Saturday, February 27, 2010

Peach Schnapps Cake

There comes a time when you just need to make an easy, tasty dessert without caring about the transfats or the hydrogenated oils (aren’t they the same thing?). So why am I reluctant to post my little indiscretion? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because I used so few ingredients and they were all packaged goods. Maybe it’s because my husband was diagnosed with skyrocketing triglycerides (I brought this to work before he could have any). Maybe it’s because I’ve packed on more than a few pounds in the last couple of years and I almost ate this up myself. At any rate, I made it because an old recipe (I don’t even remember where I got it) was staring me in the face, it sounded good, and I had all the ingredients. So there. And yes, I even made the topping with a package of Dream Whip. Sue me.

Even my orange juice had peach in it. This was meant to be.

Peach Schnapps Cake


1 box French vanilla cake mix (I just used yellow cake mix--on sale for a buck!)
3 eggs
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup peach schnapps
1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup peach preserves
2 tablespoons peach schnapps

Optional topping:
1 cup Cool Whip (I used Dream Whip--remember those little packets of goodness?)
2 teaspoons peach schnapps

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10" Bundt pan.

For the cake, combine cake mix, eggs, orange juice, peach schnapps and oil in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed for 4 minutes. Pour into pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until tested done. Cool 10 minutes. Invert onto serving plate.

For the glaze, combine peach preserves and peach schnapps in small bowl. Brush glaze on warm cake.

For optional topping, combine the Cool Whip with the peach schnapps. Spoon onto cake slices when served.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot Cross Buns!


I’ll be honest—I don’t know the origin of Hot Cross Buns. By some accounts, they pre-date Christianity. I do know this: In modern times, Hot Cross Buns are traditionally served on Good Friday and, for the most part, they start showing up in bakeries as soon as Lent starts. I know this because my mother-in-law, Alice, starts asking for them as soon as the ashes show up on foreheads. 

Now, I can’t say that I’ve ever been a huge fan of the Hot Cross Bun. We scour the bakeries for them every year and it is hit or miss on quality. Most are too dry, skimpy on the raisins, or full of that awful candied fruit. So this year I have decided to make my own. I looked at several recipes, jotted down what I liked about each one, and came up with this version:

Hot Cross Buns

Printable Version

1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (one envelope)
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour (I used bread flour, but all-purpose will work)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 cup golden raisins

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, butter and sugar until the butter is almost melted and the temperature is about 110 ° F. (bathwater warm). If you accidentally heat the milk too much, just let it cool down.

Stir together 2 cups of the flour, the salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom. Set aside.

Combine the warmed milk and the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes or until foamy. Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the flour/spice mixture to the milk and beat on medium/high speed for about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and stir in the orange peel, lemon peel and the raisins. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Add 2 cups of flour and knead for about 5 minutes, or until a soft dough forms, adding more flour as needed.

I used the zest of one orange and one lemon. Be careful not to grate the white part of the lemon--it's very bitter.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently by hand briefly until no longer sticky (be careful not to add too much flour). Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it so that both sides are lightly oiled. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a draft free area for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to375 ° F. Punch down the dough, let it rest for 5 minutes. Form the dough into 18 rolls and place on two large cookie sheet (I like to line them with silicone baking mats). Brush each roll with a little melted butter and let rise again until doubled, about 35 minutes. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool for ten minutes and pipe icing* in a cross form on each bun.

*Icing: Stir together 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and enough orange juice to make a spreadable frosting.


Alice and I were very happy with the outcome.


I actually only made 9 Hot Cross Buns. For variety, I cut the remaining dough into three pieces, rolled them into ropes, braided them and made a beautiful raisin egg bread. It looks a little like a German Stollen, but that's the wrong season so we'll call it an Iced Raisin Braid. This I baked for 25 minutes. 
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pecan Cookie Waffles with Honey-Cinnamon Butter

My love affair with the Pillsbury Doughboy began many years ago when I was still a child. As you may have deduced from the title of my blog, my father was a baker. For a time, he was the proud owner of the Seymour Bakery, right dab in the middle of Main Street in the small town of Seymour, Wisconsin (nowadays, Seymour is known as “the home of the hamburger”, but that’s the topic for a whole other blog). In those days, Pillsbury had a wholesale division dedicated to supplying bakeries with flour and other everyday necessities and my father was one of their happy customers. It was because of his association with Pillsbury, that he somehow got his hands on a rather large, mechanical Doughboy, which sat for a time in a prominent spot in the bakery’s display window. Daddy hired someone out of Green Bay to change the displays seasonally. There was always some sort of mechanical doll swaying to and fro, making music and promoting whatever holiday was forthcoming. The Doughboy, though, was special. There he was, with that huge grin on his face and, about every minute or so, he would poke himself in the belly and let loose with the famous giggle—Hoo!Hoo! I loved him….

Throughout the years, I was in touch with the Doughboy off and on. In college, my roommate’s mother would bring us wonderful treats that happened to be Pillsbury Bake-Off® specialties. It took me several years to finally figure out that the Banana Crunch Cake that she made (and I adored) was actually a $25,000 winner from the 24th Bake-Off® in 1973. When I was finally on my own and had to make my own treats, the Doughboy was there for me again with those convenient crescent rolls, pie crusts, cinnamon rolls and, as always, the easy recipes that came out of the Bake-Off®.

Flash forward to 2010 and the 44th Pillsbury Bake-Off® is almost upon us. This year, I have been honored to have my recipe--Pecan Cookie Waffles with Honey-Cinnamon Butter-- chosen to compete with 99 others in Orlando, Florida on April 12. I have had the opportunity (thanks to the wonder that is the Internet) to befriend many of the other contestants---such a great group of people! The competition will be fierce, but I’m happy with my creation. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking it’s the year of the Million Dollar Waffle…..

You can find a printable version of the recipe right here: Pecan Cookie Waffles with Honey-Cinnamon Butter

We start by mixing up some butter, honey and cinnamon. This will top off your finished waffles with just the right amount of sweetness. I'm certain that if you would rather top your waffles with some sliced bananas and some whipped cream, that would be OK, too. Or maybe some butter pecan ice cream? Oh, the possibilities.....

Next we'll just break some Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough (cookie dough! Isn't that the coolest thing ever?) up into a nice large bowl, add a couple of eggs and beat it until it's smooth. Then we'll add a little vanilla and some light cream and mix until we have a thin batter. Earlier, I had toasted some pecans---we'll toss some of those in the mix, too. 

Just for the occasion, I splurged and bought an obscenely expensive waffle maker. If ever there was a time for an expensive waffle maker in my life, it is now. This baby weighs a ton and blew a fuse in the kitchen last night, but it sure does put out a nice waffle. The funny thing is, this recipe turns out good in my $9.99 machine, too....

And there you have it! Topped with the sweet honey-cinnamon butter and some toasted pecans....I may have to go whip up another batch right now....

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Mamma Mia" Ravioli Bites

I promised I was going to try some more of the finalist’s recipes from the Pillsbury Bake-Off® and I finally found the chance. My dinner club meets tomorrow night and I get to bring the appetizer. There were so many to pick from (I still plan on trying out a few more), but I ended up choosing these succulent Ravioli Bites created by my friend JoAnn Belack. I am very glad I did. Really, how can you go wrong with three kinds of cheese, fresh basil, salami and sundried tomatoes all cooked up in a tasty little crescent basket? Aren’t they about the cutest things you ever saw? Take it from me; they are as tasty as they look!

Here is a link to this delicious easy-to-make recipe:

Just add all of the filling ingredients together and stir....

I used a pizza cutter to cut the crescent dough. Don't you love how it comes in one long roll now? No more pressing together the seams.

Just fill the little crescent baskets with the cheese mixture and pop it into the oven for about 10 minutes.

I told you they were cute! Stay tuned for more Bake-Off® up will be my very own Pecan Cookie Waffles with Honey-Cinnamon Butter.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pink Pomegranate Cupcakes

It seems like I am always late to the party. Just a few weeks ago, I was contacted by Ryan from POM Wonderful. Would I like to try out a case of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice? Heck yes! And true to his word, a box of 8 of the cutest little bottles of pomegranate juice showed up at my door, no strings attached.

I was excited to experiment with my treasure. As it turned out, Pete was excited about the pomegranate juice, too. Reading all about the health benefits of this “superfood”, he couldn’t wait to try it himself and promptly drank all but two of my little bottles. I was just going to have to buy myself some additional product, but first I needed an idea.

The idea came to me a few days later like a lightning bolt---what about a POM Velvet Cupcake? I could swap out that awful red food coloring for the much healthier and tastier pomegranate juice. It would be lovely, in all of its pink glory, with fresh pomegranate arils strewn over the top. Why, I could even show how to seed a fresh pomegranate (this was a new feat that I was very proud of---the first time I tried to get the seeds out of a pomegranate was a messy nightmare). And so it was decided: POM Velvet Cupcakes.

One of the first things that I do when I set to inventing a new recipe is to search the Internet to see if it has been done and, lo and behold, there it was right on the POM Wonderful website, POM Velvet Cupcakes presented by Chef Ashley James. It looked to be a beauty of a cupcake alright, complete with the fresh pomegranate arils on top. I would have to change my strategy just a little. Since this cupcake was a chocolate version, mine would be a white cupcake flavored with pomegranate juice. I could still have my arils strewn on the top, right? Well, as it turns out, no.

We made our trek to the grocery store on the Saturday before the Super Bowl in search of a large bottle of pomegranate juice and one fresh pomegranate. The juice we found easily, sold in 60 oz bottles at Costco. I thought for sure Costco would have pomegranates, too, but after dodging what seemed like a gazillion people, all loaded down with snack food and large screen televisions, we gave up, bought the juice and went to the closest grocery store. No luck there either. According to the produce manager, pomegranates were out of season (didn’t I just buy one?). I did find a container of fresh pomegranate arils, but at nearly $7 for a small portion, I decided I was just going to have to make the frosting pretty all by itself. Here is the recipe I ultimately came up with:

Pink Pomegranate Cupcakes
Printable Recipe

2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses*
1 teaspoon vanilla
Several drops of red food coloring, optional
3 egg whites, room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar


8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
3 oz pomegranate molasses (1 ½ shot glasses full, for all of you cocktail hounds)
Several drops of red food coloring, optional
4-4 ½ cups powdered sugar

* I made my own pomegranate molasses with the help of Alton Brown and the Food Network. Here is a link to the recipe: Pomegranate Syrup or Molasses This is really easy to make and it keeps for six months in the refrigerator. You can use the molasses in all sorts of drink recipes (think tastier grenadine syrup) and/or in savory main dish recipes.

1. Preheat oven to 350 ° F. Line cupcake pans with liners.

I found these cute ones at Target--just in time for Valentine's Day!

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

I always spoon the flour into the cups. This avoids packing in too much flour.

3. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Combine the pomegranate molasses and the vanilla with the milk. Alternately add the flour and the milk mixture to the creamed butter, ending with the milk. Beat until the batter is smooth. Stir in enough red food coloring to turn the batter pink.

Here's where I noticed that the pomegranate juice turned the milk brown. Yikes!! It looked like chocolate milk. It turns out that it does need a little food coloring for aesthetics.

4. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks appear. Gently fold into the cake batter.

5. Spoon batter into cupcake liners, filling cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched. Cool completely on cooling racks.

This has nothing to do with the cupcakes, except that I was taking pictures of them when I looked out the window to see someone cross country skiing on the lake. :)

I should have added more red food coloring. I still have brown cupcakes....

6. In a large bowl, cream together the softened cream cheese and the butter. Add the pomegranate molasses and enough of the powdered sugar to make a spreadable frosting. Stir in enough red food coloring to turn the frosting pink. Frost the cupcakes or use a pastry bag fitted with a round or star tip to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.

I learned from my mistake and added a little more red food coloring to the frosting. ;)

I found some great disposable plastic pastry bags at a cooking store. It makes piping on the frosting really easy.




In conclusion, I think they turned out pretty good. The frosting is pomegranate sweet/tart and the cake, although I can't taste pomegranate, isn't dry like some homemade white cake recipes. It's a keeper.