Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happy Foods - Volume One

Delicious food items on my favorites list these days?

1. I enjoy from-scratch baking. Clearly. When it comes to pumpkin, however, I will opt for the Libby's canned version almost every time over the arduous (and really, not all that much cheaper) process of boiling and processing a pumpkin in my kitchen. The long way is a novelty, sure, but I prefer (even taste-wise) the canned stuff.

From September through November, pumpkin is a very popular flavor at my house. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin granola, and the best pumpkin cream cheese muffins in the history of mankind (recipe to come soon!)...they're all favorites!

2. If you haven't tried Pretzel M&Ms yet, we need to talk. I thought it was impossible for any M&M to replace the peanut butter version in my life, but the sweet-and-salty combination that these deliver is enough to make me seriously question my loyalty. I'm not one to randomly pick up candy in the grocery check-out line, but I've slipped enough of these little blue packages into my cart lately that Noah actually pointed at them today and said, "Look! Mommy's M&Ms!" *ahem*

3. Local people - are you familiar with the homemade potato chips at Martin's? If so, why did no one tell me about these before recently? And if not, allow me the honor of introducing you. Mark and I love these, and have made them a bring-them-out-after-the-kids-are-in-bed snack. Not because they're expensive (this small but generously-portioned bag cost me all of $1.28), but because we just wouldn't want to share them. You can find them at the deli counter, and they're available in several flavors, including Buffalo Wing (one of our favorites). Try them soon. You're welcome.

Apple Cake

Apparently I took the summer off from food blogging. Not from baking, of course. Just from documenting it all. With the arrival of Fall (my favorite time to create in the kitchen), I'm very ready to jump back in!

I've had this apple cake recipe from A Southern Grace starred in Google Reader for quite some time. Finding myself with some gorgeous Granny Smith apples this week, I figured it was high time to try it out! It definitely did not disappoint. While not the prettiest dessert on a plate, it more than makes up for it in taste. The cake itself is so moist, loaded with apples and cinnamon. And then when you figure in the glaze - brown sugar, milk, and butter simmered together and poured over the top of the still-warm's pure Autumnal bliss!

Apple Dapple Cake

(from A Southern Grace)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups finely chopped, peeled apples

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine eggs, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the well in the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in apples.
Spread the batter in a greased and floured 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes.
For the glaze, combine the brown sugar, butter, and milk in a small saucepan. Cook and stir until bubbly and all of the sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly. Drizzle warm over cake when it has cooled for 5 minutes.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lemon-Raspberry Whoopie Pies

I saw this recipe in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine and was intrigued by the springtime twist on the classic whoopie pie form. While picking out some fresh raspberries at the store, I was inspired to grab some blackberries as well, and fill half of these cakey lemon sandwiches with raspberry cream and half with blackberry cream. I like them both - the raspberries lend a slightly more tart flavor to the filling while the blackberries make for a sweet, mild berry-infused cream. Next time I make these, I'll decrease the baking time just slightly, maybe just by a minute. Definitely a keeper recipe, though!

Lemon-Raspberry (or Lemon-Blackberry) Whoopie Pies
(adapted from Everyday Food)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 3 T. light-brown sugar (divided)
1 T. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh raspberries (or blackberries, or some of each)
powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and lemon zest until light and creamy. Add vanilla and egg and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk and ending with flour mixture, until combined.

Drop batter in 2-Tablespoon mounds, about 2 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until puffed and pale golden around edges, 17-19 minutes (I'd say more like 15-16), rotating sheets halfway through. Cool completely on wire racks.

*Cakes can be made a day ahead, but wait to fill and assemble until just before serving*

In large bowl, whip cream and 3 T. brown sugar to soft peaks. In small bowl, use fork to mash berries, then fold into whipped cream. (If using two kinds of berries, separate cream between two bowls.) Match cakes together by size, spread one side of each pair with berry cream and sandwich with the other. Dust with powdered sugar.

Store extra whoopie pies in refrigerator.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Whipped Ganache Icing

This is a really great, basic cake recipe that I've used several times. It's technically a yellow cake, but uses a slightly different composition and technique than the average yellow cake, and has an amazing flavor. Like most homemade cakes, it has a denser crumb than from-the-box versions. It's not at all dry - very moist, in fact, but the texture is more substantial. I much prefer homemade cake texture, but I know there are many people who enjoy the super-fluffy box variety, so I thought it best to offer this disclaimer!

I've used a few different icings for this cake in the past. I've done a richer, fudgy icing, which works quite well. I've also used my go-to chocolate buttercream, which is a fantastic icing, but I find almost not deep enough in flavor to pair perfectly with this cake. This time I went with something completely different. In essence, it's a traditional ganache (whipping cream combined with semi-sweet chocolate), but this version is allowed to just set, and then whipped until deceptively fluffy, yet still rich and mildly-sweet. I thought it fit the cake nicely.

Another note: This recipe, which I'm giving in it's original version, calls for 8-inch cake pans. I use 9-inch, and find that I prefer thicker cake layers with this recipe, to keep them moist and fluffy. So I often scale the recipe up by 1/3, in order to use three 9-inch pans and still keep the preferable texture. It's your call, and will depend on the size of pans you prefer to use, but I'd highly recommend scaling up the batter if you use 9-inch.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (please, for the love of all that is good and holy, do NOT use imitation)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, divided
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter three 8-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper, and butter the paper.

Whisk eggs and egg hooks in medium bowl with vanilla and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, until well-blended.

In large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and remaining buttermilk, and blend together on low speed. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about two minutes.

Add the egg mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing just until incorporated. Divide the batter between the pans.

Bake for 28-32 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 1o minutes, then turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.

Whipped Ganache Icing

2 cups heavy cream
16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Cover the bowl with foil and allow to stand 5 minutes. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and slightly firm, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium speed until fluffy and mousse-like and forming medium-stiff peaks.

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

Have I mentioned that I love Dorie Greenspan? Well, I do. Her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours is my favorite baking guide, and I've never been let down by any of her recipes.

This lovely cookie is no exception! Soft, not-overly-sweet cookies with a deep caramel flavor, held together by creamy dulce de leche.

One note I'd make is that while this recipe calls for store-bought dulce de leche, it's fairly simple to make your own, which basically involves cooking down either a milk/sugar/vanilla mixture or a can of sweetened, condensed milk. I prefer homemade dulce de leche for most uses, but the canned version is surprisingly good, works quite well in these cookies, and is obviously a time-saver. Totally up to you!

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies
(Dorie Greenspan - "Dulce de Leche Duos)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup store-bought dulce de leche, plus more for filling (I ended up using about 1 1/2 cans)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Beat the butter at medium speed until soft. Add 3/4 cup dulce de leche and both sugars and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until just blended.

Spoon the dough onto the baking sheet by heaping teaspoonful, two inches apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cookies should be honey brown, and still soft. Allow to sit on the baking sheets for a few minutes after removing from the oven; then transfer to cooling racks.

When cookies have cooled, match them into pairs of similar sizes. Spread one cookie from each pair with remaining dulce de leche, and sandwich with the other.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

I really enjoy cinnamon rolls, but I'm picky. I don't enjoy them if they're overly bread-y, or if the dough is tough or too thick. I also simply can't understand a recipe that calls for white sugar in the filling. No. I'll say it again...No. For me, the perfect cinnamon roll has a tender, sweet dough, spread with real, softened butter, and in perfect proportion with a brown sugar/cinnamon filling.

Well, I'm forever indebted to Melanie at My Kitchen Cafe...because this recipe is everything I want in a cinnamon roll. I've seen other recipes that call for pudding mix incorporated into the dry ingredients, but prepared vanilla pudding mixed right into the dough? Um...yes please! It yields a super-soft, nicely sweet dough, filled to perfection and (just to push the whole experience over the edge) topped with an amazing cream cheese icing.

This is the link to Melanie's post, and I'd encourage you to check out her blog for a whole bunch of other incredible recipes. I've never been disappointed with anything I've tried from her site.

I've also put my very, very slightly adapted version below. I've found that I need to add a decent amount more flour than what she calls for, I upped the cinnamon just slightly, and I also scaled it to 12 rolls. (I'm not a fan of freezing these, although I know some people have great success with that.)

Enjoy! (And sorry for the lack of picture...they were consumed too fast this time around!)

Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing.

1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoons sugar
2 oz. instant vanilla pudding mix, prepared with milk as directed on the have to guesstimate a bit
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 + cups flour

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl combine water, yeast and sugar. Stir until dissolved. Set aside. In large bowl, take pudding mix and add milk to prepare according to package directions (You'll have to guesstimate a bit). Add butter, egg and salt. Mix well. Then add yeast mixture. Blend. Gradually add flour; knead until smooth. Do not overflour the dough! It should be very soft but not sticky. Place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. Then roll out on floured board. Take 1/2 cup soft butter and spread over surface. In bowl, mix 1 cup brown sugar and 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top. Roll up very tightly. With knife put a notch every 1 1/2 inches. Cut with thread or serrated knife. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet 1 inch apart, or in greased 9 x 13 pan. Cover and let rise until double again. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Remove when they start to turn golden (don’t overbake). Frost warm rolls with cream cheese frosting (combine butter and cream cheese and mix well, then add vanilla and sugar and mix again, then add milk for desired consistency). Makes about 12 very large rolls.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Double Chocolate Pudding Cookies

These cookies are super easy and intensely chocolate-y. With a generous amount of chocolate fudge pudding mix incorporated into the dough, they bake up with an incredibly soft texture and stay that way.

Double Chocolate Pudding Cookies

2 1/4 c. flour
3 oz. instant chocolate fudge pudding mix
1 tsp. baking soda
dash salt
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1-2 cups chocolate chips

Whisk together flour, pudding mix, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Beat butter & sugars together until fluffy. Add vanilla & eggs and beat until well-combined. On low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoonful onto baking sheets and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Don't overbake these! I usually bake them for 8 minutes, and allow them to sit on the baking sheets out of the oven for 2-3 minutes to set up a bit before transferring them to racks to cool. Store carefully, as they will remain very soft.