Archive for October, 2010

Spiced Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Back when my children refused all things chunky we ate a lot of applesauce. They liked it with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top, and who was I to refuse? Apples and cinnamon are a taste sensation!

In the fall I made “cinnamon cake,” an applesauce cake with just the slightest hint of spice. It was usually pronounced edible, although not as good as plain vanilla cake… (And I could forget about using chopped apples or toasted nuts!)

Today we are living proof that grown-up kids develop grown-up tastes, and I no longer have to hide my ingredients and think up creative names for our food! But we still love applesauce…

This is a cake you want when the weather feels like fall and nothing will do but warm spice and soft crumb. The freshly toasted nuts and caramel sauce are a bonus, but not at all necessary.

Gather Up:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups applesauce
½ cups toasted chopped nuts, pecans or walnuts

For Caramel Glaze:
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 inch square pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

Beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, scraping down bowl several times, about 3 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in applesauce.

At low speed mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Fold in nuts gently if using.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, 40 – 45 minutes.

Cool in pan 15 minutes then turn onto rack to cool completely.

To make glaze, melt butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and milk. Boil over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside to cool and thicken slightly. Pour over cake and pass extra sauce for serving.

Adapted from a recipe on

Rick Bayless’ Chocolate Pecan Bars

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Last weekend, my fiancé and I took the first of what will be many trips over to Fredericksburg. (That’s where we’ll be married next fall!) It’s an absolutely adorable little town filled with bed and breakfasts, specialty shops and German bakeries. After I showed him around the venue I’ve fallen in love with (he did, too– thank goodness!) we enjoyed live music over beer and a sausage sampler (naturally). It was a perfect fall day.

As we were walking back to the car, we passed a farm stand loaded with a fresh crop of Texas pecans. Now, you may remember us bragging on the summer peaches that we buy by the pound every summer. The same is true for Texas pecans in the fall and winter. Luckily, I had $20 cash and was able to walk away with two pounds – score! My purchase also scored points with my mom, who immediately located a pecan recipe worthy of the first fall crop.

This recipe incorporates all that is wonderful about traditional pecan pie with a few delicious twists: a buttery pretzel crust, chunks of chocolate and a powdered sugar garnish.

Gather Up:
1 cup pecan halves
½ of a 9-ounce bag pretzel rods
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan
¼ cup granulated sugar
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into pieces not larger than ¼ inch (not chocolate chips)

For the filling:
1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup corn syrup, preferably dark (I used Steen’s cane syrup)
½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for garnish

First, toast the pecans and prepare the crumb crust. In a 325-degree oven, toast the pecans. Let the pecans cool to lukewarm, then coarsely chop them by hand. ¼ to ½ inch pieces make luxurious-looking bars. Transfer to a large bowl.

Use a food processor to chop the pretzels into fairly fine crumbs. (You should have 1 cup of crumbs.) Melt 1 stick of butter. Add to processor, along with the ¼ cup granulated sugar. Pulse until everything is combined.

Butter the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan, then press firmly in place. Butter the parchment paper. Press the crumb mixture into an even layer covering the bottom completely.

Next, make the filling. To the pecans, add the chopped chocolate and the flour. Stir to combine, then pour into the pan. Melt the remaining stick of butter. In an electric mixer, combine the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla, and beat at medium-low speed. Slowly add the melted butter, mixing until the batter looks smooth. Pour the batter into the pan slowly and evenly over the surface to ensure even distribution of the chocolate and pecans through the batter.

Bake 45-55 minutes, until the center is almost firm. (This is the tricky part: it’s like baking a pecan pie. The filling should be almost firm but it will still have a little jiggle in it.) Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate. Use a small knife to cut it away from the side of the pan, then turn it out. Peel off the parchment paper and place it on a cutting board.

Using a long, heavy, sharp knife, cut the entire pan into 1-inch squares. (You’re going to have to cut “with a purpose” – straight down, with a big chef’s knife is best. Clean the knife down between each cut, and return the bars to the fridge to firm them back up if you’re having trouble.) Keep the bars stored in the fridge until just before serving. Transfer to a serving platter and dust with powdered sugar.

It’s a bit of work, but it’s totally worth it. And, it’s a perfect introduction to Thanksgiving pecan pie. Yum!

Recipe from Rick Bayless, as seen on Good Morning America.

Emeril’s German Apple Pancake

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

If you eat at my house more than a few times, chances are very good that you will eventually sit down to an Emeril recipe! He is my fav chef – pretty much his flavor profiles are flawless and his method never disappoints! Plus not everything he makes is spicy. As evidenced by this unbelievable apple pancake!

It puffs up in the oven, which looks spectacular, (but alas, quickly deflates during a photo shoot…). Filled with caramelized apples the pancake is dusted with powdered sugar and served with warm maple syrup! Let the swooning begin!

It is undeniably bed and breakfast worthy! It is the star of ur holiday brunch! I implore you – do not let my questionable photography skills keep you from trying this treat right away! Once again, thanks Emeril!

Gather Up:
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup brown sugar
Pinch salt
Powdered sugar, sifted
Pure maple syrup, warmed

In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, flour and vanilla. Stir until just blended, being careful not to over mix. Set the batter aside to rest while you prepare the apples, at least 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a heavy ovenproof (preferably nonstick) skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat. Add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the apples are soft and lightly golden, about 6 minutes.

Add the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until the apples are caramelized and very soft, 2 – 3 minutes longer. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and stir to melt.

Pour the batter evenly over the apples. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the pancake is golden brown and puffed, about 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and slide carefully out of skillet on to a serving platter.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and drizzle with warm syrup.

One super-large pancake from: “There’s a Chef in My World,” Emeril Lagasse

Sweet Potato Hash with Egg

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

There is something fun and comforting about breakfast for dinner – it kinda feels like you might be getting away with something! When the kids were little, pancakes and waffles were on the menu, especially when UrDad was out of town.

And my kids have always loved eggs. It was never a challenge to add an egg dish on the side so we weren’t completely eating dessert for dinner… (Not that there is anything wrong with that… Sometimes dessert is the only thing that will do… And probably I was using whole wheat flour…)

But I continue to love breakfast on a week-night, and I still want it to feel indulgent and special. And we luv all kinds of hash! It is a yummy one-dish situation that lends itself to all kinds of ingredients.

Here sweet potatoes stand in for regular potatoes and team up with bacon and onions and peppers! It’s a fantastic combination; crack an egg over it and let ur mind wander to Saturday morning!

Gather Up:
2 pounds sweet potatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large sweet peppers, chopped
½ pound thick-cut apple wood smoked bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 eggs

Cook bacon in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons fat in skillet.

Add onions and peppers to skillet and season. Cook until vegetables are softened.

Stir in sweet potatoes and season. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender and starting to brown, 10 – 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Stir in thyme and bacon and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile fry 6 eggs in a skillet to desired degree of doneness. Place hash on plate and add egg. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine.

The Real Starbucks Pumpkin Bread

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I used to go to Starbucks every day. And before there was ever Starbucks I used to go other places for a coffee break every day. I’m talking real coffee, in a real cup, during a real break!

I think it was my own Midwestern version of café society. I knew the proprietors. I got to know the other customers. I read a little. I wrote a little. They knew my name and over time came to know my husband and my kids…

In college it was a pizza place. (I didn’t say it was always good coffee…) In my first job in Chicago it was Au Bon Pain. In my first house it was the bakery by the train station (where they had melt-in-your-mouth butter cookies…). When the girls were born it was a tea room where all the waitresses fussed over my babies!

In Boston we went to Dew Drop Donuts on the way home from school and sat at a long counter with swivel stools. Once we got to Texas we discovered La Madeleine (and cappuccino and giant chocolate chip cookies!). But ultimately, because all real moms eventually end up living in their cars, I one day began to appreciate the value of drive-thru coffee (albeit the end of coffee civilization as I knew it…)

And one day I discovered the Starbucks pumpkin bread! The day they brought pumpkin bread to their store was the day I decided drive-thru coffee was perhaps not so bad… I salute your pumpkin bread Starbucks! I love it so much I make it at home and enjoy its pumpkin goodness with my organic green tea! (‘Cuz too much caffeine in the afternoon now keeps me awake all night…which used to be the  point, but no longer…)

Gather Up:
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup pumpkin puree
¾ cup canola oil
¼ cup chopped pumpkin seeds, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan.

Combine the flour, soda, powder, spices and salt in a bowl.

Beat the eggs, sugars and vanilla together in an electric mixer on high speed for 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin and the oil and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, if desired.

Bake 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in pan 10 minutes, and then turn onto cooling rack to cool completely.

Cut into 8 thick slices for a Starbucks pumpkin experience!

From: Top Secret Recipes

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