cinnamon swirl crumb cake

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I think pretty much everyone who knows me also knows that I’ve been baking since I was old enough to sit on the kitchen counter without falling off and dump sugar into the mixing bowl.  That’s fun and all, but everyone knows that the best part of baking is eating the batter, and if you don’t subscribe to that belief we probably can’t be friends.

streusel fixings

pressed into the bowl

Now, cookie dough and cake batter are great and all, but some crazy actually probably kind of smart people shy away from those because of the raw eggs, and I may or may not get a little bitter because I know I should have such healthy and self-preservative qualms.  But you know those delicious piles of crumbs you’ll sometimes find on top of those cakes, the ones made of brown sugar and cinnamon and butter and little else?  Those don’t have eggs in them.  And I defy you to find a single warm-blooded human being who can resist those crumbs.*

*So much so that, for a friend’s birthday last year, I presented her with a giant Tupperware bucket of crumb cake topping.

cake time

ready for the oven

So if you make this cake – which you should – and complain that you ate too much of the crumb topping (a.k.a. streusel, if you’re curious), I will feel no pity at all.  You’ve been warned.

ignore my ghetto pan

seriously, just eat it.

Cinnamon Swirl Crumb Cake

Adapted from Deb

For the crumbs:

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 3/4 cups flour

For the cake:

1/3 cup sour cream

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup cake flour

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease an 8-inch square baking pan [Alli’s note: I used a 9-inch pan with no problems].

In a large bowl, whisk together sugars, cinnamon, and salt into melted butter until smooth.  Stir in flour with a spatula or wooden spoon.  Press together into bottom of bowl; set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture; mix on medium speed until flour is moistened.  Increase speed and beat 30 seconds.  Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Scrape about 2/3 of batter into prepared pan.  Using your fingers, break crumb topping into about 1/2-inch pieces (but please don’t stress too much about uniformity).  Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of crumb mixture over batter (I supplemented this with a little extra cinnamon).  Spoon remaining batter over and smooth out slightly.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes.  Cool completely; serve.

cinnamon rolls, redux

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I made cinnamon rolls this weekend, and while I’ve already posted a recipe, I couldn’t not offer up some food porn.  Recipe is here, if you’re so inclined, and stay tuned for cinnamon crumb cake!

white chocolate raspberry macadamia nut blondies

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Now I get why people are afraid of cooking.

Nine out of ten times I make something, it goes just fine.  Everything rises, whips, caramelizes as it’s supposed to; if it doesn’t look pretty, I drizzle chocolate or sprinkle powdered sugar on top; and everyone’s happy.  And if some freak accident does swoop down on my kitchen, it’s with something I don’t make too often – like this damned pudding, to which a cheap Target bowl was tragically sacrificed.  It doesn’t hurt too badly when it’s predictable.

However, when a pan of blondies – blondies – fails, that stings a little.  Today, a week after making these white chocolate raspberry macadamia nut blondies to send up to some friends in Davis (maybe they collapsed under the weight of the name), I still can’t figure out why, after baking for well over the time called for, the middle of one of the pans was still a gooey mess.  A delicious gooey mess, mind you, but tragically unshippable but for the edge pieces.

It occurs to me, of course, that you may not be terribly excited for the recipe I’ve posted below, but I suggest you try it anyway.  The salvageable pieces garnered raves from my coworkers; and if nothing else, just take a spoon to it.

White Chocolate Raspberry Macadamia Nut Blondies

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 370 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan.

In a bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Gradually add dry ingredients, stirring until barely combined.  Stir in chips and nuts.  Spread evenly in pan.

Dot batter with jam.  Bake three minutes and remove from oven.  Using a knife, swirl jam into batter to make a marble pattern.  Return to oven; bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  When cooled, cut into bars.

chocolate matzo toffee (or, the best thing you’ll ever eat)

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don't be afraid. there's a way to make this stuff good.

Passover is usually a terrible holiday for food.  Mom, you can sit down; you make a great kugel (when you remember to add the sugar).  But goyim, no matter how much you tell us you like matzo, you’ll never understand how shitty it is when you have to eat it for a week.

The Interwebs are full of attempts to camouflage matzo – as pizza, as sandwiches, even as bagels.  Honestly?  It still tastes like matzo.  Instead, I prefer the easy way out:  I smother it in butter, sugar, and chocolate,* and I guarantee you will too.

*and give it away as soon as possible

melt the butter with the sugar...

Following is a quick photo tutorial.  This is one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever posted, but sometimes the visuals help.  And if they don’t…enjoy gratuitous shots of probably not that great for you, but it’s Passover so who’s counting SUPREMELY HEALTHY food.

...until it looks like this

pour...

...and spread

spread some more

ta-da

Chocolate Matzo Toffee

Adapted from just about everywhere

4 to 6 sheets matzo (depending on the size of your pans)

1 cup butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (your choice; I use semisweet)

Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet completely with foil, then line with matzo, breaking pieces as needed to fit.

In a saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring until the mixture begins to boil.  Let boil, still stirring constantly, for three more minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla.  Quickly pour over matzo, using a spatula to spread it out evenly.  If I didn’t emphasize it enough, do this quickly!  It will start to set almost immediately.  Bake 13-15 minutes, making sure to watch carefully for burning or darkening.

Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes, then spread with a spatula to cover the matzo evenly.  If your chips aren’t melting well, you can stick the pans back in the warm oven for a minute or two.  Sprinkle with sea salt, if using.

Cool completely, break into pieces, and try not to eat it all yourself.

bacon almond brittle

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I am by no means the first to make something sweet that involves bacon; in fact, I’m probably among the last to the party.  Maybe it’s because I don’t really eat too much bacon (which probably makes me a bad person, I know) or maybe it’s just enough of a disingenuous combination that I’m afraid people won’t like it, but I found this recipe at a moment when, apparently, neither of those things mattered to me.  Which is why last night, I ended up with 4 1/2 pounds of bacon almond brittle.

almonds, pre-chopping

It’s not a complicated recipe, but it takes some watching, so I’m dedicating the bulk of this post to photos.  I’ve documented the process pretty thoroughly so you can see what each stage is supposed to look like.  Making candy sucks, but it’s not (necessarily) as hard as it seems – and since this particular candy involves bacon, I suggest you try it.

coarsely chop the almonds

fry up some bacon

(maybe include some extra for snacking)

melt the sugars with corn syrup and water

gradually stir in the butter

way too long after this, we reached 300*

almonds mixed in and spread out to cool

don't forget the bacon

packaged up and featuring label designed specially by my favorite twin

Bacon Almond Brittle (adapted from Cathy)

Below is 1 1/2 times the original recipe, because who doesn’t want a ton of bacon brittle?  I’ve reproduced it close to Cathy’s posting, but it’s worth noting that it took me over twice as long (probably around half an hour) to bring the mixture to 300*F.  Just saying.

3 cups dry-roasted almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

5 slices bacon (more if you’re really serious about this whole thing)

Scant 1 cup granulated sugar

Scant 1 cup brown sugar

9 tablespoons light corn syrup

9 tablespoons water

3 sticks butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoons salt

Cut bacon into bite-sized pieces.  In a skillet, cook over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine salt and baking soda, set aside.  In a large saucepan, combine sugars, corn syrup, and water.  Cook on medium-high heat about four minutes, or until sugar turns thick and syrupy.

Slowly add butter, stirring until emulsified.  Keep cooking, stirring constantly, until water has boiled off and mixture is golden brown, between 300 and 320*F or about 10-13 minutes.

Remove from heat.  If mixture is not smooth, whisk until it is.  Stir in baking soda, salt bacon bits, and almonds.  pour onto prepared sheet to cool.  Once cool, break into bite-sized pieces.

sticky blood orange pudding

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I have to say, the words “sticky” and “blood” together in one title don’t do much in the way of selling this post to the reader.  For that, I’ll blame the coworker whose birthday it was and who took advantage of my offer to bake him something by requesting this doozy.

I don't know if there's anything prettier than blood oranges

Don’t get me wrong – for the most part, the people for whom I bake don’t know enough to request the tough stuff.  And when it comes right down to it, this isn’t a very difficult recipe; it just has more steps than most.  The problem, I think, is with the actual writing of the recipe.  Between candying slices of blood orange and making caramel from the candying liquid, this requires a little bit of extra attention, and while I am of course not bitter at all,* it maybe would have helped if someone had mentioned a candy thermometer, or perhaps just a decently concrete indication of caramel doneness.

*not even about the bowl filled with brickish and irascible caramel and the spoon planted in it, both of which I will likely have to throw out.

ugly, I know, but just in case you wanted to see the caramel

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try this recipe, though.  It’s tasty, if the cake batter is any indication, and the birthday boy seems to enjoy it very much.  Just do me a favor and seek out a slightly more informative guide to caramel.*

*Which I should have done, but was – tragically, as it turned out – too devoted to multitasking; next time, the laundry will wait.

ta -da

 

Sticky Blood Orange Pudding

Adapted from here.  For key information on simple syrup and caramel, I suggest perusing the embedded links.

Candied Oranges

2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups water

3 medium blood oranges

Combine the sugar and water on the stove to create a simple syrup.  Slice the blood orange thinly, then place in the pot of syrup.

Reduce on medium low heat for about 30 mins, or until the blood orange peel is soft and sweet to taste.  Let cool, then remove the candied orange from the syrup (reserving the liquid) and puree it until it reaches a jam-like consistency.  Set aside.

Vanilla and Blood Orange Caramel

Reserved syrup from candying process

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch salt

Place all the ingredients into a small heavy sauce pan and reduce over medium heat until the consistency of honey.

 

Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, room temperature

2 large eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

8 ounces candied blood orange puree

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9-inch round cake pan.  In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the eggs one at time, then add the vanilla.  Gently stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  Fold in the candied blood orange puree.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumb.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Once  cooled, release from pan and pour about 2 tbsp of the blood orange caramel into the bottom of the pan.  Place cake back into the pan and let sit for a few minutes.  When ready, remove from pan and drizzle with with more caramel and fresh blood orange.

 

lemon bars redux

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I don’t know what it is with me, but I never seem to bake with fruit unless it’s specifically requested by someone else.  Case in point:  I’ve made these lemon bars three times, all for birthdays, and honestly, you’d think I’d wise up and do this sort of thing more often.  I mean, if nothing else, I’ve found that the addition of fruit often makes people more inclined to eat whatever sugar-laden concoction I’ve brought in, even the health nuts I work with.  Since I’ve posted this recipe before, I’ll be brief and let you enjoy the food porn…and your weekend.

cream together butter and sugar for the dough (the recipe calls for white; I used brown)

pat the dough into the pan

bake until golden (and ignore my spatula marks)

pour in some lemon, sugar, butter, eggs

careful not to spill!

they don't look like much from up top...

...but powdered sugar cures all ills.