CARAMEL FILLED CUPCAKES – A Tasty Development!

caramel filled cupcakes text2Every now and then I get an idea for a recipe that I think will be a piece of cake (pun intended!) to develop. It never is.

The saga of my CARAMEL FILLED CUPCAKES began with an inspiration from Hostess Cupcakes and Cadbury Caramel Eggs. I envisioned biting into a firm cupcake filled with, not white fluff, but with creamy caramel. The recipes I found called for baking a chocolate cupcake, digging out divots from the tops, and filling with caramel sauce.

First of all, cutting out the divots seemed like a lot of messy work. Second of all, what to do with all the divots? (I hate waste!) So, I figured I’d just pour batter into the tins and drop in homemade caramel. FAIL! All that happened was the caramel blended with the batter during baking. Tasty, but not what I wanted.

I tried freezing the caramel into balls and adding it to the batter. Same result as before since it turns out caramel doesn’t freeze. (Who knew?) I tried dropping in the caramel at different times during baking. Same. Finally, I decided I needed to encase the caramel – like the Cadbury Eggs. It couldn’t actually be Cadbury Eggs, though, since not only are they seasonal, but they’re huge.

After scouring the candy departments of various stores (what I won’t do for my blog!), I had a eureka moment when I found Lindt’s chocolate covered caramels. They were just the right size and shape! Getting closer. I dropped them into the batter. They sank to the bottom, leaking caramel. I wanted the caramel in the middle – like Hostess Cupcakes’ fluff. How could I keep the balls suspended?

It finally hit me to bake a wee bit of batter in order to form a solid base for the balls, then add the balls, surrounding them with batter, and complete the bake. Yes!!! The last tweak was freezing the balls first so they remained intact.

NOTE: Just so you know, the many cupcakes that bombed were still eaten. I HATE WASTE!

CARAMEL FILLED CUPCAKES – makes 18 cupcakes

  • 18 caramel filled chocolate 1″ balls (I use Lindt), frozencaramel filled cupcakes 15
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli 60% bar – not chips)
  • 1/3 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup (4-1/8 oz) bread flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 6 T vegetable oil
  • 1¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% chips)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt

The first thing to do is freeze the chocolate-caramel balls. (I store them in the freezer immediately when I buy them.) They need to be solid to prevent melting during baking.

Break up the bittersweet chocolate bar into small pieces (so they melt quicker) and put into a bowl (or better yet, a 6 cup or more spouted measuring cup – the spout makes pouring the batter into the cupcake tin much easier). Sift the cocoa powder (cocoa powder tends to get lumpy in storage) into the bowl. caramel filled cupcakes4Pour in the HOT coffee. Immediately cover bowl with a plate to retain heat in order to melt the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften, then stir until all chocolate is melted and mixture is well blended. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.caramel filled cupcakes5 Into another bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.bundt2 Line your muffin tins with 18 regular-sized cupcake papers.

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit. 

Into yet another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, vinegar, and oil. caramel filled cupcakes6Pour egg mixture into cooled melted chocolate and stir. (You don’t want the chocolate to be too hot or it could could cook the eggs.)caramel filled cupcakes7Add in flour mixture and mix well – this is one instance where you want a little toughness to the cake so it holds up to the caramel. caramel filled cupcakes8Pour 1 tablespoon into the bottom of each liner. Don’t put in more or the caramel ball will sit too high. This small bit of batter is going to form a barrier against the caramel, preventing it from seeping into the paper. caramel filled cupcakes9Bake for 6 minutes (SET A TIMER!!!) in the preheated 350º F oven. Remove from oven. Set a frozen caramel ball on top of each baked cake bit, dead center (do your best).caramel filled cupcakes12 Then pour batter around and on top of ball, 1/3″ from top of paper. (This is where a spouted measuring cup comes in handy! Use a spoon to catch the drips.) caramel filled cupcakes13Return to oven and bake at 350º F for another 11 minutes. Remove from oven and keep cupcakes in hot muffin tin 10 minutes to set. Remove cupcakes – with papers – to a wire rack to completely cool.caramel filled cupcakes14 To make ganache frosting, place chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt in a bowl. ganache1Heat cream until bubbles form along sides – don’t let it boil.ganache2 Immediately pour over chips, cover with a plate, and let melt for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. If the chips don’t completely melt, pour mixture into a small saucepan and, over a very low heat, stir until melted. Allow to cool completely so it thickens, stirring now and then. Pipe ganache on cupcakes, or just frost with a knife.

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TIRAMISU: An Elegant Dessert That Takes Minutes To Prepare!

tiramisu text2You know that feeling at the end of a filling meal when you want just a little something sweet? TIRAMISU is the perfect solution. Although it looks rich and creamy, it’s actually very light. In fact, give me a fork and I could easily ingest the entire pan. (Thank goodness for will power.)

While it’s extremely fast to prepare, and no-bake, it needs to be made at least 6 hours before serving to chill and set. To me, this is perfect for company. If I can get one thing done ahead of time, then mama’s a happy camper! (And you know what they say if mama ain’t happy!)

NOTE: This recipe can be doubled, using a 9″x13″ casserole pan.

TIRAMISU

  • 1¼ cups coffee (brewed or instant)
  • 4 T dark rum, divided
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3/4 lb mascarpone, cold
  • 6 T heavy cream
  • 26 ladyfingers – DON’T buy the soft kind – they turn to mush. Buy the hard ones, such as Savoiardi.
  • 2 T Dutch process cocoa, divided
  • optional: chocolate shavings for decoration

NOTE: I would be remiss in my Queen of Freeze duties if I didn’t remind you that the unused egg whites removed from the 3 egg yolks can be frozen for future use!!!

In a bowl wide enough to dip the ladyfingers sideways (such as a cereal bowl), combine the coffee and 2 T of the rum. Set aside to cool. tiramisu14In the small bowl of your electric mixer, put the egg yolks. Beat on low speed about 5 seconds, just to break them up. tiramisu1Add in the sugar and salt. Turn mixer to medium speed and beat 1 minute. The yolks will turn pale and thick. tiramisu2Pour in the remaining 2 T rum and beat on medium 30 seconds. Add in the cold mascarpone and beat on medium for about 30 seconds, until there are no lumps. tiramisu3Empty mixture into a large bowl.tiramisu5 In the now-empty mixing bowl (you don’t have to clean it), pour the cream. Beat on high until soft peaks form. tiramisu4Stir 1/3 of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to loosen texture. Fold in remaining whipped cream. tiramisu6Have ready an 8″x8″ pan (or it’s equivalent), the ladyfingers, and the coffee mixture. Holding a ladyfinger at the midsection, quickly dip one long, flat side into the coffee (submerge less than 1/4″ – don’t go midway), turn it over and dip the other side. Shake off any excess liquid. (The goal is to get just the outside portion of the cookie wet so it will remain crispy in the center – you want the coffee flavor, but not the mush.) tiramisu7Then place the dipped ladyfinger in the pan. Continue on, lining up the ladyfingers in the same direction, until the bottom is covered. By the time you get to the last one, they will have become somewhat softer. You can probably shove them together to make room for one more in each row. tiramisu8Cover ladyfingers with half of the mascarpone, smoothing evenly. tiramisu9Place 1 T cocoa powder in a small sieve. Stir the cocoa with a spoon to sprinkle cocoa evenly over mascarpone. (Cocoa tends to clump – the spoon breaks them up.)tiramisu10Add the second layer of ladyfingers, dipping as above, laying them in the opposite direction of the first layer. Fit as many cookies as you can, although you may not need them all. Save the undipped ones for future use. tiramisu11Spread on remaining mascarpone evenly, then sprinkle on the remaining 1 T cocoa. tiramisu13Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 6 hours. (I make it the night before.) You’ll notice the cocoa will turn a deeper chocolate color due to condensation.

If you want to add chocolate shavings on top, run a sharp, non-serrated knife along the edge of a room temperature chocolate bar. I shave them onto a cold plate so they don’t get melty. (It’s easier to use a longer piece of chocolate, but this is all I had.)chocolate shavesKeep TIRAMISU in refrigerator until ready to serve.

CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE – No Frosting Needed!

chocolate bundt cake textIs it possible to have too much chocolate cake? I ask this because in the last 2 weeks I’ve baked 4 chocolate bundt cakes.

As many of you know, I’m a from-scratch baker. So I’ve been on a quest to adapt the Chocolate Bundt Cake my mother made from my youth. This was a recipe floating around back then, calling for, among other ingredients, boxed chocolate cake mix and boxed chocolate pudding mix.

The original cake was known for its moistness. And therein lay the problem. I found America’s Test Kitchen recipe, which required butter for the fat. While it tasted good, the crumb was very fine and dry. Since my mom’s recipe used oil, I thought I’d try half the butter and half the oil from each recipe. I, also, used dark brown sugar thinking the molasses would add extra moisture. Better, but still not there.

Since I was moving in the right direction, I omitted the butter altogether and used all oil, increasing it a little since I wasn’t using the boxed products. Much better.

My final tweak was to switch Dutch processed cocoa for the natural cocoa. Dutch processed cocoa tends to produce moister bakes plus an extra chocolatey flavor. By jove, I think I’ve got it!

So, in answer to my opening question: NOOOOO! It’s not possible to have too much chocolate bundt cake. To be honest, the hard part is restricting myself to one slice per day. (Thank goodness I have a coffin-sized deep freezer which is now full of frozen portions of chocolate bundt cake!)

Note: If you don’t have an electric mixer, you can mix by hand. Don’t use a food processor, though – it’s too powerful.

Additional Note:  You experienced bakers out there may be surprised to notice that I’m using baking soda with Dutch processed cocoa. Normally, one would use baking powder as the leavener with Dutch processed. But since this recipe has sour cream and dark brown sugar (both acidic), the baking soda will be activated.

CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE

  • 6 oz 60% bittersweet chocolate (use bar chocolate, not chips) (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 3/4 cup + 1 T Dutch processed cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 tsp instant coffee crystals
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 11 oz (2 cups, packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 8 oz (1 cup) sour cream
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
  • 1 T butter

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Chop bittersweet chocolate into 1/2″-ish or less sized pieces. If you’re using a thin bar such as Ghirardelli, then you can break it by hand. Place pieces in a medium sized bowl. Sift the 3/4 cup cocoa into the bowl. (Cocoa tends to clump. Sifting will make for a smoother chocolate mixture.) bundt1Add in the coffee crystals and pour in the boiling water. Cover with a plate and let sit for 5 minutes to begin the melting process. After 5 minutes, stir. It probably won’t be completely melted yet. Cover with plate and let sit another couple of minutes. Stir again and let sit uncovered to cool.bundt4Into another bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. (In the picture I’ve not stirred yet.)bundt2Crack all 5 eggs into a tall glass. You’ll be adding the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Rather than cracking them one by one (and maybe getting bits of shell into the batter) as you beat the batter, you can just pour them from the glass – they’ll pour out one at a time quite easily. Set aside.bundt3Into the large bowl of your electric stand mixer put the brown sugar and oil. bundt6Turn on low to start (so the sugar doesn’t fly out), increasing to medium speed. Beat for 1 minute on medium. bundt7Add in vanilla and 1 egg. Beat for 20 seconds. Continue adding eggs one at a time, beating 20 seconds after each.bundt9Dump in about 1/3 of the flour mixture (you can just estimate) and beat on low to blend.bundt12Add in 1/2 of chocolate mixture and beat on low to blend.bundt13Add in half of remaining flour mixture and beat on low. Add in remaining chocolate mixture and beat on low. Finally, add in remaining flour mixture, beating until there’s still a little flour showing. Add in chocolate chips and beat on low, blending until all of flour is incorporated.bundt22Into a small bowl put the extra 1 T cocoa. Melt butter and pour into cocoa, stirring to make a paste. bundt8Using a pastry brush, coat the entire interior of bundt pan (even if it’s nonstick!). Use all of it – your cake will slide right out when done.bundt11Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. TIP:  Cover hole in bundt pan to prevent batter accidentally spilling into hole. The lid from a spice bottle works perfectly. So does a Dixie cup. REMEMBER TO REMOVE IT BEFORE PLACING PAN IN OVEN!!! (If you look carefully, you can see an indentation in my lid caused by me forgetting to remove it. I remembered after about 10 minutes in the oven. It melted a little, but is still usable for this purpose. And, more importantly, the cake was fine. bundt23Bake at 350º F for 45 – 55 minutes, gently rotating after 30 minutes. (Mine is done at 45 minutes, but your oven may not be as hot as mine.) Check for doneness with a toothpick. bundt18Because of the chocolate chips, there may be a little chocolate on the toothpick. Try another area to be sure it’s not raw batter (crumbs are okay). Let set 20 minutes in pan.

Using a rounded knife, loosen cake from outside edge of pan. bundt19Place a rack on top and flip. bundt20Remove bundt pan – the cake will have dropped to rack.bundt21 Let cool at least 4 hours.

Liberally sift on powdered sugar. (You can drizzle on a ganache if you like, but with the chocolate chips inside, I think it’s overkill.)

 

 

 

 

SAWDUST PIE – An Unfortunate Name For Such A Dreamy Pie!

sawdust pie textI hate wasting food! So, as the self-proclaimed Queen Of Freeze, I’m constantly freezing little bits of leftover this or that for future use. And it’s paid off many times.

One thing I always seem to have a plethora of is egg whites because so many dessert recipes call for yolks only. Unfortunately, aside from meringue (which I still have yet to perfect), there aren’t that many recipes in which to use them…..until now.

While watching a baking competition, I was ecstatic when a home cook from Kentucky made a Sawdust Pie that called for 7 egg whites! First of all, it looked amazing. And, second of all:  7 egg whites!!! I found and followed an online recipe. While I liked the general idea, I didn’t care for the coconut, wanted to change the consistency so it was firmer, add a variety of chips, and embed the pastry crust with graham cracker crumbs. I altered the recipe and made it my own.

This is a fast and easy pie to assemble, but needs to refrigerate at least 8 hours to firm up so it doesn’t gush when sliced. Thus, plan ahead!

By the way, I’m guessing the name “Sawdust” Pie comes from the abundance of graham cracker crumbs in the filling.

Note:  I strongly encourage you to make your own pie crust. Honestly, it’s simple and so much tastier (not to mention cheaper!). But, you can purchase one, if you must. I’ve included my recipe for you adventurous souls.

SAWDUST PIE

Single pie crust

  • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/2 cup Crisco shortening, chill if it’s a hot day
  • 4 – 5 T ice water
  • 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs – about 2 rectangles

Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit.

You can either use a food processor or a pastry cutter to mix the Crisco and flour. (I prefer to use the pastry cutter since it’s easy and I hate to wash the food processor just for this.)

For the pastry cutter method, put the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl and mix with the pastry cutter. sawdust10Add in the Crisco and use the cutter to combine the flour and Crisco. sawdust11 Work until it resembles a coarse meal.sawdust12For the food processor method, put the flour, salt, and sugar in work bowl and pulse a couple of times. Add in the Crisco and pulse several times, until mixture forms a coarse meal. Empty into a mixing bowl. You are NOT adding the water in the food processor – your dough will be tough!!!

Sprinkle 4 T ice water into the flour mixture. Using a fork, gently slice with the side of the tines to mix. The goal is to use enough water to incorporate all the flour so it forms a ball, but not be too wet. You may need a little more water – I usually do. Don’t overwork the dough or it will be tough. sawdust5Form the dough into a tight ball and chill at least 30 minutes to make it easier to roll. sawdust6Sprinkle flour, then 2 T graham crackers on a flat surface to prevent the dough from sticking. sawdust7Place the dough ball in the center. With floured hands, push down the dough with one hand while pressing in the sides with the other. This will help keep the edges from fraying. sawdust8Sprinkle some flour on the flattened dough and spread it around so the rolling pin doesn’t stick. sawdust1Using a floured rolling pin, begin rolling the dough from the center out in all directions. When it gets to be about 8″ in diameter, push in the edges again – they’ll probably be fraying again. Lift up the edges and brush the graham cracker crumbs underneath. sawdust2Roll until the diameter is about 12½”. Sprinkle 2T graham cracker crumbs over the top of the pastry and lightly press them in with your fingertips. (Don’t use the rolling pin – the crumbs tend to stick to it.)sawdust3Place the pie pan next to the circle. Fold dough in half towards you, then carefully lift it to pan. Unfold and center it, gently adjusting pastry so it fits into the corners.  If the dough splits, just overlap it and press it together. Leaving a 1/2″ overhang border from the pie pan edge, cut away excess dough with kitchen scissors. Crimps edges by rolling this 1/2″ border in on itself, then pinching with thumbs and forefingers. sawdust4Cut a piece of waxed or parchment paper about 2″ longer than diameter of pie pan. Place on top of pastry and fill with pie weights or raw beans (that’s what I use). Very gently work the paper and beans into corners so the beans weigh down the entire bottom. sawdust14Parbake at 425º F for 7 minutes. Remove the paper and weights by pulling one corner of the paper slowly towards the center, then the opposite corner towards the center, then one of the other corners, and the final one. Grab all 4 and lift it out in a rolling motion – don’t pull straight up or the center may still be stuck. Bake another 5 minutes, then remove and cool.sawdust13 Filling

  • 7 egg whites
  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs – about 5 oz (10 rectangles)
  • 1/2 cup raw oatmeal (OR 1/2 cup all-purpose flour)
  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1½ cups walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

NOTE:  The oats or flour are a thickener. Either will do, but I prefer the oats just a wee bit.

If using oats, grind them finely in a food processor or blender.sawdust9Using an electric mixer or rotary egg beater, beat egg whites until frothy on medium/low  speed about 30 seconds – just to break them up.

Add in the graham cracker crumbs, ground oats (or flour), brown sugar, and salt. Mix on low speed just to blend.

Stir in walnuts, milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chips, and butterscotch chips.

Pour into pie crust and bake at 350º F for 25-30 minutes. I find 28 minutes is perfect for my oven. You’re looking for a slight wobble in just the center, not the whole top. sawdust15Cool on rack completely, then refrigerate at least 8 hours.

 

 

 

 

OATMEAL BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES: Thick And Chewy!

oatmeal butterscotch cookie textOnce I fine-tune a recipe to my liking, I move on. However, I’m not a gal so set in her ways that I’m not willing to be flexible about revisiting a recipe. (This does NOT apply to household activities in which I’m constantly suggesting (okay, nagging) that my husband put his keys and wallet in the same spot so he doesn’t have to spend 15 minutes daily looking for them.)

Three years ago I created an OATMEAL CHIP COOKIE which I loved. So when I recently saw a chewy oatmeal cookie recipe in Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I nearly gave it a miss. But, I like to learn about the science of cooking, so I read it. One thing lead to another and I decided to make them, adding butterscotch chips…just because.

They were chewy, moist, and the butterscotch was a perfect additional to the bland oatmeal. I’m a convert!

QUEEN OF FREEZE TIP:  Cookies (both baked and the batter) freeze well. Surprisingly, they don’t loose moisture when thawed. Just set the frozen cookies on a plate for a couple of hours and, presto – dessert!

OATMEAL BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES – makes about 22-23

  • 5 oz (1 cup + 2 T) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 T butter (salted)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 5¼ oz (3/4 cup + 2 T) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, whole
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats (not the quick cooking kind)
  • 2/3 cup butterscotch chips

NOTE:  It’s best to weight ingredients like flour and brown sugar. This gives you an exact amount, which is important in baking. Even 1 tablespoon too much or little makes a difference. I included cup amounts, just in case. But, if you don’t have a scale, put it on your birthday wish list!flour on scaleIn a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

Put butter in a light colored (such as silver) small skillet or saucepan. Over medium/high heat, melt and brown butter until it’s amber. There will be a lovely fragrance! This will take 2-3 minutes, so DON’T LEAVE UNATTENDED! Immediately pour into large mixing bowl.browning butter textStir in cinnamon until blended. Then, using a large spoon, add in brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, and vanilla, mixing until smooth.oatmeal cookie mixing1Lightly beat together the whole egg and yolk, then mix into batter. (Don’t add the eggs at the same time as this the sugars – the butter is still too warm and you don’t want to cook the eggs. Mixing in the sugars, etc cools down the butter.)egg beatenStir in the flour mixture until most of flour is incorporated.oatmeal cookie mixing2Finally, stir in oats and butterscotch chips.oatmeal cookie mixing3Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Note: Don’t make smaller cookies or you’ll loose the chewiness.

Place about 2½ – 3 T dough blobs on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Smoosh together to form cookie. Don’t crowd them – they’ll spread. You can get about nine per sheet.oatmeal cookie unbaked Bake at 375º F for 9-10 minutes. The key is to look at the edges, not the center. The edge should start to look baked, but the center should not be browned. Because the cookies will continue to cook on the hot sheet out of the oven, if you wait to remove them from the oven until they look baked, they’ll be overcooked.oatmeal cookie bakedLet cookies cool on cookie sheet before removing them to a wire rack.

 

KING CAKE: Pistachio Sweet Bread Works For This Mardi Gras Favorite!

king-cake1-textMardi Gras is filled with a number of traditions. A yummy one is King Cake – a rolled cake decorated with purple, gold, and green. Often a plastic Baby Jesus or treat is hidden in the cake for some lucky person to be served.

This particular cake (actually, it’s technically a bread), Pistachio Sweet Bread, is a favorite of our family throughout the year. My husband loves it with a cup of coffee.

NOTE: Because I was decorating the cake for Mardi Gras, I used colored sugar. And because I’m a wee bit obsessive, I made my own homemade colored sugar with natural ingredients. Of course, this takes longer. I’ve put directions at the end of the post for those of you who choose to be chemical-free.

PISTACHIO SWEET BREAD

  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 cup milk (I use nonfat)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 T  +1/2 cup  + 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup salted pistachio nuts, chopped & toasted
  • egg wash: 1 T egg + 1 T water, beaten together

At least an hour before starting the bread, cut up 1/4 cup butter and leave out to soften. (You’ll be using another 1/4 cup butter later.)

In a small saucepan over low flame, heat the milk, 1 T sugar, and water to 100º – 104º Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and stir in yeast. Let proof for about 5 minutes.

Into the work bowl of your food processor, put 3½ cups flour, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and the softened 1/4 cup butter. Turn on machine then slowly pour in the proofed milk mixture. Let run about 30 seconds before deciding if more flour is needed – the dough should begin to pull away from the sides but not form a clump. (I usually need to add about 2 T-ish.) Empty dough into a greased bowl, flip dough so both sides are greased, cover, and let rise 1½ hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Pat into a rectangle, then let rest about 5 minutes before rolling dough to finished size. (Letting the dough briefly rest decreases its elasticity.) Roll dough to 18″ x 12″. Brush on the 1/4 cup melted butter all the way to edge. Sprinkle on 1/3 cup sugar and pistachio nuts, patting them gently into dough. Roll up dough from long side, leaving seam on bottom of log. (Try not to let the ends taper, so the ring is uniform in size.) Bring ends together to form a ring. Using a little water on your fingers, pinch dough together.

Carefully transfer dough to a greased cookie sheet. (Don’t use a dark sheet – it browns the loaf too much.) Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375º F. When oven is hot and dough has risen, slice about halfway through dough in 1½” increments (I use kitchen shears). Brush with egg wash and bake 30 minutes, rotating cookie sheet after 15 minutes for even browning. Top should be lightly browned. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Let cool completely if you plan on frosting. If not, let cool about 20 minutes and serve warm.

WHITE FROSTING – makes 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 T milk

Beat together the butter, salt, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Add in milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. If frosting becomes too loose, add more powdered sugar.

COLORED SUGAR

Orange

  • 1/2 cup mango cubes
  • about 2 inches of carrot sliced very thinly

Boil carrots in water, covered, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Purée mango and drained carrots in blender.

Purple

  • 1/2 cup blackberries or blueberries

Purée berries with a little water, until paste-like.

Green

  • 1/2 cup spinach (don’t worry – you won’t taste spinach in the frosting)

Boil spinach with a little water for 15 minutes. Drain and purée.

To Make The Colored Sugar:

Place about 1/4 cup sugar in 3 bowls. Add about 1 tsp (depending on preference) of colored pastes to each bowl. Mix with backside of spoon until color is well distributed. It will be very thick. To dry, spread each color on a plate and let air dry. After a couple of hours or so, mix to break up clumps. Keep doing this until it’s pretty dry. Then smash out crystals with a flat bottomed glass or measuring cup. Spread out on plate and let dry some more. Repeat until you get dried colored sugar. Drying time will be dependent on weather and how much coloring you use. But, it will eventually dry.

CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

banana-bread-choc-chip-textOn its own, banana bread is delicious. Add in chocolate chips and you really up your game.

So often banana breads are mushy, especially along the top. This recipe, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, is moist, but not mushy – even days later (if it lasts that long).

CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

  • 6 T butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
  • 3 bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Melt butter, then set aside to cool a bit while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Into a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips.

Slice bananas, then mash them well using a fork.

Into a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Stir in the bananas, vanilla, yogurt, and melted butter. Fold in the flour mixture just until incorporated – you don’t want to overmix or it will become tough.

Grease and flour a loaf pan (I use Pyrex). Pour in batter, smoothing top. Bake at 350º F for 55 minutes. Let rest in pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.