Monday, October 20, 2014

Polka Dot Cake...easy as pie!

Traditionally, polka dots are used in clothing, specifically with Flamingo and Polka dancers, which, the latter, is probably where the name came from.  Concentric circles in a specific pattern, whether large or small, have been one of my favorites since I was little and sewing for my girls when they were little.  (BTW...did you notice the polka dot pattern on this month's give-away apron!)
 With inspiration from a new baking book I came across, Surprise~Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes for Every Occasion--With a Little Something Extra Inside, I decided to try this technique with polka dots. Basically, I baked a round shape, thanks to a new little pan I discovered at Sur La Table, and set them in the pan with a different batter poured over.
I have definitely embraced the Southern way of cooking and baking living in North Carolina and chose Red Velvet cake for the polka dots.  I used my recipe which I did a few years ago, but you could "cheat" and use a cake mix (recommend German's Chocolate, adding 1oz of red food coloring).  Either way, you will have more batter than you need for 36 cake balls, so bake up more and freeze or make a dozen cupcakes.

Polka Dot Cake
Recipe for Red Velvet Cake or use a German's Chocolate Cake Mix + 1oz of Red Food Coloring
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and grease and flour the Cake Pop Baking Pan.
Place the bottom (without the hole) on a baking sheet and 1 tablespoon of batter to each well.  Place top on and secure with locking pins.
Bake for 10 minutes; the hole in the top allows you to use a cake tester for doneness.  Remove from oven and unlock.  Use a small spatula to release the balls from the pan.
Wash pan and grease/flour two more times until you have 36 "dots".

White Cake
3/4 c shortening
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, separated (you will only use the whites)
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk (or sour milk--2T vinegar added to milk)

Separate the eggs and allow the whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the shortening and sugar for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the whites, a little at a time, while the mixer is running and beating until incorporated.  When all eggs have been added, add the vanilla and beat again.

Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the buttermilk (sour milk) and mix just until combined.

Your oven should still be set on 350F-degrees.  Thoroughly grease and flour a tube pan with a removable bottom.  (I didn't do it, but the next time I make this cake, I will also add a ring of parchment paper on the bottom for an easy release.)

Add half (18 balls) to the bottom of the tube pan, alternating the pattern.
Add half of the batter on top, thoroughly covering all of the balls.
Set 18 more balls over the batter, then add the rest of the batter.

Bake for 65-70 minutes or until a long wooden skewer comes out cleanly.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes.  
Run a long spatula around the sides and the inside tube (which I forgot to do and had some of the cake stick:-( )
Easy Marshmallow Frosting
In a large bowl (I used my stainless steel bowl from my stand mixer) add:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cold water
2 egg whites (at room temperature)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Use a hand mixer to combine the ingredients, then set them over a make-shift double boiler--a large sauce pan that the mixing bowl can set on top of without touching the bottom on the stove--with about 1 1/2 inches of boiling water.  Beat the mixer on high speed for 10 minutes or until stiff peaks form.  Remove from the heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla and beat 3 minutes more or until spreading consistency.  Makes about 5 cups of frosting.

Frost the cooled cake completely and add a sprinkling of shredded coconut on top, if desired.
I think this cake is so fun and can imagine it for the holidays--Halloween: chocolate cake balls in an orange-flavored cake; Thanksgiving: pumpkin/spice cake balls in a yellow cake; and Christmas: combination of red and/or green velvet cake in white cake. Enjoy!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Autumn Double Delights

When Fall comes in, I can't help but think about pumpkin to enhance my baking.  Something new this year, by Nestle, is Pumpkin Chips.  I saw it advertised on television, but couldn't find them in my grocery store, so I ordered on Amazon.
I can tell you, after sampling a few, these morsels do indeed taste like pumpkin!  Pumpkin was Kelly's favorite flavor; she always asked for Pumpkin Pie for her birthday, which was these month on the 8th.  I couldn't help, but think she would have really loved to bake something with these to celebrate, so I did in her memory.

One of Kelly's best friends from high school sent me this photo last week with a touching note of how she came to have it.
"The reason I'm writing is that this picture (which I'm fairly sure is Kelly) 
showed up in an old purse at my mom's house the other day.
...Kelly gave me this, I think it was probably back when you
moved to Laguna & Kelly and I would mail letters to
each other with locks of hair, pictures, & hilarious stories.
We must have exchanged baby pictures during that time.
In any case, I wanted you to have it on her birthday.
I think the fact that it just showed up after so many years
is Kelly letting us know she's still around.
Your daughter was one of those truly wonderful & warm & silly
individuals that always put a smile on my face."
So, with tears in my eyes, but a happy heart, I baked and came up with something pumpkin to remember all the good memories I have. (And, Lisa if you are reading this post, thank you for sending me the photo).

Autumn Double Delights
Chocolate~White Chocolate Chip Base
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Lightly spray a 13" x 9" pan with baking spray.  Set aside.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix together.  Add the dry ingredients and beat until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
Place the dough in the baking pan and use floured finger tips to spread the dough.
 Bake in the preheated over for 12 to 14 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you prepare the  Pumpkin Chip Blondie mixture.

Pumpkin Chip Blondie:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pkg. Nestle's Pumpkin Chips
1 1/2 cups lightly toasted walnut, coarsely chopped

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar and melted butter together to combine.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition to incorporate completely.  Stir in the dry ingredients and 1 cup of the Pumpkin chips and half of the walnuts.  Pour the mixture on top of the cookie base.
Sprinkle the remaining pumpkin chips and walnuts on top.
Bake an additional 25 minutes-tester should come out cleanly.  Allow the bars to cool about 1 hour before cutting.
I hope you're having a beautiful fall day and thinking about all the good memories in your life.  Thank you Lisa for adding to mine.  Enjoy!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

German's Chocolate Lace Cookies & October's Give-Away Apron

Lace cookies have always been a favorite of mine--I love the crunchy chewiness--and German's Chocolate Cake was a favorite of both my mother and Kelly.  On this fall-like day, it was a good recipe to come up with to honor their memory.

German's sweet chocolate was developed by an American chocolate maker, Sam German of Dallas, Texas.  However, on June 3, 1957, it was the "Recipe of the Day" in the Dallas Morning Star created by Mrs. George Clay. The cake is made with German's chocolate, with a filling and topping of a caramel made with egg yolks and evaporated milk, then coconut and pecans are stirred in.  Just typing these ingredients make my mouth water!

These cookies have that caramel-like taste with the addition of brown sugar and the rest of the ingredients added; coconut, pecans and melted German's chocolate.  It has a small amount of flour with the addition of Old-Fashioned Oats giving them their lacy affect.  All-in-all, a pretty good replica of that famous cake from the 50s.

German's Chocolate Lace Cookies
1- 4oz pkg. German's sweet chocolate
2 T milk

In a small bowl, rough chop the chocolate and pour the milk over it.  Microwave on high for 40 seconds. Stir and microwave another 20 seconds.  Stir until smooth.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 3T firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
Scant 1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups Old-Fashioned Oats
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes

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

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the vanilla and melted chocolate mixture and beat again.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix just until combined.

Scoop 1 tsp. of the dough onto the prepare sheet, leaving plenty of room for the cookie to expand.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring them to a rack, or if you like a rolled effect, over a rolling pin covered with wax paper.

 The cookies are nice and crunchy and if you're needing a chocolate fix, these will provide that. Enjoy!

As promised, here is October's Give-Away Apron, full of the colors of Fall with a little bit of Halloween thrown in:-D  Just make a comment on any of the posts this month, and this apron could find it's way to your home.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Whipped Shortbread Cookies & September's Apron Winner

Whipped shortbread, or as we know it here in the United States, Spritz, has all the characteristics of shortbread with the addition of eggs or sometimes heavy cream.  This addition makes them very delicate, almost melting in your mouth and wanting more.  I know this cookie well, as I have helped my mother makes dozens of them, mostly for holidays, so choosing them today brought back some wonderful memories. 

However, as usual, I "upped" my recipe with the addition of almond flour, which you can find in the baking section of your grocery store (although I purchased mine from King Arthur Flour).
It's delicate, nutty flavor married well with the lemon zest and vanilla extract which I also use.  This time, I piped a "ring" with the dough and dipped one end in bittersweet chocolate, then, sent them on their way with my hubby to Las Vegas where his nephew is getting married this weekend.  I'm home minding the three new kittens and sewing a Halloween costume for my grandson and a new apron for October!
Our little rascals dove into the suitcase and wanted to go on an adventure:-D 
Whipped Shortbread Cookies
1 1/2 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup Almond Flour
1/2 tsp. salt

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

In a stand mixer, using the whip attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.  Add the confectioners' sugar and whip once more until combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed, with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well until fully incorporated.  Add the lemon zest and vanilla and whip once more for 3 minutes.  The batter should look a light yellow and airy.

Add the flours and salt and mix just until combine.  Use a cookie press or a pastry bag and tip (as I did) to pipe the shape you want.

Bake in the preheated oven for 13 minutes, or until a golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to set several minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.  Once cooled, mix up the glaze, if using.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup heavy cream, heated until almost boiling
1 T Karo Light Corn Syrup
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Pour the hot cream and Karo Syrup over the chocolate chips and allow to sit for a few minutes.  Then, stir with a small rubber spatula until you have a smooth, consistency.  Dip the cooled cookies into the chocolate or you could spread a thin layer on the bottoms.

As my daughters would say..."these cookies are super good!"  I have a couple last night while watching Bones and relaxing after working in the garden.  I have a lot to do over the next months/year to get my gardens back to what I had accomplished at our old house, but I'm up for the challenge. Enjoy!
Dwarf Buddleja, Columbine, and a border of Liriope are a start!
A very blank canvas, but to me, that's a good thing!

The weather is cool and the leaves are starting to turn, which making gardening so pleasurable.

Speaking of challenges...well, not a big one since I only posted a couple of times in September, but I did want to announce that Gloria from "Quilter" won the apron for the month.

Please email me your address and I will get this lovely apron out to you so you can do some fall baking:-D  I will October's apron up soon...maybe tomorrow!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vanilla Bean Glazed Gingerbread Cookies

Autumn began for us with a downpour -- 3 inches of rain and a chilly, barely 70-degrees and I realized summer was definitely behind us.  It also means the ingredients I've been baking with are now becoming pumpkin, apple, and ginger instead of strawberries, blueberries, and peaches!

Gingerbread was brought to Europe in 992 and to the United States with the first settlers.  In France, it is know as pain d'espices and in Germany as Lebkuchen, but the main ingredients seem to be very similar; honey or molasses and a range of spices.  Whether it's in the form of a cake or cookies, it definitely has become one of the best loved baked goods for the Fall and Winter here.

Vanilla Bean Glazed Gingerbread Cookies
3/4 cup (12 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup mild-flavor molasses
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice*
*You can substitute 2 tsp. ground ginger, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. cloves and nutmeg for the Pumpkin Pie Spice. 

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together.  Add the molasses and Pumpkin Pie Spice and mix thoroughly, scrapping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until the dough comes together.
Scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with your hand.
The cookies will spread so be sure not to crowd them on the baking sheet--I did 8 at a time.
Bake in the preheated oven 15 minutes or until edges of the cookies are set.  Do not over bake!
Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
Vanilla Bean Glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
3-4 T very hot water
Mix all the ingredients and spread on the slightly cooled cookies.  These cookie are delicious with a cup of tea or coffee, sitting by a fire (and yes, I did have the gas logs burning:-D) and making lists for the holidays around the corner. Enjoy! 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

September's Give-Away Apron...Scuppernong Grape Jelly and Double Chocolate Teacakes

I'm here!  It's been a long eight weeks of moving--twice, unpacking, family visiting and granddaughters staying another week...kittens running all over the place while flooring still had to be installed, but I'm back and still happily have my sanity.

I realize it's the 20th of September and it doesn't leave much time to comment, but if you're interested in winning this month's apron, in these soft colours that trumpet Fall is around the corner, just comment on this or any of the posts I will promise to do and this apron will be sent to you.

Now, to cooking in my new kitchen...another wonderful produce that I have been introduced to here in Carolina, is Scuppernong Grapes, which are native to the South.  I've made 18 jars of jelly, given a lot away, but enjoyed delicious PB & Grape Jelly sandwiches for my lunch (or a snack!) almost daily. These large grapes are usually green or bronze in colour and rounder than a white grape. They're a variety of Muscadine grapes and the "state" fruit of North Carolina. My friend, who provides me with fresh eggs, has a small vineyard and brought over several pickings and I shared my jelly recipe with her.  We made jelly last Sunday together and I did another batch this morning to replenish my winter supply:-D
These grapes were first cultivated in the 17th century in Tyrell County, North Carolina.  A hunter, named Isaac Alexander found them along the banks of the Scuppernong River.  The name traces back to the Algonquian word, ascopo, meaning "sweet bay tree."  The finish colour of the jelly is a deep, reddish purple, unlike the bluish purple of Concord grapes, but the familiar taste of grape will win you over--it did me.

Scuppernong Grape Jelly
Prepare jars by washing and rinsing 8 half-pint jars or 3 pint jars.  Fill almost with water and microwave half the jars for 4 minutes to sterilize.  Use tongs to remove the hot jars from the microwave, empty the water and turn jars upside-down on a paper-towel-lined pan.  Cover with a dish cloth while you make the jelly.  Place the rings and tops in a small sauce pan, covered with water, and bring to a boil, turn down to simmer until you need to seal the jars.

3 lbs. Scuppernong grapes, washed and roughly chopped in a food processor
1 pkg. Certo Liquid Pectin
2 T fresh lemon juice
7 cups granulated sugar

Place grapes in the food processor and pulse to chop (I did 3 lbs. in 2 batches).  Place the mixer in a large Dutch Oven pan with 1 cup water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower temperature slightly and boil for 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture in cheesecloth-lined colander; I used my grandmother's colander with smaller holes.
You need 4 cups of juice for this recipe.  Place the juice, Certo liquid pectin, and fresh lemon juice in the Dutch Oven (I did wash my pan before using it again), and bring to a boil, stirring almost constantly.  When it comes to a rolling boil (one that you cannot stir down), add the sugar and stir constantly.  

Bring to a boil again and set the timer for 1 minute.
Ladle the jelly into the prepared jars, wiping around the rim of the jar with a wet paper towel to remove any spillage.  Seal with a lid and ring and turn jars upside-down.
Cover with the dish towel and let set 10-15 minutes.  When you turn the jars right-side up, you should hear a "pop."  Then, you'll know the jars are sealed and good for one year on the shelf; however, I doubt if any of this jelly will last that long!  If you have some left, but not enough for another full jar, place in a plastic container and refrigerate to use first.

 Double Chocolate Teacakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup + 2 T granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup very strong coffee
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
6 T King Arthur all-purpose flour
6 T Cocoa
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray 1-9" x 5" loaf pan, or 8 well mini loaf pan with a baking spray and set aside.
Mix the buttermilk, coffee and vanilla extract together and set aside.
 In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
Chop the chocolate.
Add the dry ingredients, alternately with the buttermilk/coffee mixture just until blended.  Stir in the chopped chocolate.  Note--the batter is somewhat thinner than most quick breads.
 Place in the loaf pan or scoop into the mini loaf pan as I used.
The recipe would have made 10 mini loaves, but I opted to bake two rounds to give away to a friend.
Bake for 25 minutes, if you use a mini loaf pan (or muffins) or 55 minutes for a regular-side loaf pan.
Cool 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.  I simply dusted them with confectioners' sugar, but you could also do a drizzle of ganache--which would make these Triple Chocolate Teacakes! Enjoy!

My life is still hectic, but becoming a little more normal each day.  Our weather is beautiful and I'm longing to be outside planning new flower beds and knitting on our screened-in porch...maybe one day:-D