Easy Chocolate Ganache…

My husband has an incurable sweet tooth. The other day he informed me we had nothing sweet in the house to eat and I was not in the mood to whip up something from scratch. I looked in the pantry and found a box of Duncan Hines decadent chocolate cake mix and told him I would make that. Unfortunately I opened my mouth before carefully reading the outside of the box. Staring me right in the face in clear letters on the front of the box were the words “frosting not included”. Now what… Luckily I thought I might have the ingredients for making chocolate ganache (which I did) so I thought ok, now’s the time to tackle your fears and make it. I had not other choice.

I’m not quite sure why I was afraid to make ganache but I always thought it was difficult and tricky. To my surprise it was unbelievably easy. So I thought I would dedicate this blog to a very simple way of making ganache that turns out silky, luscious and ever so decadent looking, not to mention absolutely incredibly delicious.

So let’s talk making chocolate ganache…

Lesson Learned 1 – There are many ways to make ganache: I am going to share with you the simplest way. The ratio is easy to remember 1:1. Use as many ounces of heavy cream as semi-sweet chocolate. It couldn’t be easier.

Lesson Learned 2 – Cut the chocolate squares into very small pieces: I used a 4 ounce box of Bakers semi-sweet chocolate. With my chef’s knife I cut off pieces and chopped them into small bits. If you decide to go the chip route, I would use the mini semi-sweet chips. You need the hot cream to melt the chocolate and if the pieces are too big that won’t happen.

Chocolate Covered In Hot Heavy Cream

Lesson Learned 2 – You can warm your heavy cream in the microwave: In order to get the desired consistency of the ganache, the cream has to melt the chocolate. So you have to get the cream hot enough to do that but you don’t want to scald the cream. That won’t work either.

Many recipes that I looked at recommended warming the cream on the stove. You can certainly do that especially since it gives you slightly more control in determining when the cream is hot enough. And you can certainly do that with this recipe, although I didn’t. I heated my cream (4 ounces) in the microwave for 45 seconds. After that time I found it still wasn’t hot enough. I heated it for an additional 15 seconds and it was bubbling. I was worried that I’d scalded the cream but I think what happened was the cream had just started to bubble, so I was still ok. The next time I think I’ll just nuke it for 50 seconds straight and go from there.

If you use a larger 1:1 ratio you will need to nuke the cream for a longer period of time. With this you’ll simply have to keep checking it. With 4 ounces I recommend 50 seconds. For larger amounts I would start checking at 1 minute and go from there.

Lesson Learned 3 – Let the chocolate and heavy cream sit for at least 3 minutes: Once you add the hot heavy cream you may be tempted to start whisking the mixture right away. Don’t. The cream has to melt the chocolate in order for you to get the desired consistency of the ganache. Be patient and let the cream do it’s work. I guarantee you it’s worth it.

This recipe makes enough to generously frost one bundt cake, one 9 x 13 sheet cake or one 9 inch round layer cake. So next time you need some frosting try this instead of buying the canned stuff. It looks impressive and it tastes divine!

Easy Chocolate Ganache...

  • Servings: 1 Bundt Cake
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate squares cut into small pieces

4 ounces heavy cream, heated

DIRECTIONS

Chop up the chocolate into very small pieces. Heat the heavy cream in a microwave safe dish for approximately 50 seconds. Test with your finger to make sure it is sufficiently hot to melt the chocolate. If not, microwave at additional 5 second intervals until cream is hot but not scalded.

Pour cream over chocolate pieces. Let the hot mixture sit for at least 3 minutes. Whisk mixture until cream is incorporated and the chocolate is dark and smooth. Drizzle the chocolate over the top of your bundt cake. Let ganache set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

 

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Mini Cherry Cheese Danishes…

This recipe was born out of leftovers I had from making my Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Cake. I still had some of the cream cheese mixture and cherry pie filling leftover and really didn’t want to just throw them out. I searched online to see if I could get some ideas and found something similar to this and thought, I’ll make some mini cheese danishes.

Apparently a lot of people are using refrigerated dough to makes these types of recipes. I was surprised to find crescent dough “rounds”. I’d never seen them before. I was thinking I might have to take the traditional crescent dough and pinch the seams in order to get the rounds I needed. I was delighted that I did not have to do that work, that it was already done for me.

So let’s talk mini cherry cheese danishes…

Lesson Learned 1 – Working with the refrigerator dough: Using this kind of dough is very convenient but you do have to work it a little bit. I cut the pieces along the pre-perforated edges as best I could (I wound up with 9 rounds and  I should have only had 8 if I followed the perforations exactly – oh well…) and  rolled each piece into a ball. I flattened each piece with my hand and then used my thumbs to create a crater inside the dough. The crater is important because that’s where you put the cream cheese and cherries. Making the crater as deep as possible helps to prevent the cherries from falling off. But don’t worry, if they do once you pull them out of the oven just use a small spoon to push them back on top. Once they cool they will stay put.

Lesson Learned 2 – The cream cheese filling: This recipe was inspired by the cream cheese filling and canned cherries I had left over from making a Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Cake. After I made the cake I had enough filling and cherries left over that I really didn’t want to just throw out. This recipe is designed for that type of leftover. You can make the filling for this recipe versus using leftovers, and I will include the the recipe for the filling I used, but any type of cream cheese filling will do. Plus if you make the filling from scratch you will definitely have too much filling. There have been many times I’ve had filling like this left over and I just trashed it. But even if I didn’t have any leftover canned cherries, another type of fruit could be substituted, like left over apple sauce or apple pie filling. This recipe is a very easy way to use your baking leftovers.

Lesson Learned 3 – The Glaze: As I’ve shared before the formula for glaze is quite simple – a cup of confectioners sugar and 1 – 2 tbs. of liquid (water, milk, heavy cream) and a little flavoring like an extract, juice, and/or zest. For this recipe I used 1/8 tsp. of almond extract and the glaze was perfect.

My husband really liked these tasty little bites. Cover them with plastic wrap or put them in an air tight container and they’ll stay fresh for 3 days, if they even last that long. I know mine didn’t. Enjoy!

Mini Cherry Cream Cheese Danishes

  • Servings: 9
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

1 can of crescent rounds, I used Pillsbury

Leftover cream cheese filling (note recipe below was the filling I used but if made from scratch is too much for this recipe)


2 – 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbs. flour

1 egg, room temperature


Leftover fruit  – I used leftover canned cherry pie filling

GLAZE:

I cup confectioners sugar

1 – 2 tsp milk

1/8 tsp almond extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Open the can of refrigerator dough and cut the dough rounds using the perforations as a guide. Roll each into a ball. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hands and create a crater in the center of each with your thumbs.

Place a half teaspoon of cream cheese filling and 2-3 cherries inside each crater.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

Remove each danish onto a wire rack and let cool. If any cherries have fallen off during the baking process, spoon them back on top before placing on the wire rack.

Once cooled, make the glaze and drizzle over the danishes. Serve or place in an air tight container. Danishes will stay fresh for approximately 3 days.

Ready To Go Into The Oven

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Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Cake…

What can I say about this one. It is simply over the top. Not only does it taste divine but it’s gorgeous. What more can you ask for from a cake? Now I’ll admit this cake takes a little more work than most but the result is breathtaking. This is possibly the most professional looking cake I’ve ever made. And we know looks are important but bottom line it has to taste good. Well let me tell you in the taste department I would consider this to be divine. I mean what’s not to love – chocolate, flavorful cream cheese, cherry pie filling, vanilla glaze – it just doesn’t get much better than that.

So let’s talk chocolate cherry cream cheese cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – Be organized when you make this cake: Really you should be organized when you make any cake but this one has so many components to it that your experience making it will be so much more delightful if you plan this out before you make it. Think about this one in stages.

  1. Get everything out in plenty of time that needs to be room temperature. In this recipe that means the eggs and sour cream. No need to worry about the butter because you melt that.
  2. Get the oven preheating. I believe it is better for your oven not only to be preheated but to be at the desired temperature for at least 5-10 minutes so that once you pop the cake pan in you can count on the oven truly being the correct temperature all throughout.
  3. Put together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, kosher salt and baking soda) and set them aside.
  4. Measure out all of the remaining ingredients. I use little bowls to organize what needs to be measured. That way when you come to a certain juncture in the process you are all ready to go. This includes opening up the can of cherry pie filling and measuring out the amount needed. As you do that, try to opt for more cherries than filling as some fillings tend to be more juice and less cherries.
  5. Count out, drain and rinse your maraschino cherries. For my pan I needed 16 cherries, so a small jar of cherries will work just fine.
  6. Assemble the chocolate mixture.
  7. Make the batter by combining the chocolate mixture with the dry ingredients. Now you’re ready to go.
  8. Wait to spray your bundt pan until the very end. For this recipe I recommend using a baking spray with flour. Coat the bundt pan liberally. You want it to be glistening all over before you begin assembling the cake.

Because there are so many components to this recipe I guarantee you will be a lot happier and have more fun making this cake if you organize yourself.

Lesson Learned 2 – Making the glaze: Making glaze for any type of cake or pastry couldn’t be easier. All it requires is some confectioners sugar, some liquid and perhaps some sort of additional flavoring. You can use water, milk, or heavy cream for your liquid and you can use a little extract, juice or zest to enhance the flavor of the glaze. More often than not I use milk as the liquid and in this particular recipe I used a little vanilla extract to enhance the flavor.

Keep in mind you need very little liquid to create a glaze. Normally it works out to about 1 cup of confectioners sugar to about a tablespoon or so of liquid and then, if using a liquid extract, only about 1/8 teaspoon of that. But don’t get bogged down in the measurements. If your glaze is too thick just add a little more liquid to thin it out. If it becomes too runny, add a little more confectioners sugar. Glaze is very forgiving and can be made to the correct consistency with some easy minor adjustments.

One caveat – don’t use the additional flavoring to thin out a glaze. The flavor can become overpowering if you do that. And lastly, I don’t always have heavy cream around the house, but when I do I use it as my liquid. That is when you get the richest flavor. I just can’t convince myself to buy a pint of heavy cream for the needed tablespoon I will use in a glaze. But it’s all up to you.

This cake is so good and so worth the effort. Try it – I just know you will like it!

Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Cake...

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup water

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 Tbs. espresso powder

3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

2 eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

16 maraschino cherries, rinsed and drained

3/4 cup cherry pie filling

CREAM CHEESE FILLING:

2 – 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbs. flour

1 egg, room temperature

GLAZE:

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 – 2 Tbs. water, milk or heavy cream

1/8 tsp. vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cream cheese filling by beating together the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add the flour and egg and beat until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Whisk until thoroughly blended. Set aside.

In a saucepan melt the 3/4 cup butter. Add the water and stir to blend. Add the cocoa and espresso powder and whisk until there are not lumps. Add the chips and stir until they are completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

Add the chocolate mixture to the dry mixture and whisk until combined. Blend in the sour cream. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.

Spray a 10-12 cup bundt pan thoroughly with baking spray with flour. Melt the 1 1/2 tsp of butter and pour it evenly into the bottom of the pan. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the melted butter. Place two cherries on top of the brown sugar in each of the larger grooves of the bundt pan.

Fill the bundt pan with half the chocolate batter. Spoon in the cream cheese filling on top making sure not to have the filling touch the sides. Spoon the cherry pie filling on top of the cream cheese, making sure the filling does not touch the sides of the pan. (You may have some leftover cream cheese and cherry pie filling). Pour the remaining batter evenly on top making sure to cover the cream cheese and the cherry pie filling completely.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Put a plate over the bottom of the pan and flip the cake out of the pan onto the plate and let cool completely.

Mix together all of the ingredients for the glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

Pour the melted butter evenly over the bottom

Put the brown sugar on top of the butter

Place the cherries in the larger grooves

Layer the ingredients

The cake right out of the oven

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Marble Pound Cake…

I love this recipe not only because it produces a moist, flavorful cake but also because it’s a ton of fun to make.  And the finished product looks as good as it tastes.

I like experimenting with different cakes and when I read about the process for this one I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve made swirl cakes before where you basically have one little cinnamon swirl going through the cake but this way of making a swirl cake is much more dramatic. You create the dramatic swirls by dividing the batter and making one half chocolate and keeping the other half as is. Then you spoon in the batter alternating the colors and use a knife or another similar object and swirl them together. It was great fun (I know I need to get a life…). And the result, as you can see from the many pictures in this blog is a more dramatic density of swirls. It is a fun cake to make and eat.

So let’s talk marble pound cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – The easy way to grease and flour a bundt cake pan: If you’re like me you love the way a bundt cake looks but you dread greasing and flouring the pan. Well I’ve found a way to make that process somewhat easier. First there’s no getting around it you need to grease the pan and pay attention to getting the grease into the many crevices. I usually use shortening to do that. I think I actually use less grease with shortening than I do with butter.

Then comes the flouring part and that was always a challenge because you need to get the flour up as high as you can and with the wide opening of the pan you can get flour all over the place if you’re not careful. Well, no more. All you need do is take some good cling wrap (and I mean the stuff that really clings – we buy ours at Costco and it is restaurant quality grade). Cover the top of the pan as shown in the picture below.

Once you do this you can turn the pan completely upside down and shake it all around and spread the flour easily throughout the entire pan. See for yourself…

After that you simply turn the pan upside down on the counter and tap the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon all the way around. I would do that a couple of times. Then remove the cling wrap from the sides of the pan, lift the pan up and you’ll be left with all the excess flour all on the cling wrap as seen in the picture below…

Then all you need to do is fold up the edges of the cling wrap and toss it with the flour inside. Believe me, this little trick saves a lot of time and mess. You’ll love it.

Lesson Learned 2 – Add the eggs individually and beat each of them for a long time: There is no leavening in this recipe (baking powder, soda). Leavening is traditionally used to make a cake rise in the oven. The only leavening agent in this recipe is the eggs.

Think of an egg as basically having three qualities – fat, foam and fat & foam. The fat is the yolk which primarily serves as a binder. It helps to make batters smooth and moist. The foam is the whites. Beat them into submission on their own and you get light stiff peaks that can be used for airiness in a recipe or to make a meringue.

The particular recipe relies on the fat and the foam. When mixed with sugar (like in a cake or cookie batter), eggs help trap and hold air — not quite as well as whipped egg whites, but enough to give the finished product some lightness and lift. And that’s what you are needing in this recipe. That is why it is important to make sure each egg is blended thoroughly. Do not add all the eggs in at the same time. It never mixes as well as you think and could affect the cakes ability to rise.

Also don’t crack the eggs directly into the batter. Since you are using so many eggs you don’t want to get to the fifth or sixth one and then find out you have a bad one as it drops in. Your batter will be ruined. In order to prevent this, crack each egg into a small dish before you add it to the batter. That way you can make sure you’re not adding a bad egg. I’ve only had this happen to me a couple of times, and it’s not fun. Believe me you don’t want to put yourself into a position of having to toss out all of those ingredients and start all over because you had one bad egg.

Lesson Learned 3 – Alternating the batters in the pan: I think I had the most fun with this part of the process. Once you create the two batters you alternate them by large spoonfuls in the pan.

After that you swirl the batters together being careful not to touch the edges or the bottom of the pan. I used a skewer that I used to grill vegetables. It was long enough and thin enough to give me control and to create some great swirls. Judge for yourself…

You add another layer of alternating batters, swirl again and you’re ready to pop the cake into the oven.

Lesson Learned 4 – Use instant espresso powder to enhance the flavor of the chocolate: In any recipe that includes chocolate I’d recommend adding at least a quarter teaspoon of espresso powder. It brings out the chocolate flavor so much more. Try making a chocolate recipe without it and then make the same recipe with it. You’ll be amazed at how much it enhances the flavor of the chocolate.

What I really like about this cake is it looks as good as it tastes. And I found it fun to make. I loved making the swirls! So try this one and tell me what you think. I just know you’ll love it.

Marble Pound Cake...

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 cups sugar

6 large eggs, room temperature

3 cups flour

2 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. espresso powder

1/3 cup hot water

powdered sugar for sprinkling on top

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour a 10 cup bundt pan. Set aside.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar for approximately 5 minutes. The mixture should be light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs one at a time and combine each thoroughly. Add the vanilla and combine.

Mix together the flour and the salt. Add the flour a few large spoonfuls to the batter at a time until combined.

Whisk together the cocoa, espresso powder and hot water. Take half of the cake batter and stir it into the cocoa mixture.

Drop dollops of batter into the bundt pan alternating the chocolate and vanilla batters. Swirl the batters together being careful not to scrape the bottom or sides of the pan. Repeat the same process. (You should get two layers of alternating batter).

Bake for 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.

Cool for 30 minutes before inverting the cake onto a serving plate. Dust the top with powdered sugar.

 

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Skillet Breads – Rosemary Parmesan and Cranberry Walnut…

Nothing in this world compares to home made bread. There is something so comforting about it, it creates that feeling of “there’s no place like home” every time you smell it baking in the oven. And bread baking has progressed over the years from a process that took hours to much quicker and easier methods. To date I have made bread the traditional way (letting it rise over and over for hours and baking in a loaf pan), to making bread in an enameled cast iron dutch oven and now this third way of making it in a plain old cast iron skillet.

I’ve made this recipe a few times before I felt I perfected it and I’ll go through all of that in my lessons learned. But bottom line, even with the few blips I encountered I still wound up with wonderful homemade bread. The two versions I’m going to talk about in this blog are Cranberry Walnut Skillet Bread and Rosemary Parmesan Skillet Bread. Two very different varieties but two wonderful breads.

So let’s talk skillet breads…

Lesson Learned 1 – Use rapid rise yeast and make sure it is fresh: I had a jar of rapid rise yeast in my refrigerator and used it the first time I tried to make this bread. It never rose the way it was supposed to (the jar had been in the fridge for quite some time) and the bread wound up “doughy” as if it didn’t have enough air in it. The second time I made the bread I used fresh yeast and their was a marked difference in how much the dough had risen. Also make sure that you use warm but not scolding water when you activate the yeast. Scolding water will kill the yeast but very warm water will activate it.

 

 

 

 

 

The picture on the left shows the newly mixed dough. The one on the right shows what the dough will look like after it had risen in the bowl for one hour.

Skillet bread requires the dough to rise twice, once for an hour in the bowl and once for a half hour in the skillet. The picture above shows what the dough should look like after it has risen in the skillet for a half hour.

Lesson Learned 2 – Use only a small amount of olive oil to season the skillet and use good olive oil: What I really like about making bread this way is the crust you get from the cast iron skillet. Take a silicone brush and lightly coat the bottom and sides of the skillet. You really don’t want a lot of oil sitting on the bottom. That will give you a greasy crust. And make sure you use a good quality olive oil. I used a garlic infused olive oil when I made the rosemary parmesan bread and a mild flavored premium olive oil for the cranberry walnut bread. If you don’t overdo the oil the crust will have just the right amount of crispiness and will taste heavenly.  Just make sure you use a good olive oil. I prefer the crust in this method compared to the crust you get when using an enameled cast iron dutch oven (in the process you do not oil the pan). That crust, to me, is a little tougher. But don’t get me wrong, both methods produce wonderful bread.

Lesson Learned 3 – Some recipes tell you to cut an “X” in the center (called scoring) of the dough before you put it in the oven – for this recipe DON’T:  I truly don’t think you need to score the bread using this method. When you put bread in the oven it continues to rise and a tension begins to exist between the top formed layer and the softer dough beneath. Scoring is done to assist with the bread rising consistently and predictably during this process.

When I made the rosemary parmesan skillet bread I scored it in the center before I put it in the oven. It created a small crater in the middle of the bread as seen below. It didn’t hurt anything and the bread still turned out fine but I was looking for a more rounded look in the finished product.

When I made the cranberry walnut bread I did not score it in the middle and got more of the rounded look I was wanting.

Lesson Learned 4 – The dough will be very sticky when you go to transfer it into the skillet: I’ve read many versions of how to make this type of bread and most recipes tell you to flour your hands and the dough to successfully transfer it to the skillet. I don’t find that works unless you use a lot of flour and I’m not a big fan of baking a lot of flour into my bread crust.

What I do is take a silicone spatula and work the dough to the edge of the bowl and then quickly move the spatula to get the dough into the skillet. The beauty of this type of bread is that it doesn’t need to look pristine. The more rustic looking the better. And after the dough rises for a half hour in the skillet, many of the imperfections have disappeared. So don’t angst over transferring the dough to the skillet. It’s really pretty simple if you use a silicone spatula.

I couldn’t believe how simple this was to make. The hardest part is letting the dough rise for an hour and a half – the rest is easy. And to me there is nothing like homemade bread. So try one or both of these recipes and let me know what you think…

Skillet Breads - Rosemary Parmesan or Cranberry Walnut...

  • Servings: 12 slices
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

BOTH BREADS:

1 package instant rapid rise yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)

2 cups warm water

4 1/2 cups all bread flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

Olive oil for the skillet

ROSEMARY PARMESAN BREAD ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS:

3 Tbs. of chopped fresh rosemary, divided

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

CRANBERRY WALNUT BREAD ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a large mixing bowl combine the yeast and water. Add half the flour and mix together. Mix in the remaining flour along with either the rosemary or the cranberries and walnuts. If some of the flour is still dry add a little extra warm water until the dough is completely formed.

Cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Brush some olive oil on the bottom and sides of a cast iron skillet using a silicone brush. Transfer the dough to the skillet and cover loosely with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the dough has risen the second time put the skillet in the oven. If making the rosemary parmesan bread, sprinkle some chopped rosemary on the top of the bread before putting it in the oven. For rosemary parmesan bread, after 20 minutes remove the bread from the oven and sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese. Let the bread bake an additional 20 minutes. For cranberry walnut bread, let the bread bake for 40 minutes straight.

Remove the bread from the oven. Using a spatula, transfer the bread from the skillet to a cooling rack. (This should be very easy but be careful because the skillet will be very hot). Slice and enjoy.

These breads can also be frozen. Cut them into two slice or more pieces. Cover securely with plastic wrap. Put pieces in a freezer bag. Close the bag while trying to eliminate as much air as possible from the bag. Your bread will stay fresh for one month.

Rosemary Parmesan Skillet Bread

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake…

I belong to a book club in our condo community and at the last meeting I came across this recipe. The hostess served this cake but I didn’t eat any of it. As I was leaving she asked if I would like to bring a piece to my husband. I said sure. Well my husband raved over it so much I had to get the recipe and make it myself. OMG this has to be one of the lightest, moistest and most delicious coffee cakes you’ll ever make. I actually think this recipe is foolproof as I didn’t even need to adjust it to high altitude.

I think the cake gets its moistness from the 2 cups of sour cream you add to the batter. Regardless it is one of the best coffee cakes I’ve ever made. So let’s talk sour cream coffee cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – You need a specific cake pan for this recipe: When I got a copy of this recipe it called for it to be made in a 10 cup flute pan (angel food cake pan). I did not have that but I had a 10 cup bundt pan so I used that. It worked just fine. The only difference is if you want your cinnamon and nut mixture to be on the top of your cake use a flute pan. If you use a bundt pan it will be on the bottom of your cake – I’m not sure that really matters one way or the other. It still tastes great!

If you use a flute pan you only need to grease the sides and the bottom of the pan due to its flat surfaces. If you use a bundt pan I would recommend both greasing and flouring the pan. That way the cake will release easily from all of the crevices in a bundt pan.

Lesson Learned 2 – Be systematic in how you prepare this cake: I’ve found whether in cooking or baking your results are much better if you systematically approach the recipe and organize yourself. Here’s what I recommend (and this applies to almost all baking):

  • Take your eggs and butter out of the refrigerator at least a couple of hours before you begin making the cake to get them to room temperature
  • Make sure you dust your cake pan and your mixing bowl(s) with a cloth before your begin anything – they are not immune to attracting dust and you certainly don’t want dust on your cake or in your batter
  • Take the time to thoroughly grease and flour your pan – if using a bundt pan make sure to get the flour in all the crevices but also make sure you remove as much excess flour as possible – I normally do that by holding the pan over the garbage can and banging it all over with a wooden spoon to remove the excess
  • Preheat your oven first thing – it’s always better to have your oven sit at the desired temperature for a while versus putting the cake in just as it reaches the correct temperature
  • Put together the dry ingredients and either sift them together or combine them with a whisk
  • Put together the ingredients for the topping and set them aside
  • Don’t be afraid to take some time to combine the butter and sugar (4 – 5 minutes) – the fluffier that mixture the better your cake batter will be
  • Make sure you mix your eggs in one by one – they will not combine thoroughly if you put them all in at the same time; the same applies to your dry ingredients – don’t add them all at once but in stages – this will ensure everything is thoroughly combined

Lesson Learned 3 – This cake freezes beautifully: This recipe produces a large cake that really only stays fresh for a couple of days. If you’re not making it for a party or to bring to work I suggest you take what you don’t think you’ll eat in a couple of days and freeze it. I wrapped mine in 2-slice portions. Make sure you wrap the pieces tightly in plastic wrap and then put them in a freezer bag(s). Let as much air out of the freezer bag as you possibly can. By doing this you’ll have fresh moist cake for a month!

I’m not kidding when I say I think this cake is foolproof. It is one of the few recipes that I did not have to adjust for high altitude. My husband loves this cake and I know you will too!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake...

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 cups of sugar, divided

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups sour cream

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl combine the walnuts, cinnamon and 3/4 cups sugar. Set aside.

Grease a 10 cup tube pan or grease and flour a 10 cup bundt pan. Set aside. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and soda) and set aside.

Using a stand mixture, mix together the butter and 1 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in one at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat to combine.

Add the dry ingredients in portions and beat until well combined.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the nut mixture on top of the batter. Add the remaining batter on top. Sprinkle with the remaining nut mixture.

Bake for 60 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan. Cool the cake in the pan for about 15 minutes and then remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

 

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My Best Holiday Cookie Recipes…

Ever since I can remember I’ve made cookies for the holidays. My mother started me out when I was in high school (I think she wanted to transition the job to someone else) and the rest is history. As you can imagine I’ve had many successes and failures over the years but I’ve also developed a short list of my all-time favorite cookie recipes. And that is what this blog is all about – sharing my favorites with you. Just click on the pictures and they will link you to my recipes. I hope you enjoy them and make all of them. I guarantee you, they will all be a big hit.

The first cookie I’ve made for as long as I can remember and it’s stayed tried and true through several decades – the Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. There is no better chocolate chip cookie recipe and I’ve tried a lot of them. I was having coffee with a friend the other day and we both agreed that if you’re going to make chocolate chip cookies this is the only recipe to use. And every year it has been my tradition to begin holiday baking by making these cookies. The cookie dough is divine (admit it, you eat this cookie dough), the cookie is to die for and they freeze beautifully so you can enjoy them for several weeks. I’m including the link to this recipe below the picture.  Making Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies means Christmas to me.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here’s the link to the recipe: allrecipes.com/recipe/174864/original-nestle-toll-house-chocolate-chip-cookies/

I love all of the cookies in this blog but I definitely have my favorite. In my estimation nothing beats my iced cinnamon chip cookie. The tartness of the cinnamon combined with the sweetness of the cookie topped with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting is as good as it gets. The challenge with making these cookies is finding cinnamon chips. My local grocery stores used to carry them but not anymore, so I have to order them online. But they’re so good it’s totally worth it. If you try any of these recipes, try this one. It is my absolute favorite!

Cinnamon Chip Cookie

Iced Cinnamon Chip Cookie

The iced cinnamon cookie recipe displaced my next cookie recipe as my all time favorite. For many years it was my triple chocolate brownie cookie. If you love chocolate, this is definitely the cookie for you. The three kinds of chocolate, the brownie-like consistency of the cookie and the semi-sweet chocolate drizzle are simply to die for. I make this cookie every year and it’s alway a hit.

Triple Chocolate Brownie Cookie

I also love my iced cranberry orange walnut cookies. The combination of cranberry and orange just screams the holidays to me. I love the tartness of fresh cranberries combined with the flavor of orange and the sweetness of the cookie dough. Add some walnuts and you have a killer combo! These cookies look festive and are easy to make. Drizzle them with some glaze and you have a holiday delight!

Iced Cranberry Orange Walnut Cookies

No respectable holiday cookie compilation would be complete without something that looks and tastes like peppermint. These cookies fit the bill. My peppermint twist kisses cookies not only boast the holiday colors but also bring together that great holiday combination of peppermint and chocolate. These cookies tastes divine and dress up any holiday cookie tray.

Peppermint Twist Kisses Cookie

And my last favorite is technically not a cookie, it’s fudge. I tried making fudge last year and could not believe how easy it was. This fudge brings together the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter for a delightful holiday treat.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Home made cookies make great holiday gifts. Just put a few of them into a holiday bag, tie with some festive ribbon, and you’ve got a gift that’s better than most anything you can buy. Enjoy making them, enjoy eating them, enjoy sharing them.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who checks out my blog. I hope the recipes are fun and the information helpful. I wish you, your family and all of your friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And in the immortal words of Tiny Tim, “God Bless Us, Everyone!”

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Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake Pt 2…

This time of year with all of the Fall/Winter holidays approaching just screams to me cranberry and orange. As a matter of fact I love that flavor combination so much this is the second variety of cranberry orange coffee cake that I’ve posted on this site. To see the original post just click on “recipe”.

There are slight variations to the two of them and both are equally delicious. One you make in a spring form pan with the traditional leavening agents of baking powder and soda and that produces a taller, airier cake. This particular recipe does not use any type of leavening. Rather the eggs and sugars are beaten for an extensive period of time to create a mixture that doubles in size and provides the needed lift for the cake. This particular cake is denser and moister.

Both cakes are equally good, although my husband liked this particular recipe better. Whenever he monitors how much of a finished product I bring to work and how much I leave at home, I know the recipe is a hit. This time he made me bring much less of the cake to work than usual.

So let’s talk Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake Pt. 2…

Lesson Learned 1 – Be organized when you bake: I found the experience of baking much more pleasurable if I do it in an organized fashion. By that I first get out any ingredients that need to be room temperature in plenty of time for them to reach that desired state. Then I read the entire recipe to see what I’m up against. I preheat the oven and prep any pans that require prep. After that I figure out how to organize the assembly process (as in this recipe I recommend making the crumb topping first as you will read below). Then I get all my ingredients out and ready. That usually means getting the dry ingredients together and combined and then moving on to the wet ingredients. After that, everything seems to fall into place.

What you are trying to avoid is stopping to find things and taking time to mix things while other mixtures sit and wait for a long period of time. Think about how making the recipe can flow and organize yourself to make the process go that way.

Lesson Learned 2 – The importance of beating the eggs and sugar for a long time: As mentioned above this recipe does not use traditional leavening agents like baking powder or soda so you need something to provide the lift to the batter. That lift is produced by beating eggs and sugar into submission. By submission I mean you need to beat them for at least 5-7 minutes. That’s why I recommend using a stand mixer for this recipe so you’re not left with holding a hand mixer for that length of time.

I would also time the process and not leave it up to your memory. You will actually see the mixture double in size and become more thick when you beat it for that length of time. That’s what you’re looking for. Be careful. Don’t try to shortcut this part of the process. If you do you will be left with a somewhat flat coffee cake.

Lesson Learned 3 – This cake may need to bake for much longer than the recipe suggests: I was originally thinking this would take between 45-50 minutes. It actually took me 65 minutes, but then again I live in high altitude where everything takes longer to make. The key with this cake, as with all cakes, is having a toothpick inserted in the middle come out clean. If you have some redness from the cranberries on your toothpick that’s ok. But it should be clean of everything else.

Lesson Learned 4 – Make the crumb topping first: I found the entire process of making this cake went much more smoothly if you made the crumb topping first. Other than beating the eggs, this is the most labor intensive part of the recipe. If you make the topping first than everything else seems to go like clockwork.

As with making any type of crumb topping, use very cold butter and a pastry cutter to cut the butter into flour and sugar. The desired result is coarse crumbs as seen in the picture below.

The Desired Consistency Of The Crumb Topping

Lesson Learned 5 – The importance of room temperature eggs: In my baking recipes you will see that I always call for room temperature eggs. Why? The answer is simple. Room temperature eggs blend much more thoroughly into the batter. And that is the ideal. Quite often I hear the reason one doesn’t use room temperature eggs is they don’t have the time to get them to room temperature. Never fear, I have a quick and easy trick for you so you will always have room temperature eggs when you need them. Just click on “tips”.

Otherwise every other step of the process is what you normally expect when you make a cake. This cake, although delicious anytime, is a great recipe for the Holidays. And I guarantee you it won’t be around your kitchen for very long. Enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Cake Pt. 2...

  • Servings: 20-24
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

CRUMB TOPPING:

3/4 cup flour

6 Tbs. brown sugar, packed

6 Tbs. butter, unsalted and chilled

CAKE

3 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1- 12oz. pkg. of fresh cranberries

Zest of 1 large orange, divided into 3/4 and 1/4 portions

GLAZE:

1 cup powdered sugar

Juice from 1 orange (approx. 4 Tbs)

1/4 of the orange zest already grated for the cake

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl combine all the topping ingredients. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture forms into coarse crumbs. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugars for about 5-7 minutes until thick and doubled in size. Add the butter and vanilla and mix for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Fold in the cranberries and the 3/4 portion of the orange zest.

Put the batter into a greased 13 x 9 pan. Spread the crumb topping on top of the batter.

Bake 45 – 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool completely.

Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over the cake.