Carrot Pudding Cake

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.

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Carrot Pudding Cake
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Pudding/Cake
Topping
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Pudding/Cake
Topping
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with baking spray.
  2. Using a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar & spices.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts

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!

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Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
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Shortbread Pastry
Vanilla Cream Custard
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Pastry
Vanilla Cream Custard
Roasted Tropical Fruit
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Instructions
Shortbread Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
  2. 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
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Assembly
  1. 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.

German Spekulatius Scones

Speculaas‘ is actually not just a flavor that’s known in the Netherlands. In Germany & Austria its called ‘spekulatius’ and in Belgium & France it s called ‘speculoos’.

I love spices and everything about them …. their history, their applications and how they can add such a depth of flavor to cooking and baking. I first became aware of this Dutch spice mix (speculaaskruiden) some years ago. It isn’t the same as British Mixed Spice or American Pumpkin Pie Spice but they are similar as they share many of the same ingredients. The smell of speculaaskruiden is amazing …. a deliciously warm and woody aroma. Making your own is not difficult but it does require about nine different spices.

In the mid 18th century, the recipe for ‘spekulatius’ made its way to Germany from Holland. The origin of the cookies name may have derived from the Latin word ‘spekulum’, signifying ‘mirror image’, which alludes to the wooden mold whose mirror image appears on the cookie.

In the course of time, many recipes using speculaas spices have been created. For many German folk, spekulatius are as much a part of Christmas as are Christmas trees. Sometimes bakers make dough three months in advance so the flavor will permeate the dough thoroughly.

As the holiday season approaches, I thought it would be nice to try incorporating the speculaas spice into some breakfast scones. I didn’t have any wooden molds so I baked them in those little sandbakkel tins I had spoke of in a blog at the end of November (Fig, Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets). The flavor and tenderness of the scones is just amazing.

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German Spekulatius Scones
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine orange zest, sugar & spice mix. Set aside 1 Tbsp. of sugar mixture reserving it for the tops.
  3. To the remaining orange/sugar, add flour, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt; mix well. Add butter, cutting in until mixture forms fine crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, eggs & vanilla, blending well. Add to flour mixture; stir ONLY until soft dough forms.
  5. Drop by heaping 1/4 cupful's, 2-inches apart on to baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture & sprinkle with almonds. Alternately you can use some baking tins as I did in which case only use a couple of Tbsp per scone.
  6. Bake 15-20 minutes (for the larger size) or until scones are golden on top. Remove to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

HOMEMADE SPECULAAS SPICE MIX:   (yield: 6 Tbsp)

  • 5 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp  EACH nutmeg & cloves
  • 1/2 tsp  EACH ground aniseed, white pepper, ground coriander, ginger, cardamom & mace
  • Mix spices together & either use right away or store in an airtight jar.
  • This recipe can easily be incorporated into many recipes or just make the amount you need.

German Oreo Shortbread

Baking Christmas cookies is a customary activity of the season around the world. The tradition itself, can be sourced all the way back to the monasteries of the Middle Ages, when monks baked different sweets and breads in observance of this anticipated religious season.

Germany being a religious country, often the baking begins at the start of Advent (November 29th/20), or around the time of St. Nickolas Day and continues in preparation for Christmas. Many families still observe recipe traditions that go back several generations.

Germany’s ‘Weihnachtsplatzchen‘ is actually an umbrella term referring to authentic German Christmas biscuits more broadly and it encapsulates a number of festive treats. An all time favorite, the ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ cookie being one of them.

Twelve years ago (2008), Oreo cookies were all but unknown to Germany. The beloved black (or deep brown) and white, twistable sandwich cookies have been a staple in North American pantries for a century, but now have made inroads in Europe.

These German Oreo (melt-in-your-mouth) Shortbread cookies are a unique spin on the classic version.

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German Oreo Shortbread Cookies
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, German
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COOKIES
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, German
Servings
COOKIES
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, Oreo crumbs (or cookies) & cardamom. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter with powdered sugar; add vanilla & mix well. Add Oreo/flour mixture; mix only enough to blend. DO NOT overmix.
  3. Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Crimp edges by pressing edge of pastry with finger & then pinching together.
  4. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut a circle in the center of dough. Cut round into 12-14 wedges, from circle to outer edges. Prick shortbread in a pattern with a fork. Slide a cookie sheet under the parchment that the cookie round is on & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 300 F.
  6. Remove from refrigerator & decorate if you wish. Bake for about 18-22 minutes. When baked, recut wedges if necessary & cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

Anise Citron Biscotti

When most people mention biscotti, they actually mean a specific type of Italian cookie called ‘cantuccini’. Italians use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie, round, square and otherwise as the British use the word biscuit. Here in North America, biscotti refers to a specific type of Italian cookie, derived from the ‘Tuscan cantuccini‘, which is a hard, almond flavored cookie that is baked twice and usually served with the sweet Italian dessert wine, Vino Santo. This wine is loved for its intense flavors of hazelnut and caramel. When paired with biscotti, Vino Santo is inarguably Italy’s most famous welcoming tradition. What makes this wine truly special is the natural winemaking process which gives it a unique taste.

The word biscotti derives from ‘bis’, Latin for twice, and ‘coctum’ or baked (which became ‘cotto’, or cooked).

The original biscotti was created by a bakery in Prato, Italy. Cantuccini became a staple in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Prato then spread throughout the Italian peninsula. Tuscan biscotti are flavored with almonds from the plentiful almond groves of Prato. From the original recipe it expanded to lemon flavored dough as well as other flavors and spices with additions such as raisins, dried fruits and peels to chocolate morsels and nuts.

Biscotti have been baked for centuries and its iconic texture was the perfect for for sailors who were at sea for months. In modern times, biscotti range in texture from very hard to somewhat spongy and more cake-like. First, the sticky dough is shaped into a log and baked until firm. After a short cooling period, the log is sliced into diagonal pieces and baked again to cook out the moisture and produce the crisp, dry-textured cookie with a longer shelf life. The classic recipe has no butter or oil, using only eggs to bind the ingredients together. They are typically made in a 3, 5 or 7-inch size.

I have to be honest, biscotti has never been one of my ‘go-to’ cookie recipes. But, for something quick and easy, I decided to make a small recipe using two of my favorite ingredients …. anise seed & citron peel. Brion & I tried dipping them in wine and we realized we have been missing out on something real good!!

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Anise Citron Biscotti
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
  2. In a bowl, combine oil & sugar followed by vanilla & eggs.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder & anise seed then gradually stir this mixture into the egg mixture. Lastly, fold in citron peel.
  4. Divide dough in half & form into two logs (about 6"x 2"). Place logs on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for about 30-35 minutes; remove from oven & set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 275 F.
  6. Cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4-inch thick slices. Lay the slices on their sides on lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through baking time.
  8. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies

We are now officially into fall, so its time to think in terms of a bit of pumpkin. I had not considered pumpkin as part of a sandwich cookie before, but oatmeal with pumpkin and cream cheese makes good sense to me. There’s more to oatmeal cookies than the recipe on the Quaker Oats box. In fact there’s a lot of amazing combinations out there but first a bit of food history.

Oatmeal cookies evolved from oatcakes, a type of plain flatbread made centuries ago by the British and the Scots. Raisins and nuts were added to the mix somewhere around the Middle Ages to make them tastier. When oatmeal cookies became elevated to the ranks of ‘health food’, a recipe for them appeared on containers of Quaker Oats. These recipes were circulated widely and oatmeal cookies were soon common in households throughout North America.

An important part of these cookies lies in the spices. Rather than using a pre-made ‘pumpkin pie spice’, I like to give them a personal touch by using my own combination. This way, you can control the flavor better. Feel free to adjust the spice mix to suit your taste or just simply go with cinnamon.

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Oatmeal Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies
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SANDWICH COOKIES
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Cookies
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SANDWICH COOKIES
Ingredients
Cookies
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Instructions
Spice Mix
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together spice mix combination from recipe notes & set aside.
Cookies
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & 1 1/2 tsp spice mixture; add oatmeal & pumpkin seeds; mix together.
  2. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream butter until light & fluffy. Add sugars & beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add pumpkin puree, egg yolk & vanilla; mix to combine. Add flour mixture, mixing ONLY until combined. Place dough in refrigerator & chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough into 2 tsp sized balls & place on cookie sheet. Press with a dampened for to flatten a bit. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until done but not browned. Allow to cool for 1 minute before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese & butter until smooth. Add in pumpkin & mix until fully incorporated. Add remaining spice mixture & powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, allowing each prior amount to fully mix into the filling before adding more.
  2. Spread or pipe filling on half of the cooled cookies & top with remaining cookies. This recipe makes 5 dozen filled cookies so you may want to freeze some.
Recipe Notes
  •  Spice Mixture Recipe (2 1/8 tsp):
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp EACH nutmeg & cloves
  • 1/8 tsp EACH ginger, cardamom & white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground star anise

 

Banana Cheesecake Bites

Seriously!! I find it hard to believe we have reached September 1st already. Not that I don’t love the fall colors coming up but …..

What’s not to love about the traditional baked cheesecakes but the no-bake variety does have its own merits. Not only do you skip the long baking time, but you also get a smooth, creamy texture. Just a few ingredients and a little mixer time and you’re done. Chill and serve!

Cheesecake is always a crowd-pleaser, its even been called the perfect dessert by some. This recipe adds a nice bit of spice which stems from its gingersnap cookie crust and the creaminess definitely comes from the pudding/cream cheese filling combo.

Brion & I thought these ‘bites’ tasted the best when the cheesecakes came directly from the freezer then top them with the fresh bananas, caramel & whipped cream. Of course, that means they are available at any given time!!

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Banana Cheesecake Bites
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Gingersnap Crust
Caramel Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Gingersnap Crust
Caramel Sauce
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Instructions
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine gingersnap crumbs & pecans. Drizzle in melted butter & mix well. Press crumb mixture into 24 cheesecake mini cup pans. Bake for 7 minutes or until light brown, cool completely. You can skip the baking step if you wish.
Filling
  1. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy & no lumps remain. Add sugar & beat until combined. Add heavy cream & vanilla & beat until medium-stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together pudding mix & milk. Let pudding stand for 3 minutes in the fridge until thickened. Fold into cheesecake mixture until combined.
  3. Fill each of the 24 cups & smooth the tops. At this point you can either refrigerate until very firm (at least 6 hours) or freeze. Once they are firm, remove from pans to serving plates & add banana slices, caramel drizzle, whipped topping & a cherry. Or freeze, remove from pans & store in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to garnish & serve.
Caramel Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, bring brown sugar, butter & milk to a gentle boil & cook until thickened, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat; add rum extract.
Recipe Notes
  • The newspaper ad at the bottom of the blog was from the fifties when this idea for a pudding cheesecake was created.

Fresh Strawberries w/ Hot Fudge Sauce

Although, this is a fruit we can buy all year-round, strawberries are synonymous with summer. In the 1960’s, the chocolate fondue was invented by Konrad Egli of the Swiss Chalet Restaurant in the USA. He came up with the idea as a way to encourage customers to buy dessert. This idea has since faded into the background of the dessert scene but doesn’t mean its not fair game for an update.

For anyone who is a chocoholic, there are just so many sweet things up can dip into chocolate sauce from fruit to chunks of cake or cookies.

Individual desserts add such a elegant, personal touch. These little ceramic, ‘amuse busch’ dishes are normally used for a small delicacy that is served to let you experience a taste of what is coming in the main course. In this case, its a little something to have after dinner.

If you are interested in getting a few of these ‘spoons’, I found them at a T&T Supermarket for about $1.85 each. So cute, inexpensive & a must have for a special occasion.

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Fresh Strawberries w/ Hot Fudge Sauce
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Instructions
  1. Place the chocolate in a medium-sized heatproof bowl & set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar & butter; place over medium heat & bring JUST to a simmer, stirring often.
  3. Remove from heat & pour immediately over chocolate. Let stand until the chocolate has melted, then stir gently until smooth.
  4. Whisk in vanilla & the liqueur (if using). Place some of the hot fudge sauce in each of the ceramic amuse busch dishes & top with a fresh strawberry.

Spiced Pineapple Puff Tart

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is as classic as it comes but pineapple tart or pie, not so much. The original recipe appeared in a fund-raising cookbook in the USA around 1924. Later Gold Metal Flour came out with a full page ad in a women’s magazine in 1925.

Since then, there are many variations to this classic cake. The sweet-tart flavor of pineapple works beautifully alongside a wide range of companion flavors and ingredients as well as the gentle spices of ginger, cinnamon and vanilla to enhance it just a bit more.

Because this particular fruit doesn’t ripen further after being picked, its good to look for a pineapple that is heavy for its size, with a rich, sweet fragrance.

Pineapple pie is not the number one star among pies. In the fall and winter season, its probably apple and in spring and summer, strawberry or maybe blueberry. However, I thought I’d make a ‘hybrid’ version of the old classic. This pineapple tart looks beautiful presented as one large ring, although it could easily be made into individual tarts as well. Of course, don’t hesitate to top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped topping.

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Spiced Pineapple Puff Tart
Instructions
Spiced Syrup
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter then add ginger, cinnamon & sugar; stir to dissolve. Add orange juice & bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, add vanilla & allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to infuse flavors. Peel pineapple & cut into quarters. Remove the core, then slice into 1 cm chunks, then place them into a deep dish. Reheat the syrup; pour over pineapple & allow to marinate until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Roll the pastry out on a piece of parchment paper to a thickness of 1/8-inch, then trim to make a large circle. Cut out about a 2-inch circle from the center to form a ring. Cut any pastry that has been trimmed off into pieces & place on top of circle giving it a second layer. Transfer to a baking sheet & place in fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. Strain the syrup from the pineapple into a small saucepan. Add cornstarch; place over a medium heat to thicken.
  4. Prick the pastry ring all over with a fork, then arrange the pineapple pieces in a fan around the ring.
  5. Dust the tart liberally with powdered sugar & bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is caramelized & golden brown. When ready to serve, drizzle with spiced syrup & top with a scoop of ice cream.

Raspberry Pistachio Muffins w/ Peaches

For some reason, when I was making these muffins, they made me think about when Brion & I had traveled in Europe years ago. You were offered a ‘continental breakfast’ with your hotel stay. Its all pretty common place these days, but as always, the history behind it is interesting.

A continental breakfast is defined as, ‘a light breakfast in a hotel, restaurant, etc., that includes baked goods, jam, fruit, and coffee’. All of which were shelf-stable items in portion sizes that are perfect for large groups of people.

The term continental breakfast originated in Britain in the mid-19th Century. To the British, the continent refers to the countries of mainland Europe. A continental breakfast describes the type of breakfast you’d encounter in places like France and the Mediterranean. Its a lighter, more delicate alternative to the full English or American breakfasts.

Along with being cost effective … you don’t need much staff to tend a few trays of bagels, pastries and carafes of orange juice & coffee in the lobby. Guests like the convenience of the food and the perceived value of getting something for free.

Today, the continental breakfast included in the price of the room is pretty much standard in most hotels worldwide.

Long story short, these little fruit filled muffins fit the bill perfectly!

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Raspberry Pistachio Muffins w/ Peaches
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper baking cups.
  2. In a food processor, pulse pistachios until finely ground. In a medium bowl, whisk together pistachios, flour, sugar, baking powder & baking soda. Add peaches, stirring to coat them.
  3. In another bowl, whisk yogurt, butter, eggs, vanilla & orange zest. Fold in the dry ingredients making sure not to over mix. Divide batter between the 12 muffin cups. Insert 2 or 3 whole raspberries into each muffin. Sprinkle with some slivered pistachios. Push them down a bit into the batter so they don't fall out when the muffins rise.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until risen & golden. Cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish.