Thursday, August 25, 2011

Banana-Coconut Oat Bread

Whenever I look back at my first few months blogging my jaw drops at the poor quality of my pictures and horribly written recipes. It's amazing to me that people actually read the stuff or even started following me for that matter.

I never would have thought that I'd get as far as I have or establish a relationship with my readers that keeps them coming back for more.

And it always puts a huge smile on my face when I hear from old friends or even old acquaintances that they read my blog.. "you know, I have to admit, I totally read your blog," like it's a little secret they're scared to admit, but they're sharing it with me. I absolutely love it and that's why I keep doing what I do.

I also never would have imagined that companies would contact me to do reviews for them.. one of the coolest perks of blogging. It's not like people are knocking down my door to give me their product, but I get something every once and a while and it puts that same smile on my face. Now don't get me wrong, I'd love to get to the point where people are asking me to give away mixers or review things every week, but at this point I'm perfectly content with that unexpected email waiting in my inbox followed by that product filled package waiting on my doorstep.

This bread is a product of one of those products. The wonderful folks at Kelapo contacted me a few weeks back and asked if I'd be interested in trying out some coconut oil. I have to admit, I'm not a huge coconut fan, but Mountain Man sure is so I thought what the heck.. why not!

Truth be told, I actually really enjoyed this bread. I substituted the coconut oil in place of the normal stick of butter I add to my bread and it really did something to the flavor, not to mention added a few health benefits.

For more coconut oil recipes and to learn a little more about the benefits of using coconut oil check out their website: We're Coconuts.

Banana-Coconut Oat Bread
Oven: 350 Bake time: 45 minutes
1 large loaf or 3 mini loaves

1 cup AP flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Kelapo coconut oil, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
3 bananas, smashed
1/2 cup buttermilk

In a large bowl, whisk flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a smaller bowl, mix brown sugar and coconut oil until well combined.
Add egg and smashed bananas, mixing until smooth-ish (it's always nice to have a few chunks).
Add wet to dry ingredients and mix.
Stir in buttermilk and mix until combined.
Pour into prepared baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool on cooling rack before serving.

Our house is all packed up... nothing left but me, my kitchen aid and a crate full of cake tools. That's right, even in my last week I'll be making a wedding cake for a friend. Once Mountain Man leaves I'll be heading over to some friends to stay out my last week of work and then its road trip time. A little 24-hour QT with the first man in my life, my dad.

These next few weeks may be a little rough for the blog, I'll try to get to things when I can, but I can't make any promises! I'll be back soon though so stick with me!!

Happy Baking!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Big News and Plum Pizza

As if we don't have enough going on this summer, in just a few days we'll be packing up and heading east.

That's right everybody, we're moving!

After 2 years in The Great State, we'll be starting our lives as a newly weds in The State for Lovers: Virginia.

Ever since Shannon's wedding we've been going at lightning speed: The week after we got back from our visit east Mountain Man got offered a position in Washington, D.C., and before we knew it we were searching for houses on craigslist and calling moving companies for quotes.

We've literally had 2 weeks to figure everything out before MM makes the drive, moving truck and all. That means we'll be spending the rest of the week packing up our house by the lake and transitioning to a house in the city.

I know I keep making excuses for my flakiness this summer and this new endeavor isn't helping the situation by any means!

Between our wedding, friend's weddings and now the big move, I've had a lot on my mind this summer.

In attempts to win you over, I hope you'll accept this Plum Pizza as a token of my appreciation and love for you all out there despite my inconsistent posts these past few months. I promise as soon as we get settled the posting will get back to normal.

This pizza crust is our go-to classic recipe with an extra addition of cinnamon for the dessert pizza. The recipe yields enough dough to make 2 large regular pizzas and 1 small pizza dessert pizza.

Pizza Crust
Makes 2 large pizzas and one small
Rise time: 1 hour
Oven: 425 Bake time: 30 minutes

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 package)
2 TBS  honey
1 1/2 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
1 tsp salt
3-4 cups of AP flour, whole wheat, or combination of both

In a large bowl mix warm water, honey and yeast. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes, waiting for yeast to become active and mixture to bubble.
Stir in salt and 3 cups of flour.
Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and continue to knead in flour, 1/4 cup at a time until dough is no longer sticky and elastic.
Clean bowl and lightly coat with oil. Place dough ball in bowl, cover with saran wrap and let sit for about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
Turn dough out on lightly floured surface and punch down.
Cut dough into three pieces- 2 large balls and 1 small.
Let rest for a couple of minutes and your dough is ready to be rolled out and topped.

Plum Pizza
2-3 fresh plums
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS white sugar
2 TBS brown sugar
1/4 cup apricot jam

Sprinkle 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 TBS white sugar over dough and knead in until just combined.
Roll out or stretch small piece of dough to form pizza crust on pizza stone or pan.

Place apricot jam in a small bowl and warm in microwave for 15 seconds.

Pour jam over crust and spread evenly (like you would pizza sauce).

Thinly slice fresh plums and place evenly around crust.

Sprinkle plums with remaining sugar and cinnamon.

Pop in oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

White Chocolate & Blackberry Cupcakes

I can't believe this summer is almost over.

The television is full of ads about back to school shopping: book bags and pencils galore. It brings me back to the days of picking out that perfect outfit for the first day of school, getting the newest Trapper Keeper and being up to date with the latest Lisa Frank folders.

It was such a bittersweet time- the excitement of new outfits, new classes and new friends, but the sadness that there would be no more long days at the pool and sleeping in.

Those were the days...

These cupcakes are bittersweet too, but in a different kind of way..

The light and oh-so-sweet white chocolate cake is topped with a tart blackberry buttercream; the perfect "bittersweet" flavors of the summer time.

I liked this cake so much that I've even decided to use it as one of my flavors at my wedding! 

White Chocolate Cake 
recipe from Epicurious
Makes almost 30 cupcakes 
or 3 8-9 inch cakes

8 oz white chocolate, chopped
2 1/4 cup AP flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
10 TBS butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a double boiler, stir white chocolate over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. 
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Beat in vanilla.
Add dry ingredients alternating with milk in 3 additions, beginning and ending with dry. 
Add warm white chocolate and beat until just blended.
Use an ice cream scooper and fill cupcake liners 2/3 way full.
Transfer to oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Blackberry Buttercream
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup shortening (preferably high-ratio)
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 fresh blackberries, pureed
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening until well blended.
Add half of powdered sugar and beat until fluffy.
Add pureed blackberries, vanilla and remaining powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy.
*Don't be afraid to add more powdered sugar if its too thin or a little water or milk if too thick*

Pipe a nice big dollop of frosting on each cupcake and top with a fresh plump blackberry.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mango-Lime Sandwich Cookies

I thought I discovered my favorite sugar cookie dough a few years ago, but my thoughts have changed.

Have you ever seen the decorated sugar cookies that Bridget does? I should have assumed that the recipe for the actual cookie would be just as good as the decorations she adorns them with.

Seriously, her cookies are a work of art.. I would have to start practicing now to be as good as she is in about 20 least.

And her sugar cookie recipe is to. die. for. 

They're the perfect consistency and perfect for cut outs.

Definitely my new go-to sugar cookie recipe; they're even good when you jazz them up a bit...

Lime Sugar Cookies with Mango Curd
recipe adapted from Bridget @Bake at 350
Oven: 350 Bake time: 10-12 minutes

3 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 sticks butter
1 egg
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lime juice
zest of one lime

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Lightly whisk flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl cream sugar and butter. 
Add egg and extracts and mix until combined.
Gradually add flour mixture and mix until blended- dough will be slightly crumbly.
Before rolling out, knead with with hands until dough forms a solid ball.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes.
Place on prepared baking sheets and transfer to freezer for about 5 minutes or fridge for about 10-15.
Immediately place cold cookies into oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.
Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool completely before icing or filling.

Once cookies are cooled its time to make the summery little sandwiches.
I used my Fresh Mango Curd, but you could use any jam or jelly.
Flip cookie over and fill with tablespoon of filling.

Place second cookie on top and push down lightly. Repeat with remaining cookies.

What kind of filling would you put in these zesty little cookies??

Happy Baking!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Traveling Wedding Cake- Take 2

I apologize for being a little flaky last week, but one of my best friends got married this past weekend.

That's a good excuse, right? Did I mention I also made the cake??

And not just any cake.. a traveling wedding cake.

Of course, as with all the weddings we've gone to thus far, we were required to travel quite a bit.

Not only did I travel with the pre-baked, un-frosted, cakes from Texas, decorate it in my mother's kitchen using the various tools and tubs of buttercream I managed to smuggle onto the plane, we then had to drive another 2 hours with the finished cake in tow.

 But it doesn't matter, because all that being said, I'll do anything for my wonderful girlfriends!

When Shannon asked me to make a little cake for her and her hubby's ceremonial cut, I was honored- it didn't matter how many airplanes and automobiles it had to travel on.

All of my friends have been so great about giving me artistic freedom with their cakes and Shannon was no exception. She gave me just a few things she wanted and sent me on my marry way: chocolate cake, yellow decorations, and a flower.

This was my first attempt at a large gumpaste flower, but I really wanted to recreate the flower that was on her dress..

You're not going to believe this, but with all the hustle and bustle surrounding the wedding and trying to set up the cake before meeting friends for lunch, I forgot to take a photo of the cake after I set it up originally. The best shot I got was during the reception when the lights were dimmed and things were all over the table (they had the small cake sitting on their table with them).


I'm really hoping the photographer got a good one before everyone got into the reception and the lights were dimmed. No matter the quality of the picture, Shannon loved it and the hubby couldn't believe the flower was edible.

Another successful wedding cake for the books! And many more to come!

Happy Baking!

*And if you would- I have a new facebook page for all my cake creations- I'd love for you to "like" me :) I'll be posting pictures of cakes and possibly some tutorials along the way!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Garlic & Herb Knots

It's not very often that I feature something savory on here..

But what better to break that streak with some garlicky herb knots perfect for a summer pasta?

I have to be honest, Mountain Man does a majority of the cooking in our household mostly because he is a phenomenal cook.

Watching him in the kitchen is like watching an athlete in the zone.. he just gets in there and goes at it. You never know what he's going to come up with and sometimes he doesn't either. That's why he does the cooking and I do the baking.

He doesn't do measuring's all by feel he says- everything is a new creation, a new set of flavors, going where the ingredients take him.

Baking is a whole different story: you need consistency, exact measurements, the perfect weights, precise cooking times.. it's all a science and I love that. I can make a cake over and over again and know its going to be wonderful every time; not to mention I can share my recipes with people and know they'll work.

When it is my turn to cook dinner I tend to stick with the same kind of dishes- pastas are my forte.

So after deciding to whip up some spaghetti with a fresh garden tomato sauce I thought what better to go with it than some garlic bread..

But not just any garlic bread, garlic & herb knots.

Garlic & Herb Knots
Bake time: 15-20 minute Oven: 400
Makes 16 rolls

1 cup milk
3 TBS butter
2 3/4- 3 1/2 cup AP flour (or whole wheat - I did half and half)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 package active dry yeast
1 egg
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS fresh basil, chopped (or dried)
1/2 TBS fresh oregano, chopped (or dried)

In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter until very warm (about 120 degrees).
Pour warm milk into a large bowl and add 2 TBS of sugar and yeast. Allow yeast to activate (about 5 min) or until milk starts to get foamy.
Add 1 cup flour, 2 TBS sugar, salt, garlic salt and egg and mix at low speed until moistened.
Beat 2 minutes at medium speed.
Stir in remaining flour, using just enough to form a soft dough.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and continue to knead dough until smooth and elastic.
Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with saran wrap and let rise in a warm place (I turn my oven on, once it gets to 100 degrees I turn it off and then place my dough in the warm oven).
Let dough rise for about 45-60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
Punch dough down and on a well floured surface, toss dough until it is no longer sticky.

Now its time to make the knots.
Preheat oven to 400 and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix oil, garlic, basil and oregano and set aside.
Divid dough into 16 equal parts.
Shape each piece into a long strip by rolling in between hands.

Tie in loose knots, being careful not to stretch the dough too much and place on cookie sheet.

Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each knot with garlic and herb mixture.

Cover lightly with saran wrap and return to warm place, allowing to rise again for about 30 minutes.
Place in oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until knots are golden brown.
Serve with your favorite pasta dish.

Happy Baking!!