Blueberry Coffeecake with Streusel

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Everyone needs a break now and then.  I am not just talking about a small 15-minute walk around the block brake, I am talking about a break from life. Ok, yes, those 15-minute walks are important – after what I experienced this week, sometimes you just need to get a little air.  The problem is that you have to come to that conclusion yourself – no one can tell you that it has to be done.  But believe me, it is amazing what it can do for you…

To say that things are hectic right now is an understatement.  Thursday was the last day of school for the year, although this year it was a little bittersweet.  For my younger daughter, it was a big party – but for my older daughter it was not the usual feeling.  Unfortunately I had an all-day meeting, and was extremely preoccupied – all my brain cells were focused at the time.  That was until I got the text.  The last day was fun, except for the end – everyone was crying, even the boys.  Getting that text was heart breaking.  Later I found out the teachers were crying too.  All because the school board decided to split these kids up.  I won’t get into it again, because I can no longer dwell on this horrible decision.  This summer I am working on an attitude adjustment – I am going to have a positive outlook on my daughter’s new school – and so will she.  We agreed to it.

So as I sat there in that meeting, thinking about my daughter – it hit me, I was not the only one with a life outside that room.  Life is hard – and most of the time, you really have no idea how hard it is – particularly for everyone else.  Fortunately for me, I can always turn to food – and that’s exactly what I did this weekend.  I didn’t just dabble – I was hard core – I was on a power cooking/baking frenzy, trying to get all my stress out in the kitchen.  I actually think it worked…or I am just utterly exhausted.

This was just one of the many things going on in my kitchen – a good old fashioned blueberry coffeecake.  Now, I have a favorite recipe from my mother – that just happens to be dairy-free.  I just had to see though if this dairy version from Cooking Light was better – and you know what, it wasn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, this was absolutely moist and delicious – but I actually like my mother’s recipe better – ok, who is really surprised by that?  Yes, my mother tests her recipes more than anyone else I know.  And Mom, you win again.

So I hope that I was not the only one that was able to take a break this weekend – in whatever form that is.  Even if you just took a few deep breaths…I know it will help.  Monday, I am ready for you – bring it on.

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Weigh or lightly spoon 9 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 9 ounces flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk. Remove 2 tablespoons flour mixture; sprinkle over blueberries, tossing to coat.

Combine brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter; toss to combine.

Place granulated sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended (about 2 minutes). Add egg; beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Stir in rind and juice.

Spoon half of batter into a 9-inch square light-colored metal baking pan coated with cooking spray (do not use a dark or nonstick pan). Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup blueberry mixture. Spoon remaining batter over blueberries. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 cup blueberry mixture. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

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Pickled Radishes

Pickled Radishes

Radishes are completely underrated.  I swear they are one of those vegetables that people just shy away from because they don’t know what to do with them.  Aside from putting them in salads, is there really a lot you can do with them?  Oh yes…and I just happen to be one of those people who loves them, just about any way.

I think I actually inherited the taste from my father.  I remember him eating raw radishes when I was little – he would just eat them like he was eating a strawberry.  Now, I am happy to eat them like that, although I prefer this way…until I tried pickling them.

The other week I got a huge bunch of radishes in my market basket.  I was just about to break out the bread, butter and salt, when I remembered pickling.  I have been wanting to pickle radishes for quite some time, and here was my opportunity.  I decided to make up my own recipe, using the pickling spices I have in the house, and I am hooked.  They are the perfect little snack after work, and they go great with a cocktail on the weekend.  They were super easy to make also – and just a few radishes really go a long way.

So when I got the next market basket with more radishes – I almost pulled out the pickling spices, but I thought, I can’t stop now – what’s next?  So I roasted them…and yes, those were delicious too.  Radishes…the new incredibly versatile vegetable, who knew?

Ingredients

  • 10 radishes, sliced thin
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spices

Preparation

Place the cider vinegar, water, salt, sugar and pickling spices in a medium saucepan and cook until the salt and sugar dissolves.  Place sliced radishes in two 1/2-pint canning jars, and then poor the cider mixture on top.  Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate before eating.  They stay fresh for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pickled Radishes

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

We are on the final countdown – just one week from tomorrow, and the school year will officially be over.  There is part of me that feels like this year absolutely flew by, then another part that has been waiting forever for the year to be over.  Of course it will definitely be bittersweet – with my older daughter having to change schools next year leaving the majority of her friends.  My goal this summer is to have a more positive outlook on the whole situation.  The good news is we found out the new school will not only have an orchestra next year, it will have four!  Of course her old school has five, but who is counting.  And even though the building is old and it will take them a few years to make the changes they are hoping for – by the time my younger daughter is there, things should be in much better shape.

The other weekend was my older daughter’s birthday.  When I asked her what she wanted me to make, she really had to think hard – but she kept bringing up the Boston Cream Pie I had made for her last year.  She knows how I like to try new things though, and was really torn.  That’s when I had a great idea – what if I could turn the Boston Cream Pie into cupcakes??  She was sold – hands down.  And then I hit myself – seriously, am I going completely mad?  The Boston Cream Pie was hard enough, and now I was going to try this again with cupcakes?  I am a glutton for punishment – that tastes absolutely incredible at the end.

These cupcakes were fabulous.  They were everything that the cake was, and more – because they were so ridiculously adorable.  Second time around is much easier than the first, and they actually didn’t take too long to make.  Particularly because I made the custard the night before.  Don’t fret if you have leftover custard like I did – I just put it into some small ramekins, and the girls ate it like pudding – the most decadent and creamy pudding ever.  Watching my daughter eat these cupcakes with her friends – and the happiness in the air – it was perfect.  They were able to forget all about the changes coming – and just focus on the positives.  A good lesson for us all to remember.  Focus on the cupcakes…and nothing else matters.

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 2 cupcake trays (24 total) or place non-stick wrappers in the cups. 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 the 24 cups – they should be about 3/4 full. Bake until tops are light brown and toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.

Transfer to wire rack and cool completely in pan.  Carefully remove them from the papers or the tins.

To assemble

Cut each cupcake in half. Whisk pastry cream briefly, then spoon on tablespoon of cream onto each cupcake bottom. Using offset spatula, spread evenly to cake edge. Place the top of the cupcake over the cream, making layers line up properly. Refrigerate cupcakes while preparing glaze.

For the glaze

Bring cream 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 each cupcake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze to edge of cake. Chill cupcakes 3 hours before serving. Cupcake may be made up to 24 hours before serving.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

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Bacon and Leek Risotto

 

Bacon and Leek Risotto

It is hard to be on a treadmill day after day, not feeling like you are actually getting anywhere.  There is so much going on at work these days, I take one step forward, and two steps back.  I told my team a little secret yesterday…sometimes I go home and make myself a list of things to do – just so I can check things off and feel like I have accomplished something.  Yep, I have a problem.

Fortunately I finally figured out my blog problem.  I have to say, I love WordPress, I have had very little issues with them.  Super easy to use, very easy to get help – but this one really baffled me.  For some reason when I looked at my post, I was looking at the code – not what it looks like on the other side.  Well, once I actually was coherent and spent a few minutes thinking about it – I realized there were two tabs on the upper right hand side – “Visual” and “Text”.  It somehow switched to “Text” and when I switched it to “Visual” the code disappeared.  The menu bars were still not the same, and either was the picture, but I figured out I had to click the “Toolbar Toggle” – and then edit the picture and make it bigger.  Whew.  I felt a whole lot better afterwards – like I really had accomplished a lot.  I love that feeling.

So I have mentioned the market basket that we started getting on Thursdays – it seriously is one of the highlights of my week.  Not only am I amazed at what they stick in there week after week, it gives me another opportunity to feel like I am accomplishing something.  If I can use up everything in that basket every week – that is quite a feat.  I am finding myself thinking creatively about cooking again, and I love it.  The leeks have been beautiful lately – nice and big, and bursting with flavor.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light and decided that it was a risotto night – I needed to use up the leeks, and the sweet and smoky bacon that they had put in the basket – from my absolute favorite farm.  Maybe it was the ingredients that I used, but this risotto was over the top delicious.  For a weeknight dinner, it certainly felt special.  Like I had finally gotten off the treadmill and actually ran a mile.  For once, it felt good to run back…

Ingredients

  • 5 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 bacon slices
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced leek (about 4 large)
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

Bring stock and 2 cups water to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add leek, shallots, thyme, and garlic to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in rice; cook 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup stock mixture; cook 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/3 cup stock mixture. Add remaining stock mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed before adding more (about 25 minutes total). Stir in lemon juice, butter, pepper, salt, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Remove pan from heat. Stir in reserved 1/3 cup stock mixture. Sprinkle with reserved bacon and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Bacon and Leek Risotto

Serenity Now

Grapefruit Rye Cocktail

Is it Friday yet?  I know, I really shouldn’t be saying that right now, because technically it is only Tuesday – with Monday being a holiday and all.  But for some reason this week has not been any easier, with the chaos growing just a bit each day, as we get closer and closer to the end of the school year.  This week, I have officially declared it insanity…

Normally you would think I would be looking for ways to simplify my life, but no…that is not me.  If a good opportunity comes up, I can’t just let it pass by.  Even if I am in the midst of complete insanity.  I have always wanted to be a bartender – not for a profession, just for a night.  It is almost like playing a real live video game – you know the ones when you have to get all food in the grocery cart before time runs out, or you have to get everyone out of the spa with their hair done and nails freshly painted?  This time it is about making drinks though, and it is not a game.  Yes, that will be me on June 7th.  My husband and I have been going to this little restaurant/bar now for a couple of years.  We love the place – the food is top quality, and the cocktails are the best we have ever had.  It is our happy place.  And the people who work there have become our friends.  Now, I love to make drinks for my friends – and one night I asked half jokingly when they were going to let me be the bartender.  Be careful what you wish for.

So, for the past few weeks I have been working on my cocktail menu, and having a lot of fun naming the drinks with our friends.  This was one of the first drinks I put on the list – it is my favorite one right now.  The grapefruit is so deliciously sweet in the market, it really makes an amazing drink.  I am really not a huge rye fan, but this combination is a winner. Plus, I think we could all use a little serenity now.  So stop by the bar on June 7th if you can…serenity now, insanity later.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. rye
  • 2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. Lillet
  • Grapefruit twist

Preparation

Add rye, grapefruit juice, Campari and Lillet into a cocktail shaker.  Add ice, and shake for about 30 seconds.  Strain and pour into a cocktail glasses, then serve with a grapefruit twist.

Makes 2 cocktails

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Serenity Now

Hawaiian Dessert

Hawaiian Dessert

 

I am not sure what is going on right now with my blog, but I am going to try and ignore it. The picture looks super small, and I can’t figure out why. Well, at least it is not an ordinary Sunday night – and tomorrow, I can try and get to the bottom of this. I have no idea how this blog post will look when publishing, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

I am big on short cuts, but not big on using prepared foods – and that includes boxed cake mixes. Although there are certain times when it actually does make sense. I have to admit, I love a good boxed cake every once in a while – but it doesn’t belong on my blog…that is until now. The other week I had signed up to bring a dessert to book group. I didn’t have a ton of time that day, and remembered this recipe that people on our food alias at work were talking about. Someone was looking for a dessert to bring to a Hawaiian themed party – and this is what people recommended. It came from the website Yummly, and it looked super simple, yet fed a crowd.  Even though I was not going to a Hawaiian themed party, I needed something simple that fed a lot of people.

I had no intention of putting this on the blog – with a boxed cake and vanilla pudding, it was not really something I figured would be blog worthy.  Wrong.  My friends loved the cake – and I did as well.  It was creamy on the top, with a nice layer of cake that almost seemed like a soft crust – they all thought I was crazy not to post the recipe.  So here we are – and hopefully you won’t give up on me – but we all need a break from time to time, and this was certainly a delicious one. Here’s to simplicity, feeding many…and Hawaii.

Ingredients

  • 1 package yellow cake mix (regular size)
  • 3 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 cups cold milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped and sweetened
  • 2 cups flaked coconut, toasted

Directions

Mix cake batter according to package directions. Pour into two 9×13 in. baking pans. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until the cakes test done. Cool completely. In a large bowl, combine pudding mixes, milk and coconut extract; beat for 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat well. Stir in pineapple. Spread over the cooled cakes. Top with whipped cream; sprinkle with coconut. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Yield: 24 servings.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Hawaiian Dessert

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

I know it is Sunday, but I am already looking forward to Thursday.  That market basket that my husband got me for Mother’s Day is quite something.  It is like Christmas morning every Thursday night – as we unpack the beautiful wooden box with all sorts of goodies.  This week’s basket came with this wonderful box of pistachio apricot granola.  I can’t wait to put some on my yogurt in the morning.  It’s the little things that get me through this end-of-the-year chaos.

Since I was set for breakfast this week, I thought it was only fair if I made some treats for the girls.  They do love granola – but I know they love scones even more.  I have gone through many ways of saving recipes over the years.  I started by keeping every single food magazine and marking the pages where I liked a recipe.  That worked for a little while, but after I had over 20 magazines, I couldn’t remember what was in each issue.  Then I started cutting out the indexes, and had a binder of them – with the highlighted recipes that I liked.  Again, not very practical as I had to look through hundreds of pages to find what I was looking for.  The next plan was to cut out the recipe and put it in a photo album, where I had dividers of the different types of recipes.  After I filled up two binders, I was done with that method.  At that point I decided I needed to use technology, and that’s when I started my blog.  I tell you, I love being able to Bing a recipe from my blog and get to it instantly.  Technology can be quite awesome.

Instead of going to my usual stack for a scone recipe (knowing that I didn’t have any lingering around that I wanted to make), I went to one of the binders I created – and flipped to the “Breakfast” tab.  I found this recipe that I probably cut out ages ago from either Gourmet or Bon Appetit and decided to see if it had stood the test of time.  Boy did it ever – these scones were crunchy on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside, with a touch of oat flavor, but nicely sweetened.  I could have scarfed a couple of them down, except that I reminded myself they were for the girls – I already had my treat waiting.  So, we will all be eating well this week, and we need to – if we are going to get through these last 5 weeks.  Ugh!

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
  • Finely grated zest from 1 large navel orange
  • 2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk plus additional for brushing
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Special equipment: a 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt into a food processor, then add oats and pulse 15 times. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with small (pea-size) lumps, then transfer to a bowl.

Stir together zest and buttermilk. Toss chocolate chips with oat mixture, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork just until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface  and gently knead 6 times.

Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round, dusting surface with more flour if necessary. Cut out as many scones as possible with cutter, dipping it in flour before each cut, and transfer scones to a lightly buttered large baking sheet. Gather scraps into a ball, then pat into a round and cut out more scones in same manner.

Brush tops of scones with buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, and transfer to a rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Peanut Butter Granola Crunch Parfaits

Peanut Butter Granola Crunch Parfairs

Why is it that every year I forget about the end of the year chaos that begins around May – or as my close friend describes it “the thousand days of May.”  Every year it hits me over the head like a load of bricks.  Maybe it is because swim team starts and we don’t end up eating until 8pm every night, or because of the concerts and recitals and end of year activities.  Don’t get me wrong, I love every one of them, but it is exhausting.  Then add that to my already CRAZY work schedule – somehow without me realizing it the words “Super Hero” ended up in my job description.  I come home every night with my head pounding because of all the walls I had to move during the day.  Sometimes they come crashing into me, then I have to get myself up and figure out how to put everything back together again.  Fun times.

It’s the little things that I try to focus on – like the market basket I get on Thursdays with the piles of fresh vegetables, the video that my girls created this weekend when my husband and I went out on a date, the drinks I make for my friends on the weekends (more on that in another post) – and this granola recipe.  When I saw this recipe in Cooking Light - I thought it looked good – but I had no idea what I was stepping into.  What a simple recipe made the most incredible granola I have ever had.  We could not stop eating it – and seriously squealing with delight.  It was crunchy, just sweet enough, and oh so flavorful – with that peanut butter and maple – I am telling you (and I haven’t told you this in a while) – go directly to the grocery store, pick up these ingredients – and RUN home to make this.  You will not be sorry.

I am still not sure how I am going to get these blog posts in during these crazy times – but I will try.  In the meantime, if you don’t hear from me, I have probably been swallowed up by the inner vortex of the earth.  I might even have my hands cuffed together – but don’t fret, I will figure out a way to get free (I have a super awesome team), just so I can watch more of those videos and make this granola.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups vanilla frozen Greek yogurt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Heat syrup, peanut butter, oil, and vanilla in a saucepan over high heat, stirring until smooth. Add to oat mixture; toss to coat.

Spread oat mixture on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 9 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes. Divide yogurt among 6 parfait glasses; top each serving with 1/3 cup granola.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Peanut Butter Granola Crunch Parfaits

Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Cream Cheese Danish Bread

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!  I hope everyone had a wonderful day, and as my mother told me to do, indulge just a little.  Speaking of indulging…in going with the theme of over the top that I started last weekend, I decided to continue that trend just a bit…particularly in honor of mother’s day.

I don’t make bread very often anymore – it was something I was fascinated in when I lived in Denver – mostly because of the high altitude.  Bread would rise much faster, and it was just exciting to watch.  For the past 18 years, I can count how many times I have attempted a yeast dough on one hand – just because I don’t want to spend a day waiting for it to rise.  A couple of years ago, I noticed that my oven had a proof setting – and all of a sudden I realized that I had my own little proofing oven right in my house.  But even that added incentive was not enough.

The other month in Cooking Light they had a section on cooking and baking like the professionals.  Basically they tried to tell you that you didn’t have to be an expert to make different things.  I know better than that, and didn’t fall for it for a minute.  But here I was cutting out this delicious cream cheese Danish braid and sticking it in my recipe pile.  Note to self – if you don’t want to make something, do not put it in that pile.  Of course placing anything in that pile means that it is visible for my daughters to see – and when my older one saw that it was an option, that’s all she talked about.

So – I attempted the Danish braid.  I was not expecting much, but that dough was heavenly.  Figuring out exactly how to make the braid just by reading the instructions was a little tricky – but it turned out beautifully.  I was a hero.  My daughter was completely amazed.  The filling was a little sweet for us – but the bread was out of this world.  Just amazing, and I can’t wait to try the dough on cinnamon buns.

Here’s to all you heroes out there – but especially the moms today – even the little things you do go a long way…it is your day to celebrate.

Ingredients

Sponge:

  • 6 tablespoons very warm 1% low-fat milk (120° to 130°)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package quick-rise yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough:

  • 7.9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour, divided (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 2.25 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • Cooking spray

Filling:

  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of salt

Remaining ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Preparation

To prepare sponge, combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let stand 15 minutes.

To prepare dough, weigh or lightly spoon 6.75 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour and pastry flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, sour cream, butter, salt, vanilla, 1 egg, and sponge in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute or until well combined. Add flours; beat at low speed 3 minutes or until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes), adding remaining 1.15 ounces all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indention remains, dough has risen enough.)

To prepare filling, combine cream cheese and the next 4 ingredients (through dash of salt) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Punch dough down; roll dough into a 12 x 15-inch rectangle on lightly floured parchment paper. Spread cream cheese mixture down center of dough, leaving about a 5-inch border on each side and a 1-inch border at top and bottom of rectangle. Make 5-inch cuts about 1 inch apart on both sides of dough to meet filling using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Remove 4 outer corner strips of dough from rectangle; discard. Fold top and bottom 1-inch portions of dough over filling. Fold strips over filling, alternating strips diagonally over filling. Press ends to seal. Transfer braid and parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine 1 teaspoon water and 1 egg; stir with a whisk. Brush braid with egg mixture. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes.

Combine powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons milk in a bowl, stirring until smooth. Drizzle glaze over braid; sprinkle with nuts.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Dahlia Triple Coconut Cream Pie

Dahlia Lounge Coconut Cream Pie

I am definitely known for going a little too far – in pretty much every aspect of my life.  My husband has had to get used to it over the years, and now he just thinks it is funny.  His father and I have that in common – his motto in life is “If it is worth doing, it is worth over doing.”  I love it.

When we moved here, almost 18 years ago – I remember going downtown for a special dinner one night.  Tom Douglas was a Seattle icon, even back then, although he only had a couple of restaurants.  It is remarkable to me that I can still remember that dinner – particularly the dessert.  I remember seeing that Triple Coconut Cream Pie on the menu, and I had to get it.  I love coconut, and I have always had a little thing for cream pies.  This pie was over the top.  I wasn’t exactly sure why it was a triple coconut pie, but it didn’t matter – every bite had an overwhelmingly delicious coconut flavor.  That pie is now a Seattle icon – everyone knows about this famous pie, and for good reason.

Last year for my birthday, one of my very close friends surprised me with a very special gift – the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook – and of course the first recipe I turned to was this Triple Coconut Cream Pie.  I knew that I would make it eventually, but I had to wait for the right occasion.  A month of so ago another good friend asked if I would make a dessert for her daughter’s school auction.  It is our neighborhood school – that my kids also attended – so I quickly snatched up the opportunity.  She was the one that suggested this pie, and even though I looked to see if there was anything else I thought could be more special – I couldn’t come up with anything.  How could anything top this?

Well – unfortunately I didn’t get to eat it in it’s entirety – but I did take tastes along the way – just to make sure it was edible for the auction…  And yes, it was definitely edible – and again, over the top.  It is sweet as all can be, so be prepared, but it is completely worth it.  Sometimes you just have to go too far – and when it is allowed, there is no holding back.  I hope that whoever ends up with this pie enjoys it as much as I did making it!

Ingredients

Coconut pastry crust:
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, sliced thin and chilled
  • 1/3 cup ice water
Coconut pastry cream:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (I used full-fat)
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
Whipped cream topping:
  • 2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Garnish:
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened large-flake coconut or 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • Chunk of good white chocolate to make 2 ounces of white chocolate curls

Preparation

Coconut pastry crust

In a food processor, combine flour, coconut, sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse until butter and flour are combined and mixture resembles small peas.Slowly pour in ice water through the feed tube. Stop when dough is beginning to come together. Dough should hold together when you squeeze it, but should not be sticky. You may not need to use all of the water. Shape dough into a disk and chill at least 1 hour. When you’re ready to roll, roll out dough on a well-floured surface into a 12- to 13-inch circle. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan, being careful not to stretch the dough. Trim overhang to 1 inch, then fold onto rim and flute with fingers and thumb. Chill unbaked pie shell at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line shell with parchment paper and pie weights (beans or coins.)  Bake in preheated oven 20 to 25 minutes until rim is golden. Remove shell from oven. Remove parchment and weights, and bake an additional 10 to 12 minutes until bottom is golden-brown in spots.

Coconut pastry cream

In a heavy bottomed pot, combine milk, coconut milk, coconut shreds and vanilla bean seeds. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and flour until smooth and combined. Bring milk to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and whisk 1/3 cup of the mixture into the mixing bowl with the eggs to temper them. Pour egg mixture slowly into milk, whisking constantly. Return to a bubble and let simmer 5 minutes until very thick. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Put plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream and chill.

Whipped cream topping

Whip cream, sugar and vanilla until firm enough that peaks hold their shape.

Garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and gently toast coconut until edges are golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully and stir a few times. Use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate curls. When crust is cooled, fill with coconut pastry cream and smooth the top. Either pipe or decoratively spoon whipped cream topping on top, then garnish with toasted coconut flakes and white chocolate curls.

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