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

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

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)


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


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)

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)


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


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.


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.


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)

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.

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

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)


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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Roasted Banana Muffins with Brown Sugar Topping


Gwen Stefani and I can relate to them.

Because apparently, a lot of things make me bananas.

For example, when I walk past the kids section of our bookstore on a saturday night after a family of six have been sitting there for 3 hours.

I go bananas.

When it's 8 in the morning and I am ready for my cuppa coffee only to find that the coffee bin is bone-dry empty,

I go bananas.

When my bank decides to withhold 300+ dollars from me for 2 weeks just 'cause they feel like it,

I go bananas.

When I'm in a public bathroom and at the last possible second I realize that there is no toilet paper left for the stall,

I go bananas.

And then I panic and start having violent convulsions and delusional thoughts about how I am going to get said toilet paper without coming into another humans contact or leaving the stall with my pants on the ground.

But mostly I just go bananas.

The point is, bananas and I have a long history together. I know how bananas feel. Which is why I couldn't help but feel just a little bit bad when I threw them in the oven, roasted them until they were caramelized and then mashed them all together to make a muffin.

But then I ate them with some coffee, and I didn't feel bad anymore.

These muffins are incredibly moist, low in sugar, and really not that bad nutritional wise for you. Especially if you skip the brown sugar topping (but that might drive you bananas). Since I didn't completely mash them up they have little chunks of banana sticking out here and there making them really visually pleasing when you open them up. Made with mostly whole wheat flour, no eggs, 3 lovely black as night bananas and 1/2 cup sugar, they are an appropriate breakfast item especially if you schmear some all natural peanut butter on top. Mmm.

Try 'em out. Their delicious, and roasting them doesn't take too long and certainly makes all the difference.
Roasted Banana Muffins with Brown Sugar Topping

Banana Muffin Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup all-purpose)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup white sugar or brown sugar (I used white)
3 very ripe bananas
1 egg, whisked (optional, I omitted and it came out great)
1/3 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brown Sugar Topping
1 tablespoon quick cooking oats
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
dash of cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 425F

2. First, make 3 in. slits into the bananas skin. Place them into the oven (or a conventional oven) for 15-20 minutes or until juices start flowing out of the slits. Remove from oven and let them cool down a bit. Reduce oven heat to 350F.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg)

4. Briefly mash bananas together with the sugar, sour cream, vanilla and egg if using until it just combined and still chunky in some areas.

5. Fold flour mixture with banana mixture until there is no trace of flour left. Do not overmix.

6. Pour into prepared muffin tin about 3/4th full.

7. In another small bowl mix the topping ingredients together. Sprinkle evenly over all muffins.

8. Bake muffins at 350F for about 10-15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 12 regular sized muffins and 16-17ish mini muffins.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chocolate Crunch Chunk Cookies

I think my body is seasonally confused.

Yeah... Awkward.

Seriously, though. Autumn is well on its way to arriving full blast here, and instead of eating warm bowls of oatmeal for breakfast, sipping hot tea and enjoying warm comfort meals like lasagna and soup, all I crave is summer foods.

Cold yogurt and fruit. Frappucinos. Ice-cream sandwiches. Cool salads. And milk. Lots and lots of nice, out of the fridge milk.

It's becoming a bit of a problem.

Although I am bursting at the seams with excitement for the forthcoming events like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I feel like I am still stuck in summer, even though the temperatures have dropped. Maybe it's because I didn't get enough strawberries this year. Maybe it's because back in Florida we don't have a "fall", we just have a summer and 3 months of "winter". Honestly, I have no idea. But i'm still waiting for my christmas cookie bug to set in.

And with all of the cool milk and scoops of ice-cream that have been consumed lately, I figure the time is right for some cookies. Cookies, unlike pumpkin pie and blueberry cobbler, is a thing that can be enjoyed at any season. There is no confusion with cookies. It's kind of like God created three things: Man, Woman, and Cookies. It's just meant to be there.

Yeah, I totally just put cookies on the same level as human creation. Sorry.

These are probably one of the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever made. I don't say that lightly because Lord knows I've made way too many (mostly failed) chocolate chip cookies. While they aren't my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookies ever, they do scale right up there in the top 10. These aren't just filled with chocolate chunks, either. They have bits of Ghirardeli's milk deluxe crisp chocolate bars in them as well, making them particularly yummy. If you don't want to shell out the cash for a Ghirardeli bar, you can just settle for a normal crunch bar. It won't be as rich, but it gets the job done. If you can get the Ghirardeli though, I'd definitely pull towards that one. It balances out nicely with the semi-sweet chocolate chunks. Oh, and for extra good measure, I threw some cornflakes in there for added texture. You can always use rice krispy cereal, too. Or just omit it all together if you're a cookie purist.

Either way, they are deliciously chewy. Make sure to cool them on the sheets while they are still underbaked if you like 'em chewy like me. If you like them on the softer side, just remove them immediately once they are light brown around the edges. And if you like them crisp, leave them in till they are nice and brown all over. Proceed to eat with cold milk. Or hot coffee, if your body is not seasonally confused.

Chocolate Crunch Chunk Cookies

12 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if butter is already salted)
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 1/2 cups all purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
2 Ghirardeli Milk Deluxe Crisp Bars (8 squares in each bar) or 2 king-sized crunch bars (8 squares in each bar), roughly chopped
1 cup cornflakes

1. Melt butter in a sauce pan, then mix with brown sugar and white sugar. Let mixture cool before mixing in the eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined.

2. Mix in the baking soda and salt.

3. With a wooden spoon, fold in two cups of flour into the batter until no traces are left.

4. Fold in chocolate chunks and chocolate crunch bars. Then fold in the cornflakes right after.

5. Chill for 1 hour or until firm.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake cookies for 8-12 minutes. For chewy cookies, take out of the oven when the sides are brownish but middles are still underbaked and leave to cool on the hot pan for 3 minutes. For soft cookies, take out of the oven when sides are light brown and remove from pan onto cooling rack. For crispier cookies, leave in oven for about 10 minutes or until brown all over. Remove from oven and pan and place on cooling rack.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lemon Bars with Crumble Topping

Have you ever gone to a cafe', or a bakery, or just any eatery in general and saw one of their perfect looking desserts behind the glass display and thought to yourself, "oh my gosh, I HAVE to try THAT"? Then you get all excited, thinking of what it will taste like, how someone could come up with it, how you totally should spend that $2 dollar price tag for it on something that matters like AA batteries for your camera, and how darn cute it looks all nicely presented amongst the other desserts. You savor the moment when you ring it up, sit down, take a quick sip of your freshly brewed coffee and finally, you dig into your 2 dollar treat without skepticism.

And for a brief moment there is a quiet line between the excitement, and then the disappointment that follows.

You get mad. You bite your cheek. You stare at it and say, "that's...not what I expected" and you push your plate away and ask if someone else wants it. For the rest of that evening, you are sad and let down that you didn't get what you expected or wanted. And then your husband/boyfriend/best friend/girl friend/family member is all like, "OH MY GOSH THIS IS DELICIOUS" and you stare at the dessert being gobbled up with longing eyes until you collapse in a pit of tears and shake your fist at the dessert Gods for doing this awful thing to you and making you waste 2 dollars and now you can't buy the camera batteries and everything is ruined forever.

Orrrrrrr... maybe that's just me who does that.

Seriously, though, I think we've all had that happen to us once. As you can probably tell, it happened to me recently. I had seen a "lemon crumble bar" in the display of the cafe' I regularly go to on my break. I've tried most of their desserts already but this one in particular stood out to me because not once had I ever considered a lemon bar with a crumbled topping before. Sure, you have your raspberry oatmeal bars with the oatmeal streusal on top, and your muffins with a brown sugar crumble... but lemon bars? I never considered. Never thought about it. So I was both deathly curious and excited to try it.

Except, when I did, the lemon bar didn't taste good at all. It tasted like biting into chewy, not crumbly, shortbread, with a dry, not sweet at all topping, and a very dense lemon custard in the middle. Even the lemon flavor was not very prominent. I could taste no sign of a zest or anything like that. And after baking many lemon bars before, I could not understand why this one tasted nothing like the ones I had made or eaten previously. Disappointed, I gave the rest to a co-worker that loved it and said I was crazy.

I may be crazy, but that lemon bar wasn't lovely at all. And I was not about to sit there in wonder about what it could have tasted like. I was going to find out. And I did.

Besides the caramelized crust due to a little too much time in the oven, this lemon bar was exactly what I was expecting, and more. Prominent lemon taste, with lemon zest in the shortbread crumble on top. Simple ingredients. Easy to make. And worth the time to go make it myself. I was really happy with the results of the topping with the lemon bar. Totally balanced each other out, and a small slice is more than satisfying. Not too sweet or too tart. I was tempted to go back into the cafe' with this tart and let them sell this instead. But then that might not be the best idea in the world.

It may be a good lemon bar but I don't think it warrants banishment from coffee. Actually, I don't think anything is worth banishment from coffee.

Lemon Bars with Crumble Topping

Shortbread Base Ingredients:
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon icing sugar or powdered sugar
1 stick of cold butter

Lemon Filling:
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup FRESH lemon juice (no bottled stuff here, people!)
1 tsp lemon zest (zest of two small lemons)

Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
zest of one small lemon
4 tablespoons butter, softened
powdered sugar (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Then, make the shortbread base. Whisk flour and powdered sugar together until combined. Using a pastry cutter (or your fingers), add the cold butter in by small amounts until the dough is crumbly. Press into a greased 8 or 9in. tart pan. Poke the crust with a fork all over.

2. Place crust into oven for 15 minutes or until a pale golden. Leave on a cooling rack to cool.

3. To make the lemon filling, mix the eggs together until frothy with a handmixer or kitchenaid. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour into cooled shortbread crust. Bake for around 18 minutes.

4. While the filling is baking, make the crumble topping. Combine the sugar and lemon zest together first to let the sugar draw out the flavors of the zest. You can do this by pinching the sugar and zest together with your fingers until the sugar is lemony and fragrant. Add in the flour, whisk to combine. Add in the butter until your dough resembles a crumbly mixture.

5. After 18 minutes have passed, take the lemon bars out and sprinkle the crumble evenly over it. Return back to the oven and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes.

6. Once your topping is slightly golden, take the lemon bars out to cool. Sift powdered sugar over it before serving. Store in refrigerator or at room temperature (I like mine cold from the fridge).

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