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Apple Praline Muffins October 18, 2009

Filed under: Muffins,Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 12:20 am
Tags: ,

The culinary world is one traditionally dominated by men.  In most families, however, it is the women who take charge of nourishing their families.  Growing up, I guess I had the best of both worlds.  I have fond memories offood 040 both my grandma and my uncle cooking away in the kitchen.  My grandma never cooked with a recipe.  To this day, I still have no idea how she made her gingerbread and sadly, she is no longer around to ask.  My uncle, however, is still around and has passed on some recipes to me.  One such recipe is his apple praline bread.  I’m not sure where this recipe comes from but I know he adapted it from its original form.  When I went to make this, I made a few changes of my own.  For one, I decided to make it into muffins.  For another, I replaced the sour cream with plain yogurt.  I also played around with the amount of apples and pecans.  My uncle also cuts his apples into rather large pieces.  I wanted smaller pieces.  Partly because they needed to be smaller since they wouldn’t bake as long as a muffin and partly because I wanted them more evenly distributed within the muffin.

The result is a moist, if a bit dense (though not unpleasantly so), muffin.  Although there is definitely a difference in texture between the muffins and the apples, the apple all but disappeared in the muffin.  I don’t, however, find this a bad attribute.  On the contrary, it seems to work, although next time I will probably add more apple.  I topped each muffin with a sugar-coated pecan (I told you they’d turn up again!) but I think next time I will mix pecan pieces right in with the glaze.  I think this will give it a more praline taste to them.  As for the glaze itself, I used the same amounts for the bread but found I needed a bit more.  I will give the amounts I used, but I would add an extra half of the amounts if I were to make it again.  The glaze really makes the muffins — so no skimping!

I really liked this bread as a muffin.  They are a very pleasant treat.  Despite the apple they don’t have a particular fall feel to them, making them good year-around.  The yogurt gives it some nutrition and boosts it up to a snack you can feel pretty good about.  It was delicious with milk for breakfast.  I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to last around here much longer.

That’s okay though…there’s always another muffin to be baked.

Apple Praline Muffins

Makes 14

1 cup white sugar

1 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups tart apple, peeled and chopped (I used granny smith and will probably use 2 cups next time)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons brown sugar

14 pecan halves (preferably sugar-coated)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly spray 14 muffin cups.

In a mixing bowl, beat together white sugar, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla on low until combined.  Turn the mixer up to medium and beat for 2 more minutes.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir this into  the yogurt mixture until just barely mixed.  Add in the apples and pecan pieces and gently stir in.

Divide batter among the 14 prepared muffin cups and bake for about 2o minutes.  When they are done, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes.  After that, remove muffins from the cups and rest on the rack.

While the muffins continue to cool, melt the butter and brown sugar in a small sauce pan over low-medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Turn up the heat and let come to a boil.  Boil for one minute.  After a minute, spoon the mixture over each muffin.  Top with a pecan half.

Alternately, you can add another 1/4-1/2 cup of pecans to the butter-brown sugar mixture before pouring over muffins.

If you’d like to make this in as one loaf, bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

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Sugared Pecans, Big News, and a Reminder October 12, 2009

Filed under: Snacks,Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 8:33 pm

Apple Orchard 2009 095For a while now, I have been considering including different recipes other than baking ones here on The Fabulous Baker Girl.  The biggest reason for this is that it will enable me to post here more often.  As much as I love to bake, I just can’t do it every single day or all I’d ever eat is baked goods.  Now that I say it, that wouldn’t bother me in the least, but I think  my waistline might suffer.

Like it isn’t already.

I’ve come up with a great idea though.  Upon looking at my vast cookbook collection, I have decided to try at least one new recipe from each of my books each week.  Now if I used all of my books, it would take me about 10 years to finish so I decided to use only the books that are currently on my bookshelf and those I might get after this day.  That said, it will still take me two years to cook just one recipe from each of the 104 cookbooks on my shelf each week.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, to get us started I chose a recipe from a cookbook I got over the weekend.  The book is called Recipes for Hope Cookbook, Tasty Recipes from our Home to Yours. All proceeds from the sales of this book will go to benefit breast cancer awareness and research at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.   It is available at local (local to me, anyway) Kroger stores for $9.99.  If you happen by Kroger and see one, pick one up.  Pick up two and three and share with a friend!

I found several good sounding recipes to try, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one.  I decided to leave it to chance and made Howie pick a number between one and 133 (the number of pages in the book).  He chose 121.  I turned to page 121 and found recipes for homemade marshmallows and sugar-coated pecans.  Hmmm….still a tough choice.  Neither were exactly the type of recipe I had wanted to kick off this new project, but I was committed to whatever page Howie had given me.  And he gave me page 121…homemade marshmallows or sugar-coated pecans.  I decided on the sugar-coated pecans.

This is an incredibly simple recipe.  I mixed it all together in about three or four minutes (although is seemed longer since a small war was raging over whether or not we would soon be watching Yo Gabba Gabba or Maggie and the Ferocious Beast).  It does take an hour to bake but the actual work part is nothing.  The result is crispy, almost airy nuts that are sweet and lightly spiced.  These would make great holiday gifts or a nice addition to a holiday buffet.  You could even play around with the spices for another version.  I’m thinking chili and cumin…I definitely think these are worth the minimal effort!

By the way…keep your eyes open.  You may just see these treats resurface later in the week!

I promised you some big news so here it is.  The Fabulous Baker Girl will soon be moving!  I have gotten my own domain name and pretty soon you’ll be able to find me at http://www.thefabulousbakergirl.com.  I am so excited about this move and I hope you’ll visit me there often.  I’ll let you all know when the big  move will happen so keep watching!

And now for the reminder.  As I said earlier, it is Breast Cancer Awareness month so ladies…don’t forget to check yourself out!  And gentleman, be sure to remind the women you love.  If you are over 40, schedule a mammogram today. Breast cancer is best treated with early prevention.  So go on…prevent!

And go nuts…or at least eat some!

Sugar-Coated Pecans

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

1 pound pecan halves

1 cup white sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt (I forgot to add the salt and they are still yummy!)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white and water until frothy.  In another large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

Add the pecans to the egg whites.  Stir to coat.  Remove the nuts and toss them in the sugar mixture until coated.  Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

 

TWD: Split Level Pudding October 6, 2009

I have to confess that I really haven’t been baking lately.  I don’t know if it’s a combination of being busy or lazy or if it’s because in an effort to lose a few pounds I’ve just been staying away.  Or maybe it’s because my pumpkin doughnuts were just so darn good I can’t top them.

Whatever the reason, I still had my Tuesdays with Dorie to do.  I missed lack week I was busy and didn’t really manage my time well.  Since I don’t want to get kicked out, I figured I”d better get baking.

The Bottom Level

The Bottom Level

As it turns out, this weeks recipe doesn’t need to be baked.  Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla (http://theflavorofvanilla.blogspot.com/) picked Split Level Pudding — a nice vanilla pudding on top of a layer of chocolate ganache.   Mmmmm…I think I can handle that.

I just finished making these puddings.  They are really quite fun but I do think that the vanilla pudding was a bit fussy to make.  First you have to blend the eggs and sugar and then add the hot milk and then put it all back on the stove to thicken and then back to the food processor to blend in the butter and vanilla.  It just seemed to me that there had to be an easier, less fussy way to do this.  As my head is in a bit of a fog right now, this was not the time for me to find out.  No experimenting for me — just the straight up recipe as written by Dorie.

I was a little worried about the pudding not being thick enough.  Actually…I am still worried, as I have yet to actually try this pudding.  I did taste it while it was warm (yum!) but it seemed a bit loose.  I am hoping that chilling it will firm it up a bit.  I’m really quite excited about trying this tonight.  I think that the hidden gem of ganache underneath will really complement the vanilla pudding.

I hope I can wait that long…

The Top Level

The Top Level

A little extra vanilla pudding I saved for the girls

A little extra vanilla pudding I saved for the girls

 

Fall Favorites: Cider and Doughnuts September 27, 2009

Filed under: Breakfast,Doughnuts,Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 2:33 pm
Tags: , ,

Cider and doughnuts.  It’s a seasonal right of passage for so many of us.  A beacon that lures us over a bridge from warm, sunny summer to the crisp, clean air of fall.  And what a delicious beacon it is!  Apple Days and Doughnuts 097

Some of my fondest memories of cider and doughnut are from Halloween.  As a child, my hometown would have a Halloween parade and then we’d all congregate in the municipal parking lot waiting for the judges to announce the winners of the costume contest and eat cider and doughnuts.  As an only child, the only “siblings” I had were my cousins so we’d all be together along with our parents, not really feeling the chill since we were warmed by our costumes and our slight sugar buzz.

These days you won’t find me in any costume parade but I do love a trip to the apple orchard with my family and two years ago I discovered an organization that sponsors “Apple Days”.  There, you can taste test apples, watch applesauce being made and press your own cider.  So yesterday we loaded the kids in the car and went to make cider!

The process is quite fun.  First you visit the local farmer who is on hand to buy your apples.  He has a variety on hand and it’s best to mix them up.  Afterwards, you wash your apples, something the girls really enjoyed.  Next, you have to grind up your apples into what is called pumice.  You get a choice of a hand-crank machine or electric.  We chose to do both and make the best of the experience.  After that, you dump your pumice into the press, squeeze, and watch the sweet, amber liquid pour into the bucket.

Since we made our own cider, I figured we should make our own doughnuts too.  I did a little research online and found a recipe for pumpkin doughnuts that I wanted to try.  It comes from Food Network stars Pat and Gina Neeley.  While the dough does have a lot of ingredients, many of them are just spices.  The dough comes together quickly (even when you have three children helping) and easily.  All you do is mix together the dry ingredients, mix together the wet ingredients, and combine.  You don’t even have to roll it out.  The soft, sticky dough pats out easily into the required half inch.  Once there, you cut it with a round cutter, making a circle in the middle with a another smaller cutter.  After that, a nice warm bath in hot oil…viola…doughnut!

The best sign of a good doughnut (or anything deep-fried)  is that it isn’t oily at all.  When you cook at the right temperature the oil cooks the food but any excess didn’t get absorbed into it.  These doughnuts turned out perfectly.  Not an ounce oily just a nice, deep brown.  They were perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and drenched in a sweet maple glaze.  They were exactly what you want a doughnut to be:  the perfect texture, not too sweet and just, well, just delicious.  Ella took one bite of them and declared them “perfect”.  I had to agree.  After that, it got pretty quiet.  Everyone was too busy eating.

Maybe that’s the best sign of a good doughnut.  Silence.

Apple Days and Doughnuts 115

You can view the recipe here:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/patrick-and-gina-neely/neelys-maple-glazed-donuts-recipe/index.html

 

TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets…Don’t let the name fool you! September 22, 2009

When I saw that Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes (http://daisylanecakes.blogspot.com/) chose Cottage Cheese Pufflets for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie, I didn’t quite know what to expect.  For some reason, I was thinking maybe they were a pancake of sorts.  Little did I know that these are actually cookies.  What a pleasant little surprise!  And they aren’t just any cookie.  They are filled cookies that look like a lot more trouble than they are.  The kind where people’s jaws drop open upon discovering that you actually made them.

cottage cheese pufflettes 007The most interesting thing about this recipe is that it does, indeed, have cottage cheese in it.  And butter.  A lot of butter.  The pastry dough is exceptionally easy to put together.  Just cream the butter, sugar and salt, add the cottage cheese and vanilla and process until completely smooth.  Then, pulse in your flour.  Done.

Unfortunately, the ease of making the dough itself is a bit offset by the difficulty the dough is to work with.  It requires a lot of chilling.  The recipe calls for three hours of chill time before rolling out, cutting, and assembling but you’ll find that it’s easier to chill, roll, chill again, and then cut.  The key to working with this dough is to work in small batches and keep it cold (and it does warm up quickly — at least it did for me because when I made these it was very hot and humid).

The recipe calls for the dough to be filled with jam.  I didn’t have any that I was happy with so I tried to figure out what I could use instead.  The obvious answer was chocolate so I went with that.  I whipped up some ganachecottage cheese pufflettes 008 and let that chill too so it was nice and firm.  Since I really liked the half-moon shape of the apple turnovers from last week, I decided to cut the dough into circles instead of the prescribed squares.  This did mean I had leftover dough, but we’ll deal with that later.  Because the dough isn’t very sweet and neither was the ganache, I topped the pufflets with some raw sugar.

My first batch turned out so pretty and they tasted pretty good too but now I was curious what they would be like with the jam.  That’s when it hit me that I had bought some dandelion jam on a whim at the farmer’s market over the summer.  I broke that out and gave it a try.  For those of you who have never had dandelion jam, it tastes a lot like honey.  Mine was also very sweet so I didn’t top these with any sugar.  I found the jam much harder to deal with.  The jam kind of oozed out of the sides as I tried to seal the cookies and I wasn’t left with much on the inside.  This version turned out much different from the chocolate version.  With the chocolate ganache, the cookie and filling remained separate while the dandelion jam pretty much melted into the dough and became a sort of glaze rather than a filling.  Both version were equally delightful though, so no complaints here.

As for the dough I had leftover…well, I knew that the pastry wouldn’t be as tender once it had been rolled out but I didn’t want to waste it.  Last week in my pastry class, I made some various things from puff pastry.  One of those things were palmiers which is fancily rolled puff pastry that is rolled in sugar, cut into slices and baked.  I decided to do the same thing with my leftover dough.  I covered my work surface with raw sugar and rolled out my dough.  I made sure both sides with covered.  Then I rolled the dough into a spiral.  After chilling, I cut them into slices and baked.

I think that these actually turned out to be my favorite.  Like I knew, the dough wasn’t quite as tender, but the sugar melted and gave a very nice, subtle caramel flavor.  I’m thinking I may make this again just do all of it like this.  Or I may try nutella.  Such tough decisions!

cottage cheese pufflettes 005

 

Mallorca Bread September 20, 2009

Filed under: Bread,Uncategorized,Yeast Breads — amynb2008 @ 7:44 pm
Tags: ,

I love chocolate.  That’s never been a secret.  I often say that it’s my favorite food but I think there is one thing that might rival chocolate.mallorca bread 001

Bread.  Really, really good bread.  Hot and buttery.

Sigh…

One of my favorite breads come from a restaurant called Carson’s.  It’s slight chewy on the outside, warm and soft on the outside and served with a side of citrus butter.  It is so good, that I am often disappointed in my actual entree because I’d rather just have the bread.

Another favorite, are the rolls from the Common Grill in Chelsea and yet another is the baguette from Cafe Japon.

Sigh…

I am a member of a new website called Tasty Kitchen (www.tastykitchen.com).  Those of you who follow the Pioneer Woman will know of this site.  While I was looking through the recipes there, I came across one for Pan de Malloraca or Mallorca Bread posted by a member from the food blog The Noshery (http://thenoshery.com).  These little rolls looked like soft, edible clouds.  They looked heavenly and were simply too good to pass up so yesterday, I gave them a try.

By looking at these breads, you would think they would be complicated to make.  On the contrary, they were very easy.  The dough is sweet and very rich, containing a whole stick of butter and six egg yolks.   It requires no kneading.  It is also very soft.  To form the bread you must roll out portions into strips to be curled into a coil.  I found this part the most difficult because the dough was so soft.  Or it could have been that I had a two-year old distracting me, insistent on either eating the dough or drinking the melted butter.  Not sure which.  In either case, the dough wasn’t as difficult to work with as it looked like it would be but I did find it hard to roll out evenly.  Still, they slowly took shape, some better than others, and baked up soft and sweet.   It was a hit with the whole family.  I particularly enjoyed watching Howie and Norah sitting side by side eating our Mallorca and watching football.  Ella loved that you “got the texture of bread and the sweetness of the powdered sugar.”  Even Melanie liked it.  And that’s saying something!

I think these are great little breads.  They are rich and sweet and delicious.  I had mine with tea and the flavors complemented each other so well.  They seemed to be made for each other.  I highly recommend giving this recipe a try.  It is time consuming since the dough does need to rise three times, which will take nearly 3 hours for rise time alone.  Still, like all good bread,  it’s worth the wait.

You can find the complete recipe at The Noshery:  http://thenoshery.com/2009/08/19/mallorca/

 

TWD: Flaky Apple Turnovers September 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 2:42 pm

Melanie's first day of preschool 018I missed the last two weeks of Tuesdays with Dorie.  The first week was both  my daughter’s and my mom’s birthday and I already had plenty of baked goods.  The second week I was sick.  To tell you the truth, I almost skipped this one too.  I’m still not quite as energetic as I was before I was sick and I wasn’t sure I wanted to exert what energy I do have on apple turnovers.

Will I ever learn?

Grudgingly, since I had already missed two weeks and didn’t want to miss another, I set out to make these turnovers (chosen by Julie of Someone’s in the Kitchen).  I have to say this was the easiest pastry dough I have ever made.  It came together really easily and could be rolled out even after refrigeration.  It didn’t fall apart on me when I cut it out and filled it.  The filling was equally as easy.  It was simply diced apples (I used a mix of granny smith and fuji) with a little flour, sugar and cinnamon and then dotted with butter.

Once everything was together, I cut out the dough.  The recipe called for 4 1/2-inch circles but I didn’t have one that big so I used a 3 1/2 inch.  I actually quartered the recipe since I wasn’t sure anyone would like them.  I’m not really a pie eater and my husband doesn’t like apple pie.  I got nine turnovers out of the dough.  I could have gotten more had I rerolled the scraps but Norah had decided to “help” me and was playing with them.  It was just easier to let her than fight with her.

I used a scalloped-edged cutter and the turnovers turned out to be pretty half-moon shapes.  They smelled delicious as they baked and when I pulled them out of the oven, they were all puffy and golden brown.  After they cooled a bit, we all gave them a try.  I have to admit that they were delicious!  Even my husband like them.  He said they were “delightful, better than apple pie.”  Ella just ate them and said, “Mmmmm”.  Norah’s disappeared without me actually seeing her eat it, so I’m just assuming that’s a good sign.  Melanie’s on the other hand went nearly untouched.  Not surprising considering the source.  I don’t really count her in the success of a recipe anymore anyway.

These flakey apple turnovers lived up to their name.  The pastry was tender and flaky and exactly like I imagine good pastry should be.  The filling was nice and not overly spiced with cinnamon.  These are the perfect after-dinner treat or lunchbox dessert.  My only complaint was I wish the turnovers could hold more filling.  They felt mostly like pastry.  I’m filled them as full as I could but they still needed a bit more.  I also felt that it could have been a little more sweet — either the dough itself or the filling.  More filling might have helped with this though.

One of the best things about participating in Tuesdays with Dorie is that I get to try things I normally wouldn’t try.  I get to expand my horizons.  I never would have tried these turnovers on my own and that would have truly been a shame.  I’m already looking forward to making more.  Maybe even the whole recipe this time!

Good thing it’s apple season!

Note:  to view the complete recipe, please visit Julie from Someone’s in the Kitchen athttp://someonekitchen.blogspot.com/http://someonekitchen.blogspot.com/)