Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This Was Crumby

We've all heard of crumb cake, right? Well, how about crumb biscotti? The difference here is to use any leftover cake that you might have tucked away in your freezer. Now I'm not a person who usually keeps leftover cake scraps or crumbs but it just so happened that I baked a chiffon cake a couple weeks ago and didn't end up using all of the cake. So, because I hate to waste perfectly good food, I sealed up the leftovers in a container and froze them. The cake actually came in handy a week later when I used some of it in a strawberry trifle, but even after that, I had quite a bit left over. This recipe helps take care of any leftover cake or even cookies, for that matter. It comes from what is becoming to be one of my favorite baking books, Nancy Silverton's Pastries From The La Brea Bakery. The biscotti came out very crispy and crunchy, though not too hard at all. Despite being made primarily from cake crumbs, it held together quite nicely and did not even crumble. Perfect for dunking! So make good use of your leftover cake and give this recipe a try. Let me know what you think.

Crumb Biscotti (from Pastries From The La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton)
1 and 1/4 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached AP flour (I used a combination of each)
1 and 1/4 cups dry cake crumbs (or cookie crumbs)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 extra-large egg
1 extra-large egg yolk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 extra-large egg white, slightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the biscotti

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, crumbs, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger and mix on low to combine.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the whole egg and egg yolk together. Slowly whisk in the melted butter.
4. Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the butter mixture, mixing just until combined.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, flatten it into a rectangle and fold the dough over onto itself, packing it into a completely solid brick. Keep patting the dough and dropping it against the surface to compress it and eliminate all the air holes. Using both hands, roll the brick back and forth to round the edges. Continue rolling the dough until you have a log about 15 inches long.
6. Transfer the log to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten it slightly to form a loaf, brush the top with the egg white and sprinkle with the extra crumbs to cover.
7. Bake the loaf until firm to the touch, about 35 minutes; allow to cool completely.
8. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Using a serrated knife, slice the loaf into cookies, about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange the biscotti on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake until dry, about 20-30 minutes.

**notes about drying your cake crumbs: I basically laid the cake scraps out on a baking sheet and placed it in the oven at around 300 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Check on your cake often though because you don't want it to burn. Once the cake is nice and dry, take it out and allow to cool before using the crumbs in the biscotti recipe.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lollipop, Lollipop...!

This month's Daring Baker's Challenge, Cheesecake Pops, was one of the most fun, creative, and whimsical recipes I've tried in a long while. I sort of felt like a candy maker as I dipped each cheesecake-on-a-stick into melted white and dark chocolate and then sprinkled all sorts of goodies onto the lollipops. I chose a bunch of different toppings for the pops like crushed graham crackers, chocolate and candy-coated sprinkles, crushed almond rocca, flaked coconut, and crushed chocolate wafers. This recipe makes a huge batch (I'm still making them as I type this!) so my lucky coworkers will be getting their share of lollipops come Monday morning. My boyfriend took a sample of a lollipop this morning and absolutely loved it. So a big thank-you to Deborah of Taste and Tell and Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms for choosing April's DB Challenge. And if you'd like to check out other DB'ers version of Cheesecake Pops click HERE, or to make your own, check out this recipe on Deborah's site. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So Berry Delicious!

Last week, Deborah from Taste and Tell posted a recipe for Blackberry Pie Bars that looked so mouth-watering good, I knew I could not pass it up. I used strawberries in place of the blackberries which resulted in a dessert that tasted like “a strawberry pie on steroids” (this is a direct quote from a friend who took a bite)! I think his words described this dessert perfectly. Not shy in the butter department, the “pie” crust was melt-in-your-mouth delectable, and the strawberry-sour cream filling was rich, sweet, and tangy. These bars are perfect for sharing with others or for bringing to your next potluck. In addition to being so darn good, the recipe yields a pretty large batch and keeps well in the fridge (that is, if they even last that long)! I’m definitely going to make these again and will probably experiment with different berries next time. By the way, don't worry if you don't have a food processor large enough to mix the crust ingredients in. I mixed everything by hand and with my pastry cutter and the results were just fine! Thanks Deborah, for sharing this great recipe (click HERE for the bars).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Not Your Mother's Pumpkin Pie

Searching for the perfect “make ahead” dessert the other day, I came across a luscious recipe for Freezer Pumpkin Pie, once again found on the Allrecipes website. Not only could I make it a couple days before a dinner party I was hosting, but boy did this come together quickly. The only rate limiting step was waiting for the pie crust to cool down. I changed a couple things on the recipe though: I used graham crackers instead of ginger snaps, and a combination of walnuts and pecans for the crust. Everything about this recipe was nice and easy, and the end result was a huge hit with my friends. The ice cream mixture really did have the flavors of delicious pumpkin pie filling and the nutty crust was scrumptious! I liked this so much that I’m already thinking about serving this for Thanksgiving dessert rather than the traditional pumpkin pie. This tasted exceptionally yummy with some whipped cream on top too. Enjoy! (click here for the recipe).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ga Ga For Granola

I love granola. I love eating it for breakfast with some yogurt and fruit, or for dessert with some vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce, or how about sprinkling granola on a slice of wholegrain toast that's been slathered with peanut butter? Need more ideas? The next time you make a batch of blueberry pancakes, why not top it off with a few handfuls of granola for some added texture and crunch? That one happens to be a favorite of my boyfriend's who discovered this at one of his favorite breakfast spots in Chicago long ago. You can even stir some granola into the batter and have some granola-baked pancakes. Okay, you get the picture. Now, what I really don't love about granola is all the sugar and fat that many store-bought ones have in their ingredients. Luckily, I have the solution to this--make your own granola at home. It's really quite easy and does not take much time at all. This recipe for granola has been my go-to granola recipe for several years and has never let me down in the taste department. It’s loaded with all sorts of goodies and of course, you’re free to improvise as much as you‘d like. Feel like adding shredded coconut to your granola? Go for it. Or how about some dried banana chips? Chocolate or carob chips perhaps? The possibilities are endless! This recipe also makes a huge batch so why not throw some together now and share it with your friends? You’ll be giving them a hearty and healthy treat and I think they’ll love you for it. How do you eat granola?

Homemade Granola (adapted from Alton Brown):
1 and 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups rolled oats (quick or old fashioned)
Chopped pecans, walnuts, whole almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, cashews (or any combination/proportions to equal 2 cups chopped nuts)
Dried fruit suggestions: chopped up dried pear, cranberries, blueberries, golden raisins
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine the brown sugar and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 5 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from microwave and add vanilla extract and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, and brown sugar syrup mixture until thoroughly mixed. Spread the granola onto the cookie sheets and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until golden and crunchy. After removing from the oven, add the dried fruit and allow granola to cool completely. Store in airtight container once cooled.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sweet Memories

I remember first baking this Lemon Pistachio Biscotti for my sweet mom almost 20 years ago when I first discovered my love for baking. She raved about the biscotti and it soon became an often-requested treat in our house back then. The recipe came from one of my earliest-acquired cookbooks, Sunset Magazine's Low-Fat Cookbook. Recently, I felt like baking them again not only because lemon and pistachios are two of my favorite ingredients, but also because they remind me so much of my mother and all the warm and fuzzy feelings those memories bring up. They simply put a smile on my face! I hope you too will enjoy this "twice-baked" cookie. Personally, I think they taste great even without the lemon glaze but I'll leave that up to you to decide. Oh, and please don't forget the coffee!

Lemon-tipped Pistachio Biscotti (adapted from the Low-Fat Cookbook, Sunset Magazine)


2 cups AP flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup butter (at room temperature)

2/3 cup sugar

grated lemon zest from 1 lemon

1 whole egg

2 egg whites (I used 1/4 cup of liquid egg whites)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup shelled salted roasted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped

for lemon icing:

In a small bowl stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice until you get a nice, spreadable consistency.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1. Using a medium sized bowl, stir together flour and baking powder until blended; set this aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and lemon zest until well blended. Beat in egg, then egg whites. Beat in vanilla.

3. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until well blended. Stir in pistachios.

4. Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a long loaf about 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter. Place loaves about 3 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Flatten each loaf to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Bake in the 350 degree F oven until firm to the touch (about 15-18 minutes)

5. Remove baking sheet from oven; cut hot loaves crosswise into about 1/2 inch thick slices (I actually made mine a little thicker than this).

6. Turn slices cut side down and spread slices out on baking sheets (you'll likely need two sheets).

7. Return baking sheet(s) to the oven and continue baking until biscotti look dry and are lightly browned (about 10 more minutes).

8. Transfer biscotti to cooling racks and allow to cool.

9. Drizzle lemon icing on one side of biscotti, or spread icing on one end of the biscotti (or both ends if you want!) Let stand until icing is firm.

Yields about 24 biscotti.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

This Scone's A Star

Being the early-morning person that I am, I actually enjoy waking up early on the weekends to cook something special for breakfast. This time I went back to a favorite recipe of mine, maple pecan scones. I made similar scones and wrote about them last year after I was searching for something that resembled the maple oat scones that Starbuck's sells. The ones I made certainly came close! On this particular morning, I baked a batch and decided to have some fun with the dough. Happy Baking!

Maple Pecan Scones (adapted from Simple Joys of Friendship):
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk and 1 /2 tablespoon lemon juice)
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. maple syrup
1 t. maple extract
3 c. AP flour
1/2 c. uncooked,quick-cooking oats
2-1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 c. butter
1/2 c. chopped pecans

lemon glaze (optional)
Simply mix 1 cup powdered sugar with a couple tablespoons of milk and a dash of lemon juice. Stir it up to desired consistency.

directions- (preheat oven to 425 degrees F)
1. Mix first 5 ingredients; set aside.
2. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the next 6 ingredients; cut in the butter until mixture has a cornmeal consistency.
3. Stir in pecans. Pour in egg mixture; stir with a fork to make a soft dough.
4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead to get a slightly uniform dough.
5. Shape into a circle about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 16 wedges (or use biscuit or cookie cutters if you'd like).
6. Place on a greased baking sheet at 425 degrees F for 16-18 minutes or until lightly golden.
7. Allow to cool on a rack and then if you'd like, drizzle with the lemon glaze.
Yields about 16 scones.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Apple Treat

In our house, we love eating apples so there's almost always an abundance of them in our kitchen. Whether eaten raw, or cooked in a savory or sweet dish, apples are probably one of the most versatile fruits out there. So, when I came across this recipe that incorporated apples with other wonderful things like nuts and spices, I was eager to give it a shot. These Apple Squares were posted on one of my favorite food websites, http://www.allrecipes.com/. With its almost pie-like, gooey texture, they are a more delicate version of the "bar cookie". Eat them plain or topped with some whipped cream because either way, they are delicious! I hope you enjoy! (click here for the recipe)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Lessons Learned...

Several things motivated me to bake bread over the weekend: there was the nearly-empty bag of bread flour sitting on my pantry shelf taking up precious space, I was making lasagna for dinner and wanted a good bread to go with it, and most importantly, I had an inkling to bake something savory rather than sweet for a change.
Remembering also that I had a small bag of unused soy flour lurking somewhere in my kitchen, I decided to peek into a cookbook I haven’t picked up in years, The Whole Soy Cookbook, sweetly given to me by my younger brother almost 10 years ago. Inside, the recipe for soy parmesan focaccia caught my eye because it didn’t require a lot of ingredients, had only one rising time (yippee), and doesn't focaccia go so well with lasagna?
The recipe used a combination of both unbleached AP flour and soy flour, but leave it to me to not leave well enough alone. Remember that bread flour I mentioned? Yeah, you guessed it… I used this in place of the AP flour. Little did I think that bread flour, with its higher gluten and protein content, would create a texture that was not as soft and tender as I would have liked. Oh, the focaccia was not a complete disaster and actually looked quite lovely coming out of the oven but truthfully, I was disappointed with the toughness of the bread. On the bright side, I can probably still use this as a base for some homemade pizza, and if you really want to punch it up a little more, how about adding some sun-dried tomatoes or kalamata olives next time? Oh, and stick with the all purpose flour too. That’s key.

Soy Parmesan Focaccia (adapted from The Whole Soy Cookbook by Patricia Greenberg):
1 cup warm water
1 cup soy milk
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1/2 cup soy flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
Cornmeal, for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons or more chili flakes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or soy parmesan cheese if you'd prefer)

1. Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl and stir until yeast is dissolved and foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, pepper, and rosemary; gradually add the yeast liquid, mixing thoroughly with a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.
3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes or until dough is no longer sticky (dough will be very sticky so add flour as needed).
4. Form dough into a ball and place in a slightly oiled bowl; cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F; line a11 x 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.
6. Flatten the dough on a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle to fit the baking sheet; sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese and the chili flakes. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Slice and serve hot.
(yields 8 large pieces)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Something Peanutty

I celebrated my blog's 1 year anniversary this week! April first, to be exact. It's been an awesome year of cooking, experimenting, trying, failing, succeeding, and best of all, getting to know some of my fellow foodies and food bloggers from all over the world. Thank-you so much for visiting my little site, and giving me your feedback and encouragement. I've appreciated all your comments and support! Tonight I really felt like making something yummy and comforting with one of my favorite food groups: peanut butter! I came across this recipe for Crunchy Peanut Butter Brownies on the Slashfood website. It had everything I was looking for and seemed like a fairly simple recipe to throw together. The topping is actually a combination of cream cheese, peanut butter, eggs and sugar that is baked with the brownie base. Hmmm...the topping was okay but I was wanting something a bit more decadent and rich. I think next time I will substitute this part with a simple cream cheese and peanut butter frosting instead, and slather this onto the brownies after baking and cooling them. Still though, the brownie had a nice chewiness which I loved and the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is always a treat. I think I'll pour me some milk to go with this one.