Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Boston Cream Doughnuts

The other day I posted a recipe for homemade glazed doughnuts, made from frozen bread dough. Well, that loaf of frozen dough can transform into a lot of other delicious things besides bread. It can become a pizza crust, a calzone or stromboli, or even county-fair-style fried dough sprinkled in powdered or cinnamon sugar, etc. I have discovered that it is great for doughnuts!

Most of my family will go for a Boston Cream doughnut before any other, so I was thinking that I could go a step further with my homemade doughnut recipe by leaving the hole out, injecting the fried dough with pastry cream, and topping it with chocolate. That's exactly what I did.  For some reason, I can't seem to save and import all the photos I took of this process, so the photo of this finished doughnut will have to do.

Here's the recipe:

BOSTON CREAM DOUGHNUT

pastry cream (recipe below) made a few hours in advance, or the day before
1 loaf frozen bread dough, partially thawed
canola oil
chocolate ganache (recipe below)

Pastry Cream*
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter

In a medium sized bowl, mix egg yolks with sugar.  Sift flour and cornstarch together and add to egg yolk mixture, making a paste.

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat milk over moderate heat until bubbles form around edge.  Very, very slowly, pour a ladle-full, or about 1/2 cup, of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, stirring vigorously and constantly to prevent eggs from clumping.  If they do, strain out the solids and discard. Then pour the egg yolk mixture, again very slowly and stirring constantly, back into the pot of hot milk. Bring to a full boil and let boil for one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract.  Pour into bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap.  Bring to room temperature and then cool in refrigerator.

*If you don't want to/can't make pastry cream, you can substitute cooked vanilla pudding, but real pastry cream is by far the best.  DO NOT use instant vanilla pudding.  It's just not good enough for this doughnut!

Doughnuts
(Photos of dough slicing, thawing, rising from the glazed doughnuts post here.)
Slice loaf of partially thawed bread into 8-12 rounds.
Place rounds on a cookie sheet that's been lined with parchment paper and sprayed with cooking spray.  Spray tops of rounds with cooking spray and cover with dish towel or a piece of plastic wrap. Allow to thaw completely and rise to about doubled in size.  To speed this process, you can put the cookie sheet in an unheated oven (turned off) over a pan of hot water -- I used 3 cups boiling water -- and watch to see that the dough has risen to twice its original size, usually in about half an hour but it may take longer depending on how frozen the loaf was. Once it's risen, the dough can be fried.

In another saucepan, heat about an inch of canola oil to a shimmer (med/high heat) and when it's really hot, around 375 degrees if you have a candy thermometer (and not until), carefully and gently drop a round or two at a time into the oil. Be careful not to press the dough, or deflate it. Cook until the bottom begins to brown to a nice golden color, and then carefully flip over (I used a fork and a big spoon) and continue to cook until the other side reaches the same shade of golden brown.

Remove from sauce pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Continue until all the rounds have been fried. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  At one end of doughnut, insert small knife and swipe it back and forth inside the doughnut to create a cavity, careful not to cut through the other side or the bottom.

Inject doughnuts with pastry cream, roughly a tablespoon or two each.  If you have a pastry bag, fit it with large tip.  Fill pastry bag about a third full and poke tip well into hole you cut at the end of each doughnut. Use enough pressure to fill slowly, stopping as you sense the doughnut is full and to prevent pastry cream from oozing out of the end. If it does, just wipe it away.  If you don't have a pastry bag, you can buy them now in any grocery store in the baking aisle. It's worth it.  You can also make a paper cone pastry bag by following these directions.  Buying one is easier!

Frost tops with chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Ganache
(simpler than you ever thought)
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped, or 1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet is fine)
3/4 cup heavy cream

Heat heavy cream just until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, catching it before it boils but is nice and hot. Remove from heat and pour hot cream over chocolate. You can also heat the cream in the microwave but must be careful it doesn't boil.

Stir until the chocolate melts and allow to cool until it's thick like the glaze you'd see on an eclair or cream puff.  Don't let it get much more solid than that. Drop about a tablespoon of ganache on the center of a doughnut and spread carefully over the top.  Allow to set.

Eat one doughnut and share the rest!








Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day and a Few Dozen Muffins

Last night I dropped off two dozen muffins to The Guardian House, a residence for homeless women veterans in Ballston Spa, New York. I first heard of this special home when a facebook friend posted Home Depot's contest for worthy non-profits, and The Guardian House won the first round of competition, and is now in the running for the larger, national prize. I was thinking about service, and what people do for others, when the thought came to me that I could help in my own small way by using my particular skills. So, I baked up two dozen muffins to honor these women on Memorial Day. It's not much, but if these muffins bring even a little bit of happiness to the residents of The Guardian House (eleven women at this time), that would make me feel like I did a little bit of good. More info about The Guardian House is linked here.

Henry and Peter helped me make the muffins yesterday afternoon. As they were cooling I decided that last night would be a good time to drop them off, rather than this morning, because it'd be nice for the women to have them for breakfast when they woke up. I looked up the address of the house on-line, and took the 20-minute ride just around 8 pm. As I stood at the door and pressed the doorbell, I wondered if I should have called first, made arrangements in a formal way. But that wasn't necessary -- after a moment the door opened, I was welcomed in and asked to sign the guest book. What a warm, cozy, and inviting home it is! The kitchen (always my point of interest) looked like HOME, so welcoming, and immaculately clean (well, my kitchen doesn't always look like that!), with a big wooden, family-style table in the center. It felt like a family's home.

The two women I met were in pretty robes and slippers, seemingly settled in for the night. One mentioned that they were watching a Memorial Day tribute on PBS. I didn't want to interrupt their evening so I thanked them for their service and left within just a couple of minutes, with a new awareness that this home is a very important place, and so very deserving of the the attention and generosity it has been fortunate to receive lately. I have a feeling I'll be visiting again (and again).

About this muffin: it's made with light sour cream and egg whites, and whips up into a light yet substantial batter.The addition of lemon extract, along with strawberries and blueberries, makes these irresistible (to me, anyway!) and I bet your family and friends will love them!

RED, WHITE, AND BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
Oven 375 degrees Farenheit - makes 24 standard muffins (half the recipe for a dozen)
Spray muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper liners

1/2 cup soft butter
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
4 egg whites
2 cups (1 pt.) light sour cream
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4-1 cup cup frozen blueberries, tossed with 1 tablespoon flour
1/2-3/4 cup chopped up fresh strawberries

In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  Add extracts and mix well.  Add egg whites, one at a time, and beat well.  Add sour cream and mix thoroughly.

To the mixer bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  On very low speed,  mix into the wet ingredients and then increase speed to mix thoroughly, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.

To this batter, stir in (gently) the blueberries and strawberries, but just until combined or the blueberries will turn the batter purple!  Divide batter among muffins cups -- I use an ice cream scoop to do the job since it works perfectly!

Sprinkle tops with sugar.

Bake for 21-23 minutes or until muffins test done - top springs back when lightly pressed or toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Here are a few photos of the muffins along the way!













It is my pleasure and privilege to remember our veterans in this very small way, and on this day of picnics and welcoming summer, I won't forget that the true purpose of Memorial Day is to honor our fallen heroes. I can't let this day go by without thanking my father, Alfred J. O'Farrell (1917-1993) for his service in the United States Army during WWII.  He was, and always will be, my hero.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Adirondack Baker's 4th Anniversary!

Today, Sunday, May 26th, 2013, marks four years since my very first post as Adirondack Baker! It's been an incredible experience, and one that has broadened horizons, birthed and rekindled friendships, and provided a record of special moments of the past four years that might have otherwise faded away. It has ebbed and flowed with the happenings in my life, and has been witness to the growth of my family with grandsons Henry and Peter. It follows the connections of children, siblings, extended family, and friends. It has seen me through significant job transitions. This blog has been a passion and though, sometimes, I wonder just how many hours I've spent writing, and baking, and writing about baking -- time that could have been spent doing other significant things -- I don't regret one second. I write for you. For me. Especially for my kids and grandchildren. Russ tells me I write as if I'm writing "to the universe." Perhaps that's true. Investing so much, with no promise of financial reward at the end, must mean that it's worth it in ways that can't be measured in dollars and cents.

I've previously said that, when this blog was first launched, I was cautioned by an I.T. person, "Most blogs last six months, if that." I saw that as a challenge, to prove his prediction wrong. Four years later, I clearly have, yet I still work toward that challenge, inspired to write in a way that will relate to my readers, to bring them something real, something genuine, perhaps not always right, or pretty, or perfect, but something sincere. If I can write a few paragraphs that brighten your day, or inspire you to create, or provoke thought, or even provide a few moments of escape from a difficult day, then I've accomplished what I've set out to do.

There are many more-polished blogs out there, and I must admit that now and then I suffer an extreme case of blog envy, especially when I see what others contribute compared to what I do. But then, I realize that what I bring to the table is unique, and personal, and very real, and something my own. My confidence is restored when I remember that, as the CEO of this little operation, there's no one to tell me it's not good enough, to go back and rewrite, to reject what I submit. Here, I am the boss of me! :)

So, with my "Field of Dreams"-esque attitude of "If you write it, they will come," I have faith that this effort is worth it, that you will come back again to see what's new, to read about it all.  And I am grateful, very grateful.

Thank you, ADK Baker readers.  The fact that you are here, reading this, means the world to me.  I appreciate each and every one of you.



photo credit: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Ow19sN5lNxg/UX6jcDUuLUI/AAAAAAAACy8/eI4B7AIZabw/s1600/birthday4.jpg



Friday, May 24, 2013

Insanely Easy Home-Made Glazed Doughnuts

While I research healthier recipes to post on this blog (a promise to you and to myself!), I bring you something not quite so healthy, but very simple and satisfying -- the easiest home-made glazed doughnut.  This is a recipe for a doughnut so quick and delicious that you won't believe you did it yourself! It all starts with a loaf of frozen bread dough. While partially thawed, you slice the loaf into even rounds. When the rounds are thawed through, a hole is poked in the middle and the each round is stretched into a ring. The doughnuts are then set to rise to about double their size, and then quickly fried, one side and then the other, in a small pot with about an inch/inch-and-a-half of hot canola oil. They are then drained on paper towels and finally coated with a thin confectioners sugar glaze. And eaten, yes, they are eaten!

Coming soon - I'm concocting another doughnut, without the hole, filled with pastry cream and covered in chocolate ganache -- my version of a Boston Cream Doughnut (I'll have to give them ALL away!)... Soon, I promise!

Here's the step-by-step in photos:

EASIEST HOME-MADE GLAZED DOUGHNUTS

Frozen bread dough, 1 lb. loaf
canola oil, enough to fill pot 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep*
confectioners sugar
water

Allow bread dough to thaw in refrigerator for a few hours until it is soft but still firm:



On cutting board, slice loaf into 8-12 even rounds. Place rounds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper that's been sprayed with cooking spray. Lightly spray rounds and cover with a kitchen towel or lightly with plastic wrap:




When thawed through,  poke a hole in the center and pull dough into ring. Cover again and let rise in warm area of kitchen until doubled in size.:




In small pot on stove, heat canola oil to shimmering (med to med/high heat). Carefuly drop one doughnut into oil and cook until golden on the bottom. NOTE: This happens quickly.VERY CAREFULLY turn doughnut over and allow other side to get to the same golden color. These can get too brown in a hurry so watch carefully:



Remove cooked doughnut to a tray lined with paper towels:



Repeat with remaining doughnuts (it goes very quickly).

Place cooling doughnuts on wire rack over a piece of parchment paper. Spoon glaze evenly over tops of doughnuts.



GLAZE

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
water

In a medium sized bowl, whisk confectioners sugar with a little bit of water, a few teaspoons at a time, until you've added enough water to make a thin glaze.  It doesn't take much, so go sparingly with the water.  When the glaze thins to a point where it coats a spoon or fork without running off too quickly, you've reached the right consistency.  Spoon over doughnuts and allow to coat completely.  Let set until the glaze has firmed up, and enjoy your own home-made doughnuts.

*Oil can be saved in an air-tight container and used again.



Saturday, May 18, 2013

Vanilla-Lemon Layer Cake with Fluffy Lemon Buttercream and Strawberries!

Just wanted to get this photo posted ~ the recipe is coming tomorrow when I have a few spare minutes! It's a vanilla-lemon layer cake with fluffy lemon buttercream, filled and topped with gorgeous strawberries!  It's the birthday cake for my friend Chris's mother-in-law. I hope she had a spectacular 95th birthday!  Stop back for more about this cake tomorrow!



OK, it's tomorrow and I'm back with the recipe! This is a great recipe adapted from
"The Whiteout Cake" from one of my prized cookbooks: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Friends Sari and Holly gave me this book as a gift after I made a little "welcome home from your wedding" post-wedding cake a few years ago, which was also a white cake (and I hear they are expecting a baby any day!).

I find this recipe to be always successful, and very adaptable, flavor-wise. It calls for a blending of cake flour along with all-purpose, and sometimes, when I just don't have cake flour, I use all, all-purpose flour, and the flavor is great but the texture is a little less tender.

Making the cake batter is a 4-step process, but not difficult.  You just have to be organized: you sift the dry ingredients together, mix shortening and butter with sugar, egg, and extracts, alternately add dry ingredients with ice water, and then fold in beaten egg whites. If you're willing, here's the recipe! Of course, if you prefer to do something much simpler, you could add lemon extract to a good-quality white cake mix, but I highly recommend you try this recipe and let me know what you think!

One last word about BAKED...authors Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito have brick-and-mortar bakeries in New York City and in Charleston, South Carolina. Wish I knew that last year when we were dropping my nephew Will off at the College of Charleston! If I am ever fortunate enough to visit Charleston (and Will!) again, I will be sure to visit BAKED as well!


VANILLA-LEMON LAYER CAKE WITH FLUFFY LEMON BUTTERCREAM AND STRAWBERRIES
(adapted from the Whiteout Cake in Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit
Prepare 2 8- or 9-inch round cake pans by spraying with cooking spray, lining with a parchment paper circle, and spraying the parchment paper

Cake ingredients:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon (yes) pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
3 large egg whites (room temperature)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
fluffy lemon buttercream (recipe below)
strawberries (as many as you like)
2 tablespoons strawberry jam, melted

Directions:
Sift together onto large wax paper square: flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside. If you don't have a sifter, you can tap the dry ingredients though a mesh strainer - that's what I do.

In large mixing bowl, beat together butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla and lemon extracts, and 1 egg.  Beat until very well combined.

Alternately add flour mixture with ice water until completely incorporated.

In another mixer bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form (do not overbeat).  Gently fold beaten egg whites into cake batter until well blended. Divide batter among pans, but do not fill more than 1/2 to 3/4 full.  If you have extra batter, make some cupcakes!

Bake in center rack of oven for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pans after 30 minutes if necessary. Cake is done when toothpick inserted comes out dry, or surface of cake springs back when lightly pressed. I'd check the cake at 35 minutes for doneness, depending on your own oven.

Cool on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely (at least a few hours). Level layers with a sharp knife so that the cake stacks properly when frosted.

FLUFFY LEMON BUTTERCREAM 

1/4 cup soft butter
1/4 cup shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 pound confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed

Cream butter and shortening in a large mixer bowl, beating until light and fluffy.  Add extracts and beat until completely incorporated. Add confectioners sugar alternately with milk, starting off very slowly (or you'll have a cloud of sugar!) and beat very well, adding more milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it's just as light and fluffy as you'd like it.

Using about a cup of frosting, fill the layers (no frosting on the sides of this cake), and then slice as many strawberries as you'd like and place on top of frosting before topping with next layer. I put a few tablespoons of frosting here and there over the bottom layer of strawberries just to hold the layers securely.

Place top layer on top of strawberries, and frost the top as you did the bottom, with about a cup (or more) of frosting. Arrange sliced strawberries in a pretty pattern on top of cake. Using a clean paintbrush, apply melted jam to strawberries to retain moisture and provide a pretty glaze.

I decided to pipe a pretty ring of frosting around the cake where the layers are joined. Because I never know when to quit!

Have a lovely week ahead!







Friday, May 17, 2013

Brick Cookies!

Today I delivered 40 brick sugar cookies to an office at Skidmore College (where I work). These cookies were to be given to the parents of the Class of 2013 Parents Fund, and also to the College's Board of Trustees. When I was asked if I could make cookies that looked like the bricks that the Parents Fund provides for graduating seniors, and are located in a patio on beautiful Case Green, I was sure I could. I just had no idea about how to go about it. After a little thought, I realized I could cut sugar cookie dough into rectangles, ice the baked cookies with royal frosting, and decorate them like the bricks that bear our graduates' names. I got the brick-like finish by blotting the dark grey/black icing with a paper towel onto a paper plate until it was almost dry, and then dabbing the paper towel onto the brick-colored icing that had dried overnight.

Using Alton Brown's sugar cookie recipe, my tried-and-true and absolute favorite, I added a little bit of lemon flavor, this time with extract. Sometimes grated lemon rind does the trick.  It's very versatile flavor-wise. You can't go wrong with AB's sugar cookie recipe!

Here are a few photos of Brick Cookies!:






Thanks for stopping by! Please come again!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dark Chocolate Pound Cake, the Easy Way!

OK, we turned the heat off and tonight it's 45 degrees F and dropping! To warm up my little garage apartment, there's a cake in the oven.  It's the easiest, quickest cake I could throw together to get this place warmed up. I started with a dark chocolate cake mix, added instant pudding, eggs, oil, and water. It's baking now in an old and trusty bundt pan. It is so old that the yellow coating on the outside has peeled off and there are just patches of it here and there. I think my mother got it for me with S&H Green Stamps! That should tell you how old it is, circa 1974 I'm guessing, the year I got married! This tough cookie of a pan outlasted the marriage by almost two decades, and it's still going strong!



It's been through a lot!


EASY DARK CHOCOLATE POUND CAKE
Oven - 350 degrees F
Bundt pan, sprayed with cooking spray

Ingredients:
1 dark chocolate cake mix (I used Pillsbury Moist Supreme)
1 box instant chocolate pudding mix, 4-serving size (I used Jello brand)
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water

Directions:
In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well for 2 minutes.  Pour batter (actually, it's pretty thick, so you may have to spoon batter) into prepared bundt pan.

Bake for 45 minutes until cake tests done (toothpick or press test).

Remove to wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.  Turn cake out of pan onto wire rack.  Cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
water

In medium bowl, stir confectioners sugar and cocoa.  Add water, just a few teaspoons, and stir with fork.  Continue adding water and stirring, just a few drops at a time, until glaze is thick and flows slowly off a fork.  Glaze top of cake and let the glaze run down the side.  Let sit for a while for the glaze to set.







Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

To celebrate Mother's Day and to give my daughter Katie a much needed break, I took Henry and Peter with me this morning for a few hours. While we were in Posie Peddler buying flowers for Katie, who walked in behind us but Bill, Katie's husband, ready to pick up an arrangement of yellow roses that made our purchase look pretty meager! Henry and Peter had already chosen tiny spray roses for their bouquet - Henry chose orange and Peter yellow. Orange is Henry's favorite color and if you ask Pete the color of anything, he says "yellow" even if he means green, red, or blue. So, to those roses we added some pretty babies' breath, lacy greens, and my addition of black-eyed Susans. We also chose flowers for Grammy Eddy, the boys' great-grandmother. After we left the flower shop, we visited Grammy for an hour or so and had a lovely visit. The boys' cousins Hannah and Katie were visiting as well, and it was so nice to sit and catch up with this amazing woman who raised six sons and has always been the best mother-in-law and Grammy anyone could ever ask for (right alongside my own Mom, of course!).

I then loaded the boys back into the Jeep and we headed to McDonalds because I had promised them a Happy Meal and time at the playground (right in the McDonalds). Lunch was barely eaten (I had one of those new grilled chicken wraps, sweet chili, and it was really good!), milk was spilled, and the boys were reluctantly extracted from the playground so we could go to the grocery store and finally head home. It all seemed to go pretty quickly but it was a good three hours out of the house, and I consider that my gift to Katie for Mother's Day! To hear Pete, when he got out of the car at home, yell with such excitement and pride to his mother "I bought you flowers!" just made my day. Such cute little guys, my grandsons! (she says humbly!)...

Henry's Mother's Day card for Katie, and the trivett he made at pre-K.
He calls it "abstract art!"

Now that we're home, I am making Apple Pie Bars (encore from last week's blog recipe) because no one had any last time -- they were all designated for the wedding and all I could do was tease my family with the possibility!  So, for Mother's Day dessert, apple pie bars are in the oven. Pete's taking a nap, Henry's helping his parents get the garden prepared (though all I've seen him do is go a little crazy with the hose, aimed at the chickens!).  I'm here in my upstairs apartment, like a bird on a perch, enjoying the busy-ness outside as the aroma of apples, spices, and a buttery crust wafts through my kitchen. My son-in-law Bill has ordered take-out from a great Italian restaurant in Ballston Spa, Augie's, because he said no mother should have to cook today. Well, I didn't have to cook, but I was inspired to bake, and I still have a little kitchen duty, but I don't mind a bit!

It's Mother's Day, and life is good!




and my wish for the day:



Friday, May 10, 2013

Banana Berry Smoothie! Delicious Nutrition!

Sometimes, when I need a nutritional meal but don't want to cook, I make a smoothie. This one, a banana berry smoothie, is great because it combines low-fat greek yogurt with frozen chunks of bananas as well as frozen blueberries and strawberries. I take bananas just past their peak and cut into 2-inch chunks and freeze in a zippered freezer bag, so they're ready when I am. My freezer is always stocked with frozen berries, since I use them for baking all the time. A can of whipped cream is a staple in my fridge -  just a little bit makes so many things so much better!

You can come up with all kinds of custom smoothies, depending on what fruits you have available. Try adding even more protein and fiber with flax meal, wheat germ, or protein powder. You can even add peanut butter! It's completely your own designer smoothie!

Whenever you have fresh fruit that you can't use up, chunk it up and freeze it! You will be very grateful when the time comes to whip up a delicious meal in just a matter of seconds!

BANANA BERRY SMOOTHIE!

1 frozen banana, in chunks (3 to 4 2-inch chunks)
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
4 frozen strawberries (or 4 large fresh)
1/2 to 1 cup Greek yogurt, vanilla (or your favorite yogurt)
1/4 cup milk, skim to whole, your preference

In blender, pour milk.  Add yogurt, then fruit.  With cover on securely, mix well, and blend until completely smooth.  If it's too thick, you can add more milk, a few tablespoons at a time.

Pour into a tall glass, spritz with whipped cream, and drink through a straw.

Instant vacation!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cheesecake Stuffed Blueberry Coffee Cake Loaf

Recently I posted (on facebook) a photo of a coffee cake I brought into work as a "thank you" to my co-workers for a great first four weeks on the job. I never got around to posting the recipe, so tonight I bring you a great coffee cake loaf, stuffed with cheesecake filling, with blueberries, a cinnamon streusel topping, and light glaze.  To make this, I took my favorite coffee cake recipe (adapted from Cooking Light), made a cheesecake filling, used frozen blueberries and topped it all with a brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. The coffee cake loaf was a huge success, so much so that the morning crew devoured it, and the staff that comes in at noon missed out! To make up for that, the next week I brought in a lemon bundt cake and didn't put it out until noon. That way, everyone had an even shot at getting a slice of gratitude!



Here's the recipe:

CHEESECAKE STUFFED BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE LOAF
Oven 375 degrees F
Standard bread loaf pan, bottom lined in parchment paper, sprayed with cooking spray

Coffee Cake Batter:

1/4 cup soft butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cheesecake Filling:

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, dusted with a tablespoon of flour

Cinnamon topping:

1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Confectioners sugar glaze

Directions:

Make coffee cake batter: Beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add sour cream and extracts. Beat well until completely blended. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix well until completely incorporated.

Make cheesecake filling: Beat cream cheese with sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add extracts and flour, and beat thoroughly until no (or very few) lumps remain.

In prepared pan, pour/smooth 1/2 the coffee cake batter. Sprinkle with half the blueberries. Add all of the cheesecake mixture, covering entire surface. Sprinkle the rest of the blueberries. Top with the remaining batter.

Mix together the cinnamon topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over top of batter.

On center rack of preheated 375-degree oven, bake for 40-50 minutes OR (important) until loaf tests done when a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry OR when the loaf springs back when pressed lightly in the center. Another clue that it's about done: you can really smell the aroma of the baked loaf.

Cool on wire rack for half hour. To remove from pan, cover top of loaf with a dishtowel (to keep streusel from falling off!) and invert loaf into your hand, then turn it over onto a wire rack to complete cooling.

Drizzle confectioners sugar glaze lightly over the top (1 cup confectioners sugar mixed with water, a teaspoon at a time, until it flows in a thick stream off a fork - be careful to add only a little water at a time or it will become too thin very quickly). When it looks like Elmer's glue, it's done. You don't have to use it all - just as much as you want.

Hope you enjoy this recipe. I know you'll love the coffee cake!








Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Wedding Dessert Table, and Apple Pie Bars

Yesterday was a very busy day in my baking life. My co-worker, Pam, had trusted me to bake for her wedding (she's a former wedding planner!). So, a little after noon yesterday, Katie and I packed up my Jeep with the goodies I'd been baking for days, before and after work, and I was on my way. In the back of the Jeep: wedding cake tiers (to be assembled on-site - makes for a much less stressful commute!), and a variety of desserts - his and hers - for the dessert table. On the "hers" side: cupcakes and carrot cake petit fours. Pam was also having a fruit platter and coconut macaroons provided by the caterer. On the "his" side: big squares of brownies with, and also without, nuts; apple pie bars (recipe follows), as well as Italian cookies, also provided by the caterer.  Pam and Joe were married at Pat's Barn, part of the RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) Industrial Park, but there was nothing industrial about the setting, it was much more park-like. They had a beautiful day, with blue skies, a light breeze, and temperatures in the 70s. Pat's Barn is a beautiful venue, and I enjoyed the hour or so I spent there setting up the wedding cake and dessert tables. While I was setting up, a representative for RPI events came through with a number of couples showing the space as they prepared for Pam's reception. They stopped to watch as I worked, as the blank canvas of two white tiers came to life with vines and flowers. It was fun to explain what I was doing, and to reiterate that I am NOT a professional when asked for a card!  I explained that I bake only for good friends and family when I have time, and enjoy that so much. To become a professional would take the joy out of my part-time passion, I am afraid. Who knows, maybe one day when I retire from the 9-5 I may become more active, but for now, I am happy to share my amateur pursuits with you!

And speaking of sharing, below you will find photos of the cake and desserts, followed by the recipe for apple pie bars, one that I requested from my BFF Sue Valenti. This is her recipe, word for word, with no changes. Sue grew up in the UP of Michigan, where "bars" are a favorite dessert.  There are all kinds.  But her recipe for apple pie bars is one of her specialties! I found a number of variations on-line as well. (Here's another version, from Taste of Home - interesting to see the regional differences.)

Sue and I worked side-by-side for a few years, and became very fast, and life-long, friends. She retired from Skidmore College three years ago, but we still have lunch together at least once a week, and dinner once in a while. She and her husband Pete are terrific people, and I love their kids. They are like a second family to me, and I am so glad to have them in my life. So thank you, Sue, for sharing your best recipes with me, but more, your time and friendship.


Apple Pie Bars, Brownies with and without nuts, assorted cupcakes, petit fours


Congratulations to Pam and Joe!


APPLE PIE BARS

Crust:

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups butter or margarine (not shortening)
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 1/2 tablespoons cold water

Mix flour and butter like pie crust. Mix the egg, egg yolk, lemon juice and water in a separate bowl.  Add liquid to the flour mixture and blend well with a fork ( the mixture will be quite moist, not dry like a pie crust). Roll out half of the dough and place in a jelly roll pan. Roll out the remaining half for the top. (This dough tends to rip easily because it is so rich, but it patches well and doesn't show.)

Filling:

10-14 apples
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons tapioca
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Peel and slice apples like you would for a pie.  Combine dry ingredients and mix with the apples.

Place the apples onto the crust and distribute evenly.  Place the top half of the crust on top of the apples and seal the edges (I usually have the bottom crust hang over the edge of the pan a bit and then fold that up onto the top of the top crust).

Bake at 375 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.

While still a little warm, frost with powdered sugar frosting.  It will be like a heavy glaze.

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Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to bringing you more recipes and stories about my baking, so come back again!