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What I’m Cooking

I like to cook and I particularly like to bake.  One of my great memories is winning first prize at the county fair bake-off as a child with the Texas Sheet Cake I used to make.  This was while we were visiting family friends in Montana, and boy, did it cheese off all the local ladies that this little kid from out of state came in and won!  After that, they changed the rules to say that you had to be a county resident to enter – sour grapes from them, for sure!!

August 20, 2012
I’ve decided to change the format of this part of my blog somewhat.  Instead of keeping separate pages for cooking and reading, I’m going to have these topics as “categories” and just make them as regular blog posts so they’ll show up on the main page.  Past items will remain here, but in the future clicking the link at the top of the page will generate a list of all posts under the desired category instead of going to a different page.

June 26, 2012

Well, I’ve obviously neglected this portion of my blog for a looooong time.  No photos of Christmas cookies, no photos of anything for the past 6 months!  Once again, I had good intentions, but never followed through.  Ah well…

Over the past couple of months I’ve made a chocolate-almond pie from the Pillsbury website that got sent to me in an automated email.  It is sooo tasty and while I would happily keep making it over and over, the Hubs frequently gets tired of too much repetition so I started thinking of other similar treat possibilities.  One thing we both like is chocolate and peanut butter together, so I started looking for recipes for a pie based on those flavors.  Pillsbury came through again with this recipe for Sweet Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie.  I followed the recipe as written except for the use of a store-bought graham cracker crust and mixing in about a quarter cup of mini chocolate chips to the filling.  It looks pretty tasty, so we’ll see how it really is when we have a snack later!  This photo was taken right after the pie came out of the oven, so it’s nice and puffy.  Now that it’s cooled somewhat, not so much…

December 11, 2011

We finished up the apple cake on Friday and since the Hubs was out of town on Saturday, I didn’t worry about a treat then.   However, I did think ahead to the upcoming week and also wanted to use up some of the stuff I had in the fridge.  Last week, I made a batch of these Banana Oatmeal Muffins from Guilty Kitchen that required roasting the bananas beforehand, a slightly different take on the usual plan.  They also called for a cup of plain yogurt…  Apparently, my local store doesn’t sell plain yogurt in anything other than the “giant vat” size, so I had some extra to use up.  I also had a bunch of lemon juice from the citrus peel extravaganza, so I looked for something that could incorporate both of these things – lemon cake!  The recipe I found has been repeated in a number of places, but originally it’s a cake by Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa.  I used the recipe as found on Smitten Kitchen, called the Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf, but I baked it in a 9″ round pan so it would be more like a cake for dessert.  You can just follow the link to the recipe, so I’ll just note that I ended up baking my cake for the full 50 minutes, though I checked it at 40 and it was still really jiggly in the center.  I also followed the directions on taking the cake out of the pan before putting the lemon-sugar syrup over it, and I think it would work better to leave it in the pan and just pour the syrup over the top and let it sit and soak.  I felt like I had to stop before all the syrup was applied or the cake would have been too moist to handle.  I used the leftover syrup to make a powdered sugar glaze that I just streaked across the top of the cake.  Overall, I would make this one again!  It’s really moist and luscious with a nice, tangy flavor from all the lemon.  Mmm, moist lemon cake…

December 5, 2011

Since we’re about finished up with our latest batch of Triple Chocolate Death Brownies and out of cookies, I thought it was time to make something else to add to the mix.  I think I’ve said before that, every now and then, I feel like I should make something other than chocolate.  Shocking concept, I know…  Feeling in a Fall-type mood, I searched out a recipe for an Apple Crumb Cake from Just Hungry’s blog.  This is a pretty tasty cake!  The first pieces we ate last night were at room temperature, and I topped them with the last of the cinnamon whipped cream I’d made to go on the Thanksgiving leftover apple and pumpkin pies.  I think future pieces might be warmed slightly in the microwave.  The sweet-tart apples and brown sugar crumble topping are so good!  If I make this again, I may add some rolled oats to the topping so it has more of a streusel quality, which I love!

Apple Crumb Cake

4-5 medium or small apples – about 4 cups worth of cut up apple
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
½ c granulated sugar
2 t baking powder
½ t salt
½ c whole milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 c butter, melted

For the crumb mixture:
¾ c light brown sugar
¼ c all-purpose flour
2 T butter, melted
1 t cinnamon, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8” square baking pan with butter.

Make the crumb mixture: combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Drizzle in melted butter and stir to combine until it becomes crumbly.

Make the cake batter: sift flour and baking powder together.  Mix in granulated sugar.  Add milk, egg and melted butter.  Stir until just combined and spread in prepared pan.  This is a very thick batter!

Peel, core and cut up apples.  Sprinkle a little bit of the crumb topping over cake batter and top with apples.  Scatter the rest of the crumb topping over the apples – it will seem like a lot at first, but it cooks down as the cake bakes.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes.  Cut into squares to serve.  Top with whipped cream if desired.  Can be microwaved to warm up later if desired.

November 29, 2011

The last time we were at my parents’ house, my mother presented a recipe from Southern Living magazine for Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake and declared that she thought it would be a great choice for a dessert at Thanksgiving dinner!  Personally, I thought it sounded a little overly sweet, since it has a praline topping, but I told her I’d give it a go.

The cheesecake worked out fine, though I was afraid at first it would overflow my pan since the recipe calls for 4 blocks of cream cheese, 4 eggs AND a full can of pumpkin puree, but it turned out to just make a really massively thick cheesecake.

The candied pecans for the topping are out of this world!  Really easy to make and super-tasty.  I can imagine them with the addition of some spice for added flavor and they’d be really great.

Overall, however, I would not make this cheesecake again – at least, not without some substantial adjustments.  For one thing, the praline topping is tooth-achingly sweet, and the amount the recipe makes is about double what you actually need.  I ended up with a layer of praline a good half-inch thick over the middle of the cheesecake.  Also, I’d add some pumpkin pie spices to the cheesecake itself.  The original recipe has nothing but sugar & vanilla in it, and I thought it could use something more.  Luckily, my mother took home a full half of the cake to share out with friends, so we are saved from having to try to eat it all!

I have started putting together my Christmas cookie plan for this year.  Typically, I make about 12 different kinds that I share with friends and family.  It’s a legacy of my mother, who I helped for many years make 18-20 different kinds of cookies in vast amounts to pack up and share.  I try to limit myself a little bit.  I’ll start baking in a week or so, once the school semester has ended – pics to follow, of course!

October 30, 2011

So last week’s Pear Tart and Kahlua Chip Cookies are gone, time for more baking!

Saturday’s mix was a chocolate buttermilk bundt cake from the Baking Bites blog.  This recipe made what I think would have been just enough for my 10-cup Nordic Ware fleur de lis pan, but I chickened out on putting all of the batter in the pan at the last minute, stopping about an inch and a half short of the top.  Maybe next time I’ll put all of the batter in and see what happens.  I baked it with a sheet pan underneath anyway, just in case there was overflow.  The finished product is moist and tasty and didn’t really require any additional glaze or frosting, which is just as well, since I’m out of powdered sugar anyway!  It did stick a little bit in the pan, unfortunately, so the top isn’t completely as pretty as it might be, but it still tastes good!

Here’s a picture of the pretty side, just for kicks!

Mocha Bundt Cake with Coffee Glaze
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (pref. dutch process) – I used 1/2 c regular cocoa powder and 1/4 c Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup instant espresso powder (Via or inst. coffee) – I just used the instant coffee granules I had on hand, and probably not the full quarter cup
1 tsp vanilla extract – I also used 1/2 t chocolate extract to deepen the flavor a little bit
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, instant espresso powder and vanilla until well combined. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk. Mix in the remaining flour mixture, stirring just until all the ingredients come together and no streaks of flour remain visible.
Pour hot coffee into batter and whisk until completely incorporated. Batter will be fairly thin.
Pour batter into bundt pan.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the pan comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

Serves 12.

Coffee Glaze
1 1/2 tbsp coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 – 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Whisk together coffee, vanilla and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Gradually whisk in additional confectioners’ sugar until glaze reaches a smooth, but thick, consistency.

Sunday I made a batch of Oatmeal Raisin cookies from a recipe at the Sun-Maid website.  I had to adapt the recipe slightly because I neglected to notice at first that they weren’t actually oatmeal raisin cookies, but I think they turned out all right nonetheless.  Posted below is my adapted recipe with oatmeal added.  If you want the original, see the Sun-Maid website!  I also used rum rather than the rum extract the recipe called for because, really, who has rum extract in the house?  I’m sure there’s someone out there, but it isn’t me.  I did, however, have a bottle of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum in the pantry, so spicy rum raisins – hooray!  These turned out nice and moist and chewy fresh out of the oven, maybe a little cakey but we’ll see how they are after they cool completely.

Autumn Raisin Cookies

1 c raisins
1 T water
1 ½ T rum
½ c butter or margarine, softened
½ c dark brown sugar
¼ c granulated sugar
1 large egg
¼ c milk
1 ¾ c all-purpose flour
1 c rolled oats
½ t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine raisins, water and 1 T rum in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Heat in microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Stir in additional ½ T rum and set aside.

Beat butter and sugars with electric mixer in large bowl until creamy.  Beat in egg and milk.

Combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until combined.  Stir in raisins.

Chill dough for approximately half an hour.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown.  Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

October 21, 2011

Well, I had a bit of a baking frenzy again this week.  We were pretty much out of treats and had only a little bit of ice cream left in the freezer, so I limbered up the oven and got to work.

Monday, I made an Almond-Pear Cream Cheese Tart from the Kraft Foods website.  This tart is always creamy, fruity and tasty!  I generally replace the vanilla extract the recipe calls for with almond extract because…why not?  It IS an almond tart, after all, so let’s boost the almond flavor a little bit!  I also thought about grinding some almonds to a fine powder and adding them to the crust mix this time, but I got lazy and didn’t want to haul out the food processor to do the grinding, so I ended up going with the standard crust in the recipe.  This tart is also really good with a little bit of cinnamon whipped cream to garnish, but I was lazy about that, too, and didn’t feel like making up the whipped cream.  Also forgot to buy heavy cream at the grocery store, so there you go!

Tuesday evening, I made a batch of Kahlua Chocolate Chip Cookies as an alternative tasty treat.  These came out pretty good – they’re tasty and chewy, but I don’t think they are as chocolate-y as the pictures on the original website suggest.  Perhaps the addition of a little cocoa powder is in order if I make them again.  I also think I might make them ahead and let the batter sit for a few hours or overnight to see if they will stay a little thicker instead of flattening out as they did this time – my perennial problem with “tollhouse” style cookies.  Still, they’re a pretty good snacker.

Tomorrow, we’re going to a housewarming party for our friend Jason’s new house.  He’s going to provide chili with appropriate fixings and drinks, so I decided to bring along a dessert, because what’s a party without cake, right?  So, in relation to the chili meal and thinking of a cake that would serve a bunch of people, I limbered up my old favorite recipe for Texas Sheet Cake.  Yes, this is the blue ribbon-winning Texas Sheet Cake of my youth, from a circa 1970s Time Life (I think) cookbook my mother had.  I had to call Mom to refresh my memory, because I didn’t remember using shortening in this cake as the recipe calls for, but she says we did.  I actually ended up using all butter because my shortening was kind of greyish in color and smelled stale.  Mom also reminded me that we had determined long ago to use Domino brand powdered sugar for the frosting because it seemed to have something that made the frosting a little thicker.  Oops – I only had Meijer brand on hand, but it seemed to work out all right!  The frosting is as glossy and fudgy and chocolate-y as I remember, and I can’t wait to dig into a piece at the party tomorrow!  The slight touch of cinnamon in the cake gives it that special extra flavor, and the buttermilk in the mix adds a wonderful moistness.  Mmm…chocolate cake…

Texas Sheet Cake
1 c water
½ c butter or margarine
¼ c shortening
¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c all-purpose flour
2 c granulated sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t ground cinnamon
½ t salt
½ c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract

6 T milk
½ c butter or margarine
¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t vanilla extract
1 16-oz package powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 10.5×15.5×1-inch baking pan.

In a saucepan, combine water, butter, shortening and cocoa powder.  Cook and stir until boiling and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Add hot cocoa mixture and mix until smooth.  Add buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract; beat well.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, sift powdered sugar.  Combine milk, cocoa powder and butter in a saucepan.  Cook and stir until boiling; remove from heat.  Gradually blend in powdered sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.

When cake is baked, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly (3-5 minutes – this helps any bubbles that have occurred level out a bit).  Pour warm frosting over warm cake, dribbling evenly across the surface to cover – you shouldn’t really have to spread this frosting.  Allow to cool completely.

October 7, 2011

This is another retroactive post – I actually made these cookies on the 7th, but I”m not posting until the 11th!  These were made for the Vineyard Raids event in the Canton of Westmere on October 8.  We’re trying to get back into attending more Andelcrag events instead of just going elsewhere to play.  Being the Cookie Fairy’s earthly representative, I feel the responsibility to share the cookie love in Andelcrag as well as Cynnabar.  Thinking about what to make, something said spice cookies would be a tasty Fall treat, so a quick Google turned up this recipe from The Smith’s Occasional Blog.  They turned out really tasty – nice, spicy, cakey cookies with plenty of raisins.  I’m thinking they might also benefit from a combination of raisins and dried cranberries, or at the very least, some pecan bits with the raisins.

Raisin Spice Cookies

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup cold coffee
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2  cups bran flakes cereal (I like Trader Joe’s brand plain bran flakes)
1 cup raisins

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, butter, coffee and egg; beat until well combined. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Drop by rounded tablespoon about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Should yield around 33 cookies.

Bake 9-11 minutes. Bottom edge should just be beginning to brown. Remove immediately from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 30-33 cookies

October 4, 2011

Once again, like the other areas of this blog, I’ve let my baking report lapse somewhat over the past month.  I never really thought about how making a point to post updates might slip away when work started up again at the end of August!  At any rate, I’m trying to get back into the swing of things and make more regular postings once again.  Last week, I made a brownie-bottom coffee chocolate chip cheesecake.  Unfortunately, some of the water from the water bath got inside the foil I had wrapping the outside of the pan, so the brownie bottom turned out just a little soggy, but it’s still good!  As you can see from the photo, I’m posting this at the end of being eaten, so that should say something, too.

Brownie-Bottom Coffee Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

For Crust:

1/4 c butter

1 oz unsweetened chocolate

1/2 c sugar

1 egg

1/2 t vanilla extract

1/2 c flour

Heat chocolate and butter together until just melted.  Stir in remaining ingredients until smooth and spread in bottom of 7-inch springform pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until brownie is just set.  Brownie will not be completely cooked at this point.  While crust is baking, make cheesecake mixture.

For Cheesecake:

2 8-oz blocks cream cheese, at room temperature

2 eggs, at room temperature

2/3 c sugar

1/2 t vanilla extract

2 T flour

1 1/2 T instant coffee granules

1 T hot water

2/3 c mini chocolate chips

Mix cream cheese, flour and sugar in a large bowl until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.  Combine coffee granules and hot water, stirring until coffee is dissolved.  Add vanilla and coffee to cream cheese mixture and blend until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour gently over brownie crust and smooth to fill pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until cheesecake is just set.  Cool completely before serving.

August 27, 2011

I’ll admit, I’ve been on a little bit of a baking frenzy lately, but that’s the way it goes sometimes – the stars align and baking commences!  Sunday was the monthly tournament day in Cynnabar, which means Kill & Grill in the summertime!  So I browbeat the Hubs into going and made a treat to contribute to the potluck.  Looking at the array of booze left over from Pennsic, I was tempted by the amaretto…  The folks at Kill & Grill fell upon these like wolves on a gooey, chocolatey, almond-y moose in the wilderness.

Chocolate Amaretto Bars (from Nestle)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, cut into pieces, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup amaretto liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels, divided
  • CHOCOLATE DRIZZLE (recipe follows)
PREHEAToven to 350º F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.FOR CRUST:
flour, butter and brown sugar in large mixer bowl until crumbly. Press into prepared baking pan.BAKEfor 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.FOR FILLING:
eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, butter, cornstarch and liqueur in medium bowl with wire whisk. Stir in almonds and 1 2/3 cupsmorsels. Pour over hot crust; spread evenly.BAKEfor 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.FOR CHOCOLATE DRIZZLE:
remaining 1/3 cup morsels in heavy-dutyplastic bag. Microwave on HIGH (100%) power for 30 to 45 seconds; knead. Microwave at 10- to 15-second intervals, kneading until smooth. Cut tiny corner from bag; squeeze to drizzle over bars. Refrigerate for a few minutes to firm chocolate before cutting into bars.August 26, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, the Hubs requested a blueberry buckle as a treat.  After we’d finished the Peach Crumble Tart, I decided to make the buckle.  A buckle is a sort of coffee cake-like dessert that has a simple, moist yellow cake base with fruit in it and a crumb topping.  Well, we’ve already discussed the wonders of crumb topping regarding the Peach Crumb Tart, so I won’t go back there right now.

I did a little searching and came up with this recipe that originally came from Cook’s Illustrated, a respected source in the cooking world.  I made a trip down to one of our local farm stands, set up by Potter Orchards every summer.  They have a full range of fruits and vegetables throughout the summer season, and garden plants and flowers at the start of spring.  I got a quart of blueberries for this cake, and then went back later in the afternoon and bought two 10-pound boxes of their “super ripe” berries at $5 a box – can’t beat that!  Those berries are in the freezer now, waiting to be made into mead and/or cordials at a later date.

Blueberry Buckle (From Tracey’s Culinary Adventures)

1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, softened

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (4 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 cups fresh blueberries (about 20 oz)

To make the streusel: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the flour, both sugar, cinnamon and salt on low to combine and break up any brown sugar lumps.  With the mixer still on low, add the butter and beat until it is completely incorporated into the dry ingredients, about 2-3 minutes – the mixture will resemble wet sand.  Transfer the streusel to another bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch round pan with a round of parchment, then spray the parchment and the pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together then set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the vanilla.  Add the eggs, on at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just about incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish stirring – the batter will be very thick.  Gently fold in the blueberries.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan; spread in an even layer.  To top with the streusel – pick up a handful of streusel and squeeze to form a clump.  Break this large clump into smaller pieces and sprinkle over the batter.  Continue until you’ve used all of the streusel.  Bake for about 55 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool for 15-20 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the edges of the cake then invert it onto the rack.  Remove the parchment then turn the cake streusel side up and let cool on the wire rack.

August 25, 2011

I know that ginger cookies are not usually a summer kind of treat, but I bought some fresh ginger this week to go into a beef stir-fry for dinner one night.  On a side note – boy howdy, was THAT good!  I just had an idea and did a quick Google search and the very first result turned out to be a winner – Stir Fry Ginger Beef with the addition of some extra veggies (broccoli, bok choy, pea pods & water chestnuts).

Anyway, I had extra ginger (still do, in fact) and decided to make some ginger cookies.  Now, the Hubs and I both like gingersnaps, but we also really like the rich, dark, chewy kind of ginger & molasses cookie.  Again, I lucked out with a good recipe.  I did not end up with 4 dozen cookies, more like almost 3, but some of my cookies might have been a little big.  Also, this batter ends up very soft – there really wasn’t any option of making “balls” as the recipe calls for without making a total mess of myself, so I just made them as drop cookies and sprinkled a little sugar on top of each  blob before I put them in the oven.  They still turned out nice and chewy and spicy – just the way we like them!

Chewy Fresh Ginger Cookies (from Bob’s Cooking)

  • 9 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 5 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 ounces molasses, by weight
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 4 ounces finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1 cup coarse granule cane sugar
  • 1/2 tspn kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cardamom, clove and salt.

Place the brown sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the molasses, egg and fresh ginger and beat on medium for 1 minute. Add the crystallized ginger and using a rubber spatula, stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until well combined.

in a shallow bowl mix together the kosher salt and cane sugar. Use a tablespoon and make approx 2 tblspn sized balls of dough. Dip the top of each ball in the salt/sugar mixture, then onto a parchment lined half sheet pan approximately 2-inches apart. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 12 minutes for slightly chewy cookies or 15 minutes for more crisp cookies. Rotate the pan halfway through cooking.

Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to stay on the sheet pan for 30 seconds before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with all of the dough. Store in an airtight container for up 10 days.

August 18, 2011

Upon returning from Pennsic to the traditionally empty larder and lack of treats, I made two things this week.  First, Mocha Chip Cookies!  Sorry, no pic on this one, though I suppose I could go take a quick snap – there are a few left.  Then, since I like to have a couple of treat options around and sometimes actually contemplate making something not chocolate, AND since the freestone peaches are in, I made up a recipe for a peach crumble tart.  It combines the best of a peach pie and the crumbly brown sugar-oat topping of a fruit crisp, which I love love love!

Peach Crumble Tart


½ c butter or margarine, softened

1/3 c granulated sugar

½ c all purpose flour

½ c white whole wheat flour

Beat butter & sugar in a small bowl with mixer until light and fluffy.  Add flour and mix well.  Press into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch tart pan.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to fill.


4-5 medium to large peaches, sliced

¼ to ½ c granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches

½ t ground cinnamon

pinch salt

2-3 T cornstarch

Combine peaches with dry ingredients in a large bowl and let sit while making topping.


¼ c all purpose or white whole wheat flour

¼ c light brown sugar, packed

¼ c rolled oats

¼ t ground cinnamon

¼ t allspice

pinch salt

4 T butter, cut into small cubes and chilled

Combine all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.  Mix in butter with a pastry cutter or fingers until it forms pea-sized lumps and looks crumbly.

To assemble, put peach mixture into chilled crust and top with crumb topping.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 40-45 minutes until crust and topping are browned and filling is bubbly.  This will probably bubble over, so putting it on a foil-lined pan is a good idea.

July 13, 2011

Last week I made a long-overdue chocolate cake for the Hubs’ s birthday (which was at the end of April).  I used the Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake recipe from the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box.  I’m sure you can find that one on your own.  I only made half the recipe to make one layer of cake, which I did split and fill with chocolate frosting so we could pretend we were eating a layer cake and still not be inundated with chocolate cake for all time!

Now that we’ve finished that, I decided it was time for a cheesecake.  My neighbor P gave us about a quart of fresh raspberries from her backyard, so raspberry chocolate cheesecake it is!  I looked around for some ideas on the web and eventually came up with this:

Raspberry-Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

1 c crushed chocolate graham cracker or cookie crumbs

3-4 T butter, melted

Combine crumbs and butter until everything is combined and moistened.  Press into the bottom of a 7-inch springform pan.

2 8-oz blocks of cream cheese, at room temperature (whatever fat content you like, though I use the fully leaded kind)

2/3 c sugar (I used Splenda)

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 c chocolate chips, melted

8 oz raspberries, pureed and strained to remove seeds

Mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until smooth.  Add vanilla.  Divide mixture in half.  Combine melted chocolate with one half of cream cheese mixture and about 2/3 of the pureed raspberries with the other half of the mixture.  Dollop alternating spoonfuls of chocolate and raspberry batter in springform pan, using about half of each mixture.  Swirl these together lightly with a knife.  Drizzle about half of the remaining raspberry puree over the top of the swirled mixture.  Repeat with the remaining chocolate and raspberry batters and drizzle the top of the cheesecake with remaining raspberry puree.  Bake at 350 for about 50-60 minutes or until set.  Run a thin knife blade around the outside of the cheesecake to separate it from the sides of the pan.  Return pan to oven and allow to cool with the oven door cracked open slightly and the oven turned off.  Chill before serving.

Makes 8-10 servings.

June 23, 2011 – Part II

The second strawberry extravaganza today is a batch of strawberry pocket pies.  Think Hostess fruit pies, but homemade.  Pastry hasn’t always been my strong suit, but this batch turned out pretty well.  There was a little leftover at the end that I made into a smaller pie that the Hubs and I sampled, and the crust was nice and flaky and the strawberry filling nicely sweet-tart.  These are going to feed the group at Baron Wars as well.

Strawberry Pocket Pies (From The Kitchen Sink Recipes)

3 cups strawberries, chopped into roughly quarter-inch pieces*
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
All-purpose flour, for work surface
1 recipe Pate Brisee (see below)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. In a medium bowl, add strawberries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon; stir to combine, set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll one round of the chilled dough into a large rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 5-inch cookie cutter, cut out 6 rounds. Transfer rounds to prepared baking sheet.

Place about 2 tablespoons of the strawberry mixture onto one-half of each round. Lightly brush egg around the edge of the covered half of each round. Fold remaining dough over to enclose, forming a half moon. Gently press edges together to seal.** Brush the tops of each pie with egg. Using a paring knife, slash the top of each pie. Sprinkle generously with sanding sugar.

Repeat with the remaining dough and fruit.

Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pies to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Or let cool completely, and store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.  Makes 12 pies.

Pate Brisee

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces (2 sticks)
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.*

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator, and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

June 23, 2011

Continuing in my quest to use up strawberries, today I made a batch of strawberry-banana oat muffins to take along to Baron Wars to share with the other folks there.  Nothing better than a strawberry muffin for breakfast, I say!

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal Muffins (from The Blissful Bakker)

1 C light buttermilk

1 C quick oats

1 egg

2 medium sized ripe bananas

1/2 C chopped fresh strawberries

1/4 C brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 C whole wheat flour

1/2 C all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 F and grease your muffin tin.  In a medium sized bowl, mix buttermilk, oats, egg, bananas, sugar, and vanilla.  In a separate medium sized bowl, mix flour, powder, soda, spices, and salt.  Combine dry and wet ingredients and add the strawberries.  Fill your muffins tins with the batter almost all the way to the top (these don’t rise very much).  Garnish muffin tops with quartered strawberry slices.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Recipe yields 12 muffins.

June 21, 2011

Our neighbors gave us about 5 pounds of freshly picked strawberries yesterday, so I went to work thinking of things to do with them.  Fresh strawberry cake is first on the list!  I may also make some strawberry tarts to take along to Baron Wars this weekend, since we’re having something of a camp-out on Friday night.  I’ll admit, I’m not the kind of blogger that takes step-by-step photos of everything I make.  If you can’t follow a recipe in a reasonable fashion, pictures probably aren’t going to help anyway!  On the left is a picture of the cake before it went into the oven – mmm, fresh strawberries!  On the right is the cake after it was baked and cooled.

Fresh Strawberry Cake (from Two Peas and Their Pod)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top of cake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform pan or pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.

3. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Arrange strawberry slices on top of batter. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over berries.

4. Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50-55 minutes. Let cool in pan. To serve, cut into wedges. Store cake at room temperature, for up to two days.

Makes 10-12 servings

June 17, 2011

Getting ready for Baronial Border War in Ionia this weekend, I decided to make a batch of cookies to take along.  I have a reputation as a cookie baker, so I like to have something to offer people at events!  I had bought some almond paste last week in preparation for making a batch of these cookies for a contest at Northern Oaken War Maneuvers, which we didn’t end up going to, so I held off until this week’s event.  This is pretty much a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe, with almond paste mixed in.  The almond paste creates a luscious, rich batter that comes out somewhat chewier than regular Toll House cookies.  This time I used a bag of Hershey’s Special Dark chips because I didn’t have enough of the regular semi-sweet on hand.  I don’t think anyone will complain!

Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies (from Solo Foods, makers of almond paste)

5 oz almond paste, grated

1 c butter or margarine, softened

1/2 c granulated sugar

1/2 c light brown sugar, firmly packed

2 eggs

1/2 t almond extract

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

12 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease baking sheets or line with parchment.

Combine grated almond paste and butter in a mixer until smooth.  Add sugars, eggs and almond extract and mix until thoroughly blended.  Stir together dry ingredients and add to butter mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop by heaping teaspoons onto prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake 12-15 minute or until golden brown.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

May 26, 2011

Yesterday I made the medieval gingerbread for the kingdom arts & sciences competition at Crown Tournament.  Scoring a second place in the regional competition a few weeks ago made me eligible to submit my work to the kingdom level.  My project was an experiment of three different types of dried breadcrumbs as the base for the mixture.  In this photo, from left to right – processed commercial breadcrumbs, homemade breadcrumbs and panko.  This mix turned out much better than the batch I had made for regionals – boiling the honey makes a HUGE difference!

April 24, 2011

So the Hubs and I have been doing a lower-carb diet for about the past 2 years.  I managed to lose 3 pants sizes in the process – yay, me!  I still like to have carbs, though I try to make them healthier.  I also like to have something to eat in the morning before I exercise, learning from experience that exercise without eating tends to make me lightheaded and woozy.  My current favorite is a small muffin and some milk, and I’ve been doing a pumpkin oat muffin that’s really tasty, but wanted something different (plus, I didn’t have any pumpkin on hand).

Apple Oat Muffins (from Gourmetish)

2 c shredded or finely diced apple

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (I used 1 c all purpose and 1/2 c white whole wheat)

1 c rolled oats

2/3 c packed brown sugar

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 c fat-free milk

2 T vegetable oil

1 t vanilla extract

1 8-oz carton plain low-fat yogurt

1 large egg

2/3 c roughly chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease 12 muffin cups or fill with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients except nuts and whisk to combine.  In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients except apples and whisk to combine.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir just until moistened.  Stir in apples and nuts until combined.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cups.  Bake about 20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and spring back when pressed lightly in the center.  Remove from pan and cool completely.

April 11, 2011

Feeling the need for chocolate, it’s time for some Triple-Chocolate Death Brownies!  Actually, these are from the book Dying for Chocolate  by Diane Mott Davidson and they’re called “Scout’s Brownies” in the book, but I like my name better.  The author also recommends premium quality ingredients such as Valrhona chocolate, but I’ve always just used the regular brands available at my local store and have never had any complaints.  I dressed these up a little with some coffee, cinnamon and just a smidge of chili powder – a slight feeling of heat, but not at all spicy!

1 c butter

3 1/2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate

3 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 t baking powder

1 t salt (if using unsalted butter, otherwise maybe a scant 1/2 t)

4 eggs

2 c sugar

1 t vanilla extract

1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250.  Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together, stirring occasionally.  Set aside to cool.  Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.  Beat eggs until creamy, then gradually add sugar, beating constantly.  Add vanilla and cooled chocolate-butter mixture.  Stir in dry ingredients until just combined.  Spread batter in a greased 9×13″ pan and sprinkle chocolate chips on the surface.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until center no longer jiggles when shaken.  Cool and cut into pieces.

If I’m making these to share with a crowd, I cut 32 pieces.  For just the Hubs and I, I’ll generally cut 24, which makes a nice size for a brownie and glass of milk in the evening!

*If you want the spiced version, add 1/2 t cinnamon and just the barest shake of chili powder to the other dry ingredients.

March 23, 2011

The past few years, I’ve gotten into the practice of making a cake for my birthday in March and one for my husband’s birthday in April.  I try to find something we will both enjoy, of course, but also something that will fit into our attempt at a somewhat healthy lifestyle (not too much sugar or oil).  Plus, I try to find a recipe that will be easily divided in half, since I usually make a single layer cake rather than a double layer that will take us too long to eat.  A single layer with frosting is easier to devour before we get tired of it!

This year, I found a recipe for a Pineapple Spice Cake that sounded tasty, and the tropical flavor would be good for the somewhat spring-like weather we’re having.

Pineapple Spice Cake (from Whiskie Business) – note that this is half the recipe!

1 c flour

3/8 c (6T) granulated sugar

3/8 c (6T) packed brown sugar

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/8 t ginger

dash nutmeg

10 oz crushed pineapple with juice

1/4 c pineapple juice (from can)

1/4 c oil

1 egg, beaten

1/2 t almond extract

Preheat oven to 350.  Scoop crushed pineapple into a bowl – don’t worry about straining too much juice out.  Add cinnamon, ginger & nutmeg to pineapple and stir to combine.

Combine other dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer.  Add brown sugar and mix until blended.

Add egg to pineapple and add wet ingredients to dry.  Mix 30 seconds or until blended.

Combine pineapple juice and oil and add to batter.  Add with almond extract and mix until well blended.  Do not overbeat!

Pour into greased and floured 8″ or 9″ round pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.

Cool about 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Frosted with a basic cream cheese frosting:

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

1 to 1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 t vanilla or almond extract

1-2 T milk, as needed

Note that this icing is fairly runny to start.  You could add more powdered sugar or let it set somewhat in the fridge to thicken up before icing.  I just poured it over the top of the cake and fudged it out to the edges to cover.

March 16, 2011

I made these for the dessert buffet at Terpsichore at the Tower on Saturday.  I made a few changes to the original recipe – I used chocolate graham crackers because I had them on hand, and reduced the cocoa powder to 2T.  I used 1/2 a stick of butter in the middle layer because a whole stick just seemed like WAY too much butter.  They seem to have turned out all right so far, but I haven’t cut them yet!  In the future, I might also reduce the amount of butter in the base layer – a whole stick made the base seem somewhat greasy at first.

Idle Hand Bars (from the Guilty Kitchen)

Base Layer

½ c unsalted butter

¼ c sugar

5 T cocoa powder

1 egg, beaten

1 ¼ c graham cracker crumbs

¾ c coarsely crushed pretzels

In a double boiler, melt the first three ingredients together.  While still over the water, add the egg and beat to combine (mixture will thicken quite a bit).  Remove from heat and add crumbs and pretzels.  Press into an 8-inch square cake pan and set aside.

Middle Layer

½ c unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2/3 c powdered sugar

1 c smooth peanut butter

¼ t salt

1 t vanilla

Mix peanut butter and butter together in a small bowl.  Mix in sugar, salt and vanilla to form a thick paste.  Dump onto base layer and smooth over, patting down to make a flat, even layer.

Top Layer

5 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 T unsalted butter

Fleur de Sel

In double boiler or microwave, melt butter and chocolate chips together.  Stir until completely dissolved and smooth.  Pour over peanut butter layer and spread out evenly.  Cool in fridge for about 5 minutes (should still be slightly soft on top but not warm).  Sprinkle lightly with salt and return to fridge.  Let cool completely to become hard.  Cut into small squares.

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