Monday, October 25, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Pumpkin Muffins

There's nothing better than sleeping in late on a rare morning, and then heading down to the kitchen to bake up a batch of muffins that you can eat straight out of the oven; snuggled on the couch with your cup of coffee.

That's what I did today - trying to stretch out the quiet contentment of the sunny morning before my toddlers' friend arrived for a play date. I had figured these muffins would be a perfect snack for the kids and so I sprinkled them with chocolate-covered sunflower seeds for toddler-appeal. It worked as far attracting their attention was concerned, but unfortunately I found both kids making a mountain out of crumbs a few minutes after they sat down to eat these muffins.. ! I guess you just can't win them all.

But that is not to say that these muffins aren't good - they are moist and have just a subtle hint of spiciness and mild sugary sweetness with an agreeable blend of textures ranging from the soft chewiness of the raisins and pecans to the pleasing crunch from the sunflower seeds. I liked that these muffins were delicately spiced,  tender and not too sweet - perfect with cup of coffee. And so much healthier than our previous bakes!

Thank you for choosing this recipe this week Elizabeth!

For a gluten-free version of this dessert, please visit Elizabeth's blog Gluten-Free Baking 101. For the original recipe, visit Chaya's blog at My Sweet and Savory or Page 13 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan.

To check out the other BWD bakers, visit the blogroll here. Our next challenge is 'My Favorite Pecan Pie' picked by Tina of My Domestic Bliss. If you'd like to join our baking challenge, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Devils Food Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

My sons' evolving preferences over the years have me confronting increasingly challenging trials in birthday cake-decorating. In fact this is the first year that I completely failed him on that account. It would have been so much easier to just pick up a cake from a bakery but I take birthday cakes very seriously and what I lack in decorating talent as well as punctuality, I make up for with the sheer determination to make my kids birthday cakes that they will remember throughout the year.

But despite my best intentions, I just couldn't deliver this time: there I was at 4 a.m., just having finished frosting a 2-layer 9x13" cake, struggling to 'draw' Ben 10 with tinted buttercream, and failing. Miserably. An hour, and several errors later, I gave up and scraped the offensive Ben 10 figure off, replacing it with candy cake decorations. I then dropped it off at the school, sending up a prayer that the cake itself would appeal to my picky sons' taste buds.

Once he got home from school, I was rewarded with the very rare compliment that 'everything about the cake was so, so delicious' as well as a request to make it again over the weekend. The second time around, I decided to keep it simple and made a 2-layer 9-inch cake. It took us a couple of days to eat through it, and it seemed that the flavors just intensified the longer this cake sat around in the fridge.

The cake recipe can be found on Gourmet here.

The brown sugar cream cheese frosting is a twist on the classic cream cheese frosting and is one of my favorites ways to frost cupcakes. It comes from Joy the Baker and it paired so well with the chocolate in the cake, that I may never use any other kind of frosting ever again!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Kids' Thumbprints

My daughter and I are the real peanut butter lovers in our house. So my reason behind choosing this recipe was just so I could have some fun making these with her. Halfway into rolling the cookie dough into balls, I realized this had been a bad idea because my daughter insisted she was handling play-doh and soon everything was going to end up all over the kitchen floor. So I took over the dough and allowed her to poke holes into the center of each cookie, using a wooden spoon.  I had to make them  a little larger than teaspoon-sized because my daughter kept smashing them while trying to poke the hole! The end result was a little messy looking cookie, but we did have a lot of fun baking them together. 

These buttery, shortbread-like cookies were a big hit with my toddler, her favorite part being the strawberry jam center.  

Kids' Thumbprints

1.5 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter - crunchy (Dorie's choice) or smooth
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, separated
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted), finely chopped
about 3/4 cup jam or jelly (cherry, raspberry, strawberry and  blueberry are particularly good)

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. 

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter and sugars together on medium speed until very light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and continue to beat until well blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until incorporated. 

Put the 2 egg whites in a small bowl and beat them with a fork until slightly frothy. Put the chopped nuts in another bowl. 

Working with a teaspoon of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms to form balls, turn them in the egg whites till completely coated and then drop them into the nuts and roll to coat. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Steadying each cookie with the thumb and finger of one hand, use the pinkie of your other hand (or the end of a wooden spoon) to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet. 

Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, rotating sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway mark. The cookies will be lightly golder. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to a rack. 

Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets before baking a new batch. 

Put the jam or jelly in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring, over low heat. Using a small spoon, fill each thumbprint with hot jam. Allow the cookies - and especially the jam - to cool to room temperature, at which point the jam will form a shiny , nonsticky finish. 

Thank you to all the BWD bakers for baking along with me this week. Please check out the blogroll here to see everyone elses's thumbprint cookies, and please note that the gluten-free version of these cookies will be up on Elizabeths' blog Gluten-Free Baking 101 tomorrow (Tuesday). We are baking Pumpkin Muffins next, picked by Elizabeth. If you'd like to join our baking challenge, please email me at  needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us! 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pecan Pie Mini-Tarts with Yogurt Cheese Pastry

I'm in love with the buttery smell that comes from my hands and fills the air when I make tarts and pies.

And despite all my best intentions not to do any rich baking, here I was again - leafing through my cook books yesterday and stopping at each mention of these sinful treats. . . I spent the past week mostly away from the internet - just to make my days a little less complicated, to kick back and enjoy a rare break in routine and to, once again, make time for things I enjoy best.

And that brings me to these mini-tarts. The pecan-pie filling is crusty on top, chewy-gooey on the inside. They are a snap to make and I found them too tempting not to share.

Pecan Pie Tarts with Yogurt Cheese Pastry

For the Tart Shells:
 1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3 ounces (6 tbsp) yogurt cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour

For the Filling:
 1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
To make the tart shells: 

Preheat Oven to 350. 
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

Flour  hands and shape dough into 24 balls. Press dough with fingers up the sides of a mini muffin tin to fill each muffin cup. Set aside. 
Stir together the ingredients in a small bowl until mixed. 

Fill each tart shell about 2/3 full and bake 25-30 minutes. Cool tarts in pan for 5 minutes and then remove to cooling rack. 

Dust with powdered sugar or top with a dollop of whipped cream to serve. Makes 24 mini-tarts.

Go on - take a bite . . .

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A Taste of Yellow: Brazillian Coffee Bananas

I wanted to make something for LiveStrong Day by participating in the Taste of Yellow blogging event hosted by I came across this blog only today and wanted to be a part of the event. The rules are simple: photograph a yellow food and somehow feature a heart into the photo.Easy.

The harder part was to decide what to make, and what to include in this post. Food-blogging and stories related to chronic disease don't go hand in hand. As food-bloggers we tend to stick to recounting our cooking adventures, and it isn't possible for a reader to look at a food blog without imagining happy times and the joy of sharing a good meal with friends and family. The reality of the writer can sometimes be different and at some point in our lives, each one of us has experienced trials, problems or the heartache of losing a loved one.

October 2 this year is LiveStrong Day - and the Taste of Yellow blogging event is a small way to contribute to the effort of the LiveStrong Foundation to spread awareness about Cancer, as well as the need for Cancer-research for new drugs and treatment. It gives food bloggers an opportunity to not only support the cause, but also to share personal stories and to dedicate the hearts in these posts to family members or friends touched by Cancer.

My heart goes to those I personally know - some having succumbed to, and some struggling with the disease. . 

This is my first time participating in the Taste of Yellow event and I chose to make something simple that I could fix immediately. This tasteful little dessert is as simple as it gets: 

Brazillian Coffee Bananas
 (from Bananas, Page 52)

4 small, ripe bananas
1 tbsp boiling water
1 tbsp coffee granules
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp Greek Style Yogurt
2 tbsp toasted, slivered Almonds (I skipped these)

Peel and slice one banana. Mash the remaining bananas in a bowl. Dissolve the coffee in the water and stir into mashed bananas.

Spoon a little of the Coffee-Banana mixture into 4 small dishes, and sprinkle with brown sugar. Top with a spoonful of yogurt. Repeat layers until all the ingredients are used up. 

Use a tooth-pick to swirl the last layer of yogurt for a marbled effect and finish off with a few sliced bananas and slivered almonds. Serve cold, within an hour of making. 


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