Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pumpkin Pie


Everyone knows that during Thanksgiving you usually stuff yourself beyond belief and then head back for seconds.  Next comes the couch followed by a deep nap and then you may even head back for round three!  I was determined to enjoy my meal this year, but not go overboard.  In order to do this I made sure there were enough healthier options that I would not feel as if I missed out on the real Thanksgiving goodies.


This recipe is a great way to make a slimmed down version of Pumpkin Pie.  I enjoyed my slice, tasting both the cinnamon from the crust and the creamy pumpkin custard.  I decided to enlist the help of a few Pumpkin Pie aficionados to give me their reviews as well.  They agreed that the pie was great, but the main difference between the slimmed down and regular versions was that the slimmed down was a bit more dry.  So now I have a job for next year...find a way to make this pie more moist!  


I know that this year's Thanksgiving has passed, but I bet some of you may have cans of pumpkin puree leftover and you're wondering what to do with them.  It's never a bad time to have pumpkin pie, so why don't you give this recipe a try!


Pumpkin Pie
taken from Weight Watchers
(5 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

3 oz reduced-fat cinnamon graham crackers
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted 
2 large egg white
1 large egg
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp table salt  
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup(s) lite whipped topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Place the graham crackers and light brown sugar in a food processor; process into crumbs (or smash into crumbs in a sealed plastic food bag with a rolling pin).  Spoon the crumbs into a small bowl; add melted butter and combine with fingers into a coarse meal.  Distribute the crumbs evenly on the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-inch pie plate.  Chill for 30 minutes before baking.  Bake until the crust starts to turn golden, about 8 to 10 minutes; remove from the oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until frothy; fold in the egg, dark brown sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, canned pumpkin and evaporated milk.  Beat the pumpkin mixture until smooth (it may seem very runny but that is okay) and pour into the pie shell.  Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes.  Slice into 8 pieces, top each piece with 1/2 tablespoon of whipped topping and serve warm or at room temperature.  Yields 1 slice per serving. (5 PointsPlus per serving)





Monday, December 20, 2010

Beer Bread


Yes, you read that right- this is bread made with a bottle of beer!  I couldn't believe it when I found this recipe, so I knew right from the start I would have to see for myself.  And I am now a believer...it is possible to make bread without yeast, without having to let it rest and rise, and without kneading!


Besides not believing this recipe would work, my other first thought upon discovery was that my brother would love this.  I emailed him the recipe immediately and he was on board!  We planned to make it when I went home to Florida for Thanksgiving and what a great way to segway from Thanksgiving leftovers to regular baking.


Regardless of my skepticism, our bread turned out absolutely amazing!  We made two loaves, a wheat bread with Guinness beer and a white bread with rosemary made with a Blueberry Wheat Ale.  While the wheat loaf was just a bit more dense than the white loaf, they both had a hint of sweetness which went lovely with the coarse sea salt which we sprinkled on top.  I wasn't able to decide which loaf I liked better, but I think the combination of the Blueberry Wheat Ale and the rosemary gave the white loaf a more unique taste.  I will definitely make this recipe again and may experiment with new beers and additional seasonings.


Beer Bread
adapted from Baking Junkie

Ingredients for Blueberry Rosemary Beer Bread

3 cups self-rising flour*
⅓ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
12 ounces beer (I used Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale) 
2 tsp dried rosemary
Pinch of coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp melted butter

Ingredients for Guinness Wheat Beer Bread

3 cups self-rising whole wheat flour*
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
12-20 ounces beer (I used Guinness)
Pinch of coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp melted butter

Directions 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, sugar, and salt (if making the rosemary version add it during this step).  Add the beer and mix well.  It will get thick and sticky (if making the Guinness version, after you pour the first 12 oz. use your best judgment as to how much more you'll have to pour in order to have all of the dry ingredients mixed in).  Pour into the loaf pan and sprinkle the top with a pinch of sea salt.  Bake for 52 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush with the melted butter.  Return to the oven and bake another 3-12 minutes or until lightly golden.

*If you do not have self-rising flour you can use the substitutions below.  For every one cup of regular flour, add in:

1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt


Fresh, warm bread with a nice pad of butter = delicious!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cherry Biscotti


When I think of biscotti I am reminded of the large tubs of Nonni's Biscotti from Costco that my grandmother always had at her house while I was growing up.  My grandmother still replenishes her jar every so often, but these days I try to stay away from the processed biscotti and indulge on the real deal, something I've made on my own.


While I normally would have been drawn to a pure chocolate or hazelnut or almond biscotti, I thought it would be interesting to try this recipe combining chocolate and cherries.  Can you really go wrong with this combination??  I don't think so!  The chocolate and the cherry tasted very nice together and because of the little amount of sugar the biscotti were not overly sweet.  This allowed for the chocolate and the cherry to really shine and provide the flavor for each bite.  I had a bit of trouble cutting exactly 24 slices, but eventually made it work.


Chocolate Chip-Cherry Biscotti
taken from Weight Watchers
3 PointsPlus per serving
 
Ingredients

2 cups purpose flour    
1 tsp baking powder    
1/8 tsp table salt    
1 Tbsp canola oil    
2/3 cup sugar      
1 large egg, beaten      
2 large egg whites, beaten    
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips    
1/2 cup dried cherries    
1 Tbsp flour, for rolling out dough   

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.  In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the oil, sugar, egg and egg whites until well-combined. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, a little at a time, beating with each addition (the dough will be stiff); fold in the chocolate chips and the cherries.

Working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 13- X 1 1/2-inch log and place on the center of the prepared baking sheet; bake for 25 minutes.   Reduce the heat to 350°F and remove the baking sheet from the oven. Cool the dough long enough to cut into 24 diagonal slices.  Lay the slices on their sides on the same baking sheet; return to the oven.  Bake for 10 minutes; flip and bake until lightly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes more. (24 servings, yields 1 cookie per serving) 


You can store the biscotti in an air tight container for up to 10 days.  I also froze some of the leftovers and have been defrosting them as needed!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chocolate Toffee Shortbread


I was recently home in Florida for a wonderful extended weekend.  Anytime I come home nowadays my mother asks me what we are going to bake.  Ever since the Daring Bakers' doughnuts challenge I have been searching for another recipe to try, so I figured this would be a good opportunity.  I did not have enough time to find what I was looking for, so my mother and sister-in-law pulled out a cookbook of 1000 Chocolate Baking & Dessert Recipes.  


We flipped through the pages waiting for something to jump out at us and finally happened upon a recipe for Chocolate Chip Shortbread.  My sister-in-law had never made shortbread and she LOVES chocolate, so we figured this recipe would be great.  We discovered toffee bits in the chocolate cabinet, so we decided to add those in as well.


As I was mixing the dough I thought the mixture may have been a bit too buttery and contemplated adding in more flour, but in the end the proportions were correct and I am glad we did not add the extra flour.  We did however make one mistake- we cut the shortbread too soon after removing it from the oven.  It was a bit crumbly, so we placed it in the fridge for a bit and then cut another piece.  The shortbread was just perfect!  The chocolate and toffee tasted great together and worked well with the buttery taste of the shortbread.  


Chocolate Toffee Shortbread
adapted from 1000 Chocolate Baking & Dessert Recipes

Ingredients

4 oz. butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
3/4 cup flour
3/8 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1/4-1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 -1/2 cup toffee bits

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9-inch loose-bottom fluted tart pan.  Sift the flour and cornstarch into a large bowl.  Stir in the sugar, then add the butter, and rub it in until the mixture starts to bind together.  If you're mixture seems overly buttery do not worry, this is normal.

Turn the mixture into the prepared tart pan and press evenly over the bottom.  Prick the surface with a fork.  Sprinkle with the chocolate chips and toffee bits and press lightly into the surface.

Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until cooked but not browned.  Mark into 8 portions with a sharp knife.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.


Look at that chocolate and toffee!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Crostata


The November 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.  Crostata, is an Italian tart made with a base of pasta frolla, a sweet pastry crust made from flour, sugar, butter, and eggs.  Pasta frolla is very versatile.  While I chose to make my Crostata with strawberry jam, you can also fill it with pastry cream, ricotta, fresh fruit, and many other ingredients.


This month's challenge was particularly special for me as it brought back memories of one of my oldest and best friends.  Ever since Kindergarten my family and I have gone to my friend's house on Christmas day and her family prepares the most amazing authentic Italian meal.  The night would never be complete without the Crostata.  I came to love the Crostata over the years and would occasionally arrive early to lend my hand in making my most memorable cake.

While nothing will really ever compare to my friend's Crostata, my dinner guests gave my version two thumbs up.  The smell of the Crostata while it was baking and then after removing it from the oven was absolutely delectable.  And the taste lived up to the smell.  The crust had the slightest hint of sweetness which complimented the strawberry jam nicely.  

Crostata
adapted from Baking History

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, diced
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup (about 1 jar) fruit jam

Directions
———
If the granulated sugar is coarse, it is preferable to process it briefly in a food processor or coffee grinder.  Mix the flour and sugar, then work in the butter with the tip of your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand.  Add the egg and yolk and work briefly until the dough just holds together.  It is important not to overwork the dough (do not knead it) or it will harden when baked.
A food processor also works perfectly to make the dough: start by placing flour and sugar in the work bowl, process for a few seconds to mix, then add the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture looks like wet sand.  Add the egg and yolk and process a few more seconds until the dough forms. Do not over-process.  You may need to work the dough together in a separate bowl after the food processor. 
———
Wrap the dough in wax paper and let it rest in a cool place for at least 30 minutes.
—-
On a lightly floured surface roll 2/3 of the pastry dough to a 1/8-in (3 mm) thickness.  Then line the bottom and sides of a 9-in (23 cm) tart pan with scalloped edges and a removable bottom.  The sides should be lined with a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom, about 1/4-in (0.5 cm). Fold back the dough that is hanging over the sides to make a thicker lining along the sides.  Cut off the excess.  Prick the pastry bottom in a few places with the tines of a fork, then spread with the jam.
———
Roll the remaining pastry on a lightly floured surface slightly thicker than 1/8-in (3 mm), then with a sharp knife or pastry cutter cut it in strips 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) wide and make a lattice on top of the jam layer. There might be some leftover pastry.
———
Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake the tart until golden, about 25 minutes. Un-mold the tart as soon as it is ready and let it cool on a rack.  If left in the pan it will turn soggy.  It is great freshly baked but it definitely improves after a day or two, if kept in a closed container.


So delicious!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


Once again I find myself with the same dilemma as a few months back.  Do I start working on my school paper as soon as I wake up and then take a break to bake or do I start with the baking and then switch to the paper to ensure my mind is totally focused?  If you must know which path I chose I did in fact begin with the paper.  I may have taken my baking break a bit earlier than planned, but as soon as I finish this post I am back to the paper! :)


As I looked out the window of my cab on my way back to the office earlier this week I noticed the most beautiful tree with bright red and orange leaves.  Whenever I see leaves like these I think of my mother and I am reminded of the need to bake as many Fall recipes as I can before the season passes.  Normally I am not a big fan of pumpkin recipes, but after trying a friend's pumpkin pie a couple of weeks back I figured that if I found the right recipe I would give it a go this Fall.


I came across this recipe for "Perfect Pumpkin Cookies" and saw cinnamon chips on the list of ingredients!  Cinnamon chips...that is all the convincing I need!  Thankfully I still had one bag leftover from my aunt's cinnamon chip package (I still cannot find cinnamon chips in DC).  These cookies came out big and fluffy and full of flavor.  Friends commented that the taste was a cross between a scone and a muffin, which I agree with, but I think a more accurate description would be a cake-like cookie.  The pumpkin flavor does not overpower any of the other ingredients, so you really can taste everything from the nutmeg to the cinnamon.  The cookies also go great with a little bit of vanilla ice cream.  I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I did! 


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Erin Cooks
Yields 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz. mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup cinnamon chips

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl beat the butter, sugar, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla; just until blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients.  Stir in the chocolate and cinnamon chips with a wooden spoon.

Drop the dough 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.  (I used two spoons to shape the dough)  Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let the cookies cool on the sheets for two minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.


Don't you just love Fall!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies


Oh yes, these cookies taste as fabulous as they lookDon't you just want to pull one right out of your computer screen?  Or how about we create a scratch and sniff photo?  That is what a friend recommended to me this week.  I FINALLY ordered business cards for the blog which means I can stop writing my blog address on the back of my regular work cards!  ;)  So anyway, when I handed my new card to my "neighbor" at the office he asked if it was scratch and sniff.  That got me thinking...


On to the cookies...these little goodies seriously hit the spot.  They were soft and slightly chewy, almost as if they were melting in your mouth, but then you hit a mini chocolate chip which gave a nice bit of texture.  And the cocoa really brought out a unique chocolate flavor which in addition to the pinch of cinnamon turned out just perfect!  These guiltless goodies are only 1 point on Weight Watchers, but be prepared to use your will power to only eat just one!


Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Weight Watchers
(1 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar, granulated
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions
  
Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy; gradually add the granulated sugar, beating well.  Add the cocoa and egg whites, beating well.  Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until blended.  Stir in chocolate minichips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 11⁄2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.  Cool on the pans for 2 minutes or until firm.  Remove the cookies from the pans; cool completely on wire racks.  Yield: 40 cookies, serving size: 1 cookie (1 PointsPlus per serving)


Beautiful and delicious...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers': Doughnuts!


The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge the Daring Bakers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.


While my doughnuts may look nice they didn't turn out quite as I had expected.  I adapted Nancy Silverton's recipe and my dough came out very runny.  I tried to salvage the recipe by putting the dough in the fridge for a bit, but that did not work as well as I had hoped.  Instead of making a typical doughnut I then decided maybe I could still use the dough to make doughnut holes.  While I was successful with the holes I think I may have left them in the oil for too long as they came out a bit darker than planned.  When I took a bite, the cake in the middle tasted great, but the outside was a little too crunchy for a doughnut.  I think I'll name these my chocolate doughnut fritters!


Instead of leaving you with my adapted recipe I will give you the exact recipe for Nancy Silverton's Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts.  And I'll also say that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  Look out for my next batch of doughnuts sometime in the near future!  ;)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Caramel Cookies


Who ever said dessert had to be bad for your body?  Well these caramel cookies prove that person wrong!  The cookies are super tasty, light and chewy, and couldn't be any simpler to make.  With few ingredients and minimal steps you can whip up a batch in a flash!  And the best part is you don't have to feel guilty about enjoying every bite!


I usually have trouble rolling cookie dough into a log, so my cookies turned out more like an oblong than a perfect circle... but I think it gives them character. ;)

Caramel Cookies
taken from Weight Watchers
(1 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Add remaining ingredients and beat thoroughly.

Scrape dough out of bowl and onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Roll dough into a log, about 2 1/2-inches wide; completely wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 20 minutes or up to overnight.

Cut dough into 1/8-inch-thick slices and arrange on several large ungreased cookies sheets about 1- to 1 1/2-inches apart. Bake until lightly browned around edges, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet for about 1 minute and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Yields 1 cookie per serving. (1 PointsPlus per serving)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Snickers Caramel Cheesecake Cookies

 

Back in high school I remember my mother trying out a fat free/sugar free cheesecake recipe she had found.  That was the first time I had ever tasted cheesecake, so to be honest, I remember thinking it wasn't half bad - keep in mind I had nothing to compare it to!  Then The Cheesecake Factory came to town and with one simple taste of their full fat/full sugar worth every calorie and gram of fat cheesecake, my mind was changed forever!


You must be careful with this recipe because the individual size cheesecake cookies are small enough to keep popping in your mouth without realizing how many you have had!  Pressing the graham cracker crumbs into the pans was a bit tedious and I had trouble making the crumbs stick together (I may try adding more butter next time), but the cookies were definitely worth the effort.  The combination of the soft cheesecake batter with a little crunch of the graham cracker crust and then the saltiness of the snickers made these cookies seriously addicting.  I made 12 large cookies using a muffin top pan and about 24 smaller cookies using a mini muffin pan.  The mini muffin pan may cook for a bit less than the recipe calls for, so just make sure to check the oven around 15-18 minutes of baking.


Snickers Caramel Cheesecake Cookies
adapted from Picky Palate 

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
8 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp sugar
2 cups chopped Snickers Bars
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp caramel sauce (plus more for garnish)
Whipped Cream (for garnish) *optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the chopped Snickers Bars into a bowl and set aside for later.  Place the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter into a mixing bowl to combine.  Place a couple of spoonfuls of crumbs into each muffin top tin (mini muffin tin) and press down and up the sides a bit.  Bake for 5 minutes or until just browned.  Remove from the oven.

In a stand or electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add in the eggs and vanilla until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the caramel sauce until well combined.  Pour about 1/4 cup of the cheesecake mixture over each baked crust then top evenly with the chopped Snickers Bars.  Bake for 23-26 minutes or until cheesecake edges are just starting to brown and the centers are nearly set.  Remove and let cool completely. While still warm, loosen all of the edges with a plastic knife to make for easier removal from pan.  Refrigerate once cooled then top with caramel sauce and whipped cream to serve.