Archive | October, 2013

The Flourless Chocolate Torte – Gluten Free, Decadent, And Delicious

28 Oct

I recently hosted a girls night at my house – and we all know that women love few things as much as they love CHOCOLATE – so I decided I wanted to make something new, something almost ridiculously chocolate-y – so when I saw this recipe for a Flourless Chocolate Torte in my Food Network Magazine, I figured this would be the perfect chance for me to try something new!

Flourless Chocolate Torte
Ingredients
• 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter or margarine, cut into small pieces, plus more for the pan
• 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 6 large eggs
• 1/2 cup sugar
• Pinch of kosher salt
• Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the chocolate and 1 1/2 sticks butter in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until melted and combined. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let cool slightly.

 TorteMelting

Here’s my slightly makeshift double boiler – kinda wobbly but it worked!

Combine the eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and thick, 5 to 8 minutes.
Gently fold half of the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until just combined, then gently fold in the rest. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is no longer shiny and barely jiggles and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few crumbs, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely in the pan. Remove the springform ring and transfer to a platter; dust with cocoa powder.

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Here it is before and after baking – even with no flour in it, it still did “rise” or puff up some in the oven

Torte2The yummy finished torte

It may look crumbly, but it actually has a nice rich, deep chocolate taste, and I really enjoyed it – and so did everyone else because its already gone! Anyone who needs a gluten free dessert (or who just wants to enjoy some chocolate-y goodness!) should definitely try out this easy, tasty recipe!

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Cinnamon Rolls From Scratch – So Easy Even I Can Do It!

26 Oct

I have been in the “baking zone” this weekend – yesterday I whipped up some Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies and a decadent Flourless Chocolate Torte (post to come on that beauty!) – what can I say? I love to bake, and to try new recipes – but there are some things I definitely consider to be out of my “baking comfort zone”. Namely, anything that requires a candy thermometer (not sure why, it just makes me nervous ha), and my second bug-a-boo is definitely anything that has yeast in it and requires rising. Bread is more my husband’s specialty – but I recently gotten it into my head that cinnamon rolls from scratch would be amazing – not only to eat, but a feat for me – defying my baking demons by making something that requires yeast and kneading and everything!

I decided on this highly rated Cinnamon Roll Recipe from AllRecipes.com for two reasons – one – I had almost all of the ingredients at home already, and two – it only requires one “rising” and no overnight fuss or muss. So here goes nothing…

INGREDIENTS:

For the Dough:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
6 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened

For the frosting
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese,
softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

DIRECTIONS:

1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in the butter; stir until melted. Add water and let cool until lukewarm.
2. In a large bowl, combine the milk mixture, yeast, white sugar, salt, eggs and 2 cups flour; stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
3. Divide dough into two pieces. Roll each piece into a 12×9 inch rectangle. In a bowl, stir together the cinnamon and brown sugar. Spread each piece with half of the butter, half of the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough, using a little water to seal the seam.
4. Cut each roll into 12 slices using a very sharp knife or dental floss. Place rolls onto two 9×13 inch greased baking pans. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
5. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.
6. To make frosting; combine confectioner’s sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Add milk gradually until frosting reaches a spreading consistency. Spread over warm (but not hot) cinnamon rolls.

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The various stages of dough – warming the milk, mixing, and adding the flour in batches

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My first attempt at kneading – what a great way to get out aggression!

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The rolls are all “rolled” and ready to rise, then bake!

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OVEN TIME!

The smell that fills the kitchen while these are making is completely unlike anything else in the world – the yeasty, cinnamon-y scent is the best!

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The baked rolls– ready for frosting!

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The delicious finished product

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When I finally got to sink my teeth into one of these, I was thrilled (and starving, as I hadn’t eaten any breakfast – I wanted to save myself for these beauties!) – and encouraged, as they were definitely worth the time and effort I put into them

The outside was nice and crispy, and the inside was doughy and sweet, with a perfect amount of spice from the cinnamon. The frosting added the perfect sweet glaze, and I honestly can’t believe I went this long without these in my life – that’s how delicious they were. They would be perfect for a holiday breakfast or to bring to brunch, or to just enjoy with a cup of coffee on a crisp fall morning!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Get A (Pumpkin-Y) Twist!

26 Oct

Who doesn’t love sitting down with a classic snack of Cookies and milk? There’s something comforting about a freshly baked cookie paired with a tall glass of cool milk.

I am always on the lookout for new cookie recipes – it’s probably one of my favorite desserts – you can change them up and add tons of different mix-ins, they generally freeze well, and everyone loves them!

So when I came across these Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies, I thought – what a great way to get to enjoy a new spin on the classic oatmeal cookie!

 

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies (Courtesy of Budget Bytes)

Ingredients

• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp salt
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• 2 Tbsp butter (room temp.)
• ½ cup pumpkin purée
• ⅓ cup brown sugar
• ⅓ cup white sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1½ cup rolled oats
• ⅓ cup dried cranberries

 

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Various stages of batter

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Prepping the cookies for the oven (with a little Walter help)

 

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until very well combined.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter (room temperature), pumpkin, brown sugar, and white sugar on low speed. Once they’re well combined, add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined again.
3. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed just until a thick, creamy batter forms. Add the dry oats and dried cranberries and stir them into the batter with a spoon.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon the batter onto the baking sheet in 2 Tbsp portions, leaving about 1.5 inches between each cookie. The cookies will not spread much during baking, so gently pat them down into flattened circles.
5. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, or until slightly browned on the surface. Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack before eating.

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I did make one change to the recipe – I used raisins instead of dried cranberries – it was really just a personal preference, I don’t much care for dried cranberries

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What I liked about the taste is that it’s not a super dense cookie, it’s more of a light almost pumpkin bread-like texture, with a nice contrast between the dough/oats/fruit. My husband does NOT like raisins, especially in his cookies, but he agreed to try these, saying “My love for you outweighs my hatred of raisins” and he liked them too – so I guess they are a winner!

By the way – I highly suggest you head over to the Budget Bytes Website – they have tons of great recipes – and they have a cookbook coming out soon too (which I can’t wait to pick up!)

Sometimes, You Just Need To Eat Cake

12 Oct

I stumbled across this amazing looking Apple Pumpkin Spice Cake online and decided it was just the thing to whip up for a beautiful October day. It has it all: apples, pumpkin, applesauce – it’s a great fall dessert (and would be perfect for breakfast too!)

AppleCake Walter

My adorable sous chef is ready for action (and by action I mean “possibility of falling apple peels”)

 

Apple Pumpkin Spice Cake (Recipe courtesy of Once A Month Meals)
Ingredients:
• 0.5 cups butter softened
• 1.5 cups sugar
• 0.5 cups pumpkin puree
• 0.75 cups unsweetened applesauce
• 2 medium eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 3 cups all purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 0.5 teaspoons salt
• 3 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
• 0.25 cups powdered sugar (for serving day)
• cooking spray or oil for greasing pan

 

Applecake 2 batter

 

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar 2-3 minutes until smooth and pale, then add pumpkin puree and applesauce and beat to combine
-Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla extract
-In another large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt
-In a separate bowl, toss apples with 2 Tablespoons of the flour mixture (This will keep them from sinking in the batter) Set aside
-Gently stir remaining dry ingredients into wet ingredients by hand, only mixing until just combined, then gently fold in diced apples
-Grease 2 – 8×8 foil baking pans generously with cooking spray or oil and pour batter evenly into prepared pans
-Bake 45-50 minutes in preheated oven (skewer inserted in the center should come out clean)
-Check cake half way through cooking time – If the top is browning too much, spray a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover
-Cool cake 10-15 minutes in the pan. Cut into individual portions and garnish with powdered sugar

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Ready to hit the oven!

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The finished product – which has filled my kitchen with the most AMAZING scent

Oh, and did I mention – this recipe makes TWO 8×8 cakes? So you can eat one freeze one, freeze two (or eat two – no judgment)
Freezing Directions: Cook as directed above. Cool cake 10-15 minutes in the pan. To freeze whole cake, cover with foil, label and freeze. To freeze in individual portions, cut cooled cake, place parchment paper in between pieces and divide among freezer bags, label, and lay flat to freeze. TO SERVE: Sprinkle thawed cake with powdered sugar using a fine sieve or sifter and serve

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Sometimes, you really do just need some cake – the smell of it baking, the chance to share it with your loved ones, and the TASTE…speaking of taste, I’m off for a late breakfast of cake and coffee. Yum.

Bake With These Easy (And Healthy!) Substitutions

9 Oct

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At the start of the year I did a post about Healthier Chocolate Chip cookies, and I was reading it over last night and it got me to thinking about substitutions – ones that are quick and easy and can make a recipe healthy without sacrificing taste.

Check these out:

If It Calls for: white bread, Use: Whole grain bread

If it calls for: Bread Crumbs, Use: Rolled Oats of Crushed Bran Cereal

If It calls for: Butter/Margarine/Shortening/Oil, Use: Applesauce or prune puree to replace half the called for fat

If it calls for: Butter/Oil, use: Mashed Avocado or mashed banana

If It calls for: Cream, Use: fat free half and half or evaporated skim milk

If it calls for: Cream Cheese, Use: Fat free or reduced fat cream cheese varieties, or low fat cottage cheese (pureed until smooth)

If It calls for: Eggs, Use: Egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute (egg beaters!)

If It calls for: Flour, Use: Whole wheat flour (for half of the called for flour)

If It Calls for: Frosting, Use: Marshmallow Fluff, or meringue  (they are a lot lighter and fluffier, without all the fat of frosting)

 

Most of these substitutions work really well because they use things you likely already have in your pantry at home – what a great way to cut out calories and fats from the things you love to bake (and your family probably won’t even notice the difference in taste, so it can be your little secret!) Easy, right?

What about you – what baking substitutions do you swear by?

Products I Love – The Oster Hand mixer

8 Oct

I decided it was time to start a new series here on the blog where I could give a shout out to some of the things that help simplify my baking and my life!

First up? My beloved hand mixer!

 

 

DSCN4289I received this mixer as a wedding gift, and it has seen me through three years of mixing, pulsing and baking – but then alas, it recently sputtered out and died on me. I don’t blame this on a faulty product – I’m pretty sure I just plain wore it out. I certainly got my money’s worth out of it, so I didn’t shed any tears of loss as I tossed it in the trash and headed out to find its replacement

RedMixer

My initial thought? Buy something better, more expensive, more powerful – that will last you longer and be worth the extra money and fancy brand name that comes with it. So, I snatched up this adorable red Kitchen Aid hand mixer from Target for $40 and ran home to mix me up a cake and test it out

…Unfortunately, it’s red color was about the only benefit to this mixer. It was slow, and lacked power. Looking back, I probably should have read some online reviews before making this purchase – as they all were pretty clear that it was slow, and wimpy in the power department. I am not ashamed to admit that I used it once, and returned it the next day.

Now let me be clear – this is in NO way a dismissal of the Kitchen Aid brand as a whole – I LOVE my retro stand mixer and have had luck with other home products of theirs as well – but this 5 speed mixer is not worth the money in my opinion, as I needed something with more power and speeds to handle my near constant use

OsterMixerOk, so don’t laugh, but I ended up getting the newer model of the exact same Oster mixer I had just thrown out. Why? Well, there are a few particular reasons
-more power
-More speed options
-The TURBO option – I love this! It gives you a burst of power when you press the button, and I use it all the time!
-Price – I know I said I was willing to spend more for something better, but this was on sale for $24, and I knew I already loved it, so how could I say no?

I am happier, my cookies are more well blended, everyone wins.

What about you – what products are necessary for you in the kitchen (or in life?!)