Friday, April 18, 2014

Carolina Pecan Pie Bars

First, I'll admit...I'm a slave to my computer and when it acts up, well you know what I'm talking about.  I have a Mac and when the color-wheel kept showing up and making it impossible to post things, it was time to stop everything and get to the bottom of the cause.  The "Genius Bar" (which is appropriately named!) discovered I had a corrupted FireFox file and I bet you can imagine my panic with all the files I have for work and home that it could possibly be my hard drive.  My advice--buy an external drive and periodically download your files!

Now, back up and's National Pecan Month in North Carolina and the recipe I came up with today focuses on the only major tree that grows in North America.  Pecan trees is a member of the Hickory genus and can grow between 66-131 feet tall.  Known by bakers for Pecan Pie and Praline Candy in New Orleans, but it is also found in furniture making, flooring, and uses in smoking meats.  These amazing trees can bear up to 300 years and makes that pretty impressive in my book.

These bars not only have their "roots" from the well-known pies we serve (for holidays), but with an added twist of chocolate, the Derby Pie that accompanies the Kentucky Derby celebration coming up in May.   A delicious way to honor this nut and the state we call home now~North Carolina.  

Carolina Pecan Pie Bars
Makes about 2 dozen bars.  Preheat oven to 350F-degrees. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with heavy aluminum foil and spray with a nonstick spray with flour.  I used my 13 x 9-inch springform pan, so I only sprayed it.

3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir together until well combined.  Press crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.
I use the bottom of the measuring cup to press the crumbs! 
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans (measure after chopping)
1-12oz bag mini semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar and corn syrups.  Add the eggs, melted butter and vanilla and whisk until combine.  Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips;  gently pour the mixture over the prepared crust.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until set in the center.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly.  I used a straight metal spatula to go around the edges to loosen the bars, then removed the sides.
If you use the heavy aluminum foil, extend over the sides so you can pull the bars out of the pan and make it easier to cut.

These bars are a wonderful addition to the dessert table for the holidays in a bite-size replacement.  We love Pecan Pie and I've certainly made a bunch, not only with my mom, but for my own family and this maybe a replacement. Enjoy!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dark Chocolate~Chocolate Mint Cookies & April's Give-Away Apron

I'm sure we've all heard and/or read about the benefits of dark chocolate; something I'm quite pleased with and lead to creating this cookies. 

1. Good for your heart~eating dark chocolate two or three times a day can lower blood pressure by improving blood flow and preventing the formation of blood clots.  It also helps prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries.)

2. Good for your brain~not only improves blood flow to your heart, but to your brain which can have a positive effect on your mood and cognitive health.  I know you've heard the fact that it encourages your brain to release endorphins, which will make you feel happier.  Also, it contains phenylethylamine which is the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you're falling in love.

3. Helps control blood sugar~keeps blood vessels healthy and thus your circulation unimpaired; protects against Type 2 Diabetes.  However, it may be the flavonoids in dark chocolate that benefits your cells and helps reduce insulin resistance and function normally.  It's a fact that dark chocolate has a low glycemic index, which means it won't cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.

4. Full of Antioxidants~which help free your body of free radicals that cause damage to your cells.  Free radicals have been linked to the aging process and may be a cause of cancer, so eating dark chocolate may protect you from many types of cancer and slow the signs of aging.

5. Dental decay prevention~contains theobromine, which has been shown to harden tooth enamel and lowers your risk of cavities if you practice proper dental hygiene.

6. High in Vitamins and Minerals~Potassium, Copper, Magnesium and Iron which supports our health.  Copper and potassium help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular ailments; iron protects against iron deficiency anemia; and, the magnesium helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Of course, like anything this good, they is a drawback. Keep in mind that dark chocolate is high in fat, so keeping tract of your calories is beneficial  to a healthy goal of weight.

Dark Chocolate~Chocolate Mint Cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter) at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
11 oz. dark chocolate, melted
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 tsp. espresso powder
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips

Weigh the bittersweet dark chocolate in a bowl and place over a double boiler to melt on low.  Remove the bowl and allow the chocolate mixture to cool slightly before adding it to the sugar/egg mixture.
In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, or a large bowl and a hand-held mixer, cream the sugars and butter together until fluffy.  Add the lightly beaten eggs and vanilla and mix on low to combine; don't worry if the mixture looks curdled that will change with the addition of the melted chocolate.

Remove the bowl from the stand and add the melted chocolate, stir to incorporate.  Add the dry ingredients and chips and stir until all the flour is incorporated.  At this point the batter is the consistency of "frosting" so place it in the refrigerator for 25 to 30 minutes to chill.
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  When the dough is chilled and easily handled, use a 2-tablespoon size scoop to measure out the cookies.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes.  Remove and allow them to cool slightly before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
The cookies have a familiar taste of those GS cookies we know and love oh so well.  The best thing is how moist they are on the inside.  Well worth the calories from the dark chocolate that is good for your body. Enjoy!

Now, this month's apron symbolizes the showers that April brings and the umbrellas that protect us from them.  I'm sure we've all heard the joke..."April showers bring May flowers...what do May flowers bring...!"
 Just comment on any of the posts and you could be the lucky winner of this month's beauty!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March's Apron Winner and thoughts of Spring

Congratulations to ZaZa!  Your name was chosen for the March's Give-Away Apron.  Please email me your address so I can get this beauty sent to you, XOXO

Now, I do believe that Spring has arrived; trees are blooming, daffodils are up and the birds are singing their beautiful song.  I had the honor of being featured in this month's issue (to read the entire article, click on the link).
I will have April's Apron up soon!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Neopolitan Sandwich Cookies

I believe Neopolitan ice cream was invented for those of us you can't really choose between their favorites--Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry!
photo borrowed from the internet 
However, to be exact, in the late 19th century, these were the top three flavors of ice cream in the United States. This combination is thought to have come from Neopolitan immigrants, who brought with them their expertise in frozen desserts and molding three flavors together--Spumoni which was introduced in the 1870s, resembled the Italian flag.  Well, it was the inspiration of the cookies I made today to celebrate team work...among people and flavors!

Neopolitan Sandwich Cookies
Vanilla Dough:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 extra-large egg
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt

Chocolate Dough:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 extra-large egg
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2 cups + 1T King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt

Strawberry Filling:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
2 T strawberry jam
1/2 tsp. Strawberry Flavoring
1-2 tsp. heavy whipping cream

Mix up the Vanilla Dough first (then you won't have to wash the bowl). In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat again on medium speed.  Scrape sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessarily.  Add the dry ingredients and beat on low to completely combine.

The dough needs to chill and I was given a tip from a friend who makes a lot of sugar cookies, except instead of putting the dough in a gallon-sized freezer bag and rolling it flat to the 1/4-inch, I use my pie crust bag with a zipper. 

This dough needs to chill and having it already in a "rolled-out" form will give you those perfect edges on your cookies; the dough softens from the heat of the rolling pin if you just store it in a ball.  However, more importantly, I don't need to add any extra flour to roll out the dough and trust me, the cookies are tender and not hard or overworked!

Make up the Chocolate Dough the same way and roll it in the freezer bag or pie crust bag to 1/4-inch, just like the Vanilla Dough.
Chill 30 to 40 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Remove one of the bags and unzip (or cut) to open it up.  I used a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, then transferred the cut out rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes; edges and bottoms are just lightly golden.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Cookies need to cool completely before filling.  Recipe makes approximately 3 dozen sandwich cookies.

After the cookies are baked, mix up the filling in a stand mixer using the whisk attachment.  Spread about 1 1/2 tsp. of filling on the underside of the Vanilla cookie and top with a Chocolate one.
These are perfect little bite-sized cookies that will thrill your family--who doesn't like Vanilla~Chocolate~Strawberry? Enjoy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lemon~Lime Chiffon Cake

Chiffon cake is a very light, airy like it's cousin, Angel Food, but with the exception of using the whole egg (separated), oil, and baking powder.   I find that Chiffon, with these additions creates a very moist cake that unlike tradition cakes tend to dry out in a few days.  It was invented, in 1927 by Harry Baker, a California insurance agent who turned to catering for a living.  He kept the secret of this cake for 20 years until he sold it to General Mills.  It was GM that gave it the name--Chiffon.

The Chiffon cake tends to be lower in saturated fat with the substitution of oil, potentially making them healthier than the butter cakes we normally make.  They are usually served with fruit sauces or chocolate or fruit fillings.  I decided to take my Angel Food Loaf pan for a "spin" and substitute it for the usual tube pan used when I got a hankering to make this dessert that will be wonderful for Spring or your Easter table.

[I need to stress that this cake needs smooth sides to climb to its height, so using a decorative Bundt pan will not work.  You do not grease the pan (just like Angel Food) so the cake will tend to stick and not release from it. ]

Lemon~Lime Chiffon Cake
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup juice (I did 2 large lemons and 2 limes)
zest from all the citrus
1/4 cup water
2 1/4 cups of Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. fine Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Use a Tube pan, with a removable bottom or the Angel Food Loaf pan with a piece of parchment on the bottom like I did.

Separate eggs.  Place the whites in a bowl of a stand mixer and use the whisk attachment.  Place the yolks in a large bowl.
Use a balloon whisk to mix the yolks, then add the oil, juice, zest and water and whisk again.  Sift the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) onto a piece of parchment.  Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture.

While you are incorporating the dry ingredients into the yolks, turn on your stand mixer on low to beat the whites until frothy.  Add the 1/2 tsp of Cream of Tartar to the whites and turn the mixer slowly from medium to high to whip.  You want a stiff meringue, but not dry.
The test is to turn the bowl upside-down over your head and the whites should not fall out;-D I would suggest you test by using a spatula to scoop some up, then turn the spatula upside down!

Take some of the whites and gently stir them into the yolk mixture to "lighten" it up.  Next, spoon the whites into the yolks and FOLD (cut a spatula down the center and pull up and over while you keep turning the bowl).  
 You should have a very light batter.  Spoon this into your prepared pan.
Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes or until it's golden brown and a tester comes out cleanly.
Remove from oven and turn your pan upside down for 30-45 minutes--gravity and cooling will release the cake, plus both these pans have "feet" on them to allow for cooling.
I'm limited on serving platters, since most are still packed away for the next move, but I did have these galvanized tray that I thought was appropriate.  I made a glaze for the top to finish it off.
2 cups Confectioners' sugar
2 T juice (combination of lemon/lime)
1-2 T hot water
1 T Light Karo syrup

Mix glaze ingredients together and pour over cake.  Additionally, I made up a recipe of Lemon/Lime curd and serve a dollop with Strawberries. 

After 5 days of glorious Spring weather, today it's only going to be in the 40s--the roller coaster continues, but this beautifully, delicious cake makes me believe that Spring is around the corner for good.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Carolina Spoonbread & March's Give-Away Apron

Spoonbread is a moist, cornbread-based dish found in most parts of the Southern United States and although, it is referred to as bread, it more closely resembles the consistency of a pudding or souffle'.  It's thought to be Native American in origin; which makes sense with corn being an essential part of their diets.  The first recipe for spoonbread appeared in a cookbook by Sarah Rutlege in 1847 and it became popular in Southern cooking around the turn of the century as corn meal replaced yeast in many recipes.  An interesting fact is that Berea, Kentucky, honors this dish in their annual Spoonbread Festival held in September.

I was actually asked by a dear friend to share this recipe for spoonbread, which takes advantage of products grown and/or raised here in North Carolina--corn meal and eggs!
I used a white, fine ground corn meal, but yellow works just as well and I am lucky to have found a friend who provides me with fresh eggs!  At Kelly's Memorial Service, the friend who requested this recipe, made the most wonderful black-eyed peas and collards and I can just imagine a heaping spoonful of this Spoonbread with her recipes.  However, I made a pot of my Tuscan Bean & Kale Soup to accompany it because Friday was rainy with a slight chill and soup just sounded so good.

Carolina Spoonbread
4 cups milk
1 1/4 cups fine-ground white or yellow cornmeal

Place the milk in a 2 quart sauce pan and bring it to a low boil.  While pouring the cornmeal into the milk, whisk to combine to avoid lumps.

Cook one minute more, then remove from the heat.  Transfer the corn meal mush to the bowl of a stand mixer to cool--about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, with soften butter (about 1 T) grease a baking dish.  I used a dish that had a "bigger" baking surface so the spoonbread would bake faster, but actually you should a 6-cup souffle' dish to get the proper texture!
3T butter, melted
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 T granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. fine sea salt

Use the paddle attachment and start mixing the corn meal mush.  Then, stop the mixer and add the remaining ingredients.  Start on low, just until combined, then turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat the mixture for 15 minutes.

Use a rubber spatula to transfer the spoonbread to the buttered dish and smooth the top.  Bake for 60-75 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.  (In the dish I used, it baked for 45 minutes.)

To serve, spoon a helping onto your plate.  I placed mine in a soup bowl, then, ladled the Tuscan Bean & Kale soup over it.  I also sprinkled the top with Parmesan Cheese--Enjoy!

 On Thursday, I finally picked up my sewing machine--it's like brand new.  The Apron for March proudly shows off the Green; I wanted fabrics that would not only give a feeling of Spring not to far behind, but in honor of St. Patrick's Day:-D

The rules on the same...comment on a post and your name is entered for the drawing at the end of the month.  May you have the Luck of the Irish!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Wholesome Rolls with Kamut & February's Apron Winner

A few weeks ago, I commented on a friend's blog, Angie's Recipes - Taste of Home, who had baked with a grain called Kamut.  I actually had never heard of it, but decided to try and find some for baking. However, before I could even do that, Angie had her supplier send me some and I couldn't wait to jump in and create.

Khorasan (Kamut) wheat or Oriental wheat is a tetraploid wheat species; which means it has 4 sets of chromosomes deriving from two different species.  Kamut is an ancient grain type grown in modern-day Afghanistan and the northeast of Iran.
I used the "rolled" wheat for these rolls that reminded me of oatmeal.  Kamut has 20-40% more protein than hybrid wheat and it's easily digestible glutens is a good alternative.  It also is excellent for athletes and those who need stamina; especially those dealing with a lot of shoveling of snow!

Wholesome Kamut Rolls
1 1/2 cup Almond milk (you can also use regular or soy milk or water)
1 cup Kamut Rolled Wheat
5 1/2 cups King Arthur Bread Flour
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg
2 T granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 pkgs. active dry yeast (scant 2 T)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. honey

In a 4-cup glass measure, mix the almond milk and Kamut Rolled Wheat together.  Microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes, stir and repeat for 30-45 seconds more.
Allow the mixture to set for 20 minutes to cool.  In a 1-cup glass measure, pour 1/2 cup very warm water (about 110F-degrees), then, add the yeast and honey and whisk to combine.  Allow this to set about 5-7 minutes until foamy.  This is the best way to make sure you have "active" yeast.

In a bowl on the stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the egg, sugar and salt together.  While the mixer is running, pour the Kamut/Almond milk mixture into it.  Next, add the proofed yeast and 2 cups of bread flour.  Mix, just until combine, then, change to a dough hook to finish the bread.  Add the remaining bread flour and oil and mix until the dough forms around the hook and the sides of the bowl are clean.  If dough is too stiff, add more water, about a tablespoon at a time.  It's better that the dough be slightly sticky than too dry.

Remove to a bread board to knead until smooth.
I use a plastic container for rising, but you could be it in a large oiled boil and cover with plastic wrap.
After 40-45 minutes, the dough had doubled in size and was ready to be shaped into rolls.  I divided my dough into 10 pieces, but if you want a "dinner-size" just use the amount of dough you want.

I sprayed a large baking sheet with baking spray and formed the rolls into a ball, then flattened the shape.  Spray with a commercial egg-white wash spray or whisk an egg white with 1 tsp. of water and brush the tops.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Place plastic wrap over the rolls and allow another 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  When the rolls have doubled, place in the preheated oven for 18 minutes until golden brown.

The house smelled wonderful and I couldn't wait to split one for my lunch.  Wouldn't this be a great way to spend a snow day? Enjoy?

Now, for the winner of February's apron -- Phyllis from Around the House!  Phyllis please contact me with your address and I will get this cheerful apron sent to you, XOXO

I'm hoping I have my sewing machine back this week; I have the fabric chosen and it's a beauty!