It's time for another bonus round for the Martha Stewart's Cupcakes Club, which was chosen by Sherry of Sherry Starts Cooking: applesauce-spice cupcakes! I made 1/4 of the recipe, which yielded 4 full-size cupcakes plus some extra batter; I could have used the extra to make a few minis had I been motivated to dirty another pan. As their name implies, the cupcakes incorporate applesauce as well as some of my favorite spices - cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The recipe also calls for pecans, but I omitted them. I found that the "cupcakes" were actually a lot more like muffins after I tasted them. While nice and moist, they were definitely more dense than a typical cupcake, with a tight crumb.
The cupcakes are topped with a brown sugar cream cheese frosting comprised of butter, cream cheese and brown sugar. I had high hopes for this frosting as I LOVE the regular cream cheese frosting from the book and brown sugar makes everything better in my world. This frosting was just as nice as the regular cream cheese frosting to pipe, but in a taste test, it couldn't beat the regular cream cheese frosting. I will say that I thought this frosting worked nicely with these cupcakes and upped the sweetness factor significantly.
Thanks to Sherry for selecting this recipe! You can find the recipe in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book or here. If you'd like to see the other members' cupcakes, you can visit our site.
[My apologies to Karin of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice who hosted this week's SMS recipe - golden almond fruitcake. I didn't have the ingredients on hand & didn't get around to picking them up and making the recipe. If you're interested, Karin posted the recipe on her site - you can also visit my SMS friends to see what they thought of the fruitcake.]
One of my favorite desserts in the world is a fruit crisp. I love warm, baked fruit, particularly when it's got a sweet, crumbly topping! So, when I saw this pie in the October/November issue of Fine Cooking I knew I'd make it. It takes my love of fruit crisps one step further by adding a buttery, flaky crust to the equation. Plus, it utilizes pears, which are abundant at this time of year so it was the perfect dessert to share at Thanksgiving dinner with our friends a few weeks ago.
The pie starts with an all-butter crust, which is blind-baked before any filling is added to help avoid a soggy crust. Pie crust is still something I struggle with, but I actually had fairly good luck with this recipe. I had to add a bit more water than the recipe called for but I blame that on the dry winter air in my kitchen. The crust rolled out nicely and I must have avoided stretching it too much because it didn't shrink when baked. I haven't reproduced the entire recipe here but have included the link to the recipe on the Fine Cooking site below if you'd like to give it a shot.
The recipe as written called for pears and dried cherries in the filling but I decided to substitute dried cranberries for the cherries because that's what I had on hand. The most time consuming part of making the filling is peeling and chopping the pears; after that it's just a matter of tossing the pears with lemon juice, adding a sugar/spice mixture to them and stirring in the cranberries. Be forewarned - there is a TON of filling! You will definitely have to mound it in the pie plate. It bakes down quite a bit so the pie just has a nice domed shape when it's removed from the oven. Because of the mound of filling you do have to carefully apply the streusel topping and press it down or else it tends to fall off.
Your hard work will pay off because this pie is terrific! The spices are subtle so the pears really are the star of the show. I liked the contrast (both in color and flavor) provided by the cranberries a lot too. Best of all, my crust was flaky and gorgeous - a rare occurrence for sure around here :) Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. Onward to the Christmas season!
Fresh Pear Pie with Dried Cranberries & Brown Sugar Streusel
from Fine Cooking, October/November 2009 (also available online here)
4 1/2 oz (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz (8 tablespoons, 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/8 oz (1/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup dried tart cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 blind-baked All-Butter Piecrust
Position a rack in the center of the oven, set a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 350 F.
To Make the Streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, blend the butter into the flour mixture. The mixture will be moist. Set aside.
Mound the filling into the piecrust. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the pear mixture, pressing the streusel between your fingers into small lumps as you sprinkle.
Put the pie on the heated baking sheet and bake until the pastry is golden-brown and the filling is bubbly and thickened at the edges, 55 to 65 minutes. Rotate the pie halfway through baking, and if the pastry or streusel browns before the filling has thickened, loosely cover the top or edges of the pie as needed with a pie shield or a sheet of aluminum foil.
Transfer to a rack and cool completely before serving.
The pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
The other day I was talking about how long I procrastinated in figuring out my Thanksgiving desserts. I finally came up with a list of possible options the next morning. Many of the options included flavors I associate with the holiday season - pumpkin, cranberry, and ginger, for example. However, I also included these cheesecake bars and when I called my mom to discuss the desserts, she chose the bars. Apparently everyone loves chocolate and cheesecake together so she figured we couldn't go wrong with this dessert!
Let me just say this before I go into some tips - make these bars, they are delicious!! I'm not a huge cheesecake fan so for me the star here was the cookie base but even I could appreciate the chocolate and cheesecake combination. The cookie base is dense with wonderful chocolate flavor and the cheesecake topping is soft and creamy. I was incredibly glad I brought these to my mom's house because if I'd made them here, with no one in particular to share them with, I can't even imagine how many I would have eaten! The bars were a hit with everyone who tried them at our Thanksgiving celebration so they wound up being a perfect dessert choice.
I do want to share a few tips if you decide to give these bars a shot. First, the cookie base. The dough is quite heavy so I wouldn't recommend trying to make it with a handheld mixer. I'm not sure mine could have handled this dough so I was glad I used my stand mixer. As for the cheesecake layer, the recipe does not specify if the ingredients should be mixed by hand or with a mixer - it simply says "combine." I tried to do it by hand with a whisk, but my cream cheese wasn't soft enough (we still haven't turned our heat on and temps have been chilly so even having spent hours on the counter, the cream cheese wasn't completely soft). Shane wound up helping me out and with some vigorous whisking, was able to combine the ingredients. Next time I'd either make sure the cream was very soft or I'd use a hand mixer. If you do decide to pipe the reserved cookie dough into lines on top of the cheesecake layer, you'll want to make sure you remove it from the fridge and give it plenty of time to soften up. I was impatient and wound up placing the dough in a resealable plastic bag and tried to use my hands to warm it up. I piped it too soon though and as a result my lines were thick, messy and nowhere near as pretty as they could have been. Also, as a result of my thick lines, I ran out of dough before I could complete all of the lines. Finally, I recommend refrigerating the bars for a bit before cutting them - it just makes it easier. I've modified the instructions below to include that tip.
Black-and-White Cheesecake Bars
from Martha Stewart Holiday Sweets
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the long sides, then spray the parchment with cooking spray.
Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. Add 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla to the butter mixture and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Once all of the flour is incorporated, increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fully incorporated. The batter will be heavy!
Preheat over to 325 F. Set aside 1 cup of the cookie dough - cover and refrigerate. Press the remaining dough into the prepared baking pan. Chill for 30 minutes then bake until the base is set and the edges are puffed, about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, 1 egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl. Spread over the cooled base. Remove the reserved cookie dough from the fridge and let it soften slightly. The cookie dough can be crumbled on top of the cheesecake layer or, if you prefer, you can use a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip to pipe the dough in diagonal lines (going both ways) over the top of the cheesecake layer.
Bake until the filling is set, 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cool refrigerate briefly then, using the overhanging parchment, lift the bars out. Trim the edges and cut into individual bars (about 20). Bars can be refrigerated up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Usually I wing the scrambled eggs, but this year I decided to try a recipe for "perfect scrambled eggs" I saw over on Brown Eyed Baker not too long ago. There's nothing fancy or particularly difficult about this recipe - so I suspect it's more about the method than anything else. I'm hesitant to label anything "perfect" but these were some really delicious eggs! They're moist and fluffy as promised. I'll definitely make them again this way next year! And of course I had to include a picture of our crispy, tasty bacon because Shane was in charge of cooking it :)
Perfect Scrambled Eggs
from Brown Eyed Baker
1 teaspoon butter
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Don't be tempted to turn the heat higher - you want to cook the eggs slowly.
Add about a teaspoon of butter to the skillet and let melt. Break the eggs directly into the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Using a wooden spoon, continually stir the eggs, scraping the bottom of the pan.
When the eggs are almost done but still on the wet side, add the milk and continue to stir the eggs just until the milk is absorbed.
Turn off the heat, serve the eggs and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
[For those wondering about TWD, we were given freedom to post any time this week so I hope to get my chestnut cake up by Friday.]
Have I mentioned that I'm a procrastinator? Here it is almost midnight on Tuesday and I still haven't decided what I'm making for Thanksgiving. I won't be hosting (huge sigh of relief!) but I plan to bring a few desserts to Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at my mom's house and I bet she'd like to know what I'm planning to make. I do my best work under pressure - frankly, pressure seems to be the only thing that motivates me to get things done - so hopefully I'll figure it out tomorrow and get going in the kitchen.
In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about the Thanksgiving we celebrated this past weekend. Every year for the past 4 or 5 years, we've gotten together with our friends and had a huge potluck Thanksgiving dinner. It's one of the few times each year we can all get together and I think we all look forward to it. Good food, good friends - what more could we ask for?
One of the funny things about our "friend" Thanksgiving this year was that two of us saw Ina Garten (otherwise known as The Barefoot Contessa) make these sausage-stuffed mushrooms on her show about a week before the dinner and both decided we might want to make them. I kept going back and forth about whether I should try them because some of the reviews on the Food Network site were less than favorable (describing the mushrooms as greasy, heavy and tasteless). In the end, it seemed enough of our friends were excited about them to at least try so that's just what I did.
I actually wound up making these twice - sort of. The first time I made them, I had a lot of filling left over so I popped it in the fridge and filled some more mushrooms another day. My first attempt was successful from a taste perspective, but unfortunately, I did think the mushrooms were a bit more greasy than I'd like. Most of our friends told me they liked those mushrooms but I wondered if they could be improved. The mushroom caps are marinated in a combination of olive oil and Marsala (or sherry) while the filling is prepared and I wondered if that step was part of the problem so on my second attempt, I skipped it. When I pulled the mushrooms from the oven, they were once again greasy so marinating the caps probably isn't the issue. I wish I could tell you I made them a third time to try other fixes, but I haven't had a chance yet. They really do have great flavor so I will make them again and next time I think I'll either try using a turkey sausage for the filling or if I use a regular sausage, I'll drain most of the fat off after browning the sausage.
from Ina Garten (via FoodNetwork.com)
16 extra-large white mushrooms
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons Marsala wine or medium sherry
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
5 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and Marsala (or sherry). Set aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it's completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients. Finally, swirl in the mascarpone and continue cooking until the mascarpone has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cool slightly.
Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake until the stuffing is browned and crusty, about 50 minutes (keep an eye on them - they may be done sooner than 50 minutes).
We bought our house and moved to the town where we currently live a little over 2 years ago. Slowly, we're discovering all of the fun local events, stores, restaurants, etc. One of our first discoveries was a local orchard/farm stand. The orchard holds numerous events each fall and we've attended at least one each year. If you ask Shane, he'd tell you that his favorite part about the trip to the orchard is the stop in the store to buy fudge. Though I bake plenty of treats around here, fudge is not one of them so this orchard fudge is a real treat!
A few weeks ago I saw a fudge recipe in the latest issue of Fine Cooking and I thought maybe I'd give it a shot so fudge didn't have to be just a once a year treat for Shane. I've been talking about making it since then (just ask my buddies on Twitter - I'm sure they were sick of hearing about it). Finally, I got in the kitchen and made it this weekend and now I'm not sure why I waited so long - it really wasn't very tricky. The instructions provided by Fine Cooking are explicit and clear so I don't think you can go wrong. I'm not someone who enjoys fudge all that much, but I thought this fudge was tasty plus it had a very creamy and smooth texture! Of course, the only opinion that really mattered was Shane's and he gave the fudge an enthusiastic thumbs up too! The fudge keeps for a week or more at room temperature so it's a great make ahead treat for the holidays if you're looking for ideas.
I did run into one issue with this recipe and I'm hoping more experienced fudge makers can help me out! After I poured my fudge into the baking pan to set, tons of air bubbles formed on the surface. Is that normal? If not, what can I do to avoid it? Thanks!
Creamy Chocolate Fudge
from Fine Cooking, December 2009/January 2010
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
3 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon table salt
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I used a 3 qt this time & it was ok but a 4 qt would be even better), combine the sugar, cream, chocolate, corn syrup, and salt and stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until the ingredients are moistened. Stirring gently and constantly, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, 7 to 12 minutes. Cover the saucepan and let the steam clean the sides of the pan for 2 minutes.
Spray a candy thermometer with cooking spray and then clip it to the pot, being careful not to let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot, or you might get a false reading. Let the mixture boil without stirring until it reaches 236 F to 238 F, 2 to 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter, but do not stir it into the mixture. Set the pan on a rack in a cool part of the kitchen. Don’t disturb the pan in any way until the mixture has cooled to 110 F, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two opposite sides of the pan. Butter the foil. Set the pan aside.
Remove the thermometer from the fudge mixture. Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture on high speed until it is a few shades lighter in color and thickens enough that the beaters form trails that briefly expose the bottom of the pan as they pass through, 10 to 20 minutes. Pour the thickened fudge into the prepared pan, using a rubber spatula to help nudge it out of the pot. You can scrape the bottom of the pot but not the sides; any crystals that stick to the pot stay in the pot. Smooth the top of the fudge with the spatula. Set the pan on a rack and let the fudge cool completely, about 2 hours. The fudge will be slightly soft the day it’s made but will firm up overnight.
Turn the fudge out onto a clean cutting board and peel off the foil. Turn the slab of fudge right side up and cut it into 25 equal pieces.
The fudge will keep for a week to 10 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
This week's SMS was chosen by Lauren of Fried Pickles & Ice Cream: raised waffles with warm brown sugar bananas. These yeasted waffles take a bit of planning as the batter must be made and left to sit overnight before they can be cooked. I'm actually a big fan of waffles but I rarely have the motivation to make them normally. I might make an exception for these waffles though. I thought they were really good - crisp on the outside and tender inside!
I didn't have bananas on hand for the warm brown sugar topping so I substituted apples. I also left out the rum the recipe called for. I found that I actually preferred the waffles without this topping. I have a major sweet tooth but the topping was just too sweet and sugary for me. I froze most of my extra waffles and found they were perfect when I toasted them and topped them with just maple syrup.
Thanks to Lauren for hosting this week's recipe! You can find the recipe on her blog here or pick up the book.
This blog has featured a lot of desserts lately so I'd like to take the opportunity on this gorgeous Saturday to share a dinner (or lunch) option - another shrimp dish. Yes, we eat a lot of shrimp around here. It's the go-to dinner option when we've forgotten to defrost anything else because shrimp can be defrosted so quickly and easily. This recipe comes from Everyday Food - a magazine I love for its simple, yet delicious, dishes. This dish appealed to me particularly because it allowed me to use some of my fresh rosemary, which is the only one of my herbs still surviving in the cooler fall temperatures here in New England.
I tend to roast my shrimp in the winter or grill them in the summer. This recipe uses neither of those cooking methods and I was intrigued. The defrosted shrimp are added to the pasta water at the end of the pasta's cooking time, stirred quickly and then drained along with the pasta, making this a one-pot meal which is always a bonus! The shrimp cooked perfectly and the finished dish was delicious! The only change I'd make next time is to add a bit more lemon juice because I really like both the freshness and flavor it adds. This makes a wonderful weeknight meal because it can be prepared in about 30 minutes. It also reheats fairly well for lunch the next day :)
Spaghetti with Rosemary Shrimp Scampi
from Everyday Food, December 2008 (also available here)
coarse salt and ground pepper
12 ounces spaghetti
1 pound large (31 to 35) peeled and deveined frozen shrimp, tails on (if desired), thawed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti until al dente. Remove and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water from the pot. Add the shrimp to the pot, and stir. Immediately drain spaghetti and shrimp, and set aside (the shrimp will continue to cook).
In same pot, heat oil over medium. Add garlic, rosemary, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, 1 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat; return pasta and shrimp to pot. Add lemon juice and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce that coats pasta. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
If you've always wanted to try your hand at homemade bread but have been intimidated by the process, this is the recipe for you! It really is the perfect beginner recipe for homemade bread. All you have to do is combine flour, yeast, salt and water in a bowl and then let it rest for about 4 and a half hours. You transfer the dough to a heavy pot that's been preheated in a hot oven and bake it for 45-60 minutes. That's it! You'll have a warm, rustic loaf of homemade bread with a crisp exterior crust and a soft, chewy interior.
This speedy no-knead bread is actually an adaptation of a recipe for no-knead bread from Jim Leahy that appeared in the NY Times a few years ago. That recipe is very similar to this one so it's another great option for first-time bread makers. The main difference is that the original recipe calls for 14 to 20 hours of rest time for the dough. This speedy adaption uses extra yeast to decrease the rest time significantly. I've never tried the original recipe and I didn't plan far enough ahead this time to give it a shot but I've added it to my to-do list.
Speedy No-Knead Bread
from Mark Bittman (as seen in the NY Times)
3 cups bread flour
1 packet (1/4 oz, 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Here's what my dough looked like at this stage - it was definitely shaggy!
Let dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. This is the shot of my dough after the 4 hour rest:
Lightly oil a work surface and place dough on it; fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes more.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 F. Put a 6-to-8-quart heavy covered pot (I used my Dutch oven) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under dough and put it into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Our friends invited us over for dinner this past weekend and I was tasked with bringing dessert (which of course I was happy to do!). I was pretty sure I was going to bring either the TWD holiday bundt or the MSC candied sweet potato cupcakes since I was planning to make them both this weekend anyway. I talked to my friend and she voted for the cupcakes since she loves sweet potatoes so that worked out well. However, I knew neither her husband nor Shane would eat the cupcakes so I decided to make a second item. I did a lot of flipping through cookbooks and when I came upon these chewy chocolate cookies in Baking Illustrated, I was sold. Shane's happiest with a simple chocolate treat so I knew these would be right up his alley.
These cookies contain both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, so they are extra chocolaty. You can even add chocolate chips to the dough if you like - without the chocolate chips they're technically just double chocolate cookies :) Here's where I went wrong: I didn't have good semisweet chocolate on hand and didn't want to use bittersweet so I substituted milk chocolate. Not a good idea. I think the extra sugar in the chocolate made the cookies a bit too sweet and not as intensely chocolate flavored as they would otherwise have been. That said, the cookies were still delicious! I just think they would have been even better had I used the right chocolate. They're soft and chewy and I have a feeling Shane will be requesting them again soon!
Chewy Triple Chocolate Cookies
from Baking Illustrated, by the editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine
2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz.) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 oz.) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl then set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water until completely melted and smooth; remove from the heat. (Alternatively, microwave the chocolate in 30 second intervals, mixing thoroughly in between, until melted and smooth.) In a small mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla and instant coffee granules; stir well with a fork to dissolve; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 5 seconds. Mix in the sugars until well combined, about 45 seconds – the mixture will look granular. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the egg mixture until incorporated, about 45 seconds. Add the chocolate to the bowl in a steady stream and continue beating until combined, about 40 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer at low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated, being careful not to overbeat. Fold in the chocolate chips (if using) with a rubber spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until the consistency is scoopable and fudge-like, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets with a 1 3/4-inch cookie dough scoop, spacing the dough balls about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake until the edges of the cookies have just began to set but the centers are still very soft, about 10 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the sheets about 10 minutes, transfer to cooling racks and allow to cool completely.
Yields 42 cookies
For this week's TWD I chose to make the All in One Holiday Bundt Cake, which was selected by Britin of The Nitty Britty. This really is a terrific cake for this time of year with its combination of flavors. It starts with pumpkin puree and lots of spices and then apples, cranberries and nuts (I used walnuts) are studded throughout. It baked up beautifully making the whole house smell like the holidays. After it cooled I decided to top it with the maple glaze just to make it look pretty. I didn't make the glaze thin enough at first so it didn't run down the sides of the cake the way I'd hoped.
I sent this cake to work with my mother without tasting it first, so I had no idea how it would be received. With all of the flavors going on, I wasn't sure if they'd all play nicely together :) Yesterday afternoon I received an email from my mom with the verdict - the cake was a big hit! People thought it was moist and delicious! This cake freezes well so make it now, pop it in your freezer and you can pull it out at Thanksgiving to share.
Many thanks to Britin for her selection! The recipe is available on Britin's site or in Dorie's book. Next Tuesday I'll finally be making the chocolate caramel chestnut cake, which was actually the recipe selected for the first week of November!
Today is National Bundt Day so I want to start by wishing everyone a Happy Bundt Day :) If I didn't already have two baking group posts scheduled for today (MSC post here) I would gladly have participated. If you need a Bundt fix, head over to Mary's site - The Food Librarian - to see the 30 (yes, 30!) Bundts she's posted over the past month!
Today is also Sunday, which means Sweet Melissa Sundays! This week's recipe was selected by Kaitlin of Kait's Plate: butter toffee crunch. I'm not much of a candy maker to be honest. As I was telling a few friends on Twitter earlier today, I am more than happy to buy my candy at the store and stick to making cakes and cookies at home. Also, neither Shane nor I are toffee fans. Still, I wanted to give the recipe a shot and as luck would have it, Shane has a friend in town who said he'd be more than happy to try some of the toffee!
I'm not quite sure what to say about the process of making this recipe. For me, it ended up being really (surprisingly) easy. However, I know several of my SMS friends struggled and were disappointed in their results. I think the keys to my success were a reliable candy thermometer and a heavy-bottomed saucepan. I've tried candy making in the past with a less reliable thermometer and one of our cheap pans and things didn't go well. You also have to work quickly once the toffee comes up to temperature to get your vanilla and baking soda in and the candy spread. I quartered the recipe and used my Silpat on a rimmed baking sheet as the base for my candy.
Like I said, I don't like toffee but I did sample a small corner of the candy and actually thought it had good flavor. Shane's friend, Alex, humored me and ate some of the toffee I pushed on him when he and Shane got home from the movies a few minutes ago. I can report he gave it a thumbs-up! He liked the way the slight bitterness from the semi-sweet chocolate balanced the sweetness of the toffee layer.
Thanks to Kaitlin for a great pick this week! I think I'll be making some this holiday season for friends and family. You can find the recipe on her site or in the book. Stop by the SMS site to see all of the toffee that was made this week.
[If you stopped by to see my post for this week's SMS I hope to have it up later this afternoon so please check back then! Not that I'd ever wait until Sunday morning to start baking the selection...]
This month's selection for the MS Cupcakes Club was chosen by Karen of Karen's Cookies, Cakes & More: candied sweet potato cupcakes! I am a huge sweet potato fan and love the idea of baking with them, especially as a way to take a break from all the pumpkin treats we enjoy at this time of year. I made these cupcakes and brought them to dinner at our friends' home tonight. We just got back, it's almost 1 am and I'm still fighting a nasty cold so this post will be fairly short!
I quartered the recipe this week, which yielded 6 cupcakes that were on the smaller side. The batter came together easily and the cupcakes baked up nicely. The only tricky part was forming mounds with the mini marshmallows and figuring out how to brown them. I started out using my kitchen torch, but it wasn't melting the marshmallows enough for them to form a cohesive unit. I fared much better with my broiler though if you do it this way you really want to keep an eye on the marshmallows. I didn't even close the door to my oven - the browning process only took about 30 seconds! The recipe called for candied pecans to top the cupcakes too but since I was making such a small quantity, I didn't bother. I merely toasted them (at 350 F for about 8 minutes) and pressed them into the marshmallows.
The cupcakes were enjoyed by those who tried them at dinner tonight! I didn't think they had much sweet potato flavor - instead the sweet potato just seemed to keep them really moist. I loved the marshmallows on top but next time I'd try to add a few more to each cupcake. I think these cupcakes would also be delicious with cream cheese frosting if you're not a marshmallow fan.
Big thanks to Karen for hosting this week's recipe! I really enjoy Karen's site and she's celebrating her first blogiversary so stop by and say hello! To see how the other bakers fared with these cupcakes, you can stop by the MS Cupcakes Club blog. I also have to thank Beth of You Know What You Oughta Do for the cute cupcake liners you see in my post. I won a giveaway on her site recently and she sent me these liners, along with many other fun surprises!
These bars made an appearance on my buddy Jessica's blog, A Singleton in the Kitchen, a week ago. I wanted to run into my kitchen and make them immediately they looked and sounded so good! I planned to make them on Monday for Shane to bring to work but then I got sick and kept pushing them back. I'm still not feeling great, but I was well enough to finally get back into the kitchen on Thursday and whip them up.
I made a few changes from Martha's recipe based on what I had on hand and what Shane would eat. The original recipe calls for mini marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch chips and caramel candy cubes. I used the mini marshmallows and semi-sweet chocolate chips but then I added E. Guittard milk chocolate wafers (which I coarsely chopped) along with peanut butter chips. I would like to try the caramel candy cubes in these eventually or, as Jessica suggested to me on Twitter, a dulce de leche swirl would probably be incredibly tasty!
I rarely make bar cookies. I always have a really tough time when I try to cut them. They crumble and look messy with their imperfect edges. The perfectionist in me cringes when treats don't look nice, even if they're the tastiest treats I've ever made. Fortunately, these bars are a breeze to cut. I refrigerated them for 30 minutes as the recipe instructs and then found they cut beautifully. I followed the suggestion to cut them into triangles, but far more than the 16 triangles the recipe mentions. Those would have been huge triangles! I think I did 32 triangles and they weren't small by any measure.
These bars received some of the best reviews from Shane's coworkers and from Shane himself of any of the desserts I've made! I find that the least fussy desserts are often the most well received and that was definitely the case here. I thought these were excellent too and I particularly enjoyed the peanut butter chips so I'll definitely include those next time even if I add the caramels or a dulce de leche swirl. You can find the original recipe here if you'd like to give it a shot with the white chocolate, butterscotch chips and caramels. The bars keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a week, but I doubt they'll last that long in your house!
Rocky Ledge Bars
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies by Martha Stewart Living Magazine
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, allowing a 2-inch overhang on the longer sides. Spray parchment with cooking spray.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until well combined. Mix in flour mixture until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in half of each of the marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate and peanut butter chips.
Spread batter in prepared pan. Scatter remaining marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate and peanut butter chips on top. Bake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Lift out of pan using the parchment, and transfer to a baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, at least 30 minutes. Remove parchment from bars, cut and serve.
I saw this pound cake over at Caitlin's site, Engineer Baker, a few weeks ago. She gave it rave reviews and it looked absolutely delicious so I was intrigued. I checked to see if my library had the book the recipe came from, The Sweet Spot by Pichet Ong. They did, so I requested it and before long I was home flipping through the book. There are a ton of really unique recipes in the book and I hope to try a few more before I have to get this book back to the library. Some of the recipes do require ingredients that are a bit unusual, but there's a great "pantry" section at the beginning of the book explaining where to find them or substitutions that will work in a pinch.
I set out to make the pound cake first, based on Caitlin's reviews and photos, and because it allowed me to use one of the vanilla beans Shane's parents brought back from their recent trip to Egypt! This recipe uses only a food processor to make the batter for the cake, which I can't recall ever having done before. It was fun and easy though it did make me nervous about the possibility of overworking the batter. My cake was done baking in almost exactly one hour and then I sat waiting for it to cool so I could try it. Caitlin was spot on - this is wonderful pound cake! I agree wholeheartedly with her review - the cake is dense but doesn't feel heavy at all. In fact, despite the tight crumb, the first word that came to mind when I tried the cake was "pillowy" (which may or may not be an actual word) :) I shared the cake with my family and they felt the same way. Caitlin enjoyed her cake with jam and I put a scoop of Ben & Jerry's pumpkin cheesecake ice cream on top so I think it's safe to say the cake can be enjoyed any time of day! You'll definitely want to give this one a shot.
Condensed Milk Pound Cake
from The Sweet Spot: Asian-Inspired Desserts, by Pichet Ong and Genevieve Ko
1 cup (8 oz, 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (7 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (3 3/4 oz) sugar
1 vanilla bean, chopped, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (8 1/2 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs
Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
Sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside. Put the sugar and the chopped vanilla bean, if using, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the vanilla bean is finely ground and then sift the sugar/bean mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, returning the mixture to the food processor afterward. (If you aren't using the vanilla bean put only the sugar in the bowl of the food processor at this point.)
Add the butter and salt to the food processor. Process until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and then add the condensed milk and pulse until well incorporated, about 15 times. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Add the dry ingredients and pulse until no traces of the flour remain, about 10 times. Add the eggs and pulse just until combined, about 5 times. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. (If you are using vanilla extract, add it now.) Finish mixing by hand to fully incorporate the ingredients.
Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a tested inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool completely in the loaf pan on a rack.
In years past I've never been one to get excited about eating soup as the weather got cooler. As a kid I ate my fair share of Campbell's soup, but as I got older soup just didn't appeal to me. I don't drink hot beverages (coffee, tea, etc.) and I always wondered if my aversion to hot beverages played a role in my lack of interest in soup. Turns out, that probably isn't the case as I seem to have discovered a new love of soup in the past few months! I've found there's comfort in the simplicity of a big bowl of soup and a roll or a slice of warm bread. This winter I hope to try my hand at making a few soups and the first one on my list was butternut squash soup.
My love of butternut squash is well documented so it was an easy choice to start there. I went with a really simple, basic recipe this time from the Whole Foods site (though I have included their variations along with the recipe below). The only change I made to the recipe was to add a bit of cream at the end for some extra richness. I used just over 4 cups of stock in my soup so it was fairly thick, but if you like a thinner consistency you could move toward the upper range provided in recipe. I enjoyed the soup a lot - it's very earthy and not too sweet. I seem to be coming down with something (hopefully a cold and not the flu) so there's probably a lot of soup in my future!
Butternut Squash Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup diced carrot (about 1 (8-inch) large carrot)
1/2 cup diced celery (about 1 (11-inch) large stalk)
2/3 cup diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
4 cups cubed butternut squash (about 1 medium squash)
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 to 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add carrot, celery and onion. Cook until vegetables have begun to soften and onion turns translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add butternut squash and thyme. Stir to combine with vegetables. Stir in chicken broth and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree soup. Alternatively, let the soup cool slightly and carefully puree in batches in a traditional blender.
Apple, Gorgonzola and Almond
Follow recipe above and stir a cup of applesauce into pureed soup. Garnish each serving with a tablespoon crumbled Rogue Creamery Gorgonzola, a tablespoon of toasted whole almonds, a few slices of thinly sliced apple and a small sprig of fresh thyme.
Stir a tablespoon red curry paste and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger into carrot, celery and onion mixture. Cook until vegetables are tender and ginger is aromatic. Add squash, cook until tender, then add broth and 1/2-cup light or regular coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper. Puree soup and garnish each serving with 1 or 2 pappadums, a tablespoon toasted coconut flakes and a tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro.
Add a tablespoon chopped chipotles in adobo to carrot, celery and onion mixture. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add squash, cook until tender, then add broth. Season with salt and pepper. Puree soup and garnish each serving with 2 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco, a tablespoon cumin-toasted pumpkin seeds and a tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro.
As I mentioned last week, during the month of November we were given flexibility to make the chosen recipes for TWD out of order due to the busy nature of this time of year. This week I decided to make the easiest of the November recipe for TWD - the cran-apple crisps, which were chosen by Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef.
Prepping the crisps takes no time at all. The topping is whirled in a food processor and can be made a few days ahead of time and chilled until the crisps are assembled. I quartered the recipe so I was able to make the topping in my mini prep. (I try to use the mini prep whenever possible instead of my full size food processor because it takes up far less space in the dishwasher!) The filling for the crisps is apples, fresh cranberries and either raisins or dried cranberries (I used raisins). The fruit filling is tossed with sugar and flour and split between several ramekins before the topping is added and the crisps are popped in the oven. A quarter recipe yielded two 7-oz ramekins and a 5-oz ramekin for me. I prepped the crisps and threw them in the freezer to be baked off for an occasional weeknight dessert treat.
I baked one of my ramekins to taste and photograph for this post. I'm a huge fan of crisps and I don't think I've met a crisp I didn't like. That said, this was not my favorite crisp recipe. While I generally enjoy fresh cranberries, I thought they made the filling too tart in this crisp. When I bake the remaining crisps I'll probably add some sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top before serving.
Thanks to Em for hosting the cran-apple crisps! Em posted the recipe for the crisps on her site or you can find it in Dorie's book. If you'd like to check out some of the other TWD recipes for the month of November, visit our blogroll.
This week's SMS was chosen by Jennifer of Maple N' Cornbread: pear cranberry muffins with gingersnap crumble! It certainly sounded like a delicious combination of fall flavors to me so I was looking forward to this one. Then I realized the muffins used the same base recipe as the peach muffins we made a few months ago (which turned out quite dense and heavy) and I lost a bit of my enthusiasm. Still, I forged ahead hopeful I'd have more luck with the recipe this time around.
I halved the recipe in case it didn't turn out well and wound up with 7 muffins. I subbed lemon zest for the orange zest and used chopped fresh cranberries. I borrowed Wendy's idea to use the TWD sugar-topped molasses spice cookies in place of the gingersnaps in the crumble topping. It was perfect as I had just a tiny bit of cookie dough leftover and would likely have wound up throwing it away had I not used it for this recipe. I also used about 2 tablespoons less flour than the half recipe called for.
The resulting muffins were absolutely fantastic! I'm so glad I tried them. They were light and fluffy and the flavors were wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the tart cranberries contrasted with the sweet crumble topping. Many thanks to Jennifer for hosting this fun fall recipe! You can find the recipe on her blog or by picking up the book. You can visit the SMS blogroll to see the rest of this week's muffins.
Happy Saturday everyone! I love lazy Saturdays - lots of time for watching college football and baking makes me a happy girl. You know what else makes me happy? Writing this post on my MacBook - it's back in my possession and working! I posted about the death of my MacBook the other day and I was pretty bummed. Fortunately, Shane's cousin Kieran hooked me up with the name of a local repair shop. They diagnosed the problem in no time: a dead hard drive. On the plus side, the repairs were much cheaper than I'd expected. They were not, however, able to migrate the data from my old hard drive onto my new one and, like a fool, I hadn't backed up my data in ages. I wasn't too upset about what I lost but I've learned my lesson and will be backing up much more frequently!
Anyway, enough about my computer. Let's talk about this wonderful pasta dish! If you're looking for comfort food or a simple, elegant dish to serve company, this is a great option! It's also really adaptable. I subbed chicken stock for the white wine and dry herbs for the fresh. The recipe can be put together fairly quickly once you get the ingredients prepped and especially if you let the pasta cook while you cook the shrimp and make the sauce. The sauce includes a decent amount of cheese and cream so it's not terribly healthy but definitely worthy of an occasional splurge. The dish was a huge hit here and was even great reheated the next day for lunch!
Penne with Shrimp & Herbed Cream Sauce
from Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites, by Giada de Laurentiis
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1 (15-oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup clam juice
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until the shrimp turn pink and is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp and set aside.
Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 cup parsley, and the red pepper flakes. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and simmer for another 2 minutes. Add the clam juice and heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the cooked shrimp, the cooked pasta, and the remaining herbs. Toss together until all ingredients are coated. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the pasta with the remaining cheese before serving.