Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sweet Cherry Pound Cake

I've been coveting a cherry pitter. That's right a cherry pitter. I'd pass it in the gadget aisle at Target and always decided not to put it in the cart, whether because it was just not cherry season or because I didn't want to add to the collection of "must haves" already in the pile (can anyone get out of Target for less than $50?--seriously, you need everything there). Well, I up and done it. I bought myself said cherry pitter. A gadget for no other purpose than to pit cherries.

By golly...I love my cherry pitter.

Of course, I had to put that pitter to good use immediately and let me tell you--it is slick! I shucked the pits out of a whole bag of cherries in a matter of minutes. As a bonus, the kitchen didn't look as if I had just slaughtered a pig! Do you see the little shatter shield on this thing? It works! :)

After Pete and I ate our fill of fresh cherries, I still had quite a huge bowl full. They begged to be made into something (tell me I'm not the only one who hears food chanting to them). I swear I heard them whisper "pound cake". Who am I to refuse such a request?

Sweet Cherry Pound Cake

3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
2 cups chopped, fresh cherries

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.; grease and flour a 10” Bundt or tube pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.

Beginning with the flour mixture, add alternately with the yogurt to the egg mixture. Gently fold in the cherries.

In actuality, I had neither plain nor vanilla Greek yogurt in the house. I threw in a 6 oz container of pineapple yogurt and called it a day. No one was the wiser.

Pour batter into tube pan and distribute evenly. Bake about 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Invert onto a cake dish and let cool another 30 minutes before glazing.

Please remember to grease and flour your pan...even if it is non-stick. Don't ask me how I know that this is so important....

For the glaze, beat confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, and a tablespoon of milk; add additional milk as necessary. Drizzle over the top of the pound cake.

Woohoo! Sweet Cherry Pound Cake success!

My husband beat me to the next gadget on my list...he had all of the strawberries hulled before I got to them. Wait--what's that I hear? Muffins?

What are your favorite kitchen gadgets?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Baby Elephant Ears...#ImprovChallenge

Welcome to another edition of Monthly Improv. Hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, the Monthly Improv challenges bloggers to come up with fabulous recipes incorporating two ingredients. This month our ingredients are Cinnamon and Sugar!

I confess to having been largely absent from the blogging scene lately as I have been consumed with another cooking related obsession---entering recipe contests. In actuality, it's really just one contest I've been obsessing about-- the mother of all cooking contests-- the Pillsbury Bake-Off®.
This year, the Bake-Off® is all about easy. Recipes are limited to only 7 ingredients and 30 minutes or less of prep time. Funny how "easy" becomes an oxymoron when you are trying to come up with the recipe....yikes! Keeping it seven ingredients was hard!

I'll admit it...I don't always make my own pie crust...these are always in my fridge.

Even harder than coming up with 7-ingredient recipes is keeping all of my entries private. I really want to share and get feedback! So, while I have to keep the lid on my actual entries, I can certainly share a few "easy" ideas that came to me while I was using up some ingredients.

Just 5 ingredients for these very easy cookies....

Have you ever had an Elephant Ear? You know, those huge pastries that are flaky and full of pecans, cinnamon and sugar? My dad made the best Elephant Ears! Around here, I see something similar called a Pecan Crispie (good, but not quite there) or I see big deep fried dough versions that aren't the same at all. My inspiration for this month's Improv comes from the Elephant Ears from my youth and from the "easy" recipe concoctions I've been immersed in. Let me present Baby Elephant Ears!

Baby Elephant Ears

1 refrigerated pie crust, softened per package directions
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees; line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unroll the pie crust onto the parchment paper. Brush with the melted butter. Combine the sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the crust. Top with the pecans. Roll the crust back up. Cut into 12 slices (if you like a thinner cookie, cut into 18 slices). Use a drinking glass to press each slice into a 2" circle (the end pieces will be smaller). Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the sugar is caramelized and the cookies start to brown.

I may have cut them too time I'll try a thinner cookie. 

I initially used too much sugar, but it was all good since I threw the remainder over the tops.

Who knew easy could be so tasty? They went very quickly when I brought them to work, no matter that I thought I could have made some changes. Wouldn't these be fun to make with kids? You could leave out the nuts, make them smaller (or bigger!) and they will still taste good. Plus, there's no wasting of all bakes up. Another successful Improv!

Now, take a look at what everyone else is making with Cinnamon and Sugar.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

It is the winter that never ends. Seriously, we have snow in the forecast for the next three days. In May. When the rhubarb should be popping up all over the place. Luckily, I spotted some in the grocery store last weekend and nabbed a few stalks.

Nothing says Spring in the Midwest quite like rhubarb. It's prolific. So when I found it, it was as if I was bringing a little bit of Spring home with me. Sigh. Well, if I can't have a real Spring, at least I can have some really good coffeecake.

I've been wanting to make a crumb cake for awhile. You know the ones--Entenmann's makes one with the really big crumbs on top. Those crumbs are just so yummy. It's a New York thing, apparently. Lucky for me, The New York Times had a recipe for a Rhubarb "Big Crumb" Coffeecake. Perfect. I borrowed the "Big Crumb" part and played around with the rest of the recipe. You will not be disappointed.

Rhubarb Crumb Cake 
Rhubarb Filling:
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup cake flour

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F; butter and flour a 9" X 13" pan.

In a small bowl, combine the rhubarb with the sugar, cornstarch, and ginger. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and salt. Fold in the cake flour. Mixture will be thick. Set aside. 

The crumb "batter" looks like cookie dough. I added a pinch of cardamom to make it just that much more Minnesotan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Cream together the brown sugar and butter. Beat in the sour cream, egg, and vanilla. Fold the flour mixture into the sour cream mixture, stirring until just blended. 

Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan. Evenly top the batter with the rhubarb pieces. Break the crumb topping into pea-sized pieces and sprinkle over the top of the rhubarb. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

I actually ran out of cake flour and used all-purpose flour for the cake. While it turned out fine, I think the cake flour would give it a more tender crumb.

Just so you don't think my husband and I ate the whole thing, I brought most of it to work (where I could munch on it throughout the day).

Wow...was this a success! I can't wait to try this with blueberries. Or peaches. Or apples.....

What kind of Crumb Cake would you make?