sticky buns

sticky buns

So what do you do when you receive a notification saying that you have won a copy of Martha Stewart’s new recipe book? Oh, a signed copy nonetheless of Martha’s American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation’s Most Treasured Dishes, from Coast to Coast.

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sticky buns

You may be a gullible dreamer just like I am and believe the good news momentarily without asking any questions…because when luck is on your side, sometimes it’s better to avoid asking questions. Well yes, I have won a recipe book signed by the one and only Martha Stewart, thank you very much. Of course I have. Why wouldn’t I?

No questions asked…at least for the first couple seconds.

sticky buns

Then my brain, which is practically stubborn by nature, starts to ponder the obvious questions that would run through the mind of anyone who has never ever won anything in her life. Well, that sounds negative and hopeless, doesn’t it? Let me clarify…I have won several crucial things in my life that I will never take for granted: the opportunity to be blessed with a great family, a sweet and caring soulmate, a dual citizenship, a few splendid friends, etc, etc. But that’s not what I meant.

sticky buns

What I meant is that I have never won a vacation to some island in the Caribbean. I have never won the lottery. I have never won a free movie ticket. I have never won a free cupcake. And I certainly have never won a signed book. Oh wait. Once I did win a seat exchange from second class to first class on a British Airways flight.

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sticky buns

So after doubting my luck and ability to actually win something and after asking “why me?,” several times, I responded to the email. Martha Stewart’s Social Media Content Director, informed me that Martha had chosen her winner of the day for sharing her recipes online and that the winner would receive a free signed book. But the story didn’t end there. He then added that he was coordinating with other book winners and would possibly do an entry on Martha’s blog on great completed projects/recipes by book winners. He suggested that I keep him informed, that I take pictures of the preparation, and most importantly…that I have fun. And that’s exactly what I did!

sticky buns

It was difficult to choose a recipe from the book and I must have bookmarked over a dozen recipes with sticky notes, but as soon as I glanced over pages 126-127, it was decided. It was basically love at first sight and these sticky buns had me at hello. I simply had to recreate these magnificent, sticky, doughy, tender, and sweet creations. After having tasted them, I can fully say that I am so thankful I did!

sticky buns

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did…but I’m pretty certain you will. I mean look at those beauties…how could you not?

sticky buns

*Yield: 12*

Backstory: Eating a freshly baked sticky bun is a hands-on experience, whether you prefer to bite into it whole or peel apart the gooey spiral and eat one piece at a time. The sugary treat, now standard fare in coffee shops and malls nationwide, comes to us via the Pennsylvania Dutch, who are famous for their sweet yeasted breads and other pastries. Today, you can visit Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County to sample authentic Amish sticky buns—or use this recipe, chock-full of brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans, to bake your own.

sticky buns

Ingredients:

2 packages active dry yeast (each 1 scant tablespoon)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm milk (about 110 F)

6 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 large eggs

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted buter, cut into small pieces and softened, plus more for pan

3 1/3 cups pecans (about 14 ounces)

2 1/4 cups light corn syrup

1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar

1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Recipe:

1. Sprinkle yeast over the milk; stir to dissolve yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat flour, granulated sugar, and salt to combine. Mix in yeast mixture and eggs until combined.

sticky buns

2. Increase speed to high and add the butter, several pieces at a time; continue mixing the dough until it is smooth and shiny, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a parchment-lined 13-by-18-inch baking pan; use your hands to spread dough to fit the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to overnight.

sticky buns

sticky buns

3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter a standar 12-cup muffin tin. Chop 2 cups pecans; break the remaining 1 1/3 cups pecans in half lengthwise. Pour 3 tablespoons corn syrup into each prepared cup; top with about 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 2 tablespoons halved pecans.

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

4. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Roll out dough lengthwise to form a 15-by-20 inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Using a spatula, spread sour cream evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Dust sour cream with cinnamon and sprinkle with 2/3 cup brown sugar. Top evenly with chopped pecans and roll the dough up lengthwise to form a log, about 3 inches in diameter. Trim ends so log is 18 inches.

sticky buns

sticky buns

5. Using a sharp knife, slice log into 1 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Place one in each prepared cup. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until dough is 1/2 inch above cups, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to oven, placing a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until dark golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately turn out buns onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Replace any pecans that may have fallen off. Let cool on a wire rack before serving; best enjoyed the same day.

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

Recipe and recipe backstory is courtesy of Martha’s American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation’s Most Treasure Dishes, From Coast to Coast.

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almond & chocolate mini cake rolls

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

I have a quick story to tell. It’s quite simple.

By the way….Merry Christmas!! Just so you know though, this post has nothing to do with Christmas and I’m sorry if you were looking forward to a Christmas-related recipe or story.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

But here it goes. I made almond and chocolate pastries the other day because I’ve been currently obsessed with almonds for some reason: toasted almonds, almond extract, almond butter, almond cake, almond smoothie, almond everything….And chocolate…well, I’ve been infatuated with chocolate ever since I can remember. Nothing new there.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

So just imagine the moment I combined my very two healthy obsessions, almond + chocolate. Colorful fireworks went off all over the place. My palette was joyous with triumph. And when my palette is happy, I am happy.

Well, then I happened to take these almond and chocolate pastries to a little get-together and share them with people, hoping that others would find these creations to be as tasty as I did. And they did! They seemed to enjoy them quite a bit and nothing in the world makes me happier than witnessing others enjoy sweets I poured my heart and soul into, especially when those people are friends and family.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

“What are you going to name these sweet almond delights? They deserve an exotic name that goes with their strong character,” a nice lady whom I met that night asked me. “Oh, and before I forget…here, can you write the name of your blog down for me?” she asked as she handed me a black pen she had retrieved from her purse. I don’t think I had much of a choice.

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So I shyly wrote down the name of this blog and prayed that she found nothing of the content to be too out there. Now that more people are finding out about sweet-lab, I worry that my narratives may be too much at times. You know, because sometimes I swear that I mistake this blog for a diary and just ramble on and on about stuff…Kind of like I’m doing now…

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

So anyways, I wrote the name of the this blog down for her on a piece of paper, but I still have not thought of a unique name for these pastries. Almond & Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls….maybe? That’s all I’ve got so far. I also like the name Sweet Almond Delights, but I think I have already used the name “delight” for a dessert name, so I think I’ll stick with Almond & Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls. I know, the name does not sound exotic at all, but I think that their powerful flavor will make up for their weak name.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

These pastries are made up of a thin and spongy almond cake. Ganache is then spread over the cake and rolled to create cylindrical pastries. Smooth and velvety almond Italian butter cream covers each pastry. Toasted almonds surround each pastry, adding more almondy flavor as well as crunchy texture. I truly believe you may also be seeing fireworks if you get around to tasting these sweet almond delights…I mean, almond & chocolate mini cake rolls.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Yield: 18 mini cake rolls.

Store baked 1 day at room temperature. Wrap tightly and freeze for a couple of weeks-1 month in freezer.

Note: The thin layer of cake is called a joconde. The recipe for this thin cake was given to me by L’Academie de Cuisine. Give credit where credit is due! The quantities of the ingredients are very precise for this recipe and were given to me in grams precisely because of that.

Ingredients for Joconde:

93 g almond flour

43 g sugar

23 g AP flour

3 eggs

63 g egg whites

50 g sugar

Recipe/Procedure for Joconde:

1. Beat almond flour, sugar, AP flour, and eggs on low speed with a paddle attachment for first 15-30 seconds and changing to high speed for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make a soft to medium peak French meringue: 

  • Whip egg whites at high speed for approximately 30 seconds. Bring down speed to medium after 30 seconds. At this point, meringue should begin to look thicker and the yellow color of the egg whites should disappear.
  • Begin adding 1 tablespoon of sugar to the egg whites while they continue to whip. Start to add sugar more continuously and in larger quantities when meringue gets shinier and it becomes stiffer.
  • Turn mixer off and test stableness of meringue by whipping it by hand. Meringue should stand on a straight peak when it’s ready.

3. Fold French meringue into batter in two parts.

4. Spread batter onto a 10″ x 15″ sheet tray that has been covered with a sil pat. Bake at 400 F – 425 F for about 10 min. until cake bounces back in center when it’s touched.

5. Remove joconde from sheet tray and allow it to cool completely before attempting to remove it from sil pat. Set aside for later use.

Ingredients for Ganache:

4 oz chopped semi sweet chocolate

4 oz cream

Recipe/Procedure for Ganache:

1. Heat heavy cream and bring to a simmer.
2. Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour simmered heavy cream over chocolate. Allow cream and chocolate to rest for about a minute so that chocolate softens and melts.
3. Stir mixture gently from the center until everything is well combined.
4. Set chocolate-heavy cream mixture aside and allow it to cool completely at room temperature.

Ingredients for Almond Italian Meringue Buttercream: (Note: There will be plenty of buttercream left over if making a 1x recipe, but I just like to work with a large batch when making Italian Meringue Buttercream because a small amount of egg whites won’t whip well in my mixer. If you rather not end up with as much left over buttercream, you may adjust the times of the recipe (1/4x, 1/2x, 1x, etc.) so that it fits your needs best).

16 oz sugar

About 4 oz water

2 T honey

6 oz strained egg whites

18 oz butter, cubed

2 oz almond butter

1/4 tsp almond extract

Recipe/Procedure for Almond Italian Meringue Buttercream: 

1. Combine water and sugar in a pot. Mix water and sugar with fingers to make sugar is lump-free.

2. Heat water and sugar to 238 F (soft ball stage). Add honey when sugar and water mixture looses yellow color and it becomes clear.

3. Test the temperature of the sugar by numbing finger in ice-cold water, dipping finger in sugar mixture, and re-dipping finger back into cold water. Form the cooled sugar into ball with your hands. Drop ball onto a flat surface. Sugar is ready when it makes a sound when it reaches the surface and when it doesn’t sink in while resting.

4. Begin to whisk egg whites at high speed when sugar has reached or is close to reaching 238 F. Decrease speed to medium after about five seconds, just after egg whites have been broken up.

5. Begin to slowly add the hot sugar to egg whites while they continue to whip and meringue is soft and yellow color is gone. Be sure to pour sugar from the side of the mixing bowl and whip for about 20-25 minutes until the bottom of the mixing bowl has cooled off and feels lukewarm to the touch.

6. Add pieces of butter continuously to mixture when egg whites are fluffy and stiff peaks are close being formed. Do not wait for butter to become dissolved into the mixture before adding more of it. Stop whipping when buttercream looks fluffy and stiff peaks form.

7. Add almond butter and almond extract to buttercream. Mix well until ingredients are fully incorporated into buttercream.

Time to finally put it all together!!!

Ingredients for Almond and Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls:

1/2 C sliced almonds

joconde cake

ganache

almond italian meringue buttercream

Recipe/Procedure for Almond and Chocolate Mini Cake Rolls:

1. Toast almonds at 325 F so that they become toasted all through the center.

2. Place almonds into a food processor and press button a few times until almonds become finely chopped, but not to the point where they are too ground. Place almonds into a plate and set aside for later use.

3. On a flat working surface, trim off all four edges of joconde cake with a serrated knife.

4. Spread ganache over joconde with an offset spatula so that ganache covers every edge and corner of the cake.

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5. Make 1.5″ marks on the top and bottom of cake and cut vertical strips, connecting the top and bottom marks to end up with nine strips of cake.

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6. Carefully start rolling each strip halfway and cut the strip when it has been rolled half way up. Place rolled pastry into a sheet tray. Carefully start rolling the other half of the strip and place rolled pastry into a sheet tray. Continue to rolling  until all strips have been rolled. You should end up with 18 rolled pastries.

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7. Recondition buttercream if necessary by re-whipping it so that it is smooth and fluffy. Apply almond buttercream to each rolled pastry with a small offset spatula. Turn the pastry around with your hand as putting buttercream on the sides of each pastry. This is kind of a messy process. Be ready to wash/wipe your hands after applying buttercream to each pastry.

8. Sprinkle chopped toasted almonds around the sides of each pastry.

9. Place almond buttercream into a piping bag that has a #15 star tip and pipe a swirl or another decorative design onto the surface of each pastry.

Enjoy!

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet lemon almond smoothie • sooth your throat

sweet-lab

This is probably not what you had in mind. It’s not what I had in mind either.

We are amid holiday spirit and Christmas cheer, so why in the hell is this recipe not one that showcases cookies, ginger spice bread, or other holiday favorites? Well, I also wasn’t expecting to resort to a smoothie today and I much rather create a recipe for say a pumpkin roulade, a chocolate peppermint cake, or an eggnog whatever. Never mind. Scratch the last example. I don’t particularly enjoy eggnog.

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Anyways, those are the sort of recipes that are to be expected in mid-December, right? I mean every food blogger out there is presenting favorite holiday recipes and what do I have to offer? A smoothie! But it is what it is and I am completely okay with that. One should never underestimate the power of a smoothie, especially when it can help sooth your sore throat. To be fair, I have also had the opportunity to make crunchy nutty choco toffee, cookies, peppermint truffles, and other holiday treats. Plus, the holidays are no way near over and there is still time to make traditional or new holiday sweets. So I am not complaining at all (even if my tone suggests otherwise).

sweet lemon almond smoothie

I have been feeling a little under the weather during these past few days and this smoothie has done magical things to heal the pain and scratchiness in my throat. If I had to compare my voice to that of any known figure you would know, it would have to be to the exorcist girl. Let it be known that I do not have the ability to spin my head 360 degrees around my own torso and I do not possess the talent of vomiting green junk when I am feeling irritated or furious. That would be insanely insane though. But my voice…oh yes, the sound of my voice in these past few days could be used in the next exorcism movie,…because we all know there will be plenty more of those coming out in the near future.

Going back to what’s important. This smoothie contains ingredients that will help alleviate a soar throat. Lemon contains high levels of vitamin C and natural antibacterial/antiviral agents. Almonds and honey are natural pain killers that will relieve the inflammation. Apple is one of those fruits that will help ease lung and throat irritation all year round and add smoothness and fullness to the smoothie. The boost of vitamins and combination of healing ingredients do not compromise good flavor. Not at all! This smoothie is delicious with a dominating sweet honey and almond flavor and a spark of refreshing fresh lemon juice. That sore throat will stand no chance of winning once it meets this sweet lemon almond smoothie!

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* Yields about 1 1/4 C. *

Ingredients:

6 fl oz almond milk

1/4 C raw almonds

1/4 C Gala apples–peeled, cored, chopped

1.5 fl oz lemon juice (=3 T of lemon juice)

2 T honey

Recipe/Procedure:

1. Combine almond milk, raw almonds, apple, lemon juice, and honey into a blender. Blend until fruit and almonds are completely pureed. Serve immediately.

crunchy nutty choco toffee

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

I love FaceTime. Thank you Steve Jobs for making your Apple/Mac products so…just so damn good.

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sweet-lab

Because of FaceTime I get to see my 6-month-old niece who lives in Austin chew her sock and smile at my feeble attempt to make her giggle. Hearing her giggle is the best sound in this world by the way.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Because of FaceTime I get to see Mark when he’s away on tour with his band Periphery. “So where in Europe are you today again? Oh, Prague, of course. How beautiful. I wish I was there too.”

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

And because of FaceTime I get to see my wonderful mother who lives in Spain. I always tell her that I love her and that I can’t wait to see her. And then she’ll say, “I know. I can’t wait to hold you, but isn’t it great that we can at least see each other so often through FaceTime?” Yes, it is mom.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

Yesterday I was in the middle of making this recipe when mom called me on FaceTime. I pretended I had everything under control, but I still had to get my mise en place in order so that everything was ready to be added to the toffee when it reached the correct temperature.

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sweet-lab

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

However, I knew I didn’t have the situation completely under control: the sugar was already cooking and the butter still had to be cubed, the pecans still needed to be chopped, the baking soda and vanilla had to be measured out, the candy thermometer had to be placed on the side of the pot, a few recipe adjustments had to be marked down on my recipe book before they evaporated from my memory, etc. But when mom calls, everything can wait.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

“What are you doing? You seem busy…” she stated (in Spanish, of course) as she heard the clanking of pans and sheet trays and saw how I turned my back on her a few times to check what was going on in the stove. I told her that I was in the middle of making toffee. “I can call back later or we can just talk tomorrow…”

“No! It’s okay. I can multitask!”

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

I told her a few things about my day. She told me a few things about hers. And through it all, I managed to show her how to finish the recipe. “Oh shit! Hold on mom! The sugar has reached 305 F and I have to add a few things to it before I pour it….”

“Really, we can talk at another time if you want to. You seem like you have a lot going on…Mmmmmmm…that looks delicious,” she stated as I poured the toffee over the chocolate and graham crackers.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

And just like that, I got to feel extremely close to my mom. I always, always do, no matter how physically apart we are. But that moment was pretty special and magical. I never thought I would be able to share a such a spontaneous moment that involved doing something I love with all my heart (cooking/baking) with a person I love with all my heart while being thousands of miles away. I guess I’m just extremely thankful for it. That’s it.

Oh yeah, and I’m also very thankful for these delicious crunchy nutty choco toffee treats!

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sweet-lab

Ingredients:

12 graham crackers (or 24 if they’re cut down the perforated line–as long as the dimensions of the rectangle you build is about 7.5″ x 9″).

3/4 C dark chocolate chips

8 oz sugar

2 oz water

2 oz honey

6.5 oz butter

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 C pecans

sea salt

*Yield: Anywhere from 12-24 pieces, depending on how you cut/break up the toffee. Cover toffee in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.*

Note: There will be additional toffee left over after pouring it over chocolate/graham crackers. I simply poured the extra toffee over another silpat or a greased baking sheet to have extra toffee at hand. If you don’t want to have extra toffee, cut the recipe for the actual toffee in half. Keep the same amount of graham crackers and chocolate chips.

Recipe/Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicon baking mat (ie: silpat).

2. Place graham crackers on parchment paper or on silpat in rows and of 4 x 3 to end up with the dimensions of 9″ x 7.5″

3. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over graham crackers and bake for about 10 minutes, until chocolate softens and becomes spreadable.

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4. Remove cookie sheet from oven and gently spread the melted chocolate chips over graham crackers with an offset spatula, trying your best to not knock the graham crackers out of place. The melted chocolate should cover entire surface of graham crackers. Refrigerate so that chocolate cools down and firms up.

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5. Meanwhile, toast pecans at 325 F until they toasted all throughout. Allow pecans to cool. Roughly chop pecans and set them aside for later use.

6. Cook sugar and water over medium heat and add honey when sugar and water mixture looses its murky appearance and it becomes clear, after about a minute or so.

7. Add butter and continue cooking until it reaches a temperature of 300 F–305 F (hard crack stage).

8. Remove from heat and add vanilla, baking soda, and toasted pecans. Stir and pour mixture over the prepared chocolate and graham crackers. Spread toffee gently over chocolate/graham crackers so that it reaches every edge and corner of the rectangle. Allow toffee to completely cool before cutting/breaking it up in pieces. Sprinkle sea salt over toffee. Enjoy!

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apple cinnamon ice cream • it’s your life

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

So what if it’s December and you feel like making ice cream? I say you do it.

And so what if the act of making a frozen treat when it’s really chilly outside doesn’t make sense to others?

Does it make sense to you? Great, then that’s what matters.

As I have been told lately by various close friends, do whatever you want to do. I’ve been instructed to be more selfish as horrible as that may sound and to stop constantly thinking of what others may think. Of course, this advice does come with a bit of structure and guidelines: do whatever you please, as long as you’re respectful and you don’t harm others along the way.

But that’s exactly where the situation can become quite tricky. For example, would it cause harm to those who are close to me if I were to stop everything and go on a long journey to God knows where? Would they understand my current “lack of direction” and disinterest to do what’s considered “appropriate” for my career and life? I don’t know. Their confusion and possible state of disapproval may seek stop me. But it shouldn’t in the end.

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sweet-lab

“You only have one life and one chance,” were words that were directed to me just last night by someone close to me. I’m aware that it would be foolish to live the only chance we get at life to the standards of others, even if those people love you and want the best for you. The pressure of doing what’s “correct” in the eyes of others may be there, but only one can make the stress and tension disappear on his/her own.

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sweet-lab

It should be simple to do whatever we feel like having the urge of doing. It should feel easy, natural, and free to do so…but it doesn’t, at least not for me. If you’re like me, you may think twice, three times, and plenty of times more of how you should be living life. Because inside your head you always wonder if your next move will be “proper” or “suitable” in the eyes of those who are close to you. And if you’re like me, you may hear their voices in your mind commenting on your unexpected next move…”what are you thinking? Really, you’re not going to work there anymore? Why? Where are you going and why? I think it would be better if…”

It shouldn’t be that way.

No more.

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sweet-lab

So somehow, you just have to find the courage inside of you to make your voice stronger than theirs. And somehow, amid all the distracting noise, you have to make it your mission to listen deeply to what your voice is telling you. Because again, in the words of Bon Jovi, “It’s my life. And it’s now or never.” Oh Jon Bon Jovi…you wise, wise, man.

I do think it’s very important to acknowledge the opinions of those who care about you, but it’s just as important to learn how to tone down their voices in your mind to be able to hear your own to make your own decisions. Live your life respectfully and to the fullest (however that may be). I’m still trying to figure it out myself.

And of course, enjoy this apple cinnamon ice cream with pecans and caramel only and only if you would like to and find that it is “appropriate” for you. I know that it was for me.

sweet-lab

sweet-lab

**Yields about 2-2.5 C. Store base in fridge for 3-4 days and 2-3 days in freezer as ice cream.**

Ingredients:

8 oz milk

8 oz cream

2 cinnamon sticks

4 oz yolks

2 oz dark brown sugar

2 oz granulated sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 oz sparkling apple cider (or 4 Tablespoons) and additional 1 C for cooking apples

2 T dark brown sugar

1 T cinnamon

1 C apples (about 1 apple)–peeled, cored, and fine diced

3.5 oz caramel sauce (or 1/3 Cup), click here to view recipe for caramel sauce.

1/2 C pecans

Recipe/Procedure:

1. Add milk and cream to a pot and bring to a gentle simmer.

2. Drop cinnamon sticks into pot to steep them while milk and cream heats up. Turn off heat when milk and cream come to a simmer. Take pot off heat and cover it. Allow to steep for about 30 minutes. (Note: Steeping time varies in the desired intensity of the flavor).

3. Drain the half and half and re-measure the liquid before continuing with recipe. If the weight has decreased, add milk to bring up to the same quantity you started with (orginal amount=16 oz of dairy). Return pot to the stove and bring milk/cream mixture and cinnamon sticks to a simmer once more.

4. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, dark brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a bowl. When milk and cream have come to a simmer, temper the eggs with the milk and cream while whisking simultaneously. Allow mixture to rest for a few seconds so that the sugar can dissolve with the heat.

5. Pour mixture back into pan and stir in a figure 8 pattern so that every spot of the pot is touched as you cook it. Be sure to cook on low and gentle heat so that eggs don’t become scrambled. Cook and continue stirring until milk/cream naps the back of a spoon. That occurs when the sauce in your saucepan is thick enough to stick to your spatula; and therefore indicates that your mixture is ready.

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6. Pass cream through a sieve to remove the chalazae of the eggs and cinnamon sticks. Pour crème anglaise into a large bowl that is sitting over ice and add 2 oz apple cider and stir. Refrigerate until further use.

7. Prep apples. Peel, core, and finely dice apples.

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8. Combine diced apples, ground cinnamon, and the 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar in a pan and cook on low-medium heat until apples start to break down, about 7 minutes. Pour sparkling apple cider to deglaze pan and continue cooking until apples become soft and tender. This process can take a while and as soon as the sparkling apple cider evaporates, pour more into pan and just continue pouring and cooking apples until apples break down and are tender. It took me about 30-40 minutes of deglazing and cooking apples to soften them up completely. You may need more than 1 cup of sparkling cider. It’s important to cook apples so that the water that is contained in the fruit is expelled. If water remains in the apples, the fruit will become icy when frozen. Drain cooked apples to remove excess liquid.

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9. Toast pecans at 325 F until they toasted all throughout. Allow pecans to cool. Roughly chop pecans. Set aside for later use.

10. Remove crème anglaise from refrigerator and pour into ice cream machine bowl. Make ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Be sure to have ice cream fold-ins (caramel sauce, toasted pecans, and cooked apples) at hand to be ready to fold into ice cream after spinning/churning cycle is complete. Freeze ice cream until you’re ready to enjoy it.

pear upside down cake • room for improvement

sweet-lab

Is Thanksgiving over yet?

I tend to live in my own little world and sometimes become oblivious to things happening around me. But yeah, the cut pieces of aluminum foil covering numerous trays of leftovers in the fridge and the crumbs of pie crust scattered on the kitchen counter are enough to remind me that this day of complete and utter gluttony has passed, as is the occasional tendency to burst out of my jeans.

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Last Thanksgiving I made a pear upside down cake. I got the recipe from some well-known gourmet food magazine that I don’t remember the name of. Okay, that last part is not true. Of course I remember the name of the magazine. I only read it like every day of my life. The cake was okay…but okay is simply not good enough.

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“Okay” means that there is room for improvement. You know…like when you got that B+ on a spelling test in third grade. Didn’t that just make you want to strive for an A+ ? Or maybe you were such a perfect speller that this is a weak argument because it simply does not apply to you. Well, hopefully you get my point anyways.

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Improvement through repetition is a good thing and so I decided to try things a little different and come up with a recipe for a pear upside down cake of my own. I changed the recipe of the actual cake. This one also uses a clear caramel along with streusel that is layered in the batter to make it all even a little better…because you know, there is always room for improvement.

**Yields one 8″ cake. Store baked at room temperature for 1 day well-wrapped. Store fully baked and frozen for 30 days.**

Ingredients for Streusel:

3 oz brown sugar

1/2 C walnuts, chopped

1 T cinnamon

1/4 C pears, finely diced

Recipe/Procedure for Streusel:

1. Peel, half, and core pears. Place halved pear flat on a work surface and cut across three times horizontally, leaving 1/4″ distance from each slit. Make vertical cuts across the surface of the pear, leaving 1/4″ distance from each vertical cut. Begin cutting perpendicular to the slices made in the previous step to end up with small dices of pear.

2. Mix brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon together by hand until all ingredients are well combined.

3. Toss pears into mixture and combine well. Set aside for later use.

Ingredients for Pear Upside Down Cake:

5 oz cake flour

3 oz AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

6 oz granulated sugar

4 oz brown sugar

4 oz butter

4 oz eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz milk

4 oz buttermilk

2 medium bosc pears

Recipe/Procedure for Pear Upside Down Cake:

1. Combine cake flour, AP flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and sift them into a large bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until mixture is cohesive, light, and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl once eggs have been incorporated. Add vanilla and continue mixing.

4. Switch speed on mixer to low. Add about 1/3 of dry ingredients into butter/sugar/egg mixture until batter takes the dry ingredients.

5. Combine milk and buttermilk together and add until it begins to incorporate. Repeat additions of dry and wet until all ingredients are fully incorporated into batter, being sure to end with an addition of dry ingredients. Set aside for later use.

6. Butter an 8″ diameter round cake pan and line bottom with parchment-paper round.

7. Peel, halve, and core pears. Cut pears lengthwise into 1/4″ slices. Set aside for later use while making clear caramel.

Ingredients for Clear Caramel:

4 oz granulated sugar

2 oz water

Recipe/Procedure for Clear Caramel:

1. Combine water and sugar in a pot. Remove lumps in sugar with fingers.

2. Bring water and sugar to caramel stage (sugar must reach a uniform golden brown (dark amber color). Remove from pan.

Assemble and Bake:

1. Pour clear caramel into prepared cake pan and swirl pan to coat round of parchment.

2. Layer slices of pear over caramel, overlapping them all around.

3. Place one-third of the batter on the bottom of pan. Sprinkle streusel mix over batter. Repeat layering of streusel and batter until both are used.

4. Bake at 350 F for about 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick that has been inserted in the center comes out clean.

maple pumpkin mini-muffins…and doughnuts • decisions, decisions

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Please excuse me if I sometimes mistake this blog for a diary.

A diary? Yes, a diary. And don’t act like you haven’t done that before.

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So here it goes. I may be the most indecisive person I know. People have called me out on that in the past. People who are close to me actually. “Wow, you’re a pretty indecisive person,” they may suggest…Reaaaaaally? Hmmm…I really didn’t know that and I thank you so very much for pointing that out to me…because really, after twenty-something years of living in this body and having this same brain, I still hadn’t figured that one out on my own. So yes, thank you once again for enlightening me with such an amazing self-discovery.

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In a less sarcastic tone and more of a realistic one, when that occurs I am driven to either congratulate the person for pointing out such a correct character trait and/or to smack them across the face.

Oh my! I’m sorry. Did I say that aloud? I’m really not that violent at all!

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I just bottle up emotions sometimes and consequently rage comes out in peculiar and interesting ways. But that is a different issue. Thankfully I have a diary blog to vent and share recipes while I do so. It’s simply a great deal.

Anyways, I am indecisive sometimes. I know that. I own that.

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When asked what my favorite color is, I say blue, then choose green, then go back to blue. But now it is all clear. My favorite color is violet. Yes, violet.

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By the way, do adults really still ask each other what their favorite color is? I’m pretty sure that stops happening somewhere in our early teen years, but somehow my mind still ponders the question from time to time. I insist. My favorite color is violet.

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After several years of dealing with such indecision and hesitation, I have diagnosed myself and have come to the conclusion that my indecision is caused by either:

1) a lack of interest or 2) an abundance of interest

Such as….Would you rather buy this carpet with the earthy tones or this other one with the earthy tones? Well, I don’t know. They’re both pretty horrible-looking. I simply can’t decide. Actually, wait. I have made up my mind. I choose neither. Yes, neither because they’re both pretty ugly to tell you my honest opinion.

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Or consider these scenarios for example…Should we go out for dinner or cook something delicious at home? Hmmm…I don’t know. They both seem like favorable options to me. At this precise moment in time, I want to spend sometime in the kitchen boiling pasta until al dente, but I also feel like having that amazing strawberry cobbler from the restaurant around the corner…Give me a second…I might have to make a pros and cons list for each and get back to you with the verdict. Thank you for your time.

Or…Would you rather have a picnic or go on a long walk through D.C. and catch lunch somewhere downtown? Hmmmm…Let me think about this one in the shower. I want both. Can we do both? Well that would suggest eating lunch twice. Okay, just a second…

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And last but not least….I’m going to write a recipe for spicy, sweet, and tasty maple pumpkin mini-muffins…or wait…how about doughnuts? Should I make doughnuts instead? So which one is it? Maple Pumpkin Mini-Muffins or Maple Pumpkin Doughnuts?

Well, how about both?

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Yes, when it seems merely impossible to choose between the two, you can try what I do: take neither or take both!

So thanks to my high level of indecision, here they are: the one(s) and only Maple Pumpkin Mini-Muffins and Maple Pumpkin Doughnuts.

Enjoy your indecision every once in a while.

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**Yield varies depending on how many mini-muffins and baked donuts you want to bake off. My yield was 24 mini-muffins and 5 donuts. Store batter in fridge for 4-5 days or scooped and frozen for up to 30 days. Freeze fully baked for 30 days. Store baked at room temperature for 1 day.**

Ingredients for Maple Pumpkin Mini-Muffins & Doughnuts:

4 oz AP flour

4 oz cake flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3/4 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

2 oz brown sugar

6 1/2 oz pumpkin puree

3 oz milk

4 oz eggs

4 oz vegetable oil

5 oz maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

Recipe/Procedure for Maple Pumpkin Mini-Muffins & Doughnuts:

1. Sift cake flour, AP flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice into a large bowl.
2. Add sugar to dry ingredients and mix well to combine.
3. In a different bowl, whisk pumpkin puree, milk, eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, and maple syrup together.4. Combine the wet and dry mixtures together, just enough so that all ingredients are incorporated into the batter. Do not over mix. Allow batter to rest 20-40 minutes in fridge.5. Grease a mini-muffin pan and a doughnut pan with vegetable oil. Pour flour inside of each tin cup and doughnut well. Move/shake the pan around and from side to side so that the flour sticks to the vegetable oil and each space is covered in flour. This will prevent the batter from sticking to the pan while baking.6. Scoop about 1/8 C of batter into each mini-muffin tin cup so that each cup is about 3/4 full. Repeat procedure and fill the wells of the doughnut pan about 3/4 full.

7. Bake at 375 F for about 7 minutes. Turn pan around and bake for an additional 6-7 minutes or until a toothpick that has been inserted in the center tests clean.

8. Remove the doughnuts and mini-muffins from oven, and cool in pan completely. Loosen their edges with a small offset spatula and transfer them to a rack to cool.

Ingredients for Maple Icing:

1 C (or 4.75 oz) 10x sugar

2 oz maple syrup

about 1/8 C (or 1 oz) water—may adjust by adding a bit more if consistency remains thick for icing

1/4 C roasted salted pumpkin seeds, finely chopped

Recipe/Procedure for Maple Icing:

1. Mix sugar, maple syrup, and water in a small bowl. Whisk mixture until consistency is smooth.

Time to put it all together.

1. Dunk mini-muffins and doughnuts facedown into the icing so that the top of each is covered in icing. Remove excess icing by moving the mini-muffin or doughnut in a circular motion and wait for some of the icing to drip back into the bowl.

2. Place mini-muffins and doughnuts in a cooling rack or serving plate and wait for the icing to set for 2-3 minutes.

3. Sprinkle a pinch of finely chopped pumpkin seeds over icing. Allow the icing to continue to fully set.

Enjoy both!

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