Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake.

Summer is my favorite season, if you couldn't tell.  So last week when cherries started popping up in stores and markets, we nabbed some up as quickly as possible!  I would say half of them were sweet as can be while the other half needed some improvement, which is where this coffee cake came in handy.  This is a great, simple and easy recipe for any fruit you need to use this summer that might not be completely ideal for eating out-of-hand - peaches, plums, nectarines, blueberries, I could even see strawberries working here.  It's an absolutely delicious cake to enjoy with iced coffee or tea on summer mornings :)

Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake
Adapted from Cooking Light
Streusel topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup oats (quick-cooking or regular)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces, cold

Combine the flour, sugar, oats and cinnamon in a small bowl and cut in the butter until you have a cohesive, crumbly mixture.  Keep this in the fridge while you assemble the cake batter.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt or sour cream
1 1/2 cups pitted cherries, quartered

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and grease an 8x8" baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Sift or whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.  In a larger bowl, cream the sugar and butter together until well-combined, then add the egg and vanilla extract and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Add the flour and yogurt to the butter mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.  Spread half of the cake batter into the bottom of the prepared pan, followed by half of the streusel topping.  Place the fruit on top of the streusel evenly, then spread the rest of the cake batter over the fruit, and finally sprinkle the rest of the streusel over. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes.  It should be golden brown on top and a toothpick or knife inserted into the center will come out clean when done. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gluten Free Lemon Pie Bars.

Something about lemon bars has always screamed warm weather to me - the lemon's yellowness and the scent of them being zested and juiced is complete summery dessert perfection!  Crisp, buttery and tender crust; cold, silky smooth and just-tart-enough lemon curd on top, I urge you to bring these along to any party this summer.

I did something a little different here by using a lemon meringue pie filling recipe for the top of the bars because I wanted them set or "gel" more than normal lemon bars and it worked really well!  These are much easier to cut and serve than other recipes I've used in the past.  I decided not to use the whites for a meringue topping, only because I knew these had to last more than a day or two in the refrigerator and I worried about the meringue beading and slipping on top of the filling, but if anyone tries it, please let me know how it works out!

Happy Summer! :) 

Gluten Free Lemon Pie Bars

1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a 9x13" glass or metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour, cornstarch, salt and powdered sugar, then cut in the butter until it starts to form into a ball of dough.  Using slightly wet or greased hands or an offset spatula, spread the dough evenly into the bottom of the baking pan.  Bake until golden brown around the corners and edges and lightly golden brown in the middle, about 25 to 35 minutes.  Let cool completely before filling.

Lemon Filling:
Recipe doubled and slightly adapted from Anna Olson's Another Cup of Sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups water
1/2 cup cornstarch
10 large egg yolks
Pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup finely grated lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large heavy saucepan, whisk the sugar, water and cornstarch together and mix well.  Whisk in the egg yolks and salt, then cook over medium-low heat until it starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.  Increase the heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until it bubbles and becomes glossy and thicker, another 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the zest, lemon juice and butter and whisk until the butter has melted completely.  Pour into the baked crust and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to a day before cutting into squares and serving.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Honey Cake.

Last week I made an orange poppy seed Bundt cake.  Well, I tried to.  When I went to take the cake out of the Bundt pan, of course the top of the cake stuck in the pan and only the bottom half came out.  It was still really delicious and we ate it all but I was really upset about not being able to get the whole cake out of the pan!

I was determined to make a Bundt cake that would look as beautiful as it tastes and I had a jar of honey crystallizing in the cupboard - honey cake!  This recipe is from the super cute Best Bake Sale Ever cookbook with a few adaptations.  I didn't have dark brown sugar and only 1 cup of honey so I added in 1/4 cup of molasses to compensate and used 3/4 cup light brown sugar instead of the full cup of dark brown that's called for.  I increased the amount of spices, added salt, and I used tea and brandy for the liquids. The book gives many options - you can use coffee or tea for the main liquid, orange juice, brandy or whiskey for the smaller amount of liquid.  I imagine you can also substitute 1 cup of any dried fruit you'd like here, I stuck with raisins and apricots but next time I'd love to try dried cherries, golden raisins, dates or dried blueberries!

I admit a big reason I decided to make this cake is because of the lack of fat needed - a mere 1/3 cup of oil!  This is a great dense, moist spicy cake for breakfast, snack or dessert.  I hope you enjoy it!

Honey Cake
Adapted from The Best Bake Sale Ever Cookbook
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
1 cup honey
3/4 cup cold brewed tea or coffee
1/4 cup brandy, orange juice or whiskey
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. and grease a 10-inch Bundt pan well.

In a large bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder and soda, spices and salt until everything is incorporated and well mixed.  In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, molasses, oil, honey, coffee or tea and brandy, juice or whiskey, then add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until almost completely mixed.  Fold in the dried fruit, then pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes.  It will be done when it has risen and cracked slightly on top and turned golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Let it cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto a serving platter or cake stand to cool completely.

This cake will stay fresh up to 5 days stored airtight.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sand Dollar Cookies.


I've been home from North Carolina for almost a week now.  I've baked a few things but quite frankly haven't had the motivation or inspiration to write anything or take pictures until now.  It's pretty rough to come back from warm, beautiful sunny weather to day after day of clouds, rain and cold, not to mention being away from my sweetheart!

But life must go on and until I'm able to move more permanently, it doesn't make any sense to sulk around in the mean time.  In comes baking - my ultimate comfort in its routine of measuring out ingredients, whisking, creaming, smelling and most importantly, tasting.  I've had this recipe on my YumTab for a few months now and when I was browsing for things to bake, this seemed like the perfect time to try it out.  Sand dollars are adorable reminders of sun, sand, seashells and water.  I can't tell you how much I love the beach.  I realize being a full time beachcomber is not an original dream but I could absolutely spend the rest of my life walking up and down the North Carolina coastline and never get sick of it.

These cookies are absolutely delicious and I hope you try them!  They're buttery, tender, slightly sandy like the environment they evoke and bring some much-needed sunshine to this rainy spell so many of us are going through.  I halved the recipe and got exactly 24 cookies, and added a pinch of salt and vanilla extract to enhance the flavor of the dough.  This is a great project for a rainy afternoon when all you can think about is being at the beach with your favorite person :)

Sand Dollar Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs - 1 whole, 1 yolk with the whole egg and the white in a separate bowl
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch kosher salt
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Cinnamon sugar
Sliced almonds

In a large bowl, cream together the soft butter and powdered sugar until very creamy.  Add in the whole egg and yolk, then beat until well combined, then the vanilla and salt.  Stir in the flour and baking powder until you have a very soft dough.  Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic or wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll out the dough to 1/4" thick on a floured surface and cut out 3" circles.  Brush the circles with the reserved egg white, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar and press 5 almond slices into the center of each circle.  Bake for 3-4 minutes, then take the sheet out and press the almonds in again, making slight indentations in the circle.  Place the sheet back in the oven and bake until the edges are golden brown, another 7-10 minutes, depending on how thick you cut the circles.  Stored airtight, these cookies will keep up to 5 days.