Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Best Apple Walnut Cinnamon Roll, EVER!!

I absolutely love this recipe! If you love Cinnamon Rolls (like I do), you will love this recipe too!
Faye and I have been a part of a Freezer Meal Swap group with a few friends which has been loads of fun! It gives us a chance to get together each month, enjoy a delicious meal, catch up on girl-talk and of course, stock our freezers with delicious food! What doesn't sound fun about that?
I made these cinnamon rolls for one of our recent exchanges which I hosted at my house. I took a basic William Sonoma recipe and kicked it up a notch by adding apples and walnuts. Yum!! I have to say that these rolls are so delicious and I'm not just saying that because this is a food blog (haha)...the bread is light and fluffy, not heavy or dense at all. The filling is an amazing combination of apples, brown sugar and walnuts for crunch. The smell of the cinnamon and apples while the rolls are baking will drive you crazy!
So brush off your Kitchen Aid mixer (if you haven't used it yet) and give this recipe at try!

Also, if you are ever in the the San Diego County area and are craving a delicious cinnamon roll and don't want to bake it yourself  (even though the above recipe it a MUST TRY HIT!), you need check out the Elizabethan Bakery in Encinitas California. www.elizabethandesserts.com . Faye and I recently went there to celebrate by my birthday with Pecan Cinnamon Roll.  I think the picture speaks for itself.


Happy Cooking everyone!!

Overnight Apple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Makes 10 rolls

Active Dry Yeast- 1 package (about 1 tablespoon)
½ cup warm water
4 ½ cups  all-purpose flour (1/2 cup more if needed)
4 eggs  (mixed)
¼ granulated sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter softened.

½ cups (1 stick) unsalted butter (melted)
3/4  brown sugar
½  walnuts
1 ½ apples peeled and cut into small pieces
1 ½ tablespoons of ground cinnamon

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup confectioner sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons whole milk

(Stand Mixer required)

Butter a 9x13 baking dish.
Peel apples add brown sugar, and cinnamon and set aside

1.   Add yeast  to your kitchen aid bowl, add water. Leave for five minutes.  You will notice the yeast will rise and expand.   2. With the Whisk attachment , add ½ cup of flour.    Cover with clear plastic wrap and put aside in a warm area for 30-40 minutes. 
 3.  Once time is up, add eggs, sugar, salt and the remainder of the flour.  Mix with first with a spoon, then add the Dough Hook.   Kneed it for about 4-5 minutes.   
4. Add the softened butter and knead for about 10 more minutes. (If it’s too sticky, add some of the ½ cup flour till its is a nice smooth dough).  
5.Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough double in size
for 2-3 hours.   Once the time is done, take the dough out of the bowl and put on a well-floured surface.  
6.  Roll it out with a rolling pin to a 15"x10" retrangle ( mine was more like 14"x10")  
 7. Using a pastry brush, brush the melted butter over the surface of the dough, but leave about 1 ½ inches at the end with no butter no it. You need this to seal.  
8. Add the nuts to the apple cinnamon mixture and mix to combine.   
9. Sprinkle the apple/nut mixture over the dough except for the 1 ½” edge you left with no butter. 
10.Starting at the longest end, start rolling up. Use your hands    push in the apple mixture if its moving forward. 
11.Once you done with the roll, pinch the side ends to seal it.      Make sure the seam line is facing the bottom of your cutting    board then cut the roll into 10 pieces. 
12.Put the individual pieces into the prepared baking dish  with  the cut side is facing up. 
13.Brush the tops of the rolls with the remaining butter.  Cover with clear plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight     
 14.  In the morning, remove from refrigerator and let the dough rise for about 1 hour.   .
  15. Preheat the oven to 350f.    Usually I turn on the oven and let the pan sit on top of the stove where it nice and warm.)  

16. Bake the rolls for 30 minutes, remove from oven and cool.  Make the Icing:  While the rolls are baking, make the icing by mixing together the sugar , salt, butter , vanilla and milk.  Icing will be like a nice paste.  Once the rolls have cooled a bit, spread with the glaze.Enjoy!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Story About Cherries, Almonds and Do-Overs (Cherry Lemon Ricotta Cake with Lemon Almond Glaze)

Don't you wish there were more opportunities in life for do-overs?
For this month's Leftover's Club, I had a do-over moment. I originally made these Cherry Almond Bars for Kathia from Basic N Delicious. 

Kathia's blog is dedicated to recipes that are delicious and easy to make. While browsing through her blog, I discovered that Kathia loves cherries. This gave me the perfect opportunity to bake something with the over-abundance of fresh cherries I had sitting in my fridge so I decided to make  Cherry Almond Bars. It's a pretty basic recipe using fresh cherries and almond paste. The bars were crazy-delicious, but didn't set up as well as I would have liked so they were very delicate. I was worried they would be delivered to Kathia as a pile of crumbs. Since I was happy with the flavor, I somewhat reluctantly sent the package off to Kathia....

A few days after mailing them, I followed up with Kathia who responded letting me know that the bars were delicious, but I still had this nagging feeling....was she just being polite?
After debating with myself for a few days, I made up my mind that I would redeem myself and send her a second package using a different recipe, but incorporating the same flavors.
Bread is always a good option when shipping baked goods. It can withstand a little manhandling and stays fresh for a longer period of time than most baked goods. There's nothing worse than receiving a pile of crumbs in the mail...ok maybe a pile of stale crumbs...

So, for my July's Leftover's Club do-over, I made Mini Cherry Lemon Ricotta Cakes with a Lemon & Almond Glaze. Yummy!  The ricotta in the batter makes the bread really moist and cherry & almonds are such a perfect combination.

Redemption sure is sweet....
Here's the recipe for the Cherry Lemon Ricotta Cake. I hope you give it a try.  It's so good, you won't "need" a do-over, but you'll definitely want to make it again!

Join in on the fun and receive delicious baked goods in the mail every month by joining The Leftovers Club. You can sign up over at Food Ramblings.

Cherry Ricotta Lemon Cake with Lemon & Almond Glaze
Makes one 9-10" loaf or 6 mini loaves (4.5"-5" mini loaf pans)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups of pitted and sliced cherries (this is the measurement after pitting and slicing)

Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted (don't skip the toasting process, it makes a big difference in the flavor of the almonds)

If using mini loaf pans, lightly spray 6 mini loaf pans, place on a baking sheet and set aside. Note: My mini loaf pans were approx. 4.5-5" long and 2.5" deep. You can use different size pans, but your yield will be different and you'll need to adjust your bake time accordingly.

If using a loaf pan, please make sure it's a large 9-10" loaf pan and that it's pretty deep, not shallow. Loaf pan sizes can vary and if your loaf pan is on the smaller side you might have spill over. Spray your loaf pan, then line with a piece of parchment paper that hangs over the sides for easy removal.

Preheat the oven to 350f

In a medium size bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed until light and fluffy (approx. 2 minutes).

Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the eggs and beat at low speed until combined.

Add the ricotta, lemon juice and both extracts. Beat and medium speed until combined.

Add the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to incorporate some of the flour so it doesn't fly all over the place, then beat at low speed just until combined.

Spread half of the batter into the prepared pans. Top with half of the sliced cherries. Top with the remaining batter and then the remaining cherries.


Bake at 350 until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (approx. 50 minutes for a full loaf, 15-20 minutes for the mini loaves). Note: Bake times may vary as all ovens are different and is also dependent upon pan size. Check for doneness at the beginning of the recommended bake time and continue to check for doneness after that. If you find that your bread is getting too brown but isn't done yet, tent the top with a piece of foil to prevent over browning.

While cakes are cooling, make the glaze

Combine all ingredients (except for the toasted almonds) in a bowl and adjust consistency as needed.

Drizzle over cooled cakes.

Monday, July 7, 2014

6 Secrets to Baking Tall, Flaky, Delicious Biscuits

Growing up with a Father who comes from the South often means you have biscuits every Sunday for breakfast. It was no different in our household. While my Mom was known for cooking from scratch, she liked to use Bisquick Baking Mix to make her biscuits. It's a short cut I often used as well when I first started cooking for my family, until I got turned on to homemade biscuits. From that point on, there was no turning back. Sorry Bisquick fans, homemade biscuits are beyond comparison to anything that comes from a box.
For years I struggled to make the perfect from-scratch biscuit. I tried recipe after recipe...some using buttermilk, some using regular milk, some with lots of  baking powder others with less, some using all purpose flour others using self-rising....but I was never satisfied. How could I get the tall, flaky, delicious looking biscuits that I've always seen in photos? How could I become a biscuit baking master instead of a biscuit making disaster?
Well, I always thought the secret was in the recipe, when actually the secret is in the technique! That's when I unlocked the secrets to making the ultimate homemade biscuits.
And voila!! Tall, flaky, beautiful....

1. Always, always, always use cold ingredients. Your butter and milk must be cold. Keep them in the fridge until ready to use.

2. Use a Food Processor. Yep, you heard me. I know a lot of people swear that making them by hand is best, but I've had the best results using a Food Processor.

3. Use the fold technique. That means folding your dough over on each other a few times kind of like a letter. This creates the layers!! But be careful not to overwork or you will heat up the butter in the dough. If, at any point you feel like you've overworked your dough, put it in the fridge for a little while.

4. Use a sharp biscuit cutter! This is an absolute must. A dull biscuit cutter will seal the edges of the dough and prevent rising. For a long time I cut my biscuits using a glass that had a wide rim which I later realized was a no-no.

5. Don't twist when cutting your biscuits! Just press down and lift straight up. If you twist, you're basically sealing the edges which will prevent your biscuits from rising.

6. Don't place your biscuits touching each other. Again, placing the biscuits touching each other may look nice, but you are preventing the biscuits from rising as high as possible.

And there you have it, the secrets I've learned through lots of trial and error. Now go out there and bake some amazing biscuits!! If I can do it, you can too!
Here's the biscuit recipe I use. It makes 5-6 large biscuits.
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk (buttermilk will add a tangy flavor to your biscuits) *you might not use all of the milk
6 tablespoons very cold, unsalted butter cut into tablespoon size pieces
Extra butter & jam or honey for serving with the warm biscuits
Preheat oven to 450
Cut the butter into tablespoon size pieces and place back in the fridge
Measure the milk or buttermilk and place back in the fridge
Place the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of your food processor and pulse to combine.
Sprinkle the butter over the flour and pulse a few times until you have a course meal.
Place the flour mixture in a bowl. Pour about 3/4 cup of the milk over the flour and use a rubber spatula to gently combine. A soft dough should form. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more milk around the edges and fold again to combine.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently flatten into a small rectangle then starting at the small end, fold one end over onto the other end and gently flatten.  Repeat this process 3 more times. Be careful not to overwork the dough.
After folding, gently flatten the dough to about 1 1/2" thick and cut with a sharp biscuit or cookie cutter. Gently reshape the dough and cut again until you have about 5-6 biscuits.
** the biscuits that are made with the reshaped dough won't be as pretty, but they'll taste just as good
Place biscuits about 1" apart into a buttered skillet or onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake until golden brown. Remove from the oven and top with butter. Serve immediately with extra butter, honey and/or jam if desired.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Marriage Proposal worthy "Lemon Coconut Bars"

Oh yeesssss.... these bars so amazing, they're worthy of a marriage proposal. 
At one my boyfriend's recent VW Car Shows,  I sent him with a few batches of these sweet treats to share. Let's just say I received several thank you emails and a good, old fashioned proposal! Nope, not from the boyfriend, but from a happily married man!  That is one of the sweetest compliments a baker can receive, someone loving your desserts as much as you do and wanting to marry you for it...
So I'll keep the desserts coming to these guys and girls.  They really know how to make a baker feel special. Now back to these Lemon Coconut Bars... they are the perfect combination of sweet and tart. One flavor doesn't over power the other. The coconut shortbread crust is the perfect compliment to the citrus filling.
 I hope you give these "Lemon Coconut Bars" a try for your next event. You just might wind up engaged!
Happy Cooking Everyone!

Lemon Coconut Shortbread Bars

2 cups All purpose Flour
1 cup Unsalted Butter, Softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
4 large eggs, lightly whisked
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar


Preheat oven 350 degree
Juice the lemon then zest set aside

Line a 9"x13" baking pan with foil and then parchment paper (makes for much easier clean up).
1. Mix together Flour, Butter, Sugar and Coconut until well combined. Form into a ball.

2. Put the dough ball into the prepared baking dish.  Gently press down till the dough evenly covers the bottom of the prepared pan.

3. Bake approx 18-20 minutes

While the crust is baking, start on the filling.

1.Mix together 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt, 1/4 cup flour and baking powder.  
2. Mix together whisked eggs, lemon juice with zest and vanilla.
3. Add the sugar mixture to the egg-lemon mixture until it is blended to a smooth batter.

Remove crust from oven

1. Pour egg mixture over the hot crust making sure you have covered all the surface.

2. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes
3. Cool completely.
4. Cut into 20 squares.
5. Sprinkle with powder sugar

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies

I have a confession to make. Normally I'm a very "plan-ahead" type of person. I don't like to leave things until the last minute. My job is too stressful and unpredictable to leave my personal life to the same type of chaos, but somehow the entire month of May (and now part of June) slipped away from me. Where the heck did all the time go?
I realized yesterday that it was time to post for this month's Leftover's Club and I had not yet decided what I wanted to make for my partner, Marissa, from In My Yellow Cardigan. As a matter of fact, I hadn't even corresponded with Marissa very much at all - shame on me! I normally try to interact with my Leftover's Club partner at least a few times to get to know them a little better, but I was a bad partner this month...
I hope these Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies make up for it. Marissa mentioned she likes chocolate so who am I deny chocolate to anyone? I practically live off of the stuff!
These cookies definitely deliver in the chocolate flavor department. They're rich and fudgy and the creamy swirls of peanut butter combine perfectly with the chunks of chocolate.
If you're interested in joining The Leftover's Club, please stop by Food Ramblings  and sign up! Receiving goodies in the mail each month is a lot of fun! And I promise if we're ever paired up, I'll try not to wait until the last minute (or if I do, I'll make it up to you with chocolate!)
Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies
Makes 18 large cookies
Adapted from Picky Palate
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of peanut butter
1 cup of granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chunks (or large chocolate chips like Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chips)
Place the 1 cup of peanut butter in a shallow bowl and freeze for 30-45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350f
Line cookie sheets with silpat or parchment paper.
In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Whisk well to combine. Set aside.
Place the butter, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy (approx. 3 minutes).
Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on low speed until combined.
Scrape down the bowl and add the dry ingredients. Pulse a few times to combine so the flour mixture doesn't fly all over the place (take it from experience) then mix on low speed just until combined.
Remove the peanut butter from the freezer, then remove half of the dough from the mixing bowl. Dollop half of the peanut butter mixture on top of the dough in the mixing bowl, then put the other half of the dough back in the bowl and dollop the remaining peanut butter on top. This ensure more even distribution of the peanut butter.
Pulse a few times just to create swirls of peanut butter throughout the dough. You don't want to over-mix and incorporate the peanut butter into the dough too much. There should be large swirls of peanut butter throughout the dough.
Using a large cookie scoop, place 5-6 balls of dough on the prepare cookie sheets and bake at 350f for 14-15 minutes or until cookies are set.
Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5-7 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
Store leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 2 days.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Banana Pineapple Coconut Mini Bundt Cakes

This recipe doesn't really have a good story behind it other than the fact that I had two over-ripe bananas that needed to be used up. Those bananas, along with a can of pineapple and some coconut oil turned into these delicious Banana Pineapple Coconut Mini Bundt Cakes!
This recipe makes a lot so I shared them with Faye, my Parents and some coworkers. Based on the positive feedback I received from everyone, this is a recipe I will definitely be making again! The cakes are easy to make, super moist and have lots of flavor, all thanks to two leftover bananas...

I hope you give this recipe a try.
Happy Cooking!

Banana Pineapple & Coconut Mini Bundt Cakes
Adapted from Poet in the Pantry
Makes 24

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking spice (or ground cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 medium over-ripe bananas, mashed
1 20oz can sliced pineapple rings, drained and juice reserved
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup of the drained pineapple juice

1 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons of the drained pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 350
Butter 24 mini bunt cups, or muffin cups
Cut Pineapple into small pieces.

1. Combine Flour, Sugars, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Baking Spice and Salt in a large bowl using a whisk.. Add Shredded Coconut

2. In a separate bowl, combine Eggs, Banana, Pineapple, Coconut Oil, Butter and Juice.  Mixed together till all ingredients are well in combined.

3. Make a well in the middle of the flour bowl ingredients and add all the wet ingredients.  Slowly stir together till combined. do not over beat.

4. Add Pineapple Coconut Banana batter into each of the cups, filling 3/4 full.

5.Bake for 20-25 minutes
6. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from cups and put cooling rack to cool completely.

Once the mini cakes are cooled.. make the glaze

1. Combine powder sugar and pineapple juice.
2. Drizzle on top of each of the mini cakes.

Let a few minutes  pass for the glaze to dry. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pomegranate Raspberry and Thyme Shortbread Bars (or Don't Judge a Food by It's Photo)

For this month's Leftover's Club I was paired with Kim from Feed Me Seymour. Kim is a Freelance Journalist and you can tell from reading her Blog that the woman knows her stuff. Her photos are gorgeous and her writing flows beautifully.

I have to admit, I was a little (ok, maybe more than a little) intimidated to be paired with Kim. My writing and photography skills pale in comparison. I deliberated for quite a while about what to bake for her and after reading several of Kim's posts, I discovered that she doesn't really like fruit baked in her desserts (bummer), but she does like Pomegranates! Score (or so I thought!). I should have realized Pomegranates were not in season. Luckily, after searching high and low, I was able to find fresh Pomegranate arils at Sprouts!

I used the Pomegranate seeds to make this homemade Pomegranate Raspberry & Thyme Jam which I used as a filling for my favorite shortbread bars. Instead of using fresh Pomegranates, I used the fresh Pomegranate arils.

I've raved about these shortbread bars here. This is my absolute favorite shortbread bar recipe. The almond flour, sliced almonds (and plenty of butter of course) are simple perfection. The tartness of the Pomegranate and Raspberry along with the hint of lemon from the fresh Thyme pair really well with the buttery sweetness of the shortbread. This recipe only requires a few ingredients so make sure you use the best especially if you use store bought jam. Bonne Maman is one of my favorite brands. I really hope Kim enjoys these bars as much as I do!

If you're interested in joining The Leftovers Club, please sign up over at Food Ramblings. I've been a member of the club for several months now and I love receiving (and sending) goodies to fellow bloggers every month!

Now on to the recipe....I have to apologize for the horrible photo. I had a kitchen mishap while baking these bars and broke my lens so I had to use my phone : (  I promise to update with better photos as soon as I have them.


Pomegranate Raspberry & Thyme Shortbread Bars
Makes 12 Bars

1 1/4 cups Pomegranate Raspberry & Thyme Jam
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (minus 2 tablespoons) all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal


Preheat oven to 325f

Line an 8" baking pan with nonstick foil or spray regular foil with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and almond meal. Set aside.

Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of your electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium speed until cream (approx. 1 1/2 minutes).

Add the vanilla and salt and mix just until combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until combined. Wrap half of the dough in plastic wrap and place in freezer. This part of the dough will be used for the crumb topping.

Press the remaining half of the mixture into the bottom of your prepared baking pan. Bake at 325 for approx. 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Gently spread the jam over the top of the crust being careful not to disturb the crust.

Crumble the remaining crust over the top of the jam and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Return to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, slice into bars & serve.

Store leftovers tightly covered in an air tight container for up to 3 days.