Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread Pudding with Streusel Topping

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread Pudding with Streusel Topping - made September 6, 2016 modified from King's Hawaiian
I’ve been so busy that it took me awhile to notice the days are getting shorter. At first, driving into work at 6 am to run at the gym was when it was starting to get lighter but now it’s still pitch black on my drive. Coming home at 7 pm also used to mean there was still another hour of daylight left. Ah, not any longer. 
To most people, that means it’s the start of fall and cooler weather. To a blogger, it means I often can’t take very good baking pictures during the week because there’s no natural light left by the time I get to the picture-taking part of the baking process after work. Usually that’s not a problem since I mostly bake on the weekends anyway. But I was meeting my nieces for dinner on a Wednesday night and I had promised to make this bread pudding for them and I wanted it as fresh as possible.
The upside of making bread pudding is you can prep it ahead of time and it’s actually better for it to soak overnight before baking. So it was easy enough to put together one night, let sit in the refrigerator for a day, then bake as soon as I got home the night before I needed to bring it with me to the dinner. The downside is it was already dark when I got home from work, it was dark when it came out of the oven and I had to wait for it to cool before dishing out a piece and taking pictures. Hence why the pictures may not be that great.
As bread puddings go, this was pretty good but I would probably make a few modifications next time. It needed more custard. The amount the recipe makes didn’t seem like enough for the amount of bread I used. Good bread pudding is soaked well in custard. Bad bread pudding is dry and doesn’t have enough custard to soak all the bread. 
If you make this, either cut back on the bread or make 1 ½ recipes of the custard. If you’re a cream cheese lover, you’ll like the layer of cream cheese in the middle. I’m not a cream cheese lover but my nieces are so I included it for them but if it was up to me, I’d leave it out. I also toasted the pecans beforehand for the streusel but next time, I wouldn’t toast them first since they’re going to bake on top anyway and you don’t want them to burn. I would also use more butter and make clumpy streusel instead of streusel sprinkles on top. Chunky streusel would crisp up in baking and provide more of a texture contrast to the soft bread pudding.  

1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12 pack King's Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls or 1 16-ounce loaf challah, cubed

Crumb Topping
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, sugar and cinnamon on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin puree, eggs, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla.
  3. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place a layer of bread cubes evenly into the baking dish. Pour half of the pumpkin puree mixture evenly over the bread layer. Spread cream cheese filling evenly over the bread/pumpkin puree. Top with remaining bread cubes and pumpkin puree mixture to completely cover the filling.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  6. Make the crumb topping: combine flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add cold butter and toss to coat, working the butter into the dry ingredients with two knives or your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle topping evenly over the bread pudding.
  7. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with pecans and confectioners' sugar, if desired. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Apple Pie Pancakes

Apple Pie Pancakes - made September 5, 2016, modified from Averie Cooks
Some church friends were offering apples from their apple tree harvest and I took advantage of their generosity to help myself to a few apples, thinking of the apple-based recipes I’d pinned months ago, possibly from last fall when apples were in peak season and it was a good time to make apple desserts.
Or breakfast fare, as in this case. I didn’t quite follow the original recipe exactly and that may have been my downfall. For one thing, I don’t like a lot of spices so I only used cinnamon instead of the original cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I also decided to be generous with the apples and probably used more than I maybe should have. I chopped the apples into small pieces since the only way they were going to cook was over the griddle and I didn’t want crispy, uncooked apple chunks in my pancakes. I didn’t want mushy, overcooked apple pulp either but fortunately, the texture and doneness of the apples were probably the only thing I got right.
It isn’t like the pancakes were bad; they were….edible. They weren’t as fluffy as regular buttermilk pancakes but, perhaps because the apples I used weren’t very sweet or because my sweet tooth was left yearning, I didn’t think these had that much taste. I’m still trying to use up my cinnamon stash so I could upgrade to Penzey’s cinnamon but my current cinnamon isn’t very strong. I know pancakes shouldn’t be that sweet since the sweetness is supposed to come from the syrup you pour over it but I’m not one to drown my pancakes in syrup. (Have you read the calorie label on a syrup bottle? Who uses “1 teaspoon” of syrup?) Anyway, I didn’t love these nor did mine look like Averie’s so I suspect I lost the vision for these pancakes in my execution. Oops.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup grated apple, peeled
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, melted butter and vanilla extract.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix with fork until just combined. Do not overmix. Batter will be lumpy. Fold in grated apples.
  4. Heat griddle or skillet on medium. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. When griddle is hot, pour 1/4 cup batter and spread into pancake. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancake. Flip. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook opposite side for another 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with maple syrup.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Levain Bakery-inspired White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

Levain-Bakery-Inspired White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies - made dough August 27, 2016 from No Spoon Necessary
I’m not sure what Levain Bakery (my obsession with a New York City bakery I’ve never been to continues) has to do with this cookie recipe and it’s not really explained in the original blog post I got it from but I’m going to assume that Levain Bakery inspired this cookie because it’s meant to be oversized, chubby and freaking delicious.

In that case, inspiration hit a home run because that’s exactly what this was. I feel like I’ve been lucking out on some all-time great recipes for certain cookies. I found a new chocolate chip cookie recipe that’s become a favorite, I have new go-to favorite recipes for peanut butter cookies, double chocolate cookies and snickerdoodles. And now I add this white chocolate macadamia to the all-star list.

This was good from beginning to end. Not only is it easy to mix up but the dough is great to handle and portion into big cookie dough balls, not dry and crumbly or sticky but just right. Which makes portioning it out effortless. I like my cookies big (you knew that already, right) so I make generous scoops of dough and pat into thick discs. Then I freeze them overnight at least and bake them off from frozen dough. These do take a little longer to bake than the average cookie because of their size but 14-16 minutes ought to do it. I watched for the browning around the edges and took them out just when the middles were barely not raw.

You do want to let these set and cool completely or they’ll be too mushy. When completely cool, they’re be moist and chewy. If they had been “real” chocolate instead of being a vanilla-based dough, I would call the texture almost fudgelike. As it is, this is my new favorite white chocolate macadamia cookie.

3 cups (13.5 ounces) bread flour (do not substitute all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold
3/4 cup + 4 teaspoons (5.5 ounces) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine; set aside.
  2. Beat butter in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 1 minute or until creamy. Add both sugars and continue to beat at medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, for 1-2 minutes, until well combined.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, beating until just combined. 
  4. On low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, beating until just combined each time. Do not overmix.
  5. Add white chocolate and macadamia nuts, stirring in with a wooden spoon. Using a large ice cream scoop, portion dough into golf-ball-size dough balls and pat into very thick discs. Cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and evenly space frozen dough balls, 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake cookies for 16-20 minutes or until edges are golden brown and middles no longer look shiny or raw. Remove from oven, let cool for several minutes then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake

Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake - made August 20, 2016 from Jay's Baking Me Crazy
Got buttermilk? Got lemons? Then you’ll find it really easy to make this lemon buttermilk sheet cake. I still had lemons from my sporadic lemon harvest and I also had buttermilk from when I made banana bread to bring to my relatives in Winnipeg. And you can’t go wrong with a sheet cake if you want to put together something quick and easy.

What “dresses up” this simple sheet cake is the lemon sugar on top. Which is basically lemon zest rubbed into granulated sugar. You reserve ¼ cup to sprinkle on top and put the rest into the batter itself. I recommend increasing the amount of zest (if you like lemon, you can rarely have too much zest) and capturing a good portion of that zest into the reserved ¼ cup for sprinkling on top. Otherwise you’re just going to have sugar on top of icing when you really want lemony sugar and sugared lemon zest instead.

This has a really nice crumb, light and cakey. It wasn’t as lemony as I would’ve liked though. Most of the lemon flavor came from the icing since I used lemon juice to whisk into the powdered sugar. That argues again for using more lemon zest in the batter. But otherwise, this is a nice summer picnic cake to help feed a crowd. When I have a lot of people to cover in dessert, while chocolate is typically the most requested flavor, lemon often comes in a very close second.
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 3 lemons
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray,
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix lemon zest and sugar together until moist and fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer 1/4 cup of mixture to a small bowl and set aside,
  4. In a liquid measuring cup, combine buttermilk, lemon juice and vanilla.
  5. Add butter to remaining sugar mixture and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  6. Beat in eggs and yolk, one at a time, until combined.
  7. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, mixing until just combined after each addition. Do not overmix.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Do not overbake. Let cake cool for 10 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare glaze by combining ingredients together and whisking until smooth. Pour over warm cake and sprinkle with reserved lemon sugar.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Best Ever" Peanut Butter Cookies

"Best Ever" Peanut Butter Cookies - made dough August 19, 2016 from Like to Cook It
If you ever wonder why I seem to make the same type of thing in relatively quick succession, chances are I was in the mood to make something, trolled pinterest and my baking books for recipes of that something and ended up with several that I couldn’t decide between. Such is the case with another peanut butter cookie.

It started when I was going to see my nieces one weekend and I asked them what they wanted me to make. They decided on peanut butter cookies. So off I go on my recipe trolling and came across at least 5-6 different recipes I wanted to try. Then come to find out the Costco-sized half jar of peanut butter sitting in my pantry has been sitting there long enough to have just expired a month before I meant to use it. I didn’t know if the “best before” date was more of a suggestion or a mandate but I never take those kinds of chances, especially since I’m not going to be the only one eating them. It was another week before I got to Costco to buy another 2-pack, ever optimistic that this time I’ll use both jars well before their sell-by date and I ended up making my nieces something else.

But I still had these recipes for good-looking peanut butter cookies on my pinterest board! I made one already and they were gobbled up at work before I could blink and that recipe became my favorite peanut butter cookie. But I’m afraid it’s going to have to move over and make room for this one. I normally don’t buy into someone else’s hyperbole about “best ever” but I may have to remove the quotes on this one. Or at least qualify it as “one of the best ever” peanut butter cookie recipes I’ve tried. Because it is.

Similar to the other recipe, this also didn’t spread much and had a wonderfully moist and chewy texture. It was also soft, almost fragile, especially if you underbake cookies like I do. For the chocolate, I chopped up a big slab of Cadbury milk chocolate whole hazelnut that I’d bought last time I was in Europe. I know, I don’t like nuts in my cookies, right? The hazelnuts actually worked in this cookie. They didn’t steam and soften but remained crunchy and paired well with the peanut butter. Go figure. So now I have two awesome peanut butter cookie recipes for you. Be creative with the add-ins. You can add chopped, toasted peanuts or plain chocolate chips or chunks, semisweet or milk. Just don’t overbake them.

Oh, and for anyone keeping score, these too disappeared rather quickly at work.

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
  1. In a large bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, cream the peanut butter, butter and sugar, until blended. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, gradually, and mix to combine. Form into golf ball-size dough balls, flatten slightly into thick discs, cover, and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough discs in granulated sugar and evenly space on cookie sheets.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake, even if they look undercooked. Cool completely on wire racks.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Frosted Lemon Cookies

Frosted Lemon Cookies - made August 19, 2016 from Chocolate Chocolate and More
My dwarf lemon tree forgot about the “dwarf” part of its name and shot up to over 12 feet. It’s my fault it got that high because I wasn’t paying attention and hadn’t realized it had grown so tall. I didn’t know it could get that tall. If that was the dwarf version, what’s the regular tree like? Fortunately, a sharp pair of pruning shears and my lemon tree is back to a modest 7-foot height. Okay, that’s still not very dwarfy but at least it doesn’t look in danger of toppling over into my neighbor’s yard anymore. Did I mention it’s growing crooked too? Yeah, my green thumb isn’t so green.
But my lemon tree is producing lemons. It’s more prolific in the winter time but it does ripen the occasional yellow lemon while there are a (frightening) number of green ones growing larger and larger with every passing day. Expect more lemon-based recipes in the future.
For now, I thought it was a good time to try this recipe for frosted lemon cookies since I had to use up lemons and buttermilk. Normally I don’t do rolled cookies because, let’s face it, they’re a pain. Make the dough, chill it, roll it out to even thickness, cut with cookie shapers, pry off the counter while still trying to keep its shape if you didn’t flour the counter enough, get on the cookie sheet, again without distorting the shape and bake.
I did a fairly decent job with most of that and even was able to remember to time the cookies and take them out at 8 minutes exactly. They even looked done at that point, which is not a long time to bake cookies. But these were thin enough that 8 minutes was sufficient. I let them cool then frosted them. The only thing I changed from both the cookie dough and the frosting is I didn’t use lemon extract. I don’t like the metallic tang of lemon extract so instead I used freshly squeezed lemon juice. It doesn’t impact as much lemon flavor in the cookie as it does in the frosting though.

Hmm, not sure what to say about these cookies. I tried the thickest one as the taste test cookie but maybe I should have tried a thinner cookie. It was a little cakey to me and that cakey texture made it seem dry. It wasn’t overbaked but I didn’t love the texture. The taste was fine and I liked the icing I ended up with but I’m not a fan of (most) cakey cookies. It might also have been a mistake not to use lemon extract in the cookie dough because it really wasn’t that lemony. If it wasn’t for the lemon icing, it wouldn’t have really been a lemon cookie. I think I’m just not a fan of cookies made with buttermilk because they will almost always be cakey cookies.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt

1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy and light in color. Add egg and lemon extract; beat until combined,
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk until combined. Dough will be soft.
  3. Divide dough into two, wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Place chilled dough on well-floured surface. Using a flour-dusted rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/4" thickness. Cut into rounds with cookie cutter. Arrange evenly on baking sheets, Bake for 8 minutes, just until cookies are firm. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.
  6. Make frosting: cream butter in a mixing bowl; slowly add sugar until combined. Add in lemon extract. Beat until combined. Add in cream, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency. Frost cooled cookies and let set.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Photos, Recipes and Credit

I had another cookie post ready to go up tonight on the blogging schedule but something happened today that made me decide to write a different post instead. Something in the nature of a PSA (public service announcement) and something partly as a catharsis to get off my mind what was bothering me.

If you've been following my blog or have even skimmed a few posts, you know how much I like showing pics of what I've made, especially of something I think turned out well. I'm no professional photographer, as I'm sure anyone can tell, and I don't have fancy equipment. Every picture you see on my blog is taken with my cell phone and/or my pocket digital camera. Every picture on a recipe post is also something I've personally made or, in the rare instances where it isn't, I make it clear where it is from, similar to all the recipes I try from other blogs, baking books and everywhere else. If it's from another blog, I always link back to the recipe on the original blog in the post title as well as the blog itself, also in the post title, where I give credit to where I found the recipe.

Because that's what I do in the name of proper etiquette and simple courtesy, I assume that's what everyone else does. So I was taken aback when a reader commented on my post for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies that someone had the picture of my brownies on their Facebook page and, without any reference as to coming from my blog, it looked like it was theirs. I looked into it and sure enough, although it had been cropped closely to leave out the easily identifiable dessert plate I used, it was the exact same brownie picture from my blog and, without any photo credit, it looked like it was the business owner's picture. Bummer.

On a good day, it may not seem like a big deal and I can take most things in stride. My blog is public, I share recipes and pictures freely and I don't mind when other people make what I post; that's the point of my blog, right? But today wasn't a good day. I don't mind my recipes, posts or pictures being shared. I don't mind if someone uses the pictures I post anymore than I mind if they make the recipes I post. But if it's going to be used, especially in the capacity or implication that it's something they made, I expect some kind of acknowledgment of where they got it from and not an implication, unintentional or otherwise, that what's pictured is what they made when it isn't. Especially when it looks like a business selling the brownie. So I would assume they've made it themselves already and have something to take a picture of so using my picture should be unnecessary. Once I found out today, two weeks after the picture looks like it was posted, I did ask the business owner to give my blog the proper credit and even linked my blog post to their picture to prove it came from my blog. Fortunately, she did as I requested.

Still a bummer that it happened and that I had to ask for the proper credit in the first place but I thank the person who let me know what they saw. I never thought I had to ask this and I don't want to be one of those people who superimpose their name over every picture so I'll just simply say: you're free to use the recipes I post, you're free to use my pictures but if you're going to re-post the recipes and pictures and/or sell the baked goods using my pictures, I do ask that you give proper credit as to where you got them from. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ooey Gooey Fudge Brownies - add the Nutella

Ooey Gooey Fudge Brownies - made August 13, 2016 from Brownie Bites
This was one of the things I baked for my Canadian relatives while I was in Winnipeg for my cousin’s wedding. My aunt and one of my cousins wanted brownies and that’s so easy to make on the fly. Although I did have to find one that uses only cocoa as I forgot to get unsweetened chocolate at the grocery store when we did our run for baking ingredients.
Normally I don’t like cocoa brownies. Why? Brownies made exclusively with cocoa, even without any leavening agents like baking soda or baking powder, tend to end up being more cakey even if the brownie is meant to be fudgy. They have a softer mouthfeel with soft being like a cake rather than dense and chewy like baked fudge. Cocoa does add a nice chocolate depth to brownies though so my favorite recipes tend to include both baking chocolate and a small amount of cocoa.

But cocoa was all I had so this is the recipe I went with. On the whole, it turned out fine. The chocolate was good, it was fudgy but yes, it was still a bit lighter in texture than a recipe using only baking chocolate. I upped the decadence factor by using the lazy baker’s frosting, i.e. Nutella spread over the hot brownie 5 minutes after coming out of the oven. I didn’t have any toffee or extra chocolate chips to sprinkle on top so I kept it plain. No one seemed to mind and the full 9 x 13 pan of brownies disappeared before a day went by (I doubled the recipe below). Clearly, I’m in the right family.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda; set aside.
  3. In another bowl, combine melted butter, granulated sugar and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, into the sugar-butter mixture until combined. Add vanilla extract.
  4. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing after each addition until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Pour batter into pan and smooth top with small metal spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs, not raw batter. Do not overbake,