Friday, December 24, 2010

Eggnog for Breakfast

I don't care for eggnog, but when I saw a recipe for Cranberry Eggnog Muffins in the December 2010 edition of Food Network Magazine, I was intrigued. While I don't care to drink eggnog - mostly because I can't get over drinking something that thick and feel that drinking eggs is just wrong - I thought that the consistency could work quite well in a batter.

The cranberry component is Craisins...soaked in rum. Can't go wrong with rum for breakfast, eh? The muffins also have a delicious streusel topping. It was crispy, crunchy, crumbly, and sweet and added a nice touch to the muffins.

I didn't take any pictures, but I've included one from Food Network's website. Here is the recipe - might be a great one to try for Christmas morning!

Cranberry Eggnog Muffins
from Food Network Magazine, December 2010


For the Muffins:
Cooking spray
1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup rum or apple juice
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups eggnog
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar

Prepare the muffins: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mist a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Warm the cranberries and rum in a small saucepan over medium heat, then remove from the heat and let steep 5 minutes. Drain.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl.

Whisk the butter, eggnog, eggs and vanilla in another bowl. Gently fold into the flour mixture. (The batter will be lumpy; do not overmix.) Fold in the cranberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Make the topping: Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, salt and brown sugar in a bowl with your fingertips until it looks like wet sand. Sprinkle generously over the batter.

Bake until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan, then carefully remove to a rack.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cake Slice Bakers December Cake: Cranberry Cake

I never got around to making November's cake. Between being sick and having a sick kid, Thanksgiving, and oodles of grading, it just didn't happen. And by the time I had time to do it, I had read some of the other bloggers' posts about it and decided it wasn't worth it.
But onto December...Cranberry Cake. I was glad to see that a holiday-ish recipe was selected for this month. I have never bought fresh cranberries before - only Craisins - so I was interested to bake with them. Also, while I've made streusel toppings with walnuts and pecans before, I've never made one with almonds.
This cake was simple to make. I had all of the ingredients in the pantry or fridge except for fresh cranberries. Since it's the holiday season, Wegmans had a plethora of cranberries. The cake smelled fantastic while baking, was beautiful when I took it out of the oven, and I was excited to give it a try. I'm sad to say I was a bit disappointed. The cranberries were a bit too tart for my taste. I also wasn't thrilled about the almond-to-cake ratio - fewer almonds would have sufficed. The cake itself was incredibly moist and delicious. We had a friend over for dinner last night, and all three of us agreed that with some changes, this cake could be a home run.
If I make it again, here's what I'd do. First, I'd use a different fruit - maybe blueberries, raspberries, or chopped strawberries. Second, I'd use walnuts or pecans in the streusel instead of the almonds.
I still have some holiday baking to do. I have a recipe for chocolate peppermint cheesecake bars that I want to try. And we made sugar cookie dough last week but have yet to make the cookies. I think that will be a nice Christmas Eve project, and then we'll have freshly homemade cookies to leave for Santa.

Merry Christmas!

Cranberry Cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

Makes one 10-inch round cake (or a square cake if you have a square springform pan like I do!)

1 cup sliced almonds
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp light brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries

Heat the oven to 300F. Grease a 10inch round springform pan.
Combine the butter, almonds and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Work the mixture between your fingers to form large crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium high speed until the mixture is lightened and increased in volume, about 5 minutes.
With the mixer on low speed, add the butter in a slow stream. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for another 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.
Gently but thoroughly fold in the flour mixture, half a cup at a time. Then stir in the cranberries. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake the cake until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1hour 10minutes.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Release the sides of the pan and use a large spatula to slide the cake from the pan bottom onto the wire rack. Cool completely before cutting into wedges and serving.
Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Now THAT'S a Cookie!

Every December, I devote a full day to baking holiday goodies. This year I shuffled through my many recipe cards and decided to search for some new cookie recipes. I found a new sugar cookie recipe from Paula Deen. I made the dough but haven't yet baked the cookies. I also wanted to use the cookie press I bought from The Pampered Chef about six years ago and have never used, so I found a Martha Stewart recipe for butter cookies. Finally, I had tucked away a recipe for million-dollar caramel cookies that I had found in the December 2009 Parenting magazine. Let me tell you what a disgrace it is that this recipe has been in my recipe binder for nearly two years because it made what I'd have to say are probably the best cookies I've ever baked!

First, let me tell you about the butter cookies. The dough was easy to prepare in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and worked nicely with my cookie press. The only deviation from the original recipe is that I added about a teaspoon of almond extract to the dough when I added the vanilla extract. They came out great and tasted perfectly buttery. (I guess three sticks of butter in a recipe will do that, yes?)
Now onto the million-dollar caramel cookies. Imagine this: a chewy chocolate cookie rolled in crushed Heath Bar with a Rolo inside. YUM!!! The consistency of the cookies were brownie-like. Warm out of the oven, the caramel was soft and gooey. The Heath Bar added a nice crunch, an element of texture. These will definitely be in the holiday cookie repertoire for years to come.

Cookie Press Butter Cookies

Makes 2 dozen to 3 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
3 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Colored sanding sugar

1.Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, flour, salt, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
2.Fill a cookie press with the dough, and turn out cookies 1 to 2 inches apart onto an unbuttered baking sheet. Sprinkle cookies with colored sanding sugars.
3.Bake until the cookies are lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. To ensure even baking, rotate sheet halfway through the baking process. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool.

Million-Dollar Caramel Cookies

Makes 4 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar, plus 1 Tbsp.
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour, plus 1/4 cup (if needed to reach desired consistency of dough)
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
2 Heath candy bars
1 bag Rolo chewy caramels

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, beat butter and sugars until fluffy, then add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
2. In a separate bowl, mix 2 1/2 cups flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture a little bit at a time and blend well. If the dough feels too sticky, sprinkle in a little extra flour. Cover and chill dough in fridge for about 30 minutes.
3. Chop Heath bars into small pieces. Place in a small bowl and toss with 1 Tbs. sugar.
4. Once dough has chilled, wrap a piece around each caramel, forming a 1-inch ball and covering the candy completely. Dip top of the dough ball into the candy topping and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes. (Mine took 8 1/2 minutes.) Cookies will look quite soft, but do not overbake. Cool in pan slightly, then move to a rack or the counter to finish cooling. Store in a covered container.