Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Brown Sugar Pound Cake/Piloncillo Bread

Don't you love when a bad situation has a happy ending? Let me tell you about my baking blunder.

A few posts back, I spoke of my friend, Daniela, who hails from Mexico. She has introduced me to some knock-your-socks-off Mexican recipes, like Calabaza en Tacha and Tres Leches Cake. Problem is, when she makes treats as such, it's usually from ingredients her parents brought from home and I can't get locally. Boo.

Daniela brought her kiddies over the other day for a playdate and thoughtfully brought along 2 bags of piloncillo granulado. Piloncillo is basically Mexico's version of brown sugar, but it's very hard in texture with a much stronger molasses flavor than the brown sugar used in the US or Canada. It's also most often sold in cone or block form. This stuff is so versatile and so good!

My intention was to make the pound cake and crush the piloncillo pellets into the batter so as it bakes, it will leave each bite with a lovely punch of flavor.

When I realized it was too tedious to cut all these pellets into pieces (and waaaay too hard to crush with my bare hands), I pulled out the food processor, thinking I was smart and saving some time. Uh….no. Those little buggers actually broke the blade off! *Sigh*.

Not to be defeated, I decided to melt the pellets down to a syrup like they do when making Tacha and just add it to the batter for an all over unique flavor.


It was amazing! I made a sauce with the last bit of syrup that was left in the pan. It was OVER THE TOP delicious! It's a bit like Sticky Toffee Pudding, but without the use of dates.

I love happy accidents.

My food processor does not.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Martha Stewart

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cups brown sugar, packed
5 large eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup of piloncillo syrup (You can substitute 1 cup dark brown sugar and 3 teaspoons molasses to get a comparable flavor of the piloncillo)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour two 8x4 loaf pans. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time until well combined. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate flour mixture and buttermilk to egg mixture and blend well. Fold in piloncillo syrup.

Pour into prepared pans.

Bake for about an hour. Cool 10 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

Serve with fresh fruit and whipped cream or for a richer treat, drizzle with piloncillo toffee sauce.

To make piloncillo toffee sauce, boil the remainder of piloncillo to a paste.

Mix 1 cup paste, 1 cup heavy cream and 3 tablespoons butter. Whisk until fully incorporated and thick.

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Boston Cream Cupcakes


1½ cups all purpose flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup whole milk or buttermilk

2 cups heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1 large egg
⅓ cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold & cut into 2 pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ganache Frosting:
½ cup semisweet chocolate, chopped

cup heavy cream

*I strongly recommend making custard filling first as it needs to rest and completely cool before assembly. 

Custard Instructions:

In a saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in egg yolks, milk and cream until smooth. Bring mixture to simmer over medium heat. Whisk continuously.

Once mixture is at a simmer and begins to thicken, remove from heat but continue whisking until very thick. Whisk in butter and a vanilla until butter is melted and custard is smooth.

Spoon custard into a small bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap on surface of custard to prevent skin from forming. Refrigerate for several hours or until custard is completely chilled. Custard will keep for up to 2 days.


Line a 12 cup muffin tin with foil liners. You can use paper, but I find the foil reinforces the cupcake as a whole once the custard is added and for frosting purposes.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl using a mixer, cream sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla together until smooth. Alternately mix in flour mixture and milk in three additions. Beat until smooth.

Scoop batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes until golden or toothpick inserted comes out clean. Mine took about 18 minutes, so begin to watch after 17 minutes. Cool in pan for a few minutes and transfer onto rack to cool completely.


In a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate and cream. Microwave uncovered on high for 30 seconds or until cream is hot and chocolate is almost melted. Stir until smooth. Let chocolate mixture sit for 5 minutes or until slightly cooled but spreadable.

To fill cupcakes:

Take a large piping tip and poke a hole in the center of the cupcake. Fill a bag with custard and squeeze filling until it slightly starts to ooze out. Be gentle with this step or you can run the risk of blowing out the cupcake.

To Frost:

Dip cupcake upside down in ganache and completely cover top of cake. Swirl as you bring it out to avoid spillage down the side of the wrapper.

Yields: 12 cupcakes

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

German Chocolate Popcorn

I do a lot of volunteer work at my daughter's school. In a few weeks, the parent council board is throwing an end-of-the-school-year BBQ - a perfect time and way to sell up any purchased food items that have accumulated over the last few months.

As we went through the items we have to sell, we noticed one box of popcorn out six had just expired. We weren't sure if they were okay to sell, so we opened a few bags; some were stale, some could fine. Since we couldn't expect parents or kiddies to buy a possibly passable bag, I got to take them home and get creative. YAY!

14 bags of popcorn from the box were good to go. The others I fed to the birds, mainly to annoy the neighbor behind me who HATES when I feed the 'wildlife' and is not afraid to tell me so. Ppphhttt to you.

What can I make with 14 bags of popcorn besides eat it? I hit the internet and found this gem. Oh, and it's a delicious gem.

It's sweet. It's chocolatey. It's gooey. It's heaven. It's like the BEST popcorn you will ever eat! This is a lock-your-doors-close-the-blinds-and-hide-from-your-husband-and-children kind of snack.

Feel free to indulge.

I so did.

Recipe adapted from Cookies and Cups

5 cups popcorn - if popping yourself via microwave or stovetop method, be SURE to take out any unpopped kernels.
2 cups light brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
12 tablespoon (¾ cups) butter, cubed
4 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
4 oz (½ cup) semi-sweet chocolate
1 package Girl Scout Samoa Cookies, Keebler Coconut Dreams, or if you live in Canada, No Name Caramel Chocolate Cookies

Preheat your oven to 200° Place popcorn in large bowl; set aside. Chop cookies into bite-sized pieces and set those aside as well.

Line counter a few sheets of wax paper so you can spread you popcorn onto it when mixing the caramel. You don't have to do this, but it makes it easier.

To make the caramel, combine the butter, brown sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Whisk ingredients to together and bring to a boil.

Boil without stirring for approximately 5 minutes until candy thermometer reads 250°.  If you don't have a candy thermometer, 5 minutes is just about the right amount of time.

Remove from heat and immediately whisk in your baking soda and vanilla. Caramel will get lighter and bubble.

Pour caramel over popcorn and stir until it's all coated.

Pour popcorn onto waxed paper and sprinkle toasted coconut on top of popcorn evenly. Leave your wax paper out, you will need it again!   

In a large roasting pan or baking sheet bake your popcorn in oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Spread popcorn onto the wax paper and sprinkle chopped cookies evenly over top.

Melt chocolate in microwave in 30 second intervals until melted, stirring each time.
Drizzle melted chocolate on top of cookies and popcorn.  Let the chocolate set and break apart.

Store in airtight container for 3-4 days.

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Carrot Zucchini Banana Bread

The sun FINALLY came out and it is absolutely GLORIOUS! I guess Mother Nature got the message I was a force to be reckoned with.

Funny thing about me. First sign of great weather and I suddenly have this need to eat healthy. It's weird really. I'm pulling out the whole wheat flour, using recipes that call for fruits and/or vegetables, substituting butter for applesauce. Okay, perhaps I'm going a bit far there, but you get the idea.

This is one on my most favorite feel good recipes. My daughter loves it and I don't ever feel guilty about giving it to her anytime of day.

Or eating half the loaf myself. Oops.


2½ cups whole wheat flour (You can also use all white flour or half white and half whole wheat!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
¼ cup ground flax seeds
½ cup oatmeal
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup grated unpeeled zucchini
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup ripe bananas, mashed

OPTIONAL: ½ cup raisins or ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 325º F. Grease two 8-inch loaf pans with non stick cooking spray. You can also use a 9x5 loaf pan, but you'll get a larger and denser bread. I opted to use the 9x5 loaf this time to show you what you'll get.

Sift flour(s), baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, flax seeds, oatmeal, and salt in a large bowl until well blended.

Mix eggs, bananas, applesauce, brown sugar, vanilla until until well combined.

Add flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Stir in zucchini and carrots until just combined. (Mix in raisins and walnuts/pecans if using).

Divide batter into prepared pan(s). I like to sprinkle oatmeal on top just before baking for visual effect once loaf is baked. It just looks healthier too.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour for the 8-inch pans and 1 hour 20 minutes for the 9-inch loaf pan. Cool bread in pans for 10 minutes, then remove, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: Two 8-inch loaves or One 9-inch loaf.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Today is May 18th. It's 43 degrees. It has been so gloomy for weeks and raining non-stop for the past 5 days. What. is. going. on?

I'll tell you what's going on. Mother Nature is asking for the worst kind of trouble. From me. Oh yeah, I can be pretty scary if provoked enough.

While I could complain all day about the lack of sunshine, I decided to shake off the blues, take the high road, and make chocolate chip cookies. What the heck, let's up the ante and make ice cream sandwiches out of them.

I'm very well aware that these treats could be dangerous to a serious cookie addict and ice cream lover like myself, but you know what? I just don't care today. All bets are off. Screw the whole calorie counting.

While we're at it, Mother Nature can go jump off a bridge.

That is until she produces some rays for this frustrated gal.

Then all will be forgiven. Maybe.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from the Cook’s Illustration Recipe

For the cookies:
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1½ cup white, milk, peanut butter, semi-sweet, bitter or dark chocolate chips
1 cup pecans or walnuts, optional

Heat oven to 325º degrees.

Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended.

Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips. I used both semi and milk chocolate chips because my semi-sweet chips were seriously starting to bloom, so I threw them in. (When a white coating appears on the surface of any chocolate, it's called bloom.)

I have to disagree with this next step. However, I did both my own way and CI's way to show the outcome. They taste the same, but presentation is a whole other ballgame....

Form scant ¼ cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves ninety degrees and, with jagged surfaces exposed, join halves together at their base, again forming a single cookie, being careful not to smooth dough uneven surface. Place formed dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Smaller cookie sheets can be used, but fewer cookies can be baked at one time and baking time may need to be adjusted.

Use an ice cream scoop.

Three rows on the LEFT side of the tray: CI's form.
Three rows on the RIGHT side of the tray: My form.

Bake until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Be sure cookies are completely cool before adding next step.

Scoop a generous portion of your favorite ice cream and sandwich between two cookies. Roll in sprinkles, nuts, candy bits, coconut, etc. if desired.

Yields: 2½ dozen cookies or about 15 Chipwiches.

Happy Baking!

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ultimate Brownies

Today is Sunday. It's gloomy, rainy, and cold. A PERFECT time to bake!

A few posts back, I told you the story of the 10,000 Chips Ahoy cookies I have in my possession. Thankfully, I'm down to about 4,000 cookies now, but for a cookie addict like myself, that's still 4,000 too many! Since they're individual wrapped, they won't go stale anytime soon, but I would like to use them up before I lose all self control.

Today, I was hankering for a good brownie. A brownie that has all the bells and whistles - moist, chewy, chocolaty, sweet, salty and peanutty. I started sifting through my cookbooks as well as the internet, but I didn't find one that said, "I'm it Baby. Make me yours!"

So I took matters into my own hands and created what I think are Ultimate Brownies.

Oh yes ladies and gentleman, these are ultimate. It has everything Mama is craving today. Throw on some Barry White, dim the lights, and close the blinds.

It's brownie time.


½ cup butter, melted
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
¾ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup peanut butter
¼ cup dulce de leche sauce
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup mini white chocolate chips
12 chocolate chip cookies – I used Chips Ahoy

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with foil cupcake wrappers. Place a chocolate chip cookie in the bottom of each; set aside.

Combine flour, salt, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and coffee granules into a bowl and mix well. Add eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. Mix well. Add peanut butter and dulce de leche into flour mixture and mix well. Add white chocolate chips. 

Divide mix into 12 muffin cups.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over bake.

Yield: 12 brownie cups.

Happy Baking!

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