Baking · Dessert

Lavender Tea Cake

In no way is this a family recipe, but an homage to my mother’s undying love for all things British and Downton Abbey. There are a variety of versions of this recipe on the Internet, so I cannot claim credit. We modified this and made this for her birthday – and find ourselves making it from time to time when lavender is in season. 

One appeal of this recipe is that it is VERY easy to assemble, and it is not too sweet. The texture is a bit bready, and is perfect for afternoon tea.

You will need

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 tbs fresh chopped lavender or 1 tbs dried lavender
  • 6 tbs butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Step one:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Combine the milk and lavender in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat to a simmer, then remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly.

Step two:

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Step three:

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk and lavender until just blended. Pour into the prepared pan.

Step four:

Bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a wooden pick inserted into the crown of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Enjoy.

Baking · Dessert

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I have been baking this cake all December for other people to enjoy. I think with Christmas being on a much smaller scale, I am trying to find ways to show appreciation and love to people I hold dear, but can’t necessarily see. Under normal circumstances, I would be sharing this with others, laughing, celebrating the holidays, and feeling rushed. This year is quiet and offers time to be more introspective and appreciative of the relationships that we do have.

This is not my recipe, but one of my absolute favorites I have adapted from Barefoot Contessa. I do several things differently; first, I like to use a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan for presentation. Another is that I don’t add the nuts to the streusel (I left it here in case you prefer it that way). I often use the maple glaze when making this for other people. However, when I want to make this less sweet for home, I skip the glaze and simply dust with powdered sugar.

The result is a very creamy edible coffee cake (or anytime cake) that pleases everyone. We fall back on it for presents to other people, mother’s day, and any occasion that calls for cake. It is a personal family favorite – it is rich, comforting and lovely.

Total Time: one and 1/2 hours

Ease of Recipe: medium

You will need:

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups cake flour OR 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the streusel:
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

  • For the glaze:
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Step one:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Step two:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed.

Step three:

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the nuts.

Step four:

Sprinkle half of the streusel in the bottom of the bundt pan. Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with the rest of the streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, to make the glaze thick but runny. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a small spoon. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute 2¼ cups all-purpose flour plus ¼ cup cornstarch.

If the eggs are cold, place the whole eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before cracking them.

Baking · Dessert

Homemade Whipped Cream

All you need is three ingredients and this incredibly versatile topping. I use this for cakes, pies, and my personal favorite, served alongside fresh strawberries.

Total Time: 15 minutes

You will need:

  • A hand mixer and a bowl (chilled, if you have time)
  • I cup – Heavy Cream or Whipping Cream (cold)
  • Confectioner’s Sugar, to taste (2 tbs – 1/4 cup)
  • Vanilla, to taste (1/2 – 1 tsp)

Begin with cold cream – the colder the cream, the lighter the result. Whip your mixture for about 10-15 minutes, until medium peaks have formed.

Chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Serve with fresh fruit or use to top a cake or pie.

Baking · Dessert · Recipes

Fresh Ginger Cake

My family and I adore all things ginger and gingerbread. Gingerbread and ginger cakes were a specialty of my mother’s family, so baking them creates a nostalgia and peace for me, especially during the holidays. This year, everything seem so displaced and disjointed; we cannot gather the same we used to, and we cannot have all of the faces we wish to see around the table.

So, this morning, I found myself thinking of my grandmother and wanting to make ginger cake. I can tell you that, rolling up my sleeves and sifting the flour on my wooden kitchen table, made me feel more connected – even though she passed away 26 years ago, and even though my Thanksgiving and Christmas are far smaller than what I am used to.

Here is the recipe. It is a little more nuanced than most ginger cakes, in my opinion. Most ginger cakes and bread have a cloying sweetness that I don’t care for. The addition of clove and cinnamon give it a depth. Of course, if you prefer things sweeter, feel free to add an extra half cup of sugar. You can top this with confectioner’s sugar, or a home-made whipped cream. Either are lovely. I hope you like it and that it gives you some comfort during a rough year.

Total Time: 2 hours; one hour to prepare and bake and one hour to cool

You will need:

  • 6-8 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and minced.
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (8 oz) unsulfured molasses
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Step one:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse ginger until finely chopped. This should generate about one cup. Grease a bundt cake pan and set aside.

Step two:

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs.

Step three:

On a stove top, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in molasses, water and fresh ginger until fully blended. Add the molasses mixture to the bowl with sugar and eggs. Combine. Gently fold in flour mixture until just combined.

Step four:

Pour cake batter into pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely for an hour. Then, run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or homemade whipped cream.

Central American · Dessert · Recipes

Arroz con Leche

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Arroz con leche recipes vary widely depending on what country you are dealing with. This one is based off a Costa Rican version that I searched long and hard for. I was trying to replicate my guy’s grandmother’s recipe, and with a few tweaks, it was a success. As a boy, he loved to eat it straight from the pan while it was hot and sweet- but it can be refrigerated and will last for days.

You need:

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 4 1/2 cups water
  3. 2 cinnamon sticks
  4. 3 cloves
  5. 1 can evaporated milk
  6. 2 cans condensed milk
  7. 1 tsp vanilla
  8. 1/2 tbs grated orange skin
  9. pinch of salt

Step one: add orange peel, h20, cinnamon sticks and cloves to a sauce pan.

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Bring to a boil and then add rice. When the rice has absorbed all of the water, add evaporated milk.

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This is the consistency you are gunning for.

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Step two: Bring to a boil again, and then add condensed milk, salt and vanilla.

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Step three: Boil for 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy:)

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Dessert · Holiday

Buckeyes

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Recipe source: my sister in law

When I lived in Ohio, I discovered the magic of buckeyes. They are a bit labor intensive, but sooooo worth it.

You will need:       

  • 16 oz confectioner’s sugar (4 cups)
  • 1 18 oz jar of creamy peanut butter (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  •  1 12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • toothpicks & wax paper

Step one: In a bowl, combine sugar, and peanut butter.

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Once blended, add the butter.

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Step two: Roll the mixture into little chestnut sized balls and place on wax paper. Refrigerate.

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Step three: With a double boiler or microwave, melt the chocolate chips. Remove the peanut butter balls and put them in freezer for five minutes- they stay on the toothpick better and the chocolate hardens quicker.

Step four: Dip the peanut butter ball into the chocolate with a toothpick and slowly coat on all sides with the chocolate. Leave a circle around the toothpick chocolate free. Freeze them until you are ready to serve.

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A delicious tradition:)

Dessert · Holiday · Recipes

Sugar Cut-out cookies

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My fondest holiday memories involve rolling out sugar cookies with my mom and grandmother. We would begin baking on December 23, and it was an all day/all night affair in order to be ready for our dinner and family Christmas party. We always set out a few cookies and a carrot for Santa, and of course, in the morning all that would be left would be some crumbs.

This cookie recipe makes a very soft, thick sugar cookie and is ideal for making with the kids. My holiday stress secret is to make a huge batch a couple weeks ahead for Christmas and then freeze it. I pull it out whenever kids want to bake. When I became a parent, I learned the hard way that it is WAYYYY more easy to make the dough ahead of time. In truth, the kids enjoy the rolling, baking and decorating, not the assembly and chilling part. What sets this one apart is how easy it is for kids to work with, and how consistent the dough is for working with the rolling pin.

I had used my mom’s recipe for a long time, but I experimented with this one from thekitchn.com  and have never looked back.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Step one:

Mix flour, salt, baking powder in a large bowl.

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Big Fat Batch = Big Fat Bowl

Step two:

Cream the butter and add sugar in a large bowl.

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Add the egg and blend until golden yellow. Add the cream cheese, lemon zest, vanilla and almond extract.

Step three:

Add the flour mixture in gradual increments to the butter/sugar blend until well-blended.

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Buttery, crumbly goodness

Step four:

Refrigerate the dough for two hours.

To Bake:

After chilling the dough, and rolling it/cutting it out into desired shapes, bake for 9-12 minutes. The bottom of the cookies most likely will not brown.

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Notes:

The dough will keep in the freezer for up to a month, if you are planning to mix it ahead.

Decorating ideas:

  • Spread a thin layer of cream cheese frosting after cookies cool and add sprinkles.
  • Drizzle with melted chocolate
  • You could cut out thin cookies and layer with nutella or jam
Dessert · Holiday

Classic NY Cheesecake with Cranberry Cointreau sace

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This recipe is a hybrid/tweak from several sources. This cheesecake is very rich and excellent as a stand-alone. It also makes an excellent base for toppings if you choose to remove the citrus notes.

Classic New York Cheesecake: (supposedly the original recipe from Lindy’s)

  • 5 packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 and 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1 tbs grated orange peel *optional
  • 1 tbs grated lemon peel *optional
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Crust:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk

IMG_2876    screw your diet

Step one: (crust)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease springform pan, with shortening. Remove pan. Mix all ingredients with a fork until the dough forms. Gather it up into three balls. Press one ball into the the bottom of the pan. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until light golden brown.

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Assemble the sides of the pan and secure. Press remaining dough 2 inches up the side of the pan.

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It doesn’t seem like it, but the dough will press up nicely and fill the pan.

Step two: (cake)

Heat oven to 475 degrees. Beat cream cheese, flour, orange peel, lemon peel and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.

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Beat in eggs, egg yolks and whipping cream on low speed until well-blended. Pour into crust.

Step three: Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees. Bake one hour and 15 minutes longer. Do not insert a knife to test – this will cause cracks. The center may not seem done, but will set eventually. Turn off the oven, but leave the cheesecake in there for 30 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for another 30 minutes.

Step four: Don’t release the pan, but run a spatula along the side to loosen the crust. Chill for at least three hours in the refrigerator, uncovered; preferably, overnight.

Serving suggestions – If you don’t want to top it with fruit, Beat 3/4 cup of heavy cream until it is stiff. Top with slivered almonds.

Cranberry-cointreau sauce (source finecooking.com)

  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 12-oz. package fresh cranberries, rinsed, dried, and picked over
  • 2 Tbs. Cointreau or Grand Marnier (I have used Grand Marnier in the past because I can more easily find the travel sizes at our liquor store

Note – I have used Grand Marnier in the past because I can more easily find the travel sizes at our liquor store, and it is cheaper. Both have the smoky orange tones you are looking for.

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In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, honey, and 3/4 cup water to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

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Double, double, toil and trouble

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cranberries.

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Cook, stirring occasionally, until the foam has turned fuchsia and many of the berries have popped, about 5 min.

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Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the Cointreau. Pour into a heatproof bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours, but preferably overnight. The sauce can be made two days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Dessert · Holiday · Recipes · Side dish

Pecan Cheesecake Bars

This recipe from positivelysplendid.com popped up among my facebooks friends, so I thought I would give it a try. The pictures looked incredible (yes, I look at dessert photos the same way others look at centerfolds) and the review looked good too.

Verdict: Absolutely delicious

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For the shortbread layer

  1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  3. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  4. 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

For the cheesecake layer

  1. 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1/2 cup milk
  4. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the pecan pie layer

  1. 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  2. 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  3. 1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  4. 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  5. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 1/2 cups pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. For the shortbread layer: In a medium bowl, combine flour and 3/4 cup brown sugar.

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  1. Although the original link says to use a pastry blender, I used a hand mixer and it worked just fine. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans.                                                                  FullSizeRender(10)
  2. Press mixture evenly into bottom of a greased 9×13″ baking pan. FullSizeRender(9)
  3. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven, and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  4. For the cheesecake layer: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, and beat at medium speed until smooth. Beat in sugar. Add milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla, and beat until combined. FullSizeRender(6)
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cooled shortbread layer. Bake for 15 minutes; remove from oven and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.FullSizeRender(8)
  6. For the pecan pie layer: In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Gently stir in the eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in 1 1/2 cups pecans.FullSizeRender(7)
  7. Pour pecan mixture over cooled cheesecake layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until center is set and pecan pie layer is a rich brown color. IMG_2337

Here is the end result in various shots:

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Dessert · Holiday · Recipes

Homeade Apple Pie

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Homemade apple pies are easy; It’s the crust that is always tricky for me. If I have time, I make the dough from scratch, but I often cop out and by the ready-made variety. Homemade dough gives you that ethereal, light quality but it can be time-consuming and easy to make it too tough.

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It’s okay to cheat sometimes! Shhhhh.

One note though, avoid the shells you find in the freezer – I feel like they always break and no matter how hard you try, the taste of a rolled-out dough baked in the oven is impossible to replicate. I tend to by the rolled-dough you see pictured above. For my dough recipe, scroll down to the end of the post. What follows is my tried and true apple pie recipe.

Serves: 8 people

Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

You will need:

  • 7 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples. This will be about 7 small apples. (I like granny smith, gala or empire or a combo)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar; 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs butter
  • For the crust, you will need enough for 2. One for the top; one for the bottom

Step 1: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Step 2: Combine apples, sugar, flour, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix around until the apples are coated and there is no loose powder.

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Brown sugar goodness. Mmmmm.

Step 3. Place the mixture in a dough lined 9 inch pie plate. Dot with slices of butter.

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Step 4: Assemble the top crust and press edges with your fingers in whatever pattern you wish.

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Vent the top of the pie.

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Coming up with different patterns is fun.

Step 5: Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. After the ten minutes, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 50-60 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender. Cool upon a rack and serve. If the crust gets too dark, cover it gently in foil.

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Extras:

  • I like to coat the crust with melted butter and sprinkle it with brown sugar and an extra dash of cinnamon.
  • Serve it with some vanilla bean ice cream.

Homemade dough recipe:

This recipe makes enough for 2 or a double crust pie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water.

Step 1: Combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter. Mix (use a hand mixer or processor) until the mixture resembles a crumbly meal ( a few pea size pieces of butter is ok)

Step 2: Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of cold water. Mix until the dough is crumbly, but holds together when squeezed with your fingers. If necessary, add a tiny bit of water at a time until you get the right consistency. To do not overdo it, or your crust will get tough, not flaky. ‘

Step 3: Transfer half of the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form the dough into a circle roughly 3/4 inch thick. Wrap tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour until firm. It will hold up for 3 days and can be frozen for 3 months. Repeat with the second half.

When I am top of holiday game, I will pre-make a few batches and freeze them until Thanksgiving and Christmas.