Thursday, September 29, 2011

Share Your Sweets: Apples

The theme for Serious Sweets this week is apples. Since I don't have a go-to apple recipe in my repertoire I did a little search for something new and I came up with these - baked caramel apple doughnuts.

This recipe (available here) came from Tracey Benjamin's website, Shutterbean. I had never really checked out her site before but was familiar with her stuff from her podcast with Joy from Joy the Baker. The recipe called for apples and a doughnut pan so it seemed perfect. 

To begin, peel and then shred up three apples with a box grater. It goes reremarkably quickly once you get started.

Mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and dry in a second. Mix the wet with the dry until just combined. 

Add the apples and combine.

Into the pan and bake for about 18 minutes. 

Too quick trying to get one out of the pan

Since I only have one doughnut pan with six holes, I got impatient and also used a muffin tin so I could bake more than six at a time. It's basically just a sweet muffin batter anyway, so no real difference. In fact, if you don't have a doughnut pan, there's no reason not to make these. Almost everyone has a muffin tin.

While I was waiting for the doughnuts to cool I started getting the caramel topping together. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take any pictures of this step. It was extremely simple. Unwrap the caramels, put into a microwaveable bowl or large measuring cup and add the milk. Microwave at 10 second intervals until everything is melted.

I think the final result turned out really well. I took a cue from a comment Tracey made in her post and added a little bit of fleur de sel to the top of a few of the doughnuts and it was amazing.

I only made half the batch of caramel because I thought it was going to make too much. I was wrong. For the rest of the doughnuts, I mixed up a bit of cinnamon and sugar so they wouldn't be left naked. 

I would certainly make these again. If I did, I think I would add the salt to all of them. It was interesting to see that the caramel completely soaked into these overnight. So I would suggest, if you're planning to make them for company, make them the same day or you'll lose the visual appeal. They were just as tasty the next day. 

What's your favorite apple dessert?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Ooooh Yeah

My favorite item at my parent's cottage - Kool Aid cups!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review From the Road: Georgetown Cupcake

Last weekend I got to join one of my friends (hi Lyndsay!) in Washington, DC. Given my love for all things baked, I was curious to check out a famous cupcake shop in town - Georgetown Cupcake.

Georgetown Cupcake (@GTownCupcake) has risen to international fame through their TLC reality show, DC Cupcakes. Friends kept telling me I had to take in Georgetown while I was in DC. Since I was going to be in the neighborhood anyway, I checked out their website to see what they had to offer. I was officially sold when I saw I could order ahead and skip the line. They are notoriously busy (ironically, not on the day I visited) and the opportunity to skip the line was the deciding factor. We also had a belated birthday to celebrate and cupcakes just seemed to make sense.

The shop

The cupcakes

I opted for an assorted half dozen. There are a number of standard flavors they carry every day, some rotating daily flavors, and a few seasonal flavors too. I'll be honest. I had my doubts. I had yet to be even mildly impressed by any "professional" cupcakes I'd tried anywhere so I really had no expectations. I was especially doubtful because, in my experience, foods and restaurants that get the most public hype are the most likely to disappoint. I will admit it...I was wrong. These were absolutely delicious. I kept thinking the next one would be crap, but they just kept getting better.    

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl was the first I tried. I bit in expecting it to be dry and tasteless like most cupcakes I've tried. It was moist and chocolatey and delicious. The ganache topping had a great taste and texture and the peanut butter filling seemed to be straight up peanut butter possibly mixed with a bit of icing sugar to stabilize it. I could have eaten a dozen of these. 

The rest were equally delicious. All were nice and moist, almost on the verge of under done which is so much better than being overdone and dry. The texture was great and the frostings were all delicious. Not too sweet and definitely made with real butter and not shortening like some bakeries. 

Caramel Apple
Apple cupcake with dulce de leche filling and cream cheese frosting.
Coconut cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting and coconut on top. This was the only one I didn't love. I thought the coconut flavor was a little fake and I didn't like the stringiness of the shredded coconut in the cake. 
Pumpkin Spice
Pumpkin spice cupcake with maple cream cheese frosting. It tasted just like pumpkin pie. Somehow even the texture seemed right. 

Key Lime
The key lime cupcake with key lime frosting tasted remarkably like my own favorite lime cupcakes.

Milk Chocolate Birthday Cake
Milk chocolate birthday cake consisted of really good vanilla cake and perfect chocolate frosting. As always, the addition of sprinkles makes everything better. 

I'm happy to report that I was thoroughly impressed with Georgetown Cupcake. If you're in the DC area, I highly recommend you go and check them out. 

What's the best place you've tried after seeing it on TV? 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pumpkin Oatmeal Pancakes

I'm shaking things up here in the 'Burg. I think I'm going to start doing the logical thing and show you a picture of the finished product at the beginning of each post to pique your interest. There's no need to keep you in suspense until the bottom of the page to see what I'm talking about. The star of today's show - pumpkin oatmeal pancakes.

I had some pumpkin left over from another recipe and thought this might be a good way to use it up. I had a hankering for pancakes so I decided to try to modify a tried and true recipe to incorporate the pumpkin. My friend, Kristen, gave me her favorite oat pancake recipe (I'm not sure where her recipe originated) and they're always delicious so I thought it would make for a good starting point. 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Pancakes
(adapted from Kristen's Oat Pancakes)
Makes about 9-12 small pancakes

1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup oats
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in a second bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Cook on medium heat until bubbles pop and the surface looks dry. Flip and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with syrup and enjoy!

And here is the finished product. I thought they turned out quite well for a spur of the moment recipe modification. They could use a little bit more spice but otherwise they were quite tasty. A very easy recipe to pull together when you have some extra pumpkin kicking around. 

What's your favorite kind of pancake?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Moon Snail

Found this guy at Tracadie Beach, PEI.

I've never seen one on the North Shore before.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Plenty of Pumpkin: Cinnamon Rolls

I love pumpkin. I don't really know what it is about it that I love so much. For as long as I can remember, pumpkin pie has been one of my favorite foods. Every year I look forward to the Fall. Nothing goes with cool weather like pumpkiny treats. It's probably the spices that make everything so tasty, but I love it nonetheless. 

I've already posted one pumpkin recipe this season. On with number two - pumpkin cranberry cinnamon rolls from King Arthur Flour. This is the first recipe I've featured on here that uses yeast. I'll admit, I don't use it very often. It's as intimidating to me as pie crust (which I'll have to try soon) but I made this recipe once a couple of years ago and I knew the time and effort required was worth it for the results.

We all learn from our mistakes, right? The first time I made these I messed up big time. The King Arthur recipe calls for instant yeast and I used yeast from the Bulk Barn that must have been regular yeast. Poor choice. Since I hadn't dissolved the yeast in anything there were little bits left in the dough and it didn't rise well. This time, even though I was using instant yeast, I dissolved it for a few minutes in 1/4 cup of slightly warmed milk (substituted for the water and milk powder) before adding it to the rest of the wet ingredients.

Kneaded dough
The yeast definitely did its job this time. I left the dough to rise for a little more than an hour and it more than doubled in size. I added the post-it after a few minutes so I could mark where the dough started out.

Before rising

After rising
The recipe calls for the dough to be rolled up along the short edge and cut into nine rolls. I found this made for HUGE cinnamon rolls so I cut it in half to make 18 smaller rolls. I also decided to add cranberries to half and leave the second half plain. 

There was a lot of room left in between the rolls when I put them into a parchment lined 13"x9" pan. I was a little concerned that they weren't going to fill the pan but, after the second rising, everything looked great. 

Before the second rising - lots of empty space

After the second rising - nice and snug
Since I made smaller rolls, I reduced the baking time to about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. 

The finishing touch to these pumpkin beauties was the simple icing on top. 
  • 1 cup glazing or confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk, or enough to make a "drizzlable" glaze
I had some maple syrup in the fridge so I substituted half of the milk with syrup. I don't think it really added anything to the taste, so don't worry about trying to fancy it up. 


All in all, these took about three and a half hours to complete but I think they're definitely worth it. To quote one of my co-workers/taste testers, Andra - "That was, without a doubt, the absolute best cinnamon roll I have had the privilege of eating. EVER." If you're looking for a twist on a basic recipe, I recommend you give these a try. 

What's the one seasonal food you look forward to most?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Share Your Sweets: Breakfast Breads

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve participated in the Share Your Sweets slideshow on Serious Eats. Seeing that the theme for this week was ‘breakfast breads’ I figured I had to participate. As evidenced by the Great Bake Sale of 2011, I love loaves and quick breads. We’re entering into my favourite season, and there’s nothing that says Fall more than pumpkin, so I figured I might as well make a pumpkin loaf to submit for the slideshow.  

Despite how much I love pumpkin, I don’t really have too many pumpkin recipes in my repertoire. I’ve made pumpkin cinnamon rolls and pumpkin crumble bars (both soon to be posted here), and of course I’ve made pumpkin pie (probably my favourite food ever in life), but I didn’t have a recipe for a pumpkin loaf.

I started searching around on the internets and finally came across one from a familiar source. The recipe comes from Lynne Frappier’s blog, The Twisted Chef. Lynne was one of the judges at the infamous Ottawa CupcakeCamp that inspired the whole desire to document my baking adventures. Over the last year, she and I have become Twitter buddies (in my mind anyway) and often discuss baking, cupcakes, and the like. Here’s the thing I love about Twitter – we’ve never actually met in person. Despite having a mutual friend in real life (Hi Amanda!) and spotting her at Montreal CupcakeCamp, we’ve never actually managed to have a face to face conversation even though I feel like we have. The wonders of the internet.

Apologies for the tangent. Lynne’s pumpkin loaf recipe was just what I was looking for. A straightforward recipe (that she’d made many times with great success) that also provided some variations. I decided to go with the chocolate chip. 

This is what happens when I make a recipe I found online and forgot to print. It gets written out in shorthand on the back of a random envelope. This is scaled to half of Lynne's original recipe.

The recipe came together really easily and I loved that I didn’t have to pull out the KitchenAid. Two bowls, a whisk, and a spatula were all I needed. I cut the recipe in half because I only have one 9” loaf pan and I’d already brought a bunch of baking into the office the day before and figured my poor co-workers didn’t need to worry about devouring two huge pumpkin loaves on top of everything else.

I made a couple of small modifications. I used half allspice and half cloves. Instead of a full 1/3 cup of water I used about half water and half maple syrup just because I had it around. I don’t think it made any noticeable difference to the taste so definitely feel free to go along with the original recipe.
Trust me - it tastes better than this picture makes it look

I loved this. It tastes like Fall. It’s super moist. It’s delicious. A few co-workers were unsure about the pumpkin/chocolate combo but they liked it a lot after tasting it. It holds up well too. Today is day three and it’s still delicious. I would most certainly recommend you try this one out.

What is your favourite recipe for Fall?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: MOOSE!

There used to be one of these on the drive through NB. Now there are a ton.
And just for added interest, here's a link to a story about a drunk moose in Sweden.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Family Recipe: Coconut Macaroons

While I was on vacation in PEI, I spent a lot of time with my mom, aunt, and cousins talking about the blog and cooking, baking, and recipes in general. Everyone has their favorites that they make over and over again and pull out of the book when they need something quick and easy that's a guaranteed hit. My aunt wrote out a recipe for me that she insisted I try out. She's made it over and over and said it had never failed her. It looked so tasty and easy that I just couldn't resist giving it a try.

 Aunt Linda's Coconut Macaroons
(slightly modified)

1 300 mL can of sweetened condensed milk
4 1/2 cups shredded coconut (I used half sweetened and half unsweetened)
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix ingredients until combined. Scoop by rounded tablespoonful onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown and set. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Makes 45-50 macaroons.

Super simple ingredients

Fresh out of the oven

I made the macaroons to bring to a girls get together over the weekend but I thought they needed to be gussied up a little bit. A little chocolate never hurt anything, right? I melted about half a cup of chocolate chips in the microwave and put the melted chocolate into a small zip top bag, cut off a bit in the corner, and used it as a quick fix piping bag. 

I like coconut but I didn't think I was going to like these nearly as much as I did. They were a huge hit with the girls too. At one point I may have asked how many macaroons was too many macaroons. The response I heard was "I've already had four...". I would say that's a sign of a good recipe. They were crunchy and crispy around the edges and on the bottoms but the middle stayed so nice and chewy. They were sweet without being too sweet. All in all, a great result. Thanks Aunt Linda - you were right. These are certainly worth making again and again. 

Do you have any favorite (easy) family recipes? 

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