Monday, August 31, 2009

That's Spumoni!

I didn't bake over the weekend...don't know why, just had a lot of other things to do. Fall is around the corner and I like to go through closets and get rid of anything I haven't worn or as the case may be, never get into again! But this morning, I am back to baking. It really is the best thing to do; create something that you know will please all the special someones in your life. My idea to turn the Neopolitan recipe into my own idea of Spumoni cookies worked out beautifully and I'm happy to share the recipe. Let me know if you make these up and what you think.
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. Vanilla extract (I used Sonoma Syrup Co. Special Blend-Vanilla Bean Extract Crush; it has little specks of vanilla bean in it)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
Once the basic dough is made up, I divided it into thirds and weighed them to come up with 11-ounces for each portion. (Owning a kitchen scale is a vital piece of equipment I wouldn't do without).
Pistachio Layer: 1/4 tsp. almond extract, 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios, and 2-3 drops of green food coloring (for effect)
Cherry Layer: 1/4 tsp. LorAnn Gourmet Washington Cherry flavoring, 1/3 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries (I dried the cherries really well on paper toweling to remove any excess juice)
Chocolate Layer: 1 3/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted in the microwave, and cooled slightly, 1/2 tsp. Chocolate extract
After making the Cherry Layer, I did put the dough in the freezer for 5 to 7 minutes to firm up before layering it on top of the Pistaschio Layer.

I lined my 5" x 9" loaf pan with aluminum foil. I feel the foil gave a more accurate mold as compared to the original recipe calling for waxed paper. I layered the Pistaschio first, then, the Cherry, and finally, the Chocolate. Refrigerate the mold for at least 2 hours or overnight. Here's another hint: After you unmold the dough and cut it in half, horizontally, it can be wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag and stored for up to 6 months. Wouldn't it be great when the cookie-monster in you or your kids showed through, you can grab one of the doughs and bake them up?

Slice the dough into 1/4-inch pieces and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Watch the first batch to check for a slight golden brown...don't overbake.

My mother used to bake refrigerator cookies all the time. My favorite were the ones with nuts, but any of them were great. I love the crunchiness of refrigerator cookies. As you may have noticed, there's no baking powder or baking soda in this dough; in fact, it's almost similar to a Scottish shortbread, except there is an egg in the dough. The great thing about this dough is all the combinations you can come up with. I can't wait to try other ingredients. I'm thinking maybe an "Almond Joy" kind of cookie...chocolate layer, coconut layer, and almond layer or Reese's Peanut butter Cup. Let your imagination and creativity go wild!
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Friday, August 28, 2009

Neopolitan Cookies

What's better than coming home from school and finding these cookies with a cold glass of milk waiting? Your kids will love these tri-colour cookies that just beg to be eaten. This recipe comes from my newest addition of cookbooks...The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book that the Apple Spice Coffeecake came from. I made the dough up the night before and place in a 5 X 9-inch loaf pan, lined with wax paper. This morning, all I had to do was remove it from the pan, slice the dough in half lengthwise, then, slice the cookies into 1/4-inches slices. They bake up quickly and are really delicious. There are three distinct flavours, as well as, colours; vanilla layer has a hint of nutmeg, the pink layer has a 1/4 tsp. of strawberry oil, and the chocolate layer has 1-ounce of unsweeten chocolate, melted, and 1/4 cup of chopped pecans. Another cookie, similar to this idea, is from an old Pillsbury cookbook "Chocolate Lovers", called "Cloverleaf Cookies. The three flavours in these are a chocolate, traditional chocolate chip, and peanut butter cookie. Kids loving eating the sections individually...heck, I love eating the sections individually.
This is definitely one I'll make again. Maybe, I'll do a "Spumoni" version. I'll pass it on when I do. Enjoy!
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Let the good times Roll...

I don't know why Thursdays have become "Roll Day", but here's another recipe. This one is my own basic Kaiser roll recipe, only today I decided to pump them up with the addition of sun dried tomatoes and red onion. I used my Cuisinart to mix up the dough and as I've said before, I have the big one, so I've made some changes to fit the standard.

For the "rising" element, I use a 10 quart plastic tub, sprayed with an oil spray. Once the rolls had doubled in size, I divided it up into 12 pieces. (With less flour, you will probably get 8-10). Roll each piece into a rope and literally tie them in a knot. Twist the ends around the "circle", in each direction, then, pinch them together underneath.

Place them on a baking sheet that you've sprayed with an oil spray. I used Quick Shine to spray the tops and sprinkled sesame seeds on. (Alternatively, you can brush the tops with a mixture of egg white and 1 T. water).
I preheated the oven to 400-degrees and used the Lava rock trick from the previous rolls because I loved the crispness it adds to the crust. Bake for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Here's the recipe...the addition of the tomato/onion gave them a lot of flavor.

In a small saute pan, heat 1T olive oil. Add 2T chopped sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil) and 1 small chopped onion. Saute until the onion is translucent. Set aside to cool.
Proof your yeast: 1 1/2 T dry yeast to 1/2 cup very warm water. Sprinkle 1 tsp. sugar and whisk together.
In the Cusinart:
4 1/2 cup Bread flour
2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
Sun dried tomato mixture
Proofed yeast
Pulse several times, then with the motor running, add 1 to 1 1/4 cups water through the feed tube. You're looking for the dough just to come together. (Don't over run or the dough may "heat up" and kill the yeast).
Turn out onto a bread board, lightly dusted with flour, and knead until smooth. Place in a plastic tub or spray a one gallon plastic bag and place the dough in there. The rolls came out beautifully and with a nice crunchiness to the crust. This lava rock trick really works!
In addition to making up rolls this afternoon, I also made up a cookie dough that I will bake off tomorrow. Stay tuned for an end-of-the week knockout recipe.

Just a little memory...the first thing I ever baked on my own were yeast rolls for a Thanksgiving dinner. I was seven and completely fell in love with kneading dough and watching it rise. There's a lot of comfort in turning it into something so deliciously appealing and so enjoyed.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pre-Fall Baking

Today felt like Fall; you know, a crispness in the air, leaves starting to change, and the first apples were at the Farmer's Market.  I remembered the first time I took my husband, Chuck, apple picking in the Shennadoah Mountains on our 10th anniversary.  He was so enthralled that we literally came home with bushels of apples.  I made a lot of apple recipes, including many jars of apple butter.  The lodge we stayed in served up an apple dish in all their meals and one night for dessert there was this wonderfull cake with chopped apples through it.  I thought about that apple cake we loved and I chose a Spiced Apple Coffee Cake from a new cookbook I just bought, The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book: The Essential Recipe Collection for Today's Home Baker. (Sorry there's no picture; it's so new that it hadn't been placed on their website yet).  The apples I chose were a cooking apple, Gravenstein, tart and firm.  I would also try Granny Smith, IdaReds, or your favorite cooking apple, there are hundreds.  The recipe calls for baking the cake in a springform pan or 9-inch square.  I happen to have a Chicago 9-inch square springform pan, which works beautifully for removing the cake for presentation.  The cake was moist (it had 8 ounces of cream cheese in the batter) and not overly spicey; the recipe called for cardamon and cinnamon. The final touch was a glaze made with confectioners' sugar, skim evaporated milk, and vanilla.  I added a nice tall glass of sparkling cider and I was ready for an afternoon snack while working my crossword puzzle.  Enjoy! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Linzer Cookies

Last week, when I was filing my recent "cut-outs", I came across this recipe for Linzer Cookies from Country Living mazazine, September 1995. The photo in the article was so inviting and I knew one day I would make these luscious cookies. Today was the day. I bought fresh raspberries and hazelnuts at our Farmer's Market on Saturday; preserved nine jars of jam, knowing I would make these cookies this week. These cookies on based on the classic version of a Vienese Linzer torte which features a hazelnut pastry with a raspberry jam filling and topped with a pastry lattice-work. Here is the recipe:

3/4 cup ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup ground hazelnuts (or you can use ground almonds)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
10 T raspberry jam
Confectioner's sugar (10X)

1. In a large mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Scrape down sides. Beat in egg, vanilla and lemon rind.
2. Reduce speed to low, add flour, ground nuts, spices, and salt. Mix just until combined. Scrape bowl and turn dough out. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for several hours.
3. Divide dough in half. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of floured waxed paper, to about 1/4-inch. Place the rolled dough (between the waxed paper) in the freezer for 10 minutes for ease in cutting out the shapes.
4. It calls for greasing 2 baking sheets, but I used my Silpats. With a lightly floured 4-inch scalloped round cookie cutter, tart tin, or paper pattern, cut out 5 cookies. Spread each cookie with 1 T of raspberry jam. With remaining dough, use a fluted pastry wheel to cut 1/4-inch strips for lattice-work. Repeat with second piece of dough.
5. Heat over to 375-degreesF. Bake 12-15 minutes or until firm and golden brown. (I used Convection Baking at 355-degrees)) Remove from oven and let cool on baking pan for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar, using a small strainer or shaker.
Store in an airtight container.

I can honestly say, they taste as good as they look and will certainly be a favorite to make in the future. Enjoy!
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Finished cake

As you can see the tops were level and I didn't have to trim them. I liked the cake, but I think I would do a cream cheese frosting next time instead of a meringue one. But the cake was moist and had a wonderful crumb to it. Our friend, Betty thought it tasted really good; and isn't that what counts?

One more thing I put together today to send off to Kentucky...Homemade Whole Grain Pancake Mix. The recipe makes 10 cups of dry mix; enough for 80 pancakes. Here's the recipe:
4 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3T sugar
3 T. baking powder
1 T. salt
1 T baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
Directions: 1. Grind the oats in a food processor until they're chopped fine, but not a powder. 2. Put the flour, oats, and all other dry ingredients into a mixer with a paddle. Mix on slow speed, and drizzle in the vegetable oil slowly while the mixer is running. 3. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks at room temperature or indefinitely in the refrigerator or freezer.

To make pancakes: 1) Whisk together 1 cup of pancake mix, 1 cup of buttermilk (or you can sour milk with 1 tsp. vinegar) and 1 large egg. Don't worry if the mixture seems thin, the oats will soak up the milk and thicken. 2. In fact, let the batter rest for 20 minutes before heating a lightly greased griddle to 350-degrees or medium/high. 3. Drop the batter onto it in 1/4-cupfuls.

Try adding blueberries, bananas, or (for Erin) chocolate chips.

It's a good thing for busy Moms who want to make a wholesome breakfast before school.
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Jersey Hard Rolls & Texas Hospitality Cake

Most people get up in the morning and decide what they'll wear; I get up wondering what I'll bake. So, my starter sat out all night and got nice and bubbly. I put all the ingredients in my KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook and completed the dough for the Jersey Hard Rolls. When it came together, I turned it out onto a lightly floured bread board and kneaded the dough until smooth. It was then placed into a oiled bowl and let to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Next step was to form them into eight rolls (about 3 ounces each) and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet sprinkled with semolina. Next, you cover them and let them rise in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight, but not for more than 10 hours.
Here's a little trick I picked up today. Since steam is a critical step to create a crisp, shattering crust on these rolls, I placed a cast iron pan with grill "lava" rocks in the bottom of the oven while it preheated. When the oven came up to temperature, I poured 1/2 cup of water on the rocks just before putting the rolls in the oven. I found the lava rocks at
Home Depot and a good-size bag was less than $4.00. I have to say, this is one of the best discoveries I've made in creating the same texture crust I use to get in the professional ovens at the CIA. (Excuse my dirty oven, it's been a hot summer and I haven't wanted to heat up the house with the 4 hours it takes to run the self-cleaning cycle.) The result...perfect rolls that my husband says, "the best I've ever made!" We had them with our dinner of stuffed shells and I could just imagine our oldest daughter, Erin, sopping up the extra sauce with one. Next time you come to visit, they'll be on the menu!

The other baking I did today was a Texas Hospitality Cake from another King Arthur Flour Baking Sheet. In fact, it just came yesterday and since I had left over egg whites in the refrigerator, this was a good one to make.

The hint for perfect cakes, I've found, are these Magi-Cake Baking Strips. They're about $10.00 at Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, but so worth it. Your cakes will never rise up in the middle more trimming.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I thought I'd show you all one wall of cookbooks I have, so when I said I'm a cookbookholic, you'll take me seriously. In addition to cookbooks, I also subscribe to about ten cooking magazines and King Arthur Flour Baking Sheet. This morning, I decided to go through the "tear out" recipes I have accumulated, place the ones I really will try in plastic page protectors, then, organize them in the proper catagorized binders. I came across one from BonAppetit magazine for "Blueberry Oat Scones" that answers the question from Erin..."can you use real fruit, instead of dry?" If you would like this recipe, go to to get this recipe. It actually says you can use fresh or frozen blueberries.

In addition to organizing, I'm going to start some rolls that take a day to make because you have to let the "starter" set overnight. The recipe is called"Jersey Hard Rolls" and it's from the Summer 2009, Vol XX/No. 4 King Arthur Flour Baking Sheet. I'll bake them tomorrow.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Raspberry Bars

My baking purpose today was to come up with a treat for the dental office we go to. Chuck had an appointment. I first saw this recipe a few years ago on The Food Networks, $40/day with Rachel Ray. She had this bar as an afternoon snack while touring the Hamptons, although, I think anything that has fruit in it qualifies for breakfast food. I bought the book because I love cookbooks from bakeries; I always imagine one day I would own one. Tate's Bake Shop by Kathleen King is filled with wonderful recipes. In addition to these Raspberry Bars, I recommend Double Panut Chocolate Rachel would say "Yumoooo!" There are only six ingredients required for the bars, but she does say, use a good quality jam; I used a jar of raspberry jam I made, which should qualify. The Edge Brownie Pan worked well since this recipe called for a 9-inch pan. After rinsing it in warm, sudsy water and drying it, I buttered the pan. They baked up beautifully and I can't wait to try it again on other recipes.

The bars came out easily from the pan. Here's a hint: so the bottom wouldn't get too brown with the second baking, I placed this pan on top of another baking sheet. Works everytime.

Yesterday, my sister, Barbara, surprised me with this beautiful apron she made. It was a surprise because I thought we had picked out the fabric for her when I came to visit in June. She loves strawberries. I wore it this morning while baking these raspberry bars and truly felt attached to My Mother's Apron Strings! Thank you, Sis for a memorable morning.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Scones, scones, and more scones...

I said "I love scones!" There are so many good recipes I've made over the years and I want to share a couple of great cookbooks with you. One of my favorites is The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber & Toy Kim Dupree. Try the "Cherry Cream Scones" or "Oat Scones with Cranberries and Walnuts." Both of these recipes are rustic, but bursting with flavor and buttery richness.

Another cookbook I like is Carol Walter's Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins, & More. I've made her "Country Cherry Honey Scones" on several occasions and as she says, "If you want to make a pretty scone, this is the recipe to choose." I agree!
My husband, Chuck, and I were in Edinborough, Scotland in 1993, and we had some great scones one morning from a local bakery. They were filled with currants and literally melted in our mouths. I brought several back to our hotel room to have later while Chuck went to a soccer game to watch Manchester United. I savored the scones and watched British soap operas. Quite the day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Scone Nibbles

Todays recipe comes from King Arthur Flour. You can download a copy by going to: and click on "recipes".

This is the second time I've made these Scone Nibbles and I have to tell you, they've come out perfect each time.

I love scones. They're not too sweet...just enough to satisfy. My first attempt at scones was a recipe my Great grandmother Caroline made. My mother passed the recipe down to me with the story how she looked forward to them when she went to visit. They had a wood stove, and if anyone can remember, these stoves had a compartment that was what we'd deem a "warming drawer". It kept baked goods perfect!

My Great Grandmother's Recipe is called "English Tea Scones"

4 cups all purpose flour

2 T. sugar

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

2/3 cup cold unsalted butter

1 1/3 cups half-&-half

1 large egg

1/4 cup raisins, or currents, (or used your favorite dried fruit, i.e., cranberries, cherries)

Heat over to 425F. Grease a large baking pan. (I use a spray). In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients and whisk. Add the butter and use a a pastry cutter to mix with the dry ingredients. (If I'm in a hurry, I put the dry ingredients in my food processor, add the butter and pulse until I have coarse crumbs). In a small bowl, whisk the egg and half-&-half. Measure out 2 T. (will be used to brush on top of the scones). Pour into dry mixtures and stir just until it comes together. Turn our on a lightly floured board and knead 5 to 8 times. Divide dough in half and with a floured rolling pin, roll each half into a 7-inch circle. Cut each circle into 4 wedges. Place scones on prepared baking sheet. Pierce tops with the tines of a fork and brush with the reserved egg/cream mixture. Bake 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bagel Recipe

This recipe is my own to share. I've been making bagels for almost 40 years and they still remain one of my favorite things to bake. I have the largest Cuisinart ever made...DLCX, which I believe is not made anymore. I've modified the recipe to fit my daughter's Cuisinart, which is probably the one everyone has now.

In your processor's bowl:
4 1/2 cups of King Arthur bread flour
1 T. Kosher salt
1 T. honey

Pulse 2-3 times to incorporate

In a glass measuring cup:

1/2 cup very warm (105F degrees)
1 1/2 T. dry yeast
1 tsp. honey

Whisk and let set 8-10 minutes to proof. You should see the mixture become "foamy", then you know your yeast is good. (If this doesn't happen, check expiration date and begin again)

Add yeast mixture to flour mixture and pulse again 2-3 times. Fill measuring cup with 1-1 1/2 cups warm water. Turn on processor and pour water through feed tube until dough comes together. The dough should move freely around the bowl and not be sticky.

Turn out onto a bread board that has been lightly dusted with flour and knead 3-4 minutes. Don't be tempted to overflour at this point. Form into a ball and place into a bowl (or gallon-size plastic bag) sprayed with a baking oil spray. Let rise about 40 minutes.

Just before you're ready to start forming the bagels, place a large pan (or Dutch oven) on the stove with about 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil, but lower temperature just to simmer. Add 2 T. honey to the water. Heat oven 400F-degrees/Convection.

Turn out dough onto the board and divide. You will probably get about 8-10 pieces, depending on how large you want your bagel. Shape all pieces in to balls, cover with a towel and let rest 5 minutes. The dough will relax and makes it easier to form. Use your thumb to make a hole in the middle and stretch is out to about 2-inches. Ease 3-4 formed bagels into the simmering water, right-sides down. Simmer 3 minutes. Turn over with a slotted spoon and simmer just 1 minute more. Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with a baking oil spray.

When all the bagels have been simmered. Spray with Quick Shine (I buy this product from and sprinkle with your favorite seeds...Poppy, Sesame, Flax, etc. Bake for 20-22 minutes until golden brown.

You'll never go back to store bought!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let's Bake

I'm a cookbookholic! I have easily over 600 cookbooks; most of them on baking. Everyday I bake...something. This morning I did bagels because a friend was coming over to help with a project, but most days, it's just to bake. I give about 80% away as gifts and I'm always being asked for recipes. It becomes quite daunting to write them down, so I thought I'd share it through this blog; what cookbook I used, how the recipe turned out, if I'd made any changes to the recipe, and share new techniques or baking equipment I've discovered. I'll also give hints (with photos) on presentation...because presentation is everything. 365 Days of baking!