Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Lemon Squares

Hello Spring! These lemon squares are so quick, simple and delicious, you will want to have a lemon or two on hand at all times in order to whip up a batch on a whim.  I picture these as the perfect dessert for a spring BBQ or for Mother's Day brunch.


This is my second foray into baking with citrus - this lemon cake was a beauty and a winner for Easter dinner.  I love working with my new little zester - a bit messy but doesn't the kitchen smell wonderful!

Lemon Squares

Butter Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

Lemon Filling
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice  (approximately 1 large lemon)
1/4 cup icing sugar  (for sprinkling on top)

Begin with the crust.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add 1 cup of flour and the pinch of salt.  Mix well until dough starts to come together.  It's OK if the dough is a little crumbly.

Grease an 8x8 inch pan and line with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the sides a little. This step is important in order to create beautiful squares, as it helps to get the squares out easily.

Spoon the crust mixture into the pan.   Using a measuring cup or your fingers, lightly press the crust down into the bottom of the pan, ensuring it covers the bottom equally.   It's OK if a little more crust mixture gets into the corners or up the sides - these are the best pieces.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven until just browned around the edges.  The crust will go back in the oven to bake with the topping, so be sure not to overbake at this stage of the game.

While you are waiting for the crust to bake, prepare the lemon filling.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until well combined.  Add in the flour, lemon juice, and zest and whisk until blended.

Once the crust is ready, remove from oven and let cool slightly. Pour the filling over the warm (but not hot) baked crust. Return to the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  The squares should be just lightly browned on top and no longer jiggly in the centre. 

Sift icing sugar (about a 1/4 of a cup, or to your liking) over top as soon as you remove from the oven, so it will stick nicely.   Allow to cool completely in the pan.  (Yes. You have to wait. Don't ruin the beautiful squares). Run a knife around the edges of the pan. Slice lemon bars into nine large squares or 12 smaller squares. Use the over hanging parchment paper to lift the squares out. 

Squares store well for several days between layers of waxed paper, and freeze well for 1-2 weeks, wrapped tightly. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Maple Oatmeal Scones

These scones are the perfect on-the-go breakfast.  It's maple oatmeal without the bowl!  As an added bonus, these are 100% naturally sweetened with maple syrup.  Make a batch, freeze them individually, and then take out of the freezer the night before or a couple of hours before consuming.





Maple Oatmeal Scones
Recipe from Flour

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup cream
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg (cold)


Combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium sized bowl.   Add the butter and using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter into the flour until it is broken down into pea sized pieces. 

Mix together cream, maple syrup, and the egg until well combined.  Pour into the flour mixture and mix until the dough comes together.  

Using a measuring cup or large spoon, scoop dough and drop onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Makes enough for about 8 large scones.   Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until scones are nice and golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. 




Delicious served fresh out of the oven with a mug of coffee. 


Saturday, 4 April 2015

Lemon Bundt Cake

Nothing says spring like a fresh lemon cake - now, if only the weather would keep up with the calendar!

Happy Easter!

I hope your holiday is filled with all things sweet!

xo







Lemon Bundt Cake
from Amy Kay's Kitchen 


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2/3 cups unsalted butter
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp lemon zest

Lemon Glaze & Lemon Sugar garnish
1 to 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 -2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
water as needed
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 to 3 tsp sugar 


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour a large bundt pan.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Add milk and butter to a small saucepan and heat just until butter is melted.

While waiting on the butter, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or until thickened and lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla and lemon zest. 

Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until combined, scraping bowl as needed.
Once the butter is melted, gradually add the butter and milk mixture to batter; beating just until combined and scraping bowl as needed.  The batter will be thin. 

Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until top springs back when pressed and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (or with a few moist crumbs). As the baking time will vary widely between ovens, I recommend starting to check at 35 minutes, and monitoring every few minutes. 


Remove from oven, place on a wire rack and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes or until the cake starts to pull away from side of pan.  

Gently pass a knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake and carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Lemon Glaze
Whisk together the icing sugar and enough lemon juice until the right consistency is obtained.  Taste test for tartness (say that 5 times fast!). If needed, add a teensy bit of water to liquify to glaze consistency.  Pour over cake, letting it drip over the sides prettily.


Lemon sugar garnish
Mix lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle on top of freshly glazed cake while the glaze is still wet.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Cocoa Almond Brownies (gluten-free!)

Looking for something different to bake for a gluten and dairy-free friend? Look no further. These brownies have only, like, 4 ingredients.  Okay, 5: almonds, icing sugar, cocoa, eggs, and vanilla. 
At first, I was suspicious. And doubtful.  Then, I had a few bites and thought, maybe.  Let's put them in front of a group of people (of which the vast majority are gluten-gobblers and lactose-lovers) and see what happens. Success.  Unless they are really good liars... 



Cocoa Almond Brownies (gluten-free)
slightly adapted from Chatelaine

2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 cups ground almonds
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla


Preheat oven to 350F.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8 × 8-in. pan with parchment, letting it hang over the edges of pan.

Combine icing sugar, almonds, cocoa and salt in a large bowl. Stir in eggs and vanilla.

The batter will be very thick. Soldier on.  Scrape into prepared pan with a spatula.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes until cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

I recommend waiting until they are fully cooled before trying a bite - and although the appearance is a little different (you can clearly see the almond bits), these are really fudgy and tasty.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Happy St. Paddy's - Chocolate Stout Cupcakes and Blarney Chips


Happy St. Pat's!  I did you a solid. I perfected this recipe for you - this is my fourth year running baking chocolate stout cake or cupcakes and St. Patrick's Day just wouldn't be right without them.

Our surname is about as Irish as it gets - my husband's family is from Co. Cork by way of Boston - and if we moved to Boston today we would fit right in (although the O' was dropped over a hundred years ago, like so many other Irish families).  I have been fortunate to visit Ireland twice and it is truly a lovely place and lovely people - make sure you stop in Cork City for some Murphy's.  We celebrate St. Patrick's Day every year - starting the evening off with Black Velvet's (half a pint of Guinness topped with half a pint of Irish Cider) and our homemade version of Blarney Chips (waffle fries topped with cheese, green onion, diced tomatoes, diced green pepper, and more cheese) and served with salsa and sour cream.

Sláinte!!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup stout beer (preferably Irish - Guinness or Murphy's)
2 eggs

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl.  Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at at time, beating in between with a hand mixer.  Add vanilla.  Continue to beat.

Add half the flour mixture and mix in gently, scraping down the sides of the bowl every so often.  Add about 1/3 of the stout and half of the remaining flour.  Repeat, alternating stout and flour until well combined.  Be careful not to overmix.

The batter will be thick.  Spoon into 15 greased or lined muffin cups and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.



Chocolate Stout Buttercream Frosting
1/4 unsalted butter, softened
1 - 2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/3 cup stout
1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter with cocoa.   Add one cup of icing sugar and the stout.  Add vanilla and begin to add more icing sugar until you reach the right consistency.  If too thick, just add a little more stout!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

It's three weeks until Easter! Last year on Good Friday we jetted off to Iceland for our 5th wedding anniversary (if you are even considering going to Iceland, do it!).  Our anniversary fell on Easter Sunday and we did a tour of the South Coast - it was captivating.

This year it's all about a more traditional celebration and the Easter dessert is, of course, the first thing I think about.  I did some research (umm...Google) and apparently you simply can't get any more traditional than Carrot Cake at Easter.


I have never actually made a carrot anything before....and since steamed carrots don't count, I suppose....I figured let's give it a shot.  I decided to make a 'trial' cake (why wait?) and found a lovely carrot cake recipe already scaled down for two.

Maple syrup is synonymous with spring - so I added my own twist with the addition of maple syrup to both the cake and the frosting.


Result?  Magically delicious....(errr...my only excuse for that is that St. Paddy's day is just around the corner). I think it's far too early to make a solid decision for Easter dessert, though, so the journey will continue....

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Dessert for Two

yields 1 six inch cake

1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup packed grated carrot (from 1 small carrot)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

FOR THE FROSTING:
3 ounce block of cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
5 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp maple syrup


Grease a 6” round cake pan.

In a medium bowl, beat oil and sugar together with an electric mixer for about 1 minute.

Beat in the egg, cinnamon, vanilla and maple syrup.  Add the carrot and continue to beat - don't be too gentle, you want it to stain the batter orange, but not so tough that the carrot is obliterated!

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Add the flour mixture to the carrot mixture beat until just combined.  Avoid over-mixing.

Pour the batter into one 6 inch cake pan and bake at 350 for 22-24 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Let the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. While you are waiting for the cake to cool, make the frosting.

Start with room temperature cream cheese and butter.   This is important or your frosting will be lumpy.  Tasty, but not pretty.

Beat together the cream cheese, and butter.  Add in a few tbsp of icing sugar and the maple syrup. Beat a little more.  Add in the remaining icing sugar.  Add more icing sugar if needed until you obtain the right consistency for frosting.

Frost generously and keep in refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.

Tell me....what are you making for Easter?

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread


 A perfect Saturday begins with coffee.  This is the essential first step. Without the coffee, it can be a wonderful Saturday, but not a perfect Saturday.  A ski in the woods on fresh snow, with light flurries floating down.  A milky coffee or latte for recovery.  A perfect Saturday also involves baking. Baking with cinnamon and sugar and yeasty dough...



Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes: one 9x5 inch loaf

For the Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour, separated
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast**
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
1/3 cup granulated
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted


Start with the dough:
In a large mixing bowl whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast**, and salt. Set aside.
Whisk together eggs and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract. Let mixture stand for a minute or two.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula. Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes.

Place the dough is a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour (mine didn't rise very much, see note above about yeast).  The dough can be refrigerated overnight for use in the morning.  Once you are ready to bake, let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

While the dough rises, make the filling.  Whisk together the brown and white sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling. Set aside. Melt the butter and set aside. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long (mine didn't make it that far - it's ok - just roll it as large as the dough will go). Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips (mine only made between 4 and 5 strips - it's ok, it will all turn out fine). Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again. You’ll have six stacks of six squares (again, don't worry about not having exactly the right number of squares). Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book. Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (or longer, depending on the thickness of your dough squares. I had to bake mine for about 45 minutes, honestly), until the top is nice and golden brown.

**A note from Joy: Some bakers have found that the dough doesn’t rise, because the yeast is not first activated in warm water. As a fail-safe, feel free to activate your yeast first. To activate yeast, whisk yeast into 3 tablespoons of warm water. The water should be between 105 and 115 degrees F. Add a pinch of granulated sugar and allow the mixture to sit for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is foamy and frothy. Your yeast is ready to go! If the mixture does not foam and froth, toss the yeast and try again with another package of yeast. Add the activated yeast when you combine the wet and dry ingredients.