Friday, December 24, 2010


My niece and I share many traits, including our name, but the prominent trait is definitely our sweet tooth.  This girl takes after my own heart!  My girl is always asking me to bake with her or buy her a sweet treat.  Most of the time I do because I want the same thing she does.  A few days ago, M asked me to make the sweet bread thing that we made together last year.   I immediately knew what she was talking about and we made a plan to make this sweet treat for breakfast when her dad arrived.  This is basically french toast in little pieces and then covered in a melted sugar syrup.  I think this tastes great with Challah, but any bread will do.  Pair it with sausage and some fruit and you have a breakfast fit for any sweet loving person.


5 eggs
2 c whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t cinnamon
8 c bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (I use Challah)
6 T vegetable oil,divided
6 T butter, divided
1 c sugar, divided

Whisk eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon together in a large bowl.  Add 4 c bread cubes to the bowl and toss.  Allow bread to sit until soaked, about 5 minutes.
Heat 3 T oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Slightly squeeze the bread cubes and add them to the pan in a single layer.  (At this point, add the remaining bread cubes to the remaining egg mixture to soak.)  Saute until golden on all sides.  (Keep the cubes spaced so that they brown on all sides rather then cook together.)  Add 3 T butter to the pan and stir until melted.  Sprinkle in 1/2 c sugar over bread and toss until sugar is melted and syrupy.  Transfer to a serving dish and repeat sauteing cubes, melting butter, sprinkling sugar with the remaining bread cubes.
Serve with fruit.  Yum! Yum!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Maple Cheddar Biscuits

Before I run off to the pool, I want to share with all of you a great recipe I stumbled upon yesterday.  I was flipping through A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman and this recipe practically hit me in the head.  After a fun day at the pool, I gathered my charges (niece and nephew) and we ran to Publix for the ingredients.  These took no time at all to put together and they were spectacular.  Next time I have a party, I will make these but cut them into circles with a biscuit cutter, bake and fill with ham and serve them as mini "ham and cheese" apps. 

Maple Cheddar Biscuits (adapted from A Passion for Baking)

2 c. flour
1 t salt
2 t baking powder (make sure it is SUPER fresh)
1/2 c unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 c shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup maple syrup then fill up to the 2/3 c mark with milk
1 c 1/2 inch chunks of sharp Cheddar cheese
melted butter for brushing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Arrange oven rack to upper third position. 
In a food processor, add flour, salt, and baking powder and blend briefly.  Add butter and pulse to make a coarse, grainy mixture.  Turn out into a large bowl.  In center, stir in shredded cheese, egg and milk mixture.  Stir to make a stiff dough.  Fold in Cheddar chunks. 
Knead dough briefly to bring together.  Shape into a square with a 3/4 inch thickness.  Cut into 3 or 4 inch squares.  Dab with a little of the melted butter.  Bake until golden brown, about 17 to 22 minutes.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Taking It Easy

For years my family has been congregating in Florida during the holidays.  We are fortunate to have parents who own a beautiful condo and love to have us all around them.  As our family changes with new in-laws and job changes, we can't all go together for two weeks but we all try.  When circumstance does not allow being in Florida, the next years gathering calls us even stronger.  Three things are consistent in Florida: good food - whether simple or complex, lounging in sun, and enjoying each others company. 

I thoroughly enjoy cooking for my family.  They are always willing to try my experiments.  Each year I try a few new things and remake the oldie but goodies.  For me, the most important element is ease of preparation.  My parents are always willing to make the complicated stuff while vacationing - unlike myself.  I like short ingredient lists and super simple instructions while I vacation.  I also like to see how creative I can get with leftovers.  I am not a fan of eating the same thing over and over.  Also, I believe that food that is reheated over and over DOES NOT taste better.  So... I try to come up with stuff like this:

My sister grilled a few steaks the other day and they have been sitting in the fridge waiting for someone, anyone to come along and be inspired.  I decided to slice the steaks up (cutting out as much fat as possible) and cover them in Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce.  Then I nuked them just to take the chill out.  Into this I thinly sliced a green onion.  I toasted a Ciabatta roll from Costco, layered the sliced steak on it, gave it a little cayenne dusting and topped it with fresh mozzarella.  Tada!  Lunch for my mom and sister.  Hello Florida!

P.S.  You guys MUST try PB Snickers - Whoa Baby!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vanilla Bean Financier

This weekend I decided to play check up with my Heavenly Baker friends.  The past few weeks have been ultra busy and things are finally starting to settle down.  So... I made the fake financiers (which I thought were really good) and the fudge-y chocolate bundt cake (which I thought was ok).  I wanted to make the Lemon Crown Cake but that one will have to be patient.

I started with the Velvet Fudge Cake.  I mixed and creamed and bloomed as directed.  Here is where I got stuck.  I really like the flavor from a mixture of chocolate and cocoa in cakes.  I think it rounds out the chocolate flavor better then just using one of these.  This cake only used cocoa and since the batter was pretty stable, I decided to add mini chocolate chips.  In the end, I thought this turned out to be a good decision because I found the cake to bit dry and the chips added a touch of moisture.  I am a sucker for super moist cakes and unfortunately, this one didn't cut it. 

Next I moved on to the fake financiers.  I must admit that I started this cake with a lot of reservation.  I LOVE real financiers and I couldn't imagine removing the almond flour.  Why do it when the alternative is so wonderful?!?  Well, I proceeded as directed and I must say the result was surprisingly good.  I like the dense texture and I thought the flavor profile was really good.  I like the strong vanilla flavor as well as the buttery-ness.  I did decide to change this recipe up a little as well.  I added one sour cherry to each little cake as well as some pistachios (I just couldn't have a nut-less financier).  So... all that went well until I did the one thing that I always so and that always ticks me off.  I overfilled the molds.  I compulsively do this and I don't know why.  I hate myself!!!! 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rockin' Rum Balls

Rum Balls are a curious thing.  Are they for adults or can children enjoy them too?  Who knows.  All I know is, this recipe rocks.  I love it, my neice loves it, and my friends love it too.  The best part is there is no baking involved and they sit in the fridge like champs.
So... pull out your hoiday baking bowl (mine is a big, bright red ceramic one), mix up a batch and when friends or family drop by, you will have fudgy, rum-y, sweet confections that makes people of all ages happy!

Rum Balls

1 c. crushed Nilla wafers
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. powdered sugar
2 T. cocoa
1 ½ T. corn syrup
¼ c. spiced rum

In a bowl combine the wafers, pecans, powdered sugar, and cocoa.  Stir until well combined.  In a small bowl, mix together corn syrup and rum.  Pour rum mixture into wafer mixture and mix with your hand until the dough holds together well.  Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.  If the dough is still dry, slowly add more rum until it holds together well.  Roll dough into bite sized balls.  Roll balls in additional powdered sugar.  Store in an airtight container.             


Monday, December 6, 2010

Cupcake Paradise

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting my sweet sister in Toronto.  To date, my sisters have only married Canadians.  While I am fond of our neighbors to the north, they are all REALLY fond of them!  Anyway, my youngest sister now lives in Toronto and I must say that it seems like she was born for city living.  She is always out and about looking for great parks, shops and best of all food!  This weekend started with the best cupcakes I have ever eaten.  Correction: the best cupcakes I have ever eaten from a bakery.  Our morning started at For the Love of Cake and Balzac's.  We selected six flavors.  The Bailey's Irish Cream was a must along with Very Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Hazelnut, Red Velvet and a Coconut Snowball.  All I can say is OH MY GOODNESS!!!  Each cupcake had a creamy center and a creamy but not overly sweet frosting.  The Baily's one had a chocolate ganache center.  The coconut had a coconut cream center.  Oh dear, my mouth is watering.  After making our cupcake selection we headed over to a super charming coffee shop that served excellent cappuccinos. 
Sadly, the day continued with delicious food that I forgot to photograph.  For lunch we made our way to St. Laurence Market and munched on pasta smothered in meat sauce, Alfredo sauce and pesto as well as pea meal bacon on a bun (whoa baby!).  For dinner we wined and dined at the Mansion Keg. 
Sunday was not so focused on eating but we did manage to squeeze in a quick stop to the best chicken wing place on earth: Moose Winooski's!  All in all I had a great time and my belly is happy!