tomato paste, and salt. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Cover pan and transfer to oven and bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender (30-35 minutes). Stir well after 15 minutes.

Stir in cilantro, minced jalapeno to taste, and pass lime wedges separately.

Note: If your family likes additional things like peas or small diced carrots in their Mexican rice, add the frozen kind at the end of the baking process along with the cilantro and jalapeno. The heat of the rice will soften them up enough. Just stir them in and then put the lid back on the Dutch oven and let it sit another 5-10 minutes before uncovering and dishing up. If they like finely chopped sweet red peppers, then add them when you stir the rice at the 15-minute cook mark. The baking time will soften them up, since they are fresh and a little harder.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Secret to Getting Teenagers to Attend Family Functions

When my children were 5, 3, and 2 (yes, be impressed), I became acquainted with a woman who amazed me. Her name was Avonell (cool name, don't ya think?) and she had 10 children. They were all grown and out of the house by the time I met her. As I lived through my bleary tired days and my interrupted nights, I wondered how in the world she had mothered 10 children and kept her sanity... not to mention her refined and classy aura. My meeting her when she was 62 years old was proof positive that young children, and even teenagers, were survivable. Whenever she spoke, I would listen. One little bit of wisdom she gave out always stuck with me: "If you want your teenagers to participate in family home evenings, family get-togethers or family meetings, make sure the food is good... and always serve dessert." Avonell had a veritable arsenal of delicious desserts that she could be counted on to bring to any church pot luck or neighborhood block party. And, lucky for me, she was willing to share recipes.

This recipe is a favorite of my children, and now my stepchildren as well. It's quick and easy because it uses a boxed cake mix. I like it because it is cool. Not as in Joe Cool, but as in temperature cool and refreshing. Because of the whipped topping frosting, any leftover cake (as if!) has to be kept in the refrigerator. Somehow, that makes it taste even more satisfying to me when I sneak a second (who are we kidding??? um... third) piece after everyone else has gone to bed.

(Sorry about the quality of the picture. It got eaten so quickly I didn't have time to snap any good pictures before it was served up.)

Heath Bar Cake
Mix together:
1 box yellow cake mix
2 C warm water
2 eggs

Add 1 small pkg instant chocolate pudding. Mix well. Grease 9x13 pan and pour mixture in it. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 35-40 minutes. Cool.

Mix together 1/4 cup melted butter and 1 cup powdered sugar. Fold in 8 oz whipped topping. Spread on cake. Sprinkle 3-4 crushed Heath or Skor bars over top of whipped topping mixture. Store cake in refrigerator. Hint: It helps to freeze the candy bars and then crush them with a hammer while they are still in the package.

All Things Pizza - Starting with the Sauce

So once a month the whole fam-damily gets together and we have a meal and an evening together. I'm in charge of feeding the hoardes. Since August is so stinkin' hot, I really didn't relish an afternoon in the kitchen with the oven on and the stovetop flaming away like a blowtorch. So, I decided we would use the grill... outside... where it's cooler in the evening. We had "make-your-own-grilled-pizzas" night. However, I happen to have a fantabulous recipe for pizza sauce so I just couldn't bring myself to buy the store-bought kind. The sacrifice for better taste meant firing up one stove-top burner, but I decided it was worth it.

Smack Your Lips and Slap Your Grandma Pizza Sauce
(Oh, and don't be offended by the name of this sauce. It's okay. I can say that. I am a grandma.)
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 C water
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp celery salt (if you don't have celery salt, just add a stalk or two of celery to the pot. Remove it along with the bay leaf when the sauce is done simmering)
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp fennel seed or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use fennel if you want more depth of flavor; use the crushed red pepper flakes if you prefer more heat)

Pour tomato sauce, tomato paste, olive oil and water into a medium saucepan. Stir until smooth. Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Simmer sauce for 30-45 minutes. If it is too thick, add a little water and continue simmering. When sauce is done, remove the bay leaf. Spread the sauce on your pizza dough and top with whatever toppings you desire.

This sauce freezes well, so freeze any leftovers and you'll have it handy for the next time. Or plan ahead and double or triple the recipe so you'll be sure to have some to freeze for your next pizza night.

Note: If you prefer more of a tomato-ish flavor to your pizza sauce, you can add another can of tomato sauce after you taste test it half-way through the simmer.

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade

I love ginger. Gingerbread, gingerbread cookies, gingersnaps, even gingered carrots... are we seeing a trend here? Of course, I'm also a redhead. So it may be genetic imprinting that's responsible for my love of all things ginger.

Tonight we have decided to keep the kitchen cooled down at dinnertime. We're going to grill pizzas out on the deck. This terrific recipe for lemonade with an edge will be a great compliment to the whole "beat the heat" dinner action.

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade
4 cups water
2 cups honey
2 Tbsp minced fresh gingerroot
4-5 cups Club Soda, chilled
2 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice

In a saucepan, bring the water, honey and ginger to a boil. Don't worry about peeling the ginger. You're going to strain it out after it steeps anyway. Remove from the heat; cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain, discarding ginger. Cool.

Just before serving, transfer to a pitcher; stir in soda and lemon juice. Serve immediately. Yields 10 servings.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lemon-Filled Croissants

I love croissants! Love. Them. However, they are a lot of work. So, I don't love making them. But, I have been having a hankerin' for them for awhile now. Last Sunday we had family over. They were looking to escape the heat of their non-air conditioned apartment. Since it was such a scorcher, I made a very light lemon cheesecake. I used a few dollops of lemon pie filling on the top of each slice to intensify the flavor. Afterwards, I had over a half a can of pie filling left. So I decided to bake up these lovely little breakfast rolls to use up the pie filling. (Normally I would use a lemon curd with a deeper lemon flavor, but hey, waste not want not.)

This is a quick-version for croissants. You don't layer the butter or do three turns of the dough so the rolls aren't quite as flaky as full-blown croissants. In fact, since you incorporate the butter right into the dough, they are a bit more brioche-like. They are easy to put together and not too labor-intensive. I just mixed up the dough in the afternoon and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Rolled them up and baked them the next morning.

Lemon-Filled Croissants
1 C whole milk
1/4 C sugar
4 room temperature eggs, lightly beaten
4 C bread flour
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C butter, softened
1 1/2 C lemon curd or pie filling
powdered sugar or icing

Heat milk in the microwave until lukewarm. Pour milk into large bowl and add sugar. Add 1 cup of the flour and, using the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix until smooth. Add eggs and mix completely. Add in yeast and 1 cup flour until well combined. Add in the salt and 1 1/2 C flour. Mix until the dough comes together.

Sprinkle a little flour on a flat surface. Turn dough out. Knead for about 3 minutes incorporating a little bit of the final 1/2 C flour at a time until it is all mixed in. The dough should be on the sticky side and will likely stick to your hands a little. Just add a little flour to your hands as you knead.

Place the dough back into the bowl. Add 1/4 of the softened butter and mix it into the dough with your hands. Once it is completely incorporated into the dough, add another 1/4 of the butter. Repeat this process until all the butter is mixed in. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight. You should place a plate or some other weighted object over the top of the bowl if the dough is going to be in the fridge longer than 4 hours.

Next morning, lightly sprinkle counter with flour. Divide dough into two portions. Roll out each portion into a circle 15 inches in diameter. Cut the the dough into eight pieces. (I use a pizza cutter.) Add a heaping tablespoon of lemon curd or pie filling to the widest end of the triangle. Starting from the wide end, roll each piece up and curve the ends to form a crescent shape. Pinch the ends closed so the filling doesn't seep out. Place rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough. Cover rolls with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes at room temperature.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F. for 15-18 minutes. After baking, remove rolls to a wire rack and let cool. When cool, sprinkle powdered sugar over the tops or drizzle with icing.