Fruit-Filled Scuffins

Scuffins

I am not even sure what this are called, but I love taking two baked goods and combining them.  Not that I have done it often, but I am dying to create my own.  Ever since I posted these, I have been racking my brain for what other fusions I could make.  For some reason I have been in this complete brain lock.  I can’t think of anything!  I know when I least expect it, something will come to me. I would like to know how someone thought of the cronut – just brilliant.  Come on, who wouldn’t love a croissant that ran into a donut.

So needless to say, I was super excited when my good friend emailed me about the Scuffins that she found in the New York Times.  For some reason I keep wanting to call them Scruffins, but they are a combination of scones and muffins – so there you have it. These sounded amazing, but seriously, these were really made for me.  As I stood in the pantry trying to decide which type of jam I would use, I suddenly felt like this is what I had been waiting for.  I ended up using some Damson Plum Jam and Strawberry Vanilla Jam.  Both excellent choices.

They came out wonderfully – they were slightly heavier than muffins, though slightly lighter than scones.  My daughter was super excited about having breakfast treats, and rationed them out.  She warmed them up for a few seconds in the microwave each morning, and she said they were great.  So, there goes another one – there must be more – what about a cookcake? A cookie meets a cupcake?  Or maybe it should be called a cakie?

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 ounces), plus 2 tablespoons for buttering muffin cups
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal or wheat germ (1 ounce)
  • 3 tablespoons light brown or raw sugar (2 ounces), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup fruit jam, conserves, preserves or fruit butter (do not use jelly or marmalade)

Preparation

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a microwave or over very gentle heat. Using a pastry brush, butter the cups of a standard-size (3 1/2-ounce-capacity) 12-cup muffin tin. Let each coat of butter cool, then apply another coat; continue until the 2 tablespoons are all used.

In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Meanwhile, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter, add to dry ingredients and mix with a fork until just combined.
In another bowl, whisk together egg, milk and cream. Add to dry ingredients and mix to combine (the dough will be quite sticky).

Reserving about a quarter of the dough for topping, scoop 2 tablespoons dough into each cup. Using the back of a spoon, press dough gently down into the cups. The dough will move up the sides, and there should be a shallow well in each dough cup. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t come all the way up to the top; there should be about 1/2 inch of space between the top of the dough and the rim of the cup.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon jam into each well. Using your fingers, pinch remaining dough into small clumps and scatter evenly over the jam in each cup, making a bumpy topping. Sprinkle sugar over the tops.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned. Let cool in the pan on a rack; run a blade around the sides of each scuffin before turning out.
Yield 12 scuffins

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Fruit-Filled Scuffins

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Chocolate Chip Ricotta Scones

Chocolate Chip Ricotta Scones

Here we are back to breakfast.  My daughter got sick of the banana bread that I made every week for the past month.  The good news is that I finally used up the huge bag of frozen bananas we had in the freezer.  So of course I got the question on Sunday morning, “What am I going to eat for breakfast this week?”  I guess cereal was not the answer she was looking for.  Why is it that they can listen to the same song over and over again, but they get sick of my wonderful banana bread after a month?

To digress just for a moment, for some reason as I was looking at these beautiful scones typing away, the song Waltzing Matilda came into my head.  Why?  I have no idea how my mind works sometimes.  But nevertheless, it did.  I started singing the song, and asked my husband if he remembered it – of course he did.  We only listened to it about 100,000 times – it was on a Dan Zanes album that the girls absolutely loved when they were little.  And if you have small kids, you know that when they enjoy a song in the car – you keep playing it.  When I Binged it – the first YouTube video that was listed was by Slim Dusty.  Wow.  What a blast from the past.  My husband and I were in the office singing at the top of our lungs – of course intriguing my older daughter who was trying to finish up her homework, and all of a sudden the three of us were in the office having a little sing-a-long.  Gotta love that song…

Back to the scones – so needless to say, cereal was not going to cut it – fortunately Cooking Light came to the rescue – with some very interesting looking scones.  I adapted them to fit my daughter’s tastes – which of course has to include some chocolate.  These scones were soft and flakey and absolutely delicious.  She actually rationed them out so they lasted the entire week.  Just 30 seconds in the microwave was all they needed in the morning, and they were as fresh as can be.  Let’s see how many weeks in a row she can eat these – surely not as long as Waltzing Matilda – but maybe longer than banana bread?

Ingredients

  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (such as Calabro)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon fat-free buttermilk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4.5 ounces whole-grain pastry flour (about 1 cup)
  • 3.4 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture. Add 1/3 cup buttermilk and canola oil to remaining ricotta mixture, stirring until smooth.

Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add chocolate chips; toss. Add buttermilk mixture; stir just until combined.

Turn dough onto a counter lighted dusted with flour.  Pat into a 1 inch thick circle, and then cut into eight wedges shaped pieces. Combine egg and remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk, stirring with a whisk. Gently brush top and sides of dough with egg mixture. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake at 425° for 15 to 16 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan; cool slightly on a wire rack. Beat the reserved ricotta mixture at medium speed 3 minutes or until fluffy. Serve with warm scones if you would like.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Chip Ricotta Scones

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 2

It is not often that I get to go all out on desserts.  Mostly it is when I am baking for others – which hasn’t happen very much lately.  Maybe because we are just so darn busy??  Yes, I think that is exactly it.  Combine that with the fact that we have even been too busy to go to book club, and my baking has definitely suffered.  Now, one would say that is a good thing, but in our house, I think the girls were starting to get discouraged.  Cookies for lunch is one thing, but a real dessert is something else.  There is also something to be said for a multi-layer cake.  It somehow gives you the impression that you are getting more dessert than usual.  Two pieces of cake instead of one – and yes, since it is hard to cut very small pieces of a tall cake – that is exactly what happens.

So last week we actually able to make it to book club, and I happened to see the email asking people what they wanted to bring rather quickly – so the stars aligned for me to make that double layer cake the girls had been eyeing for months in my recipe stack.  This was one that I found in Cooking Light - but it was in their favorites edition.  Well, are you surprised?  Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting?  What could be better?  Even if you screw up on the cake, the frosting is so over the top delicious, it can hide any disasters that might happen.

The cake was slightly dry, but as I mentioned, the cream cheese frosting covered that up completely.  This was no ordinary cream cheese frosting either – it had a cup of marshmallow cream – which made it even fluffier.  Of course there was a little left over after I frosted it, and I just couldn’t help myself.  I swear, I would be fine if someone just served me a bowl of cream cheese frosting for dessert…  I also gave a spoon to my younger daughter, who basically devoured it in a matter of seconds.  So here’s to double layer cakes…which offer you double the pleasure – particularly when it has a cream cheese frosting on top!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6.7 ounces cake flour (about 1 2/3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3  large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy)

Frosting:

  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1  (8-ounce) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup marshmallow cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; let stand 1 minute. Stir until smooth; set aside.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place granulated sugar, buttermilk, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed until blended. Add chocolate mixture; beat at low speed 1 minute. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined.

Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in a medium bowl. Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg white mixture with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Gently stir one-third of egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg white mixture. Divide the batter evenly between 2 (8-inch) round metal cake pans coated with baking spray. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool for 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack. Remove cake from pans, and cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, place cream cheeses, 2 tablespoons flour, vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat 1 minute or until well combined. Gently stir in marshmallow cream just until combined.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1 cup frosting, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Mocha Cake with Fluffy Frosting

Mocha Cake with Fluffy Frosting

I have a little bit of a split personality when it comes to following recipes.  I am either all in, or not at all.  For the most part when it comes to baking, I follow the recipe completely – unless I really know what I am getting myself into, and feel completely comfortable with the substitutions.  For example, I am pretty confident now in my ability to substitute coconut milk for milk in pretty much any cake.  When it comes to cooking, there are no rules – and I am always making little changes here and there.

It was time to get back into my dairy-free baking mode – and what better to do that with than a chocolate cake.  My husband’s favorite dessert is a big chocolate cake – and it had been a while since I had made one.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light - and for some reason the title really got me.  Who doesn’t love fluffy frosting?  If you know me at all, I am not a frosting person – unless it has cream cheese in it – or it is marshmallow.  I read the ingredients, and this was neither – but I couldn’t get past the fluffy frosting.

The recipe – which I copied exactly below – called for a 9×13 pan.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t have thought twice, but for some reason I thought that a double layer cake might be even better.  We were having friends for dinner, and I figured it would be nicer to serve – so I found the 8″ round cake pans.  It didn’t hit me until I was making the frosting – of course, there is no way this can be a double layer cake.  This truly is FLUFFY FROSTING that will just sink if I layer another cake on top.  Duh.  So I ended up freezing one of the cakes, and just using the other and mounding the frosting on top. Of course that didn’t impact the taste what so ever – this cake was as moist as can be – and the fluffy frosting was like biting into a cloud.  I drizzled some caramel on top that I had brought back from Paris, and boy was this delicious.  Maybe my way was the right way – now I have another one in the freezer just waiting for an opportunity to pile some clouds on top…a little slice of heaven.

Cooking Light

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canola mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup hot strong brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray

Topping:

  • 9 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup light chocolate syrup

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise and oil; beat with a mixer at low speed until well blended. Slowly add brewed coffee and vanilla; beat with a mixer at low speed 1 minute or until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips; pour batter into a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare meringue, combine 9 tablespoons sugar and next 3 ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water 2 minutes or until candy thermometer registers 150°, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat. Beat egg mixture with a mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form; beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over cake. Store cake, loosely covered, in refrigerator. Drizzle each serving with 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mocha Cake with Fluffy Frosting

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

My grandmother was 100% goodness.  There is really no other way to describe her.  She was beautiful – no stunning; she was quiet yet always had something to say; she was very strong, although she didn’t have a lot of will power when it came to sweets – which always cracked me up.  I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and I always enjoyed it – in fact, I longed to be at her house with her.  She offered me advice from time to time, but like a good grandmother, mostly she just loved and supported me unconditionally.  In my life, she was a strong force of stability.

I have so many good memories over the years – her calming voice, her endless love of flowers (which I did not inherit), watching her play bridge with her friends or having a glass of Scotch before dinner, spending endless days at the beach then having her get the aloe plant for my very red body – it goes on and on.  She was a great traveler – and was very adventurous.  When most of her friends were spending their winters in Florida, she and my grandfather would go to Portugal.  About 12 years ago she wanted to go to Alaska, so I told her I would go with her.  We had a great week together and even went on some fun excursions – she was over 80 at the time, but that didn’t stop her.  She was incredibly active most of her life – and it inspired me.  I remember that my goal when I was younger was just to be able to keep up with her.  I remember the day when I started walking faster than her, and it made me sad.  When my daughters were born, she came out to Seattle to help – again, she was over 80 at the time.  The girls loved her – and she loved them.  I can still see her smile as she stared at them – even just watching them eat made her happy.

Sweets were just about her only vice that I knew of – my grandfather died when I was in high school – and he was diabetic.  She hid just about anything with sugar from him – and after he passed away, she was free to eat what she wanted.  I never saw her go nuts, but she would tell me stories about how she couldn’t keep ice-cream in the freezer because she would eat it all.  She always kept baked goods in the freezer just in case she happened to entertain – and she would wrap them tightly and in multiple layers – just another way to make it difficult for her to indulge.  She was never overweight – so I had a hard time believing she really had a problem – which made it somewhat funny to think about.

This year for my younger daughter’s birthday (which was on Thanksgiving), she had a very specific request – Red Velvet Whoopie Pies.  She loves her cream cheese frosting – and she wanted to make it clear that this dessert was all birthday and not about Thanksgiving.  She loved helping me find a good recipe on Annie’s Eats.  I remember telling my grandmother on the phone what I was going to make for her birthday, and she wasn’t quite sure what I was talking about – once I explained them to her – she told me they sounded delicious. I know she would have loved them – but what she would have loved more was watching my daughter devour hers.

When I saw my grandmother this summer, I remember I gave her an extra big hug when I said goodbye.  For some reason I knew it might be the last time.  Unfortunately I was right, but she was ready to go.  All I could think of when I hugged her frail body is that she will always be 100% goodness.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 oz. red food coloring

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Using a circular template (biscuit cutter), trace evenly spaced circles onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets. Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients.  Do not overbeat.  Blend in the food coloring.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack.  Repeat with any remaining batter.  Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.

To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.

Transfer the frosting to a clean pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip.  Pair the cookies up by shape and size.  Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.  Pipe frosting onto the flat-sided cookie of each pair, leaving the edges clear.  Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges.  To store, refrigerate in an airtight container.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Eggnog Coffee Cake

Eggnog Coffee Cake

Change can be hard – real hard.  I live a very different life at work and at home.  At work there is chaos constantly – and I love every minute of it.  I long for change at work – for things to be shaken up, and to try and put the pieces back together again – like a big puzzle.  If things stay static for too long, I get a little antsy.  At home, it is a completely different ball game.

I think one of the reasons why I can deal with such chaos at work, is because things are pretty stable at home.  Well, most of the time.  Tonight I attended a meeting at the new school my daughter will attend next year.  This is going to be the 5th school she has attended since kindergarten, and next year she will be in 7th grade.  The district likes to move them around – and it makes me sick.  Unfortunately she is being separated from the majority of her friends, and being taken out of a school that she has grown to love in only a few short months.  This new school has nothing.  It will start from the ground up.  There are no teachers.  There are no books in the library.  There isn’t a mascot.  There is no orchestra, band or choir.  There is only a principal who was hired to take on this great task.  And there are tons of very unhappy parents.  I had to fight back my tears as I heard parents tell their stories – stories about kids who have finally found their niche in the school they currently attend, only to be redistricted to a new school with lots of uncertainty.

I look at my daughter though in sheer amazement.  Sure, there were plenty of tears when she heard about the school board’s plan – but when the decision was made, she took the high road.  She sees this as an opportunity – a chance to create a school the way she envisions it.  She is an extremely strong willed 6th grader – she is a leader, and boy am I a proud parent.  It doesn’t make it any less painful for me – but knowing that she has a positive attitude is the only way I am going to deal with this change.

Last weekend she wanted to make sure she had something easy to eat for breakfast in the morning.  She found this recipe in Cooking Light – and was planning to make it for herself.  Unfortunately homework got in the way – so I decided to help her out (I know, twist my arm) – as I was making it though, she ran into the kitchen to remind me to make sure the coffee cake had lots of cinnamon.  I told her that the recipe had nutmeg instead – to give it that eggnog flavor – that’s where she drew the line.  She didn’t want that – she wanted a cinnamon coffee cake – that’s what she is used to.  This coffee cake was delicious – nice and moist, with lots of flavor.  Cinnamon or nutmeg, you can’t go wrong.  Again, change can be hard at times – and if this is the only change she wants to resist – I am completely supportive.

Ingredients

Crumble:

  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Cake:

  • 6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • Baking spray with flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare crumble, combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter using a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in toasted pecans.

To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon 6.75 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 6.75 ounces flour and next 4 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt); stir with a whisk. Place 3 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add whole egg and egg yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk, sour cream, and vanilla; beat at low speed for 1 minute or until well combined. Add the flour mixture; beat at low speed 1 minute or just until combined.

Spoon half of batter into an 8-inch round metal cake pan coated with baking spray. Sprinkle with half of crumble mixture. Spread remaining batter over crumble, smoothing top with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with remaining crumble mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Place a plate upside down on top of cake; invert onto plate. Place another plate upside down on top of cake; invert onto plate.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Eggnog Coffee Cake

Dairy-Free Apple Cake

Dairy-Free Apple Cake

The human body is just amazing – for so many reasons, I could go on for days.  If you have ever been hurt, and then in a very stressful situation, it is amazing how your adrenaline can make your pain go away.  I have read about it before – but only recently have truly experienced the power.  But what is the hormone that can help you if you are hurt emotionally?  Many people think it is food – they turn to food when they are upset – and more often than not, when that is the case – you are looking at a serious weight problem.  Other people are quite the opposite – they starve themselves when they are hurt or depressed – it seems as though depriving yourself food can make people feel more in control, and sometimes feel better.

Most of the time, when I am in this situation, I go right to the kitchen.  Not to eat, but to cook.  When I am cooking, it releases some type of chemical in me that makes me feel better.  I can get lost in the kitchen, forget about all of my troubles – and just focus on the food.  When it is all over, the hurt comes back, but at least for a few hours, I am able to put things aside, and just relax.  Now that my kids are getting older and they can be in the kitchen cooking along side of me – it is even better medicine – there is nothing I love more.

Today my husband and I celebrated our 17th anniversary.  It is hard to believe that I have spent more of my life with him than without him.  I am an unbelievably lucky person – he loves and supports me unconditionally, but always pushes me to be the best person I can be – he is the best father in the world, and has helped me to be the best mother – he has dedicated his life to cancer research, and never ever stops forging ahead.  I admire him more than he will ever know.

He has been staying away from dairy for some time now – but I know how much he loves cinnamon cake.  My mother sent me a recipe that her friend had made, who also stays away from dairy.  This is very similar to my mother’s recipe for blueberry cake – but for a cinnamon lover like my husband, this recipe definitely “took the cake.”  He absolutely loved this cake – I have a feeling I will be making this weekly for a while.  It is the least I can do, for all he does for me.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 4 cups peeled, chopped apples
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350o. Grease and flour a 13×9 inch baking pan. In large bowl, cream together first four ingredients thoroughly. Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture, mixing well by hand. Stir in apples.  Spread batter into prepared pan.  Mix the 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon in a bowl – and sprinkle over the top of the batter.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until straw inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Dairy-Free Apple Cake

Double Chocolate Swirl Pound Cake

Marble Bundt Cake

Unfortunately there will be no stories tonight…I am afraid that anything I say will be misunderstood.  Instead of waiting until I am in a better place, I am doing something different – I am leaving you with a recipe.  That’s really what this blog is about anyway.  I am a little different from most – I do not eat when I am upset – I react in the opposite way.  Some people would say that is a blessing.

Many people think that making a healthy cake is worthless – I see it as a challenge.  And this was a challenge well worth taking.  I love a good bundt cake, but most of the good bundt cakes I make have at least 2 sticks of butter.  Even with the oil, this was a much healthier version – and we all thought it was delicious.  No, I didn’t make this today, but this was something I made a while ago and have not had the chance to share it with you.  With fall coming, this is a great dessert that definitely feeds a crowd.  You might even have enough for seconds…

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 3.4 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 ounce chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • Baking spray with flour

Glaze:

  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating until incorporated. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level. Combine flours, powder, soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Combine sour cream and 1/4 cup milk. Add flour mixture and sour cream mixture alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Combine 1 teaspoon canola oil and chopped bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave at HIGH for 1 minute, stirring every 20 seconds until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons cocoa. Remove 2 1/2 cups vanilla batter; add to chocolate mixture, and stir.  Using 2 ice-cream scoops or 2 large spoons, add batters alternately to a 10-cup Bundt pan coated with baking spray; swirl.

Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

Combine powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon cocoa, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; stir until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Double Chocolate Swirl Pound Cake

Little Apricot Cakes

Apricot Cakes

Another beautiful weekend in Seattle – boy have we been spoiled this summer.  And you should just see the markets.  I seriously haven’t seen such amazing looking produce at the farmer’s markets in years.  I walk around in awe at just about everything.  This Saturday was no exception.  The market was more crowded than usual – because word is getting out about how beautiful everything is – I just know it.  There was so much to buy, my daughter finally had to tell me to stop, and walk around the entire market before I put anything else in my bag.  I have taught her well.

I remember leaving work on Friday and telling my coworkers that I was not going to work this weekend.  One of them even had the audacity to suggest that I turn off my email on my phone – like that would ever happen.  I told her that the anxiety I would get when I started syncing my mail again would be enough to throw me over the edge – and that I would do better just monitoring things, but reminding myself that it was time for a break.  Then they asked me if  I was going to cook this weekend – as I emphatically said “YES!”  I explained that I had absolutely no idea what I would be making – and that it would all depend on what I found at the farmer’s market in the morning.  Well, I found the mother-load.  I had big plans based on what I brought back to the house – and I am pleased to report that I made everything that I wanted (ok, not exactly – I made everything I thought I could make, but believe me, that was not everything I wanted – that would take me another couple of weeks)…and everything turned out exceptionally well.  What did I make?  Well, I started with a couple jars of these, I made a big batch of this, and some new stuff that I can’t wait to show you.  Everything was made from locally sourced produce, which makes me even happier.

One of my favorites stands at the University District farmer’s market is this woman who sells her amazingly perfect apricots.  They are just stunning.  I get them in my hands, and I don’t want to put them down.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I immediately thought of this nice woman.  Her apricot’s would make these little cakes glow.  These little babies were delicious – just the perfect size, and just the right amount of golden apricot flavor.  They were super easy to make – and with or without whipped cream, they were a wonderful summertime treat.  I can hardly wait to see what the market will bring next week – all I know is that I am starting the week refreshed and ready to go, with my eye on the prize – next week’s market that is.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher  salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 apricots, halved, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat muffin cups with nonstick spray.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another  medium bowl, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy,  about 2 minutes. Add egg, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until combined.  With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions  alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Divide batter among muffin cups (cups will be only 1/3 full) and smooth tops.  Top with apricot slices and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the  centers comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let pan  cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack and let cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Cakes can be made 1 day ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Little Apricot Cakes

Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie 2

Just two more days, and two more lunches to make.  I can’t believe it, could summer possible be here?  My younger daughter asked me tonight – while she was changing out of her bathing suit after swim team  – if I thought this summer it might actually get warm?  What a funny question - I guess not so funny in Seattle though.  I told her I didn’t know, but I sure hope so.  The kids here are used to going in the water when it is barely 60 degrees out – the idea of hot weather means the coaches actually go in the water too.  I will keep my fingers crossed, although there is one thing I don’t like about hot weather…no baking.

My older daughter’s birthday was Memorial Day weekend – and I asked her what kind of cake she wanted.  Before she could answer me, I asked her if she wanted a Boston Cream Pie.  She asked some questions about it – and when she found out it wasn’t a pie at all, just a moist vanilla cake with vanilla custard and a chocolate glaze – she was sold.  Finally.  I have been wanting to make a Boston Cream Pie from Cook’s Illustrated for years – yes, literally years.  I think the recipe was sitting in the pantry for over 3 years.  Each week when I would go through the stack, I would look at this longingly, wondering when I would ever find the time to make this beautiful specimen.  I knew it would come eventually – and I was finally right.

I was so excited to dive into this adventure.  I started with the cake – and that was rather easy.  The batter was pretty different looking, but I was not turning back.  When I started the pastry cream – I tried not to focus on the number of egg yolks I was using and instead focus on making sure I didn’t make scrambled eggs.  Fortunately that did not happen.  When it was time to put the cake together, I was amazed at how light it was.  It was at this point that I realized, I had never really had a real Boston Cream Pie.  I have had things like it before, but never the real thing.  I was getting more and more excited.  The glaze was slightly thicker than I imagined, and decided just to glaze the entire outside of the cake – I thought it looked prettier than gobs of chocolate trying to drizzle down the side.

We waited the required refrigeration time that the recipe suggested, and then I cut a slice.  I almost starting jumping up and down.  The slices looked beautiful – but not nearly as gorgeous as it tasted.  This was – hands down – the best cake combination I have ever had in my life.  Ok – I do love a good red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, but even this was better.  The cake was so moist, even after being refrigerated – and the pastry cream had such body and taste – and that chocolate glaze – just the right richness to counter balance the sweetness of the cake and cream.  It was a birthday to remember.

So – even though I am excited for summer to come – I am not ready for a baking break just yet.  I need to make this recipe into cupcakes next…

Ingredients

Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) sugar

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

Preparation

For the pastry cream

Heat the half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it just simmers. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt until smooth. Add the flour to the yolk mixture and whisk until incorporated. Remove the half-and-half from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add 1/2 cup to the yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to half-and-half in saucepan.

Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 8 minutes.

Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is melted and incorporated. Strain pastry cream through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Press lightly greased parchment paper directly on surface and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

For the cake

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add vanilla and cover to keep warm.

In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and sugar at high speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes. Remove mixer bowl from stand. Add hot milk mixture and whisk by hand until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated.

Working quickly, divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake until tops are light brown and toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.

Transfer cakes to wire rack and cool completely in pan, about 2 hours.  Run a small plastic knife around edge of pans, then invert cakes onto wire rack. Carefully remove parchment, then reinvert cakes.

To assemble

Place one cake round on large plate. Whisk pastry cream briefly, then spoon onto center of cake. Using offset spatula, spread evenly to cake edge. Place second layer on pastry cream, bottom side up, making sure layers line up properly. Press lightly on top of cake to level. Refrigerate cake while preparing glaze.

For the glaze

Bring cram and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove fro heat and add chocolate. Whisk occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.Pour glaze onto center of cake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze to edge of cake, letting excess drop decoratively down sides. Chill finished cake 3 hours before slicing. Cake may be made up to 24 hours before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie 3