Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Cookies

It's that time of year 
When the world falls in love 
Every song you hear seems to say
"Merry Christmas - May your new year dreams come true"

My new year dreams have dark chocolate, pistachio and sea salt in them - how about yours?

Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Cookies
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
coarse sea salt for topping (optional)

Cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix well. Mix in pistachios and chocolate chips.

Spoon dough (1 to 2 tbsp depending on how big you like your cookies) onto greased or parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 16-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Mulled Wine Crumble Squares

If you are looking for something a little different to add to the traditional shortbread, sugar cookie, and brownie tray this holiday, try these little squares out.  I was intrigued as soon as I saw the title, and added it to my baking list immediately.

The cranberries add a nice little tang - and the sugar in the crumble and crust balance the tartness nicely.  In all honesty, if you are not a fan of cranberries, these may not be your first choice. However, if you are like me, and enjoy the fresh tang of grapefruit, cranberries or lime - I guarantee these won't disappoint.

Mulled Wine Crumble Squares
adapted from Butter me up, Brooklyn!

For the crumble:
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened and cut into pieces

For the filling:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar, as needed

Start making the filling first.  In a medium sized saucepan, bring cranberries, orange juice, red wine, sugar and spices to a simmer.  Leave the lid on for 8 minutes, stirring every once in a while, and then remove lid and continue to simmer for another 8-10 minutes.  Cranberries are tart - so take a little taste - stir in an additional 1 tbsp of white sugar as needed.   Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

While you are waiting for the filling to cool, make the crumble.  Combine flour, oats, sugars, cinnamon, and baking powder in a medium-large bowl.  Work the butter in until crumbs the size of flakes and peas form.

Press 2/3 of the oat mixture firmly into a 8x8 pan lined with parchment paper.   Once the filling has cooled, spoon over top and distribute evenly.  Scatter the remaining oat mixture over top, and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool completely before removing from pan.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Sweet & Spicy Pecans

Last Christmas, our friend Lindsay brought these over as a little hostess gift, and my husband raved about them.  Lindsay graciously provided the recipe and I safely tucked it away until the festive season rolled around once again.  After one thing or another, we finally got around to crafting these little fellas last night.

These are so easy and fast to make - and an equally simple and fast clean-up.  Guests show up unexpectedly? Home-made snack in 20 minutes.  Creating a cheese tray?  Perfect addition.  I think these are being added to our annual holiday must-make list. The only problem? Ensuring they last until the guests arrive.

Sweet & Spicy Pecans

3 cups plain, unsalted pecans
4 1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp salt 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly brush with oil.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  If you prefer more sweet than spicy, reduce the cayenne pepper to 1/4 tsp and increase the sugar by 1 tsp.
Spread pecans in single layer on baking sheet.

Bake in for 8-9 minutes, and flip the pecans.  Return to oven and bake for an additional 9 minutes.

Immediately upon removing from the oven, use a spatula to lift pecans from sheet.  This will prevent them from sticking to the foil.  Let cool on baking sheet.  Store in a tightly sealed container.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Confetti Cupcakes

I get it. I finally get it. All this time, I have been baking cakes with all-purpose flour when I really should have been using cake & pastry flour.  I always looked at it askance in the grocery store, like, why bother? Cakes taste great with all-purpose, what difference could it make? Well, as you may have guessed it, it does make a difference.  I am won over.  Looks like I have to go find another flour canister for my counter top.

An avid reader of How Sweet Eats, I purchased Jessica's cookbook in September.  This is the second recipe I have tried (the first was the brown butter banana bread).  I wanted to make cupcakes for a bake sale, and I wanted to try something new.  Jessica doesn't devote a lot of space in her cookbook to baking, so I figured, if it made it into her cookbook, it must be at least half-way decent.  Well, yum YUM yum - these are possibly the best cupcakes I have ever made (best muffins are these ones).

I doubled the recipe, didn't bother with the egg whites and reduced the sugar a tad.  Enjoy!

Confetti Cupcakes
slightly adapted from Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant

3 cups cake and pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups white sugar
3 eggs
4 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sprinkles

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add the eggs one at at time, beating in between, Add oil and vanilla and mix until well combined.
Add half the flour to the butter mixture, then half the milk and stir.  Add the remaining flour and milk and continue to stir until thoroughly mixed.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners until 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until cake tester inserted in middle cupcake comes out clean.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Swedish Chocolate Cake

I read quite a few baking blogs.  There are some amazing bakers and bloggers out there - with incredible creativity and talent - but most of the time I just enjoy browsing and maybe one in 100 recipes I will actually bookmark for later. This represents the one percent.

This was my first experience with Swedish chocolate cake - and I am hooked.  It's like a really really big brownie with a soft, gooey centre.  This cake is best served warm, but it won't be turned down once it cools. Trust me. When we were down to the last decadent piece, my husband begged me to make another.  He was dreading the come down. I think I will have keep this tucked away in my recipe arsenal for a special occasion.

Swedish Chocolate Cake
slightly adapted from Top With Cinnamon by Izy Hossack by way of The Vanilla Bean Blog

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup, minus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
3 eggs
2 tbsp icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350. Line, grease, and flour a deep 6-inch cake pan.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients until completely combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan, and bake 30-35 minutes.  Be brave and just trust me on this.  Bakers are trained to know when our cakes are ready - through hard-won experience - but ignore your instincts this time. If the edges of the cake are hard, but the middle is soft - she's done.  We want this cake to come out now.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, dust with icing sugar and serve warm.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Apple Cinnamon Buttermilk Waffles

I love waffles, pancakes, and french toast - which really shouldn't surprise anyone that knows me.   I love them for breakfast, for brunch, and even for dinner.  I loved them so much as a kid, that I even chose pancakes for my birthday dinner one year, much to my grandfather's dismay.  My grandfather and I shared a birthday, and he used to drop by our house for dinner.  According to my mom he ate them with a smile although he was a meat and potatoes kind of man.  I have no doubt these pancakes were chased by chocolate cake for dessert.

I recently purchased a waffle-iron - after years of wishing I had one, but never actually pulling the trigger.  I had my eye on a Belgian waffle-maker with removable plates (important).  One day the one I had my eye on went on sale and I just bought it before I could stop myself.

So we have been eating waffles quite a bit lately, trying out different recipes.  This is the best one so far, inspired by the grated apple in this cake.  I have an idea of adding whipped apple butter for an even more decadent or special occasion - but for a lazy Sunday morning, these are perfect.

Apple Cinnamon Buttermilk Waffles

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup grapeseed, canola or vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 Granny Smith apple, grated

Apple Cinnamon Topping
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 cup water, plus 1 - 2 tbsp as needed
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Begin by peeling, coring, and chopping two Granny Smith apples.  In a saucepan over medium low heat, add the apple pieces along with the water, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Let the apples soften without letting all the water evaporate, about 5 minutes.  Add more water as needed.  Turn down the heat to low and let simmer until the waffles are ready.

While the apples are cooking, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.  Set aside.

Preheat waffle maker to desired temperature.  While waffle maker is heating, peel, core, and grate the remaining apple.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir in the grated apple.  Be careful not to over-stir the batter.

Once the waffle iron is ready, dollop the batter in and cook according to the instructions.
Serve waffles immediately, with a generous serving of the apple cinnamon topping and syrup.

This recipe makes enough for two very hungry people, or 4 people as a breakfast side.  My waffle iron made 8 waffles (2 sets of 4) leaving a little batter left-over.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Maple Apple Upside Down Cake

Let's slow down.  Let's relax and live in the moment, and not think too far ahead.  It's November, and it's fall.  Breathe. Reflect. Red, orange, yellow and brown.  Fallen leaves and fallen soldiers.  It's time to remember.  Let's not get too carried away with all things red and green and sparkly - not yet.

Maple Apple Upside Down Cake is comforting.  It's simple.  It's just what we need right now.

This cake reminds me of my trip to Amsterdam - it's a combination of a Dutch Apple Pancake (left - look at the pretty blue and white tabletop - so Dutch!) and their famous Apfelkuchen (right), which I thoroughly enjoyed at the Rijksmuseum cafe.

Maple Apple Upside Down Cake
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker - Homemade Decadence

Maple Apple Topping
2 Granny smith apples, peeled and sliced into wedges
1/2 cup Canadian maple syrup
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup Canadian maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated

Prepare the apple bottom (which ends up being the topping) first. In a greased 9x2 cake pan, arrange the apple wedges, fanned out in a circle.  Using a small saucepan, heat up butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg until the butter melts.  Pour about half of the mixture over top of the apples in the cake pan.  Set aside the other half.

In a separate saucepan, melt the 3/4 cup of butter and let cool.

While the butter is cooling, grate the apple. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium sized bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar and grated apple.  Once the butter has cooled, add the butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Using a large spoon, dollop the cake batter on top of the apples in the cake pan. Careful not to move the apples out of their fan pattern.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.  Drizzle the remaining maple sauce over top and serve.  We enjoyed this cake the next day but I imagine that it is terrific served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you are feeling decadent.