Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Frozen" Birthday Cake

The characters are toys, obviously.  :)   The wintery trees behind them are sugar cones piped with white buttercream stars.  The snowflakes are made with fondant, using a fondant cutter/press.

Birds Nest Baby Shower Cake

The sweet mommy bird and her egg are made with fondant.  The nest is also made with small pieces of rolled fondant, shaped over a bowl and air-dried.   The pink flowers and green leaves on the cake are made with fondant using a fondant and gum paste mold.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Chocolate Candy Cane Kiss Cookies

Here's another spin on the Candy Cane Kiss cookies!  If you're like me, you've already bought several bags of the Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses, for fear that they'd be all gone when you really wanted them.  Now you have two new recipes for them!   That is, if you can keep from eating them straight from the bag....!

Chocolate Candy Cane Kisses
1 1/4  cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bags Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses
1/2 cup granulated sugar for rolling
Unwrap 75 kisses and set aside.  Unwrap remaining kisses and chop roughly.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and peppermint extract and beat well.  Scrape down sides of the bowl.  Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Beat until dough comes together.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add  chopped Kisses and beat on low until blended.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using a small (1 inch) cookie scoop, scoop 1 inch balls of dough.  Roll dough in your palms to form balls, then roll in granulated sugar.  Place 1 1/2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes until tops of cookies begin to crack.  Cool on the pan for about 2 minutes, then top each cookie with a Hershey Kiss.  If possible, place the cookie sheet in the fridge to cool quickly.  (Otherwise you'll end up with a melted puddle instead of keeping the Kiss shape!)  Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.  Yield:   75 cookies.  Yum!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Almond Joy Brownie Bites

Brownies, gooey coconut, almonds, and drizzled chocolate??  Yes please!!

Reminiscent of the Hershey's Almond Joy candy bar, these little brownie bites are so rich and sweet.  Good thing they're minis!

I found this recipe on Lisa's lovely blog, Flour Me With Love.  Lisa made these delightful treats in a standard size muffin pan.  I thought they'd be perfect made in a mini muffin pan, and I was right!  Just the right two-bite size.   I adapted the recipe just a smidgen to fit the mini muffin pans instead of the larger pan.

Perfect for Christmas!   Please include them on your dessert table this year!

Almond Joy Brownie Bites
1 box family size chocolate fudge brownie mix
ingredients to prepare brownies according to package directions
1/2 of a 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 of a 14 ounce bag of sweetened shredded coconut
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. shortening
1/4 cup almond slices, crushed gently with your hands
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Liberally spray the cavities and tops of a 24 count mini muffin pan.  Again, spray liberally!   (The coconut mixture is S.T.I.C.K.Y!)
Mix brownie batter according to package directions.  Scoop batter into the muffin cavities.  Each will be about 3/4 full.  Bake for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, stir together the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and milk.   After 10 minutes, remove muffin tin from oven and top with a small scoop of the coconut mixture.   The brownies will not be finished baking at this point.  That's okay!  
Bake an additional 12-15 minutes or until the top of the coconut is lightly browned and the coconut and brownie are set.  Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Using an offset spatula or butter knife (in other words, nothing sharp), gently lift each brownie from the pan and set on a cooling rack.
In a small bowl, melt together the chocolate chips and shortening, in a microwave, for 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Spoon into a sandwich baggie (or disposable piping bag), snip off a little bit of the corner, and drizzle over the brownie bites.  Sprinkle crushed almond slices over top.   Allow to sit on your countertop, or put in fridge to set up.
Yield:   24 brownie bites!

Certainly, if you double the brownie mix, you can use the entire can of sweetened condensed milk and whole bag of coconut.  Then you'll have 48 treats!  Even better!

Peppermint Candy Cane Kisses

My two oldest are going caroling with our church youth group this Friday night.  They'll be visiting some of the elderly men and women of our church who aren't able to come to services very frequently.  The teens will be caroling and delivering cookies to spread some early Christmas cheer.  Hopefully those who are visited will enjoy these Peppermint Kisses!

Peppermint Kisses
1 10 oz. bag of Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses, divided
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
additional 1/2 cup sugar for rolling cookie dough
Remove wrappers from Candy Cane Kisses and count out 48.  Set aside.  Roughly chop remaining kisses.
In a medium bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add cream cheese and egg and beat until smooth.  Add vanilla and peppermint extract.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt, beating on low until dough comes together.  Add chopped kisses and beat on low until incorporated.
Preheat oven to 350.  Form dough into one inch balls, roll in sugar, and place on cookie sheet, two inches apart.   Bake for 10-12 minutes or until tops just begin to crack.

Remove cookie sheet to cooling rack and let sit for 2 minutes or so to cool slightly.  Press one Candy Cane Kiss onto the tops of each cookie.   If you have room in your fridge, place cookie sheet in to cool the cookies more quickly so that the Kisses don't melt and form a puddle instead of keeping their classic Kiss shape!  
Yield:   4 dozen cookies

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gingerbread Church

I love baking and decorating gingerbread houses!   This year I learned about a huge gingerbread house and train display and competition down in Pittsburgh, so I thought I'd join in.   The display is an annual event at PPG Place's Wintergarden, and it is a fundraiser for Children's Hospital Free Care Fund.   What a worthy cause, and I'm happy to participate!

My gingerbread church is 20 inches tall, and is decorate with all kinds of fun goodies:   chex cereal (the roof), almond slices (the steeple top), dried cranberries (the steeple base), grape nuts cereal (the path), fruit roll ups (the stained glass windows), ice cream cones (the trees), snowflake sprinkles (on the trees), and a whole lot of royal icing!

I look forward to visiting the display with my family.....and finding out if I've placed in the competition!   

TWD: Double Chocolate Cookies

Oh my, what a fudgy chocolate cookie!   Straight from the oven, they melt in your mouth, resembling a brownie in texture.   As they cool, they crisp up, but are still a delightful chocolaty treat.   With the addition of instant coffee powder to the batter, the cookies have a coffee hint as well, yet it's not so strong that even my pickiest of children disliked them.  In other words, this cookie is a winner all around.  With a full pound of chocolate, how can you go wrong?!

Double Chocolate Cookies
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into larger-than-chip-size chunks
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside until needed.  Divide the bittersweet chocolate in half and set half aside. 
Place the butter, the remaining bittersweet chocolate, and the unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler over, but not touching, simmering water.  (Alternatively, you can use a heatproof bowl positioned over a saucepan of simmering water.)  Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the butter and chocolates are melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, put the eggs, sugar, coffee, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at high speed for about 10 minutes until the mixture is very thick and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon when the whisk is lifted and the mixture is allowed to drizzle back into the bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, very gradually add the warm butter-chocolate mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and work your rubber spatula around the bottom of the bowl, then continue to mix just until the chocolate is thoroughly incorporated.  Add the dry ingredients and the remaining bittersweet chocolate chunks and mix thoroughly.  (You may find it more efficient o finish the mixing by gently folding the ingredients in with the rubber spatula.)  The mixture will look like a thick, marshmallowy cake batter.
Cover the bowl and chill for several hours, or overnight.  The dough can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
When you are ready to bake, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a heaping tablespoon of dough for each cookie, drop the dough onto the lined sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space between each mound of dough---these are spreaders.  Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pans front to bake and top to bottom halfway through the baking period.  The cookies will puff, then sink and crinkle and wrinkle around the edges.  These cookies are better underdone than over baked, so if you have any doubts, pull them out of the oven early rather than later.  These shouldn't appear dry and they won't be crisp.  Use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

The cookies can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for 2 days or frozen for up to a month.  Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.
This recipe is from contributor Rick Katz, and can be found on pages 329-330 in Baking With Julia.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

TWD: Pumpernickel Bread

You know what I love most about being a part of the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group?   I am challenged to bake recipes that I never would have baked otherwise.

I am not a fan of pumpernickel bread, or any other rye bread for that matter.   However, my husband enjoys a Reuben sandwich now and then, and I learned that two of my kids now like pumpernickel!  Go figure!   I'm glad to expose them to new flavors and textures of bread.

You know how smells can evoke memories, both pleasant and unpleasant?    When I opened the little jar of caraway seed and took a sniff, I was instantly back in my mom's kitchen.  She had a big pot of Sur Kål on the stove.   Sur Kål is Norwegian sweet and sour cabbage, and the pungent smell of vinegar, cabbage, and caraway seed is one not soon forgotten!!   The caraway seed brought this back to mind, and I was filled with a strong memory of my mom.  I sure miss her.   I called my kids over to take a sniff and after their "Ewwww" responses, I told them the story of their Norwegian Grandma's cabbage.  Precious, precious memories!

This was a fun recipe to make!   There was the standard first and second risings, then the shaping of the dough.   But then the dough took a nap (rested) in a sling, dangling from a hook, in order to facilitate the dome-shaped loaf.  How cute is this?

That tea towel, by the way, is from my Uncle Karsten in Norway.  :)   More memories!
After a 40 minute nap, the loaf is washed with an egg wash and sprinkled with more caraway seed.    Then it's baked until deep brown and hollow-sounding when thumped on the bottom.

My loaves are definitely rustic.  And my photos are definitely blurry.  (Rainy day equals poor indoor natural light!)

My husband enjoyed a sloppy Reuben sandwich for supper that night, while the kids and I tried a small slice with butter.   My favorite?  No.  But the memories that I enjoyed make it all worth while.

The recipe, found in the Baking With Julia cookbook, is contributed by Lauren Groveman, and can be found on her website here.   Thank you Lauren!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pumpkin Cake Donuts

I bought the most adorable pan the other day (as if I need any new pans--ha).  A donut pan!  Made by Wilton, these pans each make 6 donuts.  $7.99 at Kmart, plus I had $7 in rewards, so two pans for $9?  Yes please!

I mean, after all, look what I can make!


So beautiful, so easy, and far healthier than typical fried donuts.  At least that's what I'm telling myself.  :)

The recipe for the batter is from the King Arthur Flour website.   I modified it somewhat and used half white flour and half whole-wheat flour.   I also added a glaze instead of using the cinnamon sugar the recipe called for.  And of course, what donut is complete without sprinkles???

Here's the recipe!  Now run to Kmart and snatch up a donut pan, or a MINI donut pan, for yourself, and make these for your family this fall!

Pumpkin Cake Donuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil (next time I'll use half oil and half cinnamon applesauce)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus heaping 1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (I used half whole wheat and half white flour)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard donut pansBeat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt, and baking powder until smooth.  Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.
Fill the wells of the donut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well.  Spoon the batter carefully, or transfer the batter to a piping bag and pipe with a large round tip.
Bake the donuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Remove the donuts from the oven and flip onto a wire rack to cool.  Cool completely, then dip tops of donuts in glaze.  Sprinkle immediately with sprinkles or toasted pecans.  Allow glaze to set up.  
Brown Sugar Glaze
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
In a medium saucepan, melt together butter, brown sugar, and milk over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil gently for 2 minutes and remove from heat.  Cool completely.  Stir in vanilla and powdered sugar.  Use immediately.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

TWD: Danish Braid

A day late, but this recipe is worth the wait.  I mean, wow!   Buttery, flakey, sweet.   Pastry perfection!

I'm already a fan of this recipe's contributor, Beatrice Ojakangas.  She's the author of one of my favorite cookbooks, The Great Scandinavian Baking Book.   With my Norwegian heritage, I love trying recipes from my mom's homeland!

The Danish Pastry dough is really simple to put together in the food processor, but then patience is required as it requires an overnight sleep in the fridge.

Rolling, folding, rolling, folding, etc. yields a dough that is flecked with butter.   And you know what that means??   Flaky layers!   Just look!

Okay, so in my haste to pull this recipe together today (a day late), I neglected to notice that the Danish Braid required only HALF of the dough.  Oops.

The result?   A super flaky, extra-layered pastry!   I'm not complaining one bit.

Filled with homemade strawberry jam and a simple cream cheese filling, then topped with pearl sugar and sliced almonds, this braid is a keeper, for sure.      Beatrice's recipe calls for the homemade jam with a confectioner's cream (pastry cream).   Equally delicious, I'm sure.  The possibilities are endless!    Apples and walnuts, peaches and cream cheese, plum, fig, blueberry.....oh my!

Please visit our Tuesdays With Dorie blog to view other baker's results!   If you're desperate for the recipe, just leave a comment.  Otherwise, you can find it in the Baking With Julia cookbook on page 205.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Two-tiered Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

I wasn't sure what to name this cute cake!   It was for a friend's sister's baby shower.....she's expecting twin boys!!   The baby shower theme was perfect for fall----pumpkins!! 

I made fondant sunflowers and leaves.  The pumpkin is made just like this Mini Pumpkin Cake, and piped with vanilla buttercream, tinted orange.  The stem of the pumpkin is fondant.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cinnamon Apple Pockets

Pumpkin and apple.  My two favorite flavors of fall!

These little apple pockets are a perfect, quick apple treat when you don't have time for an apple pie.  The tender yeast dough comes together in a cinch, and the sweet apple filling hits the spot.

Begin by mixing the dough.   All-purpose flour, quick-rise yeast, a little sugar, salt, water, and butter come together to form a soft dough.  After a little kneading, it's left to rest while you prepare the filling.

Diced apples, cinnamon, sugar, and a little flour make an easy, sweet filling!

The dough is divided into four pieces, then each piece is rolled into a rough square.   The square is cut into four, then the apple filling is spooned on.

The corners are lifted to meet in the middle, then pinched to form a pocket.   The pockets are brushed with milk, then sprinkled with sugar, which will form a yummy crust.

After baking for 12-14 minutes, the apple pockets are golden brown, and smell soooooo good!

Served warm (with ice cream??) or at room temperature, these Cinnamon Apple Pockets are perfect for a quick dessert.  

My oldest daughter is not a fan of apple pie filling, so I tried a couple of the pockets with strawberry jam instead.    Since the jam was smooth, not chunky, the pockets were flatter, and some of the jam oozed out while baking.  However, my daughter said they were delicious!

Diced fresh pear, fresh peach slices, cherry pie filling.....I think the options are endless for these pockets.   Give them a try!

Here is the recipe, taken from my Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet cookbook.  Yes, "diet".  These treats have only 136 calories each!  Score!

Cinnamon Apple Pockets
~adapted from Taste of Home~
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 package (1/4 ounce) quick-rise yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup butter
4 cups diced apples
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
4 teaspoons sugar
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.  In a saucepan, heat water and butter to 120-130 degrees.  Add to dry ingredients;  beat just until moistened.  Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.  Turn onto a floured surface;  knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into four portions.  Roll each portion into an 8 inch square.  Cut into four 4-inch squares.  Toss diced apples with sugar, flour, and cinnamon.   Place 1/4 cup filling on each square;  bring up the corners up over filling and pinch to seal.  Secure with a toothpick if necessary.  Place 3 inches apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Brush pockets with milk;  sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 375 for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to wire racks to cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mini Pumpkin Cake

Using this pan

to make these cute little pumpkin cakes

I made this adorable mini pumpkin cake!!

Only 4 inches tall and 4 inches wide, this little cutie was gobbled up quickly by my family. 

I piped the orange cream cheese icing with a large flat tip (a basket weave tip that's serrated on one side, flat on the other).   Then I added green vines and leaves.  The stem of the pumpkin is fondant.

Happy Fall!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lil' Cowboy Baby Shower Cake


Pumpkin Gobs (aka Whoopie Pies)

To me, they're "whoopie pies".    I grew up in Virginia!   But here, in Western PA, they're known as "gobs".  Yep.  Gobs. 


Regardless, they're soft cake-like cookies, sandwiched together with sweet cream cheese icing.  Delicious, no matter what you call them!

I made them for a school bake sale, and word has it they were snatched up in a jiffy.   Who can resist cutely packaged, home baked treats??


Enjoy making these whoopie gobs (hey, let's combine both name, okay??) for your family this fall!

Pumpkin Gobs
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce
1 small can pumpkin puree
2 eggs
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat together brown sugar, eggs, applesauce, and pumpkin puree.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and flour.   Beat on low until incorporated.
Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop batter, which will be soft, onto the parchment paper-covered cookie sheets.   Leave at least one inch of space between each cookie.   Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until you can press your finger lightly onto a cookie and the top springs back.   Cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare the cream cheese filling:
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add vanilla.  Add powdered sugar in two batches and beat on low until incorporated.  Increase speed to medium-low and beat for 2 minutes until fluffy.
Fit a piping bag with a large round tip.  Fill with cream cheese filling.  Pipe a generous amount of the filling onto one cookie, on the flat side, and top with another cookie. 
Yield:  2 dozen whoopie pies or gobs!

Scooby Doo Cake

*~*~*   Happy 5th Birthday Michael!!!   *~*~*

Gerber Daisy Cake

*~*~*  Happy 16th Birthday Natalie!!   *~*~*

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

TWD: Espresso Profiteroles

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is Espresso Profiteroles.   Not challenging, per se, but time consuming.  Worth it?   Yes!   However, I did cut a few corners in order to fit this recipe into my busy family's schedule.

I've never made profiteroles (or cream puffs) before, but ya know what?   Easy!   The batter, called pate a choux, is made on the stovetop, then piped into small rounds onto a cookie sheet.  These yummy bite-sized puffs are coffee flavored.  Brewed coffee is used as the liquid, and also finely ground espresso beans are added to the batter.   We are not coffee drinkers, so I wasn't apt to buy a bag of espresso beans for only one tablespoon, so that ingredient was omitted.   I had some instant coffee in the freezer, so I steeped an extra strong cup, hoping that would provide enough of a coffee flavor. 

Once baked, the profiteroles are light and hollow inside.

The recipe calls for homemade cinnamon vanilla ice cream.  Here is where I took a short cut.   I bought Breyer's vanilla ice cream, allowed it to soften a bit, then folded in a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Ha!

The ice cream is spooned into the center of each profiterole.  I used my small scoop for this task.

A sprinkling of confectioner's sugar would be wonderful, but a homemade chocolate sauce is perfection!!   (I omitted the called-for Grand Marnier, and used vanilla extract instead.)

My kids have enjoyed these little treats this week!  I think the recipe is a keeper, but next time I'll fill them with homemade whipped cream or vanilla pastry cream.  Yum.

If you'd like the recipe, please send me a message!  Otherwise, you can look on pages 411 - 412 in the Baking With Julia cookbook, or visit our Tuesdays With Dorie webpage and take a peek at a few other TWD bakers' pages.   Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dandy Cake

What a cute name for a cake, eh?  This is a Hershey recipe, which I found in one of my little Hershey cookbooks (the BEST recipes, I tell ya!).   Simple, common pantry ingredients yield a super yummy chocolate and peanut butter treat!   My favorite combination in the world.  :)

I made this for a church potluck dinner this past weekend, and it was a hit, both with the kids and the adults!   My children were thrilled there were a few pieces left over for their lunchboxes this week!   Enjoy!

Dandy Cake
1 cup water
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
1/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3  eggs
3/4 cup dairy sour cream
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups chocolate chips (Hershey’s Semisweet or Special Dark)
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 15-1/2 x 10-1/2x1-inch jelly-roll pan. Combine water, butter and cocoa in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture boils; boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; set aside.   Stir together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs and sour cream; beat until well blended. Add cocoa mixture; beat just until blended (batter will be thin). Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not remove cake from pan; spread peanut butter over warm cake. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
Prepare the chocolate topping:    Place 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Chips or Hershey’s  Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and 2 tablespoons shortening (do not use butter, margarine, spread or oil) in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium (50%) 1 minute; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium an additional 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, just until chips are melted when stirred. 
Carefully spread chocolate topping over top, covering peanut butter. Allow topping to set; cut into squares.
Yield:  20 to 24 servings.

Pumpkin Banana Bread

Fall is right around the corner!   That means I have free license to bake any and all pumpkin recipes, right?  

This pumpkin banana bread is such a yummy twist on traditional pumpkin bread.  So moist and extra yummy with the addition of banana!

Pumpkin Banana Bread
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups whole wheat or all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. apple pie spice OR 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2/3 cup apple cider or water
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1 medium, ripe banana, mashed (1/2 cup)
6 ounces dried cranberries
Grease bottoms and sides of four small loaf pans or two large loaf pans;  set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together brown sugar, granulated sugar, and oil.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.  Set aside.  In another mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and apple pie spice.
Alternately add dry ingredients and apple cider (or water) to sugar mixture, beating on low speed after each addition, just until combined.  Beat in pumpkin and mashed banana.  Stir in dried cranberries.
Spoon batter into prepared pans.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes (depending on pan size), or until a toothpick inserted in centers come out clean.  Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool completely.  
Yield:  4 small loaves or 2 large loaves
I used half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.  I also substituted half of the oil with cinnamon applesauce, and used apple juice instead of apple cider or water.  I omitted the cranberries (picky children!) and sprinkled some walnuts on top of two of the small loaves before baking.  I also splashed in about 2 tsp. of vanilla extract.  I *heart* vanilla!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

TWD: Blackberry and Raspberry Muffins

If you're a fellow TWD baker you've already noticed my first change in this week's recipe!!   We love blueberries around here, but I substituted blackberries and raspberries in this recipe for a few reasons.  First of all, we've had a lot of blueberry desserts around here lately with our summer blueberry picking escapades.  Secondly, I'm out of fresh blueberries, and my local store didn't have any!  The raspberries and blackberries were beautiful, so that's what I grabbed.  Ohhhh boy.  Muffin love!


I'm quite an avid muffin-baker, but this recipe surprised me by calling for cream of tartar, not a typical muffin batter ingredient.  As contributing baker Rick Katz says, the muffins achieve their lightness from the homemade baking powder---a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar.  

You know what?   He's right!  These truly are super light and just melt in your mouth.  Hot from the oven, they're amazing.   A day later, warmed in a toaster oven, they're just as wonderful.  Thawed from the freezer?   I have no idea.  These muffins won't last long enough to find out around here!!

As you can see, my blueberries and blackberries sank to the bottoms of the muffins.   They're heavier berries than blueberries, so I expected that.  No harm done!

I baked half of the batter in pretty paper cupcake papers, and the other half directly in a well-prepared pan.   Why?  I was curious which would bake up better, I suppose!

If you're interested in seeing other TWD bakers' results, please check out the blog roll here!

(Please note:  the recipe below is as it's written in the cookbook.  I substituted blackberries and raspberries, one half pint each, instead of the blueberries. In addition, I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter.  I couldn't help myself!   I'm a vanilla addict.   Finally, I did not sift the dry ingredients three times.  I mean, come on.  Seriously?)

Blueberry Muffins
~Rick Katz~
Baking With Julia
1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint fresh blueberries
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter or spray 18 muffin cups or line them with paper baking cups.  (These muffins are best made in standard tins in which the cups are 2 1/2 inches in diameter.)   If you have 2 muffin tins with 12 cups, fill the 6 cups that will be empty in one of the tins with water----this will help the muffins bake evenly.
Mixing the batter.  Sift the cake flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together twice, and leave the sifted dry ingredients in the sifter or strainer;  set it on a piece of waxed paper.  Remove a tablespoon or two of the dry ingredients and toss with the berries.  In a separate bowl, stir the milk and sour cream together and set aside until needed.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or work with a hand-held mixer), beat the butter on medium speed until white and pale, about 3 minutes.  Add the sugar and beat until the mixture no longer feels grainy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the paddle and the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs and yolk and beat until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift half the dry ingredients into the bowl.  Add half the milk and sour cream mixture, and using a large rubber spatula, delicately fold the ingredients together, stopping when barely combined.  Add the remaining dry and liquid ingredients and fold in only until just mixed---don't be concerned about getting everything evenly incorporated.  Sprinkle over the blueberries and fold them in only to the just-mixed stage.
Baking the muffins.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup at least two-thirds full, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops, which will be flat, are golden and spring back when lightly pressed.  Turn the muffins out onto a cooling rack and allow them to cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Storing.  The muffins will stay light and lovely for a day.  If you are not going to serve them within a few hours of baking, pack them into a plastic bag;  they'll keep for 1 more day and will then best be sliced and toasted.  For longer storage, wrap airtight and freeze for up to a month.  Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blueberry Fritters

Doughnuts, fritters, fried-anything-----they're always a big treat around here.   We just don't fry stuff.   Ya know, making smart food choices when we can, and all that.  (Ignore the fact that this blog is desserts only---oops.)   When I offered to whip up a batch of blueberry fritters last week for my kids for breakfast, I got lots of cheers and hollers of joy!   (Later that same day, I believe, I got a round of Boooo's for the closet-cleaning project I launched them into.  Ha.)

First of all, I apologize for the poor quality of these pictures.  It was  rainy day, and I just didn't have much natural light in my kitchen that morning.

So, the blueberries are fresh, hand-picked by my kiddos and me at an adorable pick-your-own blueberry patch in Holland, Michigan.  What  great time we had!   We picked almost 7 pounds of beautiful berries, and now I sure do wish we'd gotten double that.

The fritters are light and fluffy and have a sweet vanilla glaze.  Mmmm Hmmm.  Step aside, Dunkin Donuts!

I made a few without blueberries for my one child who does not like blueberries quite as much.  (gasp!)  Or at least she did not like them that particular day.   It's the right of any 8 year old girl to change her mind with the wind, is it not?

We all enjoyed these little balls of blueberry joy!  Try making them for your family soon!   You can easily use frozen blueberries.  The little wild ones (Wyman's brand is what I keep on hand in my freezer) would be perfect.  Just thaw in the microwave and drain, then fold into the batter.

Here's the recipe!  (I found it on It's actually a doughnut recipe that I modified somewhat.) Enjoy!

Blueberry Fritters
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (or thawed, drained, frozen blueberries)
canola oil for frying
Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, bringing it to 375 degrees.  Use a thermometer while frying to insure proper temperature of oil!  
In a large mixing bowl, combing flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, whisk together egg, melted butter, milk, and vanilla.  Pour into dry ingredients and stir together.  Gently fold in blueberries.
  Line a dinner plate with several paper towels.   Place paper towels beneath a wire rack.  Check oil temperature.
Using a tablespoon or a small cookie scoop, drop batter into hot oil.  Do not crowd the pot!  Fry until bottom is golden brown, then flip gently.  Once golden brown on both sides, remove fritter with a slotted spoon to the paper-towel lined plate.  Let sit for 15 seconds or so, flip over, and let sit for another 15 seconds.  Then remove to the wire rack to cool.  Repeat until all the fritters have been fried.

Prepare a simple vanilla glaze with powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk.   Dip each fritter into the glaze, then place back on the wire rack to set the glaze.    Enjoy!

Shooting Stars Cake

*~* ~*  Happy 13th Birthday Lexi!!   *~*~*