Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Butterscotch Blondies

I've never made blondies. I'm a huge fan of chocolate (if you haven't already guessed) so the idea of taking chocolate out of the brownie seemed illogical. But blondies have been presented to me multiple times in the past few months. First was with my friend Valerie, who shared a blondie she purchased at Dean&Deluca, second was yesterday when my manager told me to try the blondies they ordered at work to see if I could replicate it. Challenge accepted!

Note: When baking anything with pumpkin flavor, upping the dosage of spice makes the flavor more pronounced (after all what is pumpkin without the spice?). I also find that making your own mix makes for a richer and more complex flavor than the pre-made pumpkin spice blend.

Here is my recipe for some delicious gooey pumpkin blondies:

Pumpkin Blondies

1 1/2 cups baking flour mix (one recipe recommended almond & coconut flour)
1 tsp xanthum gum
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup butterscotch chips

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
3. Cream butter and sugar in a separate bowl then add one egg and vanilla stirring well after each addition.
4. Mix in pumpkin puree and then pre-mixed dry ingredients. Once combined, add coconut water until batter is more like pancake batter than cookie dough. (*Why? Gluten free flours tend to soak up more liquid in the baking process than gluten-full flours. Adding extra liquid helps preserve the soft, gooey texture of blondies.*)
5. Pour mixture into pre-greased pan or a pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle butterscotch chips liberally over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes.
6. Slice and devour.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

There are definitely benefits to having a baker in the house. For one thing, there is someone to make you pie when you want it. My housemate noticed a couple cans of pumpkin puree sitting out, so he ordered and paid for a pie. It was marvelous waking up this morning to make my favorite pie. I used the same recipe I've always used (yes, it's the one on the back of the Libby's Pumpkin Puree can) except I added more spice, and substituted sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk. The pie is creamier and more flavorful.

Almond Chocolate Dipped Cookies

I tried to make marzipan for my mother's birthday. It was an arduous process, mostly because I've never attempted to make any candy from scratch. I found a simple recipe and followed it step by step, filling my sink with cold water, covering my cutting boards with powdered sugar and trying to gauge a "240 degree rolling boil" by instinct. All this and I ground the almonds myself in a coffee grinder--making them more thickly textured than marzipan should ever be. To finish them off (knowing the chocolate fiend my mother is) I set up a double boiler to melt various chocolates together to get the right bitterness and flavor to counter the sweetness of the varying shapes I molded.

In all, it's a lot of work. Then again, what recipe isn't the first time you try it?

After a final taste, I realize the final product is nothing even resembling marzipan, but as Almond Cookies (a gluten free natural) they turned out superbly. The texture works well so long as you don't expect it to be smooth, and the balance of flavors is altogether spot on.

Here's to more creativity inspired by my mom. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Friend Impatience

Have you met impatience? We're much closer than I'd like to admit. Impatience visits me when I open the oven repeatedly to check on the rising status of a bread loaf and while I poke at a block of butter to see if it's room temperature yet. Impatience is there when I burn my finger on molten fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate, and lingers around for my gluten free experiments as I fail over and over to reproduce the same recipe with new flour.

Baking is about the journey and not the destination. It's hard to expect that you'll produce something good if you don't take time to enjoy the process of getting there. I sample as I go, checking that there is enough banana flavor at the beginning of the muffin batter instead of cringing as I taste the finished product. And still I fail all the time. I've put effort into many things only to have them come out with the wrong texture, the wrong flavor, the wrong...everything. Impatience can dominate if you let it--a true symptom of product seeking.

So how do I deal with it? Well, I haven't figured out how to get rid of impatience entirely. My trick is to not look to the product as the ultimate goal. It seems impossible, I know, cause who bakes when they don't have a serious sugar craving? But if you find joy in the process then you won't feel quite so bad if the product is not what you expected. They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, so why not make friends with an enemy? Here's to my friend impatience, thanks for keeping me in the moment.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Apple Tart

I got a beautiful red tart pan at my first BK Swap and it sat in the cupboard for months before my own curiosity and a sack of aging apples prodded me to put it to use. My first question as a pie maker of course, is what the difference between a pie and a tart is. Well, a little research has proved that there isn't much of a difference. Tarts are often open faced with a finishing glaze and are thinner than pies, plus they are made in a pan without sloped sides. So far as this experiment went, the recipe is the same and the flavors are too. A much more interesting cousin to the pie however, is the galette. I must try that next!

Apple Tart Filling

8-10 small tart apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp honey
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 lemon juiced
1/4 tsp lemon zest

1. Peel and core apples and save aside scraps for later (see below). Slice apples thinly and place in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey and sugar and stir until all the apples are glazed with flavor.
3. Pour the mixture into the pre-prepared crust (halve the recipe) and bake at 425 for 15 minutes.
4. Reduce oven to 350 and bake for an additional 40 minutes.
5. While the tart is baking, take the remaining lemon and apple scraps and cook them over medium heat with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup water for about 20 minutes.
6. Strain the cooked scraps and extract the reduction sauce--this will be your glaze!
7. Hot out of the oven, glaze the tart with sauce.
8. Let cool 10 minutes and promptly devour.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sugar Loco

Thanks to Sugar Loco for a wonderful article about Biscaitie! It's great to spread the sugar around, so I'm going to throw a little praise their way too. Have you visited their site? Imagine it before you click the link: a website devoted entirely to all things sweet. Discoveries from all over the country of the nifty, tasty and sugary delights that creative bakers concoct. It's dessert porn with the visual effects of a sugar rush. Feast your eye-pettite, check it out.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Zucchini Bread

The local grocer has a great deal on old produce. They take the bruised and battered fruit & vegetables and wrap them (wastefully) into plastic take me away before I'm trash packs. I come upon them after browsing through the regular vegetables and stare in astonishment at the amount of food I can buy for only $1.50. Two days ago I got a vegetable block with artichoke, eggplant and zucchini. Nothing moistens up a loaf of bread or a chocolate cake like finely grated zucchini. I found a recipe for the zucchini bread (something I've been craving for months now) from Gluten Free on a Shoestring. Naturally, I made my own adjustments below:

Zucchini Bread

1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend (I have a mix of quinoa flour, coconut flour and Bob's Redmill all purpose)
1 tsp xanthum gum
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup grated zucchini (I grated one full zuch)
2 eggs
1 ripe banana mashed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup rice or almond milk
*optional*  1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F and grease a standard loaf pan.
2. Combine dry ingredients including sugar in a bowl and set aside. Whisk well to smoothen any lumps.
3. In a separate bowl stir together eggs, zucchini, mashed banana, oil, vanilla, honey and milk until well combined.
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet in. Stir until just combined but do not over stir.
5. Bake bread in the oven until the top is browned (about 15 mins) then reduce temperature to 350 and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean (another 15 mins).
6. Cool, slice and devour.