Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Double Chocolate Fudge Brownies and Grandson visiting

On Saturday, our grandson came for a visit and he wanted to bake...so we made brownies, which is everybody's favorite and goes so well with a scoop of vanilla or strawberry ice cream.

The legend of the brownie dates to back to 1893 in Chicago, Illinois, when a socialite asked the pastry chef to create a "cake-like" dessert that was small enough to fit into a boxed lunch for ladies attending the Columbian Exposition at the World's Fair.  The result was the Palmer House Brownie with walnuts and apricot glaze.  Since that time, brownies have taken on many flavors and pairings of ingredients.  While most people like nuts in their brownies, there are a lot of true chocoholics who like extra chocolate chips for a unique texture.  Which are you?

Double Chocolate Fudge Brownies

3/4 cup + 1 T (13T) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. espresso dissolved in 3 T water

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Butter the parchment paper and lightly dust with flour.
Heat the above ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until the butter is melted.  Pour this mixture over:

10 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (we used chips!)

Let this mixture stand until the chocolate softens, about 1 minute.
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk the chocolate and vanilla extract together until smooth.

3 large eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition.

1 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Stir the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture until smooth.

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into the square pan.
Bake in the preheated for 30-33 minutes.  A wooden toothpick in the center should come out clean and the top should be shiny.

Let cool completely in the pan, then cut into squares.  The brownies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days...if they last! Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Uniquely Good Banana Bread

I've made tons of banana bread in my time, but this recipe is uniquely different.  Instead of smashing the bananas, I sliced them.  The interior almost looks like there is chocolate in this recipe, but i assure you there isn't and the taste is really good and moist.  I enjoyed a slice with a cup of tea--my new favorite Twinings "Lady Grey Tea."  It's light and has a hint of citrus.

We finally got some much needed rain and watching the birds and squirrels running around made for a relaxing morning.

Uniquely Good Banana Bread
Makes 2 loaves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 bananas, sliced
1 T Vanilla extract
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 cup Sour Cream
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray two loaf pans (9" x 5") with baking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and melted butter.  Add the eggs, one at a time and stir to incorporate.  Add the vanilla and sliced bananas.
The slices should be about 1/4-inch.  I used a banana slicer, but you can use a paring knife.

Add the dry ingredients, then the sour cream and walnuts and stir until completely incorporated.  Divide batter between the two loaf pans.
Bake in the preheated oven for 55-60 minutes; until golden brown and a tester comes out cleanly from the center of the bread.  Remove pans from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Remove bread from the pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

I used my Grandma Gladys' wedding china...almost 100 years old to relax and Enjoy!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Key Lime Pie and August's Give-away Apron

Key Lime Pie is an American dessert made from, yes of course, Key Limes that are naturalized throughout the Florida Keys.  Key Limes are more tart and aromatic than the common "Persian limes" found year-round in grocery stores.  It's juice is a pale yellow and it's the acidic juice mixed with sweetened condensed milk that causes the filling to thicken on its own.  Historically, the pie was not baked, but because consuming raw eggs can be dangerous, especially to small children, the pies are baked for a short period; this recipe I made is baked for 10 minutes.

Although typically only the egg yolks are used in Key Lime Pies and the whites are beaten to a meringue to top it, I prefer whipped cream on top of mine to counterbalance the tartness, so I used the whole egg in this recipe.

I love citrus pies and my mom made a wonderful Lemon Meringue.  Both my girls and now our granddaughter are crazy for Key Lime Pie so this is a favorite around our house.  What's better at the end of a hot day?


Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 360F-degrees. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Using a measuring cup, press the mixture into a bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan.  (I had an 8-inch and the filling almost overflows...be sure you use a 9-inch)
Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

3 (14oz) cans Sweetened Condensed Milk (approx 3 1/2 cups)
2 large eggs
1 cup Key Lime juice (I used fresh, but you can use bottled) I used 9 limes for 1 cup!
Zest of 1 lime

In a bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs.  Add the lime juice slowly, whisked to combine.  Finally stir in the zest.  Pour into the prepared crust.

 Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Let cool completely, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Use a hand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment or as I do, a copper bowl and whisk to beat the ingredients until stiff peaks form.  
 Slice the pie and add a dollop of whipped cream over the pie.  Nothing's better on a hot, humid evening.  Enjoy!

Now, as promised...here is August's Apron.  The blues made me feel cooler; after all, blue is a cool color, and the hydrangeas are always a favorite.  Just leave a comment this month and you could win this beautiful apron.  Good Luck!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July's Apron Winner...

The month went by so fast with my granddaughters visiting, but I wanted to get a fresh start and announce the winner is Linda at Linda's Life Journal.  Please email me your address and I will send the Poppy Apron out to you asap!

I'm planning on having August's apron up by tomorrow.  Please forgive me for being so behind:-D

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Easy Crusty Bread and Summer Fun

I've been MIA while my granddaughters were visiting for almost three weeks.  Lots of fun, but as you all know with grands, there's little time for getting to the computer!

Yesterday, quietly watching as the skies darkened, I knew we were in for some rain and decided to make bread.  It's "comforting" to make bread; the kneading and shaping gives me great satisfaction.  I made a recipe by King Arthur Flour for Crusty Bread made in a Cloche.  However, you could also use a cast iron Dutch Oven to achieve this.

Bread is one of the most basic of baked goods.  You simply need, flour, yeast, salt and water; a very inexpensive way to create something to eat...and oh, so satisfying.  The girls and I made Kentish Hufkins, among other goodies...
...and they have learned how easy it is to make and accomplish something really good.
A Tea Party after making my Mom's favorite Chocolate Cake recipe!

Maddie also started a quilt and both girls had fun making 3-dimensional flowers for cards for their mom's upcoming birthday in August.

And ice cream on Mimi's swing to watch the Hummingbirds, butterflies, and Gold Finches comes to my garden!

Crusty Bread
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 oz) King Arthur All-Purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (10 oz) lukewarm water
2 tsp. SAF Red Instant Yeast
1 1/4 tsp. Salt
2 T Olive Oil

Place all dry ingredients in a stand mixer and use the dough hook to mix.  Slowly add the warm water and olive oil and mix until a smooth, slightly sticky dough.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours until almost doubled.

I placed it on my screened-in porch, with the temperatures in the 90's, it doesn't take long to rise!

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured bread board, gently deflate the dough and shape it into a ball. Place the dough on the bottom of the Cloche and cover with the lid.  Allow the dough to rise for 30 to 45 minutes, until almost doubled in size.

Uncover the loaf and slashed several times.  Put the lid back on and place into a cold oven.  Set the oven temperature to 400F-degrees and bake the bread for 35 minutes.
Remove the lid of the lid of the Cloche and return the bread to the oven and bake until golden brown, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Mine took the full 10 minutes.
Take the bread out of the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.  I was imagining I was in Paris at a little cafe enjoying some cheese and bread...maybe a glass of wine.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Summertime Chocolate Chip Cookies & July's Give-Away Apron

It's hot!  I guess after living in the South for four years I shouldn't be surprised by this week of high temperatures, humidity, and the occasional thunder storm, but it still slows me down.  Even with air conditioning, I find my baking has taken a vacation.  However, yesterday I decided to whip up some chocolate chip cookies and sit down and enjoy a new book I just got.

I first started reading Elon Hilderbrand's books several years ago when I picked up one of her first novels at an airport bookstore.  I had a long trip to Tokyo and wanted to make sure I had enough to read.  Well, it captivated me and I read it in less than three hours.  When I returned home, I purchased all she had out!  Also, a few years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through treatment for this disease.  I couldn't help but feel a kindred spirit when I read her stories.

Her stories take place on Nantucket Island; one of my favorite places to go when we lived in Massachusetts.  It's about 30 miles from Cape Cod and we took the ferry, although there is a small airport that you can fly in to.  The name, Nantucket, is from Algonquian Indians for "far away land or island" and it's mostly a tourist destination with only a little over 10,000 people residing there year round. The town is small, but exploring the island is a wonderful day of viewing wildlife, especially birds, and then finding yourself back in a B & B for a good night's rest.

What are you reading this summer?

Summertime Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cups + 2T granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans (or you can use walnuts)
1 1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat to combine.  Add the vanilla and beat again.

Remove bowl from the stand mixer and stir in, by hand, the dry ingredients until combined.  Add the nuts and chocolate chips.  Use a tablespoon-size scoop for the cookie size.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool on the pan while you put the next pan of cookies in the oven.  Remove to a rack to cool completely.  Now grab a couple, pour yourself some Sweet Tea or Lemonade and head to a comfy place to read.  Enjoy!

July's Apron is one of my favorite flowers--Poppies!  If you want a chance to win this colorful apron, just comment on the posts this month and you could be wearing this to do some baking in August! Good luck:-)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

June's Give-Away Apron!

Congratulations to "Piecrust." You have won June's Give Away Apron!  Please email me your mailing address and I will send your apron to you.

Tomorrow, I will have July's Apron up!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Blackberry Jam Bars

I can't believe it's the end of June!  Where does the time go?  In a few short days, we will be celebrating July 4th; our Independence Day.  It was my mother's favorite holiday, next to Christmas and always one for lots baking and cooking while Dad was in charge in getting the Chesapeake Blue Crabs.  I loved baking for the big picnic at mom's and I think this would have gone over big for the dessert table.

Picking berries are one of my favorite chores to do, although I have to admit it was a little more "dangerous" with the possibility of snakes hiding among the brambles! Still, the end product was always worth the danger.

When we lived in the Pacific Northwest, these berries are called Marion berries and I've made lots of jam using them.  I've included the recipe for making the jam ahead of time, but you could certainly use "store bought" to shorten the time of preparation.  I think these bars are great on their own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and they can be frozen, which makes them perfect to do ahead of your picnic.

Blackberry Jam Bars

Blackberry Jam
8 cups fresh blackberries (it was about 3 quarts) rinsed
3 cups (600g) granulated sugar
2 T (30g) fresh lemon juice

In a large saucepan (I used a 6 qt. Dutch Oven), stir together the blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice together.  Let stand for 2 hours.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Remove from the heat and use a hand blender to process until smooth.  Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding seeds/solids.  Pour liquid back into the saucepan.

Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20-40 minutes until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour.  Transfer to a storage dish and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

2 cups (4 sticks) (454g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups (500g) King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. (10g) baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cups blackberry jam
1/4 cup (30g) confectioners' sugar

In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together at medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Beat in vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the butter mixture, slowly on low speed until combined.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces and wrap in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a 13" x 9" baking pan with parchment paper, overlapping the sides and spray the bottom and sides with a baking spray with flour.

Remove two pieces of dough and use a box grater to grate the dough into the pan. Press down slightly on the dough.  Place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Grating then freezing the dough before baking creates little air pockets that give the bars a crumbly texture, contrasting with the smooth jam center.

Grate the other two disks on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes.  Remove baking pan from freezer and spread the jam across the top.

Sprinkle the cold grated dough over the top of the jam in an even layer.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown, covering the top with foil if necessary.  Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10 minutes.  Use the parchment paper to pull up on the bars (or I use a springform pan and remove the sides!)
Once cool, give the top a generous sprinkle of confectioners' sugar before serving.  You can freeze these bars, if desired, in an air tight container.  Happy 4th! Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cherry Shortbread

When I was in England a few weeks ago, we had a "free" day to explore and went to Runnymede.  For all you who know your history, Runnymede is alongside the River Thames and most notably associated with the sealing of the Magna Carta.  It was during the reign of King John in 1215, it was signed and democracy was born.  The most important items to note was that it affected common and constitutional law as well as political representation, beginning the development of parliament.  The ideals of democracy were: limitation of power, equality and freedom.  If is sounds familiar, it was what our own Constitution was designed after over 200 years later!

After our walk through The National Trust land, donated in 1929 by Cara Rogers Broughton and her sons, we stopped at the Tea House to enjoy some refreshment before heading to Windsor Castle.  I had the Cherry Shortbread and my friend had a piece of Almond Frangipane Tart.  I couldn't wait to see if I could replicate this shortbread when I got home; I have a friend who loves shortbread and I wanted to surprise her!  Just as delicious and it will be one I make again.

Cherry Shortbread

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup dried cherries, cut in half


3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 T very warm water
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 T Light Karo syrup

Start by hydrating the cherries in boiling water; making sure you cover them completely.  Allow to stand at least an hour or longer.  Drain well in a sieve, then scatter them on paper toweling to make sure excess moisture is removed.
Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.  If you don't have a springform pan like I use, then make sure the parchment goes up at least two sides so you can lift the shortbread out when it's done.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar together completely.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed.  Add the vanilla extract and beat once more.  Add the flour and salt and mix on low just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

Bring dough together on a board and divide in half.  Press half of the shortbread into the prepared pan, pressing with your fingers to spread completely.  Use either a "docker" or a fork to poke holes into the dough (this allows it to bake evenly.)
Scatter the cherries on top, then, breaking off pieces of the second half, press gently over top to cover the cherries.   I also "poked" holes in this layer, then sprinkled with some sugar crystals lightly.
 Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a light golden brown.
 Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 7 minutes before removing it to a cutting board.  You will want to cut the shortbread while it's warm.
I also decided to add a glaze since shortbread isn't overly sweet.
Very quick and oh so delicious.  It's the perfect afternoon treat with tea or anytime:-D Enjoy!