Caramel Apple Pull-Apart Bread

December 8, 2012

IMG_8593

I know, I know. We’re getting close to the Christmas season and this Caramel Apple Pull-Apart Bread does have more of a Fall vibe to it, what with the apples and all. At least that is what you might think until you taste it. Then you will come to the realization that I did. This bread is so addictively delicious that it is appropriate, no…perhaps even required, any season of the year! Pull just one of the gooey, cinnamony, caramely, appley slices off  while it’s still warm from the oven and take a bite. You’ll see. It’s like one of those decadent cinnamon rolls, ‘cept better! And believe me, you won’t be able to stop with just one of the slices. No sir-ee. Before you know it, you’ll look down and find the loaf half gone and notice your britches seem to have suddenly shrunk as the top button pops off and shoots across the room. (I hear that fabric does tend to shrink when it gets colder.)

IMG_8633

It looks as though this recipe might be hard to make, what with all the steps, but it really comes together very easily. You don’t even have to worry about how you throw the cut dough pieces into the pan either. The bread is supposed to have that jumbled, rustic appearance. Not to mention, the basic Pull-Apart Bread of this recipe can be customized as well. Theresa at Craving Chronicles made a Peach Cinnamon & Brown Butter version. While Tracey at Tracey’s Culinary Adventures baked up a Cinnamon Sugar loaf. Get creative and come up with your own version. But you’ve gotta make this bread. And soon! You won’t be sorry!

IMG_8618

Caramel Apple Pull-Apart Bread

recipe from: Alaska from Scratch

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus 1/4 cup or more, if needed)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

For the Apple Filling:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large tart apple, peeled, cored and diced

For the Caramel Glaze:

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

To the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine warm water and yeast. Let sit for 5-8 minutes until foamy.

In a microwave-safe dish, heat milk and butter together until butter is just melted. Add vanilla to the mixture and set aside.

Add flour, sugar and salt on top of the yeast mixture in mixing bowl. Turn mixer on low and add eggs, one at a time, until combined. Slowly stream the milk/butter/vanilla mixture into the bowl until a soft dough forms. Add extra flour by the tablespoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Turn mixer up to medium and knead the dough for 3 minutes. Remove dough from mixer bowl and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let dough rise in a warm place for 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. Peel, core and dice the apple. Melt butter just before the dough has completed its rise. Grease a standard 9×5″ loaf pan.

Once risen, punch down dough, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll dough out into a large rectangle (roughly 12×24 inches). Dough will be fairly thin. Brush melted butter over top of dough. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 6 equal strips. Sprinkle about 1/6 of diced apples over one strip of dough, then stack another strip of dough on top. Repeat adding the apple mixture and stacking dough strips with remaining dough. Cut stacked strips into 6 equal stacks of squares. Stuff stacked squares vertically into prepared 9×5 loaf pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat over to 350ºF. Bake about 35-45 minutes, or until no longer doughy in the center (bread should register 190ºF on an instant thermometer in the center when done). If bread starts to get too brown before it’s ready, cover loosely with foil and continue baking.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by adding the butter, brown sugar and milk to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.

Turn loaf out onto a rack with parchment paper under it. Drizzle load with the warm caramel glaze.

Enjoy!


Chicken, Apples and Cream a la Normande with Lemon-Steamed Spinach

November 16, 2012

Good Grief! It has been over one month since I last posted!! I would love to say something like “Time flies when you’re having fun”. I would like to tell you that I won a squillion (squillion = much more than one million) dollars and I was busy trying to find ways to spend it. Or maybe that I was a spy for the CIA and that espionage took up a whole heck of a lot of time. Or that I was just out living it up and having boat loads of fun. But believe you me, I have decidedly NOT been having fun. When I last left you, I believe I was apologizing for not posting for a while (hmmm….this seems to be becoming a habit…) because I had been on holiday in Ireland and was a bit jet lagged. Well, I caught some sort of crud on that plane coming home. I remember sitting on that flying hospital ward and thinking to myself that it would be a miracle if I didn’t get sick, cause everyone around me was hacking and wheezing non-stop for the eight-hour flight. Don’t you know it, about 4-5 days after getting home, wham! I got smacked with some cold. And it wasn’t one of those little annoying things that you can go basically go about your normal business with, albeit with a box of tissues in tow. No it was a bear of a thing. Grizzly, not black bear. I used so many tissues I was sad I didn’t own stock in the Kleenex company! Just when I about had that one kicked, and was ready to dive into blogging again, we lost power for 3 days with Hurricane Sandy. And then, KAPOW! Another coldy/virusy thing descended upon me. I know I said the last one was a bear, well this one was essentially Godzilla! It totally body slammed me to the floor and proceeded to do some sort of celebratory dance all over my prone body. Seriously, it was bad news. And then, apparently I was in the sharing mood, cause I passed it on over to my poor unsuspecting husband, whose usual immune system of steel was unable to protect him from this nightmare. So, I’m sure you can see, there hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot of “fun” going on around here! The good news is, we both seem to be on the road to recovery. I’d appreciate it if everyone would cross their fingers (and perhaps toes) for us at this point!

So enough of our trials and tribulations for now. Please accept my apology for the disappearing act. I’ve finally re-emerged with a lovely Fall recipe, Chicken, Apples and Cream à la Normande, from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. This dish doesn’t have a whole ton of ingredients, mainly just chicken breasts, mushrooms apples, cream and Calvados (an apple brandy from Northern France), but it tastes wonderfully decadent! It also looks quite fancy, but it very easy to make. I served mine on a bed of Lemon-Steamed Spinach which paired perfectly with the apples and cream sauce.

Great for a romantic dinner for two and impressive enough to serve at a larger dinner party. And it has apples in it, which are good for you. You know what they say, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”…too bad I didn’t think of that about a month ago!  :)

Chicken, Apples and Cream à la Normande

recipe from: Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • All purpose flour, for dredging
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves at room temperature
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 8 mushrooms, stemmed, wiped clean, thinly sliced and slices cut crosswise in half
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Calvados, apple jack or brandy
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Put some flour on a plate and season it with salt and pepper. Pat the chicken pieces dry and run them through the flour, coating both sides lightly and tapping off the excess.

Put a large deep skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon each butter and oil. When the butter is melted, slip the chicken into the pan. Cook for 3 minutes, to brown the undersides, then turn over and cook for 3 minutes more.

If you’re low on butter and oil, add a little more now, then toss in the apple, onion and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and turn the new additions around so that they’re well mixed and glossy with butter and oil. Cook for 1 minute, then pour in the broth. When the broth bubbles, reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is almost cooked through.

Turn the heat up again, pour in the Calvados and boil until it’s almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the cream and keeping the heat on high, cook until the cream reduces by about one quarter, a matter of a few minutes. Taste the sauce for salt and pepper. arrange the chicken on a dish or on a bed of steamed spinach if you wish, pour sauce over it.

Lemon Steamed Spinach

ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs. (two 10 oz. bags) baby spinach – cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Have your steamer set up and ready to go. Put the spinach in a bowl and toss it with 1 tablespoon of the oil, the zest and salt and pepper to taste. Taste for seasoning and if the spinach looks dry, add some or all of the remaining olive oil.

Turn the spinach into the pot, cover and steam for 3 minutes. Turn spinach and cook for another minute or two until it is tender. The spinach should be served as soon as it’s cooked.

Enjoy and stay healthy!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

September 11, 2012

Here’s one for all of you salty/sweet loving folks out there and believe you me, I am a card-carrying member of your club. Not to mention, this little recipe gem has peanut butter (another favourite of mine) thrown in as well. The title really says it all: Chocolate…Peanut Butter…Pretzel Bars. Yuuuuum! How wonderfully decadent! In just one of these little squares you not only get your salty/sweet fix, but you also get a fabulous texture convergence of the crispy crunchy base and the silky smooth topping.

As if the sinfully delicious taste isn’t enough to inspire you to make these bars, I might add that they are very easy to put together. No oven time is required.  Which is definitely a plus when you live in Virginia in the summer. (speaking of which…it is now September and I am DONE with all of this heat and humidity. Could someone please pass that message along to whoever is in charge of the Virginia climate…) All you need is the good old microwave oven. And you’ll be totally finished and popping these bars into the fridge to chill before you even know you’ve started. However one taste of these delightful little bars will make folks believe you laboured over them all day. What are you waiting for…hop to it!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

recipe from: Craving Chronicles

yield: 9 medium-sized bars or 16 small bars

Ingredients:

Peanut Butter Base:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups pretzel crumbs, fine
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 heaping cup semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Line 8×8 pan with foil. Spray with baking spray.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt peanut butter and butter together in microwave (about 1 minute on HIGH). Stir in pretzel crumbs, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Spread evenly into prepared pan and refrigerate at least 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan or microwave-safe container, heat heavy cream to near boiling (1-2 minutes on HIGH, depending on your microwave). Pour over chocolate chips. Let sit for 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. (If needed, microwave on DEFROST 10 seconds at a time to finish melting.) Pour chocolate over chilled peanut butter base. Chill.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting. Lift foil to remove from pan, then slice into bars with a pizza cutter. Store in refrigerator.

Enjoy!


Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork

September 7, 2012

Coffee-Chipotle rubbed Pulled Pork on home made Jalapeno Cheddar Rolls! Super yum!!! This is the fabulous creation with which I stuffed my tasty Jalapeno Cheddar Rolls that I was all a flutter about earlier this week. I certainly was pleased with those rolls and the addition of the pork barbecue elevated this sandwich to legendary status in my house! Once I had all of that tender, spicy pulled pork piled high on my roll, I drizzled a Chipotle Barbecue Sauce over the top. Let me tell you folks, it was BBQ Heaven! Truly stunning, if I must say so myself, though I really needn’t bother because the friends I served it to did manage to sing its praises as they gobbled it up.

The husband and I love a good pulled pork sandwich, preferably with a North Carolina style BBQ sauce (vinegar based). I had never actually tried to make this favourite dish of ours at home, preferring to leave all that hard work to the certified pit-masters. However, I thought perhaps I should attempt to raise my Southern cred a bit. I mean what self-respecting Southern cook can’t handle whipping up a little pulled pork?! So I started looking for a good recipe. I looked at lots of recipes and was definitely intrigued, especially by those that directed you to cook the pork submerged in root beer. (I love root beer!) But they almost always called for cooking it up in a slow cooker or crock pot, neither of which I own. (how is that possible?) Then I came across this recipe from Tracey at Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, which called for simply cooking the pork in your oven. For a long time, mind you, but no special equipment was necessary. The other interesting thing about the recipe was that all you added to the pan besides your coffee-chipotle rubbed pork butt was a bit of olive oil. What no root beer?!! I was afraid this pork was going to be tough and dry as old shoe leather. But Tracey has never steered me wrong with one of her posted recipes, so I popped that seasoned pork into the oven in the morning and by the time folks showed up that evening, dinner was ready to be served. And the house smelled amazing!

You can toss this pulled pork with some of the Chipotle BBQ sauce prior to serving if you wish. But I knew I had some dedicated North Carolina style BBQ fans coming over. So I served this spicy pulled pork “naked” and provided both the Chipotle BBQ sauce as well as some good old North Carolina sauce on the side. (Along with coleslaw, which I love to put on my BBQ sandwiches.) Turns out the Chipotle BBQ sauce was quite tangy, so much so that even the North Carolina diehards were eating it up. So overall, this recipe was easy to prepare, very easy to cook and really delicious! The only drawback was that we had very few leftovers! ( note to self: invite fewer folks next time I make this or get a much larger cut of pork)

Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork

Recipe very slightly adapted from: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Yield: about 12 servings (kind of depends on how much meat you pile on your roll!)

Ingredients:

  • 4 lb. boneless pork butt
  • canola oil

Coffee-Chipotle Rub:

  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground dark coffee
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon allspice

Chipotle Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons adobo sauce from can
  • 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice

Directions:

To make the rub: Stir all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Massage the spice rub onto the pork, coating each side thoroughly. Wrap the pork tightly with two layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. (You may have extra rub, save it in an airtight container for another time.)

To make the barbecue sauce: Add the oil to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. When shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If desired, you can puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. (I pureed mine because I had an onion-hater coming for dinner and was attempting to hide the offending vegetables presence.) The barbecue sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in your refrigerator for a week.

Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before you cook it. Preheat oven to 250 F.

Add 1 teaspoon of canola oil to a dutch oven, and place the pork in the pan, fat side up. Cook, uncovered, for about 8 hours (about 2 hours/lb if you want to use a bigger or smaller piece of meat), or until very tender.

Remove the pan from the oven and let stand for an hour. Transfer the meat to a cutting board, and use two forks to shred it. Toss with some of the barbecue sauce – how much is up to you. Or serve meat naked with sauce choices on the side.

Enjoy!


Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies

August 30, 2012

Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies! My husband’s new favourite cookie, though he had a hard time choosing between these and the Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies I made a few weeks ago. And my husband isn’t really a cookie person. Or a big chocolate fan (go figure…). He is all about the fruit desserts. You know, cobblers, crisps, crumbles and pies. But when I made a batch of these cookies, he didn’t just eat the one to be polite. Well…maybe it started that way. But then I saw him reach for a second! Believe me, that doesn’t happen too often with him and cookies. So you know these cookies are particularly irresistible!

I had been looking forward to making these ever since I saw them on one of my favourite blogs, Buns in My Oven. They are right up my alley, two kinds of chocolate chips, chocolate syrup and malted milk powder! They simply have it all! Karly had baked these as a bar dessert, rather than cookies. It seems she tried to do them as cookies but was having trouble with them spreading too thin and burning on the outside before the inside was done. So she baked them in a pan and they came out wonderfully. I was all ready to try to make them as a bar dessert as well, but noticed that the recipe called for a 7 x 11 inch pan, which I didn’t have. I had my 9 x9 inch pan ready to sub in, when some wild hair took over and I reached for a baking sheet instead and decided I’d try the cookie version. Since it looked like these cookies had a tendency to spread too thin, once I had the dough all mixed up, I popped it into the fridge for about 30 minutes. Then I scooped out the chilled cookie dough and baked it for 12 -14 minutes. The cookies came out great! Mind you, these cookies are a bit thin, but not too thin. And they have a wonderfully chewy texture. Not to mention they are really delicious! And currently my husband’s reigning favourite cookie. Something tells me I’ll be baking many more batches. In fact, my husband has already asked for more. Amazing! Bake some for yourself today.

Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies

recipe slightly adapted from: Buns in My Oven

yield: 34 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, malted milk powder, chocolate syrup, and vanilla for 2 minutes. Beat in the egg until well combined.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix well.

Stir in the chocolate chunks and chips.

Refrigerate cookie dough for at least 30 minutes. Don’t skip this step, otherwise you will find that the cookie dough will spread too quickly.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop, scoop out dough and place about 1″ apart on prepared baking sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12 -14 minutes.

Cool on the pan for a few minutes then place them on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!


Double Decker Taco Cupcakes

August 20, 2012

I had to get your attention with that title huh? Double decker…Taco…cupcakes?!! How much more goodness could you pack into four little words? I’m happy to report that these little fellas didn’t only sound good, they really delivered on taste as well. Back in February, I had tried out a recipe for Lasagna Cupcakes  which I had seen on the Girl Who Ate Everything blog. They were a huge hit. A couple of months later, I noticed that she had posted a recipe for Double Decker Taco Cupcakes. I have just been itching to try these out since then and finally had an occasion to make up a batch. I’m glad I did ’cause let me tell ya…folks went wild for them!

These Taco Cupcakes are quite similar to the Lasagna version, baked in cupcake tins with wonton wrappers, but this time filled with all kinds of taco-y ingredients like seasoned ground beef, refried beans, crushed tortilla chips and cheese. Once they’re out of the oven, you can sprinkle your favourite taco fixin’s on top such as sour cream, onions, jalapeno peppers, cilantro and avocado over the tops. They come together very quickly and easily. I assembled them earlier in the day and then baked them right before my guests turned up. They were great for dinner and would serve wonderfully as “finger food” at a larger party (perhaps a Cinco de Mayo gathering…). But don’t wait until May! Find a reason to make these soon!

Double Decker Taco Cupcakes

recipe from: The Girl Who Ate Everything

yield: 18 Taco Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1b. ground beef
  • 1 package Old El Paso Taco seasoning mix
  • 36 Wonton Wrappers
  • 1 can (16 ounces) refried beans
  • 36 tortilla chips
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican Blend or Cheddar cheese
  • Optional Toppings: sour cream, diced tomatoes, diced onion, diced jalapeno peppers, cilantro, salsa, avocado

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. And spray 18 wells of muffin tins with cooking spray.

Brown beef in a skillet and drain the fat. Add the taco seasoning mix and water called for on the package and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Set aside.

Place one wonton wrapper in the bottom of each muffin cup. Layer about 1/2 Tbsp of refried beans on top of each wonton. Crush one tortilla chip on top of the beans. Top with 1 Tbsp of taco meat and 1 Tbsp of shredded cheese. Repeat the layers again with a wonton wrapper, refried beans, tortilla chips, taco meat, and cheese.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.

Gently remove from muffin tin and top with your favourite taco toppings.

Enjoy!


Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies

August 3, 2012

I’m back into the cornmeal again. I can’t help it. I just love the stuff! So when I saw that Dorie Greenspan had a recipe for Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies in Baking From My Home to Yours, I just couldn’t resist trying it out. I mean, I’m definitely a fan of rich, buttery, melt-in-your mouth shortbread. And we’ve already discussed my obsession with cornmeal, so it is no surprize that I was really intrigued by these cookies.

Shortbread is pretty easy to make. You just have to remember a couple of key points. The first is, don’t over beat the butter. While you want the sugar and butter blended, you don’t want to beat it until it becomes light a fluffy. The second thing to remember is that once you add the flour to the butter, mix them together quickly and gently, stopping as soon as the flour is incorporated. Once you’ve gotten the batter all mixed up, Dorie Greenspan suggests that you place the shortbread dough in a gallon ziplock bag and then roll it out in the bag. I must say, this suggestion is just brilliant! It was so much easier and much less messy than any of the methods I have tried before. I made the shortbread dough up on one day, refrigerated it overnight and then baked it on the following day. Pretty straight forward.

How did the Cornmeal Shortbread turn out? Fantastic! I can honestly say this is the BEST shortbread I have ever eaten! It has all of the rich buttery goodness of usual shortbread, along with the sandy texture. But the bit of cornmeal added to the mix gives this particular shortbread some extra crunch. Plus the lemon zest adds a really fresh zing. My husband, who isn’t really a shortbread fan… Wait! What?! Really, it’s true. In fact, when I mentioned I was making shortbread cookies he grabbed his throat and acted as if he was desperate need of water. You know like he had been traipsing around the desert for a week. Shortbread is soo dry, he gasped. Hmmm….But after he tasted these cookies, he agreed that they are the best he has ever tasted. So good, he is now even rethinking his previously held stance on shortbread cookies I know you might still be a bit skeptical about cornmeal in a shortbread cookie. I don’t blame you, I was too. And you probably shouldn’t trust me. You’ll just have to try them for yourself. You’ll see I was right. Well what are you waitin for? Get to baking!

Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies

recipe from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

Yield: 32 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Directions:

Sift the flour, cornstarch and salt together into a bowl, then whisk in the cornmeal.

Working in the bowl of a stand mixer, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment or the whisk, or use a hand mixer. Add the butter and extract to the bowl and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is very smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they just disappear into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated.

Using a rubber spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10″ rectangle that’s 1/4″ thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

Baking:

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board and using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2″ squares, or the size you desire. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Bake the shortbreads for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads should be set and only just tinged golden. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to room temperature.

Enjoy!


Dueling Muffins! White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Muffin vs. Blueberry Blackberry Streusel Muffin

July 31, 2012

So how would you like to have a freshly baked muffin every morning for breakfast? And not just any muffin, but one with your favourite add-ins. And wait, it gets better. What would you say if I said that your significant other can also have their favourite muffin, freshly baked, even if it isn’t the same flavour as yours. No, I’m not going to tell you to hire a personal chef. It’s much easier and less costly than that. The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion has shown me how this is actually possible. They have a great recipe listed for All-Star Muffins. It is a basic muffin recipe, that you are able to customize with your favourite ingredients, like apple cinnamon, peanut butter chocolate chip, carrot raisin….you get the picture. But the brilliant thing about this recipe is that once the batter is mixed, it will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator! This is a great recipe to keep handy so that you can mix up a batch of muffins the night before a big breakfast or brunch. With all of that prep work done, you can just heat up your oven and get right to baking in the morning.

But how does everyone get their favourite muffin? Here’s what I did. I mixed up a batch of the batter, then divided it in half. To the first half (my favourites) I added Rum soaked dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. Right before I popped these muffins in to bake, I sprinkled some crushed pistachios over the top.

Then I took the other half of that muffin batter and mixed in my husband’s favourites, blueberries and blackberries (I’ve mentioned he is all about fruit in baked goods…) and topped them with a delicious streusel before they went in to bake.

I only baked two muffins on that first day, one for me and one for him. I took the rest of the dough, scooped out muffin sized servings and stored them in 1 cup Tupperware containers so that each morning for the rest of that week, we could just wake up, turn on the oven, make our morning coffee and tea, put two of the pre-scooped muffins (one for him one for me) in muffin tins, pop them in to bake and 20 minutes later we would have freshly baked treats! Of course you could just leave the batter in the bowls in which you mixed it and just scoop a serving out from there each morning, but room is at a premium in my fridge, so the little Tupperware containers worked out much better for us. The muffins were fantastic, moist and delicious. Though we each tried a bite of each other’s, we both insisted that our muffin was the best! Try a batch of these with your favourite mix-ins today and you can rise and shine to a freshly baked treat every morning for a week!

All-Star Muffins

recipe from: King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

yield: 16 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose or cake flour (14 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease 16 muffin cups or use paper liners.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a handheld or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed just until the batter is smooth. Do not over beat the muffins here if you want to keep them tender. Mix just enough to moisten the flour. Don’t worry about any small lumps you might see.

At this point decide if you wish to bake all of the muffins or whether you will be keeping the batter in the fridge to bake freshly all week. Use a muffin/cupcake scoop to fill the desired number of muffin tins and bake for 18 to 24 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the muffins from the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a rack. Muffins left in the pan to cool the entire time risk becoming tough from steaming.

Customized Directions:

White Chocolate, Cranberry, Pistachio Muffins: Soak 1 cup of cranberries in 1/3 cup orange juice, water, rum or bourbon. ( I used Rum!). Fold them into the muffin batter. Fold in one cup of white chocolate chips. Garnish the top of the muffins with crushed pistachios. ***As a variation you can use 2 cups of any dried fruit like apricots, cherries, dates or raisins if you prefer and also top with any type of nut you like.

Blueberry/Blackberry Streusel: Fold 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries and 1 1/2 cup fresh blackberries into the batter. Sprinkle the tops with streusel (recipe below) before baking.

Streusel

  • 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 ounces) brown sugar, firmly packed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) soft butter

Mix together the flour, brown sugar, salt cinnamon, and butter in a small bowl, until the mixture is crumbly.

**If you are splitting the basic muffin batter to make two different types of muffins, remember to half the above add in measurements.


Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

July 27, 2012

I know it wasn’t too long ago that I made that fantastic Oreo Key Lime Pie. It really was delicious and so refreshing served cold right out of the fridge. I have mentioned how outlandishly hot it is around here haven’t I? Have I gone on to tell you how much I loath Virginia in the summer? Ah-hem. Anyway…I thought that same lime-y goodness would be great, but it needed to be even colder…you know, like frozen!

Lucky me, I stumbled upon a great recipe for Key Lime Pie Ice Cream over at Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. Let me just take a moment to tell you that Tracey’s Culinary Adventures truly are fantastic. She is on fire! You just have to take a peek at her blog. Just recently I’ve posted three delicious recipes I’ve found there: Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits, Blueberry Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes and now this Key Lime Pie Ice Cream. Everything so far has been absolutely to die for! Really…you have to go see for yourself. And there is a new recipe posted nearly every day! How amazing! Where does she find the time! But back to this gorgeous Key Lime Pie Ice Cream…

This ice cream comes together very easily. Although the recipe does not call for it, when I make ice cream I generally do it in a two day process. On the first day I mix up the ingredients and then let them sit in the refrigerator overnight, so that the mixture is good and chilled. I then pop it in the ice cream maker the next day and let it churn away before I put it in the freezer for an hour or so before I plan to serve it. However, this recipe only calls for you to chill the ingredients for a few hours before churning. You can help it chill quicker by placing it in an ice cube bath while in the refrigerator. Believe me, you will be happy with the results. This ice cream is smooth and creamy and has that refreshing lime zing. The graham crackers, which are swirled through the ice cream as well as sprinkled over the top, are very remniscent of the namesake pie and provide a great crunchy texture. And like all ice cream, it is nice and cold. Just what I want and need from a dessert at this time of the year. It makes these intolerable temps just a bit more tolerable. How much longer is it ’til Fall? Hmmm…I suppose I can just kick back and eat a bit more of my Key Lime Pie Ice Cream while I wait.

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

recipe from: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

yield: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers, plus extra for garnish
  • Key lime wedges, for optional garnish

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk the whole milk, lime juice, heavy cream, salt and sweetened condensed milk together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until the mixture is very cold, at least a few hours.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the last minute of churning, add the crushed graham crackers. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour. Garnish with additional crushed graham crackers and lime wedges before serving.

Enjoy! – and try to stay cool!


Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

July 24, 2012

Don’t you just love how life is full of surprizes? Well, I guess that is a kind of loaded question huh? The surprize could be your roof just collapsed in the midst of the latest round of thunderstorms. In which case I bet you wouldn’t be loving life’s little surprizes. But maybe you just opened a letter to find you’ve inherited a huge amount of cash from some relative you didn’t even know existed. That would be quite a nice surprize. Added to the difficulty here is that you can’t hear my tone of voice, so I could be asking in a genuinely happy manner or the question could be dripping with sarcasm. Usually with me I think the sarcasm bit would be a good guess, but this time I am asking completely sans sarcasm. I really am pleasantly surprized with just how fantastic these Chocolate Marshmallow Bars are. O.k. ….that isn’t as earth shattering a surprize as the inheritance thing would be, but hey, you gotta take those little pleasures and delight in them where you can. And these bars were really very tasty! I mean, obviously I thought they would be good when I decided to attempt to make them. I can’t really think of a time that I’ve looked at a recipe and thought to myself, “Wow. That looks God Awful! I think I’ll make that for dessert tonight.” However, I must admit, this time around I just needed to whip up something for dessert. I wanted it to be something easy and quick. You know, it had been one of those days. Generally any “bar” type of dessert would satisfy those criteria for me. And the ingredients looked good…chocolate, marshmallows, Nutella. Yet for whatever reason, I didn’t set out to make it with my usual excitement. Again, I knew it would be good, but I was expecting the usual run-of-the-mill brownie-ish bar dessert. But wowzers! These bars are the bomb! The bottom cake layer is moist and tender, the middle layer marshmallows are ooey-gooey perfection and the top layer…Oh my stars! The top layer is nothing short of phenomenal! I mean the chocolate and Nutella are so decadent and rich. But then there are also the Rice Krispies, which provide a fantastic crunchy texture to go along with the chewy marshmallows.  What have I stumbled upon!

They were pretty easy to make as well, so Ladies and Gentlemen,  we have a winner! There are a couple of “wait for everything to cool completely” times involved in the recipe, so you may want to start these earlier in the day. But definitely, whatever you do, do start them. They are truly amazing!

Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

recipe from: A Little Bit of Everything

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 Cup Butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 Cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Cup Nutella
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Cups Rice Krispies cereal

Directions:

Preheat oven to  350° F. Line a 13″ x 9″ baking tine with parchment paper, leaving some paper hanging out over the sides.

In a small bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a nother bowl lightly beat the eggs. Add them to the creamed butter and mix well.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture. Spread into the prepared baking tin.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over the top and return to oven to bake for another minute. Remove pan from oven after one minute and allow marshmallows to continue to melt on their own. Cool completely.

Once the pan of cake/marshmallow has cooled completely, make topping. Combine chocolate chips, Nutella and butter in a small saucepan. Melt over low heat and stir until blended. Remove from heat and stir in the Rice Krispies. Immediately spread chocolate/krispie mixture over the marshmallow topped cake evenly. Allow bars to cool completely before cutting to serve.

Enjoy!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,234 other followers

%d bloggers like this: