Friday, November 25, 2011

Caramel Apple Crunch Pie

Happy (day after) Thanksgiving!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday filled with friends, family, and food.  

I am thankful for so many husband, my family, my friends, my house, my dogs, my pink mixer, my health, and definitely this apple pie.  

It's been a few years since I've made this pie and to be honest, I couldn't remember what it tasted like, I just remembered it was really good.  My roommate from college gave me this recipe from her aunt and I'm thoroughly convinced this pie could change lives.  Or at least your opinion of apple pies.

I took this to Thanksgiving lunch at my in-laws and everyone loved it!  It's "lick your plate" delicious.  Cinnamon-y apples in a flaky crust, with a crunchy streusel topping, toasted pecans and caramel drizzle...yes, please.

I couldn't decide what type of apples to use in this pie and googling opinions only made things worse.  So I did it my way....2 granny smith apples, 2 gala apples, and 2 Macintosh apples.  All which came out to about six cups of apples.  

Word from the wise.  Take the time to toast your pecans. The flavor is worth it. (This coming from the girl who hates waiting on butter to soften)

And now I'm ready for Christmas.

Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie 
from Allison's Aunt Puckett

1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
6 cups peeled and thinly sliced cooking apples
1 unbaked pie shell

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
caramel sauce for drizzle

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.  Add apple slices and toss gently to coat.  Transfer apple mixture to pie shell.
2.  Topping:  Stir together brown sugar, flour, and rolled oats.  Using a pastry blender, cut in softened butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle the mixture over the apples.  
3.  Cover the edge of pie crust with foil.  Bake 25 minutes then remove foil and bake 25-30 more minutes or until top is golden.  Remove from oven.  Sprinkle pie with toasted pecans and drizzle caramel syrup over top.  Cool on wire rack before serving.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Hello, everyone.  Meet the whoopie pie.

What exactly is a whoopie pie you ask?  Well, according to the trusty and reliable Wikipedia, "a whoopie pie is an American baked good that may be considered either a cookie, pie, or cake.  It is made of two round-shaped pieces of chocolate cake, or sometimes pumpkin or gingerbread cake, with a sweet, creamy filling or frosting sandwiched between them." 

I think that description pretty much sums these little guys up.  Or as I like to call them, an inside-out cupcake.  There you have it.

These whoopie pies are pumpkin with a cinnamon-vanilla buttercream.  I only wish I had made my staple cinnamon-cream cheese frosting for the center and they would have been divine.  However, I was trying to step outside my box and use a regular buttercream.

They were still quite delicious. I just love cream cheese.

I followed the recipe exactly from Brown Eyed Baker. I just went the cinnamon frosting route rather than maple.  To each his own.   I didn't use a whoopie pie pan and you probably don't need to either.  My first batch, I put the batter into a piping bag and piped rounds on a baking sheet.  The second batch, I used a cookie scoop.  They both worked well.

With 3 full cups of pumpkin in these little treats, you're sure to get your pumpkin-fall fix.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cinnamon-Vanilla Buttercream (printable recipe)
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

3 cups flour
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups canned pumpkin puree, chilled
2 eggs 
1 tsp vanilla

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.  Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and whisk together.
3.  Combine sugars and oil in mixer.  Add pumpkin puree until thoroughly combined.  Add eggs and vanilla.
4.  Gradually add in flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
5. Using piping bag, cookie scoop, or large spoon, drop by heaping, rounded tablespoons onto baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
6.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to fully cool on wire rack.
7.  Once cooled, pipe frosting onto one side of one cookie and place another cookie on top and sandwich together. Store in airtight container.

Cinnamon-Vanilla Buttercream

2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp milk or cream
4-5 cups powder sugar

1.  Beat together butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and milk/cream until combined. Gradually add powdered sugar until combined.  Once combined. Beat on medium speed 3-4 minutes.  If too thick, add 1 tbsp of extra milk at a time until desired consistency. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reeses Blondies

I had a purpose for this post and that purpose was "what to do with your leftover Halloween candy."

But here's the truth:

1.  I didn't have any leftover Halloween candy. The kids took it all.
2.  I bought a huge bag of Reeses cups and pieces two days after Halloween at Target for 75% off, just so I could do this post.
3.  Who actually has Reeses leftover?  I'm pretty sure they always get eaten first.  

Nevertheless, if you have candy leftover or need to go buy candy, make these because they're delicious.

I basically used the Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough recipe and added in chopped Reeses cups and Reeses Pieces.

Quick and easy...and addicting.  

Please enjoy :)

Reeses Blondies (printable recipe)
adapted from Nestle Tollhouse

3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup Reeses Pieces
1 1/2 cup Reeses cups, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
2.  Cream butter and sugars together until smooth.  Add eggs and vanilla. 
3.  Add in flour mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.  Stir in Reeses.
4.  Press into non-stick (or pre-"Pam"ed) 8x8 pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall & Fiesta Birthday Cakes

October is a big month for birthdays in this household.  It's probably my second favorite month of the year because of all the birthdays.  For when there's birthdays, there's an opportunity to bake!

First up in October is my older sister's birthday.  Crazy thing, she turned 29 again this year.  29 and holding, as she would put it.  I feel so guilty, I didn't make her a special cake.  She came to visit the week before her birthday when I had all the wedding cupcakes, so I just made sure she had lots of those.  Sorry, sister.  Next year.

But I did write about my brother's 16th birthday cheesecake.   He's next in line.  

And now for the grand good friend, Laura, my twin niece and nephew, and my mother, all share an October 30th birthday.  Needless to say, I had a very busy baking weekend.  

For Laura's special day,  I went with the theme of her cocktail party...Fall.  I had seen a picture online with this idea and tried to do something similar.   

I used my pumpkin cake recipe with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and fondant for the decorations.

Since we don't have changing tree colors with seasons in Texas, I turn to fondant.  

And now for the twins' cake.  The theme of their party was Fiesta! 

I made pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting and fondant (obviously) for decorations.

As far as the decor on the cake goes, I just started playing with fondant and cutouts and came up with these.  I started with white fondant and picked bold colors to work with.

The banner idea came from here.  I now want every cake I make to have a banner.  Just sayin. 

At the party with the pinanata!  If you asked the twins what the birthday donkey says, they would say "Heeee-haaaaww!"

I also made a dozen pumpkin cupcakes in yellow and pink so the kids could have a personal cake.  

Again, my mom was lumped in with the masses.  But for the record, I asked her if she wanted her own cake and she said she'd just have a slice of the twins.  I tried.  At least sister and mom get their picture on the blog.  Happy Birthday :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tall & Creamy Cheesecake

Happy November! We are one month closer to my favorite month of the year...December! I. can't. wait.  Meanwhile, I have a few recipes to share with you that I've made over the past few weeks.

Last week was my younger brother's 16th birthday!

Him then (10th birthday):

Him now:

Handsome, no?

Anyways, he's a wonderful little younger brother.  I really can't say little brother anymore, because he's 5 inches taller than me now.  This year, he threw me for a loop and asked me to make a cheesecake for his birthday.  I've never made a real cheesecake...just the no-bake kind that I love and adore...but, like the good sister I am, I agreed, and then got to work researching recipes.  I started to realize that:
1) cheesecakes can be pretty easy 
2) cheesecakes can also be very difficult
3) cheesecakes have an insane amount of cream cheese in them
4) the ultimate challenge is for your cheesecake not to crack
5) I had no idea what a water bath was

Rather than use a recipe off of a blog, I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks Baking: From my home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  She has a recipe called "Tall and Creamy Cheesecake: A Basic that looked promising. Plus, she had tons of tips and instructions for making this.  Let's just say I'm a big fan of her book.  

One water bath and 6 hours later, I give you this.

I was more than ecstatic that my cheesecake did not crack, was not overly brown, and did not stick to the pan!!! Small joys in this baker's life.  

Unfortunately, we didn't cut the cheesecake until after dark which makes for less than optimal photos.

The birthday boy makes weird faces when blowing out candles.

And I don't have a light box (yet) so I apologize for the pictures.  But it was delicious.  And creamy.  And delicious.  Did I say that already? And now I want to make another one in all sorts of flavors.  We drizzled our slices with melted chocolate chips, caramel sauce, and pecans.

I followed the directions to a T.  The only things I changed were that I cooked my cheesecake at 300 degrees because my spring form pan's directions (from Crate and Barrel) said to because of the coating and then I used half sour cream and half cream. 

The recipe really isn't difficult, just time consuming. So be prepared to spend the afternoon loving on your cheesecake as it bakes.  

Stay tuned for more of what I've been baking lately!

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake: A Basic
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
(printable recipe)

For the crust:

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

2 pounds (4-8oz boxes) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or combo of two

To make the crust:  
Foil wrap up the outer sides and butter a 9-inch springform pan-one that has sides 2 3/4 inches high.  Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl.  Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist.  Turn the ingredients into the springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs over the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. 

Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the springform on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  

To make the cheesecake:
Put a kettle of water on to boil or pot of water.

Working with a stand mixer, preferable fitted with a paddled attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 4 minutes.  With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light.  Beat in the vanilla.  Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition-you want a well-aerated batter.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.  

Put the foil-wrapped spring form pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it.  

Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that there is nothing left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the pan.  The batter will reach the rim of the pan.  Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into it to come halfway up the sides of the pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top should be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just  a little above the rim of the pan.  Turn the oven off and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon.  Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.

After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup our of the oven, life the springform pan our of the roaster-be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil-and remove the foil.  Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours; overnight is better.

At serving time, remove the sides of the springform pan and set the cake on a serving platter.