Monday, January 9, 2017

Easy Fruit Cake


When I wrote my last post it was in 2016 :P  I know I've been absent from the blog for many weeks.  I usually am pretty good of closing the year with a Christmas post, but this year my end of year break was marked by my mom's illness that necessitated an ER visit, my working at adult community center, and an unpredictable future regarding a friend's moving day and how it would play on my regular job.  It was a stressful end of year and I didn't think of wanting to sit and write a post.  But, my family had a fun catching lots of Netflix TV episodes and I think that's where most of my free time went :)



And since the departure of my co-worker, I've been working harder at work and longer hours.  Consequently my free time is now so precious that I'd rather spent sleeping!  I even skipped going to the gym today and I do miss it.  I'd love to go the gym to clear my mind, and that's the purpose of my workout.  If I can work out five days a week I'd do it because I came home in a better spirit.

Anyhow...I have a recipe that I was going to share in December but had to put it in the back burner.  Did I tell you that I love fruitcake?  Yes, I do and I'm glad my family loves it too.  I admit, I much prefer lighter fruitcake than the heavy, dark, and old-fashioned one; but if there's one available, I wouldn't mind at all.  This cake is moist and has almond flour, plenty of fruitcake mix and buttery.  It was my husband's favorite that I think I made it twice; one during the break and a couple of weeks later.  Pretty easy and lovely!


Easy Fruit Cake


Serves 12


225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225 g sugar
4 large eggs
225 g self-rising flour
100 g ground almond
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
450 g mixed dried fruit
25 g slivered or flaked almonds


Preheat the oven to 325F.  Grease an 8-inch springform with cooking spray; line the base and sides of the pan with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition to prevent curdling.

Fold in the flour, ground almonds, and almond extract and beat until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  Gently fold the dried fruit into the mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the pan and level the top.  Sprinkle the surface with the slivered/flaked almonds.  Cover the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil because it will leak during baking.

Put the pan into the oven and bake for 1 1/2-2 hours.  Test the cake using a skewer inserted in the cake, it should be clean and dry; if not return the cake to the oven to cook further.  Cover the top with aluminum foil if it is going brown too soon.  When the cake is done, remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.


Source:  adapted from Marry Berry's Cookery Course







Friday, December 9, 2016

Gingerbread Cinnamon Buns


Another day of staying at home because of snow day.  It snowed late morning yesterday and even though there was not much accumulation, the snow has turned into a thin coat of ice this morning.  The school was canceled which meant I didn't have to go to work either.  Honestly I didn't feel like going to work :)  I have to drive uphill to my work and if the roads weren't cleared, which sometimes can happen, I'd rather stay home.

Because of that, I had quite a bit of time at home right now.  I ventured out to the back yard to take photos of icicles and then went back to do the same with my fruitcake.  Yes, I made a fruitcake yesterday afternoon.  No, it isn't a brick-heavy one; this is a lighter fruit cake from a Mary Berry's recipes.  I made this first last month and we really loved it.  It is rather cakey with lots of dried sour cherries, raisins, and fruitcake mix.  Some people are turned off by that fruitcake mix, but I don't mind it at all; my mom used to make a Dutch-style fruitcake using glace red and green cherries when I was young so I grew up eating it.


I will share the recipe later on but this time I want to share what I made for breakfast last weekend.  This is gingerbread cinnamon buns because we're a fan of cinnamon buns.  I think these buns are perfect for the season, the smell of the spices when they're baked is absolutely delicious.  I've always made cinnamon buns the night before and let them do the second proofing in the fridge.  In the morning of, I take them out and let rest for 30 minutes before baking them.  The freshly baked buns are ready in less than 30 minutes.


Gingerbread Cinnamon Buns


Makes 9 servings


1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 recipe Spiced Glaze

In a large bowl combine the warm water and the yeast, stirring to dissolve yeast.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in the next six ingredients (through salt).  Stir in as much of the flour as you can.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total).  Shape dough into a ball.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 to 1 1/2 hours).

Punch down dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.  Lightly grease a 13x9-inch baking pan.  For filling, combine the next five ingredients (through cloves).

Roll dough into a 12x8-inch rectangle.  Spread dough with butter.  Sprinkle with filling, leaving 1 inch unfilled along one of the long sides.  Roll up rectangle, starting from the filled long side.  Pinch dough to seal seams.  Cut into 12 slices.  Arrange and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 45 minutes).  At this point, you can cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to proof for overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Drizzle with Spiced Glaze.


Spiced Glaze:  Stir together 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Stir in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make a glaze drizzling consistency.


Source:  adapted from Fall Baking 2015, Better Homes and Gardens

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