In An Upside Down World, Try Pineapple

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Ever since I saw this episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack in 2009, I have quoted and sung it on and off again (to myself, to my friends, to my mom, and to my dogs). It has stuck to me like maple syrup. I decided enough was enough and I was going to actually attempt to make a pineapple upside down cake.

Pineapple contains an enzyme called “bromelain” (primarily found in the fruit’s stem) which aids in digestion through the breakdown of proteins. This cluster of fruits possess anti-inflammatory benefits which help prevent blood clots and can help soothe arthritis, as well as act as an immunity booster. In addition, it can help improve breathing in asthma patients. It is also used to stop cold beer from clouding!

About pineapple, bromelain and baking:

http://www.naturalnews.com/035804_bromelain_enzymes_inflammation.html

http://www.worldhealth.net/news/bromelain_pineapple_enzyme/

http://chemistry.about.com/od/foodcookingchemistry/f/pineapple-jello.htm

I am not a huge fan of cake (although I do love raw cake batter and LOVE pineapple), so I did not want to go to the extremes of making this a huge ordeal. I had found a recipe on EasyBaked.net and wanted to give it a try. I made some of my own adaptations, and experimented with a few different ingredients. I wanted the cake to be moist and fluffy, so I added an extra egg and a packet of instant vanilla pudding, in addition to Lactaid milk in substitute for water.

The troubles: The cake took a while to bake, and I had to turn the oven up half way through the baking process to ensure it would cook through. In addition, the syrup began dripping out of the bottom of the springform pan I used, and burned. It definitely steamed up the kitchen in a way I would rather not recreate again. I would highly recommend using a different dark, non-stick pan, one with a solid bottom that will not leak.

For next time: Besides baking the cake from scratch, I would obviously use a different pan. However, the cake came right out of the pan when I flipped it over, and it turned out better than I had expected. Apparently Duncan Hines calls for egg whites to bake their classic white cake, however, the box did not specify – that probably would have been a good idea. According to my mom, “See, shows you that you can do whatever the hell you want” – and that is what baking and cooking should be about – taking risks and trying new things. If it comes out, great. If not, whatever, at least you tried!

Keep pushing through those difficulties, especially in the kitchen, they may serve to further in the end. You always learn a lesson for the next go around!

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Adapted from: http://easybaked.net/2012/07/05/mini-pineapple-upside-down-cakes/

Ingredients:

  • One boxed white cake mix (plus 4 brown eggs, Lactaid milk, and vegetable oil to make the cake) (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 packet (1 oz) of Jell-O sugar free instant vanilla pudding (added to cake mix)
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter, unsalted
  • 1 fresh pineapple, cut into rings then cut into chunks (you won’t need the entire pineapple)
  • Maraschino cherries, to top (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (I started at 325, but turned the oven up to 350 mid way through)
  • Spray the bottom of the pan (I used a round springform) with a non-stick butter spray
  • Spoon half of the sugar mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan, spread evenly
  • Place the pineapple chunks at the bottom of the pan, spread evenly
  • Melt the butter and mix with the dark brown sugar to create a semi-thick paste
  • Prepare cake mix according to box with a stand or hand held mixer (for a moister and fluffier cake, try something along the lines of 4 eggs, 1 cup Lactaid milk, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and 1 package of instant vanilla pudding)
  • Spread the batter evenly into the pan on top of the pineapples, ensuring they are covered
  • Place pan on a cookie sheet (important– these will leak a little!!!)*****(this is ESSENTIAL – the syrup will burn!)
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 to 50 minutes
  • Allow pan to set and cool (I flipped it right away and only a few pineapples stuck to the bottom of the pan)
  • Pour what is left of the melted butter and dark brown sugar mixture overtop of the pineapples and cake (you may have to heat the mixture in the microwave for a few seconds to regain its texture)
  • Top the cake with cherries (optional)
  • Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes, eat while warm or save for later. Enjoy!

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Black and Blueberry Crisp

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My father was gifted some beautiful blueberries today, and right when I saw them, I knew I had to make a sweet dessert with them. At first, I was contemplating making a blueberry muffin, but the more my innovation began to churn, the more I wanted to attempt something a bit more difficult. Then it stunned me – a blueberry wine reduction. A blueberry crisp, ureka! What a wonderful treat for a warm summer night.

I did some research before attempting, and followed the basic jist of these recipes:

http://iadorefood.com/recipes/blueberry-crumble/

http://half-bakedbaker.blogspot.com/2008/06/blueberry-nectarine-crisp-and-award.html

One of my favorite desserts is apple crisp (mostly the crumb topping). I had at least half a bottle of a beautiful, locally fermented blackberry wine that I have desperately been wanting to use in a baked dessert, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to test the waters.

This dish is seriously delicious. I was hesitant to put more crumble on top before baking, and I wish I did! The blackberry wine gives it a unique fruity and sweet undertone which makes this dessert truly one of a kind. The cookie dough type crumble adds a different texture that complimented nicely with the fresh berries. Top with a vanilla ice cream or eat it directly out of the dish – the choice is yours.

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Black and Blueberry Crisp

Crumble topping:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (8 tbsp)

1/2 cup light brown sugar (not packed down)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup Honey Maid graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I used vietnamese cinnamon that I purchased from Whole Foods)

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Filling:

1/4 cup Blackberry wine

1/2 cup granulated sugar

16 ounces (2 cups) fresh blueberries, washed

6 ounces (0.75 cup) fresh blackberries, washed

Directions:

1. Set oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×9 ceramic baking dish lightly with unsalted butter.

2. Make the crumble topping and set it aside:

  1. Cream together the butter and brown sugar in a stand up (or hand held) mixer.
  2. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix in the flour and graham cracker crumbs until they are well incorporated into the batter.
  3. Fold in the oats.
  4. Add cinnamon and nutmeg.

Tip: Use your hands if necessary. You will not only be able to see if the texture of the dough is forming correctly, but it will also be easier to incorporate all the ingredients.

The topping should be very similar to a cookie dough. Do not fret! The dough will be moist, but it will bake through.

3. Make the berry reduction:

  1. On low to medium-low heat, add wine and sugar to a medium sized sauce pan.
  2. Let it thicken (come to a light boil) and make a simple syrup. (note: this is what I SHOULD have done, but added the berries a minute or so too early)
  3. Gently toss in blackberries and blueberries to the syrup. Let the mixture reduce and start to bubble around the edges of the saucepan.

4. Add the berry reduction to the ceramic dish.

5. Evenly sprinkle the “crumble” dough on top. Make sure the entire dish is covered with the crumble. (Seriously, you will want to, because it is absolutely delicious!)

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the topping becomes a golden brown and the filling begins to bubble. Let it cool for a minute or two, and enjoy!

Update 5/19: Refrigerate up to 3 to 4 days at most. The cookie crumb topping (after 3 days) has retained its texture and has not gotten mushy by any means. The syrup has set and it looks just as delicious as it did after being baked in the oven.

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Red Hearts for Mother’s Day

Red Velvet Cookies White Chocolate Chips

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all! A special thank you to all mothers, for whom it gives young and empowered women hope for the future of being what we are destined to be – not only wives, friends, partners and workers, but also mothers (and grandmothers). The life cycle depends on women who can not necessarily reproduce, but who can put the lives of others before their own. I hope one day, I will be able to raise a beautiful family of my own and give my children all they desire and push them into a higher direction with a great role model in mind.

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For Mother’s Day, I wanted to bake something special for my mother. She is the absolute best, the one and only person I can absolutely trust with no questions asked, and one of my biggest influences/role models. She taught me how to bake, she has taught me how to cook, and most of all, she puts up with me. The love and care she extrudes goes beyond that which I will ever be able to explain, so the only way I know how to thank her is to do what I love the most in this world: bake. Many of the red velvet recipes I researched involved using pre-made cake mixes, and I did not want to take the easy way out. I finally found one that did not use more traditional ingredients, such as white vinegar and/or vegetable shortening, which in my opinion, should never enter into the baking equation. The substitution of a red velvet bakery emulsion in place of the red food coloring gives this cookie the deep balanced bitter tones I feel are desired in this delectable treat, while still adding the red aspect. In other words, red food coloring adds a very artificial flavor (and color) and the emulsion gives it a nice color and texture, without the dye or alcohol.

With a good dosing of cocoa, this cookie hints at a beautifully sweet brownie, without being too rich or overwhelming. The addition of white chocolate chips gives a certain subtly that balances out the bitter cocoa flavor. I am glad I bought the red velvet bakery emulsion when I saw it, because I checked to see if I had food coloring afterwards, and, not to my surprise, I had zero. Talk about innovation and going with your gut!

This recipe is definitely one for the books. I urge everyone to bake or cook for your loved ones this weekend – it is one of the many things that will always bring sparkle and joy to another’s eyes.

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History of Red Velvet: This is quite fascinating! 

1. http://voices.yahoo.com/little-known-facts-red-velvet-cake-456633.html?cat=69

2. http://www.gilttaste.com/stories/2290-the-unknown-history-of-red-velvet-cake

Red Velvet dates back to about 1873, but started circulation in the 1920s!

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Recipe: 

Adapted from: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2010/10/red-velvet-chocolate-chip-cookies-from-scratch/

Found on: http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Red-velvet-chocolate-chip-cookies-333824?columns=Infinity&position=1/27

My adaptations are highlighted in bold

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Ingredients: 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

brown egg (Eggland’s Best)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp red velvet bakery emulsion (LorAnn’s)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp low sodium salt

1/3 cup cocoa powder, Ghirardelli

1/2 (to 2/3) cup white chocolate chips, Ghirardelli

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375. (I used a USA baking sheet, coated with Americoat)

2. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer.

3. Add egg and vanilla and combine until smooth.

4. Beat in red velvet bakery emulsion.

5. Stir in cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt until just combined, scraping down the sides when needed.

6. Fold in white chocolate chips.

7. Using a medium to large sized scoop, scoop out 1-2 tablespoons of dough and set on baking sheet. Spread out on pan about 2 inches apart. Flatten each dough ball, so each is 2 to 3 inches in diameter. 

8. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. On the USA pan, it only took about 9 minutes.

USA Pans: http://www.usapans.com/

LorAnn’s Oils & Bakery Emulsions: https://www.lorannoils.com/c-10-bakery-emulsions.aspx

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At the Heart of Every Orange is a Creamsicle

Minneola Orange Creamsicle Cookies

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One thing I noticed about this recipe was that it did not make mention of vanilla extract. I found that quite odd, and still decided to take a chance on them. After making my adaptations (in bold below), I cannot imagine what the cookie would have been like missing an emulsion or extract. In addition, I was a little worried that 2 1/4 cups of flour would prevent the cookies from being chewy, and make them more cake-like, however that did not seem to be the case. I guess that is how it goes – you risk the upset to get where you want to be, and in this case, it was to experiment and give it a go no matter how it turned out. Luckily, they baked wonderfully!

Adapted from: http://www.sprinklewithflour.com/2012/02/orange-creamsicle-cookies.html

(I am almost positive this is not an adapted recipe {only by the change of substituting white chocolate chips for vanilla chips}, but merely a replica, or an adoption of a recipe, found in The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, but I will give this blogger credit anyway.)

Original recipe: http://www.bakespace.com/recipes/detail/Orange-Vanilla-Chip-Cookies/9980/

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2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Dash of ground cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

brown egg (Eggland’s Best)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp orange bakery emulsion (which I found at HomeGoods)

Zest of 2 Minneola oranges [about 4 to 5 tbsp] (I really enjoy the bright, orange color of them, but its up to preference)

Juice from 1/2 of a zested orange

1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk together and set aside.

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3. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

4. Add egg and beat until combined.

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5. Add vanilla extract and orange bakery emulsion (optional).

6. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until well incorporated.

7. Add orange zest and orange juice and beat to distribute.

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8. Stir in white chocolate chips.

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9. Use a cookie scoop or tablespoon to drop in rounded spoonfuls on cookie sheets, leaving plenty of room between cookies to allow for some spreading (at least 2 inches).

10. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes until light golden brown. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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Verdict: 

This recipe needs a flavoring extract and/or an emulsion. Maybe it is just my preference to add an ingredient or two that would seemingly bring out the flavors out a bit more, but I was worried the dough would have been too thick and dense to bake evenly. The white chocolate chips added a smoothness that without, the cookie would have been missing an underlying sweet tone. It adds a nice depth of texture, and eases any acidity. The ones I experimented with, disregarding the white chocolate chips, were still tasty, but were a bit too pungent for my liking. I am not much of an orange girl (although I am definitely fruity) and these really drove my taste buds wild. These cookies reminded me of being at summer day camp – in the midsts of the moments when we would concoct ice cream sundaes and during the afternoons when we would receive popsicles, splitting them in half, and trading half of one for half a vanilla popsicle with amongst one another, to make our own mix and matched creamsicles. Overall, this recipe needed a bit of adapting, but was surprisingly delightful. For a nice spring or summery treat, this cookie would lend very well to a vanilla ice cream or a strong cup of coffee.

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When Life Hands You Lemons…Make Cookies

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My father has been trying to convince me for weeks to bake him a lemon cookie, and I finally gave in. With the oncoming of summer, I felt that a refreshing citrus cookie was also in order.

This is my first attempt at these lemon crinkle cookies, and I must admit, they turned out better than I had expected. Light, fluffy and cake-like, they would be a great companion to a cup of tea. The zest swirls in your mouth as it hits your taste buds, leaving a lingering lemony flavor. My best adaptation to this recipe was to add almond extract, for it enhanced the vanilla flavor, adding a bit of nuttiness for the consumer to enjoy.

I will certainly be making this cookie again, and adapting it more so to add a more innovative approach.

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Adapted from: http://traceysculinaryadventures.blogspot.com/2013/03/meyer-lemon-crinkle-cookies.html#.UYRefyt34Rg

(my adaptations are in bold)

Meyer Lemon Crinkle Cookies
adapted from Cooking Channel

9 oz (about 1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted

1/2 teaspoon salt, sifted

1 cup granulated sugar, sifted

3 teaspoons lemon zest (about 2 to 3 lemons)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 brown eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the granulated sugar and the lemon zest. Rub them together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter to the bowl, and beat the sugar/butter mixture on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then mix in the vanilla extract, lemon extract, and almond extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until they are incorporated. Be careful not to overmix the batter. The dough should be light, smooth and very delicious. (One of my guilty pleasures is eating raw cookie dough).

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Add the confectioners’ sugar to a wide, shallow bowl.

Using a medium sized cookie scoop (about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons), portion the dough into balls. Roll the balls so they’re uniform, then drop them in the confectioners’ sugar and toss to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets, placing them about 2 inches apart. I flattened them before baking.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies have puffed and their surfaces have cracked. (10 minutes seemed to avoid the bottom of the cookies from browning, ergo becoming to hard and crunchy from baking on the parchment paper). They’ll still be fairly light in color. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for one minute or so before removing them to the racks to cool completely (they will seemingly cool quite quickly).

Store in an airtight container.

*Note: I had read on the recipe I printed out that this is a refrigerated dough. However, I did not realize that until after the fact, nor do I think it is necessary*

Made about 20 cookies

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