Archive for ‘Baking’

December 26, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls


Merry Christmas everyone! Hope everyone had a Christmas shared with great family and friends, and filled with lots of cheer and great food!

My Christmas was awesome – lots of really great food, time with my wonderful family and cooking! My daughter made out this year with a Leapster AND a Wii from Santa– we spent some time “Just Dancing” and working off some of the effects of our holiday binging, which we’ll need after this recipe.

When we were kids, my mom would make us cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Unbeknownst to her, it became a tradition in my brother’s, and my, mind. A year or two back we didn’t have cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast and my brother was hugely disappointed. Considering I had not ever made homemade cinnamon rolls, now was the perfect time to try it out. Since my daughter was born I have hosted Christmas at my house, this usually includes Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas breakfast and lunch. This year we had Christmas Eve dinner (Cuban Braised Beef), breakfast, snacks and the usual Prime Rib Roast with scalloped potatoes, green beans with bacon, and homemade brioche rolls.

The credit to the great cinnamon roll recipe goes to Ree Drummond and her book, The Pioneer Woman’s Cookbook, the recipe is also online at her website – a really great website…she’s pretty darn creative. (however I cut her recipe in half – her recipe made 50 rolls! Holy moly I did not need that many).

2 c. whole milk (I used 2% it worked fine)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 pkt of yeast)
4 cups (plus 1/2 cup extra, separated) All-purpose flour
1 t. (heaping) baking powder
1 t. (scant – just less than 1t.) baking soda
1 T. (heaping) salt
Melted butter (to spread over the dough)
1 c. granulated sugar
Cinnamon to sprinkle generously over the dough

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm (I prefer 100-115° for yeast bread), sprinkle in the package of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 4 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, mix together the 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture into the dough together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down. Let the mixture sit at room temperature about 30-minutes before you roll it out).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour.  Form a rough rectangle with your hands. Then use a rolling pin to roll the dough thin into a rectangle (roughly). Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough and spread to cover all the dough. Sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

Now, starting at the opposite end of the long side, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans. Using a neat trick I have seen in lots of recipes (and because it cut much easier than a knife) I used dental floss. By sliding the floss under the roll, then crossing the floss over the roll and pulling the floss tight cutting all the way through the cinnamon roll. The cut is fast clean and easy. A knife was much more difficult! Any other thin string would work, but floss is all I had. It worked well and did not leave any minty flavor on the dough.

Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 400 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. You can adjust your oven temperature if the rolls brown too fast.


Choose a Frosting:


(adapted from Peter Reihnhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday)

3/4 block of cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. lemon extract


Mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It will be spreadable. Spread frosting generously all over the cinnamon rolls.


REGULAR ICING (from Peter Reihnhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday)

16oz. powdered sugar
1/4 c. milk
1/8 c. melted butter
1 t. lemon extract or vanilla
pinch of salt

Mix together all ingredients and stir well. The mixture will be thick, but pourable. Spread all frosting/icing over the cinnamon rolls generously – this makes them better. The longer this icing sits the more gooey the rolls become.

This will be our family’s new holiday tradition…

December 23, 2010

T’was a Christmas Cookie Party

This year Linda Marrone invited me to fill in as a judge for her Christmas Cookie Party. I was super excited and felt honored to have my opinion count so much.  Going into this adventure I thought it would be simple – taste cookies and pick my favorites. However, it was not so easily done. The cookies were amazing and all had their own appeal. I spent at least 45 minutes tasting 13 cookies and deciding which was the best, and changed my mind along the way. Taking into consideration taste, texture, the look of the cookie, and how traditional the cookie. My kind side wanted everyone to win because they all put so much work into these cookies and they all were really really good. But I had a job to do, so I got down to business.

Like I said the task was not an easy one, but it sure was fun and yummy! I enjoyed meeting the ladies, they were all so creative and enthusiastic, and you can tell they loved being part of the Christmas Cookie Party and getting together with one another each year. No wonder this is the 30th year Linda has held this party! What fun!


Organizing such a party is no small task in itself, but everyone involved brought an appetizer, a white elephant (or used) gift, and everyone makes 15 dozen cookies and some even hand make containers for their cookies. Really a great time is had, the ladies laugh the entire time and really just enjoy themselves.  Holiday cheer is definitely in the air.

Below are some photos of the winners, cookies, containers and other randomness I enjoyed along the way! Thanks everyone you did a FANTASTIC job – all the cookies were great you are all really winners, I’d eat all the cookies (in fact I did).

Meet everyone involved (Yes the baby helped with cookies too):


Please excuse the photo quality – I was in low light at night…

FIRST PLACE – SWEDISH SNOWBALL COOKIES by Laura Vance and Laurie Oswald for Laurie’s mom’s recipe.


SECOND PLACE – PECAN EGGNOG ROUNDS by Breana Coons & Lauren Coons.

2nd Place Cookie





These are all the other cookies that were fabulous as well!



I am sorry I did not get a good shot of the third place winner Debbie Coleman’s Santa Head. She put a lot of work into these containers, but my photo didn’t come out sorry!  The container was a wonderful Santa Head with Santa’s beard filled with little bells.

FIRST PLACE – PHOTO COLLAGES (filled with memories over the years of the individuals who participate in the cookie party). by Linda Marrone & Kim Sayre


SECOND PLACE (also the second place cookie) – ELF BUTTS by Breana and Lauren Coons


FOURTH PLACE – SNOWMAN MITTENS by Darlene Cobbey and Carol Smith


These are some of the other containers – homemade and not.


We were lucky enough to have Christmas carolers from Carson High School choir stop by. I have never had carolers stop by my house and it was such a treat – a really neat Christmas tradition you always see in books and Christmas shows/movies, but in real life – I have to say I was thoroughly impressed and just topped off the evening.


Here are some random photos of Linda’s holiday decorations around the house. (I just love her house).


December 19, 2010

Gingerbread House 2010

This is our very first attempt at a homemade Gingerbread house. My daughter wanted to make people, but I wasn’t that ambitious this year – it being my first year and all. So while this house is NOT perfect with crooked windows, bent sides, and short pieces, I’d say this was a relatively successful house.  I definitely have some experience to apply for next year. My mistake was that I forgot to photo copy the template that was given to me, so I freehanded some of the cut outs (that is why we had some crooked and short parts…oops).

Mix the dough and roll it out (according to the recipe below).


Lay out your templates and cut then pieces out of the dough. The recipe said to roll the dough out on cookie sheets, but I have a tapered rolling pin and it didn’t work well. So I rolled it out and transferred the pices to the sheet – not a great idea!  

Once you roll out your dough use a sharp knife to cut out the templates. We cut out windows and put some crushed life savers in the middle to make “stained glass” windows. It worked very well.


Bake and cool completely.


Stained glass windows…cute huh? (check out my uneven bottom – that is what serrated knives are for!)


Now it’s time to decorate. Advice from my friend Linda (who is a seasoned gingerbread house maker, and the one who provided this recipe) says decorate all panels of your house including the roof and allow the decorations to dry completely so things do not start to slide off when you assemble the house. I think only an hour or so is necessary, the icing (if you use the recipe I will post below) dries pretty fast. We waited overnight, only because by the time we were done decorating it was dinner and bath time…


After you decorate your house and let it set, comes the tough part. It is time to assemble your house. More advice from Linda – put up the 4 walls and allow those to dry overnight before assembling the roof. This way your structure is solid before adding the weight of the roof and all it’s decorations. You don’t want your house collapsing at this point because you’ve worked very hard up to this point to ruin anything…



For your base I suggest using a piece of cardboard covered in foil. Then you can move your house around if you need. 

Just a note before I explain assembly, I put icing on the bottom of the house while I was assembling to add extra stability. So as you set up your house, add a little icing ot the bottom of each of the walls on the base.

Start assembling with the front or back panel, and one of the side panels. Add icing to the “inside” part of the front or back panel and press the side wall into the icing. Use containers to help hold up your panels as you work and as the icing dries. (see my photos above for holding up the roof…).

Once your 4 walls are up allow the icing to harden over night.


Once your walls and the roof are assembled you can start creating your scenery…We used ice cream sugar cones for trees and put some icing on them to look like snow.




At the end I added some powder sugar for “snow” effect. I also saw some fake (non-edible) snow at Pier One that would have been really cute, too.


Now our happy little crooked Gingerbread house is complete for this year! I am happy with our first homemade house…



These recipes below came from Linda Marrone
6c. all purpose flour
2/3c. shortening
1 ¾c. sugar
1t. vanilla
1 8-oz container sour cream
2 eggs
1T cinnamon
1T ginger
2t. baking powder
1 ¼ t. salt
1t. baking soda

In a large bowl mix shortening sugar, sour cream, vanilla, eggs. With mixer at low speed, beat until well mixed. Whisk together 3 ½ cups flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Mix into wet ingredients. With hands, knead in remaining 2 ½ cups of flour to make a soft dough. Divide dough and shape into a disk, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or until dough is not sticky and is of easy kneading consistency.

Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll dough on greased and floured cookie sheet. Cut out patterns.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 – 18 minutes. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.



1 16oz. package confectioner’s sugar
½t. cream of tartar
3 egg whites at room temperature
½t. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. With mixer, blend until smooth, then beat at high speed until very stiff.

Keep the icing covered as it dries quickly. (3 cups).


DECORATIONS (ideas create your own)

You can use a variety of items for decorating the house.

For the roof you can use vanilla wafers, necco wafers. Life savers for wreaths. Ice cream sugar cones for trees. Cinnamon candies, peppermint candies, candy canes, gum drops, M&Ms, rock candy, runts, and any other creative ideas you come up with. You can also opt to get the gingerbread house candy assortment from Wilton or King Arthur Flour or from a craft store.



December 6, 2010

Skiba Kolachi

Kolachi w/Nut Filling


When I think about food this time of year my mind immediately thinks of baked goods. Thanksgiving it’s about the savory foods, but this time of year is about treats and baking. Which if you know me, you would know I am fairly new to baking, but I’m beginning to really like it more than I ever thought I would.  My favorite is baking homemade breads. Breads can be challenging, but there is nothing like the warm fuzzy feeling you get when eating warm fresh bread right out of the oven, that you worked on with your own two hands.  Baking with yeast can be intimidating and can be somewhat of a process, waiting around for dough to rise, then rest, then sequences of folding or kneading, and then another rise and finally baking. Then hopefully it turns out! Right?

Last year I was on a mission to learn how to make homemade bread. My dad knew this so for Christmas he gave me a really cool oven bread stone and several bread books he uses (my Dad likes to cook and bake as much as myself). One of the books was by Peter Reinhart, called Artisan Breads Every Day. That January, Peter Reinhart ended up in Reno teaching a bread class. Failing horribly at his Babka recipe, I decided to jump on the opportunity to attend his class to learn a little more. Before taking this class the whole concept of baking and having to abide by the rules was intimidating, see I cook to my own rules and make up and alter recipes comfortably – except when it comes to baking! So a few things I learned from that class were 1) baking is not as strict as I once believed it to be, and 2) even Peter Reinhart deviates from his own recipe directions. As for the Babka Peter ended up having to lower the oven temperature to cook the bread through without burning the outside (my Aha! moment, this is where I went wrong). There was a lot I learned from this class I could share with you, but this article would run on for days so for now I give you this recipe for Kolachi. It is one of the simplest yeast doughs I have made.  Whether you are new to baking or a seasoned baker you will enjoy how simple it is to make Kolachi dough.  I even made this recipe all by hand – no stand mixer (which is rare for me). 

Kolachi is of Slovak origin and this particular recipe has been passed down through my family (from Croatia). Two of my fondest holiday treat memories are ones that my Grandma Skiba made, Kolachi and clothespin cookies.  These two treats are tastes that remind me of Christmas and have become staples to my holidays just like the Christmas tree.  Grandma Skiba was a seamstress so in addition to Kolachi and clothespin cookies I remember all the hand made gifts she made for me. My favorite is a stocking that is completely hand embroidered from top to bottom with my name on it. I hang it up each year to remember her by. Several years ago my Aunt in Kansas began making Kolachi and clothespin cookies and sends a package to me, which I selfishly hide away and eat when my daughter is not looking. The first time my Aunt sent me the package I had not tasted either of these treats in years, but once I tasted them you know how some things just trigger wonderful memories from your childhood – yea, a nostalgic experience! Since Kolachi is not a very well known recipe and because I enjoy it so much I wanted to share this with you.  I hope you enjoy – from my family to yours!


1 cup milk
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 large cake yeast (fresh!), soften in warm milk (or 3 pkgs of dry yeast)
3 eggs, beaten
5 cups flour

  1. Heat the milk to a near boil stirring constantly, remove the milk from the heat and stir in the butter, sugar and salt stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted. Cool to warm (80-90°F). (Remember anything over 140°F will kill the active yeast).
  2. Whisk in the yeast, then let sit while you get the flour ready and beat the eggs.

 3.   Add eggs and flour, mix well with a wooden spoon.


4.   Knead the dough lightly and form into a ball.

5.   Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let it rise until it doubled in size (about an hour). 

6.   Punch down (isn’t yeast dough therapeutic) and divide in 7 or 8 balls about 6oz each.

7.   Roll into rectangles.

8.   Spread nut filling or date nut mixture and roll up jelly roll style crimping the ends and slightly tucking them under to keep the filling from oozing out.  (3 rolls to a pan).  Your rolls will be about 3 inches wide and 7-10 inches long

9.   Prick with fork 2” apart.  Let rise for 30min – 1 hour.  Bake at 325° for 30 minutes or until brown. 

  Recipe Notes: If dough is too soft, knead in a little flour. 
You can use this dough to make dinner rolls, cinnamon buns or bread. (I have not yet tried either of these uses).


Nut mixture (Pictured)
2 lbs shelled nuts ground. (nuts to be ground finely or they will poke through the dough).
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups milk (add a little at a time)
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon vanilla.

  1. Grind nuts until coarsely ground, add the sugar and grind until the mixture is finely ground.
  2. Add egg, vanilla, and milk, adding the milk a little at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
  3. Cook on low heat to combine, then cool before spreading on dough.

Date & Nut Mixture
Small package of dates
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup hot water
2tsp. vanilla
1 lb. ground nuts

  1. Mix dates, sugar, flour, and water and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla
  3. Mash the dates with a potato masher.
  4. Add 1 pound ground nuts, cool before spreading on dough.

Notes: If mixture is too thick, add a little water.

Slice into 1” pieces and serve. You can wrap the loaves in press ‘n seal or plastic wrap to keep. Keep stored at room temperature.

Makes 7-8 loaves.

November 21, 2010

Gluten -free Pumpkin Cheesecake

This year I am going to my grandparents for Thanksgiving. My grandma has a gluten allergy so I wanted to make something she could also enjoy. Gluten is in so many things so making something is challenging. If you have read an Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen you’d know that corn is in things you would never have imagined. Wheat is another item that is in many things we eat. And if it is not specifically included in the food, it could have been processed in a plant that also processes wheat items – thus contamination! Oh the dilemmas of the commercial food industry! (another topic) However, all of that made me extremely conscious of the ingredients and brands I used (and I checked with my grandma on the ingredient list as well, which if you are not a person who is well versed in gluten free cooking, and you are cooking for someone with an allergy do give them your ingredient list with the specific brands you used so they can make sure it is all ok). You can also email the companies and ask about the gluten content of their products.

For this recipe I used my Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe of which the cheesecake filling was already gluten free without alteration. NOTE: some cheesecake recipes call for flour – I never use flour in mine, but that is a gluten no, no (if you didn’t already know). The only thing I had to alter was the crust, I used Trader Joe’s gluten free gingersnaps for this recipe. There are gluten free graham crackers and other cookies out there as well. I use McCormick spices, which I remembered my grandma told me that she contacted McCormick and confirmed no gluten was contained in their spices.  The sound of gingersnaps with the pumpkin sounded very holiday-like and boy was it fantastic. (I substituted half in half for the heavy cream, and Greek yogurt for sour cream. Those substitutions made a slight difference. I realized at the last minute that I didn’t have enough heavy cream and that my sour cream had dip in it instead of sour cream).

2 c ground Trader Joes Gluten Free Gingersnaps
2T. brown sugar (or granulated) C&H
5T. melted butter

IN a food processor, process the gingersnaps until they are a fine crumb. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and press into the bottom of a spring form pan or a deep pie dish. Bake @ 375 degrees for 7 minutes or so.

3- 8oz. pkgs cream cheese (Philadelphia) (softened)
3/4c granulated sugar (C&H)
1T vanilla (Spice Island)
5 eggs
1/8 cup heavy cream

BEAT cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until combined. Add eggs one at a time and make sure the egg is incorporated well before adding the next egg. Beat in whipping cream.

15 oz can pumpkin puree (Libbys)
¼ t. ground ginger (McCormick)
1 ½ t ground cinnamon (McCormick)
¼ t. ground nutmeg (McCormick)
¼ t. ground cloves (McCormick)
1/8 c. sour cream

Whisk the pumpkin mixture together, then fold into cheesecake filling.

BAKE cheesecake at 300-degrees for 1 hour and 5-10 min (or until middle set). I allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven, with the oven off and the door propped open. This helps prevent all those cracks and craters you can get in your cheesecakes when the hot cheesecake hits the cool air outside the oven. I read that slowly cooling a cheesecake can prevent some of that cracking and so far it appears to work for me. Cooking the cheesecake at 300 instead of 325 cooks it slower and more gentle. I have used water baths which makes the cheese cake creamier and without a water bath the cheese cake gets more dry with a crumblier texture – this is all about what you prefer.

November 14, 2010

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is from I did not alter the recipe except I used a different pie crust recipe. Today I have been working on Thanksgiving and deciding what desserts I will be making. There is another (but very time consuming) recipe on my “to try list,”  it is a three layered pumpkin custard, whipped cream and mousse pie. Should it turn out I will post that pie as well. As for this caramel pumpkin pie, it came out fantastic! Caramel adds a kick to this pie, if you make this pie and did not tell anyone it is caramel pumpkin everyone would probably just think you make the best tasting pumpkin pie. Just tell them you used a “secret” ingredient!

I had some left over filling because my pie crust shrunk more than I anticipated so I put the rest of the filling into custard dishes and cooked them for 30-35 minutes. You could make the whole recipe into custard dishes rather than a pie. Caramel Pumpkin Custard.

1c. sugar
1/3 c. water
2 c. heavy cream
15oz can 100% pure pumpkin (not pie mix)
1 ¼ tsp. ginger
1 ¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1-pie crust (precooked)

Preheat oven to 375°

Make Caramel:
Stir sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat bring the sugar to a simmer, and cook until the sugar turns to a golden brown color. (do not burn the sugar it will become bitter!) Do not stir during this part just swirl the pan a little and wipe down the sides with a pastry brush dipped in cold water if the sugar sticks to the sides of the pan. Stir in 1 cup of heavy cream and stir the mixture until the caramel is dissolved, it will boil vigourously. Stir in remaining cup of cream and bring the mixture to a simmer, turn off the heat.

Whisk together the pumpkin and spices in a large bowl. Whisk in the hot cream mixture, then whisk in the eggs stirring until well combined.

Pour filling into cooled pie crust and cook for 55-60 minutes. The center will look slightly wet but the edges will be puffed and cooked. Allow to cool on a rack for 2 hours, during this time the pie will continue to set.

Apparently pumpkin pie is a “soft crust” pie which means you don’t pre-cook the crust, instead pour the filling into the uncooked crust and bake the pie all at once. While that is ok, I have found I really like the texture and flavor of a pre-cooked pie crust – in pumpkin pie or not.  Apparently the people over at Gourmet feel the same as me as their recipe calls for a pre-cooked crust. BUT if you prefer soft crust then by all means, you do not have to pre-cook the crust in this recipe.

Praline Topping
1/2 stick cold butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2T flour
1/2 cup coarsley chopped pecans

Mix the flour and brown sugar, then with a pastry blender or fork cut in the butter. Stir in the coarsely chopped pecans and sprinkle the mixture over the pumpkin pie before baking.

Caramel Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Praline Streusel

November 13, 2010

Pie Crust (Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home)

(Updated 11/21/10)

Thank you Thomas Keller for this pie crust recipe. Pie crust can be difficult and it will probably take you a couple tries to get it right, if it’s your first time. Thomas Keller is the famed chef/owner of the restaurant the French Laundry in Yountville near Napa California, and owner of Per Se restaurant in New York (along with numerous others).  I purchased Keller’s cookbook ad hoc at home, which include recipes Keller makes for his family at home, and now at Keller’s family style restaurant, Ad Hoc. Recipes in this book are sometimes difficult, he is after all the chef and owner of two restaurants with 3-star Michelin guide ratings (top rating) and considered one of the top 50 restaurants in the world! So I did not anticipate the recipes to be anything less than fantastic and step-intensive. It is what I like to do, challenge myself to become a better cook. This book is not for those who are looking for the fast easy meals, it’s for those serious about the process of cooking and learning to be better. Not to say there aren’t recipes in this cook book that are simple. One of those simple recipes is pie crust – but can I really call any type of dough recipe simple? Maybe not for everyone.

Many of you may know I am not much of a baker, however I think I am actually beginning to break of out that and becoming a pretty good baker, so hopefully I won’t be able to say this much longer. In the past my attempts at homemade pie crust have been plausible attempts at best. My journeys with doughs and breads are very cautious and I follow baking recipes very rigidly, because baking is very scientific.  And now we have come to my relationship with baking – which is complicated. I cook by throwing together ingredients that I think work together. I know when I read a recipe I can deviate from it quite a bit, and I know how to use certain techniques and apply it to a multitude of ingredients. Baking is a very structured use of fat, flour, and a leavening agent and of course adding other ingredients which determine the final product – breads, cakes, pastries, brownies, etc.  All which I love and I do enjoy the baking process.  It’s very difficult to explain to someone how pie dough should feel or how bread dough should bounce back. Until you experience it for yourself (a number of times) I know I am not sure if it really is the way the dough should look and feel.  However, the more I bake the more I realize that while the basic ingredients are virtually static I can play with the measurements to get different results and this is the only way I will learn.

After my past experience with pie crust and my two attempts this particular day, I decided to get daring and add more water than what the recipe called for in this recipe. I remembered back to my bread making class with Peter Reinhart in Reno, he told the class he had to alter his own recipe to add more water because our environment was drier than he was used to.  Yet another hurdle in baking! The environment in which the recipe in a cookbook was developed may be completely different from your environment, which also lends to my cautiousness when thinking about baking!  You have to have some kind of intuition and understanding of the scientific parts of cooking to know when you may not have to let your dough rise as long, or when to add more water or less leavening. It’s complicated! (Updated: Thus, I always fall back on my good friend (our relationship is strictly me with his book or Good Eats on the tv) Alton Brown. I will trust anything this guy tells me – he gets down to the scientific part of food/cooking/baking and it helps my understanding with how cooking and baking work. I was perusing Alton’s baking book and read his section on pie crust. His advice was to use as little water as possible to prevent your pie crust from shrinking. So out the door my “more water” method went, not that my crust didn’t come out, but it shrunk substantially and I was looking for a fix for that. The other suggestion of Alton – keep all your equipment and ingredients very cold! I will redo with this tips in mind and will post updated photos).

  • 2 ½ c. flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ sticks (10 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • ice water in a spray bottle

You can make this dough with your hands, a pastry blender, or by pulsing in a food processor with a dough blade. (knead with your hands though)

Straight from the fridge, cut the butter into cubes and place in your bowl then stick it all in the freezer for about 15 min. In another bowl, mix the salt and flour. Add the cubes of very cold butter and toss with the flour to coat. Then start working the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are no larger than pea size.  Spray the surface of your flour with just enough to wet the flour with water pulse a few times until the dough just holds together when pinched.  Add more water if the dough is too dry and crumbly, but be careful of the water it’s not good for the flakiness of your crust – per Alton Brown use as little water as possible. 

Do this part with your hands if you used a food processor: Knead the dough until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated.  Divide the dough in half and shape into a 1” thick disk. Wrap with plastic and chill in the refrigerator at least an hour (more time is fine too)– the dough can be stored in the freezer for later use at this point as well, just move it to the refrigerator the day before you want to use the dough.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator allow the dough to sit for a few minutes at room temperature. I placed the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap it is easier to work with and lightly dusted my rolling-pin and the dough with flour.

Roll out the dough to a 13”-14” round, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Roll from the center, rotating the dough about a half inch frequently and adding a little flour to the dough to prevent from sticking to the rolling-pin.

Flip the dough (dough-side) onto one hand (keeping the plastic wrap attached) And lay into your pie plate. I used a Quiche pan, but you can use any pie plate you wish. Gently press the dough into the corners and up the sides of the dish, remove the plastic wrap.

Pie Dough

SIDE NOTE: Some recipes you will want to pre-cook the pie dough, Keller’s recipe did not include instructions on precooking so here are my directions: 375° – cover the pie crust with foil and pour pie weights (dried beans) onto the foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is light brown. Then remove the foil and weights and cook until the crust is lightly browned on the bottom. Ready to use!

Just an example of the pie crust in use…

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

October 19, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Delish devil’s food cake, creamy chocolate ganache filling, topped with white chocolate buttercream frosting.

I seriously don’t think that I could say anymore that would entice you enough to want to try these cupcakes. This was the birthday flavor of the month. A definite must make again recipe (as if any of the recipes I post I wouldn’t make again). The ganache turns into this thick creamy center in the cupcake kind of like a chocolate truffle. It’s sinfully delicious and makes you want another one! Luckily all of these were pretty much designated to be given to people, otherwise I would not have let one of these tastey cakes go to waste!

Cupcake Recipe

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 package of instant devils food pudding (only the powder)
1 ½ c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla extract
1t. almond extract
1/2 c. room temperature butter
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt.  Separately mix milk with vanilla and almond extracts, and set aside.

With an electric or stand mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes.

Bake for 18 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting Recipe   

1/2 cup shortening (Crisco has sticks and they are so much easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract
1 c. melted white chocolate

I used Wilton’s Candy Melts for the white chocolate because the Candy Melts, melt nice and smoothly too. Melt according to the package directions. (or use almond bark or your favorite white chocolate chips or bars).

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the cooled melted chocolate and beat at low speed 1-2 on a KitchenAid stand mixer.  Now, incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the milk 1 T. at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 3T for a medium consistency.

Cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

Filling Recipe – Ganache

1 ½ c. heavy cream
15oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, or coarsely chopped

Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl. In a saucepan heat the cream to just before it reaches a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow the chocolate to melt and the mixture is smooth.

Now you need to completely cool the ganache either in the freezer for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator covered.

Once completely cooled whip the ganache with a whisk or using a hand or stand mixer.









Using a cupcake filling tip on a decorating bag, fill the bag with filling then inject the cupcakes with the filling. (or use this method).

To decorate use the coupler only (without a decorating tip) and pipe the frosting in a circular motion. I sprinkled some black sugar flake I found at Michael’s Art and Craft store.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

September 27, 2010

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes


In my office I self appointed myself to make cupcakes for the office birthdays. It was a reason to practice baking, I can get creative with cupcakes, and everyone loves cupcakes. This month the request was for a simple vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. So to make plain vanilla a little more exciting I chose vanilla bean. I used my favorite cake recipe (see also lemon raspberry cupcakes). I had been looking for a butter cream frosting that tasted like something you would get from a local bakery that was not greasy like the buttery recipes I always came across.  Alas, I found one!! It’s actually from Wilton cake website, and several of my favorite baking blogs use the recipe as well.

This cupcake recipe can be altered for any flavor your heart desires, for chocolate I would add chocolate pudding powder and a 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (and bump the amount of milk to 1 1/4 cup). For the lemon recipe on my blog I experimented with vanilla pudding and lemon pudding it was good either way the lemon zest and juice really is what makes the lemony flavor. I haven’t tried other flavors yet, but you can be sure I will be experimenting.  This recipe will likely remain my staple cupcake recipe.  The pudding cake comes out so good!

Cupcake Recipe

2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 package of instant vanilla pudding (only the powder)
1 1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. Cut vanilla bean lengthwise and then using the blunt edge of your knife scrape out the vanilla bean. Separately mix milk and vanilla bean and extract, set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes.

Bake for 18 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Frosting Recipe   

1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla bean and extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the milk 1 T. at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 2-3T for a medicum consistency.

Cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

Behind the scenes – mini food blogger in training, (in dress up).

The new cupcake carrier! SO much more convenient – Target for about $20
August 9, 2010

White Peach and Blackberry Muffins

In the spirit of eating what’s in season and eating local…meet this muffin. Blackberries are in season right now, and the ones I got from the farmers market were so juicy and sweet, they melt in your mouth.  Since my good friend and I were making blackberry infused vodka, I decided the theme of the week would be blackberries. Except for the crumb topping (which is optional) these muffins don’t have any oil or butter, and are low on sugar. But they taste amazing! I used greek yogurt and apple sauce so there is a lot flavor and moisture which you would get from butter or oil.  



1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. old fashioned oatmeal
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 stick butter

Mix together with your fingertips until crumbly. Set aside.



2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 large eggs
1 c. Greek yogurt
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. of applesauce 
2 t. vanilla
3/4 cup white peaches, peeled and diced
3/4 cup blackberries, large ones quartered

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk eggs, yogurt, sugar, applesauce and vanilla together in a separate bowl.


Add the dry ingredients into the wet just enough to get all the dry ingredients moist. Just like pancakes don’t overmix! You still have fruit to fold in, that will help incorporate the batter the rest of the way.


Using a spatula fold in the fruit.  I use a small ice cream scoop when making muffins, cupcakes, or cookies, which helps with consistency. Scoop batter into muffin cups.


Top with crumb topping.


Bake 17-20 minutes. Use a toothpick to check whether the muffins are done.


The photo above is a photo of a muffin in a parchment paper cup – a Martha Stewart method…kinda cool and a great idea when you run out of muffin/cupcake cups…which happens to me often. They work well too with the crumbly topping – it holds the topping in better – no mess!

I hope you enjoy these, they are so good and really considerably healthy. They would work with frozen fruit as well. Even mix it up and try with apples and cinnamon, or orange and cranberry. Any other combination you can think, be creative!