Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ginger Creme Cookies

This is going to be one busy week! After my surprise advancement to Round 2 of the Project Food Blog Challenge (don't forget to vote!) I spent Saturday in a rush to make my Peruvian Meal for the competition.

Hoping to avoid another last minute rush I decided to get a head start on the next challenge - just in case I advance again! The next one is a "Luxury Dinner Party" so we're inviting a few friends and I'll be doing a simple but elegant Provence inspired meal. Still, it's a lot to get done by Thursday which is our party.

In the meantime, I have cookies to get ready for Feeding the Homeless this week. I decided to get the first batch done this afternoon while I had laundry going. Gosh, that's highly efficient of someone who is usually very inefficient when it comes to chores! Anyway, I decided to do Ginger Creme Cookies which is a very old recipe. It's similar to my Ginger Cakes but not as involved in the prep work and without all the layers of spices. They're nice a chewy with just enough of a gingery bite. With a second batch tomorrow I should have enough to deliver to Karin when I go out shopping for the dinner party on Wednesday afternoon.

Voting for Project Food Blog Challenge 2

Voting for Project Food Blog's second challenge begins at about 6:00am Pacific time this morning. Amazingly, Sugar Pies managed to advance out of the first round. Thanks to everyone who voted and to the judges who saw something of interest in our humble endeavors here.

Of course, now we have to ask for y'all to vote for the blog again, this time for our Peruvian Expedition meal which features Seco de Pollo, Papas a la Huanaica and T'antawawas. For this challenge it will be even more important for you to vote because it looks like the groupies are forming for the big boys and girls. I say that with some humor because I've been following the #PFB2010 hashtag on Twitter. Interestingly, what I see from the judges "tips" video seems to often be in direct opposition to what the groupies consider "killing it" for the entries. It'll be fascinating to see what the professionals who are judging pick versus the food blog groupies.

So, here's your chance to be my groupie! (Lordy, lordy the things we do!) Take a moment to vote for Sugar Pies at Project Food Blog 2010. We can use all the help we can get this time around!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Project Food Blog: Peruvian Expedition

Seco de Pollo, Salsa a la Haucaina and Papas a la Huacaina
make up this traditional Peruvian meal. 
I was honestly surprised and a little flabbergasted to open my email on Friday and find that I had been promoted to Round 2 of Project Food Blog 2010. Seriously, browsing the competition at the outset I had no real hopes that my humble adventures in cooking could hold its own against trained chefs and those with aspirations of being the next Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, or Gordon Ramsey.

But here we are. Challenge #2 is to work with a classic ethnic cuisine which is unfamiliar to you. Well, technically a lot of classical French dishes are still unfamiliar to me as a traditional Southern cook. But, I figured delving into Mastering the Art of French Cooking wouldn't be winning me points with the judges. So, I decided to look even further south.

 Just before we met, Michael made a spiritual journey to Peru and the Andes. There he learned about traditional Quechua healing and culture. He was greatly moved by these decendents of the Inca and you'll find Peruvian influences in decorations in our home.

Q'ero family.
Photo by Michael Koch.
When I was awaiting my transplant, one of his friends who frequently visits the Andes and works among the Q'ero, sent a beautiful native textile that had been blessed by one of the Shaman. My scientific and medical training from years ago was put aside momentarily and I often lay with it draped over my abdomen. I can't say it healed me - after all I ended up with a new liver - but I can say it comforted me to know that Q'ero healers were also offering up their support.

I've never been to the Andes and I'm not sure in light of my medical history whether those altitudes would be a good idea now. But, I still feel great kinship with the Q'ero and people of the Andes through Michael's stories of his time there and from their kindness and concern for a person they would never meet who was sick.

In honor of that, I decided to choose some classic Peruvian/Andean dishes for this challenge. My first foray was T'antawawa which is a spiced bread in the shape of people. The word comes from the Quechua word for "baby" and this bread is used for decorative purposes around Dio de los Muertos (November 1) when the dead are remembered. This bread is also presented as an offering at grave sites. It's pretty tasty too.

For the main course I went with Seco de Pollo which is a chicken dish seasoned with cilantro and rounded out with peppers, garlic, and onion. To me this seems more of a stew because of the amount of liquid called for in the recipe. But, I put all that liquid to good use since I decided to do quinoa instead of rice for the base. I scooped out some of the liquid which was flavored with all these lovely herbs and spices and used that as the basis along with chicken broth for my quinoa. This ensured the quinoa would not come out bland (which is a common complaint) but also that it would compliment the main dish.

Huacaina is a spicy cheese sauce that makes a wonderful appetizer but also a great sauce for boiled potatoes. Michael fell in love with this because, while it's spicy it's not overwhelmingly hot. I have a feeling I'll be making haucaina quite a bit in the future. I served it with tortilla chips (not a traditional Peruvian snack but one common here in the Southwest) and found it's great for everyday snacking. It's not a difficult dish to make and would make a great dip for watching those Sunday football games!

I was pleasantly surprised with how this all turned out. Being pressed for time because I honestly never dreamed of making it to Round 2 of the contest left me a little flustered in the kitchen today. But by the end of the ordeal I had a nice meal on the table, the food was tasty and I'd discovered some new flavors from a wonderful country.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Quick "Thank You!"

I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who reads Sugar Pies and voted for the blog in the Project Food Blog 2010 contest. Much to my surprise I opened up my email and found this:
Congratulations, you're one step closer to becoming the next Food Blog Star! Your entry has advanced to the next round of Project Food Blog 2010. Your next challenge? "The Classics" 

I'm humbled to have been chose as one of the 400 to advance out of the field of 2000 that began the contest last week. Much of the credit goes to you for taking the time to vote for us! You can see everyone who advanced at Project Food Blog 2010

Now, I have to get crackin' on my next meal which is due on Sunday. The challenge is working in a cuisine other than French or Italian which you find unfamiliar. In honor of Michael's love of Peru I've opted to make some classical Peruvian dishes. So, better pull that ingredient list together and hit the market! 

Amish Church Cookies

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting and Sugar Sprinkles
who could ask for anything more?

Once more I have turned to the Amish for a large scale recipe to use for this weeks "Feeding the Homeless" project. I ended up a little pressed for time this week because I was busy with some other things. I'd hoped to have the cookies done on Tuesday when Karin dropped by to work on her website with me (check out the overhaul) and set up a Twitter account and Facebook page for her homeless project. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out that way. So here we are coming up on Friday and I'm just getting done!

The original of this makes 120 cookies (or more). I decided to halve it and using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter still ended up with 70+ cookies!

I found the story behind these cookies to be interesting. Undoubtedly, Amish church services must be rather long because these are often made to pass around in the middle of the service to help keep the children quiet.

Despite legends of all day church services in the South, my experience as a child was one hour tops. In fact, there's an old family story about "Grandpa Danielson" and a long winded preacher. Now, I have no idea if "Grandpa" Danielson is actually related to me. There are some Danielsons on my Daddy's side of the family and this happened long before I was born. Still, it was shared over many a Sunday meal in my grandmother's household.

My father's family were Southern Baptist and attended West End Baptist in Newberry, South Carolina. West End Baptist served the mill community around Newberry Cotton Mills where most of my relatives worked. My grandmother had been a member since the congregation formed and she remained a member until her death at 104 years old. (Trivia: She lived in three centuries! Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-First.)

On this particular Sunday a new preacher had been called to serve the congregation and he was stretching his oratory abilities with the sermon. He exhorted the congregation to repent and heaped good old fashioned fire and brimstone on their heads. Eleven O'clock turned into Noon and when the second hand began to pass the half hour mark, Grandpa Danielson collected his Bible and belongings and stood up. He made his way into the aisle and with a curt nod to the new preacher marched toward the back of the church and the exit.

"Grandpa! Where you going?" the preacher asked from the pulpit.

"Preacher, it's half past noon. You been at us for over an hour. I figure if you ain't saved us in an hour you ain't gonna save us in two and I got biscuits on the table that's gettin' cold!" and out the door he went.

According to the story the new preacher kept a very close eye on the clock thereafter for fear of losing more of his congregation to good food and family which always seem preferable to hellfire and brimstone - even in a Southern Baptist church!

So, there you have Grandpa Danielson and the Sermon. Maybe if he'd had some Amish Church Cookies he might have hung around because these are really good. I opted to fancy them up a bit by using a cream cheese icing flavored with orange. They remind me very much of some cookies I used to buy at the Winn-Dixie bakery back in South Carolina. They're not too sweet and have a wonderful texture. The cream cheese icing with the orange is the perfect topping and I'm going to be hard put to get these to Karin intact - I'm craving another just writing about them!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls Perfected

I've had limited success making cinnamon rolls. My first outing ended up with rolls that spread like my waistline after eating them. My sticky buns made with puff pastry were better but they didn't quite capture that wonderful layered dough you find in real cinnamon rolls.

So, I decided to try a recipe from Cook's Country that promised to be the ultimate perfect cinnamon roll. What I learned was that this recipe is superb as far as the roll. The icing is to die for - especially when you switch out the vanilla for orange extract! I also have learned that as my technique for rolling improves so do the results I can obtain. These rolls stayed together very nicely although I still lost a bit of my filling underneath. I think by the time I do this again, my technique in rolling up the dough should be good enough that I get a very tight spiral and my filling remains contained. Practice makes perfect seems to be key with cinnamon rolls.

This recipe turns out huge cinnamon rolls that would put Cinnabon to shame. In fact, I couldn't eat a whole one in a single sitting - although I tried very hard to finish it!

While I'm thinking of it, voting for Project Food Blog 2010 is now open. Please take a moment to drop by PFB2010 and cast a vote for us here at Sugar Pies. It only takes a moment and we'd really appreciate your support! Thanks!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lemon Coffee Rolls

Lemon Coffee Rolls - a perfect breakfast or brunch treat!

I love those Pillsbury Orange Sweet Rolls. I've bought them for years and enjoy making them for an early morning treat. However, being a baking blogger I now feel a little guilty when I pick up a can and pop them in the oven. After all, shouldn't I be able to pull off something just as good?

Well, I've attempted several things with limited success. While each was good in its own right none quite had the citrusy quality I really enjoy. What I have finally come to realize is that trying to reproduce the fake cinnamon flavor using real ingredients just doesn't work. The cinnamon is far too strong when using the real McCoy.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when this recipe for Coffee Rolls turned out to be just the ticket! The citrus taste is nicely balanced and the rolls (since they lack cinnamon) don't compete with the citrus. This originally called for orange, but I had lemons I needed to use up thus, I ended up with lemon coffee rolls. However, you can use orange if you prefer.

I really enjoyed these rolls. The texture of the bread is very nice, in fact I might use it for regular cinnamon rolls in the future.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies - reminiscent of Little Debbie Cakes

Until last year when I began reading food blogs pretty regularly, I'd never heard of a "Whoopie Pie." When I finally asked someone exactly what they were, they brought to mind what we in the South call "Moon Pies." Those are wonderfully sweet treats, often purchased at convenience stores or in packs at the grocery store. They consist of a cookie type top and bottom coated with an icing and a middle formed of a flavored marshmallow concoction. My favorite was always banana. Traditionally, they are paired not with a dessert wine (I'm being sarcastic) but with an RC Cola.

Anyway, while Whoopie Pies weren't exactly the same thing they do seem to be the Northern equivalent of our Moon Pies and come in all sorts of varieties. In fact, they even make special Whoopie Pie pans for baking the more cake like varieties.

This particular version seems to come from Pennsylvania and utilizes an oatmeal cookie with a vanilla filling. They're very good and remind me remotely of my favorite Oatmeal Cakes by Little Debbie.

My "Sissy" - Peggy Butler
I loved those oatmeal sandwich cakes with the vanilla when I was a kid. I'm much younger than my brothers and sister - almost an afterthought in the kid department. In fact, my sister was 18 years old when I was born and I don't remember her ever being at home. By the time of my earliest memories she was married and had her own home. I used to love to visit "Sissy" which was my pet name for my sister, Peggy. She always kept those Little Debbie cakes in her cabinet and I would love to get one and eat it as a snack at her house. She also used to come visit us when she and her husband were living some distance away and she would bring me little cheese crackers made by Lance. To this day they are referred to in our family as "Sissy Crackers."

So, here's a recipe for an Oatmeal Whoopie Pie that I think is quite good.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Melt In Your Mouth Dinner Rolls

Butter melting on a hot homemade roll simply can't be beat!
Being from the South, I have a number of recipes for biscuits. Biscuits just tend to get eaten with most meals and even for breakfast. In fact, sometimes they are a meal unto themselves when served with gravy or "pot likker" for lunch.

But, Michael happens to be from above the Mason-Dixon line and prefers rolls with this meals. That meant I needed a really good roll recipe that wasn't too difficult and would produce pretty consistent results. I was lucky to run across a recipe in The Amish Cook's Baking Book that fit the bill perfectly.

These rolls are the perfect consistency with a nice browned crust and delicate interior. Served hot with butter they simply melt in your mouth! I'm not a big fan of dinner rolls, to me they are often too "bready" tasting, but these were wonderful. When I sit down and eat rolls with butter spread on them, well, you know they're something special!

The original recipe for this calls for shortening, but I used grape seed oil instead. It gets a little good nutritional stuff into the bread and I think helps keep them nice and airy. You could use olive oil without any problem either.

I think you'll love these and I promise if you try them, they'll be making encore appearances on your dinner table. By the way, this recipe is actually halved and yields 16 rolls so if you have a crowd, double it up and it should be fine.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Project Food Blog: Welcome to Sugar Pies

In the kitchen with my new Kitchen-Aid Pro Mixer.
Oh, Happy Day!
My Facebook fans and Twitter followers might recall that a couple weeks ago I mentioned the Project Food Blog over at FoodBuzz. As I said then, I'm not sure what compelled me to enter this contest as I normally like to do my own thing. But, here we are anyway!

The first of the challenges is to introduce myself and the blog. Since I've been doing this for over a year now, it does seem a good time to reach back to the beginning and tell newer readers about my background and what Sugar Pies is all about.

I started this blog after watching the movie Julie & Julia. I'd begun baking and cooking after  years of eating out or warming up frozen food. That's not to say I couldn't cook - far from it. In fact, I grew up with a mother whose dream was to own her own restaurant. While she never fulfilled that dream, her food was top notch and much loved by family and friends.

My parents,
William "Mid" and Frances
O. Bannister
Many of my childhood memories revolve around food and cooking. Mama was always making something and Christmas was the peak of the cooking frenzy. At home she would spend weeks making cookies, candies, and cakes (including the best fruitcake known to man). Those treats would then be assembled onto trays and into baskets for distribution to friends, extended family, doctors, and teachers. But the highlight of the season was the big family Christmas party on Christmas day.

On Christmas day, Mama would arise at the crack of dawn to begin cooking. She would do much of the prep work at home and then about one o'clock in the afternoon we would transfer everything to a large community center where 50-100 relatives would gather. Once ensconced in the commercial sized kitchen, she would assemble cousins, nieces, and other relatives into a corps of sous chefs and the real cooking would begin. My grandmother's housekeeper, Mattie, would stand guard at the door to shoo away the kids. At the end of the ordeal, around five o'clock she would present a buffet meal that would make most restaurants envious.

From those early experiences I learned to cook. I loved watching Mama in the kitchen. Yet, when I grew up I rarely turned my hands to her art. In fact, one of my earliest tries at preparing a dinner went awry when I decided on steak with baked potatoes. Unfortunately, I'd never bothered to notice the difference between all those potatoes in the grocery store. Wanting to impress my date who managed a restaurant, I chose the largest potatoes I could find. I took them home, wrapped them in foil and placed them carefully on the grill to bake. As my date and I sat down for my big dinner he dug into his potato and promptly fell out of his chair laughing. I couldn't figure out what in the world was wrong. Then he explained I'd chosen sweet potatoes instead of russet baking potatoes. He thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. I called Mama almost in tears and explained how I'd screwed up. "Well, he's an idiot. Baked sweet potatoes are wonderful! We used to bake them in the hearth ashes when I was a girl! Put some butter and cinnamon on them and you've got a great side dish!" I walked back into the kitchen, pulled out some cinnamon and a slab of butter and did as she suggested. He stopped laughing and proclaimed it one of the best and most interesting potato dishes he'd ever tried. So much for Mr. Restaurant Manager's refined palate!

Finally, after Mama passed away I began to pick up a spatula and gather my own pots and pans. After being inspired by Julie & Julia I began Sugar Pies to recount my adventures in rediscovering my roots.

Lately, I have also become involved with a local project feeding homeless people in city parks. Each week I provide a dessert or sweets to Karin Elliott who heads up the project. This means that I'm learning to experiment with large volume recipes and also getting the hang of scaling up recipes (not as easy as one thinks in baking!) I'm pleased to be helping with the project and it really keeps me on my toes looking for new recipes to share with those less fortunate. (I think Mama would be proud, too.)

Lemon Basil Cookies
This blog focuses primarily on sweets and desserts since, like Mama I love to bake. Much like her I also bake for my sanity. When I am troubled I find myself in the kitchen baking a cake or batch of cookies. While it's not good for the waistline, it does seem superior to Prozac!

You'll find in Sugar Pies a lot of stories alongside the recipes. When I make one of Mama's recipes I always like to include a story about it. Oftentimes, they are quite humorous such as Mama and the Mardi Gras Cake which recounts her collection of a traditional Louisiana recipe at the Omni New Orleans or Mama and the Christmas Wine about her purloining a very expensive bottle of Port to douse her fruitcakes. In fact, my Mama stories were such a hit locally that I was invited to a local story tellers event to tell the one about the Mardi Gras Cake.

I also like to present recipes that I know will be successful for readers and that I think people would enjoy making. I try not to be too pretentious or flashy. So often browsing food blogs you see people who are professional chefs or trained at some institute and the recipes are so daunting and the techniques so arcane that a normal person simply would never bother. If I can find a way to take something that looks impressive and make it easy for the home cook, then that is the approach I take.

I also believe in flavor. Mama used to chuckle when she'd hear people declare that "You eat with your eyes!" Her response was always that anyone who thought that needed some anatomy lessons. For her taste was king. She always said that if something tasted good then you could work on making it pretty but no matter how pretty it was, if it tasted bad there was no hope. I believe wholeheartedly in that philosophy. So, the dishes I present are those that I've tested myself, tweaked myself, and finally found to be tasty and scrumptious. I also don't use photo tricks to "pretty up" what I make. I photograph my results as they happen without retouching or manipulating the food for a false result.

What you'll find here at Sugar Pies is a mix of traditional Southern cooking, alongside forays into other cuisines and all presented with humor, love, and honesty. Welcome to Sugar Pies, y'all! Now, let's get cookin'!

PS: Don't forget to check out my new cookbook featuring 101 of my favorite recipes from the blog and my private collection!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Pepparkakor - A big taste punch from a little cookie!
It's September and I'm hearing reports from friends in the Northeast that there is the nip of Autumn in the air. Even here in the desert the nights are getting cooler. It's down in the low 60's at night, although our days are still rather hot for my taste.

Regardless, Autumn flavors are beginning to creep into my cravings. When I popped into a local store the other day I ended up browsing the Halloween section and the "Autumn Decor" sections and dreaming of crisp Fall days, Football games, and all those wonderful so indicative of the season.

So, when I was looking about for my second dish for the homeless project this week, I decided on a batch of Pepparkakor. Pepparkakor is a Scandinavian cookie that is simply beyond delicious. Normally, this is one of those Christmas type cookies, but I think the flavors are even more suited to Autumn. Traditionally, these are cut out in shapes of pigs or goats (depending on region) but I decided to do simple fluted circles for those we'd enjoy at home, and rectangles for those I was sending out.

This cookie is thin and crisp and packs a big taste punch! The spices have quite a bite which makes it perfect for a cool autumn afternoon alongside tea. Ahh, to be be lying in a chaise sipping tea, eating one of these delights and watching the leaves change. Unfortunately, I'll have to just enjoy the air conditioning here in Tucson and content myself with an Autumn leaves screensaver.

For a finish you have two choices: white chocolate dip or powdered sugar. I opted to dust mine with powdered sugar but you can easily melt some white chocolate and dip half of the cookie in the chocolate then allow them to set up on wax paper. Either way, they're superb!

Give this one a try. You'll be blown away by the big, bold taste you get out of these crisp and delightful little cookies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Honey Bars

Walnuts, cinnamon and honey combine with a sour cream
glaze to deliver a real flavor treat in this easy bar that is
is perfect for Autumn.
This week as I began my search for something to make for Karin's "Feeding the Homeless" project, I found myself in a quandry. I knew I needed a pretty substantial quantity of treats, but didn't want to just do cookies again. I thought about what to do and finally decided to make two dishes instead of just one.

These Honey Bars were one of those treats. This is a traditional Amish recipe the yields surprising flavor from a minimum of work. The bottom layer of these bars is substantial, unlike most bars and really carry the weight of the dish. The walnuts and honey make this a perfect introduction to Autumn and this bottom layer is at once cookie-like and cake-like. The crunch of the fresh walnuts against the soft cinnamon tones and honey are just perfect. Instead of regular vegetable oil, I used olive oil in mine.

On top of this a simple glaze featuring vanilla and sour cream add a tart note to the dish. A marvelous taste treat that is quick and easy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Oven Barbecue Chicken

Barbecue Chicken served with Oven Roasted Potatoes
I might lose my South Carolina rep by posting a Ketchup based barbecue recipe. Of course, in South Carolina our barbecue normally is mustard based - the famous "Carolina Gold". However, Michael is not a big fan of mustard and after doing a honey and mustard glazed chicken yesterday, I decided it might be time to try something else.

So, I cobbled together this barbecue sauce from what I had lying around. I was pleasantly surprised to find the flavor rich and deep. Michael loved this recipe and as he said "I didn't eat this, I consumed it!"

Sautéed onions in butter start out this sauce so you know the flavors are going to be rich. Then adding a bit of tomato paste kicks up the roast tomato flavor a notch from ordinary. Finally, slowly simmering the sauce along with the spices and some brown sugar brings out the layers of flavor. A double brushing on the chicken - once while baking to seal in the flavor and again just before serving insures a moist and tasty experience.

I opted to present this very simply with potatoes slow roasted in the oven alongside the chicken and then drizzled with top shelf olive oil, a little garlic powder and dill.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Honey Brushed Chicken

Honey Brushed Chicken
A little sweet, a little spicy, and a little citrus go along way toward making this quick chicken dish a tasty weeknight meal. You can use either pre-cut chicken pieces or for a quicker meal use boneless-skinless chicken breasts under the broiler. Either way, this is an easy chicken dish to do.

1/3 cup Country Dijon Mustard
1/3 cup honey
2 tbs. orange marmalade
1 tbs. dried dill (or 2 tbs. fresh dill)
1 tsp. fresh grated orange peel
2 1/2 pound chicken quartered (or 4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts)

If using bone-in chicken preheat oven to 400°. If using boneless-skinless breasts light broiler.

Combine mustard, marmalade and honey in small bowl and whisk together. Stir in dill and orange peel.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place chicken skin side down on pan. Brush sauce on top of chicken being sure to coat well.

Turn chicken over and gently pull back skin and brush meat with sauce. Pull skin back over sauce. Note: if using boneless-skinless breasts, simply brush with sauce on both sides.

Brush skin with remaining sauce. Bake until juices run clear and interior temperature of meat is 160° on an instant read thermometer - about 30 minutes. If broiling boneless breasts the cook time should be about 15 minutes - be sure to turn chicken breasts over half way through cooking to insure even browning.

Print This Recipe

Monday, September 6, 2010

Marzipan Bars

Marzipan Bars
A cookie layer topped with fresh fruit preserves topped with marzipan topped with chocolate ganache topped with... well, that's enough don't you think? These bars are wonderfully decadent with a rich marzipan flavor balanced with chocolate and a buttery cookie crust. Simply delicious!

I really enjoyed making this recipe and from the ingredient list it can seem a little daunting. But, it comes together very quickly and with a minimum of muss and fuss. I found this in a very old Holiday Cookie booklet that a friend passed on to me (Hi, Nora!). Of course, I played with it a little bit and changed things here and there to suit my own tastes and style. For example the original calls for a fairly skimpy chocolate ganache. I upped the amount of ganache and added white chocolate into the semi-sweet chocolate for a glossy ganache that is smooth, creamy and wonderfully well rounded. I also opted for blueberry preserves instead of strawberry jelly. This gave a fresh fruit note to the bar that was not overpowering nor inordinately sweet (after all, marzipan is plenty sweet and rich enough on its own!)

I was pleasantly surprised with this recipe and when I bit into my first piece realized this was a great success. Just a word of caution: this is very rich with the chocolate and marzipan so slice those pieces small!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pinwheel Cookies

Pinwheel Cookies
I struggled this week to come up with something to send to Karin for the homeless. Her numbers have really grown over the past few weeks and she's now feeding around 80+ people. That's a lot of sweets.

So, I knew I'd need to do a recipe that would allow me to bake off several dozen of something without taking up the whole week. I finally decided on a recipe for Pinwheel Cookies. With a little economy and rolling the cookies a little smaller than the original recipe calls for, I easily got a total of 10 dozen cookies!

This recipe utilizes a classic vanilla cookie dough alongside a chocolate cookie dough to create a swirl pattern. It's a pleasant cookie that makes a great filler in gift tins or baskets because of it's pretty swirl pattern. I opted to use a little almond flavoring alongside the vanilla in the lighter dough to give it a little more depth and added a couple teaspoons of strong cold coffee to the cocoa dough to create a stronger chocolate flavor.

These are actually fairly easy to do and I even rolled some in decorative sugar for a sparling effect.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Meet Karin

You've seen me mention Karin Elliott and her "Feeding the Homeless" project here in the past. I'm pleased to be able to provide some sweets and baked goods each week for her project.

Yesterday, as she fed nearly 90 people in the local parks a new crew interviewed her. The story aired locally today and I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce you to this amazing woman. If you look closely, you'll notice her placing some brownies on the plates... that was our contribution this week.

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