Recently we purchased a bag of apples that turned out to be a bit too mealy to eat fresh. Making them into applesauce seemed like the best solution to the problem. One thing for sure, there’s no shortage of ways to make use it it, from an oatmeal stir-in to a pork meat accompaniment.
Baking with applesauce to replace some or all of the fat adds fiber and reduces calories in cakes, muffins and breads. Because of its water content, it will also help keep baked goods moist and fresh longer. Applesauce acts like the fat because it keeps the flour protein from mixing completely with the wet ingredients and forming a rubbery texture. I’ve noticed that sometimes you need to lengthen your baking time a bit when using applesauce.
Over the years there have been countless recipes for various pudding cakes. While baking, the cake portion rises to the top and a creamy pudding-like sauce forms on the bottom. This fall version does not disappoint.
Carrot Pudding Cake
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with baking spray.
Using a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar & spices.
In a medium bowl, whisk together applesauce, milk, melted butter, vanilla & grated carrots. Gradually whisk the wet ingredients into dry ingredients; scrape batter into baking dish.
In a small bowl, whisk together white & brown sugar & either chopped walnuts or whole pepita seeds. Sprinkle over batter. Carefully pour the hot water over the top.
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until middle is set. After removing from oven, allow to cool for 10 before serving with ice cream or whipped cream.
Oktoberfest has somewhat strayed from its roots. The first festival in 1810 was originally to celebrate the marriage of German Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became king, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Since then, its become a decadent celebration of fall flavors and fine beers worldwide. This 16-day festival is a celebration of German culture, music, bratwurst, beer, pretzels and much more.
In keeping with Oktoberfest, I thought I would try my hand at making some pretzels this year.
Traditionally, pretzels are a baked bread product made from yeast dough and shaped into a twisted knot. Salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels but various sweet and savory options are now being used. The soft pretzels are eaten soon after they are baked while the hard pretzels have a longer shelf life.
The characteristic flavor and crust of a pretzel comes from the soda treatment. After being shaped, the dough is dipped in boiling water to which soda has been added and then baked. This treatment helps what is known as the Maillard reaction. The process of boiling the pretzels in soda water breaks the protein and increases the amino acid content in the dough, giving it an amazing crust.
Just for a bit of extra flavor, I am stuffing our pretzels. Should be good!
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of salt; allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt & sugar. Add the frothy yeast mixture along with the melted butter; stir to combine. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough for about 5 minutes & shape into a ball. Lightly butter the bowl, place the dough in it, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for 45 minutes in a draft-free place.
Prepare fillings. This can be done ahead of time which will make the process easier, if you wish.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Remove from skillet, blot on a paper towel & crumble. Place in a bowl & combine with cooked chicken, cheese & ranch dressing; toss until well mixed. Set aside.
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
In a bowl, add pork filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
Bratwurst & Sauerkraut Filling
In a skillet, sauté bratwurst until browned & cooked through. Drain on paper towel; place in a bowl with other bratwurst filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
After dough has risen, cut into 12 equal pieces & form each one into a 14-inch strand. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough, lengthwise then roll it out a bit widthwise.
Divide each of your fillings into 4. Lay a line of filling down the center of each flattened pretzel. You will have 4 of each kind. Press the edges of the dough together to seal in the filling. Roll each strand back & forth to fully seal it up.
Shape into a pretzel by twisting the two ends around each other then bring it back down over the body of the pretzel.
Boiling & Baking
Preheat oven to 400 F. Bring 3 cups of water & 1/3 cup baking soda to a low boil. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Dip each pretzel in soda water for 20 seconds, remove, using a slotted spoon to drain excess water. Lay pretzels on parchment lined baking sheet & brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake until tops turn golden brown, 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.
If you follow the blog, its no surprise to see rhubarb recipes frequently at this time of year. Its probably due to a childhood memory or maybe because its just so versatile and good.
The name of today’s pastry was inspired by the round shape of the ‘taler‘, a silver coin used throughout Europe for almost four hundred years. Its name lives on in the currency called ‘dollar‘.
Taler is a German word for ‘coin’, so the name of the dessert literally translates to ‘streusel coin’. Basically, a free form tart made with a yeast dough topped with a huge amount of streusel, sometimes filled with custard and often with a sugar glaze.
A traditional German streusel (streusel meaning something ‘strewn or scattered’ in German) bakes up into shortbread balls. It makes a crunchy, cookie-like top but is soft on the bottom where it meets the cake or fruit.
Streusel was first popularized in Germany. In its simplest form, it consists of flour, sugar and butter but gets even better with the addition of oatmeal, cinnamon and nuts …. just my opinion of course!
In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except vanilla. Heat to medium high & stir occasionally until rhubarb begins to break down completely. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla & allow to cool to room temperature.
In a bowl, place COLD, cubed butter, add flour, cinnamon, sugar & vanilla. With your finger tips work streusel until crumbles form. Spread out on a large tray & set aside in freezer until ready to use.
In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water & 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, & divide into 12 pieces. Form each piece into a ball & allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
Space out the balls on parchment lined baking sheet. With fingertips, press out each ball to about 4-inch diameter. Add about 1 Tbsp of rhubarb compote to each dough piece & spread leaving a border around the outside.
Divide streusel topping evenly between the pastries & allow to rise for about 15-20 minutes.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. In the meantime, you can prepare the glaze.
In a small dish, whisk powdered sugar & lemon juice to a thick glaze. When streuseltaler are cooled, drizzle with glaze.
- Being lovers of the cardamom spice, I dusted our streuseltaler with it using a wire mess strainer.
- You will probably have a little bit of rhubarb compote left over but its never too hard to find a use for at our house.
- I should mention, making the compote the day before needed will speed up your baking process.
- These streuseltaler are incredibly soft & so good!
CELEBRATING MOTHER’S DAY!
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. This day is our time to reflect and show gratitude to the women and mother’s who have been mentors and caregivers; ultimately those who have helped to shape us into who we are today.
This blog is especially to honor: the special memories of my mother for her endless giving of selfless love – my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her kind ways and raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with – to my sisters, who have given so much of themselves to be such great moms.
Spring is here and although the pandemic keeps us close to home, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate Mother’s Day as well as one of the most ‘fruitful’ seasons of the year by baking something special.
The focus on food shifts to lighter recipes with fresh flavors and colors. Simple ingredient additions or substitutions can make spring and summer desserts stand out. Lime gives sweet dishes more complexity, adding a tart note. Substituting refined sugar with honey or maple syrup changes the texture and sweetness. If you have a recipe in mind and want to give it a spring touch, replacing the main ingredient with a seasonal fruit can be quite effective.
I love fruit curds as they differ from jam by having less sugar. Curd is a sort of cream or custard. The most famous is the lemon curd, although it can be made of orange, grapefruit, tangerine, passion fruit and of course lime. Curd is neither too runny nor thick; it is pourable when hot and soft once cooled. It can be used as a filling for tarts, as a spread for scones or toast or inside cakes or muffins.
I think blackberry lime cupcakes are the epitome of fresh flavor not to mention the beautiful visual presentation. Although lime curd can be purchased readily, preparing your own homemade version is not hard but does take a bit of time.
Blackberry & Lime Curd Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper baking cups.
In a large bowl, combine oatmeal, yogurt, honey, milk, butter & lime zest; mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes then stir in egg whites until blended.
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt; mix well. Add to oat mixture all at once; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. (do not overmix).
Place a spoonful of the batter in each cup. Top with a small dollop each of blackberry preserve & lime curd. Divide remaining batter between the 8 cups.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool cupcakes in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan & cool completely.
Lime Whip Topping
Prepare as directed on pkg envelope, being sure to measure your lime juice in with the milk (omit the vanilla).
- I had originally though I would top these cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting but thinking they might be too sweet, I went with the lime whip topping instead.
The flavors of the meal hint of Moroccan cuisine to me. It wasn’t until Brion & I visited Morocco on a holiday one year, that I realized how many of their spices appealed to me.
Moroccan cuisine is very refined because of its interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Its dishes are layered with sweet and spicy, earthy and bright flavors that reflect the vast array of spices available in their local markets.
Often referred to as the national dish of Morocco, couscous is made of tiny balls of wheat semolina, steamed so they’re are soft and fluffy. Subtle cumin and ginger spices add an exotic flavor to it.
Pairing apricot and lemon flavors with the chicken breast and serving it over couscous makes this simple meal quite special.
Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous
Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Beat egg & water slightly. Stir together baking mix, lemon pepper & garlic powder. Pound chicken breasts gently to achieve uniform thickness. Dip chicken into egg mixture, then coat with baking mix mixture. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with melted butter.
Bake uncovered 20 minutes; turn chicken. Bake about 10 minutes longer until no longer pink inside. While chicken is baking prepare couscous & sauce.
In a saucepan, heat 1 tsp oil; add green onion, cumin, ginger & garlic. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until green onion is softened.
Add honey. Heat & stir for about 30 seconds until green onion is coated. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add couscous & second amount of oil. Stir. Cover & remove from heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes without lifting lid. Fluff with a fork & stir in remaining 3 ingredients.
Apricot Lemon Sauce
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine sauce ingredients, stirring occasionally, until warm.
Place couscous on a serving platter. Top with chicken breasts & drizzle with apricot lemon sauce. Serve.
Pairing chocolate and cream cheese has long been a favorite of bakeries. Brownies come in a variety of forms and may be either fudgy or cakey, depending on their density.
Arguably, one of North America’s major contributions to the dessert world, the first printed mention of them appeared in the Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalog of 1897, advertising ‘fancy crackers, biscuits, cakes, brownies …. in 1 LB. papers’.
Brownies were widely baked in the 1920’s and by 1931, the first edition of The Joy of Cooking included a recipe for ‘fudge squares’.
There are literally hundreds of types of brownies as well as ways to eat them. Cut them up to make parfaits or add a dollop of whipped cream, berries or a sprinkle of dried fruit and nuts or maybe some ice cream.
My choice today are some blueberry cream cheese brownies that consist of four layers. With the use of the Lor Ann Company’s blueberry emulsion, that wonderful blueberry flavor is intensified. These are brownies at their best!
Blueberry Cream Cheese Brownies
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine all oatmeal layer ingredients until crumbly. Pat into prepared pan & bake for about 8 minutes.
In a bowl, beat cream cheese & sugar until fluffy. Add egg; beat well then add milk & blueberry emulsion & combine well. Set aside in refrigerator until chocolate batter is prepared.
In a microwave safe dish, carefully melt chocolate then add butter. Stir until combined & slightly cool; add beaten egg & sugar. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Add to chocolate mixture alternately with combined milk & vanilla. Fold in walnuts. Carefully spread batter over baked oatmeal crust.
Pour cheesecake filling over chocolate layer & carefully smooth out. Bake 20-25 minutes or until chocolate & cheesecake batters test done. Remove from oven & cool on wire cooling rack.
In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Add water & blueberries; cook until clear & bubbling. Remove from heat; add lemon zest (if using) & blueberry emulsion. Stir & allow to cool.
When brownies are cooled cut into serving size pieces. Spoon blueberry topping over brownie cheesecake & serve.
- Don't hesitate to add a bit more Blueberry Emulsion for a stronger flavor if you wish.
- Just for fun, I made some of the brownies as individuals to see what they would look like.
If you can’t have a tropical vacation at this time, why not enjoy some of the tropics in the form of dessert!
You may never have thought fruits were destined for you’re roasting pan. Although it does demand a bit of time and work, the return is worth it. Try it once and you will do it over and over again.
Fruit is a highly versatile item and its uses go far beyond a mere snack. During the summer months, grilled fruit is often a tasty end to a barbeque. Grilling caramelizes the fruits natural sugars and brings out the sweetness. During winter or colder months, continue the same process indoors by roasting and broiling fruit in the oven.
For the tarts on this blog, I roasted the fruit in the oven with a bit of extra butter and brown sugar as well as some spices to enhance the flavor. Another idea would be to arrange fruit slices on the filled tarts and sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Then place tarts under the broiler until sugar bubbles and browns …. your choice!
Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
In a bowl combine butter & sugar, beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder & add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together.
Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & prepare custard & fruit.
Vanilla Cream Custard
In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return to same saucepan; whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens & boils, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla & remove from heat to cool.
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Place sliced fruit on it & pour butter/sugar mixture over it. Gently turn fruit over to make sure all is evenly coated.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping over about half way through. The fruit is done when it turns a rich golden & begins to brown BEFORE it starts to blacken.
Place pastry shells on a serving platter. Divide vanilla custard between tart shells. Top with roasted tropical fruit & serve. Any extra fruit can be enjoyed just as a dish of fruit or with yogurt.
Among the world’s many artisan breads and cakes, the breakfast bread ‘gibassier’ is one of the most popular in the French tradition. This buttery, textured bread is somewhat like an Italian panettone. What makes gibassier unique, is the use of orange blossom water which gives the bread a distinct flavor that is difficult to replicate with any substitute.
The recipe appears to have originated in the rocky, southeast of France, in Lourmarin Village, Provence. Many believe that this generations-old treat is named after the mountain called Le Gibas, which forms part of the village’s horizon.
Gibassier can be shaped and made as one big round loaf or larger or smaller single serve breads. Whatever size they come in, they are slashed or snipped decoratively before they are baked to give the fleur de lis or snowflake appearance.
It is difficult to say whether gibassier is a biscuit, a pastry, doughnut or a cookie. One thing is for sure …. its taste is unique. Traditionally served at breakfast and is dipped into honey butter while it is still warm.
Each Christmas I enjoy to try making a Christmas bread from another culture. Of course, that means as an extra bonus, researching the food history behind it.
French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier
In a small bowl, combine water, yeast & 2 Tbsp sugar. Allow to sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar & aniseed. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture & add eggs, butter, orange blossom water, orange zest & candied orange peel. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix to make a 'shaggy' dough. Turn out on a floured surface & knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms, about 10 minutes.
Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Punch down the risen dough & turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal pieces & shape each one into a ball. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Flatten each ball of dough into a disc about 1.5 cm thick & place each one on one of the baking sheets. Cut the disc into 6 sections, leaving them connected at the center.
Make a cut through the center of each section without cutting all the way through to the edge. Best to use something you can press straight down as opposed to dragging a knife through the dough. Pull the sections outward to separate & elongate them a little. Using your fingers, open out the slits & form a V-shape in the top of each section.
Cover each loaf loosely with buttered plastic wrap. Set aside to rise in a draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Brush each loaf with a little egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden & baked through. Slide the loaves onto a wire rack & brush with honey butter while still warm or dust with sugar.
If foods were granted awards, bacon wouldn’t rank high for healthiness but it might win first prize in the food addition category.
Bacon simultaneously appeals to all three flavors many people crave …. sugar, salt & fat. Its the perfect combination that goes to the brain which says, take another bite. Even the distinctive scent of bacon is unique.
Flavor variations of bacon include peppered bacon, Applewood, chicory, maple and wood smoke options, which are derived from woods that impart their own unique flavor notes. It all becomes very, very complex. This ‘salty-sweet-fat’ combination has been used to enhance any food group from breakfast to dessert nowadays.
This recipe combines bacon with potatoes and cheese to make an ultimate comfort food meal.
Bacon & Potato Cheese Ring
In a large pot, cook potatoes & mash. Add flour, egg, butter & Parmesan. Season with salt & pepper.
Line a 10-inch ring mold pan with half of the bacon so that the slices overlap & cover the inner & outer walls of the pan.
Distribute about 2/3 of the potato mixture evenly over the bacon. Use a spoon to create a 'tunnel' in the potato all the way around the pan.
Place the cubes of Swiss cheese in the tunnel then add the rest of the potato mixture on top, smoothing it flat.
Add another layer of bacon on top & bake for about 50 minutes. Flip out of ring pan & bake another 40 minutes or until bacon is browned.
The fall season seems to orchestrate a return to the kitchen, to lure us who enjoy to cook, back to the stove. With the cooler days and nights, heating up the oven to cook or bake becomes conceivable once more.
Like many baked desserts, the self-saucing pudding is a combination of mystery and chemistry. In the baking process, the flour/baking powder, rises to the top and the heavier sauce falls to the bottom.
Not quite a pudding and not exactly a cake, self saucing pudding has a souffle-like quality. It’s origins are unclear, but there is evidence that the concept of pouring hot water (or sauce) over the cake before baking to partially steam it as it bakes may be an Australian innovation.
It really doesn’t matter where the concept came from. What matters is that it works brilliantly to create a dessert with lightness and richness all in one pan. A simple dollop of whip cream on the top and there you have it … home baked goodness!
Caramel Pear Pudding Cake
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water & butter; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover & set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 4 oven-proof custard dishes ( 1 1/4 cup capacity) & place on a baking sheet. Place half of a pear in each dish.
In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter, spices, milk & vanilla; mix well. Spread the mixture evenly over pear halves in dishes. Sprinkle batter with pecans. Carefully pour HOT caramel sauce over pudding batter in custard cups.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until puddings are firm. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.