Follow Me on Pinterest

Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm substitutes

Pumpkin chocolate chip
and honey oat muffins
Hello my readers! I hope you're all safe in the storm...I've been baking bread to relieve my storm fears. I thought we should talk about storm substitutes today. Today's tip goes out to all of my readers stuck at home for the next few days. If you are looking to make a recipe and you find that it calls for an ingredient you don't have, there are certain ingredients that you can swap out and it won't effect the science of the recipe. For instance, I made pumpkin muffins the other day, and the recipe called for walnuts and raisins. Since I was also making a healthy muffin, I wanted to do something a little more fun with the pumpkins. I substituted milk chocolate chips for the walnuts and raisins, and instantly elevated the muffin to something sweeter and more fun for breakfast. When it comes to mix-ins, such as nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, raisins, and seeds, they are often interchangeable. They won't necessarily change the process of baking but rather just change the taste. This is a great idea if you have a recipe you love, and want to use it in a variety of ways. Using nuts changes a cookie drastically if the recipe calls for chocolate chips and vice versa. So go ahead and enjoy, experiment, and have fun!

Happy baking!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spiders, chocolate-style

Hello hump day! How are you doing this evening? Today I thought we'd talk about making chocolatey spider webs as decorative cupcake accents. I'm going to give you two ideas, so get your pen and paper handy:
The first way to go is by using your double boiler to melt some chocolate and fill a piping bag. Cut a teeny tiny tip off the filled bag to use for piping. On top of your frosting (which works best as a ganache or glaze), draw circles mimicking a bull's eye. Use a toothpick and starting from the inner (smallest) circle, lightly draw a line straight down to the biggest circle. It makes a web-like effect.

Another option is to draw the web on a piece of parchment using your piping bag full of chocolate. Starting at the point that you want to be your center, draw straight lines out from the center, creating a star-like shape. Starting from close to the point, space out where your circular lines are going to be. Going from line to line, draw small frowns, creating somewhat frowny circles. After you've created your web, refrigerate parchment until hard and place on top of cupcake.

Good luck and happy baking!

Monday, October 22, 2012

From the tree to the tray

Hello everyone! I hope you had a fabulous Monday! Sorry for the lack of posts on schedule suddenly became extremely hectic. At any rate, I think today we should go back to one of my favorite fall fruits, the apple. Today let's take it in a different direction and talk about healthy-ish pastries to the indulgence. Enjoy!

Healthy Apple-Streusel Muffins
Fitness Magazine, October 2010


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3/4 cup shredded apple with skin
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl, stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, baking powder, apple pie spice, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs with a fork; stir in buttermilk and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture; stir until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in apple. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters of the way.
  3. In a small bowl, combine pecans, flax seeds, and remaining brown sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Spoon pecan mixture on top of muffin batter.
  4. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack 5 minutes; remove from cups.

Nutrition facts per muffin: 163 calories, 4g protein, 25g carbohydrate, 6g fat (1g saturated), 2g fiber

Toasts with Ricotta and Warm Balsamic-Caramel Apples
Published in Food & Wine, April Bloomfield recipe
  • Six 3/4-inch-thick slices of white bakery bread or pain de mie
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (3 large)—peeled, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup chilled ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped marcona almonds
  1. Preheat the broiler. Brush the bread with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter. Broil the bread 4 inches from the heat for 1 minute, turning once, until browned. Transfer to plates.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Add the apples and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the apples are tender and the sauce is syrupy, about 4 minutes.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the apples over the toasts and dollop the ricotta cheese on top. Drizzle with the balsamic-caramel syrup and sprinkle with the almonds. Cut each toast in half and serve right away.
MAKE AHEAD The caramelized apples can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently, adding a tablespoon of water if necessary.

Apple Pie Sundaes with Cheddar Crust Shards
Breanne Varela

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 large apples, such as Pink Lady or Granny Smith—cored, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pints vanilla frozen yogurt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor, combine the flour with 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. Coarsely grate the cold butter into the food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the shredded cheddar cheese and pulse twice. Add the cold water and cider vinegar and pulse just until the dough is evenly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until it just comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or until chilled.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 9-inch square and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden. Let cool.
  3. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the apples and toss to coat. Add the granulated sugar, light brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and season lightly with salt. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the apples are tender and translucent, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Transfer half of the apples to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Scrape the puree into a bowl and freeze until it is cold, about 30 minutes.
  5. Soften the frozen yogurt slightly and transfer it to a large bowl. Fold in the cold apple puree and freeze until the frozen yogurt is firm, about 30 minutes.
  6. Scoop the frozen yogurt into 8 bowls and top with the sautéed apples. Break the cheddar crust into large shards and serve with the sundaes.
MAKE AHEAD The yogurt can be frozen for up to 3 days. The sautéed apples can be refrigerated for 3 days; bring to room temperature before assembling. The cheddar crust can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Recrisp in a warm oven.

Happy baking!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Baking can be dangerous!

Hello everyone! How was your Wednesday? Today I want to talk about making a dessert that can be very dangerous while being extremely delicious. Make sure you wear long sleeves for this one! We are talking about making caramel! It's extremely important to always stay near your pot while cooking your sugar because once it starts darkening it moves quickly...and can easily burn. I'm going to give you the basic caramel recipe, followed by more complicated recipes. Here goes:

Caramel Sauce
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Mix the water and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed pot
  2. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, without stirring. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Brush the sides with a wet pastry brush to prevent burning on the sides of the pot.
  3. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean (or vanilla extract). 
  4. Simmer until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Serve warm, or add another 1/4 cup of heavy cream and serve room temperature.

Fleur de Sel Caramels
Ina Garten

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan (or loaf pan) with parchment paper, then brush the paper lightly with oil, allowing the paper to drape over 2 sides.
  2. In a deep saucepan (6 inches diameter by 4 1/2 inches deep) combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown color. Don't stir - just swirl the pan to mix. Watch carefully, as it will burn quickly at the end!
  3. In the meantime, bring the cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, set aside and keep warm.
  4. When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel - it will boil up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Very carefully (it's hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate until firm.
  5. When the caramels are cool, use the parchment paper to pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Starting at 1 end, roll the caramel up tightly until you've rolled up half of the sheet. Cut the sheet across and then roll the second half tightly. You will have 2 (1 by 8-inch) logs. Sprinkle both logs lightly with fleur de sel, cut each log in 8 pieces. Cut parchment papers in 6 by 4 1/2-inch squares and wrap each caramel in a paper, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Baked Apples with Caramel Sauce
Emily Luchetti, Saveur 

  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 firm Fuji apples, stemmed and cored
  • Ice cream, for serving
  • 1 1⁄2 cups sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup heavy cream
  • 1⁄2 cup raisins
  • 2 tbsp. dark rum
  1. Make the baked apples: Heat oven to 325°. Combine sugar, syrup, butter, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Cut 1⁄4" from bottom of apples so that they sit flat; transfer apples to a 9" x 13" baking pan. Fill hollow cores with reserved sugar–syrup mixture. Cover apples with foil; bake until tender, about 50 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the caramel sauce: Heat sugar and 1⁄2 cup water in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, without stirring, until amber colored and a candy thermometer inserted into syrup reads 330˚, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat; let cool slightly. Add cream (caramel will bubble up slightly). Stir in raisins and rum; set aside. Serve apples with caramel sauce and ice cream.
Be safe while cooking...and happy baking!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Carrot cake with an island twist!

Decorated with frosting rosettes, coconut, and nuts
Hello everyone! As promised, I have pictures from last weekend's deliciousness. Today is my husband's birthday and this year he asked for carrot cake. As you may or may not know, carrot cake is my number one absolute FAVORITE cake (especially with those little frosting carrots on top!). I think I've slowly brought him over the carrot side. For this cake I decided to do an island twist on my cake, which I've done for an event in the past and got rave reviews. I added dry roasted macadamia nuts, crushed pineapple, coconut, and candied ginger. The frosting was coconut cream cheese and firmed up nicely for a rosette finish.
4 layers of deliciousness!

What to look for in your carrot cake recipe (look for high ratios) that will help make it moist:

  • Oil
  • Drained pineapple
  • Shredded carrots

Happy baking!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pictures to come

Be sure to check out my blog next from my husband's birthday cake will be up! Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pound for pound

Happy hump day! Last weekend I made one of my favorite recipes for Italian ricotta pound cake. Pound cake got its name based on its ratio of ingredients: 1:1:1. That is, one pound each of butter, sugar, and flour. This one is special because it includes fresh ricotta, which makes it dense and moist. It has a similar effect to buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt.

Not able to help myself, I also made lower calorie espresso-cinnamon gelato, using real ground espresso beans and cinnamon sticks steeped in my milk mixture for half hour (remember the steeping post?). Delish! I hope you are experimenting with recipes of your own! Be sure to send me pictures!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Piping made easy

Hello readers! Sorry for the post delay! I'm giving you Monday's tip today instead. If you want to try piping decorations onto your cake but can't get the hang of piping bags, fear not dear friends! Though I fully believe you will get the hang of a piping bag, I'm going to give you a little cheat for now: squeeze bottles. These are great to use while still learning how to control a piping bag, or if you have kids who want to help! Fill the bottle with melted chocolate, caramel, royal icing, etc. and decorate! These will be especially helpful when you're doing dozens of cupcakes or cookies for a Halloween party! Happy baking!

Friday, October 5, 2012

The plumper, the better!

Split vanilla bean, paring knife, and clumpy seeds
Happy Friday ladies and gentlemen! As I was baking a ricotta pound cake for a special dinner for my husband, I started thinking about the importance of fresh vanilla beans. If your recipe calls for a whole bean, I would recommend investing. Though they usually start at $10 for one, they elevate your dessert to an entirely different level! They've also become fairly easy to find. Williams-Sonoma, one of my favs, usually has them, as well as Fairway (if you're lucky enough to have one!) and Whole Foods.

To split a vanilla bean, take a paring knife and try to cut evenly through the center of the pod. Using one side at a time, flip your knife to the dull edge and carefully rub it along the pod half, spreading out the pod as you go, so it's flat. Do the same to the other side. Scrape the seeds (which look like a clumpy black goo) into the batter/ingredients according to the recipe's instructions. If you're making ice cream. Cut the pod as instructed above, whisk the seeds as well as the pod halves into your milk mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and let steep for about 30 minutes. This will infuse your milk with the vanilla deliciousness and add elegance to your base. Yum! Happy baking and happy weekend!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

One more chance at the grill!

Hello from the rainy north east! It hasn't exactly been a great week for grilling, but I came across a recipe for a grilled dessert that I just couldn't resist. This recipe is super kid-friendly and AWESOOOOOME! I love an interesting pairing.

Without further ado, I bring you the recipe for pumpkin marshmallow s'mores! Before you start saying eeeeeew, just check it out. And fear not my carrot-loving friends, as a pesco-vegetarian I can't eat normal marshmallows, so I've added some veggie-friendly alternatives. Roast away!

'Round-the-Grill Pumpkin Butter S'mores
The Washington Post, October 2011
Jim Shahin

Post Note: 

"This non-traditional take dresses up a childhood favorite and turns it into an autumn classic.
The recipe calls for cooking the pumpkin butter on the stove top, but if you want more outdoorsy flavor, cook it for the same length of time (30 minutes, or until thickened) over a direct charcoal fire on the grill. The chipotle pepper in the recipe adds smokiness and spiciness.
You'll need long metal skewers, and you'll need to soak 1 cup of apple wood chips in water for 1 hour.
MAKE AHEAD: You'll have pumpkin butter left over, which can be refrigerated up to a week in advance. Bring it out when you are ready to make the s'mores."
4 servings


  • 1 small (1 1/2 to 2 pounds) pumpkin (may substitute 29 ounces canned pure pumpkin puree)
  • 3/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 canned chipotle pepper en adobo, minced (optional)
  • 12 cinnamon graham cracker halves
  • 12 regular-size marshmallows
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. If using a fresh pumpkin, rinse it well. Discard the stem and cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Scrape out all of the seeds and fiber. Cut each unpeeled pumpkin half in half, to create a total of 4 equal pieces. Place them skin side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until the pumpkin flesh is fork-tender.
  3. The skin might simply pull off. If it doesn't, scoop the flesh into a pot and mash it until smooth. Or you can add a few chunks at a time to a food processor and puree until smooth (for about 2 minutes); add the puree to a pot.
  4. If using canned pumpkin, add it to the pot at this time.
  5. Add the apple juice, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, sugars and the chipotle pepper, if desired, to the mashed or pureed pumpkin in the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often. The mixture should be thick; the yield is about 3 cups.
  6. Prepare the charcoal grill for direct heat. Light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly across the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 4 to 5 seconds. Have a spray bottle ready for taming flare-ups. Place the grill rack (ungreased) it on the grill.
  7. Set the graham crackers on a plate. Just before cooking your marshmallows, smear each of the crackers with some of the pumpkin butter; this should use about 1 cup total. Cover and refrigerate the remaining pumpkin butter; see headnote.
  8. Slide marshmallows onto skewers. Hold them about 6 inches above the fire. Cook for a few minutes, turning, so they toast evenly, or closer to the fire if you like your marshmallows charred. When the marshmallows are sufficiently softened, push them onto the pumpkin butter-smeared graham crackers.
  9. Serve open-faced and warm.

Veggie-friendly marshmallows: (These are the same two brands as above, but a different site to find them...they seem to dominate the market!)

Happy baking!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Red isn't just a fabulous dress color!

Happy Monday my loyal friends! Today I was getting a bottle of red wine from my local wine shop and it turned into quite an adventure. I'm making fish, but my recipe calls for red wine instead of white! With the help of my trustworthy wine guy, I think I've got a great, inexpensive bottle. This got me thinking about red wines for cooking...which OF COURSE led me to think about baking with red wine! You know my favorite desserts are those with a lot of depth, so today's recipes are all about finding that richness with the help of glorious reds!

Chocolate-Red Wine Cake
Food & Wine, September 2009
by Kristin Donnelly


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine
  • Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
  • Whipped cream, for serving (look back in my blog for ways to spice up your whipped cream!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer. Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, until just incorporated.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioner's sugar and serve with whipped cream.
Strawberry Granita with Beaujolais
Bon Appetit, June 2010

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 pounds (8 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled, halved
  • 1 cup Beaujolais or other fruity dry red wine
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries plus 8 large whole berries for garnish
  • 1/4 cup Beaujolais or other fruity dry red wine
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  1. Stir 1 cup water and sugar in small saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Cool syrup.
  2. Place halved strawberries, red wine, and cooled sugar syrup in processor and puree until smooth. Strain strawberry puree into 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal pan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard strawberry solids in strainer. Cover puree and freeze 1 hour.
  3. Using fork, stir granita, mashing any solid parts with back of fork. Freeze until firm, scraping mixture with fork every 30 minutes to form icy crystals. DO AHEAD: Granita can be made 3 days ahead. Keep covered and frozen.

  1. Mix sliced berries, wine, and sugar in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature until sugar dissolves and juices form, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Divide sliced strawberry mixture among 8 wineglasses. Scrape granita with fork to loosen ice crystals. Divide granita among glasses. 
  2. Garnish edge of each glass with 1 whole strawberry and serve.

Happy baking!