Strawberry Cream Cheese Loaf…

Now we’re seeing more and more strawberries in the grocery stores – the season is vastly approaching (and thank goodness because we’re all getting tired of snow). Yesterday I wanted to make something quick and sweet and decided on this particular loaf. This recipe is one that differs slightly from sea level to high altitude and I’ll write out both versions so you can successfully make it wherever you live. Regardless, this loaf is a sure winner. It is moist and not overly sweet – great for snacking or for dessert.

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Lesson Learned 1 – Don’t over mix the batter: In order to keep this loaf moist you only need to incorporate the ingredients. Once they are, quit mixing! Loafs like this will get tough quickly if they’re over mixed.

IMG_3266Lesson Learned 2 – Cut the strawberries into small pieces: After removing the hull I cut the strawberries in half and sliced them. If the strawberry was larger, I cut it in half twice before I sliced it. Strawberries tend to be like blueberries when you bake them, they have a tendency to explode (as I like to call it) in the batter. If they’re too large when they explode your loaf will sink in on itself. In this recipe I used only 1 1/4 cups of strawberries, but you could easily use only 1 cup and still have a great loaf.

IMG_3286Lesson Learned 3 – Fold the strawberries gently into the batter: Strawberries break apart rather easily so you need to be careful when adding them. Fold them in as if you’re folding egg whites into a batter. That way you will have nice marbling and not a strawberry explosion.

Lesson Learned 4 – You may have to use an extra pan for all of the batter: This batter rises rather high. I filled a 9 x 5 loaf pan about two thirds of the way up and put the excess batter in a 3″ x 5″ mini foil loaf pan. If I hadn’t done that, the batter would have risen over the side of the larger pan. What’s nice about doing this is I had a small loaf that I could give as a gift to a neighbor and still had the larger loaf for my family. I recommend not putting all of the batter in one pan, but if you’re brave go ahead. I think you’ll find that if you do, it will run over the sides. If you put some batter in a small loaf pan, it only needs to bake for 30 minutes. The larger loaf takes 50 – 60 minutes.

For as easy and quick as this is to make, it’s a delicious sweet treat. Next time you’re in a pinch for time but want to make something fresh, this would be the loaf to make. Enjoy!

Strawberry Cream Cheese Loaf...

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar (slightly less for high altitude)

4 ounces of cream cheese, softened

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder (1 tsp for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. baking soda (1/4 for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 – 1 1/4 cups strawberries, diced small

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (you can use an organic cooking spray as well) a 9 x 5 loaf pan and a 3″ x 5″ inch mini foil loaf pan. In a medium size bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine. Set aside.

Using a electric stand mixer (or hand mixer) cream butter, sugar and cream cheese until soft. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just blended. Add the buttermilk until combined. Do not over mix.

Carefully fold in the strawberries (the dough will be thick). Bake the small loaf for 30 minutes and the large loaf for 50 – 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let the loaf cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan before removing it.

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Lemon Raspberry Loaf Cake

August was quite a busy month with a lot of traveling and so I wasn’t able to make my goal of one new recipe a week last month. Now things have settled down a bit and I’m back in the saddle. This recipe I found on (you guessed it) Pinterest and it intrigued me especially since our local grocery store had quite the deal on fresh raspberries. The combination of lemon and raspberries is killer in my estimation and that made the choice even easier. So here is my recipe rating for a lemon raspberry loaf cake and lessons I learned while making it.

IMG_0135Recipe Rating – I’m conflicted so I will give it a range of B+ to A+. I know it’s a strange rating but I had to make this twice in order to get it right. The reason for the range is that I am just not sure whether the issue is how the recipe was written or the the challenges related to baking in high altitude. I will explain in my lessons learned.

Lesson Learned 1 – The flavor of this cake is awesome! The loaf fell in on me the first time I made it but I was determined to perfect the recipe because of the flavor. The cake is super delicious and I’m not kidding. If you love the flavors of raspberries and lemon you have to try this one. It is to die for!

The first try produced a caved in cake...

The first try produced a caved in cake…

Lesson Learned 2 – Cooking with raspberries (and blueberries for that matter) is tricky: I’m not sure whether this is a high altitude or a berry thing but with this recipe (and also with my lemon blueberry pound cake recipe), when I used the amount of berries called for in the recipe my cake either became a mushy mess or sunk in in the middle. Both times I had to reduce the amount of berries in order for the cake to turn out perfectly. Both types of berries tend to get wetter and mushier when you bake them so I am thinking that the proportion of berry to batter is really important in order for the cake to hold its shape and not cave in. If any of my readers have any insights on this, I would certainly appreciate it. The first time I made this cake I used one cup of raspberries as called for in the recipe and the cake fell apart in the middle. The second time I used 3/4 cup and the cake did not cave in. Hmmm……

Lesson Learned 3 – Adding some additional flour: When I use box mixes (which has become less and less these days) I always add two tablespoons of flour to adjust the mixture for high altitude. I did the same for this recipe and I think that along with adding slightly less raspberries prevented the cake from falling in.

Lightly flour the raspberries to prevent them from all falling to the bottom

Lightly flour the raspberries to prevent them from all falling to the bottom

Lesson Learned 4 – Flouring the raspberries: Shame on the original recipe. It did not tell you that you have to slightly flour fresh raspberries in order for them to evenly distribute themselves in a batter. If you don’t they’ll all sink to the bottom. If you use frozen raspberries you don’t need to flour them, but it is a must with fresh berries. This was the only flaw in this recipe but the flavor of the cake more than made up for it.

Lesson Learned 5 – Adjusting batter for the size of the loaf pan: Maybe part of my problem was that I used my 8×4 loaf pan when the original recipe called for using a 9×5 pan. I googled the adjustments and it was suggested that the 8×4 pan only have 4 cups of batter put into it a opposed to 6 cups of batter for a 9×5 pan. This recipe makes 4 cups of batter so I’m not sure the amount of the batter was an issue in this case. I definitely had to bake the loaf longer, an additional 15 minutes to be exact. The additional baking time did not hurt it and produced a nicely browned top.

IMG_0153Lesson Learned 6 – The wonder of lemon zest: Zest is one of the best ways to add flavor to a recipe. Lemon zest happens to be my favorite. Not only does it produce a rich lemony flavor but also a great lemony smell. Just make sure you are careful not to zest the lemon down to the white part, the pith, as that will give you a sour zest. To avoid that just move your zester two or three times over an area of the rind and then move on to another yellow part of the rind. Continue until you zest the entire lemon. In this recipe lemon zest provides flavor not only to the cake but to the glaze as well.

Lesson Learned 7 – The technique of folding: This recipe calls for folding in the greek yogurt and then gently folding in the raspberries. Folding is a technique whereby you use a large spoon (I use a wooden spoon) and gently turn over the batter from the bottom to the top, continuing that process in a circular motion until you’ve combined the ingredient(s) you need to fold into the batter. The purpose of folding is to gently combine ingredients and in some cases not to deflate the air out of an ingredient (such as a whipped cream or meringue). If you are not gentle with the raspberries they will break apart and you will wind up having a pink cake versus a white cake dotted with raspberries. Be careful at this point not to break up the raspberries but make sure they are evenly distributed throughout the batter before pouring the batter into the baking pan.

Even though this recipe took me two tries I would highly recommend it. The combination of lemons and raspberries produces a fabulous flavor and the use of lemon zest in the glaze punctuates it. Just beware it may not turn out right the first time and be comfortable with that.  I guarantee you, the flavor is worth getting it right. Let me know how yours turned out and any adjustments you needed to make to get it right. Enjoy!

Lemon Raspberry Loaf Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

IMG_0225Loaf Cake:

1 1/2 cup flour (plus two heaping TBS. for high altitude)

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (reduce to 1 tsp for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cup sugar (reduce by 1/8 cup for high altitude)

1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened

2 eggs, room temperature

3 TBS. lemon juice (you will need 2-3 lemons for this recipe depending on size)

1 heaping TBS. lemon rind

1/2 cup greek yogurt

3/4 cup fresh raspberries

Glaze:

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

3 TBS. lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon rind

A splash of heavy cream (you can use milk as a substitute)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8×4 loaf pan and set aside.

In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar for at least 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until fully incorporated. Mix in lemon rind and lemon juice.

By hand, mix in the dry ingredients (do not use the electric mixer for this). Once combined, fold in the greek yogurt. After that, gently fold in the raspberries.

Bake in the oven for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cake stand in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Combine powdered sugar, lemon rind, lemon juice, and heavy cream to make the glaze. Drizzle on top of cooled cake.

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Lemon Raspberry Loaf Cake

Lemon Raspberry Loaf Cake

 

Baking on Facebook (Apple Cinnamon Loaf) …

If you are in forced recuperation like I am (not sure why I’m making it sound like a death sentence) you are constantly looking for things to occupy and enrich your mind while your body heals. And if you’re outside adventures, such a trips to the grocery store, are also limited until you get clearance from the doctor, you need to rely on what you already have at home. And although I love my computer, one can only surf so much before you seek stimulation elsewhere.

Apple Cinnamon Loaf Ingredients

Apple Cinnamon Loaf Ingredients

I found an outlet on, of all places, Facebook. Scrolling through the news feed the other day I came across a recipe for an apple cinnamon loaf. Now I’ve looked at dozens of recipes that people post and generally gloss over most of them but this one intrigued me because not only did is sound very “Fall-ish” and wonderful but also because I already had all of the ingredients in my pantry. So today, instead of being the self-proclaimed Pinterest recipe critic, I am switching my critique to what I found on Facebook.

In a previous blog when I reviewed a Pinterest recipe for Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf, I talked about the technique of mixing fruit with flour so that it disburses throughout the loaf and doesn’t all sink to the bottom. Unfortunately that technique did not work for me when I made it (I attribute it to the use of frozen instead of fresh blueberries). Upon seeing the loaf my husband dubbed it my “sunken berry” cake and although delicious not as pleasing to the eye as I would have wanted. This time I wanted to avoid the dreaded sunken berry (almost sounds like a breakfast cereal, doesn’t it?).

This particular loaf uses a different technique, one that is used frequently in boxed loaf mixes, that of putting half the batter in the pan, adding the spices or fruit and topping and then adding the remaining batter with another layer of topping. This recipe calls for adding a layer of spices and fruit onto half the batter, patting it down, repeating the process and then finally before putting it into the oven using your finger or a spoon and swirling the mixture all around. That sounded interesting. And what technique do you think I used?  Of course, nix the spoon, the finger is so much more fun! Nothing like getting your hands dirty while in the kitchen I always say.

Needless to say, a very simple and full proof recipe. My Rating: A-. What I like about this recipe is that it’s very easy to make and uses staples most of us have in the pantry. Believe it or not I did not have enough vanilla extract for the recipe (who ever runs out of vanilla extract, I mean really?) so I substituted the cinnamon extract I had on hand and it seemed to work fine. And, as always when I make something, there are some lessons learned.

Lesson Learned 1.) I think the recipe needs a couple of boosts to get rid of the minus on the rating.  First, I would specify using a green apple (which I did in the directions below). I had a gala apple on hand and although it worked well I think green apples are your best bet when a recipe calls for using apples.

Lesson Learned 2.) The next time I make this I will try coating the apple chunks with some nutmeg and cinnamon sugar and letting them absorb them before I layer them on the batter. I think that will enhance the flavor of the apple.

Lesson Learned 3.) The recipe calls for 1/3 cup brown sugar not packed. I would recommend packing the brown sugar as I think the cake needed a little more of that sweetness. You may need to add a little more cinnamon to the brown sugar but that is no big deal.

Lesson Learned 4.) The recipe called for the loaf to bake for 30-40 minutes. It took my loaf 45 minutes to render a clean toothpick when inserted in the center.

Lesson Learned 5.) As mentioned in previous critiques, as soon as I am able I am getting a new loaf pan. Hopefully that will help to get a loaf that is evenly baked and not crunchy on the ends.

All in all I was very pleased with the outcome, especially when it turns out well the very first time you make it. This is an easy recipe, one I would recommend to keep in your recipe box.

APPLE CINNAMON LOAF

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Apple Cinnamon Loaf

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup brown sugar packed

1-1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 softened butter

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1 3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup milk

2 apples peeled and chopped, honey crisp or granny smith

Cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg to coat the chopped apple (mixture to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan (or use baking spray).

2. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Chop the apple and lightly coat with a mixture of cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg and set aside.

3. Beat sugar and butter until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated. Add vanilla extract.

4. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Make a well in the center and stir in butter mixture. Once combined, stir in milk until batter is smooth.

5. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Top with half the chopped apples. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture on top. Pat apples and brown sugar into the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the apple layer, top with remaining apples and brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Lightly pat. Swirl batter with your finger or your spoon.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Apple Cinnamon Loaf

Apple Cinnamon Loaf

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Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf…

Being forced to take it easy after spinal surgery has its advantages and disadvantages. For the life of me I never thought I would feel guilty just taking it easy. It’s made me realize that our lives are so full and programmed that once you’re forced to just relax and heal it feels very strange – and it’s also very hard.

The one could thing about my recuperation is I am relatively mobile. I have to be careful with my movement, no bending or twisting and the waist, and no lifting anything over ten pounds. But other than that my activity is based on what I think my body can tolerate and how I feel. The key is to try to continually build up my strength and activity.

And what kind of activity has in recent years become a passion of mine? Well, cooking and baking of course! So today instead of just loafing around it was time to get active and make a loaf, a lemon blueberry yogurt loaf to be exact. This recipe comes from a website called Sweet Peas in the Kitchen and I found it on Pinterest (surprise, surprise). What intrigued me about the recipe was the process for making the loaf.

Ingredients

Ingredients

The ingredients consist of all the usual suspects, flour, sugar, lemon juice and zest, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, blueberries and such. But the interesting part of making this loaf is what you do to it once it comes out of the oven. This recipe calls for making a lemon sugar syrup that you cook on the stove and brush all over the loaf after you’ve thoroughly pierced it with a toothpick. Once the syrup soaks in you continue the process again until the syrup is completely used up. The idea here is to add moisture to the inside of the loaf after it bakes. This was a new one for me. Then once the loaf is completely cooled you make a simple lemon juice and confectioners sugar glaze and drizzle it all over.  Sounded interesting, so I had to try it.

As with all recipes I get from Pinterest, once I initially try them I like to rate them and talk briefly about some lessons I learned while making them. So, first the RATING: A. I really like this recipe. It is easy and very flavorful. You know when you lick the batter and it’s yummy that you’ve got a winner on your hands. This is definitely one to put into your recipe box.

Lessons Learned: 1 : The recipe calls for fresh or frozen blueberries rinsed and coated with a little flour, a common trick to get the blueberries not to gather at the bottom of the cake while its baking. I couldn’t find fresh blueberries so I opted for frozen. Frozen ones are mushier and wetter and so next time I will use fresh blueberries. Although my blueberries did not totally sink the the bottom, they definitely showed a propensity to being there and I’m thinking fresh blueberries will be drier and because of that more evenly distribute themselves in the loaf.

Folding Blueberries Into The Batter

Folding Blueberries Into The Batter

Lesson Learned 2: I was intrigued by the process of piercing the warm loaf and brushing it with a lemon sugar syrup. I’d never heard of using this type of technique to infuse moisture into a loaf once it’s baked. I found that it does indeed add moisture but felt that using the entire amount was not necessary. The recipe calls for a mixture of 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar cooked on the stove and applied until gone. I would decrease that to 1/4 cup each and maybe even after some experimentation to 1/8 of a cup. I definitely don’ t think you need all of it, but try it and see what you think.

Loaf Basted With A Lemon Sugar Syrup

Loaf Basted With A Lemon Sugar Syrup

Lesson Learned 3: Note to self. I need to get a new loaf pan. I currently use a dark one and it tends to really cook the edges of loaves much faster than the center and so my edges tend to get very crispy before the center is completely done. I want to try either a glass or just light metal pan to see if it makes a difference. I have a feeling it will. Have you any thoughts on what works best?

All in all, as you can see by the final product below, I am very pleased with the way it turned out considering it was the first time I made it. You should add this recipe to your repertoire – it’s a keeper!

The Finished Iced Cake

The Finished Iced Cake

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf