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Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

Homer Simpson’s a pretty wacky guy, but you have to say he’s right on the money in his effusing about pie.

I decided to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but wanted something a little different than the same ole, same ole. So I perused my collection of recipes (the size of which would have you thinking I was cooking/baking 3 meals daily every day of the week. Hah! Not quite.) I decided to make this yummy pie called “Paradise Pumpkin Pie.” You’ll get why in a second.

All the ingredients gathered to make the process go efficiently and smoothly.

I know this probably looks fine, but to me, it was kind of raggedy. It’s been a while since I made a pie crust, and I felt like I’d lost my magic touch (said the perfectionist.) This was a basic all-butter crust.

Now here’s what drew me to this pie and why they call it a “Paradise” Pumpkin Pie. This is the Paradise layer – a smooth mixture of cream cheese, an egg, some sugar, and vanilla. In essence, a layer of cheesecake to go under the pumpkin. Yum, right? Wait …

Don’t you love mixing up the pumpkin and all those spices? The smell alone is so delicious!

So here’s the pie right out of the oven. Not at all what the recipe photo looked like, and I admit I saw this problem as a potential right away – that the cheesecake layer could easily permeate the upper pumpkin layer. So I ever-so-carefully ladled – not poured – the pumpkin on top, doing my best not to disturb the Paradise layer. However, the result was a bit more like some kind of algae-blooming pie!

And here in the cooled slice, you can see the problem – exactly what I anticipated is what happened. The pie, instead of looking like a standard pumpkin pie with a surprise layer viewed when cut,  showed where the cheesecake layer had pushed up when the pumpkin was ladled over.

That said, the pie was delicious – the seasoning excellent, and the filling super creamy. Would I make this again? Sure. But now I’ll think of it as an “Almost Paradise Pumpkin Pie.” Then again, so many recipes, so little time.

p.s. After I put this post together, I realized I had actually made this pie – and posted about it – once before! Not only that, but it came out just fine 5 years ago. (A sure sign of a weary mind, but hey – now you can see what it should look like!) Check here for the recipe and an earlier version.

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applebars-squaresdone-small2It’s no revelation to say that routine can be a real buzzkill. And that can be true in any area of our lives. And yet, many of us are confined by the strictures of work, family, chores, etc. A fair amount of our scheduled days is necessarily and simply unavoidably routinized.

But what about some of that other time? I have been noticing lately how much of certain nights is all packaged up ever-so-neatly around the TV. Very American, yes? Truly I am not all that into TV the way I realize a lot of people are, but still … I have my favorites that I like to catch. However, I will find myself parked there, watching something relatively inane that has been sandwiched in between some things I really like. Why am I watching it?

I decided to take a harder look at what I’m watching and … decided to skip a bunch of it. Dumping the telly for a good book. Yeah, I remember that. Sunday afternoon I came home from a picnic with the plan of baking something – had all the ingredients already on the counter and everything. (Ergo the photos you see.) But I wasn’t feeling it, so did some other things, yet was still aware of he clock ticking. Who starts baking after 7 p.m. with work looming on Monday? Well, I guess that was me.

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The dry and other basic ingredients are gathered; the butter and egg at room temperature. Ready to start.

And that’s what made me think of/remember the importance of mixing it up. Even on the small stuff. Was there really anything so pressing on TV? Did I feel like watching the Netflix movie that was waiting? No and no. Why not go ahead and bake even if it’s getting late? Who cares how long it takes? (It was cooled off by 10:00 p.m. – Double Apple Bars. Yum.)

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The apples are pared and cubed. There are 2 cups of apples to about 1-1/2 cups of batter. Very apple-y.
I gave my favorite Macouns a try in this recipe.

We all get so comfortable doing what we’re used to. I’m at the point where I really need to mix it up more – need to feel inspired, have fun, try some new things, go back to some old ones I haven’t done in a while. I don’t know that I’ve actually been bored, but I do know that I have, in too many ways, succumbed to routines. How about you?

I just got a funny image of Bugs Bunny. “What’s up, doc?” he always said. What’s up? Well, I don’t know – what say we go find out.

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They taste like apple pie in a bar – moist, spicy and full of apple flavor. The pecans are yummy as an addition.

 

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Do you ever find yourself missing you? And by that I mean a part of you that you have always enjoyed but for which there seems to be little or no time nowadays?

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On the rare occasions that I bake these days, I am reminded of times when I really used to cook and bake a whole lot more … and loved it. So when I do get in the kitchen, and take my sweet time baking a cake, (which may be to raise funds for the local equine rescue I help or when I’m a dinner guest and have offered to bring dessert), I not only enjoy it, but feel like I’ve re-found a part of myself. I call her the “domestic dolly” part of me.

Dolly likes to cook and bake – from scratch, of course – likes to sew, paint stuff – walls, furniture, do crafts – and yes, sometimes, actually enjoys cleaning … or at least the result. But as our lives get busier and stay busier, other things demand our time and attention, and these may fall to the wayside,  and hey, I’m not 28 anymore. Yeah, then there’s that.

So we pick and choose, and try, somewhere along the line, to occasionally rediscover the parts of ourselves that sometimes get lost in the shuffle. It’s a challenge. Life has different demands than in the past. We have different goals. But it’s good to remember ourselves, even if for a little while.

What about you – are you a cook or baker with no time? Love to go out dancing? Travel? Play music? Hike? Just curl up with a good book?

My suggestion? Dust off that `you’ and take her or him out for a spin. Find that time or make that time. If it’s something we love, we can’t afford to go missing.

 

 

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Baking for some of us is an expression of creativity, a passion, or a simple pleasure. Personally I wish I had more time to bake, but when I do, I am reminded of the numerous perks of baking besides the obvious. Here are a few:

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5. Baking is a license to make a mess. We sometimes need permission to let that super-neat side go, (or that hyper-critical side that’s always complaining that we’re not being neat enough.) There’s nothing like poufs of flour and drooling egg whites on the counter to remind us that messy can often serve the higher power of creativity.

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4. It ends up being a great time to give our prep counters a thorough cleaning, a corollary to #5 above.

3. Baking is also an ideal opportunity to take stock of our pantry and insure that we don’t run out of the staples we need when our next baking impulse strikes.

2. Baking makes the house smell fabulous.

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1. The most obvious reason why baking is cool:

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Yum! We get to enjoy something truly delicious that came from our own two hands which is wholesome and free of all the extra and unnecessary additives of store-bought.

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Pictured here are Apple Buttermilk Muffins. I made 6 large muffins rather than 12 small, used pecans instead of walnuts, and I used the Macoun apples I already had in the house. It all added up to a treat worth savoring.

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PastryDough2You know … I was once quite the baker. That was back when I had the time, and was able to bake – and cook – with some sort of regularity. (I even have a little recipe box to prove it!) But how frustrating is it to finally set aside the time to bake, and have what you were going to bake be a disaster!

I know – this isn’t the first time I’ve spilled some baking tears on this blog, but I also know that those of you who do bake share my frustration when you spend the time with such a gorgeous end product in mind and it comes out wrong, or not at all. (Insert huge sigh here.)

So there you see the photo. That wasn’t what I was planning on making. At all. What I’d planned on making was Hamantaschen, those wonderful little triangular pastries with delicious fillings of fruit, poppyseed or almond. And I had the recipe that I had made them from  in the past. I went online and checked some recipes to see that my older one was in the range of what was still being done and all looked good. (By the way, if you want to see what beautiful Hamantaschen look like, their history, and how to make them, take a peek here. This is where I’ll be getting my next recipe from.)

So this morning early, I prepped my pastry dough so it would have at least 3 hours to chill and went about my other chores. Long story short, the dough was terribly crumbly, and was not pulling together any better with some ice water. I’d rolled out 1/4 of it and saw that this was not going to work; there’d never even be enough dough to make what the recipe said. So I made some cinnamon and sugar strips, (above), just to have something come from my efforts.

I brought out the next quarter of the dough and knew I was just wasting my time, and sadly, I chucked it. Half of it still sits in the fridge, why, I’m not sure, but there won’t be any Hamantaschen coming out of this kitchen today. And I wonder … could using organic ingredients make a difference? Are the ingredients used today sufficiently different from those on hand when I originally made that recipe to have this result?

Or … (insert very deep sigh here) … have I lost my touch? I won’t accept that, maybe just a little out of practice. That recipe has followed the too-crumbly dough into the great beyond, and when I next feel Hamantaschen-ish, I’ll check the recipe linked to above. Such is life.

p.s. This is not at all what I’ve been wanting to post about, but there you have it …

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Life today pulls us in so many directions; sometimes it seems the stress just keeps coming, doesn’t it? And sometimes, we have to stop the world, get off and just do something nice for ourselves.

With a window of time in front of me Sunday, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the myriad of things I should be/could be doing. My list, as I’m sure is the case with your own, was endless. Know what I did? (In case the photos hadn’t given me away.) I baked. For me. That’s right. Not for someone else, not to take to an event, not to bring to someone else’s house … just for me. Something I almost never do.

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Just out of the oven …

I know, shame on me. I picked up a recipe I’d clipped recently from one of the magazines my neighbor and I swap with one another regularly, (like getting free subscriptions for both of us!) Muffins are easy and make me happy during the week, too.

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Cooling off

The recipe I chose was from Cooking Light called Jammin’ Oat Muffins – made with steel cut, quick-cooking oats, (I only use McCann’s Irish, non-GMO oats), low fat milk and canola oil, both organic – all good choices. How did they come out? I’d say they were better than OK, but not ones I’d bake again. You know … so many recipes, so little time. I only save recipes now if they are fabulous and I would definitely make them again.

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The muffins were a tad heavier than I would have liked. In this photo, I wanted to also show off these gorgeous, kind-of-jacquard autumn placemats I found, too.

But the most important thing was I put a stop to the overwhelming demands in  my head and did something nice for myself. That, in fact, made them taste even better. The moral of the story is … don’t forget to take a little time doing whatever it is that makes you happy and be nice to yourself.

You can find the recipe here.

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It seems almost everything I start to write about lately is so serious, (and I have the drafts to prove it), so I decided to write instead about my latest baking experience. Or should I say (unintended) baking experiment.

Each year I volunteer at, and bake for, the annual Open House at the equine rescue I help. Last weekend I pored over recipes looking for something fabulous and Fall-ish to bake, and settled on a gorgeous cranberry-orange cake with orange glaze. I usually bake a Bundt cake of some kind, and then wrap individual slices for them to sell at the bake sale. I make a sign that says “From Scratch” and “All Butter” and between the two, my cake goes pretty quickly. I’d thought about making something vegan, but I’m not practiced enough, so I’ll stick with what I know best, traditional baking.

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Well, it started with the food shopping. I’d gotten almost all the week’s groceries on my list and went to get the butter. Crap. I’d looked at so many recipes, I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to use salted or unsalted. I decided on the latter. After I’d loaded up on my own fruits and veggies, I searched for the cranberries. No fresh to be found — not organic or otherwise. Hmmmm. I headed over to the frozen section — no organic, looked for regular. Nothing. I asked the fellow in the frozen fruit section and inquired. He says, “We used to have the frozen all year `round, now they come in the same time as the fresh.”

Cake-Batter2Really? REALLY? My whole cake idea is now shot. I decided to go with blueberries, because they’ll be good with orange, but because I’d already been in the store so long, I grabbed the frozen in front of me instead of schlepping yet again to the fresh section. (And I just heard all you bakers groan.)

Saturday morning I got out all the ingredients, including those that needed to come to room temperature. Oh yeah, another recipe with frozen blueberries tells me to thaw them and drain well. So they’re in a strainer over a nice deep bowl.

Okay, now I’m starting to bake. I put Loreena on my CD player, (Mask and Mirror), and happily begin mixing my dry ingredients. I can already see the blueberries may be a problem. But what can I do? Cake-DoneInPan2I proceed with the recipe, make a little salt adjustment because it was salted butter it called for, (of course it was), and everything else goes smoothly. I try some extra gentle blotting of the blueberries before adding them, but it makes no difference. My batter is turning blue. At best, marbled blue. The great cake I had such high hopes for has officially turned into a science project.

Well, I know it will taste good, because a sampling of the batter tells me so, and into the oven it goes. I now find myself hoping that some kids at Open House will see the blue cake and think it’s real cool and beg Mom to buy it. After 50 minutes, I test with a toothpick. It says it’s OK; I don’t believe it, and put it back in for another 10 minutes. And below, when I went to turn it out, is what I got. * Sigh* Pretty depressing, eh?

Cake-TurnedOut2I feel badly as now I’ll have nothing to bring, and badly because I just wasted a lot of time and money. I must say, in all my years of baking, that never happened! Guess there’s a first time for everything.

If you’d like to make the cake I’d planned, and see a photo of what it should look like, here’s the recipe. No substitutions, please.

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I won’t lie. Baking makes me feel good. Just thinking about baking actually makes me feel good … looking at yummy recipes, the photos that make me want to drop everything and run to the kitchen, considering the ingredients … all part of the process. (And I like to blog about baking!)

OBars-Ingredients2First, we gather the ingredients together. You might, (correctly), surmise that I collect recipes for eons, as this one, in a copy of Woman’s Day, carried a 2/3 page cigarette ad!  You won’t be finding
that in its recent history.

I committed to making a dessert for a volunteer picnic this Sunday for the local equine rescue I help. I wanted to also make something vegan, in keeping with my own direction, and also because when a bunch of people gather who are committed to the mission of rescuing horses, often from slaughter, (and becoming horse meat), there’s always a fair amount of vegetarians, and some vegans. I went searching OBars-Flour2through my recipes, and selected one without eggs and where I could easily replace the butter with Earth Balance vegan margarine. All other ingredients are vegan.

All you eagle-eyed bakers may have noticed something missing in that top photo – flour. NOW I have all the ingredients.

I’ve made this recipe before, but with butter and different flavors preserves. This time I also mixed it up and used brown sugar for half the sugar, as it’s such a natural with oats and cinnamon.This recipe is incredibly simple and whips up in no time.

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After mixing the margarine, flour, sugar, baking powder and oat mixture together, the next step is pressing the mixture into the bottom of the pan.

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Next, spreading the preserves to within a half inch of the edges.

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Sprinkle top with reserved crumb mixture and coconut.

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Voila – Done!

One of the things that is most difficult for me is the concept of baking vegan. I don’t have a problem with not eating meat. I know enough about what happens to animals, particularly in the factory farming system, to not want to participate in it. But eggs and dairy, particularly when it comes to baking? Now this is rough.

OBars-OnePiece2Established vegans say that once committed, you won’t miss the eggs and dairy in food. Maybe not in some food, but in baking … I don’t know. As I go through my many clipped recipes and cookbooks, I can envision making a vegan version of some, but others? Simply not possible. I am in a quandary.

But for today, I made something simple and vegan, which, of course, I had to taste to make sure it’s safe for consumption.

Because I have modified this recipe significantly, I am including it here, should you want something fast and easy, vegan or not, (just use butter.) Enjoy!

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

3/4 C. butter or margarine
1-1/4 C. each rolled oats and flour
1/2 C. sugar I used half cane sugar, half brown sugar)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 C. strawberry preserves (or peach, apricot – anything seedless)
3/4 C. flaked coconut

In 13 x 9″ baking pan, melt butter while oven is heating to 350˚; cool.
Stir in oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon until blended. It will be crumbly.
Reserve 1/2 c. crumb mixture.
Press firmly onto bottom of pan.
Spread preserves to within 1/2″ of edges.
Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture tossed with coconut.
Bake on center rack for 25 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool in pan on rack. Makes 36 bars. (per bar – 12 mg cholesterol with butter, 0 mg cholesterol with margarine.)

And now for me … back to the picture book I’m working on.

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CinnamonSugarMuffinBatter2It’s a sad comment on how often I (don’t) bake that when I go into the kitchen and start getting out bowls and baking pans the cats show up to be fed. I mean … why else would I be coming into the kitchen at this odd hour, right? Sad, indeed.

However, much to their surprise, it was to bake something … muffins, in fact. I had pulled a page out of Parade Magazine’s monthly dash insert, (which is all about food), because it had a basic muffin recipe and a bunch of variations. Yes, it’s true – I am suckered in even by pictures of food. Figured I’d try them. By the way, the recipes featured in dash all come from bon appetit, Gourmet and epicurious.

What I liked about them was the low amount of sugar in the batch – only 1/4 cup – and they recommended canola oil, of which I have organic onhand. Made-from-scratch muffins really are incredibly easy to make and these were no exception. I decided to go simple and top them with a mix of cinnamon and the neat sanding sugar I’ve been waiting to use. You can see it best in the batter photo.

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How did they come out? Beautiful, of course, but oddly enough, they could have done with a wee  bit more sweetness. Want to try them? Find the recipe here with a link to the variations.

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For the moment we’ll forget the irony of a German Plum Cake being made with Italian prune plums; I’m guessing it’s so because they’re perfectly delicious in it! This is one of my truly favorite recipes to make. It’s surprisingly easy, absolutely delicious, (assuming you think great baking includes butter, sugar and eggs), and always comes out fabulous. What more could one want?

Above, prepped in a flash and ready to go in the oven …

I don’t know where my mom originally got the recipe, but I’ve been making it for years. Five simple ingredients in the crust, which you mix right in the pan, fresh fruit, and two ingredients on the top. Voila! The Italian prune plums are the basic recipe, but it’s easily adapted to peaches or apples with just a bit of cinnamon added to the topping sugar.  In fact, I was planning to stop at the farmstand for peaches for my Labor Day dessert contribution – summer’s last hurrah – after grocery shopping, but while in the supermarket, thought to check on the plums.

Much to my surprise, there they were! I asked how long they’d be in stock. Two or three weeks tops the produce manager told me! Plums it is then.

Crumbly butter crust, sweet fruit and some good vanilla ice cream. Does it for me!

p.s. I have now added the recipe for this here.

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Berries are in season! So I decided to make my dessert for my friend’s and my Memorial Day get together utilizing some of nature’s bounty. I clipped a recipe for a Coconut Lime Berry Cake a while back from Martha Stewart, and this seemed the perfect time to make it.

I used three very full cups of berries, one each blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, and here it is ready to go in the oven.

It wasn’t a cake that browned very much except around the edges, but it did take a bit longer time than the recipe specified, which I checked twice with the standard toothpick in the middle test.

The cake turned out well, and was very moist. It’s all butter and includes buttermilk, so it’s hard to go wrong on that count, and the berries got soft and mushy, dropping through the batter. Although the grated lime and fresh lime juice gave it a nice tropical kind of kick, I am thinking now that I might like it even better with lemon instead of the lime. And there’s always more time to bake with berries in season.

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What a shocking idea. Now this may not be so for some of you reading this, but baking for myself has been a rarely-indulged-in luxury for quite some time. And on the occasions when I do bake, it’s usually to bring to someone else’s house for a gathering. Well, not today. I felt like baking muffins, and bake I did. I went through my recipe stash with something apple in mind, and found it … Apple Buttermilk Muffins.

In broad daylight … the audacity. An accusing voice from somewhere within nagged me to get going on my taxes, complete another drawing, go food shopping, and please! Clean!

I’ve really got to get a better grip on that no-fun, party-pooper. And baking just for me was a step in the right direction. Perhaps I gave in a wee bit when I cleaned the whole top and hood of the stove, but really, we have to start out in a clean spot, right?

I popped in the Breaking Dawn CD – such a great album – gathered ingredients, and happily chopped, measured and whisked. Although many muffin recipes have you making 12 muffins, I always make 6 bigger ones. They came out gorgeous, and then I had the audacity to have more fun – yup, in broad daylight – photographing them. And then eating one. (OK, actually not in that order.) Mmmmm, mmmm, mmmm.

You can make these truly chock-full-of-apple Apple Buttermilk Muffins, too. They’re from the Mr. Breakfast web site which has way more than muffins; it’s got everything you could ever think of in the way of breakfast, which is my favorite meal of the day. Enjoy!

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