Monday, October 24, 2011

Apple Cider Pudding Cake

My kids and I drove out to an apple orchard last week to meet up with some friends. There's just something about picking apples off of a tree and freshly pressed cider from an apple orchard that just say Fall to me. And this pudding cake from Mel's Kitchen Cafe? It looks, tastes, and smells like Fall. Not to mention that it will make your house smell oh-so-good.

I love the mix of textures you get when you bite into this cake. First you have the sweet buttery crunchy streusel topping. Then you've got the moist cake. Next up is soft, caramelized apples. Finish it off with a cinnamon spice pudding and you've got yourself a winner.

It's recommended that you eat it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you really can't go wrong doing this. But I actually kind of enjoyed it cold for breakfast. Either way, you will not be sorry.

Apple Cider Pudding Cake
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
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1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large egg
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups chopped Granny Smith apples

Boiling Mixture:
1 cup apple cider (apple juice can be substituted if apple cider can't be found)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cold butter

Butter an 8x8 inch square baking dish. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, 1 cup brown sugar, milk, melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients until just combined. Gently fold in apples. Spread in prepared pan.

In a small saucepan, bring apple cider, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 cup brown sugar to a boil. Pour slowly and carefully over the batter. Bake for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, cut butter into streusel ingredients with a fork or pastry blender until butter is cut up and mixture is crumbly. After the cake has baked for 35 minutes, sprinkle streusel topping evenly over the cake and bake 8-10 minutes more (until a toothpick inserted into the top layer of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs).

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes

Thanks to my friends over at Williams-Sonoma, I found out that today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day. I immediately told my husband who responded with, "Are we celebrating?" Um, yeah!

I set out to find the perfect recipe, and I think this is pretty darn close. The cake is perfectly moist and light, and the chocolate flavor is spot on. And the frosting. Oh, the frosting. It is genius. I'll be honest when I say that I have never combined chocolate and cream cheese in a frosting before. Where on earth have I been?! I, lover of all things cream cheese, was blown away. I don't know that I can ever go back. And I now have a go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. All in all I'd say it was a pretty successful day!

I wanted to hurry and get this posted before the day is over so that you all can get yourself a chocolate cupcake to celebrate. Enjoy!

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes and Annie's Eats
Makes 24 cupcakes
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½ cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth. In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to blend.

Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting

9.3 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tsp sour cream

Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool until just barely warm. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Beat in the melted and cooled chocolate and then the sour cream. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Frost cupcakes immediately.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

There is nothing like waking up to some fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls. But really, who has the time to make the dough, let it rise, roll it out and shape it, let it rise again, and then bake it in the morning? Not I.

I really wanted some cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but I wanted them to be freshly baked. I vaguely remembered that Alton Brown had a recipe for some overnight cinnamon rolls. His method still takes some time in the morning, approximately an hour and a half. But with a little prep work the night before and some inactive work in the morning, we had some tender, sweet, cinnamon rolls to enjoy on this crisp October morning.

I used an 18 by 13 inch jelly roll pan because I wanted them to be spaced apart so all of the rolls would have an outer crust. If you prefer to have some with a crust and some without, just use a 9 by 13 inch pan. Either way, they are delightful.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Alton Brown
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4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil or cooking spray

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, using some to butter your pan
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter an 18 by 13-inch jelly roll pan (a 9x13 glass pan can be used as well). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture, walnuts, and raisins over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 25 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

Monday, September 19, 2011

m&m Chocolate Chip Cookies

My little girl is off to her first day of preschool. I'm kind of sad just sitting here alone (well, my baby is upstairs napping...), but at the same time I'm so excited for her! She is going to absolutely love it and I'm going to love the extra bit of free time I'll have while she's gone.

So today I thought I'd post a simple recipe, but one that I love making with my little girl. She loves m&ms, and they help to make this cookie extra special just for her. So if you have kids, maybe you could whip up a batch when they get home from school and bring a little smile to their faces.

m&m Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Baking Illustrated
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2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup plain m&ms

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Press m&m's into the balls of cookie dough. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Simple Stovetop Rice Pudding

I just spent the week in the Poconos Mountains in Northeastern PA. When we planned the trip we envisioned hiking through the mountains, canoeing on the Delaware, and enjoying the great outdoors. And then we got rained on. A lot. There was major flooding in the region, and we had to drive through 2 feet of water on the road to get to our destination. Let me tell you, all of that rain and cold weather made me wish for some warm comfort food. And rice pudding is just the ticket!

Thick. Rich. Creamy. Delicious. These are words that describe this simple rice pudding. The recipe is from my trusty America's Test Kitchen, and they have not failed me. I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not it would end up creamy and rich without the addition of an egg, but was it ever. The flavors were spot on, with the rice coming out as the star.

The finished product took me about an hour and 45 minutes, and we ate it when it was still pretty warm. With that amount of time invested, it had better be worth it. And I actually think it was. I've had many different rice puddings in my day, but this one is definitely at the top. I honestly don't think I would change anything about the recipe. Oh, and just a tip - when they say to use a 3 quart pan or larger, listen. I was amazed at how large the batch was, especially considering that you only use one cup of rice. My 5 quart Le Creuset worked perfectly for me.

Simple Stovetop Rice Pudding
from America's Test Kitchen
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2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup medium-grain rice
2 1/2 cups whole milk *
2 1/2 cups half-and-half *
2/3 c sugar
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (at least 3 quarts). Stir in the salt and rice; cover and simmer over low heat, stirring once or twice, until the water is almost fully absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the milk, half-and-half, and sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, uncovered and stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring every couple of minutes to prevent sticking and scorching, until a spoon is just able to stand up in the pudding, about 15 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, 1/2 cup raisins, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Cool and serve at room temperature or chilled. (To store, press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

* When a recipe calls for varying amounts of dairy products, rather than making a trip to the store, I use what I have on hand and mix until I have the right consistency. For instance, I only had 1% milk and heavy cream on hand for this recipe, so I used 3 cups of 1% milk and 2 cups of heavy cream to get the right mix. I just kind of do what makes sense in my head.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Zucchini Cake Sandwich Cookies

This past week I have lived through an earthquake, a hurricane, and a tornado warning. Sounds impressive, huh? In actuality it was a little tremor that lasted 5 seconds, a heavy rainstorm, and no tornado. We were bracing for 8-12 inches of rain, but only got around 5. Forget that 3 1/2 of that ended up in our basement...

Alright, back to baking! It's zucchini season! If you have a garden and have planted zucchini, or know anyone who has, then you know how sometimes you can get a few too many zucchini. I love growing it and making both sweet and savory things, but I kind of get stuck in a rut by the end of it all. I remember a couple of summers ago when we had zucchini in every meal for a week. I think that was the week I decided to start shredding and freezing what zucchini we had left.

I was so excited when one of the first zucchini recipes I found this season was for something I had never made before. Jenn over at Eat Cake For Dinner made some zucchini cake sandwich cookies modeled after carrot cake sandwich cookies. Genius! This year my little girl planted the seeds for our zucchini, so it's fun to tell her that we are eating what she planted. And it's even better when it's for dessert!

Zucchini Cake Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from Eat Cake For Dinner
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1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup oats
1 cup grated zucchini
Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe below

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside. Cream together the shortening, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the oats and grated zucchini and mix very well. Dough will be pretty sticky, and will spread when baking. Drop dough onto prepared baking sheet, using a small cookie scoop.

Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.

Spread cream cheese frosting on the flat side of one cookie and top with the flat side of another cookie. Store in the refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese (1 cube), room temperature
12 tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 cubes), room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and almond extracts. Add the confectioners sugar and mix until smooth.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Strawberry Muffins

In these dwindling days of summer, I was drawn in by an ad at my local grocery store. Buy one, get one free on strawberries. I bought some knowing that this might be the last sale of this kind we have before next year. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, just that I wanted to try to bake something with them.

My friend sold her house and was kind of in panic mode the night before closing. I texted her and told her I'd come over to help with the last packing and cleaning. I wanted to take something that she could feed the kids the morning of closing and not have to worry about a mess or the stress of finding something to eat. And thus was born strawberry muffins.

I googled a few different recipes, but it came down to tweaking a couple of recipes on the Joy of Baking website to get what I wanted. This recipe calls for brown sugar rather than white sugar. Using brown sugar gives it a richer flavor and color. I also used sour cream to make a more dense muffin and to add some moisture, but you could easily substitute plain yogurt, or maybe tweak the recipe and use buttermilk for a lighter texture.

All in all, I was really pleased with the muffins. I loved the extra flavor the cinnamon added, and it was so fun to eat a muffin that was different from the norm! They were exactly what I was hoping for, and I hope my friend enjoyed them on that hectic morning!

Strawberry Muffins
adapted from Joy of Baking
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½ cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream
1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or lightly butter or spray the muffin cups with a vegetable spray.

In a small saucepan melt the butter and let cool to room temperature.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract and sour cream. Add the melted butter and stir to combine.

In another large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gently fold in the berries, making sure they are coated with flour. (This helps to prevent the berries from sinking during baking.) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are just combined. Do not over mix the batter or you will get tough muffins.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, using an ice cream scoop. Place in the oven and bake until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Can be stored for a few days at room temperature.