A Fortunate Cake Mistake

About 5 or 6 years ago, I tried to make an Orange Date Pound Cake that I’d found on the Taste of Home website, but I messed up. I accidentally poured the ½ cup of orange juice that was meant for the glaze into the cake batter instead . . . while the mixer was running. I couldn’t exactly remove the orange juice from the batter like that time I removed the entire jar of cinnamon that accidentally spilled on top of the Apple Cake batter because as I was sprinkling it over the cake batter, the top came off and all of the cinnamon fell out. No, there was no turning back from the Accidental Imposition Of Orange Juice. So I opted for denial: Orange Juice? What Orange Juice?  I baked the cake anyway. . . AND IT WAS AWESOME!

It was a little lighter than a pound cake, but SUPER moist, and had a really nice orange flavor. TASTEE! How can you go wrong with orange, dates, pecans . . . and buttermilk? Um, you can’t.  (For an explanation of “tastee”, check out Cousin Leah’s new blog!)

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So last week when I signed up to bring a coffeecake to my church’s Summer Brunch this Sunday, this recipe came to mind. It’s not really a coffee cake, but with the orange and dates and pecans, I’m saying that it is!

If you want to make this awesome cake, here’s the recipe to which I made the following changes:

  1. Added ½ C orange juice to the cake batter
  2. Folded the zest into the batter as the last ingredient. Otherwise, it tends to clump on the beaters and you have to stop, scrape it off, and mix it in.
  3. Made it in a bundt pan instead of a tube pan
  4. Made only half of the glaze recipe. That’s all it needs because I . .
  5. Applied the glaze with a pastry brush instead of pouring it over the cake. Better coverage. And after it sits overnight, the glaze gets a little crunchy. Mmmm.

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If you make this cake, make it one day before you’re going to  serve it. The glaze sets up perfectly, and the texture of the cake will be unbelievable!  You’ll need a sharp serrated knife to cut it because of all the dates and pecans, and  because it’s really moist.

The results:

 

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Enjoy!

 

 

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Bar Cookie Nirvana

After trying many bar cookie recipes and not finding a truly superior one, I resorted to some experimenting. I tried to create PB&J bar cookie earlier in the year. Results: meh. Then there were the Toffee Blondies. Really Good, but not quite Spectacular. Oh, and how could I forget the Hazelnut Bar Cookie Debacle of March 2016? I tried to make up a White Chocolate and Roasted Hazelnut bar cookie recipe and in the process, 1) broke my fave 9×12 pyrex baking pan by accidentally dropping it on the tile floor, 2) burned the Hazelnuts instead of roasting them, so I had to go back to the store to get more hazelnuts, but I shouldn’t have bothered because 3) the Hazelnut bars were AWFUL. I mean AW! FUL!  They tasted like soft concrete . . . but worse.

I refused, however, to give in to Bar Cookie Defeat. I put the Hazelnut Debacle behind me, regained my Bar Cookie Mojo, and decided that instead of making up a recipe, I should go look for a really fabulous one. And you know what? I FOUND ONE!! At long last, I found the BEST BAR COOKIE RECIPE!! It will KNOCK your SOCKS off! So please remove your socks before you taste – or even look at  – these bars, to avoid the dangerous sock flingage that might ensue.

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You owe it to yourself to make these. The recipe is easy and the outcome is WOW!

This fabulous recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour website. I really like this recipe because it has options that can be chosen to suit your personal taste. Here are the options I chose:

  1. Used the vanilla-butter-nut flavor i/o the butterscotch flavor. If you’ve never used vanilla-butter-nut flavor, for pete’s sake put your socks back on and go get some now! It’s AWESOME. It gives a much richer flavor. I used more than the recipe calls for:  ½ t. instead of ¼ t.
  2. Used 2 C milk chocolate chunks and 1 C walnuts. It would be even better with pecans, but I was out of pecans because, um, I ate them all – so I had to use walnuts. (Is there a group for pecan addicts? I really need help.)

Also, I followed the recipe’s advice to take them out of the oven when they still look underbaked, and then to let them cool overnight. That was good advice! I left them in the pan and covered them with foil while they were still a bit warm. They set up really well and have an amazing, chewy texture and a perfect, crusty top.

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So I’m taking them  to Coffee Hour after church, but will be on guard in case socks start flying around the fellowship hall.  🙂

Thank you King Arthur Flour for a fabulous recipe and for bringing to a conclusion my Bar Cookie Recipe Search. Now I can direct my baking energy towards next weekend’s church event: Sunday Summer Brunch. Should I make Orange/Date/Pecan pound cake . . . or. . . Maple-Bacon cookies?  I’m not sure my fellow church-goers are ready for a bacon-inclusive cookie. But perhaps I underestimate them . . .

Cookie Experiment with Swiss Miss

. . . and a Narrow Escape From Hell.

 

The Inspiration:  While foraging in my pantry for almonds, I found some packets of Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa mix that expire next month. OMIGOSH. I’m pretty sure that letting chocolate go to waste is The 8th Deadly Sin. Oooooo. 

The Question:  Could I work it into a  cookie recipe before it expires, and thereby avoid the requisite trip to Dante’s Inferno? 

The Answer: YES!  And just to make sure the cookies would have a true Swiss Miss vibe, I braided my hair beforehand like the Swiss Miss cartoon girl in the old commercials.

The Result:   Yodel Ay Hee Hoo! This one’s a keeper! The cookie has a medium chocolate intensity, then you get the chocolate POW! from the dark chocolate center that is hiding under the dreamy, sweet marshmallow. Even when cooled, these cookies are soft. Mmmmmm.

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The Recipe is  adapted from parts of two recipes I found online. This one, which I cut in half and omitted/changed some ingredients, and this one, from which I got the topping idea. Yield: 22 medium-sized cookies. Recipe can be doubled. 

Want to make them? Here’s what you need:

Equipment:

Stand mixer

Medium cookie scoop (1 5/8″ diameter)

A tray that will fit into your freezer (you’re gonna freeze the dough)

Cookie sheets (Baking time & temp in recipe are based on use of Airbake cookie sheets.)

Parchment paper

Aluminum foil

Sifter or fine-mesh sieve

Ingredients:

10 T butter (1 stick plus 2T)

1/2 C sugar

1/3 C brown sugar

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

1 T milk

1 1/2 C flour

2 pkgs (.96 oz ea) Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa, dark chocolate flavor

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. baking soda

1 T milk

1/3 C dark chocolate chips (I used Nestle Toll House Dark Chocolate Morsels)

11 large marshmallows

powdered sugar

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Instructions:

1. Braid your hair and do a Swiss Miss yodel.

2. Beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, vanilla, and milk; beat on medium speed until combined. 

4. Combine flour, cocoa mix, salt and baking soda, and gradually add into butter mixture until well blended.

5. Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop cookie dough balls onto parchment-lined baking sheet or any tray that will fit into your freezer. Place the balls close together but not touching. Cover with foil and place in freezer for at least 1 hour.  (I left mine in for 6 hours because I had other things to do. You can freeze them overnight as well.) 

6. To bake, preheat oven to 350F. Leave dough in freezer until oven is ready.

7.  While oven is heating, cut each marshmallow in half.

8.  Place frozen dough balls 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and place in preheated oven.

9. When tops of cookies have just start to set but are still underbaked, (approx. 9 min, depending on how long dough was in the freezer), remove cookies from the oven.  Place 3 dark chocolate morsels in the center of each cookie, and top with a half-marshmallow. Press down a bit so it all sinks into the middle of the cookie. 

10. Return tray to oven and bake for another 5 minutes, or until marshmallow is puffy but not brown. Cookies should look not-quite-done. Take them out of the oven anyway. 

11. Allow cookies to cool on tray for 5 minutes. They will finish “setting up”, and you’ll have a nice, chewy cookie, even after they’ve cooled completely.   

12. Move cookies to cooling rack.

13.  Just before serving, sift a little powdered sugar over the cookies. For prettiness. (Picture above was taken before I did this. Oops.)

Enjoy!   😀

 

Tired of the same old brownies?

Not that anyone would turn down a brownie, but if you’re up for some Brownie Innovation,  here are two ways that I recently tried to make something different with brownie mix. They both turned out great!

FIRST WAY: Walnut Brownie Bites with Ganache

Go to Bed Bath and Beyond, and get yo’sef a Brownie Bite Pan (or you can order it from Amazon.) It looks like this, and it’s made by USA Pan:

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Then, get a box of your favorite Ghiradelli brownie mix and mix according to pkg directions. (The above pan perfectly accommodates one box of mix.) Spoon into pan – fill each cavity about half full –  and bake at 350 for 21-24 mins. After they have cooled, remove from pan and cover with ganache.  You can make ganache by melting together in a double boiler: 4 oz of semi sweet or milk chocolate with 1 T butter, 1/4 C heavy cream, and 1/4 T vanilla. Remove from heat and stir until it’s not so thin. Pour over each brownie bite and top with half a walnut or whatever you like. Refridgerate until ganache is set (several hours) and then you can take them out of the fridge to let them return to room temp before serving.

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They’re a little larger than a petit-four, and they are chewy like the edge of a brownie. I took these to coffee hour at church a few weeks ago, and they went fast!  Be careful not to bake them too long or they will get really hard. (I made that mistake the first time and had to start over.)

SECOND WAY: Chocolate Caramel Cookies

No special pan needed.  Just a small cookie scoop and a box of Ghiradelli Caramel brownie mix.  There’s a recipe on the back of the box for these cookies: Brownie mix, one egg, 4 T softened butter.  Mix (use a stand mixer – dough is very dense)  and scoop onto cookie sheets.  Make an indentation with your thumb in the middle of each cookie, and pour the caramel into each cavity.  (Caramel pouch provided in the box.) Bake for 12-13 min at 350. Remove from oven and top with whatever – I used brickle bits. The recipe says to use a pecan half, but because I used a small scoop, the cookies were a little too small for that.  But I got 3 dozen cookies out of it by using the small scoop. And they did spread a good bit during baking, so they are not dinky.

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The brownie mix has little walnut bits in it, so you can see some of those on the sides of the cookies. But that’s the brickle in the middle.

I will be taking these to coffee hour at church tomorrow along with some Almond Macaroons and Apricot Almond Bars. Hope everyone enjoys them! I surely enjoyed making them.

Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Cookies

Isn’t it always time for a cookie? 🙂

So today I made a recipe that I haven’t made in ages.  Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Cookies.  Found the recipe on the King Arthur Flour website.  They have really nice quality recipes – have a look!

So back to the cookies – it’s a pretty easy recipe. It calls for both butter and shortening, but I used all butter and no shortening. Cuz who wants to eat shortening? blech. I used a small cookie scoop to make round dough balls, then rolled the balls in a mixture of sugar and a little salt.  Since the cookies have butterscotch chips and brown sugar in them, they are really sweet, so the touch of salt perfectly counters all the sweetness. It’s kind of the same effect as a little salt on caramel.  YUM.

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I did not refrigerate the dough, so the cookies came out flatter, but since I baked them for only 10 minutes, they were nice and chewy. If you want a chunkier cookie, you can refrigerate the dough before rolling into balls, and for a crisper cookie, you can bake them an additional 2 minutes.  They looked a little boring, so after I took this pic, I sprinkled the top with some of the sugar/salt mixture.

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Wow. I really need to take some photography classes, don’t I.

 

 

 

Whole Wheat Apple Raisin Bread

Move over, Carrot-Pineapple Bread! Your place in the Breakfast Bread Hall Of Fame has just been usurped by a fabulous breakfast bread from King Arthur Flour:  Whole Wheat Apple Raisin Bread. (Better pic on website.)

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And here’s a pic of the inside of a little muffin I made from the batter so I could have a taste.  Very moist. Quite delicious.

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I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website.  Every one of their recipes I have tried has been AMAZING.  This recipe calls for White Whole Wheat flour.  I had never used that before, so I was curious.  It’s really good! It has a milder flavor and is lighter in color than regular whole wheat flour, but it has all the same nutrition as regular whole wheat flour. It’s also not as “heavy” as regular ww flour. I can’t wait to try it in some other things.

The only problem I had with the recipe was that it calls for a regular sized loaf pan, which turned out to be way too small.  The center of the loaf was not done, yet the crust was starting to burn.  But that problem can be easily resolved by using a large loaf pan (9×5″) or by making the regular loaf + 2 mini loaves.

The recipe gives you several options:  I used golden raisins instead of dark ones.  I did use the optional ginger, and I used both the cinnamon sugar and sparkling sugar on the top instead of just one of them.

Since it’s a new recipe for me, I asked my friend Diana to critique the bread’s texture and flavor. She went wild over it and asked me for the recipe.  So this bread will now be at the top of my list for my next baking project, whenever that may occur. Soon, I hope!

This bread freezes really well, so you can make it ahead of time. Try it out! You won’t be disappointed.

Apricot Angel Bars

I will begin by saying that THESE ARE AWESOME!

You really should include them in your holiday baking repertoire. They’re a nice alternative to a brownie, and far superior to a regular old blondie.

The recipe is a contest-winning recipe I found on the Taste of Home website.  It looked interesting, but I had no idea it would be so good!

You won’t even need a mixer for this one. You melt butter and white chocolate together, then add the other wet ingredients, and then stir that into the dry ingredients. (I used Ghiradelli white chips instead of white baking chocolate.)   And you mix up chopped dried apricots, sliced almonds, and a little coconut and add half of that to the batter and sprinkle the rest on top.

The combination of flavors is delicious! And the texture is perfect – like a chewy brownie. Oh, and did I mention that they are made with brown sugar?  You can’t go wrong with that.

One note:  I thought I had messed up the recipe, because when I put the batter into the 9″ baking pan, it barely covered the bottom of the pan. But they turned out perfect.  I guess the 2 eggs and all the baking powder really made them rise.

One other note:  I melted the butter and white choc in a double boiler i/o a saucepan.  It took longer, but prevented the white choc from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan. You could probably do it in the microwave, as long as you stopped to stir every 20 -30 seconds.