Monday, December 20, 2010

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting


You know how whenever you're having a really bad day, and you say to yourself, "it can't get any worse" and then ten minutes later it gets worse?

Yeahhhh... That was Sunday.

This weekend was my mother and I's birthday weekend. I get told a lot that my birthday kind of gets shafted, you know, with my mom's birthday the day before mine and Christmas 6 days away. You'd think it'd be like, "oh cool! I get double the presents!" but that's totally not the case.

It's more like... "oh, cool! my birthday present is my Christmas present too!"

*Awkward silence*

"....waaaaaaaaitaminute."

Yeah.

Totally not bitter or anything like that. Nope.

Kidding, in all honesty, I don't really mind. After I turned 15 I got really weird about birthdays. I just never liked them after that. Call me crazy, but a whole day devoted to me is not something I'm too into. And no, it's not because I'm Ms. Humble ;) It's because that every time my birthday rolls around, something happens that ends up ruining my whole day. Don't believe me? I can pretty much list every single birthday since I was 14 where somethings gone wrong. It's crazy.

My birthday is like an excuse for the universe to play russian roulette or rather, "let's-press-all-of-alex's-buttons" day. So I prefer to skip the whole birthday thing. It just makes it easier.



However, this year, I decided to bite the bullet and do something.

Instead of being a "party-pooper" on my own birthday, I went ahead and planned to do something I actually wanted to do. What better excuse? It's my birthday. You gotta do it, or else you'll end up on Santa's naughty list and get no presents.

At least that's what I tell my nieces and nephews.

What? It's the only perk of having a birthday close to Christmas. ;)

Anyway, I decided I wanted to bake my own cake (aka the only cake I'll eat besides rum cake), have all my family members over to play a board game, and just really spend time with my family. Something that I have been lacking horribly the past 5 months.

The day didn't start off bad... In fact, it was great. Filled with new york crumb cake and lots of (caffeinated) tea. It was wonderful. Church was awesome, and everyone sang me happy birthday, which caused me to sink into my chair, turn into a tomato and run to North Korea.

Then, all it took was a text message. Our vacuum had broken in the middle of my mother cleaning the house back at home. "Ok, figures," I think to myself, "at least that's all it was".

That should've been the first sign.

Next thing you know, I realize I have no ingredients for the cake I want to make. Ok, another bump in the road, not too bad... Go to the store, get the ingredients, and then see that I forgot the most crucial part of carrot cake.

Carrots.


So, there goes another trip to the store. I start to get jittery at this point, watching the clock all the while. I get home and try to get going as quickly as possible. I get all my ingredients ready, set everything up, butter my cake pans, preheat the oven....

And then the oven catches on fire.

Yeah.

Fire.
Flames.
Fiery flamey flames.

Next thing I know the whole house is filled with smoke and my neighbors are asking if I'm letting Bob Marley stay at my house. The smoke is so dense I can barely see the other side of the kitchen, and as the oven stays on it's not getting any better.

It's at this point that the universe wins and Alex goes into breakdown mode.

"I knew this was going to happen," I cried, shaking an invisible fist to the universe. "This always happens!"

Thankfully, my mom was there. And since she can magically make everything better, the day didn't end in disaster and fiery flames. She helped me calm down, clean up the oven, keep baking, and get everything done in time.

And you know what? Everything came out perfectly. The cake. The frosting. The party. The everything.

Overall, I did have a good birthday. And I had a freakin' delicious carrot cake to go with it. I honestly adore carrot cake. Probably the only cake I'll ever eat. And the brown sugar cream cheese frosting was such a complement to the cake... I loved it. The best part about this cake is that it has virtually no fat in it. I had even used 0 calorie granulated sugar and it was still amazing. I kept it moist with 0% greek yogurt and REAL brown sugar. The taste was tremendous and just lightly spiced. Over all the cake came out great. Although there is no coconut in this cake. I'm seriously against coconut in carrot cake... Sue me.

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup greek yogurt (fat-free works fine)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar (zero calorie sugar substitutes work fine for this cake)
4 eggs (I used 1 cup egg substitute)
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained of most its juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (I used more than this cause I love walnuts in carrot cake)
1 cup golden raisins
3 cups grated carrots (I finely grate mine to a pulp)

BROWN SUGAR CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS:
8oz cream cheese, room temperature ( I used fat-free)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature (I used light)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice)
3 cups powdered sugar (add more as needed)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Grease 1 9x13 inch pan or 2 8x8 cake pans with butter and flour.

3. Mix together greek yogurt and sugars until fully combined. Mix in egg substitute until incorporated (if using real eggs, beat in one at a time), and then proceed to mix in the crushed pineapple and vanilla extract.

4. Gently fold in walnuts, raisins and carrots, being careful not to overmix.

5. Pour into prepared cake pans and bake at 350F for about 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean and the cake is a slightly dark golden brown.

6. While cake is cooling, make the frosting. Blend together the cream cheese, butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon until smooth. Add in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until you've reached a stiff, smooth frosting. In other words, if you use a spatula to pick up the frosting from the bowl and the frosting is dripping off your spatula, you need more powdered sugar. Set the frosting aside or put in covered container in the fridge until cake is cooled and ready.

7. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to frost (this is also helpful for cooling the cake down quicker so the frosting does not melt). Once cake is cooled, frost with brown sugar cream cheese frosting any way you'd like.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hot Chocolate Bars


So I've decided that Mother Nature is having a temper tantrum this week.

I'm not sure what happened. Maybe she got up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe the sun burned her favorite pair of shoes (I mean, what women wouldn't get pissed over that?). Maybe she just likes picking on poor traveling families just trying to have a nice vacation at Disney World.

Or maybe God didn't want the north to have all the fun this winter.

I don't know. All I know is that I woke up Sunday morning and it was bright and sunny out and now it's 20 degrees outside.

In Florida.

Excuse me, but... WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

You know it's cold in Florida when shops close down early because no one is leaving their house. Seriously. Us Floridians aren't like other people. We don't go, "oh, it's cold out, better take out my warm clothes!". Uhm, no. Us Floridians don't have warm clothes. We have 500 tank tops and maybe one hoodie thats stuck in the back of our closet underneath our shorts.

If you have lived in Florida for over 6 years (or all of your life), you don't go outside during winter. You stay inside, eat a lot of comfort food, and don't get out of bed until the sun comes out and makes it all better.

In other words, native Floridians go into hibernation during the winter, leaving the poor traveling families who thought they were going somewhere warm for winter in the freezing cold.

At least there are no lines at Disney. Ha ha...ha...


I don't really like the winter. I used to be in love with it, but now it bugs me. I don't like being cold and numb. I do, however, like being snug. The best part about the winter is being able to cuddle under your blankets, and drink hot chocolate, with the heat blasting and fuzzy neon green socks on your feet...

Okay, maybe the fuzzy neon green socks are just me.

I do love drinking good hot chocolate during the winter though. And not the things that come out of the packet. I mean real melted chocolate in a cup with the fluffiest marshmallows you can imagine, and maybe some whipped cream on top. There is nothing better than curling up on the sofa and drinking real hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Except...maybe, baking hot chocolate BARS with marshmallows.

Yeah, now you're talking.


These bars awesome because of four reasons:

(1) They took less than 10 minutes of prep work.
(2) They have marshmallows on top.
(3) Chocolate.
(4) ONLY ONE DIRTY DISH. Emphasis on ONE ONE ONE ONE.

I'm all about using one bowl. It calms my soul and helps me sleep at night.

While the bars have more of a brownie texture, you can definitely taste the hot chocolatey taste in them. If I could, I probably would've either added maybe some espresso to the mix or more powdered hot chocolate to give it an extra POW, but I think it did just fine as is. And the marshmallows? Awesome touch. These definitely need to be cooled completely before cutting, or else you'll have a marvelous gooey mess on your hands. Trust me, I know from experience.

But hey, if you like melted marshmallows and half-baked chocolate goo all over your fingers and counter-top, more power to you!

Just don't expect me to come over and clean your kitchen.

It's too cold for that sort of thing.

Hot Chocolate bars with Marshmallow Topping


INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup dark chocolate (I used semi-sweet)
1/2 cup hot chocolate powder (I would up this to maybe 3/4 cup next time)
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups marshmallows

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a 8x8 pan with foil or parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray or butter it.

2. Melt the 1/2 cup butter with the chocolate. Stir until smooth and glossy. Pour into a large mixing bowl. (I just melted the butter/chocolate together in the microwave in my mixing bowl)

3. Add in chocolate powder, egg, milk/cream, and sugar. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

4. Add flour and baking powder (you don't have to whisk together beforehand), mix until there are no signs of flour left.

5. Press into your prepared 8x8 pan.

6. Bake for 15 minutes. Top with marshmallows and then bake for an extra 2 minutes or until the top of the marshmallows are just slightly brown. For better presentation, use the back of a spoon to gently push the marshmallows down into the bars without smashing them completely.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Banana Nut Bread


I'm still not quite sure what part of me thought it was a good idea to get on an airplane during the Holidays and think that somehow nothing would go wrong.

I hate airplanes.

Wait, no, let me correct myself... I hate airports.

They are a pain. A big pain. Like... stepping on a bunch of lego's kind of pain. For one, all the food there is too expensive... even if it's just one little piece of fruit! I was in layover in Tennessee and you know how much it cost for one tiny palm sized apple!? $1.30! I could buy like... a whole POUND of apples for less than that. It was riiiiiiidiculous.

Not only that, but God forbid your flight delays. You know what there is to do at an airport if you're stuck there for an extra hour? nothing. You could walk around the whole airport... but then you start to feel really weird because you keep passing by the same stores and the people that work there start to give you funny looks like they've never seen someone stuck at an airport before.

Not to mention the fact that going through security takes five hours. Five hours of which you feel like you have to throw all your clothes off in lightspeed because somehow you ALWAYS end up in front of the one person who only takes like....a laptop and flip-flops.

All the while, you have to worry about being one of those selected people who get the majorly violating pat-down that will give you nightmares of security people touching you in weird places while you sleep. Keep your hands to yourself, please.

The worst part about it wasn't the security though. Or the one hour delay. Or the fact that we couldn't even leave the plane because for some reason the plane door wouldn't unlock, so we had to wait 15 minutes. It was the fact that before the flight I had meant to bring a slice of banana nut bread with me and I totally forgot.

I made banana nut bread before I left for what seems like the first time in ages. For years I've been searching for the banana nut bread that tastes most like the one my grandmother made, but I haven't been able to yet. I'm certain she made hers with walnuts, but for lack of time, I subbed out pecans. While the bread is still absolutely delicious, and probably one of the better recipes I've used, it still isn't my grandmothers bread. One day, I'll make it. But for now, this one will definitely do.

It uses up at least 5 BLACK bananas. Yes, BLACK bananas. Don't use them if their spotted. Wait until they are completely dark as night black. That's when the banana flavor is most prominent and sweet. And though you can use less than 5, I really recommend 5. It gives the bread a nice banana flavor that melds beautifully with the nuts, brown sugar, and dash of cinnamon. I also added a nice sugar crust to the top, which gives it a slight crunch when you eat it. It's perfect with peanut butter or nutella, or toasted with butter. And the slices are thick and well kept together enough that it can totally be made into french toast. So really, this banana bread is just all kinds of awesome.

Maybe if all the people work at the airport had this kind of bread for breakfast, they'd be less cranky. Including me.

Banana Nut Bread

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed black bananas (5 bananas)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 9x5-inch loaf pan.
2. In large bowl, combined the mashed bananas with the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in eggs, vanilla extract and cinnamon.
3. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture. Stir together.
4. Sift in the 2 cups of flour, and then mix until there is no signs of flour left. Do not overmix. It's dangerous for your banana breads soul.
5. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out the middle mostly clean. Allow bread to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

I am not good at Christmas shopping.

Actually, that's a lie. I'm not bad at Christmas shopping at all.

I just have some issues when it comes to it.

For example, when I'm Christmas shopping, economic value goes straight out the window. It then becomes what I would like to call the "Aunt" value. In layman terms, what can I buy all my nieces and nephews that can trump the other 20 other uncles and aunts?

Suddenly, it's like I do not see price-tags on anything. Instead, I see a "lame" to "awesome" value of everything I contemplate buying my nieces and nephews. $2 dollar stuffed polar bear at walmart with a funky smell? Lame. Freakin' incredibly huge stuffed polar bear/pillow that smells like victory? Totally awesome.

Christmas. It's a time for giving, loving, family, being thankful... and competition.



Of course, this has put in motion some minor setbacks. Like...buying one niece #1 two things and niece #2 just one thing because I saw something niece #1 might like and therefore grabbed it and rang it up without thinking twice.

And then returning it once I realized I had already bought her a present. And then having a huge argument with myself on whether or not I should just buy everyone two things or just stick with one thing for all. Thus bringing me into a spinning mental state of what I should do ending in me being in the fetal position in the parking lot of Toys'R'Us.

Which isn't really an odd thing to witness this time of year.


Either way, Christmas shopping is both a blessing and a curse. Which is why after I come home from a nights worth of fighting with my brain about the whole Christmas present deal, I go into my kitchen and I bake something that fills the house with a very simple reminder. It's not about who gets the best gift, but about the fact that someone cared enough to get one for you.

I baked this the morning of one of those crazy Christmas shopping days, and honestly, just how beautiful it came out and how wonderful the apartment smelled afterward was enough to get me ready for the day.

It's a Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake. You may think that sounds odd, but pears are often quite complimentary for gingerbread. Right next to apple, it has a fruity sweetness that works in harmony with the spices inside the cake. It is an incredibly fragrant cake that has a glossy brown sugar shine on the top. The white chocolate drizzle is spiced with pumpkin spice, but if you don't have that on hand, a dash each of ground cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg/cloves will do the trick just fine. It really does complete the cake, I think. This is incredibly moist. I'm sure if this cake was an aunt, it'd probably win the "awesome" award right off the bat (unless, of course, its competition was a cheesecake). With just the right amount of spices, and caramlized pear slices on top... it makes a perfect brunch, breakfast, or light dessert. Plus, it makes your house smell like heaven. Who wouldn't want that?


Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake
(adapted from Gourmet)
INGREDIENTS:
2 ripe pears
1/4 cup of salted butter, melted
1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of molasses
1 cup of boiling water
1/2 cup of salted butter, softened
1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Peel and core pears and cut each into thin slices. Arrange pears in the bottom of an 8 inch springform pan. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together molasses and boiling water in a small bowl. Beat together butter, brown sugar, and egg in a mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes, then alternately mix in one third of the flour mixture and half of the molasses mixture at low speed until smooth, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Pour batter over topping, being careful not to disturb pears, and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

3. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge, then remove sides and invert a large plate with a lip over the bottom of the cake and, using pot holders to hold the pan and plate tightly together, invert cake onto plate. Replace any pears that stick to skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Butterscotch Bars

So I was wondering if I was the only person currently with 5 cans of pumpkin puree in their pantry? No? Good.

I wouldn't want to feel like the only one who has been trying to figure out a way to make the most of an abundance of pumpkin. Apparently, thanksgiving in all it's turkey glory cannot come fast enough for me to use up all of this pumpkin that I bought a month ago thinking to myself it would be a smart investment to get it now before it disappears thanksgiving week and I'm having panic attacks in the kitchen ripping my hair out because the pumpkin shortage of '09 has come back to haunt me.

By the look of my local supermarkets, I think I acted a little too quickly.



I can't really be upset about it though. Because if I had never bought those numerous cans of pumpkin puree, I would've never stumbled upon these addicting Pumpkin Pie Butterscotch Bars.

That's right.

Pumpkin. Pie. Butterscotch. Bars.

Now, I don't usually go off the map for thanksgiving and make anything outside of pie or cheesecake.... but honestly, I would have no shame in bringing these crustless square beauties. Delicious does not even begin to describe. It is far better than any pumpkin pie or cheesecake I have ever had or made. And I do not take my pumpkin desserts very lightly.

As you can probably tell from the pictures, my bars are very custard-y. That's because I took 'em out of the oven a little bit earlier than I was suppose to. Do I regret it? NO. In fact, I think they taste better this way. Sure, you'll have to eat it with a napkin next to you but that is a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I'm sure any trees that had to die in order for me to use said napkin would do the same thing in my place. I'm positive of it. Yup.


While the pumpkin pie bars themselves are ahhhmazing on their own (due to the fact that this baby is packed with brown sugar and butter up the wa-hoo), the butterscotch chips are a must and I would not recommend leaving them out less you may cause me to cry at night for your loss. It's worth the extra $$$, I promise you that. The caramelized taste paired with the sweetness of the butterscotch chips just tie the flavors together so beautifully that it's hard to believe I have gone so long without realizing the potential of using the two together.

If you are looking for a thanksgiving pumpkin dessert that differs from the norm while still staying on the same track of a "pumpkin" theme... then I swear by this recipe. I cannot imagine any person being able to pass a second helping of these up. It's just not possible.

Please. Make these. If you are a pumpkin fan: MAKE THEM. Eat them. Eat them lots. Eat them lots, get a tummy ache, and send the rest to your neighbor. Or make them for thanksgiving and watch everyone else eat them and sing your praises until your ego is so big you decide you deserve a shot of rum in your egg nog. I won't tell. Just please, please, PLEASE.... Make these.



Pumpkin Pie Butterscotch Bars
(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
INGREDIENTS:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) butter, melted
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips

TOPPING:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on both sides.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Add the pumpkin and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, gently stir or fold the flour into the pumpkin mixture until just combined.

4. Scraped the batter into the pan and smooth the top. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and cinnamon, and then sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center has just a few moist crumbs on it. Cool completely and then, using the parchment as handles, lift out of the pan and cut into 24 squares. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Toffee Almond Cookies

Every time this year, there is an outburst of random acts of kindness. It's like, as soon as Halloween is over, everyones got the satan out of them (Okay, not everyone, but some people) and they all want to start sending out cookies and calling up relatives and oohh, santa's comin', you better be good! kind of deal to all the children. It's almost as if people suddenly realize, "oh CRAP, Christmas is coming... better get my sunday best on!" -- y'know, that kind of thing...

It's also the time of year where donators start popping up everywhere. Outside your shopping mall. Inside your grocery store, stalking you down dorito lane. After any transaction you make, you are usually asked to decide whether you would like to donate to so-and-so's foundation or not and that it goes to a great cause and it will only cost you $$ amount of money.

I know this, because I'm doing it at my store as well.



Never doing a donation run before during the holidays has shown me a lot about people. It has shown me: 1. how giving people can be; and: 2. how downright ridiculously unreasonable people can be. Sure, if a donation is like, over 7 dollars, I can imagine the pause in someones thought process when you ask them if they'd like to donate. But when someone is asking you if you'd like to donate $1.25 to a local childrens hospital charity, and you say "no, I can't right now" and then hand me a $100 dollar bill to pay for your $20 dollar purchase, there is something very, very, very wrong.

Sure, there are some of you out there who really can't donate. And I can understand that. But those of you who can... should. Not because Santa or God is watching over you but because it's the right thing to do. I don't always want to spend that extra 4-5 dollars as a donation, but you know what? I get paid. I have a job. Five bucks cut from my salary won't hurt me. And if it doesn't hurt you, then really, is there any reason not to do it? Nope.

I don't mean to get on anyones case about it. I know people have been ripped off by christmas charities before and we're all a little wary of where our money goes. But still. Helping is helping, and yes, even a $1.25 makes a difference.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way... these cookies are very good. Slivered almonds and 1 cupful of toffee make these a great little gift to anyone (who doesn't have a nut allergy). If you wanted to, you could also use milk-chocolate covered toffee. Either one tastes amazing. The cookies are a little on the soft side, making them perfect for dunking twice since they soap up the liquid fast and then it's just a brilliant symphony of toffee, cool milk or hot coffee and the subtle crunch of almonds in your mouth. Yeah, these babies are good for any time of the day.

If you wanted to, you could probably throw in 1/2 cup of oatmeal in there too if you want a chewier cookie. I was going to do that, but unfortunately I didn't have enough oatmeal. Thus, my dreams were ruined forever.

Make the cookies. Make donations when you can. Make cookie donations when you can. Helping in any way is better than doing nothing. Even if it's just $1.25, I promise you it's worth it. Just cause you can't see a sick child in front of you, doesn't mean they don't exist.



Toffee Almond Cookies

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of toffee pieces, milk chocolate or otherwise
1 cup almond slivers

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl: all purpose flour, baking soda, & salt.

3. Cream together butter & both sugars. Add eggs & vanilla, mix well. Slowly incorporate the dry mixture into the sugar mixture.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips, toffee pieces, & almond slivers.

5. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Let cool completely on wire wrack.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Brown Sugar Bundt Cake with Maple Espresso Glaze


A long time ago, when I was a itty-bitty Alex who liked to run around in her PJ's all day and refused to wear actual clothes until she was well past 8 years old, my Mother baked me my own cake for my birthday.

It was a lovely box mix yellow cake with lovely Pillsbury white frosting slathered all over it. She made it in her Bundt Cake pan, and after she had frosted it completely, she decided it would be a great idea to stick a little doll figure angel in the middle of the cake. She then had an even better idea, which was to surround said doll figure with candles.

Candles.

Lit. Candles.

With fire.

Fiery candles of death.

I don't think anyone in the room thought it was the best idea, but she went with it anyway. And as she lit the candles, I still remember to this day the image in my head of that poor helpless doll sitting on top the middle of a thickly frosted bundt cake, surrounded in flames. As if the doll was being made as an ancient sacrifice to Chthulu and the candles were the natives lighting their torches getting ready for the sacrifice to their angry God.

Ok, so I wasn't exactly thinking that when I was a kid. But when I think about it today, that's all I see.

Now-a-days, It's hard for me to look at a bundt cake without thinking about that moment. It's not often that I eat bundt cakes. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like cake. It's not my preferred dessert of choice and given the chance I will always pick something other than cake at the dessert table or party. Sure, I'll try it to be nice, but that's about as far as it goes for me. As I've touched on numerous times in my blog, it's no specific thing about cake that makes me dislike it. I just don't like the cake/frosting combo. Doesn't sit well with me or my tummy.

The thing about cake is that often, it has a dry crumb that gives it that kind of "stick to the roof of your mouth" chew that can be both unpleasant and yucky to many people. Dry crumbs are often caused by 1. using cake mix and 2. having not enough moisture in your cake. I've always thought anyone who can pull off a moist but not "wet" cake had a one in a million skill of being able to perfect the balance between a cake that has enough dryness in it to keep it together but has enough moisture to make it both tender, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth quality.


This cake...is nothing like that. In fact, it's a superb way to end any meal, or start any day with a thick slice for breakfast. The glaze on top is subtley sweet, giving a perfect finish to the caramely tasting insides. The crumb is both moist and satisfying, and the chocolate chips inside are just a fantastic added bonus that ties it all together and makes it much more than just a regular ol' cake with some glaze on it. Even I myself could be found picking off pieces of this cake here and there throughout the day. And that's definitely saying something.

If you wanted to, you could make the glaze a lot thicker. I like a thinner glaze on my cakes, so I used a bit more heavy cream. But if you like a thicker, more visually apparent glaze, go ahead and stick with the recipe below. And please, do not disclude the chocolate chips. They are worth the extra trip to the store. Promise.

Brown Sugar Bundt Cake with Maple Espresso Glaze
(Recipe by Bon App├ętit)

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups all purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons (or more) whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 12-cup Bundt pan. Spray pan generously with nonstick spray. Dust pan lightly with flour.

2. Mix chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons flour in medium bowl.

3. Sift remaining flour with baking soda, baking powder, and salt into another medium bowl.

4. Using electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract and maple extract. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Mix in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chip mixture. Transfer batter to prepared pan, spreading evenly.

6. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan, about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on rack 30 minutes. Invert cake onto rack and cool completely.

7. For the glaze, Combine powdered sugar, maple syrup, 2 tablespoons cream, and espresso powder in medium bowl. Whisk until smooth, adding more cream by 1/2 teaspoonfuls if glaze is too thick to drizzle. Spoon glaze decoratively over top of cake; let stand at room temperature until glaze is firm, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake

This cheesecake is magical.

In one bite, it can do so many different things.

It will change your life.
It will change your perspective of everything.
It will make you question reality.
How can something taste so good?



It will impress your drama-queen manager who is always PMSing. Even if he's a guy.
It will make your boyfriend stop playing Fable 3 and Halo: Reach for more than just a potty break.
It will cause odd and excessive groaning/moaning noises from everyone that eats it.
It will make anyone who hates you, love you. Forever.
It pretty much brings all the boys to the yard. And not for milkshakes.

This cheesecake...is just far too much.

Smooth. Creamy. Sweet enough to balance out the brownies. Decadent enough to satisfy with one serving, but addicting enough to go back for more sometime around midnight when no one can see you lick it off the fork. Oh, and a chocolate wafer crust to top it all off.

Yeah. You can't really get better than this without enticing a heart attack on yourself.

The best part about this cheesecake is that it's easy. Sure, it includes some patience. But it's so very, very worth it. If you've got a big event coming up, or maybe just want to do something nice for someone... this is the way to go. Plus, it looks so impressive when you cut into it. The brownie chunks make such a beautiful pattern, it will make anyone "ooh" and "aah" all over again when they take a slice. Please, make this cheesecake. You won't regret it.



Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake
(recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

Brownie Ingredients:

1 family-size box of brownie mix, baked as directed
or
1 9x13 pan of your favorite brownie recipe

Crust:
(measurements to double crust in parenthesis)

1 1/2 cups or 5 ounces (3 cups or 10 ounces to double) finely ground cookies such as chocolate wafers. Or Chocolate Teddy Grahams.
5 tablespoons (10 tablespoons to double) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup (2/3 cup to double) sugar
1/8 (1/4 teaspoon to double) teaspoon salt

Cheesecake

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 cups brownie cubes

Chocolate Ganache:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken up, or 1/2 cup chocolate morsels
2 ounces butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Directions:

1.
Bake brownies as directed on the box or bake your own recipe. Once brownies are cool, store in the refrigerator or freezer before you cut them for cleaner cuts.

2.
Stir together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of a buttered 24-centimeter springform pan. Fill right away or chill up to 2 hours.

3. Make crumb crust as directed above for 24-centimeter cheesecake. Preheat oven to 350°F.

4. Make filling and bake cake: Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy and add eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla and sugar, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.

5. Fold brownie cubes in very gently and pour mixture into prepared pan. Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken.

When completely cool, top glaze.

6. To make the ganache, grind the chocolate into powder in the food processor, scald the butter and cream in a saucepan (or in a Pyrex cup in the microwave). With the machine running, pour the hot cream/butter mixture slowly through the feed tube onto the chocolate. Blend until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down sides once or twice.

7. Add the extract and sugar and process until smooth. Spread over cheesecake while ganache is still warm. Chill until ready to serve.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apple Muffins with Maple Icing

Apples. I love them. No, seriously, I love them.

There hasn't been a time in my life where apples have not been present in whatever place I'm housing. It's true.

Ask my Dad. He has the Costco receipts.


When fall comes around, I get giddy. Sure, apples are widely available at all times of the year but it's this time in specific that they really start to get tasty. Not only that, but you've got a wide variety at your disposable. Granny Smith. Jazz. Red Delicious. Fuji. Pink Lady. And I guess we can include the Grapple in there, too (although I am not a fan of the grape/apple hybrid species).

Out of all of them, I prefer my Red Delicious and Fuji. Fuji when I want something a little lighter and sweeter. Red Delicious when I want that CRUNCH every time I bite in. Yeah, i'm a crunchy-sweet-apple fan.

Which means I hate Granny Smith. In everything. Including Apple Pie. I don't know who decided a tart apple would be the best kind of apple to use for pie, but I highly disagree on all levels. That clever Granny Smith may look all sparkling green in the apple bin... but it's just to fool you. No wonder they call them Granny Smith. It's like biting into a bitter old lady with 9 cats. Grainy. Tart. Yuck.

No offense to bitter old ladies with 9 cats or Granny Smith fans... I love you. Just not the apples. Sorry.

These apple muffins in particular are fantastic. And while you could go ahead and use Granny Smith if that's your preference, I prefered a combo of my two favorites: Fuji and Red Delicious. One of each, to be specific. And as unhealthy as they may look, the only guilty thing about these babies is the brown sugar topping and perfect maple icing that pairs along with it. Seriously. Maple Icing... Where have you been all my life? I could have sat there dunking apple pieces in that stuff until I had a sugar stroke. No lie.

They are made primarily with applesauce in replace of butter and oil, with a little bit of yogurt to help keep them moist. I sifted the flours together twice to get a more light crumb but you can just go ahead and whisk them if you prefer. They are loaded with cinnamon and have just a tad bit of actual sugar in them. I couldn't really find one recipe for these in specific so I just ended up mixing some recipes together and bam: Apple Muffins.

By the way, these are worth going to the store and buying real maple syrup for. Don't use that fake pancake stuff. It's not the same AT ALL.

I hope you all are enjoying apple season as much as I am. Even if you do like Granny Smith.


Apple Muffins with Maple Icing

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 medium sized apples, cored and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)

Crumble Topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar or granulated sugar
1/4 cup oats, rolled or quick-cooking
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons butter, cold
handful of toasted slivered almonds, optional
(if you like A LOT of topping, double this)

Maple Icing:
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons REAL maple syrup (NO PANCAKE SYRUP)
1 teaspon to 1 tablespoon milk, to thin

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Prepare muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray or liners.
2. Sift or whisk the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. Whisk together the sugars and applesauce in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and yogurt. Mix until smooth.

4. Combine the flour with the applesauce mixture and stir until no trace of flour remains. Mixture will be thick. Fold in chopped apples and almond slivers, if using.

5. To make the crumble topping, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, oats, and almonds together. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in the butter in small pieces until mixture is crumbly.

5. Distribute batter evenly between muffin cups, sprinkling the crumble topping on each one as desired. Bake at 400F for 18-20 minutes (NOTE: Mine were done in 14 minutes so make sure to check them with a toothpick a little earlier on). Cool on wire rack when done.

6. While muffins are baking, make the maple icing. Simply whisk together the powdered sugar, maple syrup. Add milk in teaspoonfuls until icing drizzles easily off the tip of a spoon or fork.

7. Once muffins are done and cooled, drizzle maple icing on each one. Don't be flimsy with it either. I'm watching you.

Makes 16-18 Muffins.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting



I have an aversion to cupcakes.

I don't know why or what it is about cupcakes that are unappealing/unappetizing to me. And I'm not talking about just a particular part of the cupcake. I don't eat the cake and leave the frosting or vice versa. No, I just flat out leave the whole thing in tact.

It doesn't even matter if they are homemade or store-bought. If the frosting is cream cheese or buttercream. Either way, chances are I'm going to pass them by the dessert table and go straight for the out of the box brownies.

I didn't realize how alone I was in this feeling until my co-workers and I had a huge discussion about cake and desserts in the break room one night, where I stated briefly that I "didn't like to eat cupcakes".

The jaws dropped to the floor and it was like in seconds I was Jason Bourne trying to figure out what was wrong with me and why everyone wanted me dead. "You don't like cupcakes?!" they exclaimed, following with statements like: "cupcakes are my favorite! how can you not like cupcakes?" "I've never met anyone who didn't like cupcakes!" "Alex, you can't be a baker and not like cupcakes." As I sat there, my reputation as a baker diminished for my dislike of cake and frosting and everything else, I decided to do what any hard-headed baker would do.

I asked someone what their favorite cupcake was and I baked it that very week.


Of course, out of all the types of cupcakes that could be requested, Red Velvet made it's way to the top of the list. Sure, yeah. Pick the cake with the five gallons of food coloring in it, I thought, as I grumpily grabbed a whole bottle of it from the grocery shelf. Three dollars to prove my worth. All because of a cupcake debate.

As I woke up that very morning at 9AM to bake those cupcakes to take to work, I couldn't help but try to figure out in my head all the reasons of why I don't like cupcakes. So far, this is all that I have:

1. I ate too much pillsbury chocolate frosting out of the can as a child, and have ruined myself forever.

2. I ate five cupcakes at a party once and ended up puking up sprinkled cake mix, and have ruined myself forever.

3. Frosting cupcakes sucks.

4. Frosting cupcakes suck when you have no pastry bags.

5. Frosting cupcakes suck when you have no frosting tips.

6. Frosting cupcakes sucks.

7. I am too impatient to frost a cake or a cupcake and make it look nice.

8. I am too impatient to bake five hundred cupcakes and make them look nice.

9. I am too impatient.

10. At least when you eat 5 cookies as a midnight snack you don't have 5 empty wrappers waiting on the desk/counter/trashcan to give you a guilt-trip in the morning.

11. In fact, why the hell do cupcakes have to have wrappers? What makes them so special that I have to spend an extra 2 dollars just to make them look pretty? They already have frosting, what more do you want from me!?

12. Cupcakes are divas. Divas with wrappers. And sprinkles.

13. I'm poor.

Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that my relationship with cupcakes has absolutely nothing to do with that list and I just am one of those people who prefer the apple to the orange. But at least I can go home happy knowing that while I may not like everything that I bake, at least I can bake it and know it will taste good regardless. Even if it doesn't have sprinkles on it. Or a wrapper. Whatever.

These cupcakes will definitely hit home for any red velvet cake fan. Please, do not skimp on this one. The cream cheese frosting is a must, as is the cake flour. If you leave those two out, you will only be left with an unsatisfying heavy cake that is most definitely not red velvet. And just a tip: Don't forget to check if you have enough red food coloring. 2 tablespoons is more than that little container you get when you buy a pack of assorted colors. Trust me on this one. I know from experience... and failed "pink" velvet cakes.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
(Adapted from Annie Eats)

INGREDIENTS:

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted


DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar. Beat on medium speed until well blended. Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

5. Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Yield: 24 Cupcakes

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

I have come to the conclusion that I have a problem.

Don't worry! It's not the kind of problem that includes the use of anti-itching cream in odd places or anything like that.

It's more of a personal thing. You know. Like a, "what the heck was God thinking when he made me?" problem.

No offense to you, God. We're still homies.

I guess the problem, more or less, is my attitude in the kitchen. It's like... as soon as I walk into the kitchen, I turn into the Hispanic/American hybrid female version of Ramsey. And instead of having a spatula in my grasp, I have a hand-mixer on high, ready to kick someones butt if they even look at what I'm doing. Isn't that horrible?'

You'd think having such a passionate love for baking and cooking would give me a sense of patience. In reality, I am probably the least patient person in the world. And if someone gets in my way when I'm cooking, or says something like, "are you sure you wanna use that much cinnamon?" while I'm in the middle of making snickerdoodles, then I cannot account for the words that may pass my lips.

Example: This pumpkin cheesecake. It was not easy to make. There were many trials. And I was not alone in making it.

I've made pumpkin cheesecake before. I've made a lot of varieties. When I saw the recipe for Rose Levy's pumpkin cheesecake, I couldn't resist. But at the same time, I saw another recipe that called for ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon in the batter; spices which were lacking in Rose's recipe. I decided to just combine the two and see where it got me. Not only that, but I decided to ask my boyfriend to join me, as he is a huge pumpkin cheesecake fan and I thought it would be fun...

Until he tried to take the cream cheese out of its package with a whisk because he didn't want to get his fingers messy.

It all just went downhill from there.

Now that I think about it, working on something like cheesecake with someone who has never baked something from scratch before may not have been a good idea. And although I was thankful for the time spent together, I won't deny the fact that at one point I wanted to just throw the whole batter out into the sink and call it a day. Gratefully that didn't happen, because regardless of the whole batter being funky issue, the cheesecake still came out perfectly firm, uncracked, and delicious. Although I wasn't a huge fan of it (I'm not a pumpkin cheescake person), the spices did meld together perfectly and I think it made all the difference in the cheesecake. That, and an awesome crust that I pretty much almost ate by the fistful by itself.

But really. This whole impatience with other people in the kitchen thing... am I the only one? I would honestly rather wait 20 minutes for lunch then work with someone else in a small kitchen so we can make our own lunches at the same time. It just doesn't work for me.

Either way, this cheesecake did come out awesome. I didn't have a food processor so the recipe itself didn't work out for me exactly the way I wanted it to. If you do have a food processor, great! Maybe it'll work out for you. But I didn't. So, if you only have a hand mixer, I'm going to include both ways to make this cheesecake with and without a food processor. And if you do happen to make this with someone else less baking savvy, and you have the same kitchen temper I do... let them make the crust.

Trust me.

It might save their life.

(P.S: I do love my boyfriend for helping me out with it, and he is still alive. Just wanted to make that clear before someone calls the police.)



Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake w/Gingersnap Pecan Crust
(Tweaked from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe)


Crust:
4 1/2 oz gingersnaps (about 17 2-in. cookies)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
(NOTE: I doubled the crust for mine and it worked out fine)

Cheesecake:

16oz cream cheese, softened
15oz pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix, preferably Libby's)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream, chilled (NOTE: I had to substitute 2 cups full fat evaporated milk for this since there was no heavy cream left at the store, feel free to do the same if you're watching your budget)

For Garnish:
Whipped Cream
Crumbled Gingersnaps
Caramelized Pecans


Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x 2 1/2 -inch or higher springform pan.

To make the crust:
2. In a food processor, process the cookies with the pecans, sugar, salt and cinnamon (if using) until the cookies become fine crumbs, about 20 seconds. Add the melted butter and pulse about 10 times, just until incorporated.

3. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the mixture into the base of the prepared pan and partway up the sides. Lay plastic wrap over the crumbs to keep them from sticking to your fingers. Be sure to press the bottom thoroughly so that the crumbs are evenly distributed. Wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of extra-wide heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent water leaking in from the water bath .

To make the filling:
4. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the pumpkin puree and sugar. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook stirring constantly, until the mixture has darkened somewhat, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

FOOD PROCESSOR WAY:

5. Scrape the pumpkin mixture into a large food processor and process for 1 minute with the feed tube open (so steam can escape), scraping down the sides. With the motor running add the chilled cream. Add the softened cream cheese and process for 30 seconds or until smoothly incorporated, scraping down the sides two or three times. Add the eggs and yolks and process for about 5 seconds, just until incorporated.

HAND MIXER WAY:

5. Scrape pumpkin mixture into a large mixing bowl with cream cheese. Blend together until completely incorporated and smooth. Add the eggs and yolks until just incorporated. Add chilled heavy cream until smooth, remembering to scrape down the sides.

To bake the cheesecake:
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan in a larger pan (a 12×2-inch cake pan or a roasting pan and surround it with 1 inch of very hot water. Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour.

7. Transfer the cake to a rack (the center will still be jiggly) and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

8. Unmold cheesecake onto serving platter. Garnish as desired.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Persimmon Coffee Cake


Fuyu Persimmons.

Does anyone else know what they are? Huh? Anyone out there?

Hello? Japan? Can you please explain yourself, here? Because I seriously need to know why these haven't been apart of my life until now. What else are you hiding from me?

Fuyu Persimmns. They blow my mind.

Upon my first meeting of the Fuyu Persimmon (not to be confused with its sister fruit, Hachiya Persimmon), I thought it was a tomato. Imagine my surprise when I brought a buttload of them home under the impression that I'd be eating BLT's all week, only to be told that those were definitely not tomatoes, but a fruit instead (yes, I know tomatoes are technically a fruit but I would rather not get into a political discussion about fruit today). I didn't believe it until I ran a knife through it and heard the familiar *crunch* noise that followed. It was as if I was cutting a juicy, firm, ripe apple. Except the taste was entirely different. Subtly sweet with a hint of what seems like cinnamon or honey, Fuyu Persimmons quickly became one of my favorite fruit the minute I snacked on it.

Which is why I had to take a perfectly healthy fruit and throw it in some butter and brown sugar and make a coffee cake.

What? It's only the logical thing to do.


In most persimmon recipes, they tell you to puree the fruit first due to its hard texture. But I merely chopped these up, threw them with some baking powder and then folded them into the batter like you would do for apples or pears. The result was a still slightly firm but mostly soft fruit buried within the coffee cake, giving bursts of flavor in every bite. Not only that, but the perfect crumble on top brings it all together for an awesome sunday morning treat or weekday brunch.

Or just a snack every time you pass by the kitchen. I'm not kidding. You won't be able to pass by this without grabbing little bits here and there.

I plan on experimenting with this fruit a little more since I still have quite a few left over. If you want you could easily substitute the persimmons for apples, pears, or any other fall fruit.

Just don't confuse them for tomatoes. It might mess up everything. Especially if you planned to use them for spaghetti sauce. Although, Fuyu Persimmon Spaghetti Sauce might turn out pretty awesome... Y'never know.


Fuyu Persimmon Coffee Cake

Coffee Cake Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoon baking powder, divided
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups chopped fuyu persimmons (3 medium persimmons, chopped)
1/2 cup of golden raisins (optional)

Crumble Topping Ingredients:
1/2 all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, cold
powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9x13in. pan. Stir 1 teaspoon baking powder with chopped fuyu persimmons in a medium bowl to coat. Set aside.

2.
Sift together all dry ingedients (flour through 1 teaspoon baking powder) in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Mix together butter and sugar until creamy. Blend in eggs and vanilla until the batter is light and fluffy. Fold in the fuyu mixture into the batter.

4. Blend the flour mix into the fuyu mix until no trace of flour remains.

5. In a seperate bowl, make the crumble topping. Whisk together flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the batter is crumbly.

6. Pour the fuyu batter into the 9x13 pan, sprinkle the crumble topping evenly ontop.

5. Bake at 350F for 30-50 minutes or until a knife/toothpick comes out without crumbs when inserted into the middle. Let cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Reeses Peanut Butter Bar Blondies


Before I get into how awesome these blondies are, let me tell you a little bit about someone else who is just as equally awesome.


My sister.

Y'see, my sister is a little out there. She's a little strange. Possibly because she's related to me. Or maybe it's the other way around... whatever. Either way, my sister is in her own way one of the most special people I've ever met.

She's not TOO complicated. She enjoys the simple things in life. Like Lost. And Dexter. And Bones. She also was the person who got me hooked on The Fringe... which I haven't decided if that's a good thing or not.


When she was pregnant with her first kid, my sister craved starbursts and hersheys kisses. When I was younger, I would snuggle up to her and watch her play Zelda while we ate chocolate together. And then she'd get pissed off and go "What the hell do I do?" every five minutes. I'd just watch intently, trying to memorize everything she did so I could do it, too.

When my sister reads a good book, or gets hooked on a good videogame, she won't put it down until she's beat it. And I am not kidding. The freaking apocalypse could be going on but she'll still be balled up on the couch reading the next Nora Roberts series. It's a little scary.



My sister also rocked the punk dreads look when she was my age. Just sayin'.

My sister can rival any man in anything. Case in point: My mother called my sister instead of my 4 other brothers to come kill a mouse in our house. If that doesn't prove it, I don't what does. This fact also includes burping contests. Please don't ask me how I know.

I'm still trying to forget the many dinners spent having my sisters large belch blown in my face. Thanks, sis.


My sister likes wine. And chocolate. And cheese. She has a tongue ring which really grosses me out. Her laugh can fill up a room. She has a beautiful singing voice and used to be in choir. And she somehow attracts every over-possessive bi-polar weirdo freak out there (I think it's due to the tongue ring, personally...). She also wanted to go to Culinary School to be a Pastry Chef, like myself. Except she wanted to decorate cakes, and open up her own shop dedicated to it. If I had a million dollars, I'd send her to Culinary School so she could do it.

Even though sister can be a stubborn hard-ass, it's cause she has been through hell and back. She is one of the most strongest people I've ever known, hands down. She single-handedly raised two awesome kids. Worked her butt off for everything she has, and yet still offers to help others with a genuine smile on her face. Her faith is inspiring to me. Lets me know that if she can still keep her head up after all that's happened to her, that I can definitely do the same.


And if I could be anywhere right now, I'd be at her house making her these Reeses Peanut Butter Bar Blondies. Because she's worth it. Because she likes Reeses. And because it would make me feel better to share these instead of eating them all myself. That, and I kind of owe her after all the years of her putting up with me going into her room and reading her diary, which was in cursive, so I couldn't read it anyway.

Yeahhh... Sorry about that, sis.

But really, my sister is just as awesome as these blondies. And, also like my sister, they should come with a warning label. So just in case you couldn't already tell, you probably shouldn't eat these blondies if:

1. You don't like peanut butter. In which case, what the heck is wrong with you?
2. You are dieting.
3. You have no one to share with.
4. You don't have milk in the house.

If none of the above apply to you, then please.. for the love of all that is holy: Make. These. Share. These. Eat. These. They are so good it's ridiculous. And if you're a fan of peanut butter, you'll go nuts. If you can't find Reeses Peanut Butter Bars (not to be confused with PB cups), you can substitute reeses pb & choco chips, or reeses pb cups chopped up.

Either way, don't miss out on these. They are too good.


Reeses Peanut Butter Bar Blondies

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 king-sized reeses peanut butter bars, chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter & chocolate chips (found with the bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup finely chopped honey-roasted peanuts (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.

2. Mix butter and brown sugar together until light and creamy. Mix in eggs, peanut butter, and vanilla until smooth.

3. Combine the dry ingredients (flour through salt) together in a seperate bowl. Mix into peanut butter batter until no trace of flour remains.

4. Fold in Reeses bars. peanut butter & chocolate chips, and peanuts.

5. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a knife/toothpick in the center comes out clean.

6. Let cool before cutting into 24 squares.
 

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