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Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Conundrum

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IMG_6553Pineapple Upside-Down Cake can be perplexing: How do you balance the flavours of fruit and cake? What’s the best way to invert the finished cake? When should you stop “testing” it to make sure every bite is equally delicious?

While these questions may not have plagued us for centuries, they have at least crossed MY mind. Fortunately, I found answers. The solution was in creating single servings of the topsy-turvy cake in mason jars.

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The individual serving size makes it easy to prepare, portion and present these sumptuous servings of sweet pineapple and almost savoury cake. The flavour of the cake offsets the pineapple with a hint of cardamom that gives a subtle tropical flavour.

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Pineapple Upside-Down Cake In-A-Jar

Topping Ingredients:

4 TBS unsalted butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 diced whole pineapple (or substitute canned tidbits)

Topping Method:

  1. Grease the bottom and sides of six 250ml wide mouth mason jars with butter. Place on a lined baking sheet
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat
  3. Add brown sugar, stir occasionally until the mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 to 4 minutes
  4. Distribute evenly into the mason jars and arrange pineapple in a single layer, but tightly packed together

Cake Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (organic, if possible)

3 TBS cornmeal

1/2 tsp salt

8 TBS butter, softened – but still cool

1 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 TBS (for egg whites)

4 large eggs, separated – at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup milk

Cake Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together
  3. Cream butter in a mixer at medium speed
  4. Add sugar gradually and continue beating until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes)
  5. Beat in yolks and vanilla
  6. Reduce to low speed and add dry ingredients and milk, alternating between the two (begin and end with dry ingredients)
  7. Beat egg whites at low speed until frothy, then increase to med-high and beat to soft peaks
  8. Gradually add the remaining 2 TBS of sugar, continue to beat to stiff peaks
  9. Fold one quarter of the beaten egg whites into the batter
  10. Then fold in the remaining egg whites
  11. Distribute the batter evenly to mason jars
  12. Bake until the top of the cakes is golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean (about 20 minutes)
  13. Let the cakes rest for 2 minutes then run a knife around the edge to loosen them, then individually invert the cake on plates
  14. Garnish with maraschino cherries and mint sprigs
  15. Serve and enjoy

IMG_6537The mason jars also make it a snap to save or share the individual cakes. Who do you know that loves cake in a jar?

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Brownie Brouhaha

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IMG_2581Brownies can be controversial, at least when it comes to my friends and family. Some factions say there needs to be frosting, others are in the cakey camp, while a few are stuck in the fudgey side. There is often heated debate about how Butterscotch Brownies (blondies) and Black Bean Brownies are not acceptable options at all. But, when I’m the one donning the apron I say nay to frosting and go for my tried and true One Pot Brownie recipe (please note: no pot is IN the brownies, they are mixed IN a pot).

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I have been using the same recipe since I started baking when I was eight (out of desperation as my mother wouldn’t bake or buy sweets as often as I wanted them). It has never failed me, though I have failed it on occasion. A couple of times, I MAY have over-baked the brownies until they were dried out. My problem solving brain and thrifty heart turned this loss into a win by making ice cream sandwiches with them!

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Kitchenette Brownies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup creamed honey

2/3 cup cocoa powder

3 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon Epicure Baking Powder

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Kosher Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan on the stove
  3. Mix sugar, honey and cocoa powder into melted butter
  4. Add eggs and and mix with a whisk
  5. Add flour, baking powder and salt and gently combine
  6. Stir in vanilla extract
  7. Pour into a greased 8-9″ pan or the Epicure Perfect Petites for 30 lovely little loaves
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean or just a bit crumby)

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Serve with fresh fruit (I had grapes, mango and raspberries) and a dollop of whipped cream (try not to over whip it like I did).

Which side of the brownie battle do you take or will you just take any brownie that’s available?

Peanut Butter Cookie Cavalcade

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Peanut Butter Cookies on Parade

Peanut Butter Cookies on Parade

Twitter told me today that March 1st is Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day, not to be confused with Peanut Butter Day on January 24th. I was planning on making Peanut Butter Cookies anyway, but I decided to include my social networks in the process. I instagrammed, tweeted and facebooked and probably made some people drool in the process. Here are the Instagram photos with the accompanying tweets followed by the normal recipe.

Baking Peanut Butter Cookies for #PeanutButterLoversDay preheating oven to 375 as I tweet

Baking Peanut Butter Cookies for #PeanutButterLoversDay preheating oven to 375 as I tweet

Mixing 1/2 cup each of soft butter, light brown sugar & creamed honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay cookies

Mixing 1/2 cup each of soft butter, light brown sugar & creamed honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay cookies

1 egg, 1 cub pb, 1/2 tsp each bkng soda, vanilla & salt to butter, sugar & honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay

1 egg, 1 cub pb, 1/2 tsp each bkng soda, vanilla & salt to butter, sugar & honey for #PeanutButterLoversDay

Adding 1 cup of ap flour means the #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough is almost ready to roll!

Adding 1 cup of ap flour means the #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough is almost ready to roll!

Use wet hands to form 1TBS of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough into rough ball shapes

Use wet hands to form 1TBS of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough into rough ball shapes

Press wet fork in a # pattern on the balls of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough. Bake @ 375 for 10-12 minutes

Press wet fork in a # pattern on the balls of #PeanutButterLoversDay cookie dough. Bake @ 375 for 10-12 minutes

#PeanutButterLoversDay cookies cooling. Help yourself to a virtual cookie to celebrate!

#PeanutButterLoversDay cookies cooling. Help yourself to a virtual cookie to celebrate!

Recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies

makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients:

1/2 cup soft butter

1/2 cup brown sugar – packed (I prefer light brown)

1/2 cup honey (the written recipe says 1/2 cup white sugar, but I always use honey)

1 egg

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla (or to taste)

1 cup all-purpose flour

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2.Cream butter with sugar (and honey if using instead of 1/2 cup sugar).

3. Beat in egg, peanut butter, salt, baking soda and vanilla.

4. Add flour.

5. Roll about 1 Tablespoon of dough into balls with wet hands and place with lots of space between on a cookie sheet.

6. Press a wet fork gently in a cross pattern on the balls of dough.

7. Sprinkle with kosher salt (optional)

8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.

What’s your favourite way to use peanut butter?

Black Bean Brownie Bandwagon

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I’ve noticed lots of recipes for Black Bean Brownies all over the internet. Some are just regular old butter and sugar brownie recipes while others are vegan, gluten-free, carob recipes. I was looking for something in between. Now, I’m not a big fan of sneaking healthy stuff into treats. I’m more of an eat yer veggies and then enjoy a homemade dessert kind of gal. But, I was going to a barbeque where there was one child with diabetes and another on a gluten free diet. I really wanted to take a dessert that they could both dig into and that maybe even some of the grown ups might enjoy.

I couldn’t find the perfect recipe online, so I concocted my own cobbled together version. They were pretty easy to make, but I did a test run to make sure they’d be good enough to share. When my son, the Young Fresh Chef, tried his first one I asked him what he thought the secret ingredient was. He chewed and thought, then guessed, “Plums?” (We had just bought some gorgeous purple plums) When I told him it was black beans, he shrugged, nodded and ate another one.

All the kids at the barbeque were intrigued by the concept of beans in brownies.After dinner, the bars disappeared rather quickly and there were lots of dimpled chocolate dusted cheeks and whispered requests for the recipe. I even got my husband, the Executive Chef, to try a bite and his, “Not as bad as I thought it would be.” was higher praise than I had ever hoped. Though he totally objects to them being called brownies, he will tolerate the term “bars”.

Black Bean Brownies

I used dried beans that I cooked in my slow cooker with no pre-soak and it took about 6 hours. While the beans were cooling I added a vanilla bean so they would suck up the flavour.

The sweetener can be tweaked to your own taste or what’s available in your pantry. I try to use small amounts of different sweeteners so that there isn’t a predominant taste of any one.

These could also be veganized by using an egg substitute.

Ingredients:

3 eggs

1/2 cup cocoa powder or cacao powder

1/2 cup walnuts

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 Tablespoons coconut oil

4 Medjool dates (approximately 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/4 cup agave syrup

1/4 cup xylitol

2 cups black beans (rinsed, if canned)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon maple syrup extract

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Line a 11X13 baking pan with parchment paper.

3. Place all of the ingredients in a high-powered blender or food processor and blend until fully combined and the beans and walnuts are indistinguishable.

4. Scrape the mixture into the lined pan. Bake until the middle has set, about 30-45 minutes. Let cool COMPLETELY before cutting.

I cut them up into 24 rectangles and froze the extra ones in snack size bags inside one large freezer bag for school lunches.

These taste even better with a smear of peanut butter, you know, if you’re into that kind of thing!

Cherry Pie Serenade

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Lattice-Top Pie Dough

Ingredients:

3 cups (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons sugar

7 Tablespoons  vegetable shortening, chilled

10 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

8-10 Tablespoons ice water

Method:

1. Blend the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add in the shortening and pulse until it has the texture of coarse sand (about 10 seconds). Space the butter pieces evenly on top of the mixture; pulse until the texture is that of coarse crumbs, with the butter bits no larger than pea size (about 10 1-second pulses). Transfer mixture to a medium size bowl.

2. Sprinkle 8 Tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. Use a rubber spatula in a folding motion to combine. Press firmly down of the dough with the spatula until it sticks together, use the remaining 2 Tablespoons of ice water if needed. Divide the dough into two balls (16 oz and 14 oz) and flatten into discs (5 inches and 4 inches). Wrap separately in cling film and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 2 days, before rolling out.

Lattice-Top Sour Cherry Pie

Ingredients:

1 recipe Lattice-Top Pie Dough

Flour for dusting the work surface

1/4 cup (1 oz) cornstarch

1 cup sugar (plus 1 Tablespoon for the top crust)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

drop of pure almond extract (or teaspoon of almond liqueur )

sour cherries (one tree full or about 6 cups, pitted)

Method:

1. Remove dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit until malleable. Roll the larger disc to a 15 inch by 11 inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick, between two sheets of parchment paper then transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet (you can reuse one of the parchment sheets to roll the bottom crust). Trim the long sides of the rectangle and then cut lengthwise into 8 strips (15 inches long by 1 1/4 inches wide). Place the baking sheet in the freezer until firm (about 30 minutes).

2. Roll out the smaller piece of dough to a 12 inch circle. Transfer to a 9 inch pie plate. Leave the dough that overhangs the lip of the pie plate and place in the freezer until firm (about 15 minutes).

3. Mix the cornstarch, sugar (adjust to taste), cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with the cherries and almond extract  (or almond liqueur).

4. Take the dough strips out of the freezer, if they are too stiff to be flexible, let them warm up just a bit. Weave the strips into a lattice top (Smitten Kitchen has a great MacPaint How To). Put back into the freezer until firm again (about 15 minutes)

5. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and place a baking sheet on it (to catch any excess juices) and preheat to 500.

6. Take the dough covered pie plate from the freezer and fill with the cherry mixture. Remove the lattice top from the freezer and place on top of the filled pie crust. Trim the lattice scraps and fold the overhanging dough into a crimped pattern. Lightly brush the lattice with 1 Tablespoon water and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon sugar.

7. Turn the oven down to 425 and place the pie on the baking sheet. Bake until the crust begins to brown (25 to 30 minutes). Rotate the pie and turn the oven to 375; continue baking until the crust is a deep golden brown and the cherry juices are bubbling up (25 to 30 minutes longer).

8. Cool the pie on a wire rack for a minimum of 2 hours before serving. Cut at least two slices before you try to remove one.

Earth Angel Food Cake

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There is the family you are born into (or adopted into) that you make the best of and there is the family you create that you try to make the best. I was luckily born into a family that accepts me for who I am and loves me for all I am. Each passing year I grow to appreciate them more and more. Luck is less a part of the family I’ve made with my friends and my husband and more about learning and growing. I’ve surrounded myself with people who are worth the effort and never stop trying to show them how much I care.

Once in a while a moment comes when I’m forced to consider what my days would be like without certain people in my life. I’m a contingency planner and I usually have plans B through Z ready to go. But trying to picture picking up the pieces and putting them back together without the corner pieces means it will never be complete again.

So, how do I show the people I love with every beat of my little heart the depth of what they mean to me? I bake. I measure and mix and blend and fold and frost and fret. You are what you eat and I want them to taste the love I attempt to infuse in every morsel. Loving someone with all your heart is to risk breaking it while attempting a new recipe is a risk baking it.

I never liked angel food cake. Mostly, I’d sampled grocery store versions or ones that tasted like the box they came in. I liked the name and the look, but had never enjoyed the taste. I found it dry and spongy with a fake almond-ish aroma with no real flavour to savour. I’d never thought of trying to make one, because I didn’t see the point. Then I had a request for one from a lovely someone celebrating an extra extraordinary birthday. Now, as much as I like to cook and bake for friends, loved ones and random strangers, I rarely take requests. It’s more about a recipe that I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to try, or an ingredient that I need to use up.

When venturing into new recipe territory I call on my trusted baking reference Baking Illustrated: The Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker which I love for its breakdown and explanation of how they tested and re-tested their version of the classics and the thought process behind the evolution. With their recipe for a blueprint, I then searched the Internet for sure-fire tips and tricks to make it as fool-proof as possible. The most useful answers I found were on the America’s Test Kitchen Feed website. Not surprising, since America’s Test Kitchen is the crew behind Baking Illustrated!

Technique and tasks down, I just needed the tools. Thankfully my thoughtful and hopeful husband had given me my first food processor for Christmas and my Mother’s Day Kitchen Aid Mixer without which I probably would not have dared to take on the Angel Food Cake challenge. The last key item was an Angel Food Cake pan that had belonged to my Mother-In-Law, so I was confident it was imbued with baking magic as she was the most gifted home baker I’ve ever seen.

I baked the cake the night before the momentous birthday and let it cool overnight. In the morning I tossed together a citrus salad with tangerines, oranges, Meyer lemons, sweet limes, pink grapefruit and pomelo. A touch of honey and a pinch of kosher salt balanced the flavours. The Kitchen Aid mixer was put to use again to quickly whip some organic heavy cream with powdered sugar, homemade vanilla extract and a smidgen of kosher salt.

I admit that I was a bit nervous when I gently cut into the cake with a serrated knife. Would it be mushy in the middle? Overly dry? No. It was heavenly. I finally understood that Angel Food Cake is just a moist meringue given structure by the flour. The vanilla, lemon and almond came together in a celestial harmony that had me savouring every bite. The slightly sweetened whipped cream and the brightly flavoured citrus salad made each forkful an enjoyable combination of texture and tastes. The cake was a hit! Watching some of my favourite people on this planet enjoying my very first Angel Food Cake made my heart soar high above the clouds.

Ingredients:

1 cup (3 ounces) plain cake flour

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

12 LARGE egg whites (1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons) at room temperature

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 once oven rack is in the lower-middle position. Have an UNgreased tube pan (9 inch diameter, 16 cup capacity) at the ready. Removable bottom pans are best, but if not an option then line with parchment paper.

2. Process granulated sugar in a food processor until powdery. Remove about half of the sugar and reserve in a small bowl.

3. Add the flour to the food processor and aerate them until mixed and fluffy.

4. Beat the egg whites at low-speed until just broken up and beginning to froth. Add the cream of tartar and salt and continue to beat at medium speed until soft, billowy mounds form. Still at medium speed, beat in the reserved sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time and mix until soft shiny peaks form. Add the vanilla, lemon juice and almond extract, beat until blended.

5. Sift the flour-sugar mixture oven the beaten egg whites in three additions  gently folding the flour-sugar mixture in after each addition with rubber spatula.

6. Scrape the cake batter into the pan gently and smooth the top with the spatula then give the pan a couple of raps on the counter to release any large air bubbles.

7. Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when firmly pressed (50-60 minutes).

8. If the cake pan has feet around the rim, invert the pan so it rests on them. If there are no feet invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle. Let the cake cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.

9. Once cool, run a knife around the edge of the pan. Slide the cake out and cut around the removable bottom or peel off the parchment. Use a serrated knife to cut, serve the same day.

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