Biscoff Brownies

I hope I do not not have to explain in very long detail what Biscoff cookies are and how wonderful they are. Because hopefully, you’ve been on a flight where the attendant has served you a pair wrapped in red cellophane and you’ve had the pleasure of eating these curiously, simply, delicious cookies.

They are so much better than plane peanuts! So much better that it’s actually unfair to judge them in the same category of plane snacks. I could hardly believe it the first time I had them on a flight. The attendant was coming down the aisle with the beverage cart and I got ready to answer the inevitable question, “peanuts or pretzels?” with *sigh*, “peanuts, please” when before I could get my answer out, she said, “peanuts or cookies?” And I thought, hold the phone! What kinda cookies are we talkin’ about here? I CAN NOT pass up sweets. And the rest is history,  that’s when I first fell in love with the taste of Biscoff cookies and their ability make air travel a bit more bearable.

My friend Liz feels the same way about Biscoff as I do, which must be why we are such good friends. She was telling me about  this stuff called Biscoff spread, which is made from the cookies and is used as a peanut butter substitute in some parts of Europe. I was amazed and expressed that I would really like to try some. Liz just visited me in Raleigh this past week, and that dear-heart brought me my own jar of Biscoff spread. Oh sweet heavens!

I was licking it right out of the jar in no time. After enjoying it that way like a wild animal, I decided I should use it in a more civilized manor…so I used my appendages and hand tools to scoop it out on top of brownies, like a human being.

p.s. I used a  Ghirardelli fudge brownie mix because my kitchen is not fully stocked in this sublet and because they make THE BEST BROWNIES IN THE WORLD.

p.p.s. To get the swirls on top, I poured three horizontal rows of warmed Biscoff spread and using the end of a butter knife drew a line through the rows going in alternating directions.

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Cinnamon Buns – Raleigh edition

I finally made it to Raleigh! And it’s legit!

I have my own place, I’m slowly figuring out the urban landscape, and Dan has introduced me to a network of really nice people. Everything is falling into place. Now, if I could just nail down the tricky task of getting a job. That is my final hurdle in this process.

The last time I made these cinnamon buns, I was visiting Dan in Raleigh and it seemed fitting to make them again. It’s strange having spare time to bake again, because while working at Lucy & Leo’s in Tallahassee, baking at home after a long shift of baking at work wasn’t always what I felt like doing. I’m relieved to know that I still get the urge to bake at home when I’m not extremely tired and caked with flour and powdered sugar. It’s also nice to know that the my new oven works well!

This recipe yields quite a few buns and are best enjoyed the morning you make them, so I suggest using this recipe for brunch parties or post sleepover breakfasts.

Cinnamon Buns w/ Cream Cheese frosting (Yields about 10 buns)

Dough:

1 package dry active yeast (1/4 oz.)

1 cup warm milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup softened butter

2 eggs

1 tsp. salt

4 cups flour

Filling:

1 cup packed brown sugar

2  tbsp. cinnamon

1/3 cup softened butter

Icing:

8 tbsp. melted butter

1/4 cup softened cream cheese

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or until you reach desired sweetness and thickness)

cream cheese frosting

Directions:

For rolls, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl. Add the sugar, softened butter, and eggs. Mix well with a whisk or hand mixer for several minutes. Add the salt and flour and mix until just combined. Dough will be sticky.

Cover the bowl with a towel and let dough rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half.

Once the dough has risen, preheat oven to 400 F. Roll dough out on a floured surface, until it is approximately 21 inches long by 16 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. I definitely did not measure my dough, I just eyed it. I rolled it out into a large rectangle shape and made sure the thickness was even.

For filling, combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread the softened butter over surface of dough, then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture evenly over surface.

Roll dough down from the top edge to the bottom edge. If you were folding a sheet of paper the same way, you’d fold it “hot dog” style.

Cut dough into desired 1 3/4 inch slices and place in lightly greased pan. Bake for 10 minutes. I wound up baking mine for close to 20 so that the centers were fully cooked and the edges were golden brown.

Beer Bread – Superbowl Edition

I have hardly any inclinations towards sports but there are a few exceptions. Those being soccer, hockey, and the excuse-to-feast that is the SUPERBOWL. I normally don’t root for any team in particular during Superbowl games, I just want it to be an exciting game (which this year’s was!) My roommates felt the same way, we just wanted an excuse to make a bunch of food.

However, considering what I made for the watch party, you’d guess I was rooting for one team in particular. I can’t help it that Wisconsin makes such delicous cheese and soaks their brats in micro-brewed beer. How can you not root for a place like that? I decided to make beer cheese fondue that we could dip the beer bread, beer-soaked brats, and fruit into.

Beer bread is one of the easiest quick breads to make. And it consistently comes out beautiful. There are also numerous variations of the recipe that you can experiment with. For instance, the recipe I used below called for dill and cheddar cheese, but I also added rosemary and garlic for more flavor. You can also experiment with different beers and ales. For this batch, I just used Miller Lite but a darker beer would bring out a deeper flavor.

The fondue was also really easy to make. I had never made fondue before, so I was wary going into the process, but it’s not a big deal at all. Here’s the recipe I used. Bread, brats, fruit, and veggies are great for dipping.

Sarah dipping into the 'due.

In the end, we all know which team came out on top. But I think the real winner of yesterday’s match up was the food. It brings sports fans and non-fans together through the common love for all things dippable and bacon wrapped. It’s really just a fun time of the year to jump on a team bandwagon, then maybe jump off at half-time, and then jump back on again in time to yell and cheer for the victors.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s feast!

 

Beer Bread (adapted from Farmgirl Fare)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 2 tsps. dried)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 tsps. dried)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese

12 ounces beer

Optional glaze:

1 egg and 2 tsps. water, beaten. Brush on 15 minutes into baking. It gives the top of the loaf a beautiful, golden color.

Directions:

Heat oven to 375°. Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, dill, rosemary, garlic, and cheddar in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in beer and mix just until combined. Batter will be thick. Spread in a greased 8-in. loaf pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool 10 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Chai tea on the side

So I guess fall has arrived. At least I think it has…there are the usual signs of fall such as pumpkins in the grocery store, turtlenecks, and the slew of Facebook statuses proclaiming love for the new nightly lows. So why am I sitting in my sweltering house with the fan on the “hurricane gale” setting? I almost didn’t want to cook dinner tonight because it meant turning on the stove top and in my tiny kitchen, that makes for a downright balmy cooking experience. I never thought I would be the one to say this, but I was considering salad as an entree substitute.

I shouldn’t be surprised by the change in weather. Florida always seems to deliver a teaser week of cool, crisp weather and then as quickly as it comes, it goes leaving rain and humidity in its place. Right now, I am really missing the evenings that my roommates and I were able to leave the windows and doors open. I even got to enjoy beers on the front porch for the first time since moving into the new place.

This little number, pumpkin bread pudding, was definitely made during the weeks of cool weather when turning on my oven wasn’t something dreadful. In fact, it was refreshing. I hadn’t baked in a long time (save for the nectarine cake) and I felt really excited to be opening my first canned pumpkin of the year. I’m sure there will be more to come.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Found on Food.com, serves 6

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup bourbon
1/3 cup hot water
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated suagr
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
1 loaf day-oldbrioche bread or 1 loaf challah, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F Butter six 10-ounce ramekins or custard cups, and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and set aside on a baking sheet. Place raisins in a small bowl, and cover with bourbon, if using, and the hot water; let soak until plump, about 20 minutes. Drain; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, granulated sugar, milk, vanilla, spices, and salt. Toss in the bread cubes and stir gently to evenly coat; let stand for a few minutes. Fold in the raisins. Divide among prepared dishes, pressing down slightly to make level.
  3. Bake until custard is set in the center and top is golden, about 40 minutes. If bread browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Remove from oven; let cool slightly. To serve, un-mold onto plates; dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Nectarine Cake

This is the first thing I have baked in months! I am a little ashamed but I’ve reasoned to myself  that when you have a job where you bake close to 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, you don’t exactly feel like cranking the oven on and rolling up your sleeves when you get home. Sure, I could have experimented with making preserves or ice creams, like I had imagined, but that didn’t exactly pan out. And what a pity…that would have been cool.

Oh well, I am moving on, spurred by gastronomic motivation. And by moving on, I am suggesting loads of pumpkin recipes, apple cider, flavored butters, homemade ravioli (fingers crossed), and pies. I love pies! To be a bit more specific, I loves tarts and tortes, especially when you can just pop them right out of their pans and serve.

The job that I previously mentioned, although strenuous at times, has taught me so many valuable tricks and techniques. For instance, I have grown a deep appreciation for watching butter and sugar cream together on medium-high speed into pale, fluffy peaks and for adding eggs one at a time so that they emulsify with the fats in the mixture producing a cake so soft and airy, you’ll eat the whole thing yourself. Oh! And maybe most importantly, I have learned which ingredients to never skimp on, vanilla extract is one of those ingredients. I have a bottle of vanilla extract that I’m pretty sure was derived from the tears of Hestia herself.

This recipe will really shine if you heed the advice of many bakers and whip the hell out of the butter, sugar, and eggs. You can’t really mix too long, unless your arm is getting tired. But try to give it a good 4 minutes and then you will feel proud and then your biceps will thank you.

Nectarine Cake

from Gourmet Magazine, September 2009, serves 8

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
Rounded 1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, soft
3/4 cup plus 1/2 Tbs sugar, divided
2 large eggs
¼ c sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp pure almond extract
2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg (freshly grated nutmeg would be wonderful)

Equipment: a 9-inch springform pan

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F with rack in middle. Lightly butter springform pan.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. Beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in sour cream and extracts. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined.

4. Spread batter evenly in pan, then scatter nectarines over top. Stir together nutmeg and remaining 1/2 Tbsp sugar and sprinkle over top. Bake until cake is golden-brown and top is firm but tender when lightly touched (cake will rise over fruit), 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove side of pan and finish cooling, or serve warm.

Biscuits and Apple Butter

Earlier this month, I flew to Raleigh to visit Daniel. It was my first time being in Raleigh and it was such a fun time! And I’m relieved that it was because it’s where I’m trying to move in a year or so. At first, I planned on keeping my job search strictly to bakeries in the Triangle area, but after visiting the city and seeing how much it has to offer, I decided to expand my options. Raleigh and the surrounding areas are home to great microbreweries, my favorite being Fullsteam, a new establishment whose mission is to develop a “Southern craft beer identity”.

Raleigh is home to another great place called The Cupcake Shoppe, the first and only cupcakery in the city. I went in for a cupcake and to drop off a resume. The shop is really cool. It reminds me of the personality and character of where I work in Tallahassee, a small business with local flair. While there, I picked out two cupcakes, Red Velvet and Fluffernutter. In all my travels and cupcake tastings, those frostings were the best I’ve ever tried. I’ve got to stay loyal to my shop’s Red Velvet cake though, it’s just that good!

After all of that, the place that inspired me most was The Flying Biscuit, a brunch place with several locations in the area. Usually, I don’t expect much from franchise establishments and would almost always rather eat at a quaint hole-in-the-wall place, but I’ve learned that judging something too early can be your loss. And fortunately for us, we didn’t miss out on a thing. We had a feast of warm biscuits smeared with cranberry apple butter, eggs benedict, roasted potatoes, granola, yogurt, and huge pieces of fruit. The biscuits were the best part and I was inspired to try some at home. I’ll be the first to say that my version turned out nothing like the ones I had, but the apple butter was the real star around my house. I’ll definitely be making more of that, as well as different variations, like pumpkin butter.

Here is the house recipe for The Flying Biscuits. Mine turned out nowhere near as soft and fluffy as theirs, but my experiments are not quite through.

But here is my fail-proof recipe for apple butter. It’s very time intensive, but not a big deal because once the ingredients are in the crock pot, you can go about your day.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 6 1/2 hours

Ingredients:

6-7 red delicious apples

1 cup cranapple juice, cider, or water

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Directions:

Peel the apples, then core and chop them. Combine the apples and juice, cider, or water in a crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours.

Afterwards, puree the apples in a food processor (or sieve). Return pureed apples to the crockpot and add the sugar and spices. Cover and cook again on high for 1-2 hours. If your mixture is liquidy after this process, try letting it sit in the fridge for a while to set up.

And put it on everything. It’s that good!

Apple Cranberry Cupcakes with Citron Cream Cheese

garnished with dried cranberries and cinnamon sugar

Hurry along, fall! I can’t take much more of this stagnant, humid heat. It’s always the same story every year, yearning for the cold during summer and then what do we want come winter? Yea…summer. We seem to want a little of both all year long.

This recipe for apple cranberry cupcakes is kind of like that. The cake is warm and toasty with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon, instant cues of an approaching fall season. But the orange zest in the batter and the orange extract in the cream cheese frosting leave a citrusy reminder that summer is still calescent.

I like these cupcakes best right out of the oven (or popped in the microwave for 30 seconds) so that the cake is warm and the frosting is melty. Also, the apples and cranberries are a nice contrast of sweet and tart.

Apple Cranberry Cupcakes, recipe adapted from Imaginary Ordinary Vegan

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

1 cup applesauce

3 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 cup dried cranberries

zest of 1 orange

3 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

3 cups chopped apples (about 3 apples)

Yields: about 12

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin tray with liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, oil, apple sauce, vanilla, cranberries, and orange zest. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set bowls aside.

Peel and chop the apples into small pieces and add them to the sugar and oil mixture. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Make sure everything is incorporated. Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Citron Cream Cheese:

1 stick butter, room temperature

8 ozs. cream cheese

1/8 tsp. orange extract (might require up to 1/4 tsp. extract)

3 cups powdered sugar (or until sweet and stiff)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add 1/8 tsp. orange extract, or more to taste. There should be just a hint of orange flavor. Add powdered sugar until the frosting becomes sweet and stiff. Pipe or smear onto cupcakes once they have cooled.

*This frosting can easily be made vegan by substituting margarine and Tofutti cream cheese for the butter and regular cream cheese.

Garnish with dried cranberries and cinnamon sugar.