Baker's Corner: Easy Apple Strudel

This is how I imagine the conversation between you, the reader, and this Baker's Corner blog post:

Reader: "My my my, it's been a while. I've almost forgotten about you, you little Baker's Corner, you. And now you're showing your face here again. You ought to be embarrassed. But...I suppose, if you have something special to share then we can let it pass...just this once."

Baker's Corner: "Oh thank you, thank you! You won't regret it. I promise! And I swear I'll be around more frequently. It's just that it's been busy, you know."

Reader: "I guess so. So, what's so good that you're coming back to these parts?"

Baker's Corner: "It's for the Apple Strudel! It's easy and oh so good. I can't wait to make it for you." 

Reader: "Well, get hopping. Maybe you can make it for Easter."

Baker's Corner: "Yes, yes! An excellent idea!"

That was corny. But, I like corny. I am corny. And I like apple strudel. I made this over the weekend since Josh has been asking me to make Apple Strudel for ages. Honestly, I've been complete intimidated by it. But now, now I know, it's actually easy! And it's delicious. Seriously, get in the kitchen!!!

Easy Apple Strudel

Ingredients:

1 puff pastry sheet, thawed according to instructions

Apple Filling:
4 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced*
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Raisins (Optional):
1/4 cup raisins
1-2 Tbsp rum

Breadcrumbs:
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tea cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Topping: 
Egg wash (1 egg, beaten)
4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (4 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon combined)

Directions:

Remove one sheet of puff pastry from freezer and thaw according to instructions. Usually overnight in the refrigerator, or for 2 hours. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Apple Filling: Add apples, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and vanilla in a bowl and toss to combine; set aside for minutes 15 minutes to sweat (or longer, if desired). Add in flour and toss to combine.

Raisins: Soak raisins in rum for 15 minutes, or longer, until plump. (Note: You can totally skip the raisins if you don't like them. But they are soaked in rum, so...)

Breadcrumbs: In a small skillet over medium-low heat, melt  butter and add the breadcrumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to coat and cook, stirring frequently as they can burn quickly, until crumbs are an even golden brown and very fragrant. Don’t let them burn. Scrape into a dish (or they’ll keep cooking in the pan) and set aside.

Assembly: Roll out puff pastry to a 12x16 rectangle on top of a sheet of parchment paper, Lightly score puff pastry into three vertical columns, with the middle column being 7 inches wide and the two outer columns at 2½ inches. Cut slits on either side of the center column to 1 inch wide and 2½ inches long.

Place breadcrumb mixture in the center of the puff pastry then the apple mixture (Note: if there is any juices in the apple bowl, leave them out!). Then fold top of puff pastry down by pulling alternating slits from one side to the other, making sure ends reach the edge of filling. Brush egg wash on top and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. For extra crunch, finish with a sprinkling of coarse sugar.

Transfer strudel on top of parchment paper to the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 350. Then increase the temperature to 400 and bake 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing. 

Serve with vanilla ice cream and/or coffee! 

* Apple Note: I used 3 extra large Fuji apples. It would probably be 4-5 smaller apples. Honeycrisp would also be delicious! Then, to slice the apples, I used a mandolin on the thinnest setting (or just slice it very thin).

Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Read Food by Dad.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast is important. Yes, I'm for Team Breakfast. Breakfast for the win! 

The way I see it there are people who eat breakfast and love it, and then there are the others...those that skip breakfast. Why??? Sure, the claims that it's the most important meal have been downgraded, but it's still important! I fully support a good breakfast. And so does Josh because otherwise I would be one crazy gal to deal with everyday. In fact, I usually wake up hungry and need food ASAP. Of course, these days little guy comes first, but I eat as soon as possible after him. 

Ever since I discovered Marge Granola at the Ballard Farmer's Market, I have been eating granola and yogurt for breakfast. This has been a couple of years now. Before Marge I had no idea granola was so good. So so so good. Then I upgraded it even more by using Ellenos yogurt. Even if you're a yogurt hater, you'll like Ellenos. It's so so so good. My favorite flavors are the ginger raspberry and marionberry. Oh, the lemon curb is delicious as well (although I don't think it "matches" the granola flavors as much). 

Yogurt + Granola = Breakfast of Champions. This is the equation for the best breakfast.  Not only is it delicious, it's nutritious, gives you energy, and keeps you full until lunch. Oh, and be sure to have a cup of coffee....that's the trifecta. 

Before Caleb was born I made my own granola on occasion and mostly just bought Marge's Granola, but now I have really gotten into making it (during Caleb's naps). It's actually very easy. I even got my mom addicted to making it. Now, I have a few recipes I love, but recently I've settled down with my very own creation. I've fine-tuned it to be similar to Marge, but also has it's own unique flavor. I cut down on the sugar and oil to make it more healthy, too. Sometimes I'll change up the seeds and nuts to make it different, but the base is the same. 

Because I love you guys, I'm going to share my recipe. Yay! 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups rolled old-fashioned oats 
  • 1/2 cup chopped, raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup sliced, raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas 
  • 3 Tbsp flaxseed meal (optional...kinda)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil 
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 Tbsp minced crystalized ginger (optional...kinda)
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries and/or raisins (a mix of both!)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 300 F. With the exception of the cranberries/raisins, mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and spoon out onto a large, rimmed baking sheet.

Bake 45 minutes. Be sure to stir halfway through, so granola doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan and/or burn.

Eat and enjoy!

If you don't trust me, then here's some recipes from the experts that I also enjoy making as well.

I also enjoy some other items for breakfast, but this is what I eat pretty much everyday. I hope you give it a try. It's worth it...believe me. 

Baker's Corner: Citrus & Summer

Gosh, it's hard to follow up that last post with the big news. Although, if there is going to be something to follow that up, I think baked goods is it. Everyone loves baked goods, right? If you don't, I know don't if we can be friends anymore. I kid. Maybe. 

I realized besides the pie post, I really haven't done a baker's corner in a while. I think part of the issue is that it's summer and it's hot, and my baked goods slows. Summer started earlier than usual here, and who wants the oven on during a hot day (note: no air conditioning either)? 

Hot weather doesn't always stop me, though. I made two pretty delicious recipes that were no bake. Also, I tend to love citrus flavors in the warmer weather. Let's dive in...

Blood Orange Loaf Cake (Annie's Eats): This is very much like a pound cake, but with a citrus twist. We received some blood oranges in our Full Circle box, so I decided to try this recipe out. I made it for dessert when I had a co-worker come over for dinner. It turned out great. I ran out of oranges for the candied orange top, so I did lemon instead. My only note/tip on this recipe is to be sure to have 3-4 blood oranges rather than just the two I had on hand.

Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars (Pioneer Woman): These are a favorite of mine. I've probably shared them before, but they are just so good plus easy to make. I like lemon bars, but I like these better. I just love the crumb topping and the sweet, just slightly tangy center. Oh so good. If you make anything from this post, make these.

Lemon Yogurt Sheet Cake (Mel's Kitchen): I made these for dessert when we went over to a friend's house to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones. Lemon cakes are Sansa Stark's favorite, so it seemed fitting. This seemed more of a snack type cake to me, but still quite tasty with just a bit of chewiness. I used two round cake pans instead of the rectangle pan - you know, to classic them up. 

Rustic Peach Galette (Sally's Baking Addiction): Do you call it a galette, crostada, or a tart? Just depends where you're from because they are all essentially the same thing (read it here). Luckily, they all sound rather fancy. For this recipe, I just used all peaches - five peaches did just the trick. I also left out most of the fruit juices to avoid it from spreading out and getting too goopy. This was so yummy with a bit of vanilla ice cream. Do it. Do it.

Brown Butter Peanut Butter Crispy Treats (Girl vs. Dough / Joy the Baker): You can probably make these in the amount of time it takes you to say their name. These are a delicious, quick, and best yet no bake treat. Salty and sweet with some gooey and crunch. I made these since I really wanted to make something but it was just too hot. The recipe is in my Joy the Baker cookbook, but I found the recipe online for you, too. 

Fooled you...you thought I was done after all the above, but no there's more. 

No-Bake Banana Cream Cheesecakes (How Sweet It Is): These were our 4th of July treat. It was another hot day, and the oven was not going to be turned on - heck no. Josh and I had both drooled about banana pudding the night before, so naturally I made these. They were pretty good. I'm not a huge cheesecake fan, but I have to say these are quite tasty. These especially fun since I put them in little jars - too cute. I ended up using cool whip for the topping instead of making it - shortcuts are allowed, you with me? 

The World's Best Chocolate Cake (Pinch of Yum): This was quite a success. I love oats - anything oaty always gets me - and chocolate is good, but I'm not a die hard chocolate girl (so sue me!). When I saw these I figured it would be the perfect fit for me - a nice chocolate treat but not crazy with oats! I made them for the office potluck, and I think it was the first dessert to go. I would name them Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cakey Brownies if I had originated the recipe, though. These are like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies meet chocolate cake. 

Banana Carrot Cake (Mel's Kitchen): I decided to make this when I had too many carrots and too many bananas. It was very moist and delicious - great for breakfast or a snack, and maybe dessert if you wanted something sweet but not crazy-dessert sweet. I love a good loaf cake and it makes breakfast so enjoyable.

And there you have it. I hope this inspires you to go to the kitchen and make something delicious!!

Baker's Corner: Oh My Pie!

Do you want some pie? Oh my! I would love some pie. Maybe a piece of this...

Lemon Meringue Pie

Or a piece of that...

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I have a confession. It's serious. I thought I didn't like pie for the longgggest time. I don't know why. I would only get Boston Cream Pie, which really isn't a pie. Or I might pick out the bananas in banana cream. My parents often picked up Marie Callender's pie for Sunday night dessert, and I'd grumble. If only I knew what I was missing.

Then when we moved to Seattle and the idea for pie instead of cake for our wedding came up, I started to like pie. Maybe I just hadn't had the right pie. Or maybe my tastes changed. Or maybe I was just plain crazy. Luckily for me, I saw the light and now I like pie. 

My favorite pie...oh that's hard...but if I had to chose it would be Apple pie with crumble topping. I love crumble topping. Then again, I made this apple pie once and it was heavenly. But wait, I love pumpkin pie too like this one. Ohh, and graham cracker crusts. That's another favorite. At our wedding, we had pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust. It was superb. 

Anyway, do I have you craving pie yet? I hope so because I made two pies recently and I want YOU to make them, too. Get into that kitchen my friend! 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

The inspiration for this pie came when I found rhubarb growing in our backyard. It was a sign - a sign to make pie! My favorite pairing with rhubarb is strawberry. Strawberries and rhubarb, rhubarb and strawberries...it's like peanut butter & jelly or coffee & donuts...classic. Plus, the strawberries add a nice sweetness. I had to buy the strawberries, though. They weren't magically growing my backyard. 

For the recipe, I went with the trusty Joy the Baker's Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie. I pretty much followed the recipe to the tee, but left out the pecans and coconut in the crumble. Why? I don't like coconut flakes and I didn't have pecans. It turned out great. 

I did make double the crust, though. I stored the second crust in the refrigerator since I knew I'd want to make another pie soon. 

Lemon Meringue Pie

And sure enough, I did make another pie soon after. I made it for my in-laws that were visiting. I saved a whole step in the pie making process with having the pre-made pie. I think I'll always make double the crust now - just nice to have on hand for pie emergencies.

This time I wanted to make something new. I was stuck between banana cream and lemon. I think you can figure out where I landed with my decision. I was a bit intimidated by the meringue, but it wasn't all that tough after all. Also, I was always under the assumption you needed a torch tool for meringue pies - wrong! 

One thing to know before you head into this pie - you bake the crust first. I thought you thoroughly baked it, but you should only par-bake it. I would try this next go-around since the edges were a bit crunchy. Still delicious, though.

This time I went with another trusty resource, Gimme Some Oven's Lemon Meringue Pie. Again, I followed the recipe with really no modifications. It was delicious and I think everyone who ate it agrees with me.

Now get out there and make a pie! 

Baker's Corner: Christmas Cookies 2014

It's Christmas Eve and my cookies are ready just in time to set out for Santa tonight. And I tell you, he's got a lot of cookies to eat! Funny since at the beginning of December I was extremely worried I wouldn't have time to make barely any cookies. But somehow I managed to squeeze in several. Yay for cookies!

Gingerbread Macarons

Of course, I wanted to make macarons, my current favorite. Making macarons takes a quite a bit of time, but I divided it out between days. I made the shells on a Sunday (letting them dry before baking while grocery shopping), and then the filling later. The shells freeze nicely, in fact, the cookies freeze well which makes advanced baking a breeze.

Although I made gingerbread macarons last year, I tried a different recipe out this year. I think I liked these even better. I was more than ecstatic to see I had zero cracks in the shells. No joke, this fact made my day. Better yet, these were absolutely delicious. Huzzah!

Get the Recipe from It's Just Chicken

Peppermint Crinkles

I coordinated a cookie exchange at work this year, which I still hope to write about. I called it the Great Oracle Christmas Cookie Swap. For the swap, I made these peppermint crinkles. I hadn't made them before, but they turned out great (whew!). The batter seems super runny, but after refrigerating them, it works. Trust me. Another interesting thing with these cookies is that they only have 1/3 cup flour and include nutella. Beware, these are crazy chocolately.

Get the Recipe from Baker's Royale

Gingerbread Biscotti

This was the year of gingerbread I guess since I made the gingerbread macarons, pepparkakor which are gingerbread-like, and then these gingerbread biscottis. What's great about biscotti, is it's pretty easy. You make a log with the dough, bake it, slice it, and bake it again. Yes, biscotti is a twice baked cookie which makes them great for dipping in coffee or tea. I dipped mine in Trader Joe's Peppermint tea. Yum!

Get the Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Pepparkakor

No Christmas passes without making Pepparkakor. I have to carry on the tradition from my Grandma Norma who always made these. They are a Swedish cookie, and have lots of delicious spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. This time I added a tad of cardamon and allspice. These are similar to gingerbread cookies, but thinner and crispier.

Recipe is a secret! (If you're nice, maybe I'll share someday!)

Krum Kager

This is another Grandma Norma cookie. For the longest time my family said these were Swedish cookies only to learn that they are actually Norwegian. Still they are Scandinavian, so we're covered. These are like a wafer-thin butter cookie that is made with a cookie iron and then rolled - sort of like a waffle cookie! They are pesky cookies since they are delicate and break easily, but they are so pretty. I didn't make the dough, my mom did that, but I did the cookie creation - pressing, rolling, and sugar sprinkles.

Another Handed down recipe, but this one is pretty similar from Recipes from Grandma.

Spritz

This is a John O'Neill favorite. He literally took the tin after dinner and started eating them. I'm not going to lie, but it was quite the battle with the cookie press. My mom had two cookie presses, and I killed the first part. Then the other one was battery operated and just worked poorly. But I conquered and managed to make these gems. Normally, I like to use green sprinkles, but we only had the colorful ones so just imagine they are ornaments on the trees.

Get the recipe below! You're welcome.

Spritz Recipe

From the Kitchen of Grandma Norma, Jan O'Neill, and now Heather Brown.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Colored Sprinkles - Red & Green for Christmas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees/

Cream butter, add sugar and cream thoroughly. Add extract, egg, and then flour. We recommend refrigerating this for 2-3 hours.

Push dough into cookie press, and then press onto a greased baking sheet. Shake on sprinkles before baking. Bake 7-10 minutes in 350 degree oven (Note: watch the temperate, the original recipe called for 400 but we found that too hot and burning the edges).

Let cool 1-2 minutes, and then remove from pan. Let cool and enjoy!

Baker's Corner: Joy's Book Signing & Pumpkin Pie

I mentioned yesterday that I was going make a pie for Thanksgiving. And I did! It was glorious! The inspiration came from a recent book signing I went to for Joy the Baker. Time out...yes, OMG, I met Joy the Baker! She's real. And she baked! Ahhh! Okay, calm again. 

At the book signing Joy, demoed the making of pumpkin praline pies using a recipe from her new cookbook, Homemade Decadence. And you know what's even better? Joy, and the folks that hosted the signing at Book Larder, made everyone mini pumpkin praline pies. Deliciousness. I new at the moment I devoured my mini pie* that I decided I would make this pie.  (*I also plotted a way to sneak a second mini pie. Sadly, it was a no go).

I'm sure you're like, "ya ya ya"...you met Joy the Baker...big deal. But, I counter that with this question: Do you like what I bake up? Well, many of these goodies are Joy's recipes. Appreciation! Also, we are both Joys. Her first name is Joy, my middle name is Joy. It's meant to be...we should totally be besties. With her in New Orleans, I don't think it'll happen. 

But Let's get to my pie now. Here's me Heather Joy the Baker and the new cookbook...

I've had a sugar pumpkin on our table as decoration for a few weeks. I knew it was going to die soon, so I decided to make pumpkin puree. I don't always use real pumpkin because honestly the canned stuff works totally fine and is still delicious. But i didn't want to pumpkin to rot and then not have a chance to fulfill it's destiny. Doesn't every pumpkin dream of becoming a pie?

{Pumpkin Puree} It's actually easy...I swear. Cut the pumpkin in half and place face down on a foiled pan (with cooking spray). Bake in a preheated 350 oven for ~1 hour. Let it cool and then scope out the seeds (the "yucky" stuff as my younger self would have said). Then scope out the flesh. I used my hand mixer to smooth it out, but I'm sure a fork or something would work as well. (Psst! I do this with butternut squash, too!)

{Pie Crust} Seriously, though, the canned stuff is just fine. So, now onto the pie crust. Joy's buttermilk pie crust is wonderful and pretty forgiving. Josh specifically complimented the crust, so that's a win as well. I made the crust the night before and just popped it in the fridge overnight. Tips...

  • Cold Butter - The one of the keys to success with pie crust is to make sure the butter is super cold.
  • Butter or Shortening - There is the age old question: butter or shortening. Joy says butter. Think about it...butter tastes better, so wouldn't you naturally want to put what tastes better in the crust. Uhh, makes sense to me. 

{Pie Curst Rolling} A few tips Joy shared about pie crusts. 

  • Don't overwork the dough. Try to keep the rolling to a minimum. If you roll it out and then the dough springs back, then you're close to the end. BTW, I hate when recipes say don't overwork or overmix. Well, gosh, what does that mean exactly. I especially liked this tip.
  • Rotate it. When rolling, rotate the crust as you go. Do a roll or two, and then turn it. 
  • Lift it. When you near the edge of the dough, don't continue to push down so the roller hits the table. Roll and lift. This will keep it from thinning too much at the edges. 
  • The Transfer. This tip is from a friend: To transfer the crust to the dish, roll it around on the rolling pin, and then un-roll it over the dish.
  • The Pan. Oh, and Joy recommends a thinner, tin pie pan. This heats up the crust better. Don't use glass...apparently glass takes a long time to heat up. 
  • Pre-Bake? Not really necessary, unless you're doing a cream pie. 
  • The Edges. Use your thumb and forefinger of one hand, and the forefinger knuckle of the other. I need to practice this one myself!

{The Filling} This is probably the easiest part, if you ask me. This recipe had you heat up the pumpkin, sugars, and spices. This melts the sugars and make it smooth. I opted to use some milk instead of all heavy cream. I don't think you could really tell. I think you can use heavy cream, half and half, or evaporated milk as the dairy component. I hear that this is what gives the pie the velvety texture. You chose you're own adventure. 

{Baking} This seems easy, but I've had troubles in my past pie making with this part. How jiggly is it supposed to be? I think a bit of jiggle is good, but no goopey. Are you with me? So give the pan a shimmy. Does it look more fluidly or more like jello? Jello is good. This is just my advice. I have much to learn, but it worked on this pie, so...yea. It baked for 15 minutes at 400, then reduced to 350 for the remaining 45 minutes. Bam! 

Wait that's not it! There is more! 

{Topping} This pie had a pecan praline topping. I mean, more sugar? Yes, please. I did only half the recipes for topping, and I'm glad I did. It really didn't need more than that. Next time I'll toast the pecans first, too. 

Okay, now time to devour!!! 

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Praline Topping

{From Joy the Baker's Homemade Decadence}

Filling:

  • 2 c pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 t allspice
  • 1/4 t cloves
  • 1/4 t cardamom
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla

Topping:

  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 6 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T heavy cream
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3/4 c coarsely chopped pecans

Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400.

Roll out pie crust and put it in a 9″ pie dish. Try the buttermilk crust recipe I suggested above. 

For the filling, combine pumpkin, sugars, spices, and salt in medium saucepan over a medium heat. Cook until the mixture bubbles and becomes fragrant, 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in heavy cream then whisk in eggs and vanilla.

Transfer filling to the prepared crust and bake for 15 min, turn the oven down to 350 and cook for 40-50 min, until the center no longer jiggles (think jello).

This needs to cool for 30 minutes, make the topping while you wait by combining everything except the vanilla and pecans in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3-5 min until thick and bubbly. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla and pecans. Once the pie’s cooled for the 30 min, pour topping over it, let it cool about another 30 min on the counter, then transfer to the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Baker's Corner: Pumpkin Obsession

I think you know by now that I have a bit of a problem...it's an addiction, really. It consumes me (well, maybe I should say I consume it) starting September and lasts well into the winter. Guys, it's pretty bad. I think I need an intervention. It's...it's...PUMPKIN!

I'm in a bit of a panic. Fall is slowly fading away into winter, and I have a whole list of pumpkin things to make. I mean, look at this Pinterest board. I think there are 86 pins and counting. This pumpkin stress causes me to hoard canned pumpkin and my apartment just isn't big enough. 

The good news is that I have made some progress on the pumpkin baking front. I must go into detail here since it's my favorite ingredient...EVER. 

Yay! I found a recipe for pumpkin bread that I absolutely love. It's not too sweet, but not too savory either. I took Simply Recipes pumpkin bread and added some Trader Joes candied pepitas on the top. I also left out the orange zest and walnuts - I'll make it again with that included because it sounds delicious; I just wanted it to be more traditional tasting. The end results: Magic. 

This is a secret recipe from my friend Sarah. But if I were to steer you in a direction for a pumpkin bar recipe, you might try this one. These are just delectable little bars. You take one slice and then you just have to take another. It's an addiction. 

Pumpkin can be for every meal! This time I made it for breakfast. I took this recipe and made just a few adjustments based on what I had in the kitchen. I used only cranberries and left out the flaxseed, but then I added a few pistachios because why not. Then of course I paired it with Chobani pumpkin yogurt because again...why not. 

Oh man, I've been wanting to make these forever. And I was pretty proud of myself. About half the shells cracked, but I figured it out and the rest were perfect. I took just a base macaron shell recipe and added 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice. Then I took this filling recipe but used regular milk instead of coconut milk. And I exchanged two of the tablespoons of sugar with brown sugar because that's what Annie did and I trust Annie. However, all the spices and sugar made it a brown color, so next time I'd probably keep with the regular sugar. They were delicious, but Josh thought they looked like mini sausage sandwiches. 

I love Jamba Juice's pumpkin smash smoothie, so I created one for home since there isn't a Jamba Juice that close to us. It was dang similar I tell you. Give it a whirl with this recipe

Two of the four years (appox) we've lived in Seattle, there have been the most delicious pumpkin pancakes at 5 Spot. Not sure why (dear god why!?) they didn't do it this year, but they almost make me cry they are so good. My quest ever since has been to find a recipe that gets me close to these heavenly pancakes. I got pretty close with these (pictured) and these. Gah, so good. 

Cookies! Oh pumpkin in cookies is a favorite. These pumpkin cinnamon cookies were a hit at my office (see the tin, my co-workers love it when they see this tin). I couldn't find cinnamon chips anywhere, so I did some with white chocolate and some just plain. Either way, they were da'bomb. 

SoI understand sometimes you don't feel like baking something, but you have a pumpkin craving. I know how that feels...it's no good and needs to be remedied immediately. IMMEDIATELY I say! And I'm not beneath just going to pick up something at the store to fill the pumpkin void. My main go to is: Dreyer's Slow Churned Pumpkin Patch Ice Cream. Or, the Trader Joe's Pumpkin Macarons. But really you can just pick up something at TJs since pumpkin seems to have taken over the shelves there (this is a great TJ review site to tell you if it's good, too).

P.S. Check out last year's pumpkin obsession (or here, too).

Baker's Corner: Fruit Fun

I realized when spring rolls around I get this insatiable craving for fruit and citrus. I finally put away my pumpkin obsession and dust off my zester and pitter. My favorites fruits are strawberries and cherries. Ahhhh, so delicious. And then there is lemon which just screams summer to me. And cherries are just something special. I love going to the farmer's market and stopping at every booth and grabbing a cherry.

But it doesn't stop with just strawberries, lemon and cherries. There is also rhubarb! Rhubarb paired with strawberries - now there is dynamic duo. Gosh, I guess I just really just love fruit desserts. Sorry chocolate die-hards; this is who I am.

You can do so much with fruit like make crisps, crumbles, bars, cakes -- I sound like Bubba in Forrest Gump when he talked about shrimp

And let's not forget bananas. Bananas are great and I feel like they are a good year around fruit - so versatile, so delicious. 

So with all the build up on fruit, I bring you another Baker's Corner which happens to be all fruit goodies (minus one, which is veggie)! 

I discovered some lovely fruit desserts so far this year. I really can't pick a favorite. For instance, when I ate the cinnamon swirl banana crumb cake, I wanted to shove it all in my mouth like Cookie Monster does here. But the same could be said of all these goodies. Here's the line-up:

  • Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bar (Top Middle) - The dynamic duo - you just can't beat this combination. These make the best dessert, snack, and heck even breakfast. 
  • Buttermilk Banana Bread (Top Right) - I wanted to try a different banana bread than my usual. Buttermilk tends to make goodies nice and tender. This was awesome. 
  • Cinnamon Swirl Banana Crumb Cake (Middle Left) - I love these types of crumb cakes with the center swirl and crumbly goodness on top. I gobbled these down like nobody's business. And yes, I ate it for breakfast.
  • Cherry Pie Bars (Middle Right) - This was more like a cherry lemon bar. That there says it all.
  • Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies (Bottom Left) - These were our Easter treat. I added these in because...well, why not?! They were a hit at Easter.
  • Classic Lemon Bars (Bottom Middle) - This was my first successful lemon bar. I was so proud. The last time was many, many years ago. I think I used a Cooking Light recipe. Use butter my friends, it's worth it.
  • Banana Bars wiith Brown Butter Icing (Not Pictured) - I think I ate these all before I realized I didn't get a photo. Oops! But brown butter...trust me, delicious.

I've been aching to make more fruit/citrus goodness. You can follow me on Sweet Tooth board on Pinterest to see what I've got in mind.



Baker's Corner: Pie Perfection

I have a confession. This may totally surprise you. I haven't always liked pie. You heard me. There was a time where I thought I didn't like pie. The horror! (Caveat: I did like Marie Callendar's Boston Cream pie, but we all know that's more cake than pie).

Luckily, I came to my senses. It happened when we were looking for desserts for our wedding. We liked the idea of pie because you could get many flavors, and it fit with our rustic chic theme. So we tried Shoofly Pie, and my life was forever changed. I like pie. It was an amazing revelation. I'm still somewhat particular, but I'm that way with everything. 

So you probably know, we did have pie at our wedding and it was fantastic. 

Since pie is somewhat new to my life, I hadn't spent much time baking it. I've been a bit intimidated by pie. That hasn't stopped me before, though. Take macarons, for instance. I made a few along the way, and they've been successful. But right before Thanksgiving I invited my friend, Sarah, over and we made the most magnificent pie together.

We certainly took on a challenge with the lattice top, but all the effort was well worth it. It tasted as good as it looks. I wish I had a piece right now! 

Are you looking to take on baking a pie? Let me walk you thought this one. 

#1 - Make the pie crust. The crust needs time in the refrigerator, so while it's chilling, you can make the inside. We used Joy the Baker's pie crust recipe

With this pie crust, she has you use a rolling pin to mix the flour and butter. I think this helps make it flaky. Then you separate the dough into two balls, wrap it up, and put it in the fridge. 

#2 - The Filling. We use The Baker Chick's Salted Apple Pie recipe. Basically, you peel and slice up the apples. Then put them in a skillet with other goodies, and cook. It gets all bubbly, gooey and delicious.  

#3 - Bring it all Together. Take out the pie dough and roll it out. You'll need roll out two crusts - one for the bottom crust and one for the pie top. Once you've rolled it out, you need to place this in the pie dish. There is a trick here that Sarah shared. You roll the pie crust onto the rolling pin, and then unwind it over the dish. Easy peasy.  Then dump the apples in.

#4 - Final touches. We took it a step further and made a lattice top. Since neither of us have done this before, we followed Simply Recipes instructions. I used a pizza cutter to make strips. It's a bit hard to explain from here, so just check out the link. Then we folded the edges back over and used a spoon to crimp.

#5 - Put into the oven. We forgot to do this, but sprinkle some sugar on top before putting it in the oven. We remember afterwards. Don't worry, it still tasted delicious.

#6 - Let it rest (if you can wait), and EAT! If you don't let it rest, then it'll ooze all out when you slice it. We didn't have much patience since the whole apartment was filled with baked pie smell. But when I ate it the next day, the slice was perfect. 

Dang, that pie was good. And I'm soooo glad I like pie now. Life is much fuller because of it.

And hats off to the bakers...

Christmas Cookie Challenge

I really didn't know how I was going to make it happen this year. There was just so little time for Christmas preparations this year. It all happened so fast after Thanksgiving. Usually I have one weekend dedicated to Christmas cookie baking, but this year I had to squeeze it into one day. Ahhh, so many cookies, so little time!!

Of course, crazy me picked two time intensive recipes to make this year - macarons and cake balls. Macarons because I have recently declared them my favorite cookie (why did I pick the most expensive cookie? I seem to always pick the most expensive things). And then cake balls since my co-workers had been begging for them. 

And although I had just one day, I conquered. Here's the baker in action:

Baker  Heather

Chocolate Peppermint Cake Balls

Look at these beauties:

These are not necessarily complicated, but they are time consuming. You might remember the class I took earlier this year. Well, we swore not to share the secrets. However, this recipe isn't too far off if you really want to try it out. The peppermint flavor came from peppermint extract, and then I added some Andres Peppermint pieces inside. Of course a chocolate cake base. Then some red sprinkles and candy cane crumbles. Voila! No joke, my co-worker said these were, "a Christmas miracle!"

Gingerbread Macarons

Now, look at these beauties:

These cookies...well, where to start. It has been a love hate relationship for me. I absolutely love macarons, but they are a pain in the patootie to bake.

Here's something about me: I'm a perfectionist. Surprise! (well, you might have known that already.) These cookies test my perfectionism. The first time I made them after the class I took, they turned out quite well. Then the next time, they all cracked. Although, they still tasted good. This time, yet again, they cracked. I tried a new recipes, a new method, and I was so careful!

It's so sad. I dedicated so much time to them. They were like my little babies, and I spoke to them (oh wait, that's creepy, scratch that). Anyway...moving on...I so desperately wanted them to look like a French bakery. I had it all pictured in my head, and after they were done, I'd wrap them up so cute with ribbons. Not to mention...I am a baker and have a reputation to uphold.

The first batch came out great - they were smooth and pretty. Then the rest where just cracked. I tried so many things. I wanted to throw up my hands and give up. Then I tasted knew they were worth it, even though they weren't perfect.

Oh my goodness, where they good. Here's the recipe inspiration (considering how time consuming they are in the first place, I was not about to make them gingerbread man shaped). Then I followed Annie's step-by-step instructions.

In the end, totally worth it. But it was an emotional roller coaster. At one point, I thought I would never make these cookies again. Then I thought to myself...challenge accepted. Should I try these for New Years?

Peppakakor

Oh yea, one more:

Peppakakor

I lied to you at the start of this post. I said I only had time for two types of cookies, but another Christmas miracle I was able to squeeze in peppakakor. I made it while I was at home with my parents on Christmas Eve. I am so glad I was able to include these cookies in this year's cookie array - they are a tradition! (2009, 2010, 2011). These are a Swedish cookie that taste similar to gingersnap - a thin, delicate ginger type cookie. The tradition is passed down from my Grandma Norma (my Swedish side!). The picture I show is a Swedish Dala horse.

Whew, so glad I got my cookie baking in this year! YUM!

Cook's Corner: Thanksgiving Feast

I know, I know, it's already mid-December and I'm only just sharing my Thanksgiving with you now. Is there a 12 days of Thanksgiving? No? Bummer. Well, maybe you can pick up some of these recipes for Christmas. The two dinners are pretty similar (at least, in my family), so there's that at least.

So I bring you Cook's Corner as opposed to Baker's Corner. And this is a special Thanksgiving edition! 

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

I found this while looking on Sunset magazine's website for recipes. I saw the secret ingredient - Earl Grey tea - and knew it must be made. I love the brightness of cranberries, and the punch it gives to your meal. The best part, though, is putting git on a turkey sandwich. We were originally going to skip this one and buy cranberry sauce to save time, but Josh gave the saddest face, so we ended up making it. Glad we did!

Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing 

[aka Dressing - my parents call stuffing dressing. I'm not sure how I ended up calling it stuffing. Weird] Now here's something about me. I don't like stuffing. But, this stuffing made me change my mind. No joke, it was that good. I picked it because it was mostly made on the stove top, and I knew I wouldn't have much time with the oven given the turkey and all. The other reason was the parmesan. I am a sucker for parm - Josh and I put it on practically everything. Oh, and we used a tasty potato bread from a local bakery, MarcinaSo give this one a whirl, you won't be disappointed.  

Mashed Potatoes

This is more of a method than a recipe. I used the video to make these lovely mashed potatoes. They turned out perfect - smooth, creamy, and oh-so-good. I watched the video and then wrote the recipe out, printed it, and then deleted it (sorry). Watch the video though, it'll be great. You could be doing it all wrong!

Roasted Veggies

I wanted to make both sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts. Alas there was not enough time. So I cooked both in one! So clever. This was a classic roasted veggie dish, and they were a great side to the meal. I added some brown sugar for the last few minutes of roasting to add some sweetness. 

And I didn't make my own rolls. I wanted to, but there wasn't enough time. Just pop them in the oven and they taste homemade. Guess there is always next year! 

Turkey Breast

The main event: the turkey! Although in my opinion, it should be dessert. Wink wink. For one, I totally need to take the time to brine the bird. Just do it. I use this brine from Allrecipes. Then I used this recipe for the bird itself. I only did a beast - we just don't need the whole bird. This was just enough for the four of us, and it even made leftovers (and we used the carcass for soup - eh carcass, that sounds gross, but the soup is good).

Pumpkin Pie

Now, this is what I'm talking about - dessert! This is the main event, no doubt. I made the pumpkin pie the way I like it - with a gingersnap crush. This pie was perfection. I think it helped that I made my own pumpkin puree. I found that this is actually pretty easy. You know what made this even better, the spiced whipped cream. And Nada & Don bought us a special whipped cream dispenser. I reminded me of my Starbucks days. I know there are fun creations with this ahead. 

The Table

The flowers were a gift from my father-in-law. Isn't he sweet. Without them, the table would have been lacking. This was the wonderful table upon which we ate all the food above. If you go to so much trouble to make the food, let's dress the table up too. The table wants to be part of the party.

The Cooks

Nada and I were the cooks of the feast. I was the chef, and Nada my sous chef. We were great together. 

Baker's Corner

It is about time I wrote to you about some baking. I kept it low key during the summer. Dudes, the kitchen in the summer is just ridiculous. Have I told you that we don't have air conditioning? Then add a 350-400 degree oven to the warm weather. I'm just not doing it; I melt. I did make some cold desserts though (more to come on that). Let's talk baking and treats!

Doesn't that all look so scrumptious? Want me to say something to make you jealous? Well, I got to eat every single thing you're seeing in that picture. Oh yea baby!

Top-Left corner working down to bottom-right:

  1. Strawberry Shortcake - I loved 'lil Strawberry Shortcake when I was a girl. One of my birthday's was Strawberry Shortcake themed. So I've moved from the cartoon to the actual food. I think the latter is the better choice. This recipe had some balsamic in the strawberries - a nice touch!
  2. Peaches - OMG, I had a whole series of peach photos to share. I was going to share how to peel peaches. This was an August treat. I'll do that sometime; maybe next August.
  3. Watermelon Floats - This was something I made as a refreshing alternative to baking. It sounds odd, but it was really tasty. I also made rhubarb floats. Delicious! 
  4. Blueberry Pie Sundae - I wish it were summer again so I could eat this again. Hey wait, I do eat frozen yogurt & ice cream in the freezing cold. Guess I should go make this and eat it while wearing gloves and snug in blanket. It was super easy, too. If you don't like cold treats in the winter, then be sure to bookmark this one (or pin it).
  5. Homemade Oreos - This was a Josh favorite. Did you know Josh loves Oreos? It's a very typical dessert in our house. It's best with milk. I gave these cookies a whirl, and they were great. I was doubtful of the cream center, but it was totally good. And the cookie was crispy! Now if I can get Josh to stop asking for them all the time. 
  6. Pumpkin Whoopies - If you don't know by now that I love pumpkin then I don't know if we can be friends. I've got my friends trained...they tell me when they discover something pumpkin delicious (or that their baby only likes pumpkin - kid after my own heart). So, I have to make these pumpkin favorites every year. Check out last year.
  7. Macrina Peach Galette - See #2 above. This is the result of the peaches. It's actually from my Macrina cookbook. The closest recipe I can find is here. Macrina is my parent's favorite bakery in Seattle. This thing turned out gigantic. Not probably with that, but it was crazy (and crazy good).
  8. Sky High Muffins - No joke, these muffins really rose. However, I thought they were too dry and bland. I think if you can take the rising trick and apply it to a different recipe, that would be good. This these muffins...these look delicious and scream fall! 
  9. Lemon Crinkles - Lemon in desserts is so refreshing. I love citrus desserts. These were not a disappointment. 

Now it's fall and winter and I'm back in the kitchen some more. Plus, I will be baking more for the holiday season, so I'll be sure to share. I wonder though, will anyone bake me something? Being in the kitchen is tough work. Then again, if you give a baker a cookie, she'll want to bake it herself...

Baker's Corner

Oh boy, oh boy! Have I got some goodies to share with you. A LOT of goodies, actually. Since I haven't written a Baker's Corner post in a while, I've got a pile of recipes and photos to share. Time to get excited...it's baking time!

First, take a look at these treats: 

Drooling? I am. ;) Now, let me tell you about these treats. Starting with the top left...

1. Whole Wheat Banana Spice Muffins. If you know anything about me, know this....I love muffins. It's my favorite breakfast. I especially like them with crumble or glaze toppings. It's *almost* eating a cupcake for breakfast - how naughty?! But I also like to balance naughty with nice, and in this case, that's where the whole wheat comes in. But seriously, the glaze is what makes these muffins. Do NOT attempt to make these without the glaze. The glaze is heavenly. Enough said.

2. Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. These cookies were a hit. I brought half to work, and half to my church group. Both groups loved them. I mean it's peanut butter and chocolate, the perfect match. Then pair that with milk....wow. You know, I learned to dip my cookies into milk from my husband, Josh. I remember dipping Pepperidge Farm chessmen cookies in milk as a kid, but that's it (not sure why those specific cookies either). Anyway, Josh introduced me to the concept of dipping every cookie in milk, and I think he's on to something. So this is what you do: (1) heat the cookie, (2) pour yourself some milk, (3) dip cookie into milk, and (4) eat it. Milk & Cookies - it does a body good.

3. Lemon Lavender Macarons. I'm going to be completely honest & up front with you. These macarons failed. I was devastated. Oh sure, the picture looks good, but those were like the only pieces that didn't crack. My baker's guess is that I over beat the egg whites. I saw it coming too when I was mixing it together - too many air bubbles. That that be a lesson for you; learn from my mistakes. The good news, however, is they still tasted awesome. I used this recipe, but added a teaspoon of lavender extract to the "cookie" and lemon extract and lemon peel in the cream (used the vanilla buttercream recipe). When making the buttercream, and it looks grainy, just keep whipping. It comes together at the end. Trust me. These are quite the effort, so make sure you give yourself time and don't rush it. The end.

4. Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake with Strawberries. When I walk into the grocery store, and I see the glistening strawberries on display, I'm done for - I. Must. Buy. I just picture sweet, juicy strawberries on top of buttery pound cake and topped with creamy whipped cream. When I came across this recipe, I knew I had to make it. And I was not disappointed. If you're looking for a pound cake, try this one. It's lighter and the hint of lemon makes this cake sing. 

5. Meyer Lemon - Brown Butter Cookies. These were so, so good; like taking a bite of sunshine. Browning the butter is totally worth it. I feel like I've told you this before, but whatever, I'll repeat it: brown butter is the bomb. It just adds a little something to your baked goods. Here's a tutorial on how to do it. Then add meyer lemon, and this is just the perfect spring/summer treat.

6. Peach Cherry Galette. I'm going to admit something...pies intimidate me. Yes they do! I've made a few of them pretty successfully, but it's a goal of mine to make more. (Gosh, my list of things I want to make just grows and grows). Are you intimidated, too? If so, I think a galette (aka crostata) is a like a beginners pie. Give this a whirl. When I shared this picture with my mom, she thought I bought the galette. So be like me, and look professional, and make this thing. Oh, and I just used 3 peaches and about 1/2 cup pitted & halved cherries (original recipe is just peach). Tip! Put the peach in boiling water for about 45 seconds to make it super easy to peel. Go for it!

I'm pinning sweet treats daily, so feel free to follow me on Pinterest

Check out my other Baker's Corner posts for other inspirations.  

Baker's Corner: (Heather) Joy the Baker

Little did I know, I got a fantastic Christmas gift. Or did I?

When my parents were visiting town a few months before Christmas, we stopped by a cookbook store in Fremont called The Book Larder (by the way, great store!). While roaming the store, I spotted the Joy the Baker cookbook. I read her blog daily, and just love her recipes. I knew my mom was looking to buy Christmas gifts for people, so I suggested it to her. She bought it for someone (I can't remember who now), and were on our jolly way.

Come Christmas, I'm opening my stocking stuffers, and low and behold...there was Joy holding a cake smiling at me. As I flipped through the pages, I knew I was going to love this cookbook. Every recipes sounds delicious.

This cookbook brought back a little love to the cookbook world for me. Lately, I've been sourcing my recipes online. I mean, you can find so many online now, and you can avoid the cookbook pile up (which is important to avoid when you have a tiny kitchen).

Needless to say, I've been on a baking spree trying out all sorts of Joy the Baker recipes. So far, I can report each and every one of them has been delicious. Here's what I've tried:

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (psst..here is a very similar recipe, if this sounds good to you).

Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins (you're in luck, it's on her blog, get it).

Mommom's Chocolate Bourbon-Spiked Banana Bread (some random blogger posted the recipe for you).

"Man bait" Apple Crisp (yes another random blogger sharing Joy's secrets - recipe here).

There is one other recipe I have made from the book. That's another post to come. But I have to say five winning recipes from one cookbook, that's a pretty good return. In fact, I don't think I've ever made the many recipes from one cookbook. It's a winner! 

Maybe that name JOY has something to do with it. Joy the Baker...Heather Joy Brown. Hmmm, the similarities are uncanny. 

Baker's Corner: Cake Balls & Pops

I had my first cake ball not very long ago. Our Office Manager walked around and handed me a little ball. She was sampling sweets for our upcoming office holiday party. Looking at the ball, I was doubtful - will it be dry and untasty? But it was so cute and pretty, I couldn't resist. And I'm so glad I ate it. Delish! 

Luck had it that our Office Manager chose these delightful treats for the party. The display of cake pops at the party was mouth-watering, and so yummy. Then I learned these little heavenly pops and balls were made by my co-worker's friend, Dianne.

My luck continued because my co-worker told me Dianne was holding a cake pop class. Again, I couldn't resist, so I signed up. And that's how I came be make cake pops and balls this afternoon at Dianne's Delights.

Dianne was very sweet (pun intended), and was very gracious to share her tips & tricks. It turns out, the magic is in the technique. She showed us how to make them uber moist, how to roll the balls (without have to buy a silly cake pop mold), and to make the stick stay on the cake (which is pivotal for a cake pop, but sadly one of the harder things to do).

You'll see in my photos collage, some of the things we learned. Rolling the balls, dipping into chocolate to make the outer shell, and decorating them - we had pretty pink sprinkles for Valentines Day.

(Sorry my photos are a bit blurry, it's my phone's camera. I always feel awkward bringing my regular camera to these things.)

Cake Pop Making

Cake Pop Making

Heather Rolling Away

Heather Rolling Away

Here's a photo of me in action. I'm rolling vanilla and chocolate balls. I bet you wouldn't have guessed, but rolling them into perfect balls is extremely difficult. They kept wanting to look more like spin tops than balls. Dianne would walk over and make a perfect ball - making it look so easy. Gosh! But mine were mostly round and still quite delicious. I guess I have to practice (to the joy of my husband and co-workers).

One of the best parts is seeing them come all together - with sprinkles and swizzles - too cute. We also made some totally cute heart shaped pops. Now it'll be tough to decide what to make for Valentines Day - Cake pops or Macarons. Hmmm, tough decisions. (Remember my macarons class? Loads of fun there, too).

Cake pops are great. NOW GO BAKE'EM.

Baker's Corner: Swedish Coffee Cake

Hej! (That's hello in Swedish). That's about all I know in Swedish, and I had to look that up on Google. But I have Swedish in my blood (25% of it). My grandma (on my mom's side) was Swedish. She brought many Swedish sweets into our family, especially for the holidays. You may have heard me mention pepparkaka before - see post.

Well, another Swedish tradition in our family was my Grandma Norma's Swedish coffee cake. She'd make it practically every weekend. She didn't have a recipe - she'd just take a bit of this and a bit of that and throw it all together. And it always turned out.

I really enjoy this coffee cake - I like mine with raisins. Then there is the crunchy pearl sugar on top and the cardamon spice. Lather on some butter - hmm hmm hmm.

Jan and Heather (top left), Grandma Norma (top right)

As a child (I'm not sure how old I was, maybe 8 or 9 years), I decided we should record grandma's recipe. So I spent the day with her making coffee cake and try to take measure of the recipe as we baked. The recipe isn't too far off, although we're still trying to perfect it.

Mom and I decided to make it together this Christmas. It turned out pretty good. In fact, we have a Swedish friend here right now and when I asked how it compared to bread back home, he said it was "very similar, and good!" Booya!

If you want to give it a try, I've written out the recipe below (with improvements upon the original that I noted as we made it the other day).

Njut! (Enjoy in Swedish)

 Swedish Coffee Cake

Grandma Norma's Swedish Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh active yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon cardamon
  • 4-1/2 flour
  • 1/2 to 1 cup raisins, optional
  • 1/2 to 1 cup walnuts, optional (for top)
  • 1/2 cup large, pearl sugar (for top)

Directions:

In a medium bowl mix together yeast, sugar, and salt. Let sit.

Meanwhile, in a pot, warm up the milk over medium-low heat. When milk is warm, add butter. Let melt together, then pour into yeast mixture. Mix together.

Next, add eggs and cardamon. Slowly start to add the flour. Once combined, cover with a towel. Let is sit for at least 30-45 minutes. To help it raise, you can put it in a low oven (100F or so).

Spread flour on the surface and knead dough. Add raisins, if desired, while kneading. Put dough back into the bowl, cover with towel, and let raise again. Probably about 45-60 minutes.

Cut dough in half, and braid into two loaves. Let raise for 45-60 minutes. Then stir eggs, and brush lightly over loaves. Sprinkle walnuts and large/pearl sugar on top.

Place in 350F oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden.

Note: I'm trying to decide on the last raise, when it's braised, if you should do the egg wash and sugar then let it raise, or put it after it's raised. This time when I did the egg after raise, it lost some of it's volume and was slightly more dense. Let me know your results!

Baker's Corner: Christmas Cookies

I have a tradition of making Pepparkakor every year at Christmastime. My Grandma Norma used to make them, and I carried on the tradition. They are the Swedish version of gingerbread cookies, but thinner. However, the past couple of years my mom has baking them. I love them, but we don't need that many pepparkakors. This year I thought I'd try my skills on something different. 

Macarons

You may recall that I took a macaron class recently. I was super excited after the class, so I thought I'd make some macarons this year. To make them Christmas-y I decided on pistachio since it's green. Yay!

Let me tell you, macarons are not just mix the dough and throw in the oven type cookies. It takes time and patience. You need to be careful, and precise. These suckers took me all day. I ended up having to through three rounds of them too (the first time I accidently used blue food coloring, the second I mixed up 0.7 vs. 7 ounces, and the third time was a charm). On top of that, I had to make pistachio paste and buttercream. But I was determined, and the result was totally worth it. Now oogle over them please.

This isn't the recipe I used, but it's pretty close. If you're so inspirated. Check it out.

Pistachio Macarons

Candy Cane Cookies

I didn't want to leave it at just macarons. I wanted to make a cookie that screamed Christmas. I found these Candy Cane cookies and knew these fit the bill. To make them, I had to find the special kisses. Don't they look tasty?

Christmas Kisses

Well, they are tasty. And they are even tastier in a cookie. They are sort of like peanut butter kisses, but pepermint style. And don't let the peppermint scare you; they aren't over-powering. (Note: I did use the peppermint extract, but I used only half what the recipe called for).

Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cane Cookies!!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh no, it didn't stop there. For weeks Josh has been begging for chocolate chip cookies. Poor guy. I told him this is the holiday season and is strictly for holiday cookies. Chocolate chip cookies fall into the year around cookie category and shouldn't take up good holiday-cookie-baking time. But he looked so sad, so I gave in. The recipe I've picked up later is from Pioneer Women. The secret ingredient is instant coffee - you can't taste the coffee, but it adds a lil' something-something to the cookie. It adds depth to the cookie (oh yea, that sounds good...depth). Recipe: Click here. Adjustments: I used all butter (skip the margarine); used all semi-sweet chocolate chips; the instant coffee I used was VIA; the flax seed I ground in an old coffee grinder. Boom.

Chocolate Chips Cookies 

By the way, did I mention I made these cookies all in one weekend? Yes, I'm crazy like that. I think the next batch will be after Christmas.

Bakers Corner: Pumpkin

I know I already told you about pumpkin. But when you love somethinig, you really feel the need to share it (or push it upon others). Really, you MUST try this. I KNOW you'll love it. Hee Hee.

Josh asked me the other day, "Do you think you'll get tired of pumpkin?" My answer was, "Nope." I will not tire. I will continue to eat pumpkin everything all season. In fact, I'll eat it all through fall, winter, and into spring if I can help it. 

So, let's talk about pumpkin. My favorite so far this season...Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. No joke, these were a HIT. A hit with our church friends, a hit with my co-workers, a hit with Josh and me. They were heavenly.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

You're probably drooling. No? Well, out of the kindness of my heart, I'll share the recipe. I combined two recipes: Use this for the Whoopie cookie, then use this filling insteadHave fun with that.

Wait? You want more? Alright, if you insist. I also made a tasty pumpkin coffeecake.

Pumpkin Coffeecake

This was very good. And guess what, if you want, you can eat it for breakfast. Here's the Recipe.

Today I'm either going to make Pumpkin Toffee Cookies, or Pumpkin Gingersnaps. Tough decision.

Oh, and I ain't done yet. I don't always bake, you know. I buy tasty things too. Like these pumpkin macaroons that we picked up on our fly-by trip to the Bay Area from Chantal Guillon. I've recently discovered my like of macaroons. So light and tasty with a slight crunch. I'll have to try to make them myself someday (but they seem kinda hard to make). Aren't these little treats cute?

Pumpkin Macaroon Lots of Pumpkin Macaroons

I will leave with this: pumpkin is everywhere. In your ice cream, in your coffee, in your donuts...everywhere. Get with it, and eat it.

Pumpkin Deliciousness 

Baker's Corner

Baker's Corner

Dearest Readers,

I want to share with you a secret. A delicious secret. It's my Grandma Ruth's peach pie. She calls it Sour Cream Open Face Cake. However, I'm going to call it Sour Cream Open Face Peach Pie because, sorry grandma, it's not a cake. Definitely pie - buttery, flakey crust with sweet peaches on top. It brings back childhood memories of Grandma coming to visit us in Encinitas during the summer.

Whenever my Grandma visited us, she would bake up a storm - cookies, pies, cakes - we all loved it! Now, Grandma doesn't bake much, so I am carrying on the recipes and traditions. And, today's your lucky day because here's the recipe for you to create some peachy memories:

Grandma Ruth

Grandma's Sour Cream Open Face Peach Pie

Adapted from my Grandma Ruth's recipe

For the topping: 

  • 6-7 peaches, peeled, sliced
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour

For the crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cubed
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream 

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9x13-inch square baking pan. Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter using a pastry cutter (or, you could do this all in a food processor). It make be a bit loose. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until crust is pale golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool.

Once the crust is cooled, arrange the sliced peaches in 3 rows lengthwise.

To make the topping, slight beat egg yolks, stir in sour cream then add sugar and flour. Spread evenly over th peaches. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Enjoy with some vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Notes: Are your peaches not ripe yet? Try putting them in a paper bag. Want to make peeling easier? Drop the peach in boiling water for about a minute. The skin should peel right off (psst, you might want to let them cool a wee bit before handling).

Hey, don't go yet! There's more!

I also made something totally wild and awesome: Pillow Cookies. Say what? It's a brownie inside a chocolate chip cookie. Crazy right! Crazy awesome. Brownie + CC cookie = Genius.

Basically, you bake brownies, cut them up into small squares, and then wrap them in cookie dough. Then bake and voila!

Small Side Story: As I was finishing up the pillow cookies, Josh strolled into the kitchen. I am taking the cookie off the pan, and he says I should wait. You know what I said. I said, "No! I am the baker, and I get to decide sh*t!" It's true just as a driver get to control the music, the baker gets to decide what goes down in the kitchen.

And you can imagine, I was a bit heated up at the thought of Josh taking over my cookies, so he told me I was a bit loud. You know what I had to say about that? "I'm not yelling, I'm whisper-yelling!" So there.

Eh-hem, there still more...

Lastly, I made Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chipsters. These are good, but a bit more crisp (maybe that's why they're called chipsters). It might have been because my kitchen was super hot and they just melted in the oven. I need to re-try the recipe to be sure. But, they are worth a bake if you feel nutty.

Baker's Corner

Here's the deal. I'm going to start sharing more of the recipes of things I make. It's not necessarily a recipe I created, but a recipe I tried (and enjoyed). Sometimes I make tweaks to the recipe, somtimes I'll give a tip, or just tell you how delicious it was. Just like a cookie exchange but I get nothing in return ... hmm, maybe I need to re-think this whole idea ;).  

Baker's Corner

 

1. Muffin: These were a Joy the Baker recipe. The original recipe is a Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed muffin. However, I made these for 1 sole reason: I had extra cherries and raspberries from the galette. Honestly, these were the best muffins I've made, ever. The key thing to this recipe was browning the butter. I'd never done that before. The other key to this recipe, was the topping. I was doubtful of it being sweet enough for my tastebuds given it only had 2 Tbsp sugar, but I was wrong...perfectly sweet. My recommendation is to use this recipe as a base to whatever fruit is in season or that you have on hand. Add coffee and this is the best snack or breakfast.

2. Galette: Or should I say Crostata? What's the difference? Let me tell you...nothing! Surprise! It's just French vs. Italian. Let's just say Galette. I used a combination of recipes for my galette. The crust was Two Peas & their Pod and was delicious with the addition of cornmeal. The filling I based off Tyler Florence's crostata. Basically, I stemmed and pitted cherries and mixed with raspberries, the juice of half a lemon, 1 tea vanilla, 2 Tbsp sugar, and 2 Tbsp flour. Mix it and plop onto the crust. Wrap the crust up, blush on egg, and sprinkle sugar. I didn't have turbinado sugar, so I used regular sugar. No biggie. Josh's review: "I think this might be the best thing you've ever made!" 

3. S'mores: I'm getting a reputation at work. A reputation as the girl that bakes and brings in goodies. There could be worse reputations. I think the fact that I entered the Whoopie Pie contest at the restaurant below our office nailed that reputation home. Anway, it was a co-worker that came up with this recipe. and the idea that I should make these. And I'm glad did, they were a hit! A good alternative to making a campfire (or making them on the stove). Here's the recipe I used (although this is the identical recipe here). My tips: use a 9x13 pan first. I just used a jar of marshmellow fluff, then when scooping out the marshmellow fluff, spray a spatula with cooking spray, then scoop. (note: I microwave the jar for like 15 seconds, and then read afterwards on the side you're not supposed to do this. Oh well, we survived. Make it easy though!). And here's the big tip: lay the base dough on plastic wrap. Then put another piece on top. Roll it out to be about the size of your 9x13 pan. Take off one piece of the wrap, and then carefully and quickly flip it so it lands on top. Then make any little nudges where needed. Whoola! It's marshmellow, it'll be messy but always good. I mean, it's SUGAR! Can't go wrong.