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The first time I ever heard of macaroons was as an undergraduate student at UC Irvine.  I  was reading Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House, where in one scene, the main character Nora hides one of her favorite treats, macaroons,  in her pockets, concealing them from her husband.  To my chagrin, that’s the main thing I recall from that play!  Go figure.  I  have discovered however that, like Nora, I too like macaroons. So, thinking I wanted to make something with my almost full bag of coconut flakes, I looked up a recipe for these sweet, scrumptuous treats.  This recipe  is from the Allrecipes website.  It took me about 8 minutes to put the ingredients together, and another 25 minutes or so to bake.  Hmmm, somehow I’m now inspired to reread A Doll’s House.

 

Just Out of the Oven

 I’ve never made popovers before in my life but ever since my friend T showed me this recipe by David Lebovitz, I’ve had popovers on my mind.  And wouldn’t you know it, I even had a brand spanking “new” popover pan in my closet, a gift from a coworker about 7 years ago!  I was amazed at how much these puppies “popped over” the pan when I took them out of the oven.  The opening shot was actually taken about 3 minutes after I took them out so they had a chance to deflate a little.  Brush some melted butter and sugar and what you get is a sweet little treat for dessert and/or  breakfast.

 

 

 

It was rainy and cold in usually sunny Southern California today, so I holed up in my house and baked away.  I had so many apples in my fridge and countertop, so decided to bake my “deep dish” apple pie.  I’ve posted this one before but this time added some dried cranberries and golden raisins before baking. This was so juicy and good, especially with some french vanilla ice cream on top.

click here for original post

The Cast of Characters

What do you do with a box of brownie mix, a bag of pretzels, and some peanut butter?  How about baking peanut butter pretzel brownies?  That’s exactly what we did this weekend, an idea  originated by my friend T.  At first we were just going to use the brownie mix and maybe add some pecans but T had a light bulb moment and thought of combining crushed pretzels with crunchy peanut butter and using this as the base for the brownie mix.  The verdict? Deliciously ooey-gooey, rich and chewy with a very delectable crunchiness to it.  I loved the contrasting salty and sweet flavors.  This was definitely a big thumbs up.  Good job, T!

Directions:
Crush about 2 cups of mini pretzels in a food processor until you get coarse pretzel crumbs, do not worry about getting them very fine at all
Pour these crumbs into a bowl and mix in several tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter (or smooth if you want). Stir together until you get a consistency where the crumbs and the peanut butter are sticking to each other enough that you can place this on the bottom of a square 8X8 cookie pan, forming a crust.
Follow the directions for the brownie mix and make sure to add some chopped up nuts if you’d like. (Btw, we used the brownie truffle baking mix from Trader Joe’s and found this to be pretty amazing. I couldn’t believe these brownies came from a box)!
Pour the brownie batter on top of the pretzel-peanut butter crust, apply the batter as evenly as possible.
Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for about 35 minutes (best to check your brownies after 25minutes with a toothpick and gauge its readiness from there. Do not overbake)

The inspiration for these cupcakes came from a carton of egg nog that I’ve had in my fridge since New Year’s Eve.  Oh, don’t worry, it doesn’t expire til February but given that we aren’t big eggnog drinkers,  i wanted to make sure that this carton of EG does not go to waste.  So, I thought of adding a bit of eggnog to a basic cupcake recipe from Marion Cunningham’s Fannie Farmer Baking Book.  I also chopped up some Granny Smith apples, added this to the batter, and finished it off with a  little zing of Meyer Rum.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was quite pleased with how my Apple Eggnog Rum Cupcakes turned out. So moist with a subtle hint of eggnog , and juicy apples in every bite.  I doused a bit of powdered sugar for a little extra oomph.  Not bad, eh?

AER Cupcakes–makes 12 cupcakes

ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 large eggs

1/4 cup low fat eggnog

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup AP flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 medium size Granny Smith apples–peeled and chopped into little pieces

1 tablespoon Meyer Rum

powdered sugar (optional)

directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a muffin pan or line them with cupcake liners

2.  Combine the melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and eggnog in a large mixing bowl and beat well.

3.  Sift the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together and then add the flour mixture into the liquid mixture.  Beat until the batter is smooth and thoroughly combined.  Fold in the apples and then add the rum; give a good stir or two.

4.  Spoon into the prepared cupcake pan and bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then turn them onto cooling racks to cool completely.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish!

 

When I made these almond bars for the first time, I was a little disappointed.  I was expecting something on the chewy and gooey end of the spectrum,  more like a brownie or a blondie.   Instead, these bars came out a little on the drier, more crumbly side.  My boyfriend  commented that they reminded him of a biscotti.  Interestingly, like biscotti, this recipe is also of Italian origin, and also like the biscotti, these bars are a perfect accompaniment to a big mug of hot coffee or tea.  The lovely almond flavor intensified after a day or two,  and the dense, crumbly texture grew on me .  Yes, I ended up loving these so much that I practically ate them every morning for breakfast, and then made a second batch just a couple days ago.  The best part of this recipe is how easy they are to make.  Take my word for it or give it a try yourself.  You will grow to love these.

Click HERE for recipe

Just Out of the Oven

Normally, I’m not so  commanding when it comes to telling people what to cook, but if you really want to impress your taste buds (as well as the taste buds of those you love),  bake this apple pie today!   I’m SO serious.  All you need are about a half-dozen apples (I like to use a mix of organic Granny Smith’s and Fuji’s), and you probably already have most of the other ingredients on hand.  I’m not an experienced pie baker by any stretch of the imagination but after tasting this, your friends will think you are the Martha Stewart of  pies.  Crispy on top, juicy- apple-exquisiteness inside, this apple pie will  have you asking for seconds.   

Click here for the recipe!

 

 

strawberry shortcake

No recipe today, just a short post.  This was my Monday afternoon snack at the office: make-your-own strawberry shortcake, compliments of  my boss .  Pretty cool, huh?   Nothing fancy but oh-so satisfying.  Just goes to show that Monday’s can be deliciously sweet after all.  Hope yours was too!

BFP Cake

I woke up early this Saturday morning to bake banana bread.  I based this recipe from one I found in the LA Times a few weeks ago.  In that recipe, the banana bread had dates, poppy seeds, and whole wheat flour, but since I didn’t have any of those I decided to improvise.  I used cake flour instead of the whole wheat, left out the poppy seeds all together, and substituted dried figs for the dates.  I also added a pear to the banana mixture just for the heck of it.   As the banana bread was baking, I did some housecleaning, and by the time the almost 1 hour of baking time went by, I was both starving  and zonked out.  My reward for all my hard work was a luscious, moist slice of what I think is more of a cake than a bread.  It’s actually quite light (thanks to the cake flour), and all the flavors really do work together.   I think I’m going to re-name my creation the Banana-Fig-Pear Cake, aka BFPC!

BFP Cake

Total time: about 1.5 hours

Servings: 2 loaves

ingredients:

3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) butter, plus extra for greasing the pans

1 and 1/2 cups AP flour

1 and 1/2 cups cake flour

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup sugar

3/8 tsp salt

3 eggs

5 very ripe bananas, plus 1 fresh banana

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup yogurt (I used plain Fage yogurt)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried figs

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease 2 loaf pans with butter

2.  Using a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking pwdr and baking soda.  Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl using a hand held mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy (approx. 5 minutes); add the eggs one at a time until incorporated.

4.  In a medium bowl, mash the very ripe bananas, then mash 1 ripe pear into the bananas.  With the mixer running, add the mashed fruit mixture and vanilla to the butter mixture until incorporated.  With the mixer at the lowest speed, add the dry flour ingredients just until incorporated.  Gently fold in the yogurt and figs. 

5.  Divide the batter between the two pans.  Slice the remaining banana and top the batter of each pan with the banana slices.

6.  Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Check the pans periodically after 20-30 minutes to make sure the loaves do not darken too quickly; if this happens, cover the tops with aluminum foil and cont. to bake.

7.  Cool the pans on a cooling rack, then unmold the loaves.  Sift powdered sugar over the 2 loaves.

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Chocolate chip cookies.  Need I say more?  How about, “Don’t forget the milk!”

(Recipe compliments of www.bakingbites.com): Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies