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Archive for April, 2011

I really like baking blogs. I could spend an afternoon looking at all of the delicious foods that people make. I love the pictures that are displayed, the stories that are told, the ideas that emerge and the community feeling that comes from all of the helpful hints provided by the readers.

Who are my favorites? Check out: Smitten Kitchen (her Surprise Me! tab…genius, I may or may not have spent a day of undergraduate classes with my finger glued to this buttom…), Joy the Baker, My Baking Addiction, How Sweet It Is and Brown Eyed Baker. Those are my top go to’s and even though I don’t bookmark anything, or comment, I have been known to make a pad and paper list of things that I want to make.

So when Smitten Kitchen tells me about a recipe that is “one of her family’s three cakes,” I’m automatically convinced that I need to bake a cake asap. Family recipes are my favorite; if they have been kept around in the family then they are guaranteed to be good. This happened last week. I had an evening full of marking and prepping but decided to drop everything, head to the grocery store, bake this cake and then stay up late finishing my school work. Just great.

I’d call this more of a coffee cake rather than a cake. Regardless, this “cake” is good. Nice and sweet with a great topping/filler. After the first layer of  batter is poured, cinnamon sugar and chocolate chips are thrown on followed by another layer of batter and topping. A lot of people commented about the chocolate chips sinking to the bottom of the dish and/or not melting on the top layer. I had no problems with the first comment (I think it’s because I used mini chocolate chips) but the second point is true. Don’t expect a melted top, picture warm whole chocolate chips instead.

Delicious straight out of the oven and heated up, stays good for a few days and then dries out after day 3…as if it will take you that long to finish this tasty number!

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 stick butter            1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated          1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups low fat sour cream    3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder      1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Topping/Filling

Mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Mix in the egg yolks and vanilla.

Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder together in a separate bowl.

Alternately add sour cream and then dry ingredients into butter mixture.

Beat eggs whites until stiff. Fold into batter.

Mix last 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon together in a separate, small dish.

In a greased 9″x13″ pan, pour in half of the cake batter. Sprinkle the top with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and half of the chocolate chips. Pour remaining batter on top, sprinkling the top with remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. (I baked mine for 46 minutes)

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Lemon Bars

It’s almost Easter, the sun is shining, the cherry blossom trees are in bloom, I like where this is going. For some reason when I think about Easter treats I automatically think of lemon. I think it’s more of color association than anything. Lemon is yellow, yellow is bright like the sun, Easter should mean sunny weather and therefore Easter = lemon.

In other news, last Sunday I completed the Vancouver Sun Run, a 10 kilometer race, along with 49,000 other people. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect morning to run, sun shine, warm weather, good music and best of all, a good race time! I finished the race in 54 minutes and felt great…until the next day when the sore muscles kicked in. Regardless, I had a great time and am loving this spring weather.

Rather than going the full nine yards and baking up a lemon meringue pie I decided the other day that lemon bars would be the next best thing. Not the best thing, because nothing can beat tons of meringue loaded up on a pie, but something that I still enjoy.

I made these bars a few years ago for my friends wedding shower. Lemon bars are one of her favorite things so I figured they were a must bake. These are real good. The crust tastes like shortbread and the lemon layer isn’t too tart or too sweet, it’s just about perfect. If bright colors and good tasting treats are your thing then these are a must bake.

At least think about it. These will brighten up any dreary, rainy spring day, and besides, we all need a little tart in addition to all of those chocolates we are about to consume.

Lemon Bars

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Crust

1/2 pound butter            1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour        1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking sheet.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add in the flour and salt with the mixer on low.

In the bowl gather together the dough into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

Lemon Layer
3 eggs room                       1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest  1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup flour

Icing sugar, for dusting

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Dust with icing sugar.

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These past few days I’ve been rendered speechless. Literally. I have no voice, all that I can do is whisper…and struggle to get some sort of sound to come out of my voice box. When I started losing my voice my students told me that I sounded a) like a long time smoker and b) like a student going through puberty. Now I’d say that I sound like a croaking frog. Not pretty.

What to do when you are at home during the week and voiceless? Bake delicious treats for a friend/coworkers birthday! When these treats were brought in to work to celebrate my birthday this friend raved about how good the bars were. Was it the chocolate or cheesecake that she liked? Or just the combination? I took a shot in the dark and chose to go with the combination and thus these red velvet whoopie pies were created.

I’ve never made red velvet cake before but have had it on my to bake list. It’s so intriguing, something that tastes like chocolate, is bright red AND is iced with cream cheese. Brilliant. Besides, pumpkin whoopie pies had been a great idea so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with these. I think the people at work agreed. These were delicious in every way and I would make them again in a heartbeat, although I still want to make a full-fledged red velvet cake.  

Sorry for the fact that there was no birthday candle to blow out or happy birthday song sung. Consider the lack of singing my gift, because really, no one enjoys listening to croaking frogs.

 

 

 

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Red Velvet Cakes:
3 cups flour                    1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder      ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt                       ½ cup butter, at room temperature
½ cup shortening           ½ cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar                    2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla                    3 tsp red food coloring
1 tbsp vinegar + milk to make 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In another bowl beat together the butter, shortening and both sugars on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and the red food coloring and beat until just blended.

Add half of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk and beat until completely combined.

Using a spoon, drop a tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing at least 2 inches apart.

Bake one sheet at a time for 9 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese                1/2 cup softened butter

2 cups icing sugar                 1 tsp vanilla                          

1 tbsp milk (I used 1%)

Beat together cream cheese and butter until completely mixed.

Add the icing sugar 1 cup at a time. Mix in the vanilla and milk.

Assemble the pies.

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Banana Pinwheels

 

What do you do when you come home from a holiday and everything is empty? The fridge looks bare, items are sporadically arranged in the cupboards and worst of all the freezer stares back with a longing desire to be filled again. No muffins, no cookies, no nothing.

What else can a girl do but bake!? That’s where these come into play. Sort of like a cinnamon bun, I guess they are called pinwheels. Who knows. I will call them good. In between the layers of dough appear slices of bananas. The bananas that were used in my case were a bit on the greener side so they were harder/chewier. If I were to make this recipe again I’d use ripe bananas. The flavour might be a bit better/stronger in that case too.

Cinnamon buns are probably one of my favorite things. I do have standards though, and yes, those standards are, as you would have guessed, quite high. I like ooey gooey buns, sticky buns, buns with lots of cinnamon and flavour, buns with raisins inside (a must in my opinion), and very importantly, buns that are topped with cream cheese icing. Oh, and warm buns. Warm gooey cinnamon buns with raisins topped with cream cheese icing are theeeee best (in case you needed a summary of all that).

My ultimate favorites come from a bakery that I used to work at in Victoria, Bubby Rose Bakery. Their sticky buns are seriously to die for. Everytime I go back to the island a stop there is a must. If you go be sure to get your bun warmed, you’ll thank me…that sounds wrong, but it’s so true! 

Long winded story short, if you want to try something a little different make these banana pinwheels, and if you want to find the best sticky bun out there go to Victoria. And lastly, if you have a no fail, delicious and irresistible every time, cinnamon bun recipe, please share! I’ll pay you back with cookies (bribes work, right?)

Banana Pinwheels

2 cups flour                          3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt                           6 tbsp shortening

2/3 cup milk + 2 tbsp            3 tbsp softened butter

2 1/2 ripe bananas                6 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425F.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening until crumbly.

Add milk, a tablespoon at a time and stir until a soft dough is formed.

Turn onto a floured countertop and knead 30 seconds. Roll into an oblong about 1/4 inch thick and spread with butter.

Slice bananas and lay evenly over dough. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over bananas. Roll up like a jelly roll and cut into 1 inch slices.

Place in a greased 9×13 pan cut side up and brush tops with butter. Bake for 15 minutes.

Yield: 12 pinwheels

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1 of the many perks of being a high school teacher…spring break. Even better…a 2 week spring break. The best part…a 10 day southern Caribbean cruise. The worst part…returning from 27C weather to 5C and pouring rain, oh, and probably gaining a zillion pounds. My stomach has officially expanded.

Climbing rocks and getting drenched by a wave in Aruba, snorkelling in Bonaire, having a monkey sit on my shoulder in Grenada, going to waterfalls in Dominica, having a walk-in only most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen all to myself in St. Thomas and kayaking/drinking pina coladas on the beach at Princess Keys made for an amazing vacation. Tired and stressed out? You should go on this vacation.

Food. Good food. But so much food. More specifically desserts, my favorite. From oatmeal raisin cookies to tiramisu to german chocolate cake to pecan pie, you name it, they had it…and I tried it. Those photos above were all served in the dining room and include a: hazelnut toffee cake, apple strudel, cookies and cream parfait, floating islands of meringue, chocolate souffle and a variety of different treats. One of my favorites were the blueberry blintzes. Crepes stuffed with warm blueberry sauce. Instead of dessert they were my lunch. I didn’t regret it for a second.

Favorite food memory of the trip: the baked alaska that the waiters paraded around the dining room and then served at our table. I opted for a different dessert that night but my dad ended up being served a piece that was a quarter of the cake. Enormous. Needless to say my help was required. Unfortunately we still weren’t able to finish off the huge piece. Maybe more training is required for such an event?

And now, back to reality. Thank you Princess Cruises for an amazing time. I thoroughly enjoyed every second. The food was incredible, the service was excellent and the sunshine that you provided couldn’t have been any better. I’m glad that I’m now a darker shade of white.

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