Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

The craziest thing happened the other day, true story… My son, son #2 that is, who is home from school on spring break, brought packaged blueberry muffins into my house. You know the kind that are filled with all kinds of preservatives, calories, and lord knows what else. I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I spotted them sitting on the kitchen table. I said, dude, your mom writes a blog called Mama’s Gotta Bake! Think man, think!

Naturally I did what any good food blogger and mother would do, and raced to my kitchen and made my son homemade Blueberry Muffins with fresh, yes, fresh blueberries. I felt like I had restored order to the universe…

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from Williams – Sonoma

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated  sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, (equals = 1/2 cup, 4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly brush the insides and tops of a 12 well muffin tin. (I was able to make 12 regular sized and 12 mini muffins).
  2. Melt your stick of butter in a small dish, and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Then give it a good whisk to fully disperse the ingredients. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and cooled butter and add the eggs making sure that the milk/butter mixture is sufficiently cooled so that the eggs won’t scramble when you add them. Fold in the flour mixture and blend until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Gently add the blueberries, mixing to disperse them throughout the batter.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each one 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine were done at 15 minutes, 12 minutes for the mini-muffins), or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Run a sharp pairing knife around the edges and gently shake out muffins.

Makes 16 regular size muffins, or 12 regular size and 12 mini muffins

Baking Blueberry Muffins

Baking Blueberry Muffins

 

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Recipe: Easy


Sweet Rolls with Cardamom and Orange Glaze

rolls with CardamomSweet

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

When I began my first year away at college, I had heard about the dreaded “freshman fifteen”. It’s that bizarre anomaly that occurs the first time students go away to college and experience eating in the campus cafeteria where there’s not much that’s healthy, low calorie or pleasant tasting. Legend has it that most freshman will pack on fifteen pounds their first year. And sure enough, it happened to me. My mother claimed that when I came home for my winter break she hardly recognized me.

So do you know what the culprit was…Sweet Rolls. It was the one thing that the cafeteria at Rider University served that was actually edible. I used to eat them in mass quantities. So much so that the cafeteria ladies used to hide trays of them when they saw me coming so there would something left over for the other students. So that folks was how I began my lifelong obsession with the Sweet Roll.

Today I made these Sweet Rolls with Cardamom and Orange Glaze. This is not an overly sweet treat, they’re definitely more a roll than a pastry. I like to add cardamom which gives the roll a spicy-sweet taste and pairs very well with the orange glaze.

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom rising in the pan

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom 

Adapted from the LA Times

  • 2 packages of active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 – 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons, softened butter
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins (or brown ones, doesn’t matter) re-hydrated
  • 1/2 cup nuts, roughly chopped (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts or I used pistachios)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Directions

  1. Place 1/2 cup of warm water (between 105-115 degrees F) in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir it to dissolve it and let it sit to get foamy.
  2. Take your raisins and place them in a bowl covered in warm water and let them sit until you’re ready to use them. This will hydrate them and plump them up. When ready to use, drain and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  3. In a small pan, heat the 1/2 cup of milk until just simmering, then add the butter and stir until it’s melted. Next, stir in 2 teaspoons of the cardamom, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Let this liquid mixture cool to about 110 degrees F.
  4. Pour this mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the yeast mixture to it. Using the paddle attachment, beat in the eggs one at a time.  Now, change the paddle attachment to the dough hook and add 3 cups of flour to this mixture until dough is smooth. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom to incorporate all the flour.  Add more flour in small increments until the dough starts to come together. (I ended up using about 4 1/4 cups). Mix with the dough hook for about 5 minutes.  Lightly flour your surface, and with floured hands turn the dough out onto you board. Knead the dough until it becomes elastic.
  5. Take a large bowl (or large covered container) and spray it with cooking spray, or brush it lightly with oil.  Put the dough into the bowl, and turn it to coat it with the spray or oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough sit in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
  6. *Side Note: once the dough has risen, you can now punch it down and cover the bowl and put in the refrigerator overnight if you wish to make the rolls fresh for the next day. If you do that, the next day, take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit a room temperature for about an hour, punch down dough again, and roll out to make rolls.
  7. Punch down the dough, and roll it into a 20″ x 15″ rectangle. Make sure the dough is rolled out fairly thin, about 1/16″ so you don’t have overly “doughy” rolls.
  8. I melted my 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave, in small time increments, just so that the butter became smooth enough to spread with a pastry brush or offset spatula but not so much that it was liquid. Spread the butter over the top of the dough. Whisk together the 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Sprinkle over the top of the dough. Sprinkle the raisins and nuts over the top also. Using a microplane, zest the orange over the top of the dough.
  9. Now the process may get a little tricky, so hang in there. Starting at the longer side of the rectangle, tightly roll the dough into a cylinder. If the dough became a little sticky a lightly brushed a little flour on top of it. I took a ruler and made little slit marks every 1  1/4″ so that I cut my slices all the same width so that they would bake evenly.  Then place the cut rolls into a 9″ x 13″ buttered or sprayed baking dish. Cover with plastic and let rise until they double in size, about one hour. Place in a preheated 350 degree F oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. I rotated my pan after 15 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes.
  10. To make the glaze: Sift 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl and add just enough fresh orange juice to bring the sugar to a good drizzling consistency. Mix with a whisk or fork. Drizzle over the buns. You can also sprinkle some more chopped nuts on top if you like.
Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Mama’s Tips: 

If the rolls are browning too quickly on top, cover the top lightly with a piece of foil. You still want the rolls to bake all the way through and not be doughy inside.

If your room where you’re baking is cool, while the dough is rising, I take my bowl that’s covered in plastic wrap and wrap it in a bath bowl to keep the bowl warm to encourage rising.

Many times when I’m using raisins in my baking, I will re-hydrate them to plump them up because I think they taste better. You can rehydrate them in just warm water, simple syrup, orange juice or wine. Either way, I think they come out real tasty!

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Recipe: Intermediate


Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

I love”homey” food, but you already knew that, didn’t you. Some people like to curl up with a warm blanket and a book, I myself, like to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a piece of cake. When curling up, it’s always best not to have a piece of cake that’s too sweet and sugary. No, proper curling should be done with a less sweet, almost bread like cake that will perfectly compliment a cup of tea. Ta Da! That’s where this Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts comes in.

This cake is the BFF to a cup of tea. The “not-so-sweet” cake is filled with chunks of juicy apple and topped with earthy, crunchy pine nuts. Really, a perfect combination of flavors. This recipe will make two, 8″ x 4″ loaf cakes, so guess what, keep one for yourself and give the other to your BFF. Wrap it up in parchment paper and tie it with baker’s twine, and I guarantee, they’ll be very impressed.

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

Apple Loaf with Pine Nuts

Adapted from Real Food, Winter 2013

  • 3 large, crisp tart apples peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2″ slices
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 5 large eggs
  • 10 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. For this recipe I used two, 8″ x 4″ loaf pans. I sprayed the inside of the pans, then I cut parchment paper to fit in the pans and sprayed that too. I like to use the parchment insert because the cake will lift out effortlessly.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
  3. Next, in a large bowl, I added the lemon juice and lemon zest. I cut the apples into 1/2″ slices and as I added them to the bowl, I tossed them in the lemon juice so that they wouldn’t oxidize. Then, sprinkle the apples with 2 tablespoons of sugar, and gently toss.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and 1 cup of sugar for 2 minutes.
  5. Slowly, stir in the butter and vanilla. In several increments, add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter over the apples and gently fold it in.
  7. Evenly divide the batter between the two pans, and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 2, 8″ x 4″ loaf cakes

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Mama’s Tips: 

In baking, size does matter. Make sure you always adjust your baking times if you’re using a pan that’s not the one specified in the recipe.

  • An 8″ x 4″ loaf pan holds 4 cups of batter
  • An 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan holds 6 cups of batter
  • A 9″ x 5″ loaf pan holds 8 cups of batter

Whenever working with fruits like apples, pears and bananas, toss them in a little lemon juice to keep them from oxidizing. Brown fruit is definitely not appetizing.

When baking, remember all ovens do not work the same, so baking times are always just an estimate. I always check my cakes 5-10 minutes before they’re supposed to be done to make sure they don’t brown too quickly.

I always like to put a parchment paper insert into my pans (which I spray along with the pan) so that cakes will always lift out effortlessly. It’s a bummer when the whole cake doesn’t come out intact!

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Recipe: Easy


Banana Cream Pie Dessert Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Each year, I live for that two month period that begins with Halloween and sees me through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I’m totally grateful that it’s filled with family, fun and way, I mean way too much food. It’s a whirlwind of turkeys, hams, cookies, cakes and lots and lots of sugar. In fact, I think I need  to detox from all the sugar still in my system.

But alas, it’s January 6th and the party’s over. The east coast friends have all gone home, the kid’s back at school and Mama is left jonesing for her next gig. Just business as usual. And so, I set my sights on Super Bowl Sunday.

The truth is, I don’t even like football, (did I just hear a gasp from all over America). But I love all the commercials, and who doesn’t love a good ‘ol half-time show. Ok, so just me. I know it’s a little far in advance, but I’ve already started planning my menu for game day.  For dessert, I decided to serve these Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters.  Their taste scores a touchdown, but their small size won’t hit ‘ya in the end zone if you know what I mean. I know, lame football humor…

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Dessert Shooters

  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean – split down center
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons baker’s sugar (superfine)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 6 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 1 medium banana
  • 5 graham crackers
  • 1/3 cup almonds (blanched or sliced, optional)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • Extra almonds for garnish

Directions 

  1. In a medium size pot over medium heat warm the milk and the vanilla bean just until boiling.  Just as it reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and the sugar on medium speed until it becomes pale and thick.  Reduce the mixer to low and stir in the flour and cornstarch, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides periodically. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk, and slowly stir the milk into the egg/flour mixture.
  3. Pour this mixture back into your pot and heat gently over a medium heat. Using a wire whisk (if you don’t have one, a wooden spoon will work also),  continuously whisk the mixture until it thickens and comes to a boil. Boil for one minute and keep on whisking so that lumps do not form and the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat and continue to whisk for a minute or two then pour the mixture into a large bowl to cool. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap so that a skin doesn’t form.
  4. You can make this pastry cream a day in advance and keep it covered in the refrigerator.
  5. When you’re ready to use the pastry cream, take the ripe banana and with a fork or the back of a spoon, mash the banana until it’s almost like a puree. Then whisk it into the pastry cream. If you choose to use the coconut, whisk it into the pastry cream.
  6. Place the graham crackers and almonds in a food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs, transfer to bowl and set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl beat (either with a stand mixer with whisk attachment, hand mixer or wire whisk) the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. You can make the whipped cream in advance too, just cover and keep in the fridge a day in advance.
  8. To assemble the shooters:  Place two teaspoons of the crumbs into the bottom of the shot glass. Slice the remaining banana into 1/2″ slices, and  place the banana on top of the crumbs. You can spoon the pastry cream into the shot glass or you can pipe it in with a pastry bag. Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, pipe the whipped cream on top of the pastry cream layer. Garnish with sliced almonds, sliced bananas or toasted coconut.

Makes 10 shooters (approximately 2.5 ounces each)

Banana Cream Pie Dessert Shooter that looks like an Ice Cream Soda

Banana Cream Pie Dessert Shooter that looks like an Ice Cream Soda

Mama’s Tips:

The pastry cream can be made a day in advance. When the cream has cooled, cover the surface with plastic wrap so a skin will not form and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to  use it.

The whipped cream can be made in advance also. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form and then transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

The graham cracker crumbs can be made a day in advance. Just store in a covered container until ready to use.

I add the nuts to the graham crackers because it gives the crumbs some added texture which is a nice compliment to the banana cream. However, if you or someone else has a nut allergy then just eliminate them from the recipe.

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Recipe: Intermediate


Lemon Glazed Cookies

Lemon Glazed Cookies

Lemon Glazed Cookies

So, Mama’s sportin’ a new tattoo these days that reads, “I never met a cookie I didn’t like!”. Anyone who knows me, know’s that that’s true. In some circles I’m known as the Countess of Cookies or the Duchess of Dough. Come on, everyone needs a cool nickname, right. So now that I’ve established that I may have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with our friend, the cookie, let me tell you how I put that obsession to good use.

This month, I had the privilege of participating in the fundraiser Cookies For Kid’s Cancer, a non-profit organization that raises funds for pediatric cancer research. They’re an awesome organization. Over 600 foodbloggers from around the world participated in the event which raised over $13,000 for the charity. That’s a lot of dough, for a lot of dough if you know what I mean. This was a worldwide cookie swap. I sent a dozen cookies each to three foodbloggers, and in return I received cookies from three fellow foodbloggers. Yes, Mama was in cookie heaven, and no, I didn’t share.

Lemon Glazed Cookies

Lemon Glazed Cookies

The cookie I chose to send to my designated recipients were these Lemon Glazed Cookies. I packaged them in white, vintage canisters, and I hope my fellow bloggers enjoyed them as much as I do. I also wanted to acknowledge the two bloggers who worked so hard to put this event together. They are Lindsay, from Love & Olive Oil, and Julie from The Little Kitchen. So let’s give these ladies a big round of applause. And so my dear readers, I wish you all a warm and wonderful holiday season, however you may celebrate it. And, if you’re so inclined I urge you to click on the Cookies For Kids Cancer website and send a little love their way.

Lemon Glazed Cookies

Lemon Glazed Cookies

Lemon Glazed Cookies

From Great Cookies by Carole Walter

  •  1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats. In a medium bowl, sift together the all purpose flour, cake flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and lemon zest together until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar in a steady stream, mixing for about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks mixing for about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and vanilla, and scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all the ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until incorporated. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. You can even make the dough the day before, and chill overnight.
  4. When dough is chilled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a dough scraper or a sharp knife, cut the dough in half, cut that half in half and then those halves in half. Repeat with the other dough half, until you have 16 equal pieces. With lightly floured hands, roll the dough piece into a ball and place on the cookie sheet. Flatten the dough ball with the heel of your hand until you have about a 3″ inch disk. Place 6 disks on a sheet, about 3″ apart. I baked the cookies for about 13 minutes, until the edges turned golden brown. I also rotated my pans 2/3 thru baking. When you remove the cookies from the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheets for about 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
  5. While cookies are cooling you can prepare your glaze. Use an offset spatula or the back of a large spoon to spread the glaze over the cookies. Allow the cookies to sit out until the glaze has hardened.

Lemon Glaze

  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3-5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice to achieve nice spreading consistency

Directions

Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Add the other ingredients and mix with a large fork or wire whisk until you achieve a good spreading consistency. It should drip in a steady stream from a spoon.

Glazed Lemon Cookies

Glazed Lemon Cookies

Recipe: Easy


Apple Pie in a Bag

Apple Pie baked in a brown paper bag

Apple Pie baked in a brown paper bag

It’s getting closer to the big day, you know what day I’m talking about, right? Thanksgiving, of course. It’s my most special meal, well it seems every meal is my most special meal, but this one definitely is. In fact, I am so excited I can hardly contain myself.  It’s the one day I will eat with reckless abandon. For me it’s a food version of a perfect storm. Every food I consider to be one of my favorites will make an appearance at my Thanksgiving table.

I embrace this holiday not just for the food, but for the fact that I truly am thankful for the food, and for my family.

I was speaking to my sister-in-law, Wanda the other day and she told me about a pie she makes that is my brother’s favorite. Since Apple Pie is a requisite for any Thanksgiving dinner I thought I would try it out before the big day. I was intrigued because this pie was baked in a brown paper grocery bag. She said that the bag kept the crust from over browning and that the apples became soft and tender and stayed juicy. Hmmmm, sounds like Mama needed to give this a try. Well Wanda, I was quite pleased with the results. I used a pre-made crust for this pie, but hey, if you’ve got the energy then go ahead and make your own crust.

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie in a Bag 

  • 7 crisp, tart apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sugar – divided
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 stick, unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 box pre-made refrigerated pie crust, 2-9″ crusts
  • 1 large brown paper grocery bag

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.  Peel, core and thinly slice your apples placing them in a large bowl. As you slice them, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of the sugar mixture over the apples to coat them so they won’t turn brown as you slice them. When all the apples are sliced and in the bowl, spoon in the remainder of the sugar mixture and toss to coat all the apples.
  2. Place one of the 9″ crusts into a 9″ pie dish. You may need to roll it out a little, so you should do that on a piece of parchment paper.  Spoon the apple mixture on top of the crust.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 stick of melted butter and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Pour this mixture over the apple mixture.
  4. Place the remaining crust on top of the pie. You may have to roll it out a little so that it fits over the pie. Seal the edges of the 2 crusts together. With a sharp pairing knife, poke 5-6 slits on top of crust so that the steam can escape.
  5. Place the pie into a large brown paper grocery bag and then staple the ends shut.
  6. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Leave pie in bag for 5 minutes after removing from the oven.
Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Mama’s Tips

I sprinkled my apples with a teaspoon of the sugar mixture as I sliced them. The sugar mixture kept the apples from turning brown.

When pie is done baking, if you like a browner pie crust, remove the pie from bag and bake a few minutes more til browned on top.

Place bagged pie on a cookie sheet to avoid messy spills in the oven while baking.

Removing Apple Pie from the paper bag

Removing Apple Pie from the paper bag

Recipe: Easy


Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Life is funny, nothing ever stays the same.  Friends, please forgive me for getting all sentimental and philosophical on you, but this time of year brings back lovely memories for me. It doesn’t seem so long ago that by mid-October every year my boys and I would spend hours planning their costumes for Halloween, who they would walk the neighborhood with, and which candy I should buy to give out to the local revelers. But things have changed, my boys have moved on to begin their own lives, and my husband and I have been left here to celebrate Halloween alone, just us and a few bags of mini Snickers bars. I know, so sad.

In fact, things have gotten so bad that the local children will not even walk up my long, steep driveway for a measly mini candy bar anymore. In recent years I’ve had to go stand at the bottom of the driveway with “full sized” candy bars if I wanted to see any action.

Halloween is also that time of year when I can use pumpkin with reckless abandon.  I love to use it in muffins, cookies, cakes and pies, and I really can’t understand why it’s not popular all year round. One of my fall favorites is this Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze.  The cake part is mildly flavored with those traditional autumn spices, and the streusel filling is a perfect little surprise in the middle of the cake. What could be bad about pumpkin, nuts and chocolate.

So, one last thing.  Do you think it would be weird if I asked my 25 year-old son to let me dress him up as a Power Ranger so we could go house to house trick-or-treating together? I’m just kidding, kinda’.

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Adapted from “Very Best Baking”

Streusel

  • 2/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Cake

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin (15 ounce can Libby’s brand)
  • 1 – 8 ounce container sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons milk

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and using melted butter and a pastry brush, brush the insides of the bundt pan with butter and lightly flour the pan, tapping out the excess flour.
  2. To make the Streusel: lightly toast your walnuts in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Constantly stir so they don’t burn. Toast just until they become fragrant. Allow to cool. Toss walnuts, cinnamon, brown sugar and mini chips in a medium bowl until all ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.
  3. For the cake batter, sift the flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl, and stir with a whisk to incorporate all ingredients.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin, sour cream and vanilla and mix well. With the mixer on medium-low, gradually add the flour mixture.
  5. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Spoon the streusel topping over the batter but don’t allow the topping to touch the sides of the pan.  You can choose to only use the streusel inside the cake, or you can also sprinkle some streusel on top of the cake also. Spoon the remaining batter on top making sure the batter layer touches the edge of the pan.
  6. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes then turn out to a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely before you top with the glaze.
  7. To make the glaze: Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a medium sized bowl. Add the vanilla. Add the milk a spoon at a time and whisk until you have the desired drizzling consistency.
Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Galze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Galze

Mama’s Tips: 

Be sure to use the size egg that any recipe calls for when baking. If a recipe calls for “large eggs”, don’t use extra large eggs as it will definitely effect the final product.

You could also use mini bundt pans to make this cake. Just make sure you adjust the baking time accordingly.

The mini paper bundt pans used in this post were purchased from Cost Plus World Market.

Recipe: Easy


Almond Pear Cake – Gluten Free

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

My favorite time of the year is the end of September when summertime evaporates into a fond memory and leaves turn golden and the air turns crisp.  Oh wait, that was my former life growing up on the east coast.  As Jimmy Kimmel said in his monologue last night referring to the autumn in Los Angeles; that it was a “bone-chilling 95 degrees today”. He went on to say, “that we have one season…and it’s the good one!”  I’ll be honest with you, since moving to the west coast I definitely do not miss the other three seasons, but I do have a major hankering for the fall. After residing here for three decades I still bring out the heavy sweaters and boots this time of year, and yeah, I’m sweating profusely in my effort to embrace the season.

It’s time to say good bye to the summertime fruity favorites; strawberries, blueberries, peaches and plums and hello to cranberries, apples, pumpkins and pears. I do love the latter as they harken the start of the holiday season, and all the celebratory family meals ahead of me.

My personal favorite fall fruit is pears. In this gluten-free cake, they are paired with almond meal, sliced almonds and fresh pear puree which results in an overly moist and flavorful cake. I think this Almond Pear Cake will become one of your go-to desserts for the upcoming season.

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake – Gluten Free

From USA Pears

Equipment needed:  10″ spring form pan, large food processor or electric mixer

  • 4 pears, any kind, 3 for batter 1 for topping
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar plus additional 3 teaspoons
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 1/4 cups ground almond meal
  • 8 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon, plus additional 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon neutral tasting oil (like canola or grape seed)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and place the rack in the center position. Spray a 10″ spring form pan with cooking spray. PAM original cooking spray is gluten free, however PAM Spray for Baking is not.  Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit on the bottom of the spring form pan.
  2. For my cake, I used  Bartlett, Anjou and Bosc pears, but any firm ripe pear will work.  Peel and core the three pears and then roughly chop them. Place the chopped pears into a small saucepan and add the lemon juice and 3 teaspoons of sugar. Cook the pears over medium heat in the covered pan for 10 minutes. Let cool. When cooled, mash the pears with a fork into a coarse puree.
  3. Place the almond meal and 1 3/4 cups sugar in the bowl of a large food processor, and give it 5-6 long pulses. (This makes a large quantity of batter, so you’ll need a large food processor, not the mini kind). Add the eggs one at a time, along with 1 teaspoon of vanilla and the pear puree. Pulse until all ingredients are incorporated. Alternately, if you don’t have a food processor, you can use an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pour the batter into the spring form pan.
  4. Next, peel and core the fourth pear and slice it into 1/4″ slices. In a medium skillet, heat the oil and the honey stirring until the mixture begins to bubble. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla. Add the pear slices and toss gently to coat.
  5. Sprinkle the almonds over the top of the cake, and add the pear slices in a pinwheel shape. Spoon the remaining sauce in the pan over the top of the cake. Bake for 55-65 minutes until the cake begins to brown and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. As my cake was starting to brown too much, I placed some foil over the top for the last 10 minutes of baking. Keep in mind that all ovens are different so the baking time is an estimate.
  6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes and then you can remove the sides. Transfer to a serving platter.
Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

Mama’s Tips:

An easy way to cleanly remove the core of the pear is to use a melon baller to scoop out the center.

For this Almond Pear Cake you can use any variety or combination of pears you like. In the past, I have used Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc and Comice pears. Just make sure they are ripe yet firm.

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

Pears, Pears…

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

…and more Pears.

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Recipe: Intermediate


Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

It’s September, and son #2 is out of the house again living the high-life as a student in Santa Barbara where he’s studying to be an EMT. It’s a hard program, so let’s all pool our positive thoughts together and send them in his direction. Thanks guys! Anyway, he’s been up there about a month, but he’s coming home this Sunday and we’ve decided to have a little brunch in his honor…cause his mama misses him so much!  My parents are coming over, because they too miss him a great deal, and his big brother, son #1 is coming, but he won’t admit how much he misses his younger brother.  Ah, kids!

I’m preparing all his favorites; homemade waffles, fresh fruit and crispy bacon. He has requested that I bake this Chocolate Chip Cornbread which he likes toasted and topped with a big slab of butter. I’ve made cornbread a million different ways, but I particularly like this one for breakfast because it’s a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. If you can, it’s a treat to serve it right out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

From Bon Appetit

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs

Directions

  1. Place the oven rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 9″ x 5″ metal loaf pan with cooking spray, or you can use mini loaf pans or muffins tins if you wish.  Just adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the milk, oil and eggs.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir just until all the ingredients are incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).
  3. Bake the cornbread until the top starts to turn a little golden, and when a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. For the 9″ x 5″ pan, bake about 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. The cornbread is best served warm with a little butter.
Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Mama’s Tips: 

As with all batters, mix this one just until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Recipe: Easy


Blondies

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Chocolate Shortbread Blondies with Coconut Topping

So, you’ve been invited to a Labor Day barbecue this weekend. That’s so nice. And the hostess asked if you would bring dessert, but you’re a little baffled right now because you can’t come up with something that’s sorta easy to make but tastes really good, huh? Well, Mama has a suggestion that you might like. It involves all the things I hold dear in life, which is chocolate, brown sugar, coconut and salted nuts. Yes I know, all rolled up into one!

I just can’t get enough of these Blondie Bars, each layer of these bars is delish on their own. You’ve got your chocolate shortbread crust, your creamy sweet Blondie layer, and then it’s all topped off by a chewy coconut macaroon topping. Now how good does this sound?

Your going to line your pan with foil so that when the Blondie’s have finished cooling in the pan, you can lift them out using the edges of the foil so that you can cut them into professional looking bars. To get extra clean cuts, I chilled mine for about 4 hours before cutting.

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Chocolate Shortbread Blondies with Coconut Topping

Blondies

From Better Homes & Gardens 

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 2/3 cups unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup salted cashews, roughly chopped

Coconut Topping

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 3 lightly beaten egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

The Crust:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13″ x 9″ baking dish with foil that’s been sprayed with cooking spray, having the edges extend over the sides about 2 inches so that you’ll be able to lift the finished bars easily from the pan. Whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar and the cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Using your thumbs and forefinger, cut in 1 cup of the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Then mix in the mini chips. Press the mixture evenly into the foil-lined baking dish and bake for 8 minutes until set.

Coconut Topping: Whisk the 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 flour together in a medium bowl.  Add the 1 1/4 cups of flaked coconut and toss with your hands coating the coconut with the flour/sugar mixture. Stir in the egg whites and the vanilla until everything is incorporated. Then set aside.

Next, in a medium saucepan, add the brown sugar and 2/3 cup of butter, and over medium heat, stir until the mixture is melted and smooth. Cool slightly.  Add the eggs one a a time stirring with a wooden spoon after each addition until combined. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the remaining 2 cups of flour, the baking power and baking soda. Stir in the nuts. Pour the batter over the crust using a small offset spatula to make it smooth and even. Spoon the coconut topping into small mounds on top of the batter, carefully spreading it to the edges of the pan. Bake for 32-34 minutes until topping starts to lightly brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

When cool, using the edges of the foil, lift the Blondies out of the pan and cut into bars.

Makes 24 – 2″ square bars

Chocolate Shortbread Blondies

Chocolate Shortbread Blondies

Mama’s Tips:

I kept these bars in the fridge to chill and they took on the consistency of candy bars as opposed to a brownie bar. They were quite good.

You don’t necessarily have to cut these bars into 2″ squares, get creative. I cut some of them into 1″ x 3″ bars and others into 1″ squares for a bite-size party treat. To get a good, clean cut with your knife, make sure you chill these first. Use a ruler when measuring these out so all the bars are the same size.

Blondie Bars

Blondie Bars

Recipe: Easy


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