ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pancake Week Starts Tomorrow!

It's what you've been waiting for all year, right? PANCAKE WEEK!!!

What the...
I'm not just making this up for fun. It really is Pancake Week. Sources are a bit fuzzy on the origin (Russia? General Middle Ages Europe?) but it's a Christian thing. Kind of. In former times it was common practice to prepare for the austerity of Lent by purging the pantry of luxurious foods such as eggs, butter and milk. These ingredients often became big batches of pancakes. To this day, many communities around the world feast on pancakes all the way through Shrove Tuesday - also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras - before the "season of moderation" begins on Ash Wednesday. In fact, another name for Fat Tuesday is Pancake Day. And if it can be a day, it can be a week!

It's a tradition here on the VGP to post a different pancake recipe each day during Pancake Week. Each one I've tried, each one my family has eaten and approved. We'll go Tuesday to Monday, starting tomorrow, and I think you'll be pleased with the bounty. After Christmas and Birthday Week it's really the best week of the year.

In case you haven't been following The VGP for two years, here are the pancakes from 2009 and 2010 (asterisks indicate my VERY FAVORITES!)

Buttermilk-Banana Pancakes with Pomegranate Syrup
Apple Pancakes with Cinnamon Syrup
Double Coconut Pancakes with Vanilla-Pear Sauce*
Multigrain Pancakes with Buttermilk Syrup
Gingerbread Pancakes with Bananas and Whipped Cream
Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Cranberry Citrus Sauce*
Two Different Pecan Pancakes with Butter Pecan Syrup

Strawberry Pancake Roll-ups
Ebelskivers with Spiced Apple Filling (I just got an Ebelskiver pan for my birthday so watch for more of those coming this year!)
Lemony Blueberry Pancakes*
Banana Macadamia Pancakes with Orange Butter*
Silver Dollar Pear Pancakes
Pretzel Pancakes with White Chocolate and Caramel Sauces
Peach-Blueberry Popover Pancake

So go try some of those or wait for tomorrow and live it up with me - it's only Pancake Week once a year!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Basic Banana Bread

OK, so I was not quite done posting bread recipes. A few months ago Cooking Light did a feature on banana bread, from whence came that yummy Peanut Butter Banana Bread - man, it's good. So I figured the basic recipe would be just as perfect, and it is.

You're not put off by the word "basic", are you? Because you know on here it does not mean bland, boring or sub-par in any way. I wouldn't post it if it was, and there have been a lot of banana breads I haven't posted because of that. No, this is that perfect, simple, moist but properly cooked and crumbed, not burnt on the edges, sweet, fragrant and flavorful loaf you imagine and want banana bread to be. Here it is, your perfect basic recipe!
Really Good Basic Banana Bread (print recipe)
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Cooking spray
1/3 cup powdered sugar, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons 1% low-fat milk, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until combined.
3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through ground allspice). Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool completely. Optional - Combine powdered sugar and milk, stirring until smooth; drizzle over bread.
Recipe from Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2010

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Marshmallow Butterscotch Bars

What is butterscotch and why do these get that delectable name? Luckily I know the answer. First you've got caramel, which is white sugar heated until it caramelizes (duh), or turns brown. Toffee, brittle and butterscotch are all in the caramel family; butterscotch is caramel paired with butter. Um, besides chocolate, what could be better? Only butterscotch with marshmallows.

These are sweet. I mean sweeeeet. And a little gooey but not ooey-gooey. Brown sugar, coconut, and vanilla are the big players here, and with the crunch of pecans and puffy toasty-ness of marshmallows they are indulgently delightful. Don't forget the final drizzle of caramel sauce on top!
Marshmallow Butterscotch Bars (print recipe)
Coconut-Butterscotch Bottom:

1/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flaked or shredded coconut
3/4 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup packed brown sugar

Marshmallow-Butterscotch Top:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups tiny marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Caramel-flavored ice cream topping

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 baking pan; set aside. In a small saucepan, heat 1/3 cup butter over medium heat until melted. Stir in coconut, 3/4 cup pecans and 2/3 cup brown sugar. Press mixture evenly into bottom of the prepared pan; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add 1 cup brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in flour until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of the marshmallows and the 1/2 cup pecans. Carefully spread mixture over coconut layer.

3. Bake in the preheated oven about 25 minutes or until top is evenly browned (center may jiggle slightly when gently shaken.) Increase oven temperature to 450. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup marshmallows. Bake about 3 minutes or until marshmallows are lightly browned.

4. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. If desired, drizzle with caramel topping. Makes 24 bars.

Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine, December 2010

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Italian Cream Wedding Cake

There is nothing more thrilling for an amateur baker than to have something turn out looking exactly like it does in the book, AND tasting as good as it looks! If you think about it for a second, you realize the credit probably goes to the recipe's author rather than the home cook, but I am taking it anyway. I am AMAZING!

Because this cake is. This is what we served for the grown-up February birthdays at our house (me, my husband, my Mom.) Four layers of delicious yellow cake full of coconut, pecans, and FOUR different extracts, filled with creamy vanilla pastry cream* and slathered with lemony cream cheese frosting. We served it, as directed, with lemon sorbet, but ooheee, that sorbet was tart with this cake! I think I'd go with sherbet at least, or even better, lemon ice cream. Yes, I think lemon ice cream would be perfect.

*Here's the thing about pastry cream. It's kind of hard to make and easy to screw up. And it makes a mess. And at least the times I've successfully made it without a curdled disaster, it never tasted as good as vanilla cook-and-serve pudding. So after another attempt at pastry cream this time around, I ditched the effort and went with the pudding. So delicious.
Italian Cream Wedding Cake (print recipe)
Cream Filling:

1 large box of cooked vanilla pudding, prepared and chilled

Cake Batter:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
5 large eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup toasted shredded coconut
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Milk, as necessary

Finishing Touches:
Chopped toasted pecans
Toasted shredded coconut
White chocolate shavings/curls, optional1. Prepare pudding according to box directions, maybe add a little less milk so it will set up firm. Chill well, several hours or up to 3 days.

2. For cake, preheat oven to 350. Spray two 9-inch round pans with cooking spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper circles and spray them with cooking spray. Place pans on parchment paper lined baking sheets and wrap with bake-even strips if you have them.

3. In a mixer bowl, cream butter and shortening until well blended and fluffy. Add 1 1/4 cups sugar and mix well. Blend egg yolks into butter mixture, scraping down bowl every so often (if it seems curdled, add some of the flour called for in cake batter. Fold in vanilla, almond, lemon and orange extracts. Blend in buttermilk and then fold in remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Lastly, add coconut and pecans.

4. Place egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl, and using whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low speed of mixer until frothy. Increase speed and slowly dust in remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Increase speed and whip until whites are stiff and glossy, abut 3 to 4 minutes. Fold one-third of egg whites into cake batter. Then carefully fold in remaining whites so as to incorporate whites but not deflate batter.

5. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake until cakes spring back when gently pressed with fingertips, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake layers well, and, once cooled, cover loosely with wax paper while making frosting.

6. For frosting, cream butter and cream cheese in a mixer with paddle attachment until smooth. Add confectioners' sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and as much milk as required to get a smooth and spreadable consistency. Whip on medium speed for 3 minutes.

7. To assemble, cut each cake in half horizontally. Whisk or mix chilled pudding with a spoon to loosen it. Place one cake layer on a serving platter and cover with one-third pudding. Sandwich remaining layers the same way, leaving top layer plain.

8. Frost cake sides and then top with Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting. Dust top with a fine mixture of pecans, coconut and white chocolate shavings or curls. Chill 1 hour before serving (or up to 3 days.)

Recipe adapted from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman

Monday, February 14, 2011

Red Hot Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Phew, made it in time for looove day. I've been hanging onto this one, waiting for Valentine's Day but with all the birthdays around here, plus Bread Week, it kind of snuck up on me!

Last year I posted Red Velvet Cookies which were sooo good because, hello, they had chocolate chips in them and cream cheese frosting on top! And this year, well, I've got a thing for whoopie pies and one cannot ignore the association they must have with Valentine's Day. Plus these ones are red and chocolate and sweet and spicy.

Speaking of, are you having a red hot shortage where you live or is it just here? I went to three different stores, NO red hots! I finally went to World Market, where I got the manager to sell me their last bag out of a pre-packaged gift basket. Pretty sure I got the last bag in the DC metro area.

Just for you - XOXOXO!
Red Hot Red Velvet Whoopie Pies (print recipe)

1 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
12 T unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T red food coloring*
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Red Hot Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 cup red hot cinnamon candies, crushed**

*1 T is for regular grocery store food coloring. If you use intense-colored paste coloring, about 1/2 tsp is sufficient.

**Crush candies by sealing in a plastic bag, placing on a cutting board, and carefully smashing with a hammer. Good fun! If you prefer vanilla filling instead of red hot, substitute the seeds scraped from one halved vanilla bean for the cinnamon candies

1. Make the cookies: Preheat to the oven to 375. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment. Combine the semisweet and milk chocolates in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between. Whisk until smooth.

2. Whisk the melted butter, sour cream, eggs, vinegar and food coloring in a bowl until combined. In another bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in four equal batches, whisking each batch completely before adding the next. Stir in the melted chocolate.

3. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto the prepared baking sheets and smooth the tops with a damp finger. Bake until the cookies spring back when lightly pressed, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, make the filling: Beat the cream cheese and butter with a mixer until smooth. Beat in the confectioners' sugar and crushed candies. Sandwich a heaping tablespoonful of filling between 2 cookies; repeat with the remaining cookies and filling. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving. Makes 18 pies

Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bread Week #7 Heffen Kranz with Sweet Spice Butter

Aah, our final entry of Bread Week. What did you think? Did you try any of them yet? Any catch your eye? I'd love to hear what you thought. And don't forget, Pancake Week is coming up in March (always the week before Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday.)

So here is Heffen Kranz. It tied the Dessert Club first vote, with the Irish Spelt and Chocolate Hazelnut. I had never heard of this German specialty before so I don't have much to say about it. Except it was really good!

Dessert Club member J.M. says, "Make sure the read the "notes" under the Heffen Kranz bread. This is a heritage recipe that they were trying to re-create, so the notes are helpful."

Heffen Kranz (print recipe)

4 teaspoons yeast (2 packs)
Milk, about 1 pint or more
1 tablespoon sugar
3 pounds flour
1/2 pound unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons anise seed

Melted butter, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste
Chopped nuts, to taste

1. Mix yeast in ½ cup warm milk and 1 tablespoon sugar. Place flour in a bowl and create a well in center and fill with milk-yeast mixture; set aside until light (forms sponge-like substance). Cream together butter and sugar; add eggs 1 at a time; add salt. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture, add remaining milk and anise seed and beat well (it will be a sticky dough). Let rise (about 1 hour, won't rise much), beat down and let rise again (about 1 hour, won't rise much).

2. Divide dough in half (use buttered hands). Divide each half into 3 parts, braid and place each loaf on large greased cookie sheet (it will almost double in size as it bakes). Let rise 25 minutes. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and chopped nuts. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 25 minutes. Test by inserting toothpick, it'll come out clean when done (loaves will be dark).

Yields 2 loaves, each will serve about 10. Serve with whipped butter.

Tester's notes: The 3 pounds of flour called for is about 11¼ cups. Our tester found that adding only ½ cup milk to so much flour doesn't make a "sponge-like substance," but the dough will work fine once you add the creamed butter and sugar and the rest of the milk.

Whipped Butter for Heffen Kranz

¼ pound butter, room temperature
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cream or full milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, fresh ground
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Whip together butter and sugar until light (add drops of cream if needed). Add vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix.

Recipe from Dessert Club member J.M.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bread Week #6 Chocolate-Hazelnut Bread with Nutella Drizzle

I was in the magazine aisle at the grocery store. It's tucked away by the florist, near the restroom. Poppy had a blowout, so I parked there to get organized for the great changeroo, glanced up and saw a holiday baking mag I hadn't seen before. Made a mental note. Cleaned Poppy all up, then came back to the magazine. Sure enough, it was from December 2010 and hadn't been cleared from the rack. I flipped through for 20 seconds, long enough to get the gist and decide if there were enough appealing new ideas to buy it. There were. Bought it.

Came home and whipped up this indulgent loaf for "Breads & Spreads" night. I felt like going a bit over the top so I chopped my own dark chocolate instead of using chips, and pulled out the Nutella to make a drizzle.

It was fabulous, not too sweet but very flavorful, with all the right flavors of course. It actually won in a three-way tie on our first vote - we always have ties! - but I am not allowed to win (says me) since I am the host (and already had my own dough rising bucket.) But everything about this bread says WINNER!

*A note about hazelnuts. Some people call them filberts, depends on where you're from and/or when you were born. You can chop them up with their skin on, but the skin is papery and somewhat bitter, so here is a way to get some or all of them off. Toast them in a skillet over medium-low or on a baking sheet in a 350 oven for a few minutes, until fragrant and the skins start to crack. You will both see and hear them crackling. Then pour them onto half of a clean textured dishtowel (terry cloth or waffle weave are good.) Fold the other half of the towel over the nuts and rub them - the cracked skins will flake off pretty easily.Chocolate-Hazelnut Bread with Nutella Drizzle
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
About 1/4 to 1/3 cup Nutella
Additional chopped hazelnuts, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan. Stack two baking sheets and put parchment on top, then bread pan. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In a medium bowl, combine egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in 1 cup chocolate pieces and 1 cup chopped hazelnuts. Pour batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly.

3. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

4. If desired, before serving, microwave 1/4 to 1/3 cup Nutella in 15-second increments, stirring in between, until melty. Spoon into a small plastic bag, snip off the corner, and drizzle over bread before serving. Sprinkle with additional hazelnuts if desired.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine, December 2010

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bread Week #5 Sweet Challah Bread

Isn't this gorgeous? If there was a Dessert Club prize for Most Beautiful, this would have won it, hands down. (The maker has a 1 1/2-year-old daughter; when her hair gets longer I can't wait to see what she does with it!) Also this was one of the only, if not the only, breads that got made twice. "Breads & Spreads" night was cancelled once for snow, but many of us had already started or made our bread by the time we cancelled. A.M. and her husband ate this entire loaf up in a 12-hour period. And then she made it the next week for our reschedule, whereas most of us tried something else.

Not blaming her at all. If I had made something so beautiful, sweet, rich, airy, buttery, and delectable as this the first time, I might repeat it as well. Her notes are: "I sprinkled sugar on top instead of the traditional poppy seeds. I also did the first rising in the fridge overnight." Which is a nice option to know about; if you do it all in one day it takes about 3 1/2 hours start to finish (from just eyeballing the recipe.)

Sweet Challah Bread (print recipe)
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 tablespoons honey
Dash of saffron threads, crushed
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour (about 14 1/4 ounces), divided
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon water
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds

1. Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water in a large bowl; stir in honey and saffron threads. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and egg; stir well with a whisk.

2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 3/4 cups flour to yeast mixture, and stir until a soft dough forms. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes.

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).

4. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

5. Punch dough down. Shape dough into a ball; return to bowl. Cover and let rise an additional 40 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 15 minutes.

6. Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), on a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 25-inch rope with slightly tapered ends. Place ropes lengthwise on a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal; pinch ends together at untapered ends to seal. Braid ropes; pinch loose ends to seal. Cover and let rise 20 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

7. Preheat oven to 375°. Combine 1 teaspoon water and large egg yolk, stirring with a fork until blended. Uncover loaf, and gently brush with egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Recipe from Cooking Light, November 2005

Whipped Orange Honey Butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1 or 2 t brown sugar
zest of 1/2 an orange
Whip butter with mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in other ingredients.
Recipe from Dessert Club member A.M.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bread Week #4 Banana Sandwich Bread

I know, it's an unusual name and you're trying to figure out what exactly it is. It's definitely not the kind of banana bread you're used to (though I did recently try a new basic banana bread recipe and it's the best...wait for it.) This is a yeasted white bread with a deliciously chewy texture and light crispy crust that happens to have banana in it. Interesting. In a scrumptious way.I made it in the bread machine, yes. But remember, you can easily make it by hand. The reason it is called sandwich bread is because it makes the best darn PBJ you've ever had. Once I baked it and tasted it, I found the banana flavor so slight that I realized it could be used for any kind of sandwich, sweet or savory, so we had sandwich night for dinner. The kids had grilled cheese - oh, it toasted up so beautifully in the pan! Ed and I had BLT's, and he raved about the bread, and couldn't name the "secret" ingredient until tasting the bread on its own. The next day, the few leftover pieces made awesome, fragrant toast. And if there had been any more, I know it would made amazing French toast.
This is one of those I-never-would-have-thought-of-it-but-I'm-so-glad-to-have-it-now breads. Make it today. Or file it away for when you have 1 or 2 ripe bananas and no idea what to make for dinner.

Banana Sandwich Bread
1 cup water*
1 T vegetable or nut oil (I used walnut oil)
6 ounces ripe banana, cut into chunks (about 1 1/2 bananas)
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup dry buttermilk powder*
1 T gluten**
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

1. Place all the ingredients in the pan according to the order in the manufacturer's instructions. Set crust on medium and program for the Basic cycle; press Start.

2. When the baking cycle ends, immediately remove the bread from the pan and place it on a rack. Let cool to room temperature before slicing. Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf.

*You may substitute 1 cup buttermilk for the water and buttermilk powder. You can find buttermilk powder in the baking aisle at the grocery store.

**What is gluten?! Also called vital wheat gluten, it is the natural protein portion of wheat. It is responsible for the stretchiness of dough and for the shapes that baked goods hold, and is often added to whole grain breads to make them bake up lighter. I have just discovered gluten as an ingredient so I'm experimenting a bit with its use, but it was included in this original recipe. You can get it from Arrowhead Mills, King Arthur Flour, and other manufacturers.

Recipe from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker's 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread - From Every Kind of Machine by Beth Hensperger

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bread Week #3 Coconut Bread

This was one of my favorite contenders at Dessert Club. Rich, sweet, and very coconutty - how could it not be with all that extract? Mmm... A wonderful loaf for breakfast, teatime, or to take a friend for any occasion.

Coconut Bread
(print recipe)
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 tsp coconut extract
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325. Mix first five ingredients together. Add dry ingredients. Fold in coconut and nuts. Line two 8x4 loaf pans with parchment or spray with cooking spray. Bake for about 1 hour. Remove bread from oven and poke holes in the top with a fork.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 T butter
1 tsp coconut extract

Put ingredients in saucepan and warm up to, but not quite to, a boil and spoon over cooked bread.

Recipe from Dessert Club member SS

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bread Week #2: Irish Spelt Bread

This was the Dessert Club winner! So simple, yet comforting and delicious.

Dessert Club member JB says:
"We fell in love with Irish soda bread during a trip to Ireland. This is a basic Irish soda bread recipe from the B&B where we stayed; my husband has tweaked it over time with our weird flours. Below is the recipe of the loaf I brought to Dessert Club. However, you can play with the flour ratios (2 cups total flour for one loaf). We usually go heavier on the spelt and rye flours, but it makes a denser bread with stronger flavor that takes some getting use to. You can also make it with all white flour, which is yummy if you throw in a little turbinado sugar, cranberries and cinnamon. You can do other add-ins as well, such as rosemary and Grana Padano cheese."Irish Spelt Bread (print recipe)
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup rye flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup bread flour
1 teaspoon coarse ground salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk (the 'secret' ingredient; not all buttermilks are created equal)

Sift dry ingredients. Slowly incorporate buttermilk. Knead into a dough. Form loaf. Slash the top of the loaf. Bake at 375 degrees for approx 40 minutes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bread Week #1 Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Sweet Cinnamon Butter

Almost always, classic recipes are as good or better than funky, unusual ones. I mean, I get bored sometimes and want to try off-the-beaten-path recipes. But when the weather turns cold and the snow (or in our case, freezing rain) starts to fall, a pot of chicken soup and a loaf of warm cinnamon bread cannot be beat.

Shanna and I were having baking day. She had found this recipe on A Bountiful Kitchen and we thought, what could be better? And it makes three loaves - one for her, one for me, one to eat warm out of the oven tog

(Note: This was my first time trying my new dough rising bucket. It's awesome.)
This bread is dee-lectable. Here is what happened and how I came to rename it. We cooled it for a few minutes, sliced, and sat down to eat. It was oozing drippy cinnamon goodness from the swirl. I took a bite, then held it up to examine while I chewed and savored. As I scrutinized its sweet and spicy perfection, without warning, this song came to mind. I am not making this up. Then we slathered on the cinnamon butter and the bread seemed to sing on its own. So, while there is no other way to improve on this glorious loaf of heaven, I'm making it my own with a little titling license.

Part-Time Lover Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Voulez-Vous Sweet Cinnamon Butter (print recipe)

2 packages dry yeast
(4 1/2 tsp total)

2 cups warm water

4 tablespoons sugar, divided

2 cups milk

5 tablespoons shortening or butter

4 teaspoons salt
8 to 9 cups bread flour

Beaten egg for top of loaves (optional)

Filling for cinnamon swirl bread and cinnamon butter:
1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons cinnamon

1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water. Add 1 tablespoon sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Warm milk in small saucepan. Stir in shortening or butter, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm.

Stir dissolved yeast into milk mixture. Thoroughly mix in half of the flour. Add remaining flour,
1 cup at a time until dough is no longer sticky. Knead, until smooth and satiny. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with small towel. Place bowl in warm spot. Let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

Punch down and let rise again until doubled in bulk (about 30-60 minutes). Grease three 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch pans generously with butter. Combine cinnamon sugar filling in a ziploc bag or bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup for cinnamon butter.

5. Divide dough into three pieces. Roll out into 3 rectangles, approximately 8x10 inches. Spread each rectangle with cinnamon sugar mixture (about 1/3 cup of sugar mixture per loaf). Roll each piece of dough starting at short end, tucking end under when placing in pan. Brush the loaves with a beaten egg (optional) and sprinkle with sugar. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled (or about 30-45 minutes.) Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 45 minutes.

6. Remove from pans immediately, and sprinkle with additional sugar.
Voulez-Vous Sweet Cinnamon Butter
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup leftover filling from cinnamon bread
Soften butter in microwave, or leave sitting out on counter while preparing dough. Mix butter and 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar mixture together in medium size bowl. Spoon into crock and serve at room temperature with bread.
Recipe from

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dessert Club - "Breads & Spreads"

After getting snowed out in January, we finally got Dessert Club back together last week for "Breads & Spreads" night. It was quite the spread - ha! I tell you, these ladies are geniuses!

We had:

Coconut Bread

Maple Vanilla Bread Pudding

Heffen Kranz

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Easy Challah

Chocolate Hazelnut Bread with Nutella drizzle (yours truly)
Sweet Challah Bread with Whipped Orange Honey Butter

Irish Spelt Bread...and also a Sweet Chili Cornbread with Agave Jalapeno Glaze that arrived after I'd taken the pictures.

And KP made an Apple-Pear Coffee Cake using brioche bread dough. Since it was my birthday they stuck some candles on it and sang to me. They couldn't find a #6 candle so they did 34, plus sign in whipped cream, 2. Nothing stops these women.And for my birthday they also each showed up with a helium balloon attached to a favorite recipe. Meal planning for next week is DONE, baby. Happy Birthday to me.

We ate, we gabbed, we debated, we voted. As usual, there was a tie so we voted again. And the winner may surprise you, at least on looks alone. We adored the Irish Spelt Bread, with a little regular butter spread on. JB won this dough rising bucket, and took it home to her husband, who does the bread baking in the family.

But all the breads were good. And Dessert Club aside, the last three or four good things I've made have been bread, so I declare BREAD WEEK to get them all posted and give you some real warm homey goodness this drab winter. Really, this is going to be a phenomenal week. I will be posting some truly outstanding recipes, and believe it or not, only one is in the bread machine. So check back tomorrow, and every day this week - it's BREAD WEEK!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recipes for a 4-year-old's Birthday

My middle daughter turned 4 last week, and as I mentioned on my other blog, there seems to be at least three birthday treat occasions: school party, family party, friends party. We are always up to a challenge like that.

For the preschool take-in treat we made Martha Stewart's Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. Fluffy Chocolate Frosting, cute rainbow sprinkles and balloon toothpick toppers finished them off. I'm sorry I didn't take pictures; it was a busy morning and I completely forgot.

For the family party, we made a triple layer dark chocolate cake, using this cake recipe but filled and frosted with more Fluffy Chocolate Frosting (and accompanied by chocolate ice cream, naturally.) I took the chance to try out my new Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa from King Arthur, and it was truly dark. There were no complaints, but I think I'll use it a bit more sparingly in the future. (Ginger decorated it herself with mini M&M's.)

And for the friends party last weekend, we had Triple Layer Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting (and vanilla ice cream.) It's a popular birthday choice in our house of three girls - so pink! And that strawberry frosting is one of my favorites! She said she wanted "strawberry shortcake" but upon further queries we figured out she really wanted this, and we were right.
A perfectly fabulous run of sweet treats - chocolate chip, triple chocolate, then double strawberry? What more could a 4-year-old want?

P.S. Today is Ed's birthday. And my Mom's. Happy Birthday to them both!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bayou Bakery

The other day my 9-month-old and I had a free morning (what?!) so we headed off to a place I've heard about from two different people in the last week: Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar and Eatery. I'm so sad to not be a professional restaurant critic. Don't seem to have the writing skillz. But I like to pretend, you know - considering the menu carefully, soaking in the ambiance, sneak-taking pictures for the little blog.

Bayou is a New Orleans style eatery, featuring a variety of hot drinks, southern pastries and treats, pressed sandwiches on French bread, soups, salads, and daily specials.

The Place: Cement floors, large ceiling fans, enameled tin and stacks of Steen's Cane Syrup for decor. Some tin awnings and plank shutters along the upper walls. New Orleans sounding ambient jazz. Poppy really loved the fans, the tabletops, and the Mason jar pendant lamps. Each table had a napkin holder, a shaker of salt, and a bottle of Crystal Hot Sauce instead of pepper. After placing my order, the guy handed me a laminated card and said, "Orleans is your parish."

"Excuse me?"

"Orleans is your parish. They'll call it when your order's up."

Cute. My card said "Orleans" and that's how I knew my order instead of a number. No question of theme.

The Food: I ordered a sausage and egg biscuit, beignets and hot chocolate even though it wasn't on the chalkboard. You'd be amazed how many coffee houses forget to make great hot chocolate. It's rather a peeve of mine. But Bayou passed the test. Perfect score, really. Their chocolate was fantastic and my only complaint was the cup too small, or the price too high - 8 ounces for $3? C'mon.At the counter was a display with "Porkorn" for sale - bags of popcorn made with caramel, Benton's bacon, cayenne and Virginia peanuts. Something to try next time. Also a sign said the sweet special of the day was Chocolate Pudding with whipped cream and bacon peanut brittle. Still waiting to see something I don't like.
My food was wonderful. The biscuit was tall, buttery and not too crumbly. The beignets probably perfect though I have no prior reference. Perfectly fried squares of dough - practically identical to scones I got on campus at BYU - blanketed in just enough powdered sugar to sweeten them up. But careful! Poppy and I both had the misfortune of inhaling at the wrong time and choking on sugar dust. She didn't want any beignet after that, but I recovered quickly and tucked back in.
As we ate, I perused the lunch/dinner menu and was sorry we were there before 11. I suspect that although my spread was lovely, the best of Bayou comes out later. Bayou chopped salad with mustard vinaigrette, Creole Pilgrim sandwich (shaved blackened turkey, arugula, smoked gouda, dijonaise), Heavenly Hash (chocolate fudge, marshmallows, roasted pecans), Creole Cream Cheese (with pepper jelly and petit buttermilk biscuits), and chilled gulf shrimp (with green onion remoulade) are just a sampling. Mmm.

There are a few recipes on their website, and as an icing on the cake, as it were, a cookbook - DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style by David Guas, Bayou's pastry chef. (Folks from New Orleans or that went to school in Louisiana get 10% off the cover price in the store.)

I think I'll be going back to Bayou Bakery, Coffee House and Eatery. The hot chocolate alone could beckon me in, but the promise of treats untried, daily specials, fairly easy parking, and good shopping down the street practically guarantee it.

*Bayou Bakery is located at 1515 N. Courthouse Road, kitty corner from the AMC theater parking lot.

P.S. It's my birthday.
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