Pumpkin Gingerbread with Orange Glaze

First, thank you to my baking compadre, Cousin Leah, for encouraging me to return to my long-ignored baking blog. I’d forgotten how much fun it is!

Now I’ll get right to the point:  You HAVE to try this recipe! It’s AMAZING!

This is a case of “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Because this recipe (found on King Arthur Flour’s website) has the nicest blend of flavors. EVER! And the flavors don’t just complement each other, they amplify each other.  And the moist texture is to die for.

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One thing that really takes the flavor to the DIVINE level is the crystallized ginger, which melts into the batter as the bread bakes. (It’s listed in the recipe as “mini diced ginger.”) You can find crystallized ginger in the bulk section of Whole Foods or most health food stores.  And be forewarned: while you are dicing it, the amazing fragrance may cause you to slip into a momentary stupor. I speak from experience.

Other notes on ingredients:

  • I did not include the optional pecans or chocolate chips because it simply is not possible to improve on perfection.
  • This recipe offers the option to use either butter or shortening, and I went with butter. And I also greased the pans with melted butter, not baking spray.
  • For the orange icing (SO GOOD!!), I would recommend adding 2 drops of vanilla extract for smoooooth flavor.

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I applied the icing with a pastry brush rather than drizzling it. At first, it was a little thick, but a few sprinkles of milk thinned it out a little for better application. And for yummy looking drippage. MMMMmmm.

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Since these are for coffee hour after church, I made 6 mini-loaves (3 x 5.75″) instead of 2 regular 8 x 4.5″ loaves. When you slice the smaller loaf size into 6 pieces, each slice is just the right size for a single serving.

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This is one of the best recipes I’ve tried in a long time. I hope you will make it, enjoy it, and share it at home or at work.  Or at coffee hour!

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Instead of using the baking spray, which can cause the edges of the bread to inflate excessively during baking, resulting in ugly &/or hard bread edges – oh no! – use a pastry brush to grease the pan with melted butter. The brush really gets into the corners, and it’s super fast. This is also works well on bundt pans, with all their shapes and crevices.

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Failure, then Ginger Cookie Success

So after the last baking effort  (Gooey Butter Cake Squares) turned out to be so sinfully sweet and buttery that the Hungry Episcopalians at coffee hour all had to head over to the nearest Catholic church for confession, I decided to contribute to their redemption by baking a healthy treat:

Chewy Sesame Bars

With such tasty, healthful ingredients as these, how could it be bad? Almonds, sesame seeds, coconut, agave, vanilla, and a little sea salt. Yum, right?

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WRONG!!!!!  It was SO BAD.  SO. VERY. BAD.  

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See how it looks like a pan of birdseed? That’s what it tasted like. . . BUT WORSE!

Thinking maybe they would taste better the next day after the flavors blended, I tried them again. They still tasted like bird seed, and had developed a “sawdust” flavor as well. Ack!

So I spread a little agave nectar on top, which  – surprise! –  made them taste like birdseed + sawdust with sticky agave nectar on top. Eeewww!

Then I decided to feed it to the birds, but looked online only to learn that desiccated coconut can kill birds.

Alas, my attempt at redemption was a total failure.  😦

So I regrouped and made Ginger Spice Cookies. Yay! This is one of my top 5 favorite cookie recipes of all time!

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The scrumptious ingredients include crystallized ginger (available in the bulk section at Whole Foods) and molasses.  The recipe calls for light molasses, but I like a bolder flavor so I used dark. And hey, Nut-Averse Cousin Leah, these are nut-free!

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The recipe says to refrigerate the cookie dough, but the cookies turned out a bit flat. So for the next batch, I froze the dough balls overnight, and the cookies turned out all crackly and chewy. Perfect texture!

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If you make these, I would suggest rolling the dough balls in sugar right after you take them out of the freezer and then immediately popping them into the oven while they’re still frozen. That will keep them from going flat. Also, take them out of the oven right before they look done. That’ll give them the wonderful, chewy texture.

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For Prettiness, I topped them with a mixture of demerara sugar + white sparkling sugar.

Some of the Hungry Episcopalians at Coffee Hour said they went really well with coffee. I think they’d also be good with a glass of cold milk.

But definitely not with bird seed!  😉

 

 

 

Gooey Butter Cake Squares

This weekend’s coffee hour baking went WAAAY out of bounds when I decided to make Gooey Butter Cake Squares.

Why out of bounds? Because the recipe required me to break 2 of my own baking rules:

  1. Never use cake mix, b/c blech! and also, it’s not really baking if you’re using a mix.
  2. Avoid any recipes devised by a person who recommends using doughnuts as hamburger buns. Do the makers of Liptor pay her to say that? Is she trying to kill us all?

So yes, this recipe calls for a box of partial hydrogenation cake mix that is used to make the crust.

And yes, it is a Heart Attack In A Pan Paula Deen recipe.

WARNING: THIS RECIPE IS NOT  REPEAT NOT  FOR THE FAINT OF SWEET-TOOTH.

Ingredients: butter, more butter, and then cream cheese. With butter. Do you see why I want to rename this recipe “Plate Full Of Sin?”  But omigosh, these are SO GOOD!

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It’s really a quick recipe. Which is good, ’cause you can start eating them sooner.

You make the crust first, but you don’t bake it before you pour the filling over it.  I pressed the crust up the sides of the pan a little so it would “contain” the filling and keep it from burning.

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And then you mix the cream cheese filling, pour in over the crust, and bake for about 45 minutes. (These had an amazing aroma while baking!)

As it bakes, a thin, puffy crust forms on the top, but it deflates as it cools.

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To speed up the cooling, I covered them and put them into the fridge, which turned out to be a good move. It made the crust nice and chewy, and also made them much easier to cut.

Added a little powdered sugar on top, for Prettiness.

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They travel well if you layer them with parchment paper in between. It doesn’t disturb the powdered sugar the way plastic wrap does.

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Okay, so I broke some rules. But my gosh, these are SO UNBELIEVABLY DELICIOUS that I’m thinking maybe I should break my baking rules a little more often! The Hungry Episcopalians at coffee hour don’t seem to mind at all. 😉

Attention, Chocolate Purists

You like chocolatey-chocolate with nothing else but chocolate? Then keep reading.

Here’s a brownie recipe that Chocolate Purists simply must try. A different kind of brownie recipe. It comes from Dorie Greenspan’s baking book, Dorie’s Cookies, which my friend Diana gave me for Christmas.

Knowing what a total choco-holic Diana is, I decided to thank her by making the very first recipe in the book, Sebastian’s Remarkably Wonderful Brownies.

It’s a brownie like no other: a creamy texture, and a strong chocolate flavor with no “interruptions” of nuts, caramel, etc. Perfect for the Chocolate Purist. It’s nothing but bold chocolate. Very. Bold. Chocolate.  (Please don’t lick the screen.)

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In the paragraph before the recipe, Dorie expounds upon the importance of using Valrhona Cocoa Powder, and insists that it will make a noticeable difference.

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So I shelled out $14.00 for a tin of Valrhona cocoa at my local Sur La Table store, because I know that Dorie doesn’t lie.

These are truly superior brownies. The Valrhona was worth it!

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Many thanks to Chocolate Purist Diana for the awesome baking book! Can’t wait to try more of the recipes . . .

 

Cookies made with Biscoff Cookie Butter

Ever had Biscoff cookies? More importantly, have you ever had Biscoff Cookie Butter? It’s the spreadable version of the cookie! Genius! It tastes like a combination of caramel, cinnamon, coffee, and graham crackers. My grocery store doesn’t carry it, but I found it at Target in the grocery section.

 

As soon as I became aware of its existance, I went looking for recipes that would put it to good use. Here’s the recipe I decided to try: Cinnamon Blueberry Biscoff Breakfast Cookies

I made this recipe for the first time this weekend, and can sum it up in one word:

***YUM!***

Really, you can’t go wrong with dried blueberries, white chocolate, and this Biscoff spread. I followed the recipe exactly, except I used a medium cookie scoop and pressed the dough balls down a little bit before baking.

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When the cookies come out of the oven, they’re pretty fragile, so I would recommend sliding the parchment paper onto the cooling rack, and then letting the cookies cool completely before removing them from the parchment paper. After they cool, they don’t break easily.

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So if you’re tired of the same old cookie recipes, I highly recommend making this one, because it’s different and REALLY tastee! The cookies have a nice texture, too. Slightly chewy on the inside. MMmmm!

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Hope the Hungry Episcopalians will enjoy them at Coffee Hour on Sunday!

Church Reception Alert!

Music to my ears!

There’s a concert at my church this Sunday, and everyone in town knows that these excellent concerts are followed by sumptuous receptions. Yes, Sumptuous Receptions. In fact, I think the receptions are why some people go. I always see several non-music-appreciating husbands there who look a bit glazed during the concert, but then race over to the reception with sudden energy. I imagine the conversation goes like this. Wife: “Honey, if you’ll go the church concert with me, there’ll be some good food afterwards!”  Husband: “Food? Okay.”

So anyway, I made 3 things to contribute to this particular reception:

Let’s start with my experimental recipe, Hazelnut Pound Cake with Frangelico Glaze

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This was easy! And it turned out really well. Use your favorite pound cake recipe, but use ½ tsp vanilla extract, and ½ – ¾ tsp hazelnut extract for flavoring. You can add chopped, toasted hazelnuts to the batter if you want to. Or not. To make the glaze, you put the following in a small saucepan:  ¼ C sugar, 6 T butter, ¼ C Frangelico, 2 T water.  Heat on medium until boiling, stirring frequently, and then reduce heat and cook 3-4 more minutes. As soon as the cake comes out of the pan, spoon the warm glaze over the cake. Repeat until all glaze is gone.

I used 2 half-size bundt pans because they yield smaller slices that are perfect for “finger food” at a reception.

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Now for the Nutella Cookies! (FABulous texture. Chewy inside, slight crunch outside.)

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This recipe came from Cuisine At Home Magazine’s “Holiday Parties” issue from December 2016. I can’t find the recipe online, but if you want it, let me know. The only adjustments I made are as follows:

  • Used a medium cookie scoop (made 3 dozen cookies)
  • Rolled the chilled dough balls in sugar right before baking. That’s what creates the nice “crackle effect.”
  • Left off the crushed hazelnuts because I didn’t have any more.
  • Sprinkled the cookies with sanding sugar immediately after baking.

And finally, the Pecan Pie Mini-Cupcakes:

THESE. ARE. AWESOME.  Very rich and buttery. They’re like pecan pie without the corn syrup or pie crust. Generally, I loathe mini-cupcakes or mini-muffins. They’re skimpy. I mean, don’t most people want a full size one? But in this case, the flavor is so very rich that a small one is just perfect! Did I mention that these take very little time to make? And using a small cookie scoop to put the batter into the mini-muffin tins made it even faster.

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The recipe comes from Food.com, but I made a few additions for Prettiness: Added a pecan half to the top of each one before baking. Then immediately after baking, I sprinkled them with demerara sugar (tastes kinda like toffee.) The recipe says it yields 24, but it makes 32.  I put them in little white paper candy cups so they would look nice on the tray.

Well that was some fun baking! Hope the concert-goers will enjoy, and that you will be inspired to bake something! Something Sumptuous.  🙂

Smashing Pumpkins (and baking them)

It’s not too late for pumpkin bread!

And here’s a great recipe that calls for a fresh pumpkin. And smashing it. My mother received this recipe from Second Baptist Church in Memphis during their annual pumpkin sale fundraiser. While preparing fresh pumpkin takes a little time and effort, the results are soooooo worth it. Excellent texture and flavor!

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First, you need a pie pumpkin like this one. That’s a bottle of Mrs. Dash next to it for size comparison. (The pumpkin weighed 3.57 pounds, and yielded 2.25 C of cooked pumpkin.)

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The recipe says to cut the pumpkin into cubes, but after 20 minutes of sawing on the darn thing, I had achieved nothing. So I figured out a better, quicker way:

After washing the outside of the pumpkin, I put it into three plastic bags and tied them at the top. Holding the bag by the handles, I swung it around and smashed the pumpkin against the pavement in my driveway.  Several times.  Et voilà . . . Smashed Pumpkin!

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Then, you have to scrape out the pulp and seeds (save and toast the seeds for a tasty snack a later) and cut the sections into smaller pieces. It is still very hard to cut, so I used the flat side of a meat tenderizer to hammer the knife through the pumpkin.

 

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Place the pieces in a large microwave-safe bowl. Do NOT add water.

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Microwave on high for 10 minutes, and stir.  Microwave for another 5 minutes.  Stir again, and go another 5 minutes.  If the pumpkin is tender, drain off any liquid and let the pumpkin cool. If not, microwave again for 2-3 minutes.

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Remove and discard peel, and mash the pumpkin pulp. You can freeze it for later use, which is what I did.

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The rest of the recipe is quite easy (ingredients listed below):

  • Preheat the oven to 350°, and grease and flour your pans. (2 loaf pans or 7 mini-loaf pans)
  • Cream the eggs, veg oil, and sugar until fluffy.
  • And the pumpkin pulp.
  • Sift the remaining ingredients and add to mixture. If you don’t sift, the bread won’t have the great texture, so you must sift!
  • Bake at 350° in 2 loaf pans (50-60 min)  or  7 mini loaf pans for 35-40 min or until toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C vegetable oil
  • 3 C granulated (white) sugar
  • 2 C cooked pumpkin
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. nutmeg
  • 1 t. ground cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Be sure to make this bread one day before you serve it. After it sits overnight, the flavors come together and the texture sets up beautifully! It freezes well, too.

I made the mini-loaf size, and after they cooled, cut them each into 6 slices, put them back together, and wrapped them in Saran wrap.  After packing them into freezer bags, I put them in the freezer and will thaw them as needed for church receptions / coffee hours.

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Thank you Second Baptist Church in Memphis for sharing this awesome recipe!  Some Episcopalians in South Florida are enjoying the results. 🙂