December 28, 2013

Gingerbread Marina City

Also known as the corn cob buildings.

So two years ago, I was involved in the making of a geodesic dome gingerbread house.

...and from that, the non-traditional gingerbread house tradition was born.

I spent this holiday season with my husband's family which includes a family of architects, designers....and one molecular cellular biology graduate student. When we sat down to brainstorm what to make out of gingerbread this year, the graduate student suggested that we do Marina City in Chicago. For those of you unfamiliar....(feel free to google)


The water is made of royal icing dyed blue!

That's Phil of! He did all the math and designing of Marina City, I was the cheap hired labor. For those of you interested, Phil is also a designer in real-life and does freelance work for real (or gingerbread) things.

8:40 PM

December 20, 2013

Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake

I have to apologize for the quality of these images. I made the cake at night (not a preferable time to take pictures) but we had guests over that deemed immediate serving of the cake...hence poor lighting. However, I wanted to share it anyway because it was delectable. Plus it was served warm and with friends. Hard to go wrong there!

Oh yellow evening lighting, how I loathe thee. Anyway, we had some house guests staying with us earlier this month for residency interviews and a baked good that combined the tastes of chocolate and orange was requested. Then, this cake was brought up and a similar rendition was officially requested. As a result - here we are chocolate orange bundt cake land. 

The cake was perfectly citrusy and mm mm moist. I threw on a ganache glaze to add an extra layer of sweetness as the cake itself is not that sweet. This cake was gone within a few days as we enjoyed it for numerous in-between-meal snacks (oops?). Oh also, the original recipe called for orange extract...which I didn't have...and instead of post-poning the cake, I replaced it with some orange juice. It worked out perfectly. 

Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake
Adapted from joythebaker

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of 1 large orange
4 tablespoons cocoa powder 
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F. 

In one large bowl, mix together your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another, beat your butter and sugar together until nice and fluffy. Add in your eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add in your vanilla and sour cream. Finally, add in your flour mixture slowly until everything is just combined and looks even (try not to over-mix!). 

Here comes the fun part. Divide your batter into two bowls. 
Bowl 1: add in your orange zest and orange juice and combine
Bowl 2: add in your cocoa powder and chocolate chips and combine

Now simply pour your orange batter into a buttered and floured Bundt pan and spread it evenly. Then, pour in your chocolate batter on top. You can spread the mixture evenly with the back of the spoon or do the old "slam it onto the counter until the top looks even" technique. I chose to make a lot of noise and slam it onto the counter a few times. 

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the cake springs back at you when you touch it. Let it cool slightly and then flip it upside down onto the serving platter of your choice. Now, while the cake is still warm...

Optional (but I really mean required) Chocolate Ganache
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a double boiler, combine the two ingredients until the chocolate is melted and looks like a vat of something Willy Wonka would be proud of. Remember if you don't have a double boiler (we don't) just put a metal mixing bowl over a small pot filled with water and use an oven mitt to keep the bowl in place while whisking. Someday I will have nice things, I promise. 

Finally, pour the ganache all over the entire cake. We served it warm and I think that was probably the way to go!


December 18, 2013

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

So I think its become clear that we love cranberries! Here's a recipe for cookies using the dried variety of cranberry. Instead of the usual macadamia nut, I switched it up for pistachios, which lend a welcome hint of green...very festive!

I got this recipe from FoodNetwork


½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½  cup packed light brown sugar
½  cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup dried cranberries
¾ cup white chocolate chips
¾ cup salted pistachios

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugars together. Add the vanilla and egg and beat until creamy.

Mix together the flour and baking soda. Stir the flour mixture into the sugar mixture just until combined. Stir in the cranberries, white chocolate chips and pistachios. Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on the sheet for a minute or two, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.


Freshly baked! 




December 8, 2013

Cranberry Pecan Tart

Let the cranberry posts continue! I made this tart a couple years ago, using walnuts. I absolutely love pecan pie, so I figured I would give it a try with a different nut. The orange zest gives a nice hint of citrus to balance the sweetness of the filling and tartness of the cranberries. And the buttery crust is as delicious as it is easy - no rolling required! 

Adapted from these two sources: Chow and TasteOfHome

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon  salt
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, and salt until incorporated. Add the flour and stir until just combined and a soft dough forms.

Spread the dough into the bottom of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly on the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Poke the bottom of the crust all over with a toothpick (to allow steam to escape and avoid the crust bubbling up while baking). Line with foil or parchment and place pie weights on the bottom surface (if you have them…this will help prevent the shell from bubbling up or shrinking while baking). Bake about 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool while making the filling.

½ cup sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon zested orange peel (I used one Clementine)
1 cup pecans (or walnuts)
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, corn syrup, eggs, butter and orange peel in a large bowl. Arrange nuts and cranberries evenly in bottom of crust; pour sugar mixture over the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Crust will be golden, edge of filling firm, and center is almost set. Cool on wire rack. Store in refrigerator until serving.

Before baking...

Buttery crust...

Aerial view!


Cut a slice and enjoy! 


November 28, 2013

Cranberry Orange & Pecan Coffee Cake

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is one of my favorite holidays. Probably because of the cooking involved...and the baking. I spend all Thanksgiving in the kitchen with loved ones as dish after dish comes out of the oven and stovetop. Of course, that means snacking along the way as well!

This coffee cake is a new addition to the Thanksgiving spread this year. It's full of fresh cranberries and fresh orange juice and zest. It just looks festive and with a streusel topping how can it not be?

Mmm mmm good. I can't wait to dive into this after dinner with a good cup of coffee. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Cranberry Orange & Pecan Coffee Cake
Adapted from joythebaker

Makes 1 9x5 inch loaf

For the Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature and cut into cubes
1 egg
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and grease with butter. Set aside. Make sure to leave some overhang all around the pan for easy cake extraction.

In a bowl, mix together your flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Time to get messy and use your fingers! Using your hands, incorporate the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs.

In another bowl, mix together your egg, orange juice, zest, and extract. I'd recommend recruiting helpers to squeeze your juice and zest your zest. It keeps everyone busy in the kitchen!

Case in point, my brother and husband helping to squeeze and zest.
Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients. Stir just until incorporated and fold in the cranberries and pecans into the batter. Pour this thick, luscious batter into your prepared loaf pan and set aside while preparing the crumb topping.

For the pecan streusel topping: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into little cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Simply combine all of your ingredients until your butter is well incorporated and your mixture looks once again like bread crumbs. Sprinkle all over your batter!

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 20 minutes - 1 hour 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean or the cake bounces back at you when pressed on. Let cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes and simply use your overhang parchment to lift out of the pan and let your cake cool completely.

Optional glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon of milk

Simply mix and drizzle over your streusel topping.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!


November 24, 2013

Banana Cinnamon Rolls

Every time I have bananas that get ripe before I can get around to eating them, I mash them and freeze them to make banana bread later. I’ve been looking for a different take on traditional banana bread, and thought cinnamon rolls made with bananas in the dough would be an excellent choice! These smelled great baking in the oven! Next time I think I'll add some walnuts or pecans to the filling. 

Inspired by this

Banana rolls:
½ cup milk (warmed to about 100 degrees F)
¼ cup sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
3 medium overripe bananas, mashed (about ¾ cup)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg
½ teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups bread flour (you can also use bread flour, all-purpose, and even about ½ cup whole wheat)

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each of cloves, allspice, and ginger
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cream cheese frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2  cups powdered sugar (approximate)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a 2-cup measuring glass, combine the milk, sugar and yeast. Set aside for about 10 minutes to proof.

To the yeast mixture, add the bananas, butter, oil, and egg.

In a large bowl combine 2 cups of the flour and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Stir with a spoon until combined. Continue adding flour until it forms a dough that is not sticky.

Kneed the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes; a smooth dough will form. Place the dough ball into a lightly floured bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place for an hour or two, or until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough down. On a floured surface, roll the dough to about an 18 x 24 inches rectangle (doesn’t have to be perfect). 

For the filling, mix together the sugar and spices.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush the dough rectangle with the melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with the sugar mixture.

Roll up the dough along the long edge. Use a sharp knife to cut the log into 12 even pieces.
Place the rolls into a greased 9x13 pan. Allow to rise for about 15 minutes or until they start to get puffy.

Bake in your preheated 350 F oven for 22 to 24 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before frosting.

For frosting, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl with a fork (or hand mixer). Spread evenly on the rolls.

Rolling out the can see the specks of banana seeds! 

Brush with butter and then sprinkle with the spiced sugar. 

Roll up the dough, starting with the long end. 

Slice the log into 12 buns! 

All lined up and ready to go! 

Allow them to rise and get puffy before baking. 

Fresh out of the oven! 

Mmm smells like banana bread. 

Frost them after they've cooled a bit. 

Break one off and enjoy!


November 9, 2013

Mini Pumpkin Spice Latte Bundt Cakes

I absolutely love pumpkin baked goods! I've been wanting to use my adorable mini bundt pan, and my favorite pumpkin cupcake recipe seemed like it might be the perfect choice. You could do a maple or cinnamon frosting, but I thought the latte frosting was a very clever idea!

Idea from here.

For the cupcakes 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ginger, allspice, cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

For the latte frosting
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
About a tablespoon brewed coffee, hot

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a 6 cup mini bundt pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with flour. Alternatively, line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners. 

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.

In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugars, vegetable oil and eggs.

Pour wet mixture over dry ingredients and stir just until moist.

Scoop the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Remove cakes from pan and cool on a wire rack. 

Mix together the frosting ingredients to form a nice drizzling consistency and apply to cakes. 

Yum fresh from the oven!

The view from 10,000 feet.


Post frosting! 

So pretty all in a row...Enjoy!