October 31, 2009

Orange Coconut Bars

Yum! Why are bars so delicious? I really like lemon bars but decided to use the fruits of Farm Fresh and try an orange version of the classic Lemon bar. I made them for a friend's birthday and since it was at a wine bar we needed something portable and bite sized. I had most ingredients on hand so that made the recipe decision much more simple.
The bars are fairly straight forward, they have a pecan crust and an orange juice, zest and coconut filling. I sprinkled them with powdered sugar and they looked really pretty. They keep well in the fridge if you need to make them in advance. I used part sweetened coconut and part shaved coconut. I liked the combination. It didn't get too sweet which was one of my worries had I used all sweetened coconut. The orange flavor was mild enough that the pecan crust came through.
Our birthday girl loved them (though she seems to enjoy my baking). I got a lot of good comments from the tasters as well and think that these will make the repeat list. The original recipe actually suggests these might be good for breakfast... I guess they are not super sweet and would probably work, but I suggest making them as an hors d'oeuvres instead.
Orange Coconut Bars
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies
1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C butter
1/2 C finely chopped pecans
2 eggs
3/4 C sugar
2 T flour
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
3 T orange juice (about 1 1/2 juicy oranges)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 C sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 C flaked unsweetened coconut
Preheat oven to 350˚. In the bowl of a food processor grind the nuts until finely chopped but not paste, add the 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar and pulse a few times. Then add the butter and pulse until you get pea sized crumbs. Press into the bottom of an 8x8 inch pan. I like to line it with foil which makes it cleaner and easier to get out. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden.
To make the filling, combine sugar, eggs, juice, zest and baking powder. Pour into the baked crust and return to the oven for about 20 more minutes. The edges will be light brown the the center set. Cool in pan on a wire rack. At this point you can refrigerate the whole pan for 1 hour which will make it easy to get the bars out. Pull out the bars, peel off the foil, and cut into squares. I made tiny 1 inch squares but you can make 16 bars by cutting the pan in half and then into 8 segments. I also prefer to slice off just a small amount of the edge because it tends to brown more than the rest. Dust with powdered sugar if you like.

October 24, 2009

Easy Bake cOven: Molasses Cookies

I just finished baking cookies. It's a Thursday night, and after one of the best episodes of The Office ever... I enjoyed a tasty gingerbread-esque cookie. This month for the baking club our Dynamic Baking Duo chose two recipes, Molasses Cookies and Apple Pie Cupcakes. I had all intentions of making both, but had a lot of projects going on this month. The cookies were great - after a little tweaking.
I really do love gingerbread in all forms. Cake, bread, cookie, rolled cookie... flat cookie eh hem... Yes, I made a rather thin version of this cookie by accident. I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out a really moist batter (too moist) so the cookies flattened out into little ginger crisps in the oven. They were still delicious and thankfully being skeptical, I only made 9 as a test run. I ended up using quite a bit more flour than the recipe called for to get the dough to hand-rolling consistency. Much better! The cookies turned into the little puffs you see in the original recipe. They did flatten out a tiny bit after cooling, but kept their deliciously crisp crust and chewy interior. I saved some dough after deciding these were best just out of the oven and M and I polished them off within a week. (I think he took some to work and I did give some to our neighbor). Too good to pass up.
I saved the flat ones in the freezer because I wanted to attempt an Ice Cream Sandwich cookie. I've only done this once before and it is quite messy... and the cookie has to be the right consistency to be eaten half frozen or all the ice cream will just squeeze out for lack of breaking the cookie with your teeth. Pumpkin Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Cinnamon Ice Cream. All seemed to be good choices to use with this cookie. I bought some pumpkin ice cream (though I'm thinking after halloween my pumpkins might make a debut in a pumpkin ice cream creation) and decided to go for the sandwiches.
Spicy Molasses Cookies

1 C sugar 3/4 C Crisco 1/4 C molasses 1 egg 2 1/2 C flour 1 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground cloves 1 tsp ground ginger 1/4 tsp ground cardamom 1/4 tsp salt 2 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350˚. Mix sugar, shortening, molasses, and egg together until well blended. Dump in dry ingredients, stirring dry ingredients together lightly. Mix together until dough is a smooth consistency. Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls, then generously coat each ball with sugar. Place balls on a baking sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes, keep on rack for one minute after removing from oven. Cool on a wire rack. They are as the original recipe says best while warm.

Thanks Pioneer Woman

Don't forget to check out the Easy Bake cOven for other entries and of course below!

October 19, 2009

Mini Red Velvet Cake

First I have to say Red Velvet Cake should never be served with anything besides cream cheese frosting! Don't do it! I learned this when I had a taste test with my wedding cake couple. The cream cheese brings out the richness of the cake -- buttercream just can't do it justice.
It's funny, I had this cake stored in the freezer for a while and I kept meaning to pull it out and use it when we had people over but I tend to want to make new things.... Finally, I remembered to get cream cheese for the frosting and the rest was a piece of cake - literally. I like red velvet cake, but nothing quite compares to my friend's great aunts recipe. She never wrote it down and now that she is gone I'm pretty sure no one will be able to recreate it. It was amazingly light and each layer was so thin. I'm not sure how she did it without tearing them. I decided to follow in this fashion and cut my little cake into 4 layers. I frosted the fill layers lightly with cream cheese and added a little more to the top. I find this cake quite stunning. Deep saturated red with bright white frosting. Super delicious and moist.
The deep red filling seemed a strange pairing the horror movie we watched that night. What I saw of it (peeking over M's shoulder)
was pretty gross with B movie acting. Bloody looking cake, blood spraying from the girls nose.... If I haven't managed to gross you out too much this might be a good cake for Halloween, or a Southern wedding shaped like an armadillo. So many funny options you have.

Red Velvet Cake Adapted From Annie's Eats 2 eggs 1 1/2 C sugar 1 1/2 C vegetable oil 1 tsp white vinegar 2 C cake flour

1/2 C all purpose flour 1 tsp baking soda 3 tbsp cocoa powder 1 cup buttermilk 1 tsp vanilla 5/8 ounce bottle red food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Cream the eggs, sugar, oil and vinegar. Sift the cake flour, baking soda, and cocoa together. Add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients while beating. Slowly add the buttermilk. While still beating, add the vanilla and the food coloring. Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes. Press lightly; if the layers are spongy, then the cake is done. Frost the cooled layers, assemble and frost the top and sides. Serves 12 to 14.

Cream Cheese Frosting

October 17, 2009

An Old-Timey Dessert

I love Apple Crisp. It is so simple to make and leaves you very satisfied. It is one of the desserts my mom used to make a lot growing up. Anytime we had an abundance of Johnathan apples (still my favorite) she'd make a crisp. She also didn't use a recipe which is quite interesting and something I haven't attempted... everything based on consistency.
I decided an apple crisp would be a wonderful accompaniment to a hearty meal of potato soup and salad. The combination of warm baked apples topped with vanilla ice cream is divine. If you're looking for a cheap quick dessert to feed a group I recommend something like this. Next time I make one I'll probably do something based on the original recipe but with the addition of some interesting fruits (like blueberries or plumped dates).
Apple Crisp
Altered from From the Earth to the Table
6-8 C baking apples peeled cored and sliced
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1 1/2 C oats
3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3/4 C butter
Preheat the oven to 375˚. Butter a 9x12 baking pan (glass or enamel) and fill with apples. Sprinkle some cinnamon to taste and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into slices and toss with the sugar mix. Mix in the zest. Quickly cut in the butter leaving large chunks with the consistency of large peas. Evenly spread the mix over the apples. Bake for 35 minutes or until the crust is browned and the apples are bubbly. Cool 10 minutes and serve with a dollop of ice cream.

October 4, 2009

Carrot Ginger Bran Muffins

I like carrot muffins a lot. I like carrot cake even more, which is why I typically make a carrot cake-like muffins. This time I wanted to try something new, so I invented a new recipe more like a muffin we sometimes get at Peet's Coffee. The coffee shop muffin is a very dense and sticky carrot ginger muffin - I wanted something a little more fluffy and healthy.

In my recipe I used a lot of powdered ginger. Maybe too much for my taste, but I'm not the biggest fan of ginger in the first place. I also didn't use much oil since the carrots provide a lot of moisture. I think this muffin was a great accompaniment to tea or coffee but next time I might decrease the ginger to only 2 tsp. The texture was great and they were really fast to put together. I'm also a believer that these types of muffins get better with age (usually spiced muffins do) so hopefully the leftovers will be even better.

I forgot to take pictures before bringing them to work with me.... oops! They didn't last long with my ginger-loving co-workers so I'll leave it up to your imagination just this once.

Carrot Ginger Muffins

1 C wheat bran

1/2 C all purpose flour

3/4 C whole wheat flour

1/4 C brown sugar

1 1/4 C skim milk

1 egg

3 tbsp. canola oil

1 1/4 C carrots, shredded

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

3 tsp ginger

Heat oven 400˚. Prepare a muffin tin with liners or baking spray. Combine all dry ingredients with a fork. Add shredded carrots to the dry ingredients and stir well. In another bowl, whisk together all liquid ingredients. Mix everything together until the batter is just moist. Don't overmix or the muffins will be tough. The batter will be thick. Spoon evenly into the muffin cups. Bake 15 minutes or until muffins rise and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Ice Cream! Ice Cream!

I got this fantastic ice cream attachment for my kitchen aid mixer for my birthday this year and wanted to share with you my first creation. I don't want to make everyone nervous, but a friend informed me of a canned pumpkin shortage this year... I went to the store closest to my office to investigate and surely enough, they were out of pumpkin. Bummer. I love baking with pumpkin and will hopefully find some soon.... but this is not the story of lost pumpkin, this is the story of an amazing sale on raspberries! The store had raspberries on sale for only .99 each (carton). I bought 6. I was so proud when I came home to show my husband - silly I know - but you just have to take advantage of sales sometimes. (much cheaper than a shoe sale right?)
I don't think it took 5 minutes before I had my new cookbook in hand thumbing through the raspberry recipes. I didn't have enough to make a complete raspberry ice cream (can you believe it) so I opted for the raspberry swirl. A very simple vanilla ice cream mix with mashed raspberries swirled in before freezing.
It turned out a very nice and light texture ice cream. A good balance between ice cream and fruit, and possibly one of the best vehicles for mini chocolate chips. I hope to be making more soon, though I have instituted a one flavor at a time rule (sorry M). I told him he gets to choose the next recipe... he mentioned some with lots of chocolate and brownies. I told him he should look at the Ben & Jerry's cookbook for that one. Yea for homemade ice cream.
Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream
makes 1 1/2 quarts
Ice Cream:
1 C whole milk
2/3 C sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 C heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C raspberries
3 T sugar
1 T vodka
for the ice cream, warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a medium bowl whisk egg yolks. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the eggs whisking constantly. Return to the saucepan and heat over medium heat until the mix coats the back of a spoon. (stir constantly). In another medium bowl pour in the cream and set a strainer over the top. Once the custard is done pour into the cream and add vanilla. Set in an ice bath and stir until mixture cools. Cover and refrigerate until completely cool.
An hour or so before churning the cream, mash the raspberries with the sugar and vodka. Chill until ready to use.
Freeze the ice cream according to your ice cream machine instructions. Once the cream is done, layer it in a plastic container with spoonfuls of raspberry mix. Use a spoon or small spatula and while keeping it completely vertical, make two swoops around the bowl to incorporate the raspberry mix. Freeze completely (about 4 hours or overnight). Serving with chocolate is definitely recommended!

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