Monday, December 31, 2012

Citrus Angel Food Cake & December's Apron Winner

First, let me say Happy New Year to everyone!  When I was thinking about baking today, I decided to do one of my favorite "healthy" desserts--Angel Food Cake.  I was inspired by, not only a surplus of egg whites from Creme Brulee that I had made two nights ago, but, some wonderful oranges that a dear friend sent us for Christmas.

Angel Food cake is a type of sponge cake that originated here in North America in the 19th century.  The name came from the description calling this cake "the dessert of angels."  I thought it not only appropriate for a health conscience dessert, but with this holiday season, I certainly believe there are angels among us.

My mother taught me how to bake angel food cake and yes, I know you can buy it in a box:-(, but when you see how easy it is, you can see why I choose to make it from scratch!

Citrus Angel Food Cake
12 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/3 cup warm water
Zest of 1 naval orange
1 1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
1 3/4 cup superfine sugar (if you can't find this "Baker's Sugar," process granulated sugar in a food processor for several minutes)
1 cup Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.

In the stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer, place egg whites, warm water, cream of tartar, and orange zest.

 Use a large balloon whisk to mix the ingredients until foamy...about 2 minutes.  Place bowl on the stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat this mixture.  Slowly add one-half of the sugar to the egg white mixture and continue beating until soft peaks foam.
Sift the cake flour, remaining sugar, and salt.  Lightly shake the dry ingredients over the egg white mixture and gently fold in, being very careful not to stir and deflate the egg whites. 
This will take about 5 to 6 "shakes" so as to gradually add all of the dry ingredients.
You should still have a light and airy batter.  Gently spoon the batter into an Angel Food Cake pan.
I love the one I have with "little feet" so when the cake comes out of the oven, you can invert it for proper cooling.  Bake for 35 minutes and then check with a cake tester (or wooden skewer) to make sure the middle of the cake is done--the tester should come out cleanly.
Invert pan over a serving plate and let cool at least an hour.
When completely cool, I use a straight spatula to release the cake by running it on the outside edge and around the "cone."
My angel food cake pan also has a removable bottom that makes it easy to release the cake.
The citrus aroma of oranges filled the kitchen.
Add a few of the orange segments and it makes a delightfully, refreshing dessert.  A slice has only 208 calories with 0 fat grams, 0 saturated fat, and 0 cholesterol:-D Enjoy!

Now...drum roll please--the winner of December's apron is Vee!  Please email me with your address and I will get this sent to you ASAP! 

Thank you all for commenting and I will have a new apron up for the New Year soon, XOXO

Friday, December 28, 2012

Basic Bagels

One of the first posts I did, back in August 2009, when I was just getting started with this blog, was for the bagels I make.  It's probably my "signature" bake good that everyone from California to Massachusetts to Connecticut and now in Washington, know me by:-D

My mother never made bagels.  In fact, I don't think we had ever heard of them when I was growing up.  She made yeast rolls or bread, but never a bagel.  It was in the early 70s that I discovered bagels and I've been making them ever since.  This morning, I not only treated the guys to bagels, but I went a step further and smoked a couple of salmon fillets with alder wood for them to have with their bagels...yes, I do spoil my family!
The bagel shape is literally hundreds of years old.  The "hole" in the middle not only helps baked them more evenly, but it had a practical use too.  They could be placed on a dowel on through a string to transport easily. Traditionally, sesame or poppy seeds are sprinkled on top, but if you go by your favorite bagel shop, I bet you'd see many varieties--from chocolate chip, dried cherries or cranberries to pumpernickel, rye, or pumpkin.

Basic Bagels
5 to 6 cups King Arthur Bread Flour
1 T granulated sugar
2 tsp. sea salt
2 pkgs (about 2 T) active dry yeast
1 tsp. honey
1 to 1 1/2 cups warm warm (in addition to the 1/2 cup used with the yeast to proof)

In a 1 cup measure, add 1/2 cup very warm water (105-110F-degrees)
Sprinkle the yeast over the water and add the honey.  Use a mini-whisk to stir the yeast completely into the water.  Set aside to proof, about 5 to 7 minutes (depends on the warmth of your kitchen).

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer, using the bread hook, measure out the flour.  (I have a 6qt. bowl, so I measured out 6 cups of flour--if you have a 5 qt. bowl, you may want to do 4 1/2 or 5).
Add the sugar and salt and mix slightly to combine on low speed.

Add the proofed yeast to the bowl and turn the speed up to #2 to start the process.  Measure out another 1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water and slowly pour it while the mixer is running.  As the dough comes together and pulls away from the bowl, you've added enough water.
Continue to knead in the mixer about 2 minutes more.  Stop the mixer and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board.  Knead by hand a few times to create a smooth dough.
Place this ball in a bowl (or dough bucket) that has been lightly sprayed with a non-stick baking spray.  cover top with plastic wrap (or the lid) and allow to rise until doubled--about 40 to 45 minutes.

Bring about 3 inches of water to a boil in a large pot.  Lower to a simmer. Preheat oven to 400F-degrees and spray a large sheet pan with a non-stick baking spray.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board again and divide into 12 pieces (if you've done 6 cups of flour) or 10 pieces (if you've done 5 cups of flour).
To make the signature hole in the middle--poke your thumb through the dough and then your fingers to stretch the opening, keeping the bagel shape round.

After all the bagels have had their "hole" made, cover with a dry, cotton towel.  Place about three bagels at a time into the simmering water, right-side-down.

Simmer for about 3 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to flip them over.  Simmer about 1 minute more, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
I use a product called Quick Shine to spray the tops so the sesame or poppy seeds will adhere and it gives the tops a finished look that you find in bakeries.  Alternatively, you can brush the tops with an  egg mixed with 1 T water to adhere seeds with.

Bake 20 to 22 minutes.  Let rest in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.

I will warn you that once you subject your family to fresh, homemade bagels, they will never eat another "store bought" one again! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cranberry~Banana~Date Muffins

I really have been baking, although sporadically since my oven has been "diagnosed" to have a faulty control panel:-( and I'm still waiting for the part to come in.  Cranberries, from Oregon, are still fresh in the grocery stores, so I treated my family to warm muffins this morning on a rainy day.

Ari loves muffins and they have always been a special treat from the time he was eating solid food. His mama would give him a muffin for his mid-morning snack or a treat when we picked him up from pre-school.  Their favorite places were either Whole Foods or the Co-Op they belonged to and zucchini, banana, cranberry or pumpkin were his favorites.

Muffins are easy to make and can be attributed to America; in fact they date back to the 19th century.  They are a semi-sweet quick bread that is baked for an individual serving, usually without icing, but I "pushed the enveloped" by adding a drizzle this morning and baking them in a mini-bundt pan.

Cranberry~Banana~Date Muffins
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup fresh cranberries, washed, dried, and cut in half
1 ripe banana, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup chopped dates
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  Spray a 6-cup mini bundt pan with a non-stick baking spray or line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl, measure all the dry ingredients and whisk together to combine.  Add the cranberries and dates and mix again.  (By adding the fruit to the dry ingredients and coating it helps prevents the fruit from sinking to the bottom!)
 Add the wet ingredients and stir well (do not use an electric mixer--the proteins in the flour will get broken down and the batter will be runny!!)
Measure batter in the baking pan you've chosen.  The mini-bundt pan made 8 muffins and you should get 12 regular size from a muffin pan.  Bake for 18 minutes checking for doneness by sticking a wooden skewer into one of the muffins--it should come out cleanly.  Let cool slightly, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Quick Gaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 T light Karo syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 T warm water

Mix glaze until the proper consistency for drizzling.  Decorate muffins or mini bundts .
It's just what Ari wanted with a cold glass of milk!  Me too...Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Red Velvet Snowballs

My mom and I made Russian Tea Cakes (or Mexican Wedding Cookies) every Christmas--in a crescent shape, just like clock-work.  These are another cookie that are not only easy, but keep a long time, especially in a cool, dry place or in the freezer.  This year, feeling my southern roots (I was born in Memphis at the Millington Naval Hospital) I decided to make a red velvet version.

Adams Extract, a Texas-based company is credited with bringing red velvet cake to America during the depression.  In Canada during the 1940s and 50s, Eaton Department Store swore their employees to secrecy when they started producing this cake with it's rich cream cheese icing.  A resurgence of this dessert's popularity came with the hit movie, Steel Magnolias in 1989 and it's found in almost every bakery in the United States.

Red Velvet Snowballs
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners' (icing) sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. Red Velvet Bakery Emulsion  or 1 oz. Red Food Colouring
1 T Dutch-processed Cocoa
pinch of salt
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (spoon flour into the measuring cup and level off with a knife)
1 cup finely chopped pecans, lightly toasted for 5 minutes in the preheated oven

Additional confectioners' sugar for rolling the balls in

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter well.  Add the confectioners' sugar and cream thoroughly.  Scrape down the sides and add the flavoring or food colour, mix again.  

Add cocoa, salt and flour, then mix to combine.  Stir in the finely chopped pecans.
Use a tablespoon scoop to measure out the dough and roll into a ball.  Place on the parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 11 minutes.  Cool cookies slightly, then, transfer to a rack to cool further.

Roll warm cookies in a dish with additional confectioners' sugar in it.  Repeat 2 or 3 times to get a thorough coating.

These simple cookies with their deep red color are perfect for the holiday--I know we all looked forward to my mother placing them on trays for the dessert table on Christmas Eve.  Enjoy!

Rosie is settling in and has been sleeping most of the day after her long adventure yesterday-from Missouri to Washington.  With her eyes closed she is quite mysterious looking with her dark mask including her black nose, but the sweetest personality I've ever seen in a cat.  I'm in love with her:-D

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas Balls & December's Give-Away

I may not have our tree up yet or much decorating done--and probably won't for another couple of weeks, but I certainly can add some holiday color to our table with this plate of Christmas Balls!  I'm still knee-deep in work to complete this week, so this recipe had to be quick to make.  I relied on my tried & true shortbread cookie recipe, sans the chocolate chips, and instead, rolled them in colorful sparkling sugars.  A little almond flavored buttercream to seal them together and voila'!

Christmas Balls
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
2 tsp. vanilla extract + 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
pinch of kosher salt
4 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour

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

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the vanilla(s) and salt and beat again on medium, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the flour, one-half at a time, beating well to combine.  Finish by beating 1 minute more so you have a soft, but not sticky dough.  

I used a bun pan to sort out the colors I would be using to roll the dough in.
 Use a 2 tsp. scoop to measure dough and roll in the sparkling sugar.
Bake for 12 minutes.  The bottom of the cookies should be a golden brown.

Let cool slightly, then remove to a rack to cool completely.  When you're finished baking, make the buttercream.

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 -3 T heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the extract and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream and beat again.  Add additional heavy cream to give a soft filling.  Spread with an off-set spatula or pipe, which I like to do.

These cookies will freeze easily, so they make the perfect do-ahead cookie for the holidays.  My mom and I use to make up cookies and place them in the closet that had the garage on the other side so it was like having a "walk-in" refrigerator.  The only problem was to make sure my brothers didn't get in to them! Enjoy!

This month's apron does have a holiday feeling with pine boughs, berries, and one of my dad's favorites, the Cardinal.  By making a comment on any of the posts, you will be entered to win this apron!  Let's be jolly, XOXO

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November's Give-Away Winner

Congratulations Lori ann - you are the (lucky) winner of November's apron.  Please email me your address so I can get this off to you asap! 

It was quite a month of comments and took awhile to write all the names to be drawn, but I am thankful that each one of you takes the time to drop in.  I will have December's apron up shortly; I've gotten a little behind with a stomach virus that my hubby brought home from a family wedding he attended:-(  I wasn't able to go (because of work) and still got a present--yuck!

In the meantime, our granddaughter, Maddie turned 4 years old on the 29th and I wanted to share a few photos of the precious gift we received when she came into our lives.
Maddie's 4th Birthday! 
Maddie's a part of our family!
Always in fashion and loves Pringles...
...and hats!
Lots of personality!
For those of you that have grands, I know you understand how much they bring into our lives, passing our memories to a new generation.  We love you Maddie, XOXO