Friday, December 12, 2014

Gingerbread Blondies

Of the holiday treats I gave out this year, I definitely think these gingerbread blondies were the best. Soft, full of flavor, and a nice contrast to some of the other more typical cookies.

Gingerbread Blondies
adaptation of a recipe by Martha Stewart, because all the reviews claimed her recipe was too greasy
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips, 10 oz.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.
  3. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or desired shape.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cranberry Snacking Cake

I always end up with leftover fresh cranberries after Thanksgiving.  I buy more than I need for fear that they will sell out like they did a few years ago in this area, so then I have extra in the fridge that usually shrivel up into craisins in the back of the produce drawer.  I could freeze them but never remember in time.

This recipe is based on a recipe I found for cranberry torte in Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman, still my favorite cookbook focusing on winter ingredients in baked goods. I made a few tweaks and it is my version of the recipe you will see below.

Cranberry Snacking Cake

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
splash of Amaretto
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained (or whatever is left in the bag)
1/2 cup - 1 cup chopped nuts, optional (I had pecans leftover from another recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare a 9" springform pan or a 9" square pan. (A 9" cake pan can be used but if it's anything like what I used, you will end up with a few renegade cranberries gleefully tumbling to the bottom of the oven, coated in sugary batter.)

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Mix in Amaretto. Briefly blend in dry ingredients. By hand, stir in cranberries and nuts.

Bake 40-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

This is a delicious, chewy-crunchy cake.  I sprinkled it with white coarse sugar before baking just for kicks.  I will be having this for breakfast, and refuse to be ashamed!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Paleo Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Pecan Muffins

I have a cranberry nut bread that is a Thanksgiving staple in my family.  I made a loaf yesterday, to give to the family who invited us over for the holiday meal!  This morning I was craving this bread but didn't want to make something just for me.  Poking around, I came across a paleo cranberry orange muffin recipe that I tweaked slightly for our breakfast.  These were great muffins!

Paleo Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Pecan Muffins

Yield: 8-9 muffins


2 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange (optional)
3 eggs
1/4 cup coconut sugar (you can use honey, we just like a bit lower sugar version)
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or any nut)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line muffin tin. 
  2. Combine dry ingredients and orange zest in large bowl.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in medium bowl. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, then fold in cranberries and nuts.
  4. Using a large ice cream or cookie scoop, fill muffin cups 3/4 full. 
  5. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 
  6. Cool on wire rack.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

We were invited over to a friend's home for Thanksgiving, and in our discussion about food, she mentioned her mother usually makes the rolls, but she will not be there.

"I can bring rolls!" I said.

Later, when I got home and started thinking about everything I said I'd bring, I realized I have never in my life made rolls.  It is possible I have made everything but rolls.  I did a little research and picked two recipes out - pumpkin dinner rolls shaped like pumpkins and Alex Guarnaschelli's Parker House rolls.  I got enough butter and flour to make both recipes on Saturday, but ended up liking the pumpkin rolls well enough to just stop there. 

As far as shaping rolls like pumpkins, well, they're cute and would look nice in a basket, but they are a bunch more work, something not a lot of us have time for around Thanksgiving.  And they can't function as much like biscuits when they have slices around the sides.  So when I bring pumpkin dinner rolls on Thanksgiving, they will just look like rolls.  Rolls with a vivid yellow color due to the pumpkin in the dough, which I think it just beautiful. I also like that part of the roll that is feathery from the rolls being baked next to one another. They will be fantastic with apple butter, I think.

I know which desserts I'm making, but now I need to figure out something green to bring. Any ideas?

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Recipe from Beyond Kimchee, based on a recipe from Delicious Dishes

  • ¾ cup whole milk, scalded
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (1/2 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 15-20 pecan halves, sliced into 3 vertical sections
  • ¼ cup melted butter, optional 
  1. Pour hot milk in a mixing bowl, add butter and stir to melt. Add sugars, pumpkin puree, salt to the milk and combine well.
  2. In a small bowl proof yeast in a lukewarm water with a teaspoon sugar. When it gets foamy add to the pumpkin mixture, and add the egg, mix well.
  3. Add in flour gradually and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined. The dough will be sticky.
  4. If using electric mixer, attach a dough hook and beat the mixture until the dough itself pulls from the side of the bowl.
  5. Turn the dough out to a wooden board dusted with a little flour. Knead with hand for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball shape, place in a greased bowl and cover with a cloth. Let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hr.
  6. Punch the dough to deflate and knead it for a few seconds on a wooden board. Cut the dough in half. Cut each half into about 15 pieces.
  7. Roll each piece into a ball shape with your hand. Flatten the piece with palm of your hand a little. Using a knife, give 8 cuts on the edge to mimic flower pedals but the leave center uncut.
  8. Poke the center with your finger to give a deep indentation, and repeat the same procedure to all the other pieces.
  9. Place them, 2" apart, on a baking pan lined with parchment paper or baking mat, and let them rise again to be doubled, about 45 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven 350ºF for 20 minutes.
  11. If the center indentation is not obvious on the rolls, poke them again with your finger.
  12. Brush with egg wash, if you wish, and bake for 9-12 minutes until the top gets slightly golden.
  13. Brush the rolls with melted butter or a little honey diluted with water to make it shine if you wish.
  14. Insert pecan slices on top to mimic pumpkin stem.
  15. If you make these into regular rolls, they will need a bit more baking time. Just keeping watching them!  I think I did about 15-16 minutes.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Pumpkin Praline Cake

Warning: You must read this recipe carefully or you will be spending time cleaning out your oven the way I have done this week.  :)

When made properly, this pumpkin praline cake should look more like an upside down cake, a beautiful praline that starts on the bottom of the pan topping the beautiful layers of the cake.  When made improperly, the batter forces the praline mixture up and over the sides of the pan into the bottom of your oven.  It still tastes good and can end up looking like a beautiful design for the side of the cake (as pictured), but keeping the praline in the pan is the best way to go! Don't bake like me, and learn from my mistakes!

Even with mistakes, this recipe is good.  I had people exclaiming over its moistness and flavor (although this could also be a result of taking it out 10 minutes early due to the smoke pouring out of my oven.)

This recipe comes from the Almost Home Tearoom cookbook, from Greencastle, Indiana.  I worked there making desserts for a year or so before going back to grad school, and this was a hugely popular cake in the autumn months. 

Praline-Pumpkin Cake

Combine in a heavy saucepan:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter*
1/4 cup whipping cream

Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Pour into two 9x1.5 round baking pans. (Jenny's note: Please line the pans with parchment paper or you will have a plating disaster.)

Sprinkle with:
3/4 cup chopped pecans

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

In a separate bowl, beat:
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cup sugar

Add to egg mixture alternately with dry ingredients:
2 cups pumpkin (Jenny's note - I start and end with dry)

Carefully** spoon over praline mixture in pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until done. Cool five minutes.*** Invert pans onto wire rack. Stack cake layers when cool.

Drizzle with heated mixture of:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp milk

Yields 12 servings

*(recipe says margarine, I wonder if that would have stopped my problem, hmm)
** SHE MEANS CAREFULLY.  The idea is to get the batter on top of the praline.
*** Do not wait longer than this or the praline mixture will cement the cake to the pan.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Shoofly Pie

I received a copy of a new cookbook from the publisher to take a look at: Me, Myself and Pie : Amish Recipes by Sherry Gore.  I lived in Indiana for six years, and had easy access to Amish-grown vegetables, Amish-made cheeses and furniture, and Amish pie!  There was one restaurant in Northern Indiana, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, that feeds over 1,000 customers a day with Amish cuisine, mostly pie.

Why pie?  I imagine because it is simple, and there are endless varieties for seasonal fruits.  This cookbook is a good representation of the Pennsylvania Dutch recipes, including some very traditional ingredient-stretching recipes like one using dried apples and another using raisins.

When I was in sixth grade, I went to Outdoor School at Camp Yamhill. One of the best parts of Outdoor School are the campfire songs, and one of the songs we sang with gusto was about Shoofly Pie, complete with different silly voices and motions.

"Shoo-shoo fly pie, and apple pandowdy
Makes your EYES light up and your stomach say howdy...."

I had no idea what Shoofly pie was, but it was fun to sing about.

I can't find a camp version online, but here is a much more sophisticated version.

There is another version that I found while poking around the internet, which I will include for your listening enjoyment.

So what is this pie, that demands so much attention over the decades?  Why are people singing about pie?  I've never heard a song about apple pie or banana cream pie.  Okay, there is that one song about cherry pie, but I'm not sure that counts.

Shoofly pie is a very traditional recipe, a molasses pie.  In this version of the recipe (and looking around the internet, I believe this to be pretty close to the traditional recipe), you make a streusel of sorts, then mix  half the streusel with an egg and a cup (!) of molasses.  Then you top the pie with the remaining streusel before baking.  It bakes up into a dense, sticky, almost cookie-dough like consistency.  I really liked it, and it reminded me in flavor to the treacle tart I have been known to make for Harry Potter events, only without the complexity of ginger and lemon.  This is straight molasses.  If you don't like molasses, this is not the pie for you. I was pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Apple Slab Pie

Apple Slab Pie is not a lot to look at. I found the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog (follow link for recipe) and wouldn't change a thing - the crust is perfect, the filling is perfect (I used mutsu and shizuka apples). I brushed the top with cream because that's what I had and it browned perfectly.  I baked it exactly 45 minutes.

Slab pie feeds a crowd. Slab pie uses at least 8 cups of apples (if I were to change anything, mine could easily have used 10 cups!).  Slab pie is simple and doesn't require any fancy skills except maybe a light hand with pastry.  I'm not sure I'll make regular apple pie anymore. 

ETA: I did glob on some dulce de leche from a can, on top of the apples before applying the top crust. I'm not sorry!