Thursday, September 15, 2016

Chocolate-Glazed Ginger-Pumpkin Muffins

People gets excited at the beginning of fall season, because they can now order pumpkin spice latte.  I usually don't do that on purpose; if I was in the vicinity of Starbucks and it's a convenient time for me to buy it then I'll buy it.  Most likely I'll forget to buy it when it's in season.  But don't get me wrong, I love pumpkin in baked goods.  My husband and son aren't crazy for pumpkins though, especially in form of pumpkin pie; but if I made it into muffins, pancakes, or cakes, they'll be happy to eat it.

This week I made these muffins and also pumpkin pancakes.  The muffins were all gone but I had the pancakes in the freezer for the weekend.  I didn't use canned pumpkin since I had pulp from homegrown kabocha and blue kuri that my parents grew.  I had them baked until soft so the flesh can be scraped easily.  I think steaming it works too, I've just never tried it.

These muffins are great for after school snacks or even for after dinner desserts.  I'm very fond of crystallized ginger and to add tiny morsels of those on top of the muffins is a brilliant idea.

Chocolate-Glazed Ginger-Pumpkin Muffins

Makes 16 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
Chocolate Glaze--recipe below
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line sixteen muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.  In a medium bowl combine flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together the pumpkin, melted butter, buttermilk, and eggs.  Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture.  Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy).  Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.  Remove muffins from muffin cups; cool completely on a wire rack.

Dip the tops of the muffins into the Chocolate Glaze, allowing excess glaze to drip off.  Place dipped muffins upright on the wire rack.  Sprinkle tops of muffins with chopped crystallized ginger.  Let stand about 30 minutes or until glaze sets.

Chocolate Glaze
In a medium saucepan heat 1/2 cup whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and, if desired, 1 tablespoon orange-flavor liqueur over medium-high heat just until boiling.  Remove from heat.  Add 6 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.  Do not stir.  Let stand for 5 minutes; stir until smooth.

To store:  Place muffins in a single layer in an airtight container.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Baking

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Plum Torte

Every year, around the end of August, I will get a basketful of Italian prune plum from a dear friend.  This year would be the last time I get the tree-ripened plums because she won't have access to the tree anymore.  A little sad, yes, because these plums are the best. I love their firm texture and sweet flavor.  I'm saving the rest of the plums that didn't make to the cake in the freezer.

This plum cake is very simple to make but it tastes superb.  The plums turned soft when baked but retained its shaped well.  I don't eat dried prune at all unless it's in a cake but the fresh ones, I will hoard them.  When I bite into a slice, I'm hit with tender crumb surrounding the plums; but the best part was the edges.  They're perfectly crunchy!

I baked this in an 9-inch pan so it was on a thinner side but it didn't affect its appearance.  I enjoy baking a cake like this when it's uncomplicated, can be done in a few hours--just in time of after dinner dessert, and tasty to boot.  This cake has become one of my favorite recipes to bake again and again.

Plum Torte

Serves 8

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
10 to 12 Italian prune plums, pitted and halved lengthwise
Turbinado sugar and ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or handheld beaters, cream the sugar and butter until very light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Add the dry ingredients and the eggs all at once and the almond extract, if using, and beat until combined, scraping down the bowl once or twice.

Spread the batter into an 8 or 9-inch spring form pan.  Arrange the plum halves, skin side up, on top of the batter in concentric circles.  Sprinkle the batter and fruit lightly with turbinado sugar and cinnamon.

Bake the torte for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Cool the cake in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes, and then release the spring and let it finish cooling just on the base.  Once it's cool, serve as soon as possible.  Or, you can double-wrap the torte in foil, put it in a sealed plastic bag and freeze (for up to one year).

Note:  to serve a torte that has been frozen, defrost it completely and then reheat it for 5 to 10 minutes in a 300 degrees F oven.

Source:  adapted from Food52

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cream Cheese Marbled Pecan Brownies

I have not done anything with chocolate lately because I was obsessed with fruits of the season.  So when I mentioned to my family that I was going to bake brownies, the resounding yes was heard :D

Yes, cream cheese brownies have been done all over the place and may not gone out of trend but since I have not made it for ages, I think it is safe to say that it is time to test a new recipe.  Besides, who doesn't want to eat brownies anyway?  The recipe looks promising in the beginning and it didn't disappoint at the end.  When my son asked what kind of chocolate I used, it made me think that, as the saying goes, the better the chocolate the better the end result is.  I answered him, yes, I used the good kind because I believe that if my family were to eat high-calorie food, might as well made it with good quality ingredients :)

The brownie part came out moist, fudgy, and has a deep chocolate flavor, the cream cheese has a custardy texture which is soft and creamy, and the pecans add crunchiness to each bit.  It was so good sinking my teeth into it, especially around the edges where there's crispy bits of brownies can be found.

I have a feeling that I will be making this again soon...

Cream Cheese Marbled Pecan Brownies

Makes 40 brownies (small cut) or 24 ( big cut)

1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cu unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degreeF.  Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil about 1 inch over edges of pan.  Grease foil; set pan aside.

In a small mixing bowl beat cream cheese and the 2 tablespoons butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until creamy.  Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Beat in 1 egg and 1 tablespoon flour until combined.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan heat and stir chocolate and the 3/4 cup butter over low heat until melted and smooth.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Gradually add the 2 1/4 cups sugar, beating on low sped until combined.  Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.  Beat in milk, vanilla, and almond extract.  In a small bowl stir together the 1 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually beat in flour mixture just until combined.

Pour chocolate batter into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly.  Spoon cream cheese mixture in mounds on top of chocolate batter.  Using a table knife or narrow metal spatula, gently swirl cream cheese mixture into chocolate batter to marble.  Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.  Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Using the edges of the foil, lift uncut brownies out of pan.  Cut into bars.

To store:  Place brownies in a single layer in an airtight container; cover.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Gardens: Baking

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Deep-Dish Blackberry-Peach Double-Crust Pie

I have a feeling time goes faster than I'd like it to be.  It's two more weeks until Labor Day weekend; after that school will start and I will go back to my regular work.  I really like summer time because there's time to be with family and go on an outing.  It'll be kind of sad when September rolls over.

For most of days, I've time to bake with what's available in season.  There are several recipes that I've tried but not all will make it to this blog.  There's a chocolate zucchini cake which was a disappointment, a fermented cassava cake which was still to be perfected, but most of the pies I did will be shared here though.  This is one of them, when the peaches were plenty and blackberries hung by a handful.

Each pie slice is a burst of juicy blackberries and sweet peaches and I love it when I can successfully cut a perfect pie slice--pat myself on the back.  We topped our pies with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, hmmm...I wish I still had that slice.

Deep-Dish Blackberry-Peach Double-Crust Pie

Make 8 to 10 servings

Double Crust Pie Pastry:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup cold water


6 to 8 small to medium-size ripe peaches
4 cups fresh blackberries
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Milk or light cream

To make the double crust pastry:
In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, and salt.  Add butter, pulse a few time.  Add shortening, pulse until the mixture forms into lima bean-size pieces.  Add half of the ice water, pulse again.  Then add the last half of ice water, pulse until the mixture starts to clump and look moist.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather into two balls; one ball should be slightly larger than the other; this will be the bottom crust.  Flatten each into a disk with the heel of your hand.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

Once ready, take out the bottom crust disk; allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Liberally flour the work surface and roll the pastry into a 13 1/2-inch circle.  Gently fold the pastry into the rolling pin and invert pastry over a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.  Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and let the overhang drape over the edge.  Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

To make the filling:
Blanch, peel, and slice the peaches into a large measuring cup; you'll need 4 cups.  Combine the sliced peaches, blackberries, and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a large bowl.  Toss well to combine and set aside for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar with the cornstarch.  Stir the mixture into the fruit along with the nutmeg, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.  Take out the smaller disk of pastry and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Roll out the top crust pastry onto a floured surface to a 11 1/2-inch circle.  Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell.  Smooth the fruit with a spoon and dot with the butter.  Lightly moisten the rim of the pie shell.  Invert the top pastry over the filling.  Press the top and bottom pastries together along the dampened edge.  Trim the pastry with scissors or a paring knife, leaving an even 1/2-inch overhang all around, then sculpt the overhang into an upstanding ridge.  Slash the top of the pie with a knife to allow steam to escape.  Brush top crust all over with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for for 30 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degree F and rotate the pie 180 degrees.  Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any drips.  Continue to bake until the juices bubble thickly at the steam vents and the top is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes.  If the top starts to get too dark, cover it with loosely tented aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Source:  Pie by Ken Haedrich

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Peanut Butter Banana Coconut Cookie Bites

Even though I'm not allergic to anything or following a particular diet, I sometime like to make healthy food options for my family.  Especially since I'm not getting younger anymore, it's best to keep me healthy by not overindulging in rich foods, right?  

When the healthy food has great taste, the right texture, and easy to make, I'd say yes to making it part of my baking/cooking repertoire.  Just like these cookie bites, these are made from wholesome and natural ingredients; and what's more they're taste awesome.  

When my husband or son comes home from work or school, they like to have something to nibble to tide the hunger until dinner time.  I think these bites are the perfect answer for that call.

I've tasted a variation of this cookies and decided to make it based on the ingredients I have on hand.  The original recipe is called Toasted Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Cookies by Simply Quinoa.  Her blog has a variety of recipes using quinoa that taste and look great.  Thanks for the recipe!

So instead of quinoa flakes, I made these with part flax meal and part oat bran.  The cookies have a darker color but taste-wise, they're equally as yummy.  I also swapped cashew butter for natural, crunchy peanut butter; my family just love peanut butter more.  As for size, they're bite-size products that is great for portion control snacking.  

It's time for you to make these and decide if they're a keeper!

Peanut Butter Banana Coconut Cookie Bites

Makes about 24 small cookies

1/2 cup natural, chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup oat bran
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup coconut flakes, toasted, let cool
2 tablespoons chia seeds

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine mashed banana with peanut butter, honey, egg, and vanilla extract.  Mix it until comes together.  Add oats, flax meal, oat bran, baking powder, and salt; stir.  Fold in toasted coconut and chia seeds.

Using a small scooper (about a tablespoon), drop a scoopful of the mixture into baking sheet until all the mixture is gone.

Bake cookies on center rack for 15-18 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Remove and let cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.