From my kitchen to yours, best wishes for a very Merry Christmas! May you be blessed by the love of Christ.
Bakingpalooza December 20, 2014
We’ve had almost two glorious weeks of cool weather here in Florida. I’ve enjoyed having the windows open and a fresh breeze drifting through the house. It was on one these lovely days last week that I decided to crank up the oven and do my Christmas baking. I had several recipes I wanted to get through so I started as soon as I finished my coffee and bagel.
My parents have been staying with me since Thanksgiving, so mom offered to run out to the store to pick up a couple of items I didn’t have on hand. While she was out, I made the easy cookies, the ones from a mix that didn’t require anything extra. I found a pumpkin spice cookie mix that I have fallen in love with and I decided to add some chocolate chips. They were the perfect addition and I tucked some of the cookies into a tin for my parents’ drive back to North Carolina.
The house quickly filled with the smells of fresh baked treats. By the time I turned off the oven I had five types of cookies, gingerbread cupcakes, and vanilla-sour cream tea loaves. My kitchen is tiny, so having more than one person working at a time can be tight, but toward the end of the day, mom, dad and I were all working together to clean up the dishes and put everything away.
I hope you have a wonderful Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year with those you love.
Orange Cake for Easter April 21, 2014
I was in the grocery store this weekend, forgetting how crazy the stores are the day before a holiday. I’m a precision shopper. I know what I want and 98% of the time I know exactly where it is so I can get in and out quickly. Unfortunately, most of the other shoppers I encountered on Saturday had no idea what they wanted and they clogged the aisles as they read labels or studied the shelves. I waited patiently behind one woman whose cart was parked on one side of the aisle while she stood in the middle of the aisle reading the label on a bottle of maple syrup. Then two other women came flying past, nearly running over the label reader and narrowly missing a large stock cart.
Every aisle was like a lane of traffic during rush hour, carts parked or crawling at turtle-like speeds. All of the chaos made me forget the only two ingredients, buttermilk and orange extract, I actually needed to make the mini Bundt cakes I had planned to make for Easter. Fortunately, I was able to stop at a less crowded store and pick up the buttermilk and I managed to make fresh squeezed orange juice work for the orange extract. Knowing the stores would be closed on Sunday in honor of Easter was the only thing that made all of the congestion bearable. I’m happy to support businesses that recognize the importance of honoring such an important day.
With my family all out of state, I was grateful to be invited over to a friends’ house for dinner to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. My small contribution to the meal was dessert, Orange Mini Bundt Cakes from the May/June issue of Tea Time.
Orange Mini Bundt Cakes
Makes 10-18 cakes
Depending on the size of your pans
1½ cps plus 3 tablespoons sifted cake flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup salted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon orange extract
½ cup whole buttermilk
Garnish: Confectioners’ sugar
*Preheat oven to 325 degrees
*Spray 2 (12 well) mini Bundt cake pans with nonstick baking spray with flour
(I used two 6 well pans and the batter filled 10)
*In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda, whisking well. Set aside.
*In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars. Beat at high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add orange zest and orange extract, beating to combine.
*Add flour mixture to butter mixture in thirds, alternately with buttermilk, beating at low speed until incorporated. Divide batter evenly among wells of prepared pans. Tap pans on countertop to level batter and reduce air bubbles.
*Bake unit cakes are golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the centers comes out clean, approximately 20 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling racks, and let cool completely.
*Before service, garnish cakes with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
Make-ahead tip: Cakes can be made a week in advance and frozen in an airtight container. Let thaw completely before garnishing and serving.
Winter Wonderland February 18, 2014
The first time I saw snow falling was on a high school band trip to Washington DC over Spring break. The cherry trees were in bloom and the weather was beautiful when we arrived. Two days later we awoke to flakes falling outside our windows and kids running down the hotel hallway shouting “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!” (more…)
Tart the New Year Off Right January 5, 2014
I’m in heaven with my ripe lemons. This evening my mom asked what we could have for dessert. All of the Christmas cake and pie was gone, there was no more ice cream, and the cookie jar is nearly empty. I told her not to worry, I have lemons and a new recipe to give a whirl. To the backyard I went, plucking three giant beauties.
I zested and juiced only one of these beasts, yielding 1/2 cup of juice and at least as much zest. I whisked together the few ingredients and filled my tartlet pans, in 15 minutes we would have dessert to feed my hard-working man. You too can have these lovely tarts in no time flat, just grab a few things: (more…)
Key-Lime Pie Mini Trifles March 18, 2013
Have you been thinking about the mini key-lime pie trifles all week? I have, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. I needed 16 servings so I doubled the recipe, yet I ended up with enough custard and whipped cream to make 6 key-lime tarts as well. Those are now in my freezer for a quick treat when I’m having a sweet craving. There are three steps in this process, the custard recipe can be used in a Boston Cream pie mini trifle as well. Recipe from Tea Time magazine, May/June 2011 issue.
Start by mixing up your Vanilla Bean Custard. This recipe will make approximately 2 ½ cups and takes about 25 minutes to make.
2 ½ cups whole milk
½ vanilla bean, split, scraped, and seeds reserved
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
- In a large saucepan, combine milk and reserved vanilla-bean seeds. Scald milk over medium-high heat.
- In a large bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt, whisking well to combine. Slowly add scalded milk, whisking well.
- Return mixture to large saucepan. Bring to a boil for 1 minute over medium-high heat, whisking continuously. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Next you will need to make your whipped cream unless you plan on using store bought. I highly recommend making your own though. It is so light and easy to whip up. I’ve also learned that if you put the mixer beaters in the freezer for a short time before whipping the cream it speeds up the process.
2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- In a large bowl, beat whipping cream at high speed with an electric mixture until soft peaks form. Slowly add confectioner’s sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until needed.
Finally, you add key-lime elements to your Vanilla-Bean custard. You will need to add:
2 cups Vanilla-Bean custard
3 tablespoons key-lime juice
2 tablespoons lime zest
2 cups graham-cracker crumbs
2 cups whipped cream
- In a medium bowl, combine Vanilla-Bean custard, key-lime juice, and lime zest, mixing well. Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, combine graham-cracker crumbs and sugar.
- In 8 minature trifle dishes, layer half of graham-cracker mixture, half of custard, and half of whipped cream. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients.
- Garnish with lime slices if desired.
As I mentioned, I doubled the recipe for the custard and whipped cream. I had extra graham-cracker crumbs as well so I pulled out my mini-tart pans, baked a graham-cracker crust and poured the extra custard in. I froze these then added the whipped cream, it spread much easier on the frozen custard. I then put them back in the freezer until the whipped cream was frozen and I could wrap them up. I’m looking forward to snacking on these over the next few weeks.
Dad’s First Brownies October 19, 2012
It has been entirely too long since I last blogged, but I have been so involved with editing Winter’s End and working with my cover designer, there hasn’t been a free creative moment. However, when my dad announced the other night that he wanted to
bake a cake I knew I had to carve out some time to document this moment. Let me set the scene. When I was a kid, my mom worked the night shift at the hospital and dad was responsible for making dinner at least a couple of those nights. While he was no chef by any means, I have fond memories of him standing three or four feet from the stove and tossing frozen shrimp into a pan of hot grease or pulling out a baking sheet that our frozen pot pies had bubbled over onto. Give the man a grill and he has more success, but he has never in his life tried to bake anything that I am aware of.
Fortunately, I keep a good stock of baking mixes in my pantry in case I need a quick fix without all of the scratch fuss. I decided it might be better to start him off with something simple and pulled out a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix. He managed to locate the brownie pan with minimal instruction from me, then, he proceeded to ask if he could just mix everything up in the pan. At the time, this gave me quite the chuckle, but looking back it really is a reasonable question. I suppose if it wasn’t necessary to spray the pan so the brownies wouldn’t stick you could mix everything up in there.
Mom and I needed to run to the grocery for some other items and we left dad alone to make the brownies. Five minutes later, he was calling to see where my vegetable oil was. Turns out, the last had been used a couple of days earlier so we added that to our shopping list and returned home. Dad took the oil, finished mixing things up, and figured out how to set the timer on the oven. Forty-five minutes later the house smelled divine and we had gooey, hot brownies.
I have to say I am rather proud of my dad for being willing to learn something new. Maybe I can get him to try out some of the recipes I found when writing Winter’s End. I will definitely be sharing some of those in the coming weeks, it just needs to get a little cooler here in Florida to inspire me to cook more.
Tea, Biscotti, and Me August 1, 2012
This weekend I had the privilege of appearing at another Afternoon Tea with the Author, this time in Anderson, SC. The women I met were warm and welcoming. When we offered gifts to those who asked questions, Lois was quick to jump in, asking when I gave my life to God. Since I write Christian fiction, I was actually a bit surprised this question hadn’t come up in my previous Tea events. I was nine when I first prayed for God to come into my heart, and I remember actually thinking a little person was going to come live inside my heart. I enjoyed talking with these gracious Southern women, sharing about my writing process, and where I get my ideas.
The food was wonderful too. I love biscotti and was thrilled to see a plate of homemade biscotti sandwiched between fresh scones and a cranberry-coconut bar that was to die for. Of course I couldn’t leave with out getting the biscotti recipe. If you give it a try let me know what you think.
Pistachio- Craisin Biscotti
Line a heavy, large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk 2 cups flour with 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder. Set aside.
Beat 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1 tsp. grated lemon zest & 1/4 tsp. salt.
Beat in 2 large eggs – one at a time. Add the flour mixture just ’til blended.
Stir in 3/4 cup chopped pistachios & 2/3 cup craisins.
Form the dough into a 13″ long, 3″ wide log on the parchment sheet. Bake until lightly golden, (about 40 min.) Cool 30 min.
Place log on a cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4″ thick slices.
Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake again ’til pale golden. (about 15 min.)
Transfer biscotti to a rack & cool completely.
These may be served plain or dipped in dark or white chocolate & set on rack to set.
- Hazelnut Biscotti (breakfastsocks.wordpress.com)
- Twice Baked (clochesandlavender.com)
- Pipe Dream #122: To Doubly Appreciate Suggestion – Orange, Pine Nut And Dark Chocolate Biscotti (pipingdreams.wordpress.com)