Friday, June 24, 2011

June's Give-Away Winner & say "Good Night Gracie!"

I have done the drawing for June's Give-Away apron a little early as this is my last post!  I've decided not do the blog anymore and want to thank everyone for all their comments and support.

The winner of this apron is Bonnie--please email me your address so I can get this out to you.  XOXO

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gone Bananas Pound Cake

One thing about growing up in a large family, I never remember too many leftovers.  Furthermore, when my mother did have a few bananas overly ripen that hadn't been eaten, banana bread was a treat with a large glass of milk.  However, I find, all too often, bananas hanging on the the holder, speckled and soft that my husband doesn't want on his cereal and I just can't seem to throw them out, but on the other hand, think of what to do with them.

That was the case today, but I wasn't in the mood for banana bread, no matter what I combined with it, so I decided to do a pound cake.  My husband loves pound cake and in a bundt pan, they come out so beautifully and last several days or freeze for later snacking.  Now, my only other decision was to leave it perfectly plain or make it a little crazy...I chose crazy.

Gone Bananas Pound Cake
3 medium bananas, peeled and mashed
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

In a bowl, mash the bananas, then stir in the lemon juice.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with a non-stick cooking spray or brush with melted butter.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Powder
  or 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
mashed bananas
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
2/3 cup chopped maraschino cherries
1 cup mini bittersweet chocolate chunks

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream butter.  Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the mashed bananas and the chopped maraschino cherries, mixing well.  Don't worry if your batter looks a little curdled.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add to the batter.  Beat for one minute at medium speed until well incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chunks.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and place in the preheated oven.  Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out cleanly.

Cool 5-10 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a serving platter.

My "craziness" led me to create a banana-split-like pound cake.  To serve heat your favorite brand of Hot Fudge Sauce and pour a little over the cake.  If you're feeling a little daring, I've included my homemade fudge sauce to make from scratch.  

Hot Fudge Sauce:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup light Karo Syrup
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Bring cream and corn syrup to a simmer in a heavy sauce pan.  Remove from the heat and add all the chocolate.  Stir until melted and smooth.  Serve immediately.  (Can be made 2 days ahead and heated up).  Rewarm over medium heat or in the microwave just until heated through.  Refrigerate any unused sauce. 

I've added a dollop of whipped cream, a few nuts, and a cherry on top!  What could be more decadent? That's how my mother would have had it, although, with a lot more hot fudge and with the last eighteen months I've had...well, a little craziness is deserved. Enjoy!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Golden Fruit Bars

Awhile ago, my daughter, Erin and I were talking about cookies and she asked me if the Golden Raisin Biscuits were still available in the grocery store?   I hadn't bought them since she lived at home and  said, "I don't know, but I will check when I go shopping."  These "store bought" cookies were a favorite of our family and I had never tried to replicate them because they were perfect!  However, "necessity is the mother of invention" (aka, difficult situations inspired ingenious situations), and as I sadly discovered they were no longer being made, I decided to try to come up with my version.

The biscuits were made by the Sunshine Baking Company, but it was bought by Keebler and then, later Kellogg.  The cookies were discontinued in 1996.  I did discover that in the 1960s, the Sunshine Baking Company actually replicated the recipe from a Scottish baking company called Crawford's in Edinburgh.  These biscuits are still available (I found them online through Amazon) and are called Garibaldi--Golden crispy biscuits filled with currants.  Of course, I bought a carton and shared them with my daughter and sister!

My attempt today is softer than the biscuits we remember, but I decided it was the taste I wanted and the texture was secondary.  Both the Garibaldi biscuits and the Sunshine Raisin Biscuits were definitely more cracker-like, but for the home baker, these come pretty close. I've named them fruit bars because if you don't like currants, substitute dried cranberries, raisins, or even cherries.

Golden Fruit Bars

2 cups King Arthur All-purpose Flour
1 cup King Arthur Organic Wheat Flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 T Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup Vegetable Oil
2 T Light Karo Syrup
2 cups dried currants

Egg Wash: 1 large egg + 1 T milk

Equipment: 12" x 17" or 13" x 18" sheet pan

Place the dried currants in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let set 45 minutes to an hour.  Drain thoroughly and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the first eight ingredients to the bowl and pulse to combine.  Combine the Karo syrup and the vegetable oil in a measuring cup and while the processor is running, pour through the feed tube into the dry ingredients.  Stop the machine when all the liquid has been added.  Add the currants and pulse several times to combine.  The mixture will resemble "wet sand".

Dump the mixture onto the sheet pan, distributing the dough to completely cover the bottom.  Press down with your fingers.  

If desired, place a piece of parchment paper over the top and with a pastry roller, smooth the surface.  You can also use a pronged roller to prick the surface or use a fork.

Let dough chill while you preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Remove the pan from the refrigerator and brush the egg wash over the top of the cookie--this step gives the "golden" brown color the biscuits are known for.  

Bake in the preheated over for approximately 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and while warm, cut into squares.  Let cool completely!  

These bars tasted wonderful, but not as dry and crisp as the original, which was okay by me.  I love the simplicity of these cookies and know they will be appreciated by my family--mission complete or as Maddie and Ari would say..."Ta Da!"  


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hi Ho...Hi Ho

Taking a break and heading to Disney World to spend a week with Ari, Maddie and family!  Will post some photos and maybe do some reviews of the eats...especially anything baked!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Baked Crullers...a review

When I first spied this new baking pan in Sur La Table a few months ago, the memory that popped in my head was the first Halloween my husband and I celebrated as a couple with some family and friends.

We had been married just about six weeks, but I wanted to have a get-together in our first apartment and share some homemade treats with them.  In addition to caramel dipped apples and appetizers, I thought fresh doughnuts would impress them as I had been making them with my mother years ago.  Fresh, warm doughnuts are just next to heaven!  The cruller, however is somewhat labor intensive and even commercially has to be done by hand, but in my opinion, it's well worth the time.
Crullers date back to the 19th century and the name comes from the Dutch word "krullen," meaning to curl.  Throughout Europe and especially, Germany, they're eaten on Shrove Tuesday.  In North American, they can typically be found in Canada, New England, Mid-Atlantic and North Central states and as far west as California.  In some regions the name cruller has been substituted for just dunking sticks.  In addition, the term "Chinese cruller" is applied to the youtiao that is found in East and Southeast Asia.

My first attempt at making crullers came out perfect, in spite of the hours it took to make them, so when I saw this pan, I thought, "could it be possible to recreate this memory with a lot less time?"  Well, sadly, no, but as you can see, it does make for a very pretty cake that would be welcomed by guests and family for sure.  They're just the right size with a cup of tea for an afternoon break!

Baked Crullers - a Tea Cake
6 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla powder (or 1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract)
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cup Cake Flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Lightly spray the pan with a non-stick baking spray and set aside.  
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together completely.  Add the vanilla powder (or extract).
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between additions.  In a small bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking soda together.  Add to the batter along with the sour cream and mix to combine.  
Divide the batter among the six cruller forms on the pan.
Bake in the preheated oven 18-22 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before turning them out onto a rack.  Prepare a glaze, if desired, or you can immediately coat them with sugar and cinnamon.

1 1/2 cups confections sugar
3-4 T. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla powder or 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients to a smooth glaze and pour over the cakes.

If you like a cinnamon/sugar coating, mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1 T cinnamon in a paper bag and place a warm cake inside.  Shake to coat and repeat with the other 5 cakes.

My disappointment was soon forgotten once I bit into the cake.  
Maybe a new memory was made.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate Pistachio Torte

Last evening, with company for dinner, I decided to make up a Chocolate Pistachio Torte.  A torte, originating in Central Europe, is a cake made with eggs, sugar, and ground nuts, in lieu of flour.  So, in theory, this makes for a perfect gluten-free dessert!  The most notable torte is a Linzer Torte, made with ground hazelnuts, chocolate, and luscious raspberry jam--for another day.

The torte I made today incorporated one of the newest products I've discovered--Pistachio Flour.  Flour, meaning that the nuts were ground to a fine, powdery product.  Paired with bittersweet chocolate, this dense cake, with a bittersweet ganache coating, certainly satisfies any chocoholic's craving, but, moreover, makes for a pretty elegant dessert.

Tortes were not something my mother ever made, but something I learned about at the Culinary Institute.  The important thing to remember is that with the absence of flour in a torte, you need to balance fat and eggs in order not to have a dry, crumbling cake.  In using unsalted butter, eggs, and bittersweet chocolate the balance with the pistachio flour made this cake moist and delectable.  And, so easy to make--it took less than 15 minutes!

Bittersweet Chocolate Pistachio Torte

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2T granulated sugar
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cup Pistachio Flour 

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
4 oz. unsalted butter

Line a 8-inch round cake with a parchment and spray with a non-stick baking spray.  Preheat oven 375F-degrees.  

In a stand mixer, using a paddle, beat the butter and sugar well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, but don't be surprised that the batter will look "curdled".  Stir in the chocolate, salt, and pistachio flour.  Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 22-24 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.  Invert cake onto a serving plate and let cool while you make the ganache.

In a medium sauce pan, over med/low heat, melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate.  Let ganache cool until slightly thickened, about an hour.  Pour ganache over the top of the cake, allowing the extra to flow over the sides.  I didn't let mine set enough, so it flowed around the base as well : ) but who cares--It's Chocolate!!  As a final touch, sprinkle chopped pistachios around the perimeter.
Tortes are easy and quick.  This recipe took less than hour, including baking time to make and when I only had a couple of hours to prepare the whole dinner, this was a good choice.  Enjoy! 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Leftover Potato Bread

My mother was an expert at turning leftovers into another meal.  Leftover ham, not enough to feed a family of eight, became Ham & Egg Pie; leftover spaghetti, with a few eggs and some cheese, became spaghetti pie; leftover vegetables became soup for the next night; leftover corned beef became hash for dinner or breakfast with poached eggs: and mashed or boiled potatoes would be made into yeast bread or rolls, which is what I decided to make this morning.

Potato bread has been a favorite in our family for years and most of the time, I use leftover potatoes, but occasionally, I will go to the trouble of boiling some potatoes, mashing them, and then, make up a loaf.  Potatoes are used to replace some of the wheat flour used in bread recipes, proportions dependent upon what texture you want. For the most part, real potatoes are used, but you can also use a product called "potato flakes," which are dehydrated potatoes, found in the supermarket if you're sans potatoes. However, never having that problem, I can't guarantee how potato flakes affect the final product.

Since the leftover mashed potatoes, I used this morning, had milk and butter (plus salt and some pepper) in them, I decreased the measurement of those ingredients in the recipe.  However, I will give in "( )" the amount of liquid (milk) and melted butter, and salt needed if you just boil potatoes and smashed them.  One last note--I usually like to use Yukon Gold potatoes for my mashed potatoes, but the store I shopped at, were out of them.  This variety of potato will produce a lovely "golden" color to the bread, which I prefer.

Leftover Potato Bread

Proof Yeast: In a 2 cup glass measure, mix together 2 packages of dry yeast in 1/2 cup very warm water [about 105F-degrees] with 1/2 tsp. honey.  Let stand until foamy, about 5-7 minutes.  This insures you have active yeast for your recipe!

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment mix:
3/4 cup leftover mashed potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes, cooked and mashed)
1 large egg
3 T honey
1 tsp. Kosher salt (2 tsp.)
Add the Proofed Yeast
Mix in 1 cup King Arthur Bread Flour

1/4 cup 2% milk (1/2 cup + 4 T unsalted butter)

Add: 1/4 cup water to the milk mixture and slowly add it the liquid to the ingredients in the bowl, while on low.

Add:  1 cup more of Bread flour and as the mixture starts to come together, change to the dough hook.  Knead in another 1 to 1 1/2 cups of flour (or more, as needed) for dough to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a board, lightly dusted with flour and knead until smooth.  Heat about 2 T unsalted butter and brush the bowl [or container] used to allow the dough to rest and rise.  Let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the temperature of your kitchen!
When the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes, turn out onto the board and pat it to a rectangle to fit a 9"x5" loaf pan.
Brush the loaf pan with melted butter.  Roll up the dough, lengthwise, pinching ends together, then, place in the prepared pan (pinched ends down).

Brush the top of the dough with additional melted butter and place a piece of plastic wrap on top.
Cover with a clean dish towel to create the "heat" needed for a second rise.
Preheat oven to 375F-degrees while the bread is rising.  Once the dough has again doubled, remove the towel and plastic wrap and using a serrated knife, make a slit down the center of the dough.
Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, turning the loaf pan once during baking. To check if the bread is done, insert a thermometer into the center of the bread, it should read 190F-degrees internally.
Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a board.
The final touch for Potato Bread is to dust the top with flour--(If you do this prior to baking the flour will brown and not be attractive.)
COOL COMPLETELY before slicing.  I know it's hard to resist not digging into warm bread, but trust me, it's for the best!

I recently saw a commercial on television that said, "Americans throw out half of the food they buy, ..."  I think it was an advertisement for a storage bag, but it made me think back on the fact, I never saw my mother waste food, especially leftovers!   I'd love to hear if you have any family recipes that incorporates leftovers--I think it's one of the traditions we really need to pass on to the next generations. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Butter Pecan Sandies & June's Give-Away

It wasn't often we had "store bought" cookies, but one of the ones that both my parents loved was Keebler's Pecan Sandies.  I have to admit this simple shortbread cookie with such a wonderful taste had me too.  I guess I could say, " I saw it coming," since my mother's favorite ice cream was butter pecan--the rich vanilla with those buttery pecans mixed through.

When I was playing around with ingredients, I remembered those Saturday's when my Dad came in from the commissary and we opened up the Keebler package to fill the cookie jar, to come up with a homemade version.  To enhance the buttery flavor, I browned the butter, but then put it in the refrigerator for an hour to return it to a soft solid stage.  The next important step was to toast the pecans--toasting brings out the natural oils and the flavor of the pecan is taken up a notch.  Finally, the ingredients are similar to my shortbread recipe, but I substituted brown sugar for some of the confectioners' sugar measurement to give it a caramel color and flavor.

The great thing about this recipe is that I formed the dough into "logs" that are chilled 3-4 hours.  Slice the cookies you want to bake, but if you only want to make up some of the cookies, freeze the rolls for another time.  The melt-in-your-mouth cookies are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee for an afternoon treat...which I had while I sewed June's Give-Away!
Roses are June's birth flower
Red Roses - Love, Beauty, Courage & Respect
White Roses - Purity, Innocence, Silence, Secrecy, Reverence, Humility & Youthfulness
Yellow Roses - Joy, Gladness, Friendship, & Delight
Pink Roses - Appreciation, Grace, Perfect Happiness, & Admiration
Orange Roses - Enthusiasm, Desire, Fascination
Lavender Roses - Love at First Sight, Enchantment
Butter Pecan Sandies...homemade!
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, browned
1 cup light brown sugar, packed firmly
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla~Butternut Flavoring (can substitute Vanilla extract, but this really accentuates the flavor of the cookie)
3 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups finely chopped Pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.
Start off by cutting the butter into chunks and melting in a 3 quart sauce pan.  Turn the heat to med/low and continue to cook about 8 minutes or until the butter has foamed, then, turned golden.  Remove from the heat and pour into a glass 8-inch baking dish.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to "set" the butter to a soft/solid stage.

Next, place pecan halves on a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven 7-8 minutes--you should smell the aroma of the nuts as they release their oils.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Use a nut grinder and chop finely so slicing the cookies will be easier.  Turn off oven while you're waiting for the butter to cool.

In a stand mixer, place the butter and sugars and use the paddle attachment to blend well.  Add the flavoring and mix once again.  Add the flour and nuts and beat just until the dough comes together and all ingredients are combined.  Divide dough into three logs--2 x 12-inches and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours or until firm.  If you're freezing any of the logs, place the wrapped logs into a freezer bag and seal.

Preheat oven, once more, to 350F-degrees and line baking sheets with parchment.  Slice the log on a cutting board, using a serrated knife, 1/4-inch thick.  

Place on prepared baking sheet.  Bake 8-9 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool about 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing them to a rack.  This recipe makes over 5 dozen cookies.

By the time I finished the apron, the sun had come out and we're promised a weekend of dry weather...which here in the Pacific Northwest, we don't take for granted.  Enjoy!