Wednesday, October 28, 2009

With A Little Help From My Friends

It really helps to have foodie friends. Especially ones that have food blogs. I have to give a serious shout-out to Rookie Cookie. Not only did she save me from a boring dinner Monday night with her Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, but she also posted a delicious-sounding recipe for Swirled Chocolate Pumpkin Gingerbread.

As I read through that one, I kept thinking, “Flake, not only would that be delicious as written, but imagine it with Dulce de Leche instead of chocolate.” For three days I spun it around in my head. Finally last night, I made it, just a bit modified from Rookie's original.

Mr. Doughboy and I were at another friend’s house for dinner and a movie. I kind of took over her kitchen and said, “Don’t worry about dessert. I’ve got it covered.” After making myself at home pulling out flour, sugar and spices from her cupboards, I whipped out the can of pumpkin puree, a bottle of molasses, and a container of dulce de leche that I had brought from home. (Well, okay, actually I forgot the dulce de leche so Mr. Doughboy ran home to get it. As you can see, dessert production is a full-family commitment.)

Fifty minutes later, we were all blissfully eating this delectable gingerbread -- warm out of the oven.

Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Gingerbread
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup boiling water
4 Tbsp dulce de leche, divided
Whipped cream, for serving

Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, white pepper and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix until incorporated. Stir in molasses and pumpkin. Stir in the boiling water. Add the flour mixture and stir until well incorporated.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Place two 1-Tbsp dollops of dulce de leche on top of the batter and, using a butter knife, swirl to incorporate. Pour on the remaining batter and then top with the final two dollops of dulce de leche. Use the butter knife again to swirl the dulce.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's the Great Pumpkin...

Pumpkin season is upon us. From now to Christmas, there will be pumpkin custards and brulees, pumpkin pies, pumpkin breads, pumpkin cookies... even pumpkin soups.

I figure... why fight it? Here's my first contribution: Pumpkin Pie Cookie Bars. They make up quick and have that creamy pumpkin pie-type middle.

I took them over to Hen Pecks, because she's laid up in bed after knee surgery. While we dished, her husband snatched up the goodies and went into the dark recesses of the house, where he was ghoulishly glowing by computer light. Though we couldn't make out his features in the darkness, his voice came through just fine.

"AMAZING," he said, after taking the first bite out of these delectable fall treats.

Pumpkin Pie Cookie Bars
Cookie Layer
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pie Layer
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin

2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan and lay a piece of parchment paper across the pan, so that it extends beyond the pan slightly.

To make cookie layer:
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffly. Add eggs, and vanilla until beat until smooth.

Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan. I used my hands to press the dough down into the pan.

To make the pumpkin layer:
Combine all the ingredients together in a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment. Mix until it is well combined. Pour over the cookie layer and smooth out. Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.

Bake for 33-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Let the bars cool completely (about an hour).

Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Place on a cutting board and cut into bars.

Friday, October 23, 2009


...I won't make a mess. I'm wearing my apron!"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm Not Laughing At You

Really, I'm not. When I say "Snicker," it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with this cake. Snickerdoodle Cake.

This is a shortcut cake. Rather than make the batter from scratch, I use a cake mix and then doctor up the other ingredients. But the result is delish... especially if you are a cinnamon freak like I am.

Snickerdoodle Cake
1 pkg plain white cake mix
1/2 C sour cream
1 C whole milk
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Cut two circles, 9 inches in diameter, out of parchment paper and place them at the bottom of each cake pan.

Combine the cake mix, sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, blend on low speed to incorporate all the ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat for two minutes. The batter will be thick. Divide the batter equally (or as close as you can get it) between the two prepared cake pans. Smooth with a spatula.

Bake the cakes until they are golden brown and spring back to the touch, about 28 minutes. When they are done, place the cake pans on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto a rack and remove the cakes from the pans. Then turn them back over on another rack so they are right side up again. Cool completely. When cooled, frost with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It Just Warms Your Soul

Chili... on Halloween. When I was a little girl, my mother always made homemade chili for us to eat before we went out trick-or-treating. She said it would help keep us warm while we went door-to-door. I think she did is as a fallback to her own childhood when going trick-or-treating on October 31st in Ogden, Utah usually meant some really nippy weather.

She forgot, of course, that my brother, sister and I were having our childhoods in San Diego, California. Different thermometer issues entirely.

But, nevertheless, the tradition stuck. All the while my kids were of ghoul and Dracula ages, I also prepared my own chili and sent them out with "warm" bellies to beg candy from the neighbors. Of course, I had the good sense to live in Utah so chili was, again, a logical choice.

October Chili
4 cans kidney beans, undrained
1 can pinto beans, undrained
1 lb ground beef
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (remove the seeds if you don't want the 'bite.' I, however like the "bite" so I leave them in)
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (with juice)
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp basil
1/8 tsp allspice
1 bay leaf
1 sweet red pepper, diced

In a large frying pan, brown ground beef with onion, green pepper and jalapeno pepper. Meanwhile, put all other ingredients, except the sweet red pepper, in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Stir together to combine. Drain the fat off the meat mixture and add it to the stockpot. Mix well.

Bring chili to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for about 45-50 minutes. At 30 minutes, add the diced sweet red pepper. Cover again and continue simmering.

Taste before serving and adjust salt or sweet flavor as needed. Serve with shredded cheese on top and a dollop of sour cream, if desired. (And, yes, if anyone is asking... I always desire it.)

Note: If you want to make this in a slow cooker, follow the instructions as written except drain off the liquid from the cans of tomatoes and add the red pepper along with all the other ingredients. Cook in a slow cooker for 4-5 hours.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bob Marley and I...

... we be jammin.'

Now that the stress of my test is over, I'm back to reviewing all the hard work I put in at harvest time this year. We have four different flavors of jam to look forward to: raspberry, blackberry, peach and apricot.

Notice the difference between these jars of homemade jam. (Well, besides the fact that one is blackberry and the other is raspberry.) As you can see, the blackberry jam was sealed differently than the raspberry. Rather than do a hot water bath to seal the jars, I simply poured the hot jam into the jars, put the lids on and then inverted them onto the lids. They sat out overnight upside down like that. Next morning, I flipped them back over, checked that each lid sealed and tucked them away in the cold storage room downstairs.

Kind of trippy, isn't it? Seeing the headspace at the bottom of the jar instead of the top.

So, all y'all who say you can't can because you don't have a canner? Well, that excuse won't fly around these parts. You could still make jam using the "invert" method.

Blackberry Jam (thanks to Sure Jell Pectin)
6 cup blackberries
1 each package powdered pectin
8 1/2 cup sugar

Sterilize canning jars and prepare two-piece canning lids according to manufacturer's directions. To prepare fruit, sort and wash fully ripe berries; remove any stems or caps. Crush berries. If they are very seedy, put part or all of them through a sieve or food mill. To make jam, measure crushed berries into a kettle. Add pectin and stir well. Place on high heat and, stirring constantly, bring quickly to a full boil with bubbles over the entire surface. Add sugar, continue stirring, and heat again to a full bubbling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; skim. Fill hot jam immediately into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids.

To process the jam, either 1) place the jars into a water bath canner with boiling water. Make sure the jars are covered by at least one inch of water. Boil for 10 minutes. Then remove the jars from the canner and set them on the kitchen counter. As they cool, you will hear the lids "pop" indicating that the jar is sealed.

Or 2) immediately after adjusting the metal canning lids, turn the jars upside down on the counter and leave them for 12 hours.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Favorite Winter Soup

has to be this one. It's so delicious. It tastes even more deeply satisfying when served in a bread bowl. To experience it at its best, however, take that bread bowl and sit yourself down on the hearth of your fireplace with a warm fire going and look out the window at the snow falling. Yep... that's the absolute best time to eat this soup.

Creamy Potato Cheese Soup
4 C diced potatoes
1 C diced celery
1 C diced carrots
1/2 C chopped onions
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 C butter
1/2 C flour
1 quart milk
2 tsp. salt
1 lb grated cheddar cheese
2 C chopped ham

Boil the vegetables and parsley together in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes. DO NOT DRAIN OFF LIQUID.

Meanwhile, make the cream sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and salt and whisk until well incorporated. Add the milk and whisk together. Bring to a boil. As soon as it starts boiling, add the cream sauce to the vegetables.

Add the cheese cheese and 2 cups chopped ham and stir until cheese is melted and all ingredients are combined.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Yep, that's me. Sorry. I've got a huge test I have to take no later than Monday, but possibly tomorrow. Huge. My ability to buy groceries depends on this test. My ability to pay for the gas that heats up my oven depends on this test. My ability to pay for the internet connection that allows me to update this blog depends on this test. So... yeah... it matters to all y'all that I pass this test.

So, miss me if you must, but send a prayer upwards that my little gray brain cells store all the info I'm reading. I'm praying for total recall when test time comes.

Look at it this way: If I pass, I'll celebrate with alfajores, bread bowls full of yummy soup, snickerdoodle cake, ginger spiced peaches, brioche, Mormon Margarita cupcakes, croissants and lots of other "let's get back to baking" menu items.

P.S. Yes, most days I've been studying with My Favorite Cookies and a mug of delightful Hot Cocoa warming my bones and waking up my brain. I am also enjoying the fruits of my earlier labors. After picking raspberries and blackberries this summer, I made up some Raspberry ganache and put it in the freezer. This week I've used it to make Raspberry Chocolate Hot Cocoa.

Okay, okay... I've got time to at least give you that ganache recipe.

Raspberry Ganache
8 ounces dark chocolate (I used Hershey's Special Dark Baking Bar)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 C raspberries, pureed and strained to remove seeds.

Bring raspberry puree to room temperature. Finely chop chocolate into small pieces (use a serrated knife for best result). Use a double boiler, or if you don't have one, place the chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl on top of a pan of simmering water. Melt the chocolate. Cool to 100 degrees F.

Melt the butter and allow it to cool to 100 degrees F. When the temperature of both the butter and the chocolate are at 100 degrees, pour the butter into the chocolate. Stir to combine. Use small circular strokes to minimize the amount of air incorporated into the mixture. Next stir in the raspberry puree using the same small strokes.

When the mixture reaches 70 degrees F., it is cool enough to use as frosting, glaze or in a pastry bag for piping. If you want to store the ganache for later use, place it in a tightly covered container and freeze it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A.D.D. in the Kitchen

Can you say "distraction?"
So, I go downstairs to start my alfajores. I realize I've already eaten all the dulce de leche I made earlier this week. (Okay people, I had help. Me and a friend ate it all. I'm not at liberty to say which one because she doesn't want to share the label of 'oinker' with me.) So... time to make more dulce. But I'm madly studying for a test I have to take next week. I don't have time to be watching a pot of dulce and stirring every 20 minutes for the next 2 1/2 - 3 hours. So I decide there's more ways than one to skin a cat... or more to the point, more ways than one to make dulce de leche.

I open a can of Sweetened Condensed milk. Pour it into a pie tin. Cover the tin with aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the pie tin inside my roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water 1/2 inch up the sides of the pie tin. And set the timer to bake my dulce de leche for 1 hour and 20 minutes. After it is done, I will let it sit for a few minutes and then pour it into a glass bowl and use my electric beaters to whip it up nice and creamy. (By the way, if any of you decide to make dulce de leche this way, remember to check your pan every 30 minutes and refill the boiling water so it doesn't boil dry.)

Next I will be baking the dough for the alfajor cookies. But, before I start, I realize I am FREEZING! It is so stinkin' cold. So I decide to have some hot cocoa. Then I start thinking how nice it would be to have REAL hot cocoa, not that powdered nonsense.

So, 1 hour and 20 minutes later, the timer goes off for the dulce de leche and I am still fiddling with the hot cocoa recipe I am concocting. It's become an obsession. I want it creamy. Strong chocolate taste, but still sweet.

Crud! I forgot to make the alfajor cookie dough (it has to chill for at least two hours).

So, y'all will have to wait until tomorrow or Monday before I post the alfajores. Sorry. But here's a KILLER hot cocoa recipe. The ABSOLUTE best hot cocoa on the planet. Bar none. The secret? Use chocolate ganache as the chocolate base, not cocoa powder. What a difference! This hot cocoa is so tantalizing it should be labeled "liquid sin." I've had three mugs of it already while I study. I called HenPecks and told her to get her bee-you-ti-ful self here and try it. (She's been a little cold in her home office the past couple of days. I figure she needs to thaw out.) As you can see, she got a little anxious. Look real close. Yeah, chocolate drool.

Not that I blame her. This stuff is to die for good.

Liquid Sin Hot Cocoa
8 oz. dark baking chocolate (you choose how dark you want it)
1 C heavy cream
4 C whole milk
1/2 C cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp - 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Start by making chocolate ganache. Chop 8 ounces dark chocolate into very small pieces. I used 52% cacao, however, if that is too strong for you, consider using a semi-sweet chocolate baking bar. (I find using a serrated knife works best for chopping the chocolate small enough to best facilitate the melting.) Put the chopped chocolate into a medium bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil. When it has risen to the top of the saucepan (but before it boils over -- duh!), remove it from heat and pour it over the chocolate bits. Let it sit for one minute. Then, using a rubber spatula, stir until the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Set the ganache aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a boil over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved in the milk mixture. Next add the cocoa powder and whisk (or use an immersion blender if you are blessed to have one) until cocoa is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour in the ganache. Let it sit for a minute or two. Then stir 4-5 minutes until it is well combined. Finally, add the vanilla and stir well.

Serve immediately. Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Reheat on the stovetop or microwave.

I tend to top my hot cocoa with whipped cream, but you could also add marshmallows, if you are so inclined.

Now, consider this recipe a master recipe. Imagine all the things you can do with it. If you like strong chocolate, consider using bittersweet chocolate for the ganache. Or, add another tablespoon of cocoa powder. If you like a milder chocolate, use a semi-sweet or milk chocolate bar for the ganache. How about adding some orange flavor extract? Yum! Also, consider making a Raspberry Ganache and voilá, you have raspberry chocolate hot cocoa.

Other options would be to flavor the whipped cream. Cinnamon Whipped Cream would be decadently good. Or, add a little chili powder and cinnamon to the milk and you've got a delicious Mexican hot chocolate drink. Yum! The possibilities are endless.


I can't talk right now. I got my mouth full of cookie."

While the Cookies Are In the Oven

I'm busy this morning making Alfajores because, well, that's what I want to eat. Tonight we are going to Mr. Doughboy's mission reunion and that's got me thinking about my mission and that takes me straight to Argentina in my mind and that takes me straight to alfajores. (Now you know how my mind works. Try and keep up, eh?) I'm all ready with my dulce de leche to put between two of the cookies (more on that later) and chocolate to bathe them in when they are done. I love that in Spanish they call it "bathed" in chocolate (bañado de chocolate). Wouldn't you just love to have all your food bathed in chocolate? It sounds so much more luxurious than "covered" in chocolate!

Oops, got sidetracked there. Anyway, so while we wait for those to be done, I thought I'd give you another larder posting.

Tomato Sauce. My own, homemade tomato sauce. It is so easy and so quick to put together. The taste is so refreshing. Most of us are used to that slow-cooked taste of tomato sauce. But this is a sauce that tastes straight from the garden. I canned this sauce to be used as a base for pasta sauces. You can either freeze it or can it if you have lots of tomatoes still to store up for the season. The secret is to use the ripest, most flavorful tomatoes you can get your hands on. (Italian plum tomatoes work best, in my opinion.)

Tomato Sauce
6 lbs fresh, ripe, flavorful tomatoes, peeled and quartered
3/4 C olive oil
2 small onions, peeled and diced

Remove the majority of the seeds from the tomato quarters. Puree the tomatoes in a food processor. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. (I used my Dutch oven.) Add the diced onions and saute until it is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook about 10 minutes. Taste the tomatoes and when they don't taste "raw" anymore, they are done.

Ladle the tomato mixture into hot sterilized canning jars and process in a water bath processor for 40 minutes (50 minutes if you live up in the high altitudes like I do). Or ladle the sauce into freezer containers, let cool to room temperature and freeze. You can keep this sauce in the freezer for up to 6 months.

This recipe makes about 6 cups of sauce.

Come back later today and I'll have the alfajores posted.