Friday, October 9, 2009

Pecan Pie Bites

If only pecan pie bites could actually make me feel better! They're delicious but they are no cure for a cold. I probably shouldn't have made these but at least I wasn't as sick as I am now. Who knows, maybe it was the darn pecan pie bites with all their butter and sugar that weakened my immune system and actually caused my sickness. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it was sweets that got me feeling so bad. I made these for a funeral. There was about a million other desserts that were made for this shindig too and I basically ate sweets all day. Thursday was national dessert day, so I justified my sweet tooth by saying I celebrated a day early. The funeral was pretty sad, I felt a tad bit awkward because I didn't really know the dearly departed. I just felt sad for my brothers and sister, it was their dad. Confusing? Oh well.

Since then my sickness has only progressed. When I decided to stay home (again) from school today, I was considering that maybe I'd be able to make this Texas Jalapeno Cranberry Bread I've been dying to make since I saw it on the Cookie Madness blog. After just getting up to go to the bathroom, I don't think I'll be doing much today. I basically feel like death. Well, I'm stationed to my couch, still watching the Early Show that has been on since fricken 7:00 am, waiting for Alton Brown to finally come on. I love him and I will wait the 3 hours it takes for this stupid show to feature him!!

Pecan Pie Bites

makes 40 - 45 tartlets

For the Crust:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

For the Filling:
6 oz. pecan halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp. bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
untoasted pecan halves
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare mini muffin pan (I brushed it with safflower oil).
Cream 2 sticks butter and brown sugar for the crust in a bowl until blended.
Add the flour and salt; mix until sandy (the dough will seem dry)
Press 1 tbsp. dough into each well of the muffin tin, shaping it up the sides.
Prebake for 8 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges.
Remove the shells from the oven and pat the bottoms down with fingers or a spoon. Set aside
Toast 6 0z. pecan halves and chop or crush. Set aside.
Whisk sugar, brown sugar, eggs, syrup, butter, bourbon, vanilla, salt, and crushed pecans together in a bowl.
Pour 1 tbsp. filling into each shell.
Top each tartlet with a pecan half.
Bake for 15 minutes or until set and crust is browned.
Sprinkle with a bit of salt, then let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove.

  • The only issue I had with this recipe was crushing the pecans. Next time I would just buy crushed pecans instead of ending up with uneven chucks of nuts in the tarts. Also, I think you could easily sub whole wheat flour for the all-purpose in this recipe because instead of a softer crust, you'd end up with a crispier, denser one. It would also add a nutty dimension of flavor! I'll have to try it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Apple Pie Bars

This is one of those not-so-good for you but taste-so-good recipes. I threw 2 different cookbooks on my mom's bed and told her to pick one. It was these or key lime bars. Apple pie bars won because of less ingredients. That's totally fine because these are delicious!

Apple Pie Bars

Makes about 16 wedges or squares

For the Base and Streusel:
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter
3 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the Apple Filling:
3 1/2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat 10-inch springform pan with removable bottom with nonstick spray
Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.
Save 3/4 cup of mixture in a separate bowl.
Cut 6 tbsp. butter and milk into remaining dry ingredients using a pastry blender or your fingertips.
Pat mixture evenly into pan and tap down.
Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden around the edges.
Stir melted butter into reserved flour mixture and stir until sandy.
Toss all ingredients together for the apple filling.
Arrange over the hot base and sprinkle with streusel topping.
Bake 30-40 minutes.
Cool for at LEAST 30 minutes before removing form pan and cutting.

  • I remembered as soon as I first started to chop the apples in a pampered chef dicer-thing that you need uniformly chopped apples for something like this. I was lazy and wanted to be a pampered chef, so I just went with irregular pieces then waited to see what would happen. The bars didn't hold together as well as they should have but were still okay I guess. I also made my own whipped cream using 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 1/2 tsp. gelation dissolved in 1 tbsp. water. When the cream had been whipped for some time already, I added 2 tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. I then just piped it on for looks and taste!

Agave and Honey Dark Chocolate Cookies

Yummy Nutritious Goodness!! For so long in my baking adventures I have gone to great lengths to avoid fat, ending up with less then totally wonderful delicious items. Recently though, I've let fat find its way into my creations...and everyone is a lot happier. These are pretty good for you and have only 1/3 cup of vegetable oil. I suppose you could try using something a little heart healthier like olive oil or maybe safflower oil but that may alter the taste too much.

Agave and Honey Dark Chocolate Cookies

makes 16 cookies

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. agave nectar
2 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp. ground flax seed
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup 60% cacao Ghiradelli baking chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix the egg, honey, oil and vanilla in a bowl. Stir well.
Combine flour, flax, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir very well, then add to agave mixture and stir until blended. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Let batter sit 5 minutes.
Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake 10 to 11 minutes, until golden.

  • This recipe makes pretty big cookies, just warning. Also, I used dark chocolate baking chips because they are larger then regular chocolate chips. This way, you get a good hunk of chocolate in each bite! I also used quick-cooking oats which gave the cookies a different texture then old-fashioned oats would deliver. Lastly, I added an "antioxidant mix" of dried berries which were blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, and goji berries.

Vegan Black Forest Cake

This is the first layered cake I ever made. I was going through an interest in vegan baked goods...still am actually. I like it because it has no trans fat. Vegan means no butter or eggs(obviously) and therefore a different form of fat which usually comes from a healthy source like nuts, olive oil, or flax. All of these have monounsaturated fat that is far better then trans or saturated fat. Anyways though! It ended up tasting really rich...and kind of like liquor(it didn't have any). I was super proud and I loved it like my baby. :)

Vegan Black Forest Cake

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup maple syrup/molasses
1 cup water
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

For the Syrup:

1/2 cup water
1/4 maple syrup
3 thin lemon slices
1/3 cup juice from cherries

For the Icing:

3/4 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup maple syrup
10 oz. firm tofu
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 10oz. jar of pitted cherries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch pan.
Combine the water, molasses, apple sauce, vinegar, vanilla extract and whisk well.
Sift pastry flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda together.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and gently fold in. Make sure to mix in one direction and that it is well combined.
Bake 35-40 minutes.

To make the syrup:
Combine water, molasses, and lemon pieces in a pot and bring to a boil.
Boil 3 minutes and once its cool, add the cherry syrup.

To make the icing:
Blend cashew adding water little by little until the consistency is creamy. (Not watery!)
Stir in tofu and vanilla extract, blend well. Add sugar, blend again.
Melt chocolate chips and mix with icing.

To assemble the cake, but it into 3 equal parts. Spread icing and cherries on one layer and top with another. Repeat. I suggest doing a 'crumb coat' once the cake is done. Just put a thin layer of icing all around the cake and then refrigerate for 30 minutes of overnight. Once it is ready, put on more icing and decorate as desired.

  • I used a non fat cream cheese frosting, which I suppose ruins the whole vegan aspect of this cake. It tasted good though...sometimes sacrifices must be made. Also, in the cake ingredients, I used all molasses and I think it would've tasted better with maple syrup.

The Title Says It All!

I remember my love for baking came from my grandma. She was a serious baker and made some seriously good stuff. She is hands-down the one who taught me how to bake from the time I was five years old. The first thing I ever baked were most likely Christmas cookies with her! I believe that is why I love baking so much now.

I also love incorporating nutritionally awesome foods into my life. I take care of my body by running and eating healthy. I like to keep it natural. My biggest loves in life are running, nutrition, and....baking. Oxymoron? A little.

My sensible choice of career is a diet nutritionist but my rendezvous-esk pursuit is to be a baker. As of late, I have seriously been considering switching my sights to baking fully. My hopes are that I can balance the two career paths into one deliciously healthy super job!

I will be baking things that are yummy, healthy, experimental, and standard. That does not mean that it will be completely compromised of the sinful side of things....I bake regular stuff too.