Tag Archives: baking

Paula Deen Controversy, and her Cinnamon Rolls

29 Jan

Paula Deen has certainly been getting a lot of negatively publicity lately for the whole diabetes fiasco. Anthony Bourdain went so far as to call her, “the worst, most dangerous person to America…[who] revels in her unholy connections with evil corporation…[and is] proud of the fact that her food is f—ing bad for you.” Whew, harsh! Anthony Bourdain apparently has no reservations about calling people out 😛

In my humble opinion, Paula seems like a sweet lady, but it is a little shady to have diabetes for three years and to continue to cook the same unhealthy food on her show until she begins endorsing a new diabetes drug. What were her PR people thinking? As Mario Batali pointed out on Real Time with Bill Maher, it probably would have been better if she at least tried to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle before going public about her disease. But, she does not plan to change the kinds of food she cooks on her show, because she has always been one for “eating in moderation.” I do have my doubts about that.

On the other hand, consumers certainly have a responsibility to evaluate the ingredients in the food they cook and make healthy choices for themselves. We can’t simply cook or buy everything that looks good on TV…that is definitely a recipe for bad health. So there is plenty of blame to share. I just hope that cooking shows featuring healthy options become more of a rule than an exception. Can’t hurt, right?

But I digress. Whatever your thoughts about Paula Deen and the diabetes epidemic, you have to give her this: She does make wonderful desserts. My husband and I hadn’t had any sweet treats  in quite a long time and I really felt like baking the other day. My conversation with my husband went as follows:

Me: Should I make a dessert?
Him: Ehh, I don’t know. What would you make?
Me: Cinnamon rolls
Him: YES!

Lol, needless to say, he loves cinnamon rolls. And as usual, Paula Deen did not disappoint, despite all the controversy. I did cut down on the butter a bit, though.

What’s your opinion on Paula Deen?

Cinnamon Rolls

(adapted from recipe by Paula Deen)

Ingredients:

For the dough-

  • 1/4-ounce package yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup scalded milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling-

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for pan
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the glaze-

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons hot water

Preparation:

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. In a large bowl mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add yeast mixture. Mix in remaining flour until dough is easy to handle. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes. Place in well-greased bowl, cover,  place on top of warm oven, and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • When doubled in size, punch down dough. Roll out on a floured surface into a 15 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush melted butter all over dough. Mix sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon and sprinkle over buttered dough. Beginning at the 15-inch side, role up dough and pinch edge together to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices.
  • Coat the bottom of baking pan with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise on top of the oven until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.
  • Meanwhile, mix butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. Spread over slightly cooled rolls.

The Quest for an Apple Orchard, & the Resultant Best Apple Pie Ever

9 Nov

Ever since I started noticing the first signs of Fall, I embarked on one simple mission: To find an apple orchard in Indiana which could hold a candle to Hicks Orchard in my hometown (which, parenthetically, is frequented by Rachael Ray. Which would be kind of a big deal anywhere, but especially in my very small town).


My criteria for such a comparable orchard were quite simple. It would need to have: (a) pick-your-own apples, (b) apple cider, and most importantly, (c) apple cider donuts. That’s not too much to ask, is it? One would think not, but it was hard for me to find an orchard which met all three criteria.

Finally, my pleas for guidance on Facebook resulted in a friend suggesting County Line Orchard, about 90 miles from here. It was a trek, but this orchard far exceeded my expectations! It was GIANT! In fact, it was such a tourist attraction that police were actually directing traffic in and out of the parking lots! Not only did this orchard have pick-your-own apples, apple cider, and apple cider donuts, but it also had a corn maze, pumpkin patch, kettle corn, and well, anything else you could possibly want at an orchard and more. It was quite the thriving enterprise and had me fantasizing about  owning my own apple orchard. I tend to have fantasies like these about a simpler life whenever school is especially overwhelming, haha. I mean, c’mon, planting apple trees has GOT to be easier than writing a dissertation!

But anywho, my day at the orchard did provide a welcome reprieve to the demands of school. My husband and I had a grand ol’ time sampling countless varieties of apples before selecting the winners who would be destined to die in the name of both decadent desserts and healthy snacks.


And these apples certainly did not die in vain. They became an absolutely delicious apple pie, courtesy of  my own merger of the recipes of Paula Deen and my grandma. Could there be a better meeting of culinary minds? I don’t think so. Paula’s filling has just the right texture, consistency, and sweetness, and my grandma’s pie crust is tender and flaky. And it’s topped off by a sweet and crunchy topping. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a better apple pie!


In fact, I think the only thing that could have made this pie better was having more of it. Next time, I’m making a deep-dish. Look out, apples!

Crunch Top Apple Pie

(adapted from recipes by Paula Deen, and my grandma!)

Ingredients:

For the Crust-

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp salt

For the Filling-

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Dash salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 1/2 cups peeled, chopped cooking apples (I used Golden Delicious and highly recommend them)
  • 8 oz unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter, chopped into small pieces

For the Crunch Topping-

  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Dash salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, at room temperature

Preparation:

  • To prepare the crust, combine flour and salt in a sifter. Add 1/2 cup of butter and mix with an electric mixer. Then, add the rest of the butter and mix. With a fork, little by little, add the cold water until the pastry holds together. Roll into a ball, and cut in half. Roll out each half on a floured board. Line a 9-inch pie pan with half of the dough. Cut the remaining crust into strips and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Stir in apples, applesauce, and lemon juice. Spoon apple mixture into pie pan and dot with butter. Arrange the remaining strips of dough in a lattice design on top of the pie.
  • For the crunch topping, combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Using a fork, cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle crunch topping over top of crust.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  • Refrigerate overnight for best results.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Pumpkin Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting for Halloween!

29 Oct

Halloween… what a fun holiday! I love seeing all the cute trick-or-treating kids and derive endless entertainment from dressing my dogs in costumes. They tend to get a little depressed when they’re dressed up, but hey, I only do it once a year 😉


But my dogs weren’t the only ones dressed up. Last night I hosted a Halloween costume party for students in my grad program. I went as Joan Holloway from Mad Men. I mostly just wanted to buy a 50s dress, hehe 🙂 And you know I couldn’t be a 50s wife without baking a dessert for a party!


I made my favorite cupcakes in the world, which I adapted from a pumpkin bar recipe by Paula Deen. And here’s a fact: mini cupcakes are at least 50 times better than regular sized cupcakes. Mini cupcakes have the best frosting to cake ratio, and are good when you need smaller snacks for parties.


The cupcakes are moist and have all the lovely cinnamon and nutmeg flavors of a pumpkin pie, and are paired perfectly with sweet creamy frosting on top. To make them halloweeny, I simply used decorative cupcake liners, added some green food coloring to the frosting, and topped them with black and orange sprinkles. Pretty cute, eh?


Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

(adapted from pumpkin bars recipe by Paula Deen)

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes-

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting-

  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line mini cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
  • Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy.
  • Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt ,and baking soda.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.
  • Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely before frosting.
  • To make the frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled cupcakes.

Makes 72 mini cupcakes!

Millionaire’s Shortbread, aka Homemade Twix Bars

5 Sep

Happy labor day, all! Today my husband and I headed to his grandmother’s house for a little family get-together. I love these family gatherings because I not only get to see the family (including two cute babies), but I also have an excuse to bake and pawn off my desserts onto others. The family has come to expect a new dessert each time I come, and I’m happy to oblige 🙂

So last night I decided to try out a recipe for millionaire’s shortbread. At first I was a little hesitant because many of the reviews on the Food Network website indicated it was a giant hassle to make, but on the other hand, other reviews indicated that it was easy and delicious [and that those leaving reviews to the contrary had obviously not followed the directions]. Well, I’m good at following directions, and I had been tempted to make this dessert after being inspired by several food blogs lately, so I forged ahead.

I’m so glad I did!! Sure, it’s a little time consuming, but not difficult. And, it was definitely worth the wait! Luscious dulce de leche, sandwiched between soft shortbread and rich milk chocolate…does this sound familiar?

Yes, it has all the flavors of a twix bar, but of course much better. Maybe twix bars fit for a millionaire? 🙂

Millionaire’s Shortbread

(adapted from recipe by Claire Robinson)

Ingredients:

For the Shortbread-

  • 2 sticks butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for preparing pans
  • 2 cups flour, plus more for preparing pans
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Dulce de Leche Layer-

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Sprinkle of salt

For the Chocolate Layer-

  • 11.5 oz bag milk chocolate chips

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Butter a 9×13 inch pan and coat with flour, tapping off excess.
  • To make the shortbread: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse once. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles peas. Press the shortbread mixture into prepared pan and bake until golden brown around the edges, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  • To make the dulce de leche layer: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the condensed milk and 2 tablespoons of butter. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously to ensure it doesn’t burn. Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the mixture becomes thick and amber in color, about 15-25 minutes. When finished, immediately pour the dulce de leche over the cooked shortbread and spread evenly. Sprinkle dulce de leche layer with a small amount of salt, and cool to room temperature.
  • To make the chocolate layer: In a glass bowl, heat chocolate chips in the microwave as directed on the package, stirring after one minute. Once the chocolate has melted, pour it over the cooled dulce de leche layer. Cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes, then place in the refrigerator to cool completely, allowing the chocolate to harden slightly but not get hard.
  • Cut into small squares and enjoy at room temperature, or keep in the refrigerator for a cool treat.