Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Top Pot's Glazed Doughnuts

Finding a decent doughnut recipe can be one of the most challenging adventures any home baker can undertake. You might be surprised at the number of doughnut recipes that have been tried in my kitchen that never made the cut for the blog. You'd probably be shocked at the number that never made it into the fryer at all but were dumped because of texture or rising problems. But, a little book has helped me find not only a great recipe for a basic glazed doughnut but dozens of inspiring ideas for other types from cake doughnuts to devil's food to old fashioned doughnuts.

Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker provides excellent recipes and wonderful tips for creating incredible doughnuts at home. From how to create a moist proofing box in your oven to the best techniques for transferring doughnuts into the oil, the book will help you achieve success with doughnuts in your own kitchen.

For my test I chose the simple glazed doughnut. My intention with this recipe was to see if it actually was easy to follow and turned out an edible product. It scored high on both accounts. I also wanted to get a baseline for a good basic doughnut recipe to compare against one sent to me by my friend Sue Summer back in Newberry, SC. Sue managed to unearth the original recipe for a long closed local doughnut shop in my hometown. With the help of some baking enthusiasts and a food scientist the recipe was pared down for home use. That recipe will be coming up in the next few weeks.

With our basic, successful doughnut recipe in hand, it will be possible to compare and contrast a "modern" artisan shop recipe with one some 50 years old. But right now, let's take a look at Top Pot Doughnuts' excellent glazed doughnut recipe.

Top Pot's Glazed Doughnuts

Recipe by Top Pot Doughnuts
A wonderful recipe for yeast raised doughnuts.

  • 3 Tbsp. Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (105° to 110°)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground mace
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour (plus extra for rolling and flouring)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 to 6 cups canola oil, for frying
Vanilla Glaze 
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. hot water
Cooking Directions
  1. Whisk the yeast, water, and 1 Tbsp. of the sugar together in the work bowl of a stand mixer and let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, mace, salt, and 4 cups of the bread flour. Set aside.
  3. Add the shortening, egg yolks, and vanilla to the foaming yeast mixture. Mix with paddle attachment on low speed for 1 minute to break up the shortening. Add about a third of the dry ingredients and mix until blended on low speed. Repeat with the second third of the dry ingredients.
  4. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until no white spots remain. Add more flour as necessary until the dough is dry enough to clear the bottom of the bowl. Increase speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. The dough should be smooth like bread dough but still slightly tacky to the touch.
  5. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with 1 to 2 Tbsp. of flour. Shape into a flat disk about 6 inches in diameter. Dust lightly with flour, cover with a tea towel and set aside.
  6. To create a proofing box in the oven: Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Pour 8 cups of the boiling water into a 9x13 pan set on the floor of the oven. Place the baking sheet with the covered dough on the middle rack of the oven, close the door and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  7. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface and roll into a roughly 12 inch circle. Cut into 12 doughnuts, flouring the doughnut cutter before each cut. (Reroll the dough for additional doughnuts if desired.) Gently transfer the doughnuts and holes to two baking sheets sprinkled with 2 Tbsp. of flour each, arranging them at least 2 inches apart. Let rise in the oven (with new boiling water) uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  8. While the doughnuts are rising prepare the glaze: Place the confectioner's sugar, corn syrup, salt, vanilla, and hot water in a large mixing bowl or the work bowl of a standing mixer. Using a whisk or with the machine's whisk on low speed, blend until the mixture is smooth and sugar has been fully incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl. If the glaze seems too thick add more hot water a teaspoon at a time.
  9. Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 inches deep) in a deep fryer or large pot over medium heat to 350°. When the doughnuts have doubled in size, carefully place a few in the oil taking care not to overcrowd them. Fry for about 30 seconds. Carefully turn the doughnuts using chopsticks or skewers and fry for another 20 seconds on the second side. Transfer to a cooling rack set over paper towels to cool rounded side up.
  10. While the doughnuts are still very warm, dip the rounded side in the glaze. Let dry on cooling rack, glazed side up, for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. 
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 70 minutes
Yield: 12 doughnuts
 Print This Recipe

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Puppy Buddies Buns

I love making treats for my dogs. With the seemingly endless recalls of treats due to contamination by everything from salmonella to melamine, it's nice to know what your best friend is consuming. These little "cinnamon buns" are easy and quick to make and our guys just love them.

Speaking of "our guys," we have become what is termed in the foster community a "foster failure." That's someone who is fostering a dog (or cat) and decides they just can't part with them. In our case it has been our latest foster, Tuffy. He's a Cocker Spaniel who was in peril at the local shelter due to his age and a few health problems. The rescue group we work with asked us to get him out and foster him. Long story short, he stole our hearts (and Snow's), so we've decided to adopt him permanently. He's a sweetheart and keeps us laughing because he enjoys playing "tough guy" (hence the name).

Recently, I've started dog sitting for some extra income and I think these may become a nice little perq for clients. Maybe a small bag for the owners to give to their dogs upon their return. Maybe even for the owners to share themselves. After all, these are made with things that people like to eat too. While they aren't as sweet as a "real" cinnamon bun they are pretty good in their own right.

Puppy Buddies Buns

A great cinnamon roll treat for your best buddy!

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 -2 tsp. cinnamon
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a 2-cup or larger measuring cup combine the oil, eggs and water and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined and a soft dough forms.
  3. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a 8x14-inch rectangle. Lightly brush the honey and molasses over the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border on the sides. Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the honey and molasses.
  4. Working form the long side, roll up the dough tightly like a jelly roll and pinch the edges to seal. Cut the dough into half-inch slices and place cut side down on the prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the buns are browned and spring back when lightly touched. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on wire racks.
  6. Treats should be stored in an airtight container.
Note: I prefer to use Ceylon Cinnamon (available at Penzeys) for this recipe. You want to avoid particularly strong or pungent cinnamon. Ceylon Cinnamon is milder and less pungent.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 24 buns
Print This Recipe

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Alexandra's Double Brownies

Sometimes more is better. That's especially true of brownies. If you've ever pondered whether you really want some nice chewy chocolate brownies or maybe some luscious vanilla flavored blondies, we have your solution - make both!

This recipe makes a double brownie. The bottom consists of a chewy chocolate layer topped with a wonderful vanilla and brown sugar blondie layer. If that isn't enough for you then top the whole thing off with a white chocolate icing. Yum!

I actually had trouble getting a photo for the blog post because Michael was gobbling them down so quickly. When he starts taking them to share with other people I know I'm onto something good!

In case you're wondering about the name. I decided to name my adaptation of this recipe in honor of my new Great-Niece, Alexandra Harmon. Her parents are my nephew Andy and his lovely wife Cameron. It just so happened that I got news of her much anticipated arrival as I was putting the finishing touches on these great brownies.

Alexandra's Double Brownies

The best of both worlds. A chewy chocolate brownie layer topped with a vanilla blondie layer!

Brownie Layer 
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Blondie Layer 
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted (optional)
White Chocolate Icing 
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable shortening
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9x13 pan with nonstick foil.
  2. For Brownie Layer: In large microwave safe bowl melt the butter on high for 30 seconds. Repeat if necessary until melted. With a handheld mixer, beat in the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and eggs. When fully mixed beat in the flour. Spread the batter on the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. For the Blondie Layer: Rinse out bowl and mixer beaters. Melt the butter on high for 30 seconds. Repeat if necessary until melted. With a handheld mixer beat in the brown sugar, vanilla and egg. When completely mixed add the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat in the flour and nuts (if using). Drop the blondie batter onto the brownie batter and carefully spread into one layer.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs adhering. Let cool in the pan. When cool remove from pan using edges of foil sling and ice.
  5. For the White Chocolate Icing: In a pyrex mixing bowl melt the vegetable shortening and white chocolate chips in the microwave on high speed for 1 minute. Stir and repeat until the mixture is smooth. Pour over cooled brownies and spread evenly with icing spatula or knife. Allow to set up before serving. 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Print This Recipe

Friday, November 2, 2012

Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys and Book Review

What would you do if you could have a new cookie recipe every day of the year? Would you bake a batch each day? Would you wait for a special holiday?

With The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life by Anna Ginsberg (Andrews McNeel Publishing), you could do both. Of course, the holiday option might be a challenge since Ginsberg's book includes holidays, remembrances, and special events for every day of the year! These holiday range from quirky to classic: Day of the Ninja (Chocolate "Ninjabread" Cookies), Squirrel Appreciation Day (Caramel Nut Bars), Christmas (Almond Ginger Toasts), and Valentine's Day (Mocha Chocolate Brownies). Each recipe includes a full color photograph as well as anecdotes, fun facts, tips, and tricks for creating incredible treats.

Anna Ginsberg is a self-taught cook and grand-prize winner of the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest as well as numerous other local and national contests. She has appeared on the Today show and has cooked onstage with Oprah Winfrey.

The book also doesn't just rehash the same old cookie recipes we've all made a million times. While you will find some old standbys like Oatmeal Cookies, you'll also find they have taken on a whole new life in this book. Other treats are simply one of a kind. As I flipped through the book my eye fell on Halloween (of course) and delectable brownies made with a splash of Absinthe! Yes, Absinthe in brownies. How unique is that? Maybe you're an Elvis fan and would like to try the Peanut Browned Butter Banana Bacon Cookies on the King's birthday (January 8th). No matter what you're craving there's a holiday and a cookie in this book for you!

Unlike so many cookbooks these days, the book is printed in a style that makes it easy to read while in the kitchen. The typeface is sufficient that you won't be squinting to figure out if it's supposed to 1/4 or 1/2 a teaspoon of something.

Of course, I had to try a sample recipe to test just how well crafted these recipes were. I chose the Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys which are presented for Guy Fawke's Day on November 5th.  Fans of "V for Vendetta" might have some inkling of that name, but probably have misconstrued the history. Guy Fawke's Day commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his Catholic co-conspirators tried to blow up Parliament in London. Their goal was to place a Catholic monarch on the British throne and turn the country from Protestantism to Catholicism. The plot failed. Since then, each November 5th Guy Fawkes' Day is celebrated with bonfires and effigies of Guy Fawkes (the "Guys").

The "Guy" ready to be burned in
effigy at a Guy Fawkes' Day
in Great Britain.
Many years ago when I did Revolutionary War living history Guy Fawkes' Day always fell around the time of our largest gathering at Historic Camden, SC. It was the largest event of the year, bringing in people from around the United States and marked the end of the Fall season. As a British soldier (and later a Loyalist Civilian) I always gravitated toward the British camp where Guy Fawkes' festivities were on display. During the day the kids in camp would make their effigies called "Guys" and sit them in chairs in front of their tents. Then when visitors would pass they would ask for a "Penny for the Guy" - an old tradition in England. All during the day you would hear the 400 year old rhyme repeated: "Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot. We see no reason that gunpowder treason should e'er be forgot!" That night large bonfires would be lit and the kids would present the "Guys" to be burned in effigy. Muskets would be fired into the air and fireworks set off. Following that would be a big dance. So, I couldn't resist making some of these wonderful gingerbread cookies for Guy Fawkes' Day. (By the way, to take a look at a celebration here in America check out these folks in Rhode Island who hold a Guy Fawkes' Bonfire Night each November.)

You'll be amazed at the addictive flavor of these cookies. I was intrigued by the combination of cocoa and spices normally found in "hot" gingerbread. Of course, here in the southwest, chocolate and spices go hand in hand. Cocoa can be found in many spice combinations used in savory cooking here. I adored the cocoa flavor with the heat of the ginger and the complexity of several traditional spices.

I found when making these that my dough was a bit loose at first. I remedied this by placing it in the refrigerator for about an hour and then heavily flouring my work surface and hands. I gave the dough a few quick kneads and then rolled it out. The cookies turned out beautifully and were thick and chewy with a flavor that is unique and oh, so interesting. This is one cookie you'll want in your repertoire to impress folks who will be expecting plain old gingerbread around holiday time!

Give these a try and be sure to pick up a copy of Anna Ginsberg's The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life and get set for a year's worth of trivia and baking!

Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys

Recipe by Anna Ginsberg
Spicy chocolate makes this gingerbread unique!

  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 cup hot coffee
  • 8 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup mild molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with nonstick foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the baking soda in the coffee and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy. Beat in the salt, egg, molasses and vanilla. Add the cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and stir until mixed. Using the lowest speed of the mixer, stir in the flour alternately with the coffee mixture.
  4. Roll out the dough about 3/8 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out gingerbread men and arrange them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the guys appear set. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. 
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen
Print This Recipe

An advance copy of the book was received from the publisher for review.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Olive Oil and so much more!

Olive oil has increasingly become a necessity in every kitchen. While traditional southern kitchens used to turn to vegetable oil (if somewhat healthy) or artery clogging lard, now we find olive oils being used more and more. Certainly, here at Sugar Pies we love using olive oil for sautes as well as in some baked goods (our Italian Olive Oil Cake). But olive oil can be wonderful as a stand alone product. Used for dipping or as a flavorful enhancement to many dishes.

O&CO. has been cultivating tradition, expertise, and high standards for over 15 years, in order to offer  customers the best selections of olive oils and delicacies from across the Mediterranean.

With a respect for tradition, O&CO. cherishes originality where tastes and smells converge to delight the senses. Emerging from the high Alpes-de-Haute, in the village of Mane, France, O&CO. became the brainchild of two men united around a common passion, the olive tree.

More than ten years since its creation, O&CO. has forged a new image of the olive tree, rooted in tradition but firmly anchored in the modern world. While olive oils serve as the foundation, O&CO. also offers an exclusive collection of vinegars, tapenades, spreads, crackers, and sweets as well as an organic skincare range that showcase the flavors and the spirit of the Mediterranean.

Wait, did I say sweets? Yes, O&CO. creates some wonderful sweet additions for your kitchen. I'm particularly entranced by the Lavender Honey which is harvested in August and contains the enticing flavors and aromas of Provence lavender fields.

If that doesn't get your taste buds excited how about the Clementine and Cinnamon Spread which brings together the marvelous taste of the clementine, "Queen of Winter Fruit" with warm cinnamon for a spread that hints of gingerbread? Simply unbelievable!

How about an Pistachio and Almond Torrone? Produced in the Piedmont region of Italy, O&CO's Torrone, otherwise known as nougat, is an artisanal confection made with pistachios from Bronte, honey, and well-whipped egg whites.

O&CO. is a destination for your own cooking experience as well as for gifts. Founded in 1996, O&CO's mission is to provide customer with the finest olive oils and Mediterranean food products in stores and online.

You simply must visit this wonderful destination and check out the range of wonderful flavors available from the Mediterranean region!

This sponsorship is brought to you by O&CO. whom we have partnered with for this promotion.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Butter and Brown Butter Bars Recipe

Let's stop for a moment and consider one of the basic ingredients of almost all baking - butter. Now butter gets a bad rap from some people (we won't mention names) if it's not slathered on in some fancy French or Italian dish. If it's in a good old American, particularly Southern recipe, well that's a bad thing.

Prejudices aside,  butter is integral to baking. It's needed to coat flour to create a beautiful crumb in baked goods. It lends its flavor to delightful treats like shortbread and butter cookies. It even works as an emulsifying agent at times.

Of course, you can find all sorts of butters in the supermarket these days. There are the old standbys of salted and unsalted. Almost all bakers utilize unsalted butter because it allows us to control just how much salt goes into a recipe. But even in those two you'll find dozens of brands on the shelf. It's generally a good idea to pick the best butter you can find that fits your budget and your recipe. Sometimes, if I'm doing a recipe where butter is just a workhorse, say coating the flour and not contributing a whole lot to the taste profile, I'll choose the generic store butter. This is particularly true in recipes where there is the need for a lot of butter but not a lot of butter taste. However, if I'm working on a recipe where butter is going to play a starring role in the flavor profile, I'll opt for the best butter my budget allows. Amazingly, about the best supermarket brand (and this even backed up by Cook's Illustrated) is Challenge butter. Normally, it's only 25 cents or so more than the store brand, so certainly worth the slight upgrade in price. Now you can go all out and use imported butters from Ireland, Denmark and any other number of countries. Normally, I would reserve those for use in butter spreads where I want a spectacular butter flavor combined with herbs or something else.

Brown Butter Bars served with a
dollop of Cream Cheese Frosting
and Halloween sprinkles.
If you're very lucky you may find a store or farmer's market that carries fresh locally churned butter. If you have access to that grab it up! Many years ago when I did living history at a national park we often were blessed with fresh butter and buttermilk thanks to 18th century life demonstrations. One of our volunteers would bring in fresh milk and spend the day churning it into butter. To be perfectly honest, a lot of visitors and tourists spent the day churning it into butter. It's amazing what people find fun when they don't have to do it all the time. By the end of the day we would have wonderfully fresh butter and buttermilk to use in recipes. The taste is simply unmatched. So, if you can get fresh butter, get it and thank your lucky stars!

Regardless of what butter you choose, it is essential to baking. But there is one trick you can do that will take an ordinary recipe using ordinary supermarket butter and kick it to the next level. Anytime you run across  a recipe where melted butter is called for, take a few extra minutes and make a brown butter. It's incredibly easy to do. Just pull out your light colored skillet, add the butter in small chunks, and melt it on medium high temperature. Swirl the pan from time to time and you'll see the butter foam and small brown bits begin to form. That's the butter fat. Watch closely and you'll notice the butter turn a delightful golden brown color and give off the most incredible buttery and nutty scent. Your butter is ready. Take it off the burner and use in your recipe as directed.

Brown butter imparts an incredible complexity to the flavor profile of a dish. It is both buttery but with a nuttiness that is hard to describe. If you ever have the chance to make two identical dishes - one with melted butter and one with brown butter you'll notice the difference immediately. It's much like adding a bit of coffee or espresso to chocolate - you won't miss it if you've never had it, but you'll notice the startling taste difference if you do it.

That's what sets these bar cookies apart. This recipe is based on a traditional Shaker recipe and is very, very simple - as are most of their crafts. It's simply butter, brown sugar, flour, eggs, leavening and vanilla. So, butter is carrying a big load for the flavor of this. Browning the butter instead of just melting makes this bar cookie incredibly decadent and delicious. The richness of good brown sugar and brown butter together can't be matched. It's like a perfect marriage of flavors that sends shivers down your spine. By the way, when you're looking for brown sugar for something like this go with a dark brown sugar which has a richer and more molasses like taste. Also, try to find sugar that is not made from sugar beets but rather real cane. There is a subtle difference in flavor and brown sugar and butter are what makes this dish.

So, brown your butter, choose a good sugar and enjoy these rich and delicious Brown Butter Bars!

Brown Butter Bars

Brown butter kicks this traditional Shaker recipe up a notch into a decadent and mouth watering treat!

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, browned
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and create a foil sling for a 9x13-inch pan. Butter the pan or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a small light bottomed skillet melt the butter over medium high heat. Swirl the pan gently from time to time as the butter fat separates and forms a foamy surface. You will see the fat begin to form brown particle on the bottom of the pan. Continue swirling until the butter turns a golden brown and gives off a nutty scent. Remove from the heat immediately and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together the brown butter and brown sugar until well mixed. Add the baking powder, salt, and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the flour and mix well. The batter will be quite stiff at this point. Add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Give the batter one least stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Using a spatula, smooth out the batter into the corners of the pan and evenly across the bottom.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or just until the edges are brown and pulling away from the sides of the pan. Be sure not to over bake this. It's better a little underdone than overdone!
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in pan on wire rack. When cool, remove from the pan using the foil sling and slice.
  7. This can be stored up to 3 days in an airtight container. 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Print This Recipe

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tupelo Honey Cafe Contest

Van Morrison once sang: "She's as sweet as Tupelo honey. She's an angel of the first degree. She's as sweet as Tupelo honey. Just like honey from the bee."

Well, there's a restaurant I hear that's just about that sweet in Asheville, NC (one of my favorite places) called the Tupelo Honey Cafe. They have a great menu designed by Chef Brian Sonoskus a 2001 graduate of Johnson and Wales. He has created an incredible Southern Fusion menu that has my mouth watering. How could you pass up a dessert like Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Vanilla Bean and Caramel Sauce. Honestly, that just sounds sinful and beyond delicious. Chef Brian also has come up with some delectable sides and main dishes that meld the best in Southern food with international cuisine. How about some Appalachian Egg Rolls featuring pulled pork tossed in smoked jalapeno barbeque sauce rolled with braised greens, pickled onions and shredded carrots served with Dijon and smoked jalapeno barbeque dipping sauces and a garnish of seasonal greens? Doesn't that sound incredible?

Maybe this is more your style: Root Beer Molasses Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Green Apple Salsa. A succulent pork tenderloin takes on the wonderful hints of sassafras and sorghum with its marinade. It’s served with green apple salsa, smoked jalapeno barbecue sauce, smashed sweet potatoes and garnished with asparagus spears. Wow!

But here's the fun part. You have an opportunity to impress Chef Brian with your own creativity. Tupelo Honey Cafe is sponsoring a contest this holiday season where you can submit your own recipe(s) to see if they can make Chef Brian's mouth water! They have three categories: sides, desserts, and leftovers. To enter the contest just go to the Tupelo Honey Cafe Holiday Recipe Contest on their site and follow the directions.

Now here's the fine print, courtesy the good folks at Tupelo Honey Cafe:

The ‘Tupelo Honey Cafe - Holiday Recipe Contest!’
At Tupelo Honey Cafe, we’re dedicated to marrying Southern tradition & ingenuity with vibrant, refashioned flavors. We currently serve two locations in Asheville, NC. A third Tupelo Honey Cafe opens this month in Knoxville, TN, and an additional location is slated to open in fall of 2013 in Johnson City, TN!

With the holiday season fast approaching, we’d love to see what fantastic festive fare you can come up with!

The Contest:
Do your tasty recipes have what it takes to impress Tupelo top-chef Brian Sonoskus? This holiday season we're accepting creative and flavorful holiday-inspired recipes in three categories:

  • Sides
  • Desserts
  • Leftovers!

The Holiday Recipe Contest runs from October 1st through November 16th, and all entries will be judged by Chef Brian Sonoskus and his hungry team of taste-testers! The three winners will be announced on December 3rd, each receiving a $200 gift card to be used at the Tupelo Honey Cafe Online Store, or at one of our restaurants.

Each week during the contest a drawing will also be held where one lucky participant will win a copy of our cookbook: Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen.

We can’t wait to see what delicious holiday helpings you’ve shared with us!

To keep up with additional news and offers please follow Tupelo Honey Cafe on Facebook.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Autumn Spice Cookies

You'll really love this spice cookie with its one spice that tastes
like a whole palette of spices! It's perfect for getting ready for
those cool Autumn nights. With a cup of spiced Chai tea
you'll be in spice islands heaven!
Well, here it is the beginning of October and we've had a heat break for about a week in the desert! It's only been in the 90's. Unfortunately, our weather report indicates some triple digit heat returning this week. Sigh.

To make it worse, my nephew posted on Facebook that he, his wife and my sister were on their way to the mountains of North Carolina to pick apples and get pumpkins. He even posted a picture and it looked so wonderfully cool up there. Oh well, we'll suffer through here. Honestly, though I still can't get used to 80 or 85 degrees on Halloween.

Regardless, I persevere with the Autumnal spirit by baking some delicious Autumn Spice Cookies. These guys are loosely adapted from an old Amish recipe. The best way to describe them is somewhat like a faux gingersnap but softer and chewier. Amazingly, they don't contain ginger. Instead I use an old standby spice - Allspice. If you aren't familiar with this handy little spice you should be. It's one of those spices that became a big part of the English spice palette in the 17th century.

While Allspice makes its appearance in other cuisine in savory dishes, in America and particularly the south, it is primarily used in desserts.  That's mainly because the flavor closely resembles a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. But as the French say, there's a little je ne sais quoi to this spice. There's the faintest hint of pepper flavor. When used in this cookie that's what sets it apart from a run of the mill spice cookie. It's that little hit of heat you get as you chew. Of course, there's no mystery to that heat since it is known in other areas as Jamaican Pepper or Myrtle Pepper and in raw form resembles peppercorns.

You'll really love this spice cookie with its one spice that tastes like a whole palette of spices! It's perfect for getting ready for those cool Autumn nights. With a cup of spiced Chai tea you'll be in spice islands heaven!

Autumn Spice Cookies

Recipe by Buck Bannister

A spice cookie with its one spice that tastes like a whole palette of spices! It's perfect for getting ready for those cool Autumn nights. With a cup of spiced Chai tea you'll be in spice islands heaven!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 24 cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. maple extract
  • 3-4 tbs. granulated sugar for rolling
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, honey and maple extract and beat on medium speed until combined.
  3. In separate bowl whisk together the flour, soda, salt, and allspice.
  4. With mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture beating after each addition.
  5. Finish combining ingredients with a wooden spoon and shape cookies into balls using a 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons cookie scoop. Roll the balls in the granulated sugar and place on baking sheets. (Note: cookies spread so on a standard half sheet pan do 3 rows of 3 to avoid the cookies touching when baking.)
  6. Bake until cookies are browned on edges and tops are crackled - about 10-12 minutes. It's better to under bake these than over bake!
  7. Allow cookies to cool on pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Maple Creme Cookies

Beautiful red and orange frosting highlight this delicious
cookie that hides maple creme inside!
It's September here in the desert and the temperatures have managed to dip into the low to mid 90's! Yes, this is what Autumn feels like in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

Of course, I'm still in tune with the seasons of the Southeast. With September and October comes a longing for brightly colored trees and cool days and cooler nights. When I was young my grandmother had a beautiful maple tree in her front yard. Each October I would eagerly await its transformation from green to flaming red and orange. I thought it was the most beautiful tree in the world. To this day the maple tree remains the ultimate symbol of Fall for me.

As with most families in our area, Fall also meant a pilgrimage to "the mountains." Like "the beach" that was shorthand for one destination - Western North Carolina. The trip would always involve mountain apples and one of my favorite things - maple sugar candy. That sickeningly sweet concoction remains a favorite treat. Each year, now that I'm far from those old mountains, I eagerly await the arrival of those little boxes of maple goodness at World Market.

Another Fall treat has been the maple sandwich cookie. These are usually available at grocery stores late in the season, but they're a joy to make at home. In fact, you can go the long route with real maple syrup which is super yummy or you can take a shortcut with maple flavoring.

'Maple Tree' photo (c) 2010, William Warby - license: had intended to go the long route on my latest batch but her in the west maple syrup prices at about $7-$10 a bottle. That's a little steep for a cookie filling (figuring you'd need about two or more bottles to cook down into the maple creme.) So, I opted for the shortcut method which is faster and cheaper. It's really easy:

Shortcut Maple Creme

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbs. maple flavoring
1-2 tbs. milk

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir together until you get a nice smooth filling that can be easily spread on cookies.

It's that simple. The maple creme is a bit more involved and the recipe is included below. I also decided to frost my cookies with red and orange frosting which gives them a beautiful autumnal feel. These are super delicious and addictive.

I found with my cookie cutter that I needed to flip over half the cookies to make the tops and bottoms match. If you have a more symmetrical cutter you won't need to puzzle out those tops and bottoms! If you have an asymmetrical cutter just remember that even if you forget you can still make the cookies, the bottoms will just look like regular cookie bottoms though. (Does that even make sense?) 

Eagle eyed readers will notice the cookie recipe closely resembles that for the Cinnamon Marble Cookies. Indeed, it is adapted from that recipe as the base cookie makes a terrific sandwich cookie for all types of fillings - just adjust your spices to compliment your filling!

Maple Creme Cookies

Maple leaf shaped cookies with delicious maple creme filling!

Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
Yield: 20-24 cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Recipe Maple Creme
  • 1 Recipe Red Frosting
  • 1 Recipe Orange Frosting
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Beat in egg and vanilla just until combined. Beat in flour in 1/4 cup increments just until combined. Cover and chill dough in refrigerator for at least one hour or until easy to handle.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a Maple Leaf shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Place cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until bottoms begin to brown. Cool cookies on wire rack.
  4. Frost half of the cookies with Red and Orange Frosting. Using the red frosting coat the cookie top entirely with a paint brush. With a second paintbrush, brush the orange frosting over the red, swirling the colors together. Allow the frosting to set completely.
  5. Once the frosting has set, take the unfrosted cookies and spoon a little of the maple creme and spread with a small icing spatula. Top the cookie with one of the frosted cookies, pressing down lightly to spread the maple creme completely.

Real Maple Creme

  • 3 cups Grade A or B Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt (optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. Fill a large bowl about 1/4 full with ice. Place a medium saucepan on the ice and fill in around the edges with more ice until it reaches at least the halfway point of the saucepan. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy saucepan combine all ingredients and cook over medium to medium-high heat without stirring until temperature registers 235° on a candy thermometer.
  3. Remove from heat and transfer to waiting saucepan in ice. When temperature reaches 125°, transfer to bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat at medium to high speed until mixture becomes creamy and thick. Transfer to a clean covered jar if not using immediately and store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Orange or Red Frosting

  • 1 cup Powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tbs. Milk
  • 1/4 tsp. Vanilla
  • Red or Orange Food Coloring
Cooking Directions
  1. Mix first three ingredients together in a small bowl until the mixture resembles a thick paint. Add the desired food coloring and mix well until the color is uniform and the shade you wish.Repeat with second color in a separate bowl.
  2. Paint the frosting on cookies using a paintbrush or small pastry brush.
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Monday, September 17, 2012

Cinnamon Marble Cookies

It's great when you create something that not only tastes great, but is pretty to look at too. These cookies fit the bill. The cookie itself is a wonderful buttery cinnamon spiced cookie that is delicate and delicious. The topping is a combination of white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate that swirls and dances into lovely marbleized designs.

This cookie lends itself nicely to a central role as a dessert. If you used a larger cookie cutter it would make a lovely addition to a more formal dinner setting. Wouldn't that be interesting - a beautiful cookie for dessert!

While chocolate makes a nice combination in this cookie you could also use many of the other baking chips that can be found in the baking aisle at the grocery store. I swear, they seem to grow exponentially year after year. I've seen cinnamon chips (perfect for this), caramel chips, cappuccino, maple, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, mint, and butterscotch! Basically, any chip that will melt nicely will work to flavor your swirling bits of decadent goodness.

Note: This recipe makes a lot of the semi-sweet chocolate portion. I found I didn't need nearly that much - in fact I used less than a quarter of it. So, I would cut that by at least half if you want to save on ingredients. Otherwise, bake up something else that needs a nice glaze (cupcakes, maybe?) and have at it with the semi-sweet chocolate.

Cinnamon Marble Cookies

Buttery cinnamon cookies with an elegant chocolate marble glaze.

Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes
Total time: 38 minutes
Yield: 14 cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white chocolate pieces
  • 4 tsp. shortening, divided
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Beat in egg and vanilla just until combined. Beat in flour in 1/4 cup increments just until combined. Cover and chill dough in refrigerator for at least one hour or until easy to handle.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 3 1/2-inch fluted round cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Place cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until bottoms begin to brown. Cool cookies on wire rack.
  4. For the glazes: In a small saucepan, melt together the white chocolate and 2 tsp. of the shortening, stirring frequently until melted and smooth. In a second small saucepan melt together the semi-sweet chocolate pieces and 2 tsp. of shortening, stirring frequently until melted.
  5. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a heavy zip-lock bag.
  6. To glaze the cookies, spoon the white chocolate over the cookies, spreading it to almost the edges.
  7. Snip off a tiny bit of the corner of the zip-lock bag and drizzle two or three lines of the semi-sweet chocolate over the cookies. Swirl a toothpick or skewer through the glaze to create a marble effect.
  8. Let cookies stand until glazes are set.
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Caramel Swirl Brownies

Moist and Luscious chocolate brownie topped with swirls
of decadent caramel!
I absolutely love the Milky Way Simply Caramel candy bars. There's just something about caramel and chocolate that makes me crave more. So, imagine my delight when I got a new cookbook for the holidays and found a recipe for Caramel Swirl Brownies. My copy of  Better Homes and Gardens Very Merry Cookies is turning out to be a great read. Yes, I read cookbooks.

I used to think Mama was nuts because she would sit down in the evening with a cup of coffee and read through a cookbook like other people might a novel. Now that I'm enjoying my time in the kitchen I find myself doing the same thing. A new cookbook arrives and I just have to sit down and go over it cover to cover.

This new cookbook is a real treat because not only does it give you some wonderful holiday recipes but also gives you some great ideas about how to gift your creations. From decorative boxes made from old aluminum foil boxes that are perfect for little round cookies to tips and tricks for packing cookies for shipping, the book is a treasure trove of information for your holiday baking needs. I heartily recommend it.

But, back to our brownies. These little things are lush. They're wonderfully moist and chewy with a big chocolate flavor enhanced by the caramel swirls. They're also really attractive with their marbled pattern. I actually found these were better on the second day when the flavors melded. Right out of the oven the chocolate is very vibrant and you miss the nice caramel notes. After sitting overnight, the flavors were much more balanced and spectacular!

You'll want to keep these in an airtight container in the fridge and eat within 3 days. You can also store these in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just thaw before eating (or gifting).

This recipe calls for eggs meeting hot chocolate and caramel so remember to temper those eggs

So, settle back and enjoy some lovely caramel and chocolate in this lush decadent brownie!

Caramel Swirl Brownies

Luscious chocolate and caramel in a rich moist brownie.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Yield: 12 to 16 brownies

  • 3/4 cup butter, cut up in pieces
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 tbs. sugar
  • 3 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 12 vanilla caramels (unwrapped)
  • 1 tbs. milk
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line an 8x8x2-inch baking pan (or 9x9x2-inch) with aluminum foil, allowing the edges of the foil to overhang by 1 to 2 inches. Grease the pan and foil.
  2. In a medium saucepan cook and stir the butter and chocolate over medium-low heat until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour just until combined. Spoon batter into prepared baking pan spreading evenly.
  3. In a small saucepan combine the caramels, cream cheese, 1 tbs. sugar and milk. Cook and stir over medium-low heat just until melted and smooth (be patient and resist the urge to crank up the heat!) Remove from heat. In a small bowl beat 1 egg yolk and gradually stir into mixture.
  4. Drop the caramel mixture by spoonfuls over brownie mixture in pan. Using the edge of a small thin spatula or butter knife, swirl the caramel with the chocolate batter.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until top springs back when touched and edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. It's best to under bake a bit than to over bake! Cool the brownies in the pan on a wire rack. When cool, use the foil to lift the brownies out of the pan. Place on a cutting board; cut brownies into squares or rectangles.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Banana Nut Shortbread

Who doesn't love the taste of Banana Bread? Well, this delightful recipe gives you all that banana and walnut goodness in a buttery shortbread!

These cookies with their rich maple flavored icing are the perfect bite-sized treats. With the holidays approaching (yup, it's September already!) these are great cookies to file away for your holiday baking. They'd work great on a cookie tray or in a cute little box.

I loved the flavor in these with the classic taste of banana, brown sugar, and cinnamon topped off with a maple glaze. I sliced them in little rectangles but you could even use small decorative cookie cutters if you chose. Regardless, they'll be a hit!

Banana Nut Shortbread

The great taste of Banana Bread in a buttery shortbread cookie!

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup mashed rip banana (about 1/2 of a medium banana)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts 
Maple Glaze 
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbs. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. maple flavoring
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat together the butter, banana and vanilla until smooth. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator or until firm.
  2. Preheat oven to 300°. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter mixture until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and begins to come together in clumps. Stir in chopped nuts. Knead dough with hands until smooth. Form into a ball and divide dough in half.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into an 8x6-inch rectangle. Cut each rectangle into 16 pieces (about 2x1 1/2 inch each). Place rectangles one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake about 30 minutes or just until bottoms begin to brown. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool and drizzle with maple glaze. Let stand until icing is set.
  5. Maple Glaze
  6. In a medium bowl combine powdered sugar, 1 to 2 tbs. of milk and 1/4 tsp. of maple flavoring. Whisk together to make a smooth glaze of drizzling consistency. 
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes per batch
Total time: 2 hours
Yield: 32 cookies
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