Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

7-Up™ Cake Updated

I really had hoped to have two recipes up this week. The first was going to be for a strawberry marble cake. The concept was good and the result wasn't horrible but the recipe I used for the cake didn't thrill me. It was an unusual pound cake style recipe from the Culinary Institute of America (of all places). But, honestly, for a pound cake it left a lot to be desired. So, I chucked that one and decided to give it a go again later in the week.

In the meantime I began volunteering for a local animal shelter, Hope Animal Shelter. It's our only no-kill shelter here in Tucson and I'm pleased to be able to work with them to find homes for all these great dogs. They have many dogs who would have no hope at all were they delivered to the humane society, ASPCA or county animal shelter. These dogs can make great companions for people - they just need a second chance at life. I had the pleasure of spending Wednesday afternoon at an adoption event handling Trixie. Trixie is a 5-year-old poodle mix (I think Maltiepoo.) She was pretty energetic when she arrived with another volunteer but within the hour she was sitting calmly at my feet and walking nicely on the leash. She'll make a great companion for someone. She does have a cataract and needs eye medicine a few times a week and for that the local county animal shelter was going to kill her. Luckily, the good folks at Hope got her and now she'll be able to find a great home!

Finally, early today I got a chance to get in a little baking. I decided to revisit an old southern classic - the 7-Up Cake. This cake uses lemon-lime soda to partially create its lift and also impart the flavor. This is a very simple recipe and I remember having it as a kid.

I took the basic recipe and added just a few touches to it. I added just a bit of soda to help the carbonation give it more lift and I added some lemon juice to give just a bit more flavor. I also added in some vanilla - something that some recipes for this used and some didn't. The result is a great little cake with a nice lemon and lime flavor that isn't overwhelming. It has a fairly delicate crumb and remains moderately moist. It's not a dense and moist as a pound cake but not as dry and airy as an angel food cake. The perfect middle road!

I used a loaf pan for this cake but a bundt pan works just as well although cooking times may vary so if you use a bundt pan make sure you begin checking at about the 50 minute mark.

Oh, I also use Sierra Mist Natural for this cake. When this recipe was orginally developed back in the 50's sugar was used to sweeten soft drinks. In the 1970's high fructose corn syrup began making its obnoxious presence known. By the 1980's the Corn Refiner's Association had managed to ruin most beverages (and many foods) with their product. Rather than using a beverage that is full of HFCS, I went with Sierra Mist Natural which is flavored with regular sugar (just as you would use in a cake... you'd never sweeten your cake with corn syrup!)

: 7-Up™ Cake
: A light and moist cake that gets its flavor from lemon-lime soda!

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup lemon lime soda pop (Sierra Mist Natural suggested)

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper then grease and flour pan. Set aside.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  4. Add flour, salt, and baking soda and mix on low speed until combined. Add lemon lime soda pop and lemon juice and mix on lowest speed just until combined. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula to insure mixture is combined.
  5. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake at 325° for 70-90 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few crumbs adhering. Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes then remove from pan. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

A bundt pan may be used to make this cake. If using a bundt pan, check for doneness at 60 minutes.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Homemade Potato Chips

 I found these cool little baskets perfect for the chips for $3 at Wal-Mart.
It's weird how regional some things can be. Back in South Carolina the preferred accompaniment to wings at Buffalo Wing joints is a thing called Raw Fries. I have no clue how they came up with that name because basically these are homemade potato chips. They're made with fresh potatoes that are sliced very thin and then deep fried. In short, delicious. Note: my favorites come from a little restaurant in Columbia, SC called D's Wings.

However, when I moved to Arizona and went into the ubiquitous wing places Raw Fries were not to be found. I finally tracked down an abomination of a version at Buffalo Wild Wings but trust me, those were not real raw fries, they were more like big slabs of potatoes that had a passing acquaintance with a deep fryer. Strangely, out here even decent french fries in wing places is a challenge. Most use very bland mass produced frozen fries then just slather them in ready made seasoning from a bottle. It's sort of like they have the idea that as long as they make wings the rest of the menu can be mundane. But, I digress.

Since I love these "homemade" chips so much I have to make them at home now. For a long time I've just been thin slicing potatoes using my chef's knife. The results have always been mixed. Some slices were just right, some too thick, meaning that my chips came out either overdone or overly soggy. A couple months ago I happened to be in World Market and noticed they had a very inexpensive (under $10) little handheld Mandoline slicer. I'd been toying with purchasing a mandoline just to do my chips but couldn't justify the $50+ pricetag of most versions (some well over $100!) I figured for less than ten bucks I couldn't really go wrong since it was to be a one use gadget anyway.

The little slicer has proved well worth its investment. It's not great for delicate veggies like tomatoes but performs well with cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables. It does my chips perfectly using its thinnest setting.

So, try some homemade chips or Raw Fries. Here are a few tips:
  • Choose medium size Yukon Gold potatoes for the best taste and texture. If you can't find Yukon Gold potatoes then medium to small Russet Potatoes will work.
  • If you love the Terra Chips sold in stores, combine your potatoes with thin slices of beets, sweet potatoes, blue potatoes, or other root veggies for a colorful and flavorful display. 
  • Have your oil at the right temperature. If you don't have a deep fryer with temperature control, invest in a deep fryer thermometer for your device or dutch oven. Oil that is too low will cause soggy and limp chips. You'll note I call for a temp of 365° in this recipe. Most french fry recipes call for 375. I found backing the temp down about 10 degrees helped with over browning of the chips but still gave a crisp texture.
  • Don't freak out and parboil your potatoes or dunk them in ice water or any of the other nonsense you'll find on the internet from helpful "experts". None of that mumbo jumbo is necessary for chips. Just slice them, dry them off with some paper towels and you're good to go!
  • Salt your chips while still hot! This really does make a difference. Chips salted when they have cooled will not take in the salt as well and thus taste different. I also prefer to use Kosher salt to salt my chips. This makes another big difference. So much that Michael has even come to realize how much better and less "chemical tasting" the Kosher salted versions are. When I ran out of Kosher salt I had to use regular table salt the difference was incredible. The table salt had a serious bite to it along with a chemical aftertaste. 
  • Try flavored salts for more variety. Garlic salts are wonderful on chips but don't stop there.

: Homemade Potato Chips
: Crispy and fresh chips are perfect snacking fare!

  • 4 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • Vegetable Oil for Deep Frying
  • Kosher Salt

  1. In a deep fryer or dutch oven, place vegetable oil about 2-3 inches deep. Heat oil to 365°.
  2. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a mandoline slicer, slice the potatoes very thinly. Place potato slices on paper towels and dry.
  3. Fry the slices in the oil in small batches so that the potatoes are not crowded. When potatoes begin to curl and brown on edge, use tongs to flip them over and allow them to continue to cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute on opposite side. (Bubbles will begin to subside.)
  4. Remove potatoes from oil and drain on a wire rack placed over a paper towel lined baking sheet. Salt potatoes while still warm and serve.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 2
Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Scottish Shortbread

I love Walker's Scottish Shortbread. Most people think of this delicious treat during the holiday season but I love it all year long. Shortbread is one of the simplest recipes you'll find. It consists of three basic ingredients: sugar, butter, and flour. Of course, getting shortbread at home that is as good as what comes in those plaid packages can be a challenge.

The most basic recipes using the three classic ingredients are often not that tasty. Sometimes they seem far too bland and crumbly with a taste more akin to cardboard than those buttery bites of heaven. Part of the problem is the ratio of the three ingredients in many recipes and the other part is not enhancing those ingredients.

Shortbread is one of those treats where quality of ingredients makes a big difference. Don't scrimp on butter. If you can afford an artisanal butter or imported butter then by all means splurge. Because the butter is carrying almost all the flavor in this cookie you want one that really stands out. If the pricey imports are out of your budget range, my suggestion is Challenge Unsalted Butter. This butter has a wonderful taste free of "chemical" notes with a rich flavor. It consistently ranks at the top of Cook's Illustrated's lists of supermarket butters. Try to avoid off brands or store brands in this recipe because you will be disappointed in the flavor.

When I sat down with my lists of various shortbread recipes to try to tweak one that would offer me that wonderful butter flavor I realized quickly I needed to enhance the ingredients a bit. My first tweak was to replace some of the creamed butter with browned butter. Browned butter gives a wonderful buttery flavor with lovely nutty tones. This adds a real depth of flavor to the recipe that makes it stand out from more bland versions. Another ingredient that is often overlooked in traditional recipes is salt. A bit of salt brings out the butter flavor and also gives a very subtle bite on the back end of the flavor. To improve the texture from something akin to a French sablée to a very smooth cookie, I substituted some of the regular granulated sugar with some powdered sugar. I found that chilling the dough helped immensely in rolling out the cookies. Finally, cooking the cookies long and low kept them from browning too quickly and forming that cardboard (and slightly burned) texture.

I love the results I got with this recipe and now that I have come up with a delicious shortbread cookie I don't think I'll be buying quite so many boxes in the store! Sorry, Walker's.

: Scottish Shortbread
: Buttery flavor in a traditional shortbread cookie created with creamed butter and browned butter.

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup browned butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  1. Cream unsalted butter in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  2. In a non-stick skillet, brown 1/2 cup of butter by slicing butter into small pieces and heating over medium heat until butter is melted. Whisk butter constantly until butter begins to brown. Immediately remove browned butter from heat and pour into bowl of mixer with creamed butter and sugar. Mix at medium speed until mixture is smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat at low speed until combined. Add salt and flour gradually with mixer on slow speed. Increase speed to medium until dough comes together.
  3. Form dough into a disk and wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour in refrigerator.
  4. Preheat oven to 300° and adjust oven rack to middle position. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Remove dough from plastic and place and very lightly floured surface. Roll dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut out circles or squares using a cookie cutter. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets and puncture with fork. Bake at 300° for 20-30 minutes or just until edges of cookies begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on baking sheet then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 2 dozen cookies
Culinary tradition: Scottish

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Cocoa and White Chocolate Brownies

I love chewy brownies. I also love white chocolate. The two together are wonderful, in my opinion so I decided to add some white chocolate to a favorite old fashioned chewy brownie recipe and see what happened.

I actually got this idea from Paula Deen's "Symphony Brownies" which takes a brownie mix (yuck!) and adds some Hershey's Symphony bars in the middle to create sort of a fudgy layer. It sounded good but I thought white chocolate would rock instead of more regular chocolate.

So, I increased the volume of a great brownie recipe and then added a layer of white chocolate chips. The chips create a lovely white layer of goodness in the center of a very rich chocolate brownie. Simply delicious!

I found that served warmed with some cold vanilla ice cream and some chocolate sprinkles this humble little brownie made a magnificent desert. If you want to get really creative, you could add some walnuts or pecans to the batter and then drizzle the ice cream with some caramel or chocolate syrup and some toasted or glazed nuts. Yummy!

: Cocoa and White Chocolate Brownies
: Chewy delicious cocoa brownies with a white chocolate center

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 tbs. butter, melted
  • 3 tbs. water
  • 3 larges eggs
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup + 2 tbs. cocoa
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease and lightly flour a 9x13-inch pan.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment cream together butter, sugar and water. Add eggs and vanilla and mix on low speed until incorporated.
  3. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. With mixer on slow speed, add to wet ingredients. Increase speed to medium and mix until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
  4. Pour half of batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle white chocolate chips evenly over batter and top with remaining batter. Smooth batter evenly in pan.
  5. Bake at 350° for 18-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of brownies comes out just slightly sticky.
  6. Remove pan to wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Carefully slide a knife along edges of pan to loosen brownies then invert onto wire rack. Place platter or baking sheet over rack and invert again so that brownies are right side up. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

This is excellent served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sprinkles.

If you enjoy nuts, add up to 1/2 cup of chopped nuts to batter before placing in pan.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 24 brownies
Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sugar Buns

One of my favorite "quick" recipes are the Sugar Donut Muffins I did not long after starting Sugar Pies. I've always loved cinnamon sugar doughnuts and those were just so yummy and delicious.

Recently, I was watching a rerun of a Martha Stewart show called Martha Bakes. Honestly, I had no idea she had so many different specialty shows - baking, cooking, gardening, sewing, crafts, accounting, investing... OK, maybe not accounting or investing. Anyway, on this particular show she introduced a rather interesting yeast dough recipe that she then adapted to various uses such as Monkey Bread, Pecan Buns, and these delightful little Sugar Buns.

These are really very simple to do and actually not a bad introduction to yeast breads that use active dry yeast rather than the more "fool proof" rapid rise yeast.

What's the difference, you say. Active dry yeast has larger particles of yeast and is dried to a lower moisture content. That means the yeast needs to be "proofed" before use. Proofing is a process whereby the yeast is dissolved in water with a little nutrient (usually a bit of sugar) and allowed to begin the process of fermentation. This releases carbon dioxide as little bubbles (that's what makes your dough rise). These bubbles take the form of a foam on top of the liquid "proving" the yeast is alive and ready for use. Rapid Rise (sometimes called Bread Machine Yeast) have smaller particles and a higher moisture content when packaged. This yeast does not need to be proofed and can be added directly to the dry ingredients in a recipe. The smaller size particles and higher moisture will allow for maximum hydration and activation of the yeast during mixing. For more info there is a great chart at

Now that you've been enthralled by the differences in yeast, let's talk about Sugar Buns. Like my favorite Sugar Donut Muffins these use just a couple simple ingredients to achieve a wonderful flavor. In this case we have cinnamon, sugar and a little bit of nutmeg that I slipped into the recipe for an extra depth of flavor. That's it for the sugar and spice department. The yeast bread, however, has a couple things that you don't normally find in yeast breads. I'll admit, I was skeptical of one of them - white vinegar. But amazingly it turned out a beautiful dough that had a lovely flavor. The other unusual addition is sour cream.

This is not a labor intensive dough and it performed wonderfully for me even allowing me to get a very tight roll without much trouble. Give this one a try, particularly if you've shied away from yeast doughs in the past.

: Sugar Buns
: Simple and delicious sugar a spice yeast rolls.

  • 2 packages active dry yeast (1 tbs. plus 2 tsp.)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for muffin tins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. In a small bowl, mix together yeast and warm water with a pinch of the sugar; set aside until it becomes "foamy."
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula as necessary. Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula as necessary.
  3. Add vinegar and vanilla; mix to combine. Slowly add sour cream, mixing until well combined. Add yeast mixture.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours and salt. Add to mixer and mix on low until well combined and dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and just begins to form a ball.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Lightly flour the bottom of a large glass bowl; place dough in bowl and cover with a clean damp kitchen towel. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap; let stand until doubled in size, about 3 to 4 hours, or refrigerate overnight.
  6. Heat oven to 200 and immediately turn off and crack door.
  7. Generously grease one 12-cup muffin tin with softened butter. Set aside. In medium bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix until well blended. Set aside.
  8. Turn yeast dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into an 18-by-10-inch rectangle. Brush dough with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter that has been melted in the microwave and liberally sprinkle with one-third of the cinnamon-spice mixture.
  9. Beginning with the long side facing you, tightly roll dough away from you into a log; pinch edge of dough to seal. Cut dough crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place each piece into prepared muffin cup and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Place muffin tins in warm oven until buns double in size, about 60 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Once dough has doubled in size, remove plastic wrap, sprinkle each bun with just a pinch of the cinnamon and spice mixture, and place on middle rack in oven. Bake until golden and puffed, about 22 to 24 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven and cool slightly on wire rack. In the meantime, melt the remaining butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Remove buns from muffin tins. Brush with melted butter and gently roll in remaining cinnamon-spice mixture. Serve warm.
Preparation time: 5 hour(s)
Cooking time: 24 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Orange Dreams

One of my favorite flavor combinations is orange and chocolate. There's just something about those two working in tandem that sends me into flights of ecstasy. Of course, there are specialty companies that now make wonderful orange infused chocolate bars that can be incorporated into baked goods.

A few days ago on my favorite discussion area at a fellow baker posted some incredible chocolate chip cookies that were livened up with some orange zest. They sound fabulous and she posted the recipe at her blog, Il Dolce Bacio. I have them down on my list of recipes to try out soon, of course.

But, as I was contemplating them I thought, what about an orange flavored cookie dipped in chocolate? It sounded wonderful. I knew that I wanted a very "pillowy" texture - almost cake like in the interior with a nice firm outside. I also knew that I wanted to rely on real orange flavor instead of resorting to orange extract to hold the flavor line.

So, I got to work in the kitchen. I knew to get the texture I wanted I'd have to use two leavening agents so my cookies would not spread out and flatten after removal from the oven. I also knew that orange zest would play a key role to help maintain the flavor during cooking.

What I hit upon was a wonderful cookie that has a luscious almost cake like interior with a great orange flavor and scent that is very natural with no "artificial" or chemical notes. When dipped in milk chocolate it's a decadent dream!

: Orange Dreams
: Little clouds of orange delight dipped in milk chocolate.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs. orange zest
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbs. orange juice
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Then add to wet mixture in electric mixer. Add orange juice and mix on slow speed just until dough comes together. Turn off mixer and scrape bowl with spatula making sure to mix thoroughly anything left behind.
  4. Drop the dough by tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350° or just until edges of cookies begin to brown. Remove from baking sheets to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In microwave, melt chocolate chips in small bowl or glass measuring cup for one minute. Stir chips and if necessary continue heating in 15 second intervals until all chips are melted and chocolate is smooth. Dip one half of each cookie in the chocolate and place on baking sheet. After all cookies have been dipped, place baking sheet in refrigerator for one hour until chocolate is set them remove. (Note: You may have to dip and chill your cookies in batches unless you have a large refrigerator!)

If you really want to boost the orange effect with the chocolate, use one of the orange infused chocolate bars in place of milk chocolate chips.
Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 2 dozen cookies
Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Molasses Cake Bars

It appears the North American Monsoon is underway in the Sonoran Desert. We've been getting some great rain, thunder and lightning here in Tucson over the past few days. I've been watching a storm on the local radar and hoping it continues across the city and into my area. I need some cooling rain today!

As I was contemplating something to make yesterday I ran across a recipe in a very old cookbook for Molasses Cake Bars. As I perused the ingredients I realized it was very close the base for gingerbread. However, instead of ginger it called for several other spices. I was intrigued and wondered how it would turn out.

The results were great. This tastes a lot like gingerbread without the "bite" so if you have someone in your house that just hates ginger or spicy sweets this might be a good option. The spices used give a lovely flavor - cinnamon, clove, a little all spice - balanced with the deep flavor of molasses. The "cake" is moist and and fragrant as well as flavorful. I opted to top this twice. The first topping was a thin glaze made of lemon juice, milk, and powdered sugar. I used a skewer to punch some holes in the top of the cake then drizzled the thin glaze over the warm cake letting it soak in. After the cake had cooled I then repeated the same glaze but made it thicker like icing and iced the cake.

: Molasses Cake Bars
: Complex flavors make this old fashioned snack cake a real treat!

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs. milk
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides and spray lightly with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well.
  3. In 2-cup measuring cup, mix together the water, molasses and instant coffee. Add to butter mixture and mix well.
  4. Sift together the flour and remaining dry ingredients and add to mixture with mixer on slow speed. Increase speed to medium and mix until batter is smooth.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with spatula. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few crumbs adhering. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in pan then lift out using foil overhang.
  6. Frost with glaze when cooled.
  7. Cut into 2-inch squares.
  1. In large measuring cup or small bowl mix together all ingredients until smooth. Add more juice or sugar if necessary to get the glaze to a consistency where it can be spread on the cake.
I like using a double glaze on this cake. I make an initial glaze using 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1 tbs. milk and 2 tbs. lemon juice. I then poke 10-12 holes in top of cake with wooden skewer and drizzle glaze over cake while it is still warm. After the cake has cooled I then frost the cake with the glaze from the recipe.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 18
Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Michael bought a big bunch of bananas the other day and didn't finish them all before they got too ripe. I was surprised when he asked me if I could make banana bread. I thought about it but decided since I'd been on such a bread kick lately to ask if he'd prefer muffins instead.

What we agreed upon was Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. These wonderful muffins are dense and moist like banana bread with chocolate chips throughout. The addition of some very subtle spice gives them a great flavor.

These turned out to be a hit at the Animal Inn this morning. He took several to work and Nora ended up taking the leftovers home with her. They were both thrilled with the flavor.

These muffins are really easy to do and come together quickly. I did them in between Michael cooking supper yesterday evening. If you don't have 3 medium bananas, then two large ones do just as well. Just remember, you want really nice sort of mushy bananas for this so that your batter has a great banana flavor but remains smooth.

: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
: Moist and delicious! Perfect for breakfast or brunch!

  • 3 medium very ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 3-4 tbs. chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly coat a large 6 muffin tin with cooking spray and line with paper liners.
  3. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mash bananas on low speed until smooth.
  4. Add in egg, milk, granulated sugar, and brown sugar and mix until combined.
  5. Add flour and remaining dry ingredients to banana mixture and mix until smooth.
  6. Fold in chocolate chips.
  7. Using an ice cream scoop, place equal amounts of batter into muffin cups.
  8. Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool slightly in pan, then remove to wire rack.

Add 2-3 tbs. of walnuts if desired.
Up to 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour may be substituted for a more whole grain version.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Lemon Scones

This week I celebrated my birthday. This was one of those that throws you into a higher category when you take a survey the big 45. I honestly never intended to turn 45. Somehow when I was 20 that seemed so very far away. Now, I'm lucky to have made it! Regardless, I needed a little pick-me-up for my birthday and decided I'd forgo the cake for something a little bit lighter. I opted to make some lemon scones.

I love scones and this recipe was pretty good. I think it might be improved upon a little bit and I may play with it again in the future to see if I can get a more "layered" scone effect. However, these are delightful just the way they are. They have a lovely light lemon flavor that paired with a tart lemon glaze is a real taste treat! Perfect with a cup of tea or some coffee.

I have to thank my blogging friend Theresa from Sleeping Kitten, Dancing Dog who sent me a lovely birthday gift certificate as well as a donation to my friend Karin's homeless project. Karin and I had a wonderful time going to the mall to spend the gift certificate and ended up spending most of the afternoon together browsing, eating frozen yogurt and just shooting the breeze. It was a great escape for both of us! Thanks, Theresa and Joe!

This weekend is the ramp up to Independence Day on Monday. I doubt we'll be doing much since Michael is working but I did order some peanuts from and will be boiling some for the holiday. Yum!

Happy Independence Day! I wish each of you a wonderful holiday filled with lots of fun, great American classic food, friends and family.

: Lemon Scones
: A perfect lemony compliment to tea or coffee.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs. heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tbs. lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. On slow speed mix in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add buttermilk and lemon peel, stirring just until mixed.
  3. Turn onto a floured surface; knead gently six times. Shape into a ball. On a greased baking sheet, pat dough into a circle about 1/2 inch thick and 8-1/2 inches in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut wedges in the dough, being careful not to cut all the way through. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool completely before glazing.
  1. In two cup measuring cup mix together powdered sugar, cream and lemon juice until glaze reaches consistency to drizzle over scones. Add more sugar or lemon juice if necessary to get desired consistency. Drizzle over cooled scones and allow glaze to set before serving.
These can also be done in a food processor using the metal blade. Process dry ingredients with butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs then drizzle in milk and lemon peel until dough comes together. Proceed as in directions.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Culinary tradition: English

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