Friday, July 7, 2017

Summertime Chocolate Chip Cookies & July's Give-Away Apron

It's hot!  I guess after living in the South for four years I shouldn't be surprised by this week of high temperatures, humidity, and the occasional thunder storm, but it still slows me down.  Even with air conditioning, I find my baking has taken a vacation.  However, yesterday I decided to whip up some chocolate chip cookies and sit down and enjoy a new book I just got.

I first started reading Elon Hilderbrand's books several years ago when I picked up one of her first novels at an airport bookstore.  I had a long trip to Tokyo and wanted to make sure I had enough to read.  Well, it captivated me and I read it in less than three hours.  When I returned home, I purchased all she had out!  Also, a few years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through treatment for this disease.  I couldn't help but feel a kindred spirit when I read her stories.

Her stories take place on Nantucket Island; one of my favorite places to go when we lived in Massachusetts.  It's about 30 miles from Cape Cod and we took the ferry, although there is a small airport that you can fly in to.  The name, Nantucket, is from Algonquian Indians for "far away land or island" and it's mostly a tourist destination with only a little over 10,000 people residing there year round. The town is small, but exploring the island is a wonderful day of viewing wildlife, especially birds, and then finding yourself back in a B & B for a good night's rest.

What are you reading this summer?

Summertime Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cups + 2T granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans (or you can use walnuts)
1 1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat to combine.  Add the vanilla and beat again.

Remove bowl from the stand mixer and stir in, by hand, the dry ingredients until combined.  Add the nuts and chocolate chips.  Use a tablespoon-size scoop for the cookie size.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool on the pan while you put the next pan of cookies in the oven.  Remove to a rack to cool completely.  Now grab a couple, pour yourself some Sweet Tea or Lemonade and head to a comfy place to read.  Enjoy!


July's Apron is one of my favorite flowers--Poppies!  If you want a chance to win this colorful apron, just comment on the posts this month and you could be wearing this to do some baking in August! Good luck:-)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

June's Give-Away Apron!

Congratulations to "Piecrust." You have won June's Give Away Apron!  Please email me your mailing address and I will send your apron to you.

Tomorrow, I will have July's Apron up!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Blackberry Jam Bars

I can't believe it's the end of June!  Where does the time go?  In a few short days, we will be celebrating July 4th; our Independence Day.  It was my mother's favorite holiday, next to Christmas and always one for lots baking and cooking while Dad was in charge in getting the Chesapeake Blue Crabs.  I loved baking for the big picnic at mom's and I think this would have gone over big for the dessert table.

Picking berries are one of my favorite chores to do, although I have to admit it was a little more "dangerous" with the possibility of snakes hiding among the brambles! Still, the end product was always worth the danger.

When we lived in the Pacific Northwest, these berries are called Marion berries and I've made lots of jam using them.  I've included the recipe for making the jam ahead of time, but you could certainly use "store bought" to shorten the time of preparation.  I think these bars are great on their own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and they can be frozen, which makes them perfect to do ahead of your picnic.

Blackberry Jam Bars

Blackberry Jam
8 cups fresh blackberries (it was about 3 quarts) rinsed
3 cups (600g) granulated sugar
2 T (30g) fresh lemon juice

In a large saucepan (I used a 6 qt. Dutch Oven), stir together the blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice together.  Let stand for 2 hours.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Remove from the heat and use a hand blender to process until smooth.  Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding seeds/solids.  Pour liquid back into the saucepan.

Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20-40 minutes until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour.  Transfer to a storage dish and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Bars
2 cups (4 sticks) (454g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups (500g) King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. (10g) baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cups blackberry jam
1/4 cup (30g) confectioners' sugar

In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together at medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Beat in vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the butter mixture, slowly on low speed until combined.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces and wrap in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a 13" x 9" baking pan with parchment paper, overlapping the sides and spray the bottom and sides with a baking spray with flour.

Remove two pieces of dough and use a box grater to grate the dough into the pan. Press down slightly on the dough.  Place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Grating then freezing the dough before baking creates little air pockets that give the bars a crumbly texture, contrasting with the smooth jam center.

Grate the other two disks on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes.  Remove baking pan from freezer and spread the jam across the top.

Sprinkle the cold grated dough over the top of the jam in an even layer.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown, covering the top with foil if necessary.  Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10 minutes.  Use the parchment paper to pull up on the bars (or I use a springform pan and remove the sides!)
Once cool, give the top a generous sprinkle of confectioners' sugar before serving.  You can freeze these bars, if desired, in an air tight container.  Happy 4th! Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cherry Shortbread

When I was in England a few weeks ago, we had a "free" day to explore and went to Runnymede.  For all you who know your history, Runnymede is alongside the River Thames and most notably associated with the sealing of the Magna Carta.  It was during the reign of King John in 1215, it was signed and democracy was born.  The most important items to note was that it affected common and constitutional law as well as political representation, beginning the development of parliament.  The ideals of democracy were: limitation of power, equality and freedom.  If is sounds familiar, it was what our own Constitution was designed after over 200 years later!

After our walk through The National Trust land, donated in 1929 by Cara Rogers Broughton and her sons, we stopped at the Tea House to enjoy some refreshment before heading to Windsor Castle.  I had the Cherry Shortbread and my friend had a piece of Almond Frangipane Tart.  I couldn't wait to see if I could replicate this shortbread when I got home; I have a friend who loves shortbread and I wanted to surprise her!  Just as delicious and it will be one I make again.

Cherry Shortbread

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup dried cherries, cut in half

Glaze

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 T very warm water
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 T Light Karo syrup

Start by hydrating the cherries in boiling water; making sure you cover them completely.  Allow to stand at least an hour or longer.  Drain well in a sieve, then scatter them on paper toweling to make sure excess moisture is removed.
Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.  If you don't have a springform pan like I use, then make sure the parchment goes up at least two sides so you can lift the shortbread out when it's done.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar together completely.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed.  Add the vanilla extract and beat once more.  Add the flour and salt and mix on low just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

Bring dough together on a board and divide in half.  Press half of the shortbread into the prepared pan, pressing with your fingers to spread completely.  Use either a "docker" or a fork to poke holes into the dough (this allows it to bake evenly.)
Scatter the cherries on top, then, breaking off pieces of the second half, press gently over top to cover the cherries.   I also "poked" holes in this layer, then sprinkled with some sugar crystals lightly.
 Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a light golden brown.
 Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 7 minutes before removing it to a cutting board.  You will want to cut the shortbread while it's warm.
I also decided to add a glaze since shortbread isn't overly sweet.
Very quick and oh so delicious.  It's the perfect afternoon treat with tea or anytime:-D Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Happy Birthday Cookies

Kelly's little boy will turn 9 years old next week; where did the time go?  He's getting so big, but I remember this photo, taken of Kelly and him for a article Kelly wrote for the Mount Holyoke literary magazine when he was just over a year old.

The spitting image of his mama and he definitely has her good heart and concern for others, nurtured by his dad, new mother and little brother.

He also has a wonderful sense of humor and voracious love of reading...like his mom.
He's visiting in Vermont and his dad shared with us a climb they did.  Getting so tall and very grown-up!
We won't get a chance to see him until August, but I wanted to bake him up something sweet just to let him know we're thinking of him.  Happy Birthday Cookies are everything a kid will love; simple but oh so tasty.

Happy Birthday Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 T "Birthday Cake" flavoring
2 3/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mini white chocolate chips
3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together thoroughly.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed, with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and Birthday Cake flavoring.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and beat on medium/low just until combined.  Use a #20 Scoop to portion out the cookies.
Use your hand to slightly flatten the dough.  Bake in the preheat oven for 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Happy Birthday Cookies are just fun and I know our grandson will love them; his mama would!  Enjoy!



Monday, June 12, 2017

Plum~And~Pretzel Cheesecake Pie & June's Give-Away Apron

Summer means "stone fruit" is in; peaches, plums, cherries, and nectarines.  Saturday, I made Stone Fruit Jam and had some plums leftover, so Sunday, I made this dessert.

Plums are considered one of the first domesticated fruits--they're not found in the wild! There are many species and cultivated all over the world.  I grew up with two plum trees in our backyard and helped my Mom make jam/jelly and cobblers with the produce.  This recipe combines the sweetness of plums with the saltiness of pretzels.  I also thought it went well with the main course of spinach manicotti, roasted asparagus, and kale salad--total Italian on this very warm day in the south!

Plum~And~Pretzel Cheesecake Pie
4 large plums, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 T firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 freshly ground nutmeg

In a medium bowl, toss the plums with the remaining ingredients and let stand about 45-minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees (180C).

Pretzel Crust:
2 cups of finely ground pretzels
10 T unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Grind the pretzels in a food processor, then transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the melted butter and sugar.
Press the pretzel mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and bake in the preheated oven 10 to12 minutes, until golden around the edges.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Lower oven temperature to 325F-degrees (170C).

Filling:
1 8oz. container (226g) mascarpone cheese, softened
4 oz. (113g) cream cheese, softened
2T firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 T Orange Liqueur (I used Grand Marnier
1 T Orange zest

In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the mascarpone, cream cheese and brown sugar together until smooth.  Add the egg, vanilla, Grand Marnier, and zest and beat until combined.
Spoon into the baked crust.

Drain the plums, reserving 1/4 cup for the glaze and arrange them on top, slightly overlapping in a circular pattern.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Glaze:
1/4 cup of reserved juices from the plums
1 T Grand Marnier
1/2 tsp. cornstarch

In a small saucepan, whisk together reserved juice, liqueur, and cornstarch.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook until slightly thickened.  Brush over pie.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving or overnight.  Enjoy!


Very late on posting the apron...my apologies, but here it is.  Simply comment on any post this month and you will be entered to win this colorful, summer-like apron.  Good Luck!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cherry Crumb Cake & May's Apron Winner

I'm back from my trip to England a little tired, but every bit a wonderful time and the people were so lovely.  I flew home Saturday and that evening heard the horrible tragedy on the London Bridge.  My friend and I were there on Friday in London, doing the "tourist" thing and I can't imagine the kind of hatred that causes people to carry out terror to innocent human beings.  My heart goes out to all of the victims.
Windsor Castle 
I think I've gotten myself back together again--catching up on grocery shopping, laundry, and putting all my supplies back in their place in my studio.  When I saw these cherries in the grocery store, I couldn't help but think about the cherries in the Pacific Northwest.  I love baking with them, and of course, I see some jam being made when I get some free time.
I also thought about the phrase, "Life is a just a bowl of cherries," a song by Ray Henderson and lyrics by Lew Brown.  Judy Garland sang it in 1956 and although it's mostly a happy song, it's also become a little sarcastic one when you refer to the "pits!"  Notice, I've removed the pits in my bowl above:-)

Cherry Crumb Cake
Cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) (113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (55g) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 tsp. Almond extract
1 1/2 cups (188g) King Arthur all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup (60g) whole buttermilk
1 pound (454g) cherries, pitted

Ginger-Lime Crumb Topping:
3/4 cup (94g) King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (5 1/3 T) (76g) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup (28g) chopped pecans
2 tsp. lime zest
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until mixture is crumbly.  Use immediately or it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.


Preheat oven to 350F-degrees (180C).  Spray an 8-inch springform pan with baking spray with flour.  Line with parchment paper and spray pan again.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together at medium speed until fluffy-3 to 4 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  While the mixer is running, add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated.  Beat in the extracts.

Sift the dry ingredients and add half with the buttermilk, mixing just until combined.  Add remaining dry ingredients.  Spoon batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top.
Arrange the pitted cherries on top of the batter.
Sprinkle with the Lime-Ginger Crumb Topping.
Bake in the preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out cleanly...about 1 hour.
Allow to cool in the pan about 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and remove from the pan.
With the help of a wide spatula and the parchment paper underneath, I transferred the cake to a serving dish and dusted the top with confectioners' sugar.  While I was in the UK, I had a dessert one evening and it was served with a sweetened heavy cream (not whipped).  The addition was incredible, so if you'd like to serve a slice with cream, here is my recipe.

Sweetened Cream
1 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 T confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)

Whisk the ingredients together and serve in a small pitcher.  This cake was definitely a big hit at our home. Enjoy!

Before I announce the winner of May's apron, here are some photos taken in the UK.  The studio I filmed at for the craft show, Hochanda, was in Oundle.  So quaint and the people so hospitable; I felt at home.  So much so, that one of the vendors at their farmer's market invited me in to talk "bread!"
Els van de Burgt (owner of Elizabeth Craft Designs) and I at the studio getting ready for our show!




Now, this month's apron winner is Kelly Booth!  Kelly, please email me your address and I will get this lovely apron off to you.
I'm working on June's apron and apologize for the tardiness.  <3 .="" p="">