Sunday, December 30, 2012

Classic (Salty) Shortbread

Short.  A neighbor friend would always leave pie-shaped shortbread cookies at my door during the holidays. Wrapped in plastic wrap, tied with ribbon, I appreciated the homemade gesture of friendship - until I was over at her house recently for coffee. Sipping, chatting, wrapping Walkers shortbread in plastic wrap, tied with a ribbon.   

BAKED'S finale for 2012, Classic Shortbread with Fleur de Sel, is something simple, short and definitely homemade. Aside from the traditional shortbread ingredients of butter, sugar (with BAKED'S choice of either confectioner or granular sugar), an egg yolk and a dash of salt, they include a small amount of rice flour. Rice? Ok, I'll give it a shot. Tender, buttery cookies that stand up to whatever shape you choose. Most shortbread recipes spread, making me wonder why rolling and cutting in cute, fanciful shapes is even necessary. These heavenly squares, sprinkled with fleur de sel, put any store-bought shortbread to shame.

To get the recipe, venture on over to BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS.

–  h a p p y   n e w  y e a r !     mike

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Soft Salted Caramels

Kraft.  I always thought, who in their right mind would go to the trouble of making their own caramels? They're readily available on the shelf and who would know the difference? I thought it ranked right up there with 'make your own graham crackers' or 'make your own vanilla wafers'.   
BAKED'S creation, Soft Candy Caramels, are proof that it's worth going the extra mile.

Soft, candy-like - but all grown up. A sprinkling of fleur de sel on top gives them that salty-sweet flavor that was - and is - still popular.

Of course anything that features boiled sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk can't be bad. Speaking of bad, I failed with the first attempt, but am glad I tried, tried again. This batch turned out considerably better. They are headed to the office tomorrow. I hope they are a nice variation to the already-stuffed counters of holiday bakery goods.

I'll just tell them I removed the plastic Kraft wrappers and used my own.

To get the recipe, venture on over to BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS.

 –  h a p p y   h o l i d a y s !     mike

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Spicy (Chili) Brownies

 Ho Ho Hot.  I started off the proverbial holiday baking bonanza with these spicey brownies. I figured they might stand out against all the other office-baked goods - baked by people who never bake during the year, but feel obligated to in December. Sugar cookies with canned frosting, topped with sprinkles. 

BAKED'S creation, Spicy Brownies, are right on target.

They get their spicy "zing" from not only a heaping tablespoon of ancho chili powder, but from a healthy dose of both fresh grated and ground ginger which really gives them a kick. Fresh grated cinnamon tones down the spiciness - and brings it into a holiday treat, in my opinion. Dense, fudgey, a perfect holiday brownie.

They were a hit at the office. What set mine apart were the sprinkles - which I begrudgingly added - just so I fit in.

To get the recipe for this unique breakfast treat, venture on over to BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS.

 –  h a p p y   h o l i d a y s !     mike

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Scones

 "Hey, you got peanut butter in my scones". Sunday's Morning's BAKED breakfast starts off with a roaring dose of oatmeal. But wait, something looks a little unique about this breakfast. Something odd, but with a familiar flavor. Let's take a bite and find out. 

BAKED'S creation, Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones, is truly a one-of-a-kind creation.

They start off with your traditional lineup - flour, butter, salt, oats - with a sugary kick of dark brown sugar - and mixed with an egg yolk and buttermilk. Oh, and a non-traditional one-half cup of peanut butter. Based on all the other scone recipes I've made, which have a ratio of 2 cups flour to 1 tablespoon baking powder, I added a second teaspoon of powder in addition to the baking soda - just for good measure. I figured all that peanut butter and oats would need a little extra nudge to rise and shine. Rather than cut them out into individual triangular scones BAKED recommends scoring and leaving it in the round. I'm not sure why, but I'm up for new adventures in baking.

Did I have these for breakfast? No. Would I? No. These were tasty - who can't help but love the combination of PB&C - but there was something odd about chewing a scone with the flavor of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. I found myself searching for the traditional cream, currants or jam with every bite.

Should you try them? Certainly. You might just love the collision of chocolate and peanut butter for breakfast!

To get the recipe for this unique breakfast treat, venture on over to BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS.

 – mike

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

French Strawberry Cake

T U E S D A Y S   W I T H   D O R I E
Special thanks to this week's hostesses:  
Sophia of Sophia's Sweets & 

Génoise. Genoese. Genovese.  Funny how our French cake is actually an Italian sponge cake, named after the city of Genoa. Feeling somewhat confused and desiring the need for more more clarification (along with a baker's quick how-to), I consulted my Julia DVD for some génoise cake-education. 
Strawberry Cake
This Baking with Julia recipe is courtesy of Flo Braker, contributing baker. What Flo refers to as a "French Strawberry Cake" reminds me of an American "strawberry shortcake" recipe, minus the shortcake. In true French fashion, this génoise cake is the star. Less rich than a butter cake, this version uses whole eggs and a smidgen of melted butter for its flavor and leavening. In between the génoise layers are sliced, macerated strawberries and fresh whipped cream -  flavored with a touch of sour cream and vanilla. I brushed each layer with a simple syrup made with kirsch and some of the strawberry juice (a trick I picked up during my Julia consult). Light, summery and deliciously Italian (er . . . French).

Special thanks to Sophia and Allison for hosting this week's recipe - visit their blogs to get the recipe.

– mike

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Aunt Sabra King's Pudding Cups

Aunt Sabra King
More Jell-O. Two Jell-O recipes in a row? Thankfully not - thankfully not Instant Pudding . . thanks to Aunt Sabra. 
Today's BAKED creation is Aunt Sabra's recipe, a gin-drinking, card-playing, silver Cadillac-driving southern inspiration herself.

The base crust is made up of crushed graham crackers with butter and a touch of brown sugar. The pudding, though not instant, was quite a breeze to prepare - and hands down, better than any boxed pudding mix out there. Made from melted chocolate, egg yolks, cream, milk, sugar and cornstarch, it sets up nicely into a rich, thick pudding. The final touch is a couple tablespoons of whiskey (don't leave it out) - it deepens the chocolate flavor. Poured over the graham base, it is supposedly cut into bars - I put them into individual pudding cups.

Not sure if Aunt Sabra would approve, but they were a hit at the office at Friday's Social. A "new" busy-day dessert indeed.

To get the recipe for this retro dessert, venture over to BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS.

 – mike

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Strawberry Jell-O Salad

Hell-O Jell-O. Say it ain't so. How could those super cool BAKED boys feature something so nightmarish as a Jell-O salad? If it were any other cookbook I would have gladly passed this one by.
Today's BAKED creation sits upon a base of crushed pretzels (pretzels?), which are mixed into a brown sugar and butter syrup and then baked. Atop this sits a creamy confection of whipping cream folded into a cream cheese and sugar mixture. If this isn't enough kitschy, prepared Jell-O with sliced strawberries is poured on top and then chilled.

Contrary to popular belief, not all "Jell-o salads" should be sneered at. This was remarkably refreshing - slightly strange, but refreshing none the less. Of all the celery-laced and grated carrot-filled salads I've had over the years, this one rises to the top of the list. But pimento-stuffed olives swimming in lime gelatin comes in a close second.

To get the recipe for this retro salad, venture over to BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS.

 – mike

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lemon Loaf Bundt Cake

T U E S D A Y S   W I T H   D O R I E
Special thanks to this week's hostesses:  
Truc of Treats & Michelle of The Beauty of Life

This is LOVE week. I LOVE lemons. This man named Norman LOVE was the contributing baker for this week's Baking with Julia recipe. I LOVE bundt pans. This week was the inaugural baking in the vintage copper bundt pan - a Christmas gift from my friend Elaine. She LOVES lemons too.

Sadly, Norman's "lemon" recipe included just lemon zest. All good, all fine, but being the lemon-LOVER, I upped the ante. In went the juice of one lemon, along with a few drops of lemon oil. On went a brushing of more juice, fresh out of the oven. Zing . . . I can already taste the tartness. Mr. LOVE's loaf garnered rather tart reviews at the office - "the lemony-est cake I've ever tasted".  And to top it off - this cake was a breeze to prepare - melted in place of creamed butter. No mixer required. A rich, dense, lemony pound cake with no mixer?

Gotta LOVE that.

– mike

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Chocolate Marshmallow Eggs

EASTER GREETINGS.  It was rather fitting this week's recipe from BAKED features chocolate. And even more fitting that it also includes light, fluffy marshmallow. Both an Easter tradition and quite a winning combination. Peter seems to think so too.

This BAKED recipe is actually a Chocolate Egg Cup - the cup being mini-muffin liners. When Elaine told me she was trying her Martha Stewart egg molds, I thought "ingenious". Little did I know there was a box of these molds on my basement shelf (go figure). Melted chocolate lines the molds (or cups) and a marshmallow  filling of sugar syrup whipped with gelatin sits inside. To top it off, more melted chocolate covers the filling and after a quick chill, these confections are ready to pop out and line your Easter basket - or dessert table.

I was rather impressed at how delicious homemade marshmallow is - even better sandwiched in-between bittersweet chocolate - ala Trader Joe's. Leftover melted chocolate lined some spring flower candy molds.

To try these eggs-cellent confections, hop on over to BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS for the recipe.

 – mike

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Irish Soda Bread

T U E S D A Y S   W I T H   D O R I E
Special thanks to this week's hostesses:  
Cathy of My Culinary Mission & 
Carla of Chocolate Moosey

Irish soda bread without butter? Without caraway seeds? Without currants? Say it isn't so. I'm rather partial to a beloved recipe that incorporates all of the above. A soda bread as basic as this just can't be as good. Of course, Mr. Leprechaun seems to think differently. 

This Baking with Julia recipe is courtesy of Marion Cunningham, contributing baker. A traditional Irish bread - made from the simplest of ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk - is quite wonderful on its own. Marion suggests adding chopped dried fruit - I threw in some currants (also traditional) as well as some apricots, both soaked in dark rum. I also added some orange zest - just for kicks. Being that there is no fat (butter) in this recipe, it turned out surprisingly delicious - and not dry in the least. It has a simple, not-too-sweet flavor that is perfect on its own or as an accompaniment to another traditional Irish dish, Corned Beef & Cabbage.

Special thanks to Cathy and Carla for hosting this week's recipe - visit their blogs to get the recipe.

– mike