Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes

Last week when I was picking out cookies to bake, my husband had suggested that I use gingerbread Kahlua in the brownies I was making. I thought that sounded good, but then that would have been for my Christmas baking. He suggested that I could make Kahlua Nanaimo Bars, and that he would find some recipes. One of the recipes he sent me was this one, for Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes. Since this was the very first recipe that I pinned when I joined Pinterest, I figured that it was finally time to make them.

These are quite similar to Nanaimo Bars, although they don’t contain graham crackers. These are just a chocolate cupcake base, with nuts and coconut added to the batter. The original recipe called for almonds, but I always use pecans in Nanaimo Bars so that’s what I used here. The filling in a Nanaimo Bar uses Bird’s Custard Powder, and that is used here in the icing. I love custard powder and am happy for any opportunity to use it.

I wasn’t sure how many cupcakes this would make, but I was able to make 24 regular-sized cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes. I had a little batter left over and probably could have made another 6-9 mini cupcakes but I figured I had plenty. I only had enough icing for the 24 cupcakes and some of the minis, but I like lots of frosting. While these don’t taste exactly like Nanaimo Bars, the flavors are really close. I love the frosting especially; the custard powder really adds something! So it took me a couple of years to finally make these, but they were worth the wait!

Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes
2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
3 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1-1/2 cups coconut

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup whipping cream
¼ cup vanilla custard powder (Bird’s)
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. You’ll need at least 24 cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. in a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium for three minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. With the mixer running on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture and the remaining milk, and then the final 1/3 of the flour. Stir in the pecans and coconut.

Fill the cupcake liners ¾ full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the icing: In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter, whipping cream, custard powder, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix on medium until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add additional whipping cream. Add more powdered sugar if the icing is too thin.

Spread or pipe the icing on the cooled cupcakes. If desired, sprinkle with coconut and chocolate curls/decoration.

Recipe from BS’ In the Kitchen

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kahlua Brownies

My husband came across this recipe and set it to me. It looked like a great classic brownie with a twist, so I thought they would be great to try. I actually thought about changing these into a Christmas cookie, using the gingerbread Kahlua that I have. In the end, I decided that I’d just follow the recipe as it was. I do need to think of some recipes to use the gingerbread Kahlua!

These brownies use chocolate chips as the chocolate, which is a bit unusual. Luckily, I have lots of chocolate chips, so that was easy. This isn’t quite a one bowl brownie, but it’s fairly close. You melt the chocolate and butter in one bowl and then mix the rest in the mixer. I was thinking that this makes a lot of dough for a 9” square pan, but in the end you get nice, thick brownies. I didn’t brush additional Kahlua on the brownies when they came out of the oven, mainly because I forgot. I’m sure that would add even more to these brownies!

The frosting I first made as the recipe specified, but it was way too thick. I added some milk and it was better, and in the end I added about 2 tablespoons milk to get the frosting to a workable consistency. I cut the bars into 25 squares, but they are pretty large as the brownies are so thick. I think I should have cut them a little smaller. The Kahlua flavor is fabulous, and it’s just right paired with the fudgy brownie.

Kahlua Brownies
1 cup butter
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup Kahlua
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons Kahlua
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk, if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9” square baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt the butter and chocolate chips in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler.  Allow to cool 5 minutes. In a large mixer bowl, beat the brown sugar and eggs on medium. Stir in the Kahlua and the chocolate/butter mixture. Stir until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and salt; stir on low just until the flour is incorporated into the dough. Spread into the prepared pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. If desired, prick the brownies with a toothpick and brush with additional Kahlua.

Make the frosting: in a large mixer bowl beat the butter and Kahlua on medium. Add the powdered sugar, first beating on low and then increase the speed to medium. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk. If the frosting is too thin, add additional powdered sugar.

Remove the brownies from the pan and peel away the foil. Frost with the Kahlua frosting. Cut into bars.

Recipe from Wallflour Girl

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spiced Pear and Pistachio Bread with Maple Cream Cheese Drizzle

It’s starting to be more fall-like weather in the Seattle area, although we have a couple of cool, cloudy days and then its 85 degrees for a couple of days. At least it gets cooler at night, which means that the house doesn’t get so warm. I’ve been seeing so many pumpkin and Halloween recipes, but I’m not quite ready for that yet. I do have a couple of ginger and fall cookie recipes on the horizon, but not quite yet. This bread, combining pear and spices, is a first step towards the fall baking direction.

I have pistachios that I would like to use before they become stale, so I did some searching for pistachio loaf recipes. I was looking to find a pistachio and chocolate chunk loaf, but I didn’t really find that. I suppose that wouldn’t be too hard to create based on other recipes! I did find this recipe for pear and pistachio bread, which sounded great.

This, like most quick breads, was very easy to put together. I used to have trouble with loaves baking properly, but I have a heavy gauge loaf pan now and that seems to help a lot. I also test the loaf with a thin knife, which really tests the center of the loaf for doneness. My only challenge was the cream cheese drizzle. The original recipe didn’t call for any powdered sugar, and maybe that can work but it didn’t in my case. I ended up whisking in about a cup and a half of powdered sugar. I had LOTS of drizzle, but that’s not really a bad thing. I liked this bread quite a bit, although I think I would add even more spices.

Spiced Pear and Pistachio Bread with Maple Cream Cheese Drizzle
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk
¼ cup heavy cream
2 medium pears, peeled, cored and diced    
⅓ cup pistachios, chopped

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” x 5” loaf pan with foil, allowing the foil to overhang the sides of the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, egg, sugar, and vanilla on medium until smooth.  Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low. Add the milk and heavy cream, continuing to beat on low. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low until the flour is incorporated into the batter. The batter will not be completely smooth. Fold in the pears and pistachios with a spatula. Spoon into the prepared pan.  

Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a thin knife inserted into the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Once the loaf has cooled, make the drizzle. In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese, maple syrup, powdered sugar, and butter and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled loaf. Refrigerate the loaf for 30 minutes to set the drizzle.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Macadamia Nut Shortbread

My friend recently went to Hawaii and brought me back some macadamia nuts. She told me she brought them back for me and I immediately went searching for recipes! I’ve made a couple of things with macadamia nuts, but I don’t always find that many cookie recipes. So many macadamia cookie recipes are just variations of chocolate chip cookies. These shortbread cookies are not all that different, but I thought featuring the macadamia nuts in shortbread would be the perfect showcase.

The original recipe had you roll the cookies out between sheets of parchment, but I remembered a recipe I’d made long ago where you rolled the dough out in gallon-sized zipper bags. It saves a lot of mess, and it makes it a lot easier to shape the dough into a rectangle. My dough didn’t quite fill the entire bag once rolled out (I had about an inch of empty space on two sides) but I think it still made rolling out the dough easier. 

I cut these with a pizza cutter and a ruler, very scientific! I just trimmed off the edges that weren’t square, so my cookies looked great. I thought about just drizzling the cookies with chocolate, but my friend said that more chocolate was always better so I dunked them. It is hard to finely chop macadamias (I use the food processor) because they start to turn into macadamia butter if you aren’t careful! These cookies turned out really well and the flavor of the macadamia nuts is perfectly highlighted. 

Macadamia Nut Shortbread
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped
8 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped

In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour. Once the flour is incorporated, continue mixing on low and gradually add the 1 cup of macadamia nuts.

Divide the dough in halves. Place each half of dough in a gallon-sized plastic zipper bag. Roll out the dough into a rectangle, ¼” thick. The rectangle with be slightly smaller than the dimensions of the plastic bag. Alternatively, roll the dough out between pieces of parchment paper. Do your best to roll the dough into a rectangle, but don’t worry too much as you will trim the sides of the shortbread when cutting into bars. Refrigerate the dough for 2 hours or longer.

 Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

Cut the plastic bag away from the dough (or peel away the parchment) and place on a cutting board. Using a ruler and a pizza cutter, cut the shortbread into 1” x 2” rectangles.  Place the shortbread on the prepared baking sheets. You can put the shortbread fairly close together, as the cookies don’t rise or spread while baking.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the edges of the shortbread just begin to brown. The cookies may still be soft in the center; they will set as they cool. Cool the cookies completely on a wire rack.

In a microwave or in the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the shortening. Partially dip the cookie in the melted chocolate and place on a wire rack. While the chocolate is still soft, sprinkle with additional macadamia nuts. Refrigerate until the chocolate sets.

Recipe from Dieter’s Downfall

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is for oven-roasted plum cakes. The original recipe makes 12 small cakes, which calls for 12 8-ounce baking dishes. I didn’t have dishes of the right size, so I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do. I was out shopping with a friend and I came across a set of 4 square baking dishes that were the right size so I picked them up. Other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers asked about making one large cake, so I expect a lot of variations for this week’s recipe. Make sure you check out the links from other bakers on the Tuesdays with Dorie site.

Obviously, I only made 4 cakes, since that’s how many pans I had. I made a half recipe of the batter, and just had extra. Sometimes when you cut a recipe down too much, it just doesn’t work as well. This recipe is a bit unusual, in that you only use 2 tablespoons of batter for each cake. When I was assembling the cakes, 2 tablespoons just didn’t seem like enough. While the cake did puff up, I think that I would have preferred more cake. Maybe it would have been different with a differently shaped pan?

I baked these up and they looked nice. Not the fanciest dessert, but that’s ok. They are mainly plum and just a little bit of cake, so you can pretend that they are healthy! I think that next time I would just add more cake batter, as I liked the plum and liked what cake there was. At least my new dishes worked out ok!

Recipe from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, pages 255-256