Family Favorites · Holidays

Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods

There is something decadent about chocolate with something salty. Chocolate dipped pretzels are a favorite of mine and last Christmas I made Chocolate Dipped Pretzels Rods in white chocolate and with dark chocolate to give as gifts. Ahem…except for those that didn’t make it past my mouth!

CHOCOLATE DIPPED PRETZEL RODS

White Chocolate Chips
Dark Chocolate Chips
Pretzel Rods
Sugars and Sprinkles

  • Spread waxed paper on cookie sheets.
  • Melt chocolate  per instructions in microwave and pour melted chocolate into cup for dipping (makes about the right depth on the pretzel rods).
  • Over a separate plate or bowl, sprinkle the pretzel rods with sugar or sprinkles and place on waxed paper to harden.
  • Place pretzel rods in pretty tin or cello bag to give as gifts.

 

New Favorite

Blackberry Peach Coffee Cake

Fresh fruit…pies, cakes, coffee cakes or naked is my favorite dessert or breakfast treat.  This recipe, from Southern Living, caught my eye and with more beautiful peaches and a box of fresh blackberries, I had to try it.

My oven bakes a little hot, so the bottom is quite brown but still delicious.  This recipe will stay in my recipe box and perhaps a straight peach coffee cake will be in the plan for next summer!

BLACKBERRY PEACH COFFEE CAKE

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add granulated sugar and brown sugar, beating well. Add flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg; beat just until blended.

Cake:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and sliced fresh firm, ripe peaches (about 2 large peaches, 7 oz. each)
1 cup fresh blackberries

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare Streusel Topping.
  • Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add granulated sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9-inch springform pan (I used a small oblong pyrex baking dish).
  • Top with sliced peaches and blackberries. Pinch off 1-inch pieces of Streusel Topping, and drop over fruit.

 

  • Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes or until center of cake is set. (A wooden pick inserted in center will not come out clean.) Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 1/2 hours). Dust with powdered sugar. Garnish, if desired.

  • Peach Coffee Cake: Omit blackberries. Increase peaches to 3 cups sliced (about 3 large peaches, 7 oz. each). Proceed with recipe as directed.
Family · Family Favorites

Fresh Peach Cobbler…summertime favorite

Fresh peaches are a summer treat!  I have fond memories, as a kid, of biting into a fresh peach and have the juice run down my arms and all over my face. I was a sticky mess, but loving that peach!

English: juicy peach half

Colorado peaches are some of the best and I’m lucky enough to live in the great state that produces them. To date, I’ve not seen Colorado peaches at the market but Costco has had wonderful peaches this summer. What better dessert to serve visiting family topped with vanilla ice cream! The recipe is from my tried and true Farm Journal Country Cookbook, 1972 a gift from the folks at Farm Journal many years ago when I worked in Agri-Marketing for an ad agency in St. Joe, MO. The cookbook has seen a lot of love and even though it’s spine is broken, it continues to support my love of good home-cooking!

IMG_0041

Our Book Club potluck was coming up, featuring the book Proof of Heaven a Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D.  Our potluck theme was ‘what would you have for your last meal?’  I tripled the recipe so I could have enough Cobbler for the Book Club and for visiting family.  It was hit with both groups. It’s delicious (even if I do say so myself) and a wonderful summer treat.

FRESH PEACH COBBLER

Peach Mixture:

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 to 1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup water
4 cups sweetened sliced peeled peaches
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Mix cornstarch, brown sugar, and water.  Add peaches and cook until mixture is thickened, about 15 minutes.
  • Add butter and lemon juice.  Pour into a greased 8″ round or square baking dish.

Batter Topping:

1/2 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soft butter
1 egg, slightly beaten

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and egg.  Beat until butter is smooth.

Drop spoonfuls of Batter Topping over hot peach mixture.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon white sugar.

Bake in hot oven (400 degrees) 40 to 50 minutes.  Serve warm, in bowls, with vanilla ice cream.

 

Adapted from Farm Journal Country Cookbook

New Favorite

Gooseberry Tart

Gooseberry bushes are prickly and the berries are tedious to clean but gooseberries lovers are willing to sacrifice for the greater good of a delicious, seasonal tart, pie, or cobbler.   My gooseberry picking buddy, Joe the Golden Retriever, was anxious to eat these sour gems again this year.  I decided to try giving a raw gooseberry to my grand-dogs as well with an equally positive response.  Who knew that gooseberries were a treat of choice for the canine crowd?

I love the slight sweetness of this crust and the creamy custard surrounding the cooked gooseberries.  My kids and their spouses, however, turned up their noses at my creation since they cannot fathom eating gooseberries.  Oh well…more for the rest of us.  Someday…they’ll wish they had a piece, right?

GOOSEBERRY TART

1 pound cleaned gooseberries
3 eggs
3.5 ounces of sugar
10 ounces heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pastry:

1.2 cups flour (or more to reach desired consistency)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup very cold, unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
a little ice cold water

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Make the pastry by processing the flour and sugar together.  Chop the cold butter into small pieces and add to the flour and sugar.  Pulse (or blend by hand) until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.  Mix the egg yolk with a little ice-cold water.  Add to the flour mixture and pulse until the pastry forms a soft ball.  Add ice-cold water if needed to achieve desired consistency.  Chill the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and place on floured surface.  Roll to fit the tart pan and place in pan.  Pierce the bottom and sides of the pastry with a fork. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool slightly.
  • Combine eggs, sugar, cream and vanilla extract.  Place gooseberries in bottom of tart pastry and pour egg mixture over the top.  Bake for 30 minutes until the center is firm.

Servings:  6-8

New Favorite

Mini Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Our baby shower treats of last Saturday focused on baby-sized treats, including Mini Snickerdoodle Cupcakes.  Who doesn’t love a Snickerdoodle cookie…so why not a cupcake?  They could easily be adapted to a full-size cupcake without a problem.  They are yummy, yummy in the tummy as I will soon say to my first Grandbaby.

Mini Snickerdoodle Muffins

MINI SNICKERDOODLE CUPCAKES

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Cinnamon Frosting

6 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 to 4 tablespoons milk (or more to achieve desired consistency)

Garnish

2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Makes 98+ mini muffins.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.
  • With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Beat in vanilla.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.
  • Divide butter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full.
  • Bake rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about (10-15 minutes). (Cathy’s Note: Each oven varies greatly with mini cupcakes, so do a test run.)
  • Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months in airtight containers.
  • Frost mini cupcakes and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  • Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are frosted.  Keep at room temperature until ready to serve.

Cupcake recipe adapted from:  Martha Stewart
Icing recipe from:  Betty Crocker

New Favorite

Pignoli…almond and pine nut decadence!

Italian Tony’s Market in the Denver area makes wonderful Pignoli.  Pignoli cookies are an Italian American confection, similar to a macaroon and topped with pine nuts. This week I was in search of a recipe I could make them at home. There were many wonderful recipes but this recipe was my final choice.  They were fantastic!

PIGNOLI COOKIES

12 ounces almond paste
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups pine nuts

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with foil; lightly grease the foil.
  • Mix almond paste and granulated sugar in food processor until smooth.
  • Add confectioner’s sugar and 2 egg whites; process until smooth.
  • Whisk remaining 2 egg whites in small bowl.
  • Place pine nuts on shallow plate. With lightly floured hands roll dough into 1 inch balls. Coat balls in egg whites, shaking off excess, then roll in pine nuts, pressing lightly to stick to dough.
  • Arrange balls on cookie sheets, and flatten slightly to form a 1 1/2 inch round.

  • Bake 15 to 18 minutes (watch carefully because each oven and baking pan is different) until lightly browned.  Let stand on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Recipe from Allrecipes.com:  Pignoli Cookies 1

Family Favorites · My Roots

Peanut Blossoms…a Valentine’s kiss!

Peanut Blossoms have been a family favorite since I was a child.  I loved them, my children love them and the tradition continues.  What beats the combination of peanut butter and chocolate!  It seems fitting to make a batch of peanut blossoms for your sweetheart with the famous Hershey KISSES as Valentine’s Day approaches.

I was curious about the origin of Hershey’s Kisses.  Per Wikipedia, Hershey’s Kisses milk chocolates were introduced in 1907. The candy got its name because the machine made kiss sounds as the chocolate kiss is created.

These cookies are good anytime of year.  What is sweeter than a Valentine’s ‘kiss’!

PEANUT BLOSSOMS 

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
chocolate stars or chocolate kisses

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl (except chocolate) and mix on low speed until well blended. Shape in round balls and roll in sugar.
  • Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees.
  • Remove cookies and press in chocolate star or kiss in each cookie while cookies are still hot.

Yield: 4 dozen

New Favorite

Pear Cake…seasonal delight!

Pear Cake made with seasonal pears is a true treat.  This recipe, from http://www.usapear.com was a great find and delicious as a morning coffee treat or as a seasonal dessert.

PEAR CAKE

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 pears, peeled, cored and wedged
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease a round baking pan with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.
  • Brush the pear wedges with lemon juice and arrange in the bottom of the baking pan.
  • Combine flour with baking powder, salt and cinnamon, Set aside.
  • Using a mixer, beat the remaining butter with sugar until fluffy.  Stir in eggs and vanilla.
  • Add flour mixture and milk alternating the ingredients slowly.  Continue to beat on low-speed after each addition.
  • Spoon batter evenly over pears in pan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes OR until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (My oven required a longer baking time.)
  • Cool before inverting onto serving platter.  Decorate with walnuts or serve with whipped cream as coffee cake or dessert.

Recipe adapted from http://www.usapears.com; Starkrimson Pear Cinnamon Cake

Family Favorites · New Traditions

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix…mmmm!

Salted Caramel is a taste bud extravaganza!  Combining salted caramel with chocolate has to be a winner.

A few weeks ago I discovered this recipe on Pinterest and, of course, had to try it.  I made a batch to give as gifts but stashed a few servings away for me, too.  It’s delicious.  Add the sea salt to your taste and…BONUS…you have to try it to assure that the combination is absolutely perfect.

A cup of salted caramel hot chocolate mix for a long winter’s night…mmmm!

SALTED CARAMEL HOT CHOCOLATE MIX

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups good quality Dutch cocoa powder
1 to 3 tablespoons good sea salt (I used 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 cup dry milk powder
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
10 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips

  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  • Heat the 2 1/2 cups sugar in large, heavy pan, over medium heat.  Stir often.
  • When the sugar begins to melt, continuous stir (or swirl the pan) to melt without burning.  The sugar seems to crystallize but it will melt to a deep amber color after 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the vanilla (it will spatter). Whisk the caramel until smooth again, then immediately pour in the lined baking sheet. Allow it to spread without touching the sides.  Set aside and let the caramel harden, at least 1 hour.

  • When ready to make the mix, use the back of a large spoon to tap the caramel several times into small broken pieces that can fit into the feeding tube of a large food processor.
  • Turn the processor on, and while running, feed the caramel pieces into the tube so the processor pulverizes the caramel into a fine powder.  Continue to add the pieces, a few at a time, until it is completely powder (a cloud of caramel dust will float out of the tube).  Turn the processor off and follow the next steps to complete the mix.

  • Add the rest of the ingredients, except the chocolate, into the food processor with the caramel powder.  Replace the lid and process until smooth.
  • Add the chocolate to the bowl and process again until the mixture is a fine powder.
  • At this point, I made a cup to taste to assure I added enough sea salt. Originally, I started with 1 tablespoon and after tasting, I added another 1/2 tablespoon to the mixture.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, for up to one month.  To serve, stir 3 tablespoons mix into 1 cup hot milk.

Adapted from Pennies on a Platter 2007; Adapted from Mom It Forward

Family Favorites · My Roots

Norwegian Christmas Bread (Julekake)

Norwegian Christmas Bread (Julekake) brings back fond memories of our elderly Iowa friends, the Butlers.  Growing up, Anna would bake Julekake, Kringla, and Lefse to share with friends.  She would brew a strong cup of coffee for adults and children to enjoy with the seasonal treats.  A cup of hot coffee with a toasted slice of Julekake and butter, at Anna’s oak table was the best.  Today, I sit at the same oak table in my dining area thinking of the wonderful stories and memories created in that small farm-house so many years ago.

Kringla is an annual tradition with Julekake only every few years.  Kneading bread dough is hard for me so I’ve included, along with the traditional recipe, my version for the bread machine.  This year I borrowed daughter Sarah’s Kitchen Aid mixer to make the traditional recipe, which I split into two parts to accommodate the smaller size of the mixer.

NORWEGIAN CHRISTMAS BREAD

This is the original Christmas bread recipe from Norwegian family friend, Anna Butler

2 packages dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup chopped citron or candied pineapple
3 cups scalded milk
1/2 cup butter
2 cups raisins
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped candied cherries
2 beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamom
10 to 11 cups flour

  • Dissolve yeast in warm water.
  • Scald milk and then add butter, salt and sugar. Cool to lukewarm. Add to yeast mixture and add 1/2 flour and eggs. Beat well.
  • Add fruit and cardamom and remaining flour to make light dough. Knead and place in a greased bowl. Let rise until light.
  • Knead and let it rise again.
  • Shape into 5 loaves and place in greased bread pans. Let rise 1 hour or until light. Brush tops with egg yolk mixture of beaten egg yolk and water.

  • Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. After removing from oven, brush top with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar

NORWEGIAN CHRISTMAS BREAD (ADAPTED FOR THE
BREAD MACHINE)

This is a conversion of the original Christmas bread recipe from Anna Butler
1/6 cup lukewarm water
1 cup scalded milk (cooled to lukewarm)
1/3 stick melted margarine
1 small beaten egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon cardamom
3 to 3.3 cups flour
1 package yeast
2/3 cup raisins
1/6 cup citron

  • Place ingredients in bread machine in the order given but put raisins and citron aside.
  • Start bread dough in knead mode and add raisins/citron when your bread machine prompts for add-ins.