Saturday, June 30, 2012

RED ~ Strawberry Cheesecake Sandwich Cookies

The 4th of July is around the corner (yes, it's almost July!!) and I can't help thinking about all the glorious picnics we had at my parent's house.  This was probably my mother's favorite holiday; maybe because all our family and their friends came together or my dad would buy a couple of bushels of Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs for the feast--which she loved.  Anyway, for me, my memories go back to the baked goods, wonderful salads, and the softball game that followed in the field my grandfather cleared for us.
Yes, that's me (years ago!) eating crab
That's Kelly (from behind) in her "sleeping bonnet" that Grandma bought her in Williamsburg--She wanted to wear it for the patriotic occasion!
Life was much simpler then and the joy that day brought is forever etched in my mind.  We would start a day or two earlier deciding the menu and beginning to bake.  Pies, cakes, and brownies, but there were also the yeast rolls for the hot dogs and hamburgers, in case anyone didn't want to pick crabs.  Salads consisted of her famous potato salad, cole slaw, and a garden salad--fresh from my grandparents garden and my sister made her wonderful macaroni salad.

It's a day that is part of our heritage and a remembrance of all those that fought for our freedom.  In honor of the Red * White * Blue, over the next few days I'm baking to show off the colors.  Today, I'm starting with Red ~ Strawberry Cheesecake Sandwich Cookies, a recipe I've created to not only show off the color, but one of the desserts that so often appeared on the buffet table!  I found these remarkable snacks called "Just Strawberries," that are 100% natural freeze-dried strawberries to accentuate the color and the flavor to add to my cookie dough.

The cookie dough is one of my favorites (with a few changes) from my grandmother who first introduced me to "ice box cookies." Along with their cheesecake-like filling, these cookies make the perfect bite for picnics or tea parties.

Strawberry Cheesecake Sandwich Cookies
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3 large egg yolks
2- 1.5 bags "Just Strawberries"
1/2 tsp. Strawberry Flavoring 
1 tsp. Vanilla Bean Extract Crush or Extract
3 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1-2 cups of Graham cracker crumbs (for rolling)

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scrapping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  
In a mini food processor, grind the freeze-dried strawberries to a powder.
With 2 bags you will get 1 cup of "powdered" strawberries.  Add to the batter, along with the strawberry flavoring and Vanilla extract.
Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the dry ingredients.  Mix just to incorporate all the flour.  Use a spatula to "pull" dough together and turn out onto a bread board to divide.

I cut my dough into fourths for ease in storing in the refrigerator.  Form each section into a 1 1/2" diameter roll.  
Place the graham cracker crumbs on a parchment lined baking sheet and roll the dough to coat the sides.  Place in plastic wrap and chill the dough for at least 2 hours.  (At this point the rolls can be placed in a gallon freezer bag and stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.)

 Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Use a serrated knife to slice the dough into 1/4"-cookies.  Place on the cookie sheet, about 1-inch apart and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Let rest on the pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Cheesecake Filling
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup Strawberry Jam

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla bean paste together.  Add the confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium to incorporate thoroughly.  Stir in the Strawberry Jam.  
I used some of my homemade Strawberry Jame
 Use either an off-set spatula or a piping bag with a #12 round tip to fill the cookies, underneath side up, then, top with a "like" size cookie.'

 The cookies, if not serve immediately, should be kept in a cool, dry place--mine are in the plastic container in the refrigerator awaiting our picnic.  You could also freeze them if desired.  This recipe easily makes about 3 to 4 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the roll.
Family picnics give us so many good memories--I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July. Enjoy! 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cardamon~Nectarine Tea Cakes

I couldn't ask for a more perfect day than what we're having here in the Pacific Northwest--75 degrees, sunny and no humidity!  Okay, I got that off my chest and didn't mean to rub it in to all of you who are having squelching temperatures, but when we get these days, well, we just have to rejoice.

So, I rejoiced with making a recipe incorporating one of my favorite summer fruits--the nectarine.
It is a cultivar of a peach and some might call them, a fuzzy-less peach or shaven peach.  When I was growing up, my grandfather told me they were a crossbred of peaches and plums.  However, when I researched their history, I discovered that genetic studies have concluded that nectarines are created due to a "recessive allele" which gives them their smooth skin.  They are usually smaller than a peach and because of their lack of "fuzz" have a reddish/golden skin color.

My mother use to make a sweet yeast dough with slices of nectarines or peaches on top (like a sweet pizza) as a treat during the summer, but I chose a quick version making mine into tea cakes.  I decided to bake them in my mini bundt pan, but this recipe would make one 9"x5" loaf if you prefer.

Cardamon~Nectarine Tea Cakes
10 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 medium nectarines, washed, dried and grated on the coarse side of a box grater
1/2 tsp. Peach flavoring
1 tsp. ground cardamon
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray a 6-cup mini bundt pan (or loaf pan) with a non-stick baking spray or brush with melted butter. 

Grate the two nectarines on a box grater, using the coarse side.
You should get about 1 cup of grated fruit.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together.  Add the sugar and continue beating until fluffy.  Add the Peach flavoring, Vanilla extract and cardamon and mix well.  

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the grated nectarine and mix again to incorporate.

Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the batter.  Mix on medium speed, just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Scoop the mixture into the mini bundt pan or loaf pan.  
Bake mini bundts about 22-24 minutes, until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out cleanly.  Bake a loaf pan about 45 to 50 minutes, again checking the center to see if it's done.

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 T light Karo syrup
3 -4 T hot water

Mix the glaze ingredients and stir until smooth.  Pour over the inverted cakes, if desired. 
(Optional-dust with confectioners' sugar before serving if you don't want a glaze)

The flavor of this tea cake was just what I needed to celebrate a beautiful day.  Something a little different (not raining) and reminding me how lucky we are to have such beautiful fruits to choose. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Irish Oatmeal Bread

When I heard an advertisement on the television the other day about how households throw away over 50% of the food they buy, I thought how my mother would have cringed.  Now, granted it was focused on storage bags and preventing freezer burn, but nonetheless, why not reinvent the leftover to make something else. You see, when you have a family of eight, you don't throw anything away!

My mother was the Queen of Leftovers--using her magic to make the next day's meal seem like new.  So, with this in mind, when I had leftover Irish Oatmeal from our breakfast this morning, I decided to create a new recipe around it.  Yes, I could have "nuked" it for the next day's breakfast, but because I had been away, I needed to make bread for the week and the light bulb went on.

It's another rainy, cool day here in the Pacific Northwest; so good for baking.  After all, I was already in the mood after baking up a batch of bagels and setting out ingredients to make Spiderman Cake Pops to send to Ari for his 4th birthday tomorrow.  This recipe easily makes two loaves, but I decided to bake it in my Pullman bread pan for one large loaf.

Irish Oatmeal Bread
1 pkg. (1 T) active dry yeast
1/2 cup very warm water (about 110F-degrees)
1 tsp. honey
In a 1 cup measure, whisk the dry yeast and honey into the water and allow to set for 5 to 7 minutes until foamy.  This is called proofing the yeast.
While the yeast is proofing, heat the following ingredients in a small sauce pan over med/low heat:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey
3 T unsalted butter (I used Kerrygold Irish Butter!)
2 T Boiled Cider
When the butter has melted remove from the heat.

In a stand mixer, using the dough hook, add the following:

1 to 1 1/4 cups leftover cooked Irish Oatmeal
5 1/2 cups (+ up to another 1/2 cup as needed) King Arthur Bread Flour
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Mix on the #2 speed until combined.  Add the honey/butter mixture while the mixer is running, then the proofed yeast.  Add additional flour, as needed until the sides of the bowl are clean and the dough is clinging to the dough hook.
Sprinkle a board lightly with flour and turn out the dough.  Knead a few times, with the heel of your hand, pushing away, then making a turn and push again.

When the dough is smooth, place it in a large bowl or dough rising bucket, like I use.

Let rise an hour, or until doubled in size.
Turn out dough, once again, onto a lightly floured board.  Flatten into a rectangle, the length of the loaf pan(s) you are using.  Roll up the dough, towards you, pushing down to seal the roll.  When you get to the last roll, pinch the ends together.  Place the dough, pinched side down, into a lightly oiled Pullman loaf pan (or divide dough in half and use two 9" x 5" loaf pans).

Spray a piece of plastic wrap with a baking spray and lay over top the loaf pan(s).  Let rise, again, for 45 minutes or until doubled.

Before the bread finishes rising, heat the oven to 350F-degrees.  Remove the plastic wrap and spray with Quick Shine and sprinkle with some Old-fashioned Oatmeal.  (It's a way of letting people know what's in your bread!)

Bake for 35 minutes or until an "Instant Read" thermometer registers 180-190F-degrees in the center of the bread and the top is a golden brown.
Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.  Heaven knows this is the hardest part about making homemade bread!
This bread turned out with the best texture and full of wonderful flavor.  My hubby said it's by far, his favorite, but then, he says that about every bread I make.  The moral of this post...think about reinventing the leftover you might throw out and you too can come up with a winner.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Perks of being a Grammy...

The last few days, no baking, but lots of Grammy-time with our granddaughter, Maddie.  Her first dance recital and I flew across the country to see her make her debut.  A big smile, sparkling eyes, and a personality that warms our heart--the best perks of being a Grammy.

I fly home tomorrow (tears in my eyes) but I will be baking again on Tuesday and planning on the end of July when both Ari and Maddie will be at our home--we're calling the week Camp Mimi's and you'll get to see a lot of kitchen time, crafts, and plenty of adventures that two 4 year olds can pack in a day!  XOXO

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Apple Crumb Buns

Happy Summer Solstice to everyone!  We're having one of those picture perfect days in the Pacific Northwest that we don't like to talk about because, I've been told, we don't want to encourage anymore people moving here:-D! 

In spite of the beautiful weather, I have a yearning for something "apple," even though it's not one of the seasonal fruits in the market right now.  However, I still bought several Granny Smith's in anticipation of coming up with a recipe that would satisfy that yearn and combine it with one of my favorite morning treats...crumb cake or as my grandmother would have said, "streuselkuchen."

The crumb topping to this breakfast bun is totally different from what a lot of bakers know as streusel; first, the butter is melted and poured over the dry ingredients to form a thick paste that you create "pebbles" from instead of cold butter "cut" into the dry ingredients and secondly, the flour to sugar(s) ratio is a lot more with crumb than it is in streusel.

Apple Crumb Buns
Apple Filling:
3 to 4 tart cooking apples (I used Granny Smith)
2 T Boiled Apple Cider 
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Peel, core, slice, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces the apples. 
One of my "gifts" is that I can peel an apple all in one parents were so proud! LOL!!

Place the apple chunks in saucepan and add the boiled cider and sugar.  Stir to combine and place over med/low heat, cover the pan until the apples start releasing their juices--about 7 to 8 minutes.

When the apples are tender, transfer to a small bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool while you continue with the other components.

Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 3/4 cup Queen Guinevere Cake Flour

In a medium bowl, mix the sugars, salt and cinnamon together using your hands.
Add the melted butter and mix with a fork to combine.
Add the cake flour and stir to combine, making sure all the flour is mixed in.  The mixture will be like a paste.  Set aside to allow the gluten to relax while you make up the cake aspect of this treat.
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  I used crumb cake liners that I found at The Container Store, but you can also get them online...just Google crumb cake papers.  This recipe makes 12 buns.

Cake batter:
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Tahitian Vanilla Powder
1 3/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 cup milk

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together.  Gradually, add the sugar and continue beating until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla extract and powder (if using) to the batter and mix again.

Combine the dry ingredients and whisk to mix.  Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter, then, the milk and beat on low.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat on medium for 1 minute to thoroughly combine.  The batter resembles the thickness of "frosting."


1. Divide the batter evenly among the 12 crumb paper liners.  Use an off-set spatula to spread over the bottom.
2. Place a heaping tablespoon of apple filling in the center of the cake.  Any leftover filling can be used to make an Apple Pie Smoothie!
3. Squeeze the crumb topping mixture together and then break off "pebble" sized pieces and place on top of the fruit and cake.

Bake in the preheated 20 to 22 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean when you pierce the cake.
Allow to cool about 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to continue cooling.  As the "piece de resistance," heavily dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

For me, there's nothing better than crumb cake and having an apple filling has just put me in such a good mood, not to mention, Kelly Clarkson's "What Doesn't Kill You, Makes You Stronger" is playing in the background--something I'm learning the hard way. Enjoy!