Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Egg Hunt

Spring...I remember, all too well, this time of year.  I would have finished sewing our daughter's Easter outfits and they would have picked out their favorite patten leather shoes and hats to complete their ensemble.  I was looking forward to baking Mama's Hot Cross Buns (which I'll do tomorrow for Good Friday!) but I also loved making our own candy Easter eggs.  The first recipe comes from Mama; well, actually, The Washington Post.  It was the early 60s and she wanted to make Easter eggs instead of buying them.  There's an unique ingredient, but don't let that deter you because they really are good and better know exactly what the ingredients are!


3/4 cup mashed potato (no seasonings or milk)
2 c unsweetened cocount
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pure Vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Coconut flavoring (optional)
6 cups confectioners' sugar

Peel 2 medium potatoes and dice.  Cook until tender and drain.  Mash or "rice" the potatoes and measure out 3/4 cup.  Place in large bowl and let cool completely.  When cooled, add the coconut, salt, and extract/flavoring.   Stir well.  Add confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at  time, stirring until it's all incorporated.  Place mixture in a bowl and cover.  Refrigerate overnight.
Next day, shape the mixture into eggs and place on a tray.  Refrigerate at least an hour.


1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 lb. confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp. pure Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Peanut Butter flavoring
1/2 tsp. salt

In the KitchenAid and using the paddle attachment, beat together butter and cream cheese until fluffy.  Add the confectioners' sugar and mix well.  Add the peanut butter, salt, flavorings and beat until well-blended.  Place this mixture in the refrigerator to chill 1-2 hours.  Remove from refrigerator and form into egg shapes.  Return eggs to the refrigerator or do like I did, place in the freezer for 30 minutes while preparing to temper the chocolate.

Chocolate tempering, which is melting chocolate and then, cooling the chocolate to a predetermined temperature, is a necessary process for achieving professional chocolates.  The recipe my mother used, back in the 60s, called for adding an ounce of food parafin to give the chocolate its shine and get it to set up.  I learned to temper chocolate at The Culinary Institute in New York when we lived on the east coast.  I've never gone back to adding anything to chocolate since then!

3 bars (9.7 oz) Scharfenberger Bittersweet chocolate
Chocolate Temper Thermometer
Set up a double boiler.  I use a silicon bowl over a saucepan of simmering hot water.
Heat the chocolate to a temperature of 120F-125F-degrees.  Remove the chocolate and cool chocolate to 86-degrees.  This can be done by adding small amounts of additional chopped chocolate.

Raise the temperature again by placing over the heat.  The thermometer should read between 88F-90F-degrees. (88F-degrees for white or milk chocolate; 90F-degrees for dark).

Now, the chocolate is ready to dip the eggs in.  Since the eggs have been refrigerated (or frozen) watch the thermometer.  Return bowl to the simmering hot water to maintain temperature.  (Alternatively, you can place the bowl on a heating pad.)

You can use "dipping forks", a skewer, or what I found worked hand.  For this reason, this process allows your children to help.  (88F or 90F-degrees is cooler than bath water!!)  Wouldn't these make wonderful gifts for family and friends...Enjoy!

and the Lucky Winner is...

CONGRATULATIONS to Nicole!  You're the lucky winner of this month's apron.  Enjoy!  Please contact me with your mailing address and I will send this out to you.  Love, Susan

In the next few days, I will have April's apron up for the next Give-Away...promise!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chocolate Macaroon Poundcake

I noticed on Kelly's blog that she has made Matzoh Caramel Butter Crunch to go along with Purely Decadence Coconut frozen dessert for their Seder.  Macaroons are a traditional treat during Passover, so I came up with a pound cake to imitate that treat.  It tasted so much like a macaroon, I forgot I was eating cake!

Chocolate Macaroon Poundcake 

Preheat oven 350F-degrees.  Spray a 12-cup bundt pan with a flour/oil baking spray and set aside.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Use the paddle attachment to beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix milk, sour cream and flavorings, set aside.  Sift flour, baking powder, coconut milk powder, and salt.  Pour half of the "liquid" in the mixing bowl on low speed, then, add half of the dry ingredients. Mix to combine.  Repeat this step once more, ending with the dry ingredients.  Stir in the coconut and mini chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Cool 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cake plate.  Make chocolate glaze.

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
4 T. unsalted butter

Melt ingredients on low heat in a small saucepan.  Stir until combined.  Pour over top of the bundt pan.  Enjoy!

Baking and Passover

Yesterday began the Festival of Passover.  I know this because I just returned from visiting my daughter and son-in-law, who is Jewish, in Kentucky.  Kelly and Matt are doing their traditional Seder dinner tonight with friends and I decided to do some baking.
I wanted to make Challah.  I know, the Festival of Passover is also known as the "Festival of Unleavened Bread," so you wouldn't have this during Passover, but maybe when it ends it would make a wonderful conclusion.  This recipe was given to me, when I worked at Social Security Administration in the 70s, by the Director of Statistics.  Even back then I baked all the time and brought in treats to my fellow employees.  It's a simple yeast bread, but with spectacular results.  I did it my food processor, but you could easily do it in the KitchenAid, using a dough hook.  (Follow directors for your mixer)


6 cups All-purpose flour
3 T. Sugar
1 T. Salt
4 T. shortening
2T Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cup warm water (additional for proofing yeast)

In a 1 cup glass measuring cup, measure 1/2 cup warm water (about 105-degrees) and the 2 tablespoons of yeast.  Add 1/2 tsp. sugar (from the 3 T needed) and whisk slightly.  Let proof 5-7 minutes until foamy.  Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, measure 6 cups of flour, the rest of the sugar and salt.  Pulse several times, then, add shortening and pulse again.  When the yeast is ready, add to the bowl and pulse again.  While the food processor is running, add warm water until mixture pulls away from the sides and goes into a "ball".  Turn out onto a board, lightly dusted with flour, and knead several times until smooth.
Place dough into a bowl, sprayed with a vegetable spray, turn over and cover with plastic wrap.  Alternatively, you can put it in a large plastic tub or even a zip-lock gallon-sized bag for the rising step.
Let rise, about 45 minutes.
When the dough has risen, turn out on the board and divide into 4 pieces.

Put one of the quarters aside and roll the three remaining pieces into ropes.  Braid the three pieces, starting in the middle and working out to the ends.  Place this braid on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Take the last piece of dough, that you set aside, and divide it into three pieces.  Braid these smaller ropes just like you did the large braid.  Place on top of the first braid.
Cover and let rise another 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F-degrees.  When the dough has doubled, spray with Quick Shine or brush with 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.  Remove to a rack and let cool completely before slicing.

This is a wonderful bread for sandwiches because the crust is crunchy and the inside is soft.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Same pan

Okay, I couldn't help myself when I saw this pan in Williams-Sonoma the other day.  All I saw was fresh strawberries and whipped cream!  I used the Sour Cream Vanilla Cupcake recipe from the Drunken Irish Cupcakes.  I loved that cake recipe; it's so moist and just about the best cake recipe I've ever made.  With Spring coming, all the fresh fruit, fill these little cakelets with all the seasonal bounty...and whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Ye Original Irish Soda Bread

For me, it wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day if I didn't make Soda Bread.  I've made a few adjustments in the recipe over the years, which is different from my Mum's, but the basic ingredients are still there to bring back the memories.  She loved making this for my Dad and he loved eating it.  To us, it was more a cake than a bread, studded with plump raisins, but there's no reason why you couldn't substitute dried cranberries, apricots, cherries or even blueberries to serve this any time of the year.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

About 6 hours before (or even overnight) soak 1 cup raisins (I actually combined golden and regular raisins and currants) in Irish whiskey to cover
Preheat oven 425F-degrees and line baking sheet with parchment
4 - 5 cups all purpose flour
3 T. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. coarse salt
In a food processor and using the metal blade, combine the dry ingredients. Next, add:
4 T. cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Pulse into the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
2 cups Buttermilk
1 egg
Whisk the egg into the buttermilk and then, add to the dry ingredients.  The dough will be wet.

Drain the "happy" raisins and add to the mixture.  Add up to a cup more flour to bring the dough together.  Knead carefully, then, transfer round(s) to a baking sheet.  Slash the top, marking a cross, with a serrated knife.  Brush with an additional egg/1 T. milk mixture to give the bread a nice sheen.  (Note: I made two loaves so I could bring one to my daughter's house).

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.  Let cool on baking sheet before cutting.  You can also do as my mother did...she baked the bread the night before and wrapped it in a kitchen towel so we could have it in the morning.  Enjoy!

Shortbread Biscuits with Cranberries & Pistachios

These are wonderful little biscuits, perfect with a cup of tea, coffee, or milk.  I've had fun playing around with the shortbread recipe and trying different pans and ingredients to bake up these tasty treats.  If you like a cookie that lasts, has a great crunch, and you can add just about anything to change the flavor...shortbread fits the bill.

In a food processor and using the metal blade, add dry ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Pulse several times to combine.  Add:

18T cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tsp. pure vanilla flavoring

Pulse again until the dough comes together, then, add:

1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Pulse again to incorporate into the dough, but don't over mix.  At this point, chill dough about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 355F-degrees.  Remove dough from refrigerator and form into balls a little bigger than 1 heaping tablespoon.
Use a glass, dipped into sugar (or a baker's press) to flatten the cookies, being careful not to "crack" the outside edges.  Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Drunken Irish Cupcakes

I came across this recipe in the March/April issue of edibleSeattle, a magazine devoted to the seasonal bounty in the Puget Sound.  It's just one of the many "edible" magazines available in the United States; you probably have one in your city or region.

This issue had an article on "Revolutionary Cupcakes" that caught my eye.  The bakery featured is Cupcake Royale and they are devoted to quality local ingredients, which is an important factor in today's topic on health and the food we consume.  I know I've become more aware of what we consume since our daughter, Kelly was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.  Since I'm not about to stop baking, I need to use the best ingredients and know where these ingredients come from.

These cupcakes are definitely "for adults only" because of the Irish whiskey in the buttercream, but you could easily make them kid-friendly by substituting milk for the whiskey.

Sour Cream Vanilla Cupcakes

3/4 cup organic whole milk
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
2 tsps. vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line 24 standard muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the milk, sour cream and vanilla.  In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat together on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about one minute.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating a medium speed for a full 30 seconds after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Pour half of the milk mixture and beat for another 30 seconds, scraping the bowl once again.  Add half of the dry ingredients and beat another 30 seconds, scraping the bowl again.  Repeat this process once more, until all the liquid and dry mixtures have been incorporated and the batter is thick and smooth.

Fill lined cup 2/3 of the way with batter. Bake 22-27 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool while you make the frosting.

Whiskey Maple Buttercream

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup Irish whiskey
5 T Grade B maple syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar

Using an electric mixture set to medium speed, bet butter, whiskey, syrup, salt and one cup of confectioners' sugar together until smooth.  Add remaining powdered sugar, one cup at a time until frosting is thick, but fluffy and spreadable.

I sprinkled my cupcakes with Pearlized Gold Sugar Crystals. Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

SoNo Cheesecake...

I had a very nice email from Jill Browning, Senior Publicist/The Crown Publishing Group, Random House, Inc. in regards to my request for sharing with you all a sampling of John Barricelli's, The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook.  The recipe, they chose to share, is for SoNo Cheesecake, which I haven't made yet, but believe me, it's at the top of my list.  The fact it has a pistachio coating fits perfectly with my "green" theme and don't those raspberries look so fresh you can smell them? John includes photo steps to complete the cheesecake and there is a sidebar for Technique Tip that will help you achieve a masterpiece.

Here is the recipe...thank you again John and Random House.

Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust
1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.  Preheat the oven to 300F-degrees.  Bring water to a boil for a water bath.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 2 inch cake pan, set aside.
2. To make the crust:  In a food processor, pulse the pistachios with the sugar and the salt until coarsely ground.  Transfer to a large bowl, add the graham cracker crums and butter, and mix to combine.  Press the graham cracker mixture over the bottom of the buttered pan.  Set aside.

2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature for at least 6 hours
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vanilla paste, or seeds from 1 whole vanilla bean
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream

3. To make the filling: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and vanilla paste or seeds on medium-high speed, scraping down the bowl several times, until the mixture is completely smooth, about 5 minutes.
4. Turn the mixer to low and beat in the eggs, one at a time, until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Beat in the sour cream until blended.
5. Place the cake pan in a roasting pan.  Pour the cream cheese mixture into the cake pan--it will come all of the way to the top of the pan.  Place the roasting pan in the oven and pour in the boiling water to come about 1/2 inch up the sides of the cake pan.  Bake until the filling is set, but still jiggles slightly in the center, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes.  Chill for 4 to 6 hours, or overnight, in the pan.

1/2 cup apricot jam
1/2 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, pulsed in a food processor until coarsely ground
3 (1/2-pint) containers raspberries
Confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)

6. To finish, heat the bottom of the pan over a flame or an electric element to loosen the crust.  Invert the pan onto a 9-inch cake round or large plate.  Remove the pan from the cake and invert once more onto a 9-inch round or large plate so the crust is on the bottom.  In a small saucepan, warm the strained jam over low heat until liquid.  Strain through a fine strainer.  Brush the top and sides of the cheesecake with the strained jam.  cover the top of the cake with a single layer of raspberries.  Holding the cake with one hand under the bottom, and working over a sheet pan to catch the excess, gently press the ground pistachios all around the sides of the cake.  Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

I love cheesecake and my mother made one of the best Lemon Cheesecakes I've ever had.  I usually like to make hers for Easter, but I think I'm going to make the SoNo Cheesecake this year.  I certainly will share the results with all of you; in fact, I wish you could really share the results so I don't end up eating it all!  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pot O' Gold

At first, you might think this post doesn't relates to my theme.  However, for me, the release of John Barricelli's The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook is like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

I first heard of John Barricelli when we lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  He was the pastry chef at the Elms Inn, one of the best places to eat in Ridgefield.  He was "lured away from the restaurant world" by Martha Stewart and set up her set kitchen and became an invaluable member of her staff.  He went on to host Everyday Food and Everyday Baking on PBS.  He opened his dream bakery in South Norwalk, Connecticut in 2005.  I'm disappointed that we moved from Connecticut in 2001 and I have not had a chance to visit the bakery.

I admire John's approach so much because it comes from tradition; a family of bakers and recipes that are well-tested.  His recipes are easy to create and the results, which I can attest to, are perfect.  This morning I made the Macadamia Butterscotch Bars for two reasons.  First, I love Blondies and this recipe has a different twist, adding dried tart cherries and substituting macadamia nuts for walnuts.  Secondly, I thought it was a nice "jumping off" point to trying everything in book.

The result was...well unbelievable!  (I have made a request in to John to ask if I can share this recipe, but haven't heard back yet since the release date of his book was this week and there are lots of promotional parties going on.) Yum!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Savory Irish Soda Bread

My mother made Irish soda bread anytime of the year; it's one of those quick breads that takes little time to make and very few ingredients.  I came across this recipe while visiting Ireland in 1993 during our 25th Anniversary trip.  We had taken a bus to Waterford and ate at a little restaurant before going to a play.  The soda bread that came with our dinner was so was savory and had no raisins in it, like the one I had made from my mother's recipe.  This one had cheddar cheese and chives which accompanied our entree so perfectly.  Slathered with Irish butter, it truly was something to remember.

When I make Irish soda bread, there are two ingredients I always use; buttermilk and KerryGold Pure Irish Butter and this recipe is no different.
Preheat oven to 350Fdegrees.  Spray a 1 1/2 quart baking dish with vegetable oil spray.
4 cups all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
6 T unsalted butter, cold

Place all of these ingredients in a bowl of a food processor and pulse until the butter is incorporated.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
Whisk these ingredients together and then, pour over the dry ingredients.
 I use my dough whisk to blend the wet and dry ingredients.  Next, I add 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese and 2 Tablespoons chopped chives. (Note: I didn't have any fresh chives today...they're just starting to come up outside and I didn't want to use dried) Mix well, then knead a few times to form a ball.
I mix my dough in this wooden bowl my mother gave me when I got married.  She believed all I'd need was a wooden bowl and an iron skillet!  Once the dough is shaped, I place it in the prepared casserole dish and slash the top with a serrated knife.  Brush the top with a little buttermilk and egg to give it a golden color and place in the oven.  Bake for 75 minutes or until a wooden skewer poked in the center comes out clean.
Let cool completely before slicing.  Have extra KerryGold butter to slather on and let it melt in your mouth.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wee Little Shortbread Brownie

As you may guess from yesterday's post, my husband is Scottish and loves shortbread.  However, for me, I love CHOCOLATE!  The combination is really, really good and I get so many compliments on these brownies.  The recipe is easy and I'll give you some options on how to change them...with the season.

First, I use a 9 x 13-inch pan, but not just any pan.  This one is a "springform" pan with a removable bottom.  I like this pan so much for bar cookies that if someone said I could only keep 5 baking pans (of all the many I have), this would definitely be one of the top five.  But...any 9 x 13-inch will do if you don't want the expense of another pan.

Preheat oven to 345F-degrees, if you're using Convection heat, like I did.  If not, go to 350F-degrees.  Spray pan with a vegetable oil spray or you can brush it with melted butter.
In the bowl of a KitchenAid and using the paddle attachment, beat:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
until fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl and add: 1 tsp. pure Vanilla extract.  Mix to combine.  Then, add:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Beat just until combined. Drop shortbread dough into the pan and use floured hands to press in the pan.  Bake for 15 minutes or until a light golden brown.
While the shortbread is baking, start the brownie topper.  In a double-boiler, melt a 12-ounce pkg. of bittersweet chocolate pieces and 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter.  Set aside to cool.
In the KitchenAid and using the paddle attachment, combine:
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. pure Vanilla extract
Beat at medium-high speed until light yellow.  Add the chocolate/butter mixture and mix to combine.
Next, add:
1/2 flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix to combine, but don't over beat.  Finally, stir in another 12-ounce pkg. chocolate pieces.  I usually do semi-sweet, but today, I used Dark Chocolate & Mint chips (the green mint chips kept with my theme of the month.)  You could also use: Peanut Butter Chips, White Chocolate Chips, Toffee Bits, get the picture.
  Spread the brownie mixture on top of the shortbread and return to the oven.  Bake for 25 minutes.  The top will appear "shiny" and a toothpick inserted in the middle will have some moist crumbs on it.  Don't overbake!  These are a fudgy brownie, not cake-like.

Run a spatula around the outer edge of the pan, but let it cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into squares.  As you can see, with the removal "sides", the springform pan makes it very easy to cut brownies (or any bar cookie) into squares.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

An Irish Blessing...

Just a little more than a week away, but St. Patrick's Day is definitely one of my favorite holidays to bake for.  My great grandmother, Caroline Belle Winfield Roland Sellner had seven children, five boys and two girls and was a great baker.  In fact, my grandmother Gladys, her eldest daughter, would say that's where my mother "inherited" all her skills from.  I have her recipe for scones (which I posted last year) and wish there was more written down of her cobblers, cakes, pies, etc.  She passed away before I was born, but her memory lives on and I kind of think I inherited some of those baking genes along with a lot of her Irish stubborness.

Today, I baked Pistachio Shortbread from the recipe files of King Arthur Flour.  Interestingly, I've discovered once you crossed over to the "dark side" and used a mix ( Unbelieveable Cinnamon Buns), I wasn't the least bit guilty in buying a package of Jell-O Pistachio Pudding to put in the shortbread as called for. Now, I know what you're thinking...shortbread isn't Irish, and you're right.  It dates back as early as the 12th Century and is often attributed to Mary, Queen of the Scots in the 16th Century.  It was expensive to make and reserved as luxury for special occasions like Christmas, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year's Eve) and weddings.  I chose this recipe, mainly for the bright green color that comes from the pudding mix, and the fact it was baked for special occasions.  The occasion today is my March Give-Away of yes, another apron!  Green is the color of the month and this recipe and apron represents that theme.

Also, just in case you don't have the Luck of the Irish on your side, everytime you comment on a posting for the month of March, I will put a slip of paper with your name in the box and you will have a better odds to be chosen. It will be like the Irish Sweepstakes! 

I will, however, give you my original recipe for shortbread. It took a lot of research and practice to come up with one that would please my father-in-law, who had asked me, shortly after our wedding..."can you bake shortbread?"  I guess I'm glad that wasn't a pre-requisite for marrying into the family, but a bonus for them.  My husband's grandfather was born in Edinborough, Scotland and came to America when he was 16.  I'm glad I brought a smile on "Dad's" face when he tasted my version.  Enjoy!

Traditional Shortbread
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup rice flour
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven 300F-degrees.  Lightly spray a 8" or 9" round pan with vegetable oil spray.  Beat sugar and butter until fluffy.  Add the rice and all-purpose flour and stir or mix with your hands.  Pat the dough into the round pan (or use a "shortbread mold").  Sprinkle some additional sugar on top. Prick the surface with a fork and score with a knife.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until the edges are golden brown.  Immediately, turn shortbread out on a surface to cool and cut through the score lines.  Cool 10 minutes before eating.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Perfect Sunday...

You've had a busy week; work, errands, running kids to soccer practice, whatever and it's just nice to have one day when you can call your own.  For me, it's Sunday.  We're early risers and I've already telephoned my daughters and sister, then, I decided to bake up some muffins.  I want just a little something while I'm sipping my Diet Coke and doing the Sunday crossword puzzle.  Today, I chose a Pumpkin Muffin from the recent Dessert Professional magazine.  Don't be frightened off by the title.  It has great instructions and will inspire you to try something you may not have thought you'd attempt. 

This recipe offers two different toppings; I chose the Crunch Topping, but the Crumb sounded just as inviting. You decide.

Pumpkin Muffins

Crumb Topping
1 1/3 cup Bread Flour
1/2 cup Light Brown sugar
3/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly cool, but not hard
1/8 tsp. baking powder
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a mix and use a paddle attachment to blend together until the desired texture is achieved.  Take care not to over mix.  Alternatively, you can use a pastry cutter or two knives to blend ingredients, finishing up with your hands.  This method is what I would use to mix up this topping.
Crunch Topping
1/2 cup Pecans
1/2 cup Rolled Oats (not the Quick version)
Use a food processor to "chop" up the nuts and oatmeal. Then combine them in a bowl with:
1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Ground Cardamon (optional)
1/8 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Baking Powder
Zest from half of an Orange (I used the zest of a Clementine)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
Combine all the ingredients and mix until a lump consistency is achieved.  Let set to cool butter.

Preheat oven to 400F-degrees and prepare muffins pans with paper liners or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray.  This recipe can also be made in two loaves, 9" x 4" x 3". 
In a mixing bowl and using the paddle attachment:
2 1/2 cups Sugar
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin (or you could use mashed sweet potato)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure Vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Pecan flavoring (optional)
Start out at low speed, then change to medium and mix all "wet" ingredients thoroughly.

In a small bowl blend:
2 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshing grated Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Cloves
1/2 tsp. Allspice
Use a whisk to blend dry ingredients.  Add to the wet ingredients, using a spatula to incorporate, being careful not to overmix.
Scoop the batter into the muffins tins, filling two-thirds full.  Sprinkle tops with the Crunch or Crumb Topping before baking.
Bake the muffins for 5 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350F-degrees and bake another 20-25 minutes until tops spring back.
For loaves, Preheat oven to 325F-degrees and bake in a convection oven 55-60 minutes.
Enjoy your Sunday!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Winter seems to be hanging on through most parts of the United States either with snow or unseasonably cold temperatures.  So, I thought...why not make Snow Balls, aka Russian Teacakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies!  These melt in your mouth delights are just the thing to go with a nice cup of hot cocoa on those cold, dreary days. 
My mother knew them as Russian Teacakes, which we shaped into a crescent. We would start baking them in early December for Christmas because they kept so well.  Although, one year, I remember my brothers raiding the tins of cookies and eating most of our stash. Good thing they're easy to bake, but my mother was still pretty angry with them. That was the last year they touched her Christmas cookies before the holiday!
Almost four years ago, our daughter, Kelly requested  the round, Mexican Wedding Cookies instead of a formal tiered cake. She had fallen in love with Grandma's and wanted me to replicate them for her wedding.  With the help of Kelly's best friend, Kandyce's daughter, Kathryn, we baked over twelve dozen and there wasn't one left!  Furthermore, no one missed a cake.
Here is my version of these wonderful cookies that I hope makes the winter pass more quickly.
(Note: Because these have a long shelf life...they make great treats to send to loved ones serving overseas)

Snow Balls
Preheat oven 325F-degrees
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
In your mixing bowl, using the paddle, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add:
1 T. vanilla
1/4 tsp. Pecan flavoring
and cream again.
2 cups finely chopped pecan and mix well.

Then add:
4 cups All-purpose flour (1 cup at a time)
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix until all ingredients are combined.
Use a small scoop (about 1 tablespoon size) to scoop up dough, then, drop it in your hand and roll in a ball.  Place balls on a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet.

 Bake for 12 minutes, turning your pan half-way through the time for even baking.
Let the cookies set on the pan about five minutes before transferring them to a rack.  Let them cool on the rack another 5 minutes then roll in more confectioners' sugar.  I place about 1 1/2 cups in a large bowl to roll my cookies in.  Repeat this process one or more times to get an even dusting of confectioners' sugar.  Enjoy!
Try substituting 1/2 cup of molasses for half of the confectioners' sugar and add 2 tsp. of ginger for a gingerbread-like cookie.
Instead of pecans, try pistachios or walnuts.  (If you use the pistachios, substitute almond (or pistaschio) flavoring for the pecan flavoring.  Also, add a drop or two of green food coloring.

Finally, Hal Borland said:
"No winter lasts forever;
no spring skips its turn." 

Monday, March 1, 2010

And the winner is...

March 1st and it's time for the drawing, but sadly, I didn't have my little helper Maddie to choose the name. However, the winner of the apron is GAYLE! Thank you for posting and being a part of February's baking memories.  I'll have the apron off to you today with lots of love and encouragement to BAKE and make your own memories. 

I am without a computer (borrowing my husband's laptop at this moment) attached to my printer due to a virus scare via Facebook.  Be careful about opening attachments unless you know the friend/family has really sent you one!  It will be a few days before I can get back to posting and showing off the March's Give-Away. 

I hope the anticipation is worth the wait.  Love, Susan