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.




Monday, April 17, 2017

Confetti Cake with Homemade Sprinkles (Jimmies)

Whether you call them Sprinkles or Jimmies, as my friends from New England do, you have to admit they make any cake festive.  Non-pareils or sprinkles date back to the late 18th century, but a company called "Just Born" located in Brooklyn, NY is credited with calling them "Jimmies, which were chocolate-colored; not necessarily containing chocolate. Jan Freeman from the Boston Globe wrote, after mentioning the word "Jimmies" in a column, got several letters stating the term shouldn't be used because it was a racial slur for African Americans. However, after much research, that was a theory that could happily never be proven. These sugar strands of confection have made cakes, ice cream, and other desserts pretty popular as a topping and I so enjoyed making up my own colors for a dessert on Easter Sunday.

Confetti Cake with Homemade Sprinkles (Jimmies)

Homemade Sprinkles (Jimmies)
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 T Light Karo Syrup
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
1 -2 T water (add slowly since you need only make the consistency of "glue")

In a small bowl, stir the Karo Syrup and vanilla extract into the confectioners' sugar. Add water just until you achieve the consistency of glue.
Separate the "glue" into 3 bowls and add a few drops of food coloring.  Place the icing into a pastry bag with a #3 or #4 tip and pipe lines on a sheet of parchment.

Best results if you do this the day before, but allow at least 8 hours for drying.
I made these early morning, then went out to spread mulch in my flower beds for the day:-D

Confetti Cake
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Brush a 9" x 13" cake pan with melted butter, line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper that extends 2" on either of the long sides (helps remove the cake after baking), butter the parchment paper, then dust the pan surface with flour.  Set aside.

I used the "reverse creaming" method on this cake and it turned out perfect!

3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract

2/3 cup Homemade Sprinkles (Jimmies)*
*I added 1/3 cup of the Homemade and 1/3 cup of "store bought" for Easter!

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the first four "dry" ingredients.  While the mixer is running, add the soft butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until the mixture is crumbly.
Mix the milk, eggs and vanilla in a 2 cup measure and, while the mixer is on low, add half.  Beat 1 minute until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed, then slowly add the remaining liquid. Stir in the Sprinkles and pour batter into the prepared pan.  Smooth the batter out and place in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes.


Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Transfer pan to a rack and cool completely.  If you like, you can remove the cooled cake to a serving platter, using the extension of the parchment on the sides.  While the cake cools, make the frosting.

Cooked Milk Frosting (this was a recipe my mom made when we had run out of Confectioners' (icing) sugar)
1/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla

In a small sauce pan, whisk together the flour, milk and vanilla.  Whisk constantly until mixture comes together, the consistency of thick pudding.  Transfer to a glass bowl, pressing a piece of plastic wrap against the surface.  Place in the refrigerator to cool completely--30 minutes.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, scrapping down the sides as needed.  Add the cooled milk/flour mixture and continue to beat until it resembles whipped cream--about 2 minutes.  Frost the cake and add Sprinkles (Jimmies).
 I will certainly make these Sprinkles (Jimmies) again because it was fun to customize my own colors.  I hope you all had a lovely Easter and Spring is showing it's colors-mine have come to an end, but here are some of the beauties that appeared early with our warm temperatures.  Enjoy!





Friday, April 14, 2017

Beaumes-De-Venise Cake with Apricots

Don't be scared off by the name...this cake is named after a hilltop town in France's Vancluse area, which is know for the sweet, Muscat wine produced there: Beaumes-De-Venise.  As you may have surmised, the apricots are soaked in this wine before the cake is made.

We love apricots, not only for the wonderful taste, but for the health benefits they offer.  They are rich in many plant antioxidants, including flavonoids and adds very few calories to your daily total.  Also, a good source of beta-carotene and Vitamin C . The benefits of carotenoids and xanthophyll, many researchers believe, is what may helps protect our eyesight from aging damage and vision loss.  And, of course, I can't help but think baking with apricots when Spring arrives!

Beaumes-De-Venise Cake with Apricots

1 cup (240g) of sweet wine (Cotes du Rhone is suggested, but your choice)
1 cup (128g) chopped dried apricots

In a small saucepan, heat the wine over medium heat until he begins to simmer.  Add the apricots and remove from the heat.  Allow to stand until cool, about 30 minutes.
1/2 cup (1 stick) (113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 T (42g) olive oil
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs (100g)
1 3/4 cups (219g) King Arthur all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1 tsp. (5g) baking powder
1 tsp. (3g) Kosher salt

Topping:
2 T (28g) unsalted butter cubed
1 T (12g) granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350F degrees (180C-degrees).  Spray a 9-inh springform pan with a baking spray, line the bottom with parchment and spray again.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, olive oil and sugar together.  Add the zests and vanilla extract and beat once more.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and add in two additions, alternating with the wine/apricot mixture.  Don't over mix.  Use a rubber spatula to make sure everything is combined.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven 25-30 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle the cubed butter across the surface, then the tablespoon of granulated sugar.  Bake an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan about 20 minutes.  Remove the sides and slide the cake onto a serving platter.
Serve cake plain for with a scoop of your favorite

A wonderfully moist cake that's perfect for Spring--Enjoy!
Happy Easter to all my friends and loved ones, XOXO

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

March's Give-Away Apron

Unfortunately, I've never heard from Louise, so I've pulled another name out of the "flower pot" and this time it was Jessi Lashakmitis.  Jessi, please send me your address so I can mail this apron to you.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lemon Honey Pound Cake

I've made lots of pound cakes in my time, but one thing always haunts me...when you cut into the cake and see the "compression" of the crumb at the bottom.  Well, no more and here's why--

Both my mother and home economic classes I took in high school taught us to cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.  Next, we added the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking powder).  It was actually after I learned how to make the perfect pie dough, switching out some of the water with Vodka, that I realized how bad "liquid" was in producing gluten; the culprit in not only tough baked goods, but what was causing that condensed crumb line at the bottom of my cakes.

So, I turned to science--my best friend!  The gluten was forming because when the flour came in to contact with liquid (in this case the egg whites) I would create a great rise, but the air bubbles created by fat would cause the crumb to compress.  More research and I discovered a lot of bakers use what's called "Reverse Creaming."  I remember making cupcakes in culinary school using this method, but somehow I seemed to revert back to my old ways.  What is this method, you ask?  Well, you beat together sifted flour, sugar and butter together until it's smooth.  The fat in the butter coats the flour molecules so when the liquid is added, it creates a barrier which slows the formation of gluten.  Easy!  Let's get started...

Lemon Honey Pound Cake
1 3/4 cup (225g) Cake Flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup (112g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (170g) Meyer Lemon Honey
Zest from 1 lemon
1 cup + 2T (2 sticks +2T) (255g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs + 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Grease and flour a 9" x 5" loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, egg yolks, honey and vanilla extract and whisk together.  Add the zest of one lemon.



Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the granulated sugar and mix with the paddle attachment slightly.  Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and while the mixer is running on low, add all the butter.  Once all the butter is incorporated, turn your mixer up to high and beat 2-3 minutes.
Add the liquid, in three additions, on low speed to start mixing, then turn up to medium to incorporate the liquid. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes.  Test with a wooden skewer in the middle to make sure it's done.

All this cake needs is a dusting of confectioners' sugar, but if you like, add fresh strawberries or your favorite fruit.  And, guess what, the crumb of the cake is uniform and no compression! Enjoy!


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Easy No-Knead Soft Sandwich Bread & April's Give-Away Apron

I hear so many times from people how hard it is to bake bread.  Well, no more thanks to a new cookbook I came across; Bread, Toast, Crumbs by Alexandra Stafford.  This no-knead bread is super easy and these days with all I've got going, was perfect choice for my mid-week bake.

Like Ms. Stafford, I grew up with my mother baking bread, which she made look so easy.  She built my confidence to try yeast rolls from an early age and I've never been afraid to try anything again!  However, admittedly, yeast breads can be tricky; careful not to "kill" the yeast with too hot liquids or over-kneading or worse, over-proofing.  This recipe definitely takes all the fear out of making bread to impress your family.

Soft Sandwich Bread
6 cups (768g) King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 T Kosher salt
1 T granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
3 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil, or other "neutral" oil

Softened unsalted butter, for greasing

In a large bowl, measure out all the dry ingredients.  Whisk together, then change to a rubber spatula and add the liquid (water + oil).  Mix until all the liquid is absorbed and the dough is formed into a sticky dough ball.

Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Using the soften unsalted butter, grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans.  Using two forks, deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn as you deflate, turning the mass into a rough dough ball once more.

Using the two forks and working from the center out, separate the dough into two equal pieces.
Grease your hands with some of the softened unsalted butter and lift each half of dough into the prepared pan.  DO NOT COVER THE PANS.  Let the dough rise on the countertop near the oven or another warm place, draft-free for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the dough just crown the rims of the pan.  Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and firm to touch.  Remove the pans from the oven and turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack, resting on their sides.
Allow to cool before slicing...if you can resist. Enjoy!
Now, for this month's Give-Away Apron...I chose Batiks that reminded me of the Cherry Blossoms blooming in Spring.  If you would like to win this apron, comment on any of the posts this month. Good Luck!

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...