Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Yes, I realize that it's now officially spring. And yes, I realize that I'm supposed to be breaking out the berries and various other fresh produce. But this morning, I wanted muffins, and we happened to have none of said produce. What we did have was a can of pumpkin left over from the fall, and an apple. I went online and searched for a while. And yes, I mean a while - as in, I could have gotten dressed and gone to the grocery store for some blueberries a while. I finally found a recipe I liked on Smitten Kitchen (I love that blog, go look at it). I got my dad peeling an apple and got to work on the batter. I made a few little changes like adding vanilla and apples, and within 15 minutes we had muffins in the oven.

These are so much better than I expected from such a simple recipe. They are super fluffy and perfectly sweet. This is one of those recipes that allows you to say you're eating breakfast, when really you feel like you're tasting a delicious pumpkin cake. Hey, these would be great with cream cheese frosting. I've got to get on that...
These are great for a quick breakfast or brunch on a weekend, so bookmark it for this fall. Or, if you happen to be like me, make them now and pretend it's cold out. Except for it actually is... wait is it really spring??

Apple Pumpkin Muffins
(slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 ounce can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 apple, peeled and chopped

Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Put liners in muffin cups.
Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, 1 cup of the sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour and baking powder until just combined. Stir in apple pieces.
Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.
Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.
Makes 12.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gluten-Free Sour Cream Cornbread

Sometimes you really need the perfect little side dish. This week we were making chili and were sick of our usual tortilla chips as a snack to go along with it, but I decided to try to make cornbread. I've made corn muffins once before, but never cornbread. There's a first time for everything!
I wanted to make this gluten-free so that my mom could eat it, and I was able to find a recipe online that seemed simple. However, I'm sure it would be fine to use regular flour - actually, that's true for all of the gluten-free recipes on this blog.

We really were not able to taste the difference between this and regular cornbread, although this is probably due to the large amount of cornmeal that would be in there anyway. So not that much is being substituted. My mom was so happy with this and had it for breakfast the next day, too. It was delicious and will be made many times in our house!

Gluten-Free Sour Cream Cornbread
(slightly adapted from Land O'Lakes)
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I use King Arthur)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2/3 cup gluten-free yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 425°F. Combine butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs; mix well. Stir in sour cream and milk. Reduce speed to low; add all remaining ingredients. Beat just until mixed.
Pour batter into greased 8-inch square or round baking pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Salted Cashew Toffee

Sorry for the lack of posts in the past week. I had a whole folder of previously-made recipes I hadn't gotten around to posting yet, but it seems I've now posted all of them! So this weekend, I figured it was time to get baking! I wanted something quick, but also delicious. I've recently discovered the amazingness (is that even a word?) that is candy making, because it doesn't take too long and has endless variations. Have I ever mentioned how wonderful homemade peanut butter cups are? But more on that another time...
Several years ago my best friend gave me a cookbook for Christmas. The recipes all look delicious and decadent, and it's one of those books you can just look through like a catalog. It makes you almost drool. That book is Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. It's become pretty famous,and my friend didn't know this, but I had actually been meaning to find someplace to buy it for a while. I was happy to get it! This weekend I was flipping through the book for inspiration, and I found the perfect candy recipe. It was so quick but so delicious!
This candy is crunchy (VERY crunchy - be warned, those of you that happen to be older / are babies. It is sweet but definitely salty, due to both the salted cashews and the salt in the toffee itself. I'm loving this salty-sweet thing - it all started with these caramels! I have made toffee several times before, and always make this almond-chocolate toffee, but this is completely different. Equally good, but a whole different idea. Try it for yourself!

Salted Cashew Toffee
(from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey)

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons water
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt [I might actually cut this down to 1/2 - it was a little much]
2 heaping cups salted cashew halves

Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large saucepan, combine the butter, water, sugar, and lemon juice.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When the mixture starts to boil, stop stirring and cook until the mixture reaches the hard-crack stage (about 300F - when dropped in cold water, syrup will immediately harden into brittle threads that break easily when handled - careful when touching, it is hot!), 5 to 8 minutes.
Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda, salt, and the cashews. The syrup will boil and puff up when the baking soda is added - just keep stirring until it simmers down. (Adding baking soda aerates the syrup for a crisp, light-textured candy that won't break your tooth when you bite into it.)
Pour the candy mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula, work quickly as the candy cools to spread it onto an approximately 9-by-13-inch rectangle, keeping the nuts in a single layer.
Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and let the candy cool completely.
When the candy is hard, break it into medium-size pieces to serve.
Makes about 2 pounds.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TWD: Irish Soda Bread

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was quite a surprise! Judging from the recipe, I was not super excited to make this - flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk? Doesn't sound too appealing... I decided to make this on St. Patrick's Day, and added in lots of golden raisins for some more flavor.
It worked so well! The bread had an amazing texture for how quick it was to make, and it ended up being quite sweet from all the raisins. I loved it! I am still toasting pieces in the morning for breakfast - I put it in the fridge and it did not turn "as hard as a stone" as Julia says.
I really recommend this one! Thanks to Carla of Chocolate Moosey and Cathleen of My Culinary Mission for hosting this week. The recipe can be found on their blogs.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Vanilla Filling

It all started with a pan...

My amazing aunt gave it to me for christmas and I hadn't gotten to use it yet. I'm telling you, she may be the only person who can buy me a baking pan that she knows I don't have. She has given me most of the "specialty" pans I own.
Today I finally decided to try it out. I went to Wilton for the recipe, because I figured it would be the safest since the pan is from there, and their recipe was simple.

It is super simple. The batter is quick and bakes up quickly as well. The only issue was that it made twice as many pies as the pan will hold, so I had to wait for them to come out, cool in the pan, etc. before baking more. Oh well, may need to buy another pan! ;)
The filling was really interesting, because it is basically my standard icing recipe but with a jar of marshmallow fluff mixed in. I had actually never tasted that stuff plain, and... Oh my God. It's almost as good as nutella.

I have seen SO many of these on various food blogs (there are even entire cookbooks devoted to them) that I had high expectations. I was not disappointed! The cakes were delicious and fluffy, and the filling was sticky and sweet and like a pillow of sugary goodness. Expect to see some more of these on here in the near future!! Enjoy!

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Vanilla Filling
(from Wilton)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar , sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 jar (about 7 ounces) marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray Whoopie Pie Pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add half the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix on low speed. When dry ingredients are almost incorporated, stop the mixer and add the buttermilk. Continue to mix on low speed until all ingredients are almost incorporated. Stop the mixer and add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix on low until just combined. Spoon 2 tablespoons of batter into each cavity; spread batter to the edges. Cavity should be about 2/3 full.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when touched. Allow cakes to cool in pan 8 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely before filling.

In large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar and salt to the butter; mix well. Add marshmallow crème and vanilla; blend well. Use immediately to fill whoopie pies or refrigerate covered up to 1 week. Bring back to room temperature and lightly beat before using.
To assemble, spread on half of the pies and sandwich with the other half.
Makes 12 pies (24 cakes).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Food Network Pecan Pie

I'm always looking for new pie recipes. Everyone in my family (except my dad) absolutely loves pecan pie, and I've yet to find the perfect one. But this one comes pretty close.
The filling is interesting because it is boiled before being baked, which made it not runny, which is usually a problem for me with pecan pies. I also liked that the pecans were chopped and mixed in, because it kept that layer of pecans and then a layer of sweet filling from forming.
Overall it was a delicious pie, and I recommend trying it out. :)

Pecan Pie (original recipe from Food Network)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Flour, for rolling the dough
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Make the dough by hand: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter. (If the flour/butter mixture gets warm, refrigerate it for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Add the egg and stir the dough together with a fork or by hand in the bowl. If the dough is dry, sprinkle up to a tablespoon more of cold water over the mixture.
Alternatively, make the dough in a food processor. With the machine fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles yellow cornmeal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter, about 10 times. Add the egg and pulse 1 to 2 times; don't let the dough form into a ball in the machine. (If the dough is very dry add up to a tablespoon more of cold water.) Remove the bowl from the machine, remove the blade, and bring the dough together by hand.
Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about an extra inch hanging over the edge. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Flute the edge as desired. Freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes.
Set separate racks in the center and lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet on the center rack until the dough is set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift sides of the parchment paper to remove the beans. Continue baking until the pie shell is lightly golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
While the crust is baking make the filling: In medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stirring constantly, continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, bourbon, and the vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. (If the crust has cooled, return it to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through.) Whisk the beaten eggs into the filling until smooth. Put the pie shell on a sheet pan and pour the filling into the hot crust.
Bake on the lower oven rack until the edges are set but the center is still slightly loose, about 40 to 45 minutes. (If the edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil half way during baking.) Cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TWD: Rugelach / Apricot Lekvar

So these so-called "simple" recipes in the book are going to appear right about... when?? This was another one that took a super long time to make!
While I was baking them, I was thinking that no way was it possible for them to be worth the time and effort that went in to making the recipe. (OK, to be fair, I skipped the slightly time-consuming step of toasting the nuts). But they were so, so worth it. YUM. Thanks to Margaret of The Urban Hiker and Jessica of My Baking Heart for choosing this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.
I had never made rugelach before this, and remembered them as always slightly dry, small cookies we would buy in plastic containers at the supermarket around Jewish holidays (even though we aren't Jewish, but we also eat challah all the time, so who cares). These are neither dry nor small.
They are gigantic! This recipe starts off with a surprisingly simple cream cheese dough, just made in the stand mixer, which is then chilled for a couple of hours. Then it is rolled out and filled with lekvar. This is a sort of spread, I have learned, which in this case is made with prunes or apricots. I made it with apricots and while it nearly made my immersion blender die and I had to pull out the food processor despite my laziness, it was fairly simple.

Over the lekvar comes cinnamon sugar, tons of chopped nuts (I used pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans), and tons of dried fruit (I used cherries, golden raisins, and dates). Okay, bear with me for a moment - what's up with dates? Seriously, I put them in because my dad requested it, but nobody told me that I would have to pit them after I bought them! Also, they look like cockroaches and are way too sticky. Not okay...
The dough is rolled up like cinnamon buns and the logs are refrigerated for another few hours (I did it overnight). Then they are sliced, dunked in more cinnamon sugar and nuts, and baked.

As you can see above, this recipe does not make a huge number of cookies. But, and I do not exaggerate, these things are the size of hockey pucks. One will be more than enough. Unless you're like me and the rest of the people who appreciate the goodness of sugar and butter, and then it's more like one until you feel like you just have to have another one.
Despite how long these took to make, they are so worth it. They received great reviews from my dad's work buddies, who got a big bin of them this morning. Please go try it out!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Yes, I realize that the cookies above are not the prettiest. Okay, let's be honest - they're ugly. But I promise you that once you taste them, they will look beautiful to you.
A few weeks ago my mom asked me to make cookies for a work thing she was hosting. I found a recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies online, and figured it would be simple to substitute gluten-free ingredients. Oatmeal is commonly thought to contain gluten, but it actually doesn't - many times it is "contaminated" due to the plant it is processed in. It isn't hard to find a gluten-free brand.
I went about making the cookies as normal, adding the gluten-free ingredients and making the usual substitutions as I went. When I took them out of the oven, I almost screamed. They were flat and terrible looking. But then we tasted them. They are delicious! They are crispy and sweet and gluten-free goodness. If you introduce them to people as crisps, they won't even be looked at as ugly.
Note: do NOT try to remove them from the cookie sheet while still very hot - they will crumble and you will cry like a sad toddler. Not that I would ever do that... alright, enjoy! <3

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from this Betty Crocker recipe)

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups gluten-free oats
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (I like to use this blend)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir brown sugar and butter until blended. Stir in vanilla and egg until light and fluffy. Stir in oats, flour, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt; stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
Onto ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.
Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.