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Thursday
Oct092014

Tips for Making the Perfect Stir-Fry

Photo: CraftsyI know--this is not sweet. But you have to eat something before dessert, right? I wrote this great roundup of tips for making the perfect stir fry. Read it and EAT! Full post here.

Thursday
Oct092014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Bacon and Date Cinnamon Roll Strata

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events).
 

Bacon might not make everything better, but the list of things it does improve is far longer than the list of things it doesn't. 

Still following? Good. It's time to explore a recipe which illustrates the above: Bacon and Date Cinnamon Roll Strata. This oeuvre was dreamed up by Rita Hattrup of San Rafael, California, and promises to make your next brunch extremely memorable.

Bacon and Date Cinnamon Roll Strata

  • Prep Time: 30 Min
  • Total Time: 1 Hr 45 Min
  • Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 can Pillsbury Grands! Flaky Supreme refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing (5 rolls)
  • 1/2 lb thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates (from 8-oz box)
  • 3 oz cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (from 8-oz package)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Bake cinnamon rolls as directed on can; reserve icing. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp; drain on paper towels. Brush about 1 teaspoon bacon drippings over bottom and side of 11x7-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish.
  3. Cut cinnamon rolls into 1-inch cubes. Place half of the cinnamon roll cubes in baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the dates and half of the bacon. Top evenly with cream cheese cubes. Repeat with remaining cinnamon roll cubes, dates and bacon.
  4. In large bowl, beat milk, eggs, almond extract and reserved icing with whisk until well blended. Pour over cinnamon roll mixture. Lightly press cinnamon roll cubes into egg mixture to moisten. Let stand 20 minutes.
  5. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until center still jiggles slightly when moved and top is golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Thursday
Oct092014

Something I Love: Hahn's Crumb Cake

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

If you were here right now, you might say: "I wonder why CakeSpy is singing 'Circle of Life' from The Lion King in her outdoor voice right now?". 

Well. I am singing that song because sometimes, life comes full circle in beautiful and delicious ways. Let me tell you about one such instance.

Way back in 2007, when I lived in Seattle and CakeSpy.com was a baby, I came across (and wrote a feature about) Hahn's Crumb Cake. Being a misplaced east coaster in the wild west, I was delighted to come across a company that shipped what is probably my single favorite childhood (and adult, let's be honest) treat. 

Note: if you are confused about what crumb cake is and is not, please check out this post.

Then, several years passed where a lot happened, but none of it involved Hahn's.

And then, suddenly, a few weeks ago, they e-mailed me and asked if they could send me some samples of their cake. I typed my address with haste, lest they change their mind.

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

A few weeks after that, a glorious package arrived with a pleasing heft to it. Inside, it was crammed with crumb. Cake, that is. Oh-emm-gee.

Now, I am going to try to be careful with how I say this, because I don't want you to get the wrong idea.

This crumb cake is perfect. But it's not because it's fancy. It's perfect because it's an ideal specimen of a truly quotidien (at least in the NY metro area) foodstuff. 

Hahn's makes a higher quality version than you'll buy at most delis, but it still has that simple, unfussy quality about it that makes crumb cake so great.

Crumb cake does not aspire to be a gourmet food: its goal is to feed you and make you happy.

Lots of butter and brown sugar help ensure that it is able to do its job. The art of the cake is in the crumb: you don't want them too streusel-y. While in my opinion the crumbs simply can't be too big, they can be too hard. You want a crumb that is firm, but that will yield when you bite into it, exuding a buttery-brown-sugar-slightly salty flavor in your mouth. 

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

If you love a classic NY-style crumb cake or have fond memories or thoughts regarding the Entenmann's crumb cake from supermarkets, you will probably love Hahn's crumb cake as much as me.

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

The package I got included a classic, chocolate, and raspberry variety. All were good; I say it just depends on your mood. I tend to veer toward the former, because it has confectioners' sugar.

Maybe I like looking like I have a cocaine problem after I eat a slice of crumb cake?

(this may be the first review Hahn's has ever gotten that mentions cocaine. I am proud to be the first.)

So--my review is, buy crumb cake from Hahn's if you want a taste of nostalgia, or if you've never tried a classic crumb cake but would like to do so. 

Enjoy! 

Buy online at crumbcake.net.

Hey! These posts may also be of interest:

Behemoth crumb cakeHow to make crumb cake

Crumb cake shake

 

Wednesday
Oct082014

Ghost Cutout Cookies: Doctored Cookie Mix

Photo: PillsburyI was super psyched when Pillsbury sent me their latest batch of Halloween-themed crafts, because while I'm sure it wasn't their primary goal, they actually ended up answering a question I've had for a long time:

Can you doctor refrigerated sugar cookie dough to make cutout cookies?

I've long wished it was so, because it would be so easy to test out decorating ideas if you could whip up a quick batch of cookies from a tube. But typically, the ones you buy spread too much to hold their shape.

In this clever recipe, the sugar cookie dough is fortified with additional flour to help them hold their shape, which then makes them the perfect canvas for decorating--around this time of year, these ghost designs are an awfully clever and cute use!

Here's the recipe.

Ghost Cutout Cookies

Courtesy Pillsbury

Ingredients

  • 1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 container (1 lb) vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting
  • Black decorating icing, as desired

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, break up cookie dough; thoroughly work in flour. Work with half of dough at a time, refrigerating remaining dough until needed.
  2. On work surface sprinkled with flour, roll dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut with floured 2 1/2- to 3-inch ghost-shaped cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.
  3. Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set and edges just begin to brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in small microwavable bowl, microwave frosting uncovered on High 10 to 15 seconds or until easier to smooth onto cookie.
  4. Frost and decorate cookies with black icing as desired, using photo as a guide.
Tuesday
Oct072014

Homemade Honey-Wheat Bread. Yes. 

Right now I am so into this bread. No, it's not dessert, but since it's baked, and since it is so, so, SO good, I deem it worthy of sharing with you.

To me, bread is one of those foodstuffs that gives me a huge sense of accomplishment to make all by myself. When I do it, I feel like king of the mountain, Martha Stewart, Alton Brown, and Portlandia character--all at once (someone please draw a portrait of that?). I'm also amazed, every time, by how not-impossible it is. I would say easy, but managing all of those rise times, etc, can be kind of tricky. But no, it's not hard to make your own bread. This is, of course, a fact that I forget almost immediately after I bake a loaf, then forking over $5 or more for a fancy loaf at Whole Foods or Sage Bakery until I feel like making bread again (this is usually a six month cycle for me). 

Homemade honey wheat bread

But this loaf has me hooked. I came across it at the Bake For Good event by King Arthur Flour, where I learned to master the basic sandwich loaf (as well as the secret to perfect pie crust--check that out here!). Ever since, I've been messing with it a little bit, and this recipe is one of my recent successes. Only lightly sweet, this loaf is appropriate for any type of sandwich, but I love it best when it is lightly toasted (or fresh from the oven, in which case it remains untoasted so I can enjoy the residual heat) and smeared with chunky peanut butter, a zigzag of honey, and sea salt. This is my happy place. 

Homemade honey wheat bread

Want to join me? Here's the recipe. 

Honey-Wheat Bread

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 1 large loaf 

  • 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur Flour)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk granules

 Procedure

  1. Combine the water and yeast. Once the yeast begins to bubble lightly, proceed.
  2. Mix all of the remaining ingredients with the yeast mixture in the order listed. Homemade honey wheat bread Knead, either by hand with a dough scraper or with a stand mixer, until it has progressed past a shaggy texture to a smooth, slightly elastic-feeling dough. This can take up to 5 minutes by hand; less when using a mixer. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise at room temperature until it’s quite puffy and doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Homemade honey wheat bread
  4. Gently deflate the dough with your hand (a gentle pressing, not a knockout punch), and shape it into a fat 9″ log. Homemade honey wheat bread
  5. Place it in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
  6. Cover the pan, and let the dough rise for 60 to 90 minutes, or until it has formed a crown which extends 1 inch or slightly more over the rim of the pan (the picture below is toward the beginning, not the end, of the rising time). Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  7. Homemade honey wheat bread
  8. Bake the bread uncovered for 20 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until it is golden brown on top, and when knocked lightly, yields a slightly hollow sound.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack to cool. Go ahead, give it a taste if you can’t resist (who can resist warm bread?). When completely cool, wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature. 
  10. Homemade honey wheat bread

What would you put on this bread? 

Tuesday
Oct072014

Toasty Fall Delight: S'mores Martinis Recipe

Let's get s'mores cruuuuuuuunk!

Yes, I just said that.

This is an excerpt from the new book In the Kitchen with David: QVC's Resident Foodie Presents Comfort Foods That Take You Home. It brings together several of the things I love: pop culture, tv, happy hour, and s'mores, all at once. Enjoy!

S’mores Martinis

Oh! My! Word! While these decadent drinks may remind you of toasting marshmallows and making s’mores over summer campfires, you can enjoy these grown-up cocktails any time of the year. Yes, Adult Chocolate Milk is just that—chocolate milk with vodka. Ask for it and the marshmallow vodka in wine and spirits stores. Finish a Valentine’s Day or an anniversary dinner by serving these for dessert.

Makes 2

  • ¼ cup chocolate syrup
  • 2 graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 2 marshmallows
  • ¼ cup marshmallow vodka
  • ¼ cup Adult Chocolate Milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Procedure

  1. Put 3 tablespoons of the chocolate syrup on a small plate. Place the crushed graham crackers on another small plate. Dip the rims of two martini glasses in the chocolate syrup, then dip the rims into the graham cracker crumbs. Quickly turn the martini glasses right side up and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup in a spiral design on the insides of the glasses. Put the glasses in the freezer for 1 hour to let the chocolate harden.
  2. Remove the glasses from the freezer. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Put each marshmallow on the end of a skewer. Place the skewers in the skillet with a flat side of the marshmallows facing down, until the marshmallows turn golden, about 45 seconds. Remove the skewered marshmallows from the pan and, using the tines of a fork, push 1 marshmallow into each martini glass.
  3. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice, half of the marshmallow vodka, half of the Adult Chocolate Milk, and half of the cream. Shake well and strain the mixture into one of the glasses. Repeat for the second drink.

From the Book, In the Kitchen with David: QVC's Resident Foodie Presents Comfort Foods That Take You Home; © 2014 by David Venable. Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct072014

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough Tips

Listen, I know it's not about cake, but I'm so proud of this post I could pop. It's about tips for making tasty and superior-textured gluten-free pizza crust, and you can check out the entire post on Craftsy. Enjoy!

Monday
Oct062014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Sweet and Salty Chocolate Chip-Maple-Peanut Bars

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

I need to tell you, these bars basically have all the building blocks of what I consider delicious.

Well, first, before any ingredients, let's start with something important. Arlene Erlbach, who created this recipe, hails from Morton Grove, Illinois. I consider Illinois firmly planted in bar country. No, not dives where you drink beer (although yes, that exists there too). I am talking about cookie bars. The midwest just does them right.

Now, back to the actual ingredients. They have maple, which is a quintessential cozy flavor; they have peanut butter, which loves sweets and makes them nice and rich and dense. They have chocolate chip cookie dough, which makes everything better. The peanuts, frosting, and toffee bits are hardly necessary after all that goodness. But no, I am certainly not going to turn them away.

Good luck at the Bake-Off!

Sweet and Salty Chocolate Chip-Maple-Peanut Bars

  • Prep Time: 30 Min
  • Total Time: 1 Hr 40 Min
  • Makes: 16 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 3 teaspoons maple extract
  • 1 cup vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting
  • 1/2 cup salted cocktail peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toffee bits

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften. Spray 9-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Add peanut butter and 2 teaspoons of the maple extract. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 to 2 minutes or until well blended. Press dough evenly in bottom of pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on cooling rack, about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix frosting and remaining 1 teaspoon maple extract until smooth. In another small bowl, mix peanuts, toffee bits and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread frosting evenly over cooled bars. Sprinkle with peanut mixture; press in lightly. Refrigerate about 30 minutes before cutting. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store covered.
Monday
Oct062014

Healthy-Ish: Chocolate-Butterscotch Whole Grain Cookie Bars

Some cookies are definitely dessert.

And then there are others which reside under a mask of health. This mask may or may not be reality. This "healthy-ish cookie" can readily be sighted at establishments such as Whole Foods, health food stores, cafes outside of yoga studios, and places that smell of patchouli. These cookies typically include whole grains and/or wholesome ingredients, but at their very beating heart, they are a tasty dessert item. I'll show you a few examples of ones I've know and loved in the past:

Oatsies (click for recipe)"Power cookie" by Capers, at Whole FoodsVegan Oat Bar, Caffe Ladro, Seattle

So when I found myself with half a bag of Bob's Red Mill Hot Cereal, I was all, "I'm going to invent a healthy-ish bar cookie". I started with the basic idea of a Nanaimo bar crust type texture, but it's very different because it's made mostly with a whole grain cereal mix. 

 
Let me tell you, I came up with a recipe for sweet (and somewhat healthy) success.

They are tasty little things. They taste somewhat healthy, but the richness from the butter, and the sweetness from the melange of vanilla, chocolate, and butterscotch, lends them a distinctly dessert-like feel.

They still feel like they might be breakfast-appropriate...but, you know, it would be a GOOD breakfast. 

Healthy-ish bar cookies

Here's how you make 'em.

Chocolate-Butterscotch Whole Grain Bars

Makes one 8 or 9-inch square pan's worth (how many? Depends on how big you cut them!)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill hot cereal (I used this kind)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate morsels or coarsely chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch morsels

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar. Once it's melted and combined, remove from heat, and add the vanilla and the egg. Stir vigorously so that the egg doesn't cook or leave scrambly bits in your mixture. Once it starts to thicken (right around the time the egg is thoroughly mixed in), add the cereal mix and flour and salt, stirring until thoroughly moistened. 
  3. Add the chocolate and butterscotch morsels. If you wanted, you could add some nuts or any other mix-ins you like at this point.
  4. Healthy-ish bar cookies
  5. Press the mixture into a greased 8 or 9-inch square pan. 
  6. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and slightly dull on top. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly before cutting into pieces as large or small as you like. 
  7. Enjoy! Healthy-ish bar cookies

 

Monday
Oct062014

How to Use Fresh Flowers in Cake Decorating

Have you ever used fresh flowers in your cake decorating? If so, you know that it's harder than it sounds: keeping your cake from wilting the petals, and the stems from flavoring the cake, can be tricky to navigate. I wrote a great roundup of tips and tricks for using fresh flowers on your flour creation. Read the full article here.

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