Monday, November 23, 2009

Sweet and Chewy Coconut Chex Mix

I don't know if you've noticed, but the Holidays are upon us. I don't know how 2009 snuck by so quickly, but Thanksgiving is a few short days away, and Christmas comes less than a month later! While we aren't exactly social swingers, we do have quite a few holiday get-togethers to attend this year, and what's the one thing all holiday gatherings have in common? Food. And when you also throw in treats for neighbors, friends, teachers, etc, that's a lots of festive food to tackle. This recipe is the perfect answer to the old "What Should I Make?" moment. It has just a few ingredients (7 to be exact), takes just a few minutes to make, and feeds an army! And it is so delicious! I didn't even make this batch for us. I made it for a friend, yet I have already eaten several handfuls! It is sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy all at the same time. The perfect holiday party food!

Sweet and Chewy Coconut Chex Mix
To give you an idea of just how much this makes, I divided mine between two cookie sheets covered with waxed paper to cool, and I considered using a third because it was piled so high. Seriously, a ton!

1 14-oz box Corn Chex
1 16-oz box Golden Grahams
3 cups natural, unsweetened coconut shreds
2 11.5-oz cans mixed nuts
3 sticks margarine (DO NOT USE BUTTER)
2 cups sugar
1 16-oz bottle Karo Syrup

In a huge bowl sprayed with lots of Pam, combine cereals, coconut, and nuts. Stir to combine. In a medium sauce pan, melt margarine, then add sugar and Karo Syrup. Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Pour the hot syrup over the cereal mixture, then stir with a long-handled spoon until the cereal mixture is evenly coated. Spread out onto waxed paper to cool.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Cake Slice Bakers, November 2009: Burnt Sugar Cake

This month's Cake Slice Bakers choice from Nancie McDermott's Southern Cakes was the fabulous Burnt Sugar Cake. Nancy explains in the recipe's introduction that unlike a caramel cake, which is just a yellow cake with caramel frosting, a burnt sugar cake has caramel syrup in both the cake and the frosting. The results are delicious. But I actually have another recipe for burnt sugar cake that I like a lot more. And it makes a single layer. And if you've read this blog recently, you know how I feel about layer cakes these days.

Burnt Sugar Cake
from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

Burnt sugar syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water

Heat the sugar in a large, heavy pot with tall sides (so you don't burn yourself with sputtering caramel) over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until all of the sugar is melted. Carefully add the boiling water. Continue cooking and stirring until the sugar and water are combined to make an amber-colored syrup. Set aside to cool.

Burnt Sugar Cake:
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour two 9" round cake pans. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir the vanilla into the milk. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar at high speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Pour in 1/2 cup of burnt sugar syrup and beat well. Add your dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. With each addition, beat just enough to combine. Divide batter evenly between pans, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Let cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely.

Burnt Sugar Frosting:
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup burnt sugar syrup
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 Tablespoon milk or evaporated milk

In a large bowl, combine everything but the milk, and beat for 2 to 3 minutes at medium speed. Add milk and continue mixing until frosting is a smooth, spreadable consistency.

Place one layer of the cake top-side down onto a platter. Spread just enough frosting over the top to cover it, then place the second cake layer on top with the top of the cake up. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: The Toffee that Almost Made It

After a few weeks of being busy, then sick, then busy again, I was excited to jump back into Sweet Melissa Sundays with Butter Toffee Crunch. Unfortunately, I scorched my toffee! The one thing you have to be careful of when making candy, and I did it! In my defense, my really nice candy thermometer from King Arthur Flour seemed to be having a problem; the temperature was stuck at 170 degrees, even as it was burning. I didn't have the heart to try again in time to post for this week. :( But I will try it again closer to Christmas. Thanks to Kaitlin of Kait's Plate for choosing this festive recipe; I'll try not to burn it next time! And if you want to see how the other SMS baker's fared with their toffee, check out the Sweet Melissa Sundays blogroll!
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cinnamon Biscuits: For When You Just Can't Wait

A great man once said, "There is a cinnamon roll for every occasion."

Situation #1: It is just after dinner. You decide you want cinnamon rolls for breakfast in the morning, and you have nothing planned for the rest of the evening other than watching Monday's episode of Gossip Girl on Tivo.

Cinnamon Rolls for the Occasion: Cinnamon Buns from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. They take several hours of prep the night before (although those hours include lots of waiting, so you can catch up on Gossip Girl), and a final rise and bake in the morning. If you have the time, these are delicious, and definitely worth it .

Situation #2: It is just after dinner or just before bed or any time in between. You decide you want cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but you'll be danged if you're going to spend all evening prepping them.

Cinnamon Rolls for the Occasion: Easy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. They take about 5 minutes of prep the night before and bake right away in the morning. Finger-lickin' pull-aparts surrounded by a buttery brown sugar and butterscotch filling. The only downside is you have to have raw, frozen dough blobs on hand. But they are really delicious.

Situation #3: It is morning. Cinnamon rolls sound really good. Or sticky buns. Those work too.

Cinnamon Rolls (or Sticky Buns in this case) for the Occasion: Sticky Buns from The Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. Pecans, raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon tucked between layers of buttery puff pastry and drenched in a caramely sticky sauce. So easy and so delicious. But only if you have puff pastry in your freezer.

Situation #4: It is morning. Cinnamon rolls sound really good. But you didn't think about it until just this minute. And you don't have any special ingredients on hand. Just the usual stuff. But you really want a cinnamon roll. Really.

Cinnamon Rolls for the Occasion: Sweet Cinnamon Biscuits. A delicious cross between a flaky, homemade baking powder biscuit and a cinnamon roll. No yeast, no rising, no waiting. Ready in 30 minutes, start to finish. Really.

Sweet Cinnamon Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk*
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch round baking pan. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and mix well. Stir in vegetable oil. Add buttermilk and stir until just blended. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll dough into a 18x8-inch rectangle. Spread butter over the surface of the dough, leaving one of the long edges butter-free. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the butter, leaving the same long edge free of cinnamon and sugar. Starting at the long edge that does have cinnamon and sugar on it and ending at the clean edge, roll up the dough. Pinch the seam shut. Cut the roll into twelve 1 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the slices in the prepared pan, and bake until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. If you want, you can make a thick glaze out of powdered sugar, milk, and cream cheese to drizzle over the warm biscuits.

*If you don't have buttermilk in your fridge, you can make some by combining 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar with 1 cup of milk, and letting it sit for 5 minutes. But this recipe only calls for 3/4 cup buttermilk, so don't use all of it!
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Cake

Most of the time, my husband and I feel like we are two peas in a pod. One of the things that we do not see eye to eye on is pumpkin. My husband has a May birthday. When I ask him what he wants me to make him for dessert on his birthday, he always responds with, "Pumpkin Dump." The name is gross; the fact that he wants a pumpkin dessert in May is even grosser! On Father's Day, he requests pumpkin pie. The truth is, he would eat pumpkin desserts any day of the year and be completely happy. I do not feel that way about the large, orange orb. There are pumpkin desserts that I love: pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting; pumpkin chocolate chip cookies; pumpkin bread. But I really only want to eat them from late September to the end of the year. And there are some pumpkin desserts I can't stomach at all, like pumpkin pie. I know it is an American Classic, but the combination of the strong pumpkin flavor and the squishy, custardy texture is just not appealing to me. I will eat it with lots and lots of whipped cream, but one piece will fill my pumpkin pie quota for the entire year!
Apples, on the other hand, are just divine! I love any and all apple desserts. I don't dream of chomping on an apple all by itself, but I will eat apples sliced and dipped in peanut butter, caramel, vanilla yogurt, chocolate, white chocolate, some delicious dip my aunt makes, or any combination of the above listed dips. I will eat apples baked into pancakes, crepes, muffins, breads, spice cakes, pandowdies, pies, crumbles, or cobblers. I will eat them topped with streusel, powdered sugar, cinnamon, cream cheese frosting, or nothing at all.

So when you take a pumpkin cake and top it with lightly spiced, sauteed apples and a delicious, buttery streusel, it makes something that I crave all year...even in May!

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