Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Peanut Butter Toffee Bars

In honor of Halloween these bars are served with a side of spiders....that is not necessary the rest of the year.   Unless you like spiders. 

What You Need

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 cup peanut butter (I like the Kroger Honey Nut crunchy)
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 bag of Heath Bits O Brickle toffee bits
1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

What You Do

Line your 13x9 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.    Preheat your oven to 350 (375 here at altitude).

In a large bowl mix cake mix, peanut butter, water and eggs with a spoon or a electric hand mixer.   Stir in the toffee bits.   Spread in pan.   The batter is thick, you may need to flour your hands to press it in the pan.

Bake 22-27 minutes until golden brown.     Sprinkle chocolate chips over warm bars (you may not need the whole bag - your call) and allow them to sit for 5 minutes until melted.    Spread with an off-set spatula and allow to cool before cutting.  

For any occasion where you need to make spiderwebs out of icing, simply make 3 concentric circles (like a bulls eye) and then use a toothpick from the center to the outside.   As you drag the toothpick through the frosting it will pull outwards, making the web of your dreams.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Buddy Chow

Growing up in the midwest, chocolate coated Chex coated in powdered sugar was called puppy chow.    I have no idea why.      A friend who grew up in Florida calls them muddy buddies.    Whatever you call them,  you should make them more often.   It's an easy sweet snack to make that (in moderation) won't push you over the nutritional edge.
Oh candy corn....why is your season so short?
I associate candy corn with Thanksgiving.     At some family Thanksgiving of yore, there was a cornucopia on the dining room table that had fruit and candy corn spilling out of it.   That means that you don't have to limit yourself to eating these by next Wednesday.    Your snacking window has extended until the end of November. 
And I think that candy corn and salted peanuts are a match made in heaven.   The crunch and salt of the peanut.   The sweet softness of candy corn.   Instant party in a bowl.     This buddy chow has both candy corn and salted dry roasted peanuts along with the traditional chocolate / peanut butter blend on the Chex. 
This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, depending on how many friends you are sharing with. 
What You Need

4 1/2 cups Chex (or square cereal of your choice)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky, your choice)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup candy corn
1 cup salted peanuts

What You Do
In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the peanut butter, chocolate and butter/margarine.   Try 30 seconds on high to start, then stir until smooth.    I added the cereal to the bowl of chocolate so that I had only one bowl to clean, but you could pour the chocolate mix over the cereal too.     Stir until all the cereal is coated by the chocolate.   If you want, add half the peanuts and candy corn at this time so they get a little chocolate coating.

Pour the chocolate coated mix into a gallon ziploc bag.     Add the powdered sugar and shake until coated.   Then add the remaining candy corn and peanuts and shake again.     Pour your buddy chow out onto wax paper until it cools then store it in an airtight container.  

Happy Snacking!

What about you?   How do you feel about candy corn?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apple Coffee Cake

I'm a shameless baking self-promoter.   I post pictures of my successes up on Facebook.   Friends ask "where are you bringing that?"  A few weeks ago when I made the Toasted Coconut Pound Cake and the Chocolate Walnut Sticky Buns, I flat out said that I was bringing them to church the following day.   Needless to say it didn't hurt attendance in the Sunday School class that I was faciliating. 
I made this the following week to take to church.    It is really good, but really rich.  A lot of brown sugar went into this baby.  
This recipe comes from the Food Network and you can click here to see the original recipe in all its sugary glory.    Serve it straight out of the oven, or pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds before you dig in.     You can definitely enjoy this in smaller servings...sharing the love and calories around with your friends and family. 
You can make this a day in advance.   I prepared the cake batter and spread it in the pan and then put it in the fridge.  The next morning, I put the topping on and put it in the oven.  
What You Need
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples (three small Granny Smith apples did the job)

Crumble Topping:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Brown Sugar Glaze:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water

What You Do

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your 13 by 9-inch baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray (always thinking of the easy cleanup....always). 

In a large bowl, cream together the remaining stick of butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after the addition of each. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla. Fold in the apples. Pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading out to the edges.

To make the topping, in a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

To make the glaze, in a bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water and mix until smooth. Drizzle the cake with the glaze and let harden slightly. Serve warm.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some things should not be left for later or whenever.   Canned pumpkin, for example.  
After making the amazing pumpkin pie cupcakes I had a cup of canned pumpkin puree left over.   I opened all my cookbooks until I found something easy where I had all the ingredients on hand and ready to go.   Hooray for America's Favorites: Bake Sale.   Below is the recipe for Pumpkin Spiced Cookies, but cut in half to use the pumpkin that I had left.    I didn't feel the need to make the vanilla glaze indicated in the original recipe.  Why?   I had some of the (rich, delicious, smooth) maple cream cheese frosting left from the cupcakes, so I made a couple little cookie sandwiches just because I could. 
This half recipe made about 30 small cookies, maybe about the size of half dollar. 
Another chocolate chip cookie testimony:  I have no luck making standard chocolate chip cookies without them looking sad, flat and pathetic.  It was true when I lived in the midwest, and true here in Colorado (even when I try high altitude recipes).   BUT:  The minute that the cookies have something else in them - pumpkin, oatmeal, whatever, they turn out just fine.
What You Need
1 1/8 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick of butter/margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
What You Do
Preheat the oven to 375.   Line your baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.  
Combine the flour, spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.   Beat butter and sugar in a larger mixer bowl until creamy.   Beat in pumpkin, eggs, and villa.   Gradually beat in flour mixture.   Stir in chocolate chips.   Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the baking sheet.
Bake for 15-18 minutes (check at 15) until the edges are lightly browned.   Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Tis the season.

No, not that season (although I saw it lurking in the back corner of Target the other day.  A light up flamingo with a santa hat, really? ).   

The season of pumpkin and apple spiced everything!    Pumpkin lattes, apple crisp.   You name it and it's out there.   You might as well give in and enjoy.   

And if you're thinking that you need to take a fall treat somewhere in the next few weeks, these pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting are the way to go.

What You Need

For the cupcakes:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pie mix - and most cans have 2 cups, so you can either make more cupcakes, or perhaps some pumpkin cookies....)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the frosting:
8oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 cups powdered sugar

For the pecan topping:
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

What You Do

Preheat your oven to 350.   Place paper baking cups in 24 muffin cups (I actually made 26....24 for going out and 2 for eating in).

In a large mixing bowl beat cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs and spices with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.     Spoon batter into muffin cups, about 2/3 full.

Bake for 15-19 minutes (check at 15, that's what worked here at altitude).     Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then set on the counter or wire rack to finish cooling. 

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.   Add maple syrup.    Slowly add in the powdered sugar.  If you put it all in at once and at a high speed, you will end up wearing it.   Smooth frosting onto the cupcakes with an off set spatula and top with the pecan topping.

To make the pecan topping cook pecans and sugar over low heat in a skillet for 8 minutes, stirring constantly.    Allow nuts and sugar to cool before frosting and garnishing your cupcakes.

What's your favorite fall flavor?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Waffle Cakes - Denver

There is something about a portable waffle-to-go with awesome toppings that is irresistable.   
This isn't your standard, stodgy, Sunday brunch waffle.   

Love at first bite eating from the Waffle Cakes food truck at the Cherry Creek farmer's market.  
Goat Cheese.  Bacon.   Honey.

Yes please. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Toasted Coconut Pound Cake

I love shopping at Goodwill.   Your purchase benefits a great organization and provides jobs.   And you have the chance to score big.   My recent purchase was a 49 cent silicone loaf pan.   At any retail store or online, you'll pay at least $10.   Do I care that my pre-loved loaf pan is a burnt orange color?   Not at all.   I just keep baking away. 

There is a first for me in this recipe.   Friends, it is the first time that I have purchased buttermilk.   Usually I opt for one of the buttermilk tradeouts, such as yogurt, sour cream, or milk with a little lemon juice.   But in pound cake, where there aren't a lot of ingredients and you can taste each one, I thought I'd go with what the recipe indicated.    This cake is awesome and got rave reviews from the Breakfast Club at church on Sunday morning.   

What You Need

For the cake:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups toasted coconut

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons buttermilk (plus a little more to make it a better pouring consistency)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup toasted coconut

What You Do

Preheat your oven to 350.    Spray your silicone loaf pan with a little bit of cooking spray.

Toast your coconut, by laying out the 1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut on a baking sheet and putting the pan in the oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring often.   When it starts to brown, take it out.  It can go from beautiful to burnt really quick if you aren't paying attention.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.   Add the vanilla then the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl.    With the mixer on low add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of buttermilk.  Beat until combined.   Fold in the 1 1/4 cups toasted coconut. 

Pour into loaf pan and bake for 60-65 minutes until a toothpick put in the center comes out with just a few crumbs.   I put my silicone pans on a flat baking sheet when cooking.     Let cool in the pan on a wire rack.   When the cake is cool, invert onto your serving plate, or onto the wire rack.

Mix buttermilk and powdered sugar to form the glaze.   Drizzle over the cake and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of toasted coconut. 

Share your cake with friends and family!

Recipe Source:  Everday Food Magazine, October 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chocolate Walnut Sticky Buns

I recently learned about the book Food Rules  by Michael Pollan.   Flipping through the book this week, rule 39 caught my eye.
Rule # 39:  Eat all of the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.   
The idea behind this rule is that the food industry has made it very easy to eat high fat, high sugar foods every day.   The author gives the example of the french fry.   If you had to buy, wash, slice and then fry the potatoes yourself, you probably wouldn't be eating french fries that often.   They would be a treat only enjoyed occasionally when you had the time and energy to prepare them.
I'm not drawn to package or store bought baked goods.    Not a take and bake apple pie, not a slab of German chocolate cake, or a package of cookies.    On the contrary, I love to visit small bakeries and, of course, to make things myself.    I really enjoy potlucks because you get to try everyones favorite, and often homemade, entrees, sides and desserts. 
I don't eat sticky buns or cinnamon rolls very often.   On a buffet, at a restaurant or in the bakery section of the grocery store, I will walk right past (I'd rather have bacon, thank you).    Thinking Food Rules style, the food industry makes breakfast rolls easily accessible.   I could buy them in a tube in the store for about $2 and 15 minutes later be diving into warm rolls.    Rolls in a tube are ok.   Better than a sharp stick in the eye, but nothing like homemade.    However, these homemade rolls took quite a bit of prep time and more expensive ingredients.  These were perfectly suited to a cold and rainy Colorado day - but I don't usually have this kind of time.      So I don't eat that many sticky buns.  
Rule #39 is one I can live with.    Make these for a special occasion.   Enjoy every bite.   And eat some fruit for your other breakfasts this week.  
What You Need
For the dough:
1/3 cup heavy/whipping cream
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 packet (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
For the caramel (aka sticky) sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup heavy/whipping cream
For the roll filling:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips
What You Do
Confession:  I'm not sure the last time that I made something that required yeast.   Maybe in college in my food science and hospitality classes?   I tend to lean towards cookies, bars and quick breads when I'm baking.   I bought a three-pack of yeast, so I guess have I have two more chances to experiment. 
Making the Dough
Let's grow some yeast, shall we?
Heat 1/3 cup each of cream and water along with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in a small sauce pan until it reaches 110-115 degrees (pull out your candy thermometer for this one - it doesn't take too long...if it's too hot, you'll kill the yeast, so if necessary, let it cool).   Remove from heat.   Add packet of yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes until it is foamy.  
Transfer yeasty liquid to a large bowl and add 1 cup of the flour.  Using a mixer, beat on medium until smooth.   Melt 2 tablespoons butter;  add to bowl, along with 1 teaspoon salt and egg.   Beat until combined.   Beat in remaining 1 1/4 cup flour until combined.   Transfer to a buttered bowl and cover with plastic.   Let the dough sit in a warm place for until it doubles - about 1 hour. 
Making the Caramel Sauce (the sticky in sticky buns)
Preheat your oven to 350.   
Line a 9-inch round cake pan with foil for easy cleanup, then butter the foil.   In a small sauce pan, bring 3 tablespoons butter, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a simmer over medium heat.   Cook until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat. Whisk in the remaining 1/3 cup cream.   Pour into pan. 
Making the Bun Filling
Combine 2/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/2 cup chocolate chips in a small bowl (cereal bowl is fine). 
Putting It All Together
On a floured surface (a large cutting board works great), roll out the dough into a 12 inch by 18 inch rectangle.   Use the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter (warm in microwave if needed for easy spreading) and spread it over the dough, leaving an 1-inch edge around the outside.    Sprinkle the buttered area with your sugar, nut and chocolate filling. 
Start (gently and slowly) rolling from the long edge to create one long log of deliciousness.   The original recipe indicated that this recipe would make 9 rolls, but I managed to get 13 (the better to spread those calories out with more friends).
Slicing Tip:  Use a long piece of thread to slice your rolls.   Just slide the thread under the log of dough and where both ends cross at the top, pull opposite directions and your pieces will slice nice and easy - much better than a knife. 
Into the Oven We Go
Place your rolls into the round pan with the "sticky" sauce.   Line the rolls along the edge and put the remainder in the middle.  It's ok for them to touch.   Bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown.    Let cool and then flip over onto a plate.   Because you lined the pan with foil, this is really easy and doesn't leave you with pan coated with sticky sauce.   Right out of the oven - these are amazing!
Bottom right: Before Baking
Top right:  After Baking
Left:  Flipped onto the plate for immediate consumption
Recipe Source:  Everyday Food Magazine, October 2012 

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