Sunday, March 1, 2015

Butternut Maple Blondies

These are not your regular bake sale blondies.  Instead, you will find that these are much more flavorful and reminiscent of something you would have around the Christmas holidays. A little off season since it is March, but just as delicious.  These bars are rich and spicy. Ginger, mace and cumin are often reserved for pumpkin pies, but this blonde recipe makes excellent use of them by pairing with butternut squash and white chocolate.

They have a moist texture, but are not too dense like a lot of bar cookies. I also like the fact that dark brown sugar is used instead of white or light brown and the touch of maple syrup.

There are two items that I found to be special needs for the recipe.  It calls for an 8x11 pan and I only had a 9x13.  Also, the preparation of the pan states to dust with Demerara sugar.  I opted out of the sugar dusting by using flour and adjusted for a larger pan by increasing each ingredient by 1/4 of the original amount.  The ingredient increase is not that easy on a few of the items and the 1/4 calculation is not exact but I was happy with the resulting height of the bars.

Butternut Maple Blondies
adapted from Sugar Rush

2 cups flour
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp mace
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 lb butternut squash/ halved and seeded
2 tbs maple syrup
2 eggs
2-3 tbs Demerara sugar for dusting the pan
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, cold and diced
6 oz white chocolate

The first step is to roast the squash.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place each half cut side down on the sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.

While the squash is cooling, sift together the flour, cumin, ginger, mace and baking powder into a medium size bowl.  Then stir in salt.  Set aside.

Once the squash has cooled, set up a food processor.  Scoop out the soft interior of the squash, leaving the skins, and place in food processor bowl.  Puree for about a minute or until all is smooth.  Transfer squash puree to a saucepan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly while squash is simmering and let cook for about 10 minutes.  The puree should become thicker as it cooks, retaining less moisture.  Remove and let cool again.

Turn the oven down to a temperature of 350 degrees.  Butter the interior of an 8x11 pan and sprinkle in the Demerara sugar.  Shift and shake until the interior is coated with the sugar then invert and tap out the extra, just as you would if you were dusting with flour.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter cubes and brown sugar.  Coat the cubes of butter with the brown sugar by tossing them together with clean hands.  Once all the cubes are coated, cream the butter and sugar together by beating on medium speed, scraping down the sides occasionally. Both ingredients should be evenly distributed and the mixture be very smooth after about 5 minutes beating time.  Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides, then beat in the other egg.  Lastly, run the mixer on low and add the maple syrup and vanilla.  After about 2 minutes of mixing, stop and remove bowl.

Take the white chocolate and chop 4 oz into pieces and place in bowl.  Chop the other 2 oz and place in a separate bowl.  Set aside.

Using about a 1/2 cup of sifted ingredients to start, fold it into the sugar/butter mixture. Continue the process in increments until all the sifted ingredients are incorporated.  Then blend the cooled squash puree into the batter.  Lastly, add 4 oz of the white chocolate pieces and fold into the batter until evenly distributed.

Empty batter into prepared pan and smooth out evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 oz of the chocolate pieces on top.  Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Cool in pan completely before cutting into squares.

Tips and Notes:

1. The surface of my bars were quite different than the picture shows in the recipe book.  The top is browner and chocolate is toasty colored on top.  Perhaps turning off the oven and letting it cool off and then turning on to 350 degrees and let is heat up may help.  Also, sprinkling the white chocolate on top at the halfway point of baking may allow the chocolate retain its white color. 
                                  **LAST YEAR: Pecan Pie Cheesecake** 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Taffy Treats

The title and the picture does have a way of leading you down the wrong path.  Let me clarify a few things: these are not candy, but caramel coated cookies and there is none of the traditional taffy in this recipe. The only link to taffy is that the filling and coating is stretchy, much like the taffy.  Sorry for the taffy fans, but if you love caramel and nuts, gladly read on. Clearly, the person that won the baking contest with this treat must be in your nutty caramel circle.

If I had to name these little goodies, I would call them nut caramel clusters. There is a walnut praline filling inside and then they are coated with caramel and walnuts.  The cookie itself tastes like a butter cookie. Surprisingly, these are made with both powdered sugar and brown sugar. The outside caramel is the soft, chewy kind with a deep, buttery flavor. The layer of caramel in a Milkyway bar is the same.

The filling, forming and coating is what requires the most time to create these.  You could make your own caramel, but this recipe only calls for softening store-bought caramels.  It is a time saver and I do not feel that it detracts any from the flavor.

Anyhow, these morsels are as delicious as they look.  For parties, dress them up with colored toothpicks and place them in 1 1/2" candy papers. However, feel confident that these will be eaten quickly, regardless of how fancy the presentation.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.  Be sure to read the helpful tips and notes at the end before you begin.

Taffy Treats
adapted from the Plymouth Star Tribune

Ingredients/ filling
1/3 cup ground walnuts
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup or 1 stick butter (room temp)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 cups sifted flour

Ingredients/ coating
14 oz of caramels (approx 48-50 caramels)
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup ground walnuts
Toothpicks for dipping and serving

The first step is to make the filling.  Place all filling ingredients in a saucepan.  Cook and stir constantly until thick, about 5 minutes.  You should be able to scrape the bottom of the interior of the pan and have the streak remain for at least 20 seconds before the filling flows back to cover it.  Remove from heat and set aside.  It will set up more upon cooling.

For the cookies, prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill a mixing bowl with the butter, powdered sugar, brown sugar and salt.  Beat until smooth and creamy.  Then beat in egg and vanilla extract. Once blended, mix in the flour with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Take the dough and form into 1 inch balls.  Make a depression with your thumb and fill indentation with 1/4 tsp of walnut filling. Seal in filling and shape back into a ball.  Place each on baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart.  Bake until golden brown on bottom, about 15-18 minutes.  Remove cookies from the oven and gently insert toothpick into center and transfer to cooling rack. Let completely cool prior to coating.

Set up a double boiler for the caramel coating and place over medium heat. Then lay a sheet of wax paper and a bowl full of the ground walnuts aside. Once water starts to simmer in bottom pot, pour evaporated milk and add caramels to top pot.  Let mixture melt, stirring occasionally.  After all caramels are melted and blended with the milk, you are ready to dip the cookies by using the toothpick. Dip each cookie into the caramel and let the excess drip off. Then coat the bottom by placing in the ground walnuts.  Transfer to wax paper and allow to set.

Tips and notes:
1. The forming process is best done in dozen increments.  Forming several dozen indented rounds prior to filling will cause the dough to dry out and crack while it sits.

2. To fill and seal, I dampened my fingers to pull out the filling, to place in the indentation and to seal inside.

3. The recipe suggests using the microwave to melt the caramels or removing the double boiler from the heat.  I used a double boiler and left it on the heat to maintain the caramel consistency while dipping. The microwave method would not allow for this.

4. How much you cover your cookies with the caramel or walnuts is your option.  If you plan for full coverage, don't roll the cookies around in the nuts. Placing it in the nuts to cover the bottom and sprinkling the nuts on the top is the best way to keep all the caramel on the cookie instead of having it drip off into the nuts.

5. I used Kraft brand caramels (comes in an 11 oz bag) and the coating was soft and smooth.  If for any reason your coating is too thick, adjust by adding a tablespoon at a time of evaporated milk or water until desired consistency is met. Eenjoy!
                             **LAST YEAR: Peach Brandy Pound Cake**

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lemon Pull Apart Coffee Cake

There are quite a few "quick fix" pull apart bread recipes available, along with the famous monkey bread.  Yet, the idea of a loaf of pull apart bread did intrigue me, but I would have to find a recipe that is from scratch.  Yes, from scratch.  I know when it comes to bread type recipes, we first think about the hours and hours of rising time...

In review, the rising time is minimal and the loaf came together rather quickly for this recipe.  Also, another good point is that it is flexible. We all appreciate a good base recipe that you can change up, depending on the flavor you want -go savory with garlic butter or more sweet with cinnamon brown sugar.

The bread is flaky and crisp on the outside and the inside is fluffy and soft.  The light, clean flavor of lemon makes it a perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of tea.  The only issue I had was with the topping.  I would have preferred a glaze with a stronger lemon flavor.  The topping was thick and only had a hint of lemon flavor.  The recipe below reflects the original ingredients and measurement, so you can alter it according to your personal taste.

Lemon Scented Pull Apart Coffee Cake
adapted from Baking for all Occasions

1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temp.
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 3/4 cup flour
2 1/4 tsp of yeast or 1 pkg

Ingredients/ Lemon paste filling
3 tbs lemon zest
1 tbs orange zest
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick melted butter
1/2 cup sugar

Ingredients/ Cream Cheese Icing
1 tbs milk
1 tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3 oz softened cream cheese

For the dough, start by filling the bowl of a stand mixer with 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Whisk together so all is evenly distributed and set aside.  Then fill a medium size saucepan with milk and butter.  Place the saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Once the butter is melted, remove from heat and add water.  Using a candy thermometer, let cool until the temperature registers around 120 to 130 degrees. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the milk mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until no dry streaks remain.  Place the bowl back into the stand mixer.  Turn the mixer on low with the beater blade attached.  Add one egg and continue to beat on low for 30 seconds.  Repeat the process with the additional egg. Once blended, turn off mixer and add 1/2 cup flour.  Switch mixer back on to low speed and beat for 45 seconds.  Pause a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Sprinkle in 2 more tablespoons of flour and turn mixer up to medium speed.  Beat for an additional 45 seconds.

Prepare a flat work surface by dusting with flour.  Place dough on surface and gently knead for about a minute, adding 1 to 2 more tablespoons of flour.  The end result should yield a smooth dough. Grease the interior of a medium-size bowl and shape the dough into a ball.  Place the dough in the prepared bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled by placing in a warm area, preferably 75 degrees.  This process should take about 45 minutes to an hour.  As the dough rises, you can prepare the filling.

Mix both types of zests together in a small bowl with the sugar and set aside.  Once the dough has risen for 45 minutes, go back and check for completion by making an indentation in the dough.  If the dough does not expand back and the indention remains, the rising time is complete. Otherwise let rise another 5-15 minutes and test again.

Prepare a loaf pan (9x5x3) by buttering the interior and dust a flat surface with flour. Take the dough out of the bowl, deflate and roll out to form a rectangle.  It should measure 12x 20 inches. Then cover the surface with the melted butter using a pastry brush.

Divide the rectangle into smaller sizes by cutting the 20 inch length into 5 pieces, 4 inches wide. Each piece will remain 12 inches long.  Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the sugar/zest mixture onto the center of one strip.  Smooth it out on the strip, making sure it is covered evenly.  Also, press lightly into the butter so that it adheres.  Repeat the process with another rectangle. Stack the second rectangle (with filling facing up) on top of the first.  Continue with the same steps until all 5 pieces are stacked into layers and coated with the filling.

Using a sharp knife, cut the stack into 6 pieces, 4 x 2 inches.  Place each piece into the pan with the cut side up.  The 4 inch part of the stack should be parallel with the short side of the pan. Once all the stacks are in the pan, the layers with fit snugly inside the 9 inch length of the pan and loosely in the 4 inch width of the pan.  Cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled, starting with one 15 minute session.

After 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wait an additional 15 minutes rising time and test the dough for completion as you did with the first rising.  The dough rising can take between 30 to 50 minutes.  Once rising time is completed, place pa n in oven and let bake until golden brown on top. Bake time is 30-35 minutes.  Be sure to check at the 25 minute mark to see if it needs to be covered with foil.  You do not want it too brown.

During the bake time, make the frosting by beating together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.  Add the lemon juice and milk, beating another minute until completely blended.  Set aside.  After the loaf is baked, remove the pan and sit on rack to cool for 15 minutes.  Then invert the loaf twice, so the loaf is sitting on the cooling rack the same way it did to bake.

Slide a piece of wax paper under the rack and then frost the loaf with the cream cheese mixture. Serve warm by pulling layers off the sides.
                                        **LAST YEAR: Dutch Love Letter Cookies*

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes

This is one of the recipes that hails from the Robicellis.  There are many cupcake recipes on my blog, but this particular one has some very unique factors in the preparation method as well as the recipe components.

One of the things I liked about it was the frosting.  The idea of adding a custard to the buttercream frosting (contains marscapone as well) does give it more depth of flavor.  It also cuts down on the sugary taste.

Another factor is that it has a saving grace on the custard, for those who are not familiar with the process.  If you are not perfect about creating the custard and lumps show up, just throw it into a food processor and pulse it.  This will bring it back to a smooth consistency.

Recently, I saw a conversion tip on the internet for transforming a cake recipe to cupcakes.  It states to first find one that uses butter in the recipe.  As many cupcakes as I have made, I do differ on this point.  The use of oil instead of butter in cupcakes has been very beneficial.  They always seem to come out light and moist.  I have had some fails on the butter type of recipes, with the results being a very dense and dry cupcake.

Anyhow, these have a great texture and plenty of chocolate flavor.  The frosting is on the fluffy side and the dip in the chocolate fudge with cakes crumbs sprinkled on top is a great ending to the assembly.  

Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes
adapted from Robicelli's A Love Story, with Cupcakes

Ingredients/ Chocolate custard
2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbs butter, melted and cooled

Ingredients/ Cupcakes
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola or grapeseed oil
2/3 cup fresh brewed scalding coffee
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Ingredients/ American frosting
1 1/2 cups or three sticks butter (room temp)
8 oz marscapone cheese (room temp)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Ingredients/Chocolate Fudge glaze
2 tbs corn syrup
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate
4 tbs unsalted butter

For the custard, fill a medium saucepan with 2 tbs and 2 tsp of the sugar, milk and cream and mix together. Set aside. The second step is to take out a stand mixer bowl and fill with the other half of the sugar (2 tbs and 2 tsp), cocoa powder, egg, egg yolk and cornstarch.  Using a wire whisk attachment, beat the sugar/cocoa mixture until it changes from a dark chocolate color to more of a milk chocolate color, about 3 minutes. Turn off mixer.

Set up a food processor and leave top open.  Place the saucepan that is filled with the sugar, milk and cream and place over medium high heat and cook.  Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat.  Turn the mixer back on medium high and slowly pour the saucepan liquid into the chocolate mix, while the mixer is running.  When it is all blended, transfer batter back to saucepan and return to heat.  Stir constantly and bring back to a boil (mixture will thicken up quickly).  At the boiling stage, remove from heat and transfer to food processor bowl. Process the custard until smooth.  Transfer to heatproof bowl and stir in melted butter and vanilla extract. Cover and seal the surface with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. This custard needs to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes, but it is safe to let it chill while you are creating the other components.

For the chocolate cupcakes, you will need 2 cupcake pans with 12 cavities each.  Grease the upper edge of cavities and line with paper baking cups.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder.  Set aside.  Then fill a bowl of a stand mixer (fitted with paddle attachment) with cocoa and pour in the hot coffee.  Blend on low speed for about one minute.  The batter will have a thick paste-like consistency.  Turn mixer off.

Pull out a another medium size bowl and add egg, egg yolk, salt, vanilla, buttermilk and oil.  Whisk together until fully blended.  Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and while running, stream the egg/buttermilk mixture into the cocoa blend.  Run for 1 minute then stop to scrape down sides and bottom to pick up any dry cocoa remaining.  Turn on mixer again to medium speed and run for an additional minute.  Shut off mixer.  Take off paddle attachment and remove bowl.

Using a wooden spoon, fold sifted ingredients into the batter until no dry streaks remain.  Then fill the prepared cupcake cavities with the batter.  Make sure that they are only 2/3 full, so they do not rise and spill over the edges.  You should be able to fill all 24 cavities, if not more.

Place in the oven and let bake for 10 minutes and then rotate pans and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Use a tester to check to see if done, cupcakes should take about 20-25 minutes to bake. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.  Once cupcakes are completely cool, take one and crumble into fine crumbs by hand or by using a food processor. Set crumbs aside in bowl.

Start on the frosting by placing marscapone and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on medium high for 10 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then add heavy cream and beat for another 5 minutes. Once ingredients are fully melded together, sift in 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and mix.  After it is all mixed in repeat the process in increments until all the powdered sugar is mixed in.  Then take out custard and add to the bowl of frosting.  Beat for 1 minute until combined.  Taste and test for consistency.  In order to thicken and sweeten more, blend in more powdered sugar.  If too thick, beat in more cream.  Set aside.

The glaze is the easiest to prepare.  Place chocolate, corn syrup and butter in a microwaveable bowl.  Heat in microwave for 1 minute.  Remove and stir.  Continue with the process until all chocolate is completely melted and blended. Then stir in the vanilla.  Set aside.

Then frost the cupcakes with the chocolate butter cream, either using a tip or a knife.  I used a knife and formed the frosting into a smooth dome on top.  After all the cupcakes are frosted, place in refrigerator to allow the frosting to set up.  It will set up in about 20 minutes.

After the chill time is completed, check your glaze to make sure it is still liquid.  If not, add 1 tbs butter and place in microwave for 30 seconds, then stir.  Then dip the top of the cupcakes in the liquid glaze and allow the excess to drip off.  Then sprinkle on the cupcake crumbs.

Note: Since the glaze is for dipping you will have excess.  Should you not want any excess, cut the recipe in half and then drizzle on the glaze.
                               **LAST YEAR:Cherry Mahlab Muffins**

Monday, January 26, 2015

Figgy Dickens Cookies

For some reason, the idea of figgy pudding has been swirling around in my head.  Not really a popular dessert, but it does conjure up visions of Christmas and, of course, the Charles dickens classic - "A Christmas Carol." Anyhow, it was time to get baking and get the idea out of my head.

I decided to use figs in a cookie with a mix of oat as well as regular flour.  The oat flour paired with the figs make these a little bit more healthy than regular cookies. Also, they are more adult and tastier than Fig Newtons. Think about a little chewy cookie with burst of brandy flavor and sweet figs.  Second to that is the occasional crunch of walnuts.  You will not find vanilla extract in the recipe nor any spices such as cinnamon.  I did not want anything to overshadow the brandy soaked figs.

One of the key factors in making these cookies is the temperature.  If the dough is not cold enough they will have a tendency to run all over the pan.  The cookies should have some height to them, about like a ginger snap, so be sure to not skip the freezing step. Also, please allow for the soaking time for the figs when you plan to make these.  This recipe makes about 4- 5 dozen cookies.

Ready for cookie happy hour?  Let's get started....

Figgy Dickens Cookies
created by Floutrader

2 2/3 cup oat flour
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter, room temperature
3/4 cup of chopped dried figs
1/2 cup of brandy
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the fig pieces in a medium shallow bowl, preferably a pasta bowl. Pour in brandy and let sit for a minimum of four hours, so the figs will soften and absorb the brandy.  After soaking, drain off any remaining liquid. Set figs aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and both types of sugar.  Beat at medium speed until fluffy, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and beat to blend for about 30 seconds.  Remove bowl from stand mixer and set aside.

In another bowl, sift together baking soda and both types of flour.  Fold the sifted ingredients into the butter/ sugar mixture.  Then mix in the soaked figs and walnuts.  Scoop out batter and roll into one inch balls.  Then place on cookie sheet 1 1/2 inch apart.  Flatten with you hand so the cookies are about 1 1/2 inches diameter.  One the cookie sheet is full, place sheet in freezer for about 5-7 minutes.

Once the chilling process is complete, transfer cookie sheet to oven and bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Remove and place sheet on cooling rack and let rest for 3 minutes.  Then transfer cookies to a rack to finish cooling.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Gingerbread Whoopie Pies**

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lime in the Coconut Cake

This particular cake gets a lot of its flavor from the glaze.  The coconut lime glaze is actually put on both sides of each layer.  In addition to that, you poke holes to further insure that the great flavor seeps in.The actual cake only has coconut extract and coconut milk in it.  It has good texture and taste but it is very plain tasting without the glaze and frosting, so those additions should not be skipped.

Regarding the recipe itself, it had an error in which the correction note was made after a few reviews came in- the coconut oil was actually supposed to be coconut extract.  I have made the correction in the ingredient list and instructions below.
Yet, there are still a few questions.  Both are regarding "sweetened ingredients".  The recipe listed shredded coconut and coconut milk.  Each of those ingredients have a sweetened or unsweetened version.  Without the answers, I proceeded with 1/2 sweetened and 1/2 unsweetened for the shredded coconut and unsweetened instead of sweetened coconut milk.  A lot of the comments were that the cake was very sweet, so those bakers make have gone "full force" on the sweetened.

Another discovery was that there was way too much glaze.  The glaze makes over 2 full cups, which is a lot.  A glaze should be thin and flow over the cake and dry, not be thick and make a filling by itself.  I chose to use half of the recipe.  Another issue with the glaze is that there is a choice to use sour cream or yogurt.  The sour cream is a thicker consistency than yogurt, so if I make this again I will use yogurt.

Other than those few adjustments, the recipe has tasty results.  Note that the recipe below does not have any of the adjustments as noted in the 3rd and 4th paragraph above.  How sweet and how much glaze should be your preference, but bear in mind that the more glaze the longer it will take to dry before frosting.  Without it drying you will be mixing the glaze with the frosting as you frost the cake.

Lime in the Coconut Cake
adapted from Doreen Howarth found via Food Network

1 cup coconut milk
4 eggs
1 cup butter
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup sour cream or yogurt 
1 cup shredded coconut
zest and juice only of 2 limes
1 cup sugar

1 lb box plus 1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut milk
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups shredded coconut (optional for covering top and sides after frosting)

To begin, grease the interior of 2 nine inch round cake pans.  Then line the bottoms of the interior with parchment paper and grease the face up side.  Dust the interior of each cake pan with flour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the cake batter, add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on medium speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Beat for 1 full minute, so it has a fluffy consistency.  Pull out a small bowl and add one egg.  Pour in 1/2 tsp coconut extract.  Using a fork, scramble the egg in the bowl and then add to the butter/sugar mixture.  Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Do the same with the second egg.  For the 3rd and the fourth egg, add each (one at a time) directly to the batter and beat each into batter for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium size bowl.  Add 1/3 of the sifted ingredients to the batter and stir with a wooden spoon until all is blended.  Then mix in 1/2 cup of coconut milk.  Stir in 1/2 of the remaining sifted ingredients.  Once smooth, add another 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Lastly, blend the rest of the sifted ingredients into the batter.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.  It measures out to a total of about 5 cups, so 2 1/2 cups per pan should be about right.   My batter was fairly thick, so I took a spatula to smooth out the top.  Place filled pans in oven and bake until a tester comes out clean, between 25-28 minutes.

Once baked, remove pans and place pans on cooling rack placed over a baking sheet.  Let cakes cool in pans for about 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto cooling rack and then peel off parchment paper.  Cake will need to cool completely before proceeding.

 To make glaze, mix all ingredients in one bowl until fully combined.  Then poke holes in each of the layers of cooled cake. Spread glaze on tops of each cake. Let the glaze completely dry before proceeding.  This should take anywhere from 1-3 hours.  Once dried, invert cakes and repeat, poking holes and then spreading rest of glaze over top of cakes.  Cover cakes with cake domes and place in refrigerator for 2 hours. When ready, the glaze should be set and no longer sticky.

The last part is the frosting.  Cream together the shortening, butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Then sift in the powdered sugar in increments of 1 cup, beating on low to blend after each addition.   After all the powdered sugar is mixed in, add the coconut milk and extract.  Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Then frost the surface of one of the layers and stack the other on top.  Frost the top and sides as normal. Lastly, you may opt to cover the surface of the frosted cake with sweetened coconut.
                                **LAST YEAR:Cream Bruleed Chocolate Bundt** 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Schnecken/ Pecan Cinnamon Buns

It is a tradition of my mother to make cinnamon rolls at Christmas for breakfast.  These rolls are light and airy, filled with cinnamon and nuts.  However, there are other households which take the tradition to a sweeter level by having the cinnamon rolls topped with a sticky sweet caramel and toasted pecans.

In comparison, there more of a pastry than bread like quality to the dough when baked up.  While less filling than bread, each serving does hit the mark for your sweet tooth.  Instead of just cinnamon lovers, these rolls will have your pecan pie lovers taking notice.

I found the rolls quite easy to make.  The dough did not require a lot of shaping and kneading.  Outside of the rise time, it is just a matter of rolling up the dough like a jelly roll and slicing.  Also, these rolls fell out of the pan easily when inverting and came out without leaving a lot of topping still sticking to the pan.  Topping in the pan is something I did not want to have to tangle with, so I was happy to see it in its rightful place.

The other good point about these rolls are that they can be prepared the night before and placed in the refrigerator.  Follow everything as directed, but cover and place in the refrigerator after the 40 minute rise time is over.  The next morning, remove pan and let rest at room temperature for about 1 hour.  Then bake as directed.

Schnecken/Pecan Cinnamon Buns
adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients/ Dough
1 cup milk
1 egg and 1 yolk
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (more for greasing pan and bowl)
1 tbs active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt or 3/4 tsp regular salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
5 tbs sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark-not specified)
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 or 1 1/2 sticks butter
1/4 cup corn syrup

1 cup sugar
1 tbs cinnamon

The first step to making the dough is to melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once melted, pour in the milk and then add the sugar.  Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until there is no longer a grainy feeling when scraping the bottom of the saucepan, which means the sugar has all dissolved.  The ideal temperature for this is 110 degrees, so test the temperature with a candy thermometer and let cool or heat further according to the temperature it registers.

At the idea temperature, pour mixture in a heat proof bowl.  Sprinkle in the yeast and stir, making sure it is mixed evenly without clumps. Let rest 10 minutes and then stir in the salt.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, place the egg and yolk and mix with a fork until all is blended.  Pour into the yeast batter and mix.  After the egg and yolk are thoroughly mixed in, prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour.  Then add 1 cup of flour to the batter and stir.  Continue to add the flour in one cup increments until 3 cups have been incorporated, stirring mixture after each addition.  Check for the consistency of the dough, it should be sticky.  Reserve the rest of the flour for dusting and kneading.

Place the dough on the prepared flat surface and knead about 5 times.  Your dough should now be smooth and elastic.  Butter the interior of a large bowl and a 9 x13 inch glass pan.  Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bottom of the prepared bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until tripled in volume, which should take about 2 hours.

During the last 1/2 hour of rising time, prepare the topping.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Then stir in the corn syrup and brown sugar.  Let thicken a little and remove from heat.  You will notice that there is some excess butter that does not blend in.  It is okay, the excess is what enables the saucepan to be cleanly emptied along with the pan when inverted. 

Pour brown sugar mixture into the prepared pan and let run to the edges evenly.  Then sprinkle on the chopped pecans, being careful not to get too close to the edge.  The ones close to the edge will most likely fall off the outer edge of the rolls.  No worries though, these as well as topping spill over can be easily scooped up and placed on top of the rolls when inverted.  However, should you need to do this, do not delay after removing the glass pan or the mixture will set up and make it more difficult. After filling with topping, set pan aside.

Prepare the filling by mixing the cinnamon and sugar together.  Then melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool.

Once dough has risen, punch down and then place on flat surface dusted with flour.  Roll dough out to the size of 12x15 inches with an even thickness.  Brush with the melted butter and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface. Press into the butter lightly with a spatula and make sure all is damp.  Dry cinnamon sugar will have a tendency to spill out when the dough is cut.

Take the longest edge and start rolling up.  Should you have any issues with sticking, use a bench scraper to ease it off the surface.  Roll the dough into a long cylinder with the seam facing down.  Then slice vertically into 12-14 inch pieces approx 1 inch thick.  Place each piece, cut side up, evenly in the pan.  Remember that these will rise some more, so do not place them too tightly together.   Tear off enough plastic wrap to cover pan.  Oil one side of plastic wrap and cover pan of rolls with the oil side face down.  Let rise in a warm place for about 40-50 minutes.

10 minutes prior to rise time completion, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  After the rising time, uncover rolls and place pan in oven and bake for 17 minutes.  Then rotate pan and bake for another 17-20 minutes.  Check periodically to make sure they are not getting too brown.  If so, place aluminum foil over pan (do not fold tightly around edges but just let set on top loosely) and continue to bake.

Remove pan and place over rack and let rolls rest for 10 minutes.  During this time, line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper.  After the 10 minutes have expired, invert the rolls on the paper lined baking sheet.  The easiest and cleanest way to do this is to hold the baking sheet with the paper inside and place face down on top of the glass dish.  Then grip the handles of the baking dish along with the baking sheet edges and invert.  Then lift glass pan off of rolls.

Serve warm and enjoy.
                                  **LAST YEAR: Kiwi Pomegranate Angel Pies**