Sunday, October 30, 2011

Taking a Break

I'm taking a break from both my dinner blog and this dessert blog. You can follow me on my other blog, Present Letters. I hope to resume in December. Cookies, cookies, cookies.

Check out the previous posts for some yummy desserts. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Owl Cupcakes

Need something for a Halloween party for those little stinkers? Well here is a cute idea. I made these for my granddaughter’s birthday party as she was into owls at the time.

Again, this comes from my favorite cupcake cookbook, Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Track & Alan Richardson.

The only thing I can say is plan to spend a lot of time creating these. There is a trick in separating the Oreo cookie, you must twist the cookie very slow—as slow as you possibly can and then you’ll have better luck at keeping the icing on one side of the cookie (which you need for the eyes).

What’s all on the face? Oreo cookies—just one side with the icing and on top of that a Junior Mint. The beak is a piece of candy—a banana runt.

And what do you do with that other half of the Oreo cookie with no icing? You cut it in half, well that's what it said. But I cut off more in the middle, so that the owl's ears would be smaller. You could probably go smaller than what I did. Those are then covered with (chocolate) icing.

Hope you owl have a Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Carole's Favorite Coffee Cake

We had a potluck at the house for the Mullen’s going away party. There were so many desserts, I wasn’t able to try Carole’s coffee cake. She took it back home with her. She wanted to leave it, but knew I had so much other stuff, she thought she’d give it to her neighbor. I found out later that Norm loved it and wished he had some of it, so I baked him one. This way I was able to give it a try since I missed the opportunity.

1 1/2 cups white flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (I used butter)
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
Topping (below)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease round layer pan, 9 x 1 1/2 inches, or square pan, 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inches. Blend all ingredients except Topping; beat vigorously 1/2 minute. Spread in pan.

Sprinkle Topping over batter. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean. 9-12 servings

Topping: Mix 1/3 cup brown sugar (packed), 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons butter until crumbly.

I didn’t think my coffee cake looked as moist and rich as Carole’s. Mine tasted a little on the salty side, so I’m not sure if I did something wrong and not being able to compare how Carole’s tasted, I don’t know what happened. My husband ate the entire thing though, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Grandma Bacholz’s Nut Strudel

My husband bragged and bragged about his Grandma Bacholz’s nut strudel. He remembered helping his mom by stirring the nut mixture—forever. I came across the recipe and tried my hand at this old fashioned recipe. There was no indication of how long to cook the nut mixture and I was skeptical about it being all day long like my husband whined about, but nonetheless, I started early.

It had been awhile since I made this. I do recall it did take a long time for the mixture to thicken—and you had to stir constantly. I must have stirred at least three hours… long enough to pull up a chair. (I wondered whether I could stir and write?)

The dough was rather tricky because it was kind of sticky and you had to roll it thin, not thicky (tried to rhyme with tricky and sticky, yeah, doesn't really work). I worried about the outcome (of the dough). We’re talking almost paper thin.

After the strudels had baked and my husband sank his teeth into them, he told me that I was close. Close is not what one wants to hear when they’ve slaved all day to make the perfect nut strudel, but close was better than not so good.

However, it couldn’t have been too bad since he ate two loaves before they even cooled. I’m not kidding. I’d say I was more than close, but memories are funny that way. Nothing ever seems to beat the first time you’ve sank your teeth into something extraordinary. Although the opposite can be true as well—not liking something too much—can put a bad taste in your mouth until you’ve experience otherwise. Yes?

Nut Strudel—make sure you allow the entire day and lots of patience.

5 cups flour
½ cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 eggs beaten
½ cup lukewarm water
1 stick butter
2 pkgs yeast

Sift flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. In a saucepan heat milk and butter. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add to the milk mixture. Combine milk & butter mixture with the dissolved yeast. Beat eggs and add to dry mixture. Beat until smooth and cover and let rise in a warm place.

1 pound ground pecans
¾ cup sugar
1 quart milk
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
juice and rind of 1 lemon
1 cup raisins (I used currants)
2 eggs

Put ground pecans and milk in large pot. Add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and stir. Add juice and rind of lemon and stir. Add sugar and raisins and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thick (at least three hours).

Cool mixture and stir in 2 whole eggs.

Split dough into 5 and roll and fill each one separately.

Roll dough to make a very thing round circle and spread with nut mixture. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.

Cool and wrap in foil and freeze (unless you are eating it right away) as these strudels will mold if left out (and after all that work, you wouldn’t want that to happen). When ready to use, thaw and slice and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Here's the filling mixture in three different stages. You can't really see a lot of difference. It just thickens and you guess when you think it's thick enough or when you've run out of patience stirring.

Here's some shots of the final outcome.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paula Deen’s Pecan Pie Muffins Made Even Better

Remember when I was making Banana Bread and messed up on those candied pecans that I wanted to add to the bread? And what to do with that concrete blob of pecans. Make Pecan Pie Muffins of course.

This recipe—the original one anyway—is so easy even a cave man can do it. I just had to say that. That commercial bugs me by the way.

Did I ask, do you like pecan pie? If you do, then you will LOVE these muffins even more. Well, at least I do.

Could one make a more rich, melt in your mouth muffin than these? Why yes, when you add chopped up concrete candied pecans. It’s like the gooey butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture that caramelized over the pecans melted into the muffins causing an explosion of gooey goodness. It is so rich that I can only eat one. Really. Paul Deen’s way, I could eat more than one. My way are really, really rich. But really, really good.

So, I wonder. If I’ve modified a recipe, is it my own? What if two parts of the recipe came from two different people and I had combined them, is it my recipe? Well, I didn’t invent it and wouldn’t have without the recipes of the two, so I’ll credit both.

Cream 1 stick softened butter with ¾ cup packed brown sugar. Add 2 beaten eggs and mix well. Add ½ cup flour and stir until combined. Stir in 1 cup candied chopped pecans (see my version below). Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans. Deen’s book said it makes eight, but I make a full dozen. I’ve made these as little mini muffins too and they are just as good. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Deen suggests serving warm with more butter, but I’m telling you that my version does not need any more butter. The muffin pans had butter in them after I took the muffins out of the pan!

Candied Pecans—see What Katie’s Baking. If you read my banana bread blog, you’ll see I modified these pecans, messed them up and tried again. With the messed up pecans, I added them to this Pecan Pie Muffin recipe.

Regular recipe for Candied Pecans:
1 tablespoon butter melted on medium heat in saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon along with 1 cup pecans. Mix until coated and sugar starts to stick. Set aside and cool.

Well, I didn’t think my sugar was going to stick as the sugar/cinnamon mixture seemed crumbly, so I decided to add another tablespoon of butter. After I did that, it was apparent that the butter caused the sugar/cinnamon mixture to come off the pecans, so I added another 2 tablespoons of sugar and another ½ cup pecans. I felt like there was enough cinnamon. I stirred for a good five minutes and when it didn’t look like the mixture was going to stick to the pecans any more than what it was, I dumped them into a bowl. When they cooled, I had one big blog of hard candied sugar/cinnamon pecans—that of which I chopped in my food process and used for these muffins.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Trader Joe’s Truffle Brownies

I’m not a huge brownie fan unless they are chewy. I’m not much for the cakey kind of brownie (just ask my older sister Sue, she’ll tell you) unless it’s smothered with vanilla ice cream because the ice cream makes the brownie turn kind of chewy.

I’m also one to make things from scratch. However, Trader Joe’s Truffle Brownie mix is so fabulous and easy to make, why would you want to make it from scratch?

You dump the mix in a bowl and add a melted stick of butter and maybe an egg, mix it up, put it in the pan and bake. The brownie is moist and chewy, but not so much so that someone who doesn’t like chewy would not like it. Add the ice cream and okay, I’m drooling.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Aunt Rosemary’s Shortbread Cookies

On Sibling Day (a day that my siblings and I spend together, just the four of us, no spouses or kids), we visited my aunt and uncle. My aunt and cousin were making cookies for a wedding—one being shortbread. I love shortbread and after I bit into it, I wanted the recipe.

Aunt Rosemary’s Shortbread Cookies

1 c. butter, softened
½ c. packed brown sugar
½ tsp apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp salt
2 ¼ c flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, spice, salt. Beat until combined. Beat in flour, stir in remainder. Shape into 1 inch balls.
Flatten with cookie stamp, or bottom of flour coated glass.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until light brown.
Makes 36 cookies.

I had a terracotta cookie stamp that my little sister Ruthie gave me. Now was my chance to use it and make my cookies a little fancy. My cousin told me they used a glass, but there was a pattern on the bottom of the glass and it looked cool having this imprint on the cookie. As you may see, my cookies were too small to catch the entire design of the stamp.

Since I had never used a cookie stamp before, I just pushed down on it. That didn’t work, all the dough stuck to it. I cleaned it all off and this time dipped it in flour first. It still stuck. I thought well maybe it’s supposed to be wet, so I ran the terracotta stamp under the water. Stamped the dough and it stuck again. I tried oiling it and although that worked a little better, it continued to stick. I couldn’t find much on the Internet other than using flour, so I floured heavily. That worked. But I had to do it each time I pressed the dough. My dough was soft, so it may have worked better with a harder type dough.

I smartened up and flattened the balls down first before I pressed it with the cookie stamp so I wouldn’t have to press as hard and that seemed to work better.

These cookies were tasty and easy to make, if you didn’t stamp them. I drizzled chocolate over some that I didn’t stamp, but I prefer mine plain.