Saturday, December 3, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Bars

Our family will never say no to chocolate and peanut butter and I think that's a good enough reason to make these bars.  They are fairly easy to make and taste very similar to Reese's peanut butter cups.  I think this is an obligatory item to make for gift giving to those who have the same love to peanut butter and chocolate like we do.

Peanut Butter Cup Bars

Makes 48 bars

Nonstick cooking spry
3/4 butter
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups finely crushed honey graham cereal
1 11.5-oz. package milk chocolate pieces
3 tablespoons shortening
8 to 10 chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, chopped

Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over edges of the pan.  Lightly coat the foil with cooking spray.  In a large saucepan melt butter over low heat.  Add peanut butter; heat and stir until melted and smooth.  Stir in powdered sugar and crushed cereal; mix well.  Pat the peanut butter mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a medium bowl microwave chocolate pieces and shortening for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or just until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.  Spread melted chocolate over the peanut butter layer.  Sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups.  Cover and chill 30 minutes or until firm.  Use edges of foil to lift uncut bars out of pan.  Transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into bars.

Source:  Christmas Cookie by Better Homes and Gardens, 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sweet Potato Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

This is a post that may be a bit late, you know, to bake a pie on the day of, but it may be a recipe to try on the next Thanksgiving day.  I don't normally make pumpkin pie myself; I find it a bit bland and not substantial.  But this year I decided to make on--with sweet potato--because I personally love that knobby root vegetable better than sugar pumpkin.

To my surprise I enjoy eating it so much that I think I'm ready to make it a tradition of baking it every year.  This one pie is a simple variety of so many out there with outrageous add-ins.  It is a strictly sweet potato with cream, milk, brown sugar, eggs, and lots of spices.  And as always, my favorite part is topping it with lightly sweetened whipped cream, yumm...

The crust recipe here is for three 9-inch pie which you can freeze after you divide the dough into three portions.  Wrap it well with plastic wrap and freeze up for a month.  I've always like having extra pie dough in my freezer anyway because I don't know always know when my pie craving strike; that way it's halfway done!

Sweet Potato Pie

Makes 12 servings

1 recipe All-Butter Piecrust, recipe follows
1 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 packed brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt

Prepare the All-Butter Piecrust as directed, except after removing foil and weights, bake about 5 minutes more or until set but not browned.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, wrap them in foil, and roast in the oven 60 to 70 minutes or until tender.  Reduce oven to 375 degrees F.

Let sweet potatoes cool.  Peel and place in a bowl.  Mash with a potato masher.  (You should have about 2 cups.)  In a food processor combine mashed sweet potatoes, cream, brown sugar, milk, eggs, the spices, and a pinch of kosher salt.  Cover and process just until smooth.  Pour the sweet potato filling into the piecrust.  Cover edges of pie with foil (or use a metal pie crust shield).  Bake 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more or until evenly puffed and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

All-Butter Piecrust

Makes three 9-inch piecrusts

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4-1 cup cold water

In a large bowl whisk together flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.  Using a pastry blender or your fingers, work butter into flour mixture until butter is bean-size.  Stir in 3/4 cup of the water, a few tablespoons at a time.  Squeeze a small handful of dough.  If dough is still crumbly, stir in the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn dough out in a mound on a work surface.  Starting with a quarter of the mixture, smear the section of the dough with palm of your hand, pushing away from the mound.  Repeat with remaining dough sections.  Gather the dough into a ball, divide into thirds, wrap in plastic wrap, and press each into a round disk.  Chill 30 to 60 minutes.  At this point, you can freeze the remaining two in a freezer bag and store for up to a month in the freezer.

Using a floured rolling pin a generously floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle.  Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and trim to 1/2-inc beyond edge of pie plate.  Fold extra dough under, even with the pie plate edges; press it together.  Flute as desired.  Prick the bottom and sides of dough several times with a fork.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line dough with a double thickness of foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake about 20 minutes or until sides are golden and firm.  Remove weights and foil.  Proceeds with the rest of pie direction.  If wanting to have a finished pie crust, continue baking the crust after removing weights; 10 to 15 minutes more or until the bottom is golden.  Cool completely on wire rack.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Garden, recipe by Ian Knauer

Friday, November 11, 2016

S'Mores Cupcakes

To break the monotonous bread posts, I thought I would share a cupcake recipe.  This was the cupcakes that I made for my son's birthday last month.  I had to return the book to the library before I had a chance to write down the recipe hence the gap of almost a month.  So here in November I'm writing the recipe since I got to borrow the book again.  The book is called Cake Magic!  Mix and Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations by Caroline Wright.  I've always loved trying out recipes from a new book and this book has lots of colorful photos and ideas to make cakes from a few basic recipes.  There are about eight cake recipes where each recipe has four or five variants of flavors.  It's pretty interesting and I'd love to try some more recipes.

So there's a dry cake mix that you need to prepare before you choose which kind of cake you'd want to make.  In this case, I chose to do a brown sugar cake.  I'd add brown sugar, butter, eggs, yogurt, etc to the dry cake mix to make the cake.  Within brown sugar cake category, there's a few options/add-ins to the cake.  For example, cinnamon-raisin, nuts, chocolate chip, root beer , and so on.  In addition to that, this book uses different kinds of syrups to soak the cake, sort of making it has a more complex flavor and helping the cake stays moist.  It's kinda fun to pick and choose which flavor combinations to go with, and the book gives plenty of pairings examples.

The only thing that I don't like is the method of making the cake.  It involves only dump and stir the ingredients resulting in a cake that has quick-bread-like texture rather than a fine and luxurious crumbs.  I'm going to try the creaming method next time I try another recipe, hoping to improve the texture of the cake.  But we love the flavor combination for this time and this S'mores Cupcakes was a hit!

S'Mores Cupcakes

Yields 24 cupcakes

Cake Magic! Cake Mix:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together well to combine.  Whisk the mix again before measuring.

Brown Sugar Cake:

1 quantity of Cake Magic! Cake Mix, whisked well before measuring
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup full-fat plain yogurt
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Vanilla Syrup
Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting
Graham Cracker Crumble
Mini marshmallows or large marshmallows, cut into two

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.  Line 2 x 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.

Whisk together the cake mix, baking soda, and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Stir in the butter, yogurt, water, molasses, vanilla, and eggs until moistened and no lumps remain.  Divide the batter between the prepared pans.

Bake until the layers are domed and a few moist crumbs cling to a skewer inserted in the center of the cake, 20 to 25 minutes.  Make the Vanilla Syrup.

Remove the pans from the oven, pierce the cupcakes while they're still in the pans with a skewer.  Generously brush the Vanilla Syrup over the surface to the hot cakes.  Place the pans on cooling rack to cool completely.  This may take up to an hour.  Take the cupcakes out of the pans.

While waiting for the cupcakes to cool, make the frosting.  Frost the cupcakes with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting.  Sprinkle the Graham Cracker Crumble on top, pat down to make them stick.  Top each cupcake with marshmallows.  Torch the marshmallows until slightly blackened.

Vanilla Syrup:

Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, water, and salt in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for about 5 minutes.  Stir to dissolve the sugar, then stir in the vanilla and remove from the heat.  Set aside to cool.  Use the syrup warm or let it stand, covered, until it reaches room temperature.

Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting:

Makes 2 cups

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Combine the butter, unsweetened cocoa powder, salt, and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Add the remaining sugar and beat on medium speed until the frosting is pale and no longer grainy, about 2 minutes.

Graham Cracker Crumble:

Makes about 3 cups

2 sleeves graham crackers (about 10 cracker sheets), finely crushed (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup malted milk powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 300 degree F.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, malted milk powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and toss to combine.  Drizzle with melted butter over the crumb mixture and stir until clumps form.

Scatter the clumps onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake until the crumbles are golden brown and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes.  Let cool completely before using.

This can be made ahead as it can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

Source:  adapted from Cake Magic!  Mix and Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combination by Caroline Wright

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pumpkin Loaf with Pumpkin Seeds

This I believe is my second post of pumpkin-related baked goods that I made this month.  Everyone else is on to their 10th pumpkin posts, I'm still working my way up, lol.  It's just my schedule this month is preventing me to bake as frequently as I want to.  But no worries, I've a few posts to write before I've to make new stuff.

Anyway, this bread--yes, it's another bread post--caught my eyes and it came from the same blog that has the sweet bread loaf.  I decided that since I had all the ingredients why not make it.  The bread barely taste like pumpkin, it's unlike a pumpkin quick-bread; this has  a very subtle pumpkin flavor but it's moist throughout and was very good with a cream cheese spread.  I bet it'll make a great pumpkin French toast.  Too bad I didn't think about it until today.

Because I like to make my dough in a bread maker, I dump all the wet ingredients first then add the dry ingredients with yeast on top.  If making this on a mixer with a dough hook, you have to make sure that it's sufficiently kneaded, do a window-pane test, proof, and then proceed to the shaping part of the recipe.

Pumpkin Loaf with Pumpkin Seeds

350g bread flour
 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
140g milk 
130g pumpkin puree (steamed pumpkin and mashed with a fork)
2 tablespoon honey 
26g unsalted butter, softened

Beaten egg for egg wash
Raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds -- I used about 1/3 cup or so

Additional butter for brushing, optional 

In a mixer bowl, place bread flour and salt, give it a little stir.  Add yeast, milk, pumpkin puree, honey, and butter.  With a dough hook, knead the dough until smooth and elastic.  Do a window-pane test.  Grease another large bowl, dump the dough into it, cover with plastic wrap, and let it proof for about 1 hour.

If making with a bread maker, place all the wet ingredients first then add the dry ingredients with the yeast on the very top.  Select Dough cycle.

When the dough has doubled, place it on a well-floured surface, punch one time to release the gas.  Roll the dough into a ball and let it rest, covered with towel, for 20 minutes.

Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.  

Flatten the dough into a large rectangular shape.  Roll it up like making a swiss roll, starting from the short side. Place the dough into the pan, seam side down.  Let it proof again for another hour or until the dough has doubled in size.  Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

Brush the top with beaten egg, scatter pumpkin seeds and pat them down to make them stick.  Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the bread is hollow when tap on the bottom.  Once it's done baking, brush the top with butter if desired; remove it from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

To keep the bread soft, store in plastic bag for 2-3 days at room temperature.

Source:  adapted from Cook Bake Love

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Banana-Coconut Cream Cheese Nut Bread

Banana bread is my go-to quick bread to make when I'm pressed in time but I really, really want to bake.  In this case, I want to finish an opened cream cheese package and there's some ripe bananas on the counter.  I've always had bananas in the house; they're eaten frequently and my family doesn't say no to banana bread.

I'm pretty sure I've made this banana bread before but I don't remember where I got the recipe.  Luckily, Pinterest came to my rescue.  Judging from the way the recipe is I can tell that this one is a keeper.  I traced it back to Southern Living magazine website and it was one of their most popular recipes to be made over and over again.  The original recipe had some cinnamon crisp topping but the recipe that I found from Pinterest eliminated that topping.  So I made my own modification which was to add shredded coconut on the top of the loaves.  It gives a nice texture to the bread and goes together with the flavor profile.  And I love that this recipe yields two loaves, one for me, none for you :D!

Banana-Coconut Cream Cheese Nut Bread

Yields 2 loaves

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
1 cup roughly chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.  Greased and floured two 8-x4-inch loaf pans.

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.  Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla.  Spoon batter into the loaf pans.  Sprinkle coconut equally on top of loaves, pad lightly so the coconut will adhere.

Bake for about an hour or until a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan; shielding with aluminum foil the last 15 minutes to prevent browning, if necessary.  Cool bread in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

Source:  adapted from Southern Living