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Cranberry Orange Hot Cross Buns

20 Apr

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Happy Easter to all of you – I hope that yall are having a beautiful day! Hot cross buns are traditional to eat on Good Friday, so I’d made a batch to munch on during Holy Week. I’ve made a similar version before but they were pretty plain without any dried fruit. So naturally I wanted to jazz them up this time with the cranberry and orange flavor combo which is one of my favorites! Especially since I don’t like raisins, which is the usual dried fruit that’s added. Sorry to all you raisin lovers out there, but you can sub any kind of dried fruit that your heart desires.

So whether you make these for the holidays or just because, I hope you enjoy! And because I’m reminiscing about spending last Easter in Rome, “Buona Pasqua” to you all!

Cranberry Orange Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (also equals 2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp granulated white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Plus 1 egg and 1 Tbsp milk or water for an egg wash before baking

Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk
A few drops of orange extract (optional)

Yield: 1 dozen

Directions:
To make the buns: In a small saucepan or in the microwave, heat the milk until lukewarm (about 100 degrees F). Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and stir to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

Meanwhile in the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Once the yeast is foamy, gradually add to the flour mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the melted butter, egg, and orange zest and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on medium low speed, with the dough hook, gradually add the cranberries and continue to knead the dough until it is silky smooth and elastic. Add more flour if necessary.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough once, so the top is lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap  and place in a warm spot to rise until it has almost doubled in size (about 1 1/2 – 2 hours).

When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down to release the air, and divide into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a small round ball and place on a lined baking sheet. (lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat) Place three buns to a row, four rows altogether. They should be spaced so they have enough room to double in size.) Cover the buns with a tea towel or lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with a nonstick cooking spray and place lightly over the buns. Place in a warm spot until almost doubled in size (about 60 minutes).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the tops of the buns with an egg wash (one beaten egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon milk or water) and brush the tops of the buns with the wash. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for about15 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, milk, and orange extract if using and mix until smooth. Add a little extra powdered sugar if it’s too runny, till you get the consistency you want. Place the glaze in a paper cone or small plastic bag. Cut the end of the cone or bag and pipe a cross on the top of each bun.

Source: Slightly adapted from Joy of Baking

Marble Pound Cake

27 Mar

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Did you know that March 4th was National Pound Cake Day? There’s actually a fun food holiday for every day of the year! I celebrate when I can, even if I don’t post the recipe till weeks later, oops! This year I had a hankering for marble pound cake, one of my favorite flavors, because you don’t have to choose between vanilla or chocolate. Best of both worlds!

This was really easy to make and turned out great! The only thing I’d change is the fact that apparently I went a little swirl crazy, because my chocolate and vanilla swirls are really small instead of being thicker and more defined. So just go easy on the swirling, even though it’s fun and easy to get carried away!

Marble Pound Cake

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
Butter or cooking spray for pan

Yield: 1 loaf

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter or spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour.

Scoop 1/3 of the batter into another bowl and set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix the cocoa powder and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of boiling water until smooth. Add the cocoa mixture to the small bowl of cake batter; and stir it well.

To assemble the cake, start by creating a checkerboard pattern in the bottom of the pan by spooning dollops of each batter on opposite sides of the pan. (see pictures in the original recipe, link below) For the second layer, alternate the pattern, spooning vanilla batter over the chocolate and vice versa. Finish with a final layer of batter, again alternating it from the pattern of the 2nd layer.

Use a knife or skewer to swirl all the batters together. Make a couple figure 8s and run it back and forth so it is swirled and pretty.
Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 40 to 60 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cake from pan and cool completely on the rack. Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Source: The Baker Chick

Turtle Cookies

10 Mar

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I made these cookies as a special treat for some folks who went above and beyond in their recent generosity and kindness. And…maybe I kept a few for myself. Trust me, you would have too! These cookies are out of this world delicious. The base is a rich chocolate cookie dough that is rolled in finely chopped pecans. Once baked, you make a caramel topping to fill in the little cookie crater on top. Then you can drizzle some melted chocolate on top – totally optional, but it serves as a nice finishing touch. You can use the famous turtle flavors of chocolate, caramel, and pecans in so many tasty ways but this is my current favorite!

Turtle Cookies

Ingredients:
For the cookie:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated, plus 1 additional egg white
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pecans, finely chopped

For the caramel topping:
14 soft caramel candies (I used Kraft Traditional Caramels)
3 Tbsp heavy cream
For the chocolate drizzle (optional):
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp shortening

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Directions:
To prepare the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt; set aside. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla; mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour. Whisk egg whites in a bowl until frothy. Place chopped pecans in another bowl. Roll chilled dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites, and then roll in pecans.  Place balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Using a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, make an indentation in the center of each dough ball. Bake until set, about 12 minutes.

To prepare the caramel filling: Microwave caramels and cream together in a small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Once cookies are removed from the oven, gently re-press the indentations.  Fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon of the caramel mixture. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare the chocolate drizzle (optional): Place chocolate and shortening in a small zip-top plastic bag. Set bag in a bowl of warm water to soften. Gently knead the chocolate with your fingers until melted and smooth, placing back in the warm water for a minute or two as needed. (or you can microwave the chocolate and shortening in the bag, a little at a time, until it’s soft and combined) Snip a very small hole in the corner of the plastic bag. Drizzle chocolate over the cooled cookies.

Source: The Kitchen Is My Playground

Brownie Walnut Pie

27 Feb

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I saw the lovely Giada De Laurentiis make this pie on her chocolate themed episode on Food Network a while back and have wanted to make it ever since. So when my coworker’s Birthday approached and I found out he prefers pie over cakes and likes chocolate and nuts, this dessert immediately came to mind.

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You can follow the original recipe and make a tasty biscotti cookie crust, but I went with a simple homemade graham cracker crust instead. But, I decided to use dark brown sugar to give it a richer and deeper flavor that really worked with the chocolate and walnut combo. (the crust recipe will be posted soon too!) The consistency of the pie is like a fudgy brownie and is super rich. So just a warning that a small slice will go a long way! You can get creative with the nutty decoration on the top of the pie. Plus if you want to sub another type of nut (pecans would be awesome too) it would be just as delicious!

Brownie Walnut Pie

Ingredients:
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, diced
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup walnut pieces
Graham cracker crust (pre-made or homemade)
Walnut halves, optional

Yield: 8-10 servings

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the butter and the chocolate over low heat in a medium saucepan until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour and salt with a spatula. Stir in the nut pieces. Scrape the batter into the prepared crust. Press a ring of walnut halves, if using, into the batter around the top edge.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake until the outer 2 to 3 inches are slightly puffed and dry looking and the center is set, 35 minutes. A wooden skewer inserted into the center should come out with some moist batter still attached. Cool the pie completely on a rack.

Cut the pie into wedges and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if wanted. Enjoy!

Source: Food Network – Giada De Laurentiis

Glazed Pumpkin Spice Cookies

24 Feb

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Apparently I really stocked up on canned pumpkin last fall – I found a few cans in the cabinet recently and suddenly craved a pumpkin spice treat. I found this cookie recipe that sounded amazing and it didn’t disappoint! The cookies are soft and chewy, just the way I like them. The glaze is originally made with maple syrup but I happened to have some gingerbread syrup (like the kind you put in coffee) and gave that a try instead. Delicious!

I could eat pumpkin flavored things all year round, no hesitations. Go ahead and use up that extra can of pumpkin or if it’s too soon in your book, squirrel this recipe away for the fall!

Glazed Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

For the glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp gingerbread syrup (or maple syrup)

Yield: 2 dozen

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium blow, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the pumpkin and vanilla, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Slowly add in the flour mixture until just combined. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Drop or roll the dough by the Tablespoonful onto the pan, leaving 1 inch apart. Flatten the dough a little with your hand. Bake for 12-15 minutes and allow to cool on a rack.

For the glaze, whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Once the cookies are completely cool, dip the tops into the glaze and allow to set on a rack. Enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from Real House Moms

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

4 Feb

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I love learning new dessert skills and lately I’ve been wanting to venture more into the realm of cookie decorating. I see such impressive cookies on blogs and think, “Hey, maybe I can do that too!” Though I’m confident I can get there eventually, I feel like I have A LOT to learn and want to take it one step at a time for now. This weekend, I wanted to make a cute Super Bowl dessert, so got a simple football shaped cookie cutter, a recipe that looked easy enough, a basic decorating idea I could handle, and went for it!

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I wanted to bake a simple chocolate cut out cookie and make a small batch of royal icing to pipe on some basic football lines. I really liked this chocolate sugar cookie recipe – the dough was quick and easy to whip up, simple to work with, and the final product was delicious. The cookies have a great chocolate flavor and are a bit crisp but still have a nice chew to them, especially in the center. I actually got 4 dozen cookies out of the recipe which was way more than I needed! I halved the royal icing recipe that was included on the original page (see link below) since I only needed to do simple piping. Overall, these turned out great and I can’t wait to try my hand at some more!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Yield: Up to 4 dozen (depending on cookie size)

Directions:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets.

Remove one half of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut out desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter and transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking.

Bake cookies for about 10-12 minutes (depending on size) or until they are firm around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost with royal icing, if desired. Be sure that the frosting on the cookies dries completely before storing. (This may take several hours) Frosted cookies will keep several days in an airtight container. Store between layers of parchment or wax paper.

Source: Joy of Baking

Lemon Bars

22 Dec

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Lemon bars are such a simple and delicious dessert that often seem to be forgotten. In fact, one of my uncles calls lemon bars “funeral bars” because he only ever seemed to eat them when they were brought for a potluck after a funeral. I’ve tried a few recipes in the past and none were quite what I wanted. Either they were too tart or sweet or the crust was too crumbly.

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But then I found this recipe, which claimed to be the best. And I totally agree – these are the best lemon bars I’ve ever made! The crust is tender but gives the perfect support and isn’t too flaky or messy. The lemon layer is nice and tart but not overly sweet. An overall perfect combination – enjoy!

Lemon Bars

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on bars
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks), at cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp grated lemon zest (about 2 large lemons)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 to 4 large lemons)
1/3 cup milk
Pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)

Yield: 24-32 pieces (depends how big/small you cut them!)

Directions:
Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with foil and lightly grease the foil.

For the crust: Stir together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt (this can be done in a food processor or in a large bowl by hand). Add the pieces of butter and cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers (taking care not to melt the butter too much – you might try freezing the butter and grating it into the dry ingredients on the large holes of a box grater) or process in the food processor for 8 to 10 seconds and then as needed until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer on the bottom and about 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

For the filling: whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl and then stir in the lemon zest, juice, and milk to combine.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and pour the filling onto the warm crust (it’s important that the crust is still warm!). Bake for about 20-22 minutes, or until the filling feels slightly firm to the touch. Cool the bars to room temperature, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar, and cut into bars.

Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe