Monday, November 6, 2017

Oatmeal-Cranberry Cookies

Oh my, November is here already.  The fall color is spectacular here and the weather is actually pretty nice up until a few days ago.  I think it is time to crave for comfort foods again.  I've been doing some cooking with my Instant Pot and the dishes I made were stew and casserole.  My family also has been craving hot apple cider and hot cocoa; I love having them while snuggling up with my comfy blanket.

One of the requests my family has been asking me to make is cookies.  I guess they are starting to miss my baking.  The last time I baked was when my son had a birthday about three weeks ago.  I cheated because I used boxed cake mix, but I made my own marshmallow frosting.  It was a delicious cake nonetheless and I think I like to make it again using a homemade cake.

So here it is, oatmeal-cranberry cookies that I made over the weekend.  The recipe is quite simple; originally it was a oatmeal-raisin cookies but we love cranberries more than raisins.  I like how the recipe uses nutmeg instead of cinnamon.  I think there's cinnamon overuse in baking that I'm glad I don't have to use it all the time.  These cookies are chewy with a little crunch on the edge.  My family is loving the treat in their lunch boxes this week!

Oatmeal-Cranberry Cookies

Makes about 40 medium-sized cookies

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups old-fashioned oates
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds.

Decrease the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients until combined, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the oats and dried cranberries until just incorporated.

Divide the dough into about 40 portions, each a generous 1 tablespoon, and roll them between your hands into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart.

Bake, switching and rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time, until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges, 22 to 25 minutes.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Source:  adapted from The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Peach-Apricot Cobbler with Crystallized Ginger

My apology for not keeping up with the blog.  I feel like it's getting a bit challenging to write a post here.  Some weeks I don't even make desserts.  The desire is there but my energy is being channeled somewhere else.  This September is particularly challenging, with a new year of school starting, there's a lot of distractions and happenings at work that when I get home and especially on weekend, I don't feel like making anything.  Hopefully next month things will start to get easier and I can go back to baking on weekends.

This cobbler is one of desserts I made a while ago.  I was fortunate to get some more fresh peaches from Peach Cove Farm in Canby that I went ahead making some canned peach sauce and the leftovers were made into this cobbler.  The fresh apricot is there because I just happened to have it and wouldn't want them to go to waste.

I ate the cobbler unadorned as breakfast, but feel free to add ice cream and make it a dessert if you like.  I love crystallized ginger, that bold flavor and the zing they impart on things, a little goes but this has quite a bit.  I guess you'll have to really like it to be able to enjoy this cobbler.

Peach Cobbler with Crystallized Ginger

Serves 8

10 yellow peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 fresh apricots, pitted and sliced
1 lemon
1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, plus cream for brushing
1/4 cup demerara sugar
Vanilla ice cream for serving--optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degree F.

Put the peach and apricot slices in a bowl.  Finely grate 2 teaspoons zest from the lemon, then squeeze 2 tablespoons juice.  Add both to the peaches and apricots.  Add the grated ginger, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt and toss gently.

In a food processor, combine the flour, the baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add the crystallized ginger and pulse briefly to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Transfer to a large bowl, add the 1 1/4 cups cream, and mix until the dough comes together.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times to bring it together into a ball.  Shape the dough into a round about 1/2 inch thick, then cut the dough into 8 even wedges.

Transfer the peach-apricot mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and arrange the dough wedges on top in 2 rows of 4 wedges, alternating the points.  Brush the wedges with cream and sprinkle with the demerara sugar.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Loosely cover the dish with foil and continue baking until the topping is deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 10-20 minutes.  Let cool, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes.  Serve the cobbler with ice cream, if preferred.

Source:  adapted from Dessert of the Day by Kim Laidlaw

Friday, August 18, 2017

Roasted Cherry-Mint No-Churn Ice Cream

Well, if the weather is still warm enough to eat ice cream, I would suggest making this cherry-mint no-churn ice cream.  I fell behind posting what I made this month because I've been very busy lately, with camping last week and then some volunteer work my son and I were doing this week.  But, I have to admit, most nights I look forward to spend time with my family during the summer.  We love to watch movie and summertime is the time we catch up with movies.  And sometimes we're doing things outside.  So even as I'm still baking and creating desserts I don't have time to write the post!

The idea of making this combination comes from me starring in the opened kitchen pantry and saw a box of Girl Scout Cookie's Thin Mint.  I love those cookies!  Love it more than Oreos, really.  But buying a box of that isn't very friendly to my wallet, so it's best to ration the consumption.  Anyway, I had cherries also sitting in the fridge.  I thought by combining these two, I would get an exciting flavors.

The cherries got roasted for some time in a 400F oven.  I was thinking roasting them would bring more sweetness and give them caramelization.  Caramelization equals sweeter, right?

Okay, so here's the recipe because I need to watch a movie! :D

Roasted Cherry-Mint No-Churn Ice Cream

Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon kirsch (cherry brandy)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup roasted cherries, see instruction below
1 cup coarsely chopped Thin Mint cookies--depending on how you like the cookies, you can add more if you want!

In a large bowl whisk together kirsch and vanilla extract with sweetened condensed milk and salt.

With a mixer, whip heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form.  Fold the cream into the condensed milk mixture.  Fold the roasted cherries.

Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap or wax paper.  Spoon half of the ice cream mixture.  Add half of the cookies, mix gently with spoon.  Spoon the rest of the ice cream mixture and then add the last half of cookies.  Press plastic wrap onto the surface of ice cream and wrap tightly.  Freeze until firm, or for at least 12 hours before serving.

Let ice cream stands for 10 minutes or so before scooping.

How to roast cherries:  Heat oven to 400F.  Place cherries on a baking sheet and roast until soft, about 10 minutes.  Cool before using.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Peach Cheesecake with Blueberry Topping

Since the weather is awfully sweltering here in Oregon, I thought what better way than to share a cool dessert such as this peach cheesecake?  Every summer, we've always had fresh picked peaches from a friend's farm in Canby.  There's a joy of wanting for special fruits or produce when they're in season.  I love how in the summer, there's fruits to eat based on what's ripening that week.  I've had local watermelon now that they're available and boy, they're much sweeter than other variety!

I've made several things with peaches but never in a cheesecake.  This one is quite simple, basically the peaches are diced then marinated in whiskey.  In this case, I did it with Grand Marnier because that's what I have.  Then I make the crumbs and cheesecake batter.  Finally it's baked in a 350F oven.  Whether you want to bake it with water-bath method or straight bake method is up to you.  I've tried both and there's things I like with both method.  The only drawback with the straight bake one is that the cheesecake is prone to cracking.  But if you like to top it with something, sometimes it doesn't really matter.

The blueberry topping and caramel sauce is my spur of the moment additions.  I had plenty of blueberries in the fridge that I would like to use up.  They go together nicely!

Peach Cheesecake with Blueberry Topping

Serves 10 to 12

1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup diced peeled peaches (about 2 medium)
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or whiskey
3 packages (each 8 oz/250g) cream cheese, softened
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blueberry topping:
2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over
1/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Caramel sauce, homemade or store-bought

To make the crust:  In a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter.  Press into bottom of cheesecake pan and freeze.

To make the filling:  In a small bowl, combine peaches and Grand Marnier.  Set aside

In a mixer bowl, fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, yogurt and brown sugar on medium-high speed until very smooth, for 3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Fold in soaked peaches, with juices, and vanilla by hand.

Pour over frozen crust, smoothing out to sides of pan.  Bake in a preheated oven until top is light brown and center has a slight jiggle to it, 45 to 55 minutes.  Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.

To make blueberry topping:  In a saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar and orange zest.  In a small bowl, mix together orange juice and cornstarch; pour this mixture into the saucepan.  Cook in medium heat until blueberries pop, bubbly and start to thicken, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

When ready to serve, drizzle some caramel sauce on a plate, place a slice of cheesecake and drizzle some blueberry topping on top.

Source:  adapted from The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Triple-Berry Pie with Pecan Crumb Topping

When I went picking a couple of weeks ago, I saw that tayberries were still available and Marionberries were beginning to ripen.  I decided to pick just a few cups thinking that I'd make berry pies.  I had in mind a pie with crumb toppings after making a double-crust pie already.

So here's what I made with those berries, a triple-berry pie with blueberries, tayberries and Marionberries.  I fell in love with tayberries this summer.  The flavor is more delicate that the other blackberry variety; it's said to have a floral and aromatic flavor.  It's a little bit too late to make jam from tayberry this year but I vow to try it next year.  I'm already thinking of infusing the jam with tea.

My family loves this triple-berry pie because apparently the combo works!  The crumb topping has crunchy pecan and toothsome oats.  Often I have too much crumb topping but I usually put them in a bag and freeze them until I need them again.  Good thing I have a few 4-inch tart pans lined with leftover pie crusts that I stored in the freezer.  The blueberries got made into these little pans with lemon zest, the juice, a few teaspoons of cornstarch, some sprinkling of cinnamon and some sugar.  The tart baked quicker than the whole pie and it's equally as good!

The bottom picture is what my individual blueberry tart looks like.  They're gone in a couple of days!

My advice is to stock up with whipped cream or ice cream to eat these various pies/tarts in the summer!  No wonder I can't store anything else more important in my fridge! :D

Triple-Berry Pie with Pecan Crumb Topping

Serves 8 to 10

1 dough (makes single piecrust) from All-Butter Piecrust, refrigerated

For Filling:
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
1 1/4 cups fresh Marionberries
1 1/2 cups fresh tayberries
1/2 cup sugar--taste your berries, if they're particularly sour, add more sugar.  I personally like less sweet of filling
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

For Pecan Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 400 degree F.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle.  Drape the dough onto the rolling pin and invert it into a 9-inch pie pan.  Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching in.  Trim the edges and fold under.  Crimp edges decoratively.  Place in the freezer while you're readying the filling and crumb topping.

Combine the berries in a large bowl.  Fold in sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt.  Mix cornstarch, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl.  Pour into the filling and stir.  Set aside.

Blend flour, grown sugar and salt in a food processor.  Add butter; using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles fine moist clumps.  Add pecans and oats.  Using on/off turns, do a few turn just until nuts and oats are combined.

Take the pie crust and fill it with berry mixture, smooth the mixture with a spoon.  Sprinkle pecan topping evenly over the fruits.  Mound it in the center a bit but do not overfill.  I like just enough crumbs to about 1/4-inch thick around the edges, perhaps.  Freeze the remaining crumbs for the next pie project.

Bake pie at bottom rack for 25-30 minutes.  If necessary, place an old baking pan on the oven floor to catch the juice overflowing from the pie.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degree F.  Continue baking until topping is brown and juices bubble thickly, about 30-40 minutes.  If necessary, tent the topping with foil if it browns too fast.  Cool pie on rack 1 hour.  Serve warm or at room temperature.