Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays Rewind: Snickerdoodles - Halloween Style

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays pick was for Goat Cheese, Olive and Thyme Muffins. I am not a huge fan of olives, thyme or savory muffins so I opted to do a rewind recipe this week. If Goat Cheese, Olive and Thyme Muffins sound good hop over to the Sweet Melissa Sundays site and see the results of those who baked along this week. Thanks to Hanaa for hosting!

I chose a recipe from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book that was done by the group before I joined. Snickerdoodles! I love snickerdoodles and thought they would make a perfect Halloween treat for my nieces, nephews and little second cousins. A little decorative orange sugar and they were instantly Halloweenized (new word!).

The snickerdoodles turned out great! Chewy in the center and a touch crisp on the outside. But be very, very careful to not over bake them. A minute makes a big difference! Snickerdoodles are meant to be chewy, not crunchy!

I packaged the snickerdoodles in clear plastic goodie bags, added each child's name on the outside of the bag using decorative black alphabet stickers, closed the bag with a twist tie, tied the bag off using orange and white curling ribbon and the finishing touch was a creepy black spider ring tucked in around the bow. The cookies were a big hit with the kids and so were the spider rings.

For the recipe click here. If you want to add colored sugar simply add the desired amount to the cinnamon sugar mixture called for in the recipe. I added several tablespoons (3-4) of orange decorative sugar. The cookies have that cinnamon snickerdoodle taste with a splash of color!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie: Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

This is my second week participating in the new cooking and baking group, French Fridays with Dorie. This group is working our way through Dorie Greenspan's newest cookbook, Around My French Table. And so far, Dorie's recipes are 2 for 2 in the success department. I consider a recipe a true success if I will make it again. And I will definitely make this apple cake again. It is beyond easy to make. And the result is a moist delicious fruit filled cake reminiscent of classic apple pie. In fact the cake is fruit filled it's hard to really even call this cake. But it doesn't really matter what it's called because it tastes great!

I used 2 types of apples, gala and granny smith. I made a full recipe in two 6 inch cake pans. I wanted to use 2 pans for a little taste test. One was according to the recipe (with the exception of rum...used water instead). The other had some spices added in...1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and a hefty pinch of nutmeg. Hubby and I did a taste test and both decided we preferred the one with the spices added. In the photo below the cake on the right has the spices.

The cake was extra tasty with a dollop of fresh made whipped cream and of course makes a fabulous breakfast. I think most of my baked goods end up being breakfast in this house.

See how other French Fridays bakers fared with their apple cakes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares

I have had this recipe marked with a post it note since December 2006. It comes from Martha Stewart's Holiday Everyday Food Collectible Cookie Edition. I am a total sucker for holiday issues of food magazines. And I really can't resist a cookie edition! A match made in heaven. Back when I got the magazine in 2006 I made 3 of the recipes which all turned out great and I marked 4 others to try. Now I can knock one off the list. Maybe in the next 4 years I can tackle one or two more.

This recipe caught my eye because pumpkin and chocolate are two of my favorite ingredients and are a delicious when paired together in a baked treat. I was making another pumpkin treat today (subject of a future deluxe pumpkin post) and I had left over pumpkin...I immediately thought about this recipe. I only had enough pumpkin to do half of the recipe and it worked out to be the perfect amount for our 2 person household.

These squares have a moist cakey texture and are rich with chocolate and spices that make your house smell deliciously like fall. They are very reminiscent of the pumpkin bread recipe I make which is pretty darn yummy. And these pumpkin squares are pretty darn yummy too!

For the recipe click here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Brittle

It's such a bummer when a recipe is going along nicely and in the last few minutes it goes bad. That's what happened with this brittle. I was getting a nice slow caramel color and approaching 340 degree mark on my candy thermometer. Only 8 more degrees to go...except in those few short minutes the color went from honey caramel color to burnt sienna. Emphasis on the burnt. I was hopeful it might not really be burned. Yep, it sure was.

I have had trouble with candy in the past...perhaps my candy thermometer isn't quite right...yeah, I'm sure that's it.

I attempted to make cashew brittle this time around since I was unable to make it with Sweet Melissa Sundays 2 weeks ago. Practice would have been helpful today!

Thank you JoVonn for hosting this week! For the recipe head over to JoVonn's blog, the The Givens Chronicles. To see how other bakers did with their brittle click here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie: Hachis Parmentier

How can you go wrong with meat and potatoes? This delicious recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's new book Around My French Table. This is my first week cooking along with the new cooking group French Fridays with Dorie where we plan to cook and bake our way through Around My French Table. I'm excited to report this was a success!

I have to give kudos to my Hubby because he did most of the cooking on this one and I supervised because I'm recovering from some recent surgery. We were both a bit confused by the recipe as we chose to go with the "Bonne Idee" or "Good Idea" and used ground beef and beef broth rather than cube steak and homemade buillion or broth. It took a few tries of reading the recipe, or ten, and finally we managed to get things on track. It came together rather easily...or at least that's how Hubby made it look. I spent a lot of time fretting about what type of sausage to use. It just seemed counter intuitive to use Italian sausage...but that's what Hubby bought at the grocery store and I was relieved to find that it worked nicely, adding a great level of flavor to the ground beef. The final result was really tasty! It is a warm and inviting comfort food, perfect to serve for a fall or winter Sunday dinner. I look forward to making this recipe on my own next time. This will definitely be making a repeat appearence in our house. Mmmmmm.

See how other members of the group did with their Hachis Parmentier by clicking here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Fluffy Coconut Cake with Mango Filling

I would like to nominate my husband for Husband of the Year. He actually made this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays pick because I was not able to. You see, on October 7th I had surgery to remove a cancerous lump in my breast. Everything went splendidly with the surgery and we were relieved to learn the cancer did not spread. Even though I feel great all things considering, the doctor has me on strict orders to do nothing. Doing nothing isn't all it's cracked up to be. In between TV shows, movies and books I spend a lot of time surfing the web, namely food blogs in search of new ideas. My mind has been racing with new dishes and treats I would like to make. I have been itching to get back in the kitchen and it's sooooo very difficult to just sit back and watch.

Hubby has been a wonderful caretaker over the last 2 weeks...doing all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping and making sure I am following the doctors orders. On top of it all he offered to make this week's pick. What a sweetie. At 9pm on Sunday evening he pulled a chair in the kitchen where I directed him through the various steps of the recipe. The kitchen is really my domain and in the 12 years I can count on one hand the number of times he's baked sweet treats. But that didn't slow him down! He kicked butt!

We decided to do half the recipe and bake them in my new 6 inch cake pans. I'm not a passion fruit fan so we went with mango nectar instead. The filling took quite a while to thicken...more than twice as long as the recipe calls for. The white cake had a nice flavor, but the texture was not quite what other SMS bakers described. Ours turned out more like a dense pound cake than the light moist cake others experienced. But it doesn't much matter, because I had the best time "making" this cake and filling with my Hubby. The mango curd was very tasty! We didn't get to the frosting until Tuesday because I had to start radiation on Monday. Actually my mom helped out with the frosting...Hubby couldn't find sweetened cream of coconut at our grocery store, but my mom was able to find it at hers. The only problem was when she opened the can it was bad. So we resorted to plan b....coconut extract. The frosting was very tasty with a very light coconut taste. We omitted the coconut flakes because none of us care for the texture.

Here's the final product. It looks pretty, but we all agreed that taste wise it wasn't a smash hit. But the baking process this week gets an A+! Thanks honey! Thanks Mom! I love you guys.

Thanks to Karen for hosting this weeks recipe. You can find the recipe over at her blog. See how the other talented bakers in the group did here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Pecan Frosting & Pumpkin Cupcakes

This is a far cry from frosting. This delicious concoction is worthy of the candy category! Or a fancy topping, for ice cream maybe? Wow. That's what I said when I tasted my first bite. The "topping" as I will affectionately refer to it going forward, is soft, caramelly and somewhere between crunch and chewy. The entire family enjoyed it and we mutually agreed this recipe is a keeper!

I feel like I continually repeat myself, but once again, I'm so glad I baked along this week. I would have never, really never, have tried this recipe if I wasn't part of this group. I am continually surprised by how my perceptions of what I what I like and don't like are challenged. In a good way.

This weekend hubby and my sister all headed up to Big Bear, CA to spend the weekend with my Grandparents to enjoy good food, family and the fresh mountain air. I brought along some of my baking supplies and Grandma helped me pull it all together.

I decided to make pumpkin spice cupcakes to serve as the base for the "frosting". The pumpkin cupcakes turned out nice and moist (despite 6000+ foot elevation here). Then it was on to making this topping. Melissa Murphy's recipe is actually for Coconut Pecan Frosting. I omitted the coconut and just did pecan frosting, I mean topping.

This topping consists of sugar, evaporated milk, egg yolks, vanilla and salt. Oh and the pecans of course. I don't know how these simple ingredients turn into such a tasty rich topping. It must be the evaporated milk that lends to such a deep flavor. After simmering and constant stirring for just about 12 minutes the topping thickened up and the pecan pieces went in. A 10-15 minute cooling period and this topping moved into the "spreadable" category.

As I was setting up to start taking photos, Grandma handed me a graham cracker with pecan topping to taste. Oh my! Wow. Wow! I had to take pause because I really wasn't expecting to like this, let alone be "wowed"!

Hubby and Sister, Grandma and Grandpa all had samples on graham crackers too. We all came back for more and I lost track of how many times hubby came back after the third time. This is good stuff people!

You can't go anywhere in Big Bear without seeing hand carved bears and Grandma's place is no exception. We thought this bear, that normally serves a wine bottle holder, needed to sample one of our cupcakes! He clearly gave his stamp of approval.

The pumpkin cupcakes were tasty on their own and even more tasty with the pecan topping. But honestly I enjoyed the pecan topping on the graham crackers the most. It was simple and allowed the full depth flavor in the topping to really come through. There was plenty of topping for 12 cupcakes and still a jar full left over.

For the recipe head over to Eliana's blog A Chica Bakes. Thanks Eliana for choosing such a great recipe! To see the other SMS bakers results this week click here.