Sunday, September 18, 2016

Autumn Apple~Currant Pie

Autumn is literally around the corner--Thursday, September 22nd, and I couldn't help but think about autumn in the Pacific Northwest where we lived for 12 years.  Apples were so abundant and there were so many new varieties than what I was used to in the East.  Apple Pie was always on the menu for this season, along with Pumpkin, Apple Cranberry,  and Pear; why not start the season off.

Apples are not indigenous to North America, but rather were brought to our country by colonists (aren't we happy for immigrants!). Originally they were cultivated in central Asia and brought to Europe by explorers.  Of course, as children we all heard the story of Johnny Appleseed (aka John Chapman) who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana from September 26, 1774 to March 18, 1845.  There are more than 7,500 cultivars of apples, but today, Granny Smith was my choice.

Autumn Apple~Currant Pie
1 cup currants (or raisins)
1/4 cup bourbon, whiskey, or apple cider

Slightly warm the "booze" or apple cider in the microwave and pour over the dried fruit in a small bowl.  Cover and let stand 30 minutes or even overnight.

Prepare your favorite 10-inch pie crust, or a 9-inch deep dish crust.  I did the deep dish. Place in the refrigerator while you peel the apples.

6-7 Granny Smith apples (depending on how small/large they are), peeled, cored, and sliced

In a large bowl, mix:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground cardamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees. Add the apples to this mixture, then using a slotted spoon, add the currants.  Mix well and spoon filling into the unbaked pie pastry.  Drizzle evenly with reserved Whiskey/Bourbon/or Cider.
Streusel Topping:
1 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Mix the flour and brown sugar together in a medium bowl, then use a pastry blender to cut in the butter.  You can also rub with your fingers until small lumps develop.

Sprinkle topping over filling.

Very Important--set pie on a baking pan and bake in the preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes.  Cover loosely with foil if the pie crust browns too quickly.  Pie is done when apples are tender and juices bubble on top.

When I bake pies, I use this ingenious pie baking round that I purchased at Sur La Table, but you can also find it at Williams~Sonoma.  As you can see, the juices bubble over and it's much easier to clean up a baking sheet rather than your oven! I love that the bottom of your pie plate still gets the direct heat it needs to brown your crust.
 Harvest time has begun and I'm sure you'll be seeing lots of apples at the farm stands and grocery stores.  My mother always said, "an apple a day, keeps the doctor away."  I don't know about that, but I do know this is one great pie! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Chocolate Chocolate Crunch Cookies

It's definitely a Chocolate day!  You know, you get those cravings and nothing takes the woes of the week away better than chocolate.  Did you know there are Seven (7) reasons why chocolate is good for you?

1. Very Nutritious - 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the RDA of Iron, 58% of the RDA of Magnesium, 89% of the RDA for Copper, 98% of the RDA for Manganese, and it also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.

2. Powerful Source of Antioxidants - Dark Chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants.

3.  May improve blood flow and lower blood pressure - the flavonols can stimulate the endothelium (lining of the arteries) to produce Nitric Oxide which sends a signal to the arteries to relax, which lowers resistance to blood flow, and in turn lowers blood pressure.

4. Raises HDL and protects LDL against oxidation - the increase HDL can lower cholesterol and by protecting LDL it prevents reacting to free particles and damaging such things as the lining of your arteries.

5. May lower the risk of Cardiovascular Disease - studies have shown that cocoa, over a 15 year period with 470 men,  reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 50%!  Another study showed by eating chocolate 2 or more times per week lowered the risk of calcified plaque in arteries by 32%.

6. Protect your skin from the sun - Again, the flavonols in dark chocolate can protect against sun-induced damage to the skin, along with increasing skin density and hydration.

7. May Improve Brain Health - High cocoa flavonols increases blood flow to the brain and may, especially, improve cognitive function to the elderly with mental impairment.

Off my soap box, but lets vote for Chocolate--something I bet we can all get behind!

Chocolate~Chocolate Crunch Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 oz. 62% Chocolate, roughly chopped

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together.  Once melted, stir well and remove from heat to cool.

Preheat oven 325F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup Bittersweet chocolate chips
12 regular sized Oreos or 17 Thin Oreos crushed

In a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 2 minutes.  Add the melted chocolate/butter mixture, and vanilla and mix well, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.

Whisk the dry ingredients together and add to the chocolate mixture.  Mix on low just until combined.  Stir in the Bittersweet chocolate chips.

Crush the Oreos--You can use a rolling pin, food processor, or Moulinex Chopper.
Use a tablespoon or small scooper to measure dough.  Roll it into the crushed Oreos.

Place rolled cookies on the prepared parchment-lined cookie sheets.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes.  Don't over bake as they will tend to dry out.
Now, relax.  Have a glass of cold milk and let the stress of the week wash away as you bite into these cookies.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sunday Dessert ~ Swiss Hazelnut Cake

We always looked forward to Sunday dinners at my mom's.  It's not that I sat back and did nothing, on the contrary, I loved helping to bake while our girls enjoyed playing outside with the animals and  Chuck watched sports.  Sharing that time with my mom was priceless and her knowledge of baking gave me the foundation that has stayed with me along with the memories.

I've always loved hazelnuts, but really began using them in baking when we lived in the Pacific Northwest.  Oregon is one of the biggest producers of this nut and I began seeing them at our farmer's market--from whole nuts to hazelnut flour, so when I found this recipe from Cook's Country, I knew I wanted to try it.

This cake is characteristic of a dacquoise recipe with its light texture from whipped egg whites and the buttercream frosting, which can be tricky to make, is made easy using marshmallow fluff!   Instead of toasting and grinding the nuts into a delicate flour, I took a shortcut and purchased Toasted Hazelnut Flour from King Arthur Flour...your choice.

Swiss Hazelnut Cake

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees. Line 2 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, grease just the parchment, but not the pan sides.

1/2 cup (2 ounces) skin-on hazelnuts, toasted and cooled
Process hazelnuts in a food processor, until finely ground, about 30 seconds.

1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup  (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, whisk all of these ingredients together, including the ground hazelnuts.  Set aside

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3 large egg yolks
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk these "wet" ingredients together, then add them to the dry ingredients in the large bowl, mixing until a smooth batter forms.

5 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a hand-held mixer) whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to medium-high and whip until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.  Gently whisk one-third of the whipped egg whites into the batter.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in remaining egg whites into batter until incorporated.
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and gently tap pans on counter to release air bubbles.  Bake until tops are light golden brown and cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the center, 25 to 28 minutes.

Let cakes cool in pans for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around edges of pan; invert cakes onto a wire rack.  Discard parchment and let cakes cool completely.

24 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) confectioners' sugar
12 ounces ( 2 3/4) cups) Fluff brand marshmallow creme
2 T hazelnut liqueur (optional)

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip butter and salt on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Reduce speed to low and slowly add the confectioners' sugar.  Increase speed to medium and whip until smooth, 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Add marshmallow creme, increase speed to medium-high, whip until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add the hazelnut liqueur, if using, and whip to incorporate, about 30 seconds.

Frost bottom cake layer, add the second layer spreading evenly over top and sides.  The cake called for bittersweet chocolate shavings sprinkled over the top and sides, but I only had enough to sprinkle on the top:-(  It was still pretty--Enjoy!

The weather was a little cooler...not much, but I'll take it after the long hot summer.  Are you making changes for the fall weather in your home or with your baking?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Bars & September's Give-Away Apron

I know it's still Summer; it's actually 95F-degrees here, but I can't help wanting some Fall flavors.  Pumpkin is the first thing that comes to my mind for baking and this bars deliver on taste that satisfies my craving.  I love combining chocolate with pumpkin, which is stirred into cream cheese to make this bars resemble a pumpkin cheesecake that you can pick up in your hands.

My family shares my love of pumpkin.  In fact, our daughter Kelly always asked for a Pumpkin Pie for her birthday.  Interesting coincidence while our grandson was here in August and we celebrated all the grands birthdays at once, I asked him what kind of cake he wanted to bake and he said pumpkin pie!  Maddie chose Red Velvet and Emmie is our "Chocolate/Chocolate" Girl!

Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Bars
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a 15" x 10" baking pan with aluminum foil, extending over the edges. 
Pumpkin Batter:
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1-15oz can pumpkin ( 1 3/4 cups)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, eggs and oil together.  Add the dry ingredients and and stir to combine.  Spread the pumpkin batter in prepared pan.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Swirl:
1-8oz. pkg. cream cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 Mini Semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1 T milk

In a microwave, melt the chocolate.  Every 25 seconds, check and stir until melted.  In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Add the granulated sugar and egg and beat until combined.  Add the milk and melted chocolate and beat once more.  Spoon the chocolate cream cheese mixture on top of the pumpkin mixture in the baking pan.  Use a knife to create swirls through the batter.

1/2 cup Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Finally, sprinkle the topping over the bars and place in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Test with a toothpick poked in the center--if it comes out clean, it's done.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.  Using the foil, lift uncut bars out of the pan and cut into 24 bars.  Enjoy!

This month's apron is a special one.  One of my blogging buddies, Karianne Woods of Thistlewood Farms blog, designed the material called "Sweet Tea."  She will actually be in our area tomorrow and I hope to meet her in person, as I'm sure so many others will.  I thought the fabrics were so pretty and made this apron for September perfect!  Comment on any of my posts this month and you will have a chance to win this apron and be baking in your own kitchen while wearing it!
Good Luck!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Spicy Cheese Bread

Cheesy snack bread is legendary in Wisconsin and when I came across this recipe by Cook's Country, I knew I had to try it.  First, Cook's Country is reliable because they go to great lengths to make sure a recipe works and this bread was no different.  Even testing what cheese would work best and not bog down this eggy dough with grease.  The choice--Monterey Jack and Provolone.  Secondly, they pay special attention to the temperature of the ingredients to ensure an efficient and effective fermentation time; which is very important to me.  By incorporating red pepper flakes into both the dough and the topping gives this bread its signature kick, which is something we enjoyed a lot with our chili last night.

Spicy Cheese Bread
 3 1/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 T instant or rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup warm water (about 110F-degrees)
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
4 T unsalted butter, melted
6 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, at room temperature
6 oz. Provolone cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, at room temperature

1 large egg, lightly beater
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 T unsalted butter, melted

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar yeast, pepper flakes, and salt together.  Whisk by hand, then place it on the stand with the dough hook.  Whisk water, eggs, yolk, and melted butter together in a liquid measuring cup and add to the dry ingredients.  Knead on medium speed until dough clears bottom and sides of bowl, about 8 minutes.  Transfer dough to unfloured counter and shape into a ball.  Place in a large bowl, brushed with melted butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with melted butter.  I also placed a piece of 9-inch round parchment on the bottom of the pan and brushed melted butter on it.

Deflate the dough and roll it into a 12-inch x 18-inch rectangle with long side parallel to counter's edge.
Distribute the two cheeses over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.  Starting with the edge closest to you, roll dough into a log.  Pinch seam and ends to seal, then roll log so seam side is down.  roll log bak and forth on counter, applying gently, even pressure until log reaches 30 inches in length.  If any tears occur, pinch to seal.

Starting at one end, wind log into coil; tuck end underneath coil.  Place loaf in prepared cake pan and cover loosely with a clean dish towel.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size--1 to 1 1/2 hours.
When doubled, preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Brush top of loaf with beaten egg, then sprinkle with pepper flakes.  Place cake pan on rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until loaf is golden brown, about 25 minutes, then rotate loaf and tent it with aluminum foil.  Continue baking until loaf's internal temperature reaches 190F-degrees--about 25 to 30 minutes longer. (I use an instant read thermometer that you can find at a Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table.)

Transfer pan to a wire rack and brush with the melted butter. After about 10 minutes, use a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and slide it onto a rack to cool for 30 minutes before slicing.  Serve warm

My hubby said this is one of the best breads I've ever made and wanted a slice this morning with his scrambled eggs.  I can see this is a good one for those Fall days that are coming.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

After the Storm Pumpkin Muffins

Hurricane Hermine brought havoc to Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, but here in North Carolina, I consider us lucky to have less than 2 inches of rain and very little wind.  It's not to say that I haven't lived through some of the roughest of storms, but anytime you don't have any damage doesn't mean you don't prepare for the worse when these storms are coming.  I have a great respect for "Mother Nature!"

The storm did bring some cooler temperatures and while the kitties were enjoying a morning on the screened-in porch, I decided to bake.  Pumpkin came to mine as the day was still overcast and cool.  It's a favorite flavor in our house and the aroma of spices while baking just gave it a warm feeling.  The rich taste of pumpkin was enhanced with cranberries and pecans, but also molasses, which was a favorite of my dad's.  He poured it on his pancakes and like him, I love the unique taste it brings to my baked goods.

Pumpkin Muffins
2 3/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie spice
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk*
3/4 cup dried cranberries (or raisins, dates, currants)
3/4 cup chopped pecans

*If you don't have buttermilk, add 1/2 tsp. cider vinegar to milk and let set for about 5-7 minutes.

Preheat oven 375F-degrees.  Spray a muffin pan with a nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin,oil, molasses, and buttermilk.  Whisk to combine thoroughly.  Add the dry ingredients and stir.  Finally, add the cranberries and pecans.  The batter is thick, but don't over mix.
Use a 1/4 cup scoop and divide batter among the muffin cups.
I'm pretty generous because I love to get a "muffin top"on my finished muffin!  Bake 15-17 minutes.  Let cool slightly in the pan then remove to a rack.  Serve warm with butter, if desired...I did.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 2, 2016

August's Apron Winner!

Congratulations to Rebecca Stevens!  Please email me and I will send this apron out to you ASAP.  I should have September's up shortly.