Friday, May 19, 2017

Chocolate~Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Nothing is better than a biscuit and a cup of tea to de-stress...and if it's chocolate, even better!  I love making biscotti (twice-baked) cookie that is easy to make and so good for when at the end of the day you just need to put your feet up and relax.

This chocolate~chocolate version came to mind when I was thinking about my mom the other day; she loved chocolate, but she also loved coffee.  In fact, she and my dad would brew a 40-cup urn of coffee daily and drink it, with every meal and in between!  I think my dad got her hooked while he was in the Navy, he drank coffee to stay alert and it just rubbed off:-D

It's a fact that coffee enhances the chocolate flavor, but I've NEVER drank coffee nor do I have a desire to, however, it doesn't stop me from adding a bit of espresso powder when I'm making something with chocolate.  Years ago a movie called "Beverly Hills Cop" with Eddie Murphy came out, and the character Serge asks Axel, "would you like a little lemon twist in your espresso?" Apparently, the "twist" of lemon takes the bitterness from the strong espresso.  So, you will notice in my recipe, I've added the zest of one lemon to do just that.

Chocolate~Chocolate Almond Biscotti

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
Zest of 1 medium lemon
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
2 tsp. Espresso powder
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups + 2 T King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1 cup bittersweet chocolate bits

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter thoroughly.  While mixer is on low, slowly add the granulated sugar.  Beat 2-3 minutes until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Start mixer on medium and add eggs, one at a time until combined.  Continue until all eggs are mixed and again, scrape down the sides of the bowl.   Add the dry ingredients and mix on low just until combined (don't over beat!)  Stir in the almonds and chocolate bits.

On a separate sheet of parchment paper, sprinkle additional granulated sugar on the surface.  Scoop out half the dough and form a log, rolling it in the sugar to coat the sides.  Place it on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with second half of the dough.  Space them 3-inches apart.

Bake in the preheat oven for 30 minutes or until the tops are set and firm.  Remove from the oven and cool 15 minutes.
Place the baked log on a cutting board and using a serrated knife, make diagonal 1/2" slices.  Lower the oven temperature to 300F-degrees and bake the slices (twice-baked!) again for 12 minutes.

Repeat with all the slices.  Allow the cookies to cool before storing them.  The best thing about Biscotti is that they have a long "shelf" life, they pack well to send to family and friends, and they are good dunkers! Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Healthy Vanilla~Almond Granola with Dried Fruit

Last November, after years of pain and finally having to give up playing tennis, my hubby had a Total Hip Replacement.  Now, he's like a new man; a bionic man that is!  He has started playing tennis again and on a health kick to get back to his "old" self (excuse the pun!)

On top of his new found wellness, he also retired the end of April, so now I have an at-home-hubby who needs things to do.  Well, there is tennis and I had him clean out the garage, but when I said I was going to Publix to grocery shop, he said, "I want to go."  Oh ladies, I'm not use to this, but gave in and let him tag along.  As we went down the cereal aisle, he said he wanted to get some granola to eat for breakfast and eat healthy.  However, after showing him the packaging info, I said, "I'll make you some!"  So I did!

Vanilla~Almond Granola with Dried Fruit
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup Maple syrup
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp.  Kosher salt
4 tsp. Vanilla extract

5 cups Old Fashioned Oats
2 cups sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk the "wet" ingredients (the first 5) together.  Add the oats and almonds and stir until everything is evenly coated.  Spread the mixture into a rimmed baking sheet and place in the preheated oven.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden brown, stirring every 10-15 minutes to ensure even browning.
In the same large bowl, add 2 cups of dried fruit (I used 1 cup of raisins and 1 cup dried blueberries, but you can use your favorite.)
When the granola comes out of the oven, spoon it over the dried fruit and mix together.  Return the granola to the baking sheet to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.  This granola is not only great for morning cereal, but try it on yogurt or ice cream.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Rainbow Sprinkle Bread with Birthday Cake Crumb Topping

Sprinkles or "jimmies" which we know today, but nonpareils, the beginning of these forms, have been around since the 18th century.  Kids love sprinkles.  I know because it's the topping of choice when my grands are here visiting.  My own love for sprinkles did start with my obsession to nonpareils that my mom would buy at the candy store.  I love letting the chocolate melt in my mouth and still have a confection to crunch!

A few weeks ago I made my own sprinkles, but this time the recipe from bake FROM SCRATCH magazine called for using Betty Crocker's Rainbow Sprinkles because they don't bleed when stirred into batter.  Since I love sprinkles, it was a must try and I have to say it did not disappoint.

Rainbow Sprinkles Bread with Birthday Cake Crumb Topping

1 cup (2 sticks) (227g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
1 T (13g) Vanilla extract
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. (1.5g) Kosher salt
1/3 cup (60g) Rainbow Sprinkles

Birthday Cake Crumb Topping:

1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
2 T (28g) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1/3 cup (60g) Rainbow Sprinkles
1/2 tsp. (2g) Vanilla extract

Stir the flour, sugar and salt together.  Use a pastry blender to cut in the cubed butter.  Add the sprinkles and vanilla extract and stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees (170C-degrees).  Spray a 9" x 5" loaf pan with baking spray with flour. Line with parchment paper, letting excess extend over the sides of the pan.  Spray again.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.

On low speed, gradually add the flour/salt to this mixture, beating just until combined.  Stir in the rainbow sprinkles.  Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle the crumb topping over the surface.  Bake until golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly--1hour/10 minutes (mine actually took 1 hour/25 minutes), but start it on the shorter time and check yours.  Let cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes before removing.
The excess parchment paper helps to lift the bread and transfer to a serving plate.  Store in an airtight container for 3 days...if it lasts that long! Enjoy!

I posted a card this past week, on my paper blog, in memory of our daughter Kelly.  It will be 7 years ago she passed away from invasive breast cancer.

The stamps I used, with my hydrangea die, are by Ellen Hutson, LLC.  If you're interested in this set, they're available with half the cost going to Breast Cancer Research; a project dear to my heart to find a cure.
Too many women, in fact, 1 in 12 will be diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime.  We need to keep fighting, especially if women maybe losing their health care if Trumpcare passes!

Monday, May 1, 2017

No-Knead Dinner Rolls & May's Give-Away Apron

I know, from experience, that making yeast bread (rolls) can be daunting and challenging.  So, when I come across a recipe that's easy to make with successful results, I thinks it's my duty to pass it on.  These dinner rolls are no-knead and except for a lengthy rise of 1 1/2 hours, are easy and fool-proof.  Perfect accompaniment with dinner and my friends that know me, know that I've been on a mission for years to show how easy baking can be and eliminating preservatives from our daily lives since our daughter passed away from breast cancer. Here's a link to read on the dangers of preservatives and additives:

No-Knead Dinner Rolls

4 1/2 cups (600g) Bread Flour
1 T dry yeast
1/2 cup (125g) warm water
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 1/2 T (50g) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (250g) milk

Additional unsalted butter, melted, for baking dish and brushing the tops of the rolls.

First, in a 1 cup glass measuring cup, whisk the yeast into the warm water, adding about 1 tsp of granulated sugar (from the 1/4 cup called for in the recipe.)   Allow to rest 5 to 7 minutes until it becomes foamy.

In a large bowl (I used my large stainless steel bowl) mix together the flour, salt and remaining sugar together.
In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, melt the butter, then add 1 cup of milk and the two large eggs. Whisk together and add to the dry ingredients.

I stirred the dough with a rubber spatula, but you could also use a wooden spoon.  Don't worry, it will look shaggy--remember, no-kneading!
Cover the bowl with a cotton towel you've dampened with very warm water, then set the bowl in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours.  My screen-in porch on an 85-degree day was perfect!
When the dough has doubled, turn out onto a floured board.  This is where you can lightly knead it into a semi-smooth log.
Divide the dough into quarters, then each quarter into thirds for 12 rolls.
Shape the rolls into a round ball, pinching the bottom of the roll to come together.

Place the shaped rolls into a 9" x 13" baking dish which has been brushed with melted butter. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise another 30 to 40 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375F-degrees (190c).

Place risen rolls into the preheated oven and bake 16 to 18 minutes, until golden brown.

Easy, right?  Serve these and your family will be very happy...enjoy!

Now, hold on to your hats...I actually have May's Apron sewn!  The pattern caught my eye at my local quilt store~Wish Upon A Quilt and the pattern is "Save the Bees."  As a gardener, I not only love flowers, but I too am concern with the bee population being diminished by pesticides and pollution.  This is our planet and we need to leave it in good shape for future generations.
When you comment on a post, you will be eligible to win this month's apron.  Good Luck!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Fresh Strawberry Roulade and April's Apron Give-Away Winner

A little known, but much quoted writer, Ernestine Ulmer said, "Life is short. Eat dessert first." Boy, do I know that to be true!  A couple of my other favorite quotes are, "A party without cake is just a meeting," by Julia Child and "Dessert is like a feel-good song and the best ones make you dance," by chef Edward Lee.

Temperatures climbed to 91-degrees here in North Carolina and with fresh strawberries ready for picking, it made me want to make this luscious roulade.  A roulade is a dish rolled and can be either savory with meat or my favorite, pastry (sponge cake).  (Roulade comes from the French word, "rouler" meaning to roll.)   A Buche de Noel, that I make at Christmas, is a great example of a roulade.  The sponge cake recipe is baked in a flat baking pan and when done it is placed on a confectioners' sugar dusted towel and rolled while still warm.  When it cools, you can easily unroll it and fill it with a number of fillings~I chose a mixture of whipped cream/cream cheese and fresh strawberries.

Sponge cake is one of the first of the non-yeasted cakes and one of the first recipes of it appeared in The English Huswife in 1615.  Made with eggs, sugar, flour, melted butter and occasionally baking powder (although I don't use it) is in contrast to the batter cakes made in the United States.  Warming the eggs and sugar together slightly, then beating them until a thick, lemony colored ribbon forms is what will give the sponge its lift.  Victorian sponge, named after Queen Victoria who enjoyed a slice of sponge cake with her afternoon tea, is filled with jam and cream and is usually not iced or decorated.  A very nice cake, not to sweet, but perfect for adding fillings.

Fresh Strawberry Roulade
Sponge Cake:
6T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Melt the butter over low heat. Remove and stir in the vanilla extract.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and line a 12" x 17" baking sheet with parchment paper.

Start a large saucepan on the stove with two-inches of water and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer. Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer, but use a hand-held whisk and whip them together, whisking constantly over the simmering water, just until the temperature on an instant-read thermometer reaches 110F-degrees.  If you don't have an instant-read thermometer, feel the mixture and when you don't feel any grains of sugar, place it on the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whip the mixture for 7 to 10 minutes--until ribbons form.
If you're using a hand-held mixer, it will take 4-5 minutes longer.

Sift the flour and salt and add one-half to the egg/sugar mixture.  Use a rubber spatula to fold in the dry ingredients, being careful not to deflate the volume from beating the eggs and sugar.  Once one-half as been completely folded in, add the remaining dry ingredients and fold once more.

Take a scoop of the batter and stir into the cooled butter and vanilla extract mixture. Once the butter is fully incorporated, add to the batter and fold gently into it.  Pour the batter and spread to completely cover the baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes.  Test with a toothpick in the center; the cake should be a golden brown and pulled away from the sides.

Dust a cotton dish towel with confectioners' sugar and invert the cake on top. Remove the baking parchment paper.  I dusted the top with some more confectioners' sugar and rolled the short side, but you could also roll the lengthwise side.  If you do, you should double the filling!

Allow the sponge to cool completely.

2 pints of fresh strawberries (or your choice of berries) rinsed and sliced
1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, cream together the cream cheese and sugar.  Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.  Turn the mixer on medium and slowly add the heavy cream.  When it's all incorporated, turn the mixer to high and beat until stiff.  Add the vanilla and mix just until mixed in thoroughly.

Carefully unroll the sponge cake and spread with half of the cream cheese/whipped cream mixture.

Sprinkle the fresh berries over the surface (notice I'm leaving about 1-inch all around).

Begin at the short side (or the way you rolled it when it was warm).  Place on a serving platter and use the rest of the cream mixture to spread over the roulade.  Add a few berries down the center to finish.

Chill until ready to serve or as Ernestine Ulmer said, "Life is short--eat dessert first!"  Enjoy!

Trying to keep on schedule, the winner of April's Apron is Roxy from "living from glory to glory."
Email me your address and I will get this apron sent off to you ASAP!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Old Fashioned Soft Oatmeal~Raisin~Pecan Cookies

I love crunchy chocolate chip cookies, but my oatmeal cookies need to be soft and chewy. Yes, I'm quirky, but if you have the same taste characteristic, then these cookies are for you.  In honor of Earth Day and the amazing Science March yesterday in Washington, D.C., I thought a "Cookie Chemistry" lesson was in order.

There are a few things to know if you want to make a cookie soft: substitute half of the unsalted butter with shortening, increase brown sugar to granulated sugar, almost 2:1, add some light Karo syrup,  and if you're making a cookie with dried fruit (i.e., raisins), soak them for at least 30 minutes in hot water.  

First, the butter v. shortening lesson--shortening is 100% fat, but butter and margarine are composed of about 80-85% fat and 20-15% water.  Butter definitely has a superior flavor than shortening, but when you use all butter, it gives off steam and will cause a bit more gluten formation, so you'd get a crisper cookie with all butter.  Also, butter melts at a lower temperature than shortening and therefore, it melts faster.  Shortening will hold its shape, but with a little leavening, as in this case I used baking soda, then this cookie will rise and expand some. 

Secondly, the ratio of brown sugar to white, granulated sugar is another factor.  I used double the amount of brown sugar to white sugar in this recipe because it has a higher moisture content and since it also contains molasses, yields a softer cookie.  Brown sugar isn't as sweet so I also added light Karo Syrup to give a chewy, almost gooey factor to these cookies.  Corn syrup is an invert sugar, which means that it prevents sugar crystals from forming.  This is very important when making candy or caramel, but since I wanted that texture, I added some. Please note, it's not like Corn syrup is the same thing as the much maligned high fructose corn syrups.  While both are made from corn starch, corn syrup is 100% glucose while high fructose corn syrup has been processed to convert some of that glucose into fructose and consuming large amounts of fructose has a negative effect.

Finally, soaking dried fruit is very important to create a soft cookie.  I typically cover dried fruit with boiling water and wait at least 30 minutes and even up to an hour before using them in any recipe.  Moistened dried fruit has two effects: first, dried fruit will normally draw out moisture from the dough and make a crisper cookie, but if there isn't enough moisture to begin with, you'll also get crispy fruit pieces...ugh!  Of course, plump fruit adds back some moisture to the dough and creates a soft cookie!

Old Fashioned Soft Oatmeal~Raisin~Pecan Cookies
1 cup Raisins, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, then drain

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room tempeature
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 T Light Karo Syrup
1 large egg
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Almond extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon*
2T milk
3 cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped Pecans (or walnuts)--optional

*I found a new spice mixture at Penzey's Spice called Cake Spice:  it contains Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, and ginger and I used that instead of just cinnamon!
Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 

In a stand mixture, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and sugars together thoroughly.  Add the Karo syrup, egg and extracts and cream once more, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the milk and beat once more, then the dry ingredients. Beat just until the ingredients are combined.  Stir in drained raisins and the pecans, if using.

I used a #20 scoop to portion out the cookies, making sure I left space for the cookies to expand.
Bake in the preheated oven for 11 minutes.  Remove pan from the oven and allow to cool for 5-7 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Perfect treat after a day in the garden.  I've been planting a new flower bed I'm calling, Kelly's Garden, in honor of our daughter who passed away seven years ago from breast cancer.  Since she carried hydrangeas in her wedding, I've planted mostly varieties of them, but added in some other plants I knew she loved.  It's a loving work in progress and makes me happy.  I hope you have a wonderful day as well.

Chocolate~Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Nothing is better than a biscuit and a cup of tea to de-stress...and if it's chocolate, even better!  I love making biscotti (twice-b...