November 28, 2012

Pomegranate Cupcakes

Since the holiday season is approaching, you can find pomegranates fairly easily. So, I decided to make these cupcakes from Betty Crocker The Big Book of Cupcakes to return from a 2-week cupcake break for my co-workers. 

These are a simple cupcake but quite tasty. They would be a nice festive touch for a holiday gathering.

Pomegranate Cupcakes
2 3/4 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 2/3 cups sugar
5 egg whites
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup pomegranate seeds
6 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds
Mint leaves, optional  

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line 24 cupcake tins.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, beat shortening 30 seconds on medium speed. Gradually add sugar, about 1/3 cup at a time, beating after each addition. Beat 2 minutes longer. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

On low speed, alternately add the flour and milk, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in pomegranate seeds.

Fill cupcake liners evenly with the batter. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Frost with cream cheese frosting. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and fresh mint if desired. Makes 24 cupcakes.

November 27, 2012

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

I have a bit of pumpkin left over to create into recipes, so I decided to try these Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins from Brown-Eyed Baker. They are moist and delicious. Best part is I found the recipe made 18 muffins for me rather than the 12 stated in the recipe ... that makes me feel slightly better about the amount of butter I'm eating when I'm trying to be somewhat healthy. These are worth repeating and would be a great work treat.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
Cinnamon-Sugar Coating
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter 18 standard muffin cups. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and pumpkin; set aside.

Beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and then add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of the pumpkin mixture, beating until barely combined. Turn off the mixer, and fold the batter a few times with a rubber spatula to catch any pockets of flour that weren't incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffins cups (about a heaping 1/3 cup batter). Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let the muffins cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

While the muffins are resting, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Working with one muffin at a time, remove the muffins from the pan, brush all over with the melted butter and then toss to coat in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Return to the wire rack, and let cool completely. Makes 18 muffins.

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)

Bacon Jam

Yes, this is one of the weirder sounding recipes I've made. (And it contains coffee, which I despise. Thankfully, there is no coffee flavor in the end.)

Get over it. It is delicious. It is sweet, like a maple bacon. It is savory like hickory bacon. It is bacon in spreadable form. Put it on an egg sandwich, biscuits, bread, ice cream ... I'm not sure what wouldn't be better with bacon jam. You could even make sandwich cookies using this as the filling.

Thanks to Ezra Pound Cake for this craziness.

It's hard to tell, but this is bacon jam on roasted potatoes coated with cheese.

Bacon Jam
1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium yellow onions, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup brewed coffee

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. fat from skillet; add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are soft, about 6 minutes.

Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup and coffee. Bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes. Add bacon, and stir to combine.

Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker, and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, and then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks.

Spicy Bacon Caramel Corn

Caramel corn is addictive to my adult self. Never had a passion for it as a child. Now, whenever I make it, I can't seem to stop eating it. This version from A Cozy Kitchen was popular during hunting season with my family. They got over the weirdness factor of bacon pretty quickly.

Spicy Bacon Caramel Corn
5-6 slices of bacon
Nonstick cooking spray
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you like things spicier; less if you don't)
3 cups white granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and lay bacon side-by-side. Transfer baking sheet to hot oven, and cook bacon for 15 minutes until crispy and brown. Remove, and place on paper towels to drain. When cool, break into dice-sized pieces.

Lightly coat a large heatproof rubber spatula and a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray. In a large saucepan or pot with a lid, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover and keep the saucepan moving until all of the kernels have popped, about 4 minutes. Transfer the popped popcorn to the large prepared bowl, removing any unpopped kernels.

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and cayenne pepper. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a light golden-yellow caramel, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and carefully whisk in the baking soda mixture (the mixture will bubble up). Quickly fold in bacon bits. Pour the caramel over the popcorn, and toss, like a salad, until all of the popcorn is evenly coated with the caramel.

Pour the popcorn onto a large baking pan, and quickly flatten and separate it into small pieces while it is still warm. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once it is cool, store it in a well-sealed airtight container. Caramel popcorn will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Makes a large batch of popcorn.

Baked Pumpkin French Toast

I have a plethora of pumpkin recipes flagged for baking this fall, and I finally got around to a few while at my parents' house for hunting season. This recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod was quite the hit when the hunters came in mid-morning. This falls in the category of one delicious breakfast that's easy to prepare that I'd make again ... wow, long category name.

Baked Pumpkin French Toast
1 loaf French Bread
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Streusel Topping
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Tear French bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly place in the pan.

In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour evenly over bread. Cover pan with saran wrap, and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add butter pieces and cut into the dry mixture using a fork or your hands. Combine until the mixture resembles sand with a few pea-sized chunks. Cover and store mixture in the refrigerator.

When you’re ready to bake the French toast, preheat oven to 350ºF. Remove French toast from refrigerator, and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the French toast is set and golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 10 servings.

Best-Ever Buttermilk Biscuits

I don't know if these biscuits live up to their Betty Crocker name, but they are pretty darn tasty. These come together quickly and are much better than canned biscuits. They were the delicious star of our recent biscuits and gravy.

Note: I halved the recipe and used a slightly smaller cutter, probably about 1 1/2 inches. That way, I feel like I can eat more biscuits without being overly indulgent (and I have no larger circle-shaped cutter).

Best-Ever Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup shortening
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450ºF. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda together. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until the floured mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center, and add buttermilk. Using a fork, stir together until just moistened.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Quickly knead the dough 10 to 12 strokes or until dough is nearly smooth. Pat dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut dough with a floured circle 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, dipping the cutter in flour between cuts.

Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Remove the biscuits from the baking sheet, and serve warm. Makes 10 to 12 biscuits.

Basic White Bread

More often than not, my breads contain some wheat or whole grain flour. However, I decided to try my new-to-me kneader with a large batch of white bread, some of which was converted into Pesto Spirals.

The kneader worked well, and the bread turned out well. This bread is great for a grilled cheese, but then again, what bread isn't? The recipe comes from Breaking Bread with Father Dominic.

Basic White Bread
2 cups warm water
2 tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour

Combine water and yeast, and let stand 5 minutes until yeast is dissolved. Add sugar, salt and vegetable oil, and stir to mix. Add 5 cups of bread flour, and beat together. Gradually add remaining bread flour as needed, kneading until a smooth dough forms. Cover dough, and let stand until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Divide dough into two equal pieces, and form each piece into an oblong loaf. Place loaves in greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans. Cover, and let rise about 45 minutes until nearly doubled.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Bake bread about 35 minutes until tops are golden and bread sounds hollow when tapped lightly. Remove from pans immediately, and cool on wire racks. Makes 2 loaves.

Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookies

I realized I'm a bit behind the times on my blog considering this recipe was made for Father's Day. (At least it was Father's Day this year, right?) These Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod were quite the hit with the family. In my opinion, though, they can't quite match the chocolate/peanut butter combination.

Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp.vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups mint chips
1 cup chopped Cool Mint Oreo cookies

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Set aside.

With a mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time. Next, add in vanilla extract. Mix until blended.

Slowly add flour mixture to sugar mixture, and mix until flour disappears. Stir in chocolate chips, mint green chips, and chopped oreos. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. For visual enhancement, gently press a few cookie pieces onto the top of each cookie.

Bake cookies for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are set around the edges, but still soft in the center. Don't over bake. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 3 to 5 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely. Makes enough cookies to fill at least one Father's Day present cookie jar!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

This might become my go-to cake when I want something delicious and impressive that requires minimal decorating time. This cake from Rasperri Cupcakes is very forgiving in the decorating aspect because you don't need to worry about crumbs showing.

If you enjoy mint chocolate chip ice cream, this is definitely a cake for you!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake
Cake Layers
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, divided
1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2.5 sticks butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 tsp. peppermint extract
2 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped or pulsed through a food processor
Green food coloring
Miniature ice cream cones

To prepare the cakes, preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9-inch round metal baking pans. Line the bottom with rounds of parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add espresso powder, eggs, 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, butter and vanilla to the flour mixture. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat for 1 minute, until blended. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Add the remaining buttermilk, and beat on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds, until just blended. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans, then invert cakes onto a rack and remove parchment paper rounds to cool completely.

Prepare the mint icing, beat butter with an electric mixer on high until fluffy and smooth. Add sifted icing sugar one cup at a time, beating until combined. Add peppermint extract to taste and green food coloring to reach desired shade of green. Gradually add chocolate chip pieces until you have a good distribution of chocolate bits.

Use about 1/4 of the icing on top of one of the cakes, and smooth over with a spatula. Place second cake top side down on top of the iced cake. Cover entire cake with more icing, smoothing with a spatula. Use the leftover icing to form scoops of icing to place on top of the cake. Use miniature ice cream cones to place on top of icing scoops. Can be served immediately or stored in an airtight container overnight. Serve at room temperature.

Note: The ice cream cones will become soggy if left on the cake for more than a couple hours, so place them on the cake immediately prior to serving.

Pumpkin English Muffin Bread

I've made English muffins and English muffin bread, but I was intrigued by the seasonal variety from How Sweet It Is. Unfortunately, I had a few issues with my bread as it rose too high in the pans, stuck to the towels and then collapsed some. Then, I managed to slightly underbake it. However, toasted, it's still quite tasty. Hopefully you have better luck than me.

Pumpkin English Muffin Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup pureed pumpkin
2 cups warm milk, 120-130ºF
1/2 cup warm water, 120-130ºF
1/4 cup cornmeal for dusting loaf pans

Grease or spray two loaf pans with non-stick spray and sprinkle with cornmeal, shuffling the pan around so the cornmeal coats all the sides. Dump the excess.

In the bowl of your electric mixer using the beater not kneader attachment, combine whole wheat flour, yeast, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda. Add in milk, pumpkin, honey, olive oil and water, beating on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high, and beat for 3 minutes, scraping down the sides if necessary. Decrease speed to low, and add in remaining flour and salt, mixing until just combined. The dough will be sticky. Divide batter equally into two loaf pans, and sprinkle the tops with cornmeal. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.

After about 30 minutes of the dough rising, preheat oven to 375ºF. Bake loaves for 35 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven, and immediately remove from pans, setting aside to cool. Makes 2 loaves.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

I haven't shown as much love to my cast-iron skillets as they deserve, but recipes like this from Baker's Royale are changing that. There is only one problem with this magnificent pan of cookie ... you want to eat it all while still warm. (Oh, and the skillet is extremely hot and burns your fingers, so two problems I guess.) The problems are well worth it. You're creative. I'm sure you'll find a solution to them.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie
1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Whisk together flour and baking soda; set aside.

Heat 8 tablespoons of butter in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue stirring for another 1-3 minutes until brown and nutty in aroma. Remove from heat. Pour heated butter through a sieve into a heat-proof bowl. Stir in remaining butter until completely melted. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter, and whisk until fully combined. Add egg and egg yolk, and whisk until mixture is smooth and no sugar lumps remains, about 30 seconds.

Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, and then whisk for another 30 seconds.Repeat this 2 more times until mixture is thick and shiny.

Stir in flour until combined. Stir in chocolate chips until combined. Press cookie dough mixture into skillet. Bake for about 15-17 minutes or until golden brown and still puffy. Makes one giant cookie. You decide how many servings that is.

Cook's Illustrated Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you want a delicious chocolate chip cookie that requires minimal effort (i.e. no chilling of the dough), this favorite from Brown-Eyed Baker fits the bill. Delicious. Plain and simple.

Cook's Illustrated Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. (10 5/8 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 oz.) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions, and heat the oven to 325˚F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silipats.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients, and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough's uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart. (This makes the tops of the cookies crinkly.)

Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

Note: These oversized cookies are chewy and thick, like many of the chocolate chip cookies sold in gourmet shops and cookie stores. They rely on melted butter and an extra egg yolk to keep their texture soft. These cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain their texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the baking sheet. Oversized baking sheets allow you to get all the dough into the oven at one time. If you're using smaller baking sheets, put fewer cookies on each sheet and bake them in batches. Makes 18 large cookies.

(Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated)

Chicken Taquitos

As I've said before, it's rare for me to find an entree recipe that catches my eye because of my tendency to visit dessert blogs. But this caught my eye on Recipe Girl, and they're simple to pull together for a weeknight meal.

Chicken Taquitos
3 cups shredded roasted chicken
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (or cheddar)
12 corn tortillas
cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Combine the chicken in a bowl with the cumin, salt and garlic powder, and then mix in the cheese. (Note: I put three boneless skinless chicken breasts in a slow cooker with the spices and a bit of water for about 4 hours on high rather than using pre-cooked chicken.)

Place 2 corn tortillas at a time in between two damp paper towels, and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds to soften them (helps to prevent cracking when rolling). Place about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of the tortilla, and roll it up tightly. Place the taquito seam-side-down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas and filling.

Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray, and bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until crisp. Serve with guacamole, sour cream and/or salsa, as desired. Makes 12 taquitos.

Giant Peanut Butter Cup ... of sorts

I discovered a new blog while on vacation: A Cozy Kitchen. I managed to bookmark a few recipes from there, including this treat I made for deer hunting camp at my husband's request. This is rich and delicious, yet fairly simple to make. I just used a pie plate because that's what I had handy, but you could definitely fancy up this dessert.

Giant Peanut Butter Cup
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Peanut Butter Filling
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
sea salt

In the bowl, using a hand mixer or stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment on, cream butter and powdered sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Add egg yolk and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Sift in flour and cocoa powder, and beat on low speed until just combined. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and form it into a disk; wrap well. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper, roll the tart dough into an 18-by-12-inch circle. Gently transfer dough to a 9 1/2-inch tart pan. Press the dough into the tart pan, trimming away any excess dough. Chill the tart shell in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Line the tart shell with a piece of parchment paper, and fill with raw rice or dried lentils. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and its contents, and bake until the pastry looks dry and set, about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. (The tart shell can be made up to 8 hours ahead.)

In a bowl, add the room temperature butter, peanut butter, powdered sugar and two Tbsp. of heavy whipping cream, and mix until smooth.

To the chilled tart shell, add the peanut butter mixture, and using a butter knife, smooth out the top. Transfer the filled tart shell to the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Meanwhile, make the ganache glaze. Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let stand for 2 minutes, then stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour some of the glaze over the tart while still warm. You can let the glaze set at room temperature for at least 2 hours OR transfer the tart to the fridge and allow to set for 30 minutes. Top with a few sprinkles of sea salt and serve.

Apple Cider Muffins

We've been on an apple cider kick lately. I'm not sure what is better than a mug of warm, cinnamon-spiced apple cider, aside from a mug of warm, cinnamon-spiced apple cider with pie crust biscotti.

These muffins from How Sweet It Is are good, but nowhere near as good as what I described above ... how could they be when I said I didn't know what was better?

Apple Cider Muffins
2 honeycrisp apples, diced
3 Tbsp. apple cider
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 large egg
1/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 Tbsp. brown butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup apple cider
Brown butter apple cider glaze
4 Tbsp. brown butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat, and add diced apples with 3 Tbsp. apple cider and a pinch of cinnamon and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft and caramely, about 8-10 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside. Line a muffin tin with liners.

In a large bowl, whisk egg and brown sugar together until smooth and no lumps remain. Add in vanilla extract, butter, apple sauce and apple cider, whisking again until smooth. Gradually add in dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Fold in diced apples. Do not overmix. Fill each muffin liner 2/3 of the way full with batter.

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until tops are no longer wet and become slightly golden. Top with glaze if desired. To make glaze, combine brown butter, vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Whisk until the mixture comes together, and then add in 1 Tbsp. of apple cider, continuing to mix. If it still doesn’t appear glaze-like, add in cider 1/2 Tbsp. at a time and mix again. Spoon glaze on warm muffins or dip each top in the glaze, and then serve. Makes 12 muffins.

Creme de Menthe Ice Cream

When I was pregnant with our son, I craved a grasshopper so badly. (The drink, not the insect.) I never did get one while I was pregnant, but now I have the solution for pregnant mamas who want their grasshoppers. This ice cream is the flavor of a grasshopper. I was supposed to add Andes mints per the original recipe on Love and Olive Oil, but I couldn't find any cheap. So I added 2 bags of York mini candies. Yum.

Creme de Menthe Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch salt
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. creme de menthe syrup
3 to 4 drops green food coloring (optional)
2 cups York mini chocolate candies

Pour 1 cup of the heavy cream into a medium heatproof bowl, and nest it inside a larger bowl of ice water. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, milk, sugar and salt. Cook gently over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved and mixture starts to steam. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks. Slowly whisk in some of the warm cream mixture, 1/3 cup at a time, until about half of the cream mixture has been incorporated and egg mixture is warm to the touch. (Be sure to gradually whisk in the warm cream. You want to temper the eggs, not cook them.)
Pour egg mixture back into saucepan, and return to medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spatula. Do not let it boil. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the nested bowl of cold cream, discarding any solids left behind.

Add vanilla, creme de menthe syrup and food coloring (if using), and stir until mixture is cool. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, carefully pressing it onto the surface of the cream mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.
Churn ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is the consistency of soft-serve, stir in candies, and transfer to a freezer safe container. Freeze overnight or until firm. Makes about 1 quart.

Apple Jam

I'd never contemplated jamming apples because I always think of applesauce or apple butter. But, I found a recipe from my Food in Jars cookbook, so I decided to make a batch with some of my plethora of apples from my parents' farm. This is a great way to use apples that are past their prime for eating fresh.

Honey Lemon Apple Jam
6 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples
Zest and juice of 4 lemons
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey

Combine chopped apples and lemon juice in a large pot. Bring to the very barest of simmers over medium heat, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook the apples down to a chunky sauce, stirring frequently, until they can be smashed with the back of a wooden spoon. This takes about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the age of your apples. Once apples are soft, smash them with a potato masher.

Add sugar and honey. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. The jam will splatter, so be careful. Cook 10 minutes until jam is thick and sticky looking. Remove from heat, and stir in lemon zest. Ladle jam into prepared pint jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the rims, apply sterilized lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for  10 minutes. Makes about 3 pints.

Tasty Balls

I realize the title is inappropriate for these recipe, but that's exactly what they are. They require no baking, no cooking and are fun to make with kids as helpers. They are crazily addictive and delicious. And they are fairly healthy to boot. Woot to How Sweet It Is for creating these for me to find on the Internet.

Tasty Balls
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup ground peanuts or ground almonds, to roll the balls in

Combine oats, flaxseed, almonds, chia seeds, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

Melt peanut butter, and allow it to cool slightly. Then stir in honey and vanilla extract until it's combined. Once peanut butter has cooled a bit, pour it over the oat mixture and mix well with a spoon and then bring together with your hands. Once mixture is sticking together, fold in chocolate chips.

Roll dough into golf-ball sized (or slightly smaller) balls and then roll in ground peanuts or ground almonds. These can be eaten at room temperature, but they taste best refrigerated.  Makes 16 balls.

Heath Cupcakes

My grandpa's favorite blizzard flavor was always heath with vanilla ice cream. I took that one step further and made my favorite blizzard flavor heath with chocolate ice cream. Heath and chocolate are such a wonderful combination. I can down multiple Skor bars in one sitting. I really need to commit to running a full marathon to keep up with my food habits.

These cupcakes were based on this version from Baker's Royale. They were a hit with my co-workers and make my top 10 list of favorite cupcakes.

Heath Cupcakes
1 cup (4.5 oz.) all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (7.3 oz.) sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (1.5 oz.) unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and warm
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. instant coffee
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup chocolate-covered toffee bits
Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
8 Tbsp. butter, divided
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
Chocolate Drizzle
1/2 cup melted chocolate chips, cooled to room temperature

To prepare cupcakes, preheat oven to 350˚F. Add flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, instant coffee and salt in a bowl, and mix thoroughly to combine. Add the butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat on medium speed for one minute. Add the butter and egg mixture and beat for 20 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the warm milk. Beat for 20-30 seconds until the batter is smooth. The batter will be thin enough to pour. Beat in toffee pieces. Divide batter evenly among the lined cups. Bake 18 to 22 minutes just until a toothpick inserted into a few of the cupcakes comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack to cool.

To prepare frosting, heat 4 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan until melted. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Cool the mixture to room temperature. Meanwhile, beat remaining 4 Tbsp. butter with 2 cups powdered sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Add cooled caramel sauce, and beat until desired consistency, adding more powdered sugar if necessary.

Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes, and drizzle with chocolate. Makes 24 cupcakes.

November 13, 2012

Caramel Apple Scones

I still have a bag of apples from my parents' farm that I'm slowly baking my way through. It's taking a while, though, since most recipes call for only a couple apples unlike when I made the two giant feed sacks of apples into applesauce.

These scones from Recipe Girl are a good use for a few apples. I adored the caramel drizzle but found the scones themselves to taste a bit too much like baking soda. Perhaps some tweaking to be done there. Or I'll just make the drizzle.

Caramel Apple Scones
1 Tbsp. butter
1 large Gala or Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped finely
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 cups Gold Medal® All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1 cup Greek vanilla yogurt
Caramel Icing
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 to 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. To prepare the apples, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples. Stir and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until apples are softened. Stir in the cinnamon, and set the apples aside to cool (or to speed up the cooling process, remove them from the heated pan and into a bowl).

In the bowl of a mixer, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Add the butter, and mix again until coarse crumbs form. Stir in the yogurt and apples until the dough comes together. (It will be dry, so you may need to eventually use your hands.) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form roughly a 14 x 4-inch flattened log. Use a sharp knife to cut triangle-shaped scones (11 or 12). Gently pull the triangles apart, and set them on your prepared baking sheet in the same rectangular shape, leaving about 1/2-inch between scones. When they bake, they'll have some room to spread and crowd into each other.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they are cooked through and no longer doughy in the middle. Let the scones cool for a few minutes, and then gently coax them apart with a knife and move them to a rack over a baking sheet.

In small saucepan, heat butter until melted. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and cool the mixture slightly. Stir in the vanilla and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended. If necessary, add up to 1/4 cup more powdered sugar for desired consistency. Drizzle icing over warm scones. Makes 11 to 12 scones.

November 7, 2012

Cake Batter Ice Cream

So cake batter is a craze now. I've seen recipes pop up online, including one for making your own cake mix to avoid buying one from the store (gasp!). I've seen cake batter ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, including chocolate cake batter ice cream. That right there justifies the fact that I converted Annie's Eats's recipe to be Chocolate Cake Batter Ice Cream. Oddly, I had about 5 (expired) chocolate cake mixes in our cupboard and no white or yellow. Weird. Oh wait, it's not if you know me.

Cake Batter Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup cake mix
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sprinkles (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of the heavy cream with the cake mix, sugar and salt. Heat over medium heat until warmed through. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a medium bowl, and whisk until smooth. Combine the remaining cream, vanilla and whole milk in a large mixing bowl with a fine mesh sieve set over the top.

When the mixture in the saucepan is warm, slowly pour a small amount into the bowl with the egg yolks to temper them, whisking constantly. Continue pouring the cream mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously until completely combined. Return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat. Continue heating, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens slightly and reads 170-175˚F on an instant-read thermometer.

Immediately pour the custard mixture through the mesh sieve into the bowl with the remaining cream and milk and mix to blend. Cover and chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.  Once the mixture is chilled through, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions adding sprinkles at the end.  Store in an airtight container in the freezer. Makes about 1 quart.

Pumpkin Ice Cream

I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. Don't get me wrong. I'll eat it, covered thoroughly in Cool Whip, of course. I'm not opposed to the pumpkin flavor, but I prefer it in other venues like this Pumpkin Ice Cream from Brown-Eyed Baker. This goes perfectly with pumpkin cupcakes, but I'm betting it would make a piece of pumpkin pie even better!

Pumpkin Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. brandy (optional)
3/4 cup cooked pumpkin

Make an ice bath by putting some ice and a little water in a large bowl, and nest a smaller metal bowl (one that will hold at least 2 quarts) inside it. Set a mesh strainer over the top.

In a medium saucepan mix the milk, cream, granulated sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cinnamon stick, nutmeg and salt. Warm the mixture until hot and the edges begin to bubble and foam.

Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl, and gradually whisk in about half of the warm spiced milk mixture, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back in to the saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.

Immediately pour the mixture through the strainer into the bowl nested in the ice bath. Mix in the brown sugar, add the cinnamon stick back in, then stir until cool and then chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Whisk in the vanilla, liquor (if using) and pumpkin. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Makes about 1 quart.

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes

I couldn't not bring pumpkin cupcakes to work on Halloween, so I reached into the Betty Crocker Big Book of Cupcakes for these treats. I modified the frosting recipe a bit, and I could devour that with a spoon. They are great served with pumpkin ice cream (or on their own).

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes
2 1/3 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup milk
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 to 4 Tbsp. milk
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
3 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 24 cupcake tins, and set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter 30 seconds on medium speed. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat 2 more minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla. On low speed, alternately add flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with flour mixture.

Fill cupcake liners evenly. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans 5 minutes, and then cool completely on wire racks.

To make garnish, heat a skillet over low heat. Add the pecans and 2 Tbsp. sugar. Stir often, and cook until sugar melts. (Note: I added a sprinkling of water to help the process.) Transfer onto wax paper, sprinkle with remaining sugar and cool completely.

To make frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add vanilla, pie spice and 2 Tbsp. milk. Beat well. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add more milk as needed to reach desired consistency. Pipe frosting on top of cupcakes or spread on cupcakes. Top with candied pecans. Make 24 cupcakes.

Sesame Chicken

Most of the recipes that I bookmark to make are desserts or crazy sweets of some sort. Weird considering I read almost exclusively dessert blogs, eh? I do get excited when one of my dessert blogs happens to post an entree that looks tasty simply because my dessert:entree "to-do" lists are drastically different lengths. The entree stands a chance of making the rotation sooner.

That was the case for this Sesame Chicken, which tastes an awful lot like Chinese takeout in a good way. Relatively simple to make. Quite healthy (especially when compared to the vast amount of desserts I make/bake). Crazy delicious. (As in we ate it all in one sitting without pausing to photograph its beauty. I know I'll make it again, but I can't make any promises that the same thing won't happen again.)

Sesame Chicken
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 Tbsp.flour
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
2-3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a bowl, whisk together chicken stock, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, garlic cloves, soy sauce and vinegar. Set aside.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Toss chicken with salt, pepper and flour. Add olive oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil to skillet, and once hot, add chicken in a single layer. Cook until seared and golden on one side and then flip, and cook until golden again, about 2-3 minutes. Pour chicken stock mixture over top and toss to coat, and then turn off heat. Place skillet in oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and cover with sesame seeds. Serve with veggie of your choice and  rice. Serves 2-4.

November 2, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

I can't believe it took me as long as it did to make mint chocolate chip cupcakes for work, but the recipe I found at My Baking Addiction convinced me to make them. Mint and chocolate is a wonderful flavor combination, although it can't quite top the peanut butter and chocolate combo.

These were a hit with my co-workers. And me. And my hubby. And my 1-year-old son. Get the point?

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup milk, warm
4 sticks butter, room temperature
1.5 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla
3 to 4 Tbsp. heavy cream
Green gel dye
1/4 tsp. pure peppermint extract
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 24 cupcake tins. In medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and mint extract.

Add flour and milk, alternating in three additions, ending with flour. 

Evenly distribute into prepared muffin tins. Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frostings, beat the butter on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes. Turn the mixture down to low speed, and gradually add in the powdered sugar until it is completely incorporated. Add in vanilla and heavy cream. Turn the mixer back up to medium-high speed, and beat the mixture for about 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Remove half of the frosting from the mixer bowl and set aside. Add a tiny amount of green gel dye to the remaining frosting. Turn the mixer on, and fully incorporate the dye. Slowly add more dye until you achieve a nice minty green color. Stir in peppermint extract.

Remove the mint frosting from the mixing bowl and set aside. Add the other half of the frosting back into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add in the cooled, melted chocolate and cocoa powder. Mix until fully incorporated.

Carefully fill piping bag with both frostings, so they'll both come out when you squeeze the bag. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Makes 24 cupcakes. (You could be less sophisticated with the frostings, and make mint chocolate frosting rather than making the frostings separate. Just combine all the frosting ingredients, less the green dye.)

Biscoff Granola Bars

Biscoff. It's something I've read about on food blogs for a long time but hadn't jumped on the bandwagon. Then I saw several recipes I couldn't pass up, so I went on the hunt for biscoff. This stuff is as freaken addictive as nutella, so I'm glad I held off this long before jumping into the craze because I don't trust myself with biscoff.

If you've never had biscoff, chances are you probably would recognize the flavor as soon as you sampled it. For as advanced as their society's are, Europeans just don't embrace peanut butter. When I studied in Spain, I discovered this the hard way. Biscoff is their alternative, along with nutella varietals.

The original recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod called for biscoff cookies in the mix, which I'm sure would be great. I omitted them because I didn't have them in my cupboard. Here's my version:

Biscoff Granola Bars
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup golden syrup
1/4 cup biscoff
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups quick oats
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Cut out an 8 x 8-inch square of parchment paper. Place the parchment paper in the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch baking pan. In a large sauce pan, add butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and biscoff. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to bubble. Once bubbling, cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.

Stir in the oats and crispy cereal well coated. Pour into the prepared pan. Press the mixture evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over the top, and gently press into the granola bars with your hands.

Place the bars in the refrigerator, and let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Cut into 10 bars. Store the bars in the refrigerator to maintain freshness longer. Makes 10 bars.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think one of the reasons my husband loved me during our college days was because I made him homemade chocolate chip cookies. He adored them, although I'm pretty sure I used the recipe from the back of the Nestle bag. His friends loved Kerry cookies as well.

I still break out that recipe every now and then, when I can break myself from exciting new recipes like this cookie version from Brown-Eyed Baker. These are fabulous! Topping the cookies with a sprinkling of sea salt adds a whole new dimension, and I love how large these cookies are! I think these will be one of the reasons my husband loves me now, all these years later.

Note: Definitely use a scale for these bad boys.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. (8 1/2 oz.) cake flour
1 & 2/3 cups (8 1/2 oz.) bread flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (8 oz.) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 & 1/3 cups (20 oz.) dark chocolate chips, at least 60% cacao content
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Sift together the cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until very light, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and then add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Press plastic wrap against the dough, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Scoop 3 1/2-ounces of dough, roll into a rough ball (it should be the size of a small baseball) and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have four mounds of dough on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the parchment or silicone sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then transfer the cookies onto another cooling rack to cool a bit more, until just warm or at room temperature. Repeat with remaining dough (or keep some of the dough refrigerated for up to 3 days, and bake cookies at a later time). Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes about 18 cookies.

Recipe from The New York Times

Pie Crust Biscotti

Heating apple cider with a cinnamon stick transforms it into a heavenly fall drink. Add a piece of this biscotti from Cupcake Project, and apple pie flavors dance in your mouth. I decreased the recipe to a quarter the original size and ended up with 7 biscotti, enough to savor and not too much to lead to gluttony. (That's why all the rest of my recipes exist.)

Pie Crust Biscotti
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 egg yolks
Grated zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Clean your counter well, and pour flour onto the counter. Make a well in the flour, and put all of the other ingredients in the well. Using your hands, work the center ingredients into a paste, and then knead in the flour. If necessary, dip your fingers in water while you are working to help the dough stick together better.

Instead of putting the pie crust dough into a pie plate, form it into a flat rectangular(ish) shape on a Silpat- or parchment-lined cookie sheet.  My rectangle for my quarter batch was about 1/2-inch tall.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the top and edges just begin to brown. Remove from the oven, and cool until you are comfortable touching the biscotti.  Carefully slice the biscotti without moving them at all.

Lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Return the cookie sheet to the oven, and bake for another 35 minutes or until the tops begin to harden (they won't fully harden until they cool).

Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Serve immediately with hot apple cider or store in a loosely covered container. 

 And, yes, it is so good you'll have visions repeating in your mind like this tricked-out photo my husband took.

Baked Apple Doughnuts

The last time we made doughnuts at my home, we almost burned down our entire apartment complex. Sadly, that's not an exaggeration. We had a grease fire, which resulted in me lighting myself on fire while trying to put the fire out, flames floor to ceiling in our kitchen and flames across our kitchen and living room floor. Fortunately, the fire in the apartment quickly distinguished itself. I smothered the flames on my hand, and we went to the ER (then the burn specialist in Milwaukee, followed by more trips to the burn specialist and lots of painful moments and good-natured mockery at work.) So for some odd reason, we have very limited use of deep-fried foods in our house simply because I'm wary of that cooking technique.

When I found Baker's Royale's recipe for these doughnuts, I thought they'd be the perfect way to use a few of my fall apple harvest. And I could make them since they are baked, not fried. Here's to Sunday morning doughnuts without a trip to the ER.

Baked Apple Doughnuts
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tsp. dry active yeast
2 tsp. salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 small apples, skins on or off depending on your preference, diced
3 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp. apple cider
Caramel Drizzle

Place  water, yeast, salt, eggs, sugar, apples, flour and butter in a bowl, using a spoon or a sturdy  spatula fold batter until evenly mixed. Let the dough rest at room temperature covered for two hours. Transfer dough to refrigerator, and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove dough from refrigerator. Transfer dough to a gallon-size plastic bag, and cut a corner off. Pipe 3-inch circles or whatever shape you desire onto a parchment lined bake sheet (or alternately pipe into wells of a doughnut pan).

Bake for about 18 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and transfer doughnuts to cooling rack.

To make glaze, place powdered sugar in bowl, and add  one tablespoon of cider at a time, stirring after each addition. Add more cider as needed to reach desired consistency. Prepare caramel sauce or use storebought caramel if desired. Place finished glaze in a bowl, and dip tops of doughnuts into mixture. Return dip doughnuts to cooling rack. Transfer caramel to plastic bag, and cut off one corner. Drizzle caramel on top of glazed doughnut. Makes about 18 doughnuts.

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

When my husband and I went to Vermont on vacation, we went to a sugar shack and sampled warm maple syrup. It wasn't my first time in a sugar shack, but it was for my husband. We left with fancy grade maple syrup, maple sugar and maple cream. Oh, and a determination to make homemade maple ice cream. And then serendipitously Brown-Eyed Baker posted this recipe.

I used our good ol' fashioned Wisconsin maple syrup for this ice cream. Mmmm, the perfect fall ice cream. (I also have pumpkin ice cream on my to-do list, and Maine sea salt ice cream. Good thing I like ice cream any day of the year because I have to churn quite a bit before my heavy cream spoils.)

Maple Walnut Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla Pinch kosher salt
Maple-Glazed Walnuts
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Pinch salt

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk and sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Meanwhile, pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Then, pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan occasionally. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Pour the custard through the mesh strainer, and stir it into the cream. Add the maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt. Stir to combine. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (you can speed up the process by placing the bowl in an ice bath), then cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

To glaze the walnuts, heat the maple syrup in a small skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat until it just begins to come to a full boil. Add the walnuts, stir to coat them, then allow the mixture to cook until it again comes to a full boil. Once it reaches a full boil, stir for 10 seconds, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool completely. (The walnuts will still feel wet and sticky when cool.)

Freeze the custard mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Add the maple-glazed walnuts during the last few minutes of churning. Transfer to a freezer-safe container, and store in the freezer. Makes 1 quart.

Bourbon Caramel Corn Cupcakes

One of the recipes I flagged on vacation was from My Baking Addiction. It called for bourbon, which isn't necessarily a staple in our household. (We're more of a tequila kind of family.) My friend gave me the bourbon for the recipe, so I repaid the favor by making these cupcakes for her 30th birthday. She said they made turning 30 worth it.

These aren't overly boozy, but there is a definite bourbon flavor to them. These are keepers!


Bourbon Caramel Corn Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk, warm
1/4 cup bourbon
2 sticks butter, room temperature1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. bourbon

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn
3 cups sugar
3 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla
 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup bourbon
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 24 cupcake tins.

In medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

Add flour and milk/bourbon, alternating in three additions, ending with flour.

Evenly distribute into prepared cupcake tins. (The batch normally makes 24, but I ended up with 21. Weird.) Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat butter until creamy. Then beat in powdered sugar. Add in vanilla and bourbon, and beat until smooth. Add more bourbon if needed to reach desired consistency.

To make popcorn, pop corn and set aside in a very large bowl. Line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, heat sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, and bourbon  on medium heat, stirring often. Continue to stir until sugar melts and a deep caramel color is achieved. When you are ready to coat the popcorn, add the baking soda to the caramel and stir quickly. Remove from heat, and pour over popcorn. Stir the popcorn quickly and immediately after covering with the warm mixture so that every piece gets some coverage of the caramel. Spread the caramel-coated popcorn onto the lined jelly pan and allow to cool for approximately 10 to 20 minutes. Break apart into pieces.

Frost each cupcake, drizzle with chocolate and top with a piece of caramel corn. Eat the rest of the caramel corn while pretending you used it all on the cupcakes. Makes 21 to 24 cupcakes. 

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

While on vacation, the Shocktop Pumpkin Ale kept beckoning to me. We didn't have any on vacation, but my dear sweet husband picked up some for me the next time he went shopping. And really, him going grocery shopping is a sacrifice in itself for him.

Since I had my pumpkin ale (delicious, thank you!), I could bake these cupcakes I found on My Baking Addiction. These are moist cupcakes that welcome in fall. The pumpkin flavor melds into the cocoa for a taste of fall, and the buttercream's sweetness is well balanced by the beer.

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes 
12 oz. Pumpkin Ale
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 lb. powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. pumpkin ale (adjust as needed for desired consistency) 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 30 cupcake tins with paper liners. Combine the pumpkin ale, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add in sour cream, and mix until fully incorporated.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined (batter will be thin).

Evenly divide batter amongst the prepared cupcake liners. Bake 23 minutes, until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Remove pan to wire rack, and cool 5 minutes before removing from tins.

For the frosting, cream the butter. Add the vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly begin adding the powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, add in the pumpkin ale, and mix until light and fluffy. Beat on high speed for about two minutes. If frosting is too thick, gradually add in a little more pumpkin ale (1 tsp. at a time) until you reach the desired consistency. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. If desired, garnish with festive sprinkles.

The original recipe says it makes 24 cupcakes, but my batch made 31 cupcakes. Bonus!

Baked Kale

I'm always on the lookout for kale recipes that sound appetizing because our kale was edible in June ... and hasn't stopped growing since. Hardy little big plants, I tell you.

This recipe from Ezra Pound Cake is good the first time around but slightly less so when reheated in the oven. It's simple enough to make, though, so make the kale/croutons ahead and bake only what you will eat in one sitting.

Baked Kale
2 cups bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 pound kale, large stems discarded, leaves chopped well
1 tsp. chopped thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 cups shredded Cheddar
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the bread on a baking sheet, and toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let the croutons cool on the baking sheet.
In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the onion, and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook while stirring for one minute. 

Add the kale, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the thyme, and season with salt and pepper. (You can store the kale in the refrigerator at this point to make it the next day.)

Transfer the kale to an 8-by-10-inch baking dish. Scatter the cheese over the kale, and top with the croutons. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the croutons are golden. Let stand for 5 minutes, and then serve. Makes 4 servings.