Monday, August 31, 2015

Harvest Apple Cake

 Leaves are falling and it's a rainy day here in North Carolina; I can't help but feel Fall is beginning to unfold and remembered a quote by Albert Camus...

"Autumn is
a second Spring,
when every leaf
is a flower."
 Apples are Autumn for me and my favorite is the Honey Crisp which I first discovered while living in the Pacific Northwest.  The taste is like biting into a glass of cider!  I love baking with them and literally "threw" together the ingredients to enjoy a cake to fit my new pan I found at Williams~Sonoma.  (You can easily substitute a 9-inch round baking pan.)
My life has become so hectic since the move and I haven't quite found my stride yet, but I'm working on at least finding a balance.  This week I have new dies shipping to stores and I wanted to share with you a wreath that I made which fits the quote.
 Harvest Apple Cake
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. Apple Pie Spice 
1/2 tsp. Cardamon
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 Honey Crisp Apple, washed and grated
 
Topping:
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup broken pecans
 
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray a 9-inch round baking pan or Nordic upside-down pan.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, then, slowly add the granulated sugar.  Beat until fluffy, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.  Add the vanilla, Boiled cider and spices and beat together.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed.  Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed.  Add the grated apple and mix just until combined.
Sprinkle the brown sugar on the bottom of the baking pan, then add the broken pecans, evenly distributing them over the surface.  
Spread the batter over the topping and smooth the top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 38-45 minutes...test the center with a wooden skewer to check if the cake is done.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 7 minutes, then invert on a serving platter.
Isn't the design pretty with this Nordic pan?  It's a great cake alone, but I happened to have some home-made ice cream, so what the heck!  Is it beginning to look like Fall in your area?  Enjoy!  
 


Thursday, August 13, 2015

PB Chocolate Chip Dunkers

My mother always said, "there's two sides to everything."  Well, when I purchased this pan that is for making Granola Bars, that adage came back to me yesterday and I decided to revamp my chocolate chip cookie recipe and bake them in this unique pan.
I found this pan at Williams Sonoma and actually got it on sale (I bought 3 and sent one to my daughter and one to my Sis).  I made the recipe for granola bars the first day I bought it--and everyone loved them, but the wheels of my brain churned and I knew I'd find other uses for this pan.

First, it makes my usual cookie recipe crispier and it the perfect size for dunking into milk for those after school snacks.  Yes, another school year is around the corner kids!  I have fond memories of stopping in to my grandparents house on the way home from school, heading for the cookie jar, and telling my grandfather and grandmother all about my day.  M & C's are a perfect way to sit down with your children or grandchildren and engage in their lives:-D

PB Chocolate Chip Dippers
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 T vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Peanut Butter* (I used Peanut Butter powder and therefore, I reduced my flour by 1/4 cup)
2 3/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (if using PB powder 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 pkg. Nestles' Mini Chocolate Chips

*For those with peanut allergies, omit!  You can substitute 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Lightly spray granola pan with a non-stick spray.

In the stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together thoroughly, scrapping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Add the vanilla extract and mix once more.  Add the eggs, one at a time, scrapping down the sides as needed. If using regular peanut butter, add to the mixture now, otherwise, add the powdered peanut butter with the dry ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients and mini chocolate chips and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined.
Use a small scoop to measure out the amount for the pan openings.
Use your fingers to press the mixture into the openings.

Bake in the preheated for 10-11 minutes (until golden brown).  Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring dunkers to a rack to cool completely
This recipe made 4 dozen cookies...enough to last you almost 1 week of school:-D Enjoy!   

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Happy Birthday Bars & August's Give-Away-Apron

August is a celebratory month--today, is my sister Barbara's birthday, Monday, our daughter Erin will celebrate hers and this is also the month that I started My Mother's Apron Strings.  Actually, our daughter Kelly set up the blog for me since I'm one big klutz technically:-D

This cookie bar (and others) is in the latest Food Network magazine and I'm a sucker for birthday cake, so I was anxious to try this simple recipe.  Mom always made our birthdays special by allowing us to choose what kind of cake; not a fancy, expensive party with clowns, ponies, or magicians, but family dinners with our choice of cake.  Memorable!

Happy Birthday Bars
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 T Vanilla extract
1/2 cup multi-color sprinkles

2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt

Vanilla Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 oz. white chocolate, melted
1 T Vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a 9" x 13" baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with a baking spray.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a wire whisk, mix the sugar, melted butter and vanilla together.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Switch to using a rubber spatula, add the flour and salt, then, add the multi-color sprinkles and stir to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth to cover completely.
 Bake in preheated oven for 23-25 minutes just until a light golden color.
Allow the bars to cool, then icing them with the vanilla frosting and sprinkle on more multi-color sprinkles.  Enjoy!
I spent the day in my sewing room catching up on projects.  It's been so hot, but we finally did get some rain.  Here is August's Give-Away Apron, which coincidentally reminds me of these sprinkles:-D  Just comment on any of the posts this month and you could be wearing this apron in September!


  

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Peachy Keen Breakfast Snack Cake & July's Apron Winner

Peaches are a big crop in the South--I'm sure you've heard of Georgia peaches, but I have to say the ones from the Carolina's fair just as well.  I've been busy this summer making jam (that's Peach and a Peach~Cherry combo) behind this luscious Peachy snack cake.

The peach is native to northwest China, where it was first domesticated, and is the largest producer of peaches.  From there it was brought to Persia and then, transplanted in Europe. Interestingly, it is classified along with the cherry, plum and almond; that's why I chose to make the Peach~Cherry jam and to add roasted almonds for a crunchy streusel on top of this treat!

Peachy Keen Breakfast Snack Cake
Roasted Almond Streusel:
3/4 cup whole almonds (I used ones with the skin on), roasted in the oven for 6-7 minutes at 350F-degrees, then chopped
2 T firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamon
2 T butter, melted
 
Cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (remove 2T of the butter for the streusel!)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (about 3 medium) diced peaches, peeled
I use a "tomato peeler" that you can find at Sur La Table to peel the peaches!

1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  I used "cakelet" papers I found at The Container Store, but you can also make these into muffins.

In a small bowl, make the streusel; mix the chopped almonds, brown sugar, spices together, then, add 2 tablespoons of melted butter from the pan you used to melt the 1/2 cup of butter.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and oil together.  Add the brown sugar and stir together to combine.  Add the eggs and extracts and mix thoroughly.  Measure the oatmeal and all the dry ingredients and sour cream into the bowl and stir just to combine.  Lastly, add the diced peaches.
 Stir again to combine.
I filled 8 cakelets with the batter, spread it with an off-set spatula, then, sprinkled with the crunchy streusel.
Place the cakelets in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 350F-degrees.  Bake them for 22-24 minutes until a toothpick comes out cleanly when tested in the center.  If you are doing muffins, line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and don't lower temperature.  Bake 20-25 minutes until a wooden skewer comes out cleanly when tested in the center.  

I decided to add a simple glaze on top of my cakes:
1 1/2 cups confectioners' (icing) sugar
1 T light Karo Syrup
2 T very warm water

Mix all the ingredients together and use a spoon to dribble the glaze over the cakelets.

Serve warm from the oven...it's like eating peach pie for breakfast and who wouldn't like that?  Enjoy!

Now, the winner of July's apron is FindingPam!

Congratulations!  Email me your address and I'll get this lovely sent to you ASAP:-D  


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Almond Joy" Biscotti

If I were to list my mother's favorite flavors, the list would start with chocolate, lemon, coconut and almond.  These Almond-Joy Biscotti would definitely hit three of her favorites!

Almond Joy was first introduced in 1946 by the Winjamy Candy Company in Boston, Massachusetts.  It had replaced the Dream Bar, created in 1936 that contained diced almonds and coconut.  In 1978 Peter Paul merged with the Cadbury Candy Company, then in 1988, Hershey's purchased the U.S. portion of the company.  Even though, Peter Paul doesn't own any portion of the company, the name still appears on the wrapper.  Remember the jingle in the 70s..."sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't...Almond Joy got nuts, Mounds don't!"  Well, these biscotti don't have Almond Joys chopped up in them, but I did incorporate almonds, coconut, and chocolate to get my spin on this very popular combination.

Almond Joy Biscotti
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup chopped almond slices
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.  Add the extracts and mix once more.

Add the coconut, chocolate chips and almonds with 1 cup of the flour, baking powder, and salt to the batter.  Mix on low until blended.  Remove from the stand and stir in the remaining 1 cup of flour.  Divide the dough and pat them into 12" x 3" logs.  Dampen your hands and smooth the top of the dough.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow to cool about 10 minutes, then use a serrated knife to slice the logs into 3/4-inch slices.  Place face down on a parchment lined baking pan.  Return to the oven and bake 7 minutes, remove from the oven and turn the slices over and bake another 7 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before packing them up into your cookie jar:-D  These cookies have a long shelf life, but I highly doubt they will last very long.  Enjoy! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Fruit & Nut Pistachio~Zucchini Bread

I remember very well helping my grandfather plant the vegetable garden that he would share with us.  In fact, he once told me, "you're the only one, other than me, that I will allow to use the rototiller."  Yes, I loved gardening even then, but moreover, he said, "it's because you can till a straight line!"

The first time I planted zucchini I learned it was a different technique; making mounds that I would poke my finger in, about 1-inch, and place 3-4 seeds in each one.  As my grandfather taught me, it was "insurance" that each mound had a plant come up. However, emotionally it was very hard to pull 2 or 3 plants out of the mound and toss them when they all came up!

Zucchini (or as it's known in Europe, Courgette) is a summer squash, usually dark or light green, although there is also a hybrid golden yellow variety.  Most people think of squash as a vegetable, but it is indeed a fruit, which has both female (the blossom) and male (where the petiole meets the stem) in the leaf axis.  The plants can be abundant with fruit and most of us wonder how many dishes we can make.  It's low in calories and has useful amounts of foliate, potassium and Vitamin A.    I think I've come up with some pretty good recipes: breads, pickles, cakes, muffins, breaded, soups...etc!  I once sent my sister a pile of recipes when she found she was knee-deep in zucchini from the garden:-)

Today, I made a lovely bread and pumped up the "green" with Pistachio Flour and finely chopped pistachios.
Pistachios are an excellent source of healthy fats, fiber and iron and particularly replacing some of the all-purpose flour with this nut flour, cuts down on the carbohydrates we are all trying to watch.  I also added some dried fruits to make this a wholesome bread to start the day or have as a snack with your afternoon tea or coffee.

Fruit & Nut Pistachio~Zucchini Bread
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 T Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Almond extract
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 medium zucchinis, grated

1 cup Pistachio flour
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts
1 cup of dried fruit (I used 1/2 cup chopped dates and 1/2 cup Peach Jammy Bits ) 

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray two loaf pans (9" x 4") with cooking spray or greased with shortening.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, oil, and sugar together.  While the mixer is running on low, add the eggs, one at a time.  Turn mixer speed up to medium and continue to mix until fluffy.
Add the extracts and mix once more.  Remove the bowl from the stand and add the dry ingredients, dried fruit, chopped nuts, and sour cream.  Stir with a rubber spatula to combine everything.
Divide the batter between the two loaf pans.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 55-60 minutes or until tester comes out cleanly.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool 7-10 minutes before turning them out onto a cutting board.
A lovely slice of bread was well worth waiting for to start the day.  
This is a healthy recipe to add to your collection of zucchini recipes--check out some of my past recipes on the blog.  Enjoy!



Thursday, July 9, 2015

Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks


Mid-week and it's HOT...I'm talking mid 90s and humidity that makes it feel over a 100-degrees! My baking has to be done in the morning for sure and I thought of course, chocolate will make everything better.  And, I wanted to bake a treat for the crew that's working on the treehouse amid this weather.

Finishing touches need to be done--railings, screens on all sides, screen door installed, interior walls with blackboard paint, swings, including a tire swing and a sliding pole.  Pretty grand for our Grands!


I chose white chocolate to add to these brownie-like cookies; it's my favorite.  Consisting of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids, it's technically not chocolate since it does not contain cocoa solids.  During the manufacturing process the dark solids become separated from the fatty content and don't recombine.  This means that "white chocolate" contains only trace amounts of caffeine and theobromine (bitter alkaloid of the cocoa plant) and lack the antioxidants that bittersweet chocolate touts as a healthy choice.  White chocolate was launched in 1930s by a Swiss company Nestle, but it wasn't until 1945 that Kuno Baedeker would develop a white chocolate bar for The Merckens Chocolate company in America.   I also think it gives a nice contrast to the bittersweet chocolate I melted for the basis of the cookie, but you might decide to add more dark chocolate and that's your choice, of course:-D

Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted using a double boiler method
3/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder 
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3 (4 oz) white chocolate bars, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Sift together the dry ingredients, using a sifter or you can place in a separate bowl and use a wire whisk to blend.  Set aside.

Chop the bittersweet chocolate finely and place in a bowl over a pan with simmering water, making sure the water isn't high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl.  Melt over low heat.  Remove bowl and allow to cool slightly.
 In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars thoroughly.  Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract and blend together.  Scrape the sides of the bowl with rubber spatula as needed.

Remove the bowl from the stand and using the rubber spatula, add the flour mixture gradually.  Incorporate thoroughly and then add the chopped white chocolate.

Chill the mixture about 25-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Use a 2-tablespoon-sized scoop to measure out the dough and place on the lined sheets.  Make sure you leave about 2-inches between cookies.  Bake for 12 minutes, approx. (mine took a little less because I use the Convection setting on my oven).

Allow the cookies to cool about 7-10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

My sister will probably have her's with a cup of black coffee mid-afternoon, but I chose to take a break, pour a glass of lemonade and sit out on the screened in porch and watch the construction process...reading my latest book.  Enjoy!