Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cliffords! (Red-Velvet Snack Cakes)

I loved reading to my girls and now my grandchildren.  One of their favorite books is the story of Clifford, the Big Red Dog.  Baking today pays homage to that wonderful dog that brought so many smiles to my little ones.

Last fall the nation was hit with Hostess selling off their business due to a stand-off with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.  I grew up with Twinkies and although this was a little devastating, I also knew, thanks to the purchase of a Snack-Cake Pan, I would be okay.  So, thinking about Clifford and wanting to make a treat for some friends, I decided on this one-of-a-kind snack. (Don't worry, Twinkies will return to the shelves in July:-D)

Red Velvet Cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 bottle (2 T) red food coloring
3 T Dutch-processed cocoa
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 T white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray snack cake pan with a non-stick baking spray and set aside.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.  Add the vanilla and red food coloring and mix again.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.

Mix the vinegar with the buttermilk.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and while the mixer is running, slowly pour in the buttermilk over them.  Mix 1 minute bowl and scrape the sides.

Scoop the batter into the cake wells, filling about two-thirds of the way.
Bake in the preheated oven about 18 minutes.  Test by using a wooden skewer poked in the center.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperture
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment (or a bowl with a hand-held mixer) cream the cream cheese and butter together.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then, add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract and mix once more. [Note-this is a smooth filling, not a frosting!]

Using Tip #230, fill a pastry bag with the filling.
Trim snack cakes of any "over-flow" pieces.
I filled the Cliffords with the cream cheese filling from each end, not underneath like Twinkies!
The trick is to poke the Tip about 1 1/2" in, start filling, then, slowly pull the tip out while still applying pressure to the pastry bag.

Finally, I dipped the cakes into 2 lbs. of white chocolate that I melted over a double boiler and added a few little sprinkles on the top.

I can honestly say...these put a smile on my face--who needs Twinkies when you have a Clifford! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Red~White & Blue Cookies

Memorial Day meant going to my grandparents for a picnic...that was their day since 4th of July was my mother's.  My grandfather built a brick barbeque under the sycamore tree and set up a long table to fit our big family nearby.  He also built a wonderful swing/glider that I could just sit on for what seemed like eternity sometimes.   Meanwhile, my grandmother (and mother) would be making all the side dishes and desserts and we couldn't wait to sit down and hear stories my grandparents would tell about family. 

As much as Memorial Day was about remembering those that served in the military, for us, it was also remembering our ancestors and getting to know them through their stories.  I never got to meet my great-grandmothers, my paternal great-grandfather, or countless other family members that passed before I was born, so these stories became an important part of my life.

The cookies I created today symbolizes the colors of our flag and the strengths that as Americans we muster, in spite of tragedy and loss.  And, we will remember, cherish, and honor all those loved ones we've lost.

Red ~ White & Blue Cookies
1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

  • 16 oz. jar maraschino cherries, drained, chopped and patted dry ~ 1/2 tsp. Cherry flavoring & 4-5 drops of red food coloring
  • 1 cup dried blueberries, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, then drained  ~ 1/2 tsp. Blackberry flavoring and 4-5 drops of blue food coloring
  • 1 cup chopped white chocolate
  • 3/4 cup sweetened coconut
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, and continue beating until all of it is incorporated.
Transfer dough to a pastry board, covered with parchment paper and form into a roll to easily divide.
  •  Start with the chopped white chocolate and coconut into 1/3 of the dough and mix in the stand mixer, remove dough.  
  • Next, add another 1/3 piece and the drained blueberries, food coloring and flavoring (optional) and mix on low.  Add and additional 1 tablespoon of flour and stir into the dough.  Remove from the mixing bowl and clean both the bowl and paddle to keep from mixing colors when you add the next third.  
  • Finally, add the drained, chopped cherries, flavoring and food coloring and mix.  Add 1 tablespoon of flour to this dough also.

Divide each of the balls of dough in half to form the "logs."
Set halves aside and cover the board with a sheet of plastic wrap.  Start with the Cherry layer and form a log, then, flatten with you finger tips.  
Form the White Chocolate/Coconut layer on the board (it's firmer than the other two layers) and lay on top of the Cherry layer.  Repeat with the Blueberry layer on top of the white.
Wrap the plastic wrap tightly and use a bench knife to smooth the sides to form a rectangular roll. Repeat layering for a second log.
Refrigerate several hours or overnight to chill and set the layers.  Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and use a serrated knife to cut 1/4"-slices.
Bake 12 to 13 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to set 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a rack to cool completely.
Not only are these cookies flavorful, but very patriotic.  I know my family would eat them by "sections" enjoying every flavor on its own.  Enjoy!

One of my favorite songs by Sarah McLaughlin sets the theme of what Memorial Day means to me. In loving memory of the all the victims and their families of the Boston bombings and Oklahoma tornado--you won't be forgotten, XOXO

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Brown Butter Banana~Almond Tea Bread...and May's Give-Away Apron

There's no excuses for being so late...well, maybe a few.  I've been working on my next flowers that launch in July and a website to support Susan's Paper Garden projects--which should be up in a week.  I actually made the apron awhile ago, but just haven't baked, which is so odd for me to go this long. 

Hubby left me with bananas on the counter before heading east to meet our newest granddaughter and what could I do, but come up with something I've never done before.
The first thing that came to mind was Almond paste.  While cleaning up the cupboards, I noticed I have two cans, which I can't remember why I bought, but it sounded good.  Of course, that decided the nuts that I would use would be almonds. 
And so a recipe began...

Brown Butter Banana~Almond Tea Bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and browned
3 large banana, peeled and mashed
1 can (8oz) Almond Paste, crumbled
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray 1 Tea Loaf Pan-12" x 4" x 2 1/2" or 2 regular loaf pans with a baking spray.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over low heat until melted and golden brown.  Add the mashed bananas to the butter and stir to combine.
In a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the sugar and almond paste to combine.  Add the banana/butter mixture and mix once again.  While mixer is running, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the extract and scrape down the sides, if needed.
Remove bowl from the mixer and stir in the dry ingredients and the nuts.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan(s) and sprinkle top with addition nuts, if desired.
Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, then turn temperature to 300F-degrees and bake an additional 10-15 minutes--until a tester comes out cleanly from the middle. If baking two loaves, reduce time to 55 to 60 minutes, total.

Allow tea bread to cool about 7 to 10 minutes, then, invert onto a serving plate.  Cool bread before slicing.

Yes, maybe another banana bread, but this one is loaded with flavor and moistness; can't go wrong with that. 

I hope you like the apron because the flowers...and colors really appealed to me.  Just post a comment, anytime this month (which is fleeting) and you could be the lucky one chosen by it:-D Enjoy!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Strawberry Swirl Pound Cake

My mother was an extraordinary woman!  She raised eight children and supported my father through his naval career with almost 50 years of marriage before a brain tumor took her from us.  I learned so much from her and know I owe everything I've achieved in my life is because of the self-esteem she instilled in me. 

My love of baking is to her credit too and when I got married, we baked together for family functions, including some weddings and my grandparent's 50th anniversary.  I chose to do the pound cake we made so many times, but added the twist of a strawberry swirl.  This recipe makes 18 cups of batter, which was advantageous when baking layers, but I found that even my largest 12-cup Bundt pan wouldn't have held it all.  So, I made six mini bundts and gave some to my movie buddy--Betty.

She not only taught me how to bake, but she showed me that being a mother was the greatest job I would ever have.  This poem I found, while sifting through items to prepare for a move, was one I wrote down when I was newly married.  I don't know who wrote it and nothing came up on google, but it is one that I hold dear to my heart.

I Remember

I remember when I could read an entire
chapter, some days even an entire book
at one sitting
without interruptions.

I remember when I could work
for hours at a time in my study,
the hours were dependent on me,
not on a nap.

I remember when I knew no one
with children
and had no idea what 2T meant.

And I remember when
no one called me Mommy
and when
no little arms wrapped themselves
around my neck,
no little kisses or hugs were mine.

And I prefer today.
One of my dearest friends, Marcia Powell, drew this for me after Kelly passed away 
Strawberry Swirl Pound Cake
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Cut into cubes to soften more quickly
2 3/4 cup sugar
10 large eggs
3 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. Almond extract
4 cups Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Strawberry Puree
2 cups strawberries, pureed in a processor
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch

Prepare the berries and place in a small sauce pan.  Mix the sugar and cornstarch together and stir into the strawberries. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.  Pour into a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill while you make up the cake.

 Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with a Flour/Oil baking spray generously.  Do the same to a mini bundt pan (or 6-cup muffin pan).

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly, scrapping down the sides as needed with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides as needed while adding the eggs.  Add the vanilla and almond extract and beat once more.

Sift the dry ingredients and add to the batter, one-third at a time.  After all the dry ingredients have been added, beat one minute more.
 I use a large scoop to measure my batter into the prepared Bundt pan.
Use an off-set spatula to spread, then add some of the strawberry puree, about 1/3 cup.  Cover with a little more batter, then more puree, ending in a little more batter to come up two-thirds of the way up in the pan. Use a knife to swirl the puree through the batter.
Use the remaining batter, divided equally among the mini bundt pan or cupcake pan, adding about a tablespoon of puree to it and swirling with a knife.
Bake the mini bundts about 23 to 35 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool about 5 - 7 minutes before inverting them onto a parchment lined rack.

Make a simple glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 T Light Karo syrup
1-2 T hot water

Pour over the mini bundts.

Bake the pound cake another 43 to 45 minutes more, or until a wooden skewer poked in the middle of the cake, comes out cleanly.

Remove from the oven and cool 7 to 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter.  Make up more glaze and pour over the cake.

We love the simplicity of pound cake and the addition of a strawberry swirl reminded me of the times my mother and I would go strawberry picking to make jam together.  

This is a hard day for me, but I'm filled with so many beautiful memories and I'm thankful I have friends to share them with.  I'm wishing you all a wonderful Mother's Day--Enjoy!

BTW: I did cut out the apron for May, but a Skype call with my grandson took precedent; it will be up tomorrow...promise, XOXO